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The Way of the Blue [Lantern OC]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by AverusBlack, May 2, 2021.

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  1. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    What makes you think he's summoning a demon lord? Oh, he mentioned fighting some of those at one point, sure. Psyche is actually a sort of replication of, not Hell exactly, but where Terra is a patchwork collection of other worlds they're all earth-like places. Psyche is a patchwork collection of hell-like places.

    Makes you wonder what the planet sitting in Venus's orbit is like, huh?
     
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  2. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    Could I get an MSpaint rendition of Ainsley's solar system? My last understanding was that there were a dozen more planets than our own???
     
  3. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    It's basically the same as Sol. Only instead of an asteroid belt, Mars is out there looking a bit beat up. Psyche is where Mars ought to be, Terra is where Earth is and there's a third planet we haven't visited yet where Venus's orbit would be.

    Mars is there but the planetoid has been shattered and is kind of clumped together in a loose field of broken continents and mantle.

    I have Universe Sandbox but I never played with it much, maybe I can come up with a model later
     
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  4. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    Please do, your verbal explanation just made me more confused in a way only pictures can cure.
     
  5. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    [​IMG]

    With the moons and such mostly remaining the same and the solar system pretty much the same out past Jupiter.

    Just to be clear, Mars isn't an asteroid belt. The planet got chunked up into 9 massive pieces which are just kind of hovering together by their own gravity, but all the energy that went into its rotation is gone, the entire thing has cooled and it's just massive chunks of semi-molten, slowly cooling planet corpse.
     
  6. Squish9

    Squish9 Squishin' around.

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    This is pretty sweet. I've been toying with a DC-based fic in my head for awhile now, and was getting pretty psyched about my own idea of writing about a dude with a Blue Lantern ring 'cause I hadn't seen it done before. Ah well. While slightly disappointing to see someone else is already doing it, I can't deny it's a nice read. Great work!
     
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  7. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I am four parallel fanfics ahead of you
     
  8. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - 03
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "I feel that would be a bad idea at the moment."

    "Less talking, more ring charging."

    I wince internally, pointing my ring at the battery and glaring at her as I recite the oath. A few seconds later, the battery vanishes back into it's pocket and I start speaking at the same time it disappears. "Elise, if you-"

    "No time!" The bubble she's generating drops, revealing Mina's construct fighters either shredding apart the demon-dogs or fighting with their handlers. Some kind of dark elf? I'm going to go with 'dark elf' until I have a name for these things. Elise blasts off from the spot she's standing on hard enough to shatter the pavement under her and make me flinch, construct armoring herself just before she hits the remaining giant abomination with what feels like ballistic force. Hard enough to generate a mild pressure wave I can actually feel.

    The abomination goes staggering backwards as Elise pings back from the recoil, flipping midair and firing destructive pulses at it. The thing is surprisingly fast, not trying to strafe so much as rolling sideways to try and dodge the bolts. Surprising agility and intelligence, actually. The thing actually grips part of the pavement it's on, tearing a chunk out of the ground and hurling it at Elise, forcing her to dodge. I think she's got that handled for now.

    Mina's constructs are grappling and either outright killing the demon-dogs handlers or doing... something to them, orange spreading across the dark elves who fight madly to get away but can't. The ones who succumb to it shudder and... ah. That's how she makes them. Shit, she doesn't even have to do it herself? Her minions can make minions?

    That's really fucking bad if Elise makes an enemy of her.

    Emil and Ren are tearing up the demon dogs themselves, though there isn't many left. At the same time Elise launches her attack they're just cleaning the last few up, kiting backwards to try and keep as much distance between them and their targets as they can. While Elise fights I move backwards, opposite her and generate armor for Emil and Ren. Restore.

    For a couple seconds Ren looks startled as her fatigue and the minor injuries she's accumulated so far vanish, her suit repaired. Then she grins viciously, noticing the construct augmentations to her armor. One look at Emil and a nod is all she needs to charge down the remaining dark elves. Even Mina's minions pull back, the woman herself raising her eyebrows as Ren rhino-charges past her into the crowd, grabbing one of the elves by the head and using him as a club to send another two flying. Then she starts actually attacking them.

    Gotta hand it to her, it's kind of impressive. Though I can't help but wince when she starts tearing things off them.

    Elise is handling the giant abomination pretty well. I don't think she's trying to actually beat it outright so much as get a feel for how the things fight, what works against it. The abomination itself seems to have realized it's being toyed with and turns away from her, trying to charge us instead. Mina gestures lazily at it and the construct minions start to charge it down only for Elise to bisect the thing with a butcher's cleaver large enough to shatter the ground under the thing. For half a second it continues on its own momentum before the halves topple away from each other and it twitches a few times before going still.

    Mina looks a bit put out by that, pursing her lips before turning to her new additions, which are kneeling before her. Heads touching the ground, hands out in supplication. Some ritual of hers for new additions? Something she needs to do? Whatever, she's distracted.

    I move over to Elise at a jog, slowing as I come close to her and then reaching out to touch her shoulder.

    She's not hostile right now! If you pick a fight with her, she might try to do to us what she just did to them.

    Elise glances at me, then flicks her eyes back to Mina.

    She captures sentients and keeps them against her will, Ainsley. You're not going to dissuade me. You're also REALLY not impressing me by trying to stand up for her.

    I narrow my eyes at her a little.

    Don't even. My only concern is that we already have enough concerns. Do not put us in danger for your vendetta, Elise.

    She lazily knocks my hand away from her shoulder, then heads over to Ren at a lazy stroll without looking at me.

    Taking a deep breath, I exhale slowly, catching Emil looking at me in puzzlement. Ugh, I wish I could explain to them, but with Mina here...

    The new construct-minions flicker and I turn to look at them just in time to see them vanish into her ring. She unfolds her fingers slowly, staring at the ring for a moment afterwards, contemplative.

    "It seems our friend Nemmy has been busy. This place? This city? It's his engine, his factory." She glances at us. "This whole place is just to bolster himself. It's his core." She points at the citadel hanging above us. "He's up there someplace. These guys, they're just the greeting party. Something to slow us down a little and keep us distracted."

    "How do you know this, exactly?" Emil sounds genuinely curious.

    "I ate them. I know what they know, now." She makes a face. "Everything they know. This place is disgusting, even by my standards. Tearing it down will be satisfying."

    "Emil, Ren." Both of them look at me. "I'm not sure it's responsible of us to bring you further. I'm not saying you can't hold your own, but you're very very valuable to both us and Durjak and things are going to get... messy."

    Emil looks over at Ren, who is currently doing her best impression of a successful Ninja Scroll character. Half of her is red. "That doesn't bother us very much, no."
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2021
  9. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - 04
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "This looks like a good spot to rest a little." Emil even sounds tired. The rings keep us fresh and ready to go as long as we need and I've been restoring Emil and Ren but we've been fighting on and off since we got to this place and the stress of constantly being in combat is beginning to take its toll. I can see it happening despite the physical resets.

    The part of the city we've reached is a vast ruin, a section undeveloped by whatever force Nemesis calls his people. The whole, vast walled sections enclose large tracts of land but the insides aren't uniformly developed. The whole thing seems to have been built on the corpse of a destroyed city - because of course he would do that - and the sections we entered to the south were more populated than where we are now.

    Nemesis seems to build things with a style that reminds me of bismuth in the hard, angular lines and edges his buildings make. None of the buildings are especially tall, save for the citadel in the middle of the city. I guess he didn't want anybody getting a look in his corner of the 'looming over people' market. Even the roads, when they curve, do so in hard corners and lines. Haven't seen anything like vehicles yet so I guess they don't have to worry about making turns. These ruins though...

    The group is resting in the half-standing ruins of a larger building, in one of the more stable parts of it. The room in question only has a single opening but it's not a window, just a hole in the wall where something small but hard smashed through it. Destroyed furniture is all over the place but it was a simple matter to shove it all over to one side of the room so we'd have space to relax a little. Ren is leaning back against a wall, sitting on the floor with Emil next to her. Neither seem bothered by the lack of seats. Mina is off to one side of the room watching us from a construct chair while Elise is on the other side of the room watching us from the other side of Ren and Emil.

    I'm watching the outside as much as I can through that hole in the wall. Whoever built these ruins had an architectural style that makes me think of old european countries mixed with some of the building styles I saw in Allasfere before it was destroyed. Some kind of link there?

    Not that I'll ever get to find out, I suppose.

    "You going to sit down, Ainsley?" Elise says it quietly but doesn't look at me.

    "Just keeping an eye on things outside."

    "You'll be doing that for hours and honestly? It's weird having you standing there being so still."

    I turn to look at Elise. "Huh?"

    "You kind of... just stop moving. When you start thinking heavily, go inside your own head. Kinda freaks me out. You're not telling your ring to do that?"

    "No. Rings?"

    "Not me."

    "When introspective, the user tends to hope more for detachment from physical distraction than situational awareness and this ring acts accordingly."

