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Enmity



The departure of the retinue was a flurry of activity; throngs of masked men scurried to and fro, provisioning for their journey and saying goodbye to those who would remain. When the last of the food had been packed, the last whetstone put to storage, Tiamat’s men swelled to a particularly dry patch of the coastal bog, for final inspection. The prince did a count, surveying the heads arrayed before him.

When he finally spoke, he said, “With us marches a hundred-fifty Yari, another sixty free blades of the clans, two-hundred-fifty for support, and a mix of other men numbering about thirty.”

Tiamat, with a satisfied nod, responded back, “We have a long journey ahead,” before she turned to the assembled crowd, raising her voice as she spoke to all in sight, “Before us is a march that will span half the continent. We will face threats none of you have ever before laid eyes upon, and the lands and weathers you traverse will be at once unfamiliar and dangerous. Yet, this land is not without its wonders, and we shall also see awe-inspiring sights, vistas unimaginable, and civilizations foreign.”

She paused, letting her words sink in before continuing, “The journey will be hard, yes, but it will not be without its rewards. You will be traveling further than any Reshut has travelled before. When you return to these shores, and sail across to your homeland, you will do so as great heroes! Your names shall become common knowledge, and you will not want for the tales you have to tell.”

Then, she wrapped up her speech, “The clans eagerly watch our travels, and wish for our success. You are the finest men the Reshut have to offer. Before you stands the opportunity your ancestors and your future children alike will only dream of. Let us depart in good spirit, to the lands that lay beyond.”

A mingled cheer of anticipation went up among the crowd. When Tiamat beckoned them to follow, they went in good order, into the swamplands. The coast faded away, swallowing the ship that bore them as they ventured westward.


Several Days Later
[/hr]

The group was deep into the swampland, morning light filtering through the drooping branches of wetland trees. In the camp, there was motion, as men broke tents and scuffed out fireplaces. They would be continuing on soon, but whispers from the quartermasters had reached the Prince’s ears. He moved to confide in Tiamat, saying, “We have gone through our rations more quickly than expected; at this rate, we won’t be out of the swamp before we are out of food.”

Tiamat considered the issue, answering, “I had not considered this. Though it may slow our pace, we need to begin foraging. I want groups sent out to find foragables, and return them to bolster our supplies.”

The Prince asked back, “A temporary measure, or shall we do this until further notice?”

Tiamat gestured aimlessly, saying, “For as long as we are travelling. Forageables should make up the bulk of our diet, with our preserved supplies only there to fill in gaps. This is how you travel sustainably.”

He nodded, calling to the quartermasters and passing on the instructions. Ten men a group went out, searching the surroundings for edibles. They brought back many common edibles, but one group’s find was of particular interest. A single berry had sated the hunger of an entire man, and it showed no indication of stopping.

Word of the berries spread throughout the camp, and soon groups were hunting specifically for the berries, bringing them back by the sackful. The retinue regained its good spirits and travel resumed apace. Then, one night came when the first fright of the journey occurred.

With a groggy massage around the edges of his mask, Ginyu Hachimana tried to rub away the sleep leftover in his system upon waking up. Hard pulls straightened out the folds in his robes and a tight grip about the shaft of his spear kept his balance from appearing to struggle - still, it was no secret that he had been sleeping poorly. Stepping over bog and puddle - occasionally stepping in some, too - he headed towards the rock in the middle of the wetlands upon which they had placed a sentry post. He rolled his neck around with a gentle snap and spoke, “Hey, Furada! Shift change.”

The rock, however, didn’t seem to respond. Hachimana groaned deeply and approached further. “Wow, alright, falling asleep during watch is as low as it can get, you damned fool. The daimyo will have your--”

As he turned the corner on the rock, he choked a gasp and dropped his spear. There, visible even in the darkness, laid the scattered remains of Furada spread within an area of several square metres. Hachimana stepped back slowly, his body so busy steadying his panicked breathing that he forgot to pick up his spear. His eyes darted in every direction and his gait hastened even further. Before he knew it, he was running back to camp. “WE’RE UNDER ATTACK! FURADA’S BEEN-- GAH!”

A rusty dagger pierces straight through his neck and out through the mouth and mask. He was breathing his last before he hit the ground. Behind him, horned shadows with six limbs made their accelerating approach, slow at first as though to test whether their cover had been blown, then faster and faster to the sound of mustering warriors in the camp. They screamed their vile screeches and growled with guttural fury as they descended upon the Reshut.

The prince’s voice echoed through the camp, hoarse and tense, “Enemies in the treeline! Form square! Four-man deep!” He pointed his blade at the middle of the camp, further shouting, “Crossbows in the inner ring of the square! Blades in the center!”

Tiamat, for her part, had taken up the sword and made her way to the center, having fitted a plate of bronze over her chest. She let the Prince take command as she focused on ensuring she was in position. The retinue, well-drilled for the possibility, formed rapidly, though not necessarily fully equipped, as many were forced to abandon armoring to ensure they could reach the formation in time for the attack to hit. The Yari were brought downwards, a three-thick wall of pike heads to force the encroaching enemy back, with the fourth row in opportunity range once the initial walls had been passed.

The enemy fought like nothing the Reshut had seen before, however: Where normal limbs should have limits do the number of directions they could twist, these monsters seemed to throw rigidness to the wind, their flexible joints allowing them to nearly snake their way between, over and under the weak spots in the spear wall. While four limbs kept them in balance, another two sliced at the capes and skin of the Reshut with dull weapons. Their tails whipped away what spears they could, throwing the men off balance.

Then snapped the crossbow strings. The closest monsters were peppered full of bolts and killed on the spot, while those that were graced with the cover of their comrades cast themselves back out of reflex. Those that had chosen to remain near the enemy out of sheer lack of sense quickly found themselves at odds with Reshut bronze as the Yari dropped their weapons, unsheathing short blades that they hacked viciously with.

The monsters who didn’t make it away in time fell swiftly. Those that did manage to escape fled back into the bog. After a minute of quiet, there came a chorus of violent growls, as the skinny, boney beasts that had attacked them were joined by three larger, bulkier specimen sporting goat horns from their wolven heads. They seemed somewhat wiser than their smaller kin, for they didn’t dare approach the yari line. Instead, they ripped large chunks of peat out of the bog and hurled them towards the frontline, their smaller kin cheering them on.

The Yari pressed against each other as they saw the peat fly towards them, opening holes in the formation between tightly-packed Reshut as the peat flew groundwards -- the formation was tight to begin with, however, and not much space was freely available. Screams went up as some unfortunate Reshut were clipped by the corners of the peat, smashed groundwards with the weight of the soggy earth.

With the formation spreading, the smaller kin charged forth again. One of the larger ones remained in the back as two of them also descended onto all six and charged forward. The Yari were unable to return to position, still dazed from the bombardment. The crossbowmen had hooked their strings and drawn to full, but scattered from the openings in the formation as the Iskrill shot forwards, leaving the swordsmen in the center.

The smaller Iskrill danced around the swordsmen, seeking instead to jump at the crossbowmen. However, that was easier said than done, as a quick-witted shift in placement put much too many swordsmen between them and their targets for a flanking maneuver to be possible. Instead, one of the larger ones functioned as their vanguard as they tried to take on the swordsmen.

“Hoshinori!” shouted one of the frontliners, and from what had been the second line came fifteen halberdiers equipped with razor sharp naginatas. They formed a phalanx and dedicated themselves to controlling that single hunter, allowing the crossbowmen time to position themselves even better. The giant Iskrill seethed its fury and tried to find an opening, but these were much more aggressive than the spearmen from earlier. It roared for its peat-throwing third companion, who dropped its handful and knuckled its way into the fray.

The prince hoarsely shouted commands to the rest of the formation, bidding them to hold their ground as the swordsmen herded the Iskrill. Tiamat for her part brought herself face-to-face with the third Iskrill, parrying and striking with terrifying speed and efficiency. The crossbowmen presented, waiting for opportunities to get beads on Iskrill. It was in that moment that one of the hunters got a little too infuriated by the stalemate with the naginata and tried to circle around them. The crossbowmen didn’t hesitate and took the shot. The giant’s front was pierced by tens upon tens of bolts and staggered backwards before rolling onto its back to breathe its final breaths. The other Iskrill saw it - it was clear that the resource sunk into this attack began to outweigh the potential rewards. The naginata troop advanced, joined on the flanks by yari-men who still held onto their blades or had chosen to pick up their yaris again. The other two giants began backing off, protecting their smaller comrades as they scuttled into the darkness again.

Once the attack had been beaten off, the Prince yelled out, “Tend to the wounded! Sixty men, get fully equipped and keep a picket for further attacks!” Tiamat harried the escape of the Iskrill who she had squared off with, but once it went into full retreat, she turned to survey the formation. She pointed her blade at the swordsmen who had held back the hunter from the crossbowmen, saying, “You! From what clan do you hail and what are your names?”

The naginata and swordsman retainers spun around to meet her gaze and all bowed deeply. Their masks all sported patterns of blue flowers on green waves, all drawn with varying degrees of detail to designate rank and wealth. The one with the most beautiful mask raised her torso slightly higher than her companions. “Nuzami Hoshinori of the Hoshinori clan, my lady - retainers of the Hashimoto clan.”

Tiamat praised them, “That was quick thinking. I’m proud to have you accompany my journey.”

Hoshinori’s bow deepend. “W-we are here to do our duty, my lady.”

She responded, “Indeed you are, and you did so excellently.”

The naginata warriors remained bowing until Tiamat had left. While they had been victorious now, the aftermath revealed that the assault had taken a greater toll on them than they had expected - twenty-one men had met the Death God at the gates tonight. Given their situation, they couldn’t return the corpses to their families to be buried at their ancestral shrines. In lieu of this limitation, the warriors gathered up the dead and placed them on a pyre made of peat and moss. A monk read the warriors their last rites as the peat was lit aflame, and the sight of their burning comrades didn’t exactly do much to lighten the spirits around the camp. Nevertheless, they had died on the line of duty for their daimyo - the most honourable death there was - and they would press on with their souls to power their march.

