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Now that he had met his mother at long last, Ya-Shuur took the opportunity to travel among the valls of lower or southern Be’r-Jaz to see what they were like during this difficult period of Rot. He walked through the settlement around the new manor, noting that it appeared to be in various ways more advanced than the nomadic encampments of middle Be’r-Jaz. Instead of the simple dens that the middelvals made, these southern valls built quite impressive structures that looked to be small wooden attempts of building something like Li’Kalla’s manor. They made use of poles gained from trees that had not yet fully developed. These were tall but not quite as thick as a more developed tree, and once they had gathered many and gotten rid of small branches and leaves they were packed tightly together to make a round barricade which formed the wall of the hut, and the roof was a mixture of several layers of these poles and leaves and mud, though they were placed in such a way that rainwater would not gather on top but would drain down the sides and onto the ground. They were still primitive structures and at risk of flooding, but quite impressive overall when compared with the temporary dens the middelvalls dwelled in.

As Ya-Shuur walked among them the hungry and emaciated inhabitants of the settlement, they gave him tired but curious looks. He smiled thinly and greeted them and they responded with their stiff and respectful greetings. That was another thing that differentiated these valls from their relatives in the middle Be’r-Jaz. Those ones were not quite as attached to these respectful gestures. These seemed more refined and cultivated, which was probably the effect of being near his mother.

But despite that, the Rot was having a negative effect on valls here too. As he continued from the settlement he came across many who were in active and hostile disputes with others over scarce food. It had not become a terrible and bloody carnage as had happened with the middelvals, but here there was death of the old, the vulnerable, the ill, the young. There was much sadness and anger, and petty squabbles erupted into fistfights which evaporated after some time. It was clear that Li’Kalla’s influence was strong enough to ensure that things did not completely fall apart. It was not quite a might makes right world down here, especially because the Valthumir seemed to step up in this period of difficulty and take up the mantle and responsibility given them by Li’Kalla. It gave everyone a focus and hope, and it was not uncommon for Ya-Shuur to come across settlements where the leading Valthumir had grown in power due to the Rot and had been able to organize their people in such a way as to reduce the effects of the Rot. There was equal sharing of scarce food, with those who were most in need of help and support getting the most support and help.

Ya-Shuur approved of this. “Those who most need help are to get the most help,” he mused to himself. It seemed that the system that Li’Kalla had set up, seeming unfair and arbitrary at first, actually resulted in overall good. Resolving the matter of leadership with her divine mandate meant that in times of hardship the valls here rallied readily around their divinely-mandated leaders, and so were more organized and better equipped to survive and thrive. It was the exact opposite of the middelvals whose leadership was uncertain, and who had fallen into a might makes right trap the moment extreme hardship had destroyed their nascent organization and tribal social structures because they had not been able to cope with the changing realities around them.

Ya-Shuur found this interesting, and it made him think that if simple divine guidance had protected the southern valls from so much pain, how much more could direct divine intervention and leadership do so? His attempts to simply teach the middelvals about the idea of justice had done them no good beyond giving them an ideal of how things should be. Perhaps he should have taken a more active approach...

It was at this time that he finally gathered up the power and strength to put a halt to the curse of Rot. From all that he had seen and his discussions with numerous valls, valthumir, and with Li’Kalla, he was able to ascertain with some certainty that the curse was unjustified. He had not been able to speak with the one who had set up the curse and he regretted this, but there seemed to be no way that Ya-Shuur knew of to track the god in question down. After this, Ya-Shuur set off to return to Li’Kalla’s mansion.

"TOOOOOOOOT!" Manehair blew into his wooden horn from his place at the twig-boundary of Highholt, and within seconds another two feighd were by his side, looking over the protective barricade to see the danger. A great beetle was making its slow way towards them. They had by now grown accustomed to this sort of thing. Only yesterday they had spotted a couple of termites chomping on the barricade, and in the end could only chase them off by poking them with sticks whose tips had been set alight from the firefruit. However the beetle that was now coming towards them was far bigger than any termite and its bony exterior seemed utterly impregnable. Manehair placed a small projectile in his pipe and blew it at the beetle, but it bounced off and did not seem to have any effect at all on the beetle. It only kept coming closer to the barricade, and if anything the projectile seemed to draw its attention to their very location.

The three feighd tooted their horns and each one of them took up a stick and prepared to engage the insect, but just before they did so their Queen had suddenly arrived and was surveying the scene with her imperious gaze. He considered the beetle with distaste and gestured to the firefruit. Immediately a burning stick was brought to her. She looked at the firefruit for a few moments, a curious but determined look in her eyes. She gestured for everyone else to step away and then flew over the barricade so it was only her and the beetle. In length the beetle matched the Queen's height, though the Queen towered above the sturdy and heavily armored insect. They had come across one just like it before, and no matter how much they poked with their sticks, even burning ones, it could not get through its tough armor. It was as hard as tree bark, if not harder since the firefruit could burn bark at the very least!

Now the feighdqueen stood before the insect, which luckily had no mandibles (unlike other beetles, some boasting enormous mandibles or great long horns). This one's great strength was clearly its impregnable armor. When their attempts to dissuade and hurt the first one they met failed, Bluebell had suggested flipping it over to see if maybe its underside was more vulnerable, but try as they might they could not flip the heavy, stocky insect over. And it was in any case a swift creature and turned on them with its small mandibles and forelegs, forcing the smaller feighd to retreat. Now however it was the feighdqueen who stood before it, and she had a glint in her eyes and a degree of excitement. As the beetle closed in, the Queen sucked in the firefruit until it was all gone. But rather than swallowing it, as she usually did, she held it in her mouth and took a deep breath. Then, when the beetle was less than an inch from her, she exhaled with all her might.

Fire exploded from her mouth and nose, and it erupted even from her fingertips. Mixing with her latent magic, it grew towards the beetle and ate at it. But it was wild and untamed and burned at the Queen also, and she screeched in terror and pain and backed away. Her face was singed and her beautiful hair and wings were blackened and burnt. Her fingers were blistered and puffed, and her beautiful dress of leaves and plants came loose and fell apart, leaving her in her primitive nakedness. Instinctively she covered herself, and tears fell from her eyes even as her loyal feighd fluttered around her and attempted to cover her with leaves and vines and petals. It was only when they had clothed their Queen once more that their attention returned once more to the beetle, and they were awed when they found that it was utterly dead.

