Hidden 3 mos ago Post by DracoLunaris
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DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

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Fire in the Darkwoods


Po was angry. Po was mad. Po burned a trail down from her newly minted molten sea, all the way to some mountain range just south of a great Mesa and wide river. Upon finding her way blocked by the mountains, she pouted and frowned and was generally… well she was mad, okay? Her frustration bubbled up from her fiery gut and with a loud roar, she spewed an angry fountain of heat from her mouth, melting herself a way through the mountainous chain.

Through the new fiery gate she walked, stomping and swearing the whole way through, until she found herself face to face with a great and impregnable forest. Her slitted, angry eyes widened to hungry saucers.

Down below in the deep dark woods Jeon was hanging out in a tree watching a party of [adventurers] hunting for an illustrious golden beetle he’d made when he suddenly looked to the west at the fiery eruption and his eyes went as wide as Po’s had, only his were filled with a mix of wonder and fear

“Oh. Oh that can’t be good” he said, before bursting out of the tree line and being caught by his roaming glider, the adventurer swooping off towards the mountain melting menace quick as could be, borne by wind, will and worry till had cleared the forest in a flash.

The glider then angled upwards, tossing the god off it and sending him falling the final part of the distance, his garb, hail and tail fluttering dramatically behind him as he fell, hand on the hilt of his blade. Like a cat, he landed on his feet, and then with a flourish he drew his thin blade and directed it towards the burning goddess, standing between her and the tinderbox behind hm.

“Halt! Or face the blade of Jeon Du Termas!” he commanded dramatically, taking a fencer’s posse with a stent look on his face. Then he almost immediately dropped the dramatic demeanor as he commented more casually “oh and love the whole living fire aesthetic by the way. Very cool- uh hot- no… it looks good on you!” while giving her a finger gun with his free hand.

Po narrowed her eyes. “Are you making fun of me?” She hissed, tugging her cloak closer.

“No? Trust me if i was it would be way more obvious. And have bad fire word play in it probably” Jeon replied before making a terrible decision and demonstrating “Like ooooh, you think you're hot stuff? I used to shoot hotter flames when I coughed”

“You never have, that’s a lie!” Po pointed a finger, taking Jeon all too seriously. “Look!” Po tilted her head up and with a blast of her voice, a pillar of searing heat melted into the sky, the oxygen around it popping menacingly.

Jeon raised a finger, lowered it, raised it, and then just agreed “Well looks like I staaaaaand corrected” and then giving a little bow, one had pressed to his chest (and the other still holding the sword) as he said “You have me humbled, lady flame. My old sneezes are naught compared to you” before standing upright again and adding “you know I really don’t miss those now that I think about it? Wait, have I ever sneezed since I became a god?” he thought for a moment and then concluded “Huh. don’t think so” before rounding all the way back and asking “So anyway, hi! How are you? And who? Who is kinda the big one.”

Po straightened out her cloak, which then tangled into flames regardless, and gave a hidden smile. “I’m Po, and I’m mad.”

“Ok neat” Jeon said, before giving her a little wave and a “Hi Po,” before asking the obvious question: “So why are you mad?”

“Stupid Homura said I couldn’t eat her giant.” Po crossed her arms. “She said I wasn’t good enough.” A pause and then a growl. “It makes me so mad!” Po stomped her foot, the ground cracking with menacing flames.

“Wh…” Jeon began to ask, and then just rolled with it “How rude of her!”

“I know!” Po shouted. “I tried anyway, but it didn’t work… I ate everything but the giant, and now I’m just mad.”

“As well you should!” Jeon agreed, continuing to just roll with it so he could get to the important question: “So what are you going to do with all that anger?”

“I’m gonna!” Po started and raised her fists to the sky. “I'm gonna!” A pause. “I’m gonna.. Do it!” Her body exploded into blue flames. “I’ll eat everything,” Po concluded. “I’ll show Homura I can eat her giant!”

“Sounds like a good way to get fa- i mean, uh, everything? As in everything, everything?” Jeon asked, a touch worried about this prospect, and so he tried “Won’t that take a while?”

Po let her hands fall back to her sides. “Maybe, but I don’t know what else to do.”

“Well, you could try and just eat the things that are hard to eat? Like. the sea? You know, for training?” Jeon suggested, before realizing this would be an awful idea if she actually pulled it off, and so suggested instead ”Ooooor you could delegate. Like. Have other people, uh, burn stuff for you. But sustainably, so they can keep doing it forever and, not as some kind of apocalypse cult. Not that those don't make great adventuring foes.. No. No no no. Sustainable fire. Sustainable . Fire. No ending the world.” that last bit being very much muttered at himself rather than Po

“But!” Po protested. “How would that prove anything to Homura!?”

“Well. uh. Wherever she looks she’ll see mortals making fire, and it will remind her of you? Also all the mortals will love you for making it warm at night and being able to bake pies and isn’t fame and recognition its own reward?” Jeon said, actually getting into this idea now “You’ll be a big shot! Super renowned! Every cooking fire will be a tribute to your name and this Homura? Ha, small fry in comparison. No follower loser.”

Leaping forward, Po took Jeon’s hands in her own, scalding grip. “You really think they’ll call her a loser?” Her tone was hopeful.

“Sure! I mean nothing is stopping you now but like, having a big name and a load of admirers definitely backs it up and makes it a fact!” Jeon explained “You will be the goddess of flame, giver of light, and she’ll be… well I don't know what she does other than owning a giant but hey, that means you are already winning!”

“I’m winning!?” Po’s grip tightened. “And then what happens?”

“You can gloat, you know, lord it over her all smug like” Jeon explained, trying to back up and finding himself stuck in the death grip, sword and all “And, uh, convince your followers to snub her too.”

“Perfect,” Po all but shouted. “How do we start?”

Jeon gave out a sigh of relief, and then perked up “First thing first is we go into the forest, find some elves, and teach them how to make fires. Without burning the whole place down in the process”

“Eugh, well if you think that’s the best way to stick it to Homura,” Po seemed unsure about the last part specifically. “Then lead the way.”




A few moments and a whole load of fire fighting later, and the pair were standing before a very intimidated elven [hunter] in the outskirts of the woods, the poor lad squinting as the goddess lit up the dark woods with her fabulous light. If it was any consolation his face pain and skin that had turned brassy in hue like most of his kin since they had met the similarly tinted god, was reducing the amount of sunburn he was getting by quite a bit

“Hi there, hmmmm, Paw?” Jeon guessed the elf’s name based on the face and bodypaint and giving a happy smile when he got a nod confirming he was right, before introducing the flame goddess “this spicy lady is Po, goddess of fire and she has a little lesson for you about, well, her whole deal”

"Yes! You're going to help me spread fire!" Po nodded enthusiastically. "Remember, one fire! All fire is me and someday I'll eat the world. Until then, you'll have to do some eating for me. Are you ready?"

Paw looked goggle eyed at Po, glanced at the enthusiastically nodding Jeon who’s smile did not quite meet his eyes, and then back to Po and hesitantly said “...yes?”

"Perfect!" Po clapped her hands, sending an uncomfortable wave of heat outwards. "Now show me your offering."

“My.. offering?” Paw said hesitantly, a touch confused until Jeon raised a hand to cover his mouth from Po and whispered “food” helpfully

“Oh. Ok. So like a gift?” Paw said, this whole situation seemingly making a lot more sense now,

They reached into a little leafy holster hanging by their side and pulled out a big chunky goldfish (that seemed to defy gravity even after it had been skewered by the Paw’s spear) and held it out for her to see: “Here, I caught this a little while ago. Would you like it?”

"It'll do." Po waved a hand and the entire spear burst into flames.

“Ah! Ahhhh!” Paw immediately panicked as the fire’s gnawed at their hand and they dropped the burning stick and meal in fight and pain.

"See?" Po continued happily. "Fire needs food to grow. So before enacting my will of fire, you need an offering for the fire. Now go find me another offering and I'll show you have to keep your fire… because yours is already sorta…" she looked down at the smouldering spear. "Well, anyway. Go get plenty of offerings and bring them back here!"

“But you destroyed my spear. And my hand hurts really badly” Paw whined, clutching their roasted hand before Jeon stepped in saying “they can't help you if they’re hurt, here, let me just” he glanced around and then snapped his fingers causing a few plants in the area to vanish in a shower of sparkles and appear before him.

“Crush the juice out of this” he said to himself as he remembered, squeezing the aloe-vera plant to get out its gel, and then carefully applying it to Paw’s burnt hand, the elf cringing as this was done and then looking amazed as the pain started to go down

“A miracle...”

“Hmm? What? No, plants can just be used for medicine and healing if you use them right dummy," Jeon said, as if it was obvious and he hadn’t just in that very moment introduced the elf to the concept “Now run along and get your tribe’s help feeding Po. Quickly” Jeon told the elf, shooing them off as soon as possible before they could aggravate Po any more

"Are you sure these people will be the ones to spread my fire?" Po asked anxiously. "They complain a lot."

“They just need to know how to handle it properly, and they’ll be good” Jeon assured her “your fire’s are brilliant and powerful, and oh so dangerous in untrained hands as a result. Which is part of why we are teaching them! Once they’ve got it they’ll do great things with it… and for you”




The day was late, the sun setting, and the elves of Paw’s tribe had gathered on the edge of the forest in sight of the still cooling mountain as it was bathed in the orange glow of approaching twilight. Piled before them was all the food they could find: everything from berries and nuts to roots and fruits, to bloody tonnikala and sap leaking forest-kin, all gifts to the hot one. They also looked exhausted, tired, and hungry, Jeon having urged them to put in all the effort they could to impress the goddess.

Po looked over it, cradling her chin in thought. She had pulled back her hood to get a better look at the offerings, letting her blazing hair flicker upwards. "Fruits don't burn very well. Or well they do, but they don't keep a flame."

As if to prove a point the fruits and berries suddenly popped, an angry hiss of steam bursting from the wrinkled risens. "Wood though…" the roots, nuts and forest-kin suddenly burst into orange flames, keeping a low flicker as Po continued to talk.

"Every time you feed the fire, you feed me. You can invoke my flame by offering my favorite foods and then applying heat. Then you can use my favor to do great things… such as to cook that Tonnikala!" Po smiled at the elves. "Gain my favor enough and maybe I'll teach you how to do… this!"

She flicked her wrist and a nearby spruce erupted into flames.

The Elves where struck between looks of unbridled terror, awe, and in a few, feelings of facination the hadn’t known they had as they beheld the twin infernos. Jeon meanwhile just sighed, drew his sword and vanished in a blur, and returned again in the blink of an eye as the trees around the burning spruce toppled down and created a firebreak around the blazing evergreen.

“W-we could do that” Paw asked, finding his tongue first among his kin thanks to exposure therapy “how?”

“Same way you do anything cool that breaks the rules of nature. Leveling of course!” Jeon stepped in to say.

Po placed her hand on Jeon’s cheek and pushed him away before stepping closer to the mortals, her flames licking dangerously close. From underneath her hood, her hungry eyes were peeking out like churning coals. “Just give me offerings and I’ll give you fire, no matter where you are. I’ll let you throw it, breathe it, spit it, pee it, whatever.”

This got a whole host of amazed looks. Also an equal if not greater of horrified ones. But it was the amazed ones who came closer rather than shy away, and so their words that reached the goddess.

“For your fire? I-I-I’d give anything,” “So strong,” “We wouldn't need to run and hide from a root serpent ever again,” “So pretty,” “How, tell us how,” “Do you have any favorite things to eat?”

“Bones, coal, tar, wood,” Po listed, “dry things, not wet things.”

“Coal?” “tar?” “got lots of wood though!” came the replies, and then the soon to be faithful broke apart, scurrying into the woods and returning a little later with armfuls of sticks and such. By that point the rest of the elves had either gotten a safe distance away or bailed entirely, leaving the stage entirely clear for the jr pyromancers to give this whole goddess feeding business thing a go.

Po clapped with heated delight as her new faithful started lighting twigs and branches on fire to make meager camp fires. Some tried offering for spells, and from those they got sparkles and small bolts of flame.

“Well, I’m sure this won't have any long term divisive consequences” Jeon said to himself as casually maneuvered around the [firestarter]’s camp doing a bit of fire control/safety instruction here and there to make sure no elves were roasted and no forests where burned down in the process of this little education session. The lack of casualties and collateral damage certainly helped smooth over relations with those that had initially been apprehensive, and though Jeon’s prediction might well come true sometime down the line, at the moment the displays of power where luring more and more elves out of the woodwork and into the smoky embrace beneath the open sky.

“So, I think this has turned out pretty well don’t you?” Jeon said once he shimmied back on over to Po after things were mostly in hand.

“Yes!” Po exclaimed before tapping her cheek. “Could be hotter though.”

“Hotter? Do I… want to know what you mean by that?” Jeon asked, morbidly curious

“Heat.” Po said. “Hot. Heat. Sizzle. Pop. Their fires are babies, not yet hot enough. They couldn’t melt a simple stone.”

“Well, I’m sure as they level and learn they’d get spicier fires” Jeon pointed out “gonna need hotter fires to do metal smithing for example”

“I don’t know if you figured me out yet.” Po crossed her arms and turned to Jeon. “But I’m not as patient as I seem.” A pause. “But if it’ll stick it to Homura like you said, I’ll do my best.”

“That’s the spirit, good things come to those who wait. And invest in the future. Probably. Probably should talk about that kind of thing with that trade goddess” Jeon tapped his lips thoughtfully and then came up an analogy “It’s like a spark, that will start a fire that will engulf the world”

“Well, thank you, John Dom Thomas.” Po put her hands on her hips. “I feel a little better now.”

“Glad to hear it!” the god replied, patting her on the shoulder and then going “ouch” and shaking his hand.

“So, uh, what’s next?” he asked after recovering

A long, thoughtful pause grew between the two gods before Po answered. “I don’t know.”

“Well… good luck with that!” Jeon replied, before prancing down to join the fire-starters and shouting “Hey! Who wants to learn what a barbecue is?”




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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Utrax
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Utrax 𝕰𝖝𝖙𝖗𝖊𝖒𝖊 𝕭𝖎𝖗𝖉

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Myrtu danced about in a circle as several Sanguis Equis circled overhead, which emitted shrill cries of glee and contentment. Such fun had been had sprinting about the Bloodmire! There were so many different and interesting things here that Myrtu felt quite glad they'd answered the earlier prayer. And these horses?

Wow, these horses were phenomenal!
ACTUALLY. Weren't ALL horses phenomenal? NO! EQUINES were!
Anything with an Euqine-adjacent form, as Myrtu had always known, was simply better. Hooves for traversing all the world, wings for extended flights, their backs and legs were powerful, stamina and endurance were high enough to make resting earned and enjoyable- even the simple means of communication that all horses shared, were better than complicated words or writing, and not to mention that most Equines were simply the best size to experience the various landscapes of the world.

In fact, as Myrtu thought about it, weren't they, themselves, the Ultimate Horse in the world? The Supreme and Majestic Equine? The Unmatched Hooved God capable of traversing the stars and planets themselves?

Well now...

Clearly it meant that it was their DUTY to let everyone and anyone know just how fantastic Equines were. And to let the other creatures know how fantastic it was to Have Hooves. No- EVEN BETTER- those hoofless Mortals all needed companions with hooves! Ones that could help them carry loads, protect them, carry them great distances, and inspire others to run and be free!

Plus, Myrtu now had let the horses themselves know how fantastic they were!

And they couldn't forget the Donkeys and Zebras- they were just as fantastic- and if there were none out in the wilderness, then they MUST bring them into being. Though Myrtu had not yet brought fourth the Unicorns, nor had they completed their project up north deep beneath the ice, and they hadn't breathed life into the template for the Pegasus, this Suddenly Sacred Duty took immediate precedence.

All those other bits and whatever could wait.

And so they communicated a farewell to their friend-horses in the Bloodmire. This elicited an interesting response from most of the Blood Horses, as they tried to pretend that they hadn't been having a great time, that they didn't mind Myrtu leaving despite how sad their little clicks were, and that Myrtu was very free to go and stuff whatever. Such a response only made Myrtu add the fact that Equines had such charming personalities to their list of "why horses are better than everything." A promise to visit again was given before Myrtu leapt high into the sky, far above where mortals could fly, passing some very interesting flying creatures along the way.

As they were Not Horses, Myrtu scarcely paid them attention as they ascended, for now was the time for important business and they heeded not the flying lizards, fish, and whatever else that other thing was.

Rearing up, as if the air itself were stable enough to stand upon, Myrtu then began to sprint across the sky above the continent. As they sprinted they summoned their power and blessed every Equine within sight of their passing.

To showcase the many abilities and uses of Equines, Myrtu needed the Equines to adapt far quicker than natural processes would make them, and so it was that they unlocked the potential of every single one, even as they sprinted along, and brought into the world simultaneously Donkeys, Mules, Zebras, Kiangs, Onagers, Kungas, Zorses, and Hinnies.

The adaptations of the Equines happened rapidly then stabilized just as quickly. Within a matter of months, their mutations were highly varied and extremely specific for the climates they frequented: Some of the Equines that preferred the seaside, had learned to prefer the sea itself- becoming a hybrid horse with a powerful tail fin; While some desert Equines, adapted to the hot days and cold nights, growing coarse fur and organs to support the retention of water - some became more akin to the cacti with sharp spines and skin that loved the sun; Others on the plains grew swift and lean, with far more acute senses, and camouflage stripes, as the Zebras became green with black stripes in some cases; There was also no small amount of northern Equines that grew shaggy fur and thick powerful bodies, capable of outrunning even moose in deep snow.

A surprising amount of Equines also developed symbiotic bonds with plants, other animals, even fungi that lived upon or inside of their bodies as well, despite how swift their adaptation to the world had gone.

By the end of their year long blessing, Equines were so wildly varying and suited for filling their new niches in their ecosystems, that there would likely be long lists of their different variations, in the distant future.

Myrtu could hardly take in all the changes their blessing had resulted in! When all was done, Myrtu even felt the presence of more Equines, untouched by their blessing, that were contained within a... bubble... wall... thing? Hovering and sparkling brightly HIGH above Earthwall for a moment, Myrtu considered going in, but there had been something else odd sighted along the way.

What was that thing in the desert?
Or that thing on that mountain?
That burning thing on that island?
When had people went to that strange place to the west of the glaciers?
Were those Elves in those trees?
Why was the coast on fire?

Before their hovering could be defined as "too long" or "a little weird" or "archers take aim," they sprinted away to tend to the first question on their list of questions. Well.

Until they got sidetracked by a few more things along the way.



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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 Journey - Part 1 - Now - The edge of the Umbral Forest


" I told you we should’ve followed the river and not gone through those bushes. We’re lost now. " the elf said annoyed to her companions, just after she stepped into some animal droppings.

" Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
" replied the Satyr to the confusion of the elf, in a sing-song voice.

" That doesn't make any sense. What road, what world? ” said the elf, more annoyed than confused now.

Quiet you two. Do you hear that? ” said Penumbra with raised hand. Their shadowy arms moulding into swords as they prepared for battle.

An invisible hawk circles, an invisible tree, prey could it be me? ” asked the Satyr, continuing his musical tune.

More rustling of the leaves, bushes moving and a whistle, followed up by more. Almost immediately after the whistles ended, some shapes could be seen moving closer to the group.

As the figures approached, a spear suddenly flew into the air right towards the elf’s body but before it could hit, the elf [guardian] uttered a word and activated their enhanced reflexes skill and her own spear moved as if by magic, breaking the spear at the tip but it wasn't enough, more spears were being thrown at them from different directions at once. It seemed that the group was close to meeting their end…

4 hours ago - Outskirts of Shadowton


Days passed after Ashevelen went inside her realm and in this time, Penumbra searched for companions. Not knowing how the journey will be but expecting danger lurking at every, especially upon leaving the Umbral Forest, they looked everywhere for someone willing to follow them. 'Alas, they refused to use the Goddess’s favour to force anyone to join them which meant they were short of allies. The Umbra citing different reasons as to why not, while the Satyrs simply refused outright. All but one that said he might be interested but never showed up to the meeting place.

The time to leave was almost nigh when fortune smiled upon Penumbra. This fortune was in the shape of a tall elven woman. A level 3, [protector] class red-haired elf with a long ponytail, two differently coloured eyes and barely any clothing on her.

Sorry, I no away speak apple language, you. You, tree Penumbra? Leaving? ” said the elf in Black Speech, her accent heavy most of the words came off weirdly from her mouth as she struggled to pronounce them, causing them to sound different than what they supposed to.

Penumbra looked at her with curiosity and confusion. They barely understood what the elf spoke and the elf was speaking in Black Speech or something of the sorts as they barely understood what they wanted. Shaking their head, Penumbra replied back in the elven language, kindly.

Apologies but I barely understood a word of what you said. Can you please repeat?

Relief was obvious on the elf’s face. Quickly regaining her composure, she smiled at Penumbra before replying, in a very happy voice.

Ah! You speak elf! That’s going to make things easier then. I was already prepared to just follow you around until you get the idea.

I still don’t know who you are and what you require, elf.

Casually facepalming herself, the elf replied quickly.

I’ve got no manners, apologies. My name is Custosa, a level 3 [protector] class of…nowhere. No tribe. ” her voice turning sour at the mention of her being tribeless.

Greeting Custosa, I’m Penumbra as you figured out. Level 2 [champion] as recognized by the Goddess herself. You said leaving earlier on in Black Speech, if you were asking if I’m leaving, the answer is yes. Embarking on a divine quest given by the Goddess herself!

Perfect! That’s exactly what the other elves were saying from what I heard. Do you require another companion? I wish to leave these forests but no one else shall take me.

It seems we’re in the same situation, Custosa. I would be honoured if you’d join me and no, I don’t want to know why none others will take you. Do you wish to know where we are going?

No need. Call it a fair trade, you shan’t ask me about my past. I shan’t ask you about the quest. Now, when are we leaving? ” impatiently asked Custosa.

Agreed. My time is running out and I seem to find another person to join the party, so we’ll be leaving as soon as you gather your equipment.

Custosa looked at her body then around herself in embarrassment and shook her head.

This…is all I have. What you see on me.

I can’t accept that. We go out like that, we won’t end up far. Come, I’ve earned quite some money out of the trade with your people. I’ll buy you some equipment and you’ll owe me a favour. Agreed?

As soon as Custosa agreed, they went over to the marketplace. After half an hour of haggling with a young Umbra, they finally were on their way. Custosa, now dressed up like a [protector] with thick clothing covering her whole body and armed with a long shadow-wood spear, looked more like one than a homeless person.