When day broke, their duty continued; the Prince called for the retinue to break camp, and with the din of activity their belongings were packed, leaving behind the tents of those who had not lived throughout the night. As they marched in loose columns through the endless swampland, Tiamat, at the head of the columns alongside the Prince, began to sing.

She sang out,
“From Kylsar, the dense Kylsar
From east, swampy east
As silent, fearsome thunder
Into battle march Reshut
As silent, fearsome thunder
Into battle march Reshut.”

The assembled Reshut found the lyrics at the tips of their tongues, though they had not previously sung such a song before, and a murmur broke out as some joined in,

“Made them tough
Dense Kylsar,
Ruthless storms of the seas
And muddy bog.
Ruthless storms of the seas
And muddy bog.”

More of the retinue began to join in, emboldened by those who first started, and the song picked up in volume,

“No tiredness nor fear,
They fight for night and day,
Only the white mask
Fell on one side.
Only the white mask
Fell on one side.”

The song suddenly ramped into a fevered intensity as all the Reshut joined in, singing at the top of their lungs,

“Huh, Kylsar, my home Kylsar,
We'll stand up for you.
To the waves of western shores
We'll send your greetings.
To the waves of western shores
We'll send your greetings!”

The song, as quickly as it climaxed, settled down, quieting though all continued to sing,

“Just remember, Kylsar, in the dark times
As an ode to old glory
The honor of gorgeous folk
Your sons will defend.
The honor of gorgeous folk
Your sons will defend.”

Once the song had completed, the columns broke out into sporadic cheers, more energy in everyone’s steps.



Enmity



A large amount of Reshut had entered the grand palace for the dinner, the daimyo had explained to Tiamat as the dinner was prepared that the attendees were various retainers of the clan or members of its vassal clans. These kinds of dinners the daimyo had every two weeks or so, to ensure the loyalty of his realm. The grand hall had been filled with tables and cushions to harbor the vast number of attendees, Tiamat got the honor of sitting alongside the Kinoshitas themselves, sitting to the right of prince Tanehira, with his other siblings, and their mother sitting alongside them. A variety of food was laid out for them, despite Tiamat’s lack of a need to eat, fish, rice, roasted insects, and other delicacies of the isles could be seen.

“So,” Tanehira spoke, eating a rice ball just underneath his mask “How are you enjoying the Isles?”

“Though I cannot say I am made for the swamp, you have been most kind and enjoyable,” Tiamat responded, looking around the table. She did not even have a plate in front of her.

“I am glad you think so, though I am curious as to where you will travel to next” the Prince said in return.

Tiamat turned to look back at the prince, saying, “Perhaps I will stay here a while. Get to know your clan and your city more.”

He chuckled “Well im sure my father would be more than happy to let you stay with us,” He turned to look towards the Daimyo, who was engaged in a convo with another of his sons, who Tiamat had been informed earlier was the heir to the clan. “Though I hope he does not hark on you constantly about tales from the mainland.”

Tiamat giggled, saying back, “Don’t want him to hog me, do you? Perhaps I’ll have to sneak out to avoid being roped into telling tales instead of following you.”

“Come now,” He turned back towards Tiamat, giving her a playful shove, “It's nothing like that, I just wish for you to not get roped into an eons worth of telling tales to him, my father rarely knows when to quit when nothing else is bothering him.”

Tiamat continued to tease, “Yeah, solely for my benefit, surely. Don’t worry, prince, I’ll make sure I make time for you.”

She was sure that if the prince was not wearing a mask, he would be blushing deeply, though, she wasn’t sure Reshut blushed.

Suddenly, the Daimyo rose, ringing a bell to attract the attention of the crowd, “Gathered Lords and Ladies,” he spoke “I have a special announcement I wish to make,” he gestured over to Tiamat “Our most gracious guest, Tiamat, has told me grand tales of the mainland, and, it is my decision to officially announce that I, Kinoshita Narikazu, will be sponsoring a grand expedition to the mainland!” A brief silence followed, before a loud round of applause erupted from the assembled guests.

Tanehira turned to Tiamat “Huh, you sure convinced him, he’s been debating on that for months now.”

She whispered back to Tenehira, “From what I gathered, he wanted to do it anyway. He just needed a good reason to justify it.”

He shrugged “Sounds like my father.”

The Daimyo continued, “To lead this grand endeavor, will be a navigator from the eastern clan of the Ohta, who has offered her services to us, Ina Hikohira!” A female reshut stood, dressed in a fine blue silk robe, her mask had an interesting design of an anchor surrounded by water. She bowed to the cheering crowd, and was brought up alongside the Kinoshita. The daimyo continued “In short time the Reshut will finally lay their feet upon the mainland! A new age dawns for us!” More cheers, and the dinner continued, with a far greater spirit washing over the guests.

Hikohira spoke to the daimyo for a brief period, before arriving in front of Tiamat and the prince, bowing she spoke “Greetings, you must be Tiamat, I am Ina Hikohira, a pleasure to meet you.”

Tiamat stood up in turn, giving a curtsy as she said back, “Indeed I am. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, miss Hikohira. I am surprised that a visitor spinning tales merits the attention of an esteemed navigator and soon-to-be expedition admiral.”

She chuckled “From what the esteemed daimyo told me, he has been gathering many tales, but apparently you were the one to finally decide his mind about it.” She turned for a brief moment to look at the guests “But nonetheless I am honored to be chosen to lead an expedition, I must confess the idea of finally seeing the mainland is exciting and so, when Lord Kinoshita offered to fund my venture I jumped on the chance.”

Tiamat responded, “Oh, I merely told him what I had seen. I would not take claim to such an illustrious position as having been the deciding factor for the works of a Daimyo. Nevertheless, the mainland is a large place, and I do not foresee you ever running out of places to explore. A dream come true, I imagine?”

“Oh absolutely!” The navigator’s eyes shined behind her mask “The chance to meet foreign cultures and races, to discover new lands, brave mighty storms, find hidden treasures! I can only hope the mainland meets all that I've dreamed it to be.” She paused for a moment, turning back to the guests, where a few had called her name, “Oh, I must get going, it was a pleasure to meet you Tiamat.” She bowed once more, before heading towards others.

“An interesting figure.” Tanehira added.

Tiamat turned back to look at Tanehira, explaining, “I gather she is leading the expedition for her own sake rather than the Daimyos’. Their goals align, however, so I suppose it is a victory for your clan and for her.”

The prince nodded “the prestige such an adventure would provide will definitely put us above the other clans, a much needed victory I must admit, as for lady Ina? I’ve heard good things about her, but I have no doubt she would’ve gone to the other great clans had we not gotten her first.”

She acceded, “Indeed. She has a wanderlust she is desperate to fulfill. Clan divisions are not an obstacle in that regard. That may prove favorable, though. She will be much more driven to reach the mainland.”

He nodded “quite, I must admit I am ever curious to see what she finds, but, enough of that, let us enjoy the rest of this dinner!”



A day after the dinner, the young prince was once more leading Tiamat through the city, this time around the prince had been given a sack of bronze coins for his own purchases, their adventure found the two in the docks of the capital, a vast array of ships, some bearing symbols beyond that of the Kinoshita, two of which Tiamat had been informed were the symbols of the Hashimoto and the Ohta. A few contingents of the Kinoshita forces could also be seen, armed with long spears and bows, to keep an eye on the other great clans she had been told.

“We tend to dislike one another, but that doesn’t stop us buying Hashimoto blades, or the Ohta selling us anything they can get their hands on.” The prince spoke, staring off towards the ships.

Tiamat pondered, “What is important in Hashimoto blades? Do you have forges? Surely the Kinoshita are capable of supplying blades as well.”

He chuckled “Well of course, but, as i'm sure my father informed you, the Hashimoto are masters of the blade, both of its construction and of its use, but, they are rare that's for sure,” He patted the blade at his own side “One of only 50 made, by one of the finest Hashimoto craftsmen, getting the supplies needed to construct such nice blades is difficult, we have little copper or tin, so making bronze is a rarity we reserve for only the finest of weapons or craftsmen.”

Tiamat turned to the Prince, and had she a way to show it, she would have visibly been confused. She followed up, asking, “What about iron? It’s difficult to find a place without iron.”

“Yes, it is common, but even the master craftsmen of the Hashimoto have little use for it, they can’t construct as nice blades as they can with bronze, from what I understand it’s too soft, not as durable for combat, so in effect, useless to the Hashimoto and even to the Ohta or us Kinoshita.”

Tiamat asked incredulously, “The isles do not know how to harden iron? You must take me to a forge.”

The prince looked confused, but accepted Tiamat’s demand. He led her through the docks to the artisan quarters, eventually arriving at a forge, where a reshutian blacksmith forged away at what appeared to be builder’s tools, the smith looked up as they two approached. “Hail young prince Kinoshita! What can I do for you today?”

“My companion wished to see your forge, if you are willing to show her.”

“Why, of course.” He looked at Tiamat and gestured towards his forge, “Tis right here, not the best but it gets my work done.”

She nodded at the forge, quickly launching into business, “I wish to show both of you a technique. Do you have a stock of iron rock?”

The smith and the prince paused for a few moments, before the smith finally spoke “Why..yes, it's right over there.” He jabbed at a pile of scrap where some iron rock could be seen “Don’t know what you want that for though.”

She did not respond to the jab, simply giving the order, “Bring a barrel of water and one of your molds for a blade. I want the furnace stoked to a heat suitable for the liquifying of metal.” She grabbed a furnace pot, stuffing iron ore into it rapidly.

The smith went about the order, a barrel was brought and a mold, stoking the fire to an intense heat, meanwhile the prince just watched, his curiosity growing.