They turned to their ailing Queen and ooed and aahed, and she for her part tried to look regal and powerful. But she winced and weakly gestured for them to return her to her flower throne. And so they did. She stayed there and hung between life and death, and when Treeface brought her some of the firefruit so she could eat her eyes widened fearfully and she screeched at him to keep it away. And so she grew only weaker... [Because what she did is quite big, I'm leaving it to the GM whether she recovers or dies]

Meanwhile, Redflower and Bluebell had been busying themselves around the beetles carcass and had managed, by flipping it over to its vulnerable underbelly and by using little sharp stones and thorns, to strip its extremely hard exoskeleton. They reasoned that just as the beetle used it for protection so could they! They would fix it and work on it until they had made a fine beetle-armour dress for their mighty and glorious Queen!

Shib Be'r-Jaz breathed raggedly as he made his way through the rot and darkness, and he held his hand to the great wound in his side which he had managed to wrap in a dirty rag once he had escaped the deathtrap that his people's encampment had become. He tripped but just about managed to hold himself upright with the walking staff he had made for himself. There was a horn tied to its top. "Be'r-Jaz aid me," he muttered as he continued. Beneath him the ground squelched and he shivered as he looked down at the black stuff. He could not tell what was rotten plant, what was decaying flesh, and what was mere mud and rainwater. Though death hung heavily in the air, beetles, flies, maggots, slugs, snails, millipedes, worms, cockroaches and all kinds of detritivores, continued to flourish and thrive. Shib Be'r-Jaz trembled in disgust, remembering how maggots and termites had started to emerge from the flesh of all those (mostly newborns, the ill, or those who the gods in their wisdom had decided to create frail and old) who had died of starvation.

These insects were everywhere now. When he slept in the night, he would hear the cockroaches scrambling about in the darkness. When he woke up he would accidentally step on slugs and curse in disgust, and their trails were everywhere. The flies would not leave him or anyone else alone. No sooner had he swatted some away then ten more had landed on his face or arms. Even now as he walked in the darkness he could hear them. And the mosquitos... he scratched at his arm. Some had died because they were bitten so much, and he had begun to see mosquitos that were far bigger than normal. He remembered the first mosquito he had smacked as it sucked his blood, and his hand had come away stained and dripping red.

He stumbled on and the only sounds he heard were the eternal rain of Be'r-Jaz and the wind in the tree. His sensitive hunter's ears could not hear any animals, though there was here and now the persistent chirping of crickets and other insects. As he walked he saw light in the distance and his heart jumped hopefully as he finally came to the great mud path that led to the Cave of Light. He immediately realized that there were others on the road, and when he looked closely he saw that it was helpless valls like him: the injured, the old, those who were heavy with child, others who held children to their boney chests while looking at him with haggard eyes and skeletal faces. There was fear in their eyes too, and when they saw Shib Be'r-Jaz (who had been called Sieghbrien before, but had changed his name upon taking up the worship of Be'r-Jaz and whose new name meant "the one who worships Be'r-Jaz") they avoided him and gave him a wide berth despite the clear face that he was injured and of no threat to anyone.

Shib Be'r-Jaz continued along the road. An older vall further ahead suddenly raised a hand upwards and said, "may the Land show them its merciless justice!" And a few minutes later the same old vall said in a louder voice: "avenge your people, vengeful Be'r-Jaz!" When Shib Be'r-Jaz finally came to the mouth of the Cave of Light he saw hundreds gathered at its mouth and others within. It seemed that despite the terrible things the Rot had done, this was still a place of peace and safety. At least a bit, from time to time shouting rose and he saw even the old or the injured fighting and clawing at one another until they were driven apart. After all, despite the safety of the Cave there was still no food and everyone here was old or injured or unable to hunt.

For his part, Shib Be'r-Jaz lay himself down and put his head on a rock to sleep. When he woke up there were a few people around him prodding at his chest, and he gasped in pain. "He's not going to make it." One of them was saying, and another gave him a pitying look. Shib Be'r-Jaz shivered, sweat layering his head and body. Soon he was alone again and he slipped back into a fitful sleep. He woke up a bit later and looked at his wound, and he was shocked when he disgusting little insects all over the great wound. He tried to scream but there was only a mewl. He felt far too weak. When he next woke up he felt a bit better but was starving, and when he looked at the wound he was surprised to find that it was clean. He wrapped it up and got shakily to his feet. Using the help of his walking staff he walked around trying to find food.

Going into the cave, he found that the people had been making marks on the cave's walls similar to the markings of Be'r-Jaz. These showed the coming of the valls led by the Queen-Mother, and showed how she had separated them out and commanded them to go and live across the island. It showed their lives in central Be'r-Jaz and how these valls that inhabited this area in middle Be'r-Jaz came to call themselves middelvalls. And then the drawings showed he coming of the Rot and the great disorder caused by this, the death and starvation and disease, the social strife and the turning of encampment against encampment. It showed how many middelvalls turned to the terrible act of cannibalism and it showed how terrible rulers, the Tyrants, came to rule; and the greatest and most powerful Tyrant of all was Gildrik.

And the next drawing showed how Gildrik the Tyrant and all of his warriors were brought low by a horned creature with a terrible frowning visage. Rather than the rays of light that usually surrounded the Land's countenance in the cave's drawings, this one's head was surrounded by blood. It was the one the people were calling Det-Ard, the fury of the Land and its terrible vengeance. He had slaughtered the great tyrant, who had forsaken justice and the ways of the Land and who had hurt the people over the hurt they were already hurting. He was the great hero born in blood and rot and darkness.

Beside the shrine the people had erected to the Land, all the injured and ill and vulnerable valls who had come here to seek refuge and safety built a great effigy to Bloody Det-Ard. Then a group came and presented a broken horn, claiming that the Land itself had given it to them and that it was one of the Land's own horns, so that it would be placed on the effigy. Shib Be'r-Jaz was surprised by this and touched his walking staff and found that the horn he had tied was still there. It was the horn Be'r-Jaz had given him as a trophy not so long ago. "I- I also have a horn from the Land, a trophy. Please take as the second horn for the effigy." And so they placed the two horns on the effigy to complete the graven image of Det-Ard. When it was complete the all fell before it and praised the Be'r-Jaz and his blood-born and chosen warrior.

Then there was screaming outside and shouting and the sound of running and commands. Shib Be'r-Jaz's eyes widened and he gripped his walking staff and hobbled out of the cave even as people ran inside. Outside, by the Cave's light, he could see blood-stained warriors, their skin marked and painted in preparation for battle, their hair tied up and decorated with feathers, snarls on their faces and spears in their hands. They were all armored and the bones of warriors they had felled, like ribcages, decorated their armour and also provided an additional layer of protection. One of them, the biggest and clearly the leader, had an already-bloodied stone firmly tied to a staff instead of a spear. It was clearly a custom weapon of his own making. Shib Be'r-Jaz was shocked that someone would attempt to attack this sacred and sanctified place. There were already a number of dead middelvalls in the Cave's vicinity and a few others had been captured alive and were weeping and crying bitterly. One of the warriors stepped forward and shouted with a great snarl: "We are here to claim you all in the name of Heghdsur. Come freely, or you will be brought!"

