Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Utrax
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Utrax 𝕰𝖝𝖙𝖗𝖊𝖒𝖊 𝕭𝖎𝖗𝖉

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A Distressed Treasure



Ashes-Ablaze had to admit that she was starting to panic. As she stared into the massive emerald eye of her captor, she figured it was probably alright to panic, if not begin screaming in fear, so she decided she should get right to it.

Taking a deep breath, Ashes-Ablaze inhaled sharply-

“-shh! Shh sh, no- we were doing very well, hmm yes, very good and well without the screaming, yes,” a deep sigh came afterward from the beast, “I am not liking when do the screaming so, perhaps maybe, yes, do not scream.”

Deflating slightly, Ashes-Ablaze run her hand over her flaming head, then asked, “But what else can I do? We been staring at each other for a while now-”

“-two hours-”

“For two-” Ashes-Ablaze went breathless for a beat “-you ain't serious.”

“Hm, see, I am not doing the exaggeration of things, yes,” replied the beast, “I was enjoying the resting but then you looked as if you were going to commence the, hm, screaming, hmm? Yeees?”

Pulling her knees to her chest, Ashes-Ablaze shook her head, “Ain’t like there anything else to do. We just been sittin' here and I don't even know where here is.”

“No, hm, wait in silence, yes, this is what you will be doing now, the waiting,” huffed the beast with an exhale that sent Ashes-Ablaze’s flaming hair to fluttering.

“You wanna at least answer something for me?”

“Hm? No, I will not answer-”

“-what’re you supposed to be anyway?”

It was then that the beast heaved another large sigh yet, it seemed taken aback slightly by Ashes-Ablaze's ignorance. Slowly, it began reorienting itself within the darkness of the cave. Ashes-Ablaze could hear the scales and body of the beast scraping gently across the smooth stones, with such a heavy sound that she knew it must be massive- far more so than she could see from her light alone in such dim surroundings. As the beast moved, a few hollow clatters sounded out from the inside of the cavern, and Ashes-Ablaze eyed her surroundings warily, slightly fearful that-

Oh, nope.

All those stacked boats, rafts, and other rudimentary sea-faring vessels, which were piled high from floor to ceiling along the dark cave walls- in amounts that were more numerous than she cared to count- looked stable enough around her. Perhaps the beast had instead knocked loose some of the stray oars, sticks, and poles that were collected in the massive pile behind itself?

Perhaps.

“I am Tisslith the Dragon, of the Wings and Flight innumerable, from the Immortal Mother of Dragons, Sathira, may her name be ever blessed and eternal,” declared the beast, holding its scaly head and neck high within the confines of the cave, “Mm, ah, yes.”

“You ain’t got wings,” Ashes-Ablaze pointed out immediately.

Tisslith then deflated slightly but flexed her mighty fins outward. Along her serpentine body, those webbed crests and fins, caught the light in a dazzling display of blue and silver, as it showed off its form proudly. “These are the wings of flying, yes you see, I fly through the waters and seas, mmhm,” Tisslith replied haughtily.

“Nah, them fins,” Ashes-Ablaze shook her head at the Dragon, “We Porry know what fins is. You a fish-”

“-am not fish, no, you are doing the. Wrong. Assuming. Yes, for you see, you are incorrect, yes,” Tisslith said then, rather self-consciously coiling her body onto itself, stacking her long serpentine form before the Porry.

Sucking her teeth, Ashes-Abalaze scoffed, sensing the subtle shift in power, as she went on to insist, “Nah you a fish and you got all these boats- what you got all these boats for if you ain’t no fish?”

“Wrong and incorrect still, yes, for you see, I am to collect treasure, as the Immortal Mother of Dragons, Sathira, may her name be ever blessed and eternal, has told all of us, yes, my brethren, to gather precious treasures from across all the lands!” Tisslith gestured to its collection of boats, with a triumphant lift of its head, “I have observed, yes, that you mortals do value and love and cherish, see, these boats as you call them, hm? And is it also not true, yes, that the sticks and log-flaps-”

“-oars and push-rods-”

“-the whats?”

Scoffing yet again, Ashes-Abalaze rolled her eyes at the dragon, “And you don’t even know what you collecting either? You even know what I am?”

“A porry!”

“Yeah, but I told you that,” Ashes-Ablaze shook her head, “Only a dumb fish don’t know what no oar is.”

Tisslith scrunched slightly, a hesitant pause lingering, before it spoke again, with uncertainty weighing heavily in its tone, “Treasures… these are treasured things. They. Are.”

“Bet you don’t even know why I’m still here do you, fish?”

Letting out a SHARP hiss, the Dragon declared in a show of intense insecurity, “Tisslith is NOT a fish? You keep calling it a fish but It Is Not! How dare you?”

“Nah, you still got me here cause you a bored and lonely fish. Keepin’ me hostage to talk to, huh fish? Bet nobody even wanna talk to you-”

“No, you foolish stinky Porky-”

“-Porry-”

Uninterrupted, Tisslith went on, “-I am keeping you for the collector of precious creatures will come to here, yes, and will come for you! For you see, Porky-”

“-Porry-”

“-you are also treasure!” And Tisslith laughed then, in the manner that the unclever tended to when they believed themselves to be clever, “Ha! HO! Ha!” Its head waves side to side, in a mesmerizing manner, as bioluminescent lights flashed across its fins to convey its joyous emotion.

A beat of laughter passed before Ashes-Ablaze, edging slightly back toward panic, mumbled, “Weird compliment but aight.”

“Yes! Mmhm, you shall be given to my brethren which collects those kids of treasures for Mother! Those treasured beings who are much and many loved. We have seen how so many come in boats for you, little Porky-”

-porry,” though Ashes-Ablaze swallowed nervously.

“-and we know that love means value! Therefore, as with the others my brethren, Yalisith has collected, which he tends to very kindly and with gentle givings, yes, of good food and meals, for they must be, mm, very nice and well taken care of to keep their value, yes, due to diminishing returns, see, yes.” Tisslith’s head wavered slightly as it steered its digression back on track, “You are treasure and will be going to our Immortal Mother of Dragons, Sathira, may her name be ever blessed and eternal!”

And so it was that Ashes-Ablaze finally admitted she was going to panic, any moment now, and that there was nothing to be done for it but to take a deep breath, once more with feeling, and-

“Do not perform the screaming! For that shall only tire you out and you will need such rest, before the flight to Yalisith’s collection- whenever it is that the Yalisith arrives- hm,” Tisslith hissed with far more aggression than before.

For the first time since having woken up in the cave, Ashes-Ablaze finally realized just how massive the Dragon before her was. The mouth of the beast was large enough to bite her in half and she could see its curved fangs- every single one of them jagged for tearing lesser creatures apart- and its scales looked like the razor skin of a shark- then she could see how muscular its serpentine body was- how the stones beneath its dripping maw bubbled and eroded with the contact of its acidic spittle- death...

She could see death slithering before her and it was a long. Fish.

Tilting its head back and fourth as it stared at Ashes-Ablaze, who had grown frozen and tense with fear, Tisslith nodded with satisfaction.

“Very good, Porky, you shall go to mother," Tisslith hissed in amusement.

"You shall go to the Mother in silence and alive, yes.”

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Ciaran
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Ciaran Lord's Blade

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A search for meaning




The steady, rhythmic thumping of Exordium's heavy footsteps broke through the quiet of a country path, worn down by the occasional traveller but still too young to be called a road. He - for Exordium had decided to go by "he" - was on his way to Earthwall. He didn't know what he expected to find there. In fact, he wasn't sure of any kind of objective at all. His creator merely wanted him to be independent, to think freely, which of course prohibited her from giving him any kind of objective of her own creation. But that had left him feeling aimless. He had come to the conclusion that if gained some life experience, which at present he sorely lacked, he might begin to want something. Thus, he sought out the elves. It was ironic really. His goal had become to look for a goal.

It was after some time walking that Exordium made out the distant shapes of what appeared to be a group of elves, gathered around some indistinct shapes on the ground. Interested in meeting other mortal beings for the first time, Exordium hurried forwards, but was soon disturbed by the realisation that the shapes on the ground were also elves - or rather, their bodies. At this point, the living ones had already seen him, so there was little point in backing off now. Still, Exordium slowed his pace.

It was abundantly clear now he was close enough to see in detail that the casualties were not the result of any accident. The surviving elves were a rough bunch, wearing pieced-together armour and wielding weapons that looked like they had once been farming implements. Most had one scar or another, and they had probably cut their greasy hair by their reflections in puddles. The two on the ground, on the other hand - a man and a woman - were finely dressed and had probably been clean before they hit the dirt. One of the living elves had been crouching over the body of the male one before he'd noticed Exordium approaching.

Well, well, well. There was barely such a thing as a highway yet, but already there had been a robbery.

Exordium came to a stop a short distance from the bandits. One of them, an elf with long hair on one side of his head, but hacked close to the scalp on the other, stepped to the front of the group. Judging by the looks the others gave him, he was probably the leader. He looked Exordium straight in the eye sockets, and said "What the fuck are you?"

Exordium hesitated. "I- my name is Exordium," he said.

The group began to faintly murmur among each other. The leader told them to shut up.

"That's all I needed to hear. You've seen our faces, and you're smart enough to talk." He took a few steps forward. "Do you know what that means?"

"I understand your point. However, I don't advise you follow that course of action."

"What are you gonna do?" the elf laughed, and spread his arms wide to indicate his brethren. "There's five of us, and one of you."

Exordium knew exactly what he was going to do, but he wasn't about to tell them that. So he just shrugged. The elf laughed again, and impressively quickly, hefted the woodsman's axe he had been carrying, and swung it at Exordium's face. To his credit, it was a powerful swing. But he was still swinging at solid bronze. The axe blade bounced off Exordium's face with a sonorous dong, leaving a wide scratch diagonally down from his left eye. The pain was much worse than Exordium had expected - one thing he would take up with his creator if he ever saw her again - but all in all the damage was cosmetic. So Exordium just sighed and punched the elf full force in the face.

Something in the elf's head audibly cracked, and he dropped instantly. Dead or unconscious, Exordium wasn't sure.

The rest of the bandits collectively took a step back. That exchange had taken place too quick for any of them to react, and seeing their leader fall clearly scared them.

Exordium took advantage of that. "Leave," he said, intentionally dropping his voice about an octave.

The elves hesitated for just a moment, then obeyed.

Exordium relaxed. He didn't have a breath to hold, nor a heart to beat faster, but internally he had been holding a tension caused by the dangerous situation he had found himself in. At some point, it had begun to gently rain, but only now did he notice. There was something else he only noticed now, a sound. It was a child, crying. Exordium followed the sound to the body of one of the murdered elves - the woman. He gently rolled her aside, and beneath her found an elven baby, crying. Exordium went still for a few seconds as he realised she had probably been defending the baby beneath her when she was murdered, and that had he been even a few minutes earlier that might never have happened.

"Don't worry, little one," he said at last. "You, at least, shall live."

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Squad 404
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Squad 404

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Location: Galbar’s northern continent, east coast. Borders of the city of Earthwall.
Characters involved: Celestine, Wyn, Navari.
Mentions: None.


Blood within Earthwall




Ever trapped in a haze of dark, Wyn didn't really know how much time passed as she rode the shambling beast to wherever it wandered. She could feel the distant earthquakes, most likely of divine origin, and the ramblings of Pride, whose storm she hadn't a clue the whereabouts of and anything else of note slipped past her, so she thought. For Wyn and just found herself rather apathetic to it all. She had other things to worry about presently, mainly the increasingly problematic moodshifts.

After coming down from her vanity, she was amiss to realize just what the things she created could do to others and thus was a little upset at herself. A loathing that etched itself firmly into her being and drove her to inaction. Was she truly such a spoiled brat of a god? 'This is ugly, that is ugly, where is my beauty?' She gritted her teeth at the thought of herself drifting backwards when she had come so far. It had to be amended and changed. She had to be better and more in control. And to be better… She had to go back. A present conundrum as Wyn had no idea where she was.

The moths she had created only came sparingly but the information shared was rather poor. There just wasn't a whole lot going on where she was. Just the comings and goings of animals and some wild elves here and there. No, if she was to fix her mistakes she had to do it on her own. With a defiant thousand yard stare, she once again put a fist to her palm and then walked off the shambling beast with little fanfare. All at once the free fall shocked her and she screamed at the idiocy of herself before a loud crack and her momentum came to a rocky stop. The only sounds for a moment were the gentle vibrations of the shambling beast, uncaring as it moved on and to signify its departure, a stream of blood found its way into the newly crater and filled up with her inside.

With a tired sigh, Wyn lifted herself up and out of the hole. With one flick of her wrist the blood flew off of her and she felt cleaner. She then found herself at a crossroads. The shambling beast went in one direction and from where it came she could easily follow the trail back. So she did until the blood began to dry up and her vision became splotchy until darkness reigned, save the smallest blips of animals.

She felt anger begin to boil in her blood. Anger at herself for waiting so long, for being so stupid. She sat down with her knees up and crossed her arms over them. Then she leaned her head forward, face pointing at the ground as she rested. She took a deep breath, letting her strained emotions calm. If she let anger or vanity win, she knew it would do her no good.

After a while she felt something land upon her shoulder. Tiny, soft legs walked closer to her face and with ticklish antennas, the pale moth nuzzled her. It was hard not to smile at such a display and Wyn took the little one into her hands. A kindred light in the dark. "What is it, little one? She murmured, "What have you found?"

The pale moth did not speak but instead there came the flashing of places and memories. Winding plains and open shores with green to rest and color to suckle from. Then there came a flash of something not natural. A long bridge, it sailed over invisible currents marveling at the structure, before it came upon a city and then turned to find her as figures walked through large gates. It was close, very close, for not long after the moth had found the shambling beast and then herself. The connection faded and Wyn thanked the moth, letting it flutter off on the breeze. She watched it go, noticing how much it reminded her of a lantern in the night sky. She gulped down the wave of nostalgia and rose.

A city meant people and people meant civilization. The thought was strangely exciting, to be amongst people again. It had been so long she could hardly remember any faces… The elves she had torture changed flashed before her eyes. A gloom came over her. Right. She had messed that up but like always, she would strive to be better.

With that in mind Wyn devised an idea, to make her an unassuming being, not the god she had become. In her hands she waved together a piece of fabric whose color she knew not but the texture was silky smooth and it reminded her of a fancy handkerchief. With it she wrapped it around her eyes, tying it together at the back of her head. Already she felt calmer, more in control and she could still see the pricks of red that could only be animals.

That was good. So with that in mind she recalled the location that the moth had given her and took her first step.




Parchment and ink. Nothing but parchment and ink.

Most of the time that she had spent since her appointment as Celestine's champion had been spent managing an entire population of the chosen elves. They were the people of Earthwall and Earthwall belonged to Celestine. It had to be managed carefully. It had to be managed with absolute attention to detail. But in her attempts to catalog all problems she quickly found herself overwhelmed. Where she thought she would find but a dozen she found a dozen upon a dozen upon a dozen. Not enough time nor enough hands to handle all of it on her own. It all the more made sense that Celestine appointed her a collection of masters to handle the distribution of work and enacting doctrines- strategies for handling their own problems. Even with this, she felt herself responsible to, at least, make an appearance.

With a handful of papers she proved to be quiescent. Sitting atop of masonry set aside for another day. Staring into the sky without a worry in mind for but a moment. Maybe it would last forever. Maybe it would go as soon as it came. It was impossible to know if the sky would change before her very eyes. But while it was there and it held her gaze she would drink in its warmth and enjoy the soothing blue that sailed across the skies.

"Tired of work already?"

And there- that brief moment of tranquility was over.

Navari turned her head to her side, eyes noting the smile of the elf beside her. Same grin and same playful attitude.

"Just taking a moment to enjoy the day."

"I don't suppose that moment will last all day?"

"Testril, do you really have to?" Eyes rolled some, legs lifting her off from the stone and back to the ground that waited for her.

"If not me then who else? Should the goddess?" Playful as the man was, it did serve to annoy the champion. With a tap of the shoulder, Navari tore the elf from his own spot upon the stone, dragging him by his leather.

"Shouldn't you be on watch? Elowin didn't spend hours rounding together eyes for it all to end up unattended." With a light throw of his arm she shoved the man before her, his shoulder flowing hair protesting in the wind. The man raised his hands, dipping head some with a grin.

"I mean not to simply rend idle words. I am- or was- on watch. The truth is that we think we may have spotted something and that it would be best to confer with either you or Elowin. And given that Elowin is further along and I am the messenger..."

A slow grin etched its way upon Navari's face dull eyes staring upon the sky now lit ablaze with a passion waiting deep within. A hand rested against the hilt of her blade. "Spotted something have you? Show me."

Sometime later...


Testril was given an important job. A very simple but very important job. Find Celestine and inform her of the shambling beast. Not that it was especially interesting to him. Though it seemed to be but the first of many. Some familiarity it felt like. Maybe he had seen it before. But, then again, maybe he had never seen such a beast in his time. It was hard to know. Everything felt ever so slightly foggy as if he had forgotten something, but it hardly mattered now. Yes, riding upon a silver maned beast with pure white colors flowing freely was enough to take his troubles away. Clopping along the masonry that paved the paths in the fortress that they all came to live in. Waving to many a neighbor and giving his hellos to the kind people who passed him by. And in his satchel he held the simple message he was to deliver.

He rode up high, even spotting Navari for but a brief moment with a band of 12 scouts readying to depart. It was a sight he figured he would see more often as the world woke from its seemingly long slumber. For a world that appeared wild and untamed showed signs of new life with every passing moment. But it wasn't always so dynamic. Sometimes the plants knew to stay in the ground and soak in the bliss of stillness. And the thought did occur to him; would Navari and Celestine learn to take in the joys of a quiet life? Well, then again, who would ask him questions of politics? He was just the messenger.

Down below, readying at the gate was Navari and the chosen scouts. Navari had chosen a particularly sturdy stead. Bulky enough with its frame and accompanied with metal to soothe any potential pains from this trip. No promises, but this was simply for the best. It is how Navari justified it anyway. The scouts, on the other hand, were more lightly armored and their horses enjoyed the work of lighter armors weighed onto them she was sure. Simple bows and quivers. A blade upon the side should they need it but no more than that.

"Are we ready to depart?" Navari asked, keeping eyes upon the elf taking notes upon parchment.

"Yes, my lord. We trust in your judgment, but I have sent word for Elowin as requested. Are you sure you do not wish to wait for his arrival?"

"For what, Malfas? Do I not seem capable?"

"No I- forgive me. I will do as I have been instructed."

"Good." With a satisfied glow the champion turned to face the scouts, leading her mount as she tugged it along to better face the men and women before her. "We will be watching for any activity today. The beast that you may have heard of is still out there and it will be our duty to see to it that it is handled properly. It may be wild or it may belong to someone but we will not know until we search. Think of it as little more than a training exercise. I want you to get accustomed to the feeling. And not a single person is to draw string unless I say so. Stay in formation and cover my flanks. Rasyth- you will take your five and cover my left. Uliova- your five and my right. Understand me?"

"As you command, Ser Sathia!" The unison of voices shouted. A wide grin flashing approval over the two scouting parties.

"Good. And remember, you do not ride close to me unless I will it. Keep your distance. Ride cautiously and slowly. Forward!"

Hooves marched in unison, tightly leaving the gate to then spread apart beyond the bridge. Nervous individuals, some of them, but they were meant to be nothing more than eyes and ears. Potential protection from whatever the wilds may decide to throw at them. She looked up upon the sky once more, soaking in the feeling of tranquility for a moment more. A beautiful feeling. A wonderful day for a fight even. Maybe she could help out with training once she got back. But, for now, she would tend to this.

Navari smiled as she came ever closer to the beast before her. Her scouts dispersed to follow from the lengthy distance they were to occupy, each searching around for any potential signs that else had been there. It wasn't every day that one encountered something such as this. Gentle or furious was the question upon her mind. Before she could get much closer to attempt to handle the creature, however, she noticed something beyond it. Something- someone- walking towards them.




Wyn could see them at first, like little red lights on the horizon, growing closer and closer. Next she could feel the earth trembling, a different sort than by which her beast had made. Minute details became apart, as well as an old familiar smell. One she had once loathed- horse. An enormous breed, ridden by the likes of those she had met before in her Bloodmire. She flushed with embarrassment, then quickly shaped her ears to be pointed like an elves. Her flesh became like clay and if she truly had been mortal, it would have been extremely unnerving to her. But she was not and so Wyn paused in her approach and let the horses and their master’s come to her.




Steps were taken to approach that distant traveler, keeping sight on the scouts who kept watch of her flanks. A curious bunch to be sure, but none were permitted to come closer to Navari. A gentle tug brought her own mount to heel and with little more than a pat upon its side the creature seemed to be content. There was moment of contemplation before, a questioning of what exactly this person was before familiar signs bid her lower her guard some. This one was not of the chosen people, but they were elven all the same. With a small trot her steed turned some to let Navari take a better look.

“Greetings, traveler. I am Ser Navari Sathia of Earthwall. I ask that you state your purpose here and that you tread carefully. We have a beast here, and I’m unsure of where it came from or how friendly it may be. Unless you could answer that for me?”