2 hours ago - Somewhere in the Umbral Forest


You’re telling me you never had beer? Never tried it? Not even a sip? ” asked Custosa in a very surprised manner.

Nope, never. It sells well between the Satyrs and elves but I’ve never seen an Umbra that liked the taste of elven beer. There was talk about someone trying to copy your method and changing the ingredients, in the living quarters, the other night but don’t know if they will do it or not.

I can’t believe it. We sold you the technology and you already try to modify it. ” quickly replied Custosa with a grin.

How long will I wait?
Most of life is time.
When is my moment to shine?
” a person from above the party sang, their voice sweet like honey.

With a raised hand, Custosa jumped in front of Penumbra, her spear pointing forward. Ready to skewer any foe that might come.

Easy there, Custosa. I know that voice. He’s the third party member that I thought he decided against coming with us.. ” said Penumbra to the over-protective Custosa before raising their voice and shouting “ Hey, Dahm! Come down.

Soon after Penumbra finished shouting, leaves started to move above them and then with loud THUD a small Satyr, fell to the ground. Giving him a hand to stand up which he took gracefully, Dahm gave a quiet thank you (in rhyme) to Penumbra before looking at Custosa and giving her a proper bow.

Those two dreamy eyes
Full of determination
Yes! She'll win all the fights.
” sang Dahm with a grin. Clearly enjoying the view of Custosa, she in turn gave him a look of confusion.

What? Why is he talking like that?

We don’t know. Last member of a scouting party that went missing. They found him like that, can’t speak a word without making a song out of it. Somehow.

Truth is good,
Truth is soul,
Truth is well deeds of life and soul.


I thought you weren't coming anymore. This is Custosa, a level 3 [protector] and our new companion for the road.

I think a lot day by day
The more i think,
The more I am confused,
I want to explore,
But I got lost,
” replied Dahm with another bow towards Custosa.

I’ve got no idea what he’s saying. Not sure how you understand him. So, he’s a bard of sorts?

As soon as the words came out of Custosa’s mouth, a notification could be heard in Dahm’s mind.

[Class Unlocked - Bard]
[Level 1]
[New Ability - Song of Confusion]

Facing a new day.
Taking the risks of living.
No choice but courage.
” said Dahm the Bard as received the new level.

I think you’ve just levelled him up. We’ve called him the poet before but the bard works too. Dahm the Bard, has a nice ring to it.

Now - The edge of the Umbral Forest


Custosa proved herself true to her class as she protected Dahm from the spear. Dahm simply squealed and scrambled for cover, only to be grabbed by the shirt and lifted in the air by a massive elf which appeared behind them. Other elves quickly surrounded the group, their leader was a short elf which stepped in front of his group.

" Look everyone. One of them Umbra creatures. I bet this one can be traded for a lot of stuff. " proclaimed the elf bandit with a grin while pointing at Penumbra.

Custosa was staring daggers at the group and gripped her spear tightly while Penumbra’s own form twisted and changed, spikes and long spears appeared instead of their hands and all over their body.

" I am the Champion of Ashevelen, the Goddess. You would do good to leave us alone. 'Lest you attract the ire of the Lady Of The Trade and Shadows. " replied Penumbra with a threatening tone.

The bandit leader looked around, then at his companions, very seriously before starting to laugh out loud. His companions soon joining him in laughter and joke making.

" I don't see any Goddess, dumb shadow and if you're so precious to her, let her come over and trade with us for your life. "

As soon as the elf stopped talking, Penumbra uttered a word and activated their [champion] class, skill called [Inspire]. Almost instantly Dahm stopped trembling in fear and activated his own skill [Song of Confusion] which made the bandits for a few seconds to hear howls, see shapes in the forest and pretty much anything that would confuse such a low-level foe.

The effect of the skill was clear, their grip on their weapons tightened, their eyes scanning the forest for threats and it was enough. The two skills combined gave the Penumbra party a massive advantage, one they wouldn't waste. A spear here, a bandit cut almost in two there and soon the battle war over. The Penumbra group was victorious but not without any injuries, a deep cut over Custosa’s eye, Dahm was covered in small cuts from the spears he barely managed to dodge…when he could and of course, Penumbra. Their first real battle left a mark on their shadowy form, barely seen with the naked eye enough for them to feel it for months to come.

The heroes quickly bandaged their wounds to the best of their limited abilities and continued their journey.

To be continued…





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Frettzo Summary Lover

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-1-

Big Smoke ran through the rainforest, ducking and weaving through the wild vegetation. Behind him, ancient kapoks exploded into splinters or were thrown far away, because chasing him was a whole school of gigantic flying fishes. Who would’ve known that they would find his trail of smoke that appealing? That they would have wanted to eat him up so much that they were willing to come crashing down onto the earth just for a chance to catch him?

The shadow panted. He was not used to walking, much less running, and so his newly materialised muscles struggled to keep up with what he knew his body was capable of.

Finally, he ran into a particularly dense part of the rainforest, so dense that the canopies did not allow the flying fish to track him from above. Instead, they had to wiggle their way into the forest and look for him the old-fashioned way, and fish were definitely not good at tracking others that way… Or so he hoped.

He ran into a shallow cavern and threw himself onto the ground against the cold muddy walls, sitting to try and regain some of his stamina.

The last few days had been horrible for him. Ever since he’d gotten separated from his friends, nothing had gone right. He’d lost his possessions and parts of his body, he’d been tracked and hunted not just by beasts but by non-shadows. He didn’t have much left in him. He was far away from home, lost in a strange land and completely alone.

Memories flashed across his mind. Even though he was in danger, even though he could hear the slithering and clumsy tracking of the Iwaks above ground.

He remembered his first smile, when Astarte had given him his name and gender. He remembered the first tears he shared, when Lorelei had come to him crying in the middle of the night.

Faces he’d never made. Words he’d never used. He truly was glad to have chosen to follow the cat and the spirit, to have disregarded his purpose as a servant of trade. It was the only and best decision the shadow has ever made in his short life. To think that only a couple years could be so meaningful to a shadow…

He exhaled. The earthen flow within his body dissipated. His form became diffuse and weak once more. And then he saw the pair of glinting, wide set eyes in the darkness at the depths of the shallow cave. The nesting Iwak lunged at him, mouth gaping, and engulfed him.

-2-

“I can’t wait to find him! He always runs off in the worst direction, y’know!” Astarte explained with a giggle and a hop.

“He went v-very far this time…” Lorelei sighed, her tail swishing behind her and her ears laying flat against her head. She kept walking, however. It would be easy to locate Big Smoke, considering Astarte’s strange ability to track residue… And apparently, following the path of destruction through the rainforest was the correct way to go. Lately, she seemed to only ever chase trouble rather than evade it, Lorelei thought.

Astarte smacked her lips after licking a particularly pulverized tree, spit out a few pieces of bark, and nodded in satisfaction. “Yep! Big’s that-a way!” She grinned, pointing at the densest part of the rainforest, only visible from so far away due to the lack of canopies or tree trunks in the way.

Lorelei nodded in response, walking a bit faster but not without noticing the schools of Iwaks circling the rainforest above, nor without noticing the several sets of eyes watching her and Astarte’s moves from the shadows of the rainforest. Hungry, hostile eyes. “G-Gotcha. Keep an eye out, Astie. We’re being w-watched.” The [Feline Tinkerer] said as she pulled out her collapsible quarterstaff and pretended to use it as a walking stick.

-3-

It happened in the blink of an eye.

One moment, Astarte was leading the way through the thick rainforest. The next, half a tree trunk exploded into bits and the self-proclaimed goddess was tackled into the thorny overgrowth.

Screams rang out. A massive shadow stabbed into the overgrowth with two of its many legs. Lorelei’s eyes widened, and she sprung into action. She blasted forward toward the monster and swung her quarterstaff, hitting one of the monster’s legs so hard that it cracked. “[Sweep]!” She shouted. The skill activated and carried her strike through, fully breaking the leg.

The monster had eight legs, though. While it screeched in pain, it lashed out with three of its other legs. Lorelei barely dodged the wild barrage until she had to deflect one of the legs that would’ve gone through Astarte’s prone body. The catgirl overextended to defend her friend.

The monster pressed its advantage and lunged forward and before she knew it, Lorelei’s side hit the ground and the full weight of the monster trapped her legs.

The spider-thing stabbed down with two legs. Lorelei deflected the strikes and ignored the searing pain on the left side of her face.

As the monster prepared another barrage, Lorelei took in a sharp breath and struck upward with an open palm. “Lion’s Palm!” The Monster was launched off of her with yet another sickening crack.

Lorelei’s stance wobbled as she jumped up to her feet. She felt a warm liquid drip profusely from the left side of her face. Her vision blurred.

When the spider monster started to charge, an even bigger shadow crashed through the rainforest and swallowed the monster whole. Several cracks echoed through the damp darkness as the spider traveled down the gigantic fish’s throat. One tense moment later, the fish turned and looked at Lorelei with big glowing pink eyes. She couldn’t make its features out too well, due to an aura of shadow around it, but she could at least tell that it wasn’t hostile and not only because it was an Iwak.

Immediately, the catgirl stumbled over to where Astarte was writhing and sobbing on the ground, holding back a gasp as she saw the massive gash across her friend’s shoulder and the black coloration and horrible swelling that the wound had.

Lorelei dropped to her knees and fussed over the wound, not sure where to start. They didn’t even have any antivenom on them! A cold sweat broke out throughout her body. Was she poisoned as well? She touched the side of her face and her hand came back completely coated in blood. She also couldn’t see out of her left eye. What was she supposed to do? What could she even do?

Lorelei felt like throwing up while Astarte whined and cried there on the floor. She had training, so why…! Wait, she had training? Besides Lektoria’s? Before it all?

“I-I’m… scared…” Astarte muttered, barely audibly.

Lorelei’s heart skipped a beat. “Focus on water, Astie! P-Please! Just like earth makes us stronger, water will cleanse you. It has to!”

Astarte gagged. “B… Big… Vestec…” And then she passed out.

“No! Wake up, d-dumbass!” Lorelei sniffled.

Two more spider-monsters appeared from the tops of the trees, and yet Lorelei couldn’t even find the strength to stand up.

A bowstring sung, and the sound of flowing water filled the air. Two crimson projectiles found their targets, whose veins exploded in a shower of boiling hot gore.

Lorelei fell to the ground next to Astarte, her eyes only seeing the dark skin of her savior’s legs as he ran up to the group and started to look through his pouches. Then, she passed out as well.


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Hidden 3 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by DracoLunaris
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Jeon tossed up another nut from a little sack and caught it in his mouth as Penumbra and their party finished off the last of the bandits. That had been an exciting little encounter, and though he was a touch disappointed in the elves for going down that path, well, they were dead now. So who cared.

Not him certainly. What he cared about was what would happen next on the [champion]’s little adventure. So much so that he decided to scout ahead and spoil himself a bit on what was coming next, only to come up disappointed.

“What? Did no one work on this bit yet? Yeesh” the god complained from atop a mountain top as he looked down at the vast expanse of basically nothing set between the woods Penumbra was currently traversing and the next bit of interesting terrain they'd reach: a distant desert.

“Tisk tisk, well we can't have that now can we” he said, before cracking his knuckles and saying, “Well then, guess it falls to me to liven things up a bit” before pausing and thinking about what he’d want to do, stood atop one leg while the toe beans of the other tap tap tapped against the bare mountain stone.

“Hmmm, well, savana? Nah. swamps? Nah not that either hmmm” he pondered before saying to himself “well, maybe the elves need a bit more space and then they’ll stop doing a banditry? But bleh, just making more of the same forest? So lame”

“Well. There’s more way to grow trees and liven up the place soooo” the god concluded, before reaching into his nut bag and then tossing a torrent of seeds out of it that lashed out and then rained down on the soil as of yet untouched by godly hands.

Trees burst from it, surrounding the few denizens of the land with a forest in an instant, the canopy above smothering out the sun and leaving them in the dark. For a moment. Then, suddenly, there was light as a sea of glowing motes swept into the woods, following in the wake of the Prince of the Woods as he pranced through it at breakneck speed. Then he hit the center, where the moats coalesced and then burst out, suffusing the woods with their glow.



“There we go, now that’s a nice aesthetic contrast” Jeon nodded to himself before thinking for a moment “and so I thiiiiiink I’ll just call these the Lightwoods. Simple enough. Now then, let’s spice things up a bit”

He pointed some fingers and made some base level creatures, your (water) bugs and birds, your Tonnikala. Simple enough. Toss in a few Nagna, a shoal of Gedhe’iwak and a Huwu’idang or two to keep the place growing nicely. The soil here was pretty nutrient poor, what with being next to a desert and all, and so the plants would need to feed. Thus in went some venus flytraps and pitcher plants.

Then he started adding some native forest-kin to the region. He pointed at a few of his new carnivorous plants, and caused them to uproot themselves and take to the sky as gulping Toni-flora. He pointed at another larger one and it ripped itself out of the ground, the hulking Dionera Rex roaring loudly before it began trudging through the forest, seeking prey. Smaller beasts of that ilk followed, shaped like other primordial beasts from petal feathered raptors to stegosaurus with leafy plates running across their backs and ankylosaurus with walnut-like armor casings.

As Jeon watched one of these herbivores then approached a towering seedpod looking plant that was the last of Jeon’s additions and took a precursory chomp, only for its glowing eyes to dim softly as poisons set in. Then vines lashed up from the earth, grappling the beast. As it struggled to escape it was then set upon by a pack of needle-toothed ape like Nagna, who ripped and tore at the sedated creature even as it managed to crush a few of their number till it fell, and its life juices fell around the plant.

The plant that the Nagna too had tried to drink the nectar of for sustenance. Now instead they ate a meager meal of part of their kill, and then began tearing the rest apart, strewing its parts around to their new master, the Cortex Flower, which had enthralled their minds to its will.



The herbivore dealt with, the plant split its manila thralls into two packs, one to stay and remain in ambush around, the others to roam out and hunt for more prey or thralls for their master.

“Perfect” Jeon declared as the biggest threat in the forest began to claim its domain. The biggest threat, and the biggest prize, for if harvested correctly, the mind controlling plant’s parts and poisons could have all sorts of uses that could open the mind to new power, induce euphoric highs or seal it shut and leave a victim complaint.

“Now that, should make for an interesting second leg of their journey, I think” the god declared, before skipping off to see how the [champion] handled this next leg of her journey.




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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Based and RPilled

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It began with the tribe of Ozymandia. Ozymandia and her kin had been unfortunate enough to count among the few elves to be spawned outside the fortress-city of Earthwall. To demonstrate the reasons why their caring mother Celestine had forged the city in the first place, the Ozymandians - even in their mighty elven forms - had struggled against the wrath of nature. The taiga offered little of sustenance beyond hunting, forcing migrations that teared at the stamina of the tribe as a whole. Boar hide and stag skin made for decent clothing in the summer, but once the winter came, the taiga became its own kind of hell. With game suffering as much as they did, the elves were forced to chew on lichen and bark for sustenance. Further casualties resulted, for even a resistance to winter cold couldn’t sate their crippling hunger.

It wasn’t until Ozymandia’s eldest daughter, Ozara, discovered the entrance to what would be their salvation, that the Ozymandians could truly know peace and security. Ozara, while scouting for game with a party of her siblings and cousins, had stumbled upon a cave in the snow. Fearing it might be inhabited by beasts, they had advanced with care. However, as minutes gathered in the tens, the party quickly realised that this was no mere cave, but a tunnel - and it sure was a lot warmer than the outside. A messenger had been sent back to tell the others; swiftly they had followed him back, for the camp was already packed at that point. The Ozymandians arrived in the cave to settle, but only a generation passed before they outgrew their own ability to scavenge the overworld for food in a sustainable manner. Ozara and Ozymandia then fell out over the next course of action.

Ozymandia wanted to remain at the cave mouth - perhaps try their luck again in the overworld.

Ozara, on the other hand, wanted to delve deeper - further.

In the end, the mother and daughter would separate, most following their chieftess while the bravest - or most foolish - followed the heiress.

In the years to follow, Ozymandia and her tribe would never hear from Ozara and her followers again. They sent scouts into the caves on occasion, but they always returned empty-handed - if they returned. However, the bond between mother and child is strong, and the chieftess could feel her daughter’s pulse through the fabric of space.

She was alive… Somehow.




Deep in the black belly of the world - beyond the edges of light and air - one would think nothing could live. At least, nothing not accustomed to the life down below. Here, where surfacers came to die, another people thrived. Kept secret from the heavens, these creatures knew only the shadows of the earth and the light of its veins. Their diets of alkalichen, cavern cantarelles and irongrubs turned their skins red as clay, brightened to a flaming crimson by the underground magma offering what light it could. Their skin filtered out the vast amounts of chalk in their water sources, which formed a porous, yet helpful natural armour layer atop their skin. Considerably shorter than they used to be, their forms had to change to fit the narrow channels through the stone, as their bones changed to resist the many dangers of the Underground. These creatures grew numerous and pioneered new caves in the Hob, the great networks and pockets of limestone caverns. Led by their new chieftess Ozara, these new hobgoblins spread far and wide within their new home, taking in the glorious creations of the Earthwarden… And of their patron.

With time, each cave developed into their own tribes and engaged in trade with one another, helped by the Worming Bazaar led by the Procurement-Princes of the Umbralground and their host of mercenaries. These were the Centaurions of the Crater, humans, kinnaras and centaurs fighting for a living, and the hunters of the Rimeteeth tribe, legendary trackers of the Tundra - all of them demonstrating the vast diversity of peoples in the Underground. Connecting to the greater network of the Land Under Land, the hobgoblin tribes prospered under Ozara.

But then, as surprising to the hobgoblins as as super volcano to the Steppe dwellers, Ozara died - not of hunger, not of wounds, but of age. The hobgoblins realised then that the agelessness of Elvenkind had left them and they prayed for their patron to come save them.

And so he had come - on time - the Bureaucrat, to oversee his latest pilot project. The reasoning had been, since the Ferryman and his Souls Inc. were already immensely overworked, the Bureaucrat would solve the problem at its roots: Too many people were dying. Changing otherwise doomed creatures into something else had been quite successful, as the hobgoblins had shown. However, death followed all life all the same, and the Bureaucrat knew that anything done to help the living was always a temporary solution.

The hobgoblins pleaded with him: What should they do, they asked - their leader had left the world and would never return!

While the Bureaucrat was very aware of the ghost of Ozara before him weeping for all her kin that she had left behind, he nonetheless offered them consolation. New leaders would rise, surely - right now, it was more important to ensure that the corpse of their chieftess would be properly cared for and that her ghost would be properly tended to until the Ferryman would arrive. At this, the hobgoblins frowned in confusion, but then the Bureaucrat shook the hand of Ozara's daughter. An eerie blue flash blinded everyone present, and when their vision returned, nothing had changed. Well, nothing drastic, but Ozara's daughter Ozymala was crying - crying and reaching out into the air before her. Her hand gripped something, but nothing could be seen - yet it was far too firm a grip to be grasping simple air.

As the hours of resting neared, Ozymala would hold a ceremony for her mother, lighting Monoxen coal aflame and burning her corpse down to the alkaline ash and glowing iron at the core of their beings. The ashes were then spread over the three rivers of her home village. As the others rested, Ozymala remained awake for the whole night, singing in a mystical language that rumours said only ghosts could understand. When she sang, the deep seemed to quiver; the waters seemed to ripple; and, most frighteningly, a most unfamiliar phenomenon to the underdwellers could be felt - gusts of wind flew by as they would on the surface.

Thus was created the first Death-Singer, a most trusted colleague of the Bureaucrat.

And surely, new leaders did rise, and like on the surface, disagreements brought them to separation. The hobgoblins thus spread out throughout the Hob and beyond, exploring the Underground as new citizens of Lektor’s realm.




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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Utrax
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Nuqtuq


“Why,” sobbed the child, “Why Ma?”

Pain lined the features of Qriqic, the elder centaur, deeply as he held the little centaur close. They lay alongside each other upon on the mossy ground, which was latticed by melting snow, glittering in the light of a midday sun. With a deep sigh he replied, “Because Hvicy, ice changed."

Despite how brisk and curt the manner of his speech, Qriqic's words were offered gently as he expanded, "Was soft, that ice. Not how it been,” he shook his head slowly, “Not how before.”

Hvicy buried his head into the wooly white fur of the older centaur’s arms, which were already soaked with tears, as he lapsed into inconsolable wailing. Through his sobs as his heart continued to break, Hvicy asked the elder, over and over again, “Why?”

He begged and pleaded, his hands pounding against the elder’s back and chest, as a chill wind blew.

Qriqic winced slightly as Hvicy’s little horns, which had only just began to cut through his brow, dug into his side, but he knew it was a pain he could bear. What he struggled to bear however, was the weight of the questions and the pain in Hvicy's voice.

Why had the ice been so soft?

For moons now, many hunters had reported the ice breaking in places that it shouldn’t have. They’d reported whole shelves of it falling off of the high ice cliffs, while massive frozen mountains slid into the sea to drift alone, as huge sheets along the coast kept separating from the flat lands. Groans and moans of the frozen land echoed across the shifting snow each day as the ice underwent an abnormal transformation.

This was something that even the eldest of the Nuqtuq could not explain.

And Hvicy was not alone in his sorrow.

Some of the best places to hunt were along the ice where it met the sea. There, they could stalk and kill those great beasts which lounged and lazed atop the ice. The mighty Walrus, whose bodies were a blessing for oil, meat, bones, and many other materials, were their easiest and primary prey. When the snow ran high, while leaves fell from their few trees and the ice captured the little land they inhabited far to the east, the Nuqtuq depended on the hunting at the edge of the sea.

But lately there had been increasing disappearances where the hunting had been best.

Hunters reported others vanishing for multiple nights before one finally witnessed it in person.

“Ice opened up. Pulled him down. Closed on top,” came one story.
“Hard ice twisted him in,” reported another.
“Moved like thaw. Was not thaw time. Snow came down,” said a different party.

So when it came time that the hard snow halted and the sky warmed again; that the Walrus left for their time and the young of wild game would be ambling about the west, the Nuqtuq launched an investigation.

While it was true that they needed to go west anyway, to find those great brown beasts with their massive antlers, for they were easier for lots of meat during the sky warm, those hunters that went west were also given the task of questioning the ice.

To question the ice meant walking it, learning it, figuring out what new things it had to tell.
Were there new fissures and holes? Had the makeup of the shore shifted? Did those noisy seals change their hunting or migration paths? They considered asking the Tup’wik people down further West about the changes, but they were odd and talked too much while saying too little.

Those people didn’t know the ice like the Nuqtuq did- those people were afraid of it.