    "Oh." I frown. "I suppose I could just watch from outside the room. I won't go far."

    "Stay within yelling distance."

    I nod to her and slip out of the room, using the staff as a walking stick for balance in the spots where the floor has been chunked out or debris is in the way. This place reminds me a little bit of an old office building, or perhaps a school. Ring, anything or anybody nearby?

    Yes and no, in order.

    Oh? Give me the bad news.

    A marker appears in my mind, one floor up and a little bit behind where the group is. Looking up there's no holes in the ceiling but the buildings an open ruin so moving down a little, I can just climb out of the open end and up to the second floor. Just have to be careful not to get spotted. Just because they're not nearby doesn't mean they aren't looking.

    A quick look and I dart upwards, the staff disappearing into my subspace pocket to free my hands up. Pulling myself up is a breeze compared to how I was when I first got to this place. Getting up to the second floor by the ruined wall only takes a moment.

    The hallway up here is a different color. The floor downstairs is gray but the one up here is some kind of blue tile. Some more debris but it's tapering off as I make my way back into the building. The rooms up here are pretty much the same but the furniture is a bit more intact than downstairs, since whatever blew the side of the building out seems to have hit the corner of it and just took whatever was between the walls when it happened. Some desks, a cot. A shelf of unlit candles.

    Papyrus. Hmmm.

    Using the ring to unfurl it intact, the sheets seem to be dried out, brittle. Ring, can we scan these without physically damaging them?

    Yes.

    Do it, then load it all into my head.

    Done.

    Then it feels like the fist of a demigod just punched me in the temples from both sides. I make a quiet hurk noise and drop to my knees, holding my head as the ring loads everything at once and it turns out the translation is actually pretty fucking dense.

    While resisting the urge to puke my guts up all over the floor, the information starts to take a sort of hazy focus as the ring helps my brain process it. The building was a school but it was a specialty one. I think this whole place... whoever these people were, they ran everything on magic. This school is for runecraft. I just loaded the magic inscription version of Websters Dictionary into my head and my brain isn't liking it.

    After a couple minutes I shake myself out and stand up, leaning against the wall.

    Which is how I end up getting blown out of the side of the building when Nemesis smashes through the wall into me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2021
  10. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    Nemesis getting involved directly via crude ambush like that is absolutely not his style.
    Worrying, for multiple reasons.
    Worst case scenario, Nemesis only dived in when he discovered his enemies were trying to read and understand what he had his civilization acting as a cover for.
     
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  11. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - 05
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Alert! / Alert!

    Everything is kind of a blur as I go careening out the side of the building, impacting something - the ground I think -

    Fear Detected! / Fear Detected!

    - and smashing through the partially standing wall of another building, coming to a stop as it collapses on top of me.

    Yeah. Thanks. I got that.

    Pushing outwards with a construct barrier, the debris explodes off me while I establish construct armor at the same time. The first thing that registers is the fact Nemesis is hovering about four meters above me. The second is that the area is being flooded with troops from every direction. Both are a bit concerning but I focus on Nemesis as I can see Elise and the others already beginning to fight back behind him.

    "Ainsley my boy! You don't call. You don't write. I was starting to think you'd forgotten me, honestly." He places his hand over his heart as he floats down to hover just above the ground. "I'm hurt. Coming to the neighborhood to party and you don't even call ahead? Dude, I would've brought snacks."

    "We found the devices."

    "Oh? What devices would those be?"

    "The ones you planted on the central batteries."

    "Ooooh those. Yes, I figured that would eventually happen."

    I manifest a pair of twenty meter plasma cannons next to me, both aimed at him. "Stop fucking around and explain yourself!"

    "Declined."

    He flickers and the ring spins the guns to correct the firing solution while I kick the skids of my suit on. I might not be able to glide on the air here but the friction systems still work. Dismissing the guns I replace them with a jetpack and use it to maneuver sideways in a hard strafe to avoid whatever he's about to do, which pays off as the ground where I was standing is torn apart by some kind of deep purple beam, leaving a plume of dust behind it. The shot gives me a firing solution and even as I slide in a circle around him the guns are coming back, but he's moving as I move, matching my attempts to maneuver.

    Problem is, the fucking bastard can still fly. Whatever is effecting us apparently doesn't apply to him.

    Fire, construct barrier, strafe, hard stop, jump. While mid-air I use the recoil of the guns to propel myself, bouncing upwards with each shot while he fires himself sideways and flies 'round in a half circle above me, his construct armor barely cracked. I know I'm getting direct hits in and he's just tanking it like it's nothing. While moving in his arc he's firing destruction pulses back at me, forcing me to focus on on my defense, moving and creating layered barriers in front of myself. Sliding just out of reach of one of the pulses I let it fly past me and come to a hard stop, turning and slipping backwards through the hole it just blew in the wall of the building behind me.

    Catch me if you can, motherfucker.

    Smashing through the walls indiscriminately I aim behind myself, letting the construct barriers flow away and reform behind me. Stop, hard strafe to the left through the door. Gravity generator.

    Thank you Noah, and your fancy floating platform.

    When Nemesis follows the corridor down and tries to stop in front of the door to turn towards me, I activate it and create a three meter wide space in front of it with a gravity shear of more than 300 G's. Nemesis stops, looks at me and then promptly pancakes into the floor just in time for me to manifest my plasma cannon and unload on him as hard as I can.

    For a second, as it happens, everything goes silent. The ring cuts the noise out completely as the construct's muzzle flashes a pure white, nearly blinding light. Only the ring itself keeps me from blinking away at the sheer intensity of it. I can feel the vibration throughout my body, the floor and probably the walls right up until they and Nemesis disappear, the beam cutting a furrow with him at the bottom straight out of the building and through the next building and... I think the next one, but at that point I don't care anymore and I'm already turning away.

    Tearing through the building I race towards where Elise and the others are, hitting the ground and using a construct to accelerate myself while using the skids to cut the friction between me and the ground. It's like skating on wet ice and the ring is working doubletime to keep me balanced. I'm letting it handle most of my legwork. Jumping I cut the friction back in and run up a broken wall with my forward momentum continuing upwards and the construct giving me a nudge over the top of it.

    The building we were in is kind of gone. More of the giant abomination things that met us as the gate have rolled in and are smashing the shit out of it. I can't see the others. Ring, find them.

    Not found.

    I glare at the ring. Fuck you mean, not found?

    Something is interfering.

    Ugh. Kicking off the wall I hit the ground and turn away just in time for Nemesis to come blasting out of wherever the hell I buried him.

    Oh. Right. I could do that.

    If I can't locate the others right away, it makes sense to bug out and try to regroup. I'm not really interested in fighting him where he's strongest, here. Transmuting the ground below me, I knock out the wall I was just on, burrowing down even as debris covers the mouth of the tunnel I'm creating, then collapsing back down on myself. It feels a bit like going down a bumpy children's slide, sort of. Just as I start to figure it's safe to stop, I break through into some kind of chamber and come barreling out the side of the ceiling, spinning wildly and hitting the cave floor hard.

    Nnnngh.

    That could have gone better.
     
  12. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - 06
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I'm sitting cross legged on a rock at the bottom of the cavern I broke through, leaning my elbows on my knees and working my way through an MRE that I stuck into one of the rings at some point. It's pitch dark in here, save for the light coming from me, but I have the ring compensating for it in much the same way it did when I was deep below Allasfere. The 'sonar' the ring is producing is happening in my brain instead of my eyes, I'm pretty sure. I mean, it worked in The Matrix, right? They'd plug your brain in and you'd just see or hear or feel whatever. I suppose when the ring is augmenting my senses it does something like that.

    Finishing the sandwich I destroy the wrapper, making it not-exist rather than just leaving it here. Stretching, I get up off the rock and begin looking around. The cavern itself is irregular, not so much a big room or anything as much as an even slice of open space underneath Nemesis's city. Hmmm, interesting. The ruins extend down here as well. There's a partially collapsed bridge a couple hundred meters to my right, where the rock narrows and then opens up again. Not much of an issue for me.

    Rings, state charge.

    73% charge remaining. / About 97% left.

    Hmm. My habit of falling back on the blue ring is showing. I don't bother climbing along the walls or anything, opting instead to simply make a construct walkway to where the rock narrows. Burrowing through it isn't much of a challenge, considering how I got here.

    Hmm, yep. Looks a bit like the buildings above. The parts of the broken bridge are actually still laying below at the bottom of the ravine. Interesting that the stone blocks are all intact, it looks like it had wooden supports that simply rotted away or something. But the tunnel probably leads somewhere and I don't want to come back to the surface anywhere near where I am, so wandering in the underground it is. It's a lot less spooky when you can actually see.

    The superpowers are also a bit of a confidence booster, there's that too.