The elf woman cooked her head, red ribbon around her eyes obscuring any sight, yet she looked at Navari all the same. She opened her pink lips and then closed them as if poised to talk. She shifted her weight onto her other leg and brought her hands together in seeming nervousness. She opened her mouth again and then did speak, "I have no purpose Ser. I am but lost and wandering here upon this land. Do not worry yourself about the beast, I think it a friendly sort."

Navari eyed the elf curiously at her statements, giving a moment to ponder as she glanced between the woman and the beast. The choice of cloth was curious. She had not known of many to simply cover their eyes as such, but then the world was still young.

"So certain for one with uncertain living. What shall I call you wanderer who thinks kindly of beasts? And may I bring you to safety? Perhaps even some time to visit the markets? I owe you that much as kin."

"You are… Very kind." The elf maiden replied. "I am called Wyn. Where is this safety you speak of Ser?" She inquired, never moving from her spot.

"I share my love as the goddess has done with her beloved people." Navari rode a bit closer, dismounting as she came to be but a few paces from Wyn. Their difference in height became evident, as Navari was two heads taller than the girl. "Beyond us. Earthwall. It stands tall. A citadel of bright white and a testament of Celestine's might..." The champion took a moment to think, looking back to Earthwall's tall frame before pressing lips together for a moment. If it wasn't obvious before, it sure seemed to be now.

"Allow me to help you upon my four legged companion?" She asked, waiting for a response before moving to offer a hand to guide Wyn along. Wyn’s own answer came with much hesitance but gingerly, she outstretched her hand and allowed Navari to take it. All the while she looked forward, unawares of where she was being led.

It was but a few steps. A few steady steps before the same guiding hand came to press a little bit closer. Perhaps spared questions by the second skin of the gloves that they wore. Hand touched shoulder, preparing Wyn for what was to come. "Trust me. I'm just going to lift you."’

With that warning delivered, Navari guided Wyn to lay her hands against the horse and leaped to mount her steed. Stopping half way up to carefully swing her leg. A few adjustments later and the front facing elf soon turned to face behind the horse. "Up you go." Arms took Wyn by her sides, quickly lifting before settling her upon the back of the exceptional horse. "There we go."]

"Can you tell me about yourself, Wyn?" Navari asked, adjusting again to face in front before giving a few more instructions. "Come forward to me and keep your hands around me. It can be a rough ride if you're not used to it."

The elf maiden did as asked, scooting closer and grabbing onto Navari, instead of around her. Wyn rested her head upon the tall elf’s back and sat silently for a time before giving an almost inaudible sigh. “There is not much to tell Ser. I awoke like the rest of our kin out in the wilds of the world. I thought much but knew little. I found some fellows but they… Did not…” Her voice grew silent before she changed the subject, “Was it Celestine who made us? For what reason?”

There was much that Navari did not know of Wyn. Mysteries of character that were probably equal from one smooth stone to another. Not so dissimilar patterns that provided any one observer to see that they were hardly different. Even as Celestine's chosen there was so much still unknown. Doubt swelled so easily when thinking on such things. Celestine showed very little of what rested deep in her heart. That was simply the way of things, but in what part of her love she did expose she suffered them to live. She worked to ensure they were fed and kept safe from the outside world. A united people rested under the watchful gaze. And they were taught to fight, or rather knew of war from within. Maybe there was more beyond such knowledge, but it would have been of no consequence to know. While all felt new, it all felt ever so vaguely familiar. But no matter the doubts, she would not cast such perfidious thoughts upon the lost. Not upon her own kind. After the silence passed, she spoke.

"Celestine did make us, yes. We were made- to live. We were made to thrive. To care for one another. It is her will that we should create a just world that we can share with those we love. Many of our kin were lost to the wilderness, but it is my belief that one day- when our work shows fruit- we will share in all between our lost kin. It is their birthright- your birthright- to stand with your brothers and sisters in harmony. And we will make all that we see strong in the eyes of our people. And I speak with certainty because I am Celestine's chosen. Champion of Earthwall and protector of our people. It is my duty and my passion to see these things come to pass as Celestine continues upon her great work." Every word passionately delivered and hopeful as the Ironbone trotted upon the ground they would call their own, moving ever closer to the gates with Navari's hand raised in signal to call back the scouts. Each group joining her and riding a distance behind.

“You speak with conviction.” She said with sincerity. “I hope such a vision comes to pass. It seems so sad a fate to be left all alone in the wide world but I take heart in knowing such a place exists. This Earthwall, city of the Goddess.” She sighed again. “Oh how I’d hope to see such beauty.” She murmured.

And so it instilled faith as she had hoped it would. That critical faith would be needed for the great work that rested beyond this time. However long it would take, Navari was ready to see her people united.

"We will do as we can to bring our kin home and to forge new homes for them to live upon... I cannot promise that we can fix your sight, but I promise that we will try to find solutions for all of our people." A moment later, Navari spoke again, looking forward to the gates which grew larger in her perception with every passing trot. "But for now I would have you think of what would make you happy, Wyn. And what you may want to do as the days pass. And, maybe once we partake in the work of our land you may express those wishes to me. How does that sound?"

“Worry not for my sight, dear one. I see in other ways now.” She put cryptically, squirming and shifting as she tried to get comfortable. Eventually she settled and said, “It does sound…” Her voice faded to a whisper, yet still audible beneath the clamor of hooves upon stone. “Lovely though.”

Silence overtook Navari for a moment, unsure what to make of such a statement. But then again all was yet possible. If this citadel was raised to house them all and the earth was yet still to bend to their beck and call then who was she to think of anything being far from truth? It was simply a reaffirmation that faith came before all. "Then it will be as you say. One step at a time, we will create paradise."




What could one say of Celestine's work? What would they know about her and her beliefs? Was there a flaring passion that swelled at the sight of all those who lived? Was there a desire to raise up a race for their own benefit? To give life for the sake of sharing in a gift that the gods only held? It was impossible to know aught. It was the persisting doubt that pricked at her mind with her elven sister upon her back resting peacefully. She knew only that what mattered was the here and now.

Gallop became trot, trot became pace, and pace became but mere clops upon the ground. The desolate world given life by mysteries unknown. Beside the brambles and the cracked earth lay the definition of civilization. The dominion of elvenkind and the truth that though the elements surround them they would yet stand tall. Pearly white and open to those who hear the call. The light reflected perfectly upon them and for a moment the world was celestial. A feeling that Celestine was warming them home as the reflective metals embraced her spirit with the sun's glory.

Road to gate and gate to road. Chains held firm as the thunderous march of the few came to bask in the presence of the many. Welcoming arms and beckoning of names. The colorful market open to they who would enter. A simple string of commands flowed from Navari. To go forth and place all as they were, to take watch as they were once given, and to rejoice in the finding of the lost. One could be lost in the sounds of the streets even as they had merely entered the mouth of the beast. But there, traveling upon the clean paths of the citadel Navari saw a stall fit for their purposes.

"It is time to come down, Wyn. You're home." A bold leap preceded a stable fall. The clambering of protective metal announcing presence before arms reached up to take Wyn gently and slowly off of the esteemed gentlehoof that carried them.

"Nefaan served you well I would hope, Ser Sathia?" A voice asked. The bold greens dyed upon his shirt giving the form of flower growing in the stone. Sharp curved ears flowing downward from the rightly straight point where they sat upon the horizons of the eyes. A sharp smile given as he took hold of the reins. Gentle yet strong voice a guiding star upon his person in the sea of speech.

"Yes, he did. Thank you, Lorsan. Mayhaps we will find a smaller one for our recovered sister."

"Mayhaps we shall. A wonderous thing you have done by bringing one of our own home. Persi- for instance- may be the perfect fit. With a bit of training I-"

"You will do this for me and let Wyn rest. There is no telling what she has had to endure and I am sure some food and a proper bed may be just the thing for her." Navari commanded, the voice receding in strength as it knew to obey.

"Of course, Ser Sathia."

To that end Nefaan took his strides and began his departure with the equally tall elf. The voices of many spoke up some, many in wonder and pondering upon their kin, wondering and waiting to see what Navari and Wyn would do now that they were home.

"Have you any memory of food that you once enjoyed? Perhaps bread or a fruit of some name? The cut of a beast?" Navari asked, placing a hand upon Wyn's back to help her know where to go.

Wyn seemed to move with unnatural grace as she walked and touched the area around them to get an understanding of it. "All of it smells wonderful but I am not quite so peckish yet. I have never known such a bustling place such as this. So many sounds and smells. No doubt sights as well. Are all so content here?" She asked, turning to Navari.

”I would hope so, else my efforts have been failing.”

Celestine’s voice rang clearly from behind Navari, causing more than a few heads to turn at the sudden appearance of the goddess as she emerged from a building with several Virtus elves following behind her. Apparently she had been doing some form of teaching, since the elves behind her all had books and writing implements at hand. Due to how tall she was, it took less than a few steps for Celestine to approach the two and place a reassuring hand upon Navari’s shoulder for a moment. Looking down to Wyn, she spoke once more. ”I am Celestine. This city and its people are my creation. Navari here is my second in command. You are the first visitor we’ve had, so I bid you welcome to Earthwall. I hope your visit thus far has been enjoyable.”

Taking a few moments to study Wyn, Celestine pondered what might have brought her here. Where had she been? Where had she come from? There were many unknowns about her, but for now Celestine welcomed her as she would anyone who wasn’t an immediate threat. Hopefully her trust wasn’t being misplaced.

Wyn tentatively looked in the direction of where Celestine had approached and as she did, the elf maiden stood a little straighter. Indeed, her posture became pristine for such a split second one could have blinked and have missed it. For soon after she seemed to sink and her features became alert, ears twitching as her lips became neutral. “I-It,” Wyn stuttered, “Has been so, lady C-Celestine.” She began to rub the back of her neck. “T-Thank you.”

The reassuring hand was all the answer that Navari needed. In one simple gesture Celestine provided her with all the clarity- and all of the faith- that she needed. Turning to face the goddess she smiled wide, basking in the glow of her creator. Her eyes sparkled in awe and wonder of the things the progenitor would show them all.

"I know that the veil hides her features, but believe me when I say that Celestine is like no other. Their heart is equally as beautiful as their divinity. With such a goddess, I assure you that those who live here are content and with every passing day we will thrive beyond yesterday's needs into tomorrow's desires."

Celestine gave a soft smile at Navari’s praise. It was proof, in at least a small amount, that her designs were working as intended. Looking to Navari for a brief moment, she posed a question to her second in command.

”Have you had anyone speak of working with the horses I created? Does anything need to be done regarding their form or temperament? I will be able to modify them soon and can implement things that people have requests about.”

Looking back to Wyn, Celestine asked her a question as well. ”I have no intention of being rude, but might I inquire as to your name? I have not heard it in passing and would wish to know how to address the first visitor to this city of mine.”

The elf maiden squirmed as if she beginning to have a frightful fit. "I-I a-am…
S-Sorry!" Her voice grew fierce in an instant as she doubled over with a low growl. Then she became rigid like iron and flashed sharp teeth with a hungry smile.

Navari had been too absorbed in Celestine's presence and the harmony of her people, enjoying the sights and the works. Happy to receive one of their own. It was for these reasons that she could never see what came after- what came for her. So concerned for her own and believing that all elves were of dearest kin that not for a single moment did she think of herself. Even as she came closer to the obviously disturbed Wyn she did not falter in her desire to help.

And then it happened.

In one cold moment Navari's heart stopped, the fangs of Wyn lunged for her and instinct took over. Arm swinging up to defend her neck in sacrifice with her other arm simultaneously reaching for the blade she didn't think once of drawing. But she had no idea if she could defend in time, especially as she played a losing game in moving back while they pressed forward. Was this the worth of a champion?

To Celestine, time seemed to stand still for a moment. It was when Celestine saw the flash of sharp teeth within Wyn’s mouth. Celestine instinctively wanted to reach for Duty, her personal sword, but it would take too long for the blade to clear the scabbard at this distance. Closing her hand around nothing, there was a brief flash of light as a new sword was forged instantly, embedding itself between Wyn’s teeth as time began to rapidly flow normally again. Though it was not as unerring as Duty was, the blade held as stiff as Celestine’s arm. Navari would not be harmed on this day.

A great clang rang out as teeth bit into blade. Neither teeth nor metal shattered when it seemed as if either would. Wyn let go and flew back, taking one look at them all despite being so blind. She crouched like a predator, a terrible smile cresting her lips, as if she was poised to attack again but she shook her head, gripping it and almost looking remorseful for her actions and then she was gone, taking off at an unnatural gate, often on all fours as she went from whence they came.

Perhaps the strangest part of it all was that the blade Celestine had defended her champion with, had taken a crimson sheen, mottled with black lines. A toothy bite mark sat upon its left edge that vaguely resembled a wolf.

Celestine’s eyes narrowed as Wyn left. When she was out of sight, a frown came to her face. But those thoughts were put aside as she looked down to the sword she had conjured. For a divine object to be changed so easily… Something about their visitor was off, and Celestine began to suspect that they may have been divine in nature. An assassin of some kind, perhaps? But who? And why? No matter. Her people would need defense, and this sword would need study.

Summoning a scabbard for it, Celestine sheathed the tainted blade before adding a metal peace-binding to the scabbard, preventing the blade from being drawn. It was all she could do for now until time was taken to study what had been done to it. Turning to Navari, Celestine issued a command. ”Make contact with guard captains and conduct a city-wide search. Ensure that our visitor is not hiding somewhere within the walls. I will take additional measures to ensure the safety of Earthwall. Go.”

With that, Celestine herself turned and began to head for the central palace. The top of it would prove to be the most effective location for what she had in mind.




As quickly as it came so too did it leave. But faster than expected and equally as disturbing Wyn charged off in a manic state, moving unlike any elf ever should. It all left a familiar burn that quietly whispered inside with no choice but to rage brighter. It left a question that held no answer.

"Why?" She asked, taking not one but two steps backwards as her outstretched hand crawled back to her neck, feeling and holding at what could have been gone- what would have been gone- if Celestine did not intervene. "I- trusted her... She trusted me... She is kin... Why?" But the fire was not satisfied. It raged yet more. It burned across the fields of her body and mind; unrelenting as fear, anger, and confusion stitched together in a frantic weave.

But what bothered her more than anything was that regardless of if Wyn had taken her life from her she would have proven to be a waste of potential. For her life would have amounted to naught more than one who collected souls for a purpose she never would have seen the fruits of. Emotions ran high and in her off hand she tightly held her blade. Trembling not in fear, but in anger. But now was not the time for emotion, she had a duty to Earthwall and Celestine made it clear. There was a duty to serve and protect and both need play their parts in providing the security that these dear people needed. She wanted to say so much to Celestine, but the goddess ever had the right of it. There was always work to be done.

With crumpled eyes and a pained frown, she furrowed brow in resolve and bowed briefly to her lord. "As your will commands." There was something more to it all, but if she posed to strike her then what would she do to those yet unaware. There was chaos in the streets, those who had seen were beginning to cause a scene. It had to be put under control. Even with methods to move in such strange ways, she had to be found if she was yet still within the great walls. With blade held tightly in hand she resolved.

"Wyn, if I find you again, I will make you answer."



Celestine walked through the palace with steely conviction in her step. Ascending the inner stairs two at a time, she quickly dropped the tainted sword in her personal chambers near the top of the tower. It clattered to the ground harshly as Celestine continued upwards, eager to see the plan she had in mind to completion. Reaching the flat roof of the tower, Celestine summoned her divine will and pointed to the center of the floor.

A stone pillar began to rise, and soon thereafter a large crystal flashed into existence before sinking into the supporting pillar. A few moments later the crystal began to let out an immaculate glow, and a beacon of light erupted from its tip. The light shot skyward before beginning to bend and warp across the city, forming a large see-through dome. The entire city was enveloped by this dome, along with roughly half of the great bridge that connected the city to the rest of Galbar. Once the barrier was stabilized, it quickly grew more and more transparent until it was difficult to tell that it was there at all. Only a slight distortion from time to time served as the reminder that it was there.

And thus was the Shellback Dome complete. Another contribution to the defense of Earthwall. It would have done nothing to prevent the events of today from transpiring, but in the event that the city came under siege it would prove invaluable.

Observing her creation for a few moments, Celestine closed her eyes and nodded a few times before turning away. Walking down to her personal chambers once more, she retrieved the discarded sword and set it upon her desk for later. Sitting down in a nearby chair, Celestine allowed herself a private moment to bury her face in her hands. The city and its people had existed for such a brief amount of time, and yet already violence had come to them. Had she failed? Had she not projected enough strength to ward off attempts to tear her city and her people out from under her?

Reaching into a small pouch, Celestine retrieved the ring she had taken from her old place. Thumbing over it for a moment, Celestine pondered upon her past. There was one, now long apart, that might have been able to counsel her on such matters. But how might she be brought back to her side? It surely wouldn’t be simple, would it?

Looking longingly down at the ring for a few moments more, Celestine tucked it away once more before standing. There was research to be done, and not just on the tainted sword.





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The Safety of Our Mountain Home


- 8 -

As the deadline drew near, it was time for Lektor to make her final decisions on the fate of humanity. Her lessons had taken two very different turns, one concerned with the secular and administrative worries, one with taking the vessel of earth and the fiery spirit to the limits. Both were important, but the former path was one she would only follow as far as it took for humans to leave her nest, after that, it was the realm of other gods. To refine the path of the earthling, however, was something entirely within her realm to nurture.

So, how would she divide her stock of humans? It was somewhat simple... somewhat complicated too.

One decision she made, initially she had desired to reserve the Mesa for her strongest humans, it was too early however for humans to fully bloom across the world. So, she would allow more 'lowly' settlements in the Mesa, let the human population rise along with their technology, and only then start to drive them out to make space for the high settlements she planned to fill the place with.

So, to the 80% of her people, the ones who studied under her, who could fight, write and craft, the Mesa would be their inheritance, with the mission to consolidate their control and control their domain with a firm hand.

15% of others, were among the best, they could learn the mystical arts, and follow a higher path, and yet... they were bound by cliques, by ambitions, among other issues. They were probably the type she would want to stake their claims on sections of the Mesa when the time came, but ironically, since that time had yet to come, she would gift them the realm that was supposed to be the gift of the lower humans.

Working with the upcoming underground elf kingdom, Impyra, had made her realize the value of a strong... stronghold. An exceptional building held by an exceptional group of people would impose upon the land MASSIVE power. So... to the great cliques, that 15% of those who are both ambitious and refined, she would gift deeds to great holds on distant lands, with the mission of being the first humans to settle those lands.

The final 5% would be her personal retainers, perhaps some would decide to be the leaders of the cliques that dominated the holds being gifted to the 15%, perhaps others would be hermits, and others would stay forever in Haven. These were the upper crust of all earthlings, those who would not follow the path, but brave forward into the yet uncharted.

Lektor clapped her hands. That would work! Work well even! Just one issue.

That increased the number of impressive buildings she had to deliver from 1 (Impyra) to about 13.

- 9a -

The announcement of the FINAL exams came as a surprise to most within Haven. The announcement was sudden and the topics Lektor had announced to be covered by it were odd. They did not seem to cover the full aspect of the education received, instead concerning themselves with leadership, management and to a minor extent architecture. The higher students in particular found it odd but quickly came to understand that the test was not exactly for them, they should do well on it, no doubt, but their results would be overruled by their focus on magic and martial arts.

"My students, it is time for us to address your architectural skills. I am sorry to say but... they are lacking." she sighed, observing their downcast heads. "To be fully honest, the fault is mostly mine, you cannot create or organize when you live with so little... well, except some of the fancier cliques. Still, the results of the last classes have been troubling. You, Stonebreaker, for example, placed all of your warehouses in a single district? Why?? Do you want every street to be filled with endless rows of people trying to go to the same point at the same time? And you, Heavenly SpearFang, just how many guards do you want to fill your city with? Why 1/5 of all buildings dedicated to housing guards?"

She rubbed her temple with a single finger. "Break it down, go fractal, you want smaller sectors connecting to larger sectors, you want neighbourhoods to be focused but not overly specific, they should be able some level of independence. You are not building blocks together, nor should you manage cities as if they were the body of a living being, with a brain sector, a lung sector... you know?" they did not because Lektor had not spent points into teaching them the basics of healthcare, she would, soon enough.

Classes would continue like this, Lektor prepared small model cities, letting the students plan their own too, she wanted them to develop unique architectural styles because she found them quite neat.

Results were... slow, no matter how many times she tried, they always developed the dumbest-looking cities.

"You are building your city on a foodplain? Don't be stupid."

"How. Will. You. Afford. So. Many. Bloody. Walls???

"WHAT DO THEY EAT?"

She sighed. "You are all hopeless, all of you. What can be so hard about making non-trashy cities? Hmm!? Nevertheless, tests are delayed, we are staying here until you all grow some sense of public space. Now, write down the most important thing in a large city on your stone, done? Good. Anyone who didn't write public transport is getting beaten up by yours truly."

- 9b -

While the tests stalled, another project grew on the side. Even if her humans learned how to design a city, building one was far beyond their techniques. In the Mesa they would need to learn from the ground up, quite literally, but in the far-off holds, there would be no time for that, same with Impyra in the underworld.