Inside the Cave cries rose up and people begged for mercy and protection at the shrines to the Land and Det-Ard. A great bark was heard and the rain seemed to gather strength. "This Cave has a strong and wrathful Land, Heghdsur. And the Land hears the cries of the poor." A voice rose in the rain and rot and darkness. The massive warrior who was clearly Heghdsur looked around with a scowl and then he snarled, releasing a growl. From above the cave leapt a great shape, and it landed right before the Cave's entrance. It was a red-haired middelvall with a spear in his hand and inexplicable fury in his eyes. The molf shook its head in irritation and then released a long, loud howl. The warriors around Heghdsur seemed uncertain, but the Tyrant scoffed.

"The Land sent only you? You're not even a fitting appetizer. I guess I'll nibble on your bones." Daethyrd's angry eyes grew cold and he scowled disdainfully at the giant middelvall.
"Not only a criminal and a tyrant, but an ingrate too. You will be made to pay the blood price, and it is I who will be delivering your sentence." And without any further words or a warning, Daethyrd leapt from the back of the molf and high into the air. His spearhand cocked back, he threw it with a swift, mighty gesture and it accelerated at lightning speed and accuracy towards the Tyrant. With only seconds to spare the Tyrant lurched to the side and the spear caught him in the shoulder rather than running him through the chest.

Daethyrd landed and drew his bone knife, then dashed right for the giant. But Heghdsur's warriors had gotten over their shock at the sudden attack and rushed forward. One of them swiftly got between Daethyrd and the Tyrant. He stabbed at Daethyrd, but the Executioner slipped past with catlike grace. He looked into the outlaw's eyes for what felt like an age but what was in reality less than a second before his knife slipped across the trespasser's throat. What followed was a bloody display that the people in the Cave watched with slack jaws. It was a terrible thing, but it was... beautiful.

At last it was only Daethyrd and the Tyrant. Heghdsur looked at the Executioner without fear, only contempt. He did not fear death. But that lack of fear would not shield him from Daethyrd's bloody justice. Though he still had the spear stuck in his shoulder, he swung his great bludgeon wildly with one hand. Daethyrd easily avoided the swings with his unnatural grace and captivating movements, and when he slipped his knife into Heghdsur's throat the Tyrant smiled as blood spluttered from his mouth. "That's... goood..." were the massive Tyrant's final words before he fell back and slowly welcomed death. Daethyrd gripped his spear and withdrew it from the Tyrant's shoulder and cleaned it. Then he cleaned his knife and sheathed it. He turned to the people who were standing and watching from the Cave.

Then a cry rose up and became a mighty chant. "An'u Qit-Tu! An'u Qit-Tu!" This is Justice! This is Justice! Daethyrd smiled and raised his spear.
"Qit-Tu!" He declared loudly, and the people of the Cave responded in kind, again and again. Then a number of molves arrived and sniffed at Gul-Tir's snout. They had heard his howl before and had come to see what was going on, and when they saw the blood they seemed disturbed. A group of them sat at the Cave's entrance, clearly intent on remaining to protect Ya-Shuur's place of thought and contemplation. From time to time a molf disappeared and returned with a catch of fish, laying them on the shrine to the Land, and the people ate and were protected from both the tyranny of the hunger and the tyranny of fellow middelvals. Not long after this a molf came that Daethyrd immediately recognized as the one that had been with Be'r-Jaz when he last saw him. He realized that it was attempting to make him follow, and so he jumped on Gul-Tir and rushed off to obey the Land's summons.

But the rain did not stop. Hours passed, thunder roared, lightning shocked the skies, the winds howled and struck at the tree tops, the sea crashed against the shores. And then suddenly the creatures of the forest all emerged - and the feighd had never really noticed them before -, and appeared to be fleeing. Ants and beetles, lizards that eyed the feighd before scrambling swiftly up a tree, ponderously large creatures who were so big that they did not even notice the feighd as they swiftly cleared the area.

For their part, the feighd watched all these creatures fearfully, and even the normally cold and disdainful Queen licked her lips nervously as a great beetle as long as she was tall with three enormous horns walked by their firefruit. When it had passed, the Queen snapped at the tree-skinned feighd, called Treeface, who had come up with the twig pipe. He jumped to attention and rushed to keep watch, and when he saw a creature approaching their location he played his pipe.

But it was not quite loud enough and the Queen squacked at him to do better. Treeface looked at his simple pipe, took a deep breath, and blew as hard as he could into it. A tremendous TOOT! followed that caused everyone to jump and a number of nearby animals to scatter. The Queen for her part clapped and chirruped at Treeface's success. The feighd looked around himself proudly as the other cheered and jumped around him. Then they all gathered up twigs and did to them as Treeface did to his, and whenever any strange creature approached they hefted the pipe and blew with all their strength, warning everyone of the danger while also scaring off the threat.

In his hurry to blow into it when he spotted a large wasp, Redflower dropped his pipe in a puddle, and when he retrieved it he found that it was full of mud and dirt. Nevertheless he blew into it and was surprised when mud and dirt flew right out. His eyes gleamed with realization and he set about searching for little pieces of dirt large enough to just about block the pipe. He place it inside and waited on a creature to pass by. When an unlucky ladybird landed nearby he jumped out and blew the pipe with all his strength. The bit of dirt flew out at great speed and hit the tree trunk just above the ladybird, and a great TOOT! followed. Feeling threatened by the projectile and noise, the ladybird swiftly flew off. Redflower looked at his pipe proudly. He would have to work on his aim, but this thing was great! He dashed off to show the others.

As it were, these creatures were not running away for no reason - though the feighd did not quite realize it. When water began to drench the area near the eternal firefruit the Queen grew alarmed. Then the water began to flow more heavily, and suddenly the water level was rising. The Queen screeched and grabbed a twig from the flame, and a few other nearby feighd (Greentoes and Lilytongue) did likewise before the water-level rose high enough to extinguish the flame completely. They watched from above for a few moments as the water level rose and the flow became stronger, and soon enough Bluebell came squeaking and gesturing wildly that the river had flooded because of all the rain.

