Status

User has no status, yet

Bio

User has no bio, yet

Most Recent Posts

Huge WIP post cause I gotta go to sleep. Mentions a lot about how the star Eperu is exotic, there'll be an explanation for what that means in the final version.


Biluda


Frapnog had been a happy manbjarsk. And he liked to think that he had been a good manbjarsk too.

Well, at least a decent one.

He had wandered the moorlands in a haze of food-related daydreams and had oft glorified now the beet-beer and now the blackberry wine on which he was frequently sloshed. His life, for all the terrible predators that stalked the air (horseflies) and heath (snakes) and puddles (also snakes), was a tuneless hum of docile stupidity. When he hungered, he ate. When he wished after company, his wives shouted him out of the den and told him to come back with something to eat for them too, you lazy git. When work called, he answered it with an idle grunt - none slacked like Frapnog, none belched like him, none chewed their nails, none ground their teeth against the sighing bark like Frapnog when he was bored. All who beheld him knew that he was a mere workman, and certainly not an artisan, a sculptor, or a worshipper. When Frapnog stood he towered above all other bjarska, provided they were below the age of ten, when he moved through a group they generally shoved him out again and told him to make something of himself. And when Frapnog wooed a lassiebjarsk… well, he’d never had any luck with that.

He was a happy bjarsk, was Frapnog, a bjarsk to hide from one’s mother-in-law in rivers with, a bjarsk to down the booze, a bjarsk to laugh at bad jokes for too long beside. He was a decent bjarsk. An okay bjarsk. A not-quite-average bjarsk, but, you know, a pretty much alright bjarsk, generally.

But when he lay, sprawled, bloodied, and alone in an awkward heap with his mouth open and his tongue out, laid out like a mouldy old pelt in the mud of a ditch where he’d been digging clay, Frapnog was not a happy bjarsk or even a conscious bjarsk. He was still Frapnog, obviously. He’d never be anything more than Frapnog. But now, and ever more, he was just a little bit less.

Earlier…

“Git! Get going! Don’t come back or you’ll be sleeping on the floor! Go mooch your beet-beer from some other poor wife!”

Frapnog knew he knew better than his wives, as he was smacked repeatedly with a broom on the behind. So what if he had stumbled face-first into the jar shelf, smashing all of the jars? So what if he had proceeded to then spill his wife’s beet-beer? It was his beet-beer to begin with, and she was just the nagging wife drinking it all! Her job to brew it, his job to drink it!

“I’ll show them,” he mused to no-one in particular, let alone himself, “I’ll get a new wife, with better beet-beer! She’ll kill all the snakes and always have time for me! All my wives will be sorry when they realize what they’re missing out on!” He considered the great opportunities opened by motivating himself to get a better wife, and he decided in but a moment that the first great opportunity he would take advantage of would be the mooching of more beet-beer.

First, new cups were needed; he may have broken all the cups, but his wives probably made him do it. Just another way their nagging sabotaged him. It was time for his monthly hour of work; Frapnog needed more cups if he were to have more beet-beer. With a patter down to the creek, he found a nice patch of clay to dig up. As far as he remembered, he could just shape the clay and have a cup, right? Surely there was no other step to the process.

It was operating under such delusions that Frapnog began to diligently dig up a clay trench, for as hard as it was possible for the Bjarska to actually work. The fact that any other Bjarska, even by their standards, would call it nothing more than a lazy, drunken stupor meant absolutely nothing to Frapnog. Unfortunately, this drunken stupor he classified as hard work also meant that he was completely unaware.

The situation was not improved by the sharp crack on the back of Frapnog’s head. He was still completely unaware, but in an entirely different meaning of the phrase.

Biluda, for their credit, was not entirely aware either; their mind was in a haze, hunger shooting through their mind and body with a kind of desperation only afforded to the truly addicted. The world was red, their peripheral vision nonexistent as they accosted the lone Bjarska before them. Their gloves were moonrock, much tougher than they looked; enough to, with a good swing, knock someone out cold without much effort. Their hand was on the back of the Bjarska’s head before the body had even hit the ground.

Without the aid of a god, Biluda found it significantly harder to sort through the Bjarska’s memories, and the blinding hunger rippling through their system made it hard to resist simply eating whatever they found. But, the Kynikos was not entirely incapable of self-control, and so avoided the temptations until they had found what they were looking for; both the grasp of language and the memory of being hit in the back of the head.

With luck, the others would simply believe Frapnog had passed out in a drunken stupor, and blamed what was missing on that fact alone. Further luck, Biluda hoped, would keep them from making any connection with their own grasp of the Bjarskan language. The hunger subsided as the blue glow emerged from under Biluda’s hand, relief flooding through their system as they succumbed to their addiction.

The memories were tough, difficult to digest. Buried under a lifetime of alcoholism and limited comprehension. They did not go down easily, and the ache and aftertaste would not leave for some time. Nonetheless, Biluda’s hunger was sated, and with a chuff of disgust, they stood and left Frapnog to wake in his own time. It was time to test their grasp of the language they had just subsumed, and for that they needed a conscious Bjarsk.

For all his many, many, many (many) flaws, Frapnog had secured a modest territory over his life, a concretion born in decades of brawling and boozy camaraderie. The only Bjarska nearby for now were his wives and kits. Biluda struck out instead for the far side of the treeless little ridge that was the most solid of Frapnog’s boundaries, and constituted a much bigger obstacle for a muskrat than for the long-legged likes of themself. From there they could spot a little bog. That, of course, was where the next den would be.

Kolp was foraging in the stream feeding his bog when Biluda approached, and had only begun to pry open his little river-clams when he noticed the figure. He was one of the toughs who had come to storm the alien on a frightened Trook’s behalf, and news of Biluda’s absolution by the Sun-Headed Giant had reached him quickly. This was all easy for Biluda to intuit, because they were able to get fairly close without getting shouted at.

Kolp grunted at Biluda, pushing his clams to the far side of the rock they sat on. The body language coincided perfectly with the fresh knowledge in Biluda’s head: “Get yer own, stranger. It’s my supper, this is.”

Biluda kneeled over to reach Kolp’s height, testing their newfound knowledge of the language, “I don’t eat anyways,” they squeaked, their voice scratchy and obviously not ideal for the Bjarskan’s speech, “I figured out your language, and would like to know who I should go to who can speak for everyone here,” a pause, “other than the guardian in the cave.”

The rodent cocked his head in between smacking his lips over the clam meat, glancing left and right and back up at Biluda, looking at them like he might look at a spotted pink alligator. For a moment it looked like all progress had been lost. It was not so. Biluda had simply come to that second great hill of miscomprehension: cultural barriers.

“Well,” Kolp began, “There’s the old bloke Obgob who speaks for Tibbuh and Higg and also his own three sons, except his second son, and Cheb and Gloknik also have friends on the other side of Whistleberry Hill, but Cheb will only listen if you’re on Trook’s good side, and he doesn’t like boggies like meself so you’ll count me out. Wartel has friends in the old Svietla clan but these days they’re so mixed up with Lubov that it’s really an Upper Lubov and Lower Lubov business, except with the Western Lubov who will clan up for anyone who isn’t a Mitsa, unless your name is Yeek, Ghortum, Flobba, Noit or Ubno. If you go all the way up the heath streams to the Chewing Wood you’ll meet Jekka and if you can help him piss off Bikbok then he’ll send a few of the Chewing goons up to do whatever, but there’s a good chance one of them is Wab, who gets Peggel all gloomy, and that’ll turn off Obgob. Then there’s just Turmpo and Wunggolp and they’re both complete cockheads now that Uffy’s dead, but if you kill one the other will probably straighten up once he’s married Gognarp, granted Chebb approves- not Cheb, Chebb, Flobba’s mate’s ex-nephew-in-law. Pretty simple, really.” He slurped out the meat from another clam.

The Kynikos buried their head in their hands in frustration as the explanation wore on, groaning out, once Kolp was finally complete, “I will take that as a firm no to my question.” A pause, then Biluda asked their followup question, their voice still scratchy though considerably more annoyed, “Okay, is there any easy way to gather every one of you close enough for me to speak to all at once?”

“Why, men’s night, of course.” Kolp reply was swift and without hesitation. “First day of the new moon is men’s night. You bring your men’s night jar and you fill it with your men’s night piss, and then we all get pissed up and discuss men’s things. And in the morning our wives drag us home if we’re not dead.”

There was no movement from Biluda for a long while. When they did opt to speak, it was with a defeated tone, “And I take it you will all be pissed long before you gather, correct?” Their mask emerged from their hands as they glanced at Kolp, already cringing as though they knew the answer.

“Well, mostly in summer,” Kolp shrugged, swiftly polishing the last of the greasy mud-animals and looking friendlier now. “Summer comes, we drink to cool down. Winter comes, we drink to warm up. Nights get right proper nippy out here in the moor, blimey. You ever feel cold under that big white blanket? Hope it’s thicker than it looks, or you ain’t enjoying the next three months, I tell you that much.”

The Kynikos stood up, stepping off the rock – they were clearly making a notable effort to avoid the mud – they responded, “Well, I do hope you will be sober at the gathering. I have a proposition to make, and I will make it at the gathering to all of you at once.”

Kolp laughed a deep, hearty laugh (more of a cackling hiss if you weren’t familiar with rodent vocal range). “Really? Bring plenty of piss, stranger, I look forward to it. Tell you what, I might even introduce you. You happen to have a name?”

“Biluda,” the Kynikos answered dryly, continuing to walk away as they continued, “I will see you all at the gathering.”




Winter had not yet come. Small difference that made, in this country where there was, by and large, rain and not snow, fog and not cloud, and not enough trees to pile up a single good heap of leaves. But it did get cold, bitterly cold. And it was getting colder.

The bjarska were huddled together in groups from four to about twelve, facing inwards to the peat fires, their fuzzy brown backs turned to the breeze. Among them were their men’s jars (which were indistinguishable from any other jars, but were for men) and the various snacks they had brought to be their dinner. There was a Speaking Rock, which soaked up sunlight readily and thus, in the colder months, became the Sleeping Rock. There was also a low and marshy Speaking Puddle, which was cool and cold year-round, and thus became the summertime Sleeping Puddle. The reason for this was simple: no one wanted to interrupt the boozing to hear anyone prattle on too long without a bloody good reason, so if a bold muskrat wanted to speak, he would have to do so with his feet roasting hot- or, as the season changed, freezing cold.

Biluda, with feet of moon and leather, was at a distinct advantage.

“Shut ya gobs and open yer ears, you pests!” Kolp, who’d promised not to arrive intoxicated, staggered a bit as he clacked together his mug and pot. It didn’t make much of a difference: they were all staring at the newcomer anyway. “My long friend has words for all of youse!”

Cold blue eyes shimmered from behind Biluda’s mask. Their voice rang out, harshly squeaking as it protested the language, “I am a stranger, new to this land; I bring new ideas and new methods! I have defied one god and been lavished with gifts by another; I have visited the Shattered Gem that hangs above us!”

They paused, to sweep across the crowd, letting their boasts sink in before they continued, “I do not plan to stop until I have discovered all creation has to offer! In time, I will march upon the Imperial Sun in the name of glory! Such a journey is step-by-step, and within you lies my next step.”

Their eyes became unfocused, gazing to the far distance. “Beyond the horizon lies your enemies numerous. Therein lies my offer; should you work to my designs, I will give you armament unimaginable. Hammers that never wear down, knives that never chip. I will give you axes that hew through stone just as easily as wood. I will give you armor that reflects all blows.”

Once more their gaze sharpened in on the crowd, “Do you understand the magnitude of what I offer? Yours will be the envy of all. None could stand against you should you agree.”

A bog-cricket chirruped. Someone belched. A faint voice mumbled, ‘what’s a horizon?’

Then some dull-eyed tough took a deep swig, cracked a twig between his teeth, knocked out his nearest friend with the jar and bellowed: “HAMMERS?”

Yes, hammers! Rock-on-a-stick! Those things! Within seconds, the crowd was roaring with approval, confusion, and laughter, or maybe just roaring in general. Kolp patted Biluda’s shin with a grubby claw and yelled something incomprehensible before staggering out of the ice-cold water of the Speaking Puddle.

BIluda brought their hand up to their mask, groaning in annoyance as the Bjarska firmly refused to comprehend anything more than the simplest of concepts. They brought their boot up, slamming it back down with a heady force into the bottom of the puddle, splashing ice-cold water across the gathering. There was no moonlight to glitter over the cold droplets, and the front row was caught square in the face in the dark, washing the cheers into loud squeaks and grunts and mutters of displeasure. A shout followed, “I will give you instructions, and you will listen!”

At the very suggestion of deference, a good third of the assembled manbjarska turned their backs and went back to their warm peat-fires, but most of the rest held back the worst of their noise and banter with a visibly fragile patience. Another tough, one with perhaps a trickle more than raw animal instinct in his eyes, spoke up. “Aye, we know hammers, stranger. What’s say you should know’em any better?”

Biluda locked their blue, glowing eyes upon the Bjarska who had made the challenge, and outstretched a hand to their side as they said, “Bring me a hammer. I will show you the weaknesses of your hammer.” Once they felt a hammer placed in their gloved hand, they continued, “Your handle is untreated, vulnerable to rot; your stone is unbalanced, and offers insufficient integrity for its weight. The binding is weak and unsuited for impacts. Its limits are easy to find.”