The designs being made by the students weren't only being wasted away, well, most were, because they deserved it, but what Lektor was doing was separating the planning process from the building process, this way she could have the spirit of human design without necessarily needing the humans to build it.

With a look to the side, the goddess observed a true army of statues, they were made from the local stone, andesite, and were all featureless save for their carved-in-stone uniform and a simple runic code in their foreheads. They were builders, experts without the need of food or water, tireless, but also without the power to create on their own, they would follow orders and carve buildings themselves in mostly cut stone and terracotta, Lektor didn't have the patience or gentleness to deal with anything else.

None of the future holds of the cliques were ready yet, but her project for Impyra was. She changed the runes in the bodies of one of the andesite constructs and assigned him as a captain, before handing him the documents and images of the project. It stood still for a long time then mindlessly started to walk away with a platoon of his own, off to build as they were instructed.

- 10 -

The weight of the FINAL exam was notable in her class, and so was the departure of Lorelei's group. Nobody had quite mastered the arts as Astarte had, except maybe Hills, but she had been depressed since her shadow beau had left so suddenly. It did not help one bit that Lektor herself had been distracted, only one person was taking this seriously, Blossom, and yet she had plateaued (which was funny, given Haven's location), wanting to perform techniques she would never have the Mana to truly do.

At one-point Lektor even wondered if the path she was taking was impossible for humans and other earthlings.

Then her student took a step further, and fully humbled the goddess.

What she had called a plateau was in truth Blossom exploring her skill, finding her limits, and understanding them, something Lektor herself had been postponing recently with excuses about how busy she was. While from outside the bovine chimera did not seem to be making strides, internally she was quickly understanding much about how the mana interacted with her body.

One day, out of nowhere, the goddess noticed a build-up of lights around the roof terrace of Haven, when she turned to the source, she noticed it was Blossom, who was now enveloped in a thin aurora, flowing, swirling waves of green and blue dancing around her skin. Immediately Lektor caught herself mesmerized by it, not gasping or asking questions, merely observing it with her godly perception.

Blossom had developed her technique to imbue earth upon her body and refined not the action, but the concept, she had changed how the earth mana acted within herself, instead of being the more clay-like tame and brittle earth aspect, she had brought forth a concept Lektor would never have imagined a human could find within themselves, magnetism... or something close to it.

Upon closer inspection she noticed it was not actual proper magnetism, but rather, she found out how to make her raw mana create such a concept within the conceptual realm of magical energies, and as such, nearby fire, air, and water were now trapped within her aura, thus creating the aurora of colours she was seeing (likely a mixture of the radiation of fire with the atmosphere of water=air). This INCREDIBLY increased Blossom's ability to capture mana, and while she was not generating or changing anything, earth mana naturally started to flow in due to the polarity created by the other elements.

It was absurd, and it was not even done. Lektor increased her perception to the maximum she could as a god, observing now how the electrical charges within Blossom's body flowed across her nerves, the obvious connection between lightning and magnetism was being used so the bovine chimera could manipulate the field of swirling mana around her. The goddess observed as she got used to it, as she quickly learned to make the aurora dance by using signals send from her brain to her limb, assigning most of them to movements of her finger. Then, finally, she stomped, and the world shook.

Walls of stone rose from the ground, at Blossom's command, creating a small room between her and the goddess. Her aurora had mostly dissipated, the initial step of the technique had been a small explosion of magic to lure forth a stream of earth mana to the area, then using her control over mana to command physical earth under the influence of the chaotic burst of energy she had created. It was elegant and yet brutal, as one would expect of the earth element.

By the end of it, the Chimera had fallen to her feet, not even understanding most of what she had done, when she looked up, she saw the wide smile of a very pleasad goddess sitting on the stone wall she had shaped. Murmuring something about how the goat would be extremely jealous of her.

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Tup'wik


Wailing.
Wailing came to the hunter's ears.

"The time has come, partner," came a whispering voice to the hunter's right ear.

Slowly, the Hunter looked up into the bright blue sky, which was broken by the dense foliage of the tall evergreens. Smiling as his head tilted back, his crown of great scooped antlers making the motion slightly straining, the Hunter listened with joy to the wailing. From beneath the darkness of his antlers, his Second Shadow whispered, "Here, shall Utilaik be, to dance alongside you, Maliuit. As ever this one has. Look. Here comes the Mother." Looking to the side, the Hunter rose to his hooved feet as, from a hut made of bear hides and sturdy logs, there emerged three.

Bereft of clothing, two walked toward the hunter, as the third was held, swaddled in a covering made of soft hide, which was insulated by the Hunter's shorn tail and mane hair.

The Human, whose face was covered by a simple wooden mask- with silts only for eyes and a crooked carved grin- lead the Kinneras Mother along by walking before her. Blindfolded, the Mother- T'unucra- walked slowly, her twelve point antlers wavering as she fought to keep her steps balanced and sure, for she had only just finished giving birth. The Hunter watched the Mother's strong yet pained steps in admiring silence. He yearned to help her but these were the traditional first strides, which were vital to the survival of the child, and he could do nothing but watch.

For her to falter or fall in this walk would mean death for the child when the snow fell, as all who were Tup'wik knew.

Gently, the Masked Human blew into a simple wooden flute. It was a tune of a few long and joyous notes, which acted as chorus with the wailing of the baby. These sounds helped to guide the Mother on her walk in blindfolded "darkness". The Hunter held his silence as they approached. He did not hold back the overflowing of his eyes as they filled with emotion. Proudly, he watched the Mother's surefooted steps toward him, as she carried his Child.

His firstborn.

Biting his lip so that he did not sob aloud, the Hunter bowed his head as the Mother came within one stride of him. As he should, he fell to his knees before her, keeping his silence.

She halted from taking the final stride.

All of the omens were good: she'd stepped steadily, halted when feeling his presence near, and had not faltered or stumbled. His heart was soaring with quiet elation. Slowly, T'unucra knelt before him, then placed the child upon the ground between them. Warmly, she placed her hands soothingly atop the crying babe. Shakily he slowly reached his hands out, to place them atop hers, giving a gentle and reassuring squeeze.

The Hunter couldn't see a thing for all his tears. He felt only the warmth- the joy- of his hands atop his child, atop the second half of their beautiful creation, and all the hands of Ancestors who had done the same for each of them.

This position, the two held in silence as the moments passed. As if knowing they were safe, the babe soon began to quiet beneath the quiet palms of their parents, steadily sinking into a contentedness, which held in it a quiet plea. In the wordless manner in which all infants plead, the soft babbling beneath the parents palms begged them: protect me, love me, teach me.

And then the Hunter's Second Shadow reached from under his antlers, toward the Second Shadow of the Mother. The blindfold was removed from the Mother by the Umbra which resided in her shadow, then passed to the other Umbra, who tied it about the eyes of the Hunter.
The Father.

Once it was secured, the Father rose to his feet, and the Masked Human began to sing. These were the sounds of the throat and chest- the early music of those who lived in the cold, those who breathed in the bitter air of frozen earth and frosted pine.

On cue, the Father took three strides away from the Mother, as she took up their child in her hands. Her eyes lifted toward the Father- Maliuit- with joy and unfathomable trust. She held their baby close, to warm them against her bare skin, as her eyes too, began to flow with joyous tears.

To the sounds of voice and flute, the Father began to dance.

He had to be as swift as the Cold Star in such a dance, for this would grant vigor to his Child, to the Mother, and to both of their Second Shadow protectors. That Cold Star, which graced the Ancestors with it's appearance on the day of the Tup'wik's birth, was called Myrtu by the Umbra. They told tales of it having been a God and so the Tup'wik hailed the Cold Star as God and Progenitor both. They admired its swiftness, it's freedom and vigor, as it sprinted across the sky, and their Ancestors taught them always to value such traits. To value freedom.

His steps had to be as sure as the blackness of the space between stars, as he danced around, leapt and spun, to dance in sacred circle around the kneeling Mother- for what else was so certain as the darkness from whence they'd came? They had been left behind by the Cold Star- fragments of that Godly power- and they'd come from that space between the stars themselves, just as the Cold Star had come fourth too. The Tup'wik knew that they were but fragments of the night sky as well and would return there in death.

When he danced, his hooves clicked against stones- the perimeter circle which told him to dance back toward the sound of song- for even they, wild and free, needed to know their limits and boundaries. Some of their Ancestors spoke of those who had ventured north, those who didn't know their limits, and how most had never returned. Stores of the few that were out there spoke of how and they'd grown foul, had turned into frozen hard people that still reached for more than they were given. They were of cold hearts, with frozen pale fur and hard bodies, and a frozen fury toward the Cold Star Myrtu- a fury that the Tup'wik could not understand.

They knew of those people's name- what they called themselves- and used it as the name for this vital lesson in knowing restraint: To always be as free and joyous as one could, but to never go beyond limits and strive for more than was given by the land and the Cold Star.

To dance within the boundaries was to bless the child with a level head, a sureness that would be as steady as their hooves, and as stable as the humans that balanced often atop the backs of Centaur at full canter. To survive within the Taiga, facing off against the creatures and hunting the great beasts, one needed to be sure of themselves and every action they took.

And for all these things the Father danced. And danced.
He danced until the sun set and his heart pounded furiously.

He danced as his name became Maliuit'cra- the father of T'unucra's child- and beloved by them both.
And he danced until the sky grew deep and dark...




"T'unucra!"

It was the the horrified edge in the voice which caused her to look away from the tracks, which she'd been examining in the snow blown foliage. Toward her a Cenatur rushed. This Centaur's antlers were freshly growing and covered in downy fuzz, and so her approach was swift indeed.

Without stopping to breathe, the Centaur shouted, "We need your medicine!" She turned just shy of T'unucra and presented her hide covered back to her, "The hunters- they were attacked- the Hunters were-" the Centaur let out a grunt, as T'unucra's weight landed atop her back roughly.

"Go," she shouted, her eyes already burning with fear.
Who had gone out?
Who all had gone out this time?

As the Centaur sprinted across the snow, dashed between the trees, T'unucra shouted in alarm, "We're nearing the Ice?!"
"-something terrible-" the Cenatur managed while sprinting, her voice raw with emotion "-oh terrible."

Silence.

Crimson.

Who could have made it back in time?
T'unucra could not blame her for not moving.
Fast.
Enough.

Howling, something was howling over the sound of the frigid wind.
No. Wailing.
Wailing came to her ears.

Much like their babe, he was wailing now, too.

Maliuit'cra lay upon the ice with a harpoon, thicker than his own arm, thrust through his center and out of his back. His blood pooled around him, steaming and hot, in the frigid temperatures. Icy spires reflected the light across the surface of the intricately carved harpoon. T'nunucra noted sickly how beautiful the walrus rendition carved into the handle of the harpoon was, as it was not coated by Maliuit'cra's blood. He'd been struck in the back, for the pointed tip was blindingly red with his life's essence.

Two hunters, a duo of Kinnaras, stood next to T'unucra, speaking to her and... and?
Had she gone deaf?

No, she could hear the wailing. She couldn't hear the hunter, but she could hear the wailing.

Numbly, she knelt next to Maliuit'cra, as he screamed and fought for his life, which he had no chance of holding on to.
Holding. On to.

Gently, as he had laid his hands atop hers, oh so many moons ago, she placed her hands atop his. His tears and screaming forced more blood onto the ice in pouring rivulets. Curls of steam rose from the pools he created. Frosted tears coated his face. Desperately, he grasped her hands while taking pained inhales, as he stared into her eyes.

"I don't- I- I can't- not- so. So- soon-" he wailed "-T-T-T'nuc-"

His grip released.

The only cold she noticed was in his eyes, as they stared unblinking into hers.
She had gone deaf, hadn't she? For the silence itself, as his wailing ceased, blocked out all other sounds. From beneath his antlers, his Second Shadow materialized in full. Despite how the light harmed them, Utilaik stared down at Maliut'cra in silence, and did not move. Alongside T'nucra the Umbra stared at the husk that was once Maliuit'cra.

Their beloved Maliuit'cra.
Beloved by them both.

How long she'd knelt there on the ice she could not say.

Those other Hunters had huddled around her and the Umbra Utilaik at some point. The other Hunters had kept watch, offered silent company, and pressed in closely for heat sharing while they mourned at the edge of the glacial lands. So it was the Hunters that were surprised when T'unucra suddenly moved, abruptly after having knelt for so long. Without a word, stood, walked, then grasped the harpoon sticking out of Maliut'cra's body.

It took multiple pulls, as the blood had turned to ice in the freezing wind, but she wrest it from his corpse, having had to do so by grasping its pointed edge. Collectively, the other hunters had turned with a start to watch with fascination and horror, none of them having made a move to stop her, nor uttered a word.

Quietly as she let the large harpoon lean against her shoulder, she removed a few herbs from her medicine pouch, then chewed them. She couldn't feel it, but her hands had been cut from her grasp upon the weapon, despite her gloves, and would require something to halt the bleeding at least. The others exchanged worried glances as T'unucra treated her wounds, by placing the herbs into them, before taking up the large weapon.

Despite its weight and size, she leaned it over her shoulder, for she felt no pain for now, and the weight was far lighter than that... of...

"Utilaik offers their service to T'unucra as third shadow.. in... in exchange for. Trust," spoke the Umbra, with a tone heavy in emotion. These were the words a Second Shadow said before becoming a guardian, partner, and companion to a Tup'wik. They echoed grimly now in the silence where Maliut'cra's voice should have been.

"Then come," T'unucra told the other coldly, "Walk the ice with me. We will speak to the Nuqtuq of this. Return to them this kakivak. Tell them of Maliuit'cra and how he was loved. Second Shadow will stay behind and tend to-" her voice choked before she could utter the name of their child.
Their fatherless. Child.
That last living fragment of Maliuit'cra.

"Utilaik... cannot be trusted alone in Second Shadow's place. To guard. To give help. Not anymore," replied the Umbra, sinking toward the body of Maliuit'cra, "This is why. Utilaik offers as Third."

"No. You cannot be trusted. Not at the moment. But walk the ice with me and prove yourself again, is what I offer. A trade for your guilt as I offer my trust," T'unucra told Utilaik firmly.

"Umpanitit believes this fair and valuable trade," came the whispering voice of T'unucra's normally silent Umbra partner, for all in attendance to hear, "Generous on part of T'unucra. Far generous. Utilaik will have debt lingering still but less so, if they do not walk the ice."

Utilaik gently placed a hand atop Maliuit'cra's, before looking to T'unucra with glowing blue eyes, nodding hesitantly, "Umpanitit has wisdom."

"We return to the others now," T'unucra addressed the collective coldly, "I will bury Maliuit'cra. Then I will leave. I will make the Nuqtuq answer all that I ask."

And without another word, nor waiting for the others, T'unucra turned toward the migration path.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Lord Zee
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Lord Zee I lost the game

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She was running. She was fleeing. Her legs bent. Her bones cracked. She screamed. She groaned. She cried. Fingers became claws. Teeth became swords.

She howled at the moon she could not see.

She was on them before long. The heavy taste of iron permeated her mouth. Her breath was hot and stagnant. Her saliva dripped red. She knew only violence.

She was violence.

None were spared. Not as they slept. Not as they ran. Not as they fought. Not as they prayed. She was the predator.

The world was her prey.




A heavy breath escaped her lips as she clutched at the fabric around her chest. Euphoric sensations, like lightning strikes, shot up and down her spine, traveling to her fingertips and toes. It was a rush of excitement she had never felt before and she never wanted it to end. The goddess smashed her fist into the rock she had been leaning on, leaving a sizable crack as debris flew everywhere. Bloody scratches, fingertips, painted the dark surface of her vision. The sanguine liquid ran and dripped down the wall, seeping into crevices where it became nothing. She wanted more. She needed more! She couldn’t let such a feeling slip away, like falling into cracks…

So she took a step forward, bathing her foot in pooling elf blood. But Wyn didn’t care. Not as she walked through those deerskin huts coated in maroon, who reeked of mortal flesh. Whose encampment on the plains had been shielded by a natural rock outcrop, the clever fools (She only had come to realize this once they had been painted). Nor as she passed the strewn bodies, ripped to pieces, bit in half, clawed to shreds, torn asunder and bleeding, bleeding, bleeding…! A whimsical laugh escaped her lips as she twirled in the slick grass, worn down by feet as if it were a lake of sanguine, hugging herself as she hummed and hummed away all the troubles of the past.

A small whimper snapped her out of it, as if something had gone terribly amiss in her perfect little world. In one fluid motion of unnatural movement, Wyn had found the source and now crouched before it. A tent had collapsed in the stampede of scared elves and a survivor lay underneath. She could feel his heartbeat, hear his very breath and the pumping of his heart! Her vision burned with his red silhouette. She grabbed his ankle as he tried to escape her terrible presence. It was a young elf man who took to screaming and yelling, kicking and fighting but Wyn’s grasp was iron and her blood-stained flesh, steel. Oh but how she liked it when they fought back! It provided so much entertainment! So much sport… The thrill of the hunt, as un-thrilling as this one was.

Once he was free of the tent, Wyn threw him into the stones with such force, she could hear bones break. Then she pounced upon him as he rolled clear, pinning his arms and legs outwards. As dazed as he was, the fight was gone and Wyn began to pout. His heart still raced, his fear was still palpable and… Ah, his blood quickened as adrenaline coursed. The bodies last ditch effort for survival. She could not see his tears but she could smell the salt in the air and with a quick lick, she could taste it and the rich iron of blood. It was invigorating. So much so that all pretense faded upon her features. A wolfish grin crossed her lips. She was going to let him go, to have a running chance but Wyn had changed her mind.

“Do not be afraid.” She snickered, rubbing her cheek upon his, before licking his face. “I only want a taste.” She whispered, hovering ever closer to his throat, mouth salivating. “Just a nibble…” She lied, extending her mouth open to reveal sharpened daggers. His fledgling scream was silenced the moment her teeth touched his throat.

But death did not claim him. For a new sound caught her ear and she dropped the elf man where he lay and a groan escaped his lips. Wyn stood and spun to see, way off, a mounted band of warriors headed her way. They held the same stature as the Navari and her elf companions upon their mounted steads. She clasped her hands, how delightful!

Before she could go out to greet them, the elf man began to scream. It was the sort one screamed when they were in terrible pain. A pain so profound not even unconsciousness could save them. She looked again to see his blood boiling, a dark black was spreading from his throat, infecting his veins, pumping into his heart. It was not a blackness that eluded her but one she felt oh so intimate with. His body contorted and she could hear bones breaking. He at once grew taller, chest widening as the sound of deerskin clothes ripping apart tore across the air. He clawed at himself, drawing blood as the blackness consumed him. Most Intriguing of all was his head; it elongated at the nose, becoming a snout like some terrible bloody wolf. She could hear sharp teeth snapping and tongue panting. He towered over Wyn now, rising as his pointed ears lowered. A deep growl escaped his throat as his body crouched.

It delighted Wyn, even when the elf-turned-wolfman attacked her. Even when he clawed and bit and struck her, the sensations only gave her great comfort. Even when he attempted to savage her as she had savaged his village, Wyn could not help but giggle like a child. The sheer thought of herself causing so much joy, it was almost unbearable and she squirmed.

"Do not be afraid." She cooed as her head was smashed into a rock over and over by a thick paw of fur. "You are of mine own blood now. Imperfect forever more!" She cackled. The rock had crumbled away, now she was driven into the ground with each powerful fist. He growled and snapped and snarled but he could not kill his progenitor.

Then his attention went elsewhere with a whistling shot that struck him in the back. An arrow had found its mark and then he was lanced by two riders. The likes of which had the body of man but also of horse. They were no separate entities but just one. Memories of the night filtered back in, hadn’t she attacked those two? Somewhere out where the dew of grass had soaked her? Had they come for revenge?

More arrived, thundering hooves and towering builds. More arrows were loosed and more cuts were made as the wolfman went on the defensive. The horsemen meanwhile whooped, screamed and yelled, trampling on her unintentionally. Perhaps they thought her dead? Well that wouldn’t do…

She bounded up as the wolfman finally caught a lance, and pulled the rider towards him. He clawed the man and then bit him as Wyn danced between hooves and stone lances. She broke the front legs of one of the horsemen and tore out his throat with a swipe of her hand. The bitten horsemen, so Wyn saw, began to scream as his blood turned black. So it was infectious and could jump species? That delighted her to no end, as she threw a discarded lance into the head of a horseman.

It was so wondrous in fact she retrieved a fallen bow, a thing woven together with wood and rawhide and drew back. What she unleashed upon them was nothing short of terror. The bow shot forth a piercing arrow with such force, it ripped holes into the horsemen’s flesh. Seeing this the last of the horsemen fled, routed by her. Wyn, no longer needing the bow and forgetting about her infected creations (which were now fighting each other) ran off after the fleeing horsemen.

She lived for the thrill, after all.

The two wolfmen, one of two legs and the other of four battled and traded blows, neither gaining any ground over the other, so evenly matched as they were. Eventually the two went separate ways, either growing bored or perhaps it was something else entirely. Now left behind in that deserted village, was the bow that Wyn had used to slay several of the horsemen. It lay where it had dropped, changed from the power channeled through it. The wood had become black and sleek, while the string had become a vibrant red, now stronger and hardier. Even stranger, intentional even, was the fallen blood began to trickle towards it…





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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Commodore
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Commodore Condor

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It had once been where blight and evil had been done that eventually life again would return. Joyous and bright as before. However, such had changed with the burning so frightful, it left none but ash.