    In retrospect, I think we were kind of being stupid here. More specifically, I was being stupid - again - and the others just kind of went with it. Not sure why Mina did, but I'm not sure why Mina does anything. Trying to guess her motives is an exercise in futility. But charging into this stronghold with such a small group was really stupid. We should've retreated the moment the flight cut out. That, right there, should have hinted that he had preparations for something like us to show up and make trouble but I was more focused on... I dunno. Getting Nemesis, I guess.

    I sigh at myself. Now the group is split up and without me there, I have no idea what Mina and Elise will do to each other. I need to find them but I'm not sure how to do that, exactly. I'm not even sure how the hell Nemesis set all this up.

    As I follow the tunnel it begins to wind downwards, curving in a spiral. At the bottom it comes out into an open cavern but not like the natural one I smashed my way into. This one appears built in much the same style as the city above. The air smells fresher here and there's light along the edges from some kind of bioluminescent fungus or lichen that seems to have been intentionally planted there. The light is pale and ghostly but enough that somebody used to the surface might be able to kind of see, which is helpful because the whole place is open bridges and ledges leading down to a body of moving water at the bottom of the chamber. In some places water is actively falling from the ceiling but it seems to have been piped into the room, so none of the streams water down anyplace one might wish to tread.

    Interesting. Do any of these tunnels maintain that light source?

    Affirmative.

    Mark them out for me.

    A faint blue crosshair appears in three spots of the room, one ledge above me, one below me and one on the other side of the room near the bottom. Hm, no. I don't want to go down anymore, I think.

    A construct hookshot forms in my hand and I aim it carefully, firing it at the ceiling above the ledge with the door I want. The ring binding it to my hand is pretty much all that keeps it from launching me off the ledge as it pulls me with more force than I expected, sailing across the room at a swing and then cutting out to leave me dropping to the ledge, sliding a little halfway into the door. That was pretty fun, actually. I can see why Link liked this thing.

    Making my way up the tunnel I come to a crosshairs. A quick test of the air leads me to the left one, following it upwards and coming out into another large cavern, this one open but with a solid floor. Which is probably why all the shacks are built here.

    There's dozens of them, not built but sort of grown out of some kind of fungus. The lighting is better here but I'm in the door of a tunnel on a ledge higher up in the chamber and I'm not feeling super threatened by them anyways, judging from the state of them. Looks like some more of those dark elves - maybe I'll get a name for them, finally - but they don't look quite as deranged as the ones we fought above. None of the self-mutilation, to start with. The other part of the population is some kind of large, sort-of-humanoid insectoid. They remind me of ants, the shape of their faces. Thick legs with backwards knees, kind of like a birds legs and a set of four arms, one halfway down their 'ribs'.

    I'm not in much of a hurry to jump in here when I know nothing. Getting ambushed wouldn't leave me in a position to help the others. Instead, I watch for a short time. They seem to be working together rather than one dominating the other. One of them eventually spots me, pointing and raising an alarm, but I'm not rushing in to attack them so the initial panic-and-scatter dies down after the first dozen or so flee into the tunnels.

    The ones who stay to watch me seem wary, but since I'm not threatening them, there's a bit of debate among the closest to me. Then one of the insectoids breaks off, approaching the walkway leading up to the ledge where I'm sitting.

    **Who are you?**
     
  13. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - Interlude (Checkmate)
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Victory.

    Neil sat in the throne lazily, slouched a little, like the Jarl in Whiterun. The throne itself was something he fabricated based on a mod he used to have in the game, times he dove deep into it to escape from a shitty reality. It was gaudy, over the top and a little tacky in his opinion but having a massive stone dragon looming over you while you hold court is something people around here take more seriously than he would have in their place.

    The room itself, sitting at the top of his citadel, was partially open. 'Partially' in the sense that he had force screens keeping the shit in the air here out but could still get the sense of the room being open and gaining the benefit of the bloody natural light that permeated everything on Psyche. The only way in was a vertical lift from the middle of the citadel, giving him a bottleneck. The lift wasn't very large so no particularly large force could invade the room at any given time. Large and shaped like an elongated diamond, he lit the room during the night with fires tinged with copper. Gives the slaves something to work at and having green fire in your throne room really unnerves folks who are used to demons and other, worse things.

    While he sat ruminating, he watched the display in front of him. It was simple, really. He had Ainsley's little group stripped, strapped and put on display. Not even being tortured or anything, he just put them up like trophies while he waited for things to get into place. The bear he'd sedated simply to make her shut up, but the others he'd left conscious. Every half an hour or so, an attendant would check them to give water if they needed it, make sure they're still kicking. He wanted them to see the whole thing go down.

    He knew it broke the evil overlord rules but frankly, he deserved something.

    Victory.

    Ainsley disappearing did bother him, though. It was the most cliche story set up he could think of, their enemy having his friends prisoner so the hero could barge in to save them at the last moment with... whatever half baked shit he came up with. Frankly, Neil was having some difficulty thinking up what that might be.

    The demi-humans, things like were beasts, vampires and djinn, he'd either recruited or slaughtered. Anything not with him was swept aside. The demon lords he'd culled as much as he could, slaughtering their cults and armies and tearing down their alters. They'd come back - really pissed, too - but it would take time, more time than he needed to finish this. His goal was too important. It transcended himself, them, all three worlds. He'd briefly considered taking their little group to the dead world and trying to explain things but ultimately decided that there was too much chance they'd try to exploit it for their own ends.

    It's what he would've done.

    He felt a little bad for Vera. Not warning her. Not very much, though. Her little continent was the only part of Psyche he didn't have some direct control over and if she wanted to bottle up there being all goth about everything she was welcome to it as far as he was concerned. Just so long as she didn't get in the way, at least.

    Glancing at Elise he caught her glaring at him and gave a slight smile. "I'm doing you lot a favor, you know."

    Whatever she intended as a response was pretty muffled but the unmistakable tone of 'fuck you' was there. He nodded a little. "Yes, I thought you'd say that. What would you say if I told you that even if I did nothing, we were all going to cease to exist in about two centuries anyways?"

    Emil turns his head to look at him now and Elise is just staring.

    "What did you think, that I just brainwashed her? Pfft, no." He shook his head. "All I did was explain things. But, you know, since you're here and I'm here and we've got nothing better to do while I wait, why don't I explain exactly what makes you morons so funny?" Back to the glaring again.

    "You see, while ago - right about the time I caught Engel, the green guy - I started wondering what was outside this solar system. The rings have FTL, right? Stands to reason we could leave." He points at Elise. "Did you ever give it a try?" She doesn't respond. "I thought not. It turns out, this entire solar system and everything in it is in a tiny pocket universe."

    A look of confusion.

    "Not computing? Okay. Think of this place, this little universe, as being like a soap bubble in the space between universes. It used to be part of a larger universe but got split off intentionally. Some super demi-god scientist asshole decides he wants to study a universe decaying and makes us." He shrugs. "Then? He vanishes. Little blue man goes to all the trouble of making a pocket universe specifically to access other parallel universes and then fucks off and just leaves us all to vacuum decay. Pretty shitty, huh?"

    Neil shrugged. "But hey, good news. I'm here to save the day." He swung his arm across the middle of his body, striking a goofy pose. It doesn't look like it's amusing them very much. "No, really. See, I plan to stabilize this little pocket universe. I just didn't think any of you would co-operate if I told you my plan." He leaned in a little, squinting at Elise, looking her in the eye. "Did you ever wonder what happens to the universe that places originate from here? You know, the one Tovalon or Skal were from. Does the region go missing? The chunk of universe? Is it copied perfectly from one place to another? Turns out, no, it's not. It erases the planet the region came from as their universe struggles to correct the distortion. All the energy in the momentum of the planets, all the energy in their spin, all the energy of the sun, all of it goes into correcting the flaw. The universe folds up a little, a solar system disappears and poof, no more problem. Say what you will about the guy, that Krona fellow kept good notes. Little incomprehensible but thorough."

    Turning away he idled his way back over to the throne. "So, how much energy do you think it will take to stabilize this pocket universe, then stick it to an established universe? They don't have fucking USB ports, after all. A lot of energy. It takes a fuckmothering lot is the answer. So let me simplify this for you."

    "
    I'm going to sacrifice the places this pocket universe connects to. The regions that are here will be here so don't worry your little heads about that. But their home universes - just like yours - are going down the drain. Sorry about that. Sort of. Probably feels shitty to you but this place has remnants of universes that just don't exist anymore and that needs to be preserved more than a couple hundred solar systems, no more than a handful of which are actually populated. It's just triage."

    The chute for the lift opened as he finished speaking and Mina flew up over the lip. Removing the mobility restriction wasn't too difficult for her. All he needed was something of her and a few hairs sufficed. He didn't bother to tell her the other things he could do with a few hairs of hers, though. Always best to save ones tricks.

    "It's in place."
     
  14. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    What, no mention of the Anomaly in the temple?
     
  15. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Yeeeeeeet
     
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  16. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - Interlude (Murphy Is The Sheriff Here, Bucko)
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Elise is waiting.