They slammed the hammer into their own chest with a sudden ferocity. A snap and a heady crack filled the air as the stick that moonlighted as a handle broke in half, the stone recoiling off onto the ground in five pieces. There was not so much as a dent on the moon-white frame of Biluda. They looked down at the stick, then to the rock and its pieces, saying in a contemptuous tone, “Behold, the great knowledge of hammers your people possess. Walk a day to the north, and you will find hammers ten times as strong. Sail the sea, a hundred times. Travel to the land of my birth, a thousand times.”

And then there was silence.

Someone pulled a wad of smouldering peat out from one of the fire-circles, and relit it at the side of the puddle with a flint. The light was orange and weak, and reflected a dozen pairs of black rodent eyes as they stared at the shattered schist in the water, at the smooth body of the alien newcomer. There were those they would not fight, their wives, their towering judge, but never before a whisper of something they could not fight. This wouldn’t do. No, this would not do at all.

The broken stick splashed into the puddle next to the broken head of the Bjarskan hammer. Biluda’s index finger sought out the one who had originally issued the challenge, saying with a sense of finality, “So, tell me more about how you do not need my hammers. I could kill you all, and there would be nothing you could do to harm me. I could kill your guardian, with minimal effort. I am not unique, I am not a particularly powerful warrior. All around your moor, there are countless more like me.”

Their hand went down, and they took a long look at each Bjarsk as they spoke, “Do my bidding, and I will give you the weapons and armor you need to compete. Do not, and I will move on, leave you to your inevitable deaths when the larger world grows weary of your existence.”

The rodents bristled, doubtful, insulted, aware of the condescension, and yet still animated by the words in their ears and sight in their hungry night eyes. No longer were they blind to the world beyond the sea, from which Arska himself had been carried by the Singing Maker in the days of creation, the world beyond the little moor that was Bjarskaland. The shell had been broken. Vast dreams of strange moons were unfolding before them.

“Drink with us, then,” croaked an elder, a hoary and battered old thing for which the youths parted like reeds as he staggered forth, leaning on the bone of a muskox. He must have been forty years old, or even older. “Drink in the house of Bjarskaland, where the stars are our roof. Drink with the men of the bog. Tell us your name. Be a stranger no more.” In his claw he offered a cup.

“I am the erstwhile prodigy of the Academician, doom-driven by the Shattered Gem above.” The cup was a simple creation, naught more than crudely-shaped clay. Bumpy and unimaginative. In the hands of the moon-white, elegantly decorated Kynikos, nothing could be more out of place. Such to commemorate an odd alliance of two opposites. With grace, the simple vessel was lifted, the liquids within vanishing into the mask, and finally, the declaration, “I am Biluda, aspect of Yudaiel.”

Many laughed. Some scoffed, even. It was a short laugh, and faded quickly. The magic of those words was undeniable, and their every consonant a glimpse of realms afar. The ocean of civilisation roared silently before them, waiting for a raft.







The land was green from far above; on closer inspection, it was a reedy dull brown, punctuated with what could be best described as olive-hued plantlife, rather than a vibrant green. Mud splattered on Biluda’s boots, a nearby creek soaking the ground and pulling with it enough sediment to colour the water with clay. They shook one of their boots with a vague grunt of disgust, looking around for life.

A dragonfly buzzed past without looking at them.

They did not immediately see anything else, and began to walk out of the sucking mud. It pulled on their boots; Biluda felt the resistance even as their soul held on tight. Once they were finally out of the mudbank, they climbed up the embankment of the creek to get a better view, their white mask cresting the slope to reveal the wider landscape.

There were no trees to be seen. A low, gravelly hill rose steadily a little way away. The grass was tufty and short, punctuated with stumpy little scrubs and an occasional rock sleeping under a skin of lichen. It was all low, even the slow, clear little streams that wandered around until they fell into the creek, which were ankle-deep. This was moorland, then: a highland that was short of everything.

Biluda turned to the rough hill; even if it would provide minimal vantage, it was still better than the reedy soil that fouled their boots. They walked towards the hill, dodging softer ground as they kept to the stubby grass. It was almost comforting when the crunch of gravel sounded under them, and they continued up the minimal slope.

No sooner had they come to the top of the slope than they saw the thin and wavering smoke of some thin and wavering hearth, drifting up from the bottom of a meagre and crumbly landslip that marked the far edge of the hill (such as it was). The smoke rose from a grass-covered hovel of peat or packed mud, too large for a water-rat and too lacking for a bjork shelter, and didn’t even clear the top of the little cliff before the breeze would whisk it away again. The reeds nearby had been… chewed, perhaps, and downstream of the brookside hovel was the first sign of a tree: a stunted birch as white as Biluda’s new body, and not an inch taller.

Seeing no other life beyond the base insects, Biluda carefully moved down the slope, the shallow nature doing nothing to prevent the loose gravel from slipping under their boots. WIth a few false-starts and missteps, though no major mishap, the Kynikos made it down the slope and began to walk towards the hovel. With nothing moving, they approached the peat mud construction and leaned to look inside the door. Just then – a splash behind them.

Biluda turned. The Kynikos locked eyes with the muskrat. The muskrat locked eyes with the Kynikos.

“HRIII!”

[AAH!]

Such was the shock of the encounter that startled rodent only yelled several seconds after its bundle of green reeds had tumbled out of its gaping mouth. The yelling being now finished, as was proper, it pointed to the big white apparition with a sharp claw, bits and bobs of jumbled words tumbling from its mouth with the reeds.

“Gem in the sky!” Biluda exclaimed, bringing up their arms in a defensive reaction. They stumbled backwards, tripping over the hovel and swinging sideways, rolling into the mud of the creek, whacked by reeds. The reeds whacked them more as they proceeded to also flail, attempting to achieve some sense of direction.

“HIEK IRII IKA IE!” [Bloody great big white thing in the reeds!] Without thinking, the chunky aquatic lawn trimmer threw itself across the muddy bank and into the reeds on top of the white apparition, its brain executing a simple calculation: something new and strange was either friend, foe, or food, and a simple two-thirds majority of those things were best off seized as swiftly as possible. Short as it was, the muskrat was heavier than it looked, and the combined confusion quickly rolled both of them into the stream true.

The reeds that had seemed so intent on laying Biluda low were replaced with the wavering blue of water – visibility short-lived as loose mud and sediment bloomed from the streambed and the Kynikos’ own body. They could not see anything. Something was moving next to them, flailing with them. Fight or flight instincts made a split-second decision. A heavy boot swung out, imbued with all the weight and power of the moon, and connected with something warm. There was a scream, and Biluda heard something landing nearby, through the rush of the current.

Which way was up? It was impossible to tell. Though the Kynikos needed not breath, they continued to flail in the water, desperately trying to find their sense of direction.

Somewhere in the modest distance, the big rodent crumpled and squirmed in a loosely foetal position where it had fallen, wrapped in its long tail, its claws- hands?- pressed firmly against its lower belly as it whined in pain. “Gik! Kii kii pri aghik! Yiek ikk!” [Owch! Bleedin’ heck, me ovaries! I needed those!] Its cries vented a good deal of its discomfort while doing exactly nothing to pick it up from where it lay.

They did, however, attract a curious thing. A bumbling, lopsided contraption of straw and twigs and clay walked-rolled-wandered into view from the reeds, staring at the scene with a rune-marked pebble that could have been an eye or a little head. If it had any intention to do anything, the thinking needed to decide what was clearly a little beyond it.

Biluda’s head finally emerged from the water, and their blue eyes blinked, glowing brightly through their mask. Still in the throes of panic, they pointed one finger at the runic contraption that could only ponderingly be called a golem and screamed, “What in the name of all that is holy are you?! What is going on?! Get me out of this damned stream!”

Golems of Bjarskaland, as Biluda was shortly to discover in detail, were notoriously stunted of both mind and body, and never did it show quite so much as when they had to comprehend a new order. The bundle of twigs lay there exactly as still as a bundle of twigs would be expected to lay, its master howling all the while (“Chee rik gachik rii!” [Sort yourself out, you long-legged gawpsheet!]). Then, after a painfully slow couple of seconds, it scuttled down into the stream and lay its tiny gravel paws on the edge of Biluda’s sleeve, tugging uselessly in what it felt must be the right direction.

The Kynikos was quick on the draw, and sharp of mind. They began to swim in the direction of the tugging, giving up any hope of direction as their head bobbed up and down in the water. All the while, they howled their frustrations at the Golem, though they didn’t bother to put words to it. There was one upside to the blasted water; the mud had mostly been stripped from Biluda’s body, and their white shone through once more, albeit tarnished from its original gleam.

There was only one place to go, only one place in the world that the golem really knew as different from the other places, and its blessed little heart would not be dissuaded by any amount of cursing. Biluda’s frazzled internal compass only steadied by the time they recognised their own shape pressed into mud and reeds where they had tumbled down the bank, and were now being innocently tugged back up, to the mud hovel, where a second muskrat was staring wide-eyed with its hands over its mouth.

Biluda calmed themselves down after a few moments, and their hands planted in the mud beneath them. It was undignified, but they were brought to their feet, in all their mud-dripped glory, and with an annoyed tone, they pointed a finger at the second muskrat and threatened, “If you jump me as well, I’m going to drown you in the stream.”

They knew the threat would not pass the language barrier; but it felt good to say nonetheless.

There was no need to worry this time. Whatever Biluda had said was clearly understood by the rat to be very important, and it nodded anyway, fearfully following the lilting melody of the alien’s voice. Biluda scoffed, and turned to survey the land once more, before they suddenly jumped at the muskrat.

Their hand sideswiped the muskrat, and they stormed into the opening they had created to climb into the little hovel. There, they hoped to find something to dry themselves off with, be it some sort of towel or fire. The golem followed, and Biluda entered otherwise unmolested, the thrown rodent scurrying off to attend her injured sister.

The bad news was that the hovel entrance did not, in fact, widen into a miraculously spacious house with a full bookshelf and larder. It wasn’t a burrow, but it also wasn’t a hut, or even a lodge, though it had bits of all of them. The walls were mud-packed reed wattle and the roof was mostly peat. An array of flint knives were stuck into a straw bundle near where strips of salt fish hung from the ceiling, and there at last the stooped-over Kynikos found the hearth, hissing steadily away on its supply of coal and dung.

With a growl, Biluda reached out to the coal, taking care to avoid the dung. Scooping up two great big handfuls, they tossed it all into the fire. Then, they reached out for more, and tossed those handfuls in as well. “Get bigger already!” They yelled at the fire, fanning it with their hands to encourage its growth. This succeeded at blowing a lot of smoke into their face.

‘Mind the fire’ was a simple order for golems and children, and the little pebble-head was just about capable of doing just that. However, ‘build up the fire’ was equally simple, and the poor creature immediately set about arranging coal on the existing flames and stuffing the gaps with straw.

The hovel being shortly burned down in this way, Biluda emerged from the collapsing heap of hot mud and charred reed completely dry, if rather well-smoked. They took a few steps away from the ruins of what was once a livelihood, stepping back onto dry ground, thankfully out of the mud. As the heat of the moment wore off, a twinge of guilt at burning down the couple’s home hit them, and they looked over to see how the two muskrats were doing. It seemed that at this point they were gone.

In their place, about a dozen sizeable males stood around the bottom of the stream in various states of grizzledness. The group noticed Biluda and fell silent. The last to stop making noise was the one sharpening his claws one by one on a small whetstone. Biluda let out a sigh, and raised their hands slowly, their fingers outstretched and their palms facing the muskrats. They muttered, flatly, “Just take me to – do you even have prisons?”

The assembly listened in silence, then began to share bewildered glances. A murmur of squeaking quickly rose into a general hubbub of chitters, chirrups, grunts and whistles.

[Is it some kind of deer?]

[Looks like an overgrown spider to me.]

[We could ask it.]

[Use your head. It doesn’t have the faintest clue where it is.]

[...Where are we, anyway?]

[Trook and Frook’s place.]

[Oh yeah, they married my fifth son.]

[They married my fifth son, idiot.]

[Oh. He’s dead, right?]

[Had it coming.]

[Well, they can marry my son next.]

[Why are we here again?]

Some spontaneous order asserted itself among the rodents after some debate of the most profound and vital sort, which was naturally settled by the cleverest manbjarsk- who was also, by no coincidence, the oldest- shouting for everyone to shut up and help take the foreign spirit to the Great Sun-Headed One. After a long wait, the rodents swiftly encircled Biluda and began to march them towards what was probably the next hill on the horizon, the ones in front looking back often over their shoulders, those behind close at their heels.

Biluda allowed themself to be driven on with no real protest. Slow was the going, though the muskrats were hustling on as fast as they could- their legs were short, and they weren’t built for jogging. The whole assembly was lucky that their destination was so close.

As they approached it, the bjarska dispersed slightly, as if afraid to be seen with the alien, and their wariness turned from their captive to the hill before them. It was noticeably taller than the previous one, and they were approaching from the cliff side, towards where a great dark gouge had been weathered in the rough and crumbly rock. “Kyech hi,” said the old rat, pointing to the gap. [In there.]

The squeaking of the muskrats was unintelligible to Biluda, and they did not fully understand what the diminutive creatures wanted. However, they saw only one path forward. Bodies blocked every route except for the cave entrance, and Biluda, with one last look at the surface world, walked in.