And yet, even if a forest burns and all there is lost, perhaps the draft of air may carry a seed far away from such devastation.





Asar Sen had left. She had taught her, shown her thoughts and memories beyond those of this world too. She told her of concerns and wonders, secrets and tricks of life and beyond.

She was happy with her, but now she had left. She wanted to explore on her own, Ia’Akhul understood, she knew this feeling. But still, she worried as she flew. Her daughter off into the world.

How will it treat her? How will she understand and adapt? Her thoughts and worries became a blur, she almost even ran into a mountain before flying up in split avoidance. She needed to escape these worries somehow.

A cave, perhaps exploration further might take ease of her worries? Or creation perhaps may help in some part to escape her worries.

In the deep lands where rock became ground and sky, a wall containing and limiting as well as offering expanding possibilities with such limitations. Ia’Akhul had seen a number of surface life she had made, coming down beneath the surface as the goddess now did.

Then things began to change, great mushrooms the like she had never before seen, the multitudes of environs and flora. She looked here, and then over there. There was a distinct lack of fauna in most cases, she had a few ideas of addition, but clearly this needed some thought.

Divine power began to form and wash out from her.

First was something that a number of the more closely related forms of life to their above surface cousins might appreciate. A massive tuber, from above looking like a little hill with an equally little tree, but in reality most of the plant went deep deep down. A tuber that connected surface and subsurface, ground to roof. Bringing vast amounts of vitamins, and efficient solar collection into a sunlightened sap- a bright sap imbued with great solar energy. Any creatures that needed the sun for vitamins would be much obliged given the lack of sunlight so deep underground.

Next were the great fliers of the underground, although perhaps more than a little bit derivative. She used the sea bound manta as a base- of course changing more than a little about it to fit such a demand. Bubbles appeared to support it through the air ventrally as its insides morphed for such changes.

Further altering the head, expanding the wings and adding a good set- but keeping the dorsal area smooth. Perhaps they could serve a purpose similar to the Gedhe’iwak in the world above- although adapted of course. Good clasping muscles to keep to walls or ceilings as well for rest. Two tails, some minor color alterations and movement of eyes and mouth. And there it was, the Swi’oge.

As they flew off, Ia’Akhul flew gently to rest upon a mushroom cap. It was a fascinating place, this underground land, and yet her thoughts drifted ever towards her sweet Asar Sen.


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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Tuujaimaa
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Tuujaimaa The Saint of Splendour

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A Curious Trade

The Kathetikon & Ashevelen

@Tuujaimaa & @Timemaster




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by yoshua171
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yoshua171 The Loremaster

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In an empty clearing, far from men and mer and things divine, a subtle wind began. It blew with a gentle pressure, tugging at leaves such that they joined it in its swirling dance. Bird calls rang out and entwined with its currents before their source took flight on wings of whimsy and flew buoyed by the curtains of the strange yet joyful gust. Slowly, carefully, the wind's circuit tightened, leaves whirling like a rustling curtain in its grasp as the sun reached its zenith far above.

Burning light shone down into that clear as the wind coiled upwards into a peak. Boughs bent inwards, shadows tugged towards the clearing's center, and the leaves all at once sprayed out from the gale's peak above the trees and scattered outwards in a lazily falling curtain. So, with the light dappled in shimmering shifting patterns upon the forest floor, swirling shadows coiled upwards as if to join the now scattered wind. First, a pillar of darkness, dappled with shimmering sunlight, and then a silhouette resolved itself from the black and gold. A gentle smile formed on handsome features as green-gold eyes swirled into being as lids lifted away from them. From shadows and leaves and dappled sunlight, garments wove themselves into existence upon the pale figure's form

"Ahhh," a breathy sigh left the man's now parted lips as noble garments settled upon his flesh. Moving his eyes slowly, the man cast his gaze across the place in which he'd been whisked. Curiously, he placed a finger to his lips and wet it with his tongue before holding it aloft. The winds cast themselves against his finger gently, filled with whispers and flowing ephemeral script, and at once, a gentle smile stretched his lips. "Somewhere new, perhaps?"

The wind stuttered, then seemed to flee in all directions even as the leaves above him drifted down past him and settled on the ground. Looking upwards, he regarded the sky above with its two burning spheres, one of day, and the other of night, he presumed. He laughed, "How wonderful, a place which has yet to judge, yet to know. Somewhere free of suppositions," his eyes glittered with joy, "...just my favorite sort of place."

Turning away from the heavens, the Seer cast his awareness through the forest and across the land, past boundaries of distance and time, wood and stone and metal. He saw life; he saw truth, he saw lies. There was so much to learn, so many people he could steer for their good or perhaps his own. However, it was not these things that dampened his excitement.

No.

It was the appearance of other sparks like his own, caste from the cosmos, writ divine by the heavens or perhaps whatever else might have summoned him here. He frowned slightly, then smiled and shook his head, "Best not to judge, Kaelhmor. Perhaps they are different than the others. Perhaps they are kinder, better, adaptable, understanding."

He paused, and a dark look crossed his visage and, for a long moment, remained as his eyes clouded with remembrance.

"...or perhaps they are not."

Sighing, the Seer rubbed his temples for a moment before he decided to press on regardless. Walking, though he knew he could run, fly, or even phase through space itself, Kaelhmor spoke once more to himself, knowing none would hear.

"Best I be careful then until I know their measure."

With that said, he made his way to the nearest settlement, far as it was from him, and considered how he might begin his work.

As he walked, the wind quietly followed and lightly subtly clung to the edges of his form. Ah, but what of the shadows? They remained hidden, entirely obscured within the near mortal guise of his form as if wiped from the world entirely and replaced by the regal form he chose to present to others. It was better that way. After all, people--even gods--so often preferred pretty lies to ugly truths.

He'd learned that the hard way, with sweat and blood, misery and rejection.

He would not suffer such again. Not this time. Not in this world.

This time...things would be different.



Quite some time passed before he finally arrived at the outskirts of his destination, a small town filled with the bustling activity of those who lived off the land. As the signs of life became clearer and the sounds of people going about their business reached his ears, Kael smiled and began to hum a slow, relaxed tune. It was light and even joyful as he let the sound be picked up by his companion, the wind, and drift far ahead. As the quiet vibration carried on the wind reached the village and its residents most didn't even notice. Nonetheless, it flitted about, playing with hair, filling ears, and dancing through the central square as it picked up errant leaves and straw and dust. As it picked up the leavings of the people, the evidence of their daily lives, so too did little lies get dragged into the eddies of the wind.

Far away, Kaelhmor's eyes glowed faintly as the whispers returned to him, buoying his joy.

This world was just as full as the last had been.

Picking and choosing, the Lord of Lies, the Seer of Masked Light, Kaelhmor--the God of Deception--altered the course of the town in small, likely imperceptible ways. A farmer's wife who knew of her husband's infidelity managed to convince herself that it wouldn't happen again, not while she was with child. Not while they had a future together.

A young boy, rather than own up to breaking the bowl maker's prized urn, blamed it on his once-friend; after all, such bonds could be broken by the silliest things. Another man, the village blacksmith, had been telling himself for years that he wasn't worthy of companionship and didn't deserve happiness because of the things in his past. That day he worked up the courage to tell someone he needed help. From that, a burgeoning friendship would be born, and later...perhaps a romance.

How wonderful, mused the deity as he changed the course of his path slightly so he would simply pass by the village rather than through it. Yet, as he moved, he considered the greater course of his actions. What could he do now to ensure his own future?

After all, interaction with the other divines of this world was an inevitable thing, and he certainly could not tell them his deepest truth. They would think him vile, or...at least some would take issue with what they would assume to be his deceitful nature. Then, an idea struck him.

Perhaps this place gave him options that the prior had not. Eyes shining now with hope as well as power, he searched within his breast for the essence of his power, and as sure as rain fell over the ocean, there indeed lay something new. Where before one pool of deific might had dwelled, now there were two, one deeper, inherent, the other equal in size, but somehow...more diffuse. Grasping the new essence, Kaelhmor drew it from the depths of his core and out into the world. It shone brighter than the sun, brighter than every star in the vast and endless multiverse; it blinded and deafened and rendered him mute and dumb for an instant. Then he reined in its power and dulled it to a subtle glow within his grasp and realized that it was not more diffuse, nor was it even lesser than the power at his heart. No, instead, it was brimming with great potential but bereft of singular purpose.

"Intriguing," he pondered quietly aloud, his voice catching upon the wind and dissipating swiftly. Slowly, a smile lit his eyes as he realized what this revelation meant, how it could change the fate that he'd long since thought had been set for him by another, greater force. With this, he could reinvent himself and remake his image by presenting only the truths that he desired others see. He could be more than the Great Serpent; he could avoid being known as the Enemy, the Pariah...the Lord of Lies. As the possibilities of a better future, a kinder one, opened up before him, Kael found himself laughing out of pure adulation. Then he remembered all he'd had to endure, and a darker sort of amusement filtered through the light.

He could hide behind a multifaceted mask and at once play the Game. He could have some small revenge upon the universe and yet avoid the constant judgment of others.

Delicious.

Taking in a deep breath of this world's fresh air, Kaelhmor considered his first move upon the board and then cast his will out into this new existence.

As if knowing the mischief he had in mind, a single star winked in the heavens, and Kaelhmor winked back. Gradually, the world slipped into night, revealing the burning moon in all its ruined glory. Of course, so too did it reveal the many stars, which multiplied by the moment, their light casting down upon the earth in a gentle curtain of rippling light of many shades.

It was to be his first gift to the world. At least the first one that any would recognize and the only one he intended to admit to.

The Great Lens.

It was a vast cosmic filter that amplified far-off light and focused it into the rippling Veil that now was writ across the sky. He wished it could have been grander, expanding over the entirety of the sky, but his power was simply too sparse for that, his mastery too little. Nonetheless, it was a step in the right direction. Though it would only be visible over perhaps thirty or so percent of the continent, it was at least positioned in the middle where a great many might bask in its ephemeral warmth. Still unsatisfied with his work, Kaelh pondered what else he might do with what little of this new power remained within his bosom.

Toying with the energy as he walked, Kaelhmor eventually settled on a small and relatively plain pendant. Though, he supposed that it would likely appear rather impressive to a mortal, as the craftsmanship was undoubtedly exceptional. After all, he could hardly have his creations be entirely drab. Focusing the power held within its vessel, Kaelhmor channeled the same potential as he had with the Great Lens, then tweaked its precise manifestation.

What resulted was the Lesser Lens, a Pendant with a mirror-like crystal that could trap light within its core and release it at the wearer's behest. As it was now, it was a simple thing, capable of darkening a room to pitch or illuminating it to the wearer's preference, as well as emitting a blinding flash. It was not his proudest accomplishment. Still, as he gazed upon it he felt a gentle affection rise in his chest. Some day he would divest more of his power into the Artifact, but for now, this would do.

Donning the necklace, for now, Kaelhmor continued on his way, all the while keeping his senses on the world around him, stretched to their limits. Until he was ready, he would avoid the other gods. With his power, it was a paltry task. Still, to ensure he remained concealed until he wished it, Kaelhmor had woven a cloak from the shadows he gathered, and as if it were soil, he'd sown the seeds of man's lies, their self-deceptions, and every false perception they'd ever had or would have. So had been born, Masquerade, the Shadewalker's Skein. It was a cloak of purest black, darker than pitch, and more profound than a lightless cavern's darkness. It was so bereft of light, in fact, that it crossed back over into a total lack of color, its hue a gossamer shimmer that from one angle consumed light and at another did not exist at all. It hid not only his presence and his form, but so too did it veil his power and his very imprint on the world. Anything held within its folds might as well not have existed at all.

For now, that was what he wished. That no one knew he existed.

In time, that necessity would fall away, and finally, he could begin to meet the other deities of this realm.

He looked forward to that day, but for now...he walked and pondered the future, slowly planning each of his many moves upon the great board of the game that was existence.

Someday, others might realize that they too were playing.

Until then...he would prepare.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Tuujaimaa
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Tuujaimaa The Saint of Splendour

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The First Step

The Kathetikon




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

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

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

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



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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Chris488
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Chris488

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The Beginning of Turn III

A Series of Strange Events Unfolding



The pantheon spreads simultaneously closer together and farther apart as more deities arrive and awaken with their newfound divine power. The world will continue to change as these gods and goddesses enact their will and interact with each other - for better or for worse. This is the story of the Divine and their acts of creation. What awaits those that weave the Tapestry? Perhaps something new and something never seen before?



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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Not Fishing
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Not Fishing The Mediocre

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The fires of the Hellforge were put to work, melting the damned into what Aldion was calling Infernal Essence. A peculiar material that was sometimes liquid and sometimes gas, this essence was then forced down through the tower below, where the unseen and ever-changing machinery of Hell made work upon it.

For it was producing the creature that would serve as the perfect soldier.

Faint growls and screams could be heard from within. There was a deep, guttural, echoing quality to them.

Then at last, the process was done. At the base of the tower, the great doors swung open, and out stepped the first of the Legions of Hell. They were tall - all exactly seven feet in height - with tough and scaly red skin. They were hairless, the backs of their heads elongated, with a pair of goat-like horns sprouting from either side.

They were the elite footsoldiers of Hell. The first of the Demons.

Aldion nodded to Zylana. She shouted a command, and for one eye-blink all the Demons vanished, only to immediately reappear shoulder-to-shoulder with one another in a perfect formation. Each demon crossed a fist across its chest, and knelt. They moved as one in flawless synchrony.

”Very good,” Aldion said quietly, pleased with his creation. ”They will need to be equipped,” he decided.

Again the forge made its noise, and when next the doors opened, there were stacks of black ingots. ”I name this substance ‘Infernium!’” Aldion declared, before pointing at one of the demons, seemingly at random. ”And to you I grant the knowledge on how to shape and craft it. Now, get to work, lest I have you flogged.”



The next creatures the Hellforge produced were far more bestial. Black-furred canines with glowing red eyes, these beasts were massive - more than twice the size of the creatures upon which they were based. Zylana shouted a command, and these creatures loped into a loose formation, bowing their heads.

These Hellhounds were not as intelligent as the Demons, but they could obey orders from the Demons nonetheless. So great was their obedience that they would chase their quarries across Galbar if need be, for they could smell souls, and if particular souls were named their target, then they would feel drawn toward those souls no matter where in the world they might be.

They could move swiftly, with water and terrain offering no impediment, for they could run across the sea and up vertical walls if need be. They were the ultimate hunters; they could hunt down those who had been marked by Hell and attempted to escape their fate, or serve as scouts and mounts in Hell’s army.



”A fine start, don’t you think?” Aldion asked Zylana, a day later. The Forge was continuing to pump out demons, infernium, and hellhounds. Hundreds marched in the streets of Hell, and in time they would become thousands. The first batch of Infernal Weapons - a set of greatswords - had been created, and had been passed into the hands of the worthy, who sparred against one another - sometimes to lethal result.

Upon death, a demon’s soul was flung straight back into the Hellforge. Nothing save time was lost.

Zylana nodded eagerly. “A fine start indeed.”

”You’re unusually chipper,” Aldion remarked with a frown.

She bowed her head. “Forgive me, my lord.”

Aldion waved a hand. ”No, no. This is a momentous occasion. Besides, I know you’re eager to get out there. On the morrow, you will take a dozen riders, and ride out. See what is out there, and do what you can to advance the interests of Hell. Make contact with any mortals, if they exist, and teach them my name. Let them know me for the paragon of Law and Retribution that I truly am.”





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Enzayne Invading Eldar

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Turn 2


And so, Ashevelen upgraded the Umbra and it was time to leave. One might argue that with Oa being as close as she is, it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave but Ashe wanted to travel and her evolution of the Umbra should be enough to keep them safe for a bit and meeting Kathe’, while it was a very pleasant conversation, delayed her journey even more.

Mortals had enough time to expand until now and as such, it was Ashe's time to do what she knows better. Trade. Her new powers kept hidden for now and she started walking north. Faster than any mortal could, she walked and walked. Neither stopping, nor taking breaks. As soon as she got to the mountains, she took a deep breath and jumped over them in one and a half leaps.

Eventually, as she looked at the marvels the other divines created, she ended up in the desert without even realising. Her form changed and swayed, until she was the same size as most mortals. Not that they could see any difference but for her own desires, to see the world as mortals do.

Sand creeped between her toes and she took a handful, looked at them and smiled before blowing them away in the wind. Truly, a nice world she found herself in. Glad that she followed Homura's call, she kept walking, at a slow pace. Looking at the desolate place, she started imagining what could be done. Sprawling cities covering the desert, an oasis in the middle and a large bazaar where traders from all over the world would converge.

Something caught her attention amidst her visionary daydreaming. A handful of spires and monoliths, not much different from the color of the desert, broke the horizon line in the far-flung distance. They were unlike other features and the odd outcroppings of stone in that even over the immense distance, she could tell they were too smooth - too clean - to have been placed there without a guiding hand. Furthermore, they seemed to defy the desert; now that Ashevelen had seen the structures, they remained visible on the horizon line despite movement or whipping sand dervishes.

That was not all she saw. Beneath these distant spires her eyes found moving silhouettes. A small group, tramping through sand with purpose. They had just crested a large dune that brought them into view, and they appeared to be moving straight - as straight as one can in a mostly featureless desert - away from the spires. This handful of silhouettes strayed closer in an errant pattern; going from dune to dune as if to inspect as much of the desert as they could while still travelling relatively straight. That changed when they drew closer yet, and a raised arm in Ashevelen's direction unmistakably meant that the group had laid eyes on her from what for them was still quite a respectable distance.

Looking towards the spires, she smiled. She knew very well what it meant, she found mortals and by the looks of the group of silhouettes that were moving in that errant pattern, it seemed that the mortal found her as well. Laughing a bit, she snapped her fingers and her clothes changed. Gone were the black golden robes and in were the broken clothes of one that has wandered the desert for too long without water or food. Ashe decided it was time to have some fun with these mortal beings and if they held a candle to her own Umbra.

These distant strangers were clothed as well - dust-stricken yellow-brown cloaks that covered most of their form from heat and sand. With Ashevelen’s divine senses however, picking out details at a distance remained a relatively simple task. Their gear beneath their brown covers was hide and bone, even some hints of metal, hinting at their rugged task as travellers or some kind of scouting party. They were dressed to protect the body from more than the elements to be sure. Tall, fair-skinned, sharp ears. Elves, as was now becoming common all over the planet. They wielded staff-like sharp sticks that they used like walking sticks in the heavy sand. Despite the unpleasant climate and heavy terrain, they made excellent speed towards the disguised goddess.

“You there,” they shouted as soon as she was in what they imagined was hearing distance; though naturally she’d heard them muttering among themselves for a while now. “What are you doing so far out?” The questioning call came from who seemed to be in charge among the half-dozen of them, a muscular man with a deep scar ripping through the right side of his mouth. Their gear was relatively haphazard - as if it had been constructed individually out of spare parts rather than given any sort of uniformity. They trounced forwards through sand at a rapid pace.

Ashevelen’s voice changed to that of an old female with big wrinkles covering her face, which is what the muscular captain saw when looking at her. “ Oh’! Oh my! You…are you real? I haven’t– ” stopped Ashe in mid sentence and coughed a very dry cough and then continued “--seen a person in such a long time. Wat..er? ”. As her last words came out of her mouth, she dropped to the floor, pretending that dehydration was finally getting to her.

The man in front waved his arm forward and another hurried ahead, carrying what looked like a large sack - though woefully empty at this point. The travelling group pushed ahead and quickly moved in to more or less surround her - though not necessarily in a hostile manner - as the one carrying the sack, a younger woman with her own fair share of facial scars, intruded on Ashevelen’s physical space to press a small opening in the sack to her lips. True to her request, she felt the trickling flow of water, fresh sweet-water, touch her lips. There wasn’t much left, but it might have been enough to stave off death for someone actually dying of dehydration.

“Are you from the Wonderfall?” queried the woman as she more or less forcibly offered the water. Her mild question was quickly overpowered by the commanding man behind her.

“How long have you been out here? Why are you out here?” He demanded, with no real intention of letting her catch her breath.

Ashe let the water flow into her mouth and drank just a tiny bit of it, not sure of the taste it would have, being the first time she actually tried water. In her mind, she envisioned something totally different than how it actually tasted but true to her ruse, she had to pretend it was good. Lifting herself slowly off the ground, she looked at the commander and the other woman with the smile of someone who was just saved from certain death.

I’ve been travelling for weeks, I lost count of the moons. Lost, not sure where here is. Got attacked sometime ago, stole everything I had. If…if you wouldn’t have found me, surely I would’ve died. ” said Ashe, her voice sad but grateful at being “saved” by these mortals.

I don’t think she’s from the Wonderfall.” the woman with the water-sack mumbled to the scarred man as she retreated from Ashevelen’s immediate vicinity, though any attempt on her part to remain unheard unwittingly in vain. Her comment seemed to give the group pause in unison, and she could see a few of them fidgeting uncomfortably. Perhaps she was the first outsider they had met.

