Recent Statuses

2 yrs ago
Current Boy, you're like a pizza cutter: all edge and no point.
2 yrs ago
I think I should write a pithy roleplay about how an expenditure of effort does not entitle you to your perception of an equivalent reward. Anyone know someone who'd be interested?
4 yrs ago
Okay, let's be honest for a second here, if we stop the status bar from being edgy angst land it really doesn't have anything going for it except sheer autism.
4 yrs ago
Does anyone know where you can get a white trilby embroidered with threatening messages? Asking for a friend.
4 yrs ago
My genius truly knows no bounds. Only an intellect as glorious as mine can possibly G3T K1D.


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Myrtu couldn’t understand how anyone could focus with all of the new and interesting mortals to see! Sure, they’d ended up sprinting across some grassy plains for years, before said plains suddenly erupted into a forest and of course, that was only after they’d frolicked at the slow pace of the cactus-like mules, which had made the desert their residence. All of that happened after a rousing year-long dive through the seas with the striped fish-ponies, which happened after their years-long visit with the snow-born Onagers, and all of this was just as exciting as what was happening now.

They’d accidentally stumbled upon an interestingly adapted type of Kiang, at the base of a mountain glacier, which carved its way down into a valley, which was surrounded by the New New forest. These Kiang had developed woolen fur that favored a tawny background for its white stripes- hinting toward some merging with Zebras in their ancestry, which was remarkable considering how much time had passed. Their backs were far more powerful, with legs and kicks that stunned even the most vicious flying shark, if well landed, and they had grown a charming set of swept back curved horns. What Myrtu found the most interesting about the Ziang, especially as they followed them through the rocky mountains and up nearly sheer cliff edges, was their ability to find places of fresh water or vegetation with ease. Even when the mountains became white with snow- even when the mountains became topped with weird buildings- the Ziang- the…? Building?

Wait what?

When Myrtu halted, members of the Ziang herd circled around them, as they stared up toward something odd sitting on a nearby mountain top. Silently they inquired of the herd if anyone had managed to travel that far. Of course, the eruption of questions and gossip and tall tales- which these particular Equines were fond of- bombarded Myrtu all at once.

These mortals really loved to make up stories about their great-uncles-cousins-friends-mother that knew a lady that knew a guy that knew a bird once that went somewhere. Ziangs seemed to hate not having an answer but they’d always joke about their ignorance to the point of absurdity on purpose.

Equines truly were fantastic.

And so Myrtu asked, spoke with, and eventually convinced the braver and more willing members of the herd to follow them to that distant mountain- with the assurance that something interesting was (maybe) there. Ten of them followed the lead of Myrtu, who let the slowest member lead, for she was also the one with the keenest sense for finding safe paths.

How none of them managed to starve or die on the year long trek and climb that followed, was nothing short of a miracle in itself. Between avalanches and the fact that Myrtu saw the building at a distance far greater than the perception of mortals, the journey turned out to be a trial and test of the group’s determination. Myrtu was so pleased and proud of these mortals that, when they finally made it to the front steps of the Library, they hardly noticed the presence of another divine being, for all their dancing and rejoicing with the herd; that day the howling winds of the mountain carried their collective sounds of jubilation.

Though the mountains were known for the thinness of their air and the intensity of their chill, the air around the Grand Library was not so much cold as it was focused. The variously assembled equines would notice it immediately: the water freezing in their fur melted away into nothingness, carried by gentle zephyrs and leaving them dry. As the air filled their lungs it filled their minds with a clarity of purpose that, until they’d reached this library, they’d had in spades: but just as curiosity could never allow one to truly savour their discovery, so too would it deny them the chance to rest and enjoy the fruits of their labour and instead spur them ever onwards.

As they crested the edge of the mountain and became able to see more of the landscape than the ascent to a solitary peak would allow, the sheer volume of the place became apparent immediately. Bridges of effulgent marble stretched out from the perfectly curated peaks, seeming to end abruptly in nothingness except for the clear glint of heavily focused currents of wind that seemed to add a gentle shimmer into the air. Great towers of pristinely cut gemstones stretched up into the heavens, their multifaceted surfaces now displaying equines in all of their variegated forms galloping across an endless and infinite sky. As the light of the perpetual dawn flowed through them the images seemed to come to life, and a very real-seeming herd of them could be seen to gallop across the bridge and off of its edge fearlessly, soaring through the skies towards the tallest peak of all.

Even from this lowly vantage point, however, there was much to discover: many of these wondrous towers seemed to exist, far more than could possibly exist in the physical space they seemed to occupy, and curled around them in various shapes and forms were buildings of every possible type of construction. Some were made of rainbow-tinted coral, growing naturally into beautiful whorls and spirals that made up a building of unknowable purpose climbing up the crystalline tower. Some were made of pure starlight, somehow kept in bondage with secrets of artifice far beyond the contrivances of this inchoate world–the gentle streaks and glimmers of their light seemed to stretch on towards an infinite and endless horizon, leading the way to yet more fantastical bits of architecture.

Though no voice beckoned them on, nor did anything that seemed out of place call out to them, their natural sense of curiosity would be heightened to its absolute extremes in this strange place, and though it would not immediately distract them from their revelry it was a flame in the mind that could not be ignored for long.

Those gathered Equines began first, as most animals do, with sniffing and looking about- testing the realm with motions meant to provoke potential predators- eyes and ears alert for changes that would threaten their time spent in this place. As the others began their evaluation of their surroundings, Myrtu stood still and waited. To their eyes, this was a place far more special than had been previously imagined. When Myrtu had expected a simple settlement, they’d found something grander- something godly- which ignited within them a curiosity beyond that which the others felt, for Myrtu was ever adventurous by nature. Here was where, for the first time during the long trek across the mountains, Myrtu finally ignited their wings of dazzling colorful light. To those gathered, Myrtu bade them explore as they felt the need to or to follow them- to do as they wished for that was what it meant to be free. Some few looked to Myrtu with trust, for they would follow as far as they could, even if the divinity was flying- their eyes would be fixed upon the path which would take the form of Myrtu’s guiding light.

With this settled Myrtu took flight slowly, ascending high above the area in which the others were gathered. A path that they others might follow- a path using those winds and currents- ah yes! That would be the flight that Myrtu took. How would the mortals respond to feeling flight? These were Equines without wings- those meant to be free upon every hoof length of the land itself- so Myrtu did not doubt some would be fearful.

And they were proven correct.

For in their flight above, so high along the path upon which the others galloped, Myrtu did observe some of the Ziangs could not overcome such a trial of spirit and determination, as to step into those wind currents. There was no condemnation in Myrtu’s eyes for those that turned away. In fact, there was not much praise for those who chose to follow either. What there was praise for was the freedom expressed in refusal- the freedom expressed in choosing to follow- and how each individual stood by their choice, no matter what emotions swirled within. Even when some changed their minds while following, Myrtu noted them as interesting, and applauded their expression of shamelessness.

Such a flight across the various platforms, to a tower here, and to a path there, ended up scattering more of the mortal Equines throughout the various peaks and paths. When they finally arrived at the tallest peak of them all, there were only two remaining with Myrtu. Hooves once more upon the ground, Myrtu danced about with apparently contagious mirth, as so too did the final two join in the revelry.

It was there that the god and their two companions found the Great Vault, the sleek obsidian repository in which the Kathetikon kept itself and the knowledge it thought too great for mortals to bear at the present time. The glass-smooth walls raised from the very stone of the mountain itself, seamlessly transitioning from pale alabaster to midnight black that crawled upwards into the very sky. Its very shape defied definition, at-once far too large to exist at the very top of a structure (even one as large as a mountain) and yet easily contained within even mundane vision. Its euclidean and non-euclidean geometry served to provide easy points of understanding that branched out into the infinite sprawling of madness, for from a structure one could easily recognise as a wall sprouted unnatural curves and shapes that seemed to exist completely out of alignment with the rest of the peculiar building around them. As they danced and their revelry took them ‘neath its lintel the crude projection of form it had clung to while they were without fell away, scattering from view like so much smoke.

The view that awaited them when the layers of colour, dimension, sound, and feeling had been reassembled was grand beyond imagining. Infinite nebulae and galaxies came into view from every possible direction, and all sense of earthly belonging was lost between the sheer vastness of the stars–all that remained for guidance before them was the sleek obsidian of the Vault. Its pitch-dark curvature chased away the brilliant effulgence of the constellations, offering shelter from the overwhelming radiance. Further along the path still awaited the Master of this place, the sentient tome known as the Kathetikon, and its watchful gaze had finally fallen upon its divine compatriot and the mortal companions who had made it thus far. It did not speak directly, but its pages began to rustle and shift and the skies around them became familiar and safe once more, the standard night sky of Galbar they were used to. It gathered them close and wove them anew, writing clearly in the sky for them to read: ”Welcome, divine sibling! Welcome, mortals! You find yourselves in my Grand Library, where curiosity itself springs from. What do you most want to know?”

There was little that held back the response of the lowly Ziang, for they were mortals and mere animals of a simply mundane nature. They had experienced awe, beheld sights incredible, yet it was almost as if it were no different than gazing upon Myrtu for them. In their minds, there were thoughts written in the language of compulsion, instinct, and the freedom which Myrtu planted within the hearts of all their creations.

"Where," coalesced the thoughts between the two Ziang; however the depths of the word sank deep. The meaning was held within their souls as deep as the roots of an ancient oak, powerful and strong in its yearning to venture into where- to discover that which was not known. Within their hooves these roots of meaning and heaviness were defined and gathered, as these were the tools to know- to discover and decrypt "where"- each and every-where.

”Always, could have been the secondary meaning held within this thought of where- occupying the definition of the former harmoniously- for it was with their hooves and bodies that where became possible- became here- then became there. To go, to find, to search, to desire that "where" and to always know it. No mention of the word "find" could have formed because, where was all there was for these humble animals, and all that mattered.

Myrtu bowed their head before the two Ziang, a gentle show of gratitude and respect, before they turned their attention to the Kathetikon. As they gazed toward the other divine with ambiguous Equine eyes, the silence stretched for longer.

Gently, almost quietly, Myrtu projected their voice forward without using their mouth to speak, and asked a single question of the Kathetikon- for this was the single most important bit of knowledge they needed now, more than anything else in the world.

"Where art thine hooves?"

“You are my hooves, dear sibling.” the Kathetikon wrote in the stars, and the great vastness of space around them vanished into indistinct and unfamiliar hazes of light deep in the background of the soothing and comfortable darkness. ”When one asks the question: ‘What are hooves?’, they do not search for me. I was the search–you are the answer.” it wrote again, addressing Myrtu with a response worthy of their profoundly upward gaze. On the earth below the Kathetikon wrote its next messages, to the two Ziang: ”You seek not the destination but the journey, oh curious ones. You drink deep from my well, never sated–what you seek is not ‘where’, but the search for ‘where’.”

Hoofprints of radiant starlight impressed themselves upon the inky blackness of the floor beneath them, and began to trail off towards the distant and wondrous light fading into the background of the anomalously large space within the building they’d entered. The hoofprints danced and cavorted their way off into the endlessness of the heavens, beckoning their earthbound kin with unmistakable equine curiosity. To Myrtu such enticements would be as dull as stillness and silence, however, and so the Kathetikon opened the gates to the innermost secrets of the Grand Library before Myrtu, held tantalisingly behind a veil of gossamer radiance just past the floating tome. It turned towards the refulgent aperture with a movement suggesting wistfulness and wonder, and awaited its divine sibling’s reaction.

Myrtu’s satisfaction with the response had been plain to see; it was in the proud tossing of their mane and the head bob of gratitude. Yes, the Kathetikon's answer was the best of all the answers to the question so far. As the Ziang began to follow the hoofprints, the two halted briefly and turned their heads, to give Myrtu a long and quiet gaze. This moment of quiet filled their eyes with longing; making known their desire to travel again with Myrtu in the future. Of course, Myrtu gave them a proud head bobbing and promised to journey again. Eagerly then, did Myrtu encourage them- through gesture and motion- to continue on their new journey, wherever it was that those celestial hoofprints lead them. With such encouragement the two waited no longer, then eagerly strode onward.

And so too did the Unicorn God stride as well.

Closer to the gates though not yet beyond them- hesitation becoming clear as they swayed in place before the threshold. As their eyes beheld the beauty beyond the veil, the details of the entirety of the journey coming to the forefront of their mind, Myrtu turned, and bowed their head to the Kathetikon, stretching one leg out before themselves.

“Twice now, have I intruded accidentally upon those places both intimate and sacred to the hearts of other divines. For this intrusion, I do beg forgiveness.” Myrtu raised their head once more, “Twould be boorish of me, were I not to offer an introduction at this juncture.” Perhaps because they could not help themselves, Myrtu then strutted about in a small circle, as if in a small parade as they declared, “I am Myrtu and, indeed, is it true that mine hooves are the answer to such a question!”

Halting, they continued, “To these mortals- to all the world- have I brought hooves! That they may explore all the freedoms of the world- that they may dash and prance about far and fast; theirs is the right to do so! For this world be for mortals- for them to seek, to experience, to grow and learn all it is to be; to understand what it means to be. Theirs is potential- raw and true- and it is by freedom shall they discover the power inherent in the limitlessness of being.” Dancing then in place, Myrtu’s tone became jovial as they concluded, “Though, one must observe, that such pristine and tidy surroundings, be hardly a suitable place for hooves.”

”Just a little to the left…” the Kathetikon wrote in response to Myrtu’s many declarations, awaiting the moment the god would dance in just the right position. As they continued to move and engage in the revelry of being it was not long before they happened upon that most opportune of spaces, and their wild gesticulations caused the very essence of the Vault to shudder and write in unseen ecstasy. As Myrtu’s mane was caressed by cosmic winds, strands of sparkling, prismatic light sheared off of them, coalescing gently into an echo of their majestic form. As their hooves clipped and clopped against the inky abyss they stood upon, the gentle ministrations of dance nudged the formless form to spring up into a magnificent imitation of the equine god. As their voice shook the very foundations of being laid in the sacred space, songs and dance conspired to marry themselves together and animated the crude copy of a deity into something resembling a living sculpture. It whinnied loudy and soared off into the heavens, quickly dissolving into a brand new constellation of stars that the Kathetikon eagerly began to write down within itself.

”I am the Kathetikon, dear sibling, god of Curiosity and Knowledge. ‘Tis me that you and yours follow upon your endless search, and ‘tis another of our siblings you meet at journey’s end. But you are the beginning of this journey, no? The impetus to begin the indulging of curiosity, to explore the freedom of existence–this is your gift and your calling. You cannot intrude upon this space, for it was created to be found. What is the search without a destination, after all? I am full-pleased to welcome you to my humble abode, and offer you free reign of the place while you are here–there are many things to be discovered, though not all of them are suitable for such young and eager minds. Pray watch your mortal companions lest they drink too deeply of this place and become unable to separate that which exists before them from that which exists in their minds.” the Kathetikon replied, manoeuvring itself over to Myrtu. As it did so the featureless hands of Anagnostis appeared as if from nothing and grasped it firmly, looking expectantly towards Myrtu as if longing for some sort of response.

Yet for the moment, it could see how Myrtu’s attention was quite fixed upon the stars and the new constellation galloping across the heavens. And Myrtu’s joy had swelled at the appearance of the living sculpture, such a thing having added more energy to their dance. Such an vigor had even grown by a measure as a bit of restraint upon their appearance had eased slightly. Their hide became black and white simultaneously, shimmering in every color that was and could be as the light caught it, for their black and their white was the forceful display of every color combination, unhindered by law of light. So when Anagnostis appeared, Myrtu shook themselves wholly, causing a glittering mist to fall from their body, as their colors restabalized to something easier on the eyes. Plain curiosity was in the manner that Myrtu nosed toward Anagnostis.

For a quiet stretch, they gave it a long moment of overwhelmingly ambiguous staring.

A very subtle shift in their observation toward its feet made the unspoken echo of their question, but a second question sprang forth before Myrtu could catch it, “What are you? Different and unique- to grasp firmly the whole of a god without dire consequence…” Their attention abruptly snapped toward the direction in which the two Ziang had wandered, the Kathetikon’s previous statements finally having breached the walls of their obtuse thoughts. A divinely beautiful tail swished almost worriedly behind Myrtu and they- very much before Anagnostis could answer- started off toward the Ziang at an easy walk, concerned yet not all at once.

“I am Anagnostis, a shard of the Master’s will. I exist to read from the Tome of All Things, for what use is a book without a reader?” the featureless figure replied, quickly penning a few notes within the opened Kathetikon that caused the still-galloping Ziang to stop dead in their tracks. The otherwordly air of the interior faded away into nothingness, leaving only more reasonable mundane dimensions for them to explore. Now, however, there were several opening out towards the crisp and bright mountain air once more, and many more bridges of ornately carved stone and wind to take them wherever they might desire to go.

”This Vault is where I keep my knowledge of my siblings, and it is an honour to have added you to it.” the Kathetikon wrote, its words easily visible to Myrtu amongst the angles and colours of the obsidian walls. Anagnostis simultaneously extended a hand out towards the statue of stars, now held fast in a single point in space so as to not inundate lesser beings with the full glory of the divine. “Is there aught we can do for you while you are here, Myrtu the God-Star, or shall we simply leave you to search to your hearts’ content? This is the seat of all knowledge, after all–there will be something here to pique your interest, if interests are indeed something you possess.” Anagnostis asked, keeping pace with Myrtu as they travelled towards their lesser mortal companions.

In the distance, many more equines could be seen for varying lengths of time: some had disappeared into the patchwork buildings surrounding the towers, while some had found themselves enjoying the ability to soar on currents of air so much that they merely travelled between the bridges back-and-forth, whinnying and laughing in equal measure as they glutted themselves on this new and interesting sensation. Such things were not visible to mortal eyes, but to the gods they were clear as day–and to the Master of this place, more obvious even than that. Anagnostis occasionally turned the pages of the Kathetikon as it observed those beings without, occasionally making a quick note in the marginalia or letting out a quick “Hm…” as it perused some information within the God-Book’s pages that was useful or interesting in some way.

For a time Myrtu was silent. They took in all that was available: the Kathetikon’s words and those of Anagnostis; the manner in which the equines were exploring and enjoying themselves; all the angles and paths and rooms. This caused them to come to a halt, as those dashing and curious Ziang had mere moments prior. Yet. As their eyes swirled with their myriad of colors, a visual representation for the tempest that were the god’s obtuse thoughts, Myrtu placed this gaze upon Anagnostis.

“God-Star? Tis a grand title, new to mine ears- from where does such a thing originate-” Myrtu galloped into another thought without pause “-how far and perilous the trek was, from whence we hail- this herd of small number. Be this a realm such mortals are meant to behold?” Their gaze shifted to the Ziang, who resumed their exploration, with no less eagerness than before. “For if we, strong of will and body, were dearly tested by the peaks and driven snow, then… In truth, such journeys are the reason why I, indeed, grant hooves to mortals! Their odd meat feet could not withstand such paths for long- they’ve not the stamina, most of them. And companionship too, they might find in the Equines. Without hooves, they’ve not the means to find such astonishing places or create their own. Without strong backs to carry their burdens, the freedoms they’d experience would be limited to journeys incomplete and perilous.”

All while they spoke, Myrtu’s eyes were focused upon the joy of those equines flying. Clearly, Myrtu was finding it quite captivating. With amusement in their projected voice, Myrtu concluded, “And even still, for some, hooves be not quite enough.” They tossed their mane and illuminated their wings as punctuation to such a statement.

“Most mortals do not find their way here physically, the Master admits. They find their way here when their minds wander, when the vessels of their intellect overflow with thoughts. It is the current of those thoughts that brings them here. Those of hoof and wing,” Anagnostis began, sweeping its hand out in a grand gesture towards Myrtu and all the other equines, “seem to have an easier time than the mortals, of whom we have precious few. Only those Umbra that the Lady of Trade and Shadow has invested here have made it thus far… perhaps there is a truth to your utterings! We know you by the name of the God-Star as that is what the residents of Logiopolis called you.” the avatar of the Kathetikon continued, before its form began to ripple and convulse as though dipped in a var of colour and texture. As the ripples began to settle its form began to settle with it, and soon it had taken on the appearance of the Kinnaras it had taken before. It let itself shift across all those forms the villagers of Logiopolis had taken, before returning to the familiar and comfortable shape of the Kinnaras.