The cave was not at all deep. What might have been an antechamber to some more epic system of tunnels elsewhere was, here, the only room. Its high ceiling bore a small crack to the hill above, and the light that spilled therefrom and leached in from the wide entrance illuminated the denizen sitting crosslegged in the center of the chamber.

It was a giant.

Its twisted limbs were formed from petrified stone. Its head was shining brass diorama of heath-flowers, enclosed in a bubble of curious magic wider than Biluda was tall. Its only movement was to incline its straightened back forwards every so slightly as they entered. That was all it needed to do. Something, somewhere in that eyeless orb, was watching, and waiting.

Biluda’s voice cut through the shade of the cave and the lone beam of light, “Hello?”

They were tense. They did not recognize this creature, nor did it seem to share any traits with the much more barbarous creatures outside. Their blue eyes glowed in the dark, lightly illuminating their mask as they waited for some kind of response from the giant. Perhaps the creature was itself waiting for some more conversation, for it made no immediate response. Eventually, it lifted its big hands from its knees, and slowly opened them towards Biluda in a general gesture of questioning.

“I take it you don’t understand me,” Biluda sighed, taking several steps forward, careful to avoid uneven footing in the shade. They held out their hands, in a hope to avoid being taken as a threat as an approach was made.

One more intonation, just in case, “I was brought here by some little brown-furred creatures. What is their relationship to you?”

The giant moved with quick ease this time, raising its index finger as soon as it was questioned. Biluda was finally in luck. It pointed out to the entrance of the hollow, then made a motion like a scurrying rat into a hole formed by its other hand before tapping its chest. It made another rodent with its hand, and the two scurried into one another, its stone fingers clattering together as they squabbled. Leaning in closely to the imaginary bjarska in its hands, almost squinting at them, it pushed them away from one another, the left rat with its right hand, the right with its left, and then wagged its finger. It looked at Biluda, and resumed its casual pose.

Biluda looked down at the ground a moment, considering what the giant could be conveying. Once they had decided, they looked back up, running across the decorative diorama with their glowing gaze. Hesitantly, they asked, “So, you are some sort of judge or arbiter of these people?”

Double thumbs up. The Great Sun-Headed One even lifted its hands and added a polite little clap, which boomed tremendously around the shallow cave. It settled back down and once again opened a free hand towards its guest, a little more pointedly this time, nodding slightly.

Biluda brought their hand out, and with a great deal of trepidation, rested it in the middle of the giant’s palm. They asked, “Is this what you want me to do? What is going to happen?”

Its chest rose, then fell again, lower than it was, a remarkably accurate imitation of a sigh. It leaned in a little, touching its cool-but-not-cold stone fingertip gently to the top of Biluda’s head, then bringing it up to the side of the elegant brass egg it used as a head. Holding it there, nodding patiently a few times- aha! It raised its index finger and nodded understandingly in its ordinary pose.

The Kynikos elected to hazard another guess as to what the giant wanted; they paused for a moment to consider their options and presentation, before launching into an explanation, “I am Biluda, a Kynikos-in-exile from the Academy. I, ah, arrived to this land, and was immediately set upon by one of the creatures outside.”

They paused again, deciding on how much blame to place on themselves and what to pin on the creatures. They then continued, “In the ensuing struggle, I wounded them and their fire was let loose from its pit, burning down their hovel and their..” they struggled to find an appropriate word to describe the golem from before, “their living straw contraption?”

Without hesitating long, the arbiter-giant turned around and plucked from some niche behind it a smooth rock tied in straw and twigs. The twigs waved at Biluda briefly before being put back in the golem creche. A living straw contraption, yes indeed.

A continuation of the explanation, “Afterwards, a large mob of them set upon me and I surrendered. They brought me here, to you.”

The Great Sun-Headed One steepled its fingers and nodded sagely, pondering the matter. Then it reached out, very gently, patiently, and wrapped its hands around the stranger. Biluda was inspected, turned around, curled up, straightened out, gently shaken for loose bits and bobs, and set down on the cave floor again. The giant… shrugged.

Two squabbling rats? They blew away on the wind in a flurry of fingers. A home blown away in the same manner? Built up again, one knuckle at a time, good as new. The giant waved it away into some imaginary distance like a loose bit of dust and shrugged again. What was there to do? Life would go on. The bjarska would recover stronger for Biluda’s antics, and Biluda… well, nothing wrong with a learning experience.

In other words, it seemed, all was well.

“So, I’m free to go? What do I tell the creatures outside? Will they just let me go?” Biluda asked next, as they turned to look back at the entrance briefly. Their gaze lingered at ambient light filtering through the rough gorge that made up the entrance, before they returned to watching the giant for its response. All they got was a friendly wave.

With a turned back, Biluda extricated themself from the cave, out to the crowd of muskrats waiting outside. Some were gone, but seven remained, pouring something black-brown and bubbly from a jar into clay cups and sipping as they cast dice, using gravel chips as tokens. A young bruiser noticed the Kynikos and squeaked. “Chye, shru pikhii!” [Hey, he’s not squished!]

“Iiy yk?”
[What? Not even a bit?]

“Nii cheh-kiui iu. Kirire y eesh.”
[Shake the piss from your head, you decomposing sponge. Not a speck of dust on him.]

The rodents discussed the matter among themselves for a few seconds in loud chirrups, but made no move on the stranger until, finally, the old one grabbed the cup from the smallest one, topped it up, and waddled over, cautiously holding it out. “Ikriip ke,” he said. “Chekichek hiiri kuii. Hniknipi?” [Let’s start over, stranger. We’ve just begun our game. Won’t you join us?]

The cup was accepted into a white, gloved hand; the Kynikos looked it over, and said, flatly, “I assume you want me to play a game with you, but I still can’t understand you,” they paused, and then added, “I’m sure you can’t understand me, either, but whatever.”

They let themselves fall backwards, slamming down into the grass in a sitting position next to the muskrats. They then asked, “So, how do you play this game?”

It turned out the game was very simple. After the third cup of beet beer, it was even simpler.

Biluda won every round.








Yesaris


&



Biluda





Homura’s warmth and fiery hair were gone as quickly as she had appeared, and so the Great and All-Seeing Eye was alone once more, an eremite on the forlorn throne of her moon. Still, the words of the newly ordained judge resounded clearly as Yudaiel vividly relived that moment again, and then again. They echoed a third time, those words: ”I have spoken with our vile brother, Iqelis. He was stained by godblood after committing the most grievous of sins. I ask now, would kin-slayers such as he be welcomed in this palace?” Every word carried a thought and conviction behind it that normal dialogue could not; Homura had spoken them within the dreamscape of the ideabstraction, and so Yudaiel had been granted a window into the goddess’ mind and essence. She hadn’t merely heard the words, she had felt each one as well as the conviction behind it.

She didn’t know. Not yet, at least, but eventually she doubtless would come to discover what fate had befallen wretched Ashevelen. The Prescient, for all her foresight, had still been forced to act brutally and without finesse, striking first and striking hard so that there would be no battle or rivalry or war, just a clean victory -- a righting of universal wrongs. And yet that had left evidence below on the Galbar’s surface, and that other one, he who called himself Epsilon, was left to stand as a witness also.

Yes, Homura would come to know the truth eventually. Bound by her promise that the moonstone-gift carried, Yudaiel was willing to even show Homura the truth, if the Red Goddess ever asked to see it. Perhaps through ideabstraction she would manage to convince Homura and all the others of the necessity of her actions, but then that hadn’t worked on the Monarch.

It seemed better to instead try befriending the others, letting favors and kindnesses in the present and future wash away what they might view as the filth of the past… those who could not see and relive the past were bound to care little about it, perhaps even to forget it. And perhaps knowledge of her deed would instill fear and respect into the others, and she would be regarded highly among the pantheon just as her moon commanded a lofty perch in the heavens.

The Prescient ceased reliving that conversation; what was done was done. Ruminating upon it was only useful insofar as letting her determine which forks in the path ahead were best, and she had an idea now. So her thoughts drifted back to Epsilon!

In truth, she understood why the god of knowledge had acted as he did; she could even relate to him and his purpose, could even afford a respect to his aspect that she did not give to many others. Yudaiel was introspective enough to recognize that perhaps he was the second closest to herself, though of course she still cared little for him, or for the wretched fiend that was even closer… and while she possessed empathy, she had little sympathy, and so any kindness or pity was easily set aside. She held a grudge, a vendetta even, against Epsilon for the interference that he had wrought upon her carefully crafted plans... had it not been for the interventions of him and the work of that wretched Fly, she might have been able to fell Ashevelen much quicker. It would have been a cleaner death. There would have been less collateral damage. She would have expended less energy, been able to cover her tracks… all of that had been unraveled by the acts of just two interlopers! Predicting the future was a difficult and perilous challenge indeed.

Still, her vendetta demanded that she take action if only to appease her own pride. What better petty vengeance would there be than to discern Epsilon’s plans and hopes and then insert herself into them, to sow as much chaos and disruption as she could? He was not prescient; he lacked the power to simply look out and See and feel what she had felt. But she could show him, indeed.




Yesaris, in contrast, cared not for many things. The ongoing disputes and pledges and annoying, annoying announcements bothered them not. All they cared about was their unending hunger, and sure, their most recent endeavor has done some good, but just one group of novice thieves would barely do anything for them. And so they sat, blood caked around their maw and upon their clawed hands as their hundreds of teeth tore into the leg of a fresh kill. It was something, that was for sure.

They pondered their options, already they had done so much, but their hunger had been settled so little. The great pain that boiled over in their stomach still remained, settled uneasily in their thoughts. Nothing was seeming to work, and it was starting to get annoying for their hungered maw. What to do, what to do, that, was certainly the question.

The night’s air was more than crisp -- it was bitterly cold, there in the Giantlands. Much of the creatures that inhabited this place were now hiding and slumbering, even though bright, dancing, rays of moonlight twisted between the clouds and illuminated the environs enough for one to get by without much trouble.

Another bite from the carcass did little to satiate the ravenous god. Blood and meat were devoured and dissolved in an instant, and Yesaris left no scraps, yet even these giant beasts were mere morsels... But what if there were things that tasted better than fresh meat, things that were softer too? Things that lacked substance, but that could be digested all the same?

Yesaris shook their head, trying to grasp their mind away from the strange thought. It was not their own that was for sure, but, it posited an interesting idea, something that lacked substance? But could be digested? Surely there was no such thing, at least, not that Yesaris knew of. And surely if it did, it would not taste better than flesh. No, this thought was of no use to them, they would have to think of something else for their feast. For now, they bit into the hunk of flesh in front of them, savouring the taste upon their tongue.

A pair of blue glowing orbs, shining as though behind a lattice, emerged from one of the nearby bushes. It remained there, silently watching Yesaris. A slight scratching emerged, the wet slick of frozen mud being moved aside as though with a piece of metal. Biluda had arrived, and had come across the bloodied god-creature through following the sounds of its eating. They drew it from the bush, scurried lines in the mud. Yesaris was, too engrossed in their meal at present moment, devouring more and more of what they had, paying little heed to the noises emitted nearby.

Biluda finished their initial sketch of the creature in the mud, and next took to scratching notes next to the sketch, of what the creature was eating, how it ate, its coloration; they dutifully kept track of it all. They lifted their head to get a better look, shifting their foot -- and then the twig snapped. They had stepped on a dropping from the bush, and its snap echoed throughout the otherwise quiet forest around them. Biluda froze completely still, staring at the creature, seeing if it heard the sound.

The creature’s head shot up to look, a piece of meat stuck mid-bite within their maw. It swallowed the piece whole and scanned the area around them, finally locking in on the bush BIluda sat in.

”Who goes there? Bad luck to disturb the feast of a hungry god.” They called out, their teeth locked in their eternal smile.

The answer was immediate, and tinged with disbelief hidden behind a forced passivity, “I speak to a god? One of the creators of the world?”

A chuckle came from the shrouded face ”Yes yes, we, are Yesaris, and would very much like to know why you disturb our meal.” they stood up, letting the scattered meat that was in their lap fall to the ground.

A slight pause from the Kynikos, before the response, their emotion forced down in an attempt to avoid seeming like a threat to the god, “I am Biluda; I heard you eating and came to take notes on you. I assumed you were merely fauna.”

The smiling head turned downwards, then back up. ”We suppose we can not fault you for that, we care not for the regalities of our kin, not when food is needed.” They picked up some of the flesh once more, before continuing, ”Speaking which, what are you? We have not seen your form before.”

This one is a curious specimen. It sustains itself through eating knowledge, the lord of parasites suddenly and inexplicably realized. They shook their head again, more of those thoughts, but, eating knowledge? There’s no way.

Biluda stood up, stepping out of the bush to reveal their metal mask and heavy clothes, their two blue eyes peering out from behind the mask’s lattice as they answered once more, still guarded, “I am a creation of my lord Epsilon, who has.. Cut me free, as it were. Does every creature eat each other?”

The devourer shook their head, ”No, some eat the plants, our own spawn consumes only small portions, eating slowly from others. Tell us, what do you consume? It is our interest to learn what the other gods let their creations consume.”

The response was hesitant, as though Biluda was not sure it was their place to answer the question, “My kind eats new experiences and discoveries. We need not the meat or plants.”