Handing the burning twig to Bluebell, the Queen gestured for her and the other two to swiftly go and find a new place on higher ground where they could plant the firefruit once more. Bluebell nodded, sprang out her pipe and blew into it loudly, and dramatically gestured for Greentoes and Lilytongue to follow her forth. Soon enough they had found a high holt and they cleared a great area and lit the firefruit there. Then they gathered big twigs and struck them into the earth all around the grand clearing to make a rounded barricade, and they brought a grand flower and planted it inside the barricaded clearing as a new throne for their Queen. And when the informed the Queen that they had done as she commanded, she summoned all the feighd to her and gathered herself up, and the feighd all lined themselves up before her and behind her and blew their pipes and sang, and they paraded their Queen through the air all the way towards Highholt where the firefruit was, home of the feighdfulc and their magnolious feighdqueen.

@Odin Thank you! I found two versions originally, feel free to use whichever is better:

They had not been able to make the firefruit, and she was angry. One of them, who everyone thought looked very much like a red flower and so had braided a number of these flowers into his red hair, looked behind them at where she was regally on a great yellow flower with two others fluttering to either side of her while fanning furiously. She squacked, Redflower winced, and a piece of plant matter thwacked him on the head. He yelped and a sudden spark shot out of his head and onto the dry twigs and leaves before him. The other two who were trying to make the firefruit gasped in shock and began to screech and scream, and one of them pulled at Redflowers hair, ruining his beautiful headdress, in an attempt to work out how he had made that spark.

The Queen, for her part, had not seen the spark, but she had sensed a sudden upsurge and was staring at Redflower like he had eaten a whole firefruit without showing her. She rose, tall and beautiful and utterly resplendent, her once-naked form now covered in a leafy dress her loyal subjects had made and gifted her, and she spread her great multi-colored wings and seemed to float serenely towards Redflower. She paused above him and stared at him gravely, and he looked sheepish and sorry for having disappointed her. But then her grave stare softened and she bent down and patted him gently on the head, her eyes bleeding with forgiveness and understanding, and her serene smile causing Redflower euphoric joy. He chirruped with determination, a promise to find out how that spark had come out of his head. Her eyes hardened and her smile froze, and her lips parted to reveal wickedly sharp teeth. Redflower trembled. He knew what would come of him if he failed.

She rose and looked at the others disdainfully, then squacked briskly and clapped her hands. They all rushed around each other and got to thwacking one another in attempts to replicate what had happened with Redflower. The Queen, satisfied with their instant obedience, returned to her flowery throne and watched them. As she did so, it began to rain, and everyone paused and looked up at the thick canopy far above. Little rain would reach them as the canopy drank it all up and drained it down, but the sound - first gentle, then persistent, then incessant, then thunderous - caused them all to pause. The Queen rose and took a few graceful strides upward. She looked at the others, who were staring at her adoringly. She gestured for Redflower and a blue-haired feighd, called Bluebell because she looked like bluebells, to follow her to inspect the rain. Then she snapped at the others to continue in their attempts to generate sparks and create the firefruit once more.

The Queen, Redflower, and Bluebell rose swiftly upwards and made their way through the canopy until nothing stood between them and the heavens. But the heavens were obscured by thick black clouds that roiled and grew angrily, spitting raindrops the size of a feighd and bigger. One smacked Bluebell directly and sent her reeling downwards, and the Queen and Redflower quickly retreated beneath the canopy after seeing this. Unsatisfied with this turn of events, the Queen stared upwards at the canopy and slowly a gleam lit up her eyes. She gestured for Redflower and Bluebell to gather up the two biggest leaves from the trees that they could find. The two dashed off, and eventually came back with two great leaves, and all three of them ascended once more. This time they all took refuge beneath the two leaves as the Queen surveyed the mighty rain. The rain drops smashed against the leaves, and though they bent slightly they held.

Lightning flashed across the skies and the clouds rumbled and then exploded with thunder. The Queen was quiet through this, though Redflower and Bluebell trembled at the sight of lightning and sound of thunder. Then lightning flashed again, closer now, and thunder rumbled. The two little ones shook and trembled, but their Queen had eyes only for the powerful light that lit up the heavens before thunder came. She gestured for the two to follow her, and they dashed across the canopy. The two subjects did not know where their queen was leading them, but she seemed to be heading somewhere with purpose.

When at last she stopped, they found themselves floating above a strange tree. There were black clouds emerging from it. The Queen dashed down swiftly and her two subjects dashed after her, and they now could see that the tree had somehow cracked right down the middle. Far below they found embers, but no firefruit. The Queen gathered up some of the embers with twigs and settled them down. She added dry leaves and watched as the embers ate at them and grew, and then she added twigs until the firefruit was tremendous and large. Redflower and Bluebull chirruped and cheered, but their Queen silenced them with a glance and she picked up a very large twig and dipped its tip into the firefruit, whereupon the twig caught fire. Her subjects did likewise and they dashed off to find the others.

That night, while rain smashed the rainforest's canopy and lightning lit the night and thunder growled and clapped, the feighd danced around their glorious Queen and around the great firefruit she had brought them. They chirruped and sang more beautifully than any bird, and one feighd with brown tree-like skin brought a hollow twig to his lips and blew in it to make a strange but oddly nice sound. The feighd danced and sang, and many others grabbed just such twigs and blew into them to make the celebratory victorious hooting sound. They would never let the firefruit go out again, and they would feed from its delicious magic forever!

@6slyboy6 How far can we go exactly when it comes to developments in posts? Can we show rudimentary signs of a tech/development we hope to see, or just show attempts at making developments. In my case: the feighd attempting to make fire through magic, would writing that they are trying to do this without showing any early successes in a post be sufficient, or would I be permitted to showcase early successes and usage of said magically-generated fire?


Goddess of Rain
MP 11 FP 16

Year 47, 4 weeks into the Rot.

As Ya-Shuur continued his solitary southward walk, he reflected on the Rot and the terrible things he had felt happening during it, and also on what Daethyrd had told him when the grizzled executioner found him during that terrible period.

When he had come Ya-Shuur had immediately sensed blood on him and had recoiled from the vall, whose red hair now seemed to Ya-Shuur like blood. “You have killed.” Ya-Shuur stated, though his voice betrayed neither indignation nor approval. Daethyrd frowned.

“I have delivered the price of blood.” The vall corrected tersely, and he went on to describe to Ya-Shuur details of the terrible things the demigod had already sensed. Ya-Shuur found Daethyrd’s methods disconcerting, but he could not deny that he himself had told them that the price of blood was blood.

“It is for kin to ask after the blood of their own, not you.” The demigod spoke. “And you have in any case forgotten that forgiveness is good, though in this case it is not for you to forgive but for the kin of those whose blood was unjustly spilled.” Daethyrd pursed his lips and looked away, unconvinced.

“You are a just and kind god, Be’r-Jaz. But disobedience cannot be met with kindness. I am your vengeance; and I will strike down with great vengeance and furious punishment those who transgress, and they will know the full glory of the Land only then when retribution is due.” But Ya-Shuur shook his head and turned his back on Daethyrd.