    Bound by a construct next to Ren and her father, she couldn't even move. From her vantage point it was difficult to even really make out what was doing on. They were inside a construct, bound to the passenger seats of the ship Nemesis was creating around them. Next to them sat Mina, holding her ring and watching her, slouched in her own seat a little, legs crossed at the knees with her tail over her lap. She wasn't wearing the ring, just casually turning it between her fingers, thoughtful.

    If she could, Elise would tear her limb from limb. In her minds eye she was visualizing it, imagining the violence. Graphicly. She kept running the moment through her own mind between the fantasies of revenge when Mina did... something to the three of them without warning. She still didn't understand it exactly. At the time she thought it was a perfectly normal idea and she could remember wanting to just go along with everything a lot, like it was all fine. Afterwards, in retrospect, it clearly wasn't fucking fine.

    She couldn't move, couldn't speak. Could only glare. Ren still wasn't conscious and in the back of her mind she was beginning to worry. She ought to be up by now.

    Suddenly the construct fell apart and instead of the generalized yellow glare from every direction it just coalesced into a laser point above her. The sun wasn't that bright on Psyche. Looking around and blinking hard she found herself unbound for half a second before being yanked hard into the sand with a yelp, hitting the ground.

    "I swear to everything I am and the entirety of House Tychorus, the entirety of my species, every weapon, every BOMB, EVERY CANNON, EVERY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD, WE'RE GOING TO FUCKING KILL Y-"

    She suddenly found herself unable to speak, gagged again by one of Mina's constructs and screamed incoherently while muffled.

    "She really is a lively one, isn't she? These genkits really seem to take their vendettas seriously."

    "Honestly? I think she's just especially talented at being a bitch. We doing this or what?" Mina was following him, making Emil and Ren hover but dragging Elise through the sand like a heavy pack she didn't want to carry.

    The temple. They're brought them to the temple. She recognized the doorway as she was being dragged in on her back, taking the chance to look around. She could barely think from how angry she was but years of training didn't just disappear. She'd been military for almost fifteen years already.

    As they entered the antechamber she could feel the change in the air. Like being too close to a massive charge, something in the air. She couldn't see the thing from this angle but the change made her nervous. When she turned her head to the left she hitched her breath in her throat.

    The last battery was in place. All seven were here. They'd already found the final lightsmith and beaten them to it.

    But then, where were they?

    Putting the others down, Mina let go of her, manifesting construct servants. A pair of humans she'd taken during the red sword fight, apparently. Just a little extra salt in the wound, not just her slaves but purist slaves. Elise stared at her for a moment, then forced herself to look around the room.

    Yes, there. A boy she didn't know, a large human. North American, perhaps. Long hair in a braid over his shoulder. His eyes were vacant and although he held a violet ring, Mina's sigil was overlaid at his chest and forehead. Which meant either this was very very recent or she'd agreed to work with Nemesis before ever coming here with the group. Not that it mattered. Not to her. It was going to end the same either way.

    As Nemesis turned to approach the anomaly, something shook the ground and a loud THUD was heard outside. Stopping mid-stride, Nemesis hung his head, sighing and turning around. "Okay, I've had it. Whoever the hell this is, I'm just going to torture them to death out of spite." Rising from the ground he passed above her to approach the doorway, forcing her to choose between keeping an eye on Mina and waiting for her chance to rip her throat out or watching Nemesis.

    She chose Mina.

    "Oh you picked a bad fuuUCK!" She could hear the sounds of fighting, constructs being made and destroyed. As she watched Mina, the woman didn't look too concerned. Looking away she tried to turn to look at Nemesis, only for the construct slave to punch her in the face and send her sprawling to the ground. One more thing to remember.

    Flying backwards, Nemesis passed next to her and nearly hit Ren on his way by, smashing into the ground and casually bouncing off it to hover in the air, shaking himself out. "Are you fucking kidding me. Seriously? I went out of my way to leave you alone."

    There wasn't a reply but a moment later, Vera passed by next to her, holding... holding the rage axe. She wasn't looking at Elise. She was watching Nemesis and Mina. Standing in front of Elise Vera glances at her but seems to pay her little mind. With a casual swipe the weapon passes just above her, passing through the construct slave close enough for it to whiff her hair, stopping in the other construct holding her father and Ren. Seeing Mina shake her hand out from the feedback gave her a little satisfaction, but the important thing is that she was free now.

    The moment she was unbound Elise sprang to her feet and screamed, rushing Mina only to be sent flying backwards as Vera hurls the weapon at her.

    "You didn't bring me here."

    Hitting Elise in the chest, she jerks in midair, the impact stopping all of her momentum cold as the blade buries itself in her chest -

    "She did."

    - And flows into her somehow, making everything so clear. She drops to her knees as somebody begins to scream -

    It's Emil.

    - while the rage at her powerlessness and the betrayal suddenly crystallizes with a laser focus. When she stands up she finds the pattern of her fur has changed, going from a cream-white to dark red. It wasn't like the ring at all. She could feel it flowing throughout her entire body, like every moment she'd ever been in combat, every moment she'd ever fought a purist. The tips of her fur glowed, making her glimmer as she moved her arm to look at herself. Every humiliation suffered from people she knew she was better than. Every time she saw somebody die because of callousness or convenience. Every atrocity. Every tragedy. Every friend she'd lost and the inability to find the people responsible. Every casual racist remark from a human, every business who wouldn't take her money, that thunderfuck in Somalia who tried to butcher her for fucking meat. Oh yes, she remembered this feeling. The drive to kill.

    Then her eyes turned to Vera.


    Vera nodded at her. Yes, she could see it now. Feel it. The need for revenge. It was something her people were familiar with, the concept of giving as good as you got, with a little bit of interest besides.

    Then she looked at Mina and the attack began.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2021
  17. VerBlinkel

    VerBlinkel Getting sticky.

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    I LOVE all of the little touches you put into the people and the world. I so rarely think of body language in a story, and here you are making surprisingly adorable inhuman body language.

    And all of the subplots! This one tying in to character's...character. Altering all sorts of subtext about how the character responds, thinks, and what they want. Brilliant. I wish I could write half as well.

    Don't kink shame me!

    I figured Elsie would go red at some point, what with it showing up more in her speech lately. I thought it would be through ring sharing though.

    As always, great story.
     
  18. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - Interlude (The Center Does Not Hold)
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Mina had been waiting for this. She knew since she'd taken the green ring off her that if given half the chance, it would come to this. It wasn't helping her very much.

    Elise was on her, not content to hit her and send her flying but to grab her and claw at, grab, even bite at her. All the pretense of civility was gone, burned out from her and Mina wasn't sure how to fight this new, far more dangerous version of Elise. Bringing her arm up to jam it into the ferrets mouth to stop her from biting Mina's face off, it occurs to her that she'd sort of been relying on Elise being sane when this happened and that wasn't the case any more. She was prepared to handle a fight against an Elise she could rile up into making mistakes or subvert.

    This was far worse.

    Not content to let go of the arm Elise thrashes her head to the side and then suddenly Mina's arm is on fire, red... blood?... Disintegrating her arm. Not her ring arm, thankfully, but Mina isn't thinking about that. It's the hand that was holding the green ring and she no longer has it. She's screaming madly and wanting the ring to turn off her ability to feel pain as hard as she can, wanting to escape, wanting out -

    The world is spinning end over end as Mina is sent flying through a pillar, then another. By the third she realizes Elise has her by the ankle and is swinging her around like she's seen Ren do, spawning slaves just in time to hit the third pillar and have the world burst into white, the thinking knocked out of her for a moment.

    Antagonizing this bitch might have been a mistake.

    The construct slaves she's spawning are quickly snuffed out by burning red around Elise's hands. She's simply grabbing them and letting it burn through. Wanting to be whole again Mina restores herself, standing up in the short time the destruction of her minions buys her, then forming a tower shield of the type she'd seen Ainsley make, as tall as she is and spiked. Halfway through forming a polearm to use with it Elise's claws pierce the shield in front of her, inches from her eye, the construct torn apart and the feedback in her arm sending her reeling along with the panic and then she's tripping backwards and her environmental shield cuts out -

    For a second she feels a sense of loss before realizing there's a hole in her abdomen the size of Elise's fist, mostly becuase Elise has just jammed her fist through her. Mina tries to speak but all that comes out is blood, then Elise is grabbing her by the throat and pulling her off, throwing her to the side.

    A quick restoration and Mina spawns a slave, then pulls -

    Folding inward and manifesting the inner self externally

    - one of her slaves into the shape of a ring, calling it to her hand so she can burn power and end this quickly. All of her attention is on Elise, which is why she doesn't see it when Vera smashes her from behind before she can get the ring and gain the advantage. She'd totally forgotten the woman was even there, turning on her in surprise and indignation, taking her eyes off Elise for just a second. The undead ring, her call disrupted, flicks against the broken pillar and falls to the floor but she has no time to turn her attention to it because Elise is on her again and where the fuck is Nemesis -

    Then Mina has her arm torn off.