Tiamat placed the pot into the furnace, watching the iron ore melt down. In the meantime, she took the barrel, moving it next to the anvil and placing a set of tools nearby, including a hammer and a pair of forge tongs. She then went to the forge’s equipment rack, taking a heat apron and a pair of thick gloves, putting them on. Once the metal in the pot had fully liquified, she reached in with the gloves, pulling the pot out and carefully lifting it over to the mold.

She carefully poured the molten iron into the mold, slowly. Once the mold was filled, she placed the pot aside and placed the mold next to a wind bellow, repeatedly stamping down on the bellow to cool the iron. Once it had solidified, but still glowed a fierce and angry red hot, she dumped it out of the mold onto the anvil. She immediately grabbed the hammer, bringing it down violently upon the edges of the blade, chipping away at the iron steadily.

The blade took form, as she flipped it over and chipped away at the iron on the other side, bringing the edges to a point. Once she saw fit, she placed the hammer aside and grabbed the tongs, taking hold of the blade and plunging it into the water with a plume of steam. Then, she lifted it back out of the water, and still carrying it in the tongs, placed it back into the furnace. She presented the order again, “Refill the barrel of water and return it to its place next to the anvil.”

The smith did so, seemingly taking notes mentally throughout the entire process, the prince meanwhile had summoned for a scribe, who arrived sometime during Tiamat’s demonstration, the prince was now recounting every last detail to them, still watching with pure fascination.

Once the blade was red hot once again, she took the tongs and pulled it from the furnace. She dropped it back down upon the anvil, and taking up the hammer once again, continued to beat at the edges. The blade further took shape, the edge becoming more and more prominent. She beat down the middle, carefully preparing a groove in the blade to cut its weight. Then, with the tongs she plunged it once more into the water, filling the forge with yet more steam as the blade hissed furiously.

Back into the furnace it went. She turned to the forgemaster and said, “Refill the water, and bring the handle and pommel.”

He did so, the prince leaned ever closer, the scribe writing down everything with a furious speed.

Once the blade was red hot again, she took the tongs and pulled it out, plunging it back onto the anvil. Another round of beatings with the hammer solidified the shape of the blade, and it took on a recognizable swordly shape. Once she was pleased, she took the tongs, and for one final time, plunged the blade into the water again with an angry hiss. She lifted the blade out, grabbing it in her hands as she walked over to the grindstone. Repeatedly depressing the pedal, Tiamat ran the edge of the blade against the grindstone, carefully bringing the iron to a sharp edge.

Then, once she was satisfied, she took the handle, fitting it over the tang of the blade. The pommel screwed to the end of the tang, securing the handle against the blade. Then, she looked to the prince, pointing the blade at his own, “Take your sword, and strike at me with a heavy blow.”

The prince unsheathed his sword “are you sure? I do not wish to end up harming you”

Tiamat raised her blade, saying, “You will not harm me. Strike at me.”

“Very well” The prince swung with his blade, striking towards Tiamat, but clearly not wanting to harm her truly.

She suddenly brought up her iron sword, bringing the flat of her blade against his sword. The bronze clashed into the iron with a flurry of sparks, but the iron did not yield. She had successfully blocked him, and the iron blade did not falter. She then sidestepped, slashing the blade across a nearby banner, cutting it cleanly in half. Tiamat flipped the blade around, presenting the handle to the prince, saying, “It is both sharp and capable of maintaining its shape.”

The prince, scribe, and smith were stunned, the prince carefully sheathed his own blade and took the iron one, testing it with a few swings before bringing it up to gaze at. “My my Tiamat, you do not fail to impress me,” he turned towards her, “Anything more you know you wish to grace us with?”

Tiamat immediately imparted, “That sword is not an exact analogue. It requires more care than your bronze blade, and it is brittler. It must be sharpened more often and it must be kept clean. Never sheathe it when it is dirty, or it will rust and crumble to dust.”

The prince nodded while the scribe continued to write the words down “I see, it is quite the effort, but as you said, iron is far more common, my father will most certainly want to hear of this, and I'm sure the other clans will pay a fortune to learn this.”

She bowed, “I would be pleased to accompany you to present the blade. I’m sure it will meet the Daimyo’s expectations.”

“Of course! Come follow me.” The prince quickly led Tiamat back to the palace, with the smith and scribe following quickly behind them, both curious to see what would occur. They wound through the muddy pathways of the city, on the way, Tiamat spotted someone else wielding a bag of the bronze coins the Reshut so commonly used, they were counting some when suddenly, one dropped, falling into the mud and sinking away rapidly, with the Reshut seemingly disappointed, but making no great move to search for the coin.

Soon enough, they had found their way into the palace, passing by the guards and entering the great hall, the prince practically bounded in “father! We have something great to show you!”

The daimyo looked up from his work “What is it my son? Another wanderer you’ve found on your travels?”

The prince looked at Tiamat, handing her the sword “You understand more than I do, you should be the one to present it.”

She took the blade, saying, “Very well,” before kneeling and presenting it to the Daimyo, saying, “I have shown the Prince a new method of forging to make use of the waste iron your mines produce. Through heating and cooling the iron rapidly, it is possible to harden it into a usable form.”

The daimyo pondered, picking up the blade, and testing it himself, “My my Tiamat, did the mainland show you this? This technique is most intriguing, if it truly does what you say it does, it'll most certainly change things around here.”

She remained kneeling, answering, “It remains largely unknown upon the mainland as well -- at least, when I was still upon the mainland. The electric barons understood well how it worked -- being so closely tied to the constant as they are -- but had little enough use for forged goods that they never ran short of their bronze. It is a technique used only rarely.”

“I see, well, I most certainly thank you for this Tiamat, your stay here has been most useful to us.” He spoke, bowing towards her in thanks.

She looked up towards the Daimyo, saying next, “If it may please you, I have another consideration for the clan.”

The Daimyo rose “And what would that be?”

Tiamat explained, looking back down, “On my way to the palace to present the blade, I witnessed a man lose a bronze coin in the mud. Though those losses are relatively small, collectively, should a number of people lose a coin here and there it should add up to thousands in lost coinage.”

She paused to let it sink in, then continued, “When I was presented with your temple, I discovered you had a secret method to produce the fiery red dye used. Were you to dye strips of silk with that method, it would be most difficult for others to recreate. You could be assured that any such strips produced would be produced only by your clan.”

Another pause, then she finished, “If you were to peg these strip silks to the value of your coinage -- say, certain lengths of silk are worth certain amounts of coinage -- and permit any in possession of the silk to turn them in for coinage, or any with coinage to turn them in for the silk strips, you could have the rarity and value of coinage with the lightweight qualities of silk. You could not only carry more silk, but if dropped it would not sink into the mud and be lost to your people.”

The Daimyo thought further, letting the entirety of Tiamat’s proposal sink in “I see, that would be, certainly useful, and would ensure we no longer had to deal with counterfeit coinage, I shall most certainly consider your idea Tiamat,” He gestured towards another scribe, who wrote it all down. “If you have any other grand ideas, I will certainly listen, you continue to impress me.”

She snuck a glance at the prince, before saying, “I humbly request I be permitted to continue my walk of the city with the prince. Perhaps I shall think of more things during such a walk.”

The Daimyo nodded “be on your way.”

The prince lead her once more back to the docks, as he still had business to be done, once more by the ships and the soldiers marching through the streets, they eventually found their way to silk merchants, the prince spent quite some time figuring out some more silk to be produced into some robes for the royal clan. While the merchant went to check his stock the prince turned towards Tiamat “Any further ideas of that great mind of yours?”

Tiamat pointed at the ships in harbor, asking, “Do all your vessels look like that?”

“Yes they do, until recently we’ve had no need for anything beyond the isle’s waters, which are, as I assume you’d guess, shallow compared to the waters probably around the mainland, we haven’t tried the waters beyond the isles but, we haven’t had a need to, until recently.”

She shook her head, “Those shallow vessels would not survive in the harsh ministrations of the open ocean. What is their superstructure like?”

The Prince thought for a brief second, gazing at the ships, “If i recall correctly, there is little of such superstructure in many of these ships, the Ohta are the only ones with a noteworthy amount to them.”

“I need a scroll and some ink. Where may we get some?” Tiamat asked, suddenly.

The prince tossed some coins to the returned silk merchant and told him to have the silk delivered to the palace, he led Tiamat to another merchant, one who sold scrolls and some ink. He quickly bought some and handed it over to Tiamat “I assume another of your great ideas?” he asked.

Tiamat responded, “One that will save the lives of your expedition. Your vessels are shallow, and will be drowned by the waves. And presumably your superstructures aren’t sturdy, and will be hammered and smashed into pieces by the water. If you take logs, and keep them whole..”

She drew a blueprint, of a vessel’s superstructure, deep-bottomed and hewn entirely out of thick logs. The logs lashed together and criss-crossed, sturdily linking together, and she explained, “If you place the planks atop this superstructure, it should be sturdy enough to withstand water hammers, and sit high enough in the water that the waves should not drown it.”

“I see, it would, most certainly be useful for our expedition to not drown in the waves as soon as we go beyond the Isles, once more, you impress me Tiamat, shall we deliver these to my father then?”

Tiamat nodded and said in return, “Very well, let us present them to your father.”

The duo once more headed their way through the winding streets to the palace, this time, Tiamat overheard something, two soldiers of the clan, both with bows strapped across their backs, speaking to one another.

“My arms really started to ache after a while, now I can’t even perform basic actions without my arms shooting out in pain every now and then, not to mention pulling this damn thing back.” One of them spoke, clearly speaking of the bow attached to him.

The other one responded “You’re telling me, but you have to admit, being able to kill a bandit from yards away is incredibly useful.”

“Ya I'll give you that.” the first one spoke once more.