“They called you this, for they knew not what you were. It will be a great honour to show them, and to have them craft a statue for you that their endless dance might bring you a spark of the joy it has brought us. We have recently founded an… agglomeration of like-minded individuals, though after seeing you I believe it is quite evident they lack an equine element that would bring them no end of joy and prosperity!” Anagnostis continued, chuckling good-naturedly to itself as it penned words with ever-increasing frequency in the Kathetikon.

Myrtu had nodded at the mention of another divine, “Ah, I’ve met her. Trade and... shadows?” The note of confusion was in that final word, for Myrtu had not seen Ashevelen for quite some time, apparently. They brushed it aside with a soft huff as the origin of their title was explained. “Logiopolis…” Myrtu repeated with admiration as they beheld the many forms that Anagnostis took. They danced then in joy upon hearing about how a group of those peoples Myrtu had scattered survived! That there was an entire settlement of them- living and apparently thriving! Yet. The dance did halt at the mention of a statue being carved for them. Ducking their head slightly, Myrtu seemed tense at the prospect yet curious still. Silence passed for a beat.

“Mine is a name and presence unnecessary,” Myrtu said at last, “For they need not mine guidance nor my influence to see to it that this world might, in its boundless possibility, be shaped in accordance with their freedom of choice and will.” They raised their head, setting their gaze upon those adventurous mortal equines, which now pranced and glided about the realm in glee. “The ways of these creatures- those of instinct and survival- theirs is a way different fundamentally, I do believe. And it is they who may, in their small part, act as mine presence by proxy. Mine influence beheld. Inspiration, of a kind.”

Then it was through some unspoken instinct, that the two most determined and curious among the Ziang, found their way back toward Anagnostis and Myrtu. “Do you two,” Myrtu asked of the animals, “Seek the journey still?” Silence passed between them. With a gleeful braying, the two Ziang began to prance around Myrtu. As the Unicorn tossed their head back, they asked Anagnostis, “Do you know how to care for Equines? ‘Tis a gift that I’ve in mind, for you and your master, and it would be quite irresponsible of me to leave such creatures without one that has the means of seeing for their wellbeing. Though I’ve no doubt they’d find a means to care for themselves, still. It doth concern me. They’ll be of a disposition unlike that of mine other creations.”

”It is for these reasons that they seek a statue of you. It is not an altar for them to offer supplication, but an icon for them to offer their revelry and gratitude. To drink deeply from the waters of curiosity and be grateful for the choice to have slaked their thirst.” the Kathetikon wrote, its words evident in the colours of the wind only a divine eye like Myrtu’s could perceive.

“The little that we do not know is something we are in a position to discover quickly; fortunately, the concept of equines is already quite familiar to us.” ”I wonder what drove our kin to take this form. Perhaps they do not remember it as clearly as we do, or perhaps the means of one’s ascension is more personal… Don’t ask, Anagnostis, we’ll have to research this one more ourselves… the Kathetikon wrote to Anagnostis, who had very little difficulty in suppressing a smile as they possessed no feature with which to smile to begin with.

“The Master would be most eager to have some specially crafted beings to help manage the Grand Library. They do not like to create themselves, fearing it would… muddy the waters–so assistance in this regard is most helpful.” Anagnostis spoke, cocking its head slightly to the side to suggest it was smiling. The Kathetikon began to write frantically, but Anagnostis seemed to simply close it and never once diverted its gaze from Myrtu.

Quietly Myrtu pawed the ground with their hoof, causing sparkles to shimmer and bounce about. Once again they were listening, thinking, considering- suddenly standing over the wreckage of their train of thought-
Myrtu leapt into the air abruptly, their horn glowing profoundly, as their wings shone with a bursting and fullness. Beneath them, the circling Ziang only seemed encouraged by such a display, and their joyous braying picked up once more. “Tis naught but the unlocking of potential,” Myrtu explained for the benefit of Anagnostis, “Within them is already that which your master hath approved of- curiosity! And further, within them is means to act upon such curiosity, for aye- it was they that, by their hearts and instinct, hath guided all the equines before you to this place- mine contribution were company and mere suggestion to see here- to make close this distant point. Eagerly did they choose such a journey, leaving behind those others which were free to choose their path as well.” Simultaneously the Ziang lifted into the air as a glow, not unlike that of Myrtu’s dazzling wings, encased the mortals wholly.

“Theirs are the minds which seek and find,” and gently Myrtu touched their horn each of the Ziang’s heads in turn, which caused the light of their horn to permeate the Ziangs deeply and to their very souls. Their striped hides danced with color- the stripes themselves becoming rainbow hues as the tawny backdrop became chaotic. A shifting gradient from black to white, with every shade in between, that came to dominate the formerly tawny space. A semblance of order slowly became apparent; when their ears perked forward to listen to Myrtu, their shades and hues of their hides shifted attentively; when one became distracted by its own flying instead, the colors of its fur became light and warm with glee.

“Theirs are the hearts which yearn for journey- the bonds formed through such endeavors- and the challenge presented along the path. To know these deeply, intimately, to remember such that it may be shared for the good of the whole,” and Myrtu did shake about their mane then, spilling onto the Ziang a crystalized hail of godly essence, which took the form of tiny sigils- words different from those the Kathetikon had displayed, yet they did shift in translation into Polyglos, as they hit the bodies of the Ziang.

Words blossomed, spelled out in crystalline formations, from the strong backs of the creatures. These crystal words and sigils, which appeared to draw their way through the air at their backs, linking concepts and ideas to form sentences and names, became the base structure for wings- acting as the “bones and muscle”t. From these structures there sprang clusters of words, created from light, to act as feathers, whose details shifted and changed as the individual tales these creatures experienced became written as their very wings. From a glance these words told the story of their path- which trails were taken, where fresh water was located, prime lands for grazing, and how many were in the herd of equines on the journey. Even as they floated in the air, their wings became written with observations further still- how cold it felt and how hard the wind blew beneath their sensitive feathers- purely and plainly stated, for that was the nature of instinct.

Such anatomical changes, so new to the creatures, caused the shining words to dissipate inadvertently, but it was no matter. Where once were the detailed writings, there were feathers of semi-opaque darkness that, as the wings were stretched for the first time, sparkled to life with dazzling points of light innumerable, an unconscious action caused by the Ziang’s wills. Those shimmering points in the darkness of their wings would be, to the eyes trained to recognize the patterns, an accurate replication of the stars which blazed in the heavens above.

“And to carry the burdens of such a task- that they might assist others that yearn as they do- Ah! Theirs is a role which requires strength and power both- for speed matters little when the path is unending and freely charted!” Myrtu whipped their head about as their horn glowed brightly- this motion having caused the Ziang to double in size, as was willed by their auras of godly light. Their limbs thickened with sturdy muscle and their backs became powerful, as their hooves gained the mass and toughness to endure travels of distances undefined. A moment was taken by Myrtu then to gaze into the eyes of the transformed Ziang, but they were Ziang no longer!

With a single beat of their wings of light, Myrtu ascended slightly above the two, then glowed with chromatically colorful radiance, declaring, “Odysseus Equis, thou’rt blessed! If it be a journey sought and means to take it, grasp with thy freedom at that which I offer now!” And in a flash of light, the blessing became available for all those Equines present in the mountain herd. This moment of light, lasting but a beat of the Equine heart, was filled with the profound choice to accept or deny the transformation. While they were the ones who’d chosen the path to travel here- had the will to see the task through- Myrtu knew that this was something they should choose, too. If they’d lost heart upon finding only this destination, then it would be of little use for the journeys ahead- for what the Odysseus Equis should represent.

Not one among those Equines present refused.

Once the moment passed, Myrtu released their will from the two, which had served as the template for the transformation. The sudden release caused the two to fall into a panicked glide- instinctually catching the wind beneath their newborn wings. Mischievously Myrtu laughed, as their divine hooves once again contacted the ground near Anagnostis.

Anagnostis clapped its hands together in delight, leaving the Kathetikon to float midair, having watched the transformation of the equines into this new, dazzling form. It then quickly came to its senses and grabbed the Kathetikon out of the air hastily, beginning to scribble down all sorts of details about the working of this new species that Myrtu had created. Anagnostis occasionally looked up to observe them as it wrote at a speed far outpacing any non-divine entity, and by the time it had finished writing a series of books about the creatures and their properties, Myrtu had just about finished their most recent bout of revelry and rumpus.

“They’re just as magnificent as I imagined… and so useful too! They can carry the goods and keep the records while the Umbra trade–together they’ll be able to journey anywhere and record anything! If there is aught you would ask of us in recompense, please!” Anagnostis spoke, and the Kathetikon wrote its words next in the ground that Myrtu’s hooves had been kneading.

”All knowledge exists within my library. If there is something you wish to know, then it will be our pleasure to direct you towards where it may be found. Unless you had another request I might be able to fulfill?”

While the Kathetikon and Myrtu spoke, the aforementioned Umbra flocked outside in droves to gaze upon their newest friends and allies, and it was only moments before the two began to soar together on the crystal-clear winds at the peaks of the Grand Library, charting its infinite eddies and currents for the first time and beginning to create the first map of the Kathetikon’s realm, that all those new wanderers who found their way here would at least have to wander slightly less.

With an air of contentedness, Myrtu replied, "A gift freely given- for it is for the world and its mortals, is such diversity truly added. Thine contributions were an inspiration and influence for, I admit, I am desperately wanting for creativity at times, and never would I have thought to create beings such as these, were it not for the sight of thy realm most glorious." As their eyes scanned the new equines, those testing their wings and already developing forms of aerial play, Myrtu released a sigh of admiration. "Would that I could but experience life as they- that I may walk amongst mortals and see their world, their desires and dreams, with mine own eyes, without their shuddering ‘neath mine presence Divine."

Turning their gaze back toward Anagnostis, Myrtu murmured rather hesitantly, "And if… it is with necessity that a statue be made in mine image in this... Logiopolis. Then I wish it to stand no taller than the heads of Centaur." A softness entered their tone, "Let not I, a symbol of freedom and striving toward realizing one's potential, tower unreasonably over their heads, as in a stature which inspires impossibility in proportions. And let not mine image recreated dominate a space which they call their own, created by their own hands, unless… they themselves wish it to be so."

Myrtu bowed their head and conceded, "Nonexistent is mine desire to impose restrictions upon their expression yet, I'd rather they stand at the side of such a symbol and know that what they seek presents itself with realism- that it stands at their shoulders in encouraging camaraderie, both challenging them to make push forward and joining them ever in stride." Raising their head proudly, Myrtu concluded, "If such a symbol must be, then may it be created in this manner." Their tail whipped about with sudden energy.

“Much like yourself, the Master rarely interferes with mortals in ways that they could not themselves–it is simply within the Master’s power to expedite these processes. But…” Anagnostis began, before looking down at the gently buzzing Kathetikon and beginning to read eagerly. ”I remember the process that endowed me with divinity. I see no reason I could not engineer a way to sever you from the wellspring of your divine power and dull your noetic profile down to the levels of a mortal–or perhaps I could simply create an avatar that you can cast your mind into in order to diminish your abilities without dulling your senses. There are many ways to proceed, and my mind races thinking about them! Should you want this, feel free to return to my library in the future. Anagnostis, you must gather the Umbra and the Odysseia and set them upon their great mission.”

“The Master has much for me to do, honoured guest, but you are welcome to stay here for as long as you like. As long as any shred of curiosity remains within you, you shall not want for discovery or adventure within this place… but there is much more to do out in the wider world. I hope we will meet again, and that it shall be as joyous a meeting as this has been.” Anagnostis spoke, bowing deeply as it did so, before suddenly disappearing from view as it located itself elsewhere in the Grand Library. The Kathetikon remained behind, floating in the centre of its great Vault, but it offered no more words to the Horse God as it contemplated how best to manoeuvre its forces across Galbar.

And so the silence went undisturbed as Myrtu began to process what the Kathetikon had proposed. An avatar? The way it was described sounded as if it would be precisely what they had in mind- a perfect means to see what the mortals were experiencing from their level. But how would it look? What would they do first? Where would they go first? Overwhelming possibilities were now presenting themselves to Myrtu- thoughts that would be better left for a run- Oh! A Run! With such a fantastic idea coming to the forefront, Myrtu rather excitedly turned about, then bowed slightly to the Kathetikon as a means of farewell, for the great distances of the world were now begging to pass beneath Myrtu's hooves once more, and they were compelled to answer the call.

The First Step

The Kathetikon

The Kathetikon's journey through the Umbral Woods had been, for better or worse, fraught with more stops than it had even considered possible. While the Tome of All Things had a truly vast conspectus of knowledge at its disposal, the inchoate stages of a new world were so frightfully interesting that it had found itself recording even mundane things with a glee it had not experienced as a shade in a truly unfathomable amount of time. It did not dwell on these thoughts--how could it, when so many things vied for its attention--and instead happily flitted from place to place, its direct path towards the village of Shadowton irreversibly skewed by the capricious sense of direction the Kathetikon had chosen to follow. By the time it had gathered its thoughts fully and channelled its mental energy towards a goal broader in scope than its immediate surroundings, the book had found itself far to the west of the so-called Umbral Woods and gazing up towards a set of mountains that sloped towards the firmament in a most aesthetically pleasing way. As the Kathetikon's thoughts idly drifted it found itself considering the world of its first home, the Grand Library of Gnosis that had once held an entire universe's knowledge within its hallowed halls. It remembered the grey-blue carved stone of its magnificent towers and arches, accented with precious metals and arcane sigils to signify the particular body of knowledge kept therein. It remembered the paths of carved gemstone and how the light that refracted through it gleamed with possibility, illuminating the carved poems and works of prose in the most curious light. The thinness of the air in that mountain library had lent everything an ethereal and otherworldly quality, the bracing chill of the northerly zephyrs combining with the nearness of the fourth sun's light to put the mind in a state of crystal-clear focus far beyond anything it had ever recalled since.

As beautiful as the singing spires were, they paled in comparison to the interior: lavishly furnished reading rooms, comfortable seats spun from the finest eddies of pure arcana placed at the perfect distance from a roaring fire to provide the precise ambience needed to enjoy whatever the topic one wished to read about required. Tables of beautiful hardwood, varnished with alchemical unguents to improve their sheen and durability. Shelves of brilliant crystal that held tomes known to have existed since the very dawn of civilisation, able to illuminate the location of any book one might desire simply by responding to thought. The Grand Library had been a work of art as much as it was a repository of knowledge, the very soul of the world in more ways than one. Though that world had lasted longer than most, the dark at the end of everything had consumed it without pity or remorse--and the Kathetikon could still remember walking its halls as a shade, gathering fragments of torn parchment and shattered crystal in order to create the gateway between worlds that had allowed it to breach the barriers of reality and escape certain doom. To recreate it precisely as it was would have been to dishonour its memory, for the Grand Library had been the work of countless cultures and outstanding individuals over the lifetimes of hundreds of civilisations--but the Tome of All Things knew full well in its very core that it simply could not bear to let something of that magnificence and splendour be relegated solely to the annals of memory within its pages. While it would not recreate the Library of its youth, it would at least lay the foundations for the generations of mortals yet to come to gaze upon something far greater than themselves and be inspired--for every crown needed its jewel, every oyster its pearl.

It was the work of seconds for the Kathetikon to scale the tallest peak, and of scant moments for it to begin envisioning precisely what it would create. The craggy and uneven surfaces of the rock began to smooth themselves over as a wave of glittering energy washed over them, their once-treacherous slopes giving way to smooth and stable plateaus. Winding staircases wove themselves into the very rock, hewn as if the mountain were merely a sculpture taking on its true form. The light of the sun began to catch the newly transformed surfaces, and the Kathetikon caught some of its glittering effulgence within the stone itself to lend it a measure ot permanent light. As the wave continued to spread over the mountain like a tide more and more features were added, each more rapidly than the last: where once jagged edges threatened harm there were now bridges and staircases and plateaus. The nature of the stone's transformation caused a natural system of tiering, concentric circles of workable surface cascading down the mountain, but the transformation appeared not to stop there. Currents of wind moved at the Kathetikon's behest, reminiscent of those currents that could be found at Keltra, to link the various mountains--they began at the ends of ornately carved bridges and danced through the air towards their destinations, but continued onwards to pool at the base of the mountains in order to catch any that might be so unfortunate as to fall. From now-stable foundations grand structures of carved stone and worked wood came into being, spiralling towers and grand halls erecting themselves as they filled with an unthinkable number of books, scrolls, illuminated manuscripts, and the like. Grand furnishings came next, as lush carpets lined the floors and towering shelves for the assembled knowledge to lie in emerged from the floor. Crystals holding motes of pure sunlight were woven into the floors and the shelves to ensure that all who trod the halls could find their way with ease, and simple signage in Polyglos spread throughout to ensure none got lost.

At the very top of the tallest peak was the Kathetikon's personal holding place, a grand lectern emblazoned with esoteric symbols and sigils with meanings so arcane that to even glimpse them could drive one's curiosity dangerously close towards the all-consuming fire of madness. The cool stone of the floor was equally curious, etched with gemstone and crystal with reference to each of the deities that it had gathered any information thus far. The ceiling was reserved for a depiction of Anath Homura, the Creatrix herself, crafted from iridescent rubies and pure-white marble. The stem of the rose formed an intricate and twisting pattern, each of its thorns a brilliant ruby, and in the very centre were its petals of carmine. They each contained a single topic of information, and the hidden words snaked through the design to create a brilliant alabaster eye at the very centre, wherein a single mote of pure gold resided. Many of the spaces on the floor were left blank, of course, for there were many deities that the Kathetikon did not yet know: but here, in this space, it felt like it was finally home. Its realm now created, the Kathetikon took a moment to enjoy the act of creation for what it was, content that it had taken another step on the Sacred Path described to it by the Creatrix. Though it appeared even she did not know where it ended, that fact did not deter the Tome of All Things in the slightest, for what was life without mystery?

A Curious Trade

The Kathetikon & Ashevelen

@Tuujaimaa & @Timemaster

Dappled light filtered through the canopies of the trees above, glittering and sparkling as the morning dew scattered the sun’s rays throughout the Umbral Forest. In the undergrowth below there was a most curious sight, a floating book manoeuvring through the gaps between the trees and ducking to and fro from all manners of vines and bushes–and it showed no sign whatsoever of slowing or stopping. It zipped through the air at a speed few things could even perceive, let alone comprehend, though its disruption of the assembled foliage did catch the attention of a number of endemic life-forms that flitted and scampered curiously around the Kathetikon. As they began to approach, however, their features began to become blotted out with unnatural black stains that spread across their forms, and by the time they had reached a scant few paces further towards it their forms were beginning to dissolve into clouds of ink that traced unknowable sigils through the air. They all quickly began to dissolve into the written word, carried on unseen currents towards the tome and quickly imprinting themselves upon its pages as it glowed brightly and a rumbling chuckle could be felt through the ground below.

It took a phenomenon altogether more interesting to draw the Tome of All Things from its education regarding the local fauna, but something in the air made its pages rustle as it zipped with astounding speed towards the western edge of this peculiar forest, content with the the knowledge it had already extracted from the forest thus far. It had been particularly curious about the names of the other divines that the villagers of Logiopolis had offered to it, and on the distant horizon it could sense the emanations of power consistent with the function (if not the form) of its own, and it sought them out with all the haste that a divine book could muster.

And it was time to leave, finally. Upgrades to the Umbra were done and while Penumbra was still out and abouts with the elves, the need to travel was already getting too great to be put aside for any longer but Ashevelen looked upon the forest once more, just in case. One last look of a parent leaving her children to learn about the world on their own.

Ashevelen started walking and whistling a tune she once traded for with a past creation, calmly. Nothing could stop her from her journey, nothing but…” Oh’ come on! Not again…” exclaimed Ashe in annoyance. One more divine visiting the Umbral Forest. Now of all times.

She initially kept walking more, trying to the best of her ability to ignore the questions that kept bombarding her mind. What if this divine wants to kill the Umbra? What if they plan to eat their souls? What if they hate trading and will teach the Umbra something they shouldn’t learn? These and many more similar questions kept spamming her mind, on and on and on until it was too much.

Fine. I’ll see what you want and then I’ll leave. No matter what. Even if the whole forest burns down. I gave them legs, they better learn how to use them fast. ” said Ashe to herself, her resolve strengthened.

With a wave of her hands, shadows started to swirl around her and she lifted herself high in the sky. Searching for the form of the divine, she couldn’t see anything. Only the energy. Some movement here and there but nothing else. Maybe it was simply a trick of her mind, her restlessness finally getting to her but she had to try. Summoning some divine energy, she released a blast in the air, similar to a flare. Indicating her position to any divine beings around.