Besides, they hadn’t seen the Tup’wik in more time than any of them knew.
How many heavy snows had passed since last seeing them?
Far, far more than could be recalled.

Not a single elder had parents that knew the Tup'wik.

All the hunters knew the task of asking the ice was dangerous but necessary. So each time a hunting party went out, those who spoke to the ice the best threw themselves into the task. They taught the others, questioned the ice, and brought back Moose when they could- but Moose were also becoming difficult to hunt, so they said.

Ice which lead toward the land of evergreen trees was broken so much that they often couldn’t make it to the shore the old ways. New paths had to be made and even those kept sliding into the sea, as ice which never melted before broke off to drift and disappear.

Then one day, a hunting party came back that said their hunting route had slid into the sea completely.

With them on it.

An entire segment of the glacial cliff-face had broken off beneath their feet.

“Ice screamed- angry- ate the sled. Hunters all ate with it,” the two survivors of the eight reported upon their return. They were both half starved and covered in Frost Rot by the time they made it back to Nuqtuq. They had to paddle a bit of ice they’d been stranded on back to the shore, then walk, with nothing but a block of pemmicin to share between them, for the long six nights it took them to hike back.

One of them died nights after returning, as the Frost Rot from her hands claimed her arms and body with Hot Blood, and the Dark Cough...




“Not there,” shouted Hvicy before clicking high then low, with his mouth, so that the others knew to back away from their advance. Gently he tapped a hoof upon the ice, then shook his head, turning around to the others. He gave them two head tilts, then a whistle, and they all began to move. Together the Hunters backed away, retracing their steps with practiced precision. Several strides later and with a sharp turn right, they marched further north, and away from danger.

A Kinnaras with a particularly fluffy head of white woolen hair, which barely fit beneath the hood of his sealskin parka, whistled lowly toward Hvicy to ask for explanation.

“Light blue ice- hollow sound- sharp light on top,” returned Hvicy, with a head tilt of seeking confirmation.

Two shrill whistles came from Qriqic, who lead at the head of the group with their sled- the sound signaled confirmation and agreement with Hvicy’s assessment. Beneath his hide face covering, Hvicy grinned widely, then bobbed his head up and down in pride- the light catching his dark horns in a showy manner.

Rather aggressively, the Kinnaras flashed his horns in the same nodding motion, making a snort of friendly antagonism back.

Hvicy laughed slightly then asked, “Kopq- Jealous?”

“No. You hunt like blind. My harpoon better,” returned Kopq, flashing his horns once more, “Hvicy. Talk to ice too much.”

It was true, Hvicy had to admit inwardly, but he also told himself that he couldn’t help it.

Since the death of his Ma, the crippling of his Da, and the loss of many more hunters between then and when his horns cut in full, Hvicy had devoted himself to the ice. Questioning it, walking it, to know it deeply and fully, Hvicy went as often as he could onto the ice. As the moons and nights turned him from a boy into a young man, he spent more time speaking with the ice than with others- or so the joke went.

When he should have been focused on pulling the sled, Hvicy was talking to the ice.
When he was needed to circle after a Walrus, to help antagonize it into isolation from its main pot, he was listening to the ice.

As Kopq, his bond-kin, was carving his own harpoon to throw, Hvicy had been with the ice and the ice alone.

Yet he was an excellent guide across the ice, when it came time for hunting Moose again, so very few gave him true antagonism or ill words for his lack of skill elsewhere. With Hvicy in the Hunt party, no one was lost to the ice. Not once.

A voice called out, “Hvicy! Open eyes?”

And he lowered his horns then, deflating at the question. It was teasing and reminder both from Pngna, the human woman that rode astride Qriqic’s back. A few soft snickers followed from the other hunters- this was the extent of said antagonism, truly, and Hvicy knew it wasn't uncalled for.

Not once had Hvicy’s thrown harpoon, the one he’d carved himself, actually struck a target he aimed at.

Rather enthusiastically, he always threw it, because it was what a good hunter did! He wanted to be as good a hunter as his Ma had been, because he’d lived through how sorely her skills were missed. As many times as he’d gone out to talk to the ice, he’d thrown his harpoon, but it had missed just as much. Numerous hunters, from elders to those in his age group, had instructed and directed Hvicy. A few had even scrutinized his harpoon: Had he carved it wrong when he came of age? Was the wood crooked or unbalanced? Had the wrong kind of wood been used? It was best to use it themselves- to test it on his behalf and see-

And every other hunter struck beasts with it effortlessly.
Clearly, the problem was elsewhere.

“Today,” Hvicy mumbled into his hood with little confidence, as he’d said every other time since the taunt had been established, far too many moons and sky warms ago.

“Today,” echoed Qriqic, as confident in him as ever.

It pained Hvicy to hear.

That was the man that taught him everything about hunting, taught him to throw his harpoon even, but Hvicy could never hit a target. Though Qirqic never expressed disappointment or resentment for him, Hvicy couldn’t help but feel he had earned at least a little by now, especially since Kopq- another student of the elder Qirqic- had been doing so well...




Eventually, they came upon a ring in the ice.

Constructed from bricks, made of compacted ice and snow, and encircled by a multitude of antlers, the ring was a wall which stood higher than a Human standing upon a Centaur’s shoulders. Though there was no roof, for there was no need of one, as the place was the Nuqtuq in which they like every hunter before them, made camp for the hunting of moose. From here the towering evergreens of the nearby taiga could be seen. Some small shrubs and those few tundra transition plants were plentiful nearby too, and would make for great berry foraging later.

As the party passed beneath the massive Whale-bone arches, which acted as landmark and gate, they spread out to assess the condition of the Nuqtuq.

Despite the fact that snow came in, it had thawed enough, so that the few amenities were easily re-carved. A large slab of shaped ice, which had become quite hard over time and from multiple uses, sat to one side of the Nuqtuq, and it was red from its purpose. This long table had been used for years to dress down various game and prepare fish, before their long sled transport back to Nuqtuq.

Preparation of the camp involved re-carving the table, clearing out whatever snow they could, and repacking holes that may have melted into the ice walls. Hard work went into crafting a new wooden door for the gate, using materials they’d pushed out from Nuqtuq, especially since bears had been a problem here in the past. It took time uncounted and the majority of the hunting party was exhausted, by the time the gate was finally complete, but a watch needed to be set out despite it.

Gates were nice but would never be as good as a person watching.

Unfortunately for the watchers, this often meant a lot of standing around, and a lot of boredom.

Many nights had passed staying in the Nuqtuq, as hunts were performed during the dark dawn, and watches were set up by afternoon and night. So few moose had made their way north, that some of the hunters were getting concerned. Was that Burning Scar to the south the reason the Moose had been scarce? Everyone could see the smoke during the day and the red glow of it on the horizon at night had been disconcerting. What happened down there?

But the Nuqtuq had come blame the burning scar, concluding that it was the reason for the ice being too soft along these hunting grounds, because the waters had grown far warmer than before. The adjustment had been made some time ago to stick to the harder ice during Moose hunt, so that further deaths could be avoided, yet the sea continued to warm and the ice continued to change. Much of the old paths had melted into the sea rapidly over tome, so it was that the young like Hvicy, were of more value for speaking with the ice.

They were the ones that knew this new ice and all its new paths.

But there were still so few that knew the creatures of the land and how they’d changed their paths, due to the Burning Scar. Moose had proven to be unpredictable at first but the Nuqtuq had found a slight way to change that, some time ago. It had taken many thaws but the Nuqtuq were the sole reason why so many berries grew so close to the ice here. Growing them was working for the Nuqtuq back home so of course it could work for the ground where the taiga met the ice here too- for it was precisely like their lands far to the east.

Sometimes the moose would come by, more frequently the bears would be scavenging but, other times there was nothing but coming back to the Nuqtuq empty handed...




And a lot of standing watch.
A whole lot of standing watch.

As the ice turned purple and gold with the early hints of sunset, a snowball soared cleanly through the points on a set of caribou horns, which decorated the high wall of the Nuqtuq.

“Two,” Hvicy chuffed in a self congratulatory fashion.
“Hvicy? Better at snow-toss. Not Harpoon,” snickered Kopq, as he watched, impressed.

Together they continued walking the perimeter of the Nuqtuq, if only to keep themselves warm. This was a game everyone liked to play during the watch- see who could throw snowballs through the points on antlers and horns which decorated the wall. The more difficult the throw was, the more “points” it counted for. Elders liked to tell the story whenever they played this game to those younger, about the living shadows which once lived with the Nuqtuq when they ways were young- they had taught them how to count and what numbers meant back then.

They always spoke of the Umbra fondly but every story about them ended with, “But sun melted them.”

Kopq threw his snowball through a set of points on a massive moose rack, which passed through a second set of caribou points, and he laughed aloud, “Four! Hvicy, see?”

But Hvicy’s eyes were turned in the opposite direction.
“Moose- Kopq,” he clicked twice then nodded forward.
Turning to stare toward where Hvicy indicated, Kopq made an uncertain grunt.

Together they stared across the ice, were the white line of ice shelf met a backdrop of evergreen forest. A breeze swept loose snow up into a sparkling powder. Kopq made another uncertain grunt just as two ivory points, curved and crooked, broke their line of sight with the forest.

Hvicy clicked then whistled sharply, shifting the position of his harpoon from his side, to being tucked beneath his arm.

Looking up at him Kopq asked, with an edge of excitement to his voice, “Us. Alone?”

Rousing another hunter would take time and the others had settled to sleep a while ago. Elders often took the opportunity to kill any stray game that wandered too closely anyway, especially if they knew it wouldn’t lead them too far from the Nuqtuq, while they were on watch.

It was with this reasoning that Hvicy sucked his teeth rapidly in enthusiastic agreement, whilst pawing the ground with his front hoof eagerly. If they could down the Moose, then dragging the carcass back to the Nuqtuq could wait while they doubled back and roused hunters- if bears didn’t come out when smelling the blood of course- but that wasn’t going to happen, surely!

Presenting his back to Kopq, Hvicy kept his eyes toward where the Moose antlers had shown, while flashing his own horns eagerly, waiting for his kin to climb aboard.

Kopq grunted in disagreement, before picking up a jog toward the moose, “Too heavy together. Hvicy, be swift. Open eyes!”

And Hvicy felt the encouragement in a heated rush. In silent gratitude and joy both, Hvicy picked up speed sharply- in the way that only a Nuqtuq Centaur could. Due to the harsh conditions in the Northern climates, their bodies had changed, as Kinnaras, Human, and Centaur each found a place within their tribe- a place that utilized their strengths as a team. Their bodies had adapted as a result of years filling their particular positions in the Nuqtuq.

A Nuqtuq Centaur was now distinct for being a head or two shorter than the typical Centaur. Their bodies were more compact, lighter, but this gave them speed that outpaced most other Centaur, especially from a single point burst. Though maintaining their speeds through deep snow was a bit of a challenge, their legs could still carve through it with nearly the same ease as a Moose, and they scarcely acknowledged the cold of wind speed, due to their thick woolly fur.

And the wind rushed loudly in Hvicy’s ears as he sprinted forward- his eyes locked on the reappearance of the Moose’s antlers. Good! They were still where he’d seen them. To harpoon a Moose meant getting closer, quickly, then slowing down before it perceived a threat. He came within a good position, sliding down to a halt, as he palmed his throwing harpoon, balancing the weight upon his shoulder. Hvicy’s eyes watched the Moose’s points dip, then reappear once more- he squinted to observe their orientation.

Which way is it facing?

As they turned, Hvicy felt another rush of panic- had it heard him? Why was it turning away?

And then the Moose’s pace picked up- No.
NO!

This was his chance, he could do it alone- he had to get it now- Hvicy couldn’t suffer another miss.
Oh no.
It was getting further away and his hand shook as the grip upon his harpoon tightened. He needed to get the angle right- the wind had stopped blowing- everything was perfect- this should be the one, it should, it should, IT HAD to be the one-
A fearful glance was cast back- Kopq was nearing him- perhaps he should be the one to- no.

NO!
He couldn’t keep relying on Kopq to do the difficult throws for him- he wasn’t going to mess up in front of him either- not anymore- not this time-

His eyes were OPEN!

Leaning back on his hind quarters, Hvicy felt the back of his harpoon brush the ground as he cocked his arm back, his free arm casting before him, straight out to track the target. All at once he took his burst sprint forward, leapt, then HURLED the harpoon directly toward the sight- angled to strike the back of the Moose’s neck.

Air whistled sharply- Hvicy’s hooves planted atop the icy ground- and he half-doubled over with the follow-through, turning about on his hooves to resolve the powerful motion.

Kopq made a sound of wordless cheer for Hvicy as he saw the harpoon fly.

Together, they heard the Moose call out as it had been struck.

Together, they ran toward the edge of the ice sheet, to stare down at the Moose that had been struck below.

Together, they realized that what was bleeding out on the ice below, was not a moose at all.

Wailing.
Wailing on the ice below was a moose horned Centaur. His blood painted the ice red.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Double Capybara
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Graduation


- 11a -

The split between the top students had been too obvious by now. On one side, some of the smartest and most organized students were sweating bullets, giving one last go at revising the themes of all the many lectures of Lektor, now engraved within the walls of Haven, or perfecting their mastery of basic architecture and mathematical formulas. On the other, the most talented were chatting, sparring, and in general not giving much of a damn about the upcoming test.

A full human student gritted his teeth in anger as a duo of sparring harpies entered the floor on which he was and caused many of his stone runes to crumble to the floor. None of the non-martial art students were able to keep those who were in check, and some had taken the chance to lord over others... but not too much. The human remembered, a smirk in his face, the day Prideful Mane crossed one line too many.

Sure, he was up there, a second-generation martial arts student, and already catching up with first gens like Hills and Fang, but when he decided to bring forth an idea of might is right... well, the goddess stepped in.

"Hmm? The strongest rule and take from the weak? Funny words my kitty." the goddess said, a golden boot on the head of the lion chimera, his mane was once golden too, now it was dull, stained by mud, the broken lion gurgling an apology. "Hmm? Do I hear a change of heart? Oh, whatever could have made you change your mind on the stance of might makes right? Hmmmmmm?" she put some extra strength on her stomp.

Mane then "Graduated", as Lektor said, though the human would describe it as "thrown towards the horizon by an angered goddess". He did not feel sorry, Lektor had made her rules clear, to fully lose a sense of righteousness and try to rule by raw tyranny was bound to get on her nerves, and to an extent, it did seem like she did not want tyrannical martial artists becoming the rule.

The human smiled, feeling a bit more assured in his fate, he arranged his runes one last time and... the harpies came again, one kicking the other right on his table, pulverising the whole thing. The goddess had her lines, but super-powered idiots were surely not one of them.

Nevertheless, it was time to go perform the last test of the urbanism class.

- 11b -

The night sky shone brightly above Haven, perhaps even brighter than before, starlight itself seemed charged with a special form of energy. Hills of Bountiful Harvest stretched, adjusting her uniform and steeling her body and mind. Today the nerds had done their little math test, which Hills did not care about one bit, but for those who were not slimes, like her, it was also the finals of the combat tournament.

At first, the bunny chimera had thought herself fully hopeless, but multiple events had conspired in her favour. One, the strongest of them, Spring Blossom, had been disqualified, she was simply too strong at this point, in the first battle she had tried to be extremely gentle, and she almost killed the poor human who she was fighting. The technique to strengthen the body with Earth Mana while useful at first, had one key danger to it: What happened once something did have the strength to break that stone skin? Well, it shattered... Almost all veins in the arm of the human instantly turned into shrapnel after Blossom gently poked it, sprays of red all over the place followed, and the goddess had to step in.

So Blossom was out, good, the other rising star was Mane, but uh, he had been "graduated", though Hills would describe it as "Termination" given the goddess brutally turned the lion into the first human to reach the moon given how hard he was thrown out. So that left out a few second gens, third gens and Golden Fanged Cat, who Hills assumed would be her final enemy.

The rabbit put on her uniform and got ready to rumble, she did not have a particular reason to win outside of just wanting to prove herself, a paradoxical state of ambition common to a lot of the top martial artists, for some reason. The attention would be nice, so would the chance to enter the pages of history, though she was sure she would never get to usurp Blossom or Astarte as the top honchos. Above all, there were way too many greedy newcomers thinking they knew it all, and the chance to break those smirks and smiles was always nice.

- 12 -

Lektor, sitting with some retainers and Blossom, watched as the fights started. At the first round, as many as 10 battles happened simultaneously, and yet the goddess did not struggle to keep all of them within her view. As her path towards the Path took shape, she found herself focusing much more on what she called martial arts, more than just being an efficient way to promote health and teach mana manipulation, the goddess started to appreciate it for its ability to mix the mundane inherent needs of survival and conflict with the higher ideals bound to art. With time, it seemed as if the concept became entangled to her existence much like Earth was, and since then, her grasp on the topic had only increased, she could feel every movement of the students, every pull of muscle, every faint flow of mana.

The first round went down without surprises, a simple culling designed not to waste any two major fighters against each other. Almost every fighter now had mastered the aurora and deeper earth infusion, colourful lights shining against the dark of the night, the colours changing from student to student. Unlike the pleasant dance of auroras, the shouting of technique names was something the goddess despised, she had no idea why it had caught on, but the students could not trade blows without either telling the ridiculous name of their kicks and punches or going on and on in long monologues about how their ability was unbeatable or how they had just outwitted their enemy.

Nothing would embody this more than the first of the semifinal battles. Hills of Bountiful Harvests, the rabbit chimera, a big blabber mouth and a massive (in many meanings of the word, depending on where you looked) brat, with her rival being the Brass Bull of Midnight, a human actually, despite the name, who always loved to pretend himself to be an inventor of new techniques when most of what he did was just copy Spring Blossoms' bovine style. She could only imagine they would be shouting and talking their way through the entire battle, given how annoying either could be.

Thankfully, the other battle was between two taciturn entities. Golden Fanged Cat, the other of the 4 first gen students able to participate in this battle (given Blossom was disqualified and Astarte had left), with his rival being the Heavenly Dog, a crow harpy man, ever scowling and with a dark purple aura to him. Lektor could understand Heavenly, he flew, but where the hell did he take dog from? Perhaps it was an attempt to offend her? She was a Rock Cat after all. She did not know, the man was on the weird side, looking quite malicious at times, but for some reason, Lektor did not feel worried.

The blaring of a trumpet signalled the start of the battles.

Hills was fast, always had been, the pink and blue of her aura flashed in a moment across the field and she delivered kick after kick against the Brass Bull, who could not, at any moment, match her speed. An amateur would take that as Hills having an advantage, but there was one issue: damage. Brass could just stand there, menacingly, and take the flurry of attacks, his muscle mass was massive, and the earth enchantment had made it into a wall of steel, for Hills to deliver a kick that could break it, she would have to put an absurd amount of force in each kick, and at that point, her legs would be in equal danger of shattering.

She knew that, because she quickly stepped back, grunting.

"Ha. That was a nice massage Hills, but unfortunately, your legs are better suited to draw looks than to draw blood." the Bull hummed a smug aura to him.

Hill took a position, and the pink around her flared, "That was a great wall cosplay, Brass, but, remember what our teacher told us about structures that are too rigid?" she stepped onto the ground, a chime-like echo leaving, and immediately the human knew what was up, he jumped just in time, as the ground beneath him had been weakened.

Lektor appreciated that Hills had managed to hide that she knew how to manipulate the earth until now, but why the hell had the idiot told her enemy about it before she delivered the strike? Kids these days...

Now the pace had changed, Hills did have the means to take down Brass, but to do so she had to stay still, which the bull was never allowing in his arena, charging at her with renewed might. Lektor hummed, starting to understand what Hills' tactics were... But she was not the only one.

"Bah, what cowardly tactics, you and that Heavenly Dog fella just know how to run." Brass told, but then smirked, readjusting his charges. "I see you trying to tire me out here, but those skips and hops of yours aren't quite free either, are they?" it was now time for him to reveal his earth-shaping skill, which of course was just copying Blossom, as he formed a quarterstaff from raw rock. This greatly increased his range, and although it did not increase the speed to the point he could hit Hills, it did force her to dodge, run and jump far more, soon the rabbit was panting and sweating.

Cornered, Hills became more aggressive, soon she was once again jumping for flying kicks, skirmishing about Brass' flanks, which meant more energy being spent, but she had a bet, which proved itself true quite quickly. The Brass Bull had lowered his defences to conserve energy, not fully, but enough that the rabbit's strikes drew blood. A smug smile filled her face.

Perhaps too smug. She was fully within his range, and although it was unlikely, he could strike her, the more chances she gave him, the more chances the rare event had to happen and given his size and strength, all it would take would be one strong blow to turn her into a bloody mess.

It came sooner than Lektor expected, Hills had been greedy and tried to strike a muscle in the right arm to make the enemy drop his staff, but that made her linger about in his range for too long, with his left hand turned for a sloppy, but brutal enough, side strike, hitting the rabbit on the back, a strike directly at the spine at that, with enough force it made Hill's shape bend against his arm like a cloth. Lektor almost winced, that would be weeks without walking for the rabbit...

Hills groaned in pain and rolled about on the ground; it was over... But then the goddess noticed she rolled a bit too much, and she had rolled with intent as well. Everyone, Lektor and Blossom included, was left in shock as Hills stood up, her limbs moving in a manner that was too soft.

Then it clicked. "She... She suppressed her earth element!?" Lektor said incredulously.

Blossom nodded wisely. "Seems so, it's the reverse path of the Earth Enhancement technique, she followed the road to the other side, instead of making her veins and organs earth-like, she made her earth element be infused with water, gaining a wet clay-like property on her form. Thus, taking no long-term damage from the strike."

"Amazing." Lektor whistled. "Then... That would explain the sweating, it was the result of hoarding water mana. Wait... This is absurd, her stamina is almost unchanged from the start of the battle. She has been only using her earth enhancement on her legs, and not even all of the time."

"And she has been using the fire mana in her aura to feed her body, I would say right now her skill of bodily control outmatches my own." the pink bovine chimaera noted. "Not one mote of mana flows through her body without a purpose."

It was clear to the two of them that Brass Bull should give up now, he did not have the stamina to finish this combat victorious, but the fool kept pushing, each time weaker and slower, as hills danced around his strikes, then, finally, he was the one who lingered too much, Hills pressed her back against the ground and her two feet against his gut, unleashing a reverse "bunny skip" and fully extending her long legs with the full power of her earth and fire mana to boot. The human, lacking the mana and stamina to keep himself heavy enough to stand his ground, was thrown upward into the air and fell off the stage, of the building too, Lektor having to go full rescue mode.