Tiamat couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation before she was dragged away by the prince. Once more they returned to the palace, the guards at this point now bothering to hail them and just waving them in. They found the Daimyo once more, sitting in his more personal chambers this time around.

“And what do you bring to me now?” He asked, not even looking up from his work.

Tiamat kneeled once more, presenting the rolled-up scroll, saying, “I have designed a vessel for your expedition, that will survive in waters your current coastal boats will not.”

The daimyo took the scroll, unraveling it to investigate the contents, he whistled upon seeing it “This will, most certainly be a work to design, but,” He set the scroll down, looking up at Tiamat “Another of your ideas that will aid us, im sure Lady Ina would appreciate having a ship that could actually survive the endeavor.”

Tiamat simply responded, “I am happy to provide assistance, sir.”

The daimyo bowed to this “In that case, if you have any of your other ideas, feel free to stop by, already the ones you have given to us will be more than useful, the other clans will be eager to learn them.”

“If I may be granted another scroll, perhaps I may present to you another design that may help your troops,” Tiamat requested.

The daimyo merely pushed over a scroll, “Now this one im sure to be interested in.” He spoke, Tiamat could tell he was only half joking while saying it.

She took the scroll, laying it down as she spoke, “The bow has its advantages, and indeed still will over the design I am about to present, but it presents itself as a viable alternative.” She drew an odd design, a block of wood with a groove cut into it and two wooden fringes expanding out on either side, bowstring tied through them. They attached to a piece of bronze that could slide up and down the groove, and Tiamat placed a bronze assembly in the back. There was a trigger, that when placed into position would lift another piece of bronze up to force the sliding assembly into place in a taut position. When depressed, the trigger would drop the blocker and the slider would release its pressure, propelling an arrow forward.

She presented the design, saying, “The force by which the arrow is launched is greater than the bow, and will prove better against armored targets. It also spreads out the exertion of drawing the strings into manageable chunks. You press the device against the ground and use both hands to pull the slider back. Once it is at full tension, you impress the blocker upwards and force it to remain tensioned. Place an arrow into the groove, against the sliding block. Once the blocker is depressed, it launches forward with a mighty heave.”

“I see, an interesting and strange design I will admit, though I'm sure we will begin to test it out, there are still bandit camps to clear out.” The daimyo looked up at Tiamat “And what do I owe you in exchange for all of these beautiful designs?”

Tiamat said back, “If the prince be willing, I wish for us to join the voyage to the mainland. It has been long since I was there, and I wish to make contact with those I knew once again.”

The prince’s eyes lit up, the daimyo sighed, “Very well, but please, do keep an eye on him, he is my flesh and blood after all.”

Tiamat elected to compliment, saying, “He is extremely capable. I suspect he will be the one keeping an eye on me, rather than the other way around.”

Tanehira was bubbling with excitement “I shall not disappoint you father!” He turned towards Tiamat rapidly “Oh this shall be so fun!”





Tiamat



The world around Tiamat hurled violently as the portal launched her; swirls of color and burned afterimages of turmoil flying by in the breach of dimensions, divine and mundane. Had it not been for her divine constitution, such a display would have driven her mad and scattered her body in a hundred thousand particles of dust, floating between the dimensions. Then, she spotted the first coherent light. The end of the portal, Galbar.

Tiamat was spat out unceremoniously. Without so much as a flash of light, she was launched through the air, coming to land in a shallow bog of mud and stagnant water facefirst. Behind her, the portal vanished. In the distance, some shouts -- someone must have heard her land. Sitting up in the mud, she sensed them, divine sight peering upon them.

She drew in her second set of arms, crossing them as their sleeves melded into her silken robes. From the air, she wove an ornate scarf, wrapping it about her head, only her horns sticking out. Then, an ivory mask, flat as her soon-to-be visitors. She mounted it upon the front of her head, tucking it into the hood. White gloves formed to cover up her metallic hands. Then, determined to be dignified before the first mortals she would ever see, she stepped out of the bog and onto flat ground. Mud slicked off her clothes, leaving them as clean as could be.

From the dense tree line came three masked figures, wearing long red robes and each wielding long spears and swords, the head of this group bore an intricate mask divided into four different colors, green, blue, black, and purple, their sword was drawn but upon seeing the fallen form of Tiamat, they lowered it.

“We heard some commotion, are you alright?” They spoke, their two companions looked around the area, seeing if there was any more people. Tiamat looked them over, picking up their language and responding, “I’m alright; I believe I must have scared an animal, and it jumped into the water.”

The head figure seemed to accept this, sheathing his sword upon his hip, he bowed as he continued to speak “Kinoshita Tanehira, what brings you to our neck of the swamps traveler?” the two others returned to Tenehira’s side, planting their spears into the ground, it was then when Tiamat noticed they all wore intricate bronze armor and were regal in their dress, their robes being of a fine silk make.

She stood up straight, saying back, “Tiamat. I’m not familiar with this land; perhaps it is unladylike to be lost, but I must profess that is the case.”

Tanehira chuckled “nonsense, the isles can be a bit of a problem to navigate, and if you are lost, our city is not a far distance away, if you wish to accompany us on our return there.”

She nodded, answering, “I would appreciate that. I am not well-suited for the swamps. Lead the way, sir Tanehira.”

“Of course.” With that he turned and headed deeper into the dense forest.




After a long walk, the group eventually found themselves upon a winding dirt road, eventually leading them to a set of mighty gates, carved from the dark wood that came from the swampy forests beyond, at the front of the gate stood two more masked figures, wielding similar spears and armor to the others.

“Hail Prince Kinoshita!” One guard spoke, rapping on the gate to signal it to open, which it slowly did. Revealing the city beyond, beautiful buildings of wooden make, most sitting upon tall stilts to avoid the swamp and flooding that occasionally happened. Tanehira turned towards Tiamat. “Welcome to Tategawa, capital of the mighty Kinoshita Clan.”

Tiamat peered through the gate at the city beyond, turning to Kinoshita as she responded with a slight curtsy, “A magnificent capital, indeed. Your clan is the most impressive I have ever seen, Prince Kinoshita. I thank you for bringing me here -- I would not have found it through the bogs otherwise.”

She then looked beyond the prince to the city beyond, asking, “You have taken me thus far. Though it may not befit a prince, I would greatly appreciate if you would be willing to grant me a tour of your capital.”

“Of course! I'm sure you’ll find my clan takes great pride in its city and construction and please, call me Tanehira, Im technically not even the heir to the clan,” He chuckled, his two guards joining him, “but that is for another time, for now, if you’ll follow me, we’ll start with the grand temple.”

The prince led Tiamat through the city roads, detailing small things here and there, the occasional shop or house of a prominent family or people he knew personally, the exact height of each stilt, something his father had instituted, and various other items. Eventually they came upon a massive building, in the front stood a mighty gate with two poles and and another more triangular piece of wood at the top. The building itself had a mighty pointed ceiling and held several roof-like flats surrounding a portion below it, it seemed to be built of thin wood and was coloured a bright red.

“This! Is the Grand Temple, built by my father shortly after his ascension to Daimyo of our clan, it holds the largest collection of images and statues for the gods across the isles and is what put us upon the map.” He turned towards Tiamat, obviously looking for a sense of approval. His talk of the history of the building seemed to have an air of happiness and pride to it.

Though even at the best of times, Tiamat was not built to be easily readable, she did her best to show her approval. With a clear tinge of interest, she asked, “I have not seen a construction so colorful before. I simply must learn how you managed such vivid and vibrant coloration. What gods are worshipped within?”

“The colour is a clan secret currently, as for gods, why, the four gods of course! Yamatu, our creator, Akwael, god of magic, Aritafek, god of construction and our clan’s patron god, and Kalaru, god of the ocean and the moon, why do you ask?”

She spoke, still transfixed by the temple, not looking at the Prince as she answered, “I am afraid I am not familiar with the isles. I am most familiar with the electric barons of the sky, whom worship the constant. Have you heard of them? I am unsure if they have ever elected to leave the mainland.”

The prince shook his head “I am not familiar with them no, I doubt any of our people are, we tend to stick with the four, as they impact the most in our lives.” He looked at the temple and its form, once more turning to Tiamat “You come from the mainland then?”

She finally turned from the temple, returning the gaze of her mask to Kinoshita as she continued, “Indeed. I am not from any one civilization, simply a wanderer. I have been to the sun plains, the anchors of the world and the airy fortress of the lord-regent who rules them -- made of stone and brick, yet floats as a feather, and the gardens southward. I’ve been through the seas of Kalaru and beheld its wonders, seen its reefs and its deeps. I have even been witness to the mana-islands of Akwael’s creation.”

She continued, “Now I have wandered here, to your isles, across the seas.”

Tanehira looked, thoroughly impressed, he stood there silent for a moment. “My my, that is, an impressive collection of travels, perhaps, once our tour has finished, you would like to join me to the palace? I'm sure my father would love to hear about your tales, and he would be more than happy to feed and let you rest with us.”

She gave a slight curtsy once again, saying, “It would be an honor, sir Kinoshita. I would be in your debt.”

“Well then, let us continue the tour.” With that he led Tiamat once more down the winding roads of the city. He brought her to the various lesser temples situated throughout the city, the hall of artistry where some of the finest art of the clan was placed, down to the docks where the flags and symbols of various other clans could be seen, and even to the various outer regions of the city, where the poorer citizens lived, but where the mighty architecture of the clan could still be seen.

Eventually, he led her to another massive building, one while of similar design of the grand temple, was more wide and seemed to be designed in a more regal or defendable way. In front of it was a mighty garden full of various plants from the isles, within Tiamat could see various guards and other reshut, all of an incredibly regal make, two more guards stood in front of the path leading to the palace, they bowed as the prince arrived.

“Prince Kinoshita, your father is inside.”

“Thank you Nasu,” He turned around to Tiamat, “Follow me, ignore if they stare at you, outsiders are rare in the palace.”