"The inviolable Shaeska rules these sands and all who touch them following the Ritual of the Three. Her decree demands we bring you with us to Malaire,” the man allegedly in charge eventually barked, summoning resolve in his followers with his stern words. “Whether you are able to make something of yourself there is up to you.”

“..We have food and water there, as well as shelter for the night.” another of them interjected, a hitherto quiet elven man that looked younger than all the others. The woman in front nodded in agreement. “You will be safe there, viyala.

Ashevelen nodded towards the woman that gave her water before. “ I’m from the Dark Woods, farther down in the south. ‘Travelled with my kin as someone else, ghosts, have invaded our forest.

Turning towards the captain, Ashevelen smiled.

Shaeska? Ritual of the Three? Apologies but I don’t know what you’re talking about.” her voice calm but then changed upon hearing that there was a city around, “ City? Is there a city here? Truly I am saved! ” exclaimed Ashe.

She felt a hand grip her arm as the man in charge nodded to his group, and the group slowly but surely motivated her to motion, acting with the care meant for a much more fragile being - though Ashevelen could still imagine if she truly were that weak, there wouldn't be much choice.

"It's more of a collection of shelters right now," one of them offered with smug glee, but quickly changed his tune when he received a sharp glare from more than one of his comrades. "But… uhm… but they're making good progress!"

As expected, they wanted to walk towards the distant spires. The commander among them again tried to change the topic and dominate the conversation. "You said you were attacked? Was it by the dark spirit beasts?"

Easy there, lad. My old bones will shatter if you pull like that, didn’t your mother teach you how to behave with old women? ” said Ashe, sternly as the captain grabbed her. The man huffed in response but the grip lessened at least a little.

Shelters? A village then, not a city. Do you have a bazzar ? A place where you exchange objects in exchange for others?

The elves looked amongst each other in subtle bewilderment. That was enough to answer the question. The actual answer from one of them, the youngest man, was just an added flair. "What? Why would we need that?"

The woman scratched her cheek with her free hand, stepping in beside Ashevelen again and even leaning down slightly - apparently she'd imagined Ashevelen might be hard of hearing. "What he means to say is that we don't live in Malaire."

"Yeah, we passed the trials." Another previously silent companion cut in.

"Yes," the woman continued. "We live in the Shaeska's temple, with all others like us. But I'm sure there will be a… 'bazaar'..."

Ashevelen started to explain what a bazaar is and the needs of trading between villages, civilizations etc in a very mortal-way and certainly not in the way a divine would, especially one that knew everything there was about trading. As she finished the explanation, something bothered her. The way they talked, the fact they don’t live in this village of theirs but in a temple…a divine was surely here and it would be truly impolite for her not to say hi if the city was indeed under their protection.

She pretended she had to stop and catch her breath as she released a sudden flare of divine energy which was abruptly stopped, certainly not a mistake but a deliberate attempt. Merely just a shiver for the mortals around her but for a divine…

The elves escorting her chattered among themselves about an ill wind, but otherwise did not particularly worry about the sensation. They had their eye on the horizon in all directions, warily watching for unknown shapes as they urged Ashevelen to journey with them in as rapid a pace as her aged disguise would allow. The distance was long, but between her actually basically endless stamina and their determination, they made good time, and the spires on the horizon grew quickly into towering pillars of sand-colored stone, rising to touch at the sky behind a considerable wall of the same smooth stonework. Something else was different here. Just before the wall, the desert ended and replaced itself with trees and running water. Brush, birds and loose animals.

It was mere minutes after that until they walked more or less beside it - and she got a clear view of the many open archways nestled in the wall that led down dizzying narrows or into a large circular courtyard. Among the narrow walkways skirted a large amount of elves, dressed much like the ones that had intercepted her. They carried weapons, practiced with each other, or carried large amounts of material from the few glimpses she caught as they walked past the impressive structure.

After walking along this walled city for some time, they entered what Ashevelen could only assume was Malaire, in so far as it could be formally entered. A collection of shelters was correct; on top of what was a massive oasis stretching - as far as she could see - to touch the large river that cleft the continent in two, a very large amount of people milled between haphazard buildings that had no real rhyme or reason to their construction. Most were basic shelters of fronds and leaves and scavenged wood, others were little more than dried mud and clay shaped into little homes. What they had an abundance of was fresh water, fruits, and a 'natural' resting place in an inhospitable desert. Thus, an impromptu settlement had sprung up beside the temple realm, and judging by the amount of visible people and huts there was a considerable amount of them.

"Welcome to Malaire," the commander of the elves escorting her muttered as they pressed past a throng of people chattering among themselves. "If you wish to take the trials, simply enter the temple courtyard. Otherwise this will be your home until you decide to leave."

Ashevelen let herself be basically godhandled by the mortals and walked as fast as they did. Occasionally asking for a minute of rest, which was refused, or simply another sip of water. Completely forgetting about the other mortal need, food but she hoped the mortals didn't notice that she should've been hungrier than she looked.

As soon as the spires got closer, Ashevelen looked in amazement. These mortals had a tiny kingdom for themselves. While their buildings were barely worth mentioning in comparison to her own Umbra's buildings, it was still something amazing to see.

A divine's intervention in the creation of this place was obvious. An oasis of that size in the middle of the desert? Impossible to appear on its own.

Their numbers made Ashe raise an eyebrow as well, clearly more than the Umbra in Shadowton. But they were all elves, every single one of them. There was no variety between and there was more that she noticed. The lack of a bazaar. A bazaar that she was promised that they will have.

I thank you for bringing me here. I would say I’m in your debt but…you have lied to me. I can’t see a bazaar, did you not say it was here? Or is it after your “trials”? What are these trials? ” said Ashe, her voice strong as iron.

"Lied?" the commander repeated, and they glanced among each other. One of them shrugged their shoulders. Their sedate pace gave Ashevelen ample time to notice that the other elves - the alleged inhabitants of Malaire - kept their distance from the armoured group. Her presence and that of the patrol were becoming a topic of conversation all around them. "Malaire is free to all. All you could want is here. If you look hard enough, I am sure you will find your 'bazaar'," he explained and swept a hand around the area.

Indeed there was the occasional bartering going on for necessary goods, but nothing organised. A market of any kind would be easy to hear for her divine senses, but the chatter of haggling and exchanges, even hawking, was notoriously absent. "As for the trials, it is how to elevate yourself. By completing the demands laid before you by the Shaeska, you become like us. A Shynnaewyn. You want for nothing, and the Shaeska gives your life divine purpose. It is voluntary, but if you fail or do not wish to take them, you cannot linger in her domain." He gestured towards the smooth stone walls in the distance.

Looking closely at the people around, Ashevelen noticed the obvious differences between her group and the others. The other inhabitants of the village were poorer, some malnourished, some with clear signs of dehydration and of course, multiple visible conditions due to them while her group looked well armed, fed and taken care of.
It was obvious what was going on here, these trials were the other divine’s own way of dividing up her subjects. Be strong and survive, be weak and you can die or be on your way which for most of these people meant death in the desert either way.

I ask you again, commander and I require a straight answer, do you have a marketplace? A location where people buy and sell goods or maybe your form of trading is different? Do you have a place where services are provided for something else? ” Ashe’s voice went up a tone and the people around could be seen starting and hearing what she was saying clearly now.

Ashe then proceeded naming all the words that she could think of, that would be synonymous to a bazaar or market in all the languages she heard on this planet.

The armoured patrol looked mystified as she went on to name countless versions of marketplaces. The scarred commander in particular managed to look both bewildered and irritated with what he presumably assumed was just a very insistent old crone. "Look," he interrupted halfway through her synonym-assault. "What happens out here isn't really anything we know or care about. I doubt these people have anything to give each other."

"I think the Mud-Hands down by the river hand out fish in exchange for other things." Another of the elven soldiers piped up, but that was all he dared say as his commander gave him a particularly deadly glare.

"There's a companion shelter too, if you give them food they'll let yo-..." Another of them began but cleared his throat and leaned on his staff-like weapon as the others stared at him.

"A bazaar would be like, if everyone was in the same place, right?" The woman among the soldiers asked eventually, scratching at her cheek. How much they had actually understood was questionable.

A bazaar or marketplace is a place where people can come and sell their goods for other goods. For example, the Mud-Hands could come and sell their fish in a place accessible to everyone, for fruits or vegetables or someone who makes weapons could sell them to others. What makes a bazaar or marketplace to be important is its accessibility. A middle-ground place where all can go without any risk of being attacked or so. ” replied Ashevelen and then, her voice still raised loud enough for all to hear, she suddenly started growing and growing. The wrinkles on her face disappearing and being replaced with her usually, perfect face.

She then launched into another speech about the importance of trading, how it is the life-blood of any great empire, and how all can learn from it, how they can grow, how none have to be poor if they’re not strong enough or fast enough just by using their wits.

Ashevelen then turned towards the captain with a frown on her face. “ Captain, you’ve lied to a divine being more than once. I should have you, reduced to nothing for the insolence, irrelevant if you didn’t know what I was. Make your apologies to me now but know that I shall speak with your creator. ” said Ashe and upon mentioning the creator, she let out a burst of divine energy once more. She knew she would’ve been watched if the divine was here but just for good measure.

She felt a great shiver in return - not merely a reply but a tremble in the fabric of reality, as though the world just shook in fear from some strange energy radiating out from the center of the temple beyond the walls. Then, just as swiftly as it had come, the sensation vanished. Ashevelen had been noticed, of this she could certainly be sure.

Reluctantly the elf commander sank to his knees, submitting before her. His eyes dared not meet hers now, but instead he looked over at the crowds of people chattering and watching all around them. He was silent and shamed as he leaned forward to kowtow properly.

"You tread within my demesne, lecture my people, and demand subservience. Reveal your nature and intent, spirit, lest I cut you down." boomed from the heavens above. In the sky, hovering above the wall of the desert temple, was an angelic figure of white and black, and blood-tipped wings. The dark armor she wore was enough to send a chill of unease through Ashevelen - enough to notify her that there was some latent effect trying to affect her mind. She wielded a staff with a crescent fork in one hand and a large blade that dripped with blood in the other. The sight of her sent people scattering into shelters and under makeshift awnings. As she drifted towards the ground close to the commotion most of the populace had fled to safety - though they were still watching. More soldiers came running from the temple arches, hurrying to catch up with their alleged ruler.

Upon seeing the divine finally making an appearance, Ashevelen smiled, hard as it was due to the unease sensation that ran through her mind. Seeing as well that this divine was in full form and ready for war, Ashe had to match it as well. Shadows started to grow around her, darkening the closest places around them and the mortals would soon feel threatened by them.

She lifted herself in the air and black shadow coins would go around her, making a small tornado of them around Ashevelen. Approaching Aveira, to a safe distance, she nodded in respect to her.

Greetings, sister. I am Ashevelen, lady of trade and shadows. Your own mortals brought me here willingly, I haven’t made them bring me here. You could say I was exploring your desert and they found me. I don’t demand their subservience, these are, after all, your subjects. I’m demanding respect. This one —” replied Ashevelen in a friendly tone and then pointed at the captain before continuing “--has disrespected me. While I could’ve had him destroyed, I know better than messing with the subjects of a different divine.

The angel fixed Ashevelen with her imperious gaze, stern and filled with barely masked contempt. "Trade and shadows," she repeated with deadpan tone. "How fitting. Economic warfare and that which hides from the sun truly go hand in hand. I am Aveira, and all that is terrestrial shall be unified under my vision. I marshal the lands through conquest and fealty through terror. I recognize you as a peer deserving of respect from those lesser than I. Mortals should serve with gratitude and nothing else."

A pleasure to meet you, Aveira. I wouldn’t call it economic warfare but I’m not denying that it is possible and might happen. Ah’, and see, apologies but you are wrong. Shadows don’t hide from the sun as they wouldn’t exist without it in the first place. We simply…co-exist. ” replied Ashevelen, charmingly before raising a hand and a pillar of hard shadows rose from the ground, right underneath the captain, raising him up in the air until he reached the same leave as the two divines.

You’re saying that mortals should serve with gratitude, yet your own mortal has disrespected me. ” added Ashe. The elf quivered in his suspension, unwilling to speak and invoke any ire.

"Not surprising. I have never known mortals to be particularly wise. Regardless, this elf speaks not for me beyond his martial skill and ability to follow orders." the angel remarked in turn, dispassionate as ever. The captain widened his eyes at her words and it seemed to drive him over the edge.

"I meant nothing by my words! She deceived us, mighty shaeska !" He exclaimed, drawing the attention of the pale angel. She watched him with that same unyielding scorn as before, but eventually simply looked back to Ashevelen.

"He can be replaced," she proffered simply, watching the shadowy goddess with keen professionalism.

Are you calling me a liar, mortal? Are you calling me a DECEIVER ? ” asked Ashevelen, the captain.

Before he could reply, the shadow pillar collapsed on itself and he went plummeting to the ground at fast speed. Before he could hit the ground, Ashevelen took out the Self-Printing coin and let out a barrage of coins on top of the captain, burying him in thousands of coins. Cries of panic and awe erupted in the village below. Aveira watched in sullen bemusement.

May your soul reach hell mortal. Tell them that I sent you. ” said Ashe while removing invisible dust from her robe.

" And, now…sister. Should we go somewhere else to talk or in front of your mortals and mine? " said Ashe as she turned towards Aveira once more. This time getting at a friendly distance from her.

"You are welcome in my abode, Ashevelen. If that does not suit you, we may speak here." the angel spoke in turn and gestured towards the many-spired temple lurking behind the nearby walls with her sceptre

Ashevelen approached Aveira and indicated she’s ready to follow her in her adobe. Better that way than with the mortals that disrespected her.

Aveira turned in the sky and with a single beat of her wings, set off for whence she came, urging Ashevelen to follow with a single glance over her shoulder. They carried through the sky quickly, and flew over what turned out to be a relatively large temple city crawling with elves in various states of equipment. They were wearing and carrying things impossible to support with the settlement outside the walls - it was like different levels of advancement by the looks of it.

Aveira led her to the tallest tower, where a large balcony without railings almost made it seem like an artificial roost or a landing strip for airborne arrival. The angelic conqueror touched down on the decorated stonework, and simply walked through the arch to head inside - nonverbally assuming Ashevelen was still following. The inside chamber at the top of the tower was a clear change from both the martial ways of the soldiers below and the barren settlement outside. Pillows and decorations were everywhere, rich silks and heady incense that Ashevelen were not sure were reproducible in any mortal settlement right now. Male and female elven attendants draped in thin purple silk robes and jewellery rushed in groups to take the large weapons from Aveira's hands, each weapon required two mortals just to carry it with ceremonial care.

Aveira turned towards Ashevelen as she reached the middle of the room, her face still locked in a mild frown. "So, the trader has come, as they always do." she offered calmly.

Ashevelen copied Aveira’s wings with some of her own made of shadows, the light of the sun trying to burn them out but somehow they lasted. She followed Aveira closely, copying her every move with ease. Looking at the city below, it was a truly magnificent sight with various levels of development here and there. Absent-mindedly following Aveira, Ashevelen started to day-dream about what her Umbra could do in a place like this. Trade would flow like water.

Upon reaching the tower, Ashe was once again impressed by the luxury of it, servants approaching their Goddess and carrying her weapons was maybe a bit irrelevant but it would be a constant reminder to them that she's their boss.

" Magnificent place sister. Looks like you've trained these mortals better than the ones outside. " said Ashe with a bit of envy in her before summoning a small chair for her to sit on.

"A life of service should be rewarding for both sides. Those who know this in their hearts serve with joy and skill." Aveira commented in turn, as all around them lightly dressed silk servants rushed to present platters of fruit and spiced juices and teas. "The last time I had divine company, it was quite a bit more bullish. I trust you understand I was wary initially." she continued as three attendants began to undo the black armour the angel wore.

Ashevelen approached Aveira and gently pushed the attendants away, gently taking the armour off the angel herself. A sign of respect and maybe, just maybe because the angel was already proving to be an interesting divine. As her hands moved expertly over Aveira’s armour, unlocking different straps and pulling bits and pieces off, Ashe replied to her.

I do understand the caution, just before coming here I was attacked with no warning in my own territory. The name was Oa’qeisskesi, the lady of the Abyss. This is why I approached your territory as a mortal and not a divine, I assumed retaliation straight after my initial hello before I even arrived here.

Aveira regarded the other goddess with silent attention, watching her attend to the armor in reverent and wary stillness. The attendants encircled again from a distance, standing ready with a long golden silk robe.

"The Abyss. Sounds incompatible with my vision for this world." the angel remarked calmly, soothed by Ashevelen's manners and attention.

I understand the feeling. As much as I could determine, it seeks to consume everything and everyone. Oa’ promised that she won’t but those in her care will not be quiet for long. Actually, I can show you. ” replied Ashevelen.

Taking a page from Kathe’, she weaved a shadow-puppet show using her recorded conversation between Oa and herself. Putting a black/white show for Aveira. The angel watched attentively as her moving images flickered past her eyes and gave her insight into the gist of the goddess' meeting with the lady of the abyss; some might even say it was almost as though she were there herself, with how vivid a reconstruction it was!

"I see," Aveira offered as the servants around her undid the padding on her body, having taken over when the deities busied themselves with new activities, and slipped the golden robe over the pale angel's form. She paused further comments until she was sure there was no more to see. "I am not certain there is anything that can be said of that being beyond 'unreliable' or 'suspicious'. You would be wise to keep your guard up around her, as I now will. I thank you for showing me this, Ashevelen. Am I to presume this gift comes with a price?"

As soon as the puppet-show ended, Ashevelen nodded to Aveira.

I have evolved my mortals because of her. Even if she decides to attack at a later date, they’ll be ready. If I’m not mistaken, her spawn are already making problems for your mortals. Treat her with respect, I suggest but expect treachery at every step. ” replied Ashe before moving away, looking outside. Scanning the city with her divine sight. After a few moments, she turned back towards Aveira, looking her straight in the eyes.

If it’s a gift, there’s no price but you are right, it wasn’t and there is a price. I only ask one thing of you for this. Instruct your mortals to build a bazaar. You know better than me, I’m sure, that there are more types of conquest. While bashing heads and killing mortals can be fun, it doesn’t always work. I’m willing to leave some of my own Umbra here to teach your people with the only condition that they will not be used for anything else than trading. ” said Ashe.

Aveira offered a contemptuous huff in return for Ashevelen's terms, turning her head to fix an idle attendant with her gaze. "I accept. I shall let them thrive outside these walls and uplift the elven mongrels in turn. I have no particular intent to meddle with mortal affairs, but my own vision requires stability and production capacity. Mortal growth can only aid me.

The angel paced a few steps in the luxurious room, before turning back to Ashevelen. "But perhaps you would join me in seeing this as a unifying move between us. I have designs on this entire world, but that does not mean you or your mortals need fear me or mine."

With a wave of Ashe’s hand, her robes parted and a few Umbra which were sleeping in her own shadows awakened. Looking around, wide-eyed, they noticed the two divines and immediately got scared of the angel. Hiding behind Ashevelen while asking for protection and promising a trade at a later date.

Calm down. She won’t harm you as she is your new master, Shaeska , you are to teach her mortals how to trade. Make sure you teach them well and if you’ve got any problems, speak with Shaeska’s servants. ” said Ashe calmly at the Umbra, putting them at ease.

They’re yours to command, Aveira. ” added Ashe with a friendly bow before taking a moment to think about Aveira’s proposal.

Are you saying we should ally, sister? My Umbra, and myself, bring wealth and as you mentioned, economical conquest. What do you bring and I mean this with no disrespect? ” replied Ashevelen to the proposal, cautiously.

Aveira watched the Umbral arrival with interest, her imperious stare no doubt contributing to their caution. A low murmur of whispers erupted in the chamber as the elven attendants discussed this development among themselves. Eventually the angelic conqueror returned her attention to Ashevelen, her initial curiosity sated.

"Protection, chiefly. While this may yet be an underdeveloped cradle, I intend to unify all mortals under my care and rule. By sword and fire, or by diplomacy. Thus it seems to me this is the most advantageous time for you to align yourself with my cause. I can look elsewhere, and you can rest easy knowing that war will not come. Furthermore, I offer a steady supply of mortals and whatever knowledge I gain. I intend to bolster the mortal realm as a whole - I would not exclude you and yours. My rule is simple; whatever decree I make must be met, and infighting that damages the stability of my demesne is punished." Aveira strode around in her chamber, pulling the golden robe together at the hemline separating it in the middle. Her eyes fell on Ashevelen, gauging her up and down with her stoic gaze. "To that end, mutual enrichment would naturally be part of this."

Ashevelen started pacing around the room, occasionally giving a look at the servant and waving a friendly hello or pushing forward an Umbra to initiate communication between them. All this time, of course, she listened to Aveira. The divine had a plan, that was for sure and that plan was world-wide domination.
" While I would be in favour of it, as, overall it'll be easier to bolster trade and punish the bandits and whatnot that will surely appear if there would be only one roller…there is something I don't agree with. You're saying "all decrees you make should be met", first of all, that wouldn't be a fair trade. Second of all, what if you decide that trading will be illegal or something that I don't agree as fair trade? Then, myself and those that are aligned with my views will be opposed to you and before you say anything, I do have a few divines already aligned to my views already. " countered Ashe.

