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Gregor stopped in his tracks as the knife clattered to the ground. The world frozen, a tableau complete, as he pivoted; one man's whole body locked in a bright rictus of pain so all-encompassing that the air could not even leave his lungs; the other holding him in place, his grip and posture as solid and final as the stone man's own. The movement as he turned seemed almost too fluid, though: rock rippling and twisting as though made flesh, bulging slightly as he shifted.

"Thank you for saving his life," the distant, hissing voice sighed, accompanied by a gust of white mist from that fathomless pit of a face.

"What did he think he'd do? Against me? With a knife?" There was indignation there, but also pity. As though he'd been challenged by a child wielding his father's sword. Conrad's eyes drifted down to his broken arm and, with a small whimper, he crumpled to the ground insensate. Batu had the sense to release his grip so that he did not further grind the broken bones.

"And even if he'd somehow cut me, you'd all..." the awful statue sighed again, and shook his head. "It doesn't matter. You did a good thing, and I appreciate it. I hate death more than anything, you know."

"What are you going to do with him now? I can't help fix his arm...it might shock you but I'm not a doctor," Gregor said, and his words seemed very near now, very present; nearly warm.

It was at this moment that Hafadac burst forth, the living embodiment of a bass drop. Even Gregor - that grim, towering omen silhoueted against the light of a broken and decaying moon - was visibly and obviously surprised. He had lived for so long without beauty, missing the joy of music as only one with a hole in their heart could. He had pined for it as the dry wind struck his crystal chimes against one another on the dead world. He'd worried it was beyond his reach until the end of time.

He was not really sure how to react to what was happening to him.

"Will you please take me to somewhere less confusing? At the very least somewhere that I can eat, and where nobody will try to murder me. Is that possible?" he asked Batu.
"...he heard the song of arrows in flight, and the night sky grew as bright as day as they rained from above, a thousand shooting stars falling upon the plains. The Huntress burned bright like the sun, her bow firing again and again, faster than the eye could see. Every arrow found its mark: straight through the heart of the twintail warriors. Those who did not die fled, running back into the guts of the earth, never daring to set foot in her sacred lands again."

The soft rhythm of a drum accompanied his words, both of which rolled low and soothing in the warm night air. He spoke to his fellow travelers, drifting or already dreaming, around the dwindling campfire; he spoke to the guards at the edge of the light, their eyes watching the darkness for hunters; he spoke to the pack animals curled up safe and asleep; he spoke to himself. He lay on his back, his instrument on his chest, staring into the vault of the sky, and spoke to the heavens themselves.

"Where those shafts lay, the faithful built monuments to her swift justice, just like the one we're camped by. It's said they placed those sacred arrows inside each statue of the Huntress, blessing the stone and the land. It's also said that anyone who tries to steal the relics - thief or heretic or just stupid - will soon find themselves in the sights of her bow. It's a good reminder that we should be godfearing, even out here in the wilderness."

Roan breathed in deep, filling his nose with the scent of woodsmoke and wildflowers. The crackle of shouldering logs, the beat of his drum, the murmur of his voice, the hoot and call of night birds, the dull roar of the wind across the tall grass sea: this was the world complete. There was no tomorrow and there was barely a present; only the past mattered here, in this bubble of time by the fire, these songs of antiquity.

"This is the story of how the Huntress saved her people, and how we came to call them these lands the Arrowfalls."

With that he slid his drums carefully off of his chest, resting them at the side of his bedroll. There was no applause - it was too late for all that - but he heard the satisfied sighs and shuffles of his audience. Smiling at a job well done, he reached up to his mouth and delicately plucked a strip of well-chewed leather from his mouth, then tied it next to the others on his heavy necklace. The wet, coarse texture felt unpleasant on his skin as it dried, but in a few hours he knew he wouldn't even notice.

Sniffing, he picked the drums back up, his eyes never looking down from the constellations and the oldest sagas. He should sleep, but he was entranced by the moon and her daughters. And who could resist just one more story?

"This one some of you may know if you grew up out here on the plains, and maybe even if you didn't. It's called How The Wind Found Its Love. Once upon a time..."
Additions to lore by THE ADORATION

Character(s) played by THE ADORATION


The voice that came out of that yawning black hole of a face sounded different now. A little closer, a little more focused, a little less imposing...and a lot more confused.

He stepped over to the filthy girl, his movements slow but strangely fluid, like lava sliding down a mountainside. His feet landed tombstone heavy on the damp cement and he knelt down to face her, the lightless chasm feet away from her dirt-streaked face.

"Who said anything about killing anybody? Nobody's here to kill anybody, right?" He looked around as if seeking confirmation from everyone present: from his fellow travelers (who had abandoned him, he saw, in favor of prying open a door to shelter) and from the other two Rats, the bruiser and the sour man whose faces showed a mix of fear, anger and acceptance.

"Life's precious," he said, stretching his arms out as if to grasp the whole of the city and the ruinous moon above, "this is all a gift. You haven't done anything here that you can't take back, so you don't need to worry."