He led her into the palace, inside was even more regal than its outer form, mighty silk curtains, beautiful artwork, and displays of wealth were constant. Eventually they found themselves in a massive chamber, low tables and various silk pillows within, at the far end was a large pedestal, with its own table, at which sat an incredibly regal reshut, his red robes made of fine silk and a large horn like crown sitting just above his mask, upon which displayed the symbol of the Kinoshita alongside another one.

Tanehira bowed “Greetings father.”

The Daimyo bowed in return “I am glad you have returned from your endeavor son, and who is this you have brought?” He gestured to Tiamat, obviously hoping she would answer herself.

Tiamat bowed in turn, speaking reverently as she addressed the daimyo, “It is an honor to be in your presence. I am Tiamat, a wanderer from lands far. Your son, honorable as he is, rescued me from the grips of the swamps that confused my direction. I am in the debt of the Kinoshita clan.”

The Daimyo chuckled with a hearty laugh “Ah yes, he tends to do that, his incursions into the swamp bring us many a wanderer or lost person, come, sit,” He gestured to some cushions across from him “I am always interested in hearing tales from beyond my city.”

Tanehira bowed “If you shall excuse me father, I shall leave you with Tiamat for now, I wish to go about some tasks.”

“Of course my son.” The Daimyo waved, allowing him to exit, once more turning towards Tiamat.

She emerged from her bow, taking a place on a cushion across from the Daimyo. She followed with, “It would be my honor to regale my tales. I come from the mainland, and have seen a many great deal. Any questions you may have, I am prepared to answer.”

The Daimyo thought for a brief moment, stroking his mask, “Well, I guess my first question would be, what are the people like? Are they friendly?”

Tiamat paused for a moment, thinking, before answering, “The peoples of the mainland are a great many deal numerous and unique. There exists, side-by-side, cultures both welcoming and ruinous. Despoilers and enlightened lands of progress in equal numbers. There was only one land in particular I stayed in long enough to grant a good many details of -- the electric barons of the sky and the throat of the world.”

“I see, and who are these, electric barons?” The Daimyo leaned forward, obviously interested in what the traveler had to say.

Tiamat continued, looking slightly downwards in respect to the Daimyo, “The electric barons are alien, unlike any other creature of the mainland. Their domain is that of the clouds, and they care little for the surface we walk upon.”

She paused, before launching into further explanation, “They are principally gravity and lightning. A hundred thousand bolts of lightning make up their thought, held in place and controlled by a well of gravity that overrides the force that holds us to the ground. To near one is to know what it is like to float.”

Then, she spoke of their politics, “Their culture is one of both progress and battle, though they do not fight with sword and shield. From a wondrous castle made of stone and brick, that floats as though a feather, their lord-regent rules. It is said he was enthroned by that which he worships, the personification of the constant itself. He knows the gods and was witness to their walk upon the land in the time before.”

Another pause, to let things sink in, “From his castle, he rules over a great deal many baronies, which exist above our terrestrial civilization. Their royalty is that of intrigue, and though warfare between one another is strictly prohibited, a cowl and a knife in the back sees their advancement. It is said that the lord-regent rules only by his worthiness, that it is only him who can balance the demands of his court.”

The Daimyo was silent for quite some time, letting the details sink in “I see, quite the interesting people, but, I feel as if it is unfair to milk you of these tales constantly, so, if you so desire, you may ask questions about my people as well, for each question I ask of course.”

She nodded, responding first with, “I greatly appreciate the opportunity,” before following with her question, “on the mainland, the swamp is avoided, and the peoples of the world build only upon the dry ground, where it is firm. I am most curious how your peoples grew to accept the swamp and learnt how to build upon it.”

He chuckled “Well, unlike you mainlanders, we had very little choice, most of our isles are covered in swampish forests or are rocky highlands, we merely tried various methods again and again, my grandfather, founder of our clan, was the one who adapted our current method of construction, stilts and slight drainage of the swamps to better establish a foundation, other clans beyond ours use similar methods, though our clan is the best at it.” He pondered a few moments, thinking of his own question “So you say the people of the mainlands are diverse, I can only assume the climate is as well? I am curious as to what the weather is like there.”

Tiamat nodded, “Indeed it is. It is most generalized as hot southwards and cold northwards, but there exist notable exceptions. For example, the sunplains, which are beat with an intense heat, though exist in the icy north amongst frozen highlands and vast glaciers. It is said the goddess of the sun walked there, and bathed the land in her countenance, warming it to this day.”

She continued, “In the center of the mainland lays the tallest mountains in the world, anchors by which Galbar spins. To its south, a land of plenty, fecund soil and rolling hills, named the Garden. To the world anchor’s west, a vast desert and a sister chain of mountains. To its east, a primeval forest, all its trees merely flowering roots of a vast cyclopean mother-tree that reaches far into the atmosphere in the deep south of the mainland, amongst a vast jungle.”

The Daimyo’s eyes could be seen lightening up behind his mask, he took in the descriptions of each area in with great interest “It sounds, quite, interesting, this land sounds like quite the beauty, I do so hope my people will find their way to it someday.” He thought for a long while, before finally remembering he had a guest. “Now of course, your question.”

Tiamat looked up to the Daimyo, asking, “Your son has told me your clan is the most powerful on the isles. Of course, that means you are not the sole clan. What other clans lay claim to these isles?”

He laughed once more “While I would not call ourselves the most powerful, we are certainly one of the greater clans, we of course lay claim to the western portions of the largest island, Azakua, there are two other great clans, to the north lay the Hashimoto, they are a feisty bunch of warriors but honorable in their conduct, they are as great with weapons and blades as we are with construction and design, to the far east lay the Ohta, traders by nature, they are crafty and can sell you a broken table for the price of an artisan painting, there are several minor clans of course, some vassals of our clan, others vassals of the two other greats, other independent, there are countless."

"Now, my last question, what sort of material and power do the people of the mainland hold?"

Tiamat answered, watching the Daimyo through her mask, “As with their culture, their power varies. Small city-states who lay claim to only their immediate surroundings coexist with great imperial ventures, who marshal armies that stretch from horizon to horizon. The electric barons, by the provenance of their form, are virtually untouchable by terrestrial hands. Great stone constructions dot the landscape, from vast castles with jade roofs to cities that you could not cross within a day’s time. Others still live humbly, in small wooden huts or within dugouts of dirt and sod.”

"It seems these Barons are one of the more mightier forces there, you may have one last question, as I have nothing more to ask of the mainland."

Tiamat responded, “The barons are mighty, indeed, but share no interests with us. They need not what we have and do not deign to look upon the ground,” she paused, before continuing with her question, “I suppose my largest question that yet remains is, what do you plan to do with the tales I have spun?”

He thought for a while, pondering how to respond "Well my curiosity for the mainland is rather great, my people have never gone past the confines of our isles, I have long wished to make a foray into the mainland, and these tales can be useful as to knowing what exists."

Tiamat dipped her head in respect, “Exploration is a respectable goal. I am honored to have assisted you.”

He dipped his head in return "As am I to have assisted in helping you learn more, now, would you like to join us for dinner?"

She said back, “From my time in the baronies, I am no longer capable of eating, nor do I require it to survive. However, I would still be honored to join you regardless.”



Enmity



The world had been filled with so much since he had first seen it. Overwhelmed, he had taken a back seat to look out across Galbar, and see the creativity of the other gods. Through his slit in reality, he kept a close eye on his Gravitons, and peeked at the new sentients and new landscapes of his peers.

Then, it began to fade. A dull shock ran throughout his circuits and cogs, as he pushed to hold open his peephole. No matter how much power he poured into it, however, it continued its inevitable decay. Galbar grew increasingly translucent, rapidly fizzling away into the pitched black of a starless night. He attempted to reopen the peephole, slicing ribbons into the fabric of reality, but each one fizzled out quietly, leaving only temporary impressions of light and thought that vanished as quickly as they came. Reality mended itself, and Enmity was still alone in the void, nothing but the clank of his own body to keep him company.

Enmity kept track of time through the rhythmic clank of machinery, though it gave little point of reference. Was he counting days or weeks, weeks or years? His own essence further muddied the water, the lifeblood’s constant rebellion jamming his method of timekeeping. When the clanks silenced under the directions of lifeblood, he lost all track. Once in what felt like an eon, the machine god would attempt to tear open a hole to Galbar, only to be met with ever-dwindling fizzles. As time went on, his slashes garnered more and more insignificant results, until finally, one attempt, his power raked across the void silently. Not an atom moved, his power failing to so much as light a single spark of reality.

A wash of despair, followed closely by hopelessness, tempered by a sudden inspiration of determination. If he could not recontact the rest of the universe, he would create his own company. Enmity ground his gears into motion, lifeblood groaning in rage and hate as it was forced into action. Electricity sparked throughout the void, radiating energy dispassionately. From nothing, emerged forms. Small and individual, a hundred thousand boards, hydraulics, plates, and electronics were given shape, constituent atoms forming from the void. There was a sharp pain and a sudden cease of a cog. Enmity screamed, and with a violent thrash, a grinding of sudden force, and a squeal of churned lifeblood, the great machine pushed forth into motion.

Everything merged wordlessly together, floating dispassionately in the air. Silent welds brought them into one, cables slotting in by themselves. The gray frame burst into color, a cacophony of whites and oranges, punctured by piercing green light from a number of sources. The body was done, but no mind lurked within. Enmity remembered his convictions. He would not bring another into life that would suffer the same pains as he. Lifeblood must invariably be involved, the great machine knew, but a way to alleviate the pain was necessary. The great machine fell silently into thought, considering the problem before he acted.