The angel scoffed quietly, but her face remained dispassionate and controlled. She followed Ashevelen with her eyes as she moved about the room, and eventually gestured towards a congregation of pillows for her to sit in luxurious comfort. "You raise a valid point, Ashevelen. Would it soothe your fairness-addled mind were I to instead say; all my decrees shall be rewarded dearly. I expect service and loyalty, yes, but I am not interested in squeezing water from stones."

Aveira batted her hand to ward off a nosy attendant hovering around her with a metal pitcher. "As for the laws of mortals, or whatever would affect your demesne, I am fine with you retaining control of it all, fair lady of trade. All I want is order and loyalty."

Taking Aveira’s queue, Ashe sat next to her on the luxurious pillows before replying.

Fairness-addled mind, nicely put. Rewarded dearly can mean a lot of things, sister. You forget that I’m the lady of the trade. Pacts fall under my powers which means that “rewarded dearly” can mean pretty much anything. Dearly for whom, I ask? Yourself? Myself? Maybe your mortals. See my point? ” explained Ashe gently. Indeed, aligning herself with Aveira would bring great wealth but at what cost? That was the question.

What you propose is everyone else bowing to your commands. I’ve got a different proposal for you which might be better. I’ll allow myself to be aligned to you and you may call upon me whenever you need but with the condition that any laws or decrees regarding things that fall under my domain will go through me. Trades, pacts, shadows…all will be decided by me. You will, of course, have the power to question any of my decisions regarding them and outright, deny some if they overlap with your plans but in the end, I shall have the last word regarding them. Everything else will be yours to decide. How does that sound? ” said Ashe, channelling all her inner “je ne sais quoi”.

"Hrmph,” Aveira responded sharply, lifting her chin rebelliously at what she apparently considered an outlandish offer at best. That done however, she did not proceed to reject it outright, but rather sank into a distant stare as, head turned, she watched one of the Umbra interact with a polite handmaiden doing her best to answer every question the shadowy creature had. "Fine. I think you’ll find my ‘plans’ are agreeable to you, in any case. I will build a grand empire for you to fine tune and meddle in the lives of mortals. So long as you do not throttle the coming expansion, you will find I have little reason to chide. Is that what you desired to hear?

Ashevelen laughed in a friendly manner at Aveira and then proceeded to grin at her.

You really need to learn how to smile, sister. All that frowning will just put wrinkles on your skin. Life is better that way, trust me. ” initially replied Ashe, as she weaved a shadowy smile in the air and as the smile was slowly fading away, continued “ But, to answer your question, yes. I only wish to be sure that you aren’t trying to trick me, work habit and all that. With all these said, do we have a deal?

"That is why I prefer the master and subject-relation. No room for trickery when everyone knows their place," Aveira intoned as her gaze roamed the goddess features with the same attempt at stoicism as before, and extended an arm out towards Ashevelen. "But indeed, let us seal this agreement however you wish. Do you already have a custom in mind?"

And see, that’s where you’re wrong again. A master may be trick-free to his subjects but the subjects will always have their own tricks up their sleeves. Take my word on that. ” replied Ashevelen before looking at Aveira’s extended arm.

There are many ways we could do this, my usual one is writing on a papyrus which is anyway being done since I arrived here but, let’s do something else. It will be more fitting. ” She continued as she met Aveira’s arm and shook her hand.

For the first time, Aveira seemed to smile - well, smirk at the very least. Her grip was firm in the handshake, and she leaned forward in mustering some competitive confidence. "Always tricks, hm? Is that a threat, Ashevelen?

A threat? I would never threaten my new business partner, for that’s what we are and see, you look way better with a smile on your face. ” quickly replied Ashe, with a wink.

The angel scoffed quietly, squeezing the goddess' hand firmly before she let go. "If you are hoping to appeal to my vanity, I am afraid you have a very difficult campaign ahead of you. I am a woman of action, not compliments."

Oh’ but you got me wrong. I am not appealing to your vanity, I am just speaking the truth. If you wanted compliments, I could’ve said things about your armour, lands and so on. ” quickly replied the lady with a smile and then quickly added “ Difficult campaign? Sounds like a very hard trade…I live for very hard trades.

Aveira lifted her hands to produce a gentle doubleclap, instantly drawing the attention of all present attendants. "Escort our new guests to their future living spaces and introduce them to the populace. All of you." The elves in the room welcomed the umbra along and quietly began to file out of the luxurious chamber at the top of the table.

"Shall we negotiate then, Lady of Trade and Shadow? Aveira queried with a conspiratorial gaze as the room cleared of mortals.

Oh? And in what way would you wish to celebrate, Aveira? ” replied Ashe, with a flirty wink.

"I am certain we can work out a trade that you will find… fair." the pale angel offered as she stood up. Her hand extended to touch two fingers under Ashevelen's chin, and urge her to meet her gaze. "I have to warn you though. I negotiate and celebrate with intensity."







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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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Turn 2


Penumbra and the wood elves, now temporary allies (and/or comrades), went towards the Umbra village to learn about trading and to show the benefits of having the Umbra as allies. Somewhere along the way, about twenty minutes away from the village, dark energy filled the sky and the voice of Ashevelen could be heard once more throughout the forest.

A few seconds after Ashevelen finished talking, a dark bolt of energy hit Penumbra and their upgrade was complete. Instantly afterwards, the knowledge of currency and how it works filled their mind as well.

Goddess! We thank you! ” shouted Penumbra happily as two legs grew from their body, quickly touching the ground.

The elves were a little freaked out by this at first, leaping away from Penumbra when the Umbra was struck, and then gradually re-approaching once the coast was clear. Several of them gave Penumbra’s new legs a curious and/or weirded out look over while the rest just wanted to know what was up.

“So, ah, what was that about?” the charismatic but low level [adventurer] Fang hesitantly asked them “Your goddess gave you… legs?”

Penumbra shook their head and smiled, kindly.

Not only legs but new abilities. I feel their knowledge in my mind and I know how to use them. For example, I’ll try something new because I’m very curious…” replied Penumbra as they got close to Fang’s shadow and went inside it for a few seconds, only to reappear a few metres away, from a tree.

I can now do this! ” they exclaimed while laughing.

The closest elf to their appearance was suitably spooked by Penumbra’s sudden re-appearance, while the rest were suitably amazed by the skill.

“Are divine blessings always that… zappy?” #bfafb2berry, the raven haired [shadowland survivor], asked “It didn’t hurt, did it?”

I don’t know, truly. The only blessing I received, prior to this, was when I was dying and the Goddess brought me back to life. I don’t remember much but it felt…strange. Like a burning sensation, same as if you put your hand in a fire but instead of pain, it was warm and gentle. I cannot explain it but I can tell you how I became a champion if you wish?

That got unanimous agreement from the [adventurers], and so, Penumbra told the tale of the “rabid” Tarsk and how they threw themselves in front of it, saving the life of a warrior even if they weren’t one.

The elves were equal parts impressed and amazed, and asked several questions for clarification or more details. But perhaps the most important ones ended up being “So what kind of class is a [champion]? It sounds really strong! What kind of skills did you get from that?”

Penumbra looked at the elves very confused. They walked in silence for a minute or two and then turned around to them.

I’ve got no clue what you’re talking about. What is a class? What’s [champion]? I don’t…” replied Penumbra, not understanding the question at all. Skills? Classes? And before, #bfafb2berry mentioned “levels”...all these questions were upon their mind and it was time to get answers.

It was the elves turn to be confused, the [adventurers] glacining between themselves. “Do you not have…? Not know…?” Fang asked, and when it was obvious the answer he’d get was no he tried to explain.

“It’s like, well, it's what you are. I’m an [adventurer], snail over there is a [spearelf]” he started with a present example and then got bruiader “the people who dedicate themselves to hunting are [hunters]. [gatherers] gather. And by doing the work related to your class you can gain experience. And when you get enough you gain a level in it. So I’m just a level 7 [adventurer]”

“And I’m a level 22 [shadowland survivor]” #bfafb2berry, the highest level of them, butted in to point out.

“Right, and then when you gain a level you sometimes get skills that can do all sorts of stuff. [forest traversal] makes us better at moving through the woods without even thinking about it. I think we all have that one” he checked around and got some nods “yeah, comes with being an [adventurer] looks like. Where as you can also get more unique stuff like my [calm] or #bfafb2berry’s [shadow slayer strike] she almost used on you”

“And does this sound more familiar now?” Fang asked, and again found no recognition to be found “Weird. The prince made it sound like this was just how things were. That to do a thing, to, um specialise, then you need a class”

“Maybe it was more like, you should get a class?” #bfafb2berry suggested “I can't imagine doing adventuring without all the skills we get to help. And I never would have escaped these woods if I hadn’t level up and my class had changed to give me more specialised skills to survive here on my own”

The Champion listened closely to the elves as they described what levels and classes were. Trying to the best of their ability to understand the idea behind them first and then how it would work.

Let me see if I got this straight. Say, I’m a normal Umbra fishing in the river, I’ll get this class thing, called [fisherman] and if I continue fishing, I’ll get these level things which will make me a better fisherman? ” asked Penumbra before continuing, “ And these abilities I’d gained from [fisherman] class, I’d just get them? Just like that? Similar to how the Goddess just blessed the Umbra with new abilities? Like, poof and I have them? ” added Penumbra.

All this time he mimicked, using his shadowy arms, the whole scene. A fisherman fishing then getting a level and new abilities to the best of his shadowy ability.

“There’s a little voice that speaks in your head that comes in when you're resting, well for us it's when we rest, other less dangerous classes just come in whenever apparently, and say, um, well ‘level up! [Fisherman] class level 4 to 5” #bfafb2berry explained “and then if you are lucky it will also go ‘skills gained: um, [fish…. Detection] and… [favoured foe: fish]’ or something and then from then on you just kinda know what skills and classes and stuff you have”

“I heard there was a [gatherer] who fell out of a tree and lost all her memory, even her name, but she still knew what her class and skills were,” Fang added anecdotally.

And how does one get a class then? Do we just do stuff and suddenly this “voice” starts talking to us? Do we need to trade with your divine for this power? If so, what do we need to give him or her? Our souls are given to the Goddess, already. Maybe fruit? No, no, shiny rocks? ” replied Penumbra, their voice getting high pitched as they went through different objects they could provide to Jeon and then almost instantly answering back to themselves that it is impossible.

“Huh? No no, you just get someone to initiate you in it and that’s that. Either people who already have the class can do it, I got my [adventurer] class when I joined up with my party a little while ago for example, or you get like the tribe to do it. I was a [gatherer] before, and to get that me and a bunch of others had to find these painted rocks the other [gatherers] had hidden during a little ceremony” Fang said, and then defended his tribe’s variation of the initiation with “It was symbolic!”

Hmmm, I think I understand. I’m not sure if I do, but I'll have a word with the High Archon, our Umbral leader and see if it’s something we can do on our own. Or, wait, I have a better idea. ” said Penumbra and then stopped abruptly, turning towards Fang and #bfafb2berry.

You wish to understand what trading it and we wish to know how to get this class thing. Let’s do a trade for it when we get to Shadowton. You give one of our Satyrs a class, in whatever way you see fit and we’ll teach you how to trade. Maybe we can add something else as well. Would that work for you?

“Um… sure?” Fang said hesitant, then seemed to think for a moment and then decided more confidently “yeah sure why not could be interesting”

Thank you, Fang. #bfafb2berr-” started to reply Penumbra before they were cut-off by the blood-chilling howl, followed by a few others. Shapes could be seen moving through the forest, rapidly approaching.

“What the? Barkwolves?” Fang asked/guessed but #bfafb2berry was already a step ahead when it came to alertness, commanding “Spears! Now!” and setting the elves moving. They backed up together, spears raised while one of the [spearelves] used “[quick spearwall]” to speed up the [adventurers]’ feet as they carried them into a defensive semi circle facing the source of the sound.

Penumbra quickly transformed their hands into sharp blades and stood as tall as they could, looking in all directions for the threat, only for them to stop almost straight after as the shapes they’ve seen proved to be a group of six Tarsks, that approached the group and circled them, growling at the elves while throwing a look at Penumbra and then fully ignoring them.

With a raised hand towards the elves, Penumbra quickly said, before they could take any aggressive action and potentially get themselves killed, “ Easy there, easy. Don’t attack them or you will die. They’re thinking you’re about to harm me. Put the spears down, easily. No sudden moves. Their keepers should be approaching soon and then they’ll pull them back.

Fang grit his teeth as the elves backed into an even tighter knot, the [adventurers] most certainly thinking about fighting rather than cowering till #bfafb2berry spoke up: “I… I trust you” she said, with a shaky breath, before she dropped her weapon. With what would have been the lynchpin of their fighting force surrendering, the rest gradually followed suit, with Fang, once he too followed, spreading his arms wide and tentatively trying to “[calm]” the situation

The closest Tarsk to Fang, continued to approach him. Slowly and stopped right next to his face, giving him a few tentative sniffs before it made a whining-like sound and gave him a big lick all over the face before settling its massive body - in comparison to Fang’s - down, next to him.

Penumbra let out a hearty laugh upon seeing the scene and as if on a queue, a whistle could be heard and a few Satyrs came from the same direction as the Tarsks could be seen approaching in a rush. Anyone could see that they were out of breath and that they’ve been running for a long time already.

As they started talking to Penumbra in #bfafb2 Speech, a long conversation followed quickly exchanging words. From time to time, as their conversation continued, they would point at the elves and the Tarsks. After what seemed like hours but it was actually a few minutes, Penumbra turned towards the elf group.

Sorry for this situation. These are the Satyrs, the guardians of the Umbral Forests and those are Tarsks. The ones from the story I told you before. They’ve told me off for bringing you to the village without announcing it in time and that the Tarsks would have ripped you to shreds if I wasn’t here. We’ve got free passage to Shadowton now and we’ll get an escort as well, just in case. ” explained Penumbra to the elves.

“So have these things ever actually protected anyone? Because currently that is 2 for 2 on near death misunderstandings” A wet, stiny, and ever so unamused Fang had to ask.

The Tarsk closest to Fang, growled playfully at her and, while on all fours, jumped from side to side while letting out a howl each time it landed. The Satyr Keepers looked at the scene and let out a hearty laugh before chatting between themselves. If one would take a closer look at the Tarsk, they would see that they were smaller and overall younger than the other ones.

Ha, ha! It looks like Tusky likes you. It wants to play! ” laughed out loud Penumbra.

But, to answer your question. Yes, they did. The Tarsks can eat pretty much anything and are extremely loyal, in normal conditions. It just took us a minute on how to train them and we still don’t know how to properly but in time…” answered Penumbra, as it urged the group to gather their stuff and move on towards Shadowton.

Soon, the Circle could be seen. Watch towers, walls and quite a few Satyrs manned the walls looking out in the forest for any threat. Tarsks could be seen outside as well, patrolling the immediate area. A whistle and a few howls could instantly be heard as they could be seen by the sentries and a series of different whistles came from the Satyr escort the group had.

Behind the Circle, different buildings could be seen and Umbra moving around, trading with one another, talking or simply going about their business.

Behold! The Satyr Circle and Shadowton inside. ” exclaimed Penumbra.

The elves were most certainly impressed by all this. A few even climbed up the watchtowers to get a better look, much to the annoyance/amusement of the satyr guards. Fang was too busy internally cursing about his new [Tarsk Tamer] class to do any diplomatting or question asking, so it wound up being #bfafb2berry who enquired “How’d you make this stuff so big? We have meditation nests and little shelters and things but this? How does it stick together and not just blow down?”

The Satyr sentries were ready to attack the elves as they climbed the watchtowers initially but Penumbra calmed them down using their status as champion and the idea that this was all for better trade opportunities.

That, #bfafb2berry, is something that our Goddess taught us how to do. I personally don’t know how it is done but I’m sure you can work out a trade with our builders and they can teach you. Fear not the shadows or anything at all while within our walls. We are not a warrior people as you might've guessed, it is in our nature to trade and amass knowledge. " said Penumbra as Umbra and Satyrs gathered and watched the group from a distance.

Turning towards Fang, they smiled and said " I shall speak with the tamers to see if they'll allow you to keep the Tarsk as a sign of goodwill or a favour in the future. "

“Joy” the [Tarsk Tamer] replied, as the horror he was now inseparably bonded to scampered along after him. The rest of the elves gave his new pet a wide berth, when they weren't too busy taking in the strange world they had found themselves in.

#bfafb2berry and a few of the others gave the citizens of the town a wave before the [shadowland survivor] replied to the explanation “We won’t be scared, and I’m sure the tribes will be very interested in learning how to build like you do” she and the other [adventurers] weren't exactly the kind to settle down after all “once we teach them how this ‘trade’ thing works”

After a few minutes of walking, they passed from the Circle and entered Shadowton. While the architecture was the same between the Satyrs/Umbra, anyone could see things were different. The building placement was in squares within squares, occasionally if one would look closely, they could see a gap between buildings which would allow the easy transportation of goods.

Umbras initially minded their business but as the group approached, some stopped looking at the elves with wonder, fear or greed. New people meant more trade after all. An Umbra approached the group and bowed their head to Penumbra before engaging in conversation.

It seems that both of the leaders are away with business and the Goddess is not here either. But that’s not a problem, I shall take you to her temple. Someone there will explain trading better than I can. Ah, and let me show you around before we get there. We are in the living quarters now, all the Umbras live here. We’ve got the Hunting quarters to the west, that’s where our hunters bring all the food they catch to be cooked. In the south east, there’s the warehouse quarters, everything we find, everything we make is stored there…and to the south west, we’ve got the craft-umbra quarters. That’s where we build our weapons, get things ready for the buildings etc. ” started Penumbra, pointing out the different places as they mentioned them.

And…this. This is the most important part. The temple of Ashevelen and our marketplace ” said Penumbra after walking for a few minutes.

The marketplace/temple was a normal looking place for a market. A few stands where Umbra were peddling whatever they’ve managed to find or build on their own, different objects, shiny rocks and so on. Exchanging the objects for coins was maybe the most peculiar thing to be noticed. In the middle of the marketplace square, laid another square. This one was currently empty and none dared to go inside. The seat of Ashevelen herself.

Some of their kin might have found the whole place rather off-putting, and longed to return to the cover of the trees, but the [adventurers] had no such instincts, or at least they were smothered by the fascination in the new. The elves fortunately did not gain a single level in [tourist] but they certainly acted like they had several as they strolled about, wide eyes and pointed ears taking in each and every thing as they were shown around the town.

They also proceed to get in everyone’s way, several crowding around to watch a sale going on, while another had to be physically stopped from crossing into the forbidden square due to being in a daze of newness that prevented them from picking up on the context clue that you did not go in there. Once that was learned, the first thing #bfafb2berry did was ask “So what is the middle square and why is it forbidden?”

That is the seat of the Goddess. Only when she’s there we are allowed to cross the square and trade with her. There isn’t a single Umbra here that hasn’t tried to outsmart her and “win” a trade. Even the Satyrs tried without having the same know-how as we do about trading. We once tried to get 10 of us to trade with her at the same time, thinking that if she’s distracted, she will make a mistake while haggling with one of us…turns out she was just playing us against each other. What arguments the first said, she told to the second one and so on, by the time we picked up on it…we already lost. Now, tell me, what do you wish to learn exactly? Each trade is different. Pacts or bartering of goods? ” explained Penumbra patiently

“Let’s… start with the simplest and work our way up from there?” #bfafb2berry suggested unhelpfully, though in her defence, neither pact nor bartering had translated pertiguarly well into the elves’ tongue.

Penumbra smiled and realised their mistake in asking which one to start with. For the elves, either was as good as the other but for the Umbra, bartering was more useful. In their mind, a trade was already being formed and they had to win it.

We’ll start with the bartering of goods as it will be more useful for both of our villages. Pacts can be tricky, wording is very important as some might have a double meaning. Agreed, I’ll act as a translator once more. ” replied Penumbra as they guided the elves to a stall where an older Umbra stood. The difference between Penumbra’s young appearance and the older Umbra was obvious even for someone who wasn’t an Umbra. The shadowy substance that the bodies of Umbra was formed of, was hard in many places, looking more like a crust than liquid.

After a few moments of talk between the two Umbras, the older Umbra, named Brax started to talk in a slow and monotone voice. It was as if even their voice hardened and if one would listen closely they could notice this.

Penumbra, ever helpful, started to explain to the elves how trading works, the ups and down, the good and bad. The explanation took over an hour and food was brought eventually by another Umbra to the group as Penumbra offered to provide them a favour in the future.

Once things had been talked out in exquisite detail the first issue arose, which was that the [adventurers] had not exactly carried trade goods with them. They had their weapons, a few odd tools, clothes, all important paint and rations and that was about it. At the very least, the elves had an idea of what they could have brought with them that would have had worth, but as it was it looked like the first trade of the elves was to be made with a handful of nuts.

“Didn’t you say something about us teaching about classes as a thing we could trade for?” #bfafb2berry suggested after she decided that this nut bartering was probably not going to leave a good impression.

They translated and translated and watched with curiosity, how the elves were trying to figure out what they could sell. Occasionally Penumbra would interject and give them suggestions before eventually they stopped as it would disturb their thinking process.