- 13a -

Golden Fanged Cat had jobbed to a harpy man... winged man? The Celestial Dog he was called, and Hills had to admit, he had made his name, even though to her his fighting style was still just 'fly in, kick a bit, fly out'. Some would call him a coward, but the bunny chimera believed being smart was more valuable than being brave.

In fact, she was the exact same as him in most ways, they both liked to hit and run in Parthian tactics, and they both were lightweight speed-focused fighters. So their final battle had been a bit of a... disaster, to say the least.

In the heat of it, it was amazing, Hills was bunny hoping, doing spins and slides all over the place, and the crow harpy man was diving all over the place, doing even a low glide that swiped at her feet by surprise. As they both tired each other out he revealed a technique that imbued earth mana into his feathers and threw them at Hills like a rain of black daggers. At that point, Hills felt like she would lose.

But then she prepared her ultimate technique, she remembered Big Smoke, his shadow steps, and focused all of the wind and fire into a combined mirage and speed boost technique, the crow harpy hit an afterimage and in moments met a rain of strong kicks by the rabbit chimera.

It was supposed to be a cool fight but when she looked around, very few people remained. It had taken four hours for it to end, and people had gotten bored of seeing two fighters running away from each other. To make matters worse, Hills had a certain perception of Celestial Dog, his scowl and dark aurora made him look evil, he had scowled all the time, even as he had beaten Golden Fang, lots of times instead of answering someone he would just mumble to himself, and in group gatherings he liked to stand ominously away.

Clearly a villain, so Hills had not held back on talking about the power of friendship, and how he had lost because he didn't have friends like Big Smoke and her Phantom Wings to train and inspire her. And then the dude started to tear up. People rushed to his side and reassured him he had friends, and then Hills got called a bitch, who would go around bullying a dude just because he was extremely shy. That was the great change to her status from winning the bloody tournament, and only the goddess and Blossom seemed to respect her absurd mastery over the inner mana flow of her body.

-13b-

The weeks after the final test of maths and architecture had been focused on blacksmithing, the goddess had kept Lorelei's forge, and expanded it a bit too, spreading the basics of metalwork, mining, and of prospecting to her students. The latter was also accompanied by general classes on how to prepare the land for farming. Instead of bothering to teach farming herself, she simply picked humans who already knew how to farm outside of Haven and transplanted them to the Mesa.

With that, and the martial arts tournaments finished, Lektor felt like it was finally time to finish this chapter.

On the day of the results, the students woke up to find Haven once again filled with colours and treats, it was a graduation party after all.

The great majority of students had beige and green uniforms, with different accessories and sashes to represent different positions. Some were awarded the armour and weapons produced in the forging classes. A great map of the Mesa was created at the centre, and students had to pick in which cardinal direction they would go. Well, most students.

For the upper 20%, this was merely a goodbye to most humans and a good number of chimeras as well. They would be the ones focusing outside of the mesa, the keepers of strongholds meant to define the land and keep it safe. And although each clique was being awarded a stronghold already... the goddess had not really finished them, at all, she had this absurd habit of awarding titles for property she did not own or that had yet to exist.

As the party died down, the first waves of student was sent out, one in each direction, once enough time had passed, another wave was sent out on the diagonal of the cardinal points, the objective was to avoid crowding regions with too many people for very little food. Finally, a whole group of stragglers was given plenty of supplies and then sent out to populate the Mesa, this was also the group with most weapons and soldiers, a tactic Lektor used to make sure the first ones to leave would not be able to use banditry to overtake an entire wave of students.

By the end of it, Haven was thoroughly emptied, even the martial artists, who had grown so aloof towards the civilians, felt a sense of melancholy. Not Lektor though, the sphinx goddess was happily snoring and having a well-deserved lazy day, no worries about teaching any hairless primate how to survive.



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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by DracoLunaris
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A clash of titans in the darkwoods


In the darkwoods, two majestic stags squared off, and the forest would quake at their battle.

On one side, a Huwu’idang, the deer of growth, a titan of flesh, hide and horn that stood tall as trees. Against it stood the challenger, the gnarled form of eldest of all the Redwood Deer to have ever grown in the Darkwood’s depths, a colossus of wood, leaf and bark.

For too long had the redwood stag stood in the shadows of the towering guardian. AN intruder, in its mind, for it had been first, and so did it not deserve to be renowned by all deer kind? Today, it would prove itself a superior protector of its herd, and of the forest itself. That the creation of Ia’Akhul seemed to show no fear at its challenge, and only a slight sense of admiration akin to that of a proud father infuriated it only further.

The two great beasts hooved the ground, the redwood bellowed its challenge one more time and then, in sync, both lowered their heads and brought their antlers to bear. Hoofalls struck like thunder as they charged each other, but this sound was naught compared to the cacophony that followed. Antlers of bone struck antlers of timber and resulted in a crash that sent a shockwave pulsing through the forest and sent all of nature fleeing…. And called a mad mortal forth to witness the spectacle despite her companion’s fears

Heads locked, deer of flesh and wood dug in their hooves and tried to push the other back, antlers clattering when one tried to adjust the angle enough that they could gore the other. The Huwu’idang forced the challenger back, back, till it was pressing it against a tree, only for the deer of wood to kick off this very same tree, cracking it and ramming its foe into a thicket of saplings, the young trees splintering under hoof.

The Huwu’idang brayed in pain, but not for itself but for the forest their battle was harming. It was clear this redwood lacked the respect the Huwu’idang’s kind held for the woods that were their home and duty to defend. This would not stand, and it was clear this one was not worthy. Yet. The metaphorical gloves came off and the guardian put the challenger slowly but surely in its place. Crash went the antlers and the trees as the ever more desperate forest-kin tore up the woods, the beast nearly trampling a pair of elves and a (much smaller than it) redwood doe in the process of its hard fought but ultimately fruitless battle.

That was the very last straw. The protector of the small twisted its neck and rammed it’s great antlers into the challenger’s side, tearing bark and flesh below as it hurled the great beast of timber aside. The redwood deer crashed to the forest floor, causing one last bout of destruction. It brayed in pain, tried to rise, and failed.

The battle was over.

The Huwu’idang brayed, but not in victory. No instead as its deep call rang out the remarkable happened. The dark woods lit up as green energy flooded out of the titan’s form, sweeping across the ruined battleground. Upturned soil settled and broken plants began to heal, not least among them the redwood deer, who’s wounds began to slowly close, much to its confusion.

The Huwu’idang trotted over, and bid it rise. It had a lesson to teach.




“Just, hnnnrgh, hold it together Stag!” Fern strained as she tried in vain to push the fallen tree off of Stag legs. Even with the [ranger]’s animal companion Doe, a female redwood deer, butting at the felled log, it was no use, and the trapped elf knew it.

“Just leave me. They’re coming!” he insisted, pointing up behind the [forest-friend adventurer], prompting her to turn and gasp as she beheld the two titans of the forest, now looking down at them.




The Huwu’idang grunted, and gestured towards the beleaguered elves and forest-kin with its snout, trying to communicate something to the Redwood Deer. It huffed, and raised a hoof to crush the two hunters of its kind, only for the Huwu’idang to bat it away before it could end their lives. Clearly it had not gotten the lesson.

Grunts and barks echoed between the pair as they crudely communicated, until a third voice interrupted with a trio of simple words “Please… Please help?” as the untrapped elf reached a hand up towards them, having sensed, perhaps, the guardians intention, or, more likely, just throwing hope out into the dark.

Sometimes hope was rewarded, the Huwu’idang leaning down and ever so gently pressing its snout against the palm that it dwarfed so, causing the [forest friend adventurer] to gasp in awe. Then it pulled back, nudged the redwood deer who had finally got the picture mostly due to Doe braying at it like her calf was trapped, and carefully reached down, grasped the felled tree in its jaws and hauled it off of the poor elf.

Fern gasped with surprise and relief as she watched this, before turning and bowing to the two titans of the woods.

She offered them a “Thank you” before practically tossing herself on Stag to hug him in relief

“Owowowowow, watch the legs” Stag complained. Fern apologized and began to help him up from one side while Doe scooped herself under him on the other, when all three realized that the two massive deer were still looking down at them intently.

“Um. Is. Is there something I can do for you in return?” she asked, to which the titan made a sound she, naturally, did not understand.

“I’m sorry, I don’t-” she began to communicate this, before being interrupted by a familiar voice

“It wants you to pay it back by taking care of nature. It's a bit concerned by these whole building and [pyromancers] things and would appreciate it if you elves would self regulate on that a bit” Jeon, who was dangling over on a branch like a lazy panther and/or cheshire cat helpful informed her.

“Wha, Jeon?” Fern stammered “how long have you been here? Why are you here?”

“Same as you, duh” the god who had been here to watch the giant animal fight replied before moving on “so yeah, live in harmony with the trees, protect nature, get into wars with dwarves over 3 saplings they uprooted, you know. Classic elf stuff.”

“What's a dwarf? Or a war?” Fern asked

“Not important. What is is that you are now burdened with glorious purpose” Jeon informed the elf, resulting in an “Oh no, not again” from Stag and a question of “I mean. I would like to do that, I think, but how? People want homes, and it's not like the can all move to sanctuary”

“Oh yes”Jeon replied to Stag before addressing the matter at hand “Don’t worry though I’ll help you out with this one. Plus this’ll go well with advancing your [forest friend adventurer] class” Jeon said, before hopping down from the tree and stepping between elf and forest titan.

“Ok, so, you” he pointed at the Huwu’idang “lower your head down, and then you” he pointed at Fern “are going to shave off a bit of this guy’s antler. And then eat it”

“What?” Fern replied in confusion and shock that was mirrored by the towering forest guardian

“Do that, and you’ll be able to take just a bit of his nature restoring power as your own. Then you can cultivate it, grow it, level it up, and do all sorts of things. The main one is help plants grow faster, but you could do so much more than just that”

Fern considered the possibility, looking around at the plants visibly growing around her, and had a thought “Could grow something like Sanctuary, by, by shaping plants as they grow like that maybe?”

“Exactamundo you clever elf” the god praised her while giving her a pair of finger guns. Then he back peddled a touch “Well maybe not on your own. Not for a while, maybe not ever in your life, but if you think smaller individual power wise, get more hands on the task and do some experimenting to figure it out…” Jeon suggested, and in so doing fully opened up a whole new world of possibilities for wood elf technology.

Understanding now, the Huwu’idang bowed its head and offered its antler to the elf, who, after ensuring that stag was safely supported by Doe, stepped forwards, took out a knife and scraped just a tiny little bit of the mighty antler. Dust in the hand really. Then, after a moment of hesitation stuffed it in her gob.

“Blech,” Fern made face at the taste, before waiting for a moment, and then asking “well, now wha-”

[Class Unlocked! - Apprentice Druid - Level 1]
[Level Up! - Forest-Friend Adventurer - Level 25]

[Class Consolidation: Apprentice Druid + Forest Friend Adventurer-> Druidic Adventurer - Level 25]

[New Skill - Forest Creature Empathy]
[New Pact - Huwu’idang Pact: Duty: Protect the Forest and the Small]
[New Skill - Huwu’idang Pact: Encourage Growth]
[New Skill - Huwu’idang Pact: Heal Environment]

“-t” she finished, a smile on her face as the rush of leveling filled her.

This, she knew, was the beginning of a wonderful new age for her kind.






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With a realm built and an afterlife completed, Ashevelen’s life suddenly became very busy. Every Umbra that died would appear before her and ask to trade, same as they did in life. Only this time, it was a final trade. While this worked initially, the Shadow Bazaar’s stocks going up, it wasn’t enough to fill the whole bazaar and not exotic enough either. ‘Thus, it was once again time for Ashevelen to travel. This time in a new direction. In her previous travels she hadn't checked a few places as they were simply not in the way nor unique enough to warrant her attention but now, without any other place to go, even those places needed to be checked up.

With a shadowy rope tied to her mortal form, she started walking north-west. Admiring the view, whistling a tune and of course, keeping an eye out for special places. Where something exotic could be sold in her bazaar. Trading for information with some elves, she was told about a great monster that destroyed a village or more, close to Earthwall, an elven city that Ashevelen never visited either. Blood, gore and teeth kept being repeated by every traveler that she met. Curiosity piqued, Ashevelen sped up her pace towards the places where she was told the villages were destroyed. Only to find…nothing.

Such villages had been destroyed, after all. So she kept walking, lost in thought about the nature of the beast, its value, if it could reproduce and so on until her feet touched something liquid. Blood. Thinking this was the place that the villagers spoke about, she let out a strong pulse of divine energy. A flare for anyone in the vicinity to see. Just in case she was intruding on the domain of a divine, instead of a mere beast.

Nothing happened. The world remained much the same as it had been before. The swamp of blood before her went on as it always had with or without the intrusion of others. The giant mosquitoes buzzed about, the bubbly mire felt both cold and warm to the touch while every grove of trees, which lay like patchwork across the land, felt as if they watched her every step. It felt as if there were faint whispers all around but to a God's perception, even the wind played tricks in the grasses that lined the bog. The air was palpable and the dim hazy and it went on forever.

The bloody swamp amazed Ashevelen, now awakened from her day-dreaming. Giant mosquitoes, blood instead of water.

Amazing! Never have I ever seen such wonders! ” shouted Ashe to no one in particular.

With a sudden burst of speed, Ashevelen started to pick the plants growing in the swamp, throwing them behind her in the bag and occasionally would open up a shadow portal to catch mosquitoes and transport them into the Shadow Bazaar.

She stopped for a second upon hearing the voice of a mortal and laid her eyes upon… something that looked like a horse but not really and then the actual mortal. Yet another elf.

Upon closer inspection it appeared to be an elf maiden, stroking the side of some… Monstrous horse. Her voice carried a certain weight to it but she was no god. "...there. Don't you see this spot above all others would work? I mean honestly, why do I bother with you. You are lucky you are a gift, Lysander."

The horse stomped its bladed hoof and snorted, yet it sounded more like a high pitched hiss.

"Well of course you don't like me right now. You'd prefer Maroon but I am not Maroon. You should be lucky I'm not-" the horse cut her off with a low trill as it bent down and opened its mouth to snatch something out of the blood pool before them. Next he lifted his head back up with a flourish and crunched something with sickening sounds. The elf maiden huffed. "Must you interrupt me with such depravity?"

Having listened to the elf's conversation with the horse, Ashevelen decided it was better to approach before they left. Maybe they would reveal the location of a settlement or just where the divine that created this place was.

Hello! Apologies for disturbing you, it seems like I’m lost. May you direct me to the closest settlement? ” said Ashe, raising her voice, while her form changed to meet what the mortal would consider the most peaceful and non-threatening.

The elf maiden paused and glanced back at the Goddess. “Not many would dare tread here.” the elf spun around fully, clasping her hands together, “If there are any settlements or civilizations to find, I am unaware.” She spoke aloud with clarity, almost melodic in a way with an aura of refinement not yet seen in the world yet. “So, apologies, I cannot.”

I have no idea where I am, truth to be told. If there are no settlements, where do you live? ” quickly answered Ashevelen. A red ribbon obscured her eyes and it became evident it didn’t matter what form she took. As both horse, who now looked at her too, and rider, were apparently blind. Either that or it was a ruse. Deciding to test it out while conversing with the elf, Ashevelen subtly tested her by enhancing the lingering shadows that were just at the edge of the elf’s sight. Slowly moving them or otherwise making them appear and disappear.

"Here or there." She said absent-minded, a slight smirk forming on her lips. Seemingly unaware of the shadow manipulations, though the horse seemed agitated. "The world is young. There is only one grand settlement so far and it isn't here, in this bloodmire. In fact only the truly foolish wander here. That or divinity flows through their veins. So which are you, my lady?"

The horse saw the shadows, the elven woman didn't or she didn't care about it. Truly pelicular and only one grand settlement? Seems like whoever this person was, didn't know about the existence of all the others but if she's the monster that destroyed the villages…better not let her know about the others.

" I could ask you the same thing. You're here. So, are you divine or as foolish as I am? " countered Ashe.

The elf smiled, revealing pearly whites. With one hand she reached behind her head and a second later the cloth over her eyes fluttered free, to reveal what had been obscured; A Goddess. She grew slightly taller, tall enough to tie the ribbon around one of the horse's spikes. She then looked at Ashevelen with her pale, unseeing eyes and said, "I've been both in my lifetime. One more than the other." She smirked. "I am Ivory, what shall I call you?"

Ashevelen chuckled and shook her head. She should've seen this coming. With so many predators that seek blood, an elf wouldn't live around the area for too long.

Removing her own disguise, Ashevelen grew in size to meet the other divine in height. Shadows swirled around her and coins could be seen within them, a tiny tornado forming circling her body.

" Well met, Ivory. I am Ashevelen, the lady of trade and shadows. You’ve chosen a very interesting place to make your home and your horse? A beautiful creation, is he one of Myrtu’s creations? "

Ivory nodded. "Lysander was a gift, yes. By the grace of Myrtu, Ashevelen." She placed a hand upon Lysander, dipping her head slightly. "This place, home it might be, is rather boorish. We haven't seen many visitors till now. Pray tell then, what brings you here, lady of trade and shadows?" She asked.

Ashevelen approached the horse and pulled an apple out from the shadow of her robe and offered it to him. “ There you go, beautiful. ” said Ashevelen to Lysander with a smile before turning once more to Ivory.

I’ve recently created a realm where all are invited to trade, barter etc but currently the bazaar is rather empty. My servants bring me stuff constantly but it isn’t enough. So, to answer your question, I don’t exactly know what I’m doing here. Looking to acquire rare things, that’s for sure, but what are those things…I can’t tell.

Lysander sniffed the apple but made no move to bite it. In fact he turned and walked away from the two with a high pitched snort. Ivory looked in his direction and then back to Ashe. "A curious breed. Pay him no mind, he's been changed to the point that such sweets no longer derive any desire." She folded her hands across her midsection. "You poor thing. What is a goddess of trade to do without anything to trade?" She smirked. "Sounds like you've come to the right place, darling. Many a thing exists here that you might find… Valuable, but…" Her fingertips came together. "It would be poor of me to give such things freely, surely a goddess of Trade, wishes to trade?" She asked with feigned innocence.

But see, that’s where you got me wrong. I’ve got things to trade, mundane things. I’m looking for special things. Animals, plants, people…” replied Ashe just after throwing the apple that she offered to Lysander behind her.

Her eyes flashed briefly at the mention of trade and Ashe grinned.

I am not asking for freely given things, am I? One is a gift of goodwill which I already took in the form of your mosquitos, one is to purchase something else. I could potentially take every animal and insect you’ve got in here without any issue but where would be the fun in that? ” replied Ashe with a wink.

Let’s see, Ivory of Blood. What can you offer me?

Ivory laughed but her smile faded as a more neutral expression crossed her face. "To take is what we God's do, isn't? But tell me, is it customary to take from someone's home without giving anything in return?" She questioned. "If my goodwill has already been given, where might yours be? And if you wish to purchase my goods, what might can you offer in return, Ashevelen of the Shadows?"

It isn’t but it is at the same time. Depends on whom you ask. I’ve seen many types of divines, each with their own ways. I for one never take stuff just because I can, I buy them but such is my nature. ” replied Ashe with her usual smile. “ That’s where you’re wrong. But I haven’t taken without permission, did I? Just as I stepped in the swamp I let out divine energy for you to feel. If you didn’t, then I was led to believe this place either was devoid of a divine or that the divine, you, doesn’t care about the presence of another. But, either way, say I’m a good divine. Here, take these. ” explained Ashe just before taking out the Coin and dropping a few kilograms of coins on solid land, before realising that the divine might actually be blind and then these would be useless to her. Putting a hand through a shadow, Ashevelen rummaged a bit inside before pulling out a Tarsk and cutting it in two. Blood spilled from it all over the coins.

Everything around is bloody and the villagers told stories about creatures that hunted blood. If I'm correct, blood is your aspect, these should be more than enough. It’s customary for the one that sells to show off their merchandise before the buyer shows his. So?

Ivory looked down at the coins, her expression never changing. She then looked back at Ashevelen with a blank stare. "The sap of the Wyntree has unique healing properties, to a mortal at least. The Ivory mosquitoes could make suitable warbeasts or couriers. Lysander's species, the Sanguis Equis, devout steeds with a knack for blood. Rare as they are, a few could be procured for breeding purposes and sold to those who wish to fly. There are also the Mireborn, who have begun to covet their sacred groves. They would, likewise, trade you for the sap. Though they would only have one great need; unspoiled elves but I'm sure you could find a way to keep a few. These are my goods, as you say." She gestured with an outstretched hand, "Yours?"

I’ve taken your mosquitos and I think I’ve already got a buyer for them, so, I thank you. The Sanguis Equis, they sound interesting, I might take two of those. Surely someone would wish to buy them. Mireborn? Interesting, what are they exactly? Your own creations? The sap, interesting thing. Might be used in the alcohol the elves make. Blood isn’t an issue, I have created enough creations that can offer it. ” said Ashevelen in an unending triade of words, not stopping to make a break or leave ideas to settle.

As soon as she stopped talking, Ashevelen tapped her foot on the ground and a portal appeared from her shadow. “ There’s a portal behind me, follow me sister and I’ll show you.

"You seem to be mistaken with one thing." Ivory said as she followed Ashevelen. "I may be bound by blood but it is not a thing that carries much value to me. Outright, anyway." She chided.

Yet your creations crave it. You don’t care about them? Either way, what is it that you wish for? ” replied Ashevelen.

As they stepped through the portal, they entered Ashevelen’s own tower. One with vision might have noticed the pelts of a number of animals from everywhere in the world, coins littered the ground making a click-clack sound after each step the divines would take. Thousands of mundane weapons, each of different sizes or shapes, were on display for all to see and right in the middle of the circular room…a square with a market-stall. Reaching it, Ashevelen took a seat and conjured one for Ivory to seat upon as well, gently pointing out where it was.

There. Now that we are here, I can show you my goods and you may tell me what you desire. Mortals? Animals? Weapons? Coins? Name it and I’m sure I’ll find something.

Ivory looked rather bored about it all but took a seat regardless. "What do I wish for? It's a question that haunts me always." She rapped her fingers on her thigh. "Describe me some of your finest wares and I may indulge thee, if you'd be so kind."

" You're a hard customer, sister. I applaud you. But, fine. I will show you some of my own creations. " replied Ashe with a grin as she moved her hand and a Umbra, Tarsk and a Satyr appeared next to her.

She then started to explain what the mortals are, their best abilities, plenty of room for them to develop naturally different ones and so on. Making sure only the best features were displayed and talked about. Afterwards Ashevelen started talking about their potential of upgrades with a bit of divine aid, their ferocity, intelligence, cloning ability etc.