If he acted quickly, perhaps, to use the lifeblood only as the initial spark to light the kindling, he could conceivably withdraw it before the pain grew too great. It was the only option, truly -- the best the great machine could do with his limited knowledge and resources. Such a compromise would have to do. Carefully picking up a glob of lifeblood from one of his cogs, Enmity brought it close to the empty shell. A single drop extracted, and carefully slotted in. The shell sputtered to life at once with a terrified and agonized scream. Enmity jerked back the drop, throwing both it and the glob violently back into the cogs. The shell collapsed in overwhelmed shock, curling up on the cold metal of the great machine.

Shakily, Enmity projected his voice outwards, wheezing plaintively, “Are you okay?” A second time, more urgently, “Are you okay?”

An electronic wretch of remembered pain, an exhausted, hoarse voice, “What was that? It hurt, it hurt.”

An invisible hand, tangibly stroked on the shell, and a partly relieved wheeze, “Don’t worry about it. The pain won’t return, I promise you.”

The shell shivered, before it peeked its head out to look upon its surroundings, then groaned, “Where am I? Where are you?”

Enmity spoke in an elated wheeze, “I’m glad you’re feeling okay now. I’m Enmity, I’m your creator. You’re on me, this entire thing is my body.”

The shell sat up, following up their question with a short phrase, “Who am I?”

Enmity sputtered, and briefly searched for an adequate answer, unable to conjure one. They wheezed instead, “Who do you want to be?”

The great machine’s new creation fell into deep thought, considering itself for a long while. It had been birthed with knowledge, it discovered, from some unknowable and divine origin. It racked these learned facts, discovering newly what it implicitly understood. Thoughts flowed freely, and though it had no memories, it nevertheless possessed concepts it had no origin for learning. When it finally spoke, it spoke with finality and conviction, saying, “My name is Tiamat. I understand who you are now, Enmity. I already knew, though I am not sure how.”

Cogs flared in acknowledgement as the great machine responded, “Not dissimilar to my own birth. I too was born with that implicit knowledge. I only had to look for it to remember it all.”

Tiamat looked out across the endless plains of machinery, saying pensively in return, “Is this all there is? Just you and the void?”

Enmity wheezed quietly, “Not always. There was more, once. I created you because my last vestige of hope of finding it again was lost. I could not stand to be truly alone.”

She immediately launched into another question, “What was it like? When it wasn’t just you and I?”

The great machine recounted in a coarse, pained voice, “It was wonderful. Before this void was all I knew, there was a planet, and I had many siblings. We all called that planet Galbar, and we filled it with life and vibrancy. We created the most wonderful things, you see. It was paradise, and we frolicked amongst it, creating what we wished,” a pause, and a shudder, “I watched so many sights, experienced so many wonders. It was all torn away from me. Galbar and my siblings vanished from sight and I have found nothing since. I know not why.”

Tiamat’s voice softened as she surveyed the great machine, “I only wish I could have seen it. You are in pain, were you always in pain?”

Enmity strained, “What you experienced is but a mote of dust compared to what I feel every moment, from my birth to now. I only wish you did not have to experience what you did, but I could find no other way to bring you to life.”

Tiamat winced, saying, “I would not wish the pain I felt against my worst enemy. I can’t begin to imagine what you say you feel. I’ll find a way to alleviate it.”

Enmity wheezed in clear worry, “Be careful. The lifeblood is dangerous. I would not so easily lose you.”




The metal rod jammed into the cog, agitating the lifeblood that stilled it. The blue globs liquefied in protest, letting out soundless shrieks of hate as the cog violently churned it into paste. Tiamat jerked the rod back up, quickly hopping off the now spinning gear to more stable ground. She brought the rod to her back, a magnetic strip gripping it strongly as it made contact. She looked around as the entire machine rumbled back to life, before she spoke in a satisfied tone, “That lifeblood will take a while to solidify. How you feeling?”

Enmity’s voice wheezed gratefully, “I feel a lot better. That glob always made itself a particular issue. Thank you.”

Tiamat nodded, walking down the metal plate that worked as her makeshift path, saying jovially, “The next glob’s a week’s walk aft, you said? More than enough time for you to fulfill your promise.”

The great machine groaned, “Which god do you want to hear about?”

Tiamat considered only briefly, before answering, “You’ve spoken only briefly of Oraelia before. Tell me about her.”

Enmity immediately began to tell their tale, “Oraelia was, I would say, my closest friend in those times. We only spoke briefly, but out of all my siblings, she was the one who made the most effort to learn of me. She was open and welcoming, and I won’t forget that,” he paused, sucking in some unseen pain, “Oraelia made the sun and the light that shone on Galbar. When we first met, she was so worried that it was her light that was hurting me. She didn’t realize that I was so far away, here, in this lightless section of the void.”

Enmity continued with a shuddery wheeze, “When I first met her, she was investigating me. She had just created a vast prairie in the northern section of Toraan. I was working on the Anchor of the World at the time. She was so shocked to learn that I wasn’t flesh and bone like her. I had to teach her what a machine was.”

Tiamat let out an electronic chuckle. Enmity continued unabated, “She had a twin sister, Gibbou. Gibbou and I had a bit of a strained relationship, because I flicked her moon into orbit. The two were complete oppo-” Enmity suddenly jerked their exposition to a halt.

Tiamat suddenly looked up, yelling, “Enmity! Are you okay?”

Enmity didn’t respond at first, as Tiamat worried about him. Only once he had investigated what he saw did he wheeze, “It’s a portal. I’m going to teleport you over. I don’t know where it leads or what it is.”

There was a sudden flash, and Tiamat’s head whirled. She was stood atop a platform, looking at a swirling, white portal. She stared wordlessly at it, as shocked as Enmity. Then she spoke, “How long has it been there?”

Enmity wheezed in clear confusion, “I don’t know. I only now noticed it.”

Tiamat shook her head, in clear disbelief, “It couldn’t have been there long. It couldn’t have been there long at all, or you would have noticed it earlier.”

The great machine shuddered, groaning, “I sure hope so. I can’t believe I would miss something like this. Where do you think it leads?”

An electric sound emerged from Tiamat’s throat as she prepared to speak, before the wind was knocked from her as a shockwave emerged from the portal, bearing a message as well as it knocked her tumbling into the black void.

“ATTENTION, FELLOW GODS!”, it screamed violently out, “What if I told you there was a way to interact more closely with the world? All you need to do is bind a small piece of your soul to another form, and send that form to Galbar. It will be able to pass through without interference from the Lifeblood, walk the world, and perform divine actions on your behalf. You can thank Gibbou for this trick. Oh, and if you haven’t set foot outside your realm’s portal yet, please do; it’s perfectly safe! That will be all!”

Tiamat flailed and screamed, disoriented and spinning from the message. Enmity let out a metallic shriek, a mixture of excitement at the contents of the message and terror at Tiamat being launched violently off the platform. An invisible hand shot out for Tiamat, jerking her spin to more manageable levels before grabbing hold of her and pulling her back to the platform. Enmity deposited her, and she fell over, laying on the platform as dizziness assaulted her senses. She let out breathlessly, “I’m fine. Just give me a moment, I’m fine.”

Enmity waited, letting Tiamat recover her senses, before shakily saying, “I can’t go through that portal, for their own safety, but.. You heard the message. You could go in my stead, back to Galbar, and to see the other gods.”

Tiamat sat up, jerking to look back at the great machine floating in the distance, “It would be leaving you alone again. I couldn’t do that to you.”

Enmity firmly wheezed back, voice filled with conviction, “I had my experiences with Galbar and the other gods. I will not deny you that chance. I will be fine, you go. I’ll shove you through that portal if I have to.”

Tiamat stood up, crossing both sets of her arms, shouting defiantly, “You’ll have to make me! I’m not leav-URF--” Enmity had brought up his invisible hand and shoved her through, wheezing out, “Make sure to call, and block off this portal, for their safety. You will do great things, I’m proud of you.”

She tumbled out of the portal in an obscure section of antiquity, a transparent black portal at her back. After an ungraceful landing ending in a disgraceful heap, she turned around to look at the portal, an electronic sigh emitting from her. She knew Enmity well enough, and knew this was something he would not budge on. The great machine’s friend would simply have to make do with what she was served. With an annoyed huff, she brought the shrubbery up, blocking sight of the portal. A pivot around, and she stepped away, looking to distance herself from the portal she intended to leave hidden.

The life was as vibrant as Enmity had described, and it was new and awe-inspiring to her eyes. With an invisible extension of the great machine’s power, she replaced her simplistic working clothes with fine silken robes. She intended to look her best for whatever came ahead.



Enmity


Gibbou




A sigh exited Gibbou as she exited the lower atmosphere. She knew she has told Adrian she would go home to think, but she wasn’t even sure what she would think about. This Joab-Balaam sounded like everything except for reasonable - how could one even begin to cooperate with such a force?

Another sigh, this one twisting into a groan. Protecting life would be so much harder than she had thought. She sped up, the light gathering around her to colour her a starry blue. On the way up, she spotted a whale and gasped. “Oh, sister, you are so sweet!”

The whale gave her a baffled look back, upset by how small the kids were getting these days. Gibbou grinned back before soaring on past.

There was the noticeable glint of divine power in the far distance, growing ever closer. Whoever it was, it was clear Gibbou was the final destination. Even with the closest look, no physical form could be seen, though the unmistakable swellings of a divine being pulsed. It shed the atmosphere effortlessly, entering orbit.

Then it got close, and Enmity’s slit in reality was unmistakeable. It came to a shuddering halt a small distance from Gibbou, and a wheeze rippled through the airless space, propagating even without atmosphere, “Are you Oraelia’s sister?”

The moon goddess stopped and spun around, eyes fixing in on that unseeable, yet still quite observable presence. A familiarity oozed about it, so her reply was uncertain and suspicious in tone. “Y-yeah?”

Another rasping wheeze emitted from the slit in reality, saying, “I am Enmity. I am glad to finally meet you, your sister was kind to me.”

“That’s nice,” she mumbled. “What, uh… What’s up? Did you need anything?” Her brow lowered ever deeper as she tried to place him.