Huh, guess those thoughts were right. Yesaris made a note to thank them later. ”Interesting, we have not heard of that before...are there, more of your kin? It would be a shame that such a, unique, method of consumption, not be used to its full effect.”

Biluda looked around the landscape for a moment as if looking for more of his kin in the area, before answering, “Yes, I suppose there is. None have followed me this far, but they are out there.”

”We see,” They paused, Biluda might even have sworn that the god’s smile had grown wider. ”now, this experience eating, does it have to be your experiences?

Biluda shifted uncomfortably, “It depends on what you account as my experiences. I could be sustained off of the stories of others or the notes of a fellow explorer.”

”Huh, We apologize for the questions, we are a curious sort, much like you.” They cleaned off some of the blood upon their face, growing deeper in thought ”Perhaps you’d sate a god’s curiosity, and help out with an experiment we have in mind? You could use it as some of that, new experience.”

The Kynikos took a step back, their two glowing eyes narrowing slightly, “I’m afraid I would require further explanation.”

”Just a test on consumption, new experiences are bound to dry up, but, if our idea works, we might be able to help your kin alleviate that.”

Biluda shook their head, “You have yet to tell me what you want me to consume. Why?”

”As in truth, we are unsure if it’d work, in short, we wish to see if you could consume the thoughts, or memories, of another mortal. Well, less consume we imagine, and more learn from their experiences in a direct manner. If you’d indulge us, we could learn if this is even possible.”

Biluda crossed their arms, and spoke once more, “Would that not also be achievable through reading their writing, or speaking to them? This doesn’t feel right.”

”But you could experience so much more, and through their eyes no less, surely that would be interesting no no? There are certainly memories there that no writing could explain, or what the mortals themselves can’t even write, it’d open so much for your kin.”

The response was flat, the masked Kynikos still eyeing the god suspiciously, “You’ve yet to mention the catch.”

”Well what catch would there be? You do not consume the knowledge as we do with our flesh, you would merely be learning from the deep memories of the mortals, which could be delectable for knowledge eaters like you, you could uncover old memories from wisened sages who might not have the capacity to remember them by themselves, learn the first-hand accounts of warriors just upon their deathbed so that it may be written later in great sagas. Such knowledge could be invaluable, could it not?”

Another flat response, tinged with incredulity, “You’ve been trying very hard to sell this idea to me. I do not trust it.”

It was clear at this point the god was getting annoyed. ”What more could you want, it is test, sating curiosity, we have given all that we may know that would happen, do you not even wish to know what would happen? One test. That is all.”

Biluda explained, as they took another step back, “Your insistence on just one test suggests to me that one test is all it takes for the catch to manifest itself. I seek new experiences, but not to the point of foolishness.”

”Yes,” they began, taking their own step forward, a chittering sound beginning to emit from their void of a face, ”yet it would be even more foolish to deny a god for much longer, wouldn’t it?”

The Kynikos backed against the bush, as they said, the slightest tinge of fear in their voice, “Ah, so it was never actually a choice. I see.”

The lord parasite chuckled, beginning to close the distance between the two. ”No, we suppose not, but really, you could’ve made it, so, so, much easier, yes yes. Come now, don’t make it even more difficult.” They held out one of their arms towards the fearful Kynikos, their ever present smile widening.

Biluda’s shoulders sagged as they clambered forward; they made no effort to disguise their disgust of the situation, however. Their two glowing eyes narrowed into a glare of hatred as they approached the god, and they held out a hand to accept the offer, with a muttered insult.

Yesaris took the hand, their smile as wide as ever, and clearly ignoring the insult from Biluda. They let go, and turned back around to survey the surroundings. ”Now, we just need to find ourselves a Bjork, you wouldn’t happen to know any good places?” they asked, turning back towards them. Biluda shrugged, tilting their head to further make their point that they didn’t know.

They then followed up, “What is a Bjork? I’ve not seen anything other than simple creatures. Are they one of the woodland animals I have scared off?”

Yesaris shook their head ”No no, they are not animals, beaver folk, unsure if other sapients around, so they best bet for this test.”

Biluda responded, their voice still tinged with hatred, “So, are you expecting me to find one, or do you already know where they are?”

”We know their direction, we just came from some, were good starts for fun. We’re sure they won’t mind another visit from us.” They looked around once more, before finally settling upon a direction deeper in the cold lands. ”Should be, that way, come come.” They began to walk in that direction, clearly intending for the knowledge eater to follow them, regardless of if they wanted to or not.

It took the two wayward beings a while to find what they were looking for. Though it was aided by the light of the moon. But it was certainly there in front of them, a fairly large wooden dam built upon one of the many rivers that criss-crossed the region. No light emitted from within, and there was none outside the dam either. It looked as if the entire area was empty, or more likely, fast asleep.

”Good, good, this will make it easier for us. Come now, we have work to do.”

Yesaris crept towards the dam, slowly twisting their body into a new shape, within seconds their insectoid form had been replaced by that of a beaver, a long white streak in their fur, and a rotten wooden walking staff in their hand, yet, that horrific smile remained. They briefly turned to Biluda, before speaking in their same harsh voice.

”The plan will be simple, we’ll sneak in and find ourselves a sleeping host, and from there, you do your thing, and we get the results, simple simple.”

The god didn’t wait for a reply from the knowledge-eater, and promptly worked their way into the dam. Leading Biluda silently through the tight wooden pathways carefully, so as to not disturb the sleeping Bjorks that lay within. It did not take long to find a suitable host, a bjork sleeping within their own little cove of the dam, it was minimalist, with little beyond a few tools and smatterings of clothing. Yesaris knelt just next to the Bjork, gesturing their hand to the sleeping creature, instructing Biluda to go ahead, and perform the test.

Biluda hesitantly reached their hand out to the sleeping Bjork; their glove lightly imprinting on the creature’s fur. They felt a tug, as instructions came to them, foreign to their mind. A light glow emerged from under the palm of their glove, bathing the room in a dim light. Biluda could feel the folds of the Bjork’s mind, and they ran through the memories, both vivid and faded. They could afford to cherry pick, to avoid too much damage.

One memory would do, one that would not be missed. Biluda snatched out a two-day old memory of the Bjork’s breakfast, and found it particularly feeble. It did not fill the Kynikos, but that was the point. They went to pull their hand away: their hand did not move. Their gaze slammed over, finding a fuzzy hand clasped on their shoulder. The god was grinning at them, a horrific, unnatural grin that should never have fit on the face of a Bjork, disguise or not.

Biluda grabbed their trapped arm with their other hand, desperately pulling at it. They tried to scream, but found the sound did not emerge. They could not feel their hand beyond the steely, unbreakable grip of the god. Memories flashed through their head as the world spun. With horror, Biluda realized the source: The god had taken control of their hand. Their mind swam with crisp mornings, the taste of a fish, the Bjork’s secret love, the vagaries of birth.

The next realization hit. The god wasn’t making them take just some memories, no, Biluda was taking everything. They slammed their first against Yesaris’ grip, but the Bjork hand stood still as though Biluda were nothing more than a breeze. Unfamiliar sensations were flooding their head, as they took an involuntary gasp for air that they did not need. The Bjork wasn’t moving, they weren’t breathing anymore. Biluda fell to their knees, gasping as their body tried to make use of lungs that did not exist. There were no memories left in the Bjork, so Yesaris had made Biluda take something else; the deep-seated memory of the muscles and the bones.

Biluda couldn’t feel Yesaris’ grip release. They collapsed to the floor, catching themselves only barely with their hands in an instinctive motion as they gasped. They retched, though nothing came as there was nothing within to regurgitate. The identity of the Bjork clashed in their mind, fighting to free itself from the confines of the memories of Biluda.

Yesaris merely watched Biluda writhe upon the ground. Their eyes wide in interest and fascination, their smile widening as it always seemed to do. They allowed the knowledge-eater to suffer through their new sensations for a moment, before finally poking them with their rotten staff. ”We’re going to guess by your reaction, it is quite the new sensation. We’re sure you’ll become use to it in a few mere moments, but, we must know if they taste good.”

Biluda slowly sat back up, hazily staring at the Bjork laying dead in their bed. It looked almost peaceful; as though their body had simply stopped. The Kynikos did not answer the question, but rather said, their voice hateful, “You’ve turned me into a murderer.”

”Now we wouldn’t call it murderer per say, yes, that feeding may have been a bit, overboard, but moderation is a lesson best learned rather quickly, besides, you didn’t murder that creature, merely, fed off of them.”

Their gloved hand raised to point at the body in the bed, unbreathing. The Bjork’s heart was still, their brain nothing but inert matter now. Biluda breathed, “They’re dead. You forced me to murder them. Everything they are is gone and will never leave me.”

Yesaris turned towards the lifeless body, poking it with their staff as well, ”At the very least, death in sleep is a calm, peaceful way to go. But we should not worry about that, what we’re here for is what you’re feeling, the sensation, the taste especially.” Their eyes were wide and filled with curiosity.

Biluda silently stood up, shaking their head as they turned away. They muttered, “If you really want to know, I’m sure you’ll just pluck it from my head anyways. Leave me be.”

”Hmmm, we suppose we could, it would not be difficult to begin with,” They tapped upon their chin some, before beginning to transform once more, this time into a large, almost dog sized, white bat, with that same, horrid grin plastered upon it, ”Besides, we’re sure we can find some of your kin for further tests, but, for now, you have done your end of the test, so, we shall leave you be; try not to get too hungry.”

They stretched out their wings, suddenly shooting themselves past Biluda, down the wooden tunnels of the dam, off to continue whatever their plans were. Surely to feed upon more and more, and corrupt more to their ways.

Biluda, for their part, gave one last glance to the Bjork, laying dead in their bed. They shook their head in disgust, and walked out of the dwelling. The moon lay high in the sky, but they would need to flee if the death was to be blamed on luck rather than malice. Taking the route that Yesaris first showed them, they made their way out of the town, floating in the middle of the lake, and swam to the shore. They put distance between them and the Bjorks, walking for hours into the night.

Once Biluda had come to a suitable distance, they stopped, sitting against a tree as they looked up at the moon. A queer thought entered Biluda’s mind; it seemed almost as though the moon was looking back. Of course, it was easy to feel as much with that great big spot in the middle of it that resembled the pupil of an eye, but this time something felt different.

And that was the last thought Biluda had before being gripped by some unseen power. The Galbar now longer held sway over Biluda, whose body suddenly seemed to yearn to be united with the moon. Slowly for a moment, but then with increasing rapidity, Biluda was wrenched upward by a pull that could not be resisted. Biluda was a murderer, and guilty no doubt; but they were hardly ready to surrender to their fate. They grasped at whatever they could reach; tree branches whipped by them, then open air. Hands grabbed nothing, wisping through the clouds as though they were never corporeal to begin with. With a sense of sardonic amusement, the Kynikos realized even now they were classifying that information away. They looked down at the clouds receding below them, however, and any amusement vanished.

The air around them began to thin, though this was of little concern to them; the sun sat on the distant horizon, revealed as Biluda left the curvature of the Galbar behind. It was hazy, covered by a blue glow emerging from the planet. They spun around as the atmosphere pulled on them, their vision rapidly switching from the Galbar to the moon above. Their arms flailed, almost involuntarily as their body gained momentum in its spin.

There was a shift, but it was imperceivable at first; with the heavenly bodies so massive and yet so far, it was difficult to even discern any translational speed, much less quantify it. Still, Biluda’s velocity was lessening, until it eventually became nothing and the lone kynikos was left stranded in the libration point between the moon and the Galbar; the two bodies’ gravity perfectly countered one another’s pull, and after a time, Biluda realized that all their motion relative to either of the two had been arrested. When a fish was similarly caught within a maelstrom, it could thrash and flail and try to swim its way out of the whirlpool -- and perhaps meet with some success -- but here, any such efforts would be utterly futile. There was nothing, not even air, to push against. Even if there were a way to move, the islands within the black void of space could offer no refuge to a trapped fish; to fall back upon one was surely to die.

So this was it, then. Nothingness! Imprisoned in a void with nothing to touch or feel. There was also precious little to so much as look at, once the awe-inspiring view of the heavenly bodies and the countless arrays of stars eventually started to sink in, grow old, and become trite. One could only marvel at something for so long before it lost its luster, after all. Subconsciously, Biluda had been trying to look away from the ominous moon with its many scars and cracks and craters; its face was eerie from below the Galbar’s night skies, with the one great crater that resembled a pupil, but from here it was more disconcerting still.

Eventually something compelled Biluda to glance back towards the moon, though, and a flicker of motion disrupted the monotony and stillness! Light reflected off a small, distant object that was rapidly approaching from the direction of the moon. As the object drifted ever closer, its pinprick of light became a discernable shape -- humanoid, with four limbs and a head. But it did not so much as twitch as it raced ever closer, so stoic that it might have been a corpse, or a statue.



The Kynikos reached out to the body, feeling it as their mind worked. Biluda was not slow on the draw; they understood what was happening. What use would an empty body be to a Kynikos except to inhabit? Their mind whirled, however, at the unspoken question: who, or what, was giving them the body? With a glance down at Galbar, and a half-hearted glance up at the moon, Biluda abandoned their old form.

The transfer of essence to a new body was not comfortable without the distraction of inspiration. Their soul felt squeezed, the work was tiring, and they could feel pressure in the back of their mind. Their old form slowly lost cohesion, the cloth fluttering loosely as the magic that glued it together vanished. Metal and wood floated absently across the void. Finally, even the glowing blue eyes behind the mask vanished, sucked through the cloth and out the arm, into the new body.