Yes, I did and that was one of the first tests . Remember everything you can when speaking with one another. An off-hand comment today, can mean a successful trade tomorrow. We’ve taught you how to barter, you teach us how to get this classes things. ” replied Penumbra, praising #bfafb2berry for her memory.

The elf nodded, though her expression was caught between being proud at the praise and feeling just a little patronised. Either way, she now had a new goal: class first, then get some of this ‘money’ thing from that to do a trade for goods.

“So, hmmm,” she pondered for a moment and then asked “maybe I could show you how to make a [hunter]? I had that class first and still remember how I was inducted. How much would that be worth, do you think?”

In money or knowledge? As much as I see, we have taught you how to trade. It would be a fair deal as it is but, and don’t let the Goddess know I’ve done this, I’ll add from my personal connection, 3 coins. As for the class, why a hunter? Can you do something else? What are our choices? ” quickly replied Penumbra.

“Well you mentioned that you have those, and I know how to do it” #bfafb2berry said simply, “As for your options, well, most people start off as just hunters, gatherers, or adventurers, and then the classes grow out from there as you level up. My basic [hunter] and [adventurer] fused into my [shadowlands survivor] after, well, your goddess did her thing”

“There’s definitely way more than just those three starting ones mind, I heard they had things called [herders] up north for example, and presumably there's all sorts of other ones too. You just have to work out what kind of thing counts as an initiation, and have people who acknowledge it. Case and point, I just got a [Tarsk Tamer] class” Fang added informatively from where he was crouching and very carefully petting the monstrosity he’d accepted was a part of his life now.

A small group of Satyrs and Umbra gathered around Penumbra as soon as they raised a hand in the air. If they were to learn classes, it would first be used on others. On those that need one first.

Graxx, step forward please. You shall be the first, have no fear. This is a safe trade. ” spoke Penumbra in #bfafb2-Speech as a Satyr stepped forward. Graxx was a big fellow, broad shoulders, #bfafb2 hair and with more scars covering his body than one would think it is possible, each in different stages of healing. Behind Graxx, a big Tarsk stood which followed him closely, making Fang’s Tarsk look tiny in comparison.

Please proceed in making Graxx a hunter or a Tarsk Tamer if you can. Graxx has been handling the Tarsk ever since we’ve received them from the Goddess.

“I’m not sure I can replicate it, seeing as I just used the [calm] skill enough and it kind of happened,” Fang said, but #bfafb2berry was already on point with passing on her bit of knowledge.

The elf borrowed one of her fellow’s spears and tossed it to the satar “maybe once you see how this works, how it feels, then getting other classes will too” she said, before setting up the initiation.

“It’s simple. Stay behind this line” she instructed the satar as she drew one in the dirt with her own spear. Then she rummaged around and pulled out a warped fish from her pack and carfly attached it to her own spear and stepped to the side and held it up a fair distance before him, using the spear to wiggle it a bit in a facsimile of life.

“Now, first off all you have to do is strike forwards and skewer this” she instructed simply, though it turned out to not be quite that simple, as the elf was primed and ready to make the fake fish a slippery customer. “Just think of it as a game,” she added encouragingly.

Penumbra translated to Graxx, word by word and even imitated the moves #bfafb2berry did, away from the actual fish. Graxx approached the line, nodding to #bfafb2berry in respect and then started skewering the fish which didn’t work initially. Grunting in frustration, he tried again, this time managing to scratch the fish but not fully skewer it.

After a few minutes, Graxx closed his eyes for a few seconds. Soon after he opened them back, he looked different. Focused. With a few fake strikes of the spear, he finally managed to skewer the fish.

He got a little round of applause and, just like that, a little notification was announced in his head:

Class gained: [hunter] level 1
Skill gained: [intuit direction: prey]

Along with a set of intuitions about levels, classes and skills worked.

Graxx looked around for the voice that spoke the words but Penumbra quickly interjected and explained what would happen if he gained a level and true enough, Graxx did gain a level and an ability. Pondering on what exactly he did, he approached his Tarsk.

Sit. ” he uttered in a very direct and strong tone.

The Tarsk looked at him and growled strongly.

I. Said. SIT. ” shouted Graxx, adding his own growl.

They continued doing so for a few minutes and a notification was announced in his head:

Class gained: [Tarsk Tamer] level 1
Skill gained: [Tame Tarsk]
He then nodded to Penumbra who watched the whole spectacle with a pondering look.

It seems it works on Satyrs. We’ll try on our own with some Umbra but it seems like you’ve held your end of the bargain. We thank you. ” said Penumbra, passing 3 coins to #bfafb2berry. y. The elf slid them apart and admired them for a moment, before storing her now rather perforated fish for later, and then finally turning around and using a set of gestures to buy some fresh herbs to go with it.

She found that she rather enjoyed the whole process, and was already thinking about how this would be handy, and how she might be able to ply her certain set of skills to get more of this money stuff, or even head north, grab some stuff she’d heard about, and head back here with it to trade that way, when she too got a notification.

Class gained: [Trader]
Skill gained: [Deduce worth]

She blinked a few seconds, looked at the herbs, and muttered the skill and found out she’d been kinda ripped off. Still, the annoyance that was caused was more than made up for by the euphoria of levelling and gaining a new class.

She had not expected this but, if she thought about it, it made sense. It was as if the class system had been introduced to this new culture by their contact, and it was rapidly improvising and coming up with classes and skills to reflect their various occupations.

“So I’m a [Trader] now. How about that?” she informed the others when one asked what that skill she had used was.

And so, the elves and the Umbra/Satyr people taught each other very important things. Classes and trade would certainly go a long way in making the two “nations”, good allies. As time would pass, a trade route would be formed between the Umbral Forest and the Darkwoods and travellers from both nations would walk the resulting beaten path with no fear of ever being attacked.









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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by DracoLunaris
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DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

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Castle fit for a Jim

(turn 2)


Times had been tough for ol Jim the magnificent. See, his turtle escape from the treehouse dungeon had gone off without a hitch but, unfortunately, what had come after had been the tricky bit. Namly he’d found it hard to set up shop again anywhere, as any time he did, pesky [adventurers] would show up, chasing his legend and the fame that bringing him down would bring.

Well that or the tale of his monsters had spread through the darkwoods and not one tribe had any interest in having Jim and his undead hordes as a neighbor. It had been fun at first, but being on the run and having less and less time to regain his forces had gotten old, and then, dangerous.

He’d had a few close calls… and then one time everything had gone black, and he’d woken up somewhere entirely different. Sat on a throne in a treasure stuffed castle in the mountains, and surrounded by a pile of needle faced Nagna corpses.

Oh, and one other thing. He was now a level 1 [necromancer]



Time had passed since then and he’d managed to get back on his feet. His hordes had grown, at first made of the odd beasts that wandered into the desolate mountains, and then after he had consolidated his forces, he had raided from the deserts, woods, and bizarre bloody marsh that touched the mountain range his castle sat in for corpses.

This of course got the attention of the locals, and he was very much expecting [adventurers] to come a knocking to face him, stop his attacks/grave robbing and steal the booty his home was stuffed with. As such, when a thumping came at the gates of his caslte, he was both unsurprised and well prepared. He arrayed his minions ahead of him in the long entryway, weak zombies at the front, undead monsters in the middle, his two [apprentice necromancers] he’d picked up from the desert behind those and then he himself standing above them all dramatically

“Nyeheheh! So, the fools come at last! Well I've learned from my mistakes! No starting out my forces! Today they face my full might all at once! We will see who will get the best of who this time!” he declared as the banging grew louder, and louder.

And then it stopped.

And then the door caught fire. And then a massive scaly head smashed through it and into the room.

“W-w-what” Jim stammered as he looked up and up and beheld the monster that invited itself into his realm, stepping over the burning wreckage of the door and into the entry hall. Embers slope off of its bright red scales, and its mighty horns and wings almost scraped the ceiling of the grand entryway.

“Hmmm. Well this is strange. Then again. This big cave was already stange and alluring so…” the beast said before going “hmm” again and looking down with its amber eyes to find some zombies had walked over and started uselessly whaling at its scaly legs. “shoo shoo” the dragon said as it effortlessly swatted them away.

“What…. What are you!?” Jim demanded to know of the beast, which turned its head and informed him simply “I’m a dragon” before adding “now if you excuse me, I smelled treasure, hmmmmm, that way”

And with that the dragon started stomping through Jim’s hordes, the [necromancer] backing up as his cowardly ex-bandit [apprentices] cowered behind him. It ignored all three and pushed deeper into the castle, leaving a trail of ruined undead in its wake.

Jim stood there shocked for a bit, and then shouted, “Hey wait, come back!” and ran after the dragon. His two apprentices looked at eachother, and then decided to leg it in the opposite direction. Out the castle they went and they didn’t stop till they got back to the desert.

Back in castle du la Jim its master was haranguing the uninvited guest “What is the meaning of this? You can't just come in here and ignore me! Me! The amazing indestructible awe inspiring Jim!” he insisted, and yet was still ignored.

The dragon was far more interested in a set of locked doors “mmm, ahhh there. Behind there” it said and proceeded to wreck that set as well and unveiled a beautiful sight: the motherload of the castle’s treasure, stacked up in the vault

“oooooh. Sooo shiny” the dragon marveled at the gold and jewels piled within, and then immediately moved in to scoop up a calw full “and so much. I’lll have to come back”

“Come back? Hey! What does an overgrown lizard even want with gold and jewels anyway!” Jim shouted

“Lizard? Lizard!” the dragon snarled and turned its snout on the [necromancer] and blew smoke in his face “I am a dragon! Dra-gon! Got it?”

“Yes yes yes. Of course of course. Dragon. My mistake” Jim replied, only somewhat intimidated “But, ah, my question still stands”

“Hmf. Dragons collect things. It is what we do. You must know that” the dragon informed him dismissively

“Well… I do now. So you all collect jewels and things?” Jim asked

“Well, I do. The others made fun of me for collecting something there is so little off, but who is laughing now!” The dragons declared, giving off a booming laugh that caused the castles halls to shake and the gold to dance and chink like music to its ears.

“So… how big exactly was your collection?” Jim asked, getting the start of an idea.

“Hmm? Oh. well. Only a claw full really. Less, if I am behind honest” it replied, clearly a bit embarrassed about this fact

“Well. how about this. How about instead of going back and forth hauling this treasure to your drab cave you just go there once, fetch it, and then set up shop here!” Jim offered

“Hmmm” the dragon hummed. It did sound easier. And the castle was definitely nicer than its cave. There was just one issue “but how do I know you won't just steal it when I am away… ah. Wait. I know I'll just kill you!”

“No no wit wait wait” Jim held out his hand and shook them rapidly as if he could ward off the raised claw about to squish him “I can help you! I was just guarding the gold, I wouldn't steal it! I can make sure others don't instead”

“Why would I trust you? Or need you? Nothing can face a dragon” it gloated

“Think about it. Hundreds of extra eyes looking out for thieves instead of just your two. Trust me, you’ll need them. There’s nasty [adventurers] about, and breaking into places, killing everything inside and stealing anything not nailed down is their whole thing. And if they can't kill everything by attacking head on they’ll sneak in when you are asleep”

“Hmmm. That does sound like a nuisance” the dragon agreed

“Oh yes for certain. Plus, they’re my sworn enemies!” Jim declared with a raised fist, before reassuring the dragon “and that is why you can trust me. Together we will see off any nasty [adventurers] and keep this castle and the treasure safe as can be”

“Hmmm. And what do you get out of this?” the Dragon asked

“Well a terrifying dragon friend of course. Who wouldn't want that?”

“Hmmm” the dragon thought for a long moment and then agreed “deal”

“Excellent! With you and me, side by side, those fools won’t stand a chance, nyeyeyeye!”






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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Lord Zee
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Lord Zee I lost the game

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Mud & Hooves





Fear.
A howling beast tore into one of the herd!
FLEE!
Swiftly the horses fled, sprinting across the grasslands, until those lands grew red and the grasses tall. Adrenaline pumped and hooves tore the ground into distance. Yet here there was no safety to be found. From the skies more predators dove, skewering one who was not as swift before sucking dry another who had grown tired.
Run.
RUN.
They continued to run until all was red, all dripped with blood, as along the Mire they went. How far? How much longer did they need to run to ensure they could rest? Frothing and foaming at the mouth they continued to sprint, even as the red grew thick- bloodied mud caking their hides and hooves- and even still as the weight of it began to grow. Another horse collapsed, unable to compensate for being off balance, so caked in mud and blood.

With strength and speed the last few ran onward, for these horses were not fearful of crossing rivers if it meant surviving another day, and the depth of the redness gave them no pause.
Forward, forward, and further still, for every river had its end, and there must be land on the other side- this red was heavy and the murk beneath it was thick and treacherous- one of the shorter horses disappeared beneath it. Another whinnied and tried to turn back, growing far too tired to continue, before its heart simply gave out from the force of the strain.
“...free…. Free. Forward. Must run. Go. Not die. Must be free. Need. Need…” yearned the horse at the front of the last three. It tossed its head and neck, ears pinned back, as the blood grew deeper still. Fighting against the end, fighting forward still, the horses called out for freedom, in the way that only a trapped animal could.
One gave in to the despair of such a hopeless sprint forward- such a hopeless striving and yearning- what was the point? To survive and be hunted once more? Halting, the horse inhaled only blood, and was claimed by the Mire.

Two left, they continued fighting forward, despite how deep into the Bloodmire they’d gone- despite how hopeless they should have been- these simple minded horses were even more simple than most, yet that was the root of their bravery, their yearning.
Together, the two’s only thoughts were of the freedom of the winds- to survive another day- to run again across the grasslands. Their need combined, such yearning coalesced, and there as their lungs burned with fear and strain, they formed a singular prayer with pure willpower and feelings alone, which neither could comprehend.
And that prayer was answered.
Myrtu appeared.
Levitating above the two horses, with their wings outstretched and sparkling, as sheets of ice shed from their body with every motion, the Unicorn Divinity thrust their horn toward the sky and, by their will, the two horses began to levitate from the Bloodmire’s depths.

As the first emerged from the blood Myrtu heaved a deep sigh, as wound around the horse’s body, was the scaly length of a finned serpent. This creature of the Bloodmire had found a meal, indeed. With some fascination, Myrtu observed that the serpent's head was fully buried within the horse’s side, despite the creature still living and thrashing about, as if it weren’t in pain. Gently, Myrtu lowered them back into the mire, for nature had already begun its course. They lifted the final horse high above the Bloodmire.

A pulse of divine light radiated from this horse, the last of its herd, as Myrtu cleared away the residual blood and muck from its body, revealing the fur as black as night.. The Horse and Myrtu locked eyes as they levitated midair.

A beat of silence passed as Myrtu took in the horse’s only will: to be free and run.

So in an instant, the two were transported to the shore of the Bloodmire, where the grass met the land, and the horse was placed upon its hooves once more.

Immediately it collapsed.

Myrtu stared down at it with yet another deep sigh.

Something else could be seen out in the ocean of grass, if one just so happened to look. A flicker of movement, a pale figure coming in with the wind, obscured by the shoulder length grass(at least for a horse). It was no creature that walked upon hooves or galloped with four legs but an elf. One caked with dry blood, a stark contrast to the white she radiated. For it was a female, that much was certain as she drew close, head fixed upon the ground as a maroon ribbon trailing in the wind towards Myrtu, placed over her eyes. Like twin birds, unable to escape the ground or she who they were wrapped too.

She came ever nearer, unknowing or uncaring. Oblivious or perhaps ignorant. The wind gusted and the horse gave a weak neigh as the sickening sweet smell of metallic rust washed over them. Far stronger than the Mire. But the woman paid no heed and was nearly upon them.

For a quiet moment, Myrtu gazed at the woman, noting the features and the smell- that pungent and rusty aroma. Shaking their mane about, Myrtu decided to speak then, a single word to let the blindfolded woman know she was not alone. In their voice without sound, which came not from their mouth but from their mind, Myrtu projected the word forward so that it could be heard aloud, “Greetings.” Immediately, Myrtu wondered what Divines looked like to those who were blind- could they be felt by some other means? Already distracted, their eyes swirled with colors the blindfolded woman could not see, as they mulled the question over.

Nearby, the horse lay on its side listlessly, heaving breaths of exhaustion so heavily it was a wonder that it still clung to life.

She visibly jumped, coming to a pause and looked at them, not just in their direction, before looking away, to the other horse. The wind died down to reveal the last prominent feature upon her stained face; pointed ears. An elf maiden she was.

"H-Hello?" She asked, trembling, holding herself. "W-Who's there?"

A hesitant pause lingered as Myrtu considered how to answer that question. Rather deliberately, Myrtu had not told their name to those people they'd created. Sure, those mortals had likely asked the Umbra within their groups for the names of Gods, but there was a hope that Myrtu's name would fade from mortal memory in time. What they didn't need was a renewal of such memory by giving the name out carelessly.

So to this elf maiden, pale and caked in blood, whose eyes were blind to the world, Myrtu told her, "Two horses." It wasn't entirely a lie but it was definitely an understatement. Of Myrtu, there would never be an accusation of cleverness.

They immediately changed the subject, "Art thou aware that this is a place most sanguine?"

She lifted up her arms and outstretched them, gaze distant. "I am a-aware. Two horses, you said. S-Say, are you one of my kin? Perhaps a h-horseman? You carry the voice of s-someone tall." Her arms drooped back to her sides.

Tall might have been an understatement as well, as Myrtu was easily towering over even what a Centaur would stand at. Another moment of hesitation before they asked, "Seeking assistance?" Myrtu turned their gaze toward the exhausted horse, which began to shift its weight back and forth, in a weary struggle to right its position. Quietly, Myrtu moved to help it, telling the elf, "Surely thou hast not strayed so far from thy people, so as to become lost in such a place?"

She shook her head. "I have no people." She was beginning to shake less and her speech no longer stuttered. "Not many come here. It's quiet and safe. Why have you come here? I hear one breathing with such exhaustion, it pains me. Is everything alright?" She said, clasping her chest as she took a step forward.

Myrtu let out a gentle breath, "Alone? Here?" Then in answer, they responded honestly, "The situation is dire. Mine companion doth fight for their life- yet, tis in not giving up nor surrendering to hopelessness, that allows it to continue to do so." As they spoke, the Horse, using Myrtu as a wall to push against, fought to climb to its hooves again.

"This is a place most unsuited for them," Myrtu continued, "And doubtlessly shall its death, by the creatures which call this place home, be forthcoming." Their words ended on a rather thoughtful note.

She looked past Myrtu and at the ominous haze of the red swamp beyond. "It's true. Many predators call the mire home, who thrive upon the essence of others to sate their appetites. But it's good," a dazzling smile came from her lips. "Hope. It keeps us alive in uncertain times. When we regret our decisions of late. We must strive forward, even now, as your companion demonstrates." A thoughtful look came over her and she shifted slightly as if in deep thought.

Quietly, Myrtu again levitated the horse into the air, if only to alleviate its strain slightly. "To survive in such a place as this… hope is necessary but not enough," Myrtu shook their mane about then, as they told the elf, "Tell me, how is it that thy steps alone, tread the ground here? How is it that alone, you survive? Would it not be advantageous to have another by thy side? Or better to fly?"

Hoofless creatures, as slow and weak as they were, should at least have creatures with hooves that they could call friend and companion both- this was an undeniable fact that Myrtu knew as truth. And so it was that Myrtu began to contemplate what a creature of hooves required to survive here- to thrive here. As they stared at the horse, whose disposition bordered on content as it levitated by their will, Myrtu's eyes swirled rapidly with innumerable colors, as potentials and possibilities flooded in, and the ideas became innumerable.

"I have learned to see without seeing." She said, standing a bit straighter. "I survive alone because it is necessary. I… Can be difficult for others." She rubbed her arm and then continued, "They would come to see me for what I truly am and this part of me cannot bear the thought. So no. Another by my side, even if they could fly, even if they could take me someplace far, far away… Would not be better." Her voice grew solemn.

"How do you know?" Myrtu tilted their head side to side as the concept settled in.

"If ever you were to trust a stranger's words wholeheartedly, met by chance in such a place as this, now would be the time, dear Two horses." Her voice carried the tone of regret muddied with sadness.

Such a sorrowful voice and unspoken regret caused Myrtu to bow their head slightly. Their next question came heavy with meaning, heavy in the concept of the words themselves. Gently, Myrtu asked of her, "But.. Have ye hope?"

She was silent for a time, pondering their heavy words with a blank look. After a time, she nodded as a wistful smile blessed her lips. "Of course. It keeps one going."

"Then…" spoke Myrtu, their glow intensifying, "I would ask that hope be extended now, as the hand which grants clemency to the hopeless- unto thyself, give such hope."

Violently, Myrtu thrust their horn forward, into the side of the floating horse. Without a sound of pain, the horse's form shifted in an instant-

What would it take to survive?

Fur shed from the horse’s hide. Sizzling, the old skin sloughed off, as a new and thicker hide grew in- black and with a metallic sheen- a hide naturally armored to withstand the multitude of rending bites and piercing claws of the Bloodmire's various creatures. Sharpened spines of raw and pure iron- condensed from the overwhelming amounts of iron present in the blood- sprouted as dual horns that were as curved and sharpened daggers, from atop the horse's snout and forehead.