He rose to his full height then, slow and steady as the tide washing away the shore, and considered the glowing capsule that Hafadac had tossed him as if just noticing it. With a little shrug - the rumble of wet stone against itself - he tilted back his head and dropped it into the abyss, sighing contentedly a few moments later.

"A gift," he repeated fondly, the words so unlike the crackling, distant buzz from before, "that shouldn't be wasted. Tell me your names, new friends. Tell me where I am. There's so much that I want to know."

"My name is-" he began, but when he spoke the Name, what came out was wrong; sounds layered and interwoven, contrasting and conflicting, disharmony conjoined.

"Gregor," said the man.

"Forever" said the serpent.

"Let's get inside with the others. It doesn't seem safe out here."
You needed more cats and now you have more cats.
"You know why they built the roads in this town the way they did? It's a spell."

The Yellow's voice came from the front of the cab, up past the loose black partition curtain. It sounded like it was from somewhere you'd heard of but had never been. A way of speaking that sounded maybe a little old, a little gruff, but one that made you bone-deep certain you'd get where you needed to be, safe and in good time.

"It all twists like a snake, and every time you ride the loop, it's like you're doing a prayer. But it's one of those prayers that nobody knows the words to anymore, just the motions to do it right."

The back of the cabin was plush, but in a way that felt twenty years out of style. Clean, too. He occupied the back passenger seat, while his package leaned up against the space behind the Yellow, stretching from floor to ceiling. It made the air dimmer, that thing: like it sucked up the light from the flares of hellfire that made it through the taxi's smoked glass. Nobody liked being around it, not even back home.

"So who's the prayer to," he asked, shifting in his seat to try and peer through the slit in the fabric, "why would the damned pray for anything? Nobody goes below because they made friends up top."

"My opinion?" said the Yellow in a way that suggested it was gospel, "it's the True King of High Hell. Though I don't know why you'd bother praying to the dead instead of for them."

He didn't reply, and the cabin lapsed into silence. Neon burned the sky to ashes outside, outshining the magma below. Living billboards promised the spark of the divine, the grace of Eden for the lowest price in town, guaranteed.

He'd ridden along with it (or maybe within, he was never quite sure if it was the person in the front or the vehicle itself) five times. Five different jobs, and there was no discretion like that of the Yellow. It was fine for a driver to talk while he was on the clock, but if he was still talking when the meter stopped, that was a problem.

He leaned against the glass and drifted. The same transient world, no matter where you go. Everybody on their way to somewhere else, even if they don't know it yet.

"Almost there," the driver warned.

"You need help with your baggage, sir?"

He ran a claw across the hilt and then down, letting it tease the edges of the white ribbons that crisscrossed the sheath. There was the faintest shimmer of something where he made contact with it.

"No, I'll manage," he answered, "you don't want to touch this."


The door to the Yellow clicked shut behind him, and by the time Meowlexander Paralabane could turn, the cab had vanished. You never saw it arrive or leave; it was there exactly when you needed it and gone the moment you no longer did. Still, it didn't stop him from trying to catch it in the act. He knew he'd manage it one day: he was faster than he looked, and getting quicker all the time.

The Pleiades was pretty in an old school kind of way, like the promise of a grandeur that would become in part your own just by walking through the doors. He wondered if it had been designed to mirror the worlds above, or if architects had dreamed of a stately hell which contained it. Maybe neither, maybe both, it didn't matter so much in the end.

He made sure that the package was strapped securely to his back by its ribbons before joining the river of the damned and stepping inside. The entrance hall was lavish in a way that only money could buy, and his ears flattened back at the cascade of shouts, screams, wails and cries that burst from every direction. It was premium pandemonium, a taste of the chaos of the pit before you descended to gamble away your forever.

His whiskers drooped and he idly licked his paw, running it over his tortishell fur. There were too many people in here to spot her easily, he supposed. There were probably too many people to spot her even if they gave him control of all the cameras. But he had to start somewhere, so paws on the ground...so to speak.

He approached the nearest service desk - a rare island of calm in the churning broil of the eager fallen - and cleared his throat. His bushy tail flipped back and forth as the employee turned to face him - a three-faced deva with as many winning smiles and carefully-folded wings of infested spider webs behind her back. Meowlexander narrowed his lone eye, unsure of which of hers to look into, and spoke:

"Excuse me, I'm looking for a friend. Who do I need to talk to about finding a missing purrson?"
There is a door.

It stands alone, without any walls to support it, without any rooms to divide from one another. Its frame is made of ragged petrified wood, and the rest of stone so perfectly polished, so delicately and finely carved as to be a work of art. Its handles are two palm-sized diamonds that catch the pallid light of the suns in a soft kaleidoscope amidst the ceaseless dawn and dusk.

There is a door.

It is not far from the only building within a hundred miles, or perhaps in the entire world. It resembles a ziggurat, with its flat, narrowing terraces and climbing steep stairways. In place of greenery, however, there are only carefully-tended sand gardens; instead of trailing vines, strands of rough-cut gemstones that sparkle but dimly. No light comes from within, and seldom any sound, for its master knows his own voice well enough, and this land knows no other.