    A sound like wet construction paper tearing and a sense of loss and she's ragdolled into the pillar, the orange glow around her cutting out as the ring is separated from her body. She can't think and all she wants is to get away, the desire and desperation strong enough to begin calling the rings. The undead one reaches her first and the moment she has it she transitions out of the temple, restoring herself and turning to face the entrance as Elise comes tearing out after her.

    Yeah, enough of that. Nothing has shown Elise flying so she fires herself into the air, leaving them.

    For a moment Elise stands in the sand, hyperventilating. Then she remembers Nemesis and turns back in towards the temple, running back in as hard as she can.

    When she tries to stop she does it at a slide, taking in Vera and Nemesis in a hard fight. The violet man, freed from control during the fight with Elise, has apparently picked up the orange and green rings and walked around the edges of the fight towards her.

    "Who are you people?"

    She doesn't hear the words. He's close, close enough to engage and that's exactly what she does, the need to fight outweighing her ability to think rationally. Violet flies backwards, then tries to dodge around her by keeping the pillar between them, going for the entrance and forcing her to chase him towards it. She's bearing down on him, the prey drive taking over when the last thing either of them expected happens.

    With a slip-paper noise a hole opens up behind Violet, confusing him when he flies through it backwards and tries to skid to a stop. On the other side of it, Ainley steps out. Then Kuri. Then Aetius, Fela, even Saxali. She has just enough time to realize she recognizes these people when the ground shudders violently and everyone on her side of the portal is thrown from their feet, the temple caving in behind her. It's almost enough to snap her out of it.

    The ship Ainsley rescued. It must be shooting at them.

    Wheeling around she sees the destruction just in time for the debris to begin flying upwards, spinning and forming a vortex in the air of flying stone. She takes a deep breath, prepares to move -

    And then Kuri's hand is on her shoulder.

    "Peace."

    What?!

    "Peace."

    But...

    "Peace."

    Oh.

    Oh no.

    Even as the red runs out of her, reforming in her hand as a weapon again, she can barely stand up. Ainsley actually has to grab her, which is a little awkward, being naked.

    "Ainsley... Ren and my father... They're still in there! What have you done?"
     
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  19. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - 07
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Helping Aetius take hold of Elise, he carries her back through the portal while the rest of us hold guard around it. I can't help but keep clenching and unclenching my hand. I want to dive in but I know I need to be patient, should be patient. Team effort.

    When Aetius comes back through it's with the pink guy. I spare a moment to glance at the newbie.

    "No memories?"

    "No."

    "You have no idea who we are or where this is?"

    "...No."

    I nod. "We're gonna have an interesting conversation later, I think. The ring you have, you spoken to it?"

    "A little. Not much."

    "Kuri?" I turn towards the newly minted indigo. The look suits her. Where the ring synergized with the blue for me I still tended to rely on the blue ring more and having another lightsmith made for better use of resources than me alone working with both rings. Body paint like the kind she wore back in Skal glows in indigo lines on her body, the staff reshaped to something almost organic looking for her, like shaped wood.

    My time with the indigo ring was valuable and I've learned a lot from it, but it was always meant for her, I think.

    She nods slowly. "I can sort of feel the violet light in him." She looks at Violet. "Who did you love?"

    He looks pained. Grieved. "I had a fiancee. Her I remember. Pieces. Moments."

    She puts a hand on the mans arm. "That feeling you have right now, remember it. Hold onto it. Use those memories to use your ring. Stay moving, listen to its advice. We'll try to stay with you. Try to stay with us." She thumps the staff on the ground next to us. "Together."

    He nods, turning his head to look at the disaster unfolding in front of us. "Together." Saxali pats the man on the shoulder and I can see it lift him, standing a little taller, a little more confident.

    Ahead of us the anomaly seems to have broken loose or something. The debris from the broken temple is being whipped through the air. We can feel the vibrations in the ground just standing here. Vera and Nemesis are still fighting but I don't think it's an even match, he seems to be taking it seriously and she can't gain the upper hand. When I move to take a step forward, Aetius grabs my hand, then shakes his head.

    "Not yet. It's not... the right time."

    "What?"

    "Look, I can't explain it. I've been in a lot of fights and I'm telling you, not yet. Wait. Trust in me."

    "Would these be helpful?" Violet opens his hand, revealing... the green and orange rings.

    "Oh." Kuri sounds surprised. "That was good thinking, Violet."

    Aetius reaches, stops, then looks at me. When I nod, he picks the green ring up with a grave seriousness. Gripping it in his fist he looks at the fight still in progress, then slips it on. The glow kicks in around him immediately as his focus and willpower are channeled through the ring...

    ...And his armor vanishes.

    He stops, stunned, then slaps himself in the chest and laughs, laughs madly. "It... it's gone! It's gone! HAHAHAHAHAHA!" ... "Oh I don't care, it can stay in subspace forever. Thank you, ring."

    Huh, so that's what it looks like when I do that. Violet is giving me the most confused look and I just gesture lazily at him. "Long story, no time right now. Who's taking the orange one, then?"

    "I will." Saxali picks it up with a look of distaste. "For now." Slipping it on she winces, then looks very confused for a moment, her environmental shield sputtering in and out. "Wh...?" She frowns at the ring as it turns itself off. "What's wrong with this thing?"

    "You're not thinking orange enough." Kuri shakes her head. "Give it to Ainsley, he won't be able to use it well either but he can hold onto it for now."

    Slipping the ring off Saxali hands it to me and I'm left holding Mina's ring. You know, sometimes things just sort of work out. I slip it onto my left hand.

    Alert. Users connection to the orange light is damaged. Stand by.

    It's not quite the ice pick in my brain it was the first time with the indigo ring. I can... feel...

    Hrrnnng. No wonder Elise is so frustrated with me... and I think I very much want to take those yellow and red rings now.

    I can't help but glance at Violet, who is busy watching the fight and waiting, as Aetius said.

    No. By force is only acceptable because Vera and Nemesis are dangerous. This guy seems okay. Reason first.

    "Get ready for it."

    Fela flicks her wings, looking nervous. "I'm not sure how much help I can be here."

    I grin at her and flare my environmental shield, her own wings flaring in sympathetic response to my use of the blue light. "It'll be a learning experience for us both. Try to stay low and grab anyone who looks like they can't fight anymore."

    "Okay."

    "Now!"

    Ahead of us, Vera and Nemesis split apart as he gets the upper hand on her and sends her flying wildly. Without missing a beat he turns on us, narrowly dodging some kind of blue blast from Saxali and what looks like some kind of frost elemental which is winding around her body seemingly out of nowhere. As he spins in midair he creates a shield to tank the impact of the massive battering ram Aetius has created, but he's underestimated just how focused that boy is. Instead of taking the shot it sends Nemesis spinning madly, allowing Kuri to open a portal behind him. When he comes flying out behind us I arm-bar him in the face, sending Nemesis spinning before I create a small construct building and drop it on his head.

    Might still be a little salty about Psyche, yeah.

    I don't have time to be smug though, he's managed a short-range FTL transition next to me and I'm suddenly surrounded by massive jaws! A car jack stops them from closing on me and a destruction pulse down its throat tears the construct apart.

    Connection repaired.

    I WANT YOUR RING.
     
  20. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - 08
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    The need to get the yellow ring is so strong I can taste it, following up the destruction pulse and closing the gap between Nemesis and I. A large bat'leth construct in my hands meets the jaws of a dragon Nemesis has begun making around himself like his version of construct armor. The dragon bites down on the sword, my need corrupting the dragon constructs head, forcing Nemesis to shear the dragon apart and focus on knocking me away with a piston construct. The ring corrects my balance mid-air and I hit the ground on my feet in a crouch at the same time Aetius and Violet attack Nemesis from both sides. Aetius is opting for his usual spear, stabbing at Nemesis from the back while Violet is creating a machine gun construct, firing at Nemesis from the opposite but not quite exact angle from Aetius. Nemesis doesn't seem to have an issue with it through, forming a half-dome shield around one side of his body while pushing aside the spear construct with a hand, turning into the strike to smash Aetius in the face with his elbow. Throwing Aetius at Violet he drops out of the air to avoid an attack from Vera, who's hydro cannoning red blood at him.

    The attack forces me to duck to the side, grabbing Fela at the same time instead of just trusting that she can get out of the way. She makes a kind of choked squeak, then flaps the wings hard and suddenly we're sixteen meters away and the red blood is hitting the ground where we were, hissing violently and bubbling. She lands beside me, grinning a little.

    My head clears a little too, the need... not lessening, but becoming more focused.

    "Quicker than I look."

    "Good show." I frown a little. "Actually, stick close to me when you can? It's... it got easier to think clearly when you used your wings."

    She blinks in surprise, then nods and flares them, spreading the wings out, the intensify of them brightening. The effect becomes even more pronounced. Blue against orange?