“It is not my way and you are not of me.” He said as he walked away from the vall. Daethyrd looked silently at the god’s turned back. The Land was the face of merciful justice, and mercy was good; for the Land itself was good. But the ways of people demanded cruelty and retribution, and he would continue to bring about the Land’s retributive justice even if it turned its back on him. Retributive justice was a lonely path, it was true, but Daethyrd had never been afraid to walk alone.

The Horned One walked through the stench, and eventually he came upon a group of of twelve valls. Leading them were two, dressed in well-crafted furs and leathers. One of them sported white hair and blue eyes and the other dark brown hair and grey eyes, and Ya-Shuur immediately recognized them as Valthumir, the supposedly superior valls that the Queen-Mother had selected for rulership. This group seemed to be going somewhere with purpose, unfazed by the black rot and the terrible stench that had gripped the island for weeks now. Eventually they made camp and Ya-Shuur took the opportunity to approach them.

The Demigod approached from behind a thick concentration of trees as one of the Valthumir shouted, “Ah, there we go! Feast your grey eyes, Sun’Ka! This, this means you owe me two handfuls of nuts and berries, my friend!” The white-haired Valthumir said with a laugh, to which his fellow responded to with a chuckle.

“You were lucky this time. Say, want to do a double or nothing? Four handfuls, Takk’Takk!”

“Eeeeh! Four!”

“Wait, someone’s approaching.” The voices became hushed and inintelligible, and there was a sizzling sound as a fire was put out. It all became deadly quiet, and by the time Ya’Shuur emerged into the clearing in the forest, it looked like nothing was out of the ordinary.

The demigod looked around impassively at the empty clearing, his herding stick in his hand and two molves at his side. One of them growled slightly, and the other released a loud bark. He approached the flame that had so quickly been put out and with a snap of his fingers there was a great fire. Dead branches rose and made their way into the flame, and in the light of the fire the horns of the demigod were clear, and his long brown hair and beard gave him the appearance of something ancient. Had the stench of the Rot not been so great, the hiding Valthumir would have been able to smell him!

“The wind blows and the rain falls and it is cold tonight. Come sit with me in the warmth a while and we will talk.” He said as he sat himself down and waited.

“Y’call tis rain?” A deep voice rang out from the bushes.

“Ye, this only a drizzle!” A high-pitched one added.

And then the rest of the voices flooded in with their agreements, “Rite!” “It is” “Can’t even fill a waterskin wit tis weak drizzle!” “Ye, and I can’t wash m’balls.”

There was a silence.

And then all the voices erupted into laughter, until another one rang out, one of the first two the Demigod had heard, before the Valthumir hid from him.

“Boys, do our friend a favour and shut your filthy mouths.” And surprisingly, the voices went silent. And from the canopy of a tall tree jumped down the black-haired Valthumir. His hair was long and silky smooth, with bangs barely reaching his grey eyes, and as he stood up there was an odd… Air, to him. He turned his icy eyes toward the Demigod and bowed his head in a respectful manner, holding his eyes closed as he opened his mouth to speak.

“Forgive our companions, Divine. I hope our uncouth banter hasn’t offended you in any way.” He said, opening his eyes and standing straight up again.

“Nothing you or your companions do could offend me, for it seems that your race are destined to disappoint. Nor could anything you or your companions do ever truly please me, for if you do well you are only carrying out your duty; and that is only to be expected and requires no praise.” Ya-Shuur did not look over at him, but spoke to the fire. Then he looked at the icy-eyed Valthumir and smiled. “Only I can disappoint me.” He gestured for him to come sit and his molves, which had disappeared, returned suddenly with game in their mouths. One had felled a deer while the other had brought them a wild goat. With a gesture the two animals were skinned and emptied. “Would you like them cooked or raw?” He asked as he brought the meat close to the flame.

The Valthumir spared no look to the Molves and instead stared at the two animals, gulping. He took a step back and regarded Ya-Shuur carefully, but finally decided to walk closer to him and sat down across from him, behind the fire. With a motion of his hand, the rest of his group came out of hiding. The first was the other Valthumir, who dropped down and wiped away some saliva off his lip. Then the Vallamir followed, all looking various levels of hungry and lean. They all moved to take a seat around the great fire, with Takk’Takk sitting next to Sun’Ka.

After a while, Sun’Ka spoke again, “My name is Sun’Ka, the one next to me with the blue eyes is Takk’Takk. And, cooked, please.” Ya-Shuur acknowledged Sun’Ka and Takk’Takk with a short look each as the goat and deer were brought over the flame and began to spin slowly in mid air. He noticed that the two Valthumir did not deign to introduce the others and guessed that it was due to their lower status.

“And what brings you so far east, Sun’Ka, Takk’Takk, and uncouth companions? Any further and you will be out of the forests and rot and in the mud and rot.”

“Ah, no, they have no names, our companions. No official names, at least. The Queen-Mother, Li’Kalla, promised them names if we succeeded in our mission. We’re due northeast, toward the Clay Spires. Our objective is a ravine in the area that is said to reach deeper than any other. It is a dark place, but the Queen-Mother expects a lot of great things from this expedition and it is the duty of all Valthumir to lead their brethren to the future.” Ya-Shuur listened impassively and then invited the twelve to eat once the meat had been cooked (at an unusually fast pace, for that was but a small things for divine beings!) But even though his face betrayed nothing, he was shocked to hear the name. It took a greater degree of discipline than he usually needed to maintain complete calm.

“Li’Kalla.” He said simply. “I am not unfamiliar with the name. Not at all. I thought her dead, but unless there happens to be another god named Li’Kalla of whom I was unaware, then your Queen-Mother would be…” Ya-Shuur smiled, “my mother.” He did not look at his guests at this revelation, but only looked into the fire. “If she has tasked you with this, then it is your duty to fulfill it as best you can. You nameless ones may be nameless, but even in your namelessness you must aspire towards excellence. And you who have names, you should not let that fact blind you. You must cultivate excellence. An excellent nameless vall is greater and more praiseworthy than a named one who lacks excellence. Remember that.” He paused for a few moments. “Perhaps I can aid you with this mission of yours. I know a rowdy vall, overly vengeful and bloody, but one who will surely be a boon to you...” and he gestured to one of his molves who leapt off to summon Blood-haired Daethyrd.

“If they can use a spear, and they have the guts to traverse the depths of the land, then they are more than welcome to join us, Son of the Queen-Mother.” Sun’Ka nodded,

“Wait just a minute, Sun’Ka, should we really believe what he’s saying?” Takk’Takk asked sudenly, perking up.