There came a subtle sign of annoyance when Ashevelen began to describe the Umbra but the look quickly faded. "I suppose the Satyrs might make good workers and the Tarsk, guard beasts but I cannot think of a role for these Umbra. Beings made of shadow. Are they well suited for battle? Is this impulse to trade so grafted into them that it might not be removed?" She inquired.

The Satyrs and the Tarsk are very loyal to their owner and those hooves of theirs are stronger than normal legs. The Tarsks can be used for a number of things, working the land, eviscerate intruders or simply as pets. As I said, I’ve made them extremely loyal to their master. ” replied Ashevelen before addressing the Umbra question.

Battle? Of course they are. I haven’t left them without any kind of defence. They can become intangible and pass through any kind of surfaces that aren’t magically protected against this type of ability. They can choose which part of them becomes intangible or if all of their body does. There is no impulse to trade, it is just what I’ve taught them and that’s what they’re doing. If you would buy them, I will give you blank Umbras for a small fee or you may take already taught Umbras and you can teach them whatever you may want. Trades can mean anything, for example, one may see it as a good trade to take the blood of someone in exchange of happiness or life. ”.

Ivory remained silent, as if mulling it over. "Blank would suffice. For all of them." She said at last. "Let’s say, five hundred Tarsk. One thousand Umbra. Two thousand Satyr. In return you may collect one hundred Sanguis Equis, one thousand Ivory Mosquitoes and you may further collect two thousand, medium sized, vials of Wyntree sap and more if you desire any trade with the Mireborn."

Surely five Tarsks for one horse, special as they are, isn’t a fair trade. I would say five hundred Tarsk for three hundred Sanguis Equis would be more than fair. You’re also comparing my Umbra with those mosquitoes which I already got a few, enough for them to multiply naturally with some risk and I did say with a small fee. I might’ve been more inclined to accept that if you’d take already taught ones but blank? That’s a no from me but as a counter offer, for one thousand Umbra, you’ll offer me eight hundred Mireborn. All in stasis for me to play-with as I wish. ” countered Ashe before addressing the last point.

I agree with the vials of Wyntree sap for the two thousand Satyrs. A fair trade, all in all.

At this, a slow smile formed on the lips of the pale Goddess. "You have a lovely realm, Ashevelen." She stood. "I thank you for inviting me but it's time I depart. Feel free to trade with the Mireborn but do not take from my Mire further and freely." She dipped her head in a curtsy.

Ashevelen raised a finger in the air and a shadow wall appeared in front of Ivory. “ You are a hard negotiator, Ivory. Let’s change the deal then. Five hundred Tarsk for one hundred and fifty Sanguis Equis, seven hundred Umbra for one hundred and fifty Mireborn and the Satyrs remain the same. This is more than fair, I’m basically losing here. ” replied Ashe as she stood up.

Ivory rose and looked down upon Ashe, her eyes lifeless as always but her brow slightly furrowed. "What is loss to one's who can create life so freely? If you insist upon a trade then let it be in wealth that does not tarnish with age but remains as it is in time memorial." She placed her right palm downwards and from it came a pale light. Nimble fingers grasped a white hilt with a rose as a pommel. A crossed guard etched with vines gave way to a long thin blade of a milky metal, glowing with soft reverberations. It was otherworldly beautiful and with her other hand Ivory grasped it and showed it to Ashevelen. "What say you, Goddess of Trade?"

Ashevelen approached Ivory and took the sword in one hand, swung it gently to test its balance and then started studying it in great detail. While not a craftsman herself, Ashevelen was the embodiment of trade which meant she could easily determine the worth of something.

It is a beautiful weapon. Masterfully created too. I’ll take this, twenty two Mireborns and two Sanguis Equis of male and female sex, in good health. In exchange, I shall offer you what you’ve asked for initially and give you premium prices for the next millennia in the Shadow Bazaar. ” said Ashe as she gave the weapon back to Ivory.

Ivory was silent once more for what seemed like an age. At last her lips parted and she uttered, “Acceptable terms.” She let go of the sword and it held itself in the air before it floated over to Ashevelen. “My White Rose, do give it a good home.”

Ashevelen took the sword and looked at it once more, nodding her head with a smile on her face. “ I will provide half of the goods I owe you now and the other half when I receive my part. Hope that’s acceptable. ” replied Ashe as a number of coins appeared on the table.

On the table that you just sat on, there are a number of coins. As soon as they’re out of this realm, they’ll turn into your purchases. Do you require help getting them out or…

Straight faced, Ivory approached the table, cut open her arm with a slash of a finger and dripped a white blood all over them. Next she gathered them up in a fist. "I think I have it under control." She said in a cool tone. "You'll have your goods in the same spot we first met. I do hope this trade was fruitful for you and I expect those prices to be more than fair." And with that said, Ivory turned and somehow guided herself to a portal wherein next she was gone. Leaving Ashevelen alone.

Goodbye, Ivory. ” said Ashevelen to no one in particular as she stepped into a portal herself, going to the place where she met the divine and true enough, her goods were there as promised.

She left a very frightened Umbra to wait for the next sign of the Bloody-Divine to provide the rest of the goods.




Wyn seethed. The more she thought about the trade, the more she grew infuriated with it. Had she been a fool? Had she let herself be tricked? The sword itself was a divinely gift, one that the backwood Trade Goddess could not even begin to comprehend. It was worth Kingdoms! Not these stupid, valueless creatures.

The Goddess of Blood looked upon her new captives. They would be little more than slaves to her. Fodder for war and industry. They would need to breed and multiply. But as they were now… It sickened her. Truly. If she had not been so angry, the depths of such disgust would be made apparent. It only fueled the rage she felt and that hate would only bubble over into one thing…

Ebony.

She thought quickly and reverted back her clueless purchases into the very coins that Ashevelen had given her. A temporary solution whilst she… She was hit by a wave of pain as her legs began to break and reform. She whistled and Lysander came to her side. He knelt low enough that the Goddess, even in the throws of her change, was able to secure the coins around his neck in a pouch she conjured. A weak, pulsing hand managed to grab the ribbon and tie it about her eyes with a flick of her wrist. She did not need for any to know... For any to see.

Lysander, having enough intuition to know when to leave his master, flapped away, abandoning Wyn to her dark impulses.





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Keltra Revealed

Anath Homura & Oge’Ivu



Suspended high above the sea that was currently stained with the colors that came with the setting sun, hung the soaring circular-city that acted as the realm of Anath Homura. Visible was the substructure of the flying fortress that consisted of two spiraling helix-shaped staircases that sprouted forth from the two gates found along the foundations of the outer wall and descended to the surface of the sea that splashed and sprayed against the lowest of the steps.

The outer wall encircled a much smaller inner ring of columns that surrounded a towering structure that occupied the center of the city. Unhindered in their passing through the circular colonnade were four pathways that joined the looming core structure with the wide outer wall, allowing any pedestrian to walk freely all throughout the shimmering citadel that seemed as though it were sculpted solely from cardinal ruby. The realm of Anath Homura was akin to a palace in its appearance, rather than a castle, considering its lack of physical protection.

Audible from afar, though suppressed in a strange manner, was the whirling winds beneath the city that continued to blow upwards, and though very clearly lacking the strength to lift the entirety of the immense structure into the sky, it would be more than enough to carry any wandering creature that foolishly fell from the intersecting paths or off the outer wall. The origin of these precautionary gales and their persistent presence could only ever be explained as a manifestation of divine decree.

Despite the decorative architecture consisting of a vast expanse of complex and beautiful stone reliefs and fantastical murals all acting as a facade that adorned the exterior that greeted those that visited, the city itself was rather desolate. Devoid of denizens and devoid of any homes for those that would reside outside the central citadel - it was almost utterly deprived of life.

Amid that starry and desolate place in the sky that had become painted with red and orange and pink, another form had grown ever closer. From a spec, to a dot, to now a massive shape still smaller than the palatial city in the sky.

Five radial eyes and numerous tendrils descended. A maw with clicking penta-mandibles, slowly ejecting stuck pieces of whale from a previous meal. Armored ridges protecting delicate corridors and organs. From void sacks to the delicate digestion and macro-immunities.

Floating amid the sky closing in, no large wings or soaring fins, speaking no words but approaching still with eyes alighted with curiosity.

Anath Homura stood alone atop the outer wall like a silent and vigilant sentinel, staring with her one eye at the one that was about to arrive, while the sanguine blood that stained her attire and soaked her skin began to undulate slowly as though stirring with slight anticipation. Rivulets formed, and arranged themselves into many quivering streaks along her limbs and across her torso, as the remaining blood upon her face shifted swiftly and seeped into her orifices and the white rose that grew where her second eye should be.

The tendrils ascended back into the body of the great beast mother as she descended towards the city and its wall. In truth the spot that was the Goddess hardly was visible to the creature, and beyond its concern as well. Instead it focused upon the great visa of the city- moving to explore even as it was ill suited for the streets and corridors of such a place.

“Why are the flames tainted? Perhaps I should bring an end to its misery…” Anath Homura murmured, suddenly standing upon the immense creature above its strange set of eyes. She opened and clenched her hands, still wet with blood.

Of the radial eyes, one focused ever so patiently on the newly moved goddess. Rotating in the socket under the beast’s transparent lids, a tendril moved out from under the beast, wrapping around to touch with curiosity. A great sound rumbled through the beast as she did so, a sound a comfort as she had done so many times before with the countless children of her race.

“You are innocent, and yet you are corrupted by sin. Your polluted presence stirs the Stigma and obscures the Sacred Path. Should I cleanse you, or should I leave you be?” The red goddess asked as she stroked the tendril tenderly, and despite her hands being damp with divine ichor, the inquisitive limb remained unharmed and untarnished.

For a moment the tendril froze as the divine meanings of the words echoed in the smaller mind of Oge’Ivu, but only a moment. A rumbling started deep within the beast, a feeling, a meaning, one understood not by the Iava’Oge for there was no tongue to this, there was only a sense a divine could pick up from the freshly steeled mind of the great beast. Tendrils descended and hackles rose - the meaning unfolded.

Do as you must to me - my children will be protected.

“A child cannot give consent. I shall not cleanse you yet.” Anath Homura answered, and averted her apathetic gaze afterwards. She stayed in a motionless state of pensive silence, content with letting the large creature wander freely while she contemplated.

Beyond her words the grand beast knew not what meaning lurked in the Goddess’s thoughts. She knew not what to do about such a mystery, so she did what had come upon her earlier. She floated above the wall and over the city proper, exploring with her tendrils as her radial eyes kept sight on goddess and palatial vistas alike.

“What do you wish to see?” Anath Homura inquired in an impassive tone.

No real response to the question came from Oge’Ivu. Instead, she went forward, her tendrils touching and gently as she could feeling the textures and exploring where her body could not. Her ventral eyes expanded their trifold light limiters- like a series of expanding pupils they let in more to see all below her.

It took only a moment for her internal ballast tanks to briefly compensate for the eternal winds flowing from below the great palace city.

“This realm will remain empty to your eyes, as I will not allow the tainted to sense the truth of Keltra. I suggest departing, as you shall find no sustenance here.”

This meant little to the great beast, Oge’Ivu searched not for these things in the great city- not that she particularly understood the idea of permission either granted. There was an aspect of curiosity to all of her children that came from her, and yet a divine sparked sense lurked deep within- a sense of a message not fully understood.

It was that reason that despite having little need for the lands and continents of the world that they still spent so much time looking down from on high. And it was for that reason that Oge’Ivu attempted such explorations of Keltra.

Her form was well shaped with purpose and idea, but even the divine senses of a god could only tell you what was there - only thought or even random chance could land upon the cause and design for such.

It was therein finding the streets bare and all she could reach barren - it was then that Oge’Ivu turned sight towards the murals and imagery with what imagination and thought she barely possessed.

A murmur so gentle it barely escaped the grand form of the sky titan, one attempting understanding.

Anath Homura had silently vanished, and only Oge’Ivu remained adrift amongst the gracefully sculpted stone that the city was composed of. The surface decorations spanning the solitary structures consisted of abstract art; intricate patterns melding linear and intersecting paths, as well as interlacing shapes and glittering glyphs.

There was an absence of life especially in the grandiose architecture, a lack of animalistic and natural motifs that would convey worldly meaning. It was perfectly shaped, serenely sculpted solely through the exclusion of so much of the cosmos, however, despite its achieved perfection - its widespread beauty and splendor - it still remained a blank canvas.

The emptiness invited the imagination to explain it, beckoning the touch of those inspired with wondrous creativity, but it also acted as a barrier. Perhaps the contours and carvings across the walls, and along the streets, were meant to serve as guidelines… The stone simultaneously provided the answers and the questions, yet it was ever too easy to become lost in what seemed an infinite path to explore.

Without concern or pause, Oge’Ivu explored what she could with sight and tendril. A touch of flesh and what could be seen. Rubbing gently along the texture blank and smooth - perfect and so strange from all she had known. It was a place of amazement and calm to the giant - even if she had not the idea of creation. She did not realize that she was perhaps the first among mortals to actually see the architecture of Keltra, to touch and feel it.

Suddenly there were ripples in the air all around Oge’Ivu, shimmering and shifting, accompanied by the arrival of many sounds and structures that had swiftly appeared in sections of the soaring city. Though the light of day was fading as the sun descended below the horizon, there was also an abundance of new sources that offered illumination - flying rivers of celestial radiance that were interwoven with each other, and spreading across half of the city.

It was too weak to inflict harm, but Oge’Ivu heard a thud as something struck her side…



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Consecrated Conspiracy

Anath Homura & Family



The shadows receded and vision slowly returned for her, but her limbs had yet to begin regenerating, and even the slightest motion caused the cracks that had spread throughout her entire being to creak and complain in agony. Her thoughts were clouded with an excruciating pain, and so she struggled to even stay aware of her surroundings. There was the sight of divine blood that had been splattered across the floor and walls, and the suppressed sounds of the whirling winds outside the Citadel.

Desire still sensed the presence of her wounded sister, and arose by levitating herself towards where Harmony lay in the center of the vast chamber. Harmony had awoken, but lacked the strength to slightly shift herself at all, only capable of conjuring strange sounds around her to emulate distorted speech. “InJuriEs imPaired CoNtrol. CanNot moVe. SaCRifice. SUccEss. StRateGy. DatA. TiMe to rEgeneRate. DesIre?”

“You’re the one that looks awful…” Desire rasped wryly as she tenderly alighted beside her mutilated twin, and glanced around once again with a scrutinizing look. “We’ve won this battle, I suppose - since we’ve not died yet. As for data; she beat the blood and bone out of us. She hit me hard enough to punch through my protection easily twice, if not thrice! We’re going to need so much stronger defenses to stand against her brute strength.”

Her words were followed by Harmony coughing up ichor and orange sludge, as the gaping scar that stretched from her chest to her head still glowed searing hot, and burned the unfortunate skin that remained too close. “DeteCt shaRdS: ZErO. ArK is RemAInder. TWo caGEs - KinG?” The maimed goddess asked after she had ceased coughing.

“I’m still uncertain. She could be hiding some somehow, or she could’ve stored them somewhere else. As for the two cages… I’ve got nothing. Maybe she sundered the King in Heaven, and separated the two pieces? I don’t know, but what I do know is that we’re not strong enough to break either.” Desire remarked nonchalantly, as she fought against the lingering pain that prevented her from repairing the damage to her body.

The twin goddesses sensed the arrival of their sisters as the Archai delivered the two of them to the Citadel. Desire wanted to curse her idiotic mother, considering the gruesome scene she left behind, but concentrated on creating an illusory veil that would conceal the blood that clung to the walls and floor, as well as concealing both the broken bodies of herself and Harmony - replacing them with fully intact illusions that could interact with their sisters for the time being.

“What happened?” Pride quickly asked, as she was gently placed afore them alongside Fear. Neither of their sisters could see through the illusion, and though there was concern upon both faces of the other two daughters of Homura, the result was the duo were not as alarmed as they would be - which Desire and Harmony were appreciative of. The conjured clones behaved accordingly, perfectly imitating their mannerisms and conversing with Pride and Fear in an attempt to alleviate their anxiety.

“We had an argument with mother, but I don’t think our points pierced through that callous disregard she has. Eh, it’s either her stupidity or her stubbornness, but either way, we couldn’t make it work, I’m afraid. Now she’s sulking outside beneath a shroud, or something.” The echo of Desire explained with a tired sigh and an oblivious shrug. Desire felt an inward shiver of embarrassment when she realized that she had caused the illusion of Harmony to happily nod along in blithe agreement with what was said. It was definitely a poor portrayal of the actual Harmony, and she hoped her twin sister would refrain from mentioning such.

“We’re trying to tolerate each other, not fight each other… I can’t believe how childish the two of you acted! Imbeciles! You’re supposed to be more mature, more sensible.” The smallest sister said, simultaneously scolding the two goddesses while lecturing them, and evidently enraged after being sent away. While Pride erupted like a little volcano and then swiftly simmered, Fear remained rather reticent, though her stance suggested she was suffering from fatigue. The sight of the two of them, familiar and so close, caused a silent chuckle to soothe Desire with its surprising warth.

“We’re all to blame - we know. We’ll try to do better, Pride.” Desire replied softly, forming a mischievous smile with her echo, but the lack of sensation through the illusory form was missing much of the appeal. Her anger towards the one that broke her body was reignited, but she didn’t allow it to show, especially since the source of that anger had just stepped into sight.

“Your actions were foolish, but I forgive you. I wish to reconcile with those that I have hurt, those that I had seemingly forsaken temporarily, those that are dearly beloved to me. That is my intention.” Anath Homura proclaimed, her voice echoing in the vast chamber as she strode forward, and Desire detected the shroud that her mother used to conceal the prominent and strange strokes of divine blood across her body. Desire chose not to openly display her amusement at the fact that she and Harmony had smeared the visage of Anath Homura, and it seemed that nothing could be done to amend the appearance of her mother.

“I forgive you for now - though perhaps you could help heal those you have hurt, you know. Show us you’ve changed, and won’t just leave us for whatever reason.” Desire rebuked, letting a lie mingle with her frustration as her illusion spoke aloud for her. Unlike the majority of the Heralds of Honor, Desire was capable of intentionally deceiving those around her, and considering that her mother intensely stared directly at her and Harmony instead of their talking phantoms, Desire wondered whether that was meant to be or not to be. They were both liars.

“DesIre. rEqueSt. TIme.” Harmony intoned, her voice remaining hidden from the hearing of Fear and Pride. Desire winced with reluctant understanding, and attempted to nod at her mutilated sister. The temptation to tease Harmony was washed by the agony the two of them felt, and that excruciating pain paradoxically cleared and clouded her mind, making the task ahead both easier and more arduous. Desire began puppeteering the illusion of her sister, but she was aware that her skills with impersonation and ventriloquism was mediocre even as a deity, so she hoped she did not alert the others with the charade.

“Mother, I have a request...”

Despite her grievous wounds, Harmony continued to provide a semblance of guidance with brief distorted words. “FaiTh. NevEr ForGiVe. REquIRes prOmISe. THe rEturN oF faMilY. AttAiN foRgiVeneSS TheN.” Desire deciphered the meaning of the words and hastily translated them aloud through the illusion so that even Fear and Pride could listen in their conversation. Desire felt that even with her rudimentary ability to mimic the demeanor of her reserved sister, there were no immediate issues with this method of communication. She thought that she at least deserved a small reward as well after all of this was over and done.

“So be it.”

Accompanying the decisive words of Anath Homura, Desire felt a wave of healing energy spread swiftly throughout her being, bringing an immense amount of relief. In a rush, Desire invisibly pulled upon the numerous pools of viscera and broken bones that belonged to her and were widely scattered throughout the interior of the citadel, including the shivering streaks upon her mother. Her body began to quickly regenerate with all of the gathered pieces, and soon she was complete once more as the cracks that covered her shape wrinkled one last time before becoming seamless and smooth again.

Desire glanced at Anath Homura with a melding of amusement and annoyance, as she watched while the ancient goddess called upon the elements of the cosmos to come and coalesce into four familiar forms close to her. The sacred song of sorcery resonated throughout all of Keltra, and many among the archai assembled along the edges of the massive chamber to witness the reincarnation of the first children of the Creatrix, as otherworldly hands shaped and sculpted the quartet into figures embellished with very recognizable and identical features.

“Courage! Kindness! Curiosity! Wanderer! The world awaits your return - now awaken! See your new home and rejoin your family!” Anath Homura announced as the four simulacrums arranged in a simple circle around her finally arose from their long slumber…



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Rekindle

Anath Homura & Family



Perhaps we spend the beginning of our lives making mistakes…
Perhaps we spend the rest of our lives atoning for those mistakes…


At first, those that were reincarnated found that they could not articulate the thoughts and memories that shaped their minds, yet the comprehensive lexicon they had been granted upon birth quickly bestowed upon them the words which would carry the meaning they sought to convey. They could perceive their surroundings, and they understood that they were where they belonged, but a question weighed heavily upon them - what would be the first step for fulfilling their purpose?

Before any of them could ask, their question was answered for them when Pride and Fear dashed forward and swiftly embraced them, followed by the illusions of Harmony and Desire. The welcoming love and warmth that enveloped them was wondrous, and aligned with their prescribed purpose, bringing all of them an immense amount of joy that they clung onto. Pride and Fear possessed the sorrows of an older time, and their tears mingling with their compassion confused the blithesome four that did not remember all that had happened - blissfully ignorant.

Desire did not allow herself to be completely distracted by the wonderful reunion, as she detected the quiet conversation between the actual Harmony and Anath Homura, while the latter lazily healed the former where she lay. “WhY? YoU FoRsAke uS?” The disfigured goddess had asked with a hint of anger within her warped words.

“I cannot join the telepathic bond between you and the others. Be patient now and speak after I have healed you.” Their mother replied, and Desire deigned not to fully involve herself, instead merely listening to the two of them. She watched as the terrible gaping wound upon her sister was slowly sealed and restored to smooth unblemished skin, but she sensed the lingering presence of something strange and sinister left upon Harmony.

“Why did you forsake us? Abandon us… with Zima, and Garle, and Chailiss. Why did you never return to us, or answer our prayers?” She spoke monotonously, yet Desire could feel all of the unuttered emotions within Harmony through their faint connection. The distant voices of those that were forever-fused, yet still sought to be heard, and now begged for an answer. Desire wondered whether their mother could even hear them, or if it was an unavailing endeavor in the end, and if the truth remained ever elusive. It was weird hearing those far away sounds when she also could hear them so clearly now, as she briefly glanced back at the rest of her sisters conversing excitedly.