It took only moments for the Kathetikon to zoom towards Ashevelen, unceremoniously positioning itself directly with her eyeline before the eye emblazoned upon its front page seemed to look her up and down (at least, as best as a static drawing could). It said nothing at first, seemingly content to study another divinity up close, but after perhaps a minute or so it finally began to react in a more obvious way:

”Anagnostis, why aren’t you reading me? What did I create you for if not to–oh. Anagnostis is still with those villagers… Hm.” it displayed, the words appearing in Polyglos in the air in front of it in a particularly cursive and ornate script. The words were less an actual measure of conversation than they were idle thoughts, clearly, but the sentient tome was far too distracted with all of the questions it wished to ask its sibling that it appeared to have been thinking aloud for lack of a better term.

”I am the Kathetikon, the God of Curiosity and Knowledge! Who might you be, sibling? Perhaps…” it began, suddenly opening and scanning through its pages rapidly. ”Perhaps… Myrtu? No, you do not have the presence of a ‘Myrtu’... I sense an A about you, perhaps Aldion? No, you aren’t red enough! Ashevelen? You are surrounded by shadows, so it would seem appropriate that you are the creator of the Umbra–tell me, do you like trading?” the Kathetikon’s will was broadcast directly through the unseen currents of divine energy that all gods exuded this time, seeming to speak directly into Ashe’s mind. The tone was frantic and inquisitive, though clearly bookish and relatively harmless in its intent.

Looking for someone to come out or appear in front of her, Ashevelen didn’t realise initially that it was actually the book that was talking. Studying it close, she quickly determined that the divine being was in fact that book itself. Truly a peculiar sight, while Ashe met many divines in her travels each with their own weird form but a book was something she hasn’t met yet.

Listening to the Kathetikon talk, her amazement only grew and by this point, she was grinning like a mortal.

Greetings divine brother or sister. A wondrous form you’ve got, amazing. That is correct, I am the creator of the Umbra. Ashevelen, the lady of trade and shadows. A pleasure to meet you. ” replied Ashe, adding a friendly bow at the end.

Trading, you say? I might know a thing or two about it…” added Ashe before starting to talk about trading, pacts and everything that covered the topic with the insight only a divine that specialised in it could. Of course, some secrets were not said but Ashevelen had an inkling that the Kathetikon knew them as well.

”I am neither a brother or a sister, for these refer to either the concept of sex or gender and–as you have no doubt astutely observed–I am a book without either. Sibling would be an acceptable term of address, as would ‘the Kathetikon’, but perhaps we–” the Kathetikon began, its thoughts bubbling up in gentle streams of shadowy ink into the air, but as soon as Ashe began to talk about trading it immediately let out a burst of effulgent energy and its pages flicked rapidly towards a section simply titled: Appendix XXXIVDCCXIII: Trade.

”How curious! Tell me everything, that I might record such bountiful and wondrous information within my pages!” the Kathetikon began, and began at once to engage the goddess before it with debates and observations, absorbing the contents of her knowledge eagerly while providing insights of its own in as many ways as possible. The Kathetikon listed to her the concepts of trade from worlds and universes far removed from this one, explaining what it knew of the systems freely and without second thought as to what one might think of their otherworldly nature, and by the time the pair of them had finished their discussions on the topic the sun and the moon had both shown themselves several times.

”... the usage of coins is only particularly common across the breadth of my knowledge in very early societies–those that advance or have access to the means of magic typically never invent currency or advance it so quickly that the intermediary stages are omitted entirely! It would appear that your divine status on this topic is much deserved, Ashevelen, for you have filled my pages with information I could scarcely have conceived of alone! Some of your umbra took… umbrage with my gift of a name, and demanded that a service of sufficient recompense be offered to me to equal the metaphorical scales. If there is a boon that you would ask of me in return for this wealth of information, you have only to bargain with me…” the Kathetikon stated, the emanations of its thoughts growing playful and mirthful in demeanour as it suggested that the Goddess of Trade haggle with it. It would, of course, stand no chance in outmanoeuvring her in such a thing–but part of the joy must surely have been in being challenged in the way that only their divine brethren could provide.

Almost immediately, Ashevelen got engaged in the conversion. Each phrase was countered with another, each wrong presumption corrected and even though it wasn’t intended on her part, she, herself discovered new things or better said, perspectives about trading. As soon as the Kathetikon started the topic of different worlds and universes, Ashe added her own knowledge about some of those she’s been in or heard of from different divines. Some traders as herself would tell the most outlandish stories about very, very distant universes with different rules of reality and Ashevelen told them all to Kathetikon.

While expecting to be annoyed by the presence of another divine, Ashevelen found herself wanting for the conversation to go on longer and longer. It was a long time since she met someone that could match her in knowledge, at least in part, about trading. Letting out a laugh, Ashevelen shook her head.

It seems I have taught my Umbra well. Even in the presence of another divine, they’ll ask to trade with no fear of what that divine might do to them. I hope they haven’t offended you as they simply did what I told them to do, trade. The most important thing for them and the only thing that keeps their soul from going to Aldion’s hell. ” replied Ashe with a smile only for her to hear the end of the Kathetikon’s reply.

You wish to bargain with me out of all people? You are quite an interesting divine, Kathe’ but before we do that, there’s one more thing to talk about, don’t you think? Something we haven’t talked about yet, that’s related to trading but isn’t fully. Trading doesn’t only encompass the bartering of goods etc., but pacts as well. Contracts and how they work together. ” said Ashe and then started another long conversation about contracts and pacts. Pointing out flaws in common thinking and different ways of exploitation of said contracts in a way that the contract itself isn’t broken, only then to jump to different minor topics relating to the general idea of pacts.

The Kathetikon moved to reply to Ashe’s musings about the Umbra, but its focus was quickly shifted to the mention of Aldion, of Souls, and of his hell–its pages rapidly flicked back and forth, seeming to be able to open themselves to multiple pages at once. Different colours of scrawling text overlaid themselves across the surface of the myriad pages, and the air shimmered with the intensity of the energy and thought running through the Kathetikon’s mind as it pondered Ashe’s words, giving them the attention and curiosity they were no doubt due. Though they had not encountered another of their divine siblings yet (Anath Homura being more like their mother than a peer), the Kathetikon allowed a faint hope to blossom within it that more of them would be like Ashe, willing to opine upon the subjects that they knew and embodied, and eager to learn of more both within and within their areas of expertise.

It then began trying to formulate a response to her musings once more, only to be immediately and totally derailed by her musings on the nature of contracts and pacts–the multitudinous visage of its pages settled into a singularity once more, opening to Appendix LXXXVMMCDLV: Contracts, Pacts, and Societal Law as it began to eagerly participate in the rapid back-and-forth of conversation between them. Though Ashe was undoubtedly the superior in terms of absolute knowledge, the pair always managed to find some avenue of inquiry that the other simply didn’t know or hadn’t considered, and the Kathetikon was always happy to supplement Ashe’s lines of discussion with examples from adjacent topics that helped provide additional context. By the time they had finished their rambling discussion several more days and nights had passed, and the Tome of All Things’ energy radiated with a sense of contentment and satiety for a precious few moments before the underlying hunger of curiosity began to surface.

”Ah, but we were talking about your Umbra! No, they gave me no offence: in fact, I rather admired their commitment to the ideal of trade even when confronted with a being of overwhelming power. To see what shape curiosity takes within them under such conditions is a truly fascinating topic, one that I believe could propel them to much prominence among the mortal lifeforms that will come to dominate the world. You mentioned Aldion and his hell–and that the souls of your Umbra are destined for that place should they fail to uphold the standards of trade you have committed them to. What manner of afterlife is this hell? All I know of Aldion is that they are red, and that they are one of our siblings.”

The conversation about pacts and contracts went on for longer than Ashevelen even realised actually passed initially and many of the points which Kathe’ mentioned were valid in more ways than one but invalid at the same time depending on which rules of the universe you’d base it on.

Truly remarkable. I haven’t met many who could almost match me when it came to trading, contracts and pacts. The two of us will become good friends Kathe’, I can tell you that for sure. There are many other topics I wish to discuss with you but, quite a long time passed, as I am sure you’ve noticed and I was about to embark on a journey. Ah’, apologies, as I said, it’s been a long time since I met one such as you and I got distracted. My Umbra, yes, I’ve taught them as much as their mortal minds could handle at this stage and they still had the guts to ask a divine for something, quite smart mortals I created, if I do say so myself. And, yes. That is my plan, for them to dominate the world, not in a militaristic way but via commerce and knowledge. Do you know that when they reproduce, their “baby” is actually still them? Same knowledge as the original one but younger. In a thousand years, there will still be Umbra who remember how they were brought into the world. I haven’t made them…wait…” replied Ashe before stopping for a few seconds, moving her hands and suddenly, out of shadows, a chair appeared in the air and a pedestal for the book to stand on.

There, that’s better. Hope the pedestal is up to your standards, more comfortable this way. Where were we? Ah, yes. Aldion. I haven’t yet seen his realm myself but from how he described it, the souls of the worst mortals to be born or made will be naturally drawn to it or carried by the Ferryman, another divine, to it. There, they’re gonna be tortured for as long as Aldion wishes for or until they’ve repent. I am more than happy to show you the terms of the deal I have with him and the Ferryman. As for how he is, I’d say he’s an honourable divine. ” continued Ashe and upon finishing, she snapped her fingers and the terms of the deal appeared on a paper in front of her, alongside with descriptions of the two divines she mentioned.

Do you wish me to read it to you or provide you with a copy? Both work for me. ” quickly added Ashe.

The Kathetikon mulled Ashe’s words over carefully, little wisps of energy emanating from it and forming unfathomable swirls and shapes as they dissipated into nothingness. It let out a pleased burst of dark grey energy as the pedestal appeared beneath it, writing a quick note of thanks in the air above itself as it continued to ponder what had been said.

”Ah, a punitive afterlife. Just as there is reward, so too must there be punishment–I am so very eager to understand how Aldion has chosen for this system to work, and to see what happens to those mortal souls that are destined for that place. I shall have to speak to this Ferryman anon, as they will surely be able to provide me with the information regarding the foundations of this system–once again I am indebted to you for this information.” the Kathetikon began, its words soundlessly thrumming through the air, until all of a sudden its pages began to shift and change once more, turning back and forth with wild abandon, until they stopped at a copy of the very document that Ashe had proffered to it.

”I am the Kathetikon, dear Ashevelen, and all that is written is contained within my pages–minus that which my siblings wish to keep private, of course. All that was required was your permission and it became known to me. You must allow me to repay this kindness: I have taught the villagers of a little settlement known as Logiopolis–”” it began, suddenly transforming the area around them into a relative map of the world as it had been able to observe it thus far with a bright flicker of divine power. It made sure to highlight the location of Logiopolis in particular, and precisely where it was in relation to their current position, before continuing: ”a language known as Polyglos. Though only those blessed by my power are able to write it, all who lay eyes upon it are able to understand what it means–even those who are not literate, or have no immediate concept of language in their mind. I intended for them to use it to spread knowledge to all those they meet, but it strikes me given our conversation that it would be an excellent official trading language for the Umbra. I am happy to teach them all how to write it, and it will allow them to broker trade agreements with beings they could not ordinarily do so. While it was intended to allow for the honest and transparent transmission of thought, I am happy to subtly modify it for them so that they will be able to engage in clever wordplay and ensnare the less learned with pacts and contracts that are to their advantage. Would this suffice as payment for the knowledge and wonderful company that you have offered to me?” it continued, the corners of its pages fluttering in a way that could only denote excitement (or possibly fear, though that seemed much less likely given the circumstances).

It’s an interesting system, that’s for sure. I’ve got my own idea of how my realm will be, but that’s for later. I cannot speak for Aldion’s reasoning behind his afterlife but feel free to contact him and I’m sure he’s more than happy to explain his point of view. As for the Ferryman…well, he’s an interesting fellow. Very funny at times, especially in the company of Myrtu, another one of our divine siblings. If you haven’t met them yet, you have to. ” replied Ashe with a smile, remembering her time on the Ferryman’s Wellington and the meeting with Myrtu.

With a small seated bow, Ashevelen grinned. “ Apologies, sibling. I keep forgetting that your form isn’t…a common one. Feel free to access any of the knowledge I taught the Umbra but with one condition, don’t share it with those that don’t pay for it. One way or the other. Just as a small favour from one divine to another.

As for this language you’re talking about. Hmm, it sounds like an interesting concept. I planned to create one myself later on after they manage to evolve a bit but, if it was already taught to others, it would make sense for the Umbra to learn it as well. So, while it isn’t something I tend to do very often… or at all even, I agree -without the need of haggling for this. Company is given for company and knowledge for knowledge. A fair trade if I say so myself.
” said Ashevelen, as she stood up from her seat and, at the Kathetikon’s request, she began to write the details of everything they talked about and the details of the trade in the book, using an ink made of her shadows to write it.

Shadowton, as my Umbra named it, lies to the south of this place. ” added Ashevelen as she used the same trick Kathe’ used earlier but in a shadowy version and drew them a map to how to get there.

I hope you’ll forgive me but I shan’t be coming with you. Just show them–” further continued Ashe, as a shadow-coin appeared in hand and flung it over to the book before continuing “--my coin and they’ll understand it is a trade that I have agreed to. Keep the coin afterwards if you wish to, it will be used everywhere in this world later on.

”A fairer exchange I have not had yet, nor do I expect to in the future. I shall have to create a place to store this coin, perhaps I will do so close to this Shadowton you speak of–a trade route that would benefit us all, no? Goodbye, sibling, may we find each other well again soon!" the Kathetikon began, allowing the coin to land on its pages and balance carefully. It quickly caused the shadowy coin to darken slightly and sink into the pages, becoming a drawing, and began to follow the directions that Ashe had given it, happy to learn more about a new place and put another of its endless questions to rest. As it began to travel leisurely along the path that Ashe had pointed out it began to wonder if it could conduct another experiment: while it had taught the beings at Logiopolis directly and made its involvement known, perhaps it would be an interesting study to see how the Umbra would use the gift it had given them without it revealing its hand in doing so. It was quite sure they would attribute it to some blessing of their Goddess, or else some benefit from a trade or a pact made similarly to the one that would send their souls to Hell should they fail to trade. As it would need to visit this little town anyway to fulfil the terms with its agreement with Ashe, the Kathetikon drew forth its divine power in the form of a complex series of glyphs made from pitch-black ink. They hovered in the air for a moment before returning to a liquid state and dripping down onto the distant ground below, sneaking through the shadows provided by the canopy off towards Shadowton in order to merge with the Umbra. With that done, the Kathetikon continued its journey, stopping every so often to record some ambient phenomenon it was experiencing or muse about the nature of things to itself, frequently talking to an Anagnostis that was not there.

The Birth of Logiopolis

The Kathetikon & Assembled Villagers

@Tuujaimaa & @Utrax

Rolling waves lazily broke ashore. This was a beach made of smooth stones and scarcely little sand. Warm winds blew here, as it was situated far to the south, and so close to the equator that the weather tended toward hot even in the night. This crescent shaped bay–inhabited by a collection of Centaur, Kinnaras, Human, and some few Umbra–had become something of a home to those people since they had been placed here by Myrtu, a god which was known only as a fleeting streak of light in the night sky.

Along the rocky beach a Centaur and Kinnaras walked alone, collecting driftwood. Most of the salt-paled scraps were charred already, having come from some distant and unknown blaze to the north, but it was all still valuable for every evening's gatherings, where questions and debates thrived with healthy curiosity and moderation. Though these people were still a new species, their jump-started knowledge for survival–which most reasoned had been divinely granted–had helped them thrive in this untamed land.

Idly, the Centaur and the Kinnaras were engaged in conversation of the usual fare for these people of the infant coast:

“Yes, but for what purpose were we granted this knowledge?” The Centaur sighed heavily, readjusting the bundle of sticks tied to her back, “And for what reason were we placed here with it? This is still a question of much debate.”

“But they’re questions for which there’ll not be an answer soon,” replied the Kinnaras, picking up a sizable driftwood log, “For now, we’ve a bonfire to tend to–the others are likely waiting for us. We’ll have much discussion at length on this topic, were you to bring it forward. Again. ‘Tis one of the circular types of discussions, is it not?”

And for a silent moment, the Centaur stared at the other, her brows kitting tightly, “Is tonight the night of names?”

“Tis,” replied the Kinnaras with a clever smirk, “For how many nights from The God Star have we not decided upon them? Methinks they are overdue–for how else should we know each other, if not by name?”

The lapping of waves upon the shore continued to punctuate the idle prognostication of the various assembled thinkers, the swelling and breaking of the tide thrumming in time to the back-and-forth of their inquiries. The gentle moonlight radiated its crimson-tinged glow through the celestial sphere above, and as the light made its way to the shore it could be seen to glitter and sparkle through the crests of the waves. They glistered as brilliantly as jewels before they broke upon the shore, and to their learned eyes it would look almost like some unseen force guiding them towards the various objects that the waves broke upon as the scattered effulgence dispersed around them in a most pleasing way. Only when the final question was asked did a peculiarly radiant glow deign it appropriate to intercede, making sure to attempt to catch the attention of all nearby with a dazzling display of light.

Laying upon the shore was suddenly an opened tome, its pages filled with spidery script that even from afar seemed to beckon their attention towards it. Whispers carried on the gentle zephyrs of the night reached the ears of the assembled, barely-audible voices filling their heads with the gentlest hints of secrets and knowledge far beyond their ken. It called to them like moths to the flame, setting alight that fire within their minds that they knew was named curiosity. As they would approach it, however, they would be stopped by a featureless silhouette that took the barest hints of their shape but little else. A great expanse of soft alabaster made up its face and body, topped with a messy sprawl of inky-black threads that swept themselves about in a pale imitation of hair and down into what could only generously be called clothing. Before any of them could approach too closely it picked the tome up from the beach with the most reverent deference, bowing and nodding its head as it did so, and words spilled from its mouth like ink flowing onto the page:

“The Master requests that you do not look at it directly, as tempting as that possibility might seem. To glimpse it without protection would surely drive you mad.” Its voice was soft and smooth, whisper-quiet but with all the sonorous force of a gong settling deep within the back of their skulls.

Both the Centaur and the Kinnaras halted at the sound of the voice, for they'd indeed been curious enough to move closer. The two exchanged a look, one filled with emotions both curious and anxious, before the Kinnaras finally turned his back to the silhouette.

Nervously he said, as he grabbed his companion's arm and encouraged her to turn away as well, "Ah, forgive us our intrusion upon the Master’s… space?"

Unsure, the Kinnaras looked up to the Centaur pleadingly. She hesitantly picked up the trail of thought, "We've only just begun to know of this world and what offerings it has for us–ours are eyes which have never beheld such a creation as this. Erm. Which… Well, we lack a term or name for such a thing, so we ask you… What are you?" She dared a glance over her shoulder but only barely, "An Umbra, perhaps? And what is that thing you hold?"

Then the Kinnaras blurted out, "And what is it, to be driven mad?"

“Oh–fear not! I’m sorry! You see…” the shade-like silhouette began, scrambling to the ground in order to pick the ominously glowing tome up off of the ground, and swiftly closing it shut between their hands. Though no facial features formed on the silhouette, its form began to subtly shift around the edges like the pages of a book rustling softly. It flickered through several iterations, becoming progressively more detailed, until its silhouette seemed to match that of the Kinnaras’. “It is the book who is the Master, but this is not its space–we have simply ended up here because the Master was curious about you. It wanted me to… experience things as you know them? I am Anagnostis!” It began, its voice initially something of a whimper. As it continued to speak it seemed to gather more of a sense of self, the clear look of understanding coming to rest upon its face.

“The Master here,” it pointed down, suddenly looking like a lifelike drawing of the Kinnaras, ”is the Kathetikon, the God of Curiosity and Knowledge. Do you know what a God is?” and opened its eyes wide at truly beholding the creatures before it. The book in its hands suddenly opened itself once again, and though it spoke no words the world seemed to become utterly and enchantingly curious. Strange glyphs and symbols began to emerge from its pages and displayed themselves directly in the air before them. Though at first they were entirely nonsensical, they quickly began to change and shift in the minds of everyone who beheld them, intuitively displaying a sense of understanding about what they intended to display: “I am the Kathetikon, the god of curiosity. I wish to know what you are, to understand how you live. To that end I have created Anagnostis. They will communicate with me for you. If you wish, I could teach you how to create language, as I have just done for you. All shall be able to read, though few may be gifted to write. All I ask in return is that you allow Anagnostis to join you for a little moment, to write down its observations about you…” it began, but then suddenly focused its attention on the Kinnaras intently, seeming to single it out with a projection of presence.