“Do we have any reason to distrust him?” Sun’Ka asked his group, all of whom but himself and Takk’Takk were eating.

After a few moments of silence, Takk’Takk sighed and rubbed his neck. “You guys remember what the Queen-Mother said, right? The world is full of Demons like the Accursed Envy, the River Worm. We can’t trust all Divines this quickly.”

Sun’Ka rested his head on his fist in thought, and then looked at Ya’Shuur, “We require proof that you are indeed the Queen-Mother’s Son. I apologize, but you must understand. She’s never mentioned offspring of her own.” Ya-Shuur waved the request away.

“There is no need,” he said, “for she does not know me. The ways of the gods are beyond mortal comprehension, for I was born of a mother who never knew me though I knew her, and a father who neither knew me nor I knew. But I will travel to her soon, and we will be reunited at last and come to know one another.” Ya-Shuur then stood and cast his hand above the fire. “I will bless your journey and ease your way. Animals will aid you wherever you find yourselves, and my two molves shall accompany you and help you.”

Just as he said this, the molf who had leapt off to find Daethyrd erupted from the trees, closely followed by another molf on whose back was a rider. The rider approached without descending from his molf and surveyed the two valthumir and their vallamir companions, and then he looked at Ya-Shuur. “The Land summoned and we answered.” He said.

“This is Blood-haired Daethyrd, and if he is willing then he will accompany you and aid you on your quest into the darkness.” Ya-Shuur looked at the vall. “These good folk are headed towards the Clay Spires. They seek a ravine in there that is said to reach deeper than any other. I have travelled in the dark places and I have seen the monstrosities that lie there. It is not for the weak of heart. But it is for those who seek glory.” Daethyrd sniffed at these words and looked disdainfully at the two Valthumir.

“I don’t really feel like helping their ilk, but I just so happen to be heading off in that direction.” He waved a small spike at Ya-Shuur and the demigod immediately recognized it as being from Zer-Du’s tail. “My quarry seems to have run off there. So I’ll accompany this lot. For now, and only because the great Be’r-Jaz himself recommends it.” Ya-Shuur smiled thinly.
“That’s good. It seems like you will get along just fine.” And saying so he got to his feet, preparing to leave. But before he did he looked at the two Valthumir, granting them the opportunity to say anything they wished before he left.

Takk’Takk was the only one to speak, “I recommend hiding those horns, Son of the Queen-Mother. Try to look as close to a True Divine as you can. White Hair, Grey Eyes, glowing aura, I’m sure you know the rest. If you do that, your meeting with the Queen-Mother will go well.” Ya-Shuur nodded in acknowledgement of this information before heading off silently into the putrid night.

As Ya-Shuur continued his journey, now armed with the knowledge that the True Queen-Mother was in fact Li’Kalla, he found himself reflecting on some of the oddities and contradictions that existed when it came to this Queen-Mother. The way she had been described to him was very unlike how he remembered Li’Kalla. She was spoken of with fear, with respect, the many middelvalls seemed to hate her for choosing the valthumir over them. Yet the Li’Kalla she remembered had never been one to strike fear into a person’s heart and she was not the kind of person one could hate, unless they were unhinged or hateful by nature. And he could not say she commanded respect either.

The Li’Kalla he remembered was easily loved and adored, pitied, protected. You laughed with her and made merry and watched the world with wide and curious eyes. She was the kind of person who held a lot of pain, and he had immediately felt the need to protect her from any further pain. He had failed of course, though he no longer blamed himself. He had made his peace with his mother a long time ago, and peace with himself.

But the Li’Kalla who had been described to him seemed different. Certainly Takk’Takk’s warning weighed heavily on him and he found himself looking into a still lake and surveying his reflection. Maybe ones he could have said that he liked his horns and that he had some kind of sentimental attachment to them that meant removing them would have been truly difficult, but that was no longer the case. He was not attached to his appearance at all and did not care for it, as the long wild beard and unkempt hair showed. Things like this just didn’t matter, because the most important thing was being excellent.

White hair, brown hair, blue eyes, gray eyes. These were all unimportant and transient things, and most beings had no control over them. When his hair and eyes changed, he remained the same. Yet Takk’Takk had suggested that for no reason other than the color of his eyes and hair his meeting with Li’Kalla was bound to go badly, and so to ensure it didn’t go badly he would have to change those cosmetic things. It seemed shallow, and he disliked the idea of being loved for something so shallow as his appearance rather than the substance of his self.

As he walked, he came across starved pilgrims heading to the Cave of Light and they stopped before him and praised him. He took a hand to one of his horns and snapped it from the base, much to their shock, and he gave it to the pilgrims. Then later he came across a solitary hunter, and he snapped the other horn and gave it to him as a trophy. And when he came across a stream, he waded out into it and washed himself until he was cleaner than he had ever been. He sat at the side of the stream and braided his hair and beard as he had seen the valls do, and when he looked at his reflection again he found that his appearance was tidier. His hair was still brown and his eyes were still the color of honey. He had made some changes, but he would not do all that Takk’Takk had suggested. If his mother had become so shallow that the content of his character was of no concern to her, but only the color of his eyes and hair, then she was no mother of his and Li’Kalla had truly died.

When dawn next came, Ya-Shuur found himself in the intense fog and rain that meant he had arrived at Li’Kalla’s manor.

He had arrived from the back and had not stumbled into the small settlement at the foot of the hill, and so when the demigod walked up to the large entrance doors, he was met by two Valthumir. The two were white haired and grey eyed, and they were dressed with the finest furs and leathers that such a primitive civilization could afford. One of them even had a hat made out of some exotic animal not found on the Island.

The two Valthumir regarded Ya-Shuur with icy eyes until the one on the right spoke.

"State your business, Divine. The Queen-Mother has had her trust hurt by your kind before, and it is our duty to make sure that doesn't happen again…"

Ya-Shuur looked from one to the other impassively, and then smiled thinly. “I am here to speak with my mother. Please let her know that I would like to see her.” He held his herding stick before him in two hands and waited on Li’Kalla to permit him entry into her presence.

The one on the right scrutinized Ya-Shuur’s appearance, and after a while nodded. “Then you may enter. We’re not allowed inside without being purified, so you will have to find your way around the Queen-Mother’s abode on your own. Follow the path dictated by your heartbeat.”

After speaking, the two Valthumir bowed their heads in a quick show of respect and took a step to the side, the large wooden doors opening without a need for mortal assistance. The only light illuminating the inside now was that of the sun and when Ya-Shuur walked inside, the doors closed behind him. All that a mortal’s eyes could see would be dusty darkness, but that didn’t last long.