    Above us, Nemesis is trying to split Vera, Violet and Aetius apart as they present a united front against him. Surprisingly, somehow, he's holding his own. It's not just his construct strength, either. Even as I watch I can see the way he positions himself to make them get in each others way, the way he tries to use their own attacks against them or forces them to fight him one by one instead of all at once. When that does happen he splits, gaining distance and tries to slow them down, forcing them to split up or be pinned down by obstructions. It's only sort of working with Kuri acting as support, working to shield them or back them up or stop attacks from being as bad as they should be.

    "Elise said your ring makes hers stronger. If my wings make that orange ring weaker, does that mean your ring can do the same to other rings?"

    "I have no idea." Firing myself off the ground again, I come up behind Nemesis, cutting my flight aura suddenly as he slashes at where I should have been with a yellow blade and grabbing his leg instead. Hope crushes fear, doesn't it? I've known for awhile that I could effect the hopes of those around me, but never really saw the use of trying to manipulate them. Now I do.

    Inspire.

    I can feel the others as they stand a little taller, get a little more focused. Except for Vera. She actually stumbles in her attack, stopping and shaking herself out, looking confused. Nemesis actually stumbles a little, taking precious seconds before trying to shake me off, starting a destruction pulse and forcing me to break away down and around him, in a wide arc, flying backwards. The pulse just barely misses me and then I can feel him trying the same thing, the gnawing uncertainty -

    "No. You won't drown us out." Kuri thumps her staff, the color changing to blue as she backs me up, drowning his fear out in a wash of hope as we both focus entirely on lifting the other.

    Behind Kuri, Vera drops to her knees, shakes her head and then withdraws, taking off in the opposite direction.

    Nemesis has the same idea, trying to break away across the surface of the desert in a streak as we follow him. Aetius and Violet are really putting it to him, forcing him to jerk and weave to avoid the two of them smashing into or attacking him. A wide circle around the growing anomaly and he suddenly comes to a halt, laughing.

    "This has been a fun little chase, hasn't it?" Aetius isn't stopping for him to talk but he doesn't seem concerned, forming a railgun as Aetius charges him and simply shooting the man in the face, sending Aetius flying backwards and Kuri flying after him. "You've already wasted too much time, though. The only way to close that tear now is to dump enough energy into it and you don't have a source powerful enough! You're all going t-"

    The sands split apart as a massive, burrowing, worm-like thing - not a sandworm in the Dune sense, it reminds me a bit of predatory sea life, actually - snaps Nemesis down towards the surface almost faster than we can process, the entire area around is visibly shuddering as the thing burrows back down, sand filling the tunnel it leaves behind.

    Violet looks at me and Fela awhile Aetius and Kuri rise up to join me. "What the fuck was that?"

    I can't help but chuckle. "I met some new friends deep in Psyche. Before I came back to get the rest of you, I brought some here to try and talk to the guards of the temple... took awhile, but I guess they finally got through."

    "How are we going to stop it?" Kuri gestures down at the writhing thing encircled by the batteries. "And where are Ren and Emil?"

    That stops me. I don't know how to stop it.


    I don't know how to stop it.
     
  21. 1eragon33

    1eragon33 Getting sticky.

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    This is getting really tense now
     
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  22. NightmareWarden

    NightmareWarden Not too sore, are you?

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    I want to make a sarcastic quip about the “power of friendship” wrapping up the remains problems, but friendship has been genuinely useful in this fic.

    Also congratulations- making sand worms resemble eels, bristle worms, or sea slugs? Just makes them more terrifying in my eyes. I hope they are stuck to desert ecosystems at least.
     
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  23. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I was thinking more like Bobbit Worms.
     
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  24. Threadmarks: With Dauntless Might - 09 - The Fulcrum Of The World
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    For a moment I'm paralyzed. I know they expect me to have a solution and I don't. I can feel the weight of their gaze as they look to me for an answer almost as a physical thing, a sinking feeling at the top of my stomach, like a hook behind my ribs tugging me down. Outwardly, I'm not showing any signs of agitation save for clenching and unclenching my hand as my mind runs hard enough to shake itself apart, flash-inspecting everything I know about the rings and this world and magic and energy and coming up with nothing.

    Fela is the first to look away, back to the anomaly below. It's begun to spin like a whirlpool, the center a black nothingness that somehow seems to oscillate the same time despite not changing. The edges of the effect are tinged a weird blue. I think it's the light being distorted.

    There's a hand on my shoulder and I turn my head to look at Kuri, floating next to me holding her staff limpy, hanging below her. "What?"

    "How attached are you to your power?"

    Something inside me suddenly realizes what she means and the sinking feeling sharpens to a laser intensity. "But... we don't know what'll happen if we do that."

    Violet frowns. "Do what?"

    "Whole universes, Ainsley. Not just worlds, but all the span of time and space you told me about beyond that. How many lives? Are we really worth that?"

    I hang my head while Violet starts to look irritated. "What are you guys talking about?"

    Aetius drifts a little closer to him. "Those." Pointing down, he gestures at the central batteries surrounding the anomaly. "They're talking about those."

    "But, what are they though?"

    I take a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "They're the source of our power. Without them, the lanterns we power from will die and our rings will run out of power eventually. We'll lose the ability to ever recharge them."

    "This ring is capable of recharging from ambient hope."


    I blink, looking down. It's been awhile since the blue ring took any initiative like that. Violet looks over as the ring speaks up. "So, you'd be the last of us, then." He takes a deep breath, then exhales slowly. "My... she's not here, is she? What's the point of wallowing in love I've lost? I don't think..." He shakes his head. "I don't think I could do that for a long time."

    "It's the only way."

    I know they're right. I just don't like it. "One of us needs to throw them into the anomaly somehow, then. To get close enough t-"

    Violet straightens. "I'll do it."

    "No, you're not okay right now. You're hurting, Nameless."

    "Thank you, but I think I'll decide that for myself." Holding his fist up, he glances at us. "Ring, if we survive this and you have any charge left, return to her." He points at Kuri. "I trust you'll find some use out of whatever's left of the ring if I don't survive."

    Kuri turns her face away. I don't think she can cry, not in the way we do, but everything I've learned about her body language is telling me she's very much not okay with this. I do the first thing that comes to mind and pull her into a hug, only to find her clinging to me far harder than I thought.

    "Good luck." Violet turns and fires himself downwards as Fela makes a little sound behind us.

    "We should get back, move away from here. Now." Aetius isn't waiting for us to decide, scooping Fela up and taking off with her as she squawks indignantly at him in surprise.

    Letting go of me, Kuri nods, but I don't let go of her. Instead I pull her away, grimacing.

    Emil. Ren.

    Elise. I don't know what I'm going to tell her.

    Collectively we pull back just as I see Violet tip the first one towards the event horizon, the contact of the red battery with it causing a violently bright flash of red light, followed by orange, yellow, green.

    Blue.

    I don't feel anything. Not physically.

    Alert. Connection with the central power battery lost.


    But the ring doesn't let it pass by without remark, either. Which means the others know, now.

    As the last battery tips in, the wild oscillations the anomaly is undergoing sort of wobble in a way that reminds me of a car beginning to fishtail. Below us the ground shatters violently, sands being thrown up in clouds as the bedrock underneath cracks in a wave passing outwards from the centerpoint and surpassing even us, going as fast as we are. The pressure wave behind us isn't going as quickly.

    "Move it people!"

    Speeding up, I know I'm burning power I shouldn't burn, the wave catching up to us but there's a strange tint to it, something that's difficult to put into words, like the explosion is deeper than it ought to be somehow. A sense given by magic or intuition or whatever I might call it.

    Letting it touch us won't result in anything good, I know that.

    Behind us, Kuri is creating a shield using my fear as a source, yellow light surrounding us at the same time the blast wave catches up with us somehow and then



    things




    get




    strange










    When I open my eyes I take a deep breath, sitting up and shaking myself out of a sense of déjà vu as my first day here pops into my head for a second. Kuri and I are... not quite buried but it's apparent we impacted the northern mountain ridge instead of passing over it like we meant to.

    The first thing I do is check on her
    . She's breathing and small enough for me to carry so I pick Kuri up, holding her against my chest like a little kid and holding her staff with the other hand. It looks... dead. Turned off.

    As I make my way up out of the crater and look out I can't help but gasp softly.

    The desert is still there... sort of. But everywhere I look, every direction, parts of it are broken up, different. Some have different sand. A few are glass. One is a chunk of jungle, standing out violently among the desolation. Another is a tower of ice sheet and even as I watch it cracks down the middle, sliding apart and hitting the ground hard enough I can feel the vibrations in my feet despite the fact it's at least a few miles away.

    "Ainsley?"

    Kuri is coming around and I kneel down to put her back on her feet. She keeps a hand on my shoulder for a moment to steady herself, then looks out at the shattered desert.