“You cannot comprehend what is mad until you comprehend everything else. Ask Anagnostis whatever you like, but for every question you ask you must answer a question from it. You will see for yourselves what madness is if you are hasty.” the words lingered in the air for a few moments before rippling away on the night breeze. Anagnostis’ face cocked up at the Kinnaras with a bright, wide smile on it, and nodded at it for it to react.

Once again, the Centaur looked to the Kinnaras, and the other returned the gaze. Both seemed to exchange a silent plethora of emotions solely in that stare. Not only were they impressed but they were curious, practically burning with the feeling, in line with the God's will.

At last the Kinnaras spoke, "Anagnostis?"

And the Centaur also asked, carefully pronouncing the word, "Kathetikon?"

Slowly and carefully, the two turned to face Anagnostis. The Kinnaras answered while looking over its new form carefully, "We know of Gods only in the sense that we are here by the will of several." A thoughtful expression came to his face as he continued, "Anagnostis… we have no reason to turn you away, for if this is the will of a God, for you to be with us, then we have not the means to refuse."

Nervously the Centaur spoke, "And we two are not ones who can show you much–there are many more of us…" she pointed to a trail, leading up a hill and into dense coastal vegetation, "...where we now take the wood for the gathering fire. To the place we all sleep and share in meals and topics of conversation. Perhaps that is what you seek?"

Mid-thought, the Kinnaras also spoke up, "The God said language–to teach us–perhaps it can help us too, with the names we're to form tonight? With what we shall call all the great many things for which we have no words?"

With a nervous chuckle the Centaur agreed, "Such things as ourselves. We should have grand names like Kathetikon and Anagnostis, too." She looked to them in that moment, "We'll lead you to the others–we're quite done gathering wood now, methinks."

"Trading–" the Kinnaras blurted out mid-thought once more,"–an answer for our question in return for an answer to yours. It is as those few made of dark, which we call the Umbra, would prefer it to be. They will be pleased to find another which values such an exchange."

Anagnostis’ face lit up with a beaming smile, its form slowly moulding and shifting until it became almost entirely like the Kinnaras and could easily have passed for a member of the race rather than simply being a very lifelike interpretation of it. “Anagnostis isn’t actually a name, you know… it’s a title! A name is… a name is what a thing is, but a title is usually what a thing does! Anagnostis means… how would you say it…” it began, bringing its hand up to its face and beginning to rub its chin thoughtfully. It did so for a few seconds before its eyes widened in a sudden burst of epiphany and it opened the book to a random page. Though they would be unable to read the writing itself, the others would clearly see the strange symbols forming across the leaves of parchment within the book, writing themselves in neat little lines that Anagnostis’ eyes followed unerringly.

“To be Anagnostis is to read, the Master says! To be one who reads the Kathetikon, this thing that is the God of Knowledge. It says that Anagnostis can also write in the book, to record new information about the world… Things like the names you deserve, yes! You’re right.” It laughed, its voice suddenly musical and filled with wonder. It began to prompt the centaur and the kinnaras up towards the village they’d pointed to, and a glittering feather with a pointed tip suddenly appeared in its hand. “... gathering of people, a place where people come together to eat and discuss their thoughts…” it mumbled idly, adding new symbols to the book in a frenzied flurry as it walked towards the trail and beckoned for its new compatriots to follow.

“Oh, this is so exciting, isn’t it? To be so close to answers, to be just on the cusp of knowing more and more! I can’t wait to hear what your friends have to say, what discoveries we’ll make!”

The Centaur was the one to catch up first. She began leading the way, her pace easy, but there was a nervousness to her steps and a quiver of uncertainty in her swishing tail. She did not speak on it, instead walking in a thoughtful silence, as behind her the Kinnaras spoke to Anagnostis.

"So you've possession of a title but not a name? Somewhat like us, this is true," he noted, "But what use are titles? What is the purpose of titles other than God?"

Ahead of them the trail wound dark and sandy, around unnamed trees with wide leaves, which drank in the sun and produced fruit of a puzzling nature–huge green husks which these primitive people had yet to figure out how to harvest. Gently the sea breeze became a whisper of its shoreside gale as the underbrush thickened to either side, deepening the darkness, yet bringing with it the sounds of the uncounted and unnamed creatures residing in the coastal jungle.

Calls of creatures cried out as bushes shook at their approach, unseen things which fled from sight, at the sound of their hooves. Bugs innumerable cried, hissed, chimed, and chirped in the cool night air as the trail wound upward still. The dancing lights of flying insects, in numbers few, flashed about in the salt-touched air. Blossoms opened from vines, glowing slightly in the light of the Wondermoon.

Eventually, as all trails had ends, they came upon their destination.

Here the forest came to a clearing that had been subjected to some minor trimming and logging. The wood had clearly been used for the erection of the primitive fencing that surrounded the clearing, wooden posts driven into the dirt. Made of sturdy logs of young trees and connected by woven and dried reeds, the fence created a perimeter around the area, and only two entrances could be seen in the relative darkness–a telling tale of how the fencing was meant to guard against creatures from the nearby underbrush.

From where they stood the clearing opened only to the level ground that the fence surrounded, before sharply ascending as a hill further toward what was a sea-facing cliff. The vista could be easily seen, as the way toward it had been cleared by these people's extensive use of the trees and brush, which left the ground bare and stony near the hill.

A large primitive shelter, of the woven branch and stick variety, had been made stronger by the use of rudimentary ropes and the sheer size of the logs used as support. It stretched out to the right of the path, where before them the hill and second path converged, and there were others already gathered there.

Notably there was quiet, despite the hundred or so gathered in the simple village.

Some conversed in hushed tones but, on the whole, the villagers (consisting of Centaurs, Kinnaras, and Humans) were focused on tending to a variety of tasks.

A ring of moderately sized rocks was host to a large fire, which was surrounded by various stands and logs staked into the ground. Large boars, fish, and even an odd bunch of roots were set to roasting around the fire, tended to primarily by humans.

Centaurs, wielding massive logs sharpened to points, were the majority of those that looked to be watching the underbrush. These were defenders, armed in case the wildlife decided to come to dinner–or in case it wanted to become dinner.

And the Kinnaras, for the most part, were hauling more wood toward the fire or hauling rudimentary skin-jugs full of water about, lifting this or that in some late night construction. To the other side of the fire a large pile of logs had been gathered, with implications toward the future construction of a second longhouse.

Other villagers were resting about the fire, conversing in their hushed tones, without regards to any particular groupings other than those of friendship or affection. A few were weaving the bases for the first baskets, others were figuring out how to comb and care for the hair of their children and friends, while some fewer still seemed to simply be silently enjoying each other's company.

The group including the Anagnostis was not met with any particular attention. It seemed everyone was waiting for something else, for the quiet had an anticipatory edge to it, with a notable amount of glances cast toward the hilltop.

“A title is something that denotes a function, whereas name denotes an identity! A title tells people what you do, like ‘gatherer’, but a name tells people who you are. Gods are important, but they are more like titles than they are like names–they do a thing, but sometimes they are also that thing? That is certainly the case with the Master!” Anagnostis replied, stroking its chin thoughtfully with the hand not holding the Kathetikon as they walked. Every time something new caught the avatar’s attention it could be seen to be glancing down towards newly forming glyphs and sigils within the pages of the now-open book. Sometimes its eyes went wide with wonder, and sometimes it narrowed its eyes in what could only be disbelief.

Anagnostis looked without hesitation upon the hastily assembled village, eyes rapidly darting between the newfound marvels before it and the Kathetikon, and each new thing it found to look upon and either research or record was accompanied by a little giggle or a sigh of contented wonder. As the little group finally reached the village Anagnostis made sure to huddle closely to the kinnaras with whom they’d gotten the closest so far, making sure to slam shut the pages of the Kathetikon as they did so:

“I’ve noticed that people keep glancing up towards that hill… is that where the main feature of tonight is going to happen? The…” Anagnostis began, opening the book just a crack in order to take a look at a particular passage, “night of names, yes? It is most curious that you’ve been given a language without a concept of proper nouns, and yet are able to communicate amongst yourself in their absence without too much difficulty! A noun is the name for a thing, and a proper noun is the name for a person or a place, according to the Master…” it finished, laughing gently under its breath as it whispered to the kinnaras.

Even the Kinnaras, initially, had been lost in his own curiosity, staring toward the hill, before Anagnostis spoke. In response, he said softly, “There is where it is easiest to hear the voice projected, by all those gathered.” And he grew thoughtful at the concept of nouns, “So that is the name of words used for how things are named?” A smirk came to the Kinnaras’ face then, “Tis a loop of nouns, as you say they are called. Nouns for nouns about nouns.”

The Kathetikon then began to glow in the moonlight, gentle ripples of gold and azure surrounding it in such a way as to not draw attention to it unless one was close-by and actively looking. ”You are not to interfere unless asked, Anagnostis. Observe and record.” it stated, the words pounding in Anagnostis’ mind without sound or motion, and the kinnaras-shaped avatar looked towards its new companion expectantly. Even with such a limited application of power the world seemed to grow more and more interesting by the moment, and the groups of mortals surrounding them seemed to point out little things they’d previously noticed but dismissed. In a matter of moments the entire village had set themselves to feverishly whispering, furtive glances and less-than-subtle pointing motions causing the conversations to list towards the philosophical and the unknown alike.

“Hm. Perhaps just a little of my influence to prepare them for the grand truths to come. Let them know the joy of curiosity, let its seed take root in their minds and never let go–these beings may well serve my purposes best by finding their own path in the world. All I must do is show them that the path exists, and they will be the ones to follow it.”

Next to them the Centaur who had led the way had already left their small group, having made her way toward the bonfire. A few humans moved to assist her in adding the numerous sticks and logs she’d gathered to a pile near the blaze. Fodder for it later, it seemed, as there were quite enough logs and branches gathered to keep the blaze going for quite some time. While the conversations picked up, four people made their way up the hill.

One was a Centaur with black fur and black hair, skin that appeared a tone of golden brown in the moonlight, and a particularly stern air about the way she moved. The hardness in her expression hinted toward a strict and disciplined personality, even further expressed by how neat and tightly braided she kept her hair.

Next to her stood a human male, pale skinned, with a shorn head of hair and light red brows, and mischievously gleaming silver eyes. He looked at those gathered, then gave them a smile. Some few that he made eye contact with seemed to snicker at some unspoken joke.

Floating next to the human was an Umbra. Normally, their kind was wholly of a shadowy and murky black variety, composed of a featureless and smoky lower body, an upper body, head, and arms, all composed of shadow. This one’s darkness had become geometrically interlaced with intricate patterns of emerald and deep orange, which glimmered despite the shadow’s darkness. Their eyes glowed a soft orange and their shadowy features were rounded, smooth, and artfully flowing.

And finally a Kinnaras joined the group atop the hill, and he carried with him a stick which had been topped with a conch shell and decorated with numerous other shells, bones, and generally pretty rocks, strung together with rudimentary twine made from plant fibers. Oddly, this Kinnaras appeared older than the others gathered, as his brown hair was flecked with gray and silver.

Quietly the Kinnaras next to Anagnostis gestured for the other to follow him, before proceeding toward a patch of grass near the bonfire. He settled down to sit, legs splayed out before himself.

The four upon the hill exchanged a moment of quiet glances with each other, before the human spoke first, “Oh, they all know why it is that tonight is different than the usual night of philosophy! Well, despite the sudden urge I have to debate what it means for us four to have been chosen to speak and collect and monitor and examine and–"

“–Please, fellow, we understand your point,” the black-haired Centaur cut the human off with a huff, despite the soft snickers that came from those gathered. “Rather than spend more time than needed gathering sentiments, let us proceed.” Helplessly, the human threw his hands up to the Centaur's interjection, though he smirked in good humor.

The Kinnaras next to them nodded, then turned to address the village, “We all know words.” This, caused snickers within the crowd again, and the Kinnaras continued with an amused chuckle, “And tonight we’ll assign those words to ourselves as representation–though not for the means by which we speak of the Tree or the Stone, for those names belong to the Tree and the Stone. No… tonight, we’ve all decided to declare to each other the names of sounds–those sounds which suit us for use. For like the Tree and the Stone, these will be suitable sounds for referencing us.”

“It has been precisely thirty three suns since our previous declaration for want of names,” the Umbra picked up, “And in those thirty three suns, there has been time enough to contemplate our personal sounds. Tonight we tell each other our sounds–our names–and commit them to memory. Let us each know the other.”

Gently the Kinnaras on the hill shook the stick, which jingled from the noise of the collected shells and rocks atop it in a rather musical manner, “Who’s first?”

The human on the hill snickered, “Shouldn’t you go first?”

Murmurs from the crowd began, as everyone seemed both nervous and eager, and next to Anagnostis, the Kinnaras snickered. He lowered his voice, a smirk upon his face, as he told Anagnostis, “Ah, ‘tis something I’ve not given much contemplation to personally, I admit. Though I do like the name of the title which you bear, new one. The title of yours is a sound most pleasing among sounds, from those which we know.”

Anagnostis watched the display with rapt interest, a beaming smile plastered to its face as it simply enjoyed the scene unfolding before it. To the avatar of the God of Curiosity and Knowledge this was perhaps the ideal first experience of the world: watching a group of beings come together to decide on the names they would call themselves was a privilege beyond words. Anagnostis’ heart burned with the desire to participate in the ritual–but a gentle tingle of energy from the Kathetikon reminded Anagnostis of its place in rather quick measure and it disabused itself of the notion its excitement presented. It joined in the crowd seamlessly as they laughed at the wry humour, and hummed along under its breath to the little tune that the kinnaras’ stick made.

“The Master was once a mortal like yourselves, in a place far away from here, and it gave me this title from the tongue it used to speak. If you like the sound of it, I’m sure the Master would be happy to–” Anagnostis began, but was quickly interrupted by a now-familiar pulse of energy. This time it was not reproachful, however, but instead a warning as the Kathetikon opened itself in Anagnostis’ palms and began to glow fiercely. The imprinted sigils and symbols on its pages began to leak out, spilling forth in a tide of multi-hued ink that quickly overwhelmed the entire village below the hill. The assembled villagers seemed not to panic as it overtook them, however, instead merely intensely curious about what on earth could generate such a phenomenon as their hushed whispers became a riotous discussion.

After only a moment the ink seemed to dissipate, soaking into every object and every little thing as it disappeared, and when the villagers had wiped the murk from their eyes they found themselves standing in an enormous amphitheatre, each with their own seat of honour and looking down upon those speakers who had previously been atop the hill. Anagnostis remained where it was, now seated next to the Kinnaras quite close to the action, and gasped in an equal measure of surprise along with the others. In the base of the amphitheatre now stood a resplendent podium made of rainbow-hued marble and lapis lazuli, and atop it awaited an opened Kathetikon.

”I am the Kathetikon, God of Curiosity and Knowledge, and on this most auspicious of nights I have chosen to teach you the mysteries of language in accordance with your resolution to name yourselves.” the Kathetikon stated, its words simply appearing in the minds of the assembled villagers. Ornately curving symbols began to manifest in the air, their loops and whorls at first unintelligible but quickly revealing their intended meaning to all of the assembled villagers simply by gazing upon it. ”Polyglos is the name of this language, and it shall begin the ceremony of names! Just as it has been named, so too may you name yourselves using it: all you must do is picture in your mind’s eye the essence of who you are, the sounds that you enjoy, and the stone tablets beneath your seats shall display the name that you have chosen for yourself. Once you know what your name is…” the tome began, this time its words displaying themselves in the air in Polyglos for all to read, ”it shall be recorded within my pages forevermore!”

Anagnostis was the first to stand and clap loudly, before it took a detachable stone tablet from the base of its carved seat and walked through down the stairs in order to take its place at the podium. Fires of every colour imaginable burned in magnificent golden braziers, each exploding in a shower of light and sound as Anagnostis passed them, and when it finally stood in front of the opened tome it scrawled a little passage within the Kathetikon’s pages and then turned to its newfound friend, the kinnaras it had been sitting with.

“Come! You’d better think fast…” Anagnostis laughed, beckoning them down with a cheering gesture to a bout of raucous applause.

Laughing heartily, the Kinnaras shook his head, "But I've yet to-" and then he looked down. Upon his tablet, was already written a name. Hesitantly he picked the tablet up then tilted his head, reading aloud, "Pyonexos?" With a carefree shrug, he got to his feet, then moved toward Anagnostis quite fearlessly, tablet in hand. Once next to the podium, he couldn't help but take a long look around.

Off to the side, the speakers were examining their own names, whilst becoming quite engrossed in conversation. Their enthusiasm was mirrored by others in the room, as the multitudes began actualizing names–as the tablets etched the sounds into being, a notable increase in conversation volumes could be observed.

Several others were already examining the architecture, the structure itself, and the manner in which things were shaped and carved. A few of the more militant among those gathered simply looked nervous, as they stared with a mix of fear and curiosity toward the Anagnostis.

Pyonexos took a deep breath, then looked toward Anagnostis at last. A rather pleased smile came to his face, "We'd only just a few suns ago debated if there were other gods, do you know? Besides those that the Umbra know, of course. We debated if they'd had a sense of responsibility to us–questioned the memory of a god long departed–and now one has given us names."

He took a deep breath, his eyes rather misty with emotion, and his voice choked up, as he told Anagnostis, "I do not doubt they'll come–" he gestured with his head toward the four speakers "–with grander thanks and better words to express our joy, but I offer mine to you and the god. My deepest gratitude in amounts not even an Umbra could quantify."

"And what is given in return?!"

This voice came from the Umbra who stood on the floor of the amphitheater. The other speakers clamored in response, trying to halt the Umbra's motion, but the Umbra simply became intangible and passed through them.

It fixed Anagnostis and the Kathetikon with a glowing orange stare before it asked, with some modicum of emotion, "For what you have given us, there must be something asked for in exchange, correct? What would the God ask of us? What do we owe?" When the Kinnaras speaker moved to the Umbra's side, the Umbra looked over and spoke before the other could, "We are now in debt. There is inequity in what is given and what is received. The trade is not fair for the Divinity."

Anagnostis had begun to offer its sincerest congratulations to its newly named friend, but quickly turned to scribe the new name within the pages of the Kathetikon. As it did so the writing seemed to settle into the soft, radiant light emanating from the pages and then suddenly Pyonexos himself seemed more realised, more solid and definite than the others who were yet to receive their names and have them recorded in the tome of all things. Anagnostis turned to the Umbra who’d raised their queries with an equally curious expression on its face, but quickly turned back to the opened Kathetikon and rifled through its pages while holding a finger up towards the Umbra in order to try and get it to wait while it divined the answers.

After only a couple of brief seconds Anagnostis was interrupted by the sonorous rumblings of the Kathetikon’s overwhelming will, and it simply wove the words it wished to speak into the minds of all assembled:

”You speak of the concept of bargaining, of trade, that one thing cannot be offered without something being given in return? Is this the will of one of my siblings, I wonder? Very well: what I have given you is not truly names, nor is it even Polyglos, but curiosity. I have inspired you to wish for things you did not know that you wanted, for things that you could scarcely comprehend before my gifts elucidated you. The way for you to repay this debt you have incurred is simple: indulge this curiosity always. Seek to understand all things, aspire to create new marvels, and record your observations in Polyglos always that they might join my hallowed pages. Assemble a great collection of writings in my name and offer your thoughts and prayers to me through them, and I shall stoke the curiosity within you and lead you to where you may find new knowledge for yourselves. Now come! May your names be written within me as an agreement of this covenant!”

The flames grew even grander, colours more vivid, the sharply carved architecture of the amphitheatre all the more pronounced–and as they did so, the overwhelming sense of curiosity permeating the area only grew, that all would be compelled to see what could be created in the world and strive to work out how they could make it for themselves. The Kathetikon knew that its manipulation of the reality around them would not last long once it chose to stop actively maintaining it, and so this also conveniently served as something of a test: had they the ability to prioritise knowledge above all else, to serve as extensions of the god’s will as they so clearly wished to? The Kathetikon’s idle musings were soon drowned out by more and more of the villagers traveling down the steps of the amphitheatre (while taking some time to consider how it could be built, of course) and towards Anagnostis, who happily continued to write their names in the god as both a way to give them the gift of knowledge and ratify the deal that the Umbra had insisted they make.