From the ceiling hung large, strange and beautiful contraptions which slowly lit up the room with intensifying light. But it wasn’t a natural light, it wasn’t something created by the Goddess of Light, and so it lacked any warmth, and its colors were slightly off. Ya-Shuur stood and observed the odd light for some time, wondering if it truly made him uncomfortable. Eventually he concluded that he did not feel strongly about it whether it lacked or had warmth. That was good, to be thick-skinned.

Regardless, the darkness was no more, and with a light white tinge to everything due to the artificial light, everything could now be seen clearly. Ya-Shuur found himself in a large Entrance room flanked with two desks leading to closets. Past the Entrance room there was an even bigger Foyer with an ornate staircase and several doors leading to different parts of the Manor, they were locked of course, and none of the artificial light leaked out from under the doors so it was safe to assume they were not in use.

Built into the solid foundation for the large ornate staircase was a small passageway toward the basement, but the sturdy looking metal gate to go into it was locked, and it was dark down there.

The only path lit was the one leading upstairs, and so Ya-Shuur took that path, and it lead him through several twists and turns in the upper floor of the Manor, until finally he reached an unassuming door at the end of a dead end hallway. The door was ajar, and light spilled out from behind it. Soft crying could be heard from behind the door, along with muttering and the movement of heavy fabric.

Ya-Shuur paused before the open entrance and listened quietly to the crying. After a few moments he rapped three times on the ground with his herding stick to make his presence known. “Mother Li’Kalla, may I come in?” He asked in a clear, loud voice.

There was silence, and then hurried shuffling before the door opened and the pale, white-haired and gray eyed Li’Kalla showed herself to be standing with her hands clasped. She inspected Ya’Shuur and gave the air a subtle sniff, which if Ya’Shuur wasn’t as wise, he would have mistaken for a badly hidden sniffle.

“... Hello… Ya’Shuur? You seem familiar. Do I know you from before, as a fellow Divine? You’re not allied to that ghastly river worm?” She asked with uncertainty, fidgeting a little. Ya-Shuur looked at Li’Kalla for a few moments, taking her in and noting how she had changed and how she was yet the same. The tears were still there, it seemed. Then a small, shy smile grew on his face.

“Hello, Li’Kalla. Yes, I am Ya-Shuur. I do not know if you know or remember me, but I certainly know you. I lived with you for a time, long ago. It was a… beautiful time. You likely do not know this because it happened in a very strange way, but…” and it struck him only then how odd this revelation was, “you are my mother.” Ya-Shuur allowed his words to hang between them and watched for Li’Kalla’s reaction.

Li’Kalla opened her mouth to speak, but immediately shut it and looked away for a moment, then sat on her bed and remained silent, her wings drooping and resting on her big fluffy bed. Ya-Shuur cocked his head then put his staff against the door frame and stepped inside. “I just want you to know that, even though we never spoke back then, I have missed you very much. The island has not been the same without you. I am glad you have returned.” He placed a hand on her head and patted her comfortingly a few times, as he had done to the god with chopstick eyes when she had been sad. “And your friend the god with chopstick eyes came and asked about you. She was very sad because you were gone, but now I’m sure she will be happy again. And you simply must return to Melly and see her again, as you promised. There are many who love you, you must know this and must not be sad.”

Li’Kalla sniffled and rubbed her eyes, “B-But I don’t think they will like me. I’m not okay, I-I can’t help it… I brought this plague onto our island by not being able to shut up. These mortals were meant to grow strong to battle whatever is coming b-but I can’t even keep them alive… I want to be… Liked, yes. But no one likes me now… They liked me when I was weak and let everyone walk over me…” Ya-Shuur sat beside her and looked across the room, his eyebrows furrowed.

“I don’t know what has happened and why this terrible Rot has come about, but you must know that there is no use in blaming yourself and beating yourself up about it.” He paused and thought. “Your Valthumir made mention of another god who hurt you recently; I am guessing they brought about this Rot because… you told them something they did not like?” He shrugged. “That is okay. You should not seek to be liked. It is certainly nice to be liked, I think, but it should not be your goal. Tell me mother, why is it that you feel that you are not liked?” He looked at her.

“Well… I went to Orvus and he called me a monster, then I talked to his daughter and she ran away from me. And I spoke before that to his other daughter and she was so uncomfortable she could’ve passed out… And Shengshi saw it fit to curse the entire land because of my words… So yes, I don’t think I’m liked. And if the others are the same, then I fear they might grow to hate me if I show my face to them…” Ya-Shuur frowned at these words and looked at her pensively.

“That does seem very odd. If you don’t mind, can you tell me exactly why this Orvus called you a monster? And what did you say to make his daughter uncomfortable or to cause Shengshi to curse the land?”

“I-I only said the truth! Orvus was a lonely sad god wanting to fit in with mortals even going so far as to get a mortal that he turned immortal, his daughter was a fine specimen and she hadn’t bred yet which is insane… What if she dies in battle?! Her bloodline will be lost! And Shengshi was the worst,” She sniffled and her wings stiffened and stretched, brushing Ya-Shuur’s back, “I just called him what he was. A deviant for protecting other deviants and being a half-animal and expecting to be treated as a full person. It’s crazy! He should’ve been thankful that I told him the truth, apparently no one else had been brave enough to do so! This gives him the chance to change his ways. And yet… Here I am.” She said as she deflated once more. Hearing all this, Ya-Shuur smiled in understanding.

“I see, so that’s what’s happened. So all of this has come about because you were concerned for their wellbeing, wanting what was best for them; and so you spoke frankly and inadvertently hurt them?”

“Um… I suppose.”

“Are you sad that you spoke to them like that? Or that they didn’t listen? Or both?” He continued calmly.

“I… I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t have many memories. I don’t remember any offspring, which should be my pride and one of my most treasured memories… I’m just confused. I don’t know.” She said and began sobbing quietly, tears falling from her eyes and mixing with the rainwater flowing over her skin at all times. Ya-Shuur instinctively placed a hand across her shoulder and brought her smaller body close.

“There is no need for crying or for sadness, mother. All these matters that are causing you sadness are simply beyond your power and control. Since you can’t do anything about them, you should not be bothered by them. You can’t force this Shengshi to change, and you can’t control what this Orvus says, and you can’t control whether you have your memories or not. None of it matters. What truly matters is what you can control, what is truly in your power. Shall I tell you what that is?” He looked at her and wiped the tears and rainwater from her cheeks.

Li’Kalla sniffled a few more times and looked up at Ya-Shuur, “W-What is it?” He smiled and tapped her forehead gently with one of his fingers.