    "Oh." She breathes the word, her tail curling around her feet as she becomes unsure of herself and the hand on my shoulder tightens a little. "It's..."

    "Like every possible piece of every place that could have been drawn here was pulled in all at once. Yeah."

    She looks at me. "How far does the effect extend?"

    "I don't know.
    Not far, I hope."

    "Then we need to get back to Durjak. Do you have any power left?" She frowns down at her own hand. "Do I?"


    "54% charge remaining." / "62% charge remaining."

    Taking the staff from me uncertainly, Kuri nods. "Let's go find the others. If there are any others."

    "
    Don't give up hope, Kuri."
     
  25. Threadmarks: The End of the Beginning - 01
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    When Elise woke up, she found herself in a room of blue stone.

    I'm back at Ainsley's keep. The thought didn't bring her much comfort. Dragging herself up off the bier she'd been placed on, she found the Weapon was still...

    Even as she looked at it, became aware of it, the spike of anger that awareness brought with it both enraged and confused her, a frustration that welled up and hit her with the force of a thousand lessons she couldn't understand, a hundred jokes she didn't get the punchline of, whole crowds of people laughing at her for not getting it. She lashed out, smashing the bier with her fists and snarling, the Weapon reshaping from the clawed gauntlet it had become to iron fists, then back to the gauntlets again. She flicked her ears hard, turning her head down and to the side as though pained by a sound despite the silence in the room, trying to shake off the feeling instinctually without thinking about it too much.

    As the feeling receded just as quickly as it had hit her, her mind began to clear and she started to understand why she was in a large stone room on a stone table by herself rather than, say, the middle of the hospital they'd begun in Durjak. She'd lay odds the door was locked too and if there wasn't guards outside she'd be very, very surprised.

    The Weapon had somehow bonded to her, much like Aetius and his armor. She tried pulling at the gauntlets, taking them off. As soon as she did she was rewarded with the most intense pain she'd ever felt in her life, her knees dropping out from under her as it felt like her very skin was being torn off while being set on fire while being plunged into acid. The second she stopped pulling the pain stopped and she curled up into herself on the floor in the fetal position, hugging her own tail to her chest.

    She stayed that way for awhile. Her sense of time was unclear. It might have been five minutes. It might have been an hour.

    Eventually she mustered the courage to try using her hands again, gently pushing herself up off the floor and finding that it didn't hurt. So long as she wasn't trying to rid herself of the Weapon, at least. Every time she thought about it that spike of frustration, rooted in her own inability to rid herself of it and amplified like an echo reaching back from a powerful sound in a large room, but intensified somehow in the process. It was her own anger writ large.

    A knock on the door startled her, making her jump and take a sharp breath. She took a moment to compose herself, then spoke up. "Come in."

    A series of clicking and clanking noises gave her an idea of how many locks were on the door. When it opened she found Kuri walking into the room, minus the staff. Once she was in she closed the door up again, running her fingertips down the side of it and using the ring to relock it from the inside. Then she turned to Elise, trotting across the room.

    "I'd ask how you felt, but I think I can guess." She looked sad, sitting down on a chunk of broken table rather than making a construct chair or something. Elise looked at her puzzled, edging back a bit to keep some space between them. She didn't trust herself like this.

    "I'm... frustrated." A wince. "I can't get them off and it just... every little annoyance is amplified and I don't feel very okay right now."

    Kuri nodded to her. "I can wait to fill you in until you feel a little better?"

    "No." Taking a deep breath, Elise exhaled slowly and sat herself down on the floor, sitting on her own hands and then curling her tail over her lap. "Tell me what's happened."

    Kuri watched her for a moment, then nodded. "We tried to fight Nemesis but he's... good. Really, really good. He held us off until one of Ainsley's long shots paid off and he got distracted fighting something worse than us. But... by then, the... whatever that thing was, was out of control. We couldn't get near it, didn't know what to do..."

    Elise watched her closely. Kuri looked agitated, almost guilty. Her ears were pressed back close to her head and she wasn't looking at Elise directly, sort of staring at the floor. Kuri took a deep breath, fortifying herself before continuing. "We threw the central power batteries into it. Actually, Violet did. We're... not sure what happened to him, actually. He told us all to split as soon as he made the decision, but he also told his ring to come find me if he died and it hasn't so... we don't know. We went looking but the area is weird, the rings started freaking out when we approached it. Something about 'extreme spatial distortion'." She shook her head. "We can't recharge so using the power..."

    Elise nodded to her slowly. "You're all running your charges out. You can't recharge, can you?"

    Kuri looked at her, then shook her head slowly. "Only Ainsley can, by making enough people hopeful or someone feeling hopeful really intensely. It's not fast enough though. Percent of a percent here and there."

    Elise closed her eyes, hanging her head. "And Ren? My dad?"

    Kuri sounded like she wanted to cry saying it. "I'm so sorry, Elise. We just don't know."

    Elise didn't say anything, do anything. Her voice got flat and she nodded. "Okay. Thank you." ... "It might be best if you left for a bit."

    Kuri nodded and got up, moving back towards the door while keeping half an eye on Elise, but Elise wasn't moving. "Anything you need, let us know. We'll arrange some place nicer for you to stay within an hour or two, I promise." Then she knocked on the door, waiting for the guards to unlock it again before slipping back out.

    For a little while, Elise stared out into space, not doing or saying anything. Just going over things in her mind.

    After an hour or two, she only had one line going through her head, over and over.

    Who ordered that orbital strike?
     
  26. Threadmarks: The End of the Beginning - 02
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Fela walked down the hallway into what had been named Ainsley's throne room. Ainsley himself didn't really like the thing. It had supposedly been built at the insistence of the town instead, wanting some place they could hold big official business. It was mostly Zack that used it for public petitions, settling disputes or greeting important travelers.

    Today though, there weren't any petitioners. No townspeople, no Zack. Just Ainsley, sitting on that silly looking, incredibly plain dining room chair not-throne. Like he'd tried to skimp out on the idea by making it look lame. He was slouched a little, hands on his stomach, fingers interlocked.

    "Thought I might find you here."

    He sat up, looking at her, taking notice. It struck him just how much the blue of her eyes contrasted against the dark complexion of her skin, almost glowing in the way his eyes have done in the past. He'd looked at Fela before, of course, but never really noticed her. Looking at her now - even after having taken the orange ring off - he realized just how pretty she was, sitting up a little without thinking about it.

    "Why is that? I don't usually come here."

    "I know. I couldn't find you in the places where you usually are and figured you were probably still here in the castle someplace, so I went to the one place you would go to be totally alone. Oh, that and Zack isn't holding court today."

    Ainsley heh'd softly at her. "How'd you end up with us? Everything happened so fast, I never really got to talk to you or know you."

    "I traveled here looking for other light users. Found 'em." Fela spreads her arms, laughing wanly. "You guys sure know how to throw a party. I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful than I was."

    He tilted his head at her slightly. "Fela, you were the one who gave us the idea to try and drown Nemesis out. It was a really good idea and it worked. You contributed."

    She waved it off, stopping in front of the 'throne'. "Well, I still felt pretty lame. I came to tell you that Elise is awake."

    She could see that get to him, the concern. "I should go see-" He stopped when she put her hand on his shoulder, sitting him back down in the chair, giving her a puzzled look.

    "She's not doing so well. Kuri said it might be safer if they... handle with care, is how she put it. Also you, um..."

    "She might attack me." He covered his eyes with one hand, hiding them. "Fuck."

    She nodded. "Yeah." Tapping him on the top of the head to get his attention, she held her hand out to him when he looked up at her. "Come with me?"

    "Whyyyy?"

    She rolled her eyes. "'cuz I asked, of course. C'mon, a pretty girl is trying to cheer you up. Just go with it, you'll get the hang of these things eventually."

    Getting up out of the chair with much the same sort of energy an old man might, he took Fela's hand and was immediately pulled off his feet, a wooshing sensation all he has time to process before they find themselves outside in the sunlight, making him blink for a second instinctually. Not that he needed to, the ring kept the glare from blinding him, of course.

    "What do you see?"

    Ainsley looked at her, a little confused. A part of the back of his mind noted she wasn't letting go of his hand, but he was thinking about her question instead of that. "I dunno, Durjak?"

    "Annnnd?"

    "And... the town wall, I guess? The mechs?"

    "What else?"

    He furrowed his brow, thinking about it. "The people, I guess?"

    She nodded to him. "The people. You know, I've been around a bit before I came here. Traveled the world before the Fragmentation. I've been to lots of places, you know? There aren't many hubs of real civilization out here, Ainsley. It's just too difficult to establish a real foothold. It'll be even harder, now. But look at this place! You've built a real city here. You've established something that looks like a government here. That's rare. You have guards, courts, laws, trade, food security, even luxury goods. You're not even a port town!"

    Ainsley was blinking as she spoke, as though coming out of a fog. "I never... I was just trying to do what I thought was right."

    She spoke quietly. "I know you feel bad right now. You feel like you let Elise down. Elise might feel that way too. But Ainsley, my wings, that weapon of hers, Aetius's armor... they're like your rings. They're not entirely unique, either. There's not like... one artifact of each color. I saw a lense once which was like my wings, but only ever showed you the way to safety. So there's others out there, lesser artifacts. Maybe you can use them somehow."

    "That's... a quest for another day."

    "Yes. But there's hope, is what I'm saying. Despite everything that's happened you may have saved whole universes. Whatever the cost..."

    "Don't say it was worth it."

    "No. But we could make it worth it, couldn't we?" She took his hands and stepped up into him, hugging Ainsley suddenly. "Touch my wings and try?"

    The hug took him by surprise, the sudden close body contact with even more surprise. Suddenly he was really glad the ring could control certain things consciously because her being this close was new and strangely pleasant for him. Hugging her back, he touched her wings, the solid light feathers turning out to not be soft at all but rigid, as though cut by crystal.

    "In darkest day, with dauntless might.
    Face down despair, continue the fight.
    Stand tall against the blackest night,
    you will not fall while hope burns bright.
    "

    A familiar rushing sensation in his arms as Fela's wings visibly dimmed, becoming faint and transparent. His hand passes through them suddenly, finding the wings mere ghosts of themselves and drawing his hand back as Fela steps back away from him and reaches up, touching the side of his face.

    "Your eyes have changed. They're little symbols, now."

    "Are you okay?"

    "They'll return. They've become like this before, when I flew for a long, long time. How much power did you gain?"

    "Ring, state charge."

    "67% charge remaining."

    "That got me about 25% of a full charge. How long do you think they'll take to restore?"

    "A day, perhaps. I don't think it'd be a good idea to just leave you alone for awhile, Ainsley. Why don't I keep you company for a bit?"

    "I... think I'd like that."
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2021
  27. meloa789

    meloa789 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    You forgot the threadmark.
     
  28. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Its always the first thing I do to start a post, for some reason it just doesn't take sometimes. Thanks for letting me know!
     
  29. Threadmarks: The End of the Beginning - 03
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    When they brought Khumu to the shamans abode, he expected something reminiscent of Skal. There, one might make their home out of natural materials. Wood, stone, earth, clay, bone, leather, fiber. A yurt perhaps, like the plains traveling Tovari use. Or maybe a wooden longhouse, like the other skunk tribes sometimes use. At the very least he expected some ceremony and pomp, a ritual... something.

    Instead, the genkit guard assigned to him brought him to a simple little house made much the same way as the rest of the town, but to Skal dimensions. The guard had become his friend after several months together (Remi wasn't so bad once you got over the fact that touching his fur was a little oily, apparently otters just have that as a problem) and he didn't think he was being pranked.

    Kuri's little house was a wide open affair, much like the longhouses her people use, which almost never have partitions. He'd grown curious about their resident shaman, who'd taken not to being mysterious but completely open and almost maternal towards the Skal in town. Those who had come to Durjak had become their own tribe and she'd taken the role of shaman for them all, yet behaved like no shaman he'd ever heard of. So he asked around about her people, her clan, wanting to understand her a little, yet never speaking to her directly.

    Instead of a wooden or stone floor, hers was made of seamless wood, fitted together closely enough he couldn't see any cracks between the boards. The walls, instead of being covered in cloths and curtains for insulation, were naked looking by comparison across half the space. The other half was furnished with a half-finished mural apparently of her own making, painting supplies scattered around on a cloth to cover the floor where she last stopped. The furniture was simple and wooden in the main area by the door but lush and upholstered further into the room. Her kitchen didn't even have a fire pit, housing one of the big iron devices they called 'stoves'.

    It was all so very foreign and strange and the realization slowly came to him that Kuri didn't act like a shaman because she'd gone native. She was different because she was something new, something... blended between these people and Skal. He suddenly felt out of his depth, unsure of exactly how he should behave around this one who was clearly his social superior, yet also disdained formality, yet also had the authority to make his life very miserable if her gave offense. Nor did he know what she might take offense to.

    When the guard closed the door behind him Kuri gestured to him while putting away her painting stuff. "Grab a seat someplace and relax. I can feel your nervousness from here, I'm not going to punish you or anything. Take a minute to calm down. Did you eat today?"

    Moving through the room with care, he approached one of the upholstered couches, poking at it. He and the others Ainsley had captured that first day mostly had furniture like this, but after finding that sleeping inside tended to kind of mess with him they'd let him set up a little camp of his own in a corner of the town after swearing an oath that he would stay for his time of punishment for what he'd done. It was only a year or so of his life and seemed a fair bargain, at least to him. It meant not having nice furniture like this though. When he sat on it he sank into it a little, then sort of melted against it, surprised. "Um... Yes. They give us all food at the same time."

    Looking at him, she hmm'd and crossed the room to the kitchen. "Thought you might say that. Here." Taking a tiny cauldron with a handle off her stove she poured a thick broth into a large cup, bringing it over to him. When she handed it to him he found it wasn't very hot at all, despite the steaming liquid inside. He could see it had little bits of meat and a few vegetables in it.

    "I thank you, shaman." He sipped politely, burning his lips a little bit finding it very good.

    "I hate formality. I'm Kuri. Kurishalia."

    "I thank you, Kurishalia."

    She smiled a little. "Not many around here use my full name. Thank you. Did Remi tell you why I wanted to talk to you?"

    "He did not, Kurishalia." Ssssip. "Am I to assist you in some way?"

    "Yes and no. Do you know how shamans are elevated, Khumu?"

    That stopped the cup halfway to his lips. "N-no. I do not." He slowly lowered the cup again, looking at her. "Shamans are mysterious and powerful. We do not question them."

    She nodded. "You know, I never really questioned the way things are back home until I met Ainsley and came here. Looking back now, I can see... ways things can be improved. But I think you and I both know that the other shamans would not listen to me as I am now. I'm too different."

    He nodded slowly and sipped the broth as an excuse not to answer for a moment, mildly shocked that she would come out and simply say it. He decided to take a risk. "You have... become like them. You are no longer entirely Skal?"

    She shook her head. "No. But I think, after your time here, you've come to appreciate more than the others the benefits of this place. Jufad said you actually haggled at a market a few days ago. That's pretty remarkable for your people, before you I'd never heard of one of the Folk ever being sociable."

    "I... do not understand, Kurishalia."

    She smiled at him. "That's okay. Come." Standing up, she crossed the room to a large wooden chest by her bed, leaning over to open it. Khumu took about three seconds to totally check her butt out before looking away casually before she turned around. When she did she was holding a small crystalline matrix set in metal. He tilted his head at it. The crystals reminded him of quartz, a sort of milky-white.

    Walking over to him, she took his hands, cupping them under the device so he would hold it and cupping his hands in hers. "Take a deep breath and clear your mind for me, Khumu."

    Inhaling slowly, he stilled his thoughts and as he exhaled The world expanded for him, his awareness spreading out as he began to hear Kurishalia's thoughts. He felt the awareness going inward, changing him. Parts of his mind were awakening that had been dormant, asleep. He became aware of every living thing around them at varying degrees of strength. Kuri shone like a beacon to him and most of the sentient minds were bright. A few of the genkits were brighter than the others, almost like Kuri. But not quite.

    **What is going on?** His confusion translated through the shared thought.

    **Expansion.** What followed was a series of non-verbal ideas, knowledge of things she had learned about the mind, things from both shamans and the genkits. The shamans knew the inner voice and mind well and the genkits knew the physical structures of the brain. The combined knowledge flowered in his mind like a tree and he suddenly realized the device was actually making him more intelligent, teaching him, renewing him.


    As the heightened sense of everything began to recede, it didn't fade away completely. He could feel the minds around him, the life around him. His self-awareness was changed and he began to realize he was conscious of things he was unaware of before about his own body. He had finer motor control and fewer involuntary responses. He felt calmer, too, more at peace than he'd ever been in his entire life.

    "What is this?"

    Stepping away, Kuri gently lifted it out of his hands, taking it to the chest and placing it back inside, covering it with padding. "It's the Minds Eye. It's how we elevate new shamans to our level and is only one of a set of three. Today, Khumu, you have become a shaman. You'll hear everything now. You'll always be aware of the others. You'll always be sensitive to how they feel. You're the first of the Folk to ever achieve this."

    He felt stunned but it didn't freeze him the way it would have when he first walked into the door. "Why have you done this thing?"

    "I want you to return it to Skal and be the herald of change Skal needs. I want you to teach our people that valuable things can be learned from outsiders. I want you to talk to the gods themselves and tell them of the wonders achieved here by us, this new clan. I want you to herald the greatest change Skal will ever know and benefit from."

    Suddenly the reason he was here, the reason he had been cast out from Skal, was laid bare before him.

    And he knew he was fulfilling his destiny.
     
  30. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    To this day I still cannot tell where things are going.

    And I love it! :D
     
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