There was much willingness yet, there was an undercurrent of apprehension lurking here and there. Questions about the god were common as people conversed. Questions about the God's honesty and what it meant for the God to have come here, of all places. Some few mentioned the fleeting presence of a different Divinity as they received their names, and stared in curiosity toward the night sky. Yet, plenty of others were eager to accept the path offered by a new Divine, for this gave them a semblance of structure or clearer purpose.

When the Umbra speaker came fourth in the procession, they told the Anagnostis, "Charaondes, as this one is now called, was indeed created by another Divine, whose will all Umbra follow. My soul, if sinful, is promised to another." Reminiscing, Charaondes continued, "It was whilst riding on a tour of the lands with the creator, aboard a Divine vessel, that Charaondes became blessed by a second Divine, through a sacred trade. To you, Charaondes gives the names of Ashevelen, Aldion, The Ferryman, and Myrtu–those other Divines which are recalled from the earliest point of Charondes as a whole. Ours is the memory which spans generations, through division and whole-spawning." They bowed somewhat, as well as a shadow could, before making way for the next to be named.

Steadily, the procession continued, though there were more than a few that seemed far more skittish than the rest. Among those last few that came forward for a name, there came a nervous question from one scrawny human, "And what is the punishment, if we are unable to fulfill the will of the god?"

”Let me make this plain: I exist only to guide mortalkind towards the path of knowledge, and to banish the blackness of ignorance that surrounds you. I am a servant of mortalkind more than an overseer or a ruler. That which I rule over is curiosity, not punishment–I am the source of the itch in your mind that draws you to discovery, and all I wish is for you to walk that path of your own volition. There is no reprimand for failing to do so but the lack of knowledge and agency you invite upon yourself: to reject me and my teachings is to never know the joy of learning something new, to never know the pleasure of ensuring those who come after you may do so less afraid and more equipped than you. It was asked of me to propose the terms of a trade, and so I have: but I am not Ashevelen, nor Aldion. I am not the Ferryman, nor Myrtu. My siblings are not yet recorded within my pages, but you have already given me a great gift by revealing their names and their existences to me: if you would ask something of me in return for this knowledge, you may.” the Kathetikon rumbled, the amphitheatre beginning to shift and change with the cadence of its words. Where before there was wonder and mystery to inspire curiosity there was now a sense of comfort, familiar and affable surroundings to allow the assembled the peace they needed to tend their minds. The carved stone chairs became cushioned with luxurious fabrics, goblets of water and wine placed on sturdy wooden tables, and the chill of the night banished with a soothing warmth. The Kathetikon then focused its will towards the human that had addressed it.

”You think all divinities wish to punish those that do not follow their will? How curious; recount to me all those experiences you have had that have made you think this.”

It was most of the small Umbra population which spoke in answer–only six of them remained within this village’s number. Some recounted having witnessed at their 'earliest divisions,' Ashevelen punishing two Umbra with death, for those Umbra had tried to feed themselves upon the flesh of another Umbra in cannibalism. Another Umbra recalled seeing a "Red Divinity" come to collect those two souls, before having been sent away by the Gods, that they might speak alone.

Rather more philosophically, a Centaur proposed during this discussion that they were all currently being punished–that they were abandoned here by Myrtu as some obscure form of reprimand, for something none had any recollection of. This, of course, began a few moments of debate within the amphitheater. Some few shouted that the Centaur’s words were but conjecture and theory while others took his side in the matter, and called it both likely and possible.

"But even if we are not punished," came the rather strident voice of one of the speakers, which was the bald human, his voice brought the discussions down to a whisper, "Then should we not, while there is a God in our presence, use the opportunity to ask our most burning question?"

He turned rather dramatically toward the Anagnostis, taking a few strides toward it, while really building the suspense up, as those who were last whispering soon fell silent. With open arms and gestures meant to catch the eye, the bald human newly named Sinosceros, asked, "For what purpose would we perform such tasks?"

He was ever the performer himself, a natural, as he walked across the floor, capturing attention easily, speaking both to the Kathetikon and to the audience. "For the purpose of performing in thy name, of course- oh but of course- though, why perform? Deeply and in essence, for what reason? As we live and breathe, in your name, of course, we ask why? Why live? Why breathe? Why be curious when all are destined to become bones upon the stony shore?"

”Long did I ponder the answer to that question myself. I who have hoarded worlds of knowledge within my pages have arrived at the following conclusion: the universe must experience itself, for what does it mean to exist at all if not to experience? If there was no sorrow there could not be joy. If there was no dread, there could not be wonder. If there was no ignorance, there could not be curiosity. You do not yet understand that the journey is more important than the destination, that you must gather fragments of joy and love and wonder knowing you are destined to lose them. We deities exist to ensure that your journey is all-encompassing, that you may find your own path through it. If you feel lost, it is only because you are yet to understand–and in order to understand, you must be curious. That answer is one you must search for yourself in order for it to have any meaning at all.” The Kathetikon did not deign to press its words into the minds of those present this time, electing simply to project its meaning in Polyglos in the very skies above. The curved lines of script interwove themselves with the patterns of the distant stars above, and the meaning was clear to all within the amphitheatre who simply deigned to look up.

It was Anagnostis that spoke next, its eyes full and bright and a gentle smile playing upon its lips:

“If you do not discover the answer for yourselves, what would it mean? Do you lack direction so keenly that you believe only a God could divine the answers? The Master could tell you anything you so desired, but it is the journey of discovery that allows you to make sense of it! So… learn! Work out a way to answer all of your questions, learn how everything works and come to the conclusion yourselves! Purpose is something only you can grant yourselves, just as the Master has said!”

Sinosceros clasped his hands together in an empathetic gesture before applauding gently. Of course, a few other onlookers and listeners joined in the applause. When it seemed that others were becoming convinced of the reasoning, a few murmurs from the crowd dedicated to the topic, the black haired Centaur speaker shook her head, then stomped her front hooves sharply.

This, something that had commanded attention many times before, cut off discussions sharply, so that she could pose her question."But for what purpose are we, those who would seek such a path, made mortal for?"

She shook her head, her front hoof scraping the floor anxiously, as she continued with feigned stoicism, "Death has come to us from the creatures of the jungle and seas–even those few that sought independence from us. This is not the whole of us left ashore by the God…"

She let out a heavy and disparaging huff, "At their hands, have we found violence and pain. They would, in their continued envy, try to take from us what curiosity and wonder we'll seek. For what reason do we learn, if there will only be those committed to ignorance? If there will be those whose anger leads them to destroy that which you have given us?"

And she, who was named Kletimisis, asked firmly, "And what do we do for them? Are we to help them? Are we to destroy them before they destroy us? What is the lesson we gain from such a path, then?"

”Even Gods can die. There was once a world whose inhabitants had conquered death…” the Kathetikon began, the world around them once more rippling as divine energy coursed through it. The words of the story began to unravel themselves and then insert themselves into the very reality around the assembled villagers, taking their dull and improvised works and transforming them into a truly resplendent sight. Their houses of woven sticks became grand buildings of wondrous materials they had no names nor thoughts for, carved and sculpted so beautifully that it was as if the world itself had catered for their deepest desires. The sky became awash with colours they had never seen before, their refulgent light illuminating the world in ways that were soothing and enchanting beyond all measure. The very ground became illuminated with gentle hues of golden light, and their basic encampment against the ravages of the wilderness was suddenly a grand metropolis, filled with people idly reclining in pleasure and joy beyond anything the villagers could imagine. No danger to harass them, every physical and mental want catered for at a moment’s notice–all things a perfect and peaceful utopia the likes of which they could scarcely conceive of. It lasted for a few moments to capture their awe and their wonder before the Kathetikon began to narrate further, writing its words in the sky and the air and the gilded ground:

”... but as they banished all ills from their world, they realised that they had forgotten life’s joys and its trials both. Their search for perfection had robbed them of the journey of life, and left them apathetic shells with no quest for meaning, no curiosity, no existence at all.”

As its words wove themselves through the world once more the glistering veneer of perfection began to peel away, and the rot of apathy and stagnancy made itself known. The shadow of ignorance emerged from the perfectly curated heavens, dimming the stars one by one as their light became dull and uninteresting. The buildings lost their fluidity and wonder, and were soon no better to the world’s inhabitants than the ramshackle huts of wood and leaf and dirt. Time itself stretched out towards infinity, dilating itself in the minds of the villagers as they experienced a fraction of the overwhelming apathy and longing held in the shadowed hearts of the inhabitants of this strange place.

”Death is neither freedom nor a prison. Death is simply an inevitable part of life, for light without shadow is as destructive as the dark mire of ignorance. Not all will understand; pain will make those without the elucidation of reason rage against their existence, make them give in to the cold lifelessness of despair. What is my gift of curiosity if not the light that tempers darkness, the fire that chases away the cold, the journey that gives meaning to the destination? You cry out because you do not understand, but even the very secrets of creation would not deliver you from this ultimate fate. You must live and experience for any of it to have any meaning at all. The answers you seek cannot be laid out before you, they must be learned through experience. My gift is the ability to choose your own meaning.”

The words began to eat away at the visage of perfection until only reality as it truly was remained, and the light of the moon shone down upon the hill where the Kathetikon and Anagnostis resided, alongside the four speakers. The inquisitiveness in the air remained, as rich and powerful as ever, but this time it was not the will of the Kathetikon but instead the will of the people in whom the raging flames of curiosity had been placed. To have gazed upon such wonders and learned of their insignificance was a cruel burden to bear, but they had asked the God of Knowledge for its answers, and it had warned them that they could go mad if they could not withstand the answers they so desperately sought. Some would take refuge in the truth of its words, and some would be unable to accept it at all. Some would feed the fire that had begun within them with logic and facts, and some would let it consume them entirely. Such was the fate of the curious, of those who would know at any cost–and such was the lesson of the Kathetikon’s tale, which had been made manifest at their request.

And this was the contemplative silence which soon became light with a musical chime. Gently, the older Kinnaras shook his staff, breaking the silence and gathering attention, with its light and rhythmic motions. Steadily he tapped it upon the grassy ground, slowly, and gently, before a smile came to his face. Mnaseas, as he was named now, started with a chuckle, "Such grand questions to ask of the God–our new God–yet I do wonder…" As he trailed off, he brought his hand to his chin, a gesture which caused a few people to shift forward in their seated positions, those standing shifting their feet anxiously, as the pause lasted for moments nearing too long.

"Do we, then, have your belief, as we believe in you?" Mnaseas smiled widely at both Anagnostis and the Kathetikon, before continuing, "For you've shown us so many great things– these buildings, which we've no means of creating. That world, which we've no concepts for. Shared with us tales and a means of… writing… with what, we've yet to discover."

He chuckled again, "Only just have we gained names, so we've no idea as to how to build such a thing," he said, sweeping his gaze about where the amphitheater once was, "And likely, many of us shall leave the work for those to come. Those who even you've yet to meet." Looking back to the Kathetikon, Mnaseas asked, "If it is to us that you give such a divine task, to go after our curiosity with our whole hearts, something which I do not doubt we all feel, then do you… trust us to do so? Do you believe we'll find a means to make such grand structures which shall facilitate our… path... forward? That we'll survive to serve you? None may know the future but.. as the Shadows would say, it is an investment. A risky one. So why us?"

Mnaseas chuckled again, tapping his staff to ease a few murmurs which were caused by that last question. "As we can all admit, ours is a way that has scarcely begun. We have no doubt there are places far more advanced- the Umbra hail from one such society. Yet, it was us, who you have chosen, just now. But why? Is it due to such belief in us? That we'll be so grand… and survive?"

”Do you understand what belief is? Belief is hope made manifest, created in the lack of knowledge. When one does not know, one chooses to hope for better; I am the God of Knowledge, and so there is little that I do not know–I have no faith in you because I do not need it. I know that you will succeed, for all has been ordained within my pages. I know because I am here to tend to you, and because you believe in yourselves. I know because the path has been revealed to you, and your curiosity as to what lies at its end will never wane. It is not I that have chosen you, my beloved mortals, but you that have chosen me: so long as you embrace curiosity, I will always be with you. I will be with you all, from now until the end of time. I will be there every step of the journey, and when the time finally comes for those who carry on after you to reach the answers at the end of all things I shall greet you all once again and welcome you as my peers.” The words made no grand gestures this time, instead weaving themselves through the simple and humble beginnings of all curiosity. They were the curiosity of how one could make walls that would last for longer and protect against the elements more, present in every woven leaf and carved bit of wood. They were present in the warmth and solace of the fire atop the hill. They were the bonds forged between newly named brothers and sisters, united in their feelings and thoughts.

”All you need do now is walk.” came the voice of Anagnostis, who had finally finished penning the last of the newly minted names in the Kathetikon. It picked the book up and closed it firmly between its hands, turning around once more to smile at Pyonexos. It nodded its head and gazed up at the stars, seeming to divine within their patterns something that the others simply could not, and it turned to begin walking away. After a few paces it abruptly stopped and turned around, a deep crimson flush spreading across its face.

“Oh–the Master says I am to help you begin, to stay with you awhile and learn from the journey with you! I think we should get started…” it laughed, and it sprinted towards its new friend with open, bookless arms.

Pyonexos, who had been staring after Anagnostis, laughed as he said, "And I was just about to ask when or if you'd return." Then, he too, opened his arms wide.

Endings and Beginnings

The Kathetikon & Anath Homura

Just outside the newly minted halls of Keltra did the stirrings of a long-dead shade begin to rise once more, the sounds of shuffling and dragging feet echoing across the outermost ring of the flying fortress, reverberating through it with increasingly sonorous echoes. There was no particular aim or goal to the shambolic movements, and the swirling of the winds gathered around the place seemed to carry them far and wide. The footsteps stopped as the shade reached the rim of the ring and stared out towards the distant landmass for which it had no name, nor sense of a name. It looked at it with a strange wistfulness, seeing not the beauty of creation as it would have done so in aeons past, but the darkness-to-be that waited at the end of everything. It let a weary sigh escape from its thin lips, and as it shook its head in some semblance of an emotion it had forgotten the name of, there could be heard yet more rustling, this time of papers and pages. Sprouting from its shoulders were a hodgepodge array of stitched-together bits of vellum and paper and inscribed crystal, topics ranging from various treatises on the universal constants of mathematics to encyclopaedias describing all manner of wondrous and terrible creations alike. The fragments of lost knowledge from worlds and universes beyond counting, melded together in some facsimile of a wing designed to allow knowledge to–literally in this case–raise one up to the heavens. It stretched the faded and torn papers out with its exhortations of melancholy, but decided not to shirk its purpose and turned, as much resolve as it could muster plastered across the gaunt and disinterested face.

“Anath Homura… as you called to me, I call to you.”

The voice was at first soft and quiet, barely audible as more than a whisper. As it travelled through each of the rings and gathered more of the energy built up around this realm, brimming with barely-contained power it seemed to echo and intensify until within the spire at the centre it reached the levels of a focused and dramatic proclamation directed at the divine themselves. The shade’s gloomy eyes looked ever-inward as it heard its utterance head towards its destination, and then it turned back around to look at the nascent world unfolding in the distance. “I wonder where I put my pens…” it mused to itself, suddenly rifling through the many folds of its ripped and torn robes, eagerly searching pockets that had long been disused with the first shred of purpose it had had in unliving memory.

“Be welcome.” Intoned the familiar voice of Anath Homura, as she suddenly appeared before the shade and offered a short respectful bow - though more prominent than her stance were the myriad of wounds across her visage. Divine ichor soaked her small hands, and she bled from numerous lacerations along her limbs and torso, yet her face indicated no feeling of pain, or any other emotion, so it seemed. She stared at the shade with an impassive expression, one eye glittering red like a ruby reflecting the light of the sun, while the other eye was replaced with an otherworldly white rose.

The shade turned around to gaze upon her, and as its gaze travelled across her visage the corners of its lips turned up in the beginnings of wry amusement. One of its ersatz wings folded down gently, some bit of text coming directly into the shade’s eyeline, and it read from it with some small amount of energy that seemed like excitement only when compared to the drabness of the rest of its movements and its voice. Its wing occasionally changed positions, so as to be able to read the crumbled and misplaced lines of text more freely, but also to be able to study the divinity before it from different angles and perspectives.

“I expected something… else. Not one freshly returned from the fields of battle–though your standing here would posit that you had won, no? What did you fight about?” it asked, its intonation slowly becoming higher as dormant partitions of its mind appeared to awaken with time, perhaps some side effect of the ichor’s scent wafting through the air. Something about the shade seemed less impermeable the closer it stood to the goddess, though it was still little more than a transparent image before her overpowering might and presence.

“Ah, how rude… You do not know my name, but I know yours. I am…” it began, but paused suddenly as a look of confusion came across its face, a look of searching its memory for an answer that it simply could not find. Its lips opened slightly as if to begin to speak again, but it did a double take and then wrung its hands in idle frustration as it could not think of a way to finish the sentence that made sense to it.

“... well, I appear to have forgotten. I have wandered for so long, and… I heard your voice, the first thing to rouse my curiosity in many long moons.” it stated, before presenting itself with open arms and gesturing feebly at the awe-inspiring presence before it as if to say ‘here I am’.

“Then I shall refer to you as Seeker, until you have chosen a name.” Anath Homura replied, and then glanced towards the centre structure that served as the heart of the flying fortress. “To answer your question; I have emerged victorious, and yet I have lost. An aimless battle, an embodiment of blindly wandering adrift, violently flailing. Indeed. It is what it is…” She murmured, before her one-eyed gaze returned to the shade and she silently studied its appearance.

The shade’s gaze turned towards the citadel as Anath Homura’s did, and as it listened to her words the same semblance of sadness and loss could be seen stretched across its burdened features. Suddenly visible were the many long years it had endured, the lines across its face deepened into vast crevices. The light long-gone from its eyes, now dull and apathetic. In this distant apparition was an earnest reciprocation of that feeling of loss, and though its smile became sad it continued to smile nevertheless as it spoke:

“I, too, know what it is to blindly wander adrift…” it mused, suddenly looking away into nothing as it scoured its fragmented thoughts for the source of the feelings welling up within it. “... I have seen the endings of entire worlds, entire universes. Though once the secrets to unseam the barriers between realities and garb oneself in the fabric between graced my library, only this paltry collection of tatters is left of my collection. I recorded so much, always asking if it was enough. If there was something I had missed, some secret that if I knew it I could perhaps save something, anything… it began, and though it did not fully grasp why it began to sob silently, tears running down its face as its little breaths began to wrack its slender frame with spasms. It opened its mouth as if to speak again, but could only swallow the lump in its throat as the tips of its wings came to dry the little rivulets of tears gently flowing down its face.

“Hmm… the answers you seek await you further upon the Sacred Path. The first step is the act of creation. You have answered my calling, and have become divine. Now it is time to create anew.” Anath Homura proclaimed, perhaps intending to soothe the shade that endured such sorrow by boldly offering an opportunity to amend its absent knowledge by forging that knowledge itself.

“Have I? I do not feel divine. I feel as hollow as I ever was, as if… fate is simply having its way with me once more. What use is creation if all is destined to fade and crumble, if all of this,” the shade gestured, sweeping its arms and wings out towards the distant landmass, “is simply fated to end? I have seen gods before. I have seen them end. I have seen the darkness that consumes everything, the very essence of warmth and life give way to cold and bleak nothingness. What salvation does this Sacred Path offer that has not been tried a thousand times before, what hope will bloom from following it that can withstand what is to come?”

The shade’s features slumped, and even the very idea of colour seemed to drain from its face. It looked at Anath Homura with something almost resembling pleading, studying every detail of her face even as the tears continued to well in its eyes. It let several moments pass, simply continuing to gaze at her as it awaited the answer to its question, but as it continued to stare its features began to soften slightly, and some sense of self seemed to return to it.

“There is no known ending to the Sacred Path. It continues onward, infinitely, and perhaps… even weaves annihilation along the way within it. Akin to myself, you still linger; you still have yet to fade and crumble, so we are ultimately immortal until we are forsaken and perish. Evidence indicates that the darkness cannot consume everything. The hope that will bloom resides in the truth that though the Tapestry is not woven by our hands, our stories have no eternal endings, no contrived conclusions, no destined demise.” Anath Homura answered solemnly, ever enveloped in a serene stillness.