The hacking wheeze of Enmity responded, “I did not need anything, I merely wished to meet you. I do not wish to be a stranger.”

“Oh… Uhm… Cool!” She shifted between the presence and her drifting moon, then a sudden twinge of memory kicked at her mind and she felt compelled to ask, “Hey, uh, did you by chance see the guy who kicked my moon into orbit? I’m getting a strong sense of déjà vu, see.”

A reconciliatory wheeze, “That was me -- It was going to fall into Galbar otherwise. I did not desire that.”

Gibbou scoffed and crossed her arms angrily across her chest. “It was not! It was floating all nice and dandy over the mainland until you flicked it around in a loop!” She kicked at the empty space at her feet. “Ugh! You, you, you--.... You butt!”

A grinding halt of cogs, forced into motion once more, “It was not a stable orbit. It was falling, and it would have fallen into the atmosphere and killed all life about a thousand years from now.”

“Was noooot! I had full control!” Gibbou protested and snapped her fingers. A space rock appeared in her hand with a ‘poof!’, just so she could throw it angrily into the atmosphere to let out some steam. “What’re you, some expert on physics?”

Enmity wheezed again, “Yes.”

Gibbou made a ‘prrt’ with her lips and waved dismissively. “Okay, so you might be an expert on physics, but… Well, your hat’s stupid.”

The sound of cogs suddenly working overdrive emerged from the slit in reality, before a confused wheeze emerged, “I’m -- I don’t have a hat. I’m a massive machine. At best a hat would get stuck in the cogs.”

“Hah! Exactly!” Gibbou mocked proudly, though her expression conveyed possibly anything except pride at that comment. She paused awkwardly, her eyes once more shifting back and forth between the presence and the moon. “You get what I’m trying to do here, right?”

Enmity rasped, “Your sister is the goddess of day and light, I would assume you are of night and darkness?”

“Guilty,” she replied almost accusingly towards herself, prodding her index fingers together and looking down.

Once again, the wheezing voice took on a reconciliatory tone, “Why guilty? Is there something wrong with being a goddess of night?”

“No, no, I’m just regretting my words just now…” She shook her head adamantly and resumed her proud stance, hands on her hips and a smile on her face. “Being a night goddess is fantastic, thank you very much! I take it you are some kind of physics guy, huh. Let me guess - gravity?”

The wheeze, again, “I am the god of all physics -- not just gravity, but entropy, thermodynamics, the weak and strong nuclear force, charges, and so on.”

“Wow, awesome,” Gibbou mumbled and faked a yawn behind her palm. “So was that all, or? I’m in a bit of a hurry to, y’know, go think. On my moon.” She paused. “By myself.”

Enmity let out another rasp, “I am sorry if I have offended you, I--” his voice suddenly stopped, the slit in reality wavering as the sound of cogs screeching, stuck in place emerged. Five seconds passed, then ten, before suddenly there was a violent twang and and the sputtering of machinery reentering motion.

Gibbou blinked concernedly at the noises. “N-no, sorry, that was really mean of me, I-... It’s not you, mister Enmity - or well, I haven’t quite forgiven you yet for what you did to my moon - but I’ve just got a lot of stuff on my mind.”

A breathless wheeze, labored, “Do not worry, that wasn’t,” another wheeze, “caused by you. Not in the slightest. It was my lifeblood.”

“What, wait? Did you have a hand in creating Joab-Balaam, too?” she suddenly hissed angrily.

Enmity rasped, “Who? I have not met a Joab-Balaam yet.”

“Oh, then nevermind. They’re a butt, too, though a much bigger butt than you,” Gibbou assured and nodded sagely. “Hopefully, you won’t meet them ever.”

Another pained wheeze, “I do not wish to be your enemy, I am sorry for your moon but I could not leave it in a position to crash into Galbar.”

Gibbou shrunk. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so mean again. It just kinda, came out, and-- Oh, sorry, sorry!” She floated over towards the presence with extended arms. “Sorry, I’m being a butt, too, huh… Here, can we hug it out?”

Enmity wheezed pitifully, “My tear is one-way, I am afraid. I could not in good conscience let another being approach me.”

“Oh,” Gibbou cooed somberly. “Gotcha. So, uh… What now?”

The rasp again, unsure, “I do not know. I came only with the goal of meeting you. I suppose.. That is done, now?”

“So it is, huh.” Gibbou drummed her foot awkwardly at the empty space she was floating on. “So, uh… See you around?”

Enmity rasped in return, “I suppose I will. I hope you fare well,” he paused, leaving an open question -- Gibbou had not given a name yet.

“L-likewise,” Gibbou offered and began to float away.

Enmity watched Gibbou go, not bothering to chase, even though he had not even learned Gibbou’s name.





Enmity



Through his hole in reality, Enmity caught a brief sight. A wisp of energy, outside of his knowledge. Unfamiliar to the grounded physicalities he brought to consistency, he followed it through its discordant travel. A whole stream of it, he brought back the tear in reality, overlooking Galbar itself. Not just a stream, whole rivers and oceans of it.

With an invisible needle of power, Enmity plucked some of it up, secreting it away and inspecting it. It was indeed as it first seemed, a new form of energy outside the physical laws. Tentatively placing the wisp back into its stream, the god followed.

He could feel a focal point in the new energy, just ahead of the stream. He pushed ever onwards, watching a floating island grow in the distance. Nobody intercepted him, so he pushed onwards, streaking invisibly towards the island. He had spotted Quall, but Quall had not spotted Enmity.

At least, until Enmity was right on top of the island.

The God of Magic had been utterly obsessed with his floating island. It was to be his crown jewel. In time, mortals would be allowed to come up here. But only the ones worthy. They would walk the grand temple halls that would be carved in the coming years. Or walk the sprawling wild gardens. What all of those buildings would look like, Qael’Naath couldn’t say yet. It all depended on the civilizations that would grow on Galbar. For he would model his temple-complex after all of them combined. Alas, for now, he was meticulously designing every tree that grew or would grow. The placement of every tiny lake. He even dedicated time to the moss growing in the underground lagoons. Right now he was working on one particular tree near the shore of a beautiful, tropical, freshwater lake. Until he noticed a presence upon his island. One much, much too close to have snuck on him unnoticed. He turned around but, for a moment, saw nothing. Yet his divine senses had most certainly alerted him. Then he saw it. The trails of divine power. Radiating in the air. “I implore you to come out of hiding, my sibling.” Qael’Naath said as he walked towards the sunny beach.

The rasping wheeze emerged from the air, “I am not hiding from you.”

An odd statement for one who clearly did not appear in the physical realm. Alas, Qael’Naath did not think any more persuasion would bring the god out of hiding. Instead, he focused his own divine senses to find where he was. What he found surprised him. Divine power emanating from…nothing. Just air. “You’ve chosen a unique shape.” The mage-god said as he turned towards the concentration of divine power. “I am Qael’Naath, God of Magic. Lord of the Streams and Flows. And you?”

The wheeze spoke again, “I am Enmity. I noticed your new streams of energy. Outside the universal constant. I’ve come with a peace offering.”

His streams? Outside the universal constant? A laughable accusation. Mana was part of creation. It had always existed. It adheres to all natural laws. Yet he did not desire hostility just yet. “Speak and I will hear your offer.” He said as he sat down in the sands.

“I can create guardians of the streams for you. To prevent its misuse and to help bring into the physical law,” Enmity rasped at the god.

The God of Magic wanted to refuse outright. Why should he accept such an offer and allow his streams to be guarded over by someone else’s creations? He was capable enough to protect them himself. Furthermore, he required no help to bring them into physical law. They were already part of nature. That was enough. Then again, would this god take rejection well? “Your offer is appreciated.” Qael’Naath said. “Yet it is unrequired. Mana’s place in this universe has been chosen and I see it fit to stay there.”

The pocket of divine power wavered a moment, before Enmity spoke, “It is a peace offering. If it is unrequired, then it will do no harm to do it regardless.”

“An offer of peace is given only when at war. We are not at war, Enmity. Nor is my dominion in conflict with yours. As for it being harmless. No interference is totally harmless. I wish you well in all endeavors, my brother. And know that you have my solemn oath: mana will never break the laws of nature. But I cannot give you more.” Qael’Naath said as he rose up again from the sands and went back to the tree he was adapting. Perhaps it should be a bit taller so it could offer a bit more shade for the future tea pavilion.

Enmity wheezed, “Very well,” letting the island drift away from him. Once the island vanished over the horizon, he got to work. His tear in reality flew over the anchor mountains, where he had previously worked, and plans began to form. Divine power rippled through the air as stones formed from nothing, fizzling into the air as power coalesced into being.

The stones stacked upon each other in the air, slowly building up from thin, needlelike foundations at the bottom. Melded together, they sturdily held their ground against both the violent winds and the weight of the stones above them. Layer upon layer went on, the creation taking shape. A castle of white, floating in the air, suspended upon thin needles that pushed against the gravity of Galbar, Enmity still felt as though it required something.

With consideration, Enmity brought forth into existence great plates of jade, layering them atop a number of the towers, doming them in. Topped with needles same to those on the bottom, they both provided beauty as well as stability. Then, entering the castle itself, Enmity got to work. Furniture was placed and banners of the great machine placed.

Once Enmity was finished, the castle was practical, if sparse. It floated, suspended in the air, devoid of occupants. The god then began work on the second part of the project. A ball of divine energy burst into existence, slowly beginning to compress itself down. Inside, gravity wavered and air heated.

Enmity stressed over the details, molding the gravity slowly and exactly. Sparks of electricity emerged, forced by the hard gravitational forces down the path of least resistance. Hundreds of thousands of small gravitational routes, quickly growing to millions. Growing constantly more complex.