“It is you, mother. Your self. Your soul. Your character. You are the master of what you say, how you act, how you feel. The only thing that should truly sadden you is if you are not as you wish to be, or if you act in a way that displeases you and is not in accordance with your principles. If you are principled and always aspire to be the best version of yourself (if you are not a slave to emotion, to lust, to fears), then you will never have reason to be displeased. Take utter moral responsibility for your own actions and be indifferent to all else, not because you do not care for the felicity of all creatures but because such things are not under your control. Certainly seek what is good for others, for it is our duty, but ultimately what others do is up to them, just as you are the master of yourself they too are their own master. Others may like or dislike you, but what is most important is that you will like yourself, you will live in such a way as not to disgrace yourself and will not be less than what you truly could be.” He stopped, and knew that he had spoken for too long. He had not wished to preach, for he did not like that, but if perhaps it helped Li’Kalla even a little then he did not mind. It was not lost on him that in many ways he may have just done the same as Li’Kalla did to this Orvus and Shengshi. He looked at her and rubbed his head and laughed. “At least that’s what I believe, but maybe I’m a little bit strange!”

Li’Kalla had listened quietly to Ya-Shuur’s speech, and when the time came to respond, she chuckled while drying the last of her tears and returned his embrace with a wing, “You speak like a deity, Son.” Her words surprised him and he blinked a few times, realizing suddenly that there was a warmth in his chest and wetness in his eyes. He swallowed and blinked the wetness away.

“Mother,” he mumbled, his lips quivering ever so slightly, and he brought both his arms around her and closed his eyes, basking for the first time in his existence in the feeling that… “I have a mother.” One who knew him. One who acknowledged him. It was a few moments before he regained his composure and broke the embrace, all sign of the previous emotion gone from his face though the smile remained. He removed himself from the bed and got to his knees before her and kissed both her hands in respect. His mother had been returned to him when he thought her dead, and this time he would be a good and dutiful son.

“You do.” She said softly before dropping to her knees in front of his and embracing him again, “That was the first embrace I can say belongs to me. Just a little bit longer…” She whispered, her wings fluttering slowly, sending gusts of pleasingly cool wind around the room. Ya-Shuur obliged her, wrapping his arms tightly around her and bringing her smaller body into his even as her great wings surrounded them protectively. He found it warming that even as his great arms sought to hold her in a protective embrace, her great motherly wings held him in a greater, more protective one. That was how a mother was. Ya-Shuur had seen it in many living things - the mother spider allowed herself to be consumed by her children so that they may grow strong and live, the mother goat stood guard over her children and was willing to stand between them and the jaws of the wolf, and vall mothers carried their children for nearly a year and cared for them after that for longer, and he had seen the corpses of mothers wrapped protectively around their small children in an attempt to shield them from raiders with their own bodies.

It was motherhood, and Ya-Shuur had seen that love much but never felt it. Now with his mother’s arms and wings around him, he could say he had.

My people have discovered the fan and the delicious firefruit. Their purpose is complete.

A gentle breeze danced on the snout of a snorting wave, which crashed and swallowed itself into the sand. The breeze blew on the wet sand, rolled, and burst with greatened speed across the dry sands and off the beach right into thick undergrowth. The forest was uncomfortably humid and immediately stifled the breeze, and it stumbled and died on a thick tree trunk. But though the wind had died, the forest was very much alive. Mosses, liverworts, and lichens were immediately visible when one looked beyond the ferns, and the chirping of birds was constant and incessant. No sooner had one bird grown silent before another leapt in, carrying the unending birdsong to new heights of ecstatic beauty. It was a celebration of their unsoiled, pristine paradise.

There were mammals here too, from raccoons to black bears and cougars to the mighty elk. Innumerable rivers and streams flowed from freshwater lakes, frogs and toads and fish aplenty and all manner of river fauna in and around them. Hills rose and fell, but there were no mountains (strange as this was for a great island in the middle of the sea). And yet for all this great diversity of life, there was no intelligent life at all to be found on the isle.

And suddenly, as though some almighty god had at that very moment been thinking the same thing, a small feighd popped into existence. It was followed by another, then another, and another, until there were hundreds looking around themselves in wonder and confusion. That wonder and confusion disappeared, however, when each one of those feighd realized that they were hungry and their eyes narrowed and saw each other. One in the shape of an adorable girl with slightly pointed ears, patted a little winged boy. They looked at each other for a few short seconds, the boy opened his mouth ever so slightly, and then suddenly the girl's mouth erupted open and she consumed his head whole. Her quarry erupted into dust and she sucked up the magical dust.

As though a spell had been broken, the feighd fell upon one another in a feasting frenzy and magical dust filled the island's forest air. When all was said and done, there was only one left. She had eaten all of her siblings and was now no longer a little girl with pointed ears, but tall and slender and beautiful at a full seven inches in height. Her wings fluttered here and there and she cocked her head as she looked around herself. And she thought it a great shame that everyone was gone.


A small confused feighd popped into view before her.

pop pop pop pop

Another four, and then a series of pops followed so that there were eleven others, and she was the twelfth. They were about to fall on one another, but a command came from her and they all paused and looked at her. There was respect and fear in their eyes. They knew her to be powerful, and they knew her to be the leader. She chirruped and squeaked and piped haughtily, and they all circled around her and squeaked and cheeped in response, displaying their submission before her. She squacked suddenly and raised her hands dramatically, and all the feighd around her launched themselves in various directions.

The feighd queen (though she did not know that term, it was simply what she was, just like a bee queen was simply what she was) sat down on a leaf and huffed, fanning herself with a hand against the heat. But it was woefully ineffective. She looked around and noticed that these leaves were shaped rather like hands, only much bigger. Surely they would be more effective at fanning! When one of her subjects returned she cheeped and and squeaked at him, pointing at a leaf with a long stem. He looked confused for a few moments, but then the bigger feighd squeaked angrily and gestured at it, and he quickly rushed to the leaf and struggled with it until it came loose, and returned back to his mistress.

She fanned herself with her hand and puffed, and he swiftly understood she was hot and excitedly set about fanning her with the leaf. She squealed in approval and drank in the cooler air. She had not been basking in it for more than a minute before three others returned, squealing and screaming in horror and carrying between them some red hot branches. They threw it before the queen and quickly rushed into the air and blew at their hands. The surprised queen had at first backed away from the strange red hot thing, but when it stayed where it was she approached. She sniffed at it, and her eyes lit up when she sensed... magic.

The queen smiled sweetly and chirrupted approvingly to the three who had brought the fire. She gestured for them to go, and then pointed at the fire. They were to bring more. Much more. She looked at the flame with a smile, and then her teeth appeared, and they were viciously curved. She opened her mouth and drank up the flame in one breath. The feighd fanning her gasped and chirruped excitedly. She burped nonchalantly, and gestured for him to keep fanning.

Damn it, but she felt hot.

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