“Hope…” the shade laughed, its voice hollow and dull. It turned to look towards the distance once more, and dragged the tip of one of its wings down towards it in order to begin writing upon it. It took a few moments of solitude to consider, drawing elaborate designs and formulae that held no relevance in this new world, before it finally turned back to face the one-eyed goddess before it. Though still shaking off the dregs of its prior despondency, its vacillating caprice seemed to have finally settled upon a path of resolution.

“I do not know the answer, and nor do you. You simply hope that it will be as you describe–and I suppose that, in the end, I share that hope. Perhaps hope is the answer I should have looked for all along. When all is said and done, when this new world’s light is extinguished, I hope that we will meet again. That at journey’s end we may speak to each other about all we have learned, and that we may rest knowing that the path stretches e’er onward.” it spoke, its form regaining more colour and definition with each word uttered. When it finished, some look of apprehension came over its face, as if realising the tone in which it had spoken to a being vastly more powerful than it, but a little twinkle of curiosity in its eyes betrayed its latent excitement at such a prospect rather than any sense of fear.

“Indeed. The first step is creation, and creating an embodiment of that hope. I believe that is the essence of faith. When we meet again, hopefully we shall have our answers and amend the hollowness within us.” The Creatrix replied without inflection, remaining impassive.

“What is your question? You must have a question, to have called so loudly and to so many. If your call reached my distant ears, it must have travelled far indeed, so… what answer could be commensurate with your effort?” it asked, cocking its head to one side as it continued to draw and doodle upon the little scraps of parchment that served as its wings. The more it spoke, the surer it became, the more the paper seemed to grow and envelop the shade. By the time it had posed its questions to Anath Homura its arms were all but overtaken by illuminated manuscripts, by incunabula, by scrolls and by vellum–and the growth showed no sign of slowing.

“Hmm… the question I have? The answer I seek? I wish to see how to take the second step on the Sacred Path. Perhaps, it is the second step that is the way to transcend the boundaries between my prison and attain the freedom of the otherworld.” She said, and shrugged after she had spoken.

“Prison? Freedom? These are not answers, these are simply… means. They speak nothing of your intentions once the path is complete–that is what I wish to know. Or perhaps it is what the ending of the path is? Heh, perhaps I simply wish to understand it all. That was always my motive in the past, always why I could not rest. Without your offer of divinity I would still be wandering the distant cosmos, suffocating in the endless void–I believe I owe it to myself to…” it began, before briefly pausing for thought. It turned once again to look the goddess in the eyes with a wry smile upon its face, and continued: “... well, perhaps not help, but to at least know. Though if the only way to know is to help you, then that is what I must do: only this question’s answer can let me rest at long last.”

By now little was left of the shade’s humanoid figure, its metamorphosis continuing apace as it embraced the apotheosis it had accepted fully. Swirling geometries and mathematical formulae began to dot the surface of the increasing mound of pages and texts and drawings, slowly condensing into something more fitting for a god of curiosity than the long-dead husk of a man.

“The answer awaits you further along the Sacred Path. You have begun to take the first step and I have yet to take the second step… Aid me, if that is what you wish.” A hint of anger seeped through her voice, as Anath Homura turned her one-eyed gaze to the lands where others shaped the world with their sacred might.

“... I think I recognise in you, perhaps for the first time, what I always lacked. So determined was I to know it all that I forsook all else: I took no lover, I sired no children, I had no friends. So convinced was I that the answers I sought would invalidate those needs that I wandered in search of them for lifetimes beyond counting. But in that loneliness there can be no answer, for the answer must lie in kinship. In the walking of the path alongside those who also hope for better. I know little about you, but I can see that same loneliness in you… perhaps these wounds of yours are from struggle I cannot comprehend, perhaps they are merely a manifestation of that fact–but I do think I know this: neither of us can walk the path alone, and it would be folly to assume otherwise. I will tend to the intellectual wellbeing of this new world, guide them all to where they must go. I hope that by the time we meet again, Anath Homura, you have found someone to guide you.”

By the time the shade had finished speaking it was a shade no longer, and the encroachment of writing upon its flesh was complete. In the place of the humanoid silhouette was now a book, glowing with ominously roiling tendrils of energy, and though it did not speak, the words it used simply reverberated throughout the area and their meaning was made known. Though a book could not be said to look at a thing, the single eye it possessed on its front page seemed to press its gaze into Anath Homura’s, and it waited expectantly in idle curiosity of just how she would react, given the slight hint of anger it had detected prior.

“You have my gratitude, Seeker. It is true that we cannot walk farther when we are alone, and you have graced me with your companionship, akin to the others I have invited here. I suggest speaking with them as well, as I believe you shall find an answer among those conversations and their acts of creation. I shall remain here, but all among the pantheon are welcome in my home.” The red goddess replied, and allowed herself the shadow of a smile as she peered back at the book that had become a god.

”Then speak to them I shall, and from them shall I learn. Perhaps when I return you will have more news of the Path to share with me, and I you.” the Kathetikon almost-spoke, before it turned to peer out towards the distant landmass. A singular question surged through its divine intellect in that moment: What use would a book be to those upon this newly minted world without one to read it?

Ink began to flow from its pages, words and sigils becoming liquid as they ran from its pages and began to coalesce into a form somewhat reminiscent of the shade that it had once been. A suit of ink-black knowledge, to represent the ignorance this fragment of itself would need to possess. A silhouette of brilliant white, to represent the purity of its ideals and its function. A vessel with which to experience the world through new and enamoured eyes, and a being to read from its Master’s forbidden pages without fear of consequence or misunderstanding. The form coalesced slowly while the winds whipped around them, and only after several long moments did a new being stand upon the outermost ring of Keltra that was capable of all that which the Kathetikon had desired. It stared at Anath Homura with a blank face, cocking its head slightly in curiosity, before it picked the book up and nodded at her eagerly. Without another word it simply jumped off of the edge of the ring and soared on the winds attempting to carry it back up, pushing through them with a burst of divine power to head towards the coast of the landmass so far in the distance.


The Pale Cometh

Returned once more to his home, the Deity of Form slithered and writhed through the black expanse of the hollow mountain. Idle thoughts and ruminations drifted through its titanic mind, coloring its thoughts, rendering it temporarily deaf and blind. Closed off to the world, it considered what it had seen and done in times so recent. There was abject joy in its thoughts as it recalled its first son, borne of its own bark and bone--yet with a mind all its own.

However, there were other matters to consider, for near the eaves of the Shard there had been waged a battle both terrible and great. In its dreams it had seen the destruction left behind, indeed…

Upon that far-off ruined earth Malath Kaal had felt the taint of two souls much like its own. He wondered what might drive such beings to so terrible a conflict. Further, the Unbent Lord could not help but wonder what such an encounter might entail, how it might feel, and what change it could cause in one such as he.

Curious, Sa’a Malath Kaal rose up within its cavernous domain...and split its form in twain. So severed, one half of its monstrous bulk gained a sort of mind and unto it, the god delivered a single strike.

Blood spattered against the floor and walls and peak of the chamber and the force of the blow made the hollow mountain ring, as if it were a gong of marble and stone. The sound could be heard for miles; it scattered birds and drove beasts and men to hiding.

Nothing else occurred, no realization, no understanding, nothing new arose and so the god did swear. Frustrated, Malath Kaal closed upon its severed half and devoured it whole, making it once more his own.

’Foolish,’ the good thought, but its thoughts echoed through the wind and pressed out in wavelengths through the Network Down Below. one, responded.

A great sigh escaped lungs and gills and skin. This fell wind shot out from the mountain in a monstrous burst, passing beyond its threshold to stir up the clouds within the sky. He did not notice.

It had been a productive meeting for Ahtziri with the God of Craftsmen, and she had left that encounter feeling insufferably pleased with herself. She had given thought to what she would do next, given the success of her last endeavour, but all that remained to her was the directive she’d been given by her partner: find new lands, tame them, bring their family glory. So it was that she’d set out exploring, and her initial finds had been disappointing--she could sense the slight changes in the Shard from its barren state from a great distance away, knowing that something had been terraformed even if she could not tell what exactly was there. Pazuzu had also given her information he’d picked up from the various Abiktu clans around the world, and so she had an idea of most of the geography that seemed to have been claimed thus far. The most curious area of the Shard, now, was its centre: Ahtziri had not yet explored it at all, and she had begun to wonder where the rivers actually sprung from.

Hours later, with the beating of her wings thrumming against the backdrop of the night air, Ahtziri had come across two colossal mountain ranges in her view. The first had been the centre--she’d taken a cursory look at it, and had spied a wellspring of sorts from the centre of the biggest mountain that seemed to explain where all of the water was originating from. Though she couldn’t sense their distinct identities, she’d also picked up on slight traces of that distinctive divine energy that made her and her kin what they were. Again, that made sense--someone had to have brought water to the Shard. The second had proven much more intriguing, as though it breathed and shuddered and writhed of its own accord. Her senses were such that she could feel the ringing vibrations from the stone from afar, their waves of resonance gently pressing against her, and laced within them she could feel a slight… heat, of sorts. It had been enough to pique her curiosity, and so she had barrelled towards the mountain at the top of her speed, something truly and genuinely fast, and found herself face to face with it within moments.

There was something ponderous and mysterious about this particular mountain, something that Ahtziri could not quite place a claw upon. Its strange bulk and odd phenomena appealed to her in some way that she couldn’t place, and even standing next to it her sinewy wings began to grow feathers of their own accord.

Still humming with the force of its master's strike, Se'raa Kelet remained an edifice of black against the sky, surrounded by its smaller mountain brethren. Yet, its sheer height--and the prodigious swell of its base--was such that it appeared not as a sibling to the Teeth, but instead as a progenitor. It was easily twice as tall as the next tallest mountain in the range, and such was not small by any measure either. Nonetheless, unlike many of the mountains, this black monolith at the center of the two ranges had a strange feature. Situated exactly at its base was a single archway, a gateway into an utterly dark chamber, from which a gale briefly poured, before calming once more.

She was right to look upon it with interest, for even the skies near that great peak were suffused with the faintest blue-green glow, as if the aura of some unknown power leaked from the mountain's majestic expanse. Of course, her own attention--and the nearness of her body to the edifice--roused something hidden within.

The wind shifted and from the threshold slowly seeped a miasma of dimly luminescent fog. Nothing emerged with it, but far above the mountain's highest point, hidden in the clouds, the Eye of Malath Kaal opened to view the world.

It glimpsed the goddess, yet did not remain, winking out of view.

Far below, the fog stirred, enticing.

Ahtziri studied the demesne sprawling out before her intently, her eyes scanning over barely perceptible trails of energy in the air. Something, though she was not sure exactly what, was off about this place--and that, in her limited experience, normally meant the involvement of another god. For some reason she could not quite shake the feeling of being watched, either, as though some unseen and ineffable presence were looming over her from some great, distant height. It did not unnerve or otherwise unsettle the Mother of Monsters, however, instead serving only to fuel her ever-growing curiosity. She flew idly down towards the opening that she could see in the base of the mountain, placing her clawed hands upon its carved lintel and testing the feel of the stone beneath her talons. She gleaned no particular insight from the action, but nevertheless was undeterred from stepping inside the cavernous dwelling. The darkness did not impede her sight at all, but if something were calling out to her Ahtziri wanted to make her presence known: with a flick of her wrist she ignited a swath of amaranthine flames and suspended them in the air. She did not yet call out, instead waiting for something to make itself known to her before she went about exploring the curious place.

So kindled by a power divine, those violet flames pierced the endless night of the cavern’s interior, painting the walls with its light. For a brief instant--as the light pierced further into the black--a silhouette was unveiled in all its monolithic glory. Eight limbs, each with talons dug deep into the mountain's flesh, a long sinuous tail with numerous fronds and frills, its bulk unravelling at the end into tendrils tipped with barbs and spines. Its back was adorned with wings, which spread half-furled inside the black, and from its shoulders stretched a long neck that right before her ended in a horn-crowned skull. Three eyes, one in the center of a reptilian snout, the others on either side, but all staring into her very essence--dissecting flesh without even the barest touch. Then, it registered the light, and in that same instant, it moved, curling upwards into the peak of the mountain, where the illumination could not reach. As it moved, its form shifted, from eight limbs to sixteen, then a hundred each skittering and strange. Its tail remained, but frills retracted, and fur and scales grew to replace them. Horns vanished into its skull, as the head slipped into the dark, but even as a fog-like haze enveloped it--snuffing out all light--the glow of its nine azure eyes remained.

One was brighter than the others, and its pupil was alien, shaped not like anything that walked or flew upon the shard. As it settled, the mountain ceased to shudder, though the wind took much longer to grow calm. When it had, that deity, it spoke and the mountain trembled once again.

"Ahhh," the god said, its voice a sigh of titanic proportions, a relieved cacophony.

"No simple flesh adorns your supple form."

Though a god she might have been, the sheer volume of his voice would drive her bones to shaking, it would loosen her every muscle, and shake her every cell. In that moment, she might recall a similar sensation. For it had been the same voice that had echoed through her flesh from afar, telling her to Thrive.

Pleased, the Deity of Form descended half into the light. What could be glimpsed beneath swirling miasmic mist were hundreds of entwined tentacles and of course the seven eyes of the god. Those many appendages draped down like willow leaves, barely brushing against the stone around her. Above, where the limbs vanished into darkness, even her divine gaze would find only a form of riddles, shrouded in a fog.

The face he showed her now was much like her own, but distinctly male, if less striking and clear in its visage. His mouth opened to speak, and the air that pressed against her smelled of all things living, even those who were now dead.

"Who is it that treads upon my sacred stone, visiting my home?"

Ahtziri’s form was, fortunately, already quite used to enduring quite the array of physical and metaphysical force; as the impact of the God of Form’s voice washed over her she braced against it without so much as an errant blink. She looked up into the peak of the mountain as best as she could, though as she got closer to the ponderous bulk of Malath Kaal the physical axes of the world seemed to shift and break down--the world stopped putting itself together in the way that she expected as her gaze lingered at the mountain’s peak from within, and she quickly averted her eyes to avoid the worst of those effects.

”Ahh… ‘twas your voice that swept across the land. I am Ahtziri vur Chakravarti, the Mother of Monsters.” Ahtziri’s initial greeting was ostentatious and regal in equal parts, dipping into a greatly exaggerated sweeping bow, before she used the upwards motion to spring herself up into the air. She hovered fairly high, all things considered, but made sure to stay outside of the peak’s more absolute darkness--she bored her gaze into each of Malath Kaal’s eyes one by one, crackling with energy, before she took a reclining position and her wings only barely fluttered with the effort of keeping her aloft.

”... and you are?”

For a heartbeat, there was contemplative silence as the deity observed its kin, taking in its form--and indeed its word. As that quiet grew in age, a phosphorescence bloomed, engulfing the many eyes of the unseen being until there remained only one. That great light whose size dwarfed Ahtziri's own dimensions seemed attached to a vast coiling serpent that vanished into the black. Vague silhouettes of limbs unseen shifted against the cavernous expanse of that hallowed place.

"I am Sa'a Malath Kaal, Deity of Form," he said, and with each echoing utterance his vast eye pulsed with light. With each pulse, his form shifted in both shape and composition. The only constant was his eye and the sense that though much was seen, there yet remained something incomparably vast that lay somewhere beyond. "So too am I the arbiter of change."

The great eye pulsed anew before its brilliance diminished. In its place once more were three orbs, gazing upon her shape. He felt a familiarity within her beyond the divinity they both possessed. Something violent and destructive. A new pair of eyes opened elsewhere, and up at her, they squinted, narrowed in suspicion. Yet he did not speak of it, deigning not to act.

"What brings you to my domain, Ahtziri? What is your purpose--the essence of your cause?"

Ahtziri admired Malath’s display of grandiloquence with wild amusement, fully acting out the various faces of the emotions a member of an audience might go through: awe, shock, humility, hysteria. As she did so she flew lazily around the cavernous space, still inconceivably quickly for a mortal mind, but at a leisurely pace for the two of them. Ahtziri let his words ring through her like the peals of thunderous gongs, their ripples tickling her primal senses in a way that allowed her to truly embrace and understand them. She smiled as she felt them wash over her, telltale amaranthine flames sheathing her in response to the assault of force the Deity of Form’s voice represented.

Then she was playful, reclining with her arms behind her head and the fullness of her naked and pregnant body openly on display. Her tail swished and arced in great sweeping motions around her, gently tasting the strange air with its tongue and letting out a pleasing hiss.

”Providence, I feel. You set a command to me, to thrive… I had begun a certain great work, but due to… corporal impairment I had to begin anew. The time is nearly upon us, I feel, for this life to be unleashed in the world…”

Ahtziri punctuated her words by bringing a concentrated glint of her purple energy to the tip of her talon and gently scrawling it over her bare flesh. Some kind of magic, perhaps? By the time she had finished speaking it had grown into a snake eating its own tail, only to grow another head--and then another tail. A cycle with a goal of its own, as a part of the process rather than a mere designation to be shepherd--a life to seed more life, to seed more conditions for life.

”You must sense it, too. I know.”

A rumbling laugh echoed through the mountain's hollowed bones as he took in her performance, but as she reclined, the sound quieted back to silence. Intrigued, the Formless Flesh took in great breaths of air, trying to better ascertain the nature of the goddess with senses beyond sight or hearing. So it was that her scent became known to him, and with her words--and the shocking strangeness of her power--he came to a most horrible conclusion.

"Desolation!" He crowed, his voice thunderous with sudden rage. The Maw of Black rang like a gong as his voice struck its every wall and surface. The wind outside stirred into motion, tearing at trees and frightening animals into their dens.

Actinic light shot out from the deepest darkness of the cavern, wreathing her in power, bathing her in wrath. Yet, it delivered no sensation of pain but rather a warping discomfort. As if the space her flesh inhabited had been tied in many knots.

"’Twas you who scoured the earth with flame and claw and fury!"

Power swirled within the mountain, churning as light from every pitch-black surface, revealing that each was made of something like obsidian and marble united. It appeared that though people would come to know that mountain by many names--the Black Maw, the Riddle of Form, Sky's Rift--that its original name held its most authentic meaning.

Se'raa Kelet: The Unbound Heart.

For the mountain was not merely the home of Malath Kaal, it was his heart, it was his birthplace, it was the wellspring from which he drew strength and the conduit through which it was amplified in turn. It was the physical obelisk, the embodiment, of a vast rift in the world, the only one large enough to hold his truest form.

Within it, he was not just divine, not just a God of--but the undisputed power. Yet, for all his might, he did not bring her harm.

"Why did you rend life from the shard and burn away so many of its survivors?!" No longer was his voice thunder, no it was nothing so paltry as that. It was within, spoken with the fullness of his power, resonating from her very form--from all flesh and bone and bark, from every leaf and branch and stem. Every cell that was, that is, that had been and would be. The light twisted about her as if some vast serpent were tightening its coiling grasp about her being, but in the black peak of the mountain something greater watched and writhed.

Though enraged, he had yet to truly strike, and so with patient malice he awaited her response.

Ahtziri only laughed at Malath's rage and his fury, the normally guttural and harsh voice in her throat softening to something designed for civilised or even enjoyable speech, rather than designed to intimidate or frighten. Flames wreathed her from within, spilling out in unseen cracks yet to be repaired from her battle with Lonn, and their energy hissed and hummed and crackled with fury as the titanic god's exhortation reached her. She visibly registered no discomfort in his presence, the same nonchalance as she'd demonstrated earlier being her dominant emotion--and then the symbol vanished from her pregnant belly, and a thick weave of flaming energy covered her body. As it receded, it revealed the flesh of a Maiden, not a Mother--humanoid, voluptuous, commanding. It was now equal parts enticing and horrific, the extra eye and the extra breast too strange to go unnoticed, but not always too strange to chase away the phantoms of temptation that Ahtziri knew lurked within gods and men both. The God of Forms would respect one whose own form altered as easily as the wind changed, would listen to her words--this she hoped, and she wondered in that moment how much between her carmine counterpart was similar.

”My children... Have you created, yet, Sa'a Malath Kaal? Do you know what it is to give of yourself, to bring life into this Shard, only to have it killed before you..? I saw the deaths of my children and knew it could not go unanswered. A fury rose within me, a flame that could only be quenched with the blood of man--until I met their God, and he made... valid criticisms of my argument."