“I could not save you… I am not infallible, or omnipotent. I did what I could to prevent our annihilation. Much was sacrificed…” Anath Homura whispered as though to speak too loudly would call forth an unfathomable amount of suffering. None amongst them could condemn her for seeking to avoid the painful past, as they recognized how much it could hurt when just recalling the memories.

“If you seek our forgiveness then I require another promise. You must protect them and provide for their proper childhood. Let them experience youth and become adults - unlike us. Do this, and I shall serve you faithfully. You will have attained my forgiveness.” Harmony intoned, and it was a proposal that Desire did not expect to be offered to their mother.

“Another compromise… Has my generosity given birth to your hubris? Do you seek to become my nemesis?” Anath Homura teased, her tone too spiteful to be actual resentment, and yet the haunted hint of a smile along with suddenly leaning too close to the healed Harmony… Desire felt frightened. She was afraid, especially since she could not articulate the exact reason for her emotional state.

“Do not delude yourself. Your love is a lie, and you are an abomination.” Harmony rebuked, and evident in her eyes was the yearning to strike her mother, yet she did not. She stayed seemingly limp as the ancient goddess loomed over her like a shadow smothering the light, threatening to overwhelm her. Desire cringed when she realized that she had been rather distracted, and her illusions of herself and Harmony were under scrutiny by the rest of her sisters. Desire let her phantom pummel Courage, and that was fortunately enough of a clever solution to thwart further suspicion somehow.

“And yet you have chosen to remain here with me… Enough of this. Please speak with your sisters. It is time for catharsis - so dance and sing for me.” Anath Homura said as she stepped back and moved to merge with her own illusion, letting Harmony arise and do the same beside Desire. The interior of the citadel had been cleansed of gore, and all evidence of their clash had been visibly dealt with, so the shroud that concealed their true positions and voices was no longer necessary, nor maintained, which brought Desire a great amount of relief.

Desire and Harmony were able to actually hold onto their sisters now, affectionately squeezing all of them into another group hug, carefully considering the fragility of their forms, and the two twin goddesses grinned as they cherished this moment they had waited a long time for. Desire and Harmony had held onto many memories that belong to those that were reborn, and finally they could return those memories, though both had agreed upon limiting some of the more gruesome and personal details.

“Let us perform!” Desire exclaimed, and smiled as her words were accompanied by an otherworldly orchestra that produced playful music. They all quickly clasped hands after they arranged themselves in a small circle, and all of them watched as their reflections upon the shimmering floor multiplied and became partially merged. Their reflections emerged from the floor, and the daughters of Anath Homura could see a number of differences between them and the myriad of those that continued to emerge from beneath their feet and within their closed circle.

There were those amongst their arisen reflections that wore alternative attires and accessories, and carried an ensemble of distinctive artifacts, all of which were obviously unfamiliar to Courage, Kindness, Curiosity, and Wanderer, as they watched with confusion while their strange simulacrums continued to dance around them. Then the emboldened melody enchanted their emotions, and a subtle spell was cast that let them see beyond the limitations and boundaries of a singular perspective.

Thoughts and memories began to flow from their minds and meld into the spiritual sea that existed between their bodies. They were connected by a bond that allowed them to share their sentiments and experiences, letting each of them understand every word that they had ever uttered throughout their existence, letting them see every piece of their imagination that had painted their reality. It was an extreme level of intimacy that concerned those that were still ashamed of themselves, but also enticed them with an abundance of knowledge and a unified perspective.

The reflections passed through and overlapped each other and their origins, like threads being entwined when weaving, and the daughters of Anath Homura achieved an awareness of their entirety as many minds came together to process every aspect of their being, like looking through many mirrors at once, while seeing through the eyes of all the reflections staring back. Additional angles and views that granted greater clarity when they all merged and those that were reborn then received their prior memories.

The seen and shifting symbols of the Gnosis pulsated vividly, as eight shapes swirled and capered with reminiscent revelry igniting their forms. They were agile and wild, enraptured by the tune of the otherworldly orchestra and the familiar presence of each other. Their inner flames were alive and animated, burning bright with warm companionship, as the more was always merrier for them. Though they would each have their secrets and ambitions unrelated to each other, their telepathic bond would keep them connected to each other even when they would be separated.

Their ritualistic and elated dance was not interrupted by the inclusion of thin scarlet streams and ruby rivelets that splashed and seeped into those that did not possess the essence of divinity. It was already accepted amongst all of them when the sacred signs of sorcery appeared on the skin of Courage, Kindness, Fear, Curiosity, Wanderer, and Pride, for they would always remain set upon the Sacred Path as per the will of the one that created them. It was simply considered another aspect of their rebirth.

The twin goddesses and the anointed champions continued to cheerfully twirl and sway, as the music changed again and again, melody after melody, a seemingly endless embodiment of soothing motion and sounds. Anath Homura sighed to herself, as she also embraced the temporary respite from the seemingly perpetual ache in her heart, and acknowledged that she had yet to be truthfully forgiven.



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Radiance - Relief

Anath Homura & Family



“I believe… our new home requires further embellishment! Hence, I shall erect a series of sacred structures; many monuments and temples that will bring beauty and awe to Keltra!” Anath Homura announced, and her ethereal voice echoed throughout the soaring city, calling upon all of her celestial servants - the angelic archai. The ancient goddess stood within the center of the citadel, and was accompanied by her various daughters, as they awaited whatever would come next.

There were tremors beneath their feet before the floor beneath them began to ascend, rising higher and higher in the shape of a large pillar that swiftly reached up towards the open oculus above them. They passed through the opening in the ceiling and stood atop the towering citadel, as all of Keltra was laid afore them. The outer ring encircled the empty quadrants divided by the four bridges that served to connect the massive wall to the inner ring and the citadel, yet despite the tremendous size of these structures with their immaculate and ornate architecture, there was little else to see.

The Creatrix held out her hand, as she channeled her immense power into bright rivers of a red substance that flowed forth from her appendage and out towards one of the empty quadrants. The summoned rivers curved along the way to their destination and swirled together, coalescing into a complex arrangement of intersecting circular paths that contain concentrated pools of the red substance within three immense rings.

A resilient river remained between the three rings and Anath Homura, until the ancient goddess released her grasp. The end of the enduring river that she had held was set upon one of the walkways that joined the outer ring and accessed the citadel - before it began to transform. The river slowly solidified and became a bridge; a process which was spreading along its length until it reached the three rings which became solid as well, and the condensed substances within each ring swiftly shifted into a trio of exquisite edifices.

The first was a tall and slender structure adorned with an abundance of azure filigree and latticework across its exterior, with many open and expansive windows that permitted a warm light and a gentle breeze to pass though its exposed interior. Numerous columns of celestial radiance manifested along the walls within, and changed into a vast collection of long and glittering curtains that gracefully danced with the wind above a large gathering of folded fabric and textiles placed beside a lonely loom.

The second was a more morbid and stout structure that possessed a multitude of prominent protrusions across its bejeweled facade, like large antlers and twisting curved horns found upon a fierce creature conveying its capabilities of danger through a threatening display. There was only a single entrance into the strange edifice, and all of the light and color that dared to step inside seemed to be suppressed while within its confines, aside from an occasional azure pulse that originated from deep in its depths…

The third was neither a stout nor slender structure, and shared a similar aesthetic to the second - though its protrusions resembled peaceful perches with much less curvature and points, and much more mainly horizontal elements in design. There was the primary entrance; an imposing doorway that led into the heart of the edifice, but there was also a number of open balconies with attached stairways that granted access to the upper levels. The function of the third and final building was the first to be explained as Anath Homura turned to face her daughters and spoke.

“The Temple of the Stars shall serve as the assigned residence for the archai, and act as the core of their operations. They will deliver my messages to those that dwell beyond the borders of my realm, but they serve you as well. Should you wish to communicate with far away friends, then speak with the archai that reside within the temple.”

The majority of the Sacred Septet answered with an automatic affirmative chorus, and then their mother gestured to the second structure seated between the third and first, as she continued her tour of the latest additions to Keltra. All of her daughters remained quiet, despite the fact that they already recognized and remembered the functions of the other two temples that had once existed in the old world.

“The Temple of Resurrection shall serve as a gateway between the material plane and the realm of souls, allowing those that have lost their bodies to interact with those that remain here. The Temple of the Tapestry shall serve as a source of supplies, providing all that you require for teaching yourselves the technique of weaving. Hmm… I know that you are all familiar with these temples.” Anath Homura intoned, as she stroked her chin and contemplated the myriad of weird looks that she received from her family.

“We’re still trying to wrap our heads around what happened, ya… There’s uh… a lot we don’t know, and you haven’t told us much of anything.” Courage said as she stepped closer, then she glanced at her sisters behind her, and then back at her mother with a mixture of hesitation. Her hands were restless; shaking slightly, and she struggled as she almost began pacing back and forth, but she resisted the urge and stayed mostly still.

“And some of us were wondering why we were told not to ask you, Mother?” Curiosity inquired, despite the internal protesting from the rest of the Sacred Septet, as they all agreed to refrain from simply questioning their maker, and had instead chosen to find another way to attain the answers they sought. However, it seemed that Curiosity was quick to forget - and now half of her sisters exuded an aura of evident chagrin after her question was asked aloud. Kindness and Wanderer shared their vexation regarding the naivety of their sister through their connection, which led to Pride telepathically admonishing them as their mother replied.

“An immense amount of information would overwhelm you, so it has been decided that each of you shall receive a portion of the past, and work together towards comprehending it by combining your knowledge. Harmony and Desire shall oversee your education as they possess the answers you seek and have attained divinity.”

Her words washed around and through the Sacred Septet, invoking visions of themselves and the world beyond the barriers of secular sight, a reminder of what awaited them further upon the Sacred Path. Though much of their memories were obscured, and the old world remained a mystery, the daughters of Anath Homura were all inspired to continue their journeys towards becoming what they wanted to be, or what they were meant to be. Though their sentiments varied towards their fate, they found the resolve to go farther.

“We have to become stronger then.” Kindness proclaimed before she stepped forward, and Courage placed a hand upon her shoulder as the brash champion gave an auspicious grin, fierce and invigorated. “It won’t be easy, ya.” Her sister added, and the two of them glanced at the others.

Curiosity and Wanderer stepped forward as well, joining their sisters and adding another wave of levity to their assembly with their paradoxical presence - innocent enthusiasm that contrasted with reluctant reticence. Though the three deities were seemingly amused by the antics of their sisters considering they seemed content to watch, Fear and Pride lacked the same motivation and had yet to move. Their telepathic connection with their sisters was restricted tightly, as they had not forgotten what was lost…

“Come on, Pipsqueak. Together - your brain and our brawn will make us invincible!” Courage coaxed her smallest sister with contagious excitement, as she almost jumped where she stood, brimming with thoughts of a thrilling future. She so clearly wanted to free herself from the shackles of sorrow, and that hopeful ambition was enough to prod Pride into approaching with a sigh of playful annoyance.

Fear stared at her sisters with a mournful glimmer in her eyes, as mirth mingled with misery in her memories, and the timid champion found she could not move toward the sight of her sisters beckoning her towards them. She could hear them calling to her through their connection, and she sensed as Harmony shifted with discomfort undoubtedly due to her trepidation now - a discomfort Fear felt that she was to be blamed for.

Wanderer spoke with her hands, as the mesmerizing motions caught the attention of Fear, and she asked whether the latter would prefer to be alone, or if she would prefer to join them. The combination of the sentiments shared through their connection, and the compassion conveyed through her graceful gesturing, convinced her emotionally confused sister to meet with the rest of them. Wanderer and Kindness both murmured encouragement and support as Fear stepped forward to stand beside them.

“Time to be the best and learn, ya!”

“I will not partake in any of your foolish nonsense, but I’m thinking this shall be enjoyable. Let’s endeavor to improve ourselves.”

“Hmm… when do we begin? Now? I can’t wait!”

Harmony held up her hand, silencing Courage, Pride, and Curiosity, before she walked around all of them, akin to a shepherd tending to their flock, then halted after ascertaining that she had garnered their attention. She lowered her hand, and let her keen gaze shift over each of her sisters as she let a stern silence linger for a time. None amongst the Sacred Septet could discern her intentions, incapable of overcoming her mental warding in their telepathic bond, but that did not prevent Desire and Courage from mischievously chucking all of a sudden, as though they had begun to conspire together.

“Follow me.” The stoic goddess said, swiftly striding towards the edges of the citadel before conjuring a curling pathway that descended to the four walkways below, and away from Anath Homura. None of the champions disobeyed, and all hastily hurried after her, like a trail of children chasing their mother as she led them to the crossways, specifically the bridge that climbed upwards and joined the walkway atop the outer ring.

Desire chose to ignore the improvised formation, and walked next to Harmony with an aura of endearing audacity as she smiled. “You’ve no idea how to help them. Oh, what could mother have meant by overseeing their education? Sister, are you meandering?” She whispered in a teasing tone, as their small group reached the outer ring and were greeted with a beautiful vista when they turned to look at what lay behind them. The entirety of their home was within view, and the splendor of Keltra shimmered as the sun descended below the horizon.

Harmony shot a mote of annoyance at her sister, but did not bother to counter her claims as Desire was unfortunately correct. Her mother had delegated her duty to her, but Harmony could not determine whether she was being given freedom or if she was being given a trial. She was conflicted with choices, and she found herself suddenly floundering - first in her mind, and then in the sky when she realized her twin sister had shoved her off of the outer ring.

Desire laughed as Harmony seemed content to simply fall farther and farther away, the lack of retribution evidently indicating that the latter would rather prefer to let the culprit do whatever she was going to do. The goddess with mismatched eyes smirked as she turned to face her other sisters, and casually shrugged. “She’s fine. However, who wants to join her? Come on, it’ll be fun.” Desire leaned in close to a few of them, and focused upon cajoling Courage to be the first to take her up on her offer. Such a clever strategy was a success, as Courage eagerly stepped forward.

Like an appeased teacher, Desire nodded with approval, and then glanced at the nearest empty quadrant before she nodded once again. “Then let’s play a game!” She proclaimed, and then pulsed with otherworldly power, as she unleashed an amber wave of divine energy that flowed in all directions and washed over the entirety of Keltra. The wave continued to spread beyond the boundaries of the flying fortress, but began to disperse soon afterwards, and it seemed as though the world was not changed at all, aside from some accumulating confusion amongst six champions that stared at their capricious sister.

“That was really nice!” Curiosity exclaimed, overcoming her bemusement with enthusiasm which also earned her a gesture of approval from Desire, while the rest of her sisters became more apprehensive - especially when the sacred signs of the Gnosis were slowly manifesting upon the goddess as she completed the casting of her spell. Desire adopted a dramatic pose as another sorcerous pulse occurred, and she conjured multiple objects at once.

A large and colorful star-shaped structure appeared in the air, hovering close to them as it hummed softly, fulfilling its intended purpose of revealing the numerous rushing rivers of liquid light that had suddenly spread throughout half of Keltra. The rivers defied the weight of the world, and were interwoven with each other, though they continually changed their course without any indication of when such would happen, often creating an unpredictable journey whenever they would be traversed.

In her hands, Desire held onto a scepter that shared a similar color scheme and starry aesthetic as the large levitating structure nearby. In the hands of most of her surprised sisters, were a collection of long and narrow boards that shone with a bright glitter, resembling the texture and coloration of the conjured celestial rivers, though there was some variation amongst them that Desire thought was appropriate. Aside from an irked Pride who did not possess a board, a content Kindness, and a forlorn Fear, the remainder of the Sacred Septet were elated - ready for what would come next.

“Allow me to demonstrate!” Desire declared, before she leapt high into the air and alighted upon one of the luminous rivers, easily summoning another shimmering board beneath her feet. The currents carried her, and she slid forward at a swift rate along the stretching length of the river as she surfed all around the area across merging streams and long solitary sections. Her cheerful laughter reached the six champions that watched her, it beckoned them to join her, and she further enticed her sisters by commanding a river of light to remain close beside them.

Courage could not resist when she noticed Pride was attempting to retreat, so she lifted the smallest of the Sacred Septet, and then leapt - carrying the childlike champion that had begun screaming and flailing with her. Wanderer turned her gaze to Fear, but before she could suggest surfing together as well, she was pulled away by Curiosity and the two of them were gone. Instead, it was Kindness that gently asked, and she was surprised by the resolute smile Fear responded with, before she was also pulled along by the usually meekest amongst them.

Though there was much fumbling between all of them, they adjusted themselves accordingly and had already shown some degree of skill while surfing the usually unseen sea of light in the sky that was called the Stria. There were those that possessed more aptitude than others, and Desire had to consider the current handicap placed upon some individuals and their poor choice of partners, as she watched with amusement when Pride punched Courage in the face and almost caused the two of them to tumble off of their shimmer-board.

Desire was cruising above all of them upon her own special shimmer-board that she had named Sunset Orange, and she had yet to activate its aura that would hide her from sight. She still held the scepter she had created in her hands, which allowed her to commune with the Stria within the immediate vicinity, and she listened as the waves whispered into her ear and told her of that which her mother had kept hidden. The veil had begun to disperse, and with an amused smile, Desire directed the currents of the Stria so that it would bring her innocent sisters and an unexpected visitor together.





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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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The Journey - Part 2 - Unknown location outside the Umbral Woods - 6:37 PM


Penumbra, Custosa and Dahm recovered from the fight with the bandits and were finally outside the Umbral Woods. Their first fight was a hard one as they weren’t prepared and they haven’t escaped unscrapped.

While neither Penumbra nor Dahm knew anything about treating wounds, they bandaged Custosa’s eye to the best of their ability but even they could say with certitude…her eye would be lost forever. Custosa was, of course, not the only one injured. Dahm and Penumbra were as well but those were paper cuts in comparison to the loss of an eye.

Deep lines drawn gently;
A subtle but growing pain
Red stones fall gently down
” said Dahm, the Bard in a sad voice before starting to humm a sad song.

Custosa, who was in great pain and in general disliked Dahm, ignored her feelings about him and joined in, humming under her breath as a way to focus on something else than pain. Penumbra just walked a bit further away from the group, head down and a frown on their face. It was them that asked these two to join, it was them that led them on that path and of course, it was their quest. Their responsibility to keep them safe, a responsibility they failed to uphold.

Looking back at the two, Penumbra went through the list of their supplies that they still had. Food for a week, water for a few days but that wouldn’t be an issue for now but a major issue presented itself, they didn’t know in which direction to go. North and up the mountains, hoping to find a pass or closer to the coast but with more chances of danger. They still had some time until they would reach the point of no return for either direction and as such, Penumbra’s mind switched subjects of focus.

Level ups. Themselves and Custosa each got 4 levels up for their fight with the bandits while Dahm, got five levels for his instrumental role in the fight. In Penumbra’s mind, they ran through each person’s current and new abilities.







All these abilities meant that they should be more than ready for any kind of encounter in the future with bandits or whatnot. If something else doesn’t happen, of course. As they kept walking, light appeared in the sky. Blinding light at dawn. A bad omen. The group stopped to catch their breath and made camp, better to walk in sunlight in these unknown lands.

" What was…" started to say Custosa before wincing in pain. Penumbra replied before she could try again to speak.

" I don't know but that much light at this hour? Either some kind of beast or divine magic. One of Ashevelen’s siblings, the Goddess, wouldn't do something like that. Not without at least talking with her champion. We'll have to tread carefully. Bandits won't be the only threat we'll face in this quest…"

Before Penumbra could say anything else, Dahm the Bard used his ability [ignore pain] and started to sing.

" And if eternity is the time
And forever we must wait
Then we will wait all eternity
For even as the earth crumbles away
We are indestructible.
"

And the party ignored their pain and fell asleep soundly as Damh took the first watch, still singing their pain away.

" Oh pain, my mistress
Oh pain, why you court us so
Oh pain…oh pain.


The Journey - Part 2 - The edge of the Lightwoods - 8 AM


The party of 3 walked and walked through the unknown forest, deciding to keep closer to the coast than venture through the mountains. One their way there, Penumbra went into the Shadow Bazaar looking for Ashevelen, hoping for some divine aid but quickly found out that she wasn’t there. Either way, not wanting to leave empty handed, they bought some healing herbs from a stall and some food from some elves.

Applying the herbs wasn’t as hard as they thought initially but it was painful or would’ve been if Dahm wouldn’t have sung as much as he could to make Custosa forget the pain and stop struggling while the herbs were applied on her eye.

Eventually they arrived at the location where the light came from and they were amazed. A whole forest that shined with light in many different colours and intensity. Penumbra, ever the obedient servant, grabbed some plants and quickly discovered that the plants had teeth which they tried to use to bite them. “Killing” the plants quickly, they threw them into a shadow and uttered the words of the Goddess sending the plants into the Shadow Bazaar.

What is this place? Plants that have teeth and are carnivorous? The Dark/Umbral forests do not have anything of the sorts and neither have I heard anyone telling stories about them. ” asked Custosa, a perplexed look on her face.

Never seen something like this either. I’ve sent some in the Shadow Bazaar, when the Goddess is back she will come and check for sure. ” answered Penumbra.

How far must the honey bee roam
To find an elusive flower,
And return to his honeycomb?

How long must a tumbling stone
Through a lonely landscape scour,
To realise its conclusive home?
” sang Dahm, as elusive as ever.

Custosa turned towards him with a frown upon her face. Anger was clear in her voice. “ Dahm! I beg you in the name of Jeon and all the over divines out there, please start making sense. I don’t understand a word and you’re talking in my language.

Penumbra came between the two as they stared at each other and shook their head.

Easy there. Easy. Calm down, Custosa. What Dahm means is that we are far from home and that we don’t know when we will be back. I think he said something about not knowing if the Goddess will find us alive when she’s back but not sure. Did I get that right, Dahm? ” explained Penumbra while looking at Dahm for confirmation. A tiny nod was all the answer he gave and all that was needed.

After some more bickering between the confused Custosa and Dahm, they started their journey through the forest and it wasn’t an easy one. Howls, grunts and movement kept everyone on their toes add to that the occasional burrowing dino that literally kept everyone on their toes as they would be biting at their feet before coming out in a shower of dust and gravel to swallow the party whole.

I don’t like this forest. People back home were afraid of the shadow monsters when your Goddess transformed the Umbral Woods but they don’t compare to this. Dahm, stay close to me. As much as I’d like you to stop singing every 2 minutes, I wouldn’t want to see you eaten by whatever lives in this forest. ” said Custosa as she saw Dahm lagging behind the group for a few steps.