From its strong back sprouted wings, wide and leathery, so that it may fly swiftly, silently, and with great agility through the skies, with maneuverability unmatched by lesser winged creatures. Its hooves fell off as new hooves grew in behind them, with divinely blessed speed. They were replaced by hooves grown of the same iron as its horns. These hooves, sharpened and spiked, with a forward facing vertical curved blade, would serve well in ripping apart enemies from a skyward ambush.

Though this transformation rendered the beast blind, the horse's skull and head reshaped in its configuration slightly, as such blindness was deliberate. Myrtu wanted a creature that would understand its companion and a companion that would understand it just the same- and there was a need to honor the elf maiden, for her inspiration in the creation of the new horse, as well. Its skull grew bony crests, peaks, spikes and horns, as hollow organs to grant it a sharper perception of sound, from a multitude of pitches, angles, and ranges. Even as the horse let out a whinny, the sound of its vocalizations came out as shrill clicks and cries- for now it saw a world without eyes- a world of ultrasound and echo.

The opening of the horse's mouth, as it went to let out its shrill cries, revealed the most important change Myrtu deemed it necessary to have.

From nose to jaw the horse's mouth opened fully along its length, far more so than a typical horse's would, as it revealed sharpened metal teeth and large forward fangs. These were the tools suited for tearing flesh and drinking the blood of its kill. Its larger front teeth would serve it well too, in keeping a hold on prey as it took it skyward from an ambush. These ideas would come easily to this creature, as the horse's intelligence became blessed, and shifted to that of a pack hunting and social creature, smart enough to use both tactics and empathy.

With its renewed strength, the horse landed upon its metal hooves as Myrtu released it. An evaluating look was cast over the creature as Myrtu told the elf maiden, "Loyalty and companionship, in all its myriad forms, be not withheld from anyone no matter how monstrous they think themselves or indeed may be. For us all, there will always, in the infinite cosmos and unrelenting variables, be another which finds resonance with our hopes. We need only meet them."

The maiden tilted her head as she blushed pink from embarrassment or shame. Yet she looked at the new horse as if she was looking into its very soul. "Your words are kind…" She whispered, "I shall think upon them when I remember this moment." She said with steady genuineness. "You are no mere mortal, are you?" This time she looked straight at Myrtu.

Nervously Myrtu replied, "No, however mine form is truly that of a horse! I did not wish to deceive, yet I have scarcely met mortals and did not wish to cause fright." Apologetically, they snorted before saying, "Let this companion be mine begging for forgiveness and a gift, both."

She seemed taken aback. "T-There's nothing to forgive!" She sputtered before stumbling her words. "I-I couldn't… I would just… I-I…" She paused to collect herself with a cough, straightening the ribbon around her eyes(even if it was perfectly straight already). "I do not deserve your kindness but it would be rude of me to not accept such a gift. Twice now I have been shown such open generosity and twice I have felt unworthy of it but I will… Try my best to take care of him… or her." She added sheepishly.

Myrtu's ears pinned back with their own small anxiousness at such a reaction. They turned about on their hooves, if only to disperse some of that worry physically, before saying, "Yours is the freedom to do as you please- accept or reject, it is within thy rights to do so. Besides-" they placed their gaze upon the horse "-I believe the latter task shall be done with ease, for this horse shall take care of itself. To you it shall offer companionship and a means of navigation!"

And for her sake, Myrtu lapsed into a highly detailed and enthusiastic description of the New Horse. Though they did acknowledge inwardly how the elf maiden turned her blind eyes toward them, how she looked up just right toward their head, Myrtu spared no details anyway- even including the creatures POTENTIAL and FREEDOM with lots of emphasis.

"...and it shall be a companionship built upon mutual understanding, trust, and most importantly, hope!" Once again Myrtu glowed, "And from this one shall the others take similar form." The Sparkle Horse God tapped the New Horse with their horn and a soft shift occurred in reality.

She could probably feel the presence of more of these horses, scattered about the Bloodmire, in numbers so as to not immediately upset the balance of the ecosystem. There was still much to be determined in it, after all.

Ever so slowly had she crept forth to the new but familiar being. Eventually the elf maiden outstretched a hand towards the beast. It clicked and brought itself forward so she might rest her hand upon it and feel it for herself. The Horse seemed unbothered by her touch, perhaps even leaned into it. "Then I shall name him Lysander, Lord of his kind and Duke of the Mire." Next the horse knelt down with its front legs and quite effortlessly did the elf climb onto his back. They rose as one, maiden with horse, her pale hands finding purchase with his black mane. She turned to Myrtu and smiled. "A fine steed he will make. Thank you, dear Two horses."

For a moment, Myrtu wanted to correct her on the name, but thought better of it.

Lysander turned his blind eyes to Myrtu and clicked, as if telling the God to stop being weird about it.

Myrtu snorted a reply that equated to 'No you,' that caused Lysander a moment of confusion.

And as if an entirely nonverbal conversation hadn't happened, Myrtu replied triumphantly, "And may you know the freedom of companionship- for be it in the sky or the ground, the winds shell be ever swift ‘neath the hooves and wings of stalwart Lysander." Then gently he told her, "And may hope never evade thy grasp. He can serve as inspiration. For ever had he, even upon the edge of death, ceaselessly believe in hope itself."

She stroked Lysander's neck and once more looked sheepishly at Myrtu. "I shall." She sighed and went for the ribbon around her eyes. "I must confess, I have not been so forthcoming. You have trusted me blindly, Two horses and now, I shall trust you." She untied the ribbon, letting it flutter in the breeze. It revealed pale eyes and broke the spell that concealed her presence. The blood that caked her melted away to reveal a true and pristine Goddess, most noble upon her new steed. "I am Wyn, Goddess of Blood and I reveal myself to you in the hopes that one day, if we are to meet again and the wits about me are lost or crazed, you would not think less of me. It's a selfish request, having just met." She shied away, looking from his gaze to beyond. As divinely as she tried to sound, her nervousness was apparent.

Trembling at the power which emanated from the revealed presence, Myrtu turned about once more, to release the hints of energy they built up in an instant response. Always, theirs was the way of making ready to run- not away from but with- those beings of power in a friendly manner of camaraderie. So far they'd found no one yet that seemed willing to do so, and thus had they the need to disperse such energy, through either dance or some other form of motion. Their spike in power and presence was a means of greeting a fellow divine and she could likely feel the friendliness which radiated from Myrtu then.

"Ah- and I thought thee but a mortal- another of those which I wish not for my name to be known so well," Myrtu lifted their horn proudly, as they gazed into Wyn's pale eyes, "As a new friend then, do I share my name of Myrtu. Be ye lost, crazed, or in another way, I shall think only of thee as Wyn."

Clearly Myrtu was a rather trusting sort, but they further clarified by saying, "We divines have our forms and moods, our shifting ways and means of being. To think less of thee for being thyself? Foolishness on my part. Better to yet accept the whole and all that it is!” There was genuineness and honesty in the weight with which they spoke and they spoke from the heart, “Truly, it shall ever be the case, that there are things about my very nature, which others may come to despise, which shall grant them cause to think me crazed, as well."

“Myrtu…” She said his name, letting it roll off her tongue. She gave a soft smile to them. “This may be so to many but to some, if I had not been who I am now, they would hate me forever more. It is not my intent to scorn or cause suffering. I only wish to be at peace… To right wrongs.” She let out a soft sigh, her smile breaking. “You are a noble and true sort, Myrtu. I shall cherish this meeting and if ever you have need of me, pray you find me with a soft smile on my lips and warmth in my heart.” She tied the ribbon around her head and set it across her eyes, the divinity of her presence faded away. “I should be going. Please, take no offense. I don’t trust myself in long conversations. Something to work on.” She muttered.

"And all is well, for I do so long to run and see this land from the surface- mayhaps a few of these new creatures shall join me in a sprint," replies Myrtu with the sound of a chuckle, "Farewell, Wyn. May Lysander serve you well." With that, the sound of Myrtu's hooves picked up, as they sprinted directly into the Bloodmire itself.

Wyn likewise followed, slow and steady was her pace.




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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Commodore
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Commodore Condor

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Asar Sen


a chance for a new- a chance for a new- a chance for a new- a chance for a new- a chance for a new- a chance for a new- a chance for a new




The wind whipped around her, screaming it’s way into her ears. Her hair fluttered and caught along her antlers as she neared the opening. The leaf patterned skin flexed as she leapt from armored ridge to ridge.

Her form was far too small for the mass of the Iava’Oge to even notice as she gently crawled into the long unused entrance to the interior corridors of the great beast.




The shadow over the lake was immense as the figure brought the previous cargo to the lake shore carefully again and again. In the distance trees and mountains while the solid figures of unborn humanity gathered.

Lessons would be taught, and care taken. Asar Sen smiled as she took another and set them standing along the shore. This would be a good place for them- she would help make it so for them.


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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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The Shadow Bazaar


And time passed once more. Shadowton grew once more, adding two more circles around it to support the growing population and of course, the growing trade. The elves proved true to their word and they brought goods, technology and different other stuff from their side of their woods, while the Umbra traded their building technology. All in all, it was a profitable trade for both nations.

In all this time, Ashevelen travelled the world under whatever guise the mortals she met needed to be trustful of her and she did what she knew best, trade. Ever looking for someone to outsmart her, her travels brought her all over the world but she was mindful, no more intruding over the domains of different divines. No more distractions.

But, it was time to go back to Shadowton. Penumbra and the others were left alone for far too long and mortals being mortals, they need constant supervision ‘lest they end up breaking themselves somehow. Summoning her shadows, Ashevelen flew over the world at an impossible speed and reached the Umbral Forest in mere minutes.

A celebration ensued as the Umbra/Satyr mortals found their Goddess waiting in the “Trade Square”. For a few days and a few nights, the Umbra stayed in line to trade with the Goddess. Maybe-maybe one of them would manage to profit, but, of course, they still had a lot to learn before they could best their creator.

After the party ended and the line of merchants reached an end, Ashevelen raised her head from the ground she used as a “pillow” when she heard a polite Aham . One more Umbra, last one. Opening her eyes, she was surprised to see Penumbra himself. Recently returned from a trip down to the coast, the champion raced back home as fast as they could when they heard the creator came back.

Great Goddess it’s an honour to lay my eyes upon your form. ” said Penumbra with a low bow.

Penumbra, my champion. You’re back from the new village site. I was lost in my thoughts, apologies, what do you require? A trade, perhaps?

It is I who should apologise, my Goddess, for disturbing you. Surely whatever you were thinking about was certainly more important than me. I did not come for trading this time but to ask questions. ” replied Penumbra with a very apologetic tone.

My thoughts involve you, Penumbra, as a matter of fact. But, go on, ask away. I have a few free moments before I start my work.

I am humbled to hear that I’m in your thoughts, great Goddess. My question is this. What’s my purpose? Why have I been made your champion? I am not the best merchant in Shadowton, surely there were better choices.
Ashevelen stood up from her place on the ground and Penumbra kneeled straight away, thinking that they angered the Goddess.

You dare question me? ” replied Ashe while laughing gently and before Penumbra could start apologising, she continued “ Don’t worry. You have not angered me. It’s a good question. One I asked myself multiple times. In truth, I made you on a whim. I wished to see how the Umbra will grow if I give one some actual power. I haven’t made a mistake in promoting you if that’s what you’re thinking. Does that answer your question?

It does, Goddess but it raises more questions. I want to prove to you that the Umbra deserve to exist, we know that you can erase us from existence with a mere thought and I can speak in the name of all Umbra that we’re honoured that you’ve chosen to give us life. That is all I wished to ask of you, unless you wish your forever servant to stay here, I shall leave you.

Some of those questions you’ll have to answer yourself, Penumbra. I can’t provide you all the answers even if I wanted to do so and as I said, I do have something in mind for you. A quest.

Anything you want, I shall do.

Leave Shadowton and take two more people with you. Anyone you wish, tell them it is my will. Walk this world as I did until now. Travel to the desert city in the north-west, meet the Umbra there and see how they fare. Afterwards, go north and keep north until you reach the ice glaciers, see if Umbras can live there. Mark a spot for a future village then come back. In this journey, you’ll find answers to your questions. Is that clear?

That will take a long time, my Goddess but I understand. Your forever servant will do what it must. I shall gather a party and leave by nightfall.

Yes, it will take a long time for your mortal legs. Don’t leave by nightfall. I give you a week to prepare. Take whatever you need in your journey.

And so, Penumbra, now charged with a divine quest and more questions than answers, left the Goddess to her own plans. Oh’ and mighty plans she had. For it was time for the lady of trade and shadows to make her own realm. Maybe advance the Umbra a bit more in the meanwhile.

Raising a hand in the air, a shadow ball lifted into the sky and it went up and up and up. Darkening the whole town of Shadowton. Initially the villagers rejoiced thinking that their Goddess blessed them with something before the ball made a circle in the air and started, with increasing speed, to approach the village. Becoming bigger and bigger as it approached the village and that's when the screaming started. Umbras and Satyrs ran in all directions before being stopped by a clap from their Goddess.

The shadow ball stopped above Ashevelen’s finger and slowly started to absorb the Goddess and the Trade Square until eventually either remained. Only the shadow ball, to the bewilderment of the gathered Umbra/Satyrs. They circled the shadow ball but were too afraid to touch it ‘lest they draw the ire of their creator. The shadow ball made weird sounds, akin to a vum-vum-vum-vum , around it and seemed to be in constant movement. Spinning and spinning until it spewed out solid strings of shadow which the Umbra around were more than confused about but thinking it’s a gift from the Goddess, collected it for safekeeping.

Things were different inside the shadow ball for a realm was being formed. Stretching as far as even Ashevelen’s divine sight could see, a cube was being formed. Taller than tall and wider than the wide, it stretched in all directions and in the center laid the Goddess herself.

As the cube was finally formed, market stalls would appear out of the ground. Millions of them, each currently empty but in time, they will be manned and filled by mortal goods and Umbra hands. Buildings would appear as well, shadowy versions of those that Ashevelen has seen in her travels, a mixture of mortal architecture and style. A place where anyone could find something that will remind them of home.

Ashevelen concentrated even more and a massive tower rose beneath her feet, forming around herself, marking the center of her realm and the seat of her power with a view of all of her realm. But her work was not done. More had to be done, more and more!

Chanting some words in forgotten languages, she conjured a massive amount of divine energy and reached across the world to every shadow in the world. Every single one of them, from the smallest shadow done by a candlelight to the biggest shadow of a mountain at noon. Ashevelen touched each and every single one of them with her power, moulding them, changing them from mere shadows to a portal to her realm. Inert initially but upon uttering the words “We wish to barter with the Lady of the Trade” in any language that mortals know or thinking about Ashe’s realm and trading there and an offering thrown in the shadow, they would allow passage to her realm. To her bazaar.

And even more, all the Umbra would feel the knowledge in their mind. They all would end up, if they followed their commandments, in her realm upon death as merchants. Their souls forever trading with the other mortals, always looking to enrich their creator. Once an Umbra approaches the moments before their, any and all objects they stored within themselves would be brought before the Goddess herself for one last trade. If the Goddess would find their object worthy or if they would sell them properly, the objects would then be taken to be sold once more in the bazaar but if not, then, they would be thrown out of their dying body. Discarded as useless.

What felt like an hour of work for Ashevelen, for the mortals outside her realm, it was a week or two. Finally coming out of her shadow ball, Ashevelen noticed that walls were being built around it. Walls which she almost broke as she came out of the ball in her full form, before realising and changing shapes. Her arrival was met with surprise which then turned into yet another celebration.

Explaining to the Umbra the new rules was harder than she thought initially but after a few tries, they understood and some even scrambled to bring objects to her that they thought useful to buy a place into her realm prior to their deaths which was refused straight away.

It was finally her time to be surprised when she noticed a Satyr wearing something covering his body made out of shadows. Questions were asked and answered straight away, Penumbra had an idea about how to use the solid-shadow strings that would come out of the realm’s entrance and taught it to the others. The result was clothes made out of it. Very crudely made clothes but it was a spark and that would be enough to grow into a proper fire .

During her time creating the Shadow Bazaar, Penumbra already recruited 2 companions and made their way towards the desert but not before teaching the Umbra. Getting the idea from their own flexible limbs and the clothes that the Satyr would make, it took a few tries until they learned it themselves.







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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

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Pointy-eared Dreams


-1-

He awoke with a start. His heart beat in his chest, his stomach rumbled angrily, and his head felt like it was being pounded by the waterfalls behind Allara’s hut.

“Who… Am I?” He asked the air breathlessly.

The taste of warm iron. The gentle breeze caused by a butterfly’s flight. The weightlessness of clouds and the sense of finally arriving where one was meant to be…

Julles groaned, holding his temples as if doing so was any help in attempting to avoid his head splitting apart. He shakily got off his bed (made out of dead grass and full of dead insects) and out of his hut, taking in a deep breath of the fresh, non-smoke filled air of the wide outdoors.

A desire to run free, to seek new things and to meet and talk to new people washed over him. It was unlike him. It made him a little bit sick to his stomach.

Julles hobbled over to the creek that passed by his hut and drank some of the crystalline spring water.

The grinding feeling of earth forcing its way into his veins, tying him to the world’s roots. The desire to uphold tradition and punish anyone who broke it… Plus the impulse to break those traditions and see them and the world bathed in beautiful flames, all swirled inside his heart, which felt heavy with the shadows of the forest and as murky as an abyss.

And yet… It all came back to the flames. It was always the flames.

Julles closed his eyes tightly and scratched his face so hard he drew blood. That blood dripped freely into the creek, dissolving, flowing… Up?

He had to raise an eyebrow at that and follow its trajectory, taking his sight off of his reflection in the water. Blood had never flowed upstream, had it? Yet this time it did, and it flowed for a good few feet until it went down and into the muddy and rocky bed of the creek. A pulse of warmth emanated from that spot, and Julles had to do a double take as he saw an old skeleton, almost completely hidden from view by the overgrown grass and mud that had come to cover most of its bones. Its arm, broken, reached towards the creek and right at the bloodsucking spot, which continued to draw in every single one of the drops of his blood that fell into the water.

He felt cold sweat run down his spine. His jaw and arms shook as if he was freezing, despite it being midsummer. As he knelt into the crystalline water and dug into the ground with his bare hands, he felt a sharp pain in his left hand and winced. It was bleeding, but it wasn’t a normal injury – Instead, the blood flowed too fast and too precisely. Again, it went down into the muddy depths, but this time the ground shook a little, then a bit more, until something shot out from the mud and into his hand. A bow, too beautiful and too solid to have been made by elf hands. It was a pure, unadulterated black with streaks of liquid red flowing along its length. Its drawstring was red and warm, and in the back of his head, Julles could hear its heartbeat, synced to his.

He looked between the bow that had just forced itself into his grasp and the skeleton. Whoever had owned the thing before died while reaching, desperately, for it. Julles nodded his head at his now-predecessor, and rushed back to his hut.



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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by blackshade10
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blackshade10

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Seele sat atop her throne as she watched the ecosystem she had created flourish, with her massive servant patrolling Heavenfall dutifully. The bioluminescent rainforest trembled with primitive life, the canopy serving as a shield against the heavy rains to allow life to prosper despite the torrential downpour.

"Alright, my children. It is time for you to join this new world and grow. Grow and expand, and due me proud."

She waved the Fangs of Calamity as she pulled the human souls from within the Realm of Heavenfall, reworking their bodies one after another. Soon enough, the rainforest below filled with the horde of servants made in her image, a collection of arachnid entities born from the modified souls of humanity. Some were fully arachnid, massive spiders of unusual characteristics, while others had the upper bodies of humanoids that were similar to Seele herself- matching her prideful form.

Slamming her spear into the ground, she gathered the energies she had been accumulating, absorbing them as she made use of the divine power to enhance herself as well as disseminate her gifts and workings into the lands of Heavenfall. The powers of Calamity flowed through her, and she knew this power would serve her well.

Briefly, her body pulsed with energy as cracks spread across her skin. The flickers of energy lingered before dying down and the cracks rescinding as the new power stabilized.

It was just the beginning, but it would do for now.

She watched as her new people scuttled about the rainforest, finding themselves in a new world and new life they did not yet understand, driven only by their instincts. She would not interfere for now- she would give them time to grow without her immediate intervention, leaving Lyra to care for them and ensure their safety against more mundane horrors that might lurk within this growing world.

She leaned back and gazed up at the dragons that had begun to roost below her spear, brought by her visiting dear friend- beings that would become part of her domain. For now she would simply leave them be, and let them gather their treasures and return it to the roost below Heavenfall. They would serve their purpose in due time.

For now, she turned her eyes back to the Aranea, her children- they would be unified in purpose, unified in mind. She raised her hand as the storm began to rumble around the valley, her divine power crackling as she grabbed at their minds, pulling at them like threads of silk, weaving them together into a beautiful pattern, each individual becoming part of a greater whole, each reinforced by their ever-growing family.

And as the Aranea's eyes glowed brightly with magic, infused with the blessing of their Sovereign of Pride, Seele smiled.

The first step completed.




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