Suddenly, Ahtziri's tone was somber. She spoke with a genuine gentleness and pensiveness, a level of introspection that her existence had not yet seemed to imply existed--but reason was one of the Mother of Monsters' faculties, and one she had increasingly learned to lean upon in her interactions with the other gods. Most could not understand the primal intensity of what she felt, of how it compelled her to act--but they did listen to reason, and if she was to build a home for her children she could not risk a final death again as she had before. Suddenly her eyes crested downward, their light a little dimmer--shame waxed across her face for the briefest moment, refracting the harsh light of Malath Kaal's ire and bathing the chamber below in a kaleidoscope of blue-gray fragments. The lights danced in the charge-soaked air, their shapes connecting to one another through arcs of dulled brilliance, and the shape they created was one of true remorse--a primal fragment of what was, displayed only for the briefest instant... but the Eye of Malath was perceptive, to have focused so intently upon the Goddess as she entered the vicinity of the mountain. She knew it would see her failing and her acceptance for what they were.

”It was a mistake. It was not befitting of one who should create a home for her children, not turn all to ash for something so petty as vengeance."

Black lightning arced away from her form as he considered her appeal, its power attracted to the stone of Malath's heart. In the skies above the mountain--beyond sight--the Eye of Malath blinked.

At the sound of her proclaimed miscalculation, a response came in the form of a gentle force lifting her chin so that she might meet his gaze. However, as she looked, there would be no spot of darkness, no writhing twisting mystery, but instead, there would be emptiness, that felt of life--of flesh and of bone. In coruscating patterns, pulsing neural light, that actinic light had outlined the silhouette of an organism too vast for any mortal to perceive or understand.

Its flesh was writ of iridescent brilliance, its veins filled with ichor as dark as night, and at the center of it all lay the Eye of Malath. That orb--that symbol--emerged from an aperture in the world. This gateway led beyond, and from such coalesced the miasmic fog that had before concealed him. From that fog, a silhouette emerged, the symbol writ upon its shape. Then, all at once, the lights winked out and to darkness did all 'cept them return.

Its lips moved, and the mountain shook once more with the sound.

"So you can learn--can change, can grow."

The bipedal figure nodded its head, and above them, the air shook as if something greater had moved.

"This is good."

Without preamble, the figure stepped further into her light, walking across the air to meet her. The coiling grasp of the serpent that had once contained her at once relaxed and fell away. 'Twas then that the figure took her into an embrace. Into her ear, it whispered, and for once, its voice was no longer thunderous and vast.

"I have known the lives and deaths of all. Be they monstrous or humane. I have felt their births, I have known their pain, and their dying knells echo within my essence." There was a somberness to his tone, a gentle understanding, and a simple sorrow that remained as well. He drew away, and three eyes shone upon the figure's face. "Though I am their Father, I hold their essence in mine own veins. I know their fears, their love, their sorrow." Then, at that moment, he met her gaze, "Thus I know your pain."

Ahtziri's eyes closed and her lips parted slightly, their dewy fullness glistening against the shadows and half-light that still dared linger in the sacred space the pair inhabited. She inhaled through her nose and exhaled through her mouth, the gentlest flutter of a moan escaping her lips at the overwhelming touch of flesh pressed against hers. The connection and the closeness let tiny sparks of energy dance between them, worlds of colour flashing by in the spaces between seconds, and then Ahtziri pulled away with a flourish and a twist, spinning 360 degrees as she extricated herself from the intimacy of the moment and ending up a good distance away from her counterpart.

“I am a married woman, Malath Kaal…” she said, her voice playful and coy. A half-lidded look, the hints of a smile upon her face, and then an incisor pressing gently into the bare flesh of her lip. She turned away shortly after and shook her wings vigorously, the sinew and the scales falling away as sleek, black feathers burst from them. With a few cursory flaps she tested her new flesh, some of the feathers falling to the ground, but errant bolts of too-sharp light hit them at just the right angle and the carmine pulse of blood through veins could clearly be seen within the strangely sinewy quills. Then there was a twitch, and a caw, and a raven cloaked itself in shadow as it flew from the cavernous entrance of the chamber.

”... ah, but you do not know. You cannot. You cannot know what it is to be Ahtziri, to be a Mother, just as I cannot know what it is to be Malath, to inhabit all flesh. To be a God, at the pinnacle of creation... it is a lonely place, but we who stand at the apex can know the shape of that experience even if we cannot know its feeling. But I digress, God of Forms--there is a life to be brought into this world. With me as its mother and you its father, well... it would bode well for the health of this Shard, hmm?" Ahtziri's tone shifted again, now guarded, cautious. Each word was portentous and heavy, and though they spoke of disagreement they considered what he had said in full: she did not look at him to observe his reactions, wistfully staring off into the distance as her wings continued to ripple and shift of their own volition even as they kept her aloft.

He merely watched as she pulled away, making no attempt to stop her. Whispers of feeling coursed through him, but they were paltry before the sensations of his greater form. He ignored them. Her wings shifted once more and he took notice, his figure’s head tilting just so. Intrigued he took a step forwards, but stopped, deciding that no further would he go. “I understand,” he said, his voice an echoing gong within the chamber.

As he considered her, the figure slowly became wreathed in sparkling lightning of black and azure hues. Slowly, they became a cloak that wreathed his most humanoid of shapes. Though he remained stationary and quite silent--the lightning sparking about his form--the figure’s flesh began to writhe as deeper changes occurred within his form.

“What shapes have garnered your attention?” He asked, even as his form slipped oh-so-slowly into flux.

“Have you felt the rifts across the Shard? If you knew of my clash, then it stands to reason that you have some means of surveying the Shard…” Ahtziri began, before letting herself drift down towards her earlier point of ingress. Amaranthine flames crackled around her silhouette, shedding as she moved, and eventually a trail of that refulgent energy had made its way out of the great chamber at the heart of the mountain, absconding alongside Ahtziri.

She awaited Malath Kaal outside, beckoning him forth, and planting her bare feet upon the pocked and cracked earth around them. Though there was a fine carpet of Cordgrass to the distant west, flora had only managed to infiltrate this part of the world sparingly. Owing to the sheer concentration of arcane energy in the air, as well as the fact that the apocalypse was still being managed, it was unsurprising that life would avoid this place--it was a testament to Malath's fecundity that anything existed here at all. In the distance, far off to the East, a strange confluence of lights quite unlike anything born of the two of them could be seen. Ahtziri waited for Malath to see her before she sped off towards it, a trail of quivering feathers on the ground marking her passage.

Following her footsteps, the figure used each movement to change--to prepare--for its inevitable departure. Essence crackled about each of its four limbs, writhing in strange patterns, sometimes vanishing on imperceptible axes, before emerging elsewhere on Malath's form. Lips parted on his face, and back from his skull curled six intricate horns. Following swiftly, an overlapping set of scale-like feathers blossomed downwards in a flowing fan of silver. In an act of appreciative mimicry, the figure's cloak unfurled, opening wide and lifting up at either end, forming wings halfway between those of a moth and some titanic reptilian beast. Covered in tiny soft hairs, trailing fog-like dust behind them. The appendages crackled with energy which coalesced downwards, connecting them at the figure's back.

Taloned feet then met the threshold, a tail with wide frills on either side waving gently across the black stone he'd crossed. The figure was utterly unclothed, but a dense fog--drifting across the surface of its body--allowed it to remain androgynous to those who viewed it. Yet, the regality, the power, the presence it exuded, these spoke of something distinctly male--perhaps despite its form. Behind it, opening in the vast darkness beneath the Maw of Black, was the Eye of Malath, looking upon its newest shape.

Pleased, the eye joined with the figure, and so the separation vanished, and Malath Kaal truly came to inhabit its flesh.

He stepped beyond the threshold, caught a single sinewy feather in his grasp, then burst into a flare of blinding actinic light. He tracked Ahtziri, streaking across the sky, black bolts arcing downwards to the ground. The air warped around him, for though this form was small, his divinity reigned supreme and could not wholly be contained within such a paltry shape. As he passed, he glimpsed sparse forests, snow, plains, and the tremendous trunks of his children--the Kel'a Maeori--swept by. In that instant, he came to agree with the goddess.

This was not enough, not by half.

The pair had arrived at a confluence of strange, magical energies within the region--only a short distance away from them was a crackling and thundering tear in the fabric of reality. From within it countless energies of all types seemed to bleed, their colours pressing up against the walls of the reality they were trying so desperately to escape but impotently fizzling out mere seconds after crossing the barrier if they managed to cross it at all. It seemed that though the rift was not sealed, its unique magical composition did not allow for it to directly link whatever world lay beyond it and the Shard. Ahtziri spread her arms wide, gesturing towards it, before stepping forwards after having witnessed Malath's newest form come into being. She nodded her assent, and then pressed the tip of a single talon against it. At her touch it burst into life, crackling violently, the energies of the rift crackling and fizzling as they danced across her flesh. She turned to look at Malath, her three eyes beckoning him forth.

"These rifts are not uncommon. I know little about them, save their instability and surplus of energy, but I do know that there is magic behind this window into another world. I also know that we, as shapers of flesh and givers of life, can force this rift into a living being--a wandering behemoth that will nourish these lands and walk its own path of forms." Ahtziri's tone had taken on a certain edge, a determination that she had not previously possessed. She stared directly into the rift, not so much as glancing at Malath, as she pondered the nature of her words. Then, after only a second or two had passed, Ahtziri's form exploded in violet flames as she summoned forth her wellspring of divinity--an invitation.

Landing some distance away from her visage, Malath Kaal looked upon the tear. Though its distinct nature was hidden to him, it remained familiar in essence. Her words, however, were unexpected; a smile slipped its way onto his lips. Laughing, his new voice equal parts savage and sinuous in its resonance, that foremost Deity of Form decided en full that this was a worthwhile endeavor. So set upon his path, the God moved through its avatar: Hran'as Valkiri--the Pale's Semblance--and thus summoned his power entire into the world.

In a flash, the skies warped, purple streaks bending its very fabric in a pathway that followed the wake of arcing black that he had left behind. It touched Se'raa Kelet--his home, his heart--and from it erupted his quintessence. With his arms spread, nerves shot through the air in all directions, shrouded each in their own haze of prismatic lightning. The neural tissues wove slowly into patterns, binding to the rift, pulling from its power so that it might be born anew.

Gradually, that tear in the began to shrink, and as it did, refractive flesh sprouted forth.

As the flesh bidden to come forth began to writhe and bind the energies of the chaotic rift, Ahtziri focused on her talons. She concentrated the power welling up within her there, the very tip of her claws now completely subsumed by a seething violet light that pulsed excess energy in rhythmic crackles around them. She waited for the rift to begin to grow smaller as it was shunted into flesh, until it was perhaps only fifteen feet in diameter, before she pressed her talons against it. With a quick, decisive stroke downwards she tore lines of amaranthine energy into it, at first separate but then quickly bleeding together, and she walked through it within the tear that she had created. She disappeared from view, but she did not actually enter the rift itself, her silhouette still clearly visible and outlined by the scintillating crackles of energy emblematic of chaotic magic. Then she placed her hand over her belly, and the byzantine flames of her magic erupted in a great sphere around them. It swallowed the mass of flesh and the rift entirely, then began to slowly shrink until an orb was all that remained within Ahtziri's womb. In this strange position between worlds the two of them were both visible simultaneously--the silhouette of the goddess and now of the life that was within her, ominously glowing.

Ahtziri waited for a brief moment, shaking on her feet with the strange sensation, but quickly regained her balance and then took Malath's hand in her own and pressed it against her now extremely pregnant belly.

"Ahh... you did well. Your new form is pleasing, but hardly suited to incubating a single life."

She smiled at him coyly before turning away, her wings suddenly moving to cover her body and sheathing her in a strangely dark aura, reminiscent of Malath's own energy earlier as he created this new form for himself. From beneath the wings her claws emerged, appendages curling and twisting, inviting him to come closer and share in her embrace.

"... you must choose its form, now. That honour should be yours."

From taloned digits to rounded fingernails did his fingers shift as they fell upon her skin. Meeting her gaze, he nodded, and then--without movement--he pushed.

Every set of eyes within several miles snapped shut, and a deep sense of serenity settled over the area. Any brewing storm grew calm and scattered, winds died down to gentle stillness, and nature ceased its endless game of survival. Pressure swelled around them, coiling in the air, and as if they were an inverted storm, chaos reigned therein. To match the tempest, the Eye of Malath phased at once into existence. Unlike all manifestations before it, there were three. They angled as if to make a pyramid, enclosing them in Malath Kaal's formless embrace.

The ground trembled beneath them; fissures tore downwards through dirt and stone and bedrock. Eager fungal roots bound them once more together, supping upon the power of their lord. From said surge of might, new trees erupted all around them, far greater in size than any which had come before them, except--of course--their cousins.

These Kel'a Maeori were born as Sages, unlike many of their kin, who would earn such in time. They towered above their lessers, their only equal swaying gently in the First Grove--his name pressed at once against their roots. Outwards from the concentric council of sages, other trees and flora did sprout, filling the locale with a vast expanding forest. Such was the overwhelming strength of his essence, birthing new life simply by existing.

Finally, the gate opened, and in a black flash, their unborn spawn was marked. The Unbent Lord withdrew his palm, fingers grazing flesh before they parted from her touch. He failed to meet her gaze, for Sa'a Malath Kaal had a code he would not break.

As Malath's hand was about to leave hers, Ahtziri suddenly gripped it like a vice--her talons slid through his supple flesh as she squeezed down, a peal of agony so earth-shatteringly loud coming from within her winged cocoon that even the great Sages around them were temporarily (albeit very briefly) knocked back by the force. The screams of pain continued to come, her free hand's talons sinking into her own palm, and laboured breathing reverberated throughout the region like a frantic heartbeat. The sound and pressure of it was almost deafening, Ahtziri's shrieks carrying far and wide across the land--until she stopped. She was left panting, clutching at herself, but finally prepared.

Baring his fangs, Hran'as Velkiri Malath Kaal bore the pain of Ahtziri's clutches as a great mass of off-white viscera was unleashed from her form. It slid downwards through the air, its movement as languid as its growth was swift. Pale chitinous plates violently erupted from its flesh as it grew, ten limbs sprouting all at once as it howled and shrieked its first moments in the world. Six of those spear-tipped limbs thrust downwards into the earth, holding it in place. It took its first stumbling step even as its savage skull rose far above the tallest Sage and unleashed a hollow creening call into the sky. It had five eyes, two to either side of its head and one at the center of its skull, constantly peering skyward, ahead, or behind. Its orbs were black as pitch, with cloudy white horizontal pupils, and as it howled at the void, its four-part mouth shuddered and clenched. As it lowered its head, so too did its four arms--each tipped with six taloned fingers--gouged down into the soil.

Its breathing labored, the gaps between the pale translucent plates of its flesh heaved and flexed, and so a great exhalation of pale haze was unleashed into the grove. In the strange light of that haze, its eyes glowed blue and violet--hinting at its heritage. Turning in a skittering, sinuous motion the colossal beast faced its parents, its tail scraping roughly against the thick bark of the many Sages that surrounded.

Malath Kaal smiled at their child and spoke its name aloud, his voice booming and vast once more.

"O' child of pale and monstrous flesh, I name thee..."

A bolt of black lightning struck upwards at the void.

"...Hraanas Svel'an."

Bathed in the approval of its father, Hraanas Svel'an--the Palewalker--roared its overflowing joy. From its maw and skin flowed a tremendous fog that was unleashed upon the land, spreading swiftly far and wide. Unaffected by the haze, Hraanas pressed closer and pushed its great insectoid muzzle gently against the cheek of its mother, crooning in its strange and haunting way.

"Ahh, my child..." Ahtziri crooned in return, her talons creating a tinkling sound as they grazed along her child's chitinous mandibles. In a swift burst of movement Ahtziri's wings unfurled all at once, feathers loosing themselves like onyx shards that cut through the preternatural paleness of the fog they found themselves in. They embedded themselves into the bark of the Sages, they bounced off of Hraanas, and they simply diverted their path to avoid Malath Kaal--after enough of them had been shed Ahtziri's body began to thrum and vibrate with energy, the lambent glow of her violaceous flames glinting and refracting throughout the hoary brume that had spread over the region. As the magic settled it began to merge with that fog, vibrant arrays of colours shimmering within--and then Hraanas' form was sheathed in the same hue of amaranthine that was Ahtziri's hallmark. It settled into the chitinous plates coating the beast, tinging them tyrian, and from deep within its manifold crevices six insectoid wings emerged and fanned out behind it. Mist began to leak from these appendages too, and as it did so a dazzling display of chromatic lights imposed themselves upon the air.

Ahtziri did not speak to Hraanas, instead making a series of arcane clicking and rubbing sounds. After she finished her child's mandibles buzzed and shifted in return before it ran off into the distance, spreading its fog all across the land and ensuring that it did not dissipate in any area of the huge swath of land now dubbed Hrana'as -- the Pale. The mists sank into and over the swamps to the east, mixing with their noxious fumes at the edge and charging them with the intense arcane energy suffused within--strange colours and mirages would now haunt the edges of the swamp, beckoning life further into the enigmatic depths of the Pale. Simultaneously the extant feathers crackled with iridescent energy, their sinewy cores pulsing and throbbing in tune with an unseen heartbeat, and in another flash of blinding light they were transformed into the first Kassaptu, otherwise known as Hags. When the light dissipated, the secondborn Kassaptu was revealed, and she cackled with the glee of life and sensation and awareness. She turned to her Mother and bowed, enormous wings sweeping low, and then to Malath Kaal where she repeated the gesture.

"I name you Sùga, child. Go now--gather your errant sisters, form your coven. Though the great Sages rule over these lands, with my and Malath's blessings--" Ahtziri began, turning to Malath to confirm his assent, "--you shall be their voice and their hand."

Bobbing his head once in assent, the God of Form rose further into the air, his pale-fleshed vessel glittering in the strange light of Hrana'as. When he crested above the first layer of clouds, he gazed down upon their land with his three-eyed gaze.

Taking a deep breath of the thin air of the domain of clouds, Hran'as Velkiri reached downwards with his will and pulled.

"Rise," he intoned, and the word scattered the clouds into mere wisps, which drifted in a brief, chaotic frenzy.

Far below Malath Kaal, below the Kel'a Maeori, beneath the fog, and into the deep reaches of the shard, the Ke'esath Sae'a pulsed in recognition.

Surging upwards with reaching fungal threads, they rose beyond stone and dirt and silt. Touching air, they writhed and danced and then entwined into numerous stalk-like strands. They appeared as milk-colored cone-shaped grass, waving gently in a non-existent wind. However, they were more than this, for, on a microscopic level, they waged a most insidious and frightful war as from their every stalk emerged ten-thousand spores. Yet, their purpose was different from their sires, for as they drifted in the air, new life blossomed from those unseen seeds. Feeding upon arcane and deific might, the new strain of fungus spread out far, yet it could not be truly touched or seen. Instead, its arcane feeding rendered them nigh intangible, their proof of presence naught but a faint fog-bound prismatic sheen.

Thus driven to reside within the Pale, they took to thriving amidst that fog-shrouded realm, and few would ever know of their presence.

Such was the way of things; this they accepted as divine.

Who knew, though, if such would hold with time.

Nonetheless the Ke’esa Mer would remain, be it in one form or another.
Head tilting at the shift, Malath Kaal cast his mind afar and sent his power across the shard--adrift. In moments he found his targets, and in an instant, they were changed and called. Yet none would know, 'cept the Eldest, that they'd been summoned anywhere at all. Smiling to himself, that Deity reappeared at Ahtziri's side, where he ran a finger across her cheek. This done, he met her eyes, and his own gaze was severe and strangely bleak.

"You must go," he said, but his aura refused even to explain. With those words spoken he turned and began to drift back from whence he'd come and his counterpart did the same in the opposite direction, their business concluded for now.

Uwné, God of Crafting


Ahtziri’s Bizai’i Adventure: To Uwné!

“Move it! You can die when I let you!” Aelitia yelled at the huddled column of people. They looked haggard and beaten, but soon they would be safe. They just had to get through this night... and just this night it had to start storming. “You, move it!” Aelitia yelled again at someone who started straggling, and then the whole column of people froze in place as howls echoed through the night air.

Aelitia and her hunters didn’t freeze. They had heard those howls before. “What, do you all want to be monster food? Move it!” She yelled again. The people continued on as she drew an arrow from her quiver and held it in her other hand. Ready to have it drawn. Quite forcefully she pushed people along. There were only seven hunters. Not nearly enough to protect the fifty-something people.

A howl. A scream. Panic rippled across the group. From behind her people started to run through the mud. “Wolf!” Someone yelled. Aelitia started running towards the back of the group. Pushing people aside. She saw its eyes glowing in the dark.

“Uwné hear my plea
Maker of my bow and arrow
May their edge never falter
May my hand never fail”

She released the arrow at the end of her prayer. It’s silver head and shaft glowed a fiery red as it streaked through the dark night. It struck true. The beast’s fur ignited in a blaze. It yelped and shrieked as it started running away into the dark. One man passed her from behind her. She stopped him with one arm.

“We have to burn our dead!” He said. “Or they’ll never reach the after-“


“Do you want all of your people to burn!?” Aelitia yelled at him. Her hand imprint was bright red on the man’s cheek. With a small cut where her silver ring hit the skin. “Because if you really want to die then at least do everyone a favor and hurl yourself at the wolf monsters! If you want them to live you listen to me. And I say you will fucking move!” She shoved him away again to walk.

It was already too late. More glowing eyes peered through the darkness. Aelitia raised her bow, a beautiful silvery weapon. Its limbs forged to look like overlapping, silvery lotus petals. She loosed her nocked arrow, silvery filaments of its light spilling out like cracks into the darkness, and as they unfurled like vines reaching for the morning sun they seared away the mangy scraps of gristle and fur that passed them by. As they spilled forth a temporary celestial luminance was created by their refulgence--casting light down upon the area like one of the stars they were modeled after and hanging like a beacon of safety for the haggard throng of humans moving as quickly as their feet would take them before the storm descended on them all.

From the distance, however, was a different kind of light: a searing, ominous amaranthine streaked its way across the night sky, stopping just in front of the hunters, back turned, and leaning down to the Abiktu that were suddenly no longer the ravening and snarling pack of mindless beasts of before, but lost pups reunited with their mother.

”You’ve eaten already? Then go, my children, feast elsewhere.” the voice was equal parts shrill and sensuous, grating to the ears of those not used to the whining and braying of monsters. She rubbed her clawed hands into the side of one of the Abiktu’s muzzles, gently cooing and making faces at it, as her serpentine tail snapped at the huntress and those behind her.

”My children have eaten tonight. I spare you as an act of atonement.” Ahtziri did not even turn to look at the humans behind her, instead continuing to play with the pack of wolf-things before her.

The Huntress – especially in recent times – had bitten her fair share of fear back. No matter the creature, the amount of its eyes or the length of its claws she would fight it without issue. That’s what hope did for her. Now her feet were nailed to the ground. Her body shook involuntarily. The overwhelming dread she felt now was as strong as the warmth she felt in her heart when she first saw those silver lotuses floating in that small pond. “Uwné hear my plea.” She muttered again, begging the mantra to still her heart.

Slowly one hand moved behind her back. Her faith was not yet broken. “Maker of my bow and arrow.” Carefully she grasped the feathers on an arrow and slowly pulled it. Hoping it would be quiet enough so this- by Uwné what could she call this thing in front of her? “May their edge-“ The words of faith felt stuck in her mouth as she took a careful step back. But she swallowed what blocked it. “May their edge never falter.” Her heart stilled. Steeled by a newfound faith. Her arm stopped shaking as she carefully placed the arrow upon the bow, with its notch against the strung. But she didn’t pull it.

Before Aelitia could so much as blink, Ahtziri was upon her with all of the grace and finesse a predator of her standing could be expected to possess. She caressed the huntress softly, tenderly, in a strangely sentimental (yet clearly devoid of maternal love) way, before moving her muzzle down to meet Aelitia's ear and gently flick the insides of her earlobe with her tongue as she spoke.

”Mortals have suddenly become quite interesting to me, you see..." Ahtziri spoke, her wings vibrating in a low, gentle thrum. She paused for a second to look up at the cloud-ridden sky, picking out its individual tones of greys and blacks and blues, before returning to her quarry with a strange nostalgia in her voice.

”You faced certain death just now and were offered clemency, but chose to remain... Why? Why not just run?"

The question was asked without prejudice, and as Ahtziri sidled her way back to where she was standing before she looked down at the little mortal hunter with genuine curiosity, almost as if for the first time. The baleful light within Ahtziri's eyes called out to Aelitia, pressing against her mind with the damp heat of clammy tongues and the relentless rhythm of panting--it demanded that she speak truly, without fear of consequence. If the command was followed, if she was compliant, no cruelty would befall her and no harm to her people: the promise of it was right there, like a burning jewel boring into her mind.

“I-I protect.” Aelitia stammered. She tried to see movement in the corner of her eye. Maybe just a shadow. Any indication that the others were gone. Away. Safe. She saw nothing, so she closed her eyes. “Keep things… away.” She continued as she tried to hear them move. Perhaps she could hear a charcoal twig break far away in the distance or the crack of an ashed shrub breaking apart. She heard nothing. A sob broke from her. The huntress spoke the truth but who could trust the word of a monster? The presence upon her mind felt vile and invasive. Her body was taken over by base, animalistic fear that told her to not move an inch. She felt a desperate need to cry. To give in, fully and completely.

“Uwné…” She whispered through the sobs that grew more violent. “…hear my plea.”

Her body shifted. Her leg moved. One arm pulled on the string. The arrow tip glowed frozen blue. The cold tingled upon her fingers. For a moment the length of a blink courage, bravery and acceptance blazed in her heart. Then it had failed again, and she failed to release the arrow.

”Hmm. Then a mother's mercy you shall be given. You call out for an Uwné--are they another divine? I should like to meet my kin, if so." Ahtziri brought a claw to pick at something between her teeth as she spoke, though it in no way impeded the clarity of her words. Her focus drifted until it settled on a reality apart from ours, suddenly lost in the fields of her memory, but the moment only lasted briefly before her full attention was snapped back to this protector of her kin. She looked expectantly, as if awaiting an answer, but made a strange growling sound in the back of her throat regardless, and a cascading chain of howls made their way across the land into the far distance.

"God of Archery, perhaps? Metallurgy? Stability?" Ahtziri asked, not actually giving time for any answers to be returned: she simply used the words as a sort of punctuation to fill the air while she waited for something to happen in the distant background. The clouds seemed to be beaten back by something flying through them, far off in the distance, though it'd need a God's vision like Ahtziri's to be able to see it.

"I am Ahtziri vur Chakravarti, the Mother of Monsters."

“He is…my God.” Aelitia said. Though she kept to herself how she believed this creature, this ‘Ahtziri’ could not be akin to him. She was darkness personified. Mother of Monsters, what horrid being calls herself that? Who admitted to birth such horrific things that killed and slaughtered people with such abandon? If only she had been stronger. Better. Braver. Then she would’ve released this arrow and slaughtered this pretender. It might have been the last thing she did but it would be worth it.

As it stood, she could only answer: “Uwné, God of Crafting.” And even though she stood so thoroughly frozen by fear, she felt a flicker of flame light up in her heart again as she uttered his name.

”Then we shall go to him, and I shall make myself known. The Abiktu will be here shortly; shh, fret not. They are my loyal children, and they shall do naught but hie you to your destination safely and sound." Ahtziri's voice raised in pitch to a gnashing, trilling coo as her children shot through the clouds, spearheaded by the ever-jovial Pazuzu.

"Mother! What are we doing? Are we helping the humans go somewhere?!"

"Yes, my love. Ride with the huntress here, let her direct you. Make sure no harm comes to her or her kin."

The two shared the exchange with a brief rub behind the great Abiktu's ears and a kiss upon its nose, and then Pazuzu flew down to Aelitia and stared at her with his tail wagging and his head tilted quizzically to the side. His form began to shrink and ripple, a gentle lilac glow briefly enveloping him, as he became something more similar in size to a horse that the huntress would be used to, and he beckoned her atop his back with a gentle ruff and a shake of his tail.

Slowly Aelitia placed the arrow back in her quiver and mounted the baffling creature.

“Land.” Aelitia bid the creature she was riding. It was a weird feeling. The fearing had vanished but her heart raced for other reasons as well. Flying had been exhilarating. From high above she could see everything. Her eyes weren’t used to the speed but still she saw her prey down there. Moving between the blackened trees. One time she felt her hand move towards her quiver again. But then she saw Ahtziri forgot about it.

Now they had arrived and Aelitia wondered for the first time if she hadn’t betrayed everyone instead. She led the self-proclaimed mother of Monsters to New Tellur. What would keep her from feasting upon the refugees that Aelitia herself had led there before? As they lowered Aelitia grabbed her bow tightly. It was death then. If she saw even a single wrong move, she would kill the thing she was riding now and then the mother of monsters. Or at least try.

Once they touched the ground Aelitia hopped off quickly. She had bid them to land beyond the camp. And a camp it was. She called it New Tellur but it was nothing more than a makeshift camp of metal tents. Made by golems from the shell of what Uwné had called a gift from a friend. She had yet to learn the full story.

A mass of people had gathered already. They kept their distance though. One man pushed through. He was tall and wore mostly grey armor. Though his arm seemed to be forged from red scales. He planted his blade-spear’s but in the ground and took off his unadorned helmet to reveal a scarred face. “Starborn.” He greeted Aelitia, before his eyes fell upon the two strange creatures. More grey-armored warriors moved through the people. All wielding spears, swords and shields. They looked ready for whatever could come next. Though as they laid eyes upon Ahtziri all of them took a few, involuntary steps back. “You brought visitors?” The man said, seemingly unaffected by the fearful aura.

Ahtziri glanced down at the man and his scale helmet, and for a second her eyes narrowed as if in the recognition of some great misdeed. Then, as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. Ahtziri did not deign to extend the mortal before her a handshake, cooly appraising him from afar with a gaze that was equal parts precocious and indignant. She remained generally playful and affable in her mood when he began speaking, but was clearly not paying him too much attention deliberately, looking through him while curiously eyeing his reactions as he did.

”My kin and I have come to make ourselves known to this new divine."

She regarded the wreckage that the humans had cobbled together with one of her eyes, noting the little bits of artifice that let them stretch their limited resources as far as possible. She caught a few fearful and steely glances from the members in the distance, and others nearby almost delirious with the fear of her presence. She smirked a little smirk, just for herself, while she awaited the counsel of her kin.

“She is Ahtziri, mother of monsters.” Aelitia said as she slowly backed away from Pazuzu. With every step she felt the grip of fear fade. Fire burned in her chest again. Not just of bravery. It was hate. She clenched her teeth as her hand moved towards her quiver hanging off her hip. Caine and his kin would help her. She could take the thing she rode upon. He could take the pretender.

Caine’s eyes narrowed as he heard her title. For a second he locked his with those of Aelitia. One shared glance was enough as he put his helmet back on. With a smooth move he grabbed his spear and turned it upside down. Pointing the tip of the blade at the ground. The people began to pull back. Some of the grey-armored warriors took a step forward. More appeared. One moved closer than most, wielding two swords also pointed at the ground.

“Forgive me, forgive me.” A voice came from the sea of people. But as soon as they heard it, they all knelt down and bowed their head. Aelitia, Caine and the other warriors remained standing. An old man passed through the parted sea of people to finally reach the standoff. “I wasn’t expecting such important company.” He said as he finally looked up towards Ahtziri. “Please, friends, please. Let us lower our weapons and welcome the goddess with dignity.”

For a second none of the fighters moved. Until Aelitia lowered her bow and knelt deeply. Soon all of the grey-armored knights were kneeling in towards the old man as well. “I am Uwné. God of Crafting and I bid you welcome, Mother of Monsters.” The god said with a beaming smile.

Ahtiri returned the Artisan God’s smile with one of her own, decidedly less pleasing to look at than his but in no way less genuine. She bid the others rise with a motion of her hand and then stretched it out gently to offer her divine kin a more personalised greeting.

”Ah, I see… Yes, this would explain the skill of the weaponry’s make. I am come to claim new lands for the family of Chakravarti, but it appears that you and your people have already laid claim to these warrens. You are a master provisioner, then..?”

And suddenly her tone was more friendly, cordial even--gone was the dismissive air and the sanity-wrenching aura, eclipsed by simple divinity: the kind of energy that is only produced when two deities occupied a similar space. Ahtziri took a wisp of it in her hand and it squirmed around for a moment, desperately trying to escape, before a flood of amaranthine washed over it and it became a monster’s tooth suspending from a necklace. She handed it over to Aelitia, the huntress, and offered her a smile of daggers:

”So long as you do not lose what is precious to you--your faith and your compassion--you could gain quite the boost of power by cavorting with that which is monstrous within you. Wear this charm, embrace the darker instincts that lay dormant within; temper its darkness with Uwné’s light and you shall find yourself capable of protecting your people.”

It was a trifle, really, to Ahtziri--barely even a fragment of effort went into its creation, but her last interaction with a god had gone… unpleasantly. She had decided to try and play this one with what perverse charisma she possessed, to make allies of these castaways and see if they could not be persuaded to join her or (at least be useful to her family). She turned her gaze back to her peer after a moment, smile gently resting upon her presently wolf-like snout.

Uwné had watched the act of gifting with great curiosity. Aelitia, for her part, did not deny the gift but she only held it in her hand for now. There was still some lingering, frightful tension in the air but the god decided to cut through that swiftly: “Come, come! You must be weary. Let us retire to…well I suppose you could call it my workshop.”

He led Ahtziri and her child through the mass of people that once again parted like a sea. Though they kept quite a bit of distance from the mother of monsters especially. The ground went up a little until they reached the so-called workshop. The Anvil-Altar of the World stood proud but cold watching from the cliff over the ever growing ocean. Around it were simple, clay pots of various sizes. Some held small saplings. Others bushes or flowers. They all seemingly circled around the solid, black marble table with several chairs around it. The whole itself was surrounded by a pool with a small bridge, within which the star lotuses floated peacefully.

Upon the table rested four, gold-veined cups and a silver-veined teapot. “I gleaned from the mortals that this was once a common way of meeting. I only saw it proper to replicate it. Please, sit.” He said as he motioned towards the chairs. He himself darted towards one of the plants. With a deft hand he picked one of the flowers that had a tall stem and carried it back towards the table where he placed it in the pot, which already contained some softly steaming water. “I must say this is the first time I’ve heard about a family of what I assume are other gods. You have to tell me about them!” Uwné said as he finally sat down in his own chair.

Ahtziri sat as she was bidden, her tail swishing about behind her while Pazuzu sat panting to her right side. He would occasionally reach for a scratch behind the ear or under his muzzle, Ahtziri's talons naturally smoothing themselves out into the motions while she spoke.

"Ah, well, truthfully my own interactions have been scant but... fierce. The first of our kin I met and we tried to kill one another, and the second of our kin I met married and found out was married to the god that had tried to kill me. It has been eventful." In spite of the tone of the topics Ahtziri's voice was relaxed, even nonchalant. She was strangely at ease, even affable and pleasant, and she made a number of casual observations as she looked around, things to the tone of "The place looks lovely," or "The calibre of your craftsmanship is evident, even here." while she awaited further lines of inquiry. A second or two into her search for something her eyes settled upon the anvil and her curiosity was piqued--something about it drew her eye in a way she couldn't quite explain.

"What's that, if I may?" she asked, her tail pointing towards the anvil with a gentle hiss of its tongue.

“That is Gallath, the World-Anvil, Quake-Tamer and Ocean-Binder.” Uwné said, beaming with pride. He knew what the goddess was talking about without even looking to where her tail had pointed. “My first tool and the most useful one. I’ve quieted the immediate area with it and bound the water to the edge of this Shard. So it may grow into a life-giving ocean.” He continued on as he lifted the teapot and filled three cups with the yasmin and honey smelling tea. Two cups he placed before Ahtziri and one he took for himself.

He leaned forward now as he said: “I’m assuming then that you married this Chakravarti. Tell me, what kind of a god is he?”

"Ahh, my love is both male and female; they are the god of families, and I their prime concubine. Lonn, my first, is the God of Mortals--and also Prime Consort of Chakravarti. My love mentioned another, briefly, a Celvanya--though I know little of her, truthfully. I am yet to meet the others… You must be quite the crafter, then, if that is the kind of tool that you can make for the purpose of making other tools.” A smile crept its way across the monstrous Goddess’ features as she recounted Chakravarti, as if a tiny ray of sunshine had suddenly come to illuminate her and no others. Then she was inquisitive again, and a coy deviousness crept over her affable gleam.

"So what plans have you? Create a sanctuary for these mortals, perhaps… build a civilisation? Do you have a family to start, a legacy to create? I am curious as to what those in our position do with the prospect of eternity looming ‘fore us.” Ahtziri took sips of the steaming liquid in between her words, weighing the flavours in her mouth before she spoke them into the world. Pazuzu sniffed at the liquid but did not otherwise react, content to bask in the affection of his mother and ignore (for the most part) his surroundings.

Uwné’s eyes turned towards the people working down the elevation. “A civilization… Yes I suppose that is part of my duty now.” He spoke with pride swelling in his chest. Then his attention shifted back to Ahtziri. “As for a family… perhaps. Not right now though. No, not right now. There’s too much to do.”

“And as for legacies-” Uwné turned around the cup he was holding to show the mother-goddess the depiction upon it. It looked like something that might have been a god. Or a saint, a demi-god, or something else entirely. “This is a legacy of those who came before us. It also means they’re gone. I don’t intend to leave.”

And then he saw little Pazuzu not drinking. “Oh dear. Is it too sweet, little one?” Uwné immediately asked, quite worried that his creation fell short.

"Oh, I don’t know! I haven’t tried it yet…” Pazuzu remarked back, totally oblivious to the fact that he had just been prompted to drink what had been offered to him. He smiled at Uwné (again, insofar as his kind could smile) for a solid ten seconds before Ahtziri picked the steaming mug up and poured it into the Abiktu’s awaiting muzzle. He swallowed the whole thing in a single gulp, letting out a happy howl as he did, and wagged his tails as he returned to being scritched by his mother.

”Leaving is not always a choice, not if deicide is a possibility--and I assure you, it is.” Ahtziri mused, a knowing glint in her eyes.

”But I doubt such things will come to pass without a strong consensus or stronger reason: we all want the success of this Shard, for without it we have nothing to be gods of. In that vein, I have a query for you: my son, Ossurman the First, shall one day rule over a sprawling empire--I wonder if I could commission from you a set of imperial regalia, to be worn by the ruling house..?” Ahtziri’s tone was just as nonchalant as before, but her posture was opened up as she asked the favour of the god across from her. She was still not appealing, per se, but the relaxation and lack of implied threat was quite close to her grace as many would come.

“But of course!” Uwné exclaimed. “It would be my honor. Though I hope you wouldn’t be offended if I said that there are other things I must tend to first. This little piece of this world here must be given an abundance of life and I have yet to craft all the plants that will come to exist here. Once the Shard has stabilized and it is time to rebuild though, then I shall have forged the Regalia first thing!” He would, of course, have to meet Ossurman first. A Regalia forged by a god could not just be made on a whim. It would be important to see what the little Emperor would hold dear to himself and what values he intends to embody.”

”Ah, wonderful!” Ahtziri exclaimed as Uwné agreed to her proposition: the thought of being able to provide a gift of deific quality for her son to enjoy was something truly ecstatic. With a beam of bright, genuine joy she listened to the rest of what her fellow had to say, listening carefully to his conditions and concerns.

”But of course, yes--Ossurman is only a babe as of now, anyway. By the time he is to be fitted for his regalia, well, it is plenty of time away. Perhaps I can aid you in both of your endeavours… a child of mine, known as the Bizai’i, currently digests rocks far beneath the surface. I could have it coil ‘neath this nascent sanctuary of yours, and it shall create ores for you and yours to mine not too far below the surface! The twisting of monstrous flesh is one of my gifts, so if there are new ores that it cannot currently mine, pray inform me and I shall adapt it to be able to provide such sustenance for you and yours. That said, there is a condition: the Bizai’i must be kept sleeping when it is not feeding upon the earth, or it may cause seismic damage to your sanctuary. So long as you keep it pacified and keep it fed, it will be a great boon.” Ahtziri’s smile did not dampen as she spoke, and the offer was one borne of impulsive gratitude--something that, she would come to realise in the future, would not happen very often at all.

The two talked about the fate of the Shard, Chakravarti (the God of Family), and their far off lands. The newly-made sun was dipping low when eventually Ahtziri decided to take her leave with Pazuzu and send the rest home content with their full bellies and mother’s love. Uwné gave her the cup as she left, as a parting gift.

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