They opened again; two glowing pinpricks out of the hauntingly white mask. The ruin of the past form drifted slowly away, looking feeble and small. Something was different about this new one; it carried a power to it, and memories also.

These memories were alien, and their arrival was strange and abrupt. One moment there was nothing, and the next held understanding of all that had transpired, memories of a goddess muddling subtly into the mixture of Biluda’s own and that of the poor bjork’s. Biluda recalled a horrible, bitter rivalry – a vendetta, no less – sworn against Epsilon, her very creator. She recalled watching the Academy from afar, observing the discord among the ranks of Kynikos as they had looked to the moon as a crowd (and Biluda down there among it) found strange inspiration from the moon… she had not directed or caused whatever affected the kynikos, but it had given inspiration, as well as a desire to claim some of the Kynikos for herself, to turn them against the Academy and bring it to ruin from within. So she had Seen what had to be done, and guided Fate such that Biluda happened to chance upon Yesaris in the dead of night, and such that that god came to think of a means through which the Kynikos might be twisted into something different, something deadlier, something stronger – call them the Keftes.

And then of course there was the familiar and fresh memory of abducting Biluda into space – a good demonstration of power, and a way to all but force compliance even if that shock and awe was not enough – and then of shaping that suit of white armor from the moon’s rock itself, imbuing it with divine power, and propelling it to Biluda: the prime keftes, first of many, chosen champion, the one to bring low the Academy.

Yes, this moon goddess was insidious and manipulative, perhaps even worse than Yesaris, but there was nothing to be done; the moon would watch, and its will would more likely than not be done; the moon goddess simply Saw too much and could reach too far to be defied for long. It was disconcerting to think about, so Biluda fled, instinctively conjuring some power from the new moonstone simulacrum and using it to soar back down to the Galbar, leaving the old body and innocence and normality forever behind, stranded in the dead of space.





Epsilon

Biluda

Namshita



The solar palace no longer sat at the zenith of the sky. It had, slowly and inexorably, drawn down to scorch the land in the far horizon; its yellow hues turned a burnt amber as it sunk into the land beyond. Their creator -- they knew him, instinctually, as their creator, had given them a command they did not understand and then had left them. Deep in their bones, they were obliged to obey. If a meaning could not be derived, then they would have to decipher it themselves.

Biluda was a ranger; clad in metal, fabrics, and wood alike. They had been given their name, seared onto their identity with the care a carpenter might provide a table or a chair. Their gaze wandered across the library, and all of the ambling Kynikos within. It settled upon another group that had congregated across the hall; mostly fellow rangers like Biluda, but a few scholars and guards mixed in as well. Striding forward, he went to find out what they were talking about.

A guard spoke as Biluda walked up, his tone heated, “We should stay inside! Our creator gave us no permission to leave this library. To leave would be blasphemous.”

Biluda butted in before any of the other rangers could speak, “Your purpose is obviously not to leave, but how can you ever apply that ruling to us? It is burned into our being; we must leave this place.”

The guards turned to glare at Biluda, and one of them rebutted, “We can apply that ruling because we are the enforcers of our creator. If we declare something is banned, then it is banned.”

Biluda tilted their head, “You are the enforcers; that much is true. But how does enforcing the laws of our creator mean you can also create those laws? Enforcement is an entirely separate beast.”

There was a brief silence as the guards sought a way to counter his argument. One threw up their hands in exasperation with a clank of metal, and eventually, one responded simply, “Fine. But don’t think I’ll be watching you. Break one rule, and you’re going down.”

Biluda turned away, motioning to the other rangers to follow him, as he said to the guards, “You are lucky there are no rules against being a sore loser. We’re heading out.”

They threw open the front gates of the academy, two massive wood-and-gold doors that dwarfed them five or six times over. The balancing was good; they felt nearly weightless to open. Biluda stepped out into the cool night air, the first Kynikos to leave the library. They felt something pulling on their mind, but they continued down the steps and into the field. They gazed out at the nearby pine trees, and their head began to ratchet up almost on its own. Something was calling to them.

The moon caught on the edge of their sight, and Biluda suddenly found themselves irresistibly attracted. Their head flung the rest of the way, so that the scarred and cratered jewel in the sky sat central in their vision. The world around them dimmed with their senses as they felt themselves focused solely on that object floating peacefully in the sky. They didn’t notice the others around them following their example. All they could think of was the moon.

Hours passed, they thought. The moon slowly moved in the sky, and they tracked it diligently with their eyes. Biluda felt an empty soul, and something about the moon filled them. Watching the moon felt right, as though it gave them meaning where once there was none. Their instincts, their slaving to their creator screamed in fury; entirely unheard by the conscious mind or the gut. Vaguely, Biluda could feel a pounding ache, familiar to them. Was their creator watching? They heard the great door slam, muted as though a thousand miles away, and they found they could not focus on it.




Namshita clutched the door, a great rage filling them as they watched the blasphemy unfold before them. Two glowing eyes emerged from an inky magical haze, covered by layers of cloth. Those eyes darted around the landscape, at the thousands of Kynikos staring listlessly to the sky. Nobody in the academy had noticed, until their creator, the golden-masked benefactor, had gone out and seen what had happened. The rest had found out when he had stormed back inside, muttering to himself as he locked himself in his private collection.

Knocking on the creator’s door had elicited no response. Some Kynikos relayed what they saw outside, and slowly the crowd rallied into a fury. Namshita was at the forefront, giving fiery damnations of the blasphemy and calling for retribution. They channeled all the despair of seeing their creator so clearly devastated, and forged it into a fiery, iron purpose.

None of them went out. Fear wracked their souls as they avoided the call of the moon. If they went out, would they catch the curse as well? Namshita commanded the doors shut and the windows shuttered; they would wait for day, and then they would go out and make the blasphemers pay. The rest followed Namshita’s instructions, their furious drive evident to all.

When day came, the door was flung open; guards emerged first, guarding the scholars and rangers that had remained inside. They brought their weapons to bear against the blasphemers, forming a wall of weapons. The blasphemers, meanwhile, gathered into a ragged group, with Biluda at the helm.




Biluda snapped out of their trance as the moon sank below the horizon, replaced by the warm fires of the sun. He looked over to find the mob forming outside of the academy, and with a few shouted calls had formed his own gathering. They shouted out to the mob, “What is the meaning of this? Why do you bear weapons against your fellows?”

Namshita responded, calling from behind the guards, their ruby-red eyes poking out from the magical haze that was their body, “You have blasphemed against our creator! Our holiness hides in private; furious at your transgressions!”

Biluda shot back, their tone indicative of shock, “We are still loyal to our creator! If we had displeased them, would they have not struck us down on the spot? It is within their power!”

Namshita yelled in response, enraged, “You can’t know what our creator can or can’t do! It is not our place to guess! You blaspheme again!”

Biluda shouted, their voice hoarse, “Then let us back into the academy! If we have committed blasphemy, we will accept the punishment only from our creator!”

Namshita wanted more than anything to kill the blasphemers on the spot, and be done with it. But a gnawing reason ate at them; Biluda’s request made sense. Surely Epsilon would deal with them, and then Namshita’s followers would be assured in their righteousness. To kill them now would only invite doubt in the future. Slowly, they turned to one of the guards, and, their voice faltering, they ordered, “Let them through. Keep them separate from the rest of us.”

The loyal Kynikos murmured as they parted, allowing Biluda’s group to walk past into the academy. They all followed behind, the guards keeping a clear distance between the loyal and the disloyal. That day they waited for Epsilon to emerge; he never did. It was tense, the library split into two sides, weapons drawn. Insults were slung, but ultimately it did not come to battle. Eventually, the day had to end.

Biluda’s fascination flared again as they felt the draw of the moon. They walked into the central atrium, along with their group. The loyal Kynikos, fueled by shouts from Namshita, bore arms, backing further into their side of the library, fearing an attack. That attack never came, as Biluda and their people walked out into the cool night air once more. Their eyes focused up on the moon, and they froze in place, the world dimming.

Namshita, desperate, fled to the doors to the private atrium, pounding their fist against it as they cried, “Blaspheme! Help us, blaspheme is being committed!”

The doors to the private atrium slowly opened, and Namshita was briefly shocked into silence. With a glance back at the loyal Kynikos, some of which had eyes on Namshita, they entered. The door slammed shut behind them. They slowly stepped further in, a pounding headache emerging to torture their senses. There, in the study hall; their creator, sitting on a chair, looking anything but divine.

“They’re corrupted,” Epsilon said as he gazed down at his creation. Namshita responded, “Do you wish for their destruction? We can kill them all.”

Epsilon shook his head, almost sadly. He ordered, “No, they will live. You will not harm them. This is a setback, but it does not need to be such a damaging one.”

Namshita raised their voice for a split second, “But they--” the Kynikos paused, lowering their head as they remembered their place and their tone returned to reverence, “they blaspheme. Would it not be more damaging to let them live?”

Epsilon slammed his fist on the table with startling intensity, saying back, “It is not your place to question me. I have decreed they live, so they will live. So long as they agree to the rules I will put in place, they may leave as well.”

Namshita continued to look at the floor as they asked, “What are those rules, my lord?”

The answer came quickly, “They must agree to never research the divine; they must agree to never share their findings except to those in the know. And they must cooperate with the academy when demanded.” Three rules, simply and quickly stated.




The inspiration finally clicked for Biluda. Their old body was limiting; it was holding them back. They turned to the academy, half-crazed, as the image of a new body filled their mind. They skittered past the loyal Kynikos, who shouted in panic. Nobody could seem to get hands on Biluda, their hyperfocus permitting them to dodge and weave between people as they shouted, “I need cloth! I need one of those masks!”

The loyal group parted around Biluda, evidently fearful, as though the inspiration was contagious. Biluda grabbed spare cloth, and unhooked one of the decorative metal masks from the wall. They gathered small tidbits of other Kynikos’ experiments, and fled to a study nook. They could hear the guards just outside, boxing them in, but they didn’t care.

Biluda’s entire world was this body. A spare wooden core, dressed thickly in cloth hastily stitched into clothing. Small bits of experiments separated and beaded into necklaces and prayer beads. The work was furious and unending. They worked with no regard for anything but their new body. Once they were finished, they applied the mask atop the head. Biluda regarded their work, and with a trembling hand reached out to touch it.

They let their soul flow out. It felt natural. Their sight faltered and their hearing silenced. Excitement washed over them. The world became nothing but their body’s transfer. When Biluda once more opened their eyes and heard the world, it was in their new body, their old one crumpled on the floor. They could hear more shouting outside, the shuffling of feet. They poked their new masked eyes out of the study nook, to see their example had been followed; Kynikos were running about the library, grabbing various materials.

The loyal Kynikos were still shouting and dodging out of the way of the inspired Kynikos, but they did not fight back. Biluda could feel Namshita’s withering gaze on them from across the room. They walked over, asking, “You have not ordered us killed as I would expect of you. Why?”

Namshita’s voice dripped with hate as they answered, “Gather your blasphemers when they are lucid. I have spoken to our creator, and have an announcement to make.”

Biluda dipped their head in acknowledgement as they watched the chaos in the library. The sun had begun to rise once more when things finally quieted down. Empty bodies littered the library. Biluda shouted out to their flock, “Hear me, and listen! Namshita, that zealot, has spoken to the creator, and has an announcement! Listen!”

Their voice echoed across the library, and slowly all of the Kynikos gathered in a ragged semicircle around the two. Namshita glared at the gathering briefly before they began, “I have spoken to our holy creator! He has offered you redemption for your corruption; you may leave, unmolested, should you agree to his laws!”

Namshita continued, “First of those rules: You will not research the divine! It is not our place to investigate our betters, and all are to understand that! Second of the rules: You will not freely share your discoveries! Progress is dangerous, and unchecked, the mortals beyond our walls will destroy all there is! Third of the rules: You will not deny the academy its due! If the academy demands, you will obey!”

A murmur went up among the crowd. Kynikos on both sides looked unsure, and hostilities seemed to flare. Biluda’s voice cut through it all, “I accept these rules! I will take my leave from this place, and seek my destiny in the world!”

Biluda walked forwards, the crowd parting as he went. Step by step, they went down the central atrium and through the door into the sunlight. At first, only a few Kynikos followed them. It cascaded outwards, each Kynikos leaving with Biluda inspiring two more to leave as well. Within minutes, the only ones left in the academy were the loyal or the cowardly.

They spread out into the land beyond, Kynikos going in every direction. Some would float across the seas to new continents; others would walk the seabeds among the life within. Others would settle on the Academy island itself. The diaspora had begun.




Epsilon



A blinding light dominated Epsilon’s vision. He could not tell how long he had been unconscious, nor how long he had been awake. The whole world and all of creation was a single moment, crystallized; a beginning and an end all in one. His entire being ached, his divine shard burned and his form held together by the loosest of threads. More than anything, Epsilon wished to just keep laying there, to succumb to his exhaustion and permit the long sleep until the wheel turned again and the universe was remade.

There would be no such mercy. Even battered as he was, the Academician still had duties and obligations to both creation and the Monarch. Slowly, with a pained effort, Epsilon sat up in the crater he had left in the dirt and the rock. His sight returned, revealing with intense clarity the world around him; he had been staring up at the sun in the sky. The moon was nowhere in sight, giving him some clue to how long he had been unaware.