There's a sad loneliness about my heart,—
A deep, deep solitude the spirit feels
Amid this multitude. The things of art
Pall on the senses—from its pageantry,
Loathing, my eye turns off; and my ear shrinks
From the harsh dissonance that fills the air.
” sang to the yet-again annoyed Custosa, Dahm, before nodding at her, pointing around them and then made a shhh sound.

Custosa shook their head and she realised something as well. It was too quiet. Too quiet for a normal forest and way too quiet for this forest. Penumbra, who led the group and was just further up from where they were using their pre-existing abilities to the full, came back running.

There’s something out there. The wildlife ran away which means that whatever it is…it’s the apex predator of this forest. No more scouting, we keep close…very close. I’ve seen something moving in the canopy above us, stalking us.

Custosa took a sharp breath and focused on her passive ability [Enhanced Hearing], closing her right eye. Sure enough, the sounds of the forest could still be heard but farther away…and then thum. thum. thum. thum. a rhythmic beat. It continued and continued until it stopped for a few seconds, only to start again faster and in their direction.

Get ready. Whatever made everything hide is closing in fast on our location. ” said Custosa while she got her spear ready in the direction of where the sound came from.

Penumbra hid behind a tree, activating their ability [One with the shadows] ready to jump from behind and attack the new foe while Custosa would keep it focused and Dahm would sing his songs at it. Alternating between support and attack abilities.

Just then, a towering monstrosity burst through a nearby thicket, its head an oversized version of the chompy plant that had tried to bite Penumbra,its body thicke as three tree trunks, its legs stomping the earth and its tail ending in yet another mouth.

It roared loudly upon somehow spotting them with its far too many eyes despite the party's stealth skills. It skid to a halt before it simply trampled over them and ducking its head low as if it were about to try and bite them. Instead of this however, this bow revealed upon its back a lounging figure: Jeon, the god of forests and adventure!

He gave them a casual wave and a “Sup”

As soon as the monster spotted Penumbra and approached its head to bite them, Penumbra vanished and appeared just above them in the trees. Their whole arm, a spear pointed at the head of whomever was riding the creature, ready to use their [Shadow Javelin] skill. Custosa let out a shout to them and dropped to one knee almost immediately while Dahm, for once in their lifetime, was quiet and watched the divine with caution.

My prince, it’s an honour to finally meet you in person. I am Custosa, the one above is Penumbra, the champion of the Lady of Trade and Shadows and this…Satyr is Dahm. A bard. ” said Custosa, reverence in her voice clear.

Penumbra jumped from the trees and offered a friendly bow to Jeon and threw a coin in their direction. A sign of respect between the Umbra.

Greetings! The Lady of the Trade and Shadows offers her regards and wants you to know that she’s saddened that you haven’t yet met but would be more than happy to host you in the Shadow Bazaar at any time.

The god snatched the coin from the air, gave it a raised eyebrow, before giving a little grin and joking “Well I’ll have to do so, now that I’ve got some spending money” before tucking the coin into his pocket.

I am unsure if you know how to reach the realm. Look at any shadow that may fit your size, think or say that you wish to barter with the Lady of the Trade and then throw your offering in the shadow. A portal will open and take you over there and when you wish to leave, just wish it and you’ll be transported back to where you entered. ” explained Penumbra.

“Good to know,” the god replied with an appreciative nod. He had know already, but didn’t seem to feel it necessary to put down their helpful instinct

“Now then, up up all of you, that’s enough respect showing for one day” the god baid them, slipping off the back of his monstrous steed so he could stand evenly with them… or, well, shorter than them, as two thirds of the party stood taller than the divine, not least of all the Custosa, who towered thanks to her elven physiology. It was the elf that he addressed next, saying, “and lovely to meet you at last too, Custosa, I’ve heard so much about you after all” with a wink.

I hope you’ve heard only good things, prince. ” replied Custosa sheepishly, trying to hide her missing eye with her long hair.

“So, I totally have not been stalking you, I just happened to see you in the area and thought I'd ask something of you” the god said to them all, before stopping himself and instead saying “oh but first, where are my manners? How is your journey going?”

Penumbra stepped forward as Jeon asked his question, ready to answer.

We’ve had a few ups and downs but we’re getting better. Not my first adventure, as you might’ve heard that the Goddess ordered me before to establish peaceful relationships with your subjects. Either way, we are good for now. What is it that you wish to ask?

“Well, you need to get better at storytelling if you want to impress anyone with tales of your adventures buuuuut that’s fine” Jeon derided their lack of rendition of their story before getting on with it “So, here’s the thing, there’s this settlement about, oh, a few days travel thataway” He pointed generally westwards “and it needs your help. I’ll mark it on your map”

There was a pause.

“I’ll also give you a map” he added, before pulling out a big leaf and rapid fire painting a picture of the landscape onto it using elven paints before handing it over. As the map consisted mostly of forest, it wasn't exactly the most informative, but it did give the lay of the coast line, and a few notable landmarks, notably a dot where this settlement was, sitting right on the western edge of the forest, where it met a vast yellow expanse they’d come to learn was a desert.

“See, there’s these things called Cortex Flowers, looks like a seed pod the size of a shed growing out of the ground, and they can control animals in order to get them to hunt for them. Now this settlement’s set up just, way too close to a big ol grove of those, so what I need you to do is head on over there, meet up with the locals, and then go deal with that big plant for or with them. Then after that they should be safe-ish, and I’ll just bet they’ll be helpful when it comes to the next leg of your journey. You do not want to go into a desert unprepared, trust me” the god explained, adding a little drawing of the cortex flower to their map next to the settlement as he talked.

Penumbra and the party listened closely to Jeon’s words and as soon as they finished talking, Custosa started to accept the quest but got interrupted by Penumbra almost straight away.

Apologies prince but this doesn’t seem like our problem and if you’re offering a quest, then what do we get in return? You wish to trade with an Umbra after all. ” swiftly said Penumbra, remembering their Goddesses teachings.

“And a quest needs a reward as well, so don’t you worry, I’ll make it worth your while” the god replied with a grin, before hopping up onto his monstrous steed, grabbing a big leaf based bundle that had been tied to its side but that had gone unnoticed up until now, and then said “promise to do this, and I’ll give you the gear to do it” as he laid the contents out on the ground before them

For Custosa: a bronze helmet, a full set of chain mail, a scale mail chest plate to go on top as well as a set of pauldrons and a reinforced tower shield and a battle axe

For Dahm, well, he got a lute. That, a foppish hat with a big father in it, a short sword, a short bow, and finally some light chain mail of his own.

“Now you, you’re tricky” Jeon said to Penumbra, “but I think this might just do the trick”, as he gestured to a gambeson made of shadow cloth. What might be considered the poor man’s armour by a layman, the fact that it was made from the Umbra’s own shadowy material meant that it wouldn’t interfere with the [champion]‘s own skills while also offering an impressive degree of protection given that it was, well, cloth. It also came with a nice sewing kit as well for repair proposes. Finally it also included a set of glass vials containing poisons that would not harm the shadow, but would harm their biological foes quite badly.

Before Penumbra could say anything, Custosa tapped them on their shoulder. A begging look on her face. “ I said I’m going to follow your lead until this divine quest is ended but I beseech you, please accept this side-quest. It…means a lot to me.

Dahm soon followed-up with a song of promise of aid and help of his own.

Lend a hand to one another
In the daily toil of life;
When we meet a weaker brother,
Let us help him in the strife.
There is none so rich but may,
In his turn, be forced to borrow;
And the poor man's lot to-day
May become our own to-morrow.


Caught between a good offer and the requests of their party, Penumbra nodded.

I accept your trade, Prince of Adventures. Just keep in mind that the Lady of the Trade will eventually hear of this and I hope that you’ll explain the need for delays in her quest.

“Then I’ll be sure to tell her that it’s not about the destination, but the journey and experience you earn along the rode” Jeon replied, before leaning in just a little and adding ominously “and trust me, the way you’re you’re going, you’ll want all the experience you can get”

Then he stood up, flashed them a grin “now then, I must go away. Godhood’s a busy life, and I’m sure I’m needed elsewhere” he said before hopping back atop his steed “I look forward to hearing of your tales of bravery, so don’t let me down now!” he told them, then gave them a two finger salute and a “toodles” before thundering away into the woods once more

Armed with new weapons and armour which fitted perfectly, the group started walking towards the village they were meant to protect. Penumbra kept the map close and would hide it within their form when creatures would appear.

…..To be continued






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The Shadow Bazaar! A wonder of divine power, a realm accessible to any mortal in any palace at any time. An afterlife for the goddess’s most mercantile. Someday it would be a marvel, a place overflowing with rare goods from all across the world.

At the moment however, it was pretty empty. A mere handful of Umbra had met their fate while holding the required goods to buy their way into an afterlife of eternal service, and so the staff of the bazard could only really manage a couple of (admittedly pretty fancy looking) buildings and stalls sitting in the middle of a vast empty plain of potential. Add to this the fact that the primitive societies didn’t exactly produce large surpluses of goods, and business was fairly slow, at least compared to what the realm would one day handle.

That didn't mean there weren't things of interest on offer however. The goddess had spread her shadowy children far and wide, and so while there might not be magic swords and genie lamps on sale there were still a healthy plethora of novelties to be found.

There were stalls with holding coin stored tamed Redwood Deer, the monstrous yet loyal Tarsks, and also a nice pasture holding the goddes’s newly acquired Sanguis Equis and their foals (these winged metal armoured horses were getting a lot of attention, and where the source of one of the world’s first bidding wars even in their juvenile state as everyone from two bit bandits to high level [adventurers] and tribal leaders wanted a piece of that action).

Tools and weapons of stone were also on sale, and the usal wood and stone items had had added to them Fern’s new invitation: Tools and items that had been grown rather than built. A dedicated stand in one of the stalls held thorn tipped spears, claw knives, vine ropes, leaf garments, big heft mallets and so on, all of which proved to be much more resilient than crafted items due to the lack of any joining points, each time being instead a single continuous assembly of plant matter.

Finally, there was food, and, honestly, for a lot of people, this was a big draw. So much so in fact that one of the busiest places in the Bazaar was a restaurant. People would come to the Bazaar, bring an excess of food, and add it to a collective pile which would then be cooked and prepared into a buffet by a high level Umbra [cook] who had sold their culinary talents to the goddess, which you could then take from an amount of dishes based on your initial contribution.

This place would see people come and go or varios evenings, but the biggest event was a party that occurred every 25 days. The peoples of the dark wood had haphazardly organised it as a get together where representatives from the tribes would pop into the Bazaar to share gossip and news between each other, and then other people had realised that the menu got pretty stacked during that time and joined in.

Thus Sanctuary’s current representative, Minowbloom, found herself sat at a table surrounded by the chattering forms of half the world’s peoples chattered in various levels of proficiency of blackspeech augmented with the odd added word to fill in the gaps (like, for example, the wood elvish for friend), a dialect that was colociouly referred to as trader talk.

The restaurant itself was a fantastical affair. It had started out as just an empty square that the elves had hung out in near an exotic food shop. Then the [cook] had set up a little stall in the square to sell cooked food. Then that stall had turned out to be so successful that they’d been able to requisition help, and a bigger space.

This space’s main room was a room featuring a number of finely carved round tables that seemed to perfectly fit however many guests were available from being a cosy little affair when it was quiet to a bustling banquet hall during party time. Lights danced above the dark space, while in the centre of the room a raised stage allowed musicians and singers to perform (be they the employed dead, or guests who wanted to show off). Umbra floated to and fro in the room, carrying trays of food and drink down from the busy kitchen that lay somewhere up above the hall.

It was the perfect cover for what might be described as the Bazaar's first black market, where under the table deals went on to avoid having to go through the middle men of the Umbra.

Minowbloom was there as part of the whole unofficial operation, though she and her patron’s didn't really see it that way. They went breaking the rules that banned anyone but the dead from selling after all, just, narrowly skirting around the edges of them in a way where keeping their activities on the down low just felt right.

She wasn't there to sell or buy, she was just sitting at a table, sipping a funny cactus juice drink, and if someone happened to notice the logo on her cloak that showed a tree with a tower on top with 3 figures standing triumphantly atop said tower, recognised it from the gossip mill, and had a certain type of trouble, why they might ask if they could take a seat and tell her about their problems.

The red haired wood elf girl, who had been born rather than made, glanced up as a little bell went off in her head, her [business call sense] skill giving her a warning of an incoming client. That gave her enough time that she could adjust her tiara (which sported a flower made of minnow scales on the forehead) smooth down her leafy one piece suit, check that the knife at her side was set just so that she gave off a competently dangerous look, and also dap her lips clear of cactus juice before they arrived.

It was a silly skill when compared to the [danger sense] her patrons often had, but the [message taker] found that it helped her never get caught slacking on the job. It wouldn't do for her to make the [adventurous] of Sanctuary look bad after all.

The person who took the empty seat across from her was a rather haggard looking elf man who looked just a touch malnourished. It was his hastily applied paints and simple crown of woven branches that gave away everything to the wood elf however. This was someone from a tribe who were down on their luck, and also had never had much luck to begin with.

“Hey are you with the guild? I’m here about-” the elf began, but Minowbloom cut him off kindly

“Hey now, no need to rush into things. You look famished, so let me get you something”

“No no, I could hardly-” the elf protested, but the [message taker] insisted, calling on one of the serving shadows who was hovering nearby due to the elf being a new guest: “A merchant stew please, some Sanctuary Cider too! Put it on my tab”

The Umbra nodded, floated up into the ceiling, and a few moments later returned, placing a bowl before the elf that held the hearty stew filled with mixed meats from all over the world delightfully cut into the shape of coins, and also set down a wooden cup containing some frothing apple cider.

Minnowbloom thanked the waiter, and then leaned back and relaxed for a bit as the hungry elf first eyed his food and then dug into it with relish, the rich meal quite literally the best he had had in his life despite it being somewhat common fare down in shadowton.

She took another sip of her juice, and then, once the initial rush had died down and her guest was eating at a steadier pace, asked “so what’s troubling you?”

Her guest swallowed and then replied “oh it's horrible miss-” before looking awfully embarrassed about the fact that they haven't exchanged names

“Minnowbloom,” she informed him, and then asked “and you?”

“Crab” the elf repliend, before continuing with his tale after some non verbal prompting “It’s a root viper, nastiest and biggest one you’ve ever seen. We used to just avoid it you know, and it’d leave us be, but it started going after our herds of Redwood Deer and anyone who tries to stop it, well…” It didn’t need to be said that the rarely seen terrors of the woods could do to some poorly armed [herders]

The elf drew in a breath through her teeth at the news. Of all the troubles a wood elf could have in the dark woods, that was pretty high up there. “How big exactly” she asked for clarity.

“I well” Crab had to think for a moment “if it could balance on its tail I swear it could reach the treetops”

That was bad. Not the worst, tree-kin could just keep growing and growing it seemed. But still very bad. “Sounds like you are in dire straits. Alright you know how this works, yeah?”

“Mmm. Well. My tribe’s not exactly the most well off, but we have some things we can offer. Hide and meat from our herd mostly. Tools perhaps. We aren't the most well off tribe I’m afraid, but that’s never much mattered till now.”

“Might be a hard sell then, but there might be a group who wants to prove themselves against a serpent if you’re lucky. Plus, it's a mission of mercy and some [adventurers] are all heart” Minnowbloom replied, before taking out a tiny pot of pain, a brush, and a large square dry leaf that Sanctuary had started growing (so like paper, but not nearly as good).

“So lets see… root sprent… big as a tree… your tribe is…?” she paused and got Crab’s people’s location and then went on “reward… hide, meat, tools… aaaand done” she concluded finishing her work before showing it to Crab “Hows that look?”

“Like a crime” came a third voice, and then a knife which was driven down into the leaf and the middle of the paper.

“Wha-” Minnowbloom started, and looked to her left to find an Umbra who had phased out of the floor right next to their table, and demanded to know “what’s the meaning of this!”

“That you’re in big trouble missy, you and all the other law breaking scum in this hive of law breakers!” the umbra announced, as more shadowy figures rose up from the ground while saytars stormed into the venue from the sidelines, all armed to the teeth. A few black-marketeers and their clients tried to make a run for it, and it did not go well for them, while Minnowbloom just raised her hands in the air as her arrester pointed a second knife at her and insisted “But I’ve done nothing wrong!”




Yet another day in the Shadow Bazaar. The acquisition of the Rose sword, Sanguis Equis, mosquitos and Mireborn things started to look better but it was not enough. Not by far. More had to be brought in. The Mireborn were placed in coin form until Ashevelen would find a use for them, if there was any and if not, certainly someone would find them a use.

Making some mental calculations and the sorts, an Umbra spirit appeared before her informing her of law-breakers within the realm. Of course, she knew what they were doing for some time already but decided to let it pass, for a tiny bit of time. Just in case they would eventually understand what would happen to them if they’d be discovered…and they didn’t.

Ashevelen sent a few Satyrs and Umbras over to shut down their operation. All while watching them through the walls, which were made out of shadows that simply looked different. The mortals were, of course, denying that they ever did anything illegal. With a clap of her hands, all the elves that were seen going inside the restaurant and that were still inside the Shadow Bazaar were pulled into the ground and appeared in shadow-cages in front of Ashevelen.

The room where they were seemed smaller if one would look from the outside than how big it actually was. It was a simple room, unadorned with anything but cages upon cages. All filled now by the elves.

You have about 5 seconds to answer my questions before you’re all dead. Who’s the leader? Why did you break the rules? Do I have to remove body parts now or after you’re going to lie to me? ” asked the Goddess in the most threatening voice she could manage. The very walls of the room trembled at the sound and power of her voice.

“I’m innocent I swear, I didn’t know, they said that it wasn’t breaking the rules because there wasn’t any payment involved” Crab called out, one among a number of protesters, but unlike them, he was the only one who gave a name of an organisation: “It was those damn greedy [adventurers] from Sanctuary, they tricked me! I didn’t know I swear!”

“Hey! Nobody tricked no one, and I didn’t sell anything either!” Miinowbloom yelled back at him

“Oh yeah, well then what do you call this?” The Umbra who had arrested her said, waving the knife pierced leaf she had bad on her upon her arrest. “Looks like a deal to me” he accused, and indeed with the ‘price tag’ of various animal parts it certainly looked like some kind of receipt or contract.

“It’s a poster,” she retorted, before explaining “which I make for troubled strangers, and then take, and then pin up on a message board in Sanctuary for people to see. No deal here, just helpful relaying information” to the Umbra in question, the elf finding that much easier than speaking directly to the very very intimidating Goddess.

Ashevelen took a deep breath and the Umbras left the room. This interrogatory was hers to handle, she let it go for far too long.

Now, now. What did I say about lying mortal? What you’re doing is called trade of information. I know you know that because my mortals and you have been doing it for a while now. ” replied Ashe and with a flick of her finger, all fingers on both hands of all the elves in the room broke. All at once and then they got healed, but not before they felt the pain in full.

More or will you stop acting dumb and talk? As for Sanctuary, don’t worry. They’re next.

“Ow ow ow ow ow I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” the sufficiently cowed elf replied as she was heckled by her peers who had been punished along side her, Minnowflower clutching her fingers close to her chest as she explained “they said it was ok, that it was just a more organised way of sharing gossip and news like we already where, but they… but I was wrong! Please don’t hurt me!”

You’re saying “they” but haven’t provided me with names or descriptions. Should I just take the information from Sanctuary or just go through the Dark Woods, gather all the elves and destroy them…leaving you the last one of your species. I could bless you with immortality and you will see how your people will slowly be forgotten. ” continued Ashe. The elves didn’t know this but Ashevelen had no plans in doing so, merely a way to scare them for good.

“You… you wouldn’t…” Minnowflower began, but had enough senses in her to not test the goddess’s patience any further and explained: “I’m with the guild. The [adventurers] guild. Pieapple thought up this idea, or, well, I mean she wanted to do more but some of the others talked her down because they thought this would toe the line better…” and well now it wasn't that ironic.

Oh’. Yes. I would. There are not that many things in this existence that I dislike more than lying or cheating. So…yes. I would. ” added Ashe, the shadows on the room flaring brightly before continuing “ So, let me see if I got this right. A different mortal talked you and your peers into breaking the ONE rule of my bazaar? No side-deals. You want a place to do it, all you have to do is ask and if I see the profit out of it…then it’ll be created but you mortals instead of doing that, preferred to go behind me back.

Ashevelen took a deep breath before releasing the one called “Crab” from their cage.

You. Bring me this Pieapple elf. If you don’t come back fast enough, all your people here will die…horribly.

“Bubububut that’ll take days” Crab replied, having more than enough empathy to not take this opportunity to just bail on everyone else.

That won’t do. Back to your cage. Who’s the closest to the Sanctuary?

Minowberry raised her hand, as did a random elf blackmarketer as Crab tried to take it back.

You’re staying here. Elf, you go. Come back here. If you don’t…let’s say that you won’t like what will happen afterwards. ” said Ashe as the elf was “spit” out of her realm.

That left an awkward amount of time during which said elf sprinted through the forest to get to Sanctuary, got up into said city, got an audience with the bakerqueen and, finally, after a brief delay, returned to shadow world and was picked up by the goddess’s servants and politely escorted back to the prison.

The door to the room opened and Pieapple entered, the picture of nobility. Or at least she had a nice crown and a calm composed look on her face, one that didn’t quite reach her nervously agitated hands that really wanted a throwing weapon in them despite how useless this would be.

She bowed before Ashevelen and greeted her as “Your divine majesty of shadows and trade” before saying “I understand you have taken one of my subjects captive over a breach of the law? I beseech you to free her, and take issue with me instead, such that we might come to terms and put an end to this unpleasantness as soon as possible” the low level [monarch] milking her the skill she had gotten from the class, [regal presence], for all it was worth in this moment.

Ashevelen looked at Pieapple, inspected her crown with a merchant’s eye and then simply ignored her for a few moments. Letting her sweat. She looked at the elves, at the walls and then…she snapped her fingers. Pieapple and herself were teleported outside of the room and in a square room, which shouldn’t be possible due to the circular shape of the tower but yet it was there.

The room was bare with no windows, nor doors and only one chair on which Ashevelen sat.

Drop the bullshit. Your people broke the only law in this place…willingly and at your command. Yet now, you’re asking to come to terms? Maybe my terms is the extinction of your whole species in the hopes that no other mortals would be so dumb.

“Person. Miss Minnowbloom is my only associate you have taken captive” Pieapple carefully corrected, before catching on “unless you mean… all of elf kind?”

I do indeed. If one of you breaks the rules, all of you will eventually. No elf that knew about your arrangement, and I know there are more that knew about it, came forward to report it. In my view, you’re all guilty. Now, how should I punish you? Do you have a preferred method of death or just a normal erase works for your kind?