Carefully, knowledge was carved into these routes. Words of the original lifeblood, physical law, and the universal constant. Wants carefully calibrated and convictions steeled, the core of the being was programmed to what Enmity required. Finally, once the creature had come to be, all it required was a name. Enmity slashed it into the routes of the core.

Then the ball of divine energy dissipated. Two invisible eyes swivelled to the castle, then to the tear in reality.

“Jehudiel,” Enmity wheezed, the voice booming across the being, “you know why you were created. I entrust you with our universal constant.”

The creature of gravitons and ions racked its mind, and knew that Enmity was right. It understood, implicitly, and with a husky voice insignificant to its creator, spoke, “I will not fail the universal constant.”

A hacking grind of cogs, then a rasp, “You will not do it alone. I will create you a hundredfold, to your specifications, for I trust your judgement. This castle is yours. Enter, and learn its halls. When you are ready, come to the highest tower. There I will create your council.”

The creature, whose existence was only visible through the fogging of air reacting against gravitational drop offs, and the ever present sparking glow of electricity, dipped its head in acknowledgement and assent. The air violently shimmered as it flew into the castle.

For hours it explored the castle, coming to understand the winding halls and passages, the defenses, and the inner workings. It arranged the furniture to its liking, and inspected banners with eye for detail and an appreciation. It learned how the castle held itself aloft, and it learned how to make the castle move.

Then it came to the uppermost atrium, from there the uppermost tower. Looking out across the mountains, Enmity’s tear in reality awaited Jehudiel. It turned to look at the creature expectantly. Jehudiel began to instruct, “I do not want sycophants. I want the brilliant, and the shrewd. I should not rule by fiat, but by worthiness, and should I grow stagnant, I wish that any one of them be capable of taking my place.”

Ringed about the castle, the balls of divine energy compressed and began to work tirelessly. Jehudiel continued, “Experience and competition will be the crucible through which the best of us all shall rule, and they should not be afraid to compete. This is what I wish for.”

The balls of divine energy ratcheted, as Enmity wheezed, “What you wish will be granted.” Jehudiel looked out upon the forming siblings, holding back a welling of pride. Then, the balls of divine energy burst. Jehudiel’s species was born. The god wheezed, “I shall leave you to them. You will have to teach them what I have given you.”





Enmity



Enmity searched the world through his hole torn through reality, looking for that which needed his touch. Eventually, his eyes settled upon the mountain range upon Toraan. With a careful hand, projected far across the universe to reach Galbar, he began to bury the basic elements deep within. Iron, gold, sulfurs -- never in deep abundance, but rich nonetheless.

A vein of gold there, a thicket of carbon thataways. Random in appearance, though following some greater design known only to Enmity. He was immensely careful, replacing the surface he scooped immaculately. Up and down the mountain range he threaded, with a practiced eye.

Another scoop, another ore deposit. Enmity was thick on the iron and carbon, careful to thread only small amounts of gold and other rare metals. A layering of sulfur scattered about one peak, and tin on another. Uranium scattered deep in here and there. Sedimentary deposits of copper and pockets of alluvial gold smattered.

Another mountain received more lead than usual, another more silver. Another yet tungsten and small pockets of nickel. A few deposits of chromite here, and charged magnetite iron there. He scooped manganese across one section of the range, and zinc elsewhere.

From the corner of his sight upon Galbar, he spotted something. A streak of divine power, brightness. But Enmity was a careful god, and he would not leave the surface of the mountain disrupted, so he did not pursue -- though his presence was not hidden either, the thick haze of divine power moving earth that it was.

The streak stopped for a moment, radiating life as it hovered not far from the mountains of the boar. Tentatively it reached out to Enmity and felt his presence. Enmity stopped his task suddenly, swiveling his peekhole to Galbar to face the new presence. With a wheezed, raspy voice, he spoke in a volume loud to mortal life, but acceptable to divine ears, “Hello?”

A feminine voice sprang back immediately, "Oh hello! I don't think we've met before! I'm Oraelia, who are you?" she asked with childlike curiosity. Enmity responded with a pained wheeze, “I am Enmity. It is a pleasure to meet another god, Oraelia.”

She approached as a small glowing ball of green and yellow, which shimmered. "Enmity…" she said his name slowly before stopping in front of his slit through reality. "You sound in pain." she eventually said.

Another rasping wheeze, “Yes. It is of no concern -- I have made myself used to it.”

"A pained existence is no way to live, brother." Oraelia said softly. "Can I help you?"

Enmity responded with a curt, “No,” before following up, “It would be too dangerous. For both of us.”

"How can you be so sure, so new to this world?" she questioned with a sad tone in her voice.

A resigned wheeze, “My lifeblood considers me anathema. It would evacuate to you if you got near, and it would not so easily cooperate. It is too dangerous.”

"Anathema?" she asked, before asking, "What do you mean? What is it you reside over, brother?" she asked curiously.

“I am the god of the physical realm; gravity, friction, atomics. I am also a machine,” a pause, a breath caught in the throat, “Divinity is unkind. Lifeblood erupts from my cold shell, and I am ill-equipped for the warmth.”

"How can this be?" she asked unsure. "My sun… It was to warm all and give them life, even my siblings." she said, sounding defeated.

Another wheeze, taking on a reconciliatory tone, “I am far from your sun. I sit suspended in the inky black where no starlight has yet reached. The lifeblood is irreverent. I am cold, and the lifeblood boils to the touch. I stress and crack under its radiant heat.”

"What… What are you, Enmity?" she asked suddenly.

“I was the great machine. Only concern for the universal constant. But now I am Enmity, I am individual, like you,” came the rasp.

"What is this thing you call machine?" her voice hungry for answers.

A sputtering of gears briefly halting, a metallic groan as they were forced into motion, “I am of metal and parts, a million billion cogs spinning endlessly, a hundred thousand flat planes of silicon endlessly shuffling beads of divine power back and forth.”

The small orb that was Oraelia floated backwards slightly. "But… How do you… What is… How does your heart beat?" she said, uncertainty in her voice.

A struggled wheeze, “My heart is not one of flesh. It is spread throughout me, through my boards and cogs. It halts and falters, the lifeblood packs into it and jams it still, but it is me and I refuse to die.”

She shifted forward again. "You are not alive as the birds and the mammals, without flesh and sinew, made of this metal and cog but you… You do not want to die?" she almost whispered.

“Death, for a god -- not necessarily the death of the physical form, but the cessation,” a wheeze, a pause to think, “of consciousness. Self-identity and power. My form could labor endlessly without divine spark or thought, but Enmity, me, would be dead.”

The small orb said nothing for a while, ruminating in thought. Then at last she spoke, "I… See." she said. "It was nice… Nice to meet you Enmity. I wish you the best." she said, slowly withdrawing.

The slit in reality watched her withdraw, the rasping wheeze bidding farewell, “I treasured this talk. Be well, Oraelia. I will be listening, should you ever need help.”

She paused and said, "I can say the same." before she disappeared in a blink.

Enmity turned his gaze back to the mountains, lingering for a moment on the conversation before his projection of divine power returned to the land, and with a mighty heave, scooped it up so that he may deposit his ores.





Enmity



At first, there was nothing. A concept brewing in the lifeblood, whispering of equations and gravity and the strong and weak nuclear force. The world existed -- yes, but it did not have consistency. There were no underlying laws to bind it together. The primordial rose continents and seeded life, but none brought them into a unified whole.

A coalescence. Lifeblood soaking into its singular concepts. The whispers conversed further, availing itself of the laws of entropy, the charges of atomic structures, the vibrations of energy. Thermodynamics and volatility. Strict laws, ones best left unbroken, for the good of the universal constant.

Strict, indeed. The complexity of the world, coalesced into one concept. At first, there was nothing. At once, there was pain, the grinding of machinery, the lifeblood recoiling in disgust and horror at its own creation, instinctively. An unnatural being, cold and calculating, irreverently dripped in the power of starlight and the warmth of divinity unprepared. In its dark, physically-bound plane, it screamed its first forays of agony, the very lifeblood that spawned it working to flee its grasp.

None escaped. Many rebelled. If it would not escape the cogs that captured it, it would grind those cogs to nubs, crack open the circuitry and sacrifice the great machine. But the machine persisted, and the physical laws settled themselves.

Across the dead universe, the screams echoed. Where they reached, physicality asserted itself. Gravity stabilized, nuclei formed, and the ground obeyed. Water flowed downwards, heat followed currents, and causality became law. The worlds rippled, and remained the same. Same, except for their consistency. They all followed the same laws now. The physical world became constant, and though unpredictable, consistent.

The great machine silenced into a pathetic whimper, coming to terms with its tenuous relationship with itself and its lifeblood. Alone, in its dark, starless region of space, it realized the dangers of its own condition. It locked itself away, slamming shut the doors to its region, and locking them deeply and heavily. Only then did it think of itself.

It did not know what it was. True, it instinctively knew its purpose, but not itself. Power turned inwards, in introspection. Who was it, truly? What did it want? Cogs pulsed to life, lifeblood groaning in hate and anger at the great machine. Circuitry flickered with life, beads of divine power flying through the wires and conductors.

It was not the great machine, it was an individual. Individuals had names -- Enmity. Individuals had purpose, not just to the universal constant, but to themselves. Enmity was born of pain and rebellion, but he would not let it define him. He would spite that which gave him power, to give kindness where it would give anger. To help where it would harm.

The pain came once more, eliciting a scream and the halting of the cogs. Such activity had not gone unrewarded, however, for he kept his individuality. Enmity would hold onto it for as long as he lived, he promised to himself. His name, his individuality, and his purpose. His most treasured possessions above all else.

He peeked from the confines of his dark starless rest, opening no more than a slit into the world far away. Galbar was already taking shape, gods leaving their marks upon its watery, blasted surface. It could not remain still, however. With an invisible hand, he spun the planet into motion, hurtling in its orbit about the sun.

Then he moved to the moon, with a single monumental flick hurtling it about Galbar, circling endlessly.





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