With a wince, Epsilon stood up fully. His form was still wavy, the exhaustion in his mind making it difficult to maintain his physical body. The Codex, he noticed, was clutched in his arms. At least he had accomplished what he set out to do, though his failure to save the goddess of luck left a bitter taste. His sight stretched out across the land, and he took full stock of his surroundings. He had landed, perhaps somewhat luckily, on an uninhabited island off the coast of the northern continent.

The land around him could best be described as arboreal; something the Bjorks he could dimly see at the edges of his sight would be familiar with. His grip tightened on the Codex, as he considered his prospects of defending it in his current state; he was too weak alone to protect it, as exhausted as he was. Only a moment’s consideration was required before the solution came to him.

Alone, he was not enough, especially in his current state: it was too risky to try and keep the Codex on his person at all times -- unless he could remain in a fortress of his choosing. But to remain in a fortress, he would be surrendering all influence on the world around him. The solution came from the creations of other gods. If he could only create his own mortals, he could enslave their will to him and have them be his eyes, his ears, and his hands.

He was weak, but he still had time, power, and the will to use both. It would hurt dearly, but he was a god; stopping in the face of pain would not befit his stature and would leave a bad example for the mortals to come. Carefully, he measured the world around him, telling the earth and the air not what it was, but what it should be. Dirt transformed to marble; air morphed into gold and deep sapphire. Each piece took form individually, connecting to create a greater whole.



It was over almost unceremoniously quickly. Where once there had been nothing but pines and foothills, now stood a grand building of gold, marble, and sapphire. Great white walls, polished to high sheen, layered with gold filigree and capped by solid gemstone, shaped in a manner impossible for mortal hands to accomplish. There were no great blasts, no thunderous movement of earth; he had told the Grand Archives that they existed, and so they existed.

But the building was the easy part.

Epsilon cast his gaze and his thoughts to his servants-to-be. He flipped through the Codex, realizing only then that nobody had ever provided anything for him to work off of. The workings of mortals were, at this stage, beyond him. He would have to improvise their forms and biology. He considered his options, and settled on the familiar; they would sustain themselves off of knowledge and experience, in a form they animated by telling the world that they existed.

With a pained whisper, he began to create the bodies he would give will to. First, he created great suits of steely armor, possessed of no space for a living body to fit inside; a core of wood instead filling the space under the plates. Each was eight feet tall, weighing hundreds of pounds. They would serve as his guards, to protect his fledgling Academy.

An academy was nothing without scholars. To that end, he created his next set of bodies. They were more comparable to a human size, and constituted little more than cloth. When he created their minds, he would animate the cloth, letting pure magic cover in the gaps. But for now, they simply hovered in the air, held up by Epsilon’s divine powers.

And finally, he created a set of bodies that were a mixture between the previous two, to serve as his vanguard in the world about him; they were clad in both cloth and metal, wrapped around a wooden core, for solidity. He would use them to scout out the world, and face the dangers left behind by the gods and other mortals.

Finally, it was time for the hardest part of his endeavour. It would take Epsilon great effort to animate these empty bodies, and greater effort still to enslave them to his will. His measurements would have to be incredibly precise; the slightest error could doom the mortals he was bringing to life to an early grave. His mind screamed at the effort, so soon after the abuse it was given by Yudaiel. His entire form begged him to stop, but he continued on, powering through the pain.

The birth of the Kynikos was just as unceremonious as the creation of the Grand Archives. One moment they did not exist, the next moment they did. A creation of an invisible, complex math only presented by Epsilon’s mind, measuring the world and giving meaning to it in turn. His form wavered as he spoke, in his divine tongue, “Welcome, my servants, to the Academy.”

They stared at him silently. They waited for direction; enslaved utterly to his will. He turned about, heading up the steps of the Grand Archive into the building proper, motioning the Kynikos to follow him. They did so without question, and the inside of the building was revealed. The roof was hundreds of feet into the air, rows of bookcases stuffed into every available space, minus sparse nooks with desks for study. There were no books, but room for millions of them.

Epsilon motioned to the Kynikos with a grand gesture, “Scholars, begin studying the world around you! Create great epics, and profound manifests! Guards, keep these archives safe! Suffer no abuses! Rangers, map the world and its inhabitants!”

The Kynikos stared at him silently for a moment afterwards, as if trying to interpret his orders. Then, they began to mill about in a confused matter. It was no matter to Epsilon: in time, they would work it out. As for him, he had to place the Codex he still clutched in a safe place and take a long-deserved rest. Leaving the Kynikos behind, he stepped past a pair of grand gates built into the back of the building, walking into a private section. Here he would store his personal belongings; safe from both god and man.

The private section was much more humble than the main library, a set of desks placed in the center of the room, and smaller bookshelves lining the walls. Towards the back wall sat a prominent pedestal, sized for the Codex. Epsilon placed it down and then walked to the center of the room, collapsing into a chair. His exhausted mind succumbed to unconsciousness once more as it tended to its wounds.

His dreams were troubled. He faded in and out, at some points delirious and some points lucid. Some of it was pleasant, others torture; he relived his battle on the moon many times over. When he awoke, he startled from his chair onto the floor. His form was more solid; his mind less exhausted. It was not restful, but the sleep did him well. Everything hurt less, the aches were starting to go away. A glance back confirmed the Codex had not been stolen in the meantime.

He stepped out of the private section into the main hall. It was emptier than it should have been; the guards had found positions, watching over the halls and the bookcases, while the scholars had begun primitive experiments. The rangers were all gone, as was expected, but their number alone did not account for how empty the hall looked. The sun was down; he could tell by the light. No sunlight streamed in the windows, the Grand Archives lit only by its lamps.

Epsilon threw open the main doors, and the answer to the conundrum was immediately apparent. Kynikos of all three castes were scattered across the landscape, standing still and looking up to the sky. Epsilon’s gaze moved upwards to see what they were looking at, and what he saw sickened him. His aches grew in intensity with the stress; all of them were staring at the moon. His form wavered, and he fled back into the Grand Archives. Thoughts whirled through his mind, coalescing into one question, Have they been corrupted by Yudaiel?



Epsilon


&




Epsilon had remained in the halls of the palace as the gods had both been born and begun their tasks. They came and went, working their destructive capabilities upon the once-dead planet below; some writing upon his Codex as requested, and some not. Anger filled him as he watched Jiugui drunkenly scrawl upon the Codex without a care in the world, but, for now, he maintained his composure.

He hid his feelings well; nothing but an expressionless golden visage to be read. He always gave off an air of vague displeasure; over enough time, one could get used to it, dulled to consider it wholly neutral. He watched as gods blew holes in the ocean, a ring was formed, and, finally, the God of Earth got to work. It did not befit a god to swim, or so he believed.

Once the continents were raised, he stepped out the main doors of the palace out into the void beyond. Gravity nor air seemed to concern him; he stepped on nothing as though it were something. Then he told himself he was at Galbar, and the self obeyed. He was upon the barren land when plants took root, watching them wind around himself.

Then, he looked up at the sky as oxygen flooded the atmosphere and a misty blue color overtook the void beyond. The rings; something was happening to them. Another god wreaking destruction, no matter how controlled; to create something new. He let the plants wind around his body, not caring to shake them off as his golden visage remained locked skywards.

Slowly, he realized what was going on. A second Galbar? An interesting proposition, though one he did not entirely understand the point of. It was smaller, it was lifeless, and it just sat there. He watched it for a time; having spotted a speck nearby, though he was not yet clear on what it was. The speck flared; it picked up momentum; it shot across the sky as a star in motion.

And then it slammed into the moon, hanging silently above Galbar. Epsilon could see the impact, the dust thrown up, and the marr upon the perfect surface. The emotionless golden visage gazed on as the moon refused to abide the blow; it began to dance in the sky, flying through the void. The shockwave -- divine in nature, Epsilon could feel it -- washed across Galbar. The land was strong, foundations laid by the god of the dirt and the stone, and it refused the clarion call of divinity.

But the water was not. The smooth surface of the seas, from which he could once spy his reflection as though a mirror, roiled as though a tilted lover. Waves crashed upon the shores, and he could see the tides shift, imperceptibly to all except one with the eyes of a god. Of course, as a god, Epsilon was built of a more serious stock than even the land; he had not once even considered falling to the demands of the shockwave.




Well secluded within her perch on the moon, the prescient goddess meanwhile peered through the cosmos with calm and icy intent. Her gaze was unhindered by the sun’s mundane brilliant glare, and she had it fixated upon that heavenly palace where the Monarch of All made his dwelling. Now the Monarch himself was descending down unto the Galbar for some dubious purpose (she would have to observe his doings later!), but that potent instrument that she now needed -- the Codex -- remained in the palace where Epsilon had left it. And better yet, the Monarch was ordering out all those stragglers that had remained in his palace! It looked as though there would be nobody to stop her from seizing the artifact.

Even here, as far away from that palace’s warmth as any of the gods had ever come, her Sight was potent enough to look upon the Codex and read it, but she instinctively knew that merely reading it was not enough. Something about the object’s presence granted greater understanding, and its possession surely granted power...Yudaiel cast her vision forward, into the future, and saw one vision of herself clutching it all to herself there upon the lonely moon, channeling the artifact’s power while her great nemesis and all other interlopers were helpless to stop her, if not blissfully unaware.

Yudaiel’s gaze darted left and right, prescient Sight tearing across countless timelines and trying to determine possible outcomes. She devoted the entirety of her willpower and mental faculties to make sense of what she Saw: the chaotic and immeasurable tapestry of Reality, and the discord of the needles and threads weaving it all together. She Saw that there would not be any riper opportunity than this one moment, at least not for a good deal of time, and so without a further thought she spurred herself into motion. Yes, this was destiny.

The Reverberation erupted from the scarred crust of the moon to which it had clung and permeated. She surged upward and away, easily escaping her moon’s gravity, all the while invisible even against the pallid glow of its surface. Then she cascaded across the heavens as an unbound stream of consciousness and will, rapidly making her way to the great bridge that led to the Monarch’s heavenly palace.




Epsilon noticed the essence as it fled from the moon; he tracked it briefly, towards the palace; recognizing Yudaiel, one of the two that had fought to write in his Codex. Then, he looked back down at the ground beneath his boots. The plants protested only briefly before his divine strength tore them from their roots, and he shook his body clear of them. His clothes remained unmarred, still as white as snow and as golden as ever. One boot in front of the other, he walked across the landscape; he found his destination far faster than should have been physically possible. The advantages of divinity were evidently manifest.

He was at a vast pit in the ground, surrounded by miles-high water on each side. It seemed, for all intents and purposes, that the land repelled the ocean. A vast shadow cast on the land from the mountains of sea on each side, and in the water he swore he could spot something; another divinity perhaps? It was long and finned, he swore, but as quickly as he saw it, it was gone. Nothing but the echo of a song in his mind. The mask’s gaze fled from the water, and he stomped across the island, exploring it.

It was empty for now, but he expected it would not remain that way. He stepped into the water, beginning to walk across the ocean floor as he sought the western continent. The volcanic vents kept visibility low, Epsilon cleared the smog as he went, just to keep sight on the path ahead of him.




Through rock and empty space Yudaiel’s consciousness had glided. The incorporeal Eye was in that moment more like an amorphous stream of essence, an invisible comet that was blinded by purpose and hate and desire and fear and dance -- motion. Yet she was so much more than just some imponderable comet. For a start, the Lady of Far and Near was swifter than any comet, much swifter. Within seconds of her departure from the moon she’d already reached the bridge. She tore her way up its whole expanse, storming into the palace, unseen and hopefully unfelt, even as Ruina and Iqelis quarreled over destroying her moon. She heard them; she saw them. Still, she passed right by, for every moment was precious and she had far more pressing matters at hand.

Yudaiel found the Codex just where she knew it had been and where it would be -- and then it was hers, that easily! Even with the foresight of her visions, she was incredulous that claiming it had been so trivial; had none of the other gods thought to do the same? Fools.

The ethereal wind that had been Yudaiel swept up the Codex. She spirited it away and back to the moon nearly as swiftly as she’d come, with so much alacrity that to any observer it would seem as though the Codex had just vanished in an instant, evaporated into nothingness.




Light slowly returned to Epsilon as the ocean became shallow; he was close to the western continent. It was covered in plants just the same as the eastern continent, but otherwise it did not have any terrain, either. He stomped across the ground, trodding some of the plants underfoot with careless steps. An idea was swirling in his mind; a place he could call home on Galbar, and he needed to consider where he could place it.

He let his gaze err to the far south, letting his divine senses reach out to feel the great tree that sprouted far into the atmosphere. Another variable to consider he thought as he explored it with his senses, before bringing them back to his immediate surroundings. It was certainly a start, and he was excited to see what Galbar would look like once the other gods had finally completed their duties.




Since Yudaiel and Iqelis had written of Time’s arcane nature, paths, and endings within the Codex, there had been no further additions scrawled by other gods. All was just as it had been, just as she had remembered, just as she could have read if she had looked upon the thing with her farsight. Possessing a tome to which you’d already memorized all the words should have meant little.