“You say this as if there were only elves at this gathering, yet it has not been like that for many moons now. Do you truly think none of the other people have been taking part in this illegal market?” the [monarch] pointed out “or that guild hasn’t done jobs for umbra or satyrs?”

“As for my death, well, you will have to eat me I suppose, or else your consequences doesn’t stand up to Lektoria’s” Pieapple said calm,y as if she had not been utterly terrified by the prospect when first threatened with it, before swiftly adding “that said, I don’t suppose I can offer you… what is the word… reparations instead? And a suggestion to help mitigate the impulses causing this lawbreaking in a way that would be profitable to you?”

Ashevelen grabbed Pieapple with two fingers and lifted her in the air. The room started to become bigger as Ashe’s form grew in size. She raised Pieapple up and Ashe opened her mouth wide as if you eat her…then dropped her in her mouth. Only for Pieapple to be transported into a different room which looked similar but this time, there were two chairs and one table.

You should’ve seen your face. ” said Ashe as she laughed out loud at the terror Pieapple most certaily went through.

The elf most certainly had not appreciated reliving her nightmares. The only thing stopping her from collapsing to the floor in a foetal position was the pool of poison and the shattered remains of the seapods that had held it resulting from her futile attempt to fight her fate via throwing skills. So instead she stood, shaking in place, trying to get a hold of herself.

Calm down, will you? I asked how you want to die and did what you requested. ” replied Ashe with a wink.

“That was not... Funny. At all. Not the first time, not the second time” she shuddered, before simply summing up it all up by cursing her life with “fuck, why me?”

" Not for you maybe. As to "why you". You know the answer to that and now…my patience is growing thin, mortal. You mentioned a deal, go on. Just don't forget one thing. The rule has been broken and if you don't negotiate properly, I'll eliminate your whole species as a warning for others. " answered Ashe calmly before a miniature Sanctuary appeared on the table and got crushed by a divine hand. The image then restarted itself, this time showing Sanctuary being devoured by monsters and then again and again, each time a different method of destruction would appear, getting more and more wild and inventive. " You've got until I run out of ideas…"

I just wanted to explore a cave with my friends, the monarch thought to herself, and then fate had decided to make her a plaything of the gods. Then she took a deep breath, reactivated her skill, and got back to business. She decided to not waste time pointing out that Jeon had a house there and probably would not take well to it or his people being attacked. This was her problem, she would solve it herself and not lean on his help.

She stepped out of the poison pool, pulled leafy sheath out of a pouch, sat at the other side of the table, and pushed the diagram she’d drawn over.

“Let the guild operate officially. People come, they make requests, they deposit or contractually promised rewards and then the guild handles all the business of proving a task is done and distributing these rewards. You, naturally, get a cut as standard practice, plus the guild takes on the debt of all your… lost profits“

The diagram itself depicted an organically grown structure sat in the Bazaar, and a detailed diagram of its interior hosting space for guild staff to take, store, and distribute rewards. Record rooms and bounty boards. Training halls, and a tavern for the [adventurers], and dedicated space for the Bazaar staff to sell directly to them. It also had perfect measurements of materials, dimensions and capacity jotted down, that made it clear that this hadn’t been made in a hurry.

“Both Sanctuary, and my future kingdom will also take on this debt of course… also if I might make a suggestion?” she asked, this bit more tepidly “You introduced people to the wonder of trade, of barter, of selling, made a relf for it, and then locked it down so only your people could truly trade in it. This is… frustrating, to some. You are in your right to do things this way, of course, but if you want to stop stomping out blackmarkets, then, maybe, just set up a way that outsiders can buy and sell, just in a way that proffits you. Take a cut, charge a fee, anything. Just let the market be free”

The Lady of the Trade listened to Pieapple’s proposal silently, nodding at times and shaking her head when a point made was not fitting her imagination…especially the bit about dimensions and materials to which she outright said “No” before allowing Pieapple to continue.

I am not concerned about lost profits. Like all mortals you’re understanding the nature of the trade in a wrong way but that’s not for me to teach you. What I care about is that my rules have been broken. If any of you would’ve come forward to ask permission about it, I would’ve said yes in a mortal heartbeat and yet, you decided to go behind my back. But–” replied Ashevelen in a friendly manner before standing up and touching one of the walls. Immediately, a wall opened up and the bazaar came into view.

Follow me. ” she said without looking back and walked until an empty area, devoid of stalls, stood before them.

You’re saying a lot of things about debt, mortal but do you understand the debt you’re facing? You understand as well that I could stop all blackmarkets that pop up almost immediately while in my realm and…Do you understand that I can’t let you get out of this without some form of punishment ‘lest others see it as weakness and profit based on it?

“If you can shut them down then who would…” Pieapple began to ask, only to realise the answer “ah. Other gods”

And not only. ” said Ashe, turning her head towards Pieapple and winked.

Tapping her foot on the ground, the building Pieapple showed Ashe earlier on slowly started to rise from the ground. Initially the building would follow the exact dimensions of what was showcased on Pieapple’s plan but then it grew in size, whole rooms added to support members living there, a training yard with different environments to help training for different quests and more. Right on top of the building, there would be three different statues. The biggest was of Ashevelen, the patron of the realm and then on each side a statue of the Kathetikon and one of Jeon. The building stood 6 floors up and 6 down with different hidden rooms to where only those that would speak a password would be allowed to pass.

Go inside, have a look. Check the new additions. I’ll wait.

The confused [monarch] did so, and for a while the fear and trepidation was washed away as she marvelled at the vision her crown had allowed her to plan come to life in a fashion far grander than even she could have imagined. After having spent so much time planning and experimenting, it was a delight to explore somewhere new again, to go on a little adventure. But eventually it ended, the elf releasing that even if the goddess had said she would wait it was best to not make her do so for so long.

So, with a great deal of trepidation, she stepped out of the door and said to Ashe “It’s amazing… but there’s another part to this isn’t there? This is repayment, yet still, there’s also punishment. So what is it?”

The punishment is very simple and it comes in stages. First, you’re going to have an overseer. One of my own Umbra, just to make sure no backroom deals are made. They will be informed about everything your guild does or plans to do. They’ll not intervene in the decisions unless they somehow affect my business, say, your people choose to get involved into a war between other mortals which would harm the Umbra or their deals. Second, I’ll receive a cut from all the quest rewards which will be sent to the bazaar to be further sold. Third, all the [adventurers], will be tasked with bringing something they haven’t seen before back from their trip. An animal, a plant or maybe a new song. Fourth, your kingdom will enter into a formal alliance with Shadowton and set a trading route between them two and the last thing…you’ll allow the admission of my Umbra/Satyrs into the [adventurers] guild. ” said Ashe, raising a finger each time she made a point.

“That trade route will be… some undertaking it has to be said” The elf replied, mentaly double checking the map and looking haggard by that burden already, but then swiftly added “b-but give me time and it can be done”

She then went on, pulling out a blank sheet and noting down things while she ran down the points in her head. “Manager. Fine. Still don’t know what a war is. The cut makes sense, no problem. Might need to, uh, find a way to encourage people to hand in new stuff because that is nearly impossible to enforce I think. Hmm”

Then she got to the last point and looked a bit confused and replied “oh, um, there wasn’t any kind of rule barring them? Did… oh. Huh. Maybe that wasn’t obvious. We can put extra effort into inducting them, if that works? Well, them and people from all over.”

She finished the last strokes on her document and then presented the impromptuly drawn up contract/IOU to the goddess.

“A merciful deal, your divinity” she said, before adding “I was worried it would cost me an arm and a leg” jokily in an attempt to dissipate the tension.

War. When two mortal kingdoms start fighting for whatever reason…as for the incentive. Got an idea. Tell them they’ll get special offers for whatever is sold in the bazaar that’s not alive based on how many new things they bring. Say…1% reduction of prices for 5 things, 10% reduction for 50 things, 25% reduction for 150 and finally a 50% reduction for 500 new things but for each one thing they bring that was already discovered, they lose one “point”. ” replied Ashe as the new HQ of the adventurers guild would continue improving as they talked. Beds, lights etc would appear, all made out of solid shadows.

I am aware that there wasn’t a rule but my Umbra aren’t interested in fighting and the Satyrs are meant to protect the forest. They won’t bulge on their own, so..give them a nudge. As for the “people from all over”, I’ve got plans for that but they’re not meant for…mortal ears yet. ” continued Ashe.

With a wink, Ashevelen materialised two swords in front of her and they flew towards Pieapple at a very fast speed. One for the arm, one for the leg. When they reached her, the swords passed through her, leaving only a tiny dark line where they hit. The line would remain with Pieapple all her life, a mark from the Goddess.

There, now you’ve got a good story to tell. Tell them you’ve lost your arm and leg in a deal but then managed to get them back.

“Gahhh ah not again” the elf cursed and then felt at her scarred limbs with a mix of amazement and flabbergasting, before groaning “Urrrgh, you know you and Lektoria would get on great I just know it”

I’ll plan on finding that out later on and also, you’re the one who asked for it. ” said Ashe with a smile.

Now, I’ve got more important things to handle. Keep the end of your bargain and you’ll prosper. Don’t…and you won’t need to worry about eating anymore. See ya’, mortal.” winked Ashe before disappearing.

Pieapple let out a deep sigh of relief that it was over, glanced back at her new, empty, guild hall, took another breath and then set to work getting it staffed, starting with bailing poor Minowbloom out of jail.

At least she had level up notifications pinging in her head to keep her company for the start of her trip over there.




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Double Capybara Thank you for releasing me

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Things were moving rapidly in Sanctuary. It had been many moons since queen Pieapple had been crowned, and yet only recently were things accelerating towards getting the would expedition to the underground started.

Why?

Well the fact that the queen now had a second goddess breathing down her neck about this certinyl helped, the queen now required to set up a trade route between her distant kingdom to be and the town of Shadowton down in the Umbral woods, the difficulty of the logistics of that little task be damned, certainly helped. However it was another thing entirely that had kept her back.

Love

As the assembly of [adventurers] and freshly appointed [settlers] gathered at the base of the tree, the elf queen held the arm of her partner Barkbear as the man’s new wooden leg foot was checked over by Fernfreind.

“And if you tilt it back a bit. Yup. circle around. Yup that’s good too,” the kneeling [druidic adventurer] informed the [apprentice druid] as the wooden deer leg, which had some nice leafy greenery actively growing on it, moved about as she instructed till she was satisfied. “Look’s like you're all set to go. Just don’t go running into battle before a bit more practice. Or else you might end up breaking your other leg and end up like Stagstep” she joked

“Har har” the [forest ranger] who was the subject of the joke laughed dryly, their first run in with their collective Huwu’idang patron having left him looking like a saytar with his pair of replacement legs. His [animal companion] doe seemed to find it funny enough despite being these idiots having coste her 3 legs (they’d grown back)

“Are you sure I can't convince you to come?” Pieapple asked her friend as the other elf woman stood up, a question they both knew the answer too, because it had been asked too many times to count now.

“No, I’m sorry. I know I said I would, and I still wish I could, but I have a duty now, one bound to the darkwoods” Fernfreind apologized, with a short little bow

“I know I know. It's just. I’ll miss you”

“Hey, don’t be like that, we can still see each other thanks to you setting up the guild in the Bazaar” Fernfreind insisted, before adding “And to think you almost ended u like these two pulling that off, that must have been some deal” in reference to the two thin scars on one of Pieapple’s arm and leg joints

“Ah, ha ha, yes. It really was” the [monarch] replied, having actually gotten those scars due to telling a joke after the negotiations were over “but yes, I suppose we will, but still, it won’t be the same”

“No, no it won’t” Fernfriend sighed, before glancing over at stag and asking “still sure your staying? Last chance to get away from me you know~”

The elf gave a snort of a laugh and replied, simply “nah I got duties too”

“Well don’t let them make you a stranger” Barkbear told the other man, before stepping forwards and wrapping both him and Fernfriend in a big bearhug (somewhat literally, given the mossbear cloak he was wearing), before reaching over and pulling his regal love into the undignified group hug.

“Alright that’s enough sapiness, we’ll be here all day otherwise” came a call from an elf leaning against a tree well out of bearhugging range. She was dressed as your prototypical [rouge], masked and covered in dark clothes and thus ironically stood out a lot among the lightly clad elves. She was also practically covered in the new grown knives that looked like great sharp claws made of the same material as thorns were, and her hand made up of a series of vines was never far from them.

“Alright Alright Sleektooth, calm it, now is exactly the time for sapiness. Now come give your friends a hug” Barkbear demanded, before putting his new foot to the test by chasing after the antisosial [rouge].

After Sleektooth had been captured and forced against her will to be sociable, it was, at last, time for the adventure to begin.

The trio of [adventurous] joined the rest of the expedition, as the two would stay behind, stepped back and joined the crowd there to wave them off.

“Alright, last call, everyone who’s coming, coming?!” Pieapple called out, just in case some idiot was about to be caught with their pants down and seeking relief while the others moved on without them.

“Oop! Wait!” The sound of crashing branches and snapping twigs came from a nearby room, as a figure stumbled into the royal presence of the queen, giving an accidental bow as she planted face first into the ground. When she stood up, the party would see one of the scruffiest elves in existence, with a mossy robe, wild orange hair and some sort of hollowed gourd leaking wild grape wine. She smiled at the group. “Erm, sorry for this, your royalness uh, Berrypie, yes?”

“Name is Pican, most people call me Pumpkin though. Yeah.” she sniffed, adjusting herself as much as she could, given her state. “Phew, avoided sneezing. Good. Wouldn’t want to waste wine, or this pretty wooden palace.”

The guild’s briefing on the woman would confirm her name, or at least, the nickname. It also said her class: [vagabond], another rather to deny fact, given her looks. What was puzzling was perhaps what had led her to be part of such a high prestige group, many had tried to get a spot after all.

“How would sneezing waste the wine?” Sleektooth murmured to Barkbear while Pieapple leaned in to listen to the guild [secretary] they had with them whisper the [vagabonds] info to her. The details put an odd smile on the [monarch]‘s face as she corrected “It’s Pieapple actually. Blame Lecktoria” and then reached out a hand and offered it to her to shake “lovely to meet you Pumpkin. Are you, ah, holding up ok there?”

Pumpkin cleared her palm against her skirt and shook hands with the queen, smirking. “Yeah. Sorry. All the spores from the underground have given me a bit of an allergy. Most elves don’t struggle with that though. Just me.” she picked up her reed scarf and put it over her face, it made her look weirdly mysterious, despite the pathetic entrance.

Sleektooth was sure she did it better.

“You guys want to go to that strange tower by the lava lake yeh? Dangerous route, but possible… if you don’t take the path down the uh, putrid lake with the glowing stones… or the normal lake, it has a giant cave penguin issue, eats the boat and you whole, they do.”

“That we do, that we do, and that is, of course, why we need you” Pieapple replied, as much telling herself and her friends and flowers that as she was agreeing with the [vagabond]’s words.

“Are you shu-” Sleektooth began to ask, but the [monarch] who had a map of the underground in her head and as a result knew just how much she didn’t know about it cut her off with a hissed “yes! Yes we do”

“We then… Welcome aboard!” Barkbear said stepping forwards and clapping Punmpkin on the back and then basically pulling her along into the group “Come along now, let's be off, and you can regale us with your tales of underground exploration!”

[...]

“And then I uh, It was me, the pit of lava, and a very angry jellyfish.” she hummed, moving her arms about. “Thinking it was my demise, I drank up the last of my wine, but I choked on it, going like, poh poh poh and coughing. But guess what. That counted as invoking Po’s name and my precious wine was more than a sacrifice. It went like, bwahhhhh in flames and the idiot jellyfish got filled with hot air and flew all the way up, getting itself snagged by a stalactite crab. [lucky] me, yeah?”

“For sure for sure” Sleektooth agreed, strolling along side the [vagabond] to whom she had warmed up to immensely “Girl i’d have loved to see the look on that fish’s face when it flew off”

“I don’t think they have faces” Barbear pointed out

“Ye ye, they are called fish because they float in the air. They are more like blobs with lots of tentacles.”

“Well, still, bet it was funny” Sleektooth readjusted her statement

“Well, hopefully you’ll be able to share some of that luck with us” Pieapple added cheerfully, before muttering “because we’re going to need it” to herself

“Well, the hard bits are the small stone bridges over a bottomless pit. That bit… we will need luck. But the rest, just be careful and be prepared.” Pumpkin adjusted her own supplies and the mossy cape she wore. “If things get bad, let me be the bait, my clothes are very sour tasting so anything that eats me, will spit me! Just gotta hope it doesn’t chew…”

Pieapple shuddered visibly at the mention of being eaten, while Barkbear wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder.

“Eh, it won’t come to that I’m sure. We can handle ourselves in a fight just fine” Sleektooth insisted, quick drawing a knife in an attempt to demonstrate this, but the fact that she did this using her vine-y replacement hand did put a bit of a damper on that.

“I wouldn’t rate us that highly. Fernfreind and, ironically, Stagstep where the ones who had pure combat classes, where as we three have a mix due to being out of the action for… varying amounts of time” Pieapple countered. Her two companions had retired fairly early on and had only recently got back on the path of the [adventuror] while she herself had been leveling by means of baking and statecraft for a while now.

“Which is why we have help, yes?” Barkbear reassured her, gesturing to the varicose other [adventurous] scattered throughout the convoy. There where the fish scaled leaf sharks (who could make impressive leaps using their [float like a fish] skill), the boar twins (who rode into battle on a pair of tamed tuber-boars) or the titan blades (a group of [warriors] who where towering even for elves and who used massive swords) to name just the themed groups.

“They can handle anything the dark woods could throw at them, so they should be just fine down here too” Barkbear insisted, before adding tentatively “right?”







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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Theyra
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Ravdur


Ravdur after, making his trip around the planet, had finally settled back in the taiga region of the world. Near the Stormbreaker Mountains is where he landed. He has seen much of the world, and itfilled him withr and disappointment. While he is appreciative of the godly works he has seen, some of his fellow divines' work has made him think about things.

Like the Bloodmire in the south, a swamp filled with blood instead of water and hosts an assortment of hostile creatures. Such a dangerous place. That and the word of mortals being turned into monsters after being bitten. But, the infamous wonder he has his mind on is the Malignancy. Yes, he did expect his fellow divines to add to this world but, not like this. Perhaps him being naive about the nature of gods is the result of sleepy wandering in the void for so long. And such naivety can not last at this rate and so Ravdur harden himself in response to this.

Weakness like this is not allowed, and he does not want to make a mistake in dealing with his fellow gods. Which despite his travels, Ravdur has only met one goddess, the goddess Myrtu and a strange goddess at that. He has been isolated from his fellow divines long enough, he thought. He needs to meet with his fellow gods. To get a sense of them, or at least the ones he can find.

Though as he thought of his next move, another thought came to him. If this world is going to be truly his new home, then he needs somehow to call his own. Then he turned to look up at the mountains near him, and a smile formed on his face. "There is where I will stake my claim," Ravdur said to himself.

But, he before leaving for the mountain top, Ravdur decided on giving the mortals of this world a little edge against monsters and other threats of this world. So with his power, Ravdur created before him one hundred beings made out of ice. But not just normal ice but a special version of it. So these beings can better withstand punishment from threats. Wtih his first words to them as his eyes glowed bright, and so did theirs. He ushered his command to them. "Your purpose is to protect settlements and their people from harm. From any threat that might attack them, and if a settlement is destroyed, then protect the survivors and if all are dead, then find a new settlement to guard. Is that understood," Ravdur barked at them, and the ice golems simply nodded yes. "Now move across this land and became the protectors you were made to be." His eyes returned to their normal brightness, and the ice golems' eyes stopped glowing and then quickly departed the scene.

Content of the purpose of his new creations, Ravdur left the scene and ventured high to the mountain top of a part of the Stormbreaker Mountains. There he used his power to create a home for himself on the mountain top. His hands glowing with blue energy raised high as his home, looking like a castle made of black stone formed, seeming from nothing. Once he was done, Radvur did a quick tour of his new home, and his last stop was the viewing area, where he could see all around. From the taiga to the steppe and that godly eyesore that is the Malignancy.

Still, he was once again content, and before he went out in the world once again. A warrior like himself needs a weapon, even if he may not need it, he is starting to off without one. So with the rest of his power. Ravdur created, Frostbringer, a hammer that not only deals ice damage and can use ice attacks but can switch from two-hand to one-hand modes on the fly. So with Frostma at his waist. Ravdur departed his home and out into the world once again.









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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Not Fishing
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Not Fishing The Mediocre

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Aldion watched his demonic legions march through the streets of Hell. They were organized, disciplined, obedient. Just the way he liked it. And yet… something was missing.

Perhaps Zylana’s departure had left him starved for conversation, but he was beginning to wonder if perhaps some more diplomatic and autonomous servants might be useful. Creatures who could give orders as well as receive them. Creatures who could phrase these orders as sweet suggestions, to give others the illusion of choice. Creatures who were capable of diplomacy and negotiation, as well as battle. Yes. That was what he needed.

He considered the process in which his current demons were made. Essentially, their souls were destroyed and converted into infernal essence, which in turn was made into new life. Problem was, this life was built to serve, with little identity or personality. How to get around that, then?

He considered Zylana. He had not destroyed her soul. He had merely mangled it. The damage was great, but fragments of her old self still remained. Not enough to grant her the will to defy him, but enough that she still understood what it was like to be mortal and free. Enough for her to show initiative and improvise even if outright defiance had been burned out of her. Useful traits, if he ever needed to open diplomacy with mortals.

The solution was clear. What was done to her shall be done to others, although with far less of his power poured into each soul.

So, Aldion returned to the Hellforged, picked out those souls which had been there the longest, and got to work.



The final result was beautiful, swift, and graceful. Where the demons had been soldiers of discipline and death, these newcomers were meant to bewitch and command as well as kill, though they could still kill better than any demon. They came in humanoid forms of varying sizes. Most were built as idealized versions of their past selves.

They all had red hues to their skin and black horns, however. Intimidating on the battlefield, but these creatures were not meant to solely intimidate. So, Aldion taught them the power to alter their appearances, in order to better blend in if it was needed. They could be beautiful, or ugly. Familiar, or alien. Fearsome, or comforting. Whatever was needed.

They would need to travel, Aldion realized, so he gave them wings. They were not corporeal - some were made of fire, while others were made of black smoke. But they were magical, and granted the creatures the gift of supernatural flight. The wings could be summoned and resummoned as needed.

So it was that the Devils were born.






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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Chris488
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The Beginning of Turn IV

Dreams of the Divine



"The delightful and ever-novel pleasure of a useless occupation."



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