There is a door.

It is on a beach of the finest white, although the word lost its meaning around the time that the last of the ocean disappeared. Dunes stretch almost as far as the eye can see, broken only by the distant mountains, their shadows blacker than black, their peaks like the weathered ribs of the world poking at the heavens, their immensity, their weight so very real as to anchor everything else in place.

There is a door, and A GRACEFUL HAND has opened it, just enough.

It is the threshold from lands unknown unto ruination. It is the gate to a place bathed in the soft light of cooling stars, beautiful in its almost flawless desolation, terminus absolute. And, when seen in reverse, the entry to a high-fated city under the watch of merciless stars; it is the perfect place, and the only place, to best augur what will come next.

So through the door, the lonely path, not out of mind but out of sight...at least for the time being.

A HAND pulls upon the handle, just a little, and there is a satisfying click.

There is no door.


Gregor gasped, and it was the most wonderful breath he'd had in years.

The air tasted nothing of disuse, of decay, of a wasteland so complete as to reach down to the atomic level. It was damp - damp! - and alive with a hundred different scents. And the sounds! The roar of the ocean, so close that he wondered when it might start to wash up against his shell. The mutter of living, breathing bodies gathering closer to where he lay; not running and screaming, not gasping out their last, but persisting.

And the moon above...shattered, but so luminous as to almost blind (though that could have been something else, perhaps?)

He rose to his feet slowly, towering over the assembled wharf rats like a doomsday monolith: an impossible presence of slowly-shifting rock in the shape of a man. A trickle of white mist seeped from the gaping, lightless hole in its face, and but for that and a sniffle, nobody would have known about the tears streaming down his cheeks.

It was so beautiful, and none of it was dead. He was reduced.

He held up his palm at arm's length toward the leader, a slab of gray around the size of the man's chest. Strange symbols crawled across the skin, never staying the same for very long, never wanting the eye to sit upon them, never quite forming a recognizable pattern. There needn't be any killing today, he wanted to say, why not meet as friends, brothers and sisters?

And with a voice like an old radio playing down a long, dark tunnel he spoke:

"My friend, I have good news: your deaths are not guaranteed today! Come closer, let me see you, let's talk, let's eat! I stand here and everyone still lives, and we have to celebrate!"


AGE & APPEARANCE: Age is no longer easy to determine or apply to a man who has devoured eternity. How old is forever? His body, when around others, is always encased in a seven foot tall suit of living stone that looks like a cross between an old astronaut's outfit and the vanguard of an eternal war. Sigils are branded into the rock that defy the gaze of any but the most practiced enchanter, though some have been partially obscured with stupid-looking stickers. The visor to the suit swirls with unearthly mist, hiding any peek at the man inside, and the voice that comes from within is heavily distorted, though not exactly unpleasant

PERSONALITY & HISTORY: To understand who he is, you should understand that he is functionally two people at once, intertwined. The first was a relatively normal man of middling ambitions who liked to spend time with his family on the weekends and thought of himself as a bit of a talented amateur artist; the second was an eternal hydra, unknowable in its multitudes, ceaseless, endless. Where does one end and the other begin? Should his coworkers have been churned beneath the edges of his scales for forgetting his birthday? Should that vile dragon of eternal cold - colder than the black between stars, colder than the worlds beyond nothingness - have faced censure by their peers for not attending his neighborhood barbecue?

He was a man who caught the attention of A WONDEROUS GAZE; he was a poison, eternal in his multitudes, who was pinned by that same eye. He is both now, and maybe he always was both. He was one - the one who became both - through centuries of endless hunger, of conscripted need, devouring the flesh that will not rot and will not end but will always rot and which will always be the end of that which it touches. Until one day there was nothing left to devour; nothing left to become. And from then, waiting until A GRACEFUL HAND reached down from above, tore the GAZE from its hideous perch, and rescued the man, the endless wyrm, from his shackles.

POSSESSIONS: An empowered sealing suit made of living, endlessly growing stone. Various tools related to the sculpting of statues and the painting of paintings. A ready supply of priceless metals. A door to uncertain and desolate vistas.

ABILITIES/CONCEPTUAL STUFF: The hydra which, over the course of several centuries of relative time, he devoured in full, was the conceptual embodiment of eternity and of poison; to always be and to always grow, and to forever taint that upon which its venom fell. These concepts have become a part of him on both a physical and a metaphysical level; for him to walk uncovered upon a world is to doom it. The strange resonances of Neo-Babylon have reduced him considerably - much to his delight - but they cannot chance what he is at a fundamental level. Unless he mitigates himself, unless he seals away the truth of what he is, he will degrade the laws of where he stands, forever taint that point in time and space, reduce it to hideous turmoil for as long as time persists...at least on a long enough timeline.

LAST MEMORY: A GRACIOUS HAND peeling aside the curtains of reality to usher him to a distant world.

ADDITIONAL PLOT HOOKS: What other GAZES, what other HANDS might sense him? What does a sign of ill-omen mean for a high-fated world?
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