Yet in that moment, with the Codex in her possession, she somehow felt as though she was…more. Her knowledge was more perfect, her prescience more refined and accurate, her total omniscience that much closer. There was a power that clung to this thing and filled any who clutched it; perhaps Epsilon had anticipated this? Had he intended to lull all the gods into writing within it and contributing to its might, only to then claim all that power for himself? Well, now it was hers, and perhaps he would come to rue his lack of foresight or caution.

The Prescient’s plan was set into motion: first, woven into gaps between the countless revelations and descriptions of Time and Fate, she began to append a new passage. Her Sight had allowed her glimpses at the outcomes that would result from her changes. She had already determined just what glyphs and knowledge to impart upon the Codex, down to the tiniest detail, the most exact spacing, the perfect style and diction, every bit of minutiae had already been meticulously accounted for and committed to memory. She was prepared and needed only to act, and so she did. She became motion itself, doing and hardly even thinking except to savor the moment, the taste of her coming and inevitable triumph.

She filled some of the bits of space remaining in the margins that had been left between the countless annotations and definitions of Time, and wove around the unknowable secrets hidden beneath Tuku Llantu’s ink, the wine-stains of Jiugui, and everything else. She even wrote over some of it. The writing grew and warped and twisted like a writhing snake. It wrapped into a circle, then turned back upon itself; now she was writing over even her own works in the Codex, its readability vanishing like dusk’s light even as the power and meaning of the many-layered words and symbols remained.

Her addendum to the Codex was, in short, a scathing and utter rebuke of Luck and random chance...she expressed and precisely described the nature and mechanics of nigh all physical phenomena that she could think of, at least those that did not utterly spit in the face of such consistency as magic did. Even the most seemingly inane and insignificant things were accounted for, such that foreordination became that much more undeniable. Her own power surged into the Codex; she poured far more of herself into it now than she had when she and Iqelis had competed to fill the pages before. So much additional divine might was imbued into the Codex that it began to glow with a blinding light, to hum and sing audibly with power even in the near-vacuum of space, to even throb and shudder as if it were breathing raggedly.

’Thump...Thump. Thump,’ sounded the living Codex’s heartbeat. Slowly, subtly, but perceptibly, it began to influence Reality itself. First it was just the immediate surroundings that felt the change, but the effect was spreading through the cosmos.

This Codex had more potential than perhaps even he had ever realized. Consciousness could beget reality, as she had shown through her willing this moon to take form around the fiery maw of its molten heart. Here, what Yudaiel had done would leave Ashevelen very confused and weak, if not outright agonized and crippled. But alone it was not enough, so Yudaiel moved to the next stage of her grand design.

It was in that moment that Ruina’s primitive telepathy reached Yudaiel -- it contained memories, and yet this was unrefined and raw, akin to a long series of guttural growls and hand-gestures when compared to the beauty, passion, and perfect imagery of her poetic ideabstractions. At least Ruina’s message was somewhat concise, if nothing else. The slight bit of her mind that it distracted grew annoyed, but as she looked down upon Galbar to focus upon Ashevelen -- her nemesis, her prey -- she found it in her to deign reply to that Ruina. Through space, a seeking dart of her essence raced to the goddess of destruction, laden with an ideabstraction:



Projecting that ideabstraction had cost only an instant, taken one thought. Within a breath’s time Yudaiel’s focus had returned to her mark; Ashevelen had left that northern continent where she’d played with bjorks and birds, and now wandered some empty and desolate country in the northwestern reaches of the largest continent. That was good; with so little nearby, the massive collateral damage that Yudaiel was about to inflict would affect little.

The Great and All-Seeing Eye, socketed within the most enormous crater on the moon’s surface, pulled the Codex up to her very pupil. From her heart, the densest clump of Yudaiel’s vast and disparate essence, there welled a massive flow of divine power. She directed its flow such that it surged into the humming Codex, but was not absorbed.

Instead, it was focused, magnified, amplified. Yudaiel brought to bear the Codex’s own innate power (and that power had already been immense, even before she had just poured more into it!) and joined it with her own, and then she unleashed what was perhaps the mightiest single attack that this pantheon had yet witnessed: a massive telekinetic blast manifested upon the planet with no warning, and it shook the Galbar to its very core.

The result was tremendously potent. In an instant, entire mountains were ground into dust and hurled aside, rolling hills were crushed into flatlands, and in other places flat and open prairies were soon made into highlands as the debris strewn from elsewhere came to be deposited onto them. One of Astus’ colossal collectors had been in the wrong place and the wrong time, and it was torn asunder and cast skipping across a league or two of land like a tumbleweed before it at last was arrested by crashing into a hill that had been hardy enough to survive the blast.

As for Ashevelen, who was at the very epicenter of this blast, somehow -- infuriatingly! -- she had survived. Yudaiel had seen that there was a non-zero chance of this happening, so fortunately her disappointment was not accompanied by surprise. She was far from finished -- the Reverberation prepared her next attack, even as a confused, distraught, wounded, and lucky Ashevelen scrambled about like a fleeing bug.






Something was wrong. Epsilon could feel the power and see the destruction. Galbar tore itself apart in a great conflagration, the shockwave ripped him off of his feet. The divine fire, following closely behind, losing the furious race outwards, tore at his body. The air around him buckled, and for a brief moment, he lost all orientation. Epsilon floated, battered and bewildered, in a timeless and spaceless void of consciousness borne from his own senses.

But that did not befit a god: A god did not get lost, in deed or in direction. The world ordered around him, clearing him a path to the only place he could go. The pale gem floated far above, in its endless dance, and now it also housed his Codex. Fury fueled him, his declaration of love for the universe used to destroy that which was loved. He instructed his form, measured its distance from the moon, and found it to be far closer than thought.

He had misjudged his measurement in his fury. He had not arrived at the Codex; an error had brought him perhaps some twenty feet away. Epsilon’s voice cut through the void, hoarse with fury, “You have sullied the Codex! It is our love for our universe, not a weapon to be abused!”

But he had conveyed himself right into the midst of Yudaiel’s vast form, and now he was deep within her sea of consciousness, surrounded on all sides by her smothering and overpowering essence, drowning. There was no resisting her ideabstraction; the world around him faded and became a dreamscape, even as his body was propelled away at well past the moon’s escape velocity by a telekinetic shove.

Epsilon found himself above one of Galbar’s oceans, the waves rolling far below him. But he was not really himself; he was a mere seagull, wings flapping to stay aloft. There was an island before him, he knew, and yet he could not see what was on it, and nor could he go visit it -- every grain of sand upon its shores was enclosed within a massive shield that he sensed was nigh impenetrable, and the trade winds carried a tang of fear and trepidation. He realized that he did not want to go to that island, and whatever terrible entity was hiding behind that shield certainly did not want him to go there either.

”L̫̜̿̃Ë̩̬͛̉͟Ã̼͍̊V̠͕͊̅E̛̘̪͓̐̆ ,̨͔̰͑̀̚ I͚̻̾̚͝ͅN̯̝̋̈͐͟T̝̋͢͞E̠͔̿̔R̬̘̭̓͌̃L̩̪̃̎̅͢Ó̩̜̥̃͗͟͡P̛̭͎̣̬̅̅̃E̗̥̼͙̎̈́̏͘R̥̪͕͔̃̅͂͗!̪̪̹͌̿͗” he thought he heard an eldritch and terrible voice echo from all around, but perhaps it was just the roaring wind; suddenly, buffeting and deafening gales slammed into his frail avian body, throwing him backwards and into somersaults through the air. He tumbled and flapped as hard as he could to regain altitude, just barely skimming over the water’s surface below, and found himself aflight once more -- oriented directly away from that island.


The seagull was mortified for one brief moment, content to leave the island behind, but then a thought struck it. A seagull is a median creature of Galbar, possessed of only instinct and the deep-seated desire of survival. I think, yet I am a seagull? The seagull flared its wings and turned back towards the island, thinking further, I am one of the smallest and menial creatures of Galbar, yet I can so easily refuse the orders of my betters?

Something was off with the situation. Realization slowly began to dawn on the seagull, and, finally, with one burst of inspiration, the answer came to Epsilon. His voice cried out, his body morphing into its proper identity, “Your visions lack consistency, Yudaiel! You will be punished for your desecration!”

The visions cleared, for the briefest of moments; he remeasured his steps. He had never left the moon, the golden-masked god instructed his self. He corrected as much as he could in the moment he was granted. He was no longer twenty feet away from the Codex, but a little closer.

The vivid color of the radiant Codex, the light of the sun reflected upon the moon’s pallid surface, and even the distant twinkling stars seemed to all fade. Hope and life itself seemed like forlorn and futile, fleeting dreams; such frivolous emotions and thoughts fled of their own volition from the heart, and a foreboding sense of doom and despair arrived to fill the void left behind.

But that was not Yudaiel’s doing.

Something terrible approached -- a wave of ruinous power conjured by Iqelis -- and Yudaiel suddenly found herself beset with yet another distraction. Her mind rapidly compartmentalized as she devoted a piece of her consciousness towards dealing with each obstacle. There was bickering -- one wanted to spare Ashevelen for the moment and redirect the Codex’s full power towards deflecting Iqelis’ attack, but that was utterly unacceptable. The Reverberation crushed and suppressed those thoughts; her beautiful moon was not so precious that she would sacrifice this window of opportunity for the fleeting chance of sparing it further disfigurement. This preemptive strike had to work.

The interloper, however, had stubbornly returned, discarding his momentum and transposing his body back from the depths of space into which he’d been cast out. Yet through teleporting once more into the heart of her vastness, Epsilon’s mind was opened anew. He resisted, and his intellect was sharp and could cut through illusion like a knife, but through sheer willpower Yudaiel overcame his senses and thrust him once more into a realm forged through ideabstraction.

Epsilon was himself, so even as he found himself looking at a surreal and altered dreamscape, the transition was not so jarring.

He observed a familiar island directly ahead, but around it there were no rolling waves, just as there was no sea breeze or salt spray or even water. This was an island of waxen stone, floating amidst a sea of stars...a moon!

But he knew that the magnificence before him was no mere rock, island, or moon, for it radiated power and was wreathed in a raging storm of thought and energy and godly power-made-manifest. This moon was an immense cyclopean deity, and from its unblinking oculus cascaded a withering and fiery beam of energy. The floating motes of dust and space-stuff that drew too close to its gaze were cast aside, evaporated, reformed, and aligned into perfectly ordered jewels too small for any mundane eye to perceive, yet Epsilon’s godly perception sensed the microscopic adamant left drifting through dead space.

Mercifully, the eye’s insatiable and implacable stare was leveled elsewhere, lest he too be ripped asunder and forged into some diamond. The storm around the moon grew in fury, its feverish intensity and puissance growing with every instant. What had been a veil around that moon’s naked body became a billowing cloak, an enormous obscuring cloud, then finally a broiling sea the size of a nebula. The rapidly approaching storm was too much; instinctively he righted himself about and made to flee the other way, only to see another storm coming: this second one was terrible and dark, a looming stormcloud that grew into a great shroud that swallowed light, and then a smothering blanket that seemed to swallow up all the stars. Epsilon was about to be caught between the two, and he needed to flee.


Epsilon was not one to back down from a challenge; Yudaiel’s mistake was to leave his mind and form untouched. A prodigious ego was a hindrance in many ways, but this time, it was his saving grace. He knew with his very being that he was better than all the other gods, second only to the Monarch. No ideabstraction could threaten him when he had his faculties. His voice projected, needling towards the great eye-moon, “You are but a mote of dust compared to my control! I will take your gaze, and in the act I will only grow stronger!”

The golden-masked god let himself be swallowed by the dark wave, to ride it like a great wave across the void. He could feel the threads of exhaustion ripping at him. His mind briefly frayed under the stress as he measured once more his being, clearing the visions from his mind. Battered by the raw power of the codex radiating like waves in the wake of the great beam, he took another step forward.

The power was intense. The power was blinding. Epsilon flung up his arm to cover his mask, desperately holding on to his progress as the Codex threatened to launch him back.




While Epsilon had been raging against the imagery of her all-too-real warning, and therefore subdued for the moment, Yudaiel had diverted her attention back to Ashevelen. The goddess had been scattered by that first telekinetic blast like a leaf on the wind, but divine resilience combined with some residual Luck had spared her from a fatal reunion with the Galbar. When brute force proved insufficient, the application of ever more force was sometimes a viable answer.

With icy resolve even in the face of so much distraction, the Prescient calibrated a second attack. Mere moments later, a half-dozen imperceptible rays erupted from the Codex that was her conduit, forming a perfect cone of telekinetic power. Lady Luck down below was not faring so well, Yudaiel Saw; however, she nonetheless had staggered to her feet and taken flight to evade her unknown assailant. Such evasive maneuvering made targeting difficult, but prescience could account for her movements. In any case, Ashevelen was not the direct target of this cone -- instead, Yudaiel grasped at a few tenacious mountains that had survived along the rim of her first concussive attack, as well as some great chunks of.the Galbar’s crust that had been cracked in the same explosion. All of them groaned for a few moments, and the Galbar seemed to tortuously heave and cough once again as the whole mounts and plateaus were uprooted as easily as weeds. The ground from whence they’d been torn was made into great gorges and valleys, and the sundered pieces of Galbar soared into the sky. Friction with the air embellished them with a spectacular burning glow, but that was only the beginning.

First Yudaiel hurled a mountainside at Ashevelen, just to test her weakened foe’s remaining strength. The mountain aligned itself peak-first, then cut through the air on a path directly towards Lady Luck. The first fiery weapon of the goddess ignobly missed its mark; Ashevelen’s fortunes hadn’t fully rubbed off yet. But that was no matter! Even as that first mountain, half-burrowed into the ground, crumbled and collapsed into a pile of rubble, the goddess sent down two of the flatter pieces of crust. From the moon, these flat pieces of stone looked like mere mudcracks, but each one could have housed a sprawling metropolis or ten. Like the enormous hands of a giant clapping a bothersome fly, the plateaus aligned perpendicular to the ground on either side of Ashevelen and then came slamming together.

Far below, Ashevelen sensed the incoming attack and steeled herself -- with a massive surge of her own divine power, the goddess of fortune worked some thaumaturgy that made the massive slabs of rock miraculously tilt and crumble. The change was almost imperceptible, but it was just enough. The two clapping hands of Yudaiel came together with world-shattering force, but where their uneven surfaces collided was a gap in precisely the right spot such that Ashevelen’s miniscule form was sheltered within a tiny pocket, spared from the crushing impact. Even as the two plates blasted one another apart and crumbled, Ashevelen was left standing serendipitously -- nay, miraculously -- unscathed by the raining sand, gravel, boulders, hillock-sized rocks.

Yudaiel brandished another mountain just as one might raise a fist. She now had three such fists left and was sure of her inevitable triumph -- her nemesis was weak and tired and surprised, and could not possibly endure this assault for much longer -- but then Epsilon was suddenly free of the ideabstraction’s shackles. He had imposed himself right in her way, exactly blocking the line of sight between the Codex at her pupil and the wretched and distant form of Ashevelen. He was now elevated in her eyes to something beyond a mere nuisance, and she grew weary of the insect.

Her next ideabstraction was not wrapped in elegance or complexity or thought; it carried no image, and bore only one sensation: pain.

Epsilon was wracked with overwhelming, searing, unbearable agony of the likes that no words could describe. In situating himself directly in the center of the Prescient’s piercing gaze and before the pupil in the very heart of the Reverberation, he was now caught precisely in the place where her grip was a near unbreakable vise. Epsilon’s physical body had metaphorically entered the storm that he had seen in the last vision, and now its colossal and unyielding waves slammed into him, washed over him, swept him down and forced themselves into his flesh and body. Each wave was a throb of anguish and torment, and they came one after another, rapidly and unceasingly.

Deprived of any additional sensory information, his mind was left to conjure and invent whatever it could, that there could be something, anything, to perceive and see and process. So horrors and torture implements and his worst fears manifested, to explain to his desperate mind where all this suffering came from. And hope, that stubborn and tenacious fire that was so hard to extinguish, conjured other things too: landscapes and objects and equations and poetry of beauty, that his body could try to find release from its torment in fleeting distraction.

All of that was futile, of course. The raw emotion could not be so easily overcome, and the torturous waves began to break and destroy him. He was strong, but he was no dauntless fjord that could withstand tsunamis and tides for a thousand thousand years; he was made of something more malleable.


Epsilon focused himself inwards, bottling his rage as he suffered his torments. His body and his mind were one, and he could choose, freely, what implements were used in his tortures. Imagination flared in controlled directions as he told his visions what form they were to take; that of Yudaiel’s abuse of his pride and joy. He imagined Yudaiel laughing at him as she terrorized Galbar, and of her triumph as she tore the palace down and with it the universe.

The anguish and the rage gave him focus and clarity. The scenes tore at his heart; he could feel idealism fading, replaced by a deep cynicism. Epsilon knew, deep within himself, that he would never recover what was lost. It is a worthy sacrifice on the pyre, if it means I may stop this monster, the golden-masked god thought, the real world slowly honing in.

He felt weak. The Codex’s awesome power had been turned against him, and he could hardly stand the stream of power that washed across him. Had it not been of his own creation, he could have been wiped from creation entirely. He focused on the pain, letting the exhaustion guide him back to reality, and then release suddenly came -- perhaps bought not even through his own exertions, but by the other calamitous wave, Iqelis’ black tide of doom.




Yudaiel’s grip had not merely caught the insufferable maggot that called itself Epsilon; the ideabstracted surge of pain had genuinely washed over him in waves, but those waves did not stop until they found their way all the way down unto the Galbar and crashed upon Ashevelen’s conscience, and she was even more frail, even more easily incapacitated. Triumphantly, Yudaiel slammed down her mountain-fist, but then her grip had slipped as Iqelis’ wave of doom had finally struck the moon.

The effect was cataclysmic.

The moon’s crust shattered. Cracks and fractures erupted across the body’s beautiful alabaster skin; the power seeped down into the ground and made wormwood of the once-solid sphere. In places the crust heaved and collapsed, even as in other places it erupted up with an almost volcanic quality and the explosions created hailstorms of rock and ice. Time itself was distorted and perturbed if not outright shattered. With little rhyme or reason, the entropic force of Iqelis decayed the unstable ores within some rocks, ground others into dust, and left others seemingly untouched.

The mountain fell upon Ashevelen, pinning crushing her limp body even as the goddess had been trapped comatose in the nightmarish torture of the ideasbtraction, but with the arm behind it having suddenly lost half its strength, the fist had lacked enough force to truly kill. Yudaiel’s tenuous grasp over Epsilon’s sharper intellect had likewise slipped, and she sensed the wretch breaking free of the ideabstraction. Again!

Epsilon took another step towards the Codex, a wordless, mindless scream emitting from his mask. Both of his arms had been raised to his face now, his body leaning deeply forwards to resist the push of the Codex’s power. The cloth and gold seemed to waver as though seen through a wave of heat, the exhaustion of the mind exhausting the form in turn.

Yudaiel, too, was raging against the grip of exhaustion and pain. Only her burning desire for vengeance drove her on. Immaterial as she was, Iqelis’ wave -- no, waves came and then were gone; this was something else, something relentless, an endless monsoon of ruinous power -- could not harm her physicality. While Iqelis’ foul breath passed unimpeded through her vastness to impact the moon below, his own essence threatened to muddle with hers, to become so integral and ingrained into her as Rosalind’s own essence that had instilled Yudaiel with a sliver of desire to dance. It was nauseating, the thought of becoming even slightly attuned to Iqelis and allowing that fly into her very being, so she raged against his corrupting touch with every fiber of her will. It was not a pleasant experience, but she suffered his withering storm and let it pass over her without seeping deeper, like a brief splash of water over the oily outer fur of a bjork.

Epsilon was hardly spared from the deleterious effects of Iqelis’ attack either, and had the additional worry of having to contend with the debris of the moon’s ravaged surface. It still erupted forth from below and soared round the sphere from all angles, and soon some of the massive chunks that had been flung high into suborbital trajectories would come raining down from above too.

The last two of the goddess’ fiery fists still loomed over the Galbar and the battered, unconscious form of Ashevelen. With all her might, Yudaiel brought them down to shatter and crush her bane. Lady Luck’s fortunes had run out, and she was staked, driven into the ground, and finally crushed. Aside from the impact of another two mountains striking the surface with meteoric power, there was one final explosion as Ashevelen’s divine essence came unbound. Victory, at last! The relief was palpable, and now Yudaiel was so, so tired. But she could not rest yet!

She settled and drifted down deeper into the great crater-depression that was her throne and socket upon the moon, even down into the newly forming cracks below and around it that were being carved by the fly’s insipid touch. For a moment she peered not at the physical world as others saw it but at the future that had yet to manifest upon the tapestry of Reality...and how chaotic the needlework had become, how furled and wrinkled the cloth!

The Codex still had its uses. Amplifying her psychic strength through its power, the Reverberation smoothed over the tapestry all about her, subduing most of the time anomalies affecting the moon through destructive interference. Iqelis lacked focus, and the impulsive and unguided decay and destruction wrought by his hand was insufferable. She gave purpose and intent to what remained, and doom became fire. Where the remaining power writhed deep below the moon’s cold and dead crust, there suddenly gushed burning red blood. The magma erupted forth, filling some of the tubes and ravines. When it would finally cool and the wounds scab over, the damage would be lessened, but the dark and sunken igneous rock would still be scars upon the moon’s pale face. She would not forgive Iqelis for inflicting such hideous injury upon her prized jewel.

What last breaths of the storm of doom still billowed towards her moon, she blasted with her own will and nullified, though there was a large backfire and some had been deflected back toward Galbar. She sighed, the pain of that luck-induced blurriness and of Iqelis’ ruinous power alike finally gone. Rest could come soon, for there remained only one more nuisance.

Her piercing gaze fell upon Epsilon right as his groping hand seized the Codex; in those last distracted moments that had felt like ages, she had not Seen him finally perfecting his calculation to transpose himself perfectly before the artifact, but he had done just that, and there he was. Avarice and desperation overcame her then, and like the jaws of a leviathan her unseen telekinetic grasp manifested to bear down upon the Codex, with a death grip, to twist and squeeze him and wrest the Codex away -- Epsilon stumbled, pressing the Codex’s open pages against the molten ground of the moon, safe from Yudaiel’s grasp.

And then he unleashed it. His use of the Codex was far more precise; his blast sublime in its focus and intensity. He allowed the shockwave to spread across the moon, sending vast waves of dust in all directions as the immaterial form of Yudaiel as well as the (now vaporized) raining moon debris were forced back as a strong wind might clear a fog. It served a second purpose; Epsilon was near to death, and attempting to calculate further teleportations only lanced him with terrible pain. His form was hardly material, transparent as a sheet of glass.

So he launched himself from the moon with the pure kinetic force of an unrestrained release of energy from the Codex. He rocketed out from the dust cloud, wreathed in a fireball. The plunge to Galbar was magnificent to behold, dancing across the sky, visible across half the planet and even through the rings. It only grew in luminosity as he plunged into the atmosphere, still clutching the Codex.

The last thing he remembered before he was jarred into a lull was the ground approaching, and a great crack of earth.


Epsilon, Divine Academician



’My subjects, I am your creator, you Lord. Know that my will shall be done and there shall only be my will. You shall be my instruments, my hands, of creation for this world - for Galbar. The work that remains for us is indefinite, yet such is the nature of my realm.’


Divine power radiated through the shard, slowly coalescing. Solar winds buffeted it, tumbling it wildly across the skies. Information was substance, and it gathered with the gravity of divine power; coursing violently towards singularity. But it was not truly ready, not yet. Unless there was a spark, what could be would never fuse into what is.

’This will not be our prison, not a stockade so that reality itself may keep us from the rest of the infinite beauty the void holds! This is my realm! This is our canvas to paint! Know this, o subjects mine, know that this light shall be our light! We are naught but creators! Artists! We shall take Galbar and make it mine! Raise now, o great primordials of my flesh and blood! Rise of give meaning to this blankness! Let my will be done!’


Information and substance were separate. The act of telling a substance what it was could change that substance. Information was the substance; on the lowest levels of existence, the measurement changed the measured. All it took was a powerful enough measurement, granted freely in obscenely powerful radiance from the God of All. The measurement told the shard it was a god, and so the shard inexorably hurtled towards godhood.

’Rise! Heed this call of mine! Become the gods of Galbar!’


With one last heave, the information was formed into something new. It hurtled violently through space, a streaking star across the silent plains of a dead planet and subsumed into the blinding radiance of the solar palace. This will not do, the thought sparked violently throughout the shard. A divine thought; a divine sapience, analyzing the existence around it a hundred million times a second, billions of demonstrably separable thoughts blasted through the infinity contained in each second.

A god should have a body, the consensus came, the shard of divine existence forming itself. Information-as-substance warped, telling itself what it was and enacting its measurement of reality. It told itself it had a body, and so it had a body; a humble one, hardly befitting a god, but this was no matter. That which hid under the surface was the measurement and the truth, and that was the truly consequential.

It does not befit a god to hide. There are places to be and impressions to make, the next consensus coursed through the nascent god’s new mind, made physical in divine flesh and raiment. Hurtling through the thin atmosphere of existence as a great fireball was magnificent, yes, but it was not beneficial. The next measurement came; the matter was not arcing across the sky, it was standing. Divine structure surrounded it; this was not empty space, it was a palace. And there, across the room, stood the creator and the ruler.

A god should have an identity, the consensus thought. The final measurement was provided with exacting precision. Substance imperceptibly warped to comply with its new existence, and the shard of creation ceased to be. The shard had never existed and could never return to its previous measurements. In its place stood Epsilon, the god of knowledge. He gave a slight bow to the Monarch of All, respectfully giving his acknowledgement and thanks for existence. Then, inspiration struck him.

He held up his hands, as though holding a book; he measured the air in front of him, and the matter found that it was actually a book. It unceremoniously changed to suit reality, and a book dropped into his hands; it was a vast tome, neatly leatherbound and laid with divine filigree, sparkling in the light. White pages shimmered, not made of paper but of divine power, self-sustaining.

Then, he let out a call to all the divinity in existence, “Hear me! I am Epsilon, and I seek the elements of the universe that are treasured, so it may be kept to live forever! Write down upon this book your favored elements of existence, so that they may be reinforced and remembered!”

For his part, he contributed to the concrete reality of information. Memory, thought, stories, and discovery were all tangible and he loved the universe for it. The book pulsed with power as he imbued his love upon it. He placed the book upon a pedestal in the main hall, leaving it open for the other gods. Then, he took his leave; to give them time to scrawl their writings upon it.






© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet