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Unwieldy (Fantasy & Hammers)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Sarius, Nov 24, 2020.

  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 28: Hooray for not Being Crippled

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 28: Hooray for not Being Crippled

    It didn’t really take all that long for me to return to the doctor and discuss methods of actually procuring a body for use in post-mortem testing. I, thankfully, found out that it wasn’t a point of religious interest. It was very possible that some believed that defiling the body in death transferred to damage to the spirit of some sort, and I was infinitely glad that it didn’t seem to be the case here. Maybe the belief of Arun, the Death God, was the chief reason for this. Though I don’t know much, if anything, about him.

    I quickly brought up the fact that it might possibly be easier to convince someone of this if they were offered compensation of some description. The knee-jerk reaction was to offer payment in actual coin, but I shot that one down pretty quickly. Judging by the reactions I’ve received from simple payments and other monetary reimbursement, paying for a corpse seems like it would ruffle some feathers big-time.

    So, there came the idea of offering mortuary services as reimbursement. Gram wasn’t entirely understanding of what I meant when I placed the idea on the table, but before long he was on board with the idea.

    The dead here are treated with a level of disgust, simply because the people of this world, and possibly the other world as well, don’t have a widespread method of preserving the body—at least not reliably or well. So, the body is generally buried soon after being found dead, with very little time for the family to come to grips with the death of the person. Gram explained to me that this was likely because of a fear of disease or a miasma like effect on the surrounding people.

    So, simply, as a small reimbursement for the use of the body in post-mortem tests, Gram will clean and prepare the body for being viewed by the family. There would probably be extenuating circumstances where the body was irreparably damaged, either during a post-mortem, or from injury or disease that killed the person in the first place. Other things could likely be done in the place of mortuary services, possibly transferring into health check-ups for the family that Gram would usually charge for.

    This conversation only took maybe an hour to work it all out, and now we had a clear idea of what we could give in return. I was oddly excited to convince people of post-mortem procedures; I was beginning to feel confident in my ability to do so, strangely.

    After another few days of simply repeating the Sharah and learning with Mayer in the mornings, the time finally came for me to go do what I had signed up for. A man named Renit was going to die of a disease or infection that Gram wasn’t able to identify. I walked to the man’s house, finding him surrounded by family, but all at a distance except for an elderly lady who was tending directly to the man laying bed, half comatose. It made me smile a little. Looks like Grandma didn’t care one second for her kin not being treated well, especially not because of a little infection.

    A few seconds into the conversation, it became clear that both him and the family understood that he was going to die. It seems that they were still in the process of accepting that in its totality, but the man himself was actually resolved about it. He exuded a sense of calm dread at what was happening to him, but he didn’t seem like the sort of man that would bow his head in front of death.

    He was perfect.

    Words flowed from my mouth like nothing else I had every really experienced, the other few times only being close. I soaked up how they felt about every word I said and, depending on the reaction to that, I would use the next to tinker with the atmosphere—releasing calming words when bad emotions came to the forefront of their minds, and saying empowering things when defeat was written on their faces.

    The man himself was easily drawn into my world. I spoke to him of duties that only he could carry out. That his contribution to the world would be far, far greater than anything than he could possibly know.

    As his attention began to focus on what I was proposing, there was a slight hesitation, before he quashed it mightily with all his will. I explained to him the possibilities that could arise from such testing and told him that there was no way that the information gathered would ever be truly useless. It might not always come to fruition immediately, but in the next generation it could save lives in numbers that we couldn’t truly comprehend.

    And so, the man was sold. Tied to a sense of duty that was greater than his instinct of preserving, his body, and the piece of mind that it would offer him to keep them intact. As I walked through the dirt streets only a few minutes after the conversation, a pleasant feeling tickled my mind, and something popped into my mind.

    [Read a Room: Flexing your uncanny ability to read a room, you handled an extremely difficult topic with absolute grace. +2 Mind]

    I couldn’t help but grin. This is what I had hoped would happen. Learning anatomy with Gram was my first choice initially, but mostly because I didn’t see any other way I could realistically raise my Mind stat. Now it was different—I could do this for Gram whenever it was needed, make myself available for mediation between people and patients, and my Mind stat would steadily increase.

    It had been so long since I had received a stat increase that I had almost forgotten that they should be more of a priority. Not as if there wasn’t reasoning for the other things that I was doing, though.

    Firstly, the Sharah practice was endlessly helpful in control of my body, but didn’t inherently increase my Might or my Agility. Maybe the Sharah and other fighting skills fell outside the purview of the screen, or millions of other possible answers for why I wasn’t receiving stat rewards from something as physically demanding as the Sharah.

    In recent days, I came to the realisation that my mindset from the very beginning of my transportation had completely shifted, and rapidly too. Originally, I was thinking in an extremely game oriented way, but when I saw people and spoke with them—Mayer, Rethi and his Mother, Master Gram and his daughter Alena so on and so forth—it became strikingly clear that they were real, and genuine. There was nothing NPC-like about them. Mayer, as typical as you could get from ‘old man is powerful and teaches wayward child’, was still different than I would have expected. His hand never forced me into situations I wasn’t comfortable with—he was open and willing to converse, rather that telling me to sit down and be told how the world is. In fact, I feel like we’ve both informed each-other about how the world works, rather than just one of us pulling back the veil over the other’s eyes.

    The more days I pondered on likening this world to a game, the more I realised that it wasn’t going to be so convenient for me. In a game, you would be swept into a series of events that you weren’t able to stray from—not really anyways. But here I was, maybe only two weeks and some change into my stay here in this world, and I was already effectively master of my own time, with enough reputation to sink a battleship in this tiny little town, and the ear of a very powerful man.

    So, what else was there? What was I doing here?

    What were my true goals, and what would I need to achieve them?

    My feet met the wood of Mayer’s doorstep, and I walked in, sitting on ‘my’ chair across from the man who seemed like he was eternally sipping tea and reading. Retirement, I guess. One look at me and I could tell he knew that I wanted to have a heavy conversation. Something that happened far more than I’d like to admit. He sighed and closed his book, placing it on the table beside him and crossed his legs.

    “I don’t know how to say it without sounding like I’m full of myself, so I’ll just say it.” I paused for a second, “I am way, way too good at people. It’s only started becoming really obvious recently, but now it’s getting to the point where I can’t ignore it even if I try.”

    Mayer’s face didn’t change but I could feel that things were clicking for the man.

    “I can feel it. I know something is clicking for you.” The man’s eyebrows shot up. It wasn’t really surprise, but the feeling of an entire picture coming into view. The man was stock still for only a moment, before he gently placed his cup of tea down, and looked at me in the eyes. A seriousness in his countenance that only really appeared ever once and a while.

    “Well,” he started hesitantly, “wou are a natural empath. An extraordinarily rare trait. In fact, I believe that the only other human natural empaths that have existed are Soul-Seekers, though they are considered Long Dead now.” It was my turn to raise an eyebrow.

    “Uh, being ‘Long Dead’ doesn’t seem like something I really want to be.” Mayer nodded.

    “Some you really don’t want to be. A Long Dead is simply a title for a human variant that has been either eradicated in its entirety, or just stopped appearing altogether. Though I doubt that you could actually be considered a Soul-Seeker at all. Being from another world entirely and all.”

    Well, that was easy to understand then.

    “You are a natural empath. Effectively, you are just naturally able to use your soul to do what an empathic shifter does with shifting. Usually at the cost of being able to shift ether altogether.” I thought on that for a moment. A natural empath. So not mind reading level, per se, but just able to sense feelings then. That seemed to line up, at least a little bit.

    It was maybe a few weeks ago when I noticed it, unexplained flashes of ‘I swear I can feel what they’re feeling’, but nothing on the level of what I was feeling now. Now, I was getting clearer signals, like scrubbing through the radio waves on a long car trip, in the middle of a nowhere-road, and then finally managing to hook into a radio station. It started fuzzy and indistinct, and maybe that was where I am now. Maybe it’d even get stronger with time?

    “Will I not be able to shift then?” Mayer waved his hand dismissively.

    “You are a Champion, that in and of itself overrides that limitation. Though whether or not that restriction applied to you in the first is up for debate. It was likely that your natural empathic trait began to awaken only recently, since coming here where the ether or other, more nebulous energies, reside to power it.” I nodded.

    “Is being a Soul-Seeker, or just a natural empath, all that strong? I understand that I can…” I hesitated find the right word, “convince really well. But I don’t understand how I would be able to beat someone that has a similar alignment towards anything combat or otherwise.” Mayer gave me an incredulous look.

    “I thought you were smart. The answer is that you don’t match up against them, you get someone else to do that for you.” Mayer laughed and continued regardless of my eyes rolling, “Empathic shifting is extremely powerful. Many of the most powerful leaders to have ever existed were extremely potent empathic shifters. The most legendary were Soul-Seekers or from races with natural empathic abilities. Instead of being good at hitting things real hard, or the shifter equivalent, you are able to walk into a room with some of the most powerful people alive and convince them that your cause is worth fighting for.” Mayer shrugged and I nodded stiffly, seeing his point and trying to discard my preconceived notions.

    Though there were extremes on all ends. There was probably another man who could walk into a room with exactly the same people and wipe the floor with all of them. I guess that just meant that I’d have to convince that person too. And those that can beat them or gather enough allies to beat those that could never be convinced. The social power games were already hurting my head and I wasn’t even involved yet.

    “When you put it that way, it seems like something extremely powerful. Maybe even overly so.” Mayer shrugged again, picking up his tea and sipping.

    “Yes and no. In this world there are just about an infinite amount of ways you can tackle a problem. People develop new ways of tackling those problems all the time. Shifting and ether are just blanket terms—people utilise ether extremely differently across civilisations and continents. To put a long story short, yes you have a very powerful asset, but it isn’t like there aren’t others that have assets just as good or greater than yours. Just because most people that are Kings and Emperors have access to empathic shifting of some description, doesn’t mean that all that have access to empathic shifting are Kings and Emperors, or even nobles and merchants.”

    “Well, at least I have that going for me. At least I can claim that I wasn’t total cannon fodder for this Champion War.” Mayer gave a short laugh and I smiled along with his grin.

    “You are also probably the strongest naturally empathic human to live, seeing as none of them would have been able to naturally train to the state you’re in physically, even now. So that is also an upside.” I laughed along with him this time, relaxing a little now that I knew that I wasn’t going insane from delusions of grandeur. Though I guess that still didn’t make me a genius, like the rest of the Champions. My natural empathy could only be used as well as my smarts would let me, and if I didn’t use it well enough, it’d be exactly like I’d never had it in the first place. It was just another tool in the toolbox, right alongside the Soul Hammer.

    I sighed deeply, only to return my gaze to Mayer, wry grin growing on my face without restraint.

    “Hooray for not being crippled, I guess.”
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  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 29: A Whole New World

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 29: A Whole New World

    The next few days were somewhat aimless, if I were to be honest.

    Don't get me wrong, I was productive. I trained in the Sharah with intense fervour, and I flexed my Soul-Seeker-esque capabilities literally whenever I could, to maximise the gains in my Mind stat. I managed to gain four more Mind stat, usually from convincing people of things. Turns out that there are a lot of people dying around town, and Gram wants all of the bodies he can get.

    I succeed around eighty percent of the time, and usually the reason for failure is more the family’s wishes rather than the person who is actually dying.

    On the other side of things, I still wasn’t seeing any rewards for the Sharah. I was relatively proficient now, Mayer had even gone so far as to tell me so, but I still didn't gain anything. I knew that I gained a lot of control over my body, and a solid foundation for building strength, but the total lack of reward had me somewhat worried.

    I was gaining too much from practicing the Sharah to stop, even allowing me mediocre control of the hammer in certain situations. I pushed the thoughts from my mind and continued my routine of practice.

    It went from morning to afternoon to evening, then suddenly it was midnight. Resigned as I was to my total lack of need for sleep, I continued my training in the dead of night. The Sharah pseudo kata that I was performing was many times more elaborate than the first iteration that I had once created, and because of my seemingly endless stamina, I was able to increase the length and the physical strain required of my body to perform it.

    But still, no rewards.

    In a way, I knew I was being ridiculous. All this time—easily hundreds of hours worth of training—could have been spent on increasing my Strength or Agility, or even Mind stat through simpler training. But the Sharah sucked me in like nothing else did. I couldn’t help but truly think that there was more to the movements than simply moving your body proficiently and efficiently. If that were it, then this probably would have been a total waste of opportunity and time.

    So, like the idiot I am, I doubled down. Training so hard that I could feel the burn in my muscles and my joints and bones creaking from the massive amount of strain—quite a feat in a very hardy body. All the while doing this, I was continuously training my ability to summon and unsummon my hammer, as well as doing basic tasks, such as picking it up, putting it down, switching it to the other hand.

    I was so wholly absorbed that when a blade came slicing down upon me, it was almost instinct. My mind didn’t even have time to panic or think of anything else, except for moving. It was like my brain hit overdrive, and I was suddenly acutely aware of my surroundings, and the person that stood in front of me.

    The blade that had attacked me was of extremely poor quality, not that I profess to be an expert in anything bladelike, but it looked like it had been dunked in water and left there for a few years. Pock-marked and rusted, the blade was even fairly crooked, but there was enough shine in the metal for the remnants of light bending around Orisis to glint and reflect onto the wielder—illuminating him.

    I hadn’t ever seen this man. Or maybe boy would be a more accurate description. He was older than Rethi, maybe by three or so years, making him maybe seventeen.I was about to open my mouth when the boy yelled some jumble of words all mushed into one sound, and he charged at me again, poorly stabbing at me with the sword. However, a sword in the hands of someone truly untrained could be dangerous, and I wasn’t willing to risk doing a ballsy move like trying to catch the blade or even disarm him.

    I might be stronger than him and have a little bit of training in the Sharah, but I was far from a combat genius. I could theoretically run away from the encounter, but that seemed like a stupid idea. This was obviously someone from the town, and I needed to understand why they were attacking me.

    The boy was now wildly slashing at me while yelling obscenities, as I simply just backpedalled away, out of his reach. His face grew increasingly red with rage as he raced after me. But you can’t really beat someone with effectively infinite stamina this way.

    Weirdly, though, I was still scared of the boy. Maybe I was more scared of the weapon that was being swung around. Even so, I couldn’t quite find a way to stop the boy without either hurting me, or braining him with my hammer—neither of those things were what I particularly wanted.

    So I played the long game and continued to run from the confrontation, hoping the boy would lose his steam and calm down to a degree. That turned out to be the wrong decision, when something caught the boy’s eye and an even deeper rage burned across his face.

    “I’ll fuckin’ kill you, you damn beggar!” The boy raced passed me before I could look and see what it was that the boy went after. When I saw who it was, it became painfully obvious who the boy with the sword was.

    One of the Jothian boys. I had never actually seen them myself, but when the boy went after Rethi, screaming about beggars in a fit of fury, it was made obvious for mey.

    Unfortunately, this just makes this situation even more complicated. The Jothian boy raced after Rethi, and Rethi ran from the boy, wide-eyed in terror. My immediate instinct was to go bash the kid’s head in while he was going after Rethi, but I wouldn’t be able to catch up with the boy before he grabbed a hold of Rethi and possibly did some serious damage. I was fast, but I couldn’t cover enough ground before the boy’s blade reached Rethi’s flesh.

    I felt helpless. No matter if I ran as fast as I could, the boy would reach Rethi before I reached him.

    My eyes soaked in the situation as I futilely ran with all my might, the boy wasn’t that far ahead of me, but he was much closer to Rethi now, and it was all flat ground—there was no escape route for Rethi to find.

    The bigger boy’s feet pushed against the ground, launching himself into a lousy dive, with his rusted sword outstretched, slicing towards Rethi’s skin.

    Then it was as if time had stopped.

    I could see the minute detail of Rethi’s terror filled face as the blade threatened his life, and the rage of the boy who wielded it. The sword was held poorly, almost as likely to fall out of his hands than it was to actually cut Rethi.

    It would only take the tiniest bit of force to snatch that sword right from the hands of the Jothian boy.

    A strange instinct took over me as I planted my feet and moved ever so slightly, following a pattern of the Sharah. It pulled on something within me, and my legs and arms strained unnaturally hard for the simplicity of the movement.

    As the movement continued, the pull increased, as well as the strain on my body. As soon as my foot hit the ground once again, there was a snapping sensation inside, and a force ripped out of me. The boy’s sword flew out of his hand, landing a few meters away, allowing me to continue running and quickly grab the sword before anyone else moved.

    Then I simply stood, staring at the two boys. Rethi quickly scrambled to his feet and ran to my side, his pants and hands dirty from being pushed down into a muddy patch of grass. He didn’t quite stand behind me, but it was close. The other boy, however, didn’t move at all. In fact, he stood, staring at me with comically wide eyes. They were filled with terror.

    He knew.

    I had ‘shifted’. I don’t know how, and I don’t even know what it was that made the connection in my brain not seconds before. But now the floodgate was open, and I could tell there was a bit of ether connected with my every movement.

    I looked down at the boy with a poker face, not letting him see the mix of surprise and exhilaration, along with a sprinkle of apprehension that coloured my thoughts.

    “Do I need to bother to ask why you attacked my employee, or is it as stupid a reason as I think?” I said, my voice flat, imitating Mayer to a degree.

    The boy’s face faltered, shame and terror washed over it, before a weak but smouldering look of rage smeared itself across his mug.

    “No one will trade with Pa, we’re gonna starve and it’s all that damn beggar’s fuckin’ fault.” He drawled out, words thick with an accent similar to Rethi’s own light one, but far more unrefined.

    “And so, your bright idea was to try to kill me, then to try kill Rethi?” I looked at him, disgust was written on my face, and I knew it.

    The words the boy was formulating died on his lips, and the shame returned. The boy looked down at the muddy grass he was lying in, averting his eyes. It was then that I found it prudent to look into the boy’s emotions. Something I was beginning to get a true grasp of.

    It was turmoil supreme. There was fear, but far more than I had elicited with my meagre showing of shifting, no there was fear far larger than that. I couldn’t tell exactly where it originated from, or from what idea, but I had some theories.

    It was fear from possibly becoming something he had scorned, like a beggar. Or it was a fear of his father or mother, maybe even one of his brothers.

    Either way, it would be stupid make a big scene of this. It sounds like the Jothians are pretty screwed anyways, and exposing this would probably get this kid killed and the rest of his family cast into exile or something just as drastic.

    So I decided to play around that consequence.

    “You know what you did, and you know the cost it would incur, yes?”

    Fear washed over the boy even further, flaring like a beacon in my mind. I waited a moment, letting the fear stew to give the most impact.

    “Killing people or having them killed is not something I especially aspire to. So I will give you a deal. You go back to your home, and you get ready to go find work somewhere. I don’t care what that work is, whether it be serving drinks at the pub, or cleaning out stables, but you will find it. If you aren’t doing something in a week, then I will release another note detailing what happened today.” Confusion washed over the face of the boy who had probably expected to be killed or be dragged into town and be chucked in a pit somewhere, as they do with criminals out here—but instead he was given an odd request.

    There wasn’t much reasoning behind doing this. Just that I knew that he would go out and do something other than terrorise and injure with a sword. Plus, it would probably do well for him to be away from his home. Something tells me that home isn’t a particularly kind or warm place.

    The boy nodded vigorously, and after a moment he got to his feet, and scrambled away—only giving a backwards glance to the sword I was now holding. I watched him quickly move out of sight, in the direction of the town, taking the long way around so as to not pass by Mayer’s home.

    I turned to the boy next to me, who was staring intently at me, his blue eyes piercing.

    “What? You’re being very quiet.” I asked, jokingly mocking. Rethi’s face remained serious.

    “You shifted.” He stated plainly. I nodded after a moment, a demure confirmation.

    “I think so, yeah.” I paused for a moment before adding, “What’s wrong?” The boy’s face contorted, becoming a look of disbelief.

    “Are you serious? Nothing is wrong! You just shifted for the first time, this is huge!” The boy grew excited, completely forgetting he had just been mortally threatened by a blade. I raised an eyebrow questioningly, the boy had a talent for flitting through emotions like a hummingbird between flowers.

    “Mayer shifts all the time, is this that big a deal?” Rethi’s eyes grew confused, then became clear again, and he began laughing.

    “Sometimes I forget you’re from another world. Mayer being able to shift is a big deal, but he’s Mayer, y’know?” I laughed at the description and nodded before speaking again.

    “So how common is shifting really? Mayer makes it seem really common.”

    “I don’t know where Mayer is from, but I think I have only ever seen one other shifter in my life. They were in a caravan of a hundred or so people passing through, or the ones that survived the trip from the south. I don’t think they were strong though, or they would be part of an army. I was told that they were the only shifter anyone living in this town had ever seen.”

    Well, it made sense that Mayer would know a lot of shifters, seeing for strong he was, at least physically. Before I could speak again, Rethi butted in excitedly.

    “What did it feel like?” I thought on the question for a moment before spitting out an answer.

    “Odd. It felt as if I were moving through mud, then there was this strong pulling sensation in my body and then a snap, like a rope breaking and it was done.” I said, I was devoid of constructive ways that I could explain the sensation.

    Rethi’s eyebrows furrowed in thought. Before his eyes lit up again. I checked his emotions and felt an overwhelming sense of wonder and excitement.

    Looks like I’ll be answering questions for a while.

    I laughed while the boy peppered me with questions when an overwhelming amount of information hit my brain.

    [A New Sensation: Somewhere inside you lurked a power you didn’t know existed. To tap into it caused a whole new world to open itself up to you. Where will you go, now that you’ve found it? +5 Mind]

    [The Blasphemer of Prophecy: Unlocking a secret long kept by the Sharah’hin, you have stumbled your way into a prophecy that has been forgotten by naught but a few of the Sharah’hin themselves. +5 Mind]

    [Wielder of the Sharah: The truth of the Sharah has presented itself to you, and you are now at the start of the journey along its path. Once you learn more of its secrets, and travel further along its path, you may perhaps become a True Wielder. +10 Might, +10 Mind, +10 Agility]

    I was dumbstruck.

    I turned to Rethi with a flabbergasted look on my face.

    “I need to talk to Mayer.”
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  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 30: Prophecy

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 30: Prophecy

    I walked as fast as I could without making myself seem like a madman, meaning Rethi had to just about run to keep up.

    “Master Max! What happened?” he just about yelled after me. I turned and gave him a scolding look. Here, in the middle of the street, was definitely not the place to expose information that could lead to me being identified as a Champion.

    Rethi withered beneath the look but continued walking alongside me while keeping a watchful eye.

    The walk was brief as we made our way up the stairs to Mayer’s home and burst through the door, almost running into Mayer, who was standing in the hallway sipping tea with eyebrow raised. He spoke a moment later.

    “Such a rush to meet me in the morning?” I laughed somewhat tersely.

    “Yes actually. I can shift now.” Mayer’s eyes lit up slightly, a little bit of excitement flaring through them. I realised that I always felt and saw people's emotions far more visceral when I had the attention of their eyes.

    “That’s good news. It generally takes a lot for me to train someone to shift, and even an expert needs a few weeks at least.” I furrowed my brow, did he not know?

    “Mayer, did you know that the Sharah is a method of shifting?” Mayer’s brows now furrowed as well.

    “Theologically, yes. It was said that those with the highest commitment to the Sharah were capable of creating storms with their steps. I have met a few that were capable of something similar.” I simply deadpanned and looked directly into his eyes.

    “Looks like it’s just the Sharah’hin that have managed to do so.” Mayer continued to look me in the eyes, his surprise evident before he muttered something about Champions and ran a hand over his face with a sigh.

    He waved me into the lounge room and we sat, Rethi taking the extra seat near me and listening, his eyes wide with wonder or something similar, I wasn’t paying enough attention. Mayer looked at me for a moment, then asked what had happened. I recounted the attack from the Jothian boy, and then explained, in as much detail as realistically possible, the feeling of using the Sharah for shifting.

    “Then right after all that, when I was sitting down with Rethi, 3 notification appeared at once. I don’t even think I have had 2 at once before.” Mayer nodded patiently, but I could see the growing worry in his eyes. I decided to not look at it further lest I see the real magnitude of his worry.

    “How well do you remember what they said?”

    “Pretty well. The first one was just an achievement for shifting the first time I think,” Mayer nodded, “The second was about a Prophecy. Something about a blasphemer being in a prophecy that even the Sharah’hin had forgotten,” Mayer closed his eyes and started rubbing the bridge of his nose, “And then the last one was about becoming an Apprentice Sharah Hammer Wielder. Stuff about walking the path of the Sharah.” Mayer didn’t even try to disguise his groan. I didn’t dare check his emotions, that would probably only make me even more worried than I already was.

    It took Mayer another 5 minutes before he spoke again, but Rethi and I simply sat and waited for him to speak like lost puppies.

    “Okay,” Mayer started, “first of all, nothing to worry about with the shifting, that seems normal enough, despite it’s pretty odd usage. We will test it later, but I have a good idea of what it may be, based on your description. The prophecy...” Mayer thought for a moment before speaking again, “I don’t know of any prophecy including in the Sharah or Sharah’hin. Prophecies, however, I do know a little about, and they are terrifying and horrific, and always, always have an element of disaster, no matter how positive it may seem.” He held my eyes, asserting his point before he sighed and continued.

    “Prophecies are just one big question. They wait around and linger until someone eventually solves it. If you become part of a prophecy, then you will become part of the outcome as well. Prophecies never state certain outcomes, and only speak in riddles and uncertainties, even ones directly relayed by the requisite Gods themselves. If I were to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t even bother go looking for what the prophecy says, because all it will do is muddy the waters when the prophecy eventually happens to you.”

    I was part of a prophecy? Me? The most unequipped possible person for the job. Basically anyone of the other champions could probably deal with a prophecy better than I could hope to, but I was the one that had to stumble into it?

    I felt an unreasonable little flame of anger burn in my chest for Mayer. Don’t kill the messenger seemed so reasonable when I wasn’t being told that I was a part of a prophecy, especially one that we didn’t even know what it entailed. Was it the end of the world? Or was it about a kingdom or a war? There were too many options, and it only made the flame in my chest burn a little hotter.

    I don’t think I had been this angry in years about anything, let alone since coming to this wild place.

    “What’s a Sharah Wielder?” I asked recounting the achievement I’d got, curiosity overtaking my misplaced anger.

    “Ah, old and powerful Sharah’hin. Like blade priests of sorts. Opponents that, if I were to ever fight them, I’d be wary about.”

    “What were they like in battle?”

    “Frankly, they were terrifying,” Mayer laughed a genuine laugh before thinking further, “When a Sharah Wielder showed up, it always became a legendary battle. I never saw one fight personally, but I’ve heard the tales and seen the aftermath. As far as I could tell, they fought like a storm of blades, and nothing ever truly came out in one piece when they were involved.”

    “A storm of blades?” I couldn’t honestly reconcile what I had done with my measly usage of shifting and a storm of blades. Mayer nodded.

    “I suspect that it is because the shifting they used was telekinetic in nature.” There was a slight gasp from Rethi. I looked towards the boy, and gave him a quizzical gaze. Telekinesis isn’t that crazy a concept, possibly on of the more boring ways that you could use magic, or shifting in this world.

    “Really!? Kinetic shifting is actually possible? I thought it was a myth! Everyone says that it breaks too many Laws!” Rethi blurted excitedly.

    “Breaks too many Laws?” I asked directly after, looking between the two. Mayer smiled at Rethi.

    “I’m surprised you know of any shifting theory. It’s not generally something that a person in a small village would go out of their way to learn.” Rethi blushed a little and mumbled about a book he’d read a few times.

    “The Laws are the rules that are set by what I guess would be our Gods, or maybe the universe itself. They are not inviolable, by using shifting, we can utilise Ether to ignore some finer details on the weaker end of the spectrum, and entirely break multiple laws on the stronger end.” He stopped to take a sip of his tea that he was probably keeping warm with shifting as we spoke, “Telekinesis is one of the types of shifting that was at least thought of as impossible without either incredible power for little usage or a specialised method. It falls under the same category as space, time and gravity shifting. Though, some methods have been used to allow for shifting of them, but they tend to be very… destructive.”

    “So you are saying that the Sharah’hin have basically been sitting on the method to reliably and efficiently utilise telekinetic shifting?” Mayer laughed and nodded.

    “Quite the scandal, really. The Sharah’hin that know of the telekinetic shifting will be extremely unhappy that a Blasphemer found the secret, and you will be hunted by them without doubt.” He must have seen the worry that I felt, and the worry that I could feel radiating off of Rethi in that moment.

    “It is bad, I won't lie to you, but there are solutions.” At his words, my gaze grew quizzical, and then he grinned almost wolfishly. I could feel Rethi shiver beside me.

    “Rest well, we will meet tomorrow morning for some true training.”

    It had been hours since that talk. There had been one person that I was told to go convince of a post-mortem today, earning me one more Mind stat. Which was stupidly low in comparison to the massive increase of twenty in the morning, plus the four from earlier that week. So, a twenty-five Mind stat increase. I was a little bummed that the increase from convincing people of post-mortems was so small in comparison to the twenty increase from learning how to shift. I had been warned by Mayer, or the ancestral teachings of Ryan, that this massive increase wasn’t going to last. After a ridiculous amount of work I finally managed to shift, and received a good reward for it, I think. However, Ryan did say that the rewards didn’t scale sell. Would that mean that I would achieve another big milestone to only receive ten measly might, even if I work for months?

    I shook aside my dark ponderings. For now, however, I felt amazing. The last time that I had felt anywhere near this good was when I received the achievement after the almost three-day stint of hammering in fences. But now it was multiplied by at least three. My body felt more fluid, courtesy of the increase in agility and the increase in strength made every action feel just a little more achievable, except for using the hammer, which only seemed to retain the same difficulty no matter how strong I got.

    The really amazing one, however, was the increase to Mind. The effects of the increases didn't truly come into effect until after the talk with Mayer, but now the world seemed far clearer, like I was looking through foggy glasses before. I could feel every sensation in far more detail and the little subtle nuances to the Sharah that I had to fight so hard to find and incorporate into my katas were far easier to find, it was almost natural even.

    I could sense the shifting of ether in my movements. The whispers of imperfections in my movements called out for me to fix them. It was almost trippy to perform the Sharah now, and it felt far less like a simple kata now, more like it was a language of movement.

    I realised that my katas were the equivalent of babbling like a child, there were some words hidden behind many sounds and expressions that weren’t comprehensible at all. The hours passed and the moon bloomed overhead in a spectacular showing of just how bring the night could be.

    My katas began to rapidly progress into something that was somewhat legible. Once I started to feel what felt like little sparks of energy coursing through my limbs it was as if I was intoxicated with the rhythm of it, no longer was the Sharah something that I had to think about and maintain every little motion, now it was like movements flowed by themselves, like all I had to do was tell my body to do one thing and it would do five follow ups to that one thing in response.

    That training session was both the most constructive session of the Sharah that I had ever performed, and also felt like the absolute shortest.

    I felt like I was only just getting somewhere when a sword came slicing towards me from the gloom of the early morning.

    On instinct, I moved away from the sword and without looking or thinking I made a similar motion as I had done so yesterday. This time, instead of the strain of walking through mud, it now felt more like water, and the pull on what I now assumed to be the ether inside of me was far more willing to acquiesce to my whim. My body began to virtually hum with power just before the movement was entirely completed, and when it did the snap of power within me releasing was immense.

    The next slash from the sword was soundlessly swung wide, sending the arm of the assailant careening off to the right, before it was quickly and expertly reeled in, and remained at the assailant's thigh.

    It was eerily quiet, given the amount of power that I had thought that was contained in that blast of kinetic energy. I gave the assailant another look, expecting to maybe see one of the older Jothian boys or their father, but was instead greeted by the face of a jovial Mayer. With Rethi off in the back watching on with wide eyes and gaping mouth.

    “That packs quite the punch, Max.” I was about to open my mouth to apologise, but Mayer waved his hand dismissively. And turned to walk away, assumedly with us to follow but before he turned he leaned in closer to me.

    “Don’t use that on anyone but me until you have that under control. That would have ripped Rethi’s arm off.” He winked at me, a little grin the met with the mischievousness of his eyes.

    Then he walked off, Rethi and I scrabbling to follow.
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 31: Combat

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 31: Combat
    We walked after the man with some level of cautiousness. The initial attack had been a surprise, and I wouldn’t let that be true for another.

    I kept on my guard, and Rethi at my side did the same. We walked the familiar road to the clearing outside of town, leaving behind the small town for the time being.

    When we reached the middle of the clearing, Mayer simply turned, which startled both me and Rethi into a ready stance. I noticed that Rethi’s ready stance was good, and Mayer saw the appreciation of it in my eyes.

    “The boy hasn’t been slacking. He has been my most willing student besides yourself, and he always ends up sleeping out by where you are practicing.” Rethi froze, as did I.

    “I didn’t know that?” I said questioningly in Rethi’s direction. The boy went bright red and stammered a bit, but Mayer’s gave a wide grin.

    “I’m surprised you didn’t notice it, especially after Rethi being so close by when you were attacked by the Jothian boy.” And Mayer was right too. Rethi had no reason to be there unless he had been there for far too long in the night. I turned to Rethi again and, without meeting my eyes he mumbled.

    “I like watching it. It’s soothing and it’s like it makes a nice sound.” A thought sparked in my brain, but I pushed it down for the moment. This wasn’t the time for questions and answers.

    Mayer then waved his hand in the air dismissively.

    “Alright, since you are both trained to the point where it is reasonable that you learn actual combat, both in your physicality and in technique, it’s about time we did that. Along with that Max, you will be learning to control your newfound telekinetic abilities, and hopefully not blow any arms off today.” Mayer laughed light heartedly but I didn’t. Not exactly a humorous mental picture for me.

    “We will start with a simple hand to hand bout between your and Rethi. Max, you will have to pull your punches.” He stated and waved his hand in our general directions. We turned to each other and hesitantly raised our hands in a guard. Mayer just made a short, harsh sound that we took to mean ‘go’.

    We hesitantly circled each other. I was far bigger and stronger than Rethi, this wasn’t really a fair fight, and I don’t think it was meant to be. I was probably the strongest person physically for miles, by virtue of the stat system that seemed to be all important to the Champions.

    I didn’t want to hit Rethi, or really participate in combat all that much in the first place. Call me weak, or a wuss, but I was born as far away from violence as I possibly could be and raised in one of the fairest societies in the world. Violence was the furthest option in my mind when it came to how to solve an issue.

    But here? As seen by the actions of that Jothian boy, violence wasn’t so far from the surface, always a possible action to take. Now, I had to adopt that mindset, or be crushed by those who did.

    I put my hesitancy aside and moved in swiftly on the boy. I tested his reaction to a simple punch. His reactions had very clearly been modelled after the Sharah, and he was surprisingly good too, his movements spoke of little discordancy to my ears. He obviously didn't have the breadth of time that I had put into training, but he made up for it with his obvious swiftness, recovering from slight missteps without delay.

    I was still faster, though. I punched again, and saw through his actions and moved in swiftly, using my far superior strength to then restrain him thoroughly.

    Rethi put up a struggle, but it was futile. I was far superior; it was like wrestling with your older brother before you hit puberty.

    Mayer called it, and I moved away. Rethi looked a little chastened but took it in stride.

    “Now, Rethi, you see where you stand. You are strong maybe for your age, maybe you could even beat some older boys, but as soon as you get into a fight with an adult, you will be crushed. Plain and simple.” Then Mayer turned to me.

    “Time for you to learn where you stand.” A feral grin bloomed on his face as he started to move forward. An instinctual and primal fear came along with that grin. I quickly began to backpedal, but Mayer moved deceptively fast. He gave me no time to prepare, and quickly began punching at me with ferocity I hadn’t experienced before.

    I dodged as best as I could with the little warning I had been given, taking a glancing blow to the shoulder, and feeling like someone had thrown a rock at me. My steps became uneven, and I quickly moved to correct it, but Mayer was there, ready to capitalize.

    I desperately moved away as I felt the fist sail through the air and tried to take advantage of the man’s overly forwardness and kicked out at his legs, ultimately hitting him.

    A little bit of satisfaction ran through me when I realised that I had hit him but was then let down when I felt like I had just kicked a boulder.

    Mayer laughed what might have seemed like a pleasant laugh but was overshadowed by his fist hitting into my chest with all the force of a truck. The wind was pressed out of my lungs with an almost audible woosh and I was left lying in the dirt, panting, and trying to get my breath back.

    A hand appeared in my vision and I grabbed it. Mayer lifted me off the ground like a carboard box and pulled me onto my feet.

    “And now you know your place. This is the start to becoming strong. Knowing that you are incredibly, pitifully weak against any who want to do you harm.” Mayer pulled the sword that he had attacked me with before out of the ground, where he must have stuck it somewhere in my ‘fight’ with Rethi.

    “I won’t be using this for today and will only be teaching the sword later to Rethi, as he is the only one able to actually use it. Today will just be bout after bout,” He looked towards me, feral grin still present, “and you, Maximilian, will come to learn just how brutal a fist fight can be.”

    Brutal it was. I didn’t not believe the man when he said that I would learn, but I think I simply underestimated how badly I would want out of this whole thing.

    Rethi was far quicker to adapt to the brutal tactics needed for a fist fight, and started to do some serious damage, even when I overpowered him almost absolutely. And because I apparently regenerated from wounds incredibly fast, Rethi had been commanded by Mayer to go all out, no holds barred.

    This did indeed mean that he did everything from biting, doing his best to mangle my scrotum. It is just as unpleasant as it sounds.

    The sheer brutality of the boy actually began to shock me when he managed to get a finger inside my eye socket, and temporarily sent that eye blind. It recovered mere minutes later, thankfully.

    There was a newfound respect for the small boy and his brutal tactics. He didn't even seem remotely fazed by his actions, and I was the total opposite. If I hit Rethi just a little too hard, I immediately felt bad.

    At least at the beginning.

    It didn't take long for Rethi to Iron that out of me. I knew that tomorrow I’d see the boy covered in bruises and feel absolutely terrible, but when the boy is trying to gnaw your nut-sack off, you aren’t exactly giving much credence to that thought.

    It only took a few hours, and Rethi was entirely worn out and probably sore on every inch of his body. I thanked the boy, and apologised for it all, but the boy just grinned haphazardly and trudged off home.

    I now realized that it was just me and Mayer now, and that meant that things were about to get 10 times worse.

    After an hour of sparring with Mayer I was fairly sure I had broken most of my major bones in my body. Mayer was clearly just as brutal as Rethi, and many times more skilled at doing damage.

    One time he had grabbed and flung me by the jaw, ultimately breaking the jaw and ripping open my cheeks from the force of the throw, that felt odd when my cheeks began knitting themselves back together.

    The moral of this lesson became clear throughout the many hours of abject torture. It showed me all the places I excelled, and where I faltered, and gave me an opportunity to change it on the fly to avoid the next horrible injury.

    The upside to this was that I learnt that Champions were effectively impossible to kill unless you did it all in one go with a mortal blow. If you give them a minute to run away, then you have to fight a Champion who is back at peak physical condition.

    Totally unfair, but I can’t say I’m complaining. It’s a major asset to me and makes it far less likely that I could die, but I’m not invincible. No matter how you look at it, it the injury is grievous enough, or in a bad spot, I will still probably die from it, despite my ludicrous healing ability.

    It did mean, though, that I could effectively train in battle like you would in a game. Balls to the wall.

    I trained for many more hours, until the sky began to darken when Mayer spoke, breaking out almost silent string of bouts, aside from grunts and occasional screaming, of course.

    “That’s enough of tearing you apart,” I sighed in relief, “It’s time to work on this telekinetic shifting of yours.”

    I nodded, then stood there, unsure. Mayer rolled his eyes.

    “Just try to hit me with it again, hold back if you can.” I shrugged and made the same move that I had two times now.

    It worked perfectly, all the different pieces coming together to perform a single movement that made my body crackle with energy. This time, I restricted the feeling of pulling from within me, limiting the amount that had been pulled from what I assumed was my reserves.

    There was a soundless explosion on Mayer’s chest. But he didnt move and acted as if a pillow had hit him.

    “That’s good. You did an excellent job at restraining the amount of ether that went into that particular blast. We will call it a kinetic blast for now, seeing as that is all it does. I have a suspicion that it is less a blast, and more a transference point for kinetic power that you are pushing kinetic energy through, resulting in the blast.”

    Honestly, that was a more advanced analysis than I was expecting. Not that I thought Mayer was dumb, or an idiot. More that I was surprised at the almost scientific way the magic was described. I nodded my head.

    “I feel like it is one word in a sentence, and that it is simply the start of it. Like saying ‘I’ or ‘You’ to start a sentence.” I shrugged, a bit ashamed of the incredibly unscientific and imprecise and somewhat clunky explanation. Mayer however, seemed to appreciate the idea and thought on it for a moment.

    “That is an interesting way of looking at it. It certainly makes a degree of sense. For example, there are many ways to enact a shift. Some use incantations, some use rituals, and some use simple hand signs to enact it, some even simply use their mind, but there is always a way that they enact a shift. It seems that in the case of kinetic, or telekinetic shifting, you must use your entire body to enact a reliable shift.”

    I was immediately glad that Mayer could use the sparing information on how it felt to further his understanding, as well as making me not look like a fool.

    “So, I guess I will have to discover more words to the language?” Mayer nodded and smiled appreciatively.

    “Exactly. I cannot say that I am an expert of all things shifting and the various ways that they can enact a shift, so I don't have many reference points but my own way that I shift, which so happens to be the polar opposite of how you do so.” He outstretched his hand and a little ball of flame floated above it.

    He had made no obvious incantations nor movements to suggest that it had anything to do with the physical, so it only really left one option.

    “You shift with your mind entirely?” Mayer nodded and put away the little ball of flame.

    “So, my advice on exactly how to shift would do far more harm than good when it comes to this quite unique way of shifting. It will more than likely come to you as you practice more and more, but you probably won't be able to do anything all that interesting for a while, if my experience has anything to say for it.” I agreed with that. It was a bit crazy to ask for more than this only a day after I had gained the ability to shift. Mayer had told me that it usually takes seeks at least to shift for the first time, so I had a sneaking suspicion either the Champion abilities or the Sharah is helping me out here.

    A thought hit me. Mayer instantly saw the thought hit my brain, but said nothing and watched on, eager to see if anything were to come from it. Mayer and Rethi had mentioned Laws before. It seemed to just be a different name for physics principles and such, which means I had a tiny little bit of an understanding.

    The current, at least as current as when I was still on earth, physics theories all tend to agree that energy never really gets destroyed or created out of nothing, it just changes form. So, you might ask where the kinetic blast is coming from.

    I summoned my hammer, the silver soul metal leaking from my hand into a solid shape far quicker than I could have done so many days ago and hefted the oversized thing onto my shoulder. I thought about what I was going to do for a moment and then turned to look up at Mayer.

    “Mind if I hit you in the chest again?” Mayer’s eyebrow arched in amusement and interest and he nodded. Only a moment afterwards I made my move.

    Before, I was using the stamp of my foot as the point where I ‘released’ the ether from within me to enact what I had ‘told’ it by letting it go from me. But releasing that ether is only one part of the whole.

    The action itself was like the words, and the releasing of the ether was like a full stop. But when you are saying a sentence, there is more than simply just words and a full stop.

    There is emphasis.

    I made the same movement as before, but as I completed the move, I held the ether in for just long enough to slam the hammer downwards into the ground, releasing the ether upon impact.

    Mayer’s eyes went wide as he was hit by an incredible force. He was blasted back, forced to utilise air shifting to stop him from flying upwards and away from the ground. He skidded to a stop, his feet never truly leaving the ground, but leaving little trenches in the ground where the man had travelled to a stop.

    I was immediately worried and unsummoned my hammer and ran over to him. I asked if he was okay, but I only found him laughing uproariously, clutching his stomach in a bout of unguarded mirth.

    He managed to wrangle his laughter in to where he was only giggling every few moments and spoke.

    “You can tell me about how you did that later, but for now, I think that I am going to go eat dinner and go to bed. Definitely don’t use that on anyone but me just yet.” He laughed, and walked off towards his house, leaving me to ponder.


    Mayer sat over his desk, writing into a small journal, humming thoughtfully to himself.

    He wrote:

    Day: Whatever, forgot to count.

    Started the boys doing real combat training today. Rethi seemed to surprise Max with his ferocity, which is good. Rethi will probably never grow to be as big as Max, but I can teach him to be more ferocious and cunning. He is even progressing quite quickly in the Sharah, just about as immersing himself in the practice as Max himself. The boy goes out and watches Max perform for hours, even sleeps out there.

    Max doesn’t seem to realise, but Rethi just about deifies him. Respects him more than me by far. Rethi will be a good addition to Max’s repertoire of people to know in the future. And maybe even my successor, in all the ways that implies.

    Max isn’t a natural born fighter like Rethi. Doesn’t quite have the brutality in him. But for what he doesn’t have in natural talent he tends to make up for in wit. He is never going to be as good as Rethi will eventually be at skilled fighting, but with some of the things that Max has going on in his brain, his seemingly unending dedication to training and his burgeoning power, I can only see that he will thrive in a fight.

    At the end of the lesson I decided to go over some of the shifting to try and analyse his ability. He made some interesting remarks, and then he got this strange glint in his eye. Maybe it was realisation, or maybe it was something else, but not a moment after he summoned his weapon and enacted the same shift as before, but now using the hammer as a focal point (?).

    I didn’t get an explanation off of him. I couldn’t let him see the damage he had done to me, or I think he would have been scared of what he could do. He is too soft to experience real consequences for his power just yet. Soon, but not yet.

    Mayer sighed, then put away the pen that he had bought many years ago for a ludicrous price, and even all these years later it still worked like it was new. He let the page dry for a moment, shifting some air over the pages and then closing the book.

    He got out of his chair and winced, he moved towards his bed and sat down, then slowly prying himself from his shirt. Underneath was a chest covered in purple and black. Every movement hurt the older man, not having experienced so many broken ribs in many years. He grabbed a small vial from his dresser and downed it without even looking at the contents. He growled at the foul-tasting concoction but laid down on his bed and started to feel the mending of flesh and clicking of bone as it knitted itself back together. As well as the horrific pain that came along with any good healing potion.

    It was going to be a long night.

    A/N: Four chapters remain...
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 32: Double Time

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 32: Double Time

    The world whirled around me as Rethi hammered his fists into my skull. The sickening, jarring blows knocked my onto my ass and into the muddy earth. I groaned in pain and disorientation.

    Mayer had strictly forbidden me from hitting back against Rethi for the time being, I was simply becoming too strong physically to reasonably control my strength in fights as vicious at they were getting. It had been maybe a week since we began the training, and already Rethi was destroying me in sheer ability. Of course, if I were to actually hit back I would wipe the floor with him, but he would tear me up with scratches and bites even if I did want to.

    I sighed, laying in the mud for a moment while the vicious scratches and lacerations healed on me. I mentally checked my stats while I naturally healed the damage.

    [Might: 53]

    [Mind: 36]

    [Agility: 42]

    Honestly, I had learned to keep tally of my stats in my head as the achievements hit. I hated bringing up the stupid stat screen, in all of it’s simplified ridiculousness, but I needed to make sure I wasn’t too far off with my own tally sometimes. Big numbers though.

    I lifted myself off the ground with a grunt and got back into a fighting stance. The stupid stat screen always managed to get me angry enough to keep going.

    Rethi came towards me like lightning bolt. I dodged easily and cleanly. This repeated until Rethi caught me out on one dodge, and then I would resort to blocking his attacks, then he was get a hold of me and start tearing me up till I go down.

    This was how it went, over and over again for hours. Rethi was a very dedicated boy, especially when it came to fighting with me.

    It would, however, be remiss of me to not mention that I wasn’t playing by the same ruleset that he was.

    He was playing the game of ‘whatever it takes to win.’ I was playing by the rules of the Sharah, and only the Sharah.

    For example, once Rethi manages to hit me once while I am using exclusively Sharah movements to dodge, I then immediately switch to using exclusively Sharah moves to block his attacks.

    This way it doesn’t take an hour for Rethi to bring me down, and I get to understand the Sharah more in more situations. Another benefit to doing so?

    Learning the language of the Sharah.

    The movements I use are curated ‘words’ that I believe are most effectively and making ‘sentences’ that denote dodging or blocking. This is mainly done with footwork, but Mayer has been displaying more upper body movement upon my insistence. I think that he only really wanted me to learn the Sharah for its foot movements technique, until I stumbled upon the ‘language’ of it.

    The arm movements have added more words, and better ways to express myself through the language, but I still felt like a toddler who was mashing words together in desperate hopes to find a sentence that described what I wanted.

    The only thing that I had going for me in this regard was that my body would tell me when I screwed up a ‘word’ or got a ‘sentence’ horribly wrong. The Sharah toed the line in what the body was truly physically capable of. Not in a muscular sense, or else I’d simply overpower it and out-stamina it with my seemingly endless supply, but more in the sense that it toed the line of physical impossibility. If you made a step wrong, it wasn’t too uncommon to have to use another ‘word’ to offset the mistake in the previous ‘word’, thus creating a ‘sentence’ that didn’t make sense and would fail.

    Don’t worry, it’s as confusing to practice as it is to try to understand. Mayer seems to understand the idea of the whole thing and agrees with my methods in trying to train it, but he cannot hear it the way that I do. Rethi, however, is able to.

    Rethi has a spectacularly sharp mind when it came to fighting and movement, and so the Sharah seemed somewhat within his wheelhouse. He didn’t have the same comprehension of it that I did but was quickly able to tell when I did something that ‘sounded’ bad.

    Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have much interest in uncovering the Sharah like I do. He is interested in the shifting of it, but I think he sees the Sharah in the same way that Mayer does, a means to an end, rather than a path to follow.

    My ability to shift, admittedly, hadn’t increased by all that much since I first was able to use my kinetic blast.

    I had found the first word to the ‘sentence’ and found that I could give it emphasis with my hammer, but other than that, I was awaiting the second word that I could use.

    Rethi began stabbing at my eyes and ears with his fingers, and his finger did manage to get into one of my ears, followed by the familiar pain of having my eardrum destroyed.

    I raised my hand in surrender, and Rethi stopped. I didn’t surrender often because there was always valuable information to be picked up from every part of training as vicious and hardcore as this, but I wanted to rest my mind for a while.

    Rethi tailed me silently, his eyes on the trickle of blood leaking from my ear. I could feel his hesitation, his mind whirring before coming to a halt and his mouth spitting out a question.

    “Does it still hurt, Master Max?” I slumped down in the shade of a slightly taller bush that we had been using to store water and clothes. I raised my eyebrow as I pressed my fingers to my ear, feeling no pain, and began to scrub at the side of my face and neck when the blood trickled to.

    “No, the eardrum has healed already. Why?” Rethi laughed and scratched his head, his unkempt hair rustling has he did so.

    “I mean, when I hurt you and stuff.” I gave him a flat look and he stammered on, “I poke your eye out and rip it out of your head, and not ten minutes later you have a new eyeball in your head. Sometimes you don’t even make noise when you get hurt, and most times you make noises that could be the sort of grunt you do when you get out of a chair or sit up on a bed.” I laughed and nodded.

    “You’re right, but no. I do still feel pain. In fact, I believe my sensitivity to the pain has only really increased. I know all the shapes, colours and tastes of it now, thanks to you and Mayer,” Rethi gave a wry grin, “What has actually changed, is more how I deal with it.”

    I looked up to the sky and found it was starting to get later in the day. After a moment of thought, I laid back my shirtless body being graced by the cool embrace of the vibrant green grass.

    “Rethi, I’m not sure that I’ve been the best employer to you in these past few weeks.” Rethi immediately opened his mouth to protest, but I waved the words away.

    “I’ve found myself in a tough spot, Rethi. That means that my focus it going to be all over the place, most likely for a very long time, maybe forever. However, right now I have time and I feel like I’m not using it as wisely as I really should be.” I said, staring off at the sun that was slowly being occluded by our orbiting planet in our shared sky. I turned to him after a moment, finding his face with a slight furrowed brow.

    “I don’t think that’s fair, Master Max. You are a Champion. I don’t mean that because you are one, that you’re not tied by the same rules as everyone else, but more that you are suddenly in a worlds wide game for survival of the fittest.” I nodded gently.

    “Maybe.” I ran a hand over my face, feeling a sort of exhaustion that could only be found in stress. The small boy grinned at me.

    “Master Max, a war is coming, and you are preparing yourself for it. I am just a kid of fourteen years, when it all comes down to it. I wouldn’t be able to face what is coming, not yet, but you can.” The boy looked up at the sun, the sun hanging in the sky by but a thread.

    “As far as I see it, Master Max. You have my interests at heart. You have this world’s interest at heart. I don’t know what your plans are, but I’m sure that it will be something that I can wholeheartedly follow.” Rethi turned his face to me, his face steel, absolute.

    “And I will follow.” The boy stood and brushed his pants off, slowly walking away.

    I was a little shocked to hear those words. In that moment, I saw the absolute will that Rethi had behind those words, and it was both endearing and absolutely mortifying. Endearing in that I know I have someone who believes in me and what I can accomplish, but absolutely mortifying in reality of the belief he has in me. I am just a guy. I’m not special. I can kind-of-sort-of read minds, but other than that I am totally useless in the face of a collision of my world’s best and brightest.

    I could never compete with Einstein in physics, not even remotely close. There was almost surely some seven-year-old with a better grasp of physics than I do. It was just that, but with everyone that was a Champion.

    It came to me as a freezing cold stab to the gut.

    Mayer once spoke of the power of empathic shifting; that I would be able to use it to convince a room of some of the most powerful people in the world to achieve my own goals.

    It was becoming more and more obvious to me, as I my mind began to whir, that I was going to have to do just that. As my mind hit maximum speed, I felt a familiar concoction of calm and pondering that was Mayer’s eternal emotional state.

    “Mayer, let’s talk as we fight.” I yelled, while standing from my position. Mayer’s ever precise form was striking against the glaring sun, its red anger on the horizon for being forced away in favour for its sibling.

    Mayer whipped forward, and I punched into his attack, knowing that it wasn’t possible to dodge or block his attack effectively enough.

    “What do you wish to talk about?” The man’s deep but gentle voice rumbled as My fist hit his shoulder like a pebble hitting a boulder, and he broke my shoulder bone. I cracked out with my leg, meeting his lifted leg’s shin and likely fracturing my own shinbone.

    “I’m going to need to convince Champions to join in with my idea of protecting the world from those that wish to go home.” Mayer grunted and threw and punch into my stomach that made me reflexively keel over, and he then slammed an elbow into my back, while I took weak shots at his legs and stomach.

    “Indeed. You’re unlikely to ever to be strong enough to do this alone, and not vicious enough to do so either.” He shot a knee into my face, breaking many facial bones.

    It took over a minute of pummelling before I was able to talk again.

    “I need to know what happened last time to do that. I need an idea of what will happen in the future.”

    Mayer nodded while I punched and kicked at him and he simply brushed them away with his blocks.

    “It took over 2 years to get the war into the public eye, but by then the Champions had all created their own camps, all defined by their almost complete lack of regard for the people their actions affected. They introduced technologies that destroyed kingdoms and economies and waged campaigns that sucked the life from the earth and destroyed the population of nations. You need to find a way to avoid that.”

    I coughed at a foot was rocketed into my chest, breaking basically everything there and probably puncturing a lung.

    “I think I need to find those that don’t care to go home.” My fist flew at Mayer’s face.

    “Good choice, those that wish to go home are the hardest people to convince of your goals.” He caught my hand and crushed all the bones in my fingers and pulled harshly, ripping my arm out of its socket.

    “I think I may have to amass an army created of those that don’t care to go home and use their skills to create an opposing force to the ‘go-home’ groups that will inevitably form. Only one can go home, after all.” Mayer nodded.

    “You need to somehow keep those Champions that ally with you in check. You will need a powerful inner circle who are able to police those that misbehave in your camp. To find such people will be nigh impossible.” I grunted in pain as he slammed a foot into my pelvis, shattering it.

    “Maybe so, but I think a true neutral party would be a good place to start. I have a feeling that a science-y type would be best. I can’t imagine many of them have much interest in going home, but they are probably most likely to play both sides of the war. I need to get one of them on my side, at least. They will be absolutely invaluable, even in comparison to an extremely strong warrior type.”

    “Good thinking. You are already making headway on your ideas. But be warned, that you do not truly have long till the war comes into fruition. It will only be cloak and dagger wars for so long, and with you amassing a team, it will only be a catalyst for a faster moving war.”

    I laughed a pained laugh, prompting an eyebrow raise from Mayer.

    “Seems like I need to speed up my training then.” I grinned; my teeth covered with blood.

    Mayer laughed and came at me, double time.

    A/N: Three chapters remain...
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  6. Assblaster5000

    Assblaster5000 Know what you're doing yet?

    Jun 7, 2020
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    All of this talk about The Sharah acting as 'words' that influence the fundamental principles that govern the universe is really putting me in the mind space of Elder Scrolls lore and all the Tonal Fuckerytm that goes on there. More specifically the Sword Singers of the old Yokudian people, now The Redguards, since this is a martial way of manipulating 'words' to alter reality.

    Not a clue if that was your inspiration, but it's a neat connection I've noticed.
    Sarius likes this.
  7. Sarius

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    I've never actually given the elder scrolls series a proper playthrough, to be honest, so if there has been any influence from there, it's been very minimal!I'm not exactly sure where I got inspiration from with the Sharah, but I think it was from other webnovels and such. I liked the idea of a hidden language, obfuscated behind something else, so I tried to incorporate it here!

    We will see what comes of it in future, because while he may become more powerful as he understands more of the language, he probably won't get to 'talk' to someone in it for a looong while : ))

    Thanks for reading! : ))
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  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 33: A Beast to Wield

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 33: A Beast to Wield

    Training became horrific after that. Without my need for sleep, rest, or even breaks, Mayer had me doing some sort of training at all parts of the day.

    The initial period of strenuous exercise only lasted maybe a week and a half before it seemed like I wouldn’t receive achievements for them so easily. Mayer made me move to training my Agility next, after my Might, and it took around the same period to cap out for that as well.

    However, while I sustained a particularly terrible injury in training, I received this.

    [A Blinding Pain: You have experienced and overcome a horrific pain. +1 Mind]

    And after that, it was on.

    Mind training had quickly become one of the highest priorities, especially after coming into direct contact with kinetic shifting. Thus, Mayer started to inflict more painful and horrendous injuries upon me.

    This usually resulted in Mayer using his shifting abilities to injure me. Including charring an arm to the bone, and letting it heal. If it had healed from a clean cut at my elbow or shoulder, it would have been fine, probably would’ve barely hurt in comparison. But as it was regenerating from the vestiges of the charred remains, the extreme pain was astounding, as I could feel the nerves firing back up and into the destroyed flesh.

    It took less and a fourth of the time than it would’ve if the arm had been cut off, so it became our new priority for me to learn where the limits of my regeneration was.

    Mayer did know that complete destruction of the brain was fatal for most Champions, and also if all blood was lost that it was also fatal in disadvantageous circumstances—such as a magical wound that wouldn’t heal with no way to counter it.

    However, over the month of extreme training, I had to learn where the lines of effectiveness were. When was it simply more effective to cut the limb off and let it regenerate on its own, rather than sit and wait for it to heal without intervention?

    The line became clearer and clearer over time, with a more instinctual edge to it. We kept the system as empirically accurate as we could, but in the end my gut instinct lined up with the results almost perfectly.

    Burns, for the most part, seemed relatively easy for my body to repair, but extreme mangling took far longer. Let’s say that my limb was absolutely obliterated under a huge rock. It would take far less time for me to cut it off, because then it isn’t a game of piecing the jigsaw back together, and just following the pre-set pattern in my DNA—or something like that.

    During this same time, Mayer began to teach Rethi the sword. A short sword, in Rethi’s case. Just as he had been with hand-to-hand fighting, he was also a bit of a prodigy with a sword. Mayer had told me that a reason for his excellent growth was that he had a real, living opponent that he couldn’t kill but could damage as much as he wished. Practically the best practice dummy that existed.

    It made sense to me, and Rethi’s blade taught me a lot of harsh lessons, and the same was true for my body teaching Rethi harsh lessons about his blade. Turns out, when your enemy doesn’t care about being cut, he can trap your blade in between his own bones. Painful, but useful.

    With my healing, Rethi’s sword caused a lot of pain, but was all healed quickly. Many of the fatal blows that Rethi was training to execute barely hindered me. I was, however, terrified of blunt weapons.

    A sword made a clean enough cut, especially with a master using it. My healing is naturally strong against that sort of damage. If a blunt weapon hit my centre mass with enough force, it would deal enough damage to put me out of the fight for at least a few good minutes.

    Of course, that amount of damage, from either weapon, would generally kill those without crazy amounts of power and defence like Mayer.

    Rethi also started to grow, and pretty rapidly at that.

    The little runty beggar started to gain mass and height. Shooting up to a surprising five foot five, his body soaking up nutrition and physical training like a bone-dry sponge. At this point it had only been three months into the training, and maybe four months since I had first brought him to my employ.

    It was a relatively classic, if exaggerated, growth spurt. I wasn’t sure if I had ever met someone who had grown an easy five inches in almost as many months, but after asking Mayer, he told me that the foods that we were eating were of extremely high nutritional value, and that he wasn’t remotely surprised—especially with it coinciding somewhat with puberty.

    Apparently, there were villages that were founded extremely close to areas that housed extremely nutritional foods and game, and some of those villages commonly had children in their mid-teens be six foot five or taller.

    It seems my height wasn’t unusual in the grand scheme of things, after all.

    For all the progress that Rethi made in his physical department, I made in the mental department.

    My understanding of the Sharah soared throughout my training. I learned many words, most of them either having little effect on what I already understood or were effectively totally unusable for the time being.

    The most useful words that I ended up learning were those that allowed me to shape the way the ‘kinetic blast’ formed. For example, it allowed me to visualise the kinetic blast as water that would hit the target and wrap around and almost spray the kinetic energy off to the sides of the target.

    This could theoretically be useful if I used kinetic blast at someone and they had people behind them that I also wanted to effect, creating somewhat of a shotgun of force. I wasn’t to fragment the force of the kinetic blast, and it seems like something that will be outside of my wheelhouse for a while yet.

    Another form of the kinetic blast was effectively a cube of force, which acts very similarly to the original, unshaped form of kinetic blast, but kinetic blast originally starts with more of a ball like shape, so the cube allows for more surface area to be effected by the blast. The ‘water’ kinetic blast technically would effect more surface area, but is far less powerful than both the cube and the spherical blasts.

    Mayer and I were desperately working on being able to create a slashing or piercing blast, but all the ways that felt like they could pan out dead ended abruptly, which initially made me think that I needed more kinetic energy to produce them. That ended with me simply putting many holes in the ground.

    It was frustrating, because I felt like I had all the words and the emphasis to properly create an edge, but it just wasn’t coming to fruition like I had hopes. That was when I started to feel like I was getting sluggish with every action that I completed in the sentence that I thought would allow me to do a slash blast.

    It took me maybe a week or so to figure it out. With Rethi’s help, really. I was explaining the issue to him, showing him step by step what I thought I was doing correctly, when he asked me, ‘who the hell speaks that slow?’ For months I had been taking a slow and methodical approach to it all, but if this were really a language of body movements, then I was totally forgetting ‘cadence’.

    With that little glimmer of a thought, I started training at speeding up my movements, whilst also teaching myself proper cadence of how to enact a shift.

    It didn’t take long before the way that I moved to enact a kinetic shift changed drastically.

    Mayer had commented, day one, that if I had to make the big movements that I was doing to shift a kinetic blast, then I would be useless in combat. I desperately needed to find a way to properly shift without having to make too many crazy movements.

    The concept of cadence changed everything. Not only did it bring about the understanding of ‘speaking’ quickly and sharply to enact a ‘bladed’ shift, but also how to speak quietly and subtly. It was when I casted my first raw kinetic blast against Mayer with him barely noticing the movements that I realised just how deeply nuanced the Sharah really was.

    When I found more and more of these concepts and added them to the list of things the Sharah was comprised of, I began to feel like I was floating face down on the surface of a sea, staring into the inky blackness, knowing something is there but too mesmerised, and perhaps terrified, to swim down.

    With the new understanding of cadence being applied to my use of the Sharah, everything was recontextualised. For example, training with Rethi where I was only allowed to defend.

    Beforehand, I was simply using the tempo and speed that I thought was needed and was fit for the situation, but now that I was being aware of the natural cadence that the words wanted to be spoken in, and the context that surrounded them, my mistakes in dodging became far fewer and my blocking became extremely effective.

    Before long, it was a game that Rethi simply couldn’t win. In a head on fight, even with a sword, Rethi wasn’t able to down me. It felt good, but I knew deep down that it was a pitiful win. With the abilities that had been granted to me by default for being a Champion, it was surprising that it took this long for me to reach this stage. Mayer had laughed at me in his gentle way when I told my thoughts on the matter.

    “Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t like you didn’t work to get to this stage. Also, keep in mind that you are basically self-learning one of the most elusive martial practices in the worlds. Your comprehension of the Sharah continues to blow me away, and I am one of the only foreign ‘certified’ practitioners.”

    It made me feel better, but even still, the threat of the Champions who were at least this good on the first day here. Over the few months that I had been training the thought slowly began to eat at me, terrifying me more and more until I started panicking during the night-time hours. Mayer had nodded at me and told me that it was the curse of a man tasked with a job far bigger than himself.

    It was still a few more weeks until I managed to shift the kinetic blade, which graced me with an achievement.

    [Sharp as a Tack: Through movement and a great deal of mental effort, you have sharpened raw kinetic force into a blade. +5 Mind]

    The notification brought a begrudging smile to my face. It was the largest upgrade in Mind I had received in months now. Kinetic blade had taken a lot of work to properly shift, and it would be a long process of taking the crazy mess of words and cadences and minimise it down as much as possible to that I could one day cast it without crazy dance-like movements.

    From then on out, the remaining month or so resulted in me learning to better wield my hammer. Mayer helped me with the basics of wielding an oversized and overly heavy weapon, but I was left to my own devices to leave how to use it in conjunction with the Sharah.

    At first, I tried desperately to compensate for the massive size of the weapon with massive, slow and incredibly loud movements, and after Mayer knocked me on my ass a few times the way I wielded the hammer began to shift.

    Rethi was too weak for me to play around with my hammer near him, so he mainly watched on the sidelines, training in some fashion all the while.

    Over the course of a week, I went from completely overkill compensation for the size and weight of the hammer, to calm quick and quiet movements to compliment the hammer.

    In that week, it became abundantly clear to me that I would never be the centrepiece of the fight, it would be the hammer. It was simply too much of a behemoth to treat any other way.

    So, instead of trying desperately to wield it I simply let it wield me.

    The massive thing really only needed a little nudge from me, and clever use of gravity and centrifugal force, and I had a hammer that could bludgeon someone to death in a simple swing, much like the forest wolf that I had killed on the first day.

    I learned to quickly summon and unsummon the weapon once a big blow had been dealt, in preparation for when it either got stuck in whatever I had hit with the blow and also so the enemy wasn’t able to exploit the downtime of my trying to reposition the hammer so that it could be swung again.

    Once I mastered the ability to summon and unsummon the hammer, my ability to wield the hammer went up exponentially. The time it took to summon and unsummon the weapon became second nature, making the swings in which the hammer was still in the process of forming from the soul metal much easier to reliably land.

    It was when I added shifting into the mix that I started to understand just how dangerous I really was.

    I could both use the hammer as a source for kinetic force in shifting, which Mayer quickly told me that he would rather wasn’t used on him or any living creature without the intent to maim or kill. However, the problem with this was that to properly utilise the kinetic force took a lot of concentration and wind-up time. It took almost ten seconds to do it reliably and without the kinetic potential dripping through my fingers.

    Instead, I could use my own kinetic force to compliment the force of the hammer itself, which was far more achievable.

    At this stage, all it really consisted of was using a kinetic blast on the hammer at opportune moments to add to the force of the hammer’s movement. The transfer rate of the kinetic blast into the hammer was poor, but at the moment it was the best option I had.

    I mostly used the stamp of my feet because the weight of the hammer itself actually contributed to the strength of the kinetic blast.

    When the month began to come to an end, I started to actually come around to feeling comfortable wielding the beast of a thing.

    It was only then that Mayer approached me, with a grin that would put the Cheshire cat to shame on his face.

    “Congratulations, you finished basic training. How about a good old beatdown?”

    A/N: Two chapters remain...
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  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 34: Brutality

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 34: Brutality

    The first blows from Mayer came fast and hurt just as much as they always did, making the bones inside of me rattle and creak like wonky floorboards.

    I quickly moved to the side, dodging another set of blows and summoned my hammer, swinging it down over head. Mayer dodged with ease, but I used the missed blow’s kinetic force to create a cube shaped kinetic blast, launching Mayer back off his feet for a few meters. He was much more prepared for the blow in comparison to the first time he’d taken it head on.

    I quickly unsummoned the hammer, letting the metal melt back inside of me. Mayer didn’t give me the chance to ready another blow, and he closed in as soon as he saw the hammer begin to unsummon. He flanked me with all the ferocity that Rethi usually showed in his bouts with me, landing a painful kick to my side and cracking a few ribs that immediately began to heal.

    I slammed my foot into the ground, enough to push Mayer away from me slightly and put him off kilter. I moved into a flow of words, a sentence of the approach of a predator. The words took me uncomfortably close to Mayer, and I rose my knee into a powerful strike between the legs. Mayer grunted, but grabbed hold of my arms and threw my body towards the ground.

    However, I expected that he would try to throw me, so I prepared a sentence, and used the force of the throw to then launch Mayer into the air, allowing me to use his grip on me against him, ultimately slamming him into the ground instead.

    I used the words of retreat as Mayer got up from the ground, dusting himself off.

    “Good going, Max. You’re a much better fighter than you were only a few months ago. Your insight into the Sharah shocks me more and more every time I see you use it.” I could only give a dry chuckle.

    “Don’t be all conciliatory, Mayer. We both know that you are playing with all your limbs tied behind your back,” I looked the old man over, seeing nothing but a few minor abrasions, “I don’t see any real injuries on you, anyways. It’d take me hours to take you down like this.” Mayer took a step, and then he was right in front of me.

    “I guess you’re right.” He said, as his hand flew towards me. I dodged the first, forming the hammer in my hands and in the way of the second punch. His fist recoiled off of the hammer, and he grimaced.

    “Bet that didn’t feel any good.” I grinned, using the shaft of the unformed hammer to fend off a few attacks. Mayer grunted, but didn’t bother replying. I swung the formed hammer head at him, making him step back. I followed him, using a centrifugal motion to retain the force of the swing. Mayer held back even further, but I proceeded to use all my might to force the hammer to swing over my head, the massive silver coloured hammer streaking through the air like a comet.

    Mayer dodged slightly to the left and kicked the hammer head off to the side, nullifying any kinetic force that I could have pulled from a missed swing.

    I began to unsummon and move back, but Mayer was on me. His first fist landed directly on my throat, crushing my windpipe with ease, and then he started pummelling me in my face and upper chest.

    I was still very vulnerable to being knocked out, so I dodged and weaved as much as I could, but the limited access to oxygen, and the desperate wait for my windpipe to regenerate, made it incredibly difficult to keep up, landing me a few solid hits to the head and both collar bones being broken.

    When I felt my windpipe regenerate with a familiar sickening pop, I took a long, slow breath to stop me from coughing too much, and used my willpower in the moment to focus on coughing the blood from my lungs quickly.

    I hated coughing up blood, but I had gotten good at it over the months I had trained. I was constantly breaking bones and having flesh ripped up in my face and throat, so I had to get good at managing it in battle, because it was likely going to happen more than once.

    Mayer raced forwards at me, trying to capitalise on my current task, so I spat a mixture of blood and mucus into his face, making him recoil somewhat. I took a deep breath and roared as I started to execute my most dangerous sentence.

    The movements were smooth, and extremely snappy, the air around my limbs almost vibrated with the excitement of my silent words. My body danced with a deadly promise. Mayer’s eyes widened and he began to quickly move in to try and stop my incitement of the shift.

    He was too late. As my foot slammed against the ground, the fragile earth giving way beneath my monstrous strength, an invisible blade screamed through the air, seeking to bisect the older man in two.

    Mayer dropped to a knee and reinforced his position, putting every physical defence that he could between him and the blade of raw kinetic energy. The invisible blade hit the arms that he had erected in front of his face first, tearing and biting into the muscle of his forearms. He quickly began to rise against the blade, defying the force and trying to guide the force to a less vital area of his body.

    It took him a few seconds until the force behind the blade was depleted, barely able to make it to the bone of Mayer’s forearms. He rose to his feet, opening his mouth, ready to congratulate Max on his newest addition to his arsenal…

    Then he saw the hammer slam into the ground in front of him, the earth shaking ever so slightly as I angled the handle of the hammer towards the man’s centre mass and grinned like Rethi did. A vicious little expression, almost demonic in nature.

    I let the immense energy from the hammer blow hit the end of the hammer, blasting it up from the ground, rocketing the shaft of the hammer forward towards Mayer’s chest like a spear blasted from a cannon, with only the meagre guidance of my hands as a guard rail of sorts.

    Mayer desperately tried to twist away from the blow, but the immense speed of the shaft was overwhelming. It caught the old man on the shoulder, an issue more with my aim than Mayer’s reflexive movement.

    As saw as the shaft touch the man, I realised that this was different. This wasn’t like every other time I had hit the man, where he would shrug it off with so little damage that it was almost infuriating to me.

    This time the shaft began to chew through Mayer’s flesh. I heard the crack as the bones of his upper arm, collar bone and shoulder were pulverised by the sheer force of the blow. My stomach dropped as I saw the shaft of the hammer dig into Mayer’s flesh like a hungry shark, devouring his meat and feasting on his pain.

    The man then yelled– no, he roared.

    There was a blast of almost incomprehensible energy, in that moment I saw the natural elements surround Mayer and aid in the ways that they could, the earth rose around the man’s legs, the air at his back pushed with its mighty gale, the flame flickered into life, fed by the wind and burning like gets at his back, and the water drained moved with the earth, aiding it in forming and solidifying like stone around his legs. And what brought it all together, was the golden glow of a powerful light radiating off of the man, of a power far more than anything I’d encountered before.

    Mayer’s roar lingered in my ears, the force of the elements assisting him with all their might, spurred onwards by the warm, golden light that wreathed him.

    Before long, the force behind the hammer had been depleted, and Mayer’s power disappeared along with it. Mayer’s body slumped to his knees, his hand hovering over the damage to his shoulder.

    I raced forwards, suddenly terrified of what I had done to him.

    “Mayer!” I almost yelled. Mayer grimaced as he looked up at me.

    “Yes boy, you fucked me up pretty hard.” He said, a harsh pain in his voice, but none of the venom that I had almost expected. I ran a hand through my mane of brown hair nervously, mind whirring with what words I could possibly say to rectify this.

    “Oh man, I didn’t mean to…” I stammered, but the man slowly interrupted me with a grunt.

    “Of course you meant to, you idiot. I was pushing you to do it.” He looked up at me and gave me a pained grin. “Look at how damn strong you are, boy. You’re so strong you could probably kill me if you did it right!”

    Mayer’s voice was pained and laboured with strain from the injury.

    “Shut it Mayer, I don’t want to kill you. What the fuck should I do to help right now?” I said, my words coming out a little too fast, and almost tripping over each other.

    “I have them!” A voice called out from ten or so metres away. I turned quickly, seeing Rethi stand their with an awestruck expression, holding a small wooden box in his hands.

    “Get over here then!” Mayer growled, and Rethi ran over with nimble feet and quickly opened the box, pulling out a sizeable opaque vial and then handing it off to Mayer quickly, before nervously awaiting more orders with bated breath.

    Mayer practically threw the thing down his throat and grimaced at what was probably the taste of it. He reached out to Rethi’s shoulder and patted it gently.

    “Did you get to see something good, kid?” Rethi nodded with fervour.

    “It was amazing! You were both so fast, and Master Max’s shifting was so fluid, it’s like he knew what was coming! And…” But I interrupted the boy’s rambling excitement.

    “What the hell are you talking about! I almost killed you!” I said, a little bit of anger leaking into my voice. I was met with a quizzical gaze from Rethi, and an amused one from Mayer.

    “Of course, Max. That was the whole point.” He laughed gently and gave me an almost admonishing look, “You didn’t actually think I was so strong that I’d be able to stop you forever, did you? I was overwhelmingly powerful in comparison to you months ago, but back then you were basically just a normal human with a big ass hammer. You are five times stronger than that just in raw statistics alone, along with your usage of the Sharah and kinetic shifting. You are probably somewhere in the realm of twenty to fifty times stronger in a fight than you once were.” He laughed painfully.

    “You are growing to become a real monster, and you don’t even realise it yet.”

    I didn’t know how to respond. I knew that I’d grown stronger, but twenty to fifty times stronger? That was insanity to my ears. I could barely conceive of myself being anything in the face of the old soldier, his overwhelming might now vanishing abruptly to show me the reality to my unprepared mind.

    “I didn’t want to do that to you.” I said, unable to stop looking at the gory mess that I’d turned the older man’s shoulder into.

    “This is the first step for you, Max. You don’t know what brutality is. Not truly.” I almost opened my mouth, ready to decree that brutality was all I experienced for months in training, but Mayer cut me off.

    “No, you don’t really know. You have experienced brutality knowing that it couldn’t truly kill you. This is your first true example of that. The first step in becoming a true warrior. A true Champion.” Mayer looked me dead in the eyes, and I knew that he was right.

    It was all still too much like a game to me. All too easy to brush off and forget once the wounds heal. But now I’ve brutally injured Mayer, and I know that there is no way that I’ll ever truly forget that wound. The pulverised flesh and bone leaking blood.

    “Why now?” I said, my voice quiet against the whirlwind of emotions in my mind.

    “Because now is the best time. Now you need to go out and truly fight. This time, against the environment.” He grinned.

    “You’re gonna go monster hunting.”

    A/N: One chapter remains...
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  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 35: A Little Trip

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 35: A Little Trip

    I sighed for what felt like the fiftieth time this morning.

    Preparing for the trip was… interesting.

    It came along with about a weeks’ worth of preparation. The length of the trip itself was probably a handful of days to the location and the same back, but entirely depended on the pace that me and Rethi set.

    If it were just me, I would sprint full tilt for a day or so and be there, but Mayer said that was too easy—another way to exploit my statistical advantage over gaining any real, worthwhile experiences from the trip.

    I didn’t really agree, but Mayer knew his shit, and if he thought that it was pertinent enough to discuss, then it was probably worth adhering to. As much as I was dreading the send-off in a few hours, anxious beyond all logical reasoning, I saw it for what it was. A bird flies the coop situation.

    Even back on earth, I had never really managed to get out of my parent’s house. I had reasons that could be used as a compelling and rather convincing case, but the real truth was that I barely had an independent bone in my body.

    Not that I was totally reliant on everyone for everything, but I can’t say that I worked particularly hard for anything specific, and even then, I simply cruised on by in life. The height of privilege, I know. I was waiting till after university to really figure out my independent living situation and all that, but now that was the furthest possible worry I could have.

    Instead, I was effectively preparing myself to trek across unfamiliar lands, using only intuition and information that I can gather from people to find ultra-powerful people who may or may not obliterate me on sight.

    Luckily, neither Mayer nor I were complete buffoons, and sending me out on that sort of trip with essentially a wave goodbye is considered to be sending me to my sure death. Though what I’d gain on this trip that would help outside of this sleepy little road town? I couldn’t possibly know.

    Rethi was off saying goodbye to his newly acquired girlfriend. Gram’s daughter, Alena. I say ‘newly acquired’ in the sense that they only realised that they were dating a few months ago, but they were basically dating beforehand too.

    She clearly despised me, for whatever reason she had cooked up. According to Rethi, she was a vindictive one, and that seemed to be the main reason she had no friends, other than Rethi of course. Other than there not being that many children running around, of course.

    Rethi, after a while of being around Mayer and myself, had become a very relaxed kid—an unlikely voice of calm, given the way that he fights. He was probably the only person I knew that could put up with the girl, judging from my few interactions with her over the past months—none of which went well.

    It was then that Rethi made his appearance. He looked a little more haggard than he should be this early on in the day, and his bags were hastily packed, meaning that he’d probably have to properly repack them—before Mayer saw them and made him unpack and repack everything ‘army style’. Which was code for painfully meticulous, of course. Not to say that it didn’t work.

    “Got a good chewing out?” I chuckled. Rethi grunted, unamused by my prodding.

    “She still thinks that you’ve enslaved me or something. I have no idea why.” He grumbled moodily, a distinct departure from the usual chill atmosphere he assumed. I could think of a few possible reasons why she might think so but saying them out loud would be counter-productive, to say the least. So, I merely shrugged and put the young girl out of my mind. She was going to be the least of our worries out on the road to have a nice blood fuelled tea party with a monster of some sort.

    A few hours passed of preparation and double, triple, and quadruple checking that we had everything.

    Mayer showed up a few times and pointed out minor things, and so on.

    Then the big send-off came and went, in which Mayer briefed us on why we were going out there, and what we were probably going to face.

    “We haven’t had traders come by from the smaller road towns to the south for a good few weeks now, and everyone is struggling to get by with the resources we have from the north. The people who do manage to come by were almost all attacked by a group of monsters out along the path a few days out. You are going to go there, investigate and eradicate if necessary.”

    With that, he had sent us off.

    Mayer had taught us how to interpret this kind of information and how we should handle it. He wouldn’t give us any more than what he already had because, simply, you wouldn’t get any more information in a real monster subjugation request.

    And so, the journey began, with Rethi on horseback and myself on my own lovely mare. We took it easy. There was no point in rushing our way there only to be too fucked to do anything but get killed, so we kept the speed reasonable.

    The first few hours of travel consisted of us talking about the theoretical points of the subjugation, like what monster it was likely to be, how far along the path they would be, etcetera. But really, it was basically shooting the shit. There was no way that anything that we were saying would hold up to the reality of the situation. The conversation started to morph and contort into whatever appeared into our heads at any given moment. Which eventually lead us to the topic of Rethi’s choice in women.

    “I have no idea how you can put up with that, to be perfectly honest.” Rethi looked at me funny for a moment, and then shrugged.

    “She really isn’t that bad.” I gave him my best blank look.

    “Remember the time she saw you covered in my blood and she decided that she’d run around the town telling basically anyone who would listen that I was torturing you?” Rethi looked sheepish.

    “No-one got hurt in the end, it really wasn’t that bad.” My blank stare continued.

    “She tried to stab me. With a broken broomstick handle.”

    Rethi opened his mouth to reply but closed it and sighed.

    “I know. I know. She’s crazy overprotective. Always has been.” He looked down at the horse that was shifting beneath him as it sauntered down the path and scratched at the back of the horse’s mane.

    “I don’t think she has quite gotten her head around me not needing protection anymore, and my attitude changing to reflect that. It’s making her worse. Paranoid even.” I nodded. The boy certainly didn’t need protection anymore. It was doubtful that anyone in the small town would be able to lay a finger on him before he had ripped their throat out.

    “Maybe she is unsure about the power dynamic of your relationship shifting?” Rethi chewed on his lip for a bit and grunted in affirmation.

    “Maybe. We are on rocky ground at the moment, with me coming out here with you. She thinks I’ve gone insane.” I laughed.

    “Maybe we have. We are going out, hunting for a group of monsters. Most people would think that we were crazy.” Rethi joined in with my laughter and we moved on to lighter topics, like shifting and the Sharah.

    The sun eclipsed by the other planet in the sky, turning the sky a brilliant golden colour, the planet warping the light slightly making it almost look like a golden orb. It was quite the marvel, something I’m not sure that I’ll ever truly get over seeing.

    Our conversations slowly died down into a comfortable silence, like a fire that once blazed, but now hummed with delightful warmth.

    The path became less maintained the further we went out, becoming more and more uneven, which would have made it much harder to travel on foot. It wouldn’t have bothered me at all, but I could see why the addition of the horses was a wise move by Mayer. So still, despite the rapidly eclipsing sun, we forged ahead, agreeing to set up camp two or so hours before the sun truly disappeared.

    It was in those few hours of walking that I started to feel a strange sensation on me. Tracing me. I looked around not truly perturbed, but a little wary.

    The sensation went away but came back a few times over the course of the next few hours. I couldn’t pin the feeling on anything in particular, so I had to leave it alone for the time being.

    Rethi and I struggled to set up camp, despite doing it with and without Mayer’s help on several occasions. The change from open plains to the outskirts of a towering forest apparently made for a much more difficult time setting up tents.

    It took us a good hour to properly set up the camp and the fire, and then another thirty to make and eat a simple dinner, which I ate more out of habit than any nutritional value I could get from the simple soup.

    The one benefit that came with being sleepless was that I was always capable of taking night watch.

    I didn’t tire, so a drop in perception due to fatigue wasn’t something we needed to worry about. A fact that Mayer had made abundantly clear that we factor into our decision making on the road. It was also another one of my ‘cheats’, in his words.

    Honestly, unless Mayer hadn’t shoved the importance of having a watch rotation down our throats on many an occasion, we wouldn’t have even bothered having me out on watch in the first place.

    This time however, I started to see Mayer’s reasoning.

    The feeling from this afternoon was back, and much stronger this time. It became abundantly clear that either someone or something was following me, and it was close.

    I didn’t move, making sure that whatever it was wouldn’t be alerted to the fact that I know they are there. I readied a sequence of movements, primed to obliterate anything that so much as moved.

    It was then that I heard it. A small, almost imperceptible shuffle in the woods near our camp.

    I sprang into action, swiftly moving from a sitting position into the proper stance, then flowing into a collection of movements that sung of destruction. I snapped towards the source of the sound and slammed my foot into the ground with a sharp pounding motion. I felt the power of the slam rush through me and begin to run its predetermined path through my body as I finally understood what it was that my eyes were telling me.

    My mind went into overdrive. I desperately forced body to move a little more, to change directions of the blast just a touch. I growled with the effort it took to change a sentence already set in motion, but my complaining legs and arms complied.

    The diverted force shot outwards, raw energy roaring towards, and then into the base of a tree, exploding a haphazard circular hole in the sturdy wood, sending splinters flying everywhere, some even stabbing into my flesh only to be pushed out less than a second later.

    I stood there dumbfounded for a second, my eyes and mind disbelieving. However, after a moment of this, my mind kicked back into action and, almost involuntarily, I roared.

    “What the actual fuck.”

    A/N: Stay tuned in the next few days for a new chapter and an announcement!
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  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 36: A Stowaway Found

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 36: A Stowaway Found

    I had, quite honestly, been a little angrier than I should have.

    Though it may have presented as being angry at someone, I was really angry at me.

    I should have known. It was so clearly obvious that it was almost painful to observe in hindsight. I guess that’s what I deserve for going lethal straight away, rather than being normal and sleuthing it out before trying to explode them into tiny little bits with a kinetic blast—something that Mayer had specifically said to not use on anyone but him.

    I sighed and ran my hand through my dusty brown hair, brightened from the light of the campfire that had been resurrected from coals in the middle of the night. Rethi sat in front of me, half dressed and eyes wandering between the two of us, unsure who to be angry with in the first place. I looked to my side, seeing a short, dark-haired girl sitting next to me, somehow both shellshocked and also wearing a combative expression, one that I had become well acquainted with over the past weeks and months.

    “What exactly happened, Master Max?” Rethi asked, kindly but worried. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Alena Gram, Rethi’s girlfriend, make a scandalized face. I quickly interjected before she could start yelling.

    “Had been feeling eyes on me all night and was trying to figure out what it was,” I paused before I continued, “I acted rashly and decided to get the jump on whatever was watching us.”

    The moment after I finished speaking, Alena’s top boiled over and she began to yell.

    “Damn right you acted rashly! You almost killed me, you murderous-” Rethi turned to look at her, his eyes flashing a brilliant green in the light of the campfire.

    “Alena. What are you doing out here?” He slowly intoned, each word a carefully laid brick, a platform for Rethi to stand on. Rethi was surprisingly good at this stuff, he had obviously handled a few situations just like this. The master was at work.

    “I, uh…” She trailed off, looking for words while sneaking scathing glances at me. After a moment of Rethi patiently waiting for a response, he nodded at her, as if he had heard an enlightening string of words. I raised an eyebrow, honestly more amused than any shade of angry now.

    “So, Alena,” Rethi continued with his slow intonation, “you followed us out here, on foot, to a place you knew would be dangerous. You then tried spying on someone you knew to be one of the more powerful individuals in our area, for possibly hundreds of kilometres, and you didn’t expect that you might be killed?”

    His tone the entire time was not chiding, nor was it accusatory. He was reframing the subject of the conversation itself. From Rethi’s standpoint, I was beginning to see how he was less angry with me, past the fact that I’d come close to accidentally killing his girlfriend. But also, because we are out on a main travel road on Virsdis, a historically hostile planet. If you were going to do something so colossally stupid anywhere, it better not be on Virsdis.

    Alena had nothing to say to that, brightening to a shade of red that only contrasted her pale features from her dark hair further. It was a mix of anger and embarrassment that I felt swirling around inside of her. She was a mess of emotions, this girl—always was. It’s why I was so sceptical of why Rethi would even think about getting together with her, for really any reason.

    But, in her, I think I saw a small inkling of that reason. It’s definitely not because she was hiding a golden heart, but because that anger and indignation extends from a desire to protect. Just an overwhelmingly unhealthy manifestation of it.

    Rethi sighed heavily, placing his head in the palms of his hands. The boy had been wired with worry after being awoken by my shouting. He had thought it was bandits, he had been prepared to kill. Instead, he had to deal with the near death of his girlfriend.

    “You know why I told you that you couldn’t come. You knew why.” Rethi said, exasperation leaking into his voice. It wasn’t venomous, but a mixture of sadness, betrayal, and disappointment. Rethi stood up, his muscled body extending upwards to his full height that loomed over his girlfriend, even if she’d been standing. He looked her in the eye for a moment, a small battle of wills, before Alena gave up and looked away towards the trees not so far from the small camp. Rethi turned to me, seeking guidance.

    “What do we do?” Alena swung her head around, indignation flaring.

    “You are letting that… man choose what happens to me?” Such vitriol from such a small woman, it was almost surprising. I didn’t bother to give her a response.

    “Well, she’s already out here, and was committed enough to run the whole day as well,” I looked at her, honestly slightly impressed, “so I don’t think we should even bother bringing her all the way back to town just to have to ride all the way back out here. If she wants to risk it with us, then she can.” I shrug my shoulders, and Rethi looked concernedly towards Alena, who’s expression betrayed the small wave of relief I saw in her.

    “But what if-” Rethi started, but I waved away his question.

    “That’s all you. If she is going to put herself in danger, then she may as well have someone around who can help her if she royally screws it up.” It was a risky call, if Alena were injured for whatever reason, it would come back to this decision being the origin of the problem. But I couldn’t honestly see Alena just giving up following us. I barely knew the girl and even I could tell that she was fanatically devoted to Rethi, for whatever reason.

    Rethi looked at me, confused. He hadn’t ever really had a position of authority or responsibility, aside from caring for his mother, so to essentially be given the wherewithal to dictate how to manage his girlfriend on this trip was a new experience.

    “Anyways, I’m going to bed. You can sit out here keeping watch with your girlfriend. At least we’ll have more people to keep watch.” I gave a nod, and I was off to ‘bed’.

    Of course, I didn’t sleep, I hadn’t slept in months at this point. Oddly enough it had become hard for me to understand why I ever enjoyed sleep, other than the simple refreshing of the mind. Now I found the idea of sleep, or willingly giving myself to unconsciousness, a deeply unsettling concept.

    So, instead of sleeping, I spent my time listening and experiencing and thinking. A sort of meditative technique for those with infinite mental and physical stamina. I had initially developed it as a mental rest while performing the Sharah, but it became something that I simply did in downtime that couldn’t be used effectively for anything else.

    At first, pushing myself to feel and experience the emotions and thoughts around me was hard, if not downright uncomfortable. Me being a natural empath and also capable of shifting were supposed to be mutually exclusive. But for reasons unknown to me or Mayer, other than the canned response of ‘you’re a Champion’, it wasn’t. I haven’t been able to scrounge out much information of the Long Dead or Soul-Seekers, other than what Mayer knows. Everyone else just know of them as legends, beings that once existed and now definitely do not.

    How my ability to interact with ether independently from being a natural empath wasn’t immediately obvious, though I guess it was intuitive enough. I was able to ‘transfer’ a small amount of my emotion sensing empathy through my ether, something that I was sure would strengthen through becoming more adept with shifting and utilising ether.

    Which, at the moment, I was definitely not adept at. Sure, I was capable of using shifting, enacted by the Sharah, but when I just tried to move ether on its own; it was a whole different ball game, and I wasn’t even knowledgeable enough to be able to understand why.

    I could hear the quiet but relatively tense conversation outside of the tent. It came down to the fact that Rethi was disappointed that Alena wouldn’t let him trust in his own judgement, and Alena was mad that Rethi would allow himself to be subservient to me. Fair enough, I’m not sure I’d take too warmly to a partner of mine being subservient to someone else. But I’m not sure she cared to believe that Rethi was not a slave, and never would be.

    It was a long night after that. I was still a little shaken by the fact that I nearly blew a hole in the chest of a young girl. Cold blooded killer, I am not.

    The sun began to peek from behind Virsdis, the warm glow slowly adding colour to the rough canvas of the tents. The early mornings were enchanting on Virsdis. Virsdis had a side that was always facing the sun, the light side, and a face that was permanently dark, where the Nightfell have taken up residence—in the legends, anyway. Night on Virsdis came when Orisis blotted out the sun with its mass for ten hours as it passed in its orbit around Virsdis. In the morning, after ten hours of night, Orisis moved just enough to let the sunlight refract off of its atmosphere, creating a bright and almost heavenly display of the ‘sunrise’.

    I wonder if people awaken early to see it, or if the other Champions look upon this and think as I do. Maybe they are too busy doing anything else other than look at it, in fear of potentially coming to find that this is more than a proving ground. Or maybe that this world was anything more than a game that the God who had put us here had created just for us to mess around in.

    I got up out of my reclining position, readying myself to tackle the day, when I felt a pair of eyes flit over me, just for a second. I was instantly snapped out of my reverie, as I quickly spread my ether out, trying to connect to anything I could with it, trying to use my natural empathy as a sort of radar.

    I found Rethi and Alena sitting on the ground near where the fire was, and something else. I moved quickly towards the tent’s opening and threw the flap open, only to see Rethi and Alena sitting by the last whispers of a campfire.

    Rethi’s alert eyes wandered over to where I was standing and gave me an odd look as I stared intently at the campfire.

    “Everything alright, Master Max?” I hesitated, giving the boy a nod only after a few seconds of staring at the campfire. I could have sworn I felt something. In fact, I’m entirely sure I felt something. What it was, I couldn’t know, but it was a far odder experience than the silly girl tailing us, who was slumped onto her boyfriend’s shoulder, sleeping away her watch duty.

    I gave Rethi a light scolding eye for that, and he scratched at his face sheepishly.

    “Alena, up.” I said, calmly. She awoke slowly, her eyelids fluttering and then finally opening, starting with a squint. It was a rough wake up, made harder by the fact that she was forced to run after us for the whole day, so she didn’t fall behind. She groaned out something in a very teenagerly way. I chose to ignore what it may or may not have been, based on Rethi’s shocked expression.

    “We are going to pack up camp and get moving for the day. You are expected to help pack up, and then you will ride on one of the horses while we travel. There will be no complaining, or I will take you back directly to Master Gram. Are we clear?” I state harshly. Not too harshly, of course. She was still a kid. But the differences between a kid here and a kid back home are immense. If she couldn’t pull her weight, then that was her fault and many would not grace her the option of being escorted home, no matter her gender or age.

    Alena wiped sleep from her eyes and nodded, getting up with Rethi and I to pack away the canvas tents and roughly washing the cooking tools that Rethi had used last night. It took thirty odd minutes before we were back on the road, the grumbling girl up on my horse, trying her best not to fall off, with adequate help from Rethi, though I suspect that he was trickling out information because he found her jostling around on the horse’s back secretly hilarious.

    Throughout my jog alongside the horseback riders, I continued to search for the origin of that odd presence that I had felt only hours before. It was something almost wholly alien feeling to me, and yet I couldn’t catch even a whiff of it.

    I was concerned that there was more than just a little girl following us.

    A/N: Hello, hello! Welcome to the first chapter of the new backlog of chapters that I’ve written for Unwieldy.

    From now on, there will be somewhere between 3 and 4 chapters posted a week of this story, but not to fret! You can get more of my content in reading my other stories, Fixture in Fate and Ribbon! Also, if you’re interested in having a place to chill out and receive updates on my stories, check out my Discord as well!

    Of course, this is all find-able in my signature!

    Hope you all have an excellent day!
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  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 37: A Slip of the Tongue

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 37: A Slip of the Tongue

    The trip was slated to take around three to five days, depending on our pace. With Alena around things stayed approximately the same. Though she was clearly just as inexperienced with travelling as any of us, at least on horseback.

    I really didn’t care all that much about her presence, I was fairly confident that I could take this whole shebang on by myself, and the addition of Rethi was really just so that I had a companion that had skill and experience. Something I was beginning to realise was just as invaluable as having experience and skills yourself.

    It made me reflect on the stories I had read in my fairly recent youth. Stories of ultimate soldiers and academics, capable of doing every task themselves, an island of their own. In fact, they may as well be walking countries, all the expertise and skill that you’d need was available until it was convenient for the plot to strip it away to make the character rely on someone.

    I had realised that I wasn’t going to be one of these characters. It just wasn’t a realistic possibility. Sure, maybe I had literally double the time than a regular person, on account of not needing to sleep. But that would still mean that It’d take twenty years of fixated devotion to do what a ‘regular’ person was capable of in forty.

    So why not trust in those that had been walking that path for far longer than I? Would I not trust in Mayer because I have surpassed him in my insights, if not execution, of the Sharah? No, of course not. His opinion is still valid and extremely valuable to me, especially where my common knowledge of shifting and the general limits of extra human strength. He had been moving his body with the kind of strength I have only just begun wielding for decades.

    So Rethi was immensely valuable to me, in an odd way. A ‘manservant’, loyal and willing to do dirty work to execute on the goal of his lord. Though I wasn’t happy with the title and was thinking that ‘right hand’ was going to be a better descriptor in the near future.

    The road was increasingly becoming less maintained as we ventured forwards, fields to our right and forest to our left. The maintenance of the roads barely ever reached out this far, probably because there wasn’t much reason for loggers to come out this far, unless they want to deal with more wild forests and more dangerous beasties, which I guess is exactly what we are doing.

    My light jog beside the horses faltered as their speed slowly declined into an amble rather than a trot. It marked the first break for the day, the sun well and truly in the sky by now.

    Both Rethi and Alena hopped off their horses, Alena grumbling and rubbing her ass, giving my horse the stink eye. I just chuckled as I whipped out a fresh apple, offering it to the beast who gratefully took it from my hand.

    These horses had been impressively determined through the yesterday and today, making great pace. Mayer had procured them from a horse nut in the town over the other way from which we were travelling. Interestingly enough I could have easily ended up in that town instead of this one if I had walked upstream instead of downstream on that first day. Might’ve ended up as a stable hand to survive if I had.

    Alena walked over to Rethi who was currently letting his horse drink generously from the stream that followed the road we were following. It’d veer off at some point, according to Mayer, but never far enough to worry about getting water.

    I let my horse free into the field after taking off a training short sword from a clasp on the saddle. It wasn’t quite as sharp as the one that Mayer had loaned Rethi for actual fights, that one could easily cut through bone if wielded right, Mayer had demonstrated as much on me.

    “Rethi!” I yelled out to the boy, who turned before the sword hit him in the back of the head and deftly caught it. Mayer had done that during training to the both of us, so we did it to each other to keep each other up to snuff. He looked down at the training sword and grimaced as he turned to look at Alena, who instantly wrote her own story as to what was going on.

    “Give it your best today, we don’t have much time before we are fighting for real, and we want to make sure we both don’t die a stupid, horrible death.” Though it was incredibly unlikely that either would happen to either of us, I really wanted to make sure that the boy wouldn’t end up with an injury that would hamper his future for whatever reason. Small nicks were fine but, call me overconfident, we should be able to take out this whole group of forest wolves without being touched once. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rethi could do it singlehandedly—his training with Mayer really showing just how much work Mayer had been putting into raising Rethi as his ‘heir’. If we couldn’t take out these wolves together, then I’d be more than a little disappointed in myself.

    Rethi steeled his expression and moved forwards, throwing the scabbard off of his training sword, which was standard issue army if I remember correctly, and threw off his travel cloak, waiting for me to do the same. I just shook my head.

    “If I get hit then ruining my clothes is my punishment.” Alena’s eyes widened; she’d seen what that sort of sword could do to someone. She was baffled why I would care more about by clothes than my bodily integrity. Strange how priorities change when you pain and injury are fleeting to you.

    Rethi nodded and raced forwards, starting with a mix of the approaching steps in the Sharah and a flurry of sword strikes that Mayer had been belting into his head for months. I deftly dodged each flurry, knocking the last strike away with my forearm on the flat of the blade, then moving closer to push the boy back.

    Really, this was a game of tug of war in opposite, just with more swords and grievous injuries.

    The blade whizzed through the air as he used the force of my push to spin around and slice at my other arm, which I ducked and swept at his feet. He jumped, stabbing towards my lowered form. I moved in closer, reaching under his armpit and taking his sword wielding arm and throwing him further back.

    Rethi, not one to be caught on his ass, flipped mid-air and caught himself on his knees. I approached, unrelenting, punching out with heavy blows, enough to make the shorter boy’s body creak with the effort of parrying them with the flat of his blade. The reason he wouldn’t try to sneakily slice my hand with the edge of the blade is because I have caught his blade in the bones of my hands one too many times for him to try that with.

    I laughed as I approached, making the boy grin with exertion and a battle drunk glee. The exchange only lasted a few more seconds before Rethi took a last, desperate lunge at the precipice of the water stream. The world slowed as the blade approached my face, but I thought of something far more interesting.

    I used the split second to bring my hand up, and jam it onto the sword’s tip, impaling it to midway through the blade. As painful as it was, it really didn’t feel like all that much anymore. Pain was a hollow feeling, more a signal to my brain that my body had been violated than an actual sensation anymore.

    The blade slowed to a stop, and I grinned at Rethi, who could only look on in exasperation and frustration as I pushed my hand all the way down to the hilt and commandeered the pommel straight into the boy’s chest, winding him and pushing him the last step before the inevitable plunge into the water.

    It took Rethi a moment to resurface, before he took a gasp of air and proclaimed:

    “That’s cheating!” I only laughed, quickly followed by Rethi’s laughter from within the stream.

    This was when I turned to Alena, who simply watched on in a mixture of horror and fascination.

    “How does it feel to know your boyfriend is a badass?” Alena gaped as I laughed. I started to idly yank out the sword through between my middle and ring finger, quicker and surprising less painful than pulling it out the long way. I threw the blade aside and started to walk back towards my horse.

    “Wait! That wound needs to be treated!” Alena called as she ran over to me. Amused I turned to her as she roughly gabbed my wrist and lifter it to her face so she could examine it, only to see the wound quickly begin stitching itself back up, the ligaments and muscles reattaching to the relatively unaffected bone within the hand, before the skin slowly begun to repair itself. The skin was always the slowest to regenerate for whatever reason, but the skin didn’t really add all that much functionality if you didn’t mind a little pain, so it was fine by me.

    “How…” Alena trailed off as she watched the miraculous healing that comes with being a champion.

    “A gift of sorts, you could say.” Her eyes turned to mine, questioningly. Her dark hair complimenting the striking blue of her eyes.

    “Life shifter? Are you one as well?” She asked, a pure intensity dawning on her face. Rethi, who was taking off his damp clothing and wringing it out, stood very, very still. The reaction was immediate. Alena’s face lost all of its glee and her jaw clamped shut.

    “A life shifter?” I said thoughtfully. Alena paled with a stricken look, her emotions darkening severely. Rethi discarded the clothes he was drying in a pile in the grass.

    “A life shifter?” Rethi said, his voice a bit more shocked, and… worried?

    Alena didn’t deign to answer us, as she quickly walked away to where my horse was standing, her mind whirling with a frankly astounding number of emotions—a prominent one being fear.

    “I assume being a life shifter isn’t exactly a prestigious title?” Rethi nodded and I sighed.

    “Is it because of something stupid? Or is it well founded?” Rethi looked pained for moment before he answered.

    “They are also called Abomination Makers, Master Max.” Well founded, then. There was a moment of pause before the boy walked over towards his girlfriend and placed a hand on her shoulder. It seems that Gram was hiding more than he was letting on. A life shifter, huh? So, a healer, figuring from how Alena reacted to my regeneration. Could I have seen this coming? Maybe.

    I knew that Alena was weird, which was a good enough reason around these parts to suspect that they had something going on. Gram and Mayer were good examples, me included, I guess. And looking back on it now, I remember Gram’s face being very similar to his daughter’s when I had asked about medical horrors of the past. Abomination Makers. Interesting.

    To me, there was hardly a taboo. As long as you were able to shift it, then there was something to it, in my opinion. It could be as simple as shifting dust into existence, and I wouldn’t knock it until I knew whether or not something astounding could be done with it. Life shifting sounded like a good candidate for being able to do some crazy shit.

    I did some menial chores, brushing the horses, heeding them, drying off Rethi’s clothes before I decided that the two lovebirds had been given easily enough time to talk.

    “Alrighty then, are we done exposing deep, dark secrets to each other?” I got two glares out of that. I offered a chuckle.

    “Good! Time to get a move on. On the way we can talk about how this life shifter stuff works.” Alena paled, and Rethi looked about ready to go in and defend her.

    “No, Rethi. I am not going to have someone travel with us whose powers we aren’t sure of. If she is unwilling to talk about it, we will ride all the way back to town just to drop her off. Mayer will be made aware of the reason.” Rethi paled and Alena paled even further. Rethi looked at Alena questioningly before she nodded hesitantly.

    I threw Rethi’s now only slightly damp clothes at him, who redressed quickly and jumped on the back of his horse and gently begun to warm the horse up again.

    “Get ready for another awkward conversation.” I laughed as Alena struggled up onto the horse. And rode after Rethi, ignoring me.

    “Ah, sometimes Rethi makes me think that I’m the supporting character.” I chuckle as I began to jog after the two teenagers.

    A/N: Hello! Another chapter of Unwieldy down, and yet another strange thing within this little town. I’d bet my bottom dollar that Mayer was the reason for all the strange things happening. Maybe its a cosmic balance sort of thing. Either way, hope you all have a great day!
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  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 38: Hope

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 38: Hope

    The ride was punctuated with an uncomfortable silence. I calmly jogged alongside Alena, keeping my words to myself while the girl mustered the willpower to speak. It took a long time, hours in fact. For me, it may as well have been a blink of the eye, especially for someone who had trained in the Sharah for days at a time.

    “A life shifter is able to take hold of the physiology of a being, and transferring ether into it, allowing the shifter to manipulate the body of the subject with extreme precision. Often used to both heal and harm.” She recounted woodenly, as if reciting from a textbook. I wave my hand with mock impatience.

    “The real story.” I simply stated, for I knew there was one. No-one reacted to having an ability the way Rethi did without something being up. She grumbled discontentedly but sighed like a child trying to avoid her chores—only to do them in the end anyway.

    “Life shifters have a bad name. There is a fair amount of them, but if you don’t know what you are doing with the abilities then you can just as easily kill as you can save by total accident.” She shuffled uncomfortably of her horse.

    “So, there are many life shifters running around with no training trying to heal people and killing them instead?” I questioned, knowing full well just from the girl’s storm of emotion within her eyes that it wasn’t even remotely close to the full truth.

    “Yes, and the cults.” Rethi supplied quietly. Alena glared at Rethi immediately, but Rethi showed no sign of remorse.


    “Yes, cults,” Alena sighed, “they are large conglomerations of mainly life shifters who are obsessed with… human augmentation.” I hummed. Ending up with the nickname Abomination Makers wasn’t exactly singing the praises of the success of their experimentation.

    “I imagine that they aren’t great people.”

    “No. They routinely kidnap and experiment on children for years.” She spat vehemently.

    “And you? What are you?” She looked shocked and a little hurt before she swallowed her discontent and replied.

    “I–I want to be like my mother…” she paused for a while, and Rethi’s attention laser focused on her, I assume this is the first he’s heard of this, “she was a shaman in the tribes of Orisis. Father travelled out to meet her, hearing legends of one of the most powerful life shifters alive. Once they met, they became an unstoppable team of medical knowledge, Mother having an instinctual and experience-based knowledge and Father having a scientific and evidence-based knowledge.” She ran her had through her dark hair, brushing it from her face, only for the unfortunate breeze to defy her attempt.

    “So, you want to someday combine your father’s medical sciences and your mother’s innate abilities?” She quickly nodded, staring at me as if I were going to argue with her. I just shrugged.

    “Sounds like a good idea to me.” I say and continue to jog. There was an air of stunned silence and listening in on her emotions only told me how surprised she was that someone wasn’t openly combative against her ideals. I raised my eyebrow and her, giving her a small smile.

    “You know, where I am from people could only dream of people capable of life shifting as it is here. Damn the medical research, we had tonnes of that, just the ability to edit someone’s body so completely would change how we approach medicine for years to come. For this world to have people capable of what you can do? You are extremely lucky.” Now even Rethi was looking at me oddly. I had gotten good at telling what Rethi was thinking, just by virtue of being around the kid most of his waking moments and seeing almost all of the expressions he had to offer—I didn’t even need natural empathy for it. So, I continued.

    “I know you don’t think much of it now. What could a person capable of only saving one life change? Especially when tens of thousands die from simple physical injuries.” I turned to them, wondering if they were following along. Alena looked suitably confused, but interested, and Rethi’s attention was focused—as it was whenever I talked about small snippets of Earth, something I didn’t do very often, the wound a little too fresh. I hummed with thought, trying to find the words I wanted.

    “But what about when that is no longer a concern? When the same protection afforded by the most powerful kingdoms on Orisis spans the entire planet and this one, when monsters slowly become less and less of a threat as humanity and other races advance to such a level that they can be easily dealt with by a group of common soldiers. What do you think is the next biggest cause of death?” Rethi began to think, but before he could even think of an answer Alena spoke confidently.

    “Disease.” I snapped my fingers and shot finger guns at her cheesily.

    “Precisely. Once monsters and wars stop killing everyone, the next big issue will be illness, probably. I’m sure that the larger kingdoms have come up with ways of mitigating the spread of disease, they can’t have their populace be wiped out by a random virus. But when it becomes the largest cause of death, there will be a massive push behind improving working and living conditions, putting in standards for the food you eat, what materials are used to construct things, the creation of sanitation as a societal concept. Eventually, the world will reach a point where it becomes almost impossible to make anything any cleaner or more sanitary without massive changes in life as you know it. So, after the world has begun to clean itself, and the spread of disease has been mitigated to a point where many diseases will simply disappear, and many will be mitigated in other ways—like inoculation and later on, vaccination. So, what is the next frontier?” The two kids looked at me, enraptured by what I was saying, but unable to look that far into the future on a dime.

    How could they be expected to either? When the world was so concerned with actually surviving against monsters, what does disease matter in the grand scheme of things? I chuckled at their obviously feeble attempts to pick a ‘new frontier’.

    “What about diseases that have nothing to do with cleanliness? What about diseases that stem from lifestyle choices, or simply from existing in certain parts of the world and the insects that happen to be there too? What about birth defects that an unlucky child in thousands is afflicted with, or the various mental disorders that are inherited, at least partly, through genetics?” I shook my head at the two children in front of me who couldn’t possibly know just how terrifying and destructive these diseases are.

    “But with this power of yours? Life shifting could change all of that. Imagine that you were able to identify a chance that a child was potentially to be born with a rare genetic disorder that would make it impossible for them to live even a few years. Right then and there, you could eliminate that possibility right from the parent’s genetics and the unborn foetus. You could stop the cycle altogether.” I smiled at Alena. It was a moment of thinking before she seemed to slowly come to terms with just how far her ability could potentially stretch. I shrugged.

    “You have a long way before you reach even remotely close to that level yet, especially without accidentally making someone start leaking blood through their eyes.” I laughed lightly and Alena looked slightly disheartened by that, fuelling the darker parts of her emotions more severely than I had expected.

    “But just because the goal seems unachievable, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth pursuing. And who knows, you might accidentally achieve it.” The who teenagers adopted thoughtful looks, and even Alena’s storm of emotions seemed to calm down for a moment while she pondered. It’d be interesting to see what came out of this. Best case I get someone on my side that is able to heal people, and in worst case, I sow the seeds of my idealism.

    We walked in mostly silence for the rest of the day. Maybe the two teenagers had things to think about after my spiel, but that was fine by me. Silence was a good tool, giving way to some of the best thoughts in the end.

    The day slowly trended towards night, and after one more stop earlier in the day, we decided to take it in for the night, quickly setting up the tents and a campfire. We ate a quick dinner together, Alena and Rethi spending most of their time chatting quietly amongst themselves, which was fine by me, mostly because of the fact that I could feel the eyes on me again. I was sure now, the unknowable, alien feeling was coming from the campfire of all things.

    Honestly, I was less creeped out by it at this point, and simply confused. By all visible metrics, it was an entirely normal campfire, nothing even remotely interesting about it. But irrespective of my perception, there were alien emotions simply existing within the fire itself.

    When the two kids decided to go to sleep in the same tent—how scandalous—I stared into the fire, directly where I felt the emotions coming from. I think I spent a little over an hour staring into the fire before the emotions disappeared entirely. That just made me even more confused, was it contingent on–

    “I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself sooner, your companions were… having a hard time getting to sleep, as it were.” I jumped up from my spot on the ground, immediately summoning my hammer into existence the fastest I ever have. I took a swing at where I heard the voice coming from, and there was a loud thump as the hammer buried itself into the ground beside a portly man dressed in fine clothes, but not fine enough to be nobility. His face was the epitome of welcoming and hospitable, his head was balding too, only seeming to match his welcoming figure. I was entirely sure that the hammer was going to hit the man but soundlessly, and seemingly effortlessly, he had managed to dodge the blow entirely.

    “Ah yes, the hammer I’ve heard so much about. If I remember correctly you weren’t able to wield the beast of a thing for a while there. It’s good to see that you have made progress.” The man smiled encouragingly, in a way that I felt to my very core. It was inexplicable, but I had felt the same once, what felt like years ago now.

    “A God.”

    The God before me raised an eyebrow.

    “Indeed. Lord God of the Hearth Court, at your service. Fast on the uptake.” The man moved to sit again, gesturing for me to do the same.

    “I try.” I said with not much humour in my voice.

    “Yes, I know. It’s not exactly a normal occurrence a God descending to meet a Champion. In fact, if I recall correctly, the last Court of Gods that authorised contact with a Champion ended up being culled.” The man chuckled to himself. Though, the joke was a bit morbid for my tastes.

    “So then, why would a ‘Lord God’ deign to come meet one such as myself, if the price for so doing is that high?” I looked into the God’s eyes and felt that same alien set of emotions, but amusement bubbled to the surface most prominently.

    “An interesting conundrum, isn’t it? There is a reason of course, and that reason is you.” The God looked into my eyes with a thoughtful expression on his face.

    “Me? What’s so interesting about me in all of this?” I asked, genuinely intrigued by the turn of events. Surely I’m not the most important Champion on probably even Virsdis at the moment, so that’s certainly not the reason.

    “Intention! Intention, my dear boy.” The God yelled out. He saw my eyes glance worriedly towards the tent that both Rethi and Alena were sleeping in and he chuckled mirthfully.

    “Do not worry, I am a Lord God, I know how to set up a few rudimentary sound cancellation wards and such.” My eyes narrowed, seemingly lost in thought for a moment, but I prompted him.

    “Intention?” I resupplied.

    “Ah, yes. Intention. Do you know what those that fought in the last Champion War lacked so severely? The ones who were fighting against those who wished to return home, back to Earth?” The God pretended to ponder. His words were almost like an actor gently guiding his audience to the conclusion he wanted them to reach. I just raised an eyebrow at the God, and he chuckled merrily, delighting in being called out in his act.

    “Intention. Champions that wished to go home were filled to the brim with it. Their burning need overwriting the care for any life, army, kingdom, or Champions that would dare get in their way. And what did we have to combat them?” He asked, a slight variation on the pondering expression. This time it was more like an academic, conversing with another about complicated topics only they could speak on at their respective levels.

    “Nothing.” I said, but the God’s face fell, becoming a stone guise of distaste.

    “Fear. All we had was fear.” And I felt it through his eyes. That burning fear existed still within the God’s chest. A wildfire of worry and anxiety over whether there would be anything left to be the God of.

    “So,” the God regained his jolly expression, his emotions equalizing once again, “this time, before the storm truly hits, we need something else to power us.” He smiled, the simple expression filling me with an emotion that I wasn’t so familiar with, a complex thing born of dire circumstance. That emotion was…


    A/N: Hey there! Hope you all had an amazing Christmas! I didn’t post yesterday to spend some time with my family and enjoy the day as best as I could, but I’m back onto it now! Full steam ahead for little old me!

    Hope you all enjoy a Christmas gift, just for you! :)
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  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 39: A Welcoming Smile, A Quiet Word

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 39: A Welcoming Smile, A Quiet Word

    I nodded slowly at this God. It was an interesting gambit. To try and employ hope as a tool to drive the races of this world to survive against the oncoming war, it wasn’t the easiest ploy.

    “And how are you expecting to do that, exactly. It seems that the races did pretty well last time, all things considered.” I said, feigning a nonchalant demeanour. The God smiled heartily at me; the warmness almost radiant.

    “We of the Hearth Court have long since played the quiet game. We are Gods of hospitality, of safety,” he extended one arm as a scale, “however, we are also Gods of silent politics and quiet conversation.” The God extended his other hand, forming an equalized scale. He grinned at my raised eyebrow.

    “So you are hidden daggers of sorts?” The God scrunched his face up in distaste.

    “No, no. We aren’t nearly so uncouth. Well, some of us are, but as a whole, no. What we are, is the largest and most powerful conglomeration of deific information brokers.” His grin became radiant once again, filled with sly and cunning.

    “So, you collect information by sneaking peeks on people around campfires and in your domains?”

    “Precisely, young Maximilian!” He winked at me. He knew my name without me telling him. Great.

    “So, if you are successful as information brokers, why is the Lord God of the Hearth Court here to speak to little old me?” The jovial innkeeper laughed merrily and made a show of ‘thinking’ about his answer.

    “Well. Let’s just say that some other Courts believe us to be too powerful to be a self-interested party. Other than the divine power we receive as payment for our efforts, of course.” He smiled pleasantly, but if I could read anything from him, I could tell he was decidedly unhappy with that fact.

    “The other Courts are effectively trying to hold down your power in fear that they wouldn’t have a chance against you? Rather flattering.” He chuckled dryly at that.

    “I admit, it does sweeten the deal a little. However, it does not help when we see the worlds crumbling in front of us and we are powerless to do anything, lest the Courts themselves go to war.” He looked dismayed, but it was more acting. He perked right back up soon after.

    “So, you have chosen to involve yourself now? For what reason?”

    “Why, it is as simple as it could be, young Champion. It is our domain.” As he finished the word, I felt a strange alignment in the world that surrounded me, as if the world itself handed over its dominion to the God sitting in front of me, bowing at his feet and awaiting his order.

    “You’re intending to get personally involved?” The God scratched his full bearded chin at that.

    “No, Gods are unable to truly effect the worlds. Influence? Yes.” His sly grin returned to his face. He was an undeniably amusing God to be around, so bombastic in his intonation, hand gestures and faces, acting his way throughout the entire conversation. He was a social enigma incarnate, somehow being the person capable of making friends with anyone, hold a salient conversation with everyone and be the whole world’s best friend. I just sighed, a bemused smile poorly hidden on my face.

    “So, you have come to ‘influence’ me?” He grinned.

    “Well, you certainly were a candidate. We were looking for Mayer, initially—even though he has already been ‘claimed’ as such.” The large man winked at me conspiratorially, not elaborating on the interesting tidbit, “The man is a true war hero. He is well respected amongst the Courts. Even Arun is partial to him.” The jolly God scoffed. Arun, the God of Death here. Wasn’t he supposed to be impartial?

    “He is, of course. He’s a Death God. But he’s still a living being, capable of just as much, if not more emotional variance than you or I. Though it is hard to win his trust.” The smile on the God’s face was beyond pleased with himself. I rolled my eyes.

    “So you were looking for Mayer and ended up finding me along the way?” He nodded.

    “I believe one of us found you during a conversation about goals,” He smiled genuinely, “and you spoke words I wasn’t sure that I’d hear a Champion ever speak. Some of the Champions are more inclined to protect, but you are far more inclined than the rest. It begs the question, are you even part of the same species?” The God’s question was joking, but also holding enough truth in it that it worried me. If a God, Lord God even, found an observable difference between myself and the rest of the Champions, I couldn’t help but worry if it was possible for me to relate to them at all.

    “Regardless of the other Champions, your mindset has been unique so far, especially when dealing with the common folk. Your strides to ensure the safety of those in your employ, and even those that wronged you was unique in the fashion you approached it in. The letter was genius, by the way. That Jothian boy who attacked you is going to become an accomplished carpenter, it’s quite the sight.” The God nodded his head to his own assessments. Him knowing these strange tidbits was frankly unnerving. But I believe it just goes to show that the Hearth Court is capable of extensive research, even into the lives of those as small as the Jothians.

    “So, I’m an interesting prospective? For what?” This prompted another round of thinking. Although the thinking was simply an act, I could take a small peek into the emotions of the God and see the whirlwind inside. He winked at me, knowing of my intrusion.

    “To be truthful with you, you are the only prospective. We are effectively set on you. If you do not accept, then we will recede into the shadows of the divine realms and simply let what happens, happen.” He smiled sadly, making it clear what option he would prefer I take. I waited for him to continue, and he sighed, scratching his balding head in what seemed like genuine awkwardness. Awkward and this God were almost two entirely different concepts.

    “What we intend to give you is a Court Blessing.” The mere mention of the blessing made the air shimmer around me, becoming strange; warm, inviting, pleasurable, safe. I realised it was but a taste of his domain. Just the mundane tip of the iceberg.

    “I assume that is a big deal?” I said, acting nonplussed, but entirely failing. Even the God himself couldn’t help but look… stricken.

    “An incredibly big deal,” he coughed into his fist and sighed, looking up to the stars, as if for guidance, “giving even a blessing is a large investment, from a single God. Blessings are usually given by lesser Gods inside of large courts, though Gods without a court sometimes do as well. Mostly so they can gain power for themselves. It comes at a high cost, effectively gambling divine energy with one of the races against the world itself.” He paused to take in a large breath of fresh air, clearing himself of the nerves of what it seemed he was about to do.

    “However, sometimes there is a blessing given by a major God, even a Lord God in exceedingly rare cases. They do this to create a direct link with their followers, maybe to reforge a church from the ground up if destroyed, to run a crusade or very rarely to handle a social issue. It is almost never done for the benefit of the races as a whole.” Gloomy, I had to admit. Gods who care, but don’t really care.

    “So we have the power grabbing Gods, and we have large and already powerful Gods solidifying their own power within the world and managing it.” He nodded heavily.

    “And then we have Court Blessings…” he waited for the effect in the air to disappear, looking mildly annoyed, “they are in a totally different league than the rest. A Cour–“ He looked up to the stars with an angry gaze, before returning to the conversation, “This sort of blessing,” he waited for a moment and nodded contently, “is like going absolutely all in with a fortune that nothing but the greatest of empires can produce in their lifetime, in one single bet.”

    The jovial God that had initially greeted me was gone. Now, in front of me, was a man that was loading a six-shooter with three bullets, spinning the cylinder and cocking the gun. His immense seriousness was borderline oppressive.

    “Why?” I asked simply. He smiled at me with immense sadness.

    “It is the only hope we have. The only hope that the second war won’t spell the doom of both the worlds and the divine realms alike.” He shook his head with emotion and re-focusing on the task at hand.

    “We intend to offer this blessing to you. We wish for you to, quite literally, become our living, mortal avatar.” I knew it was coming, but I couldn’t believe it. The God let me have my moment, intensely gazing into my own eyes. I could feel all of his emotions, and they were all resolute in their conviction.

    “What do you want me to do with this power you are granting me?” I asked, the hesitancy leaking into my voice. He only smiled.

    “Whatever you feel is right. We have been watching you for a long time now, Maximilian. I myself am the origin for those blessed as Soul-Seekers. You are not one of mine, nor even a close relative, but I can see your emotions just as well as you can, only that I have seen far more than you. I have lived through thousands of generations, looking for those that embodied what I am. You are a young prodigy of what I am, in essence. Almost a facsimile of values. Safety, hospitality, the quiet word, and the convincing smile. I may be a God, an old and powerful one at that, but we are more similar than you might think. The races always seem to forget that we are they and they are us.”

    I couldn’t help but be a little shocked. To be compared so closely to a God, of all things, was frankly baffling. My mouth had dropped agape at some point, but I didn’t have the willpower to close it. I was a God’s gambit.

    “What will you grant me?”

    “A seed. A seed that will separate you from the God you are subject to. One that will wash your name as a Champion, and institute you into this world in truth. A seed that will bankrupt us.” He smiled, gaining back some of his humour. I smiled weakly in return.

    “I’ll no longer be a Champion? Will that get rid of the powers I have?” The God shook his head.

    “The powers you have are yours to keep. Only your God would be capable of undoing the physical transformation, and once you are bereft of his chains, he will be unable to affect you. You will, however, lose your link to him.” I guess that means that I lose the stat numbers and achievements.

    The stat system was rigid and uncaring for realistic progression. I received very little progression through practicing the Sharah, and only at a breakpoint in which I managed to shift was there a payout. I shared Ryan’s suspicion that the stat system would stop being an ever flowing source of power and begin a decline into shackles that kept us weak enough for the god to bring us back, but powerful enough to destroy the worlds. I hadn’t levelled, past the initial one I had received. It was true that it had potential to make me absurdly powerful, but how powerful?

    More powerful than a divine seed, gifted to me by an entire court of Gods, willing to gamble their everything on me? Even though the ‘everything’ was completely abstract to me.

    I don’t remember much about the God that I presume was God. I’ll blame it on the headache I had and total shellshock. But I remember one thing. He seemed self-serving. You could say that making a decision based on what I feel about a God that I know basically nothing about, and only half remember, is a bad idea, and you are totally right.

    But what choice do I have?

    Do I trust a God that I only met extremely briefly, and sent me to an entirely new world—enacting a war of catastrophic proportions for those that live there? Using those lands as a testing ground for what is tantamount to human nuclear missiles?

    Or do I trust the God who sits right in front of me, offering me everything, doing almost everything but literally pleading with me use their power to save their worlds from my own people. People who, while smart, may cause civilisation ending damage to the worlds I now inhabit and will likely die in, someday.

    Maybe I was right on the cusp of earning a new achievement that would truly shed light on how powerful and gracious the God I met so long ago is.

    But I doubt it.

    It’s time to lock the door to the old world and throw away the key, no matter how painful. I muster all my bravery I can, in front of the most terrifying decision I will ever make. I raise my voice, shakier than I’d like, but surer than I’d hoped.

    “I accept.”

    A/N: Oooh shit! I wonder how many of you saw that one coming?
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  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 40: Brothers

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 40: Brothers

    The God smiled, relieved at my answer. Maybe it was because he was betting so much on the fact I’d say yes, or maybe he was truly interested in protecting the world as it is. However, this mattered very little in the grand scheme of things. The sentiment was almost unimportant when a Lord God was giving me free reign with his Court’s power. The God stood a little straighter, his demeanour a little more official. Even before he began speaking the words, the world around me began to shudder with an intensity I had only felt the barest effect of. The intensity of those pure, emotions he had felt exemplified hundreds of times as the God opened his mouth, his eyes beginning to glow with the flame of the campfire.

    I Gallar, Lord God and First One of the Hearth Court, grant Maximilian Avenforth the Authority and Divine Seed of the Hearth Court, with all its members in concert agreement. With words spoken by only those of the First Ones, does this decree hold true, and our Divine Souls put at stake for the future of a mortal. I grant a Court Blessing!”

    With those words, whose syllables individually created pulses of pure authority, everything within me changed.

    It was with immediacy that I felt a cord being cut and knowing immediately that it was my only lifeline to go home. I had abandoned my home for what I felt was right and I was only beginning to mourn the loss when the next wave hit me.

    Something was being forced directly into my soul, and I had no choice but to simply accept. Every moment that passed pushed the strange thing into my soul. I let the small object in, focussing on the acceptance of it as me, creating a spot within myself for it to exist. The words of Gallar’s decree continued and, what I believed to be, the seed pressing itself into me, followed by a power that was quite undefinable to me.

    It flowed into my soul like water into a pool, totally different from ether which seemed ever present. I felt it fortify my soul in a way that I was under the assumption was entirely impossible. The liquid metal that I view my soul as was reinforcing itself layer on layer, the pure power it was being offered made it reform itself into a protective casing of sorts, surrounding the seed.

    It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that I was actually experiencing pain, in a detached sort of way. In fact, it was the worst sort of pain, one that seemingly cut through and defence you had against it, showing you how you truly mortal you were. I could only guess that this was an effect of my soul rapidly intaking this power and the seed at once, transforming itself to handle these things in concert.

    The pain, however, was almost a freeing thing. It was like cutting away useless baggage off of yourself and transcending the need for a primitive body part. I started to get the impression that it was, quite literally, a divine ascension of sorts. My soul was becoming almost unrecognisable in its form and function, and even as the power it was being fed began to settle, my soul even felt like that of a different order. Like a highly advanced piece of technology given to a monkey.

    The pain had stopped, but the rumbles of authority still surrounded me. It was authority over safety that radiated out of me, the flame of the fire seemed brighter and more comfortable as I sat near it now, my mind calmed by this visceral understanding that this was my place. My home.

    I was truly home.

    “Astounding. There has never been a Court Blessing granted let alone a Divine Seed, I had wondered if I would ever see it done.” Gallar laughed heartily, and I did as well, a clear connection of kinship strengthening us, “Never, in my many millions of years, would I have thought that I would be the First One to grant it.” The God, my God, extended his hand to me, glowing with a warm light. I grabbed it, feeling a link form between us on the highest possible level. An energy circulated between our souls, mutually singing in harmony.

    “Welcome, brother, to being the first mortal God,” he paused for a moment, enough to allow my face to scrunch together in confusion, “well, more like a Demigod at the moment really. You are little more than what you were just moments ago, but with the potential to be everything.” His smile was warm, like an older brother greeting a new sibling into the world.

    “You, my brother, are the first God to be created, and not born of lineage or of right. You are the only mortal to receive a Divine Seed. A being only theorised in the oldest tomes that our libraries have to offer. You are the only one, of any number of Gods, who is able to reach the heights of Godhood, and remain entirely in the mortal plane.” He smiled, his satisfaction with the statement obvious.

    “So, I’m a baby God now?” I said with eyebrow raised, a little amused to be honest. Gallar was quite ticked by that and he began giggling.

    “I guess you could put it like that, though other High Gods would probably be upset by you not using the right terminology. Boors, the lot of ‘em.” He continued to chuckle for a moment until he turned to me, more seriousness leaking into his expression.

    “I guess I should explain what you get from all of this kerfuffle. The Court Blessing effectively upgraded your soul to be capable to handling a divine seed, though only to a rudimentary extent. It will make it effectively impossible for anything but another Demigod level being to really do much to your soul, so no enslavement is going to happen any time soon.” He grinned at the relief I felt, a worry dissipating, one that I hadn’t even thought about before, “Other than that, you are basically the same as you were before with two major changes. Your Soul Hammer should be markedly different, and your ability to control a domain.”

    Changes to my hammer? The instant that I head those words come out of his mouth, I had a spike of worry. Quickly I summoned the thing, and sure enough, it was even bigger than before, and way heavier.

    It had grown at least thirty percent bigger in most metrics, the silvery metal now slightly darker, and the wrapped leather of the handle slightly darker as well. However, the runes and engravings that once used to litter the shaft of the hammer and the axe’s head and the spike on the back of the hammer. Now those engravings had deepened considerably, and a soft white energy ran through it.

    “Ah, I guess that it makes sense that the divine energy would be visible on the weapon itself. That Soul Weapon is probably singlehandedly one of the most dangerous weapons in existence now. Divine weapons of any sort are incredibly rare. Though, good luck on wielding it.” He took a look on my face, a mixture between awe and sour defeat, and just laughed heartily, patting me on the shoulder with his meaty hand.

    “You’ll figure it out, you are my brother now. We of the Hearth Court have always been good thinkers!” He smiled at me, a playful smile that was almost like a bet over a few drinks of who will black out first. I grinned at the subtext that was so in line with his–our domain.

    “Wait, one second before we keep going on this train.” I held a hand up to the amused God and he gestured for me to carry on. “What about the God from back home? Won’t he be mad about this thing?” The moment I voiced the concern, it seemed a lot more legitimate, the anxiety momentarily coursing through me before Gallar’s hand rested itself on my shoulder.

    “No need to fear. I don’t understand your world’s God very well, nor do any others within the Divine Realm. We don’t understand what he’s trying to do, or even what he wants, but we do know that he hasn’t cared about our God’s blessing the Champions before, so I struggle to see why he would now.” He grinned, and with a wink he moved on to the next topic on the roster within his mind.

    “And finally, your domain. For now, you really only have safety as a concept in your domain. It’s the simplest to bind to a domain by far. Call it out, you shouldn’t have any trouble doing so.” He was right, a simple thought and I distinctly felt the surroundings around me become gentler, purer of intention. I felt the domain of safety take priority in the intentions of the world inside of my aura.

    “This aura of safety, while rudimentary for now, is incredibly useful. Those around you will feel safer, more secure. You will be able to understand them better while they are thinking straight in your aura. And, even though the Hearth Court is hardly combat focused, the safety domain will weaken an enemy’s harmful intentions. When you grow powerful enough, you will be able to mediate a conversation between two courts of warring Gods.” He grinned in a knowing way. A quiet word, and a hidden power.

    It just goes to show how much power over politics and how much we take the Hearth for granted when it comes to civility. Did civilisation not start with those who are hungry and cold huddled around a fire? I smiled, gaining this strange underlying truth of the world was an odd experience. A lens that I could now view the world through.

    “I see you are coming easily to terms with all of this. This is precisely why you were the only candidate. You are possibly the only person that is both capable and willing of being granted this sort of power. The only person we can trust with it in its entirety. And so, with that, it is time for me to go.” He smiled and stood from his spot at the fire, his form being illuminated by the slowly dying campfire’s light.

    “Will I be able to meet you or someone else from the Hearth Court often?” Gallar shook his head sadly.

    “The other Gods are… very suspicious of us. We had been hording divine energy for millennia, and they have their ways of keeping track of us, just as we have of them. If there is someone of my profile, or any of the others capable of truly appearing here, constantly making appearances in the mortal plane, then I fear we would bring great danger to you. However, keep an eye out, we will keep in contact in our small ways, brother.” He smiled, in a way that warmed you to your very core, a true affection no matter how small.

    “You keep yourself safe, Gallar. I will do my best down here.” The God nodded, as if it were a foregone conclusion, and then walked into the campfire, disappearing into the warm heat of the coals.

    It was in the moment that he left that the sounds of the outside world leaked back in. The soft hum of insects and various wildlife, the sound of wind rustling through the grass and the trees, and, quite amusingly, Alena’s snores.

    Those moments allowed me to think about what had transpired. A God had made me into a Demigod, tasking me with saving the worlds in truth, past my unrealistic expectations and pipe dreams. A God believed in my goal, so now it was a mission. A holy one, at that.

    The heavy head of my hammer rested in the dirt near my feet, compressing it terribly. It was a lot heavier now. Before this ‘upgrade’ I was able to wield it with clever use of summoning and unsummoning as well as using the kinetic shifting to fill the gaps with attacks. Now that the hammer may as well be twice as heavy, I needed to relearn how to even use it properly. I sighed, wondering idly whether I should just use my hands as weapons for the fight against the forest wolves the day after next. I’d easily be strong enough, but it made me feel guilty that I wouldn’t be using the hammer in my first real fight, other than against Mayer that one time.

    While I was thinking to myself, there was the sound of rustling coming from the tent. After a moment, Rethi came out of the tent, looking relatively well rested for just a few hours of sleep.

    “Up for your shift?” I asked, impressed that he was able to wake without me doing so. He nodded slowly, before noticing my hammer. He had seen the thing probably more than Mayer had in total, there was absolutely no way that it was possible to tell him it hadn’t drastically changed.

    “What happened to your hammer?” He said, with less of the respect than he usually put into his words when talking to me. I just chuckled.

    “Well, Rethi. I met a God.” His eyes brightened, but didn’t seem surprised at all.

    “A God! Wow, Master Max. What was that like?” I looked at him quizzically, a little amusement thrown in there for good measure.

    “Not too shocked, are we?” The boy shrugged his muscled shoulders.

    “I dunno, you’re a Champion Master Max. A human from another world, who actually wants to do good. Why wouldn’t a God come talk to you?” He had a point.

    “Well, I’m not a ‘true’ Champion anymore,” Rethi’s face instantly became one of worry, “don’t worry, I think I may have gotten the better end of the deal even still.” Rethi’s hesitant worry became one of sneaking excitement, and I just grinned.

    “I’m a Demigod now, Rethi.”
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  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 41: Right Hand

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 41: Right Hand

    Rethi has basically been vibrating on his horse the entire day. Knowing that his ‘Master’ was a Demigod seemed to inflate his excitement and self-worth a thousand-fold. It was hilarious to see, though I think Alena had begun to believe that I’d drugged him with something. She had been giving him herbs and plants to eat for hours now. He would always idly eat them without a word, seemingly too focused on the fact that I was now a fledgling Demigod.

    Apparently, according to Rethi anyway, Demigods were beings created by a God having a mortal lover. It did happen on occasion supposedly. Usually with someone who was not a priest, but a mortal that was entirely devoted. They had their legends, but they were old and any Demigods that once existed had either died in the first Champion War or gone into hiding. I had mentioned the fact that they could have died of old age, but Rethi just shrugged. It seemed that a Demigod dying of old age wasn’t really all that likely.

    If a Demigod had abilities anything like what I have, they probably didn’t age much, if at all. That’s if they actually existed in the way that Rethi said they did—which was doubtful in and of itself.

    The day was pretty long, constantly feeling the need to monitor my soul. It was like receiving a transplanted hand and having to relearn the back of it. A strange thing, something so foreign, yet so truthfully yours. Just looking at the soul was enchanting in its own way, where my old soul I was able to visualise conceptually, generally as the metal that flowed out of my hand, but now when I closed my eyes and introspected, I was able to properly see my own soul.

    It was like seeing an organ on a table and examining it. It was weird, but also enthralling to examine. It was manipulatable as well now, I was able to temporarily change its form, changing the flow of the divine energy that courses through and around it. How that would help me in future was totally over my head, but I could do it.

    Sighing, I called a break for the last time today. The horses needed a good break or else they would slowly deteriorate until we effectively killed them with exhaustion, though they have been valiant companions throughout the journey.

    Rethi had ended up naming his Darksteel, an obvious allusion to the steed’s dark coat, intermixed with a silvery colour as well. Apparently dark steel was a mythical metal used generally for weapon making.

    Alena had taken the liberty of naming my horse, mostly because it was really her horse now. I don’t think I’d ever find that much use for a horse, unless I could find a special one, maybe a monster or divine horse. That’d be fun.

    Anyway, the horse had been named Lily, the mare seemed pretty chuffed with the name.

    As the two teenagers diligently took care of their companions, just at Mayer had enforced back before we had been sent on our little journey. It didn’t take long for Alena to bustle on over towards me with a cross look on her face, leaving Rethi behind to absentmindedly pet his horse.

    “What did you do to him!” She whisper-yelled. I was surprised at her restraint, honestly.

    “Nothing like you’re thinking. I don’t even know why you’d think that I’d drug him with anything.” I said, eyebrow raised and quickly sitting down on the ground cross legged. She did the same, staring right at me the entire time, trying to assert dominance.

    “Then why does he look like he ate a kilogram of sugar?”

    “Ah, well. In short, he got a promotion.” She looked at me dumbfounded.

    “What do you mean he got a promotion?” Incredulity leaking into her voice. I sighed.

    “I’m going to be moving up in the world, and I’m going to need help. I’m going to make him my right-hand man.” She looked flabbergasted.

    “Right-hand– But he’s just a kid!” She exclaimed, stumbling over her own words. I shrugged at her nonchalantly.

    “Are you a kid?” I asked her. She hesitated.

    “Yes?” Her eyebrows furrowed, unable to pick where I’m going with this.

    “Well, it certainly isn’t stopping you from doing everything that Rethi is currently doing,” I laughed, her face losing a bit of its harshness, “besides, Rethi is possibly the most competent fourteen, almost fifteen year old I’ve ever met. Honestly, he could probably fight with the best of them. He was hand trained by Mayer. If I didn’t have all sorts of wacky powers, he’d crush me ten out of ten times.” I let that info sink into her for a few moments. I didn’t even need to look into her eyes, I could see the struggle on her face, fighting between love and protection, and pride in someone she loves. I smiled at her gently.

    “You still seriously underestimate just how powerful he really is.” I get up from my spot on the ground and walk over to Rethi, coming close to Lily and giving her a good rub with my strength, something she thoroughly enjoyed. Me and Alena fight for her affection and she gets all the benefits.

    “Oh Rethi.” I said, rousing the boy from his stupor.

    “Ah! Yes, how can I serve you, Master Maximilian.” He said, his voice far more official than even the last time he had spoken to me around Alena, I just rolled my eyes.

    “You’ve been out of it all day, and Alena has been feeding you herbs to reverse poisons. I understand that it’s exciting for you to know that I’m a Demigod,” the boy’s face lit up again in excitement, “but, you need to act a little more human for me. I had to fib to your girlfriend so that she doesn’t simply learn that I’m a Demigod.” Rethi nodded furiously, trying his best to return to what looked slightly less out of it, but then his face scrunched in confusion, my last words finally processing though his excitement addled brain.

    “What did you lie to her about?” He was suddenly very concerned, I just laughed.

    “Nothing important. By the way, you’ve got a promotion. Congratulations on being my right-hand man.” I stick out my hand, a goofy grin on my face. It took a moment before it registers, and then another second or two before a massive goofy grin spread on his face. He grabbed my hand and shook it as hard as he could.

    “It’ll be a pleasure.” He said, his eyes alight with a whole new excitement. I laughed and yelled out to Alena that we were going to get back on the road. She nodded from afar and in minutes we were up and running again.

    Alena seemed even more concerned about Rethi now, paradoxically. The entire time they were riding they were having a secretive conversation. Further and further into the day Rethi got frustrated multiple times, the whispering getting a little louder at points, the offending party always looking over to me to see if I had noticed.

    Of course I noticed.

    Soon enough It came to the part of the road that those that passed through these areas were talking about being dangerous, potentially where the forest wolves came out to play.

    “Alright guys, enough secretive chatting, we are at the spot Mayer talked about. Let’s backtrack for a while and set up for the night.” The other two were momentarily shocked at being called out like that, then they quickly realised their surroundings, looking deep into the woods as if eyes would stare back.

    Following me, we took it back a kilometre or two, and then moving out further into the fields than we had before, giving us more open space so we couldn’t be surprised by something coming near us as easily.

    The camp was set up routinely, everything in its proper place and order, and as night fell, I created a safe campfire that wasn’t going to burn down the fields of grass and our tents during the night. The warmth of the fire was different tonight than it was the nights previous. Warmer, more fulfilling, the road rations were easting tasted better even. The novelty of eating was something I indulged in at least once a day, merely because the sensation was nice, rather than any actual benefit. But now, with me being a Hearth Demigod, a Blessed of the Hearth, whatever you wanted to call me, I felt a far stronger connection to the act of eating around a fire, like it was far more integral to me being now.

    But even while the fire was warmer, I could feel a cold wind of discontent flowing over it. I extended my domain of safety and it soothed the discontent but did not stop it from existing. I gave it a few moments, then looked up, directly at Alena.

    “Would you like to talk about anything?” I said, my tone neutral and warm. She was shocked by my initiation of the conversation, something that I hadn’t bothered to do with her for a while.

    “What do you mean?” She asked suspiciously. Rethi looked at me oddly as well.

    “You are spending a lot of time talking about topics that are obviously sensitive with Rethi. I have a feeling that those topics involve me, and Rethi’s involvement with me.” I stated calmly and clearly. Her face grew red in a mixture of embarrassment and anger.

    “Of course I am!” She shouted.

    “And why are you doing that?” I said, unperturbed entirely by her shouting.

    “Because you are obviously taking advantage of him! He’s only a kid! You can’t just make him your right-hand man and call it good!” I looked to Rethi who deflated. He was clearly hurt by her words and how she disregarded his opinion and choice. However, I simply nodded towards her without any specific emotion on my face.

    “I see. How do you believe that I am taking advantage of him?” She looked confused at my lack of fighting back but she allowed her anger to keep rolling.

    “You force him to fight, to train to fight. You trained him to be this monstrous, brutal thing when he picks up a sword. You want to turn him into a sword slave!” Those words rang out over the fields like a gunshot. I, personally, was effectively unperturbed I had known her opinion of me for a long while.

    However, for Rethi, this was something that he had never encountered before. Because I believe, as I looked at his heartbroken face, that he didn’t know that the issue they were having was never really about me, it was about him and her relationship with who he wants to be.

    I simply nodded at her words.

    “I understand that you see it that wa–” I began to speak but my sentence was cut short by Alena.

    “How could you possibly understand, you are a slaver–” I fixed her with a look that stopped her dead in her tracks. Not one of aggression, but extreme disappointment. I know, from simply looking into her eyes, that the expression was both not one that she expected, and one that hurt far more that one of anger.

    “I understand that you are very passionate about this specific topic and that you love Rethi very much, but I will not accept anyone being talked over in this space. I let you speak, now I would like to speak. Is this understood?” My voice was flat and authoritative, nothing if not neutral. After a moment both Rethi and Alena nodded. I let the domain of safety I held within billow out, the strange and esoteric power covering the ground we sat on, calming those within and sharpening our minds while it eased our anxiety.

    “Alena, I understand that you see Rethi’s change as something negative, and I feel as if you are unsure if the boy you once knew as Rethi exists anymore,” Rethi’s eyes went wide, turning to look at his girlfriend in befuddlement as Alena simply looked down at the ground, “Alena, it is important to note, that the time in which you knew Rethi most, was when he had nothing and was entirely destitute with no reasonable way forwards. I gave him a chance at rising above what he once was, and he took it with both hands and pulled. He has done a miraculous job, becoming stronger in personality, body, and mind. He is nothing like the destitute, starved little boy that I asked to show me around town.”

    There was silence around the campfire. Alena was looking down at the ground and Rethi was looking at her, tears welling up in his eyes at the hurt. I could see little droplets falling to the ground underneath Alena’s bowed head. I could feel that each word harmonised with what she felt, and that she was scared and worried and hopelessly in love. I smiled at her bowed form.

    “But Alena. There are few things that haven’t changed in Rethi. One is his drive to always do better, to reach for higher peaks,” Rethi’s cheeks reddened despite himself, “his devotion to his mother, despite her pushing him away,” Alena let out a little sob, “his wild theories and obsession over long lost legends,” that gained a snort out of both of them, even I laughed, “and finally, his love for you.”

    Alena looked up at me, her face red and warped into one of intense sadness, tears streaming from her eyes. And as our eyes met I understood. I fully understood the problem. I smiled gently to her as she spoke.

    “I know! I know all that… But he’s going to leave me behind. And then I have to worry if he’s going to ever come back home to me, if he will come back scarred from some war he ran headlong into, or if he’ll ascend into the history books, left to some place I can never find him.” The sobs were heart wrenching, the window into her emotions. No, into her soul. Rethi was crying in earnest now, his eyes overflowing, and his arms extended, desperately seeking the body of she who he loves, but finding himself unable to wrap his arms around her, unable to truly dispute her words and telling her it’s all going to be okay, and that he would never leave her. But he knew he’d be lying, and it hurt more than anything.

    I simply smiled at the two young lovers, lost in their emotions.

    “Whoever said that he would leave without you by his side?”

    A/N: Happy new year!
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021
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  17. Threadmarks: Chapter 42: A Teaching Moment

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 42: A Teaching Moment

    The two teenage lovers looked at me quizzically, their emotions instantly becoming even more conflicted with a strange bourgeoning hope. I smiled at them, relaxed and uncomplicated in comparison.

    “W– What do you mean?” Alena said, her voice wavering with the words. I put on a show of thinking about the words I was going to say and then turned to the two, face a mask of serious.

    “I don’t believe I ever said that I’d disallow any particular person from joining me on our travels. The only thing that they would need to display is their worth.” Alena’s face scrunched, eventually equalising to dismay.

    “But what do I have to give? I don’t have anything valuable–” I shook my head.

    “Not what you have, but what you can provide.” Alena’s face reddened with anger.

    “I don’t have any of that either, unless you are speaking of bedtime ‘duties’.” Her expression was scathing, but I just raised an eyebrow, unimpressed.

    “You thinking that you do not have worth is frankly absurd,” she recoiled slightly at that, confusion marring her face, “you are a life shifter, as well as someone at least rudimentarily trained in the sciences, including knowledge necessary for being an accomplished physician. These skills are incredibly valuable, far more valuable than what your father currently makes it seem to be by wasting his life away in this town of nothing.”

    “Skills I can’t use because no-one would trust me to use them, and taboo shifting abilities that I would be killed on sight for!” Her voice continued to increase in volume, anger overtaking the overwhelming array of emotions. Rethi just looked dumbfounded, staring off into space with his eyebrows furrowed. I looked at Alena with a continually unimpressed expression.

    “You are only devaluing yourself and your abilities here. I’m sure that you’ve tested your medical and shifting abilities in small animals and other specimen, likely at the behest of your father? At least to some degree?” She swallowed down a snarky line at seeing my unimpressed visage and just nodded. I nodded along as well, placing a hand on my chin.

    “Then the solution to many, if not all of these problems, is to find a willing subject.”

    “A willing subject?” Alena shot to her feet, the anger radiating off of her in truth now, “Are you out of your mind? Who would willingly let me experiment on them and accidentally turn them into a monster?” I looked at her dryly, rolling my eyes all the while. I picked up a simple knife out of one of my many side pockets and stabbed myself in the arm, easily going all the way down to the bone.

    Internally, however, I was telling my body to not regenerate, something I had worked out I could do in training when Mayer had relented the fact that I would never learn to truly fight with an injury. As almost a joke I had tried to resist the urge for my body to regenerate and I was wounded ‘normally’. I don’t understand why that would even be allowed, but this was a particularly unique situation where it was actually useful.

    I pulled the sharp but common knife out of my flesh, carving a massive chunk out of my arm without even flinching, bleeding profusely from the wound that was staying stubbornly unregenerated.

    “Oh gee, it seems that I suddenly have a massive wound that is not healing, in comparison to it normally regenerating in less than a few seconds. Who could possibly help me?” My tone was exceedingly dry, entirely monotone. The two teenagers looked to the self-inflicted wound, and then back to me over and over again. Alena specifically was extremely put out, glancing at the massive chunk of flesh that had fallen into the dirt. I sighed heavily.

    “Alena, fix the goddamned arm.” I growled, motivating her to snap out of her daze and rushing forward, grabbing a full waterskin from Rethi and quickly dumping the water on the wound, washing away some of the quickly drying blood so that she could see the wound better.

    “I’m going to–” She started, looking up to me to explain what she was going to do, but I waved her away.

    “Just do it.” I said, my voice calm and devoid of the strain of pain. She looked at me, worried by the abruptness of the situation. She closed her eyes, placing her hands on my upper arm and my wrist, leaving the wound between the two hands. She gripped my arm tightly, probably tightly enough to cut of circulation relatively well if I were normal.

    Suddenly, energy began to be pushed through the hand that was clasped around my wrist, flowing into my arm with haste that felt hurried and somewhat reckless. I could feel the energy burn through my arm, analysing and surveying its structure haphazardly before reaching the wound.

    The energy began freaking out, desperately trying to fix the issue in any way that it could think of. Suddenly it started to draw on the reserves of my own energy which was, as far as I am aware, endless.

    The flesh started growing exponentially, faster initially than what I usually regenerated at without pushing it, but as soon as the flesh filled back into the space that was missing, it began to overflow, massive tumours began to form on my arm, Alena’s power still drawing on the energy within me to create more and more flesh on my arm. The tumours of fat, muscle, some bone, covered in various layers of skin.

    I looked to Rethi, whose face had gone completely white with horror, and smiled.

    “Can see why they call them Abomination Makers, huh?” His eyes turned to my smiling face with confusion, and then understanding, followed by a calm curiosity at the rapidly growing pile of tumours. It was an interesting sight to see, the mass growing bigger, slowly taking over my body. It was a curiosity case, really.

    Alena opened her eyes and screamed, horror filling her completely. She took her arms off of mine, but it was too late, her own energy was still remaining in my arm, the process now having even less oversight. I realised that it had begun moving further up my arm, closer and closer to my chest.

    I wasn’t going to let it reach my chest and play around in there, that didn’t sound like much fun. I swiftly grabbed my upper arm and yanked. With relative ease my arm, from my shoulder down, had been entirely ripped off. Alena’s power went even more berserk, consuming the flesh of the arm to run its own processes due to not having my own energy to run on—eventually self-destructing and turning the remains of the arm into a blob of tumours.

    Alena looked at me, horrified. She fell to the ground, too unsteady on her legs.

    “Oh– Oh Gods, what have I done.” But I didn’t let her rest, pulling her up from her kneeling position.

    “Be quiet and watch what happens next, Alena. Not everyone gets to see an arm regrow itself every day.” I chuckled as her eyes went wide, watching as the bone itself regrew before her eyes, forming like a crystalline structure. The regeneration was normally extremely fast but if I could stop the process altogether, I could both slow it down and speed it up. I had become a master of doing all of these things. I even created a Sharah kata for it, where I would do moves that broke my bones to complete them, and then regenerate before the next step.

    The ligaments came back next, bonding the bones together, allowing the bones to hang limply at my side. Next, the layers of muscle starter to come in, as well as the nerves and blood vessels. The nerves were always the worst when growing back, but I was well and truly used to the pain by now. The hand was forming simultaneously, the small bones all neatly fitting into place with a precise perfection.

    In only another few seconds my entire arm and hand were fully formed once again.

    “There you have it.” I said, my voice nonchalant. Rethi looked on in amazement like every time Mayer had done that much damage to me. Rethi hadn’t ever managed to entirely take off an entire arm before, though he had mangled my hands a few times.

    Alena, however, was borderline shellshocked. Looking at my arm like it was black magic, and then looking down at the puddle of tumours at my feet.

    “H– How did you even…” She trailed off, her mind wandering. I just smiled at her ultimately confused face.

    “Sorry to break it to you, girly. You aren’t the only special one in the world. There are quite a few more that are just like me, as well.” I laughed at her shocked and also morbidly curious expression.

    “You may not know how to use any of your abilities and skills right now, but what about if you met someone who is nigh unkillable, can heal from almost anything, has infinite energy reserves, and can deal with unimaginable pain like nothing?” I smiled gently at her.

    “I am going to make you the greatest life shifter that has ever lived.” Her eyes lit up like beacons. And for the first time since I’ve met her, the maelstrom of emotion that continually whirled through her stopped in its tracks, being entirely subsumed by one emotion.

    Hesitant, oh so very hesitant, determination.

    I patted her gently on the shoulder. Passing her by and moving into my tent.

    “You two can take first shift tonight. Rethi, make sure that you are rested enough to go trapezing through the woods looking for a fight tomorrow.” Rethi nodded, a shit eating grin returning to his face as he turned to his girlfriend, probably getting ready to rub in her face how shocked she was, and how he was right all along all that time.

    Alena just looked stunned, the girl still trying to process all of the events of only past five or so minutes.

    The hours passed in my tent, simply meditating like usual. Before long, Rethi moved into my tent and lightly tapped me on the shoulder before leaving, signalling the beginning of my shift.

    I quietly moved outside, my eyes tracking the shadows through the trees, letting my brain be overtaken with the simple task of detecting predators and attacker. I certainly heard things from the woods, my senses sharp from doing similar tasks for thousands of hours. There were definitely wolves, and quite a few of them too. Maybe even multiple different packs.

    But they were too close to the edge of the forest, they usually dwelled way further in, preying on smaller prey animals deeper in the heart of the forest. It worried me. It was becoming more and more apparent that there was something else in there, something that I’m sure that Mayer was aware of, but didn’t tell us going into it.

    I wasn’t sure if it was something to be worried about, at my level of strength, but I was now pretty sure I didn’t have much of an ability to wield my hammer, bringing down my ability to fight quite drastically.

    I summoned the hammer from within me, forming rapidly in my hands before the head thumped into the ground. The soft white light that the runes glowed with illuminated the earth it was lodged in.

    I stood and tried to pick up the hammer, struggling with all my might. It was basically pointless. No matter how hard I strained, the hammer wouldn’t move enough to actually be a viable attack.

    I managed, after a few seconds, to lift the thing to a point where I was able to swing the hammer down into the earth by just letting it fall, which got the head stuck deeply into the ground. I just sighed, looking intensely at the hammer, as if it would float up out of the ground for me.

    An even heavier hammer wasn’t something that was on my to-do list, and now that it had happened out of nowhere, I suddenly had to figure out how to wield the thing without spending thirty minutes on a single attack.

    I unsummoned it and made an attacking motion, swinging like normal, and summoning the hammer into my hands on the way down, which worked, and was the most viable attacking method I had, but when it came down to it, it broke up the flow of the Sharah severely, which was terrible for my combat ability.

    At the moment, it was looking more and more like I’d simply be using the hammer for massive attacks to kill something in one hit, and for everything else I’d just be punching them.

    Good thing that I was just about as proficient as a pugilist than as a hammer wielder.

    I started creating a new Sharah kata to accentuate the odd big hit from my hammer, along with the majority of punches, along with a kick or two. It flowed relatively smoothly but was nowhere near as efficient a kinetic shifting sentence structure, just a little off. It was like if someone was speaking in a second language with almost perfect grammar, but it was just bad enough to entirely break the illusion of their fluency.

    It was heartbreaking to see all the work for the Sharah kata, created for usage with my hammer, to go to waste like it had.

    If I could wield this new hammer, I was entirely certain that I would be many times more powerful, even with the access to raw kinetic potential at all.

    But none of this mattered as I watched the sun creep out from behind Orisis as it slowly orbited Virsdis.

    It was the dawn of a long day of battle.

    A/N: Jeeze Max, wanna chill out with the whole 'tear off you whole-ass arm' thing?
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  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 43: Slaughter

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 43: Slaughter

    I had woken Rethi only an hour or two after the sun rose. The boy needed rest even if he was sturdy; if he went into battle tired, then his injuries would fall on my head.

    This was likely as much a test of our physical and fighting capabilities as how well we manage ourselves out in the field. Resources were scarce and sleep was hard to get a lot of, or in a good quality. The only real upside to all of this was that I could totally rise above any of those needs, allowing for those that travelled with me time to rest and relax with minimal fear that anything would happen.

    If anything did happen, then I was there to deal with it first.

    The boy was getting ready, putting on rudimentary protective gear that wasn’t really armour. It was a lot of tough clothing that was flexible enough to not restrict the boy’s movements. I myself didn’t wear armour. There was no real need to. If I did wear armour, past just generally protective clothing, then it’d have to be magical in some way, maybe give me strength or something. As of now, how quick I could move, and the preciseness of my movements was truly paramount.

    “Nervous?” I asked idly. The boy gave the barest nod, his face stoic.

    “Same.” I said, smile resting on my face. The boy looked up at me sceptically and I returned the look. “Rethi, I’ve only ever killed one other thing, and I almost died last time.” Rethi pondered while he finished up adding the protective padding to his assortment of protective gear.

    “But you could survive anything that these wolves could do to you.” I nodded in agreement.

    “Sure I can. Doesn’t make me any less nervous though.” Rethi looked down into the dirt, examining the toe of his shoe with a sudden ferocity. “Just because I know I can do something doesn’t make it any less nerve wracking. Especially when it matters.”

    “This is just another training exercise though?” Rethi questioned, I snorted amusedly.

    “Mayer said to us pretty clearly that traders were being attacked along this road and weren’t making it to the town. It’s more than a test or training, Rethi. This is people’s lives.” Rethi and I made eye contact, a seriousness washing over us.

    “This is the beginning, isn’t it?” I just nodded, the task of moving a mountain starts with but a pebble.

    “Have you said goodbye to Alena?” Rethi looked at me, his eyes full of iron.

    “No need. I’ll be back.” I nodded. She would be angry with him, but maybe that eventuality is better for him than making a promise and never coming back. I began to walk towards the road, a mental map forming of where I wanted to enter the forest a few kilometres down the trail.

    Rethi followed me, sheathed sword at his side. A truly sharp and entirely deadly sword this time around. Rethi’s hand rested on the hilt of the sword and as we drew closer and closer to the location we had reached the previous day, his grip tightened on the pommel.

    “We’re here.” I said, standing in front of a particularly large opening in the trees, an open maw to our anxious minds.

    “Forest wolves are nocturnal, I think. They rest in open areas in large groups during the day, soaking in the sun. We are looking for an area without canopy covering.” Rethi nodded in acknowledgement. We stood in front of the gaping maw of the woods, steeling ourselves to what laid within, the battle and finally the return.

    I just hope that we are able to return sooner rather than later.

    Without a word I began to move into the forest, the shade quickly covering my body, hiding me from the bright sunlight and plunging me into a much dimmer world. The air inside of the forest was still excellent, just like it had been the first day I arrived on Virsdis.

    The air and the feeling of the forest was electric. Maybe it was because of the way that I perceived the environment, overlaying it with how I felt inside, projecting the uneasy emotions. But this feeling was different.

    There was a nervousness in the air that pervaded my thoughts. Maybe it was my natural empathy? I wasn’t sure, but it was worrying me. I had thought last night that there was something driving the wolves towards the fringes of the forest, but something that made enough beings nervous within the forest such that I could feel all their anxiousness in tandem was very worrying to me.

    We walked through the forest, keeping mindful of how loud our steps were, making sure to get a good look of most angles before taking a path forwards through the increasingly dense forest.

    Me nor Rethi had trained our ability to sneak around, but there was a certain amount you learned by simply practicing in footwork and just learning to be mindful of where you stepped. Something that wasn’t at all as difficult as it seemed when it came down to it, especially in comparison to something like the Sharah.

    I began to hear things off in the distance, and Rethi seemed to as well. Small growls and yipping could be heard from beyond the few layers of trees that stood in front of us. It was noticeably brighter, bleeding through the various obstructions that laid in its way.

    I turned to Rethi, giving him a gaze of warning and received a nod in response, and we proceeded further, taking extra care of each step, approaching to what seemed to be the resting spot. Wolves were more likely to smell us before they heard us, but we could only hope that not giving them any more sensory input would help with not being discovered and sooner than need be.

    It was only a few seconds until we reached a girthier tree that block sight from the opening in front of us, a clear hole in the canopy above shining the light through this opening in the forest.

    I took a peek around the girth of the tree and saw the collection of at least eleven. It immediately became obvious that they were starved, clearly exhausted. They had a few young with them, who were being fed by one of the adult wolves, yipping and playing, fighting over the strip of meat they had been given.

    The rest of the pack were sleeping, shifting ever so slightly in their sleep. I looked to Rethi, seeing him nervously look out to the group of wolves. I tapped him gently on the shoulder and pointed out towards the group of wolves with a commanding expression. His face blanched, but he managed to steel himself to the anxiety. I counted down, with my fingers. Three, two, one.

    Then we sprung from cover, moving forward at a speed that we had rarely reached when training. I took only a few steps before I was standing above the sleeping form of my first victim. There was no time to contemplate their deaths, or the morality of killing them. This was a battle, and in a battle, decisions were split second, without the limitations of anything but self-preservation and your goal. I raised my foot, the eye of the wolf only just opening from its sleep, and I stomped my foot down on the poor creature’s neck with enough force to create a terrible crunching sound, an instant death.

    Rethi had managed to do similar with his first victim, though he had simply drawn his sword and slid it in between the ribs of the beast, letting out a squealing sound signalling the end of its life. I just about cringed before a growl came from my immediate left. I managed to turn to look at the beast that was trying to go for my ankle, likely to try and pull me down, but I simply whipped my foot out and kicked it with a large amount of force to the thing’s jaw, a crack of bone dislodging, the feeling of the bone bending and cracking across my foot.

    It was a disturbing feeling, but another point of information I was able to collect. The blow had destroyed the wolf’s jaw and most of the left side of its skull. It had been well and truly knocked out, if not outright killed. I moved forwards toward the group of wolves in front of me.

    I made efficient work of it, not allowing myself to slow down to think about the killing, and turning my brain off and allowing it to simply allow me to dance between the waking beasts and swiftly kicking each one once in the skull. I continued reproducing that first kick over and over, making it a rote attack, only rarely having to stray from the predetermined attack I would use.

    In one such case, two wolves thought themselves smart and jumped at my sides, attacking at the same time. Likely to only allow me to tackle one at a time while the other would tear me to shreds. Though, I simply grabbed both of the wolves by the throat and made a fist in their flesh, the fur and skin giving way underneath the strength of my hand, easing my fingers deeper into their flesh and then quickly tearing out their throats with my bare hands.

    I didn’t stop to see if they were dead, I didn’t need to. Each wolf I killed was dead in a single hit. I wouldn’t let them live a single moment longer than they had to with the extreme pain that I was sure to be giving them. It was when I reached the pups that I stopped. I had killed eight of the wolves, Rethi was still fighting with the last adult wolves, taking only a smidgen longer to kill half of what I did.

    I looked down at the pups, mewling at their dead. I felt the moral person within me experience a piercing pain like nothing I had ever felt before. But the me who was now in control knew that this was the way of this world and the only way that many could survive.

    Some would have told me that killing those pups were the only reasonable choice. They might rationalise it from their armchairs, explaining that the forest wolves were vermin, that their attacks on humans were reason enough for them to be exterminated.

    But as I looked down at the pups on the floor of the forest, one desperately nipping at my ankle, another nuzzling one of the adult wolves and the rest simply cowering, I decided that I couldn’t let that mentality overtake me.

    At first it was the wolves, exterminating them for the good of the town, for those that travelled to and from in their business. Then it was the opposition in a war. It was a scared farmer boy who was all but forced to join the army, a spear thrust into his hands and told to give his life for the crown, deceived with illusions of a grand adventure and an honourable battle.

    I imagined myself standing on the battlefield, looking into a trench that was hastily dug, and looking in to see five terrified boys, cowering away from a man who could either kill them in a moment, or pass them by and allow them to live.

    Maybe it was idyllic. Maybe it was going to get me killed.

    But I wasn’t sure I cared.

    I extended my aura of safety for the first time in battle, quickly mollifying the poor beasts. I reached down towards the growling pup that had been attacking my ankle. It resisted against my touch, but before long it leaned into it.

    It was after which began the mourning wails. The little beasts laying down, pacified by the safety aura that surrounded me, began to mourn those of their pack who had been lost to our hands. I heard the soft footsteps of Rethi approach me.

    “What’s wro–” the boy began, but interrupted himself, staring down into the small group of pups and wailed for their lost ones.

    “Look.” I growled at him in a commanding tone. The boy carefully looked towards the keening pups.

    “This is the beginning. The start of what we do. We leave them alive, realising that it is a poor decision tactically. We know that enemies that we slay will have friends, and we will always leave them alive in the off chance that they survive and thrive despite the risk. We will commit ourselves to the unreasonable decision of sparing the son and knowing that he will return to avenge the father. Am I understood?” Rethi didn’t need to nod, a wave of accepting sadness resonated through me.

    The moment left as I walked away from the pups, back into the forested areas, receding into the darkness once again, seeking another enemy to lay waste to with a heavy heart.

    I knew, then and there, that the wails of those pups would never leave my ears. I would hear those wails in every pained cry, every person slain. It would haunt me as an ever-repeating lesson, a disparagement against my own morality that broke and reformed so completely that day.

    I sighed, the boy beside me doing the same.

    It was no matter.

    We moved through the forest with a newfound and bloody confidence.

    Our work was not done.
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  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 44: Bisect

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 44: Bisect

    Time passed in a fugue state. My instinctual response had been to shut down completely, my body becoming a slave of the decimation that we wrought.

    But no, I didn’t allow myself that luxury. I struggled against my own mind that wanted so dearly to recede into the back of my skull, to ignore the violence and the pain that my every movement whispered, promising my targets a final end.

    Each blow added to the revulsion and horror that laid within me, but I accepted and embraced those emotions, clung to them so dearly in the face of my actions, to make sure that I never truly lost my sympathy. The mortifying empathy for those that I killed.

    The first wolf that I had killed wasn’t so bad. Its death was practically pre-ordained by God. It was truly me or it, with no room for emotional arguments. At that point, my mind could only believe the world was a constructed game of sorts, stupid ideals of the world still clouding my mind.

    But here I was now, so clearly more powerful than the poor beasts that I hunted, with otherwise no danger to me. It left a lot of mental power for me to consider my actions.

    What I was doing could be considered horribly amoral, or moral due to its service of the wider community. Whichever one it was, almost didn’t matter to me. I felt bad anyways. If this is how I felt when killing a wolf, a beast about as low you could get on the totem pole, how would I feel when I killed something with human equivalent intelligence?

    Would it feel worse? Would it feel better? Did it matter?

    No, it didn’t matter.

    What mattered was that me and Rethi had spent a lot of time doing the hunting, taking turns in between packs. We weren’t going so far as to make a sport out of the exercise. But we were trying to kill them more efficiently, with less hassle. It was not only important for the time we spent on the actions, but also for the beings we were killing. I had made it obvious that there was going to be no playing with the beasts, and Rethi didn’t argue, basically standing in lockstep with my opinions on the matter.

    It didn’t, however, stop there from being accidents. Thankfully, none of mine were terrible, only once or twice did a blow of mine glance and not properly kill in one blow. It may not have been terrible, but I could only think of the disrespect I’d be showing someone by allowing them to die painfully with needless moments from an inevitable death. It was something that I slowly, but fiercely tried to rectify in myself.

    Rethi’s accident was something more severe than mine. While Rethi may have taken to killing the beasts with less qualms than myself, though the boy could barely stand to look at the pups we inevitably left behind. At one point, while he was set to hunt the entire pack himself, he accidentally cut the stomach of a pregnant wolf.

    The sight was horrific, and while it stood to make me deeply sad, I think it quietly broke something in Rethi. I still wonder if we would have left the animal, so deeply pregnant that is was of no practical use to kill it. Maybe it, along with the pups we left behind, could have helped populate the forest once again after the issue had been brought into line.

    From then on out, each swing of his sword was more careful, more calculated. He used to swing with such fervour and a disregard for what it was that met the bade. Maybe it was a product of training with two people that were so completely above him, someone capable of healing from anything and someone a hell of a lot more experienced than himself. But now that he was facing true living beings, it had drastically changed how he acted.

    He leaned further into the preciseness of the Sharah that I had slowly taught him, rather than the pure power that he had sought out of the steps. I nodded approvingly. I wasn’t a master of the Sharah, or of battles, but the way he approached a fight now was far superior to how he had only hours ago. The blessing and curse of practical experience

    My hands were sticky with blood, holding them far to the sides of my clothes and the rest of my skin that had remarkably seen very little contact with blood, leaving me basically unscathed from blood or injury. It was partly due to my aura of safety that I had not been hit even once. I probably would not have been hit a single time without it, but the aura undoubtedly made it easier. My enemies just a smidgen less alert, less reactive than they would have been otherwise.

    It was something that I also felt bad about. I was using an aura of safety, tricking those within it to feel as if there is less danger than there was, and then killing them. It was necessary, I knew that much. I was going to see battle, and not using the aura in battle was a good way to get myself and others killed. But I felt a severe opposition within me.

    That opposition was a divine thing, less a moral quandary. The source of my power, my domain, was looking down on my actions. It wasn’t condemning them, otherwise I expect that my powers would be entirely shut off, but the domain itself was at odds with the actions caused within it.

    I couldn’t help but wonder if the other Gods of the Hearth Court felt like this when they killed. Or maybe they weren’t capable of doing so, the price that their more powerful Divine forms demanded of them, in contrast to the freedom of choice a mortal existence might offer.

    Rethi quickly finished up the rest of the killing, leaving the few pups and another clearly pregnant mother, something that we’d silently decided was appropriate. He quickly walked further into the forest away from where I stood. I followed him slowly. Rethi had started to be more and more effected by the hunt that what he let on. His face was still as stoic as ever, but the emotional toll on him slowly increased and increased, leaving his emotions in a twisted coil, his stomach churning from the strain.

    I found him couching by a tree, hand up against it, bracing himself. He was dry heaving, so desperately trying to keep the bile and undigested food down. His bloody sword had been thrown into the grass by his side, too much for his overstimulated mind to handle in his weary state.

    I picked up the sword and slashed it through the air, splattering the forest off to my side with speckles of blood. I felt a familiar tingle in my fingers, one that only appeared when I picked up and started to use a weapon other than my soul weapon. It was an insidious feeling, one that slowly crept into an intense pain and writhing disgust, similar to what Mayer had once subjected me to all those months ago. I gently laid the now shockingly clean sword down next to the boy, who had managed to keep his stomach contents down, and now simply looked drained.

    I reached over and laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. The protective clothing rigid under my fingers, but he could obviously feel the added weight. The boy quickly stood and turned to hug me. He was so much taller than when I had first met him that you could easily consider the boy to be a short man.

    Rethi didn’t cry, or even speak. In fact, neither of us did. There was no point, after all. He just hugged me tightly, gripping the back of my shirt hard enough that the weaved fibres strained and a few snapped sharply. We stood there for only a few minutes before the environment changed around me.

    The forest had been getting quieter and quieter from the empathic point of view, the emotional weight of the wolves had reduced the anxious energy in the air significantly, but in only a moment the world burned with anger and fury.

    It was hard to nor fall into the emotion myself, its weight was truly tremendous. I tore myself away from Rethi and began to listen, and Rethi immediately caught onto what I was doing and turned the opposite direction, searching deep into the forest, instinctively seeking the source of my distress.

    We heard it before we saw it.

    In only moments, a thrum began to quake at my feet, the forest floor transmitting the charging steps of something big.

    “Max!” Rethi called, his voice stripped of anything but urgency as he called me. I turned quickly in time to see a massive tree shake and, with an ear-piercing crack, fall heavily to the ground with a thunk.

    I moved forwards, pushing the boy away from me. This was clearly something that Rethi wasn’t capable of handling. The fires of rage that surrounded me gave me a good idea of what its temperament was.

    The massive steps continued towards us as I prompted Rethi to run a good distance away, seeing the shadow of the beast emerge from between the trees. As soon as I saw its form, my mind took me all the way back to the first night I had been on Virsdis.

    As I was wearily dragging my hammer down that river side, I had seen the form of a huge, bull-like figure. This beast, if I was correct, was the same one as I had seen so long ago, returned from the past to face me once again.

    It was hulking, its face was twisted into a cruel and vicious snarl. The bestial appearance of a gigantic bull hid the very real and wicked intelligence that it possessed. As soon as I set eyes on the beast, I knew there was no choice but to kill it.

    I raced forwards toward the beast, quickly going through a set of words that have become second nature to me on very short notice. I approached with a speed I wasn’t able to fully display in any other situation, and just before I reached the beast, I slammed my foot into the ground drawing on that kinetic force and blasting it in the face. The exemplified force brought its full charge to a dead halt in a split second.

    The beast and I looked directly at each other just as it began to shake off the admittedly minor force that had actually been used in that kinetic blast, and it let out a screeching roar only metres away from me. The roar left my ears ringing, blinding me to the thing’s vicious headbutt that sent me scrambling across the ground.

    The beast continued to approach, trying to get its hooves to crush me as I nimbly propelled myself from the leaf-littered forest floor, and slipped away from the beast’s advance.

    I quickly dusted myself off, the dirt coating my clothing coming off in droves. We circled each other, the anger in the beast’s mind subsided minutely to allow it to think more clearly. I could see it start to take me more seriously, despite the fact that I looked no more dangerous than a forest wolf in appearance alone.

    The beast took a lunge forward, probing me with its mighty tusks, but I simply met it head on, punching the tusk directly and forcing the lunge to a standstill, following up with a good knock to its head, the beast was forced to retreat. I don’t think I had ever truly realised how practically strong I was until then. I was able to fight a creature that was the size of a small elephant like nothing, matching it blow for blow.

    The anger returned with a vengeance, the beast was furious at its inability to defeat me as it had its other prey. I extended my aura of safety, but it was only momentarily confused before it snarled and reasserted its anger. The beast charged again, but I just caught it and tried to flip it to its side, hoping to allow for an easy kill.

    The beast didn’t let that happen, using my grip on the tusk and the force of the charge, it tried to lift me off the ground, trying to fling me away from it. I didn’t budge, however, my grip on the tusk too strong for it to shake me off or give me anything more than a rattle around.

    The beast had begun to realise just how hard it’d be to kill me, and I felt that it was considering its retreat, so I decided to give it what it wanted. I gave the beast a mighty push, the tusk pushing and twisting in an odd angle, making the beast roar with pain, but beginning to capitalize on its sudden freedom despite what had to be searing pain.

    Its freedom was not for long.

    With the beast running away, I took a deep breath in and prepared myself. I could easily catch the beast, and bludgeon it to death with my fists, but that was hardly the clean death that I wanted to grant it. I gave a brief thought to letting it go, but that really wasn’t an option. It would continue to perpetuate the same issue as long as it lived here.

    So I took a powerful step forwards. I drew on the energy that existed inside of me and empowered each step with meaning. The first step was to approach, covering meters with simple steps, the second was precision, the third was of strength, and the fourth was an offering.

    With an offering, I swung my arms down from over my head, pulling from my soul deep and fast, the usually cool liquid was burning hot as it leaked from my hands and formed the familiar shape in them. The massive hammer hit the floor with what I’d swear was the sound of a gong being hit. Deep and resounding, the kinetic energy—far more I had ever handled before—coursed through me, and multiplied on multiplied, the force going from formidable to terrifying in moments, and then it was pushed forwards with the exact edge of a razor.

    I heard the sound of trees and flesh being cut, but I didn’t let my eyes open for at least a minute. When I did, I saw the gruesome splatter of blood and the neatly bisected beast laying on the floor, cut longways, leaving a legged half whose hooves were still twitching with the suddenness of its death.

    I just sighed, mind weary and laden with the weight of empty emotions.
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  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 45: Demigod

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 45: Demigod

    Our walk out of the forest was long and quiet.

    We retraced our steps, the trail of carnage we had left on our path through the forest. It was a deeply unpleasant thing to experience, but I feel as if it was required. To see what we had done after the adrenalin had faded from our systems, leaving only weariness and an overwhelming melancholy.

    Rethi hadn’t commented on the bisection of the beast that had attacked us, but I think he gained an insight into just how powerful I had become. There were not many that would be able to survive a blow like I had dealt to the beast.

    I wasn’t even sure if Mayer would be able to survive that blow head on, though I’m sure he’d be able to dodge it with practiced ease.

    I was convinced that the beast I had slaughtered was weak, only a step or two up from the forest wolves themselves. The power that I had used to kill it was unrefined at best and needed to be trained correctly before I could possibly face something stronger than that, if the danger factor of these sorts of beasts scaled exponentially.

    I could probably win against stronger beings, but it would be a more brutal fight, one that was unlikely to be solved by be sending out a kinetic blade and bisecting them. Especially if they had a more significant intelligence or the ability to shift at all. Any mitigation to my own power would mean that I’d be reduced to a really good punching bag.

    We finally made it back to the camp, emerging from the tree line and quickly venturing down the path to our small collection of belongings.

    Alena was there, of course. She looked furious. No, incensed. But she took one look at Rethi, who was coated in drying blood, and she began to fuss over the boy in a total shift of temprament. I walked down to the river only a few minutes away from the camp and washed my hands of the blood.

    It was a sad action, difficult and frustrating, but something that I was sure would punctuate every battle I am in. After my hand were clean I laid back in the damp grass and just let the sounds of the water soothe me, as if being close the gently meandering water cleansed how I felt inside.

    I heard yelling and argument from the camp. Probably an emotional moment between the couple. It went on for a few minutes before it became quiet, and I could only hear the soft sobbing of two children who really shouldn’t have to tortured by the world like this.

    Impending wars, terrifying monsters lurking in the further reaches of Virsdis, taboo magical powers, and a fragile, juvenile love being strained by a duty to the world and to a strange man with a silver hammer.

    We had originally intended to move off as soon as we were done with the wolves…

    But I think the town can wait, if just for a night.

    I didn’t return to my tent that night. I spent my time by that river and relaxed under the dim moonlight, unworried by anything that might lurk in the darkness. I stared up at the other world that circled this one, what was displayed to us mostly shrouded in the dark on night-time. I wondered what life was like there, what was happening on that pearl in the sky.

    Had the Champions already started to stake their claims? Had there already been battles?

    I couldn’t possibly know.

    The hours passed as I contemplated, looking up at the stars and into the other world. The sun slowly began to rise, lighting up the worlds erratically at first, and then slowly bringing a more complete shine a few hours later.

    I tore myself from the comfortable patch of grass that I had laid in for the night and moved towards the little camp. Alena was awake, keeping watch over a small mound of quiet coals. I nodded to her, and she did the same.

    No words were exchanged as I prepared the horses, something that very quickly became second nature on the trail, despite my disuse of the horses themselves. I slowly gave the horse a clean and a brush before preparing the saddles and strapping much of our items to them. Rethi was up by now, being helped by Alena in taking the tents down and packing them up. Before long, the horses were fully packed, and we started our journey back to the village.

    After the afternoon of melancholy, Rethi, Alena and I began to joke around again. Idly chatting the trip away. There was lots of discussion on what had happened, and Rethi managed to keep the even remarkably genuine for Alena to understand. Though he did leave out his mistake in cutting a pregnant wolf’s belly.

    I also began to force Alena into healing self-inflicted wounds, or wounds that I obtained through training spars with Rethi. Most of the attempts were for naught or doing far more damage than the initial wound, but every once in a blue moon, in tens of tries, the wound would heal almost perfectly, disregarding scarring and a certain amount of function loss depending on the injury.

    What was impressive about the healing, was not that my flesh was being healed but that the injuries that were being healed were the sorts of injuries that medical science back on Earth had nightmares of. Massive amount of muscle, nerve, and spinal cord damage.

    In one extremely exciting example, Alena managed to heal a severed spinal cord, right at the base of my neck, effectively making me a quadriplegic. I don’t even need to say how extremely impressive that is. The only issue that I seemed to have retained was a slight numbness in the outer fingers of my left hand. Why that was, I couldn’t possibly tell you, but going from entirely functionless to slight numbness in a few fingers?

    It was those few days of travel that I think Alena came to understand just why I thought her healing abilities were so impressive. Sure, a generous seventy percent of the time, she turned the wound into a self-perpetuating tumour that would consume any regular person’s body in a matter of minutes and effectively eat itself to death or turn you into a totally different organism. But the few times the healing worked, it would turn a person from entirely uncapable of movement or control over parts of their body, all the way to only minorly inconvenienced by their disability.

    I had even let her try to heal a brain injury once, a pretty severe one that Rethi had caused by accidentally shoving his sword too far into my eye socket. I was left very confused and unable to find my balance, having difficulty with speech. Though I somehow made it obvious that I wanted Alena to try heal me before I let my ‘natural’ healing take place.

    Let’s just say that the feeling of a tumour suddenly exploding inside your skull, and rapidly leaking out of your eye socket isn’t the most fun experience in the world. She didn’t heal for the rest of that day. Thankfully, I can regenerate my brain from basically any amount of damage at this point, my divine power not being as precious about the head as my other regeneration factor had been for whatever reason.

    Though the next day she managed to fix a concussion really easily, so there is definitely potential of healing more advanced or complicated brain injury, which would completely change the landscape of injury as this world knows it.

    Alena now willingly does her healing on me whenever she gets the chance, slowly becoming just as excited about the possibilities as myself. Though I wasn’t fooled, she still had that deep set of swirling emotions that constantly assailed her mind when the thought was brought up, kneecapping any progress severely.

    Otherwise, the ride home was remarkably quiet. No signs from Gallar or anyone from the Hearth Court, which was a little disappointing. I had felt such a strong connection to the man when I spoke with him, it was almost like being separated from an older brother you never knew you had.

    As I mused about my Divine brother, the path slowly became better and better maintained, slowly progressing into the road that passed through the destroyed and derelict outskirts of the town and progressing inwards towards the centre, where the road was in far better condition, having been frequented with just about every human and animal that the town had to offer.

    I tasked Rethi and Alena with the stabling of the two horses, which was really just a good excuse to leave the two of them alone for a while, say their goodbyes after the weeklong trip. I myself made my way towards Mayer’s home. Oddly refreshed by finally being back ‘home’.

    The sound of the wooden steps up to the door, and the familiar creek as I opened it. The warm and scented air inside, washing over you as the door opened, the smell of tea and the warmth of a clean fire almost ever present. I pulled off the shoes I had been using for the past few days, letting them flop to the flood. Though I had taken time to wash myself each night, even having the luxury of a bar of rudimentary soap on our trip, my feet still smelt terribly from the general sweat, something I unfortunately hadn’t managed to overcome, despite my sudden divinity.

    I walked down the hallways and poked my head into the lounge room and immediately growing a grin. Mayer sat in his luxurious chair, behind him the fire crackled gently, warming the room against the creeping chill of the eve.

    “Good afternoon, Master Mayer!” I said, putting on my hammiest posh accent, drawing out the words in an overly conciliatory way. The older man, bushy eyebrowed and stern face cracked into a smile that you’d swear didn’t suit him but did even so.

    “Good afternoon to you too, kid.” I waggled my finger in front of his face, moving closer teasingly.

    Tsk tsk. I’ll have you know that I am no longer a ‘kid’! I am a bonafide, newly minted man of faith!” Mayer’s right eyebrow rose, posing a question with it.

    “Oh? Meet a God on your little adventure did you?” He jabbed. I laughed raucously, and he began to join me, finding hilarity in the notion until I cut him off.

    “Of course I did, old pal!” Mayer went very still. The whole mood instantly changed, and his suddenly widened eye bored into mine.

    “Who?” He asked.

    “Gallar.” I responded. His brow creased in half remembrance.


    “A First One of the Hearth Court.” The older man’s eyes widened still with my response. He quickly set down his tea and requisitioned his hand to his lap because it began to shake. I had never seen the man so perturbed, and it was starting to worry me.

    “A First One, Max?” He placed a hand against his forehead and kneaded his scalp with the ball of his palm. “I haven’t heard of a First One of any Court greeting a mortal on their first interaction with Court.” The older man’s eyes darkened with worry.

    “Well, he did make it pretty obvious that it wasn’t exactly normal for a God of his status to go walkabouts. Especially with all that ‘the other Courts are watching my Court’ business.” I said, treating the situation with a little more levity. Mayer was taking this harder than I expected. Maybe interaction with Gods was a little less common than I had brought myself to believe. Mayer was fiddling with his fingers and rubbing against his hair with a look of pure consternation on his face.

    “What did this Gallar want? I hope you didn’t take any deals, Max.” I looked up into Mayer’s eyes and he knew instantly from my awkward smile that I had, indeed, made a deal.

    “In my defence, the dude seemed genuine…” But Mayer didn’t let me even finish my sentence.

    “Maximilian. He. Is. A. God.” Mayer thundered. I had never seen him so angry. Not even remotely close to when he had mentioned the last Champion War. But this was a seething, explosive anger.

    “I understand that, Mayer.” I said, a steel working itself into my voice.

    “I’m not sure that you do, Max. Making deals with a God isn’t something to be flippant about! Gods are historically conniving, almost regardless of their domains.” Mayer sighed heavily and got up to pour himself more tea, motioning to me if I wanted some and I nodded. Well, hopefully that meant he wasn’t too angry… I better wait until I get my tea before I tell him more of what happened. I might get my cup thrown at me.

    A minute later we were both sipping from hot cups of tea, Mayer silently processing.

    “What was the deal?” He demanded. I agonised over how to frame the situation, trying to make sure that he got as complete a view as he could of the context.

    “Well, honestly Mayer. I think it was more that he was pleading for a deal with me.” Mayer’s eyebrow twitched.

    “He wanted something you have?” He questioned, and I shook my head.

    “I mean, in that I don’t think he could have forced it on me unless I wanted it. It seemed… steeped in tradition, to say the least of it.” Mayer grumbled, but nodded.

    “So, what were the conditions?” I shrugged emphatically.

    “Everything I was already going to do.” He gave me an odd look, his expression stuck between bewilderment and darkening.

    “So they just wanted a Champion on their side? You’ve made yourself a pawn in their game?”

    “In a way. I think they’ve been planning for this eventuality for a while. From what I could glean, it seemed like the Hearth Court has been forced into a ‘subservient’ role to the other Courts.” Mayer thought for a moment.

    “Is that simply an effect of their domain?”

    “No, I don’t think so. I think they may have been forced into subservience because of their political power and their ability to gather information. I think that they have had to sit back and watch horrors committed and ignored by Gods that are too vain, power hungry or paranoid to act.

    “They want me to save the worlds from another Champion War.”
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  21. Threadmarks: Chapter 46: Gods and their Involvement

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 46: Gods and their Involvement

    Mayer looked at me, holding back his suspicion while thinking through this supposed ‘help’ from the divine.

    “I don’t know the past between the wars and the Gods, but I can have a guess and say probably not good.” Mayer nodded solemnly.

    “The Courts treated it as a power grab. Most of the Upper Courts controlled a very powerful Champion, blessing them with some mundane power and using the Champion’s drive to get home to achieve their own ends. Which, conveniently, has been disregarded as a few priests getting uppity and supporting Champions. Most God involvement in the wars has only made things worse…” Mayer growls but gives up his anger with a frustrated sigh.

    “Well, honestly, as far as I can tell this ‘deal’—if you can call it that—was in good faith.” Mayer scoffed but I just shot him an unamused glance, “I think they were gambling on me.”

    “A gamble? Gods are too ‘wise’ to gamble. What’s the catch?”

    “The catch is that there is no catch. I think they are putting all their money on black and crossing their fingers, Mayer.” My seriousness started to dissuade him from his scorn, slowly bringing him to the important questions.

    “You say that, but how can you know that really did bet everything on you. It seems remarkably stupid for a court of Gods.” I shrugged.

    “Maybe it is stupid, Mayer. But maybe the lack of ‘smart’ and ‘tactical’ decisions is what saves the world, rather than appealing to the conservative route. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hearth Court was currently up in flames, having a collective existential meltdown because of the massive risk they just took.” The man was well and truly serious now. Almost scared by the thought of Gods being that willing to take a risk on the scale that I was describing. And then it hit Mayer’s brain that he had forgotten to truly extract out of me what I’d gained from the ‘deal’. With no small amount of worry laden in his voice, he asked:

    “What, exactly, did you get out of this, Maximilian.” I felt like I was about to get dressed down by the principal. I put on my grandest shit eating grin and, with no small amount of bravado, exclaimed:

    “I, Master Mayer, have been made into a living Demigod.”

    One second passed, then two, and before long it was clear that a fuse had well and truly fried within Mayer’s brain. I huffed with mock offense.

    “Honestly Mayer, Rethi dealt with this news better than you.” With a laugh, the man started to slowly smile, before manically cackling for a good five minutes.

    “A Demigod! Honestly?” He said between peals of laughter My own laughter his only affirmation.

    It took far too long for the both of us to calm down to the point where it was possible to have a halfway reasonable conversation. Even then, most of it was a babbling mess.

    “Well, what did becoming a Demigod do?” The first reasonable question to come out of Mayer after his laughing fit was a good one. Something I’m not all that sure of myself.

    “Well, a few things. One is that my Soul Hammer is even heavier, which kind of pisses me off,” Mayer let out a harsh bark of laughter, “other than that, my soul is apparently unable to be enslaved by anyone under Demigod level themselves. Can’t imagine there are too many Demigod level beings just walking around, enslaving people willy-nilly.” Mayer assumed a thoughtful expression.

    “I don’t really know what constitutes as a Demigod level being, Max. I’d still be careful about it, because I have a few people in mind that could probably count as something similar in strength alone. What else?” I screwed up my nose at that. Don’t be worried but be worried anyways. Perfect.

    “It totally mucked around with the structure of my soul, and also planting a soul seed in there. Not sure what it’s going to do, or when it’ll happen, but we’ll get to that when we get there.” Mayer looked perturbed about someone ‘mucking about’ with a soul, but just nodded, “Along with that, I gained access to the domain of a Hearth God. Which makes sense, seeing as I’m effectively a baby Hearth God.” Mayer chuckled at the thought of a ‘baby God’.

    “So no major jump in power then?” I shrugged.

    “Well there is definitely some power gained, mostly in utility with the domain aura I can use. It makes people feel safer in the aura, which is pretty handy in social situations, obviously, but it can also be used to help in battle, though it feels icky to use it that way. Apart from that I think my regeneration is more powerful now.” Mayer nodded solemnly, understanding the sentiment.

    “So that’s it then, just adding to the potential you already have.” He hummed at the thought for a few seconds, “Gotta say, not the worst divine deal I’ve heard of. The only better deals I’ve heard of at pure legend. No idea if it ever happened.” I snorted indignantly.

    “I’ll have you know, Gallar specifically said that he’d never seen someone be given a Court Blessing before, let alone a divine seed. So I think we are safely in uncharted territory.” Mayer raised a questioning eyebrow, “I’d trust the guy that threw around statements like ‘millions of years’ without a moment pause, Mayer. He is a First One, after all.” Mayer just rolled his eyes, about to quip back before I stopped him with the clearing of my throat.

    “I guess there is one more thing. I think being Court Blessed and having that seed put in me cut me off from the God of my old world. I have no access to the screens anymore, or any achievements. I gained nothing from killing the wolves or the big boar-like thing in the forest. So I think that’s the last line cut off.” I smiled, more bitterly than I intended. Mayer, in his absolute seriousness, took the information in stride. He got up from his seat, walked over to me, offered me a hand which I took, and pulled me out of the chair and crushed me in a hug.

    “That wasn’t an easy sacrifice to make, Max, no matter how you spin it. The sentiment you spoke to me about all those months ago convinced me of your virtuousness, but this…” He patted me heavily on the back, “you are nothing short of a hero. If anyone was going to become a God, I don’t think I could complain with it being you, Max. A man willing to leave behind his entire world for another.” I hugged the man back strongly and we stood there for a good few minutes.

    I had already come to terms with never going back home, leaving my friends and family to live without me, and truly cutting myself of was merely the funeral after the death. In a way, it was barely an emotional topic anymore, it was almost relieving, knowing that I was unable to be tempted, to be entirely committed to my own word. It was the most terrifyingly overwhelming decision I could have made… but now that it was made, I felt focused.

    I parted myself from the man’s embrace and smiled cheekily.

    “I’ll treat you good if you keep serving me tea, Mayer.” We grinned at each other as we both sat back down.

    “So, how did the actual subjugation itself go?” Mayer asked, finally getting around to the proper discussion he was intending to have.

    “Well enough… and incredibly unpleasant.” Mayer nodded knowingly.

    “Rethi?” He asked, question implied.

    “Same as myself, really. Lost a bit of his bluster but came out of it better than he was before. I think he found a new respect for his sword and what he was doing with it.”

    “Good. I was worried about that. The kid is a savage when it comes to fighting us, but fighting that way against things that you are actually hurting and killing is very different. You said something about a big boar?” I nodded

    “Was what was causing the forest wolves to push further out, I’d guess. Terrible thing, full of all sorts of rage. Ended up killing is pretty easily, especially with the upgrade to by hammer.”

    “You actually managed to swing it?” Mayer asked, eyebrow raised.

    “Just once, summoning mid-swing of course. Managed to bisect it.” Mayer grimaced.

    “Can’t have been pretty. Groust, the boar thing you fought, are massive pests. All they do is disrupt and destroy. I had a good feeling that it’d be what you’d find but, well, it’s Virsdis. Could have been anything, really.”

    “Well, either way, the day was a harrowing experience, as well as an interestingly romantic experience.” I grinned as Mayer looked at me glumly.

    “So she was with you two then? Did Rethi smuggle her into a pack or something equally as silly?” He asked.

    “Nah, apparently she ran behind us the whole first day.” There was a small hint of surprise in the man’s eyes. “Obviously, I let her tag along after that little display of madness. I didn’t feel like adding another two days to the trip when I could just prop her up on my horse and I could run beside the two of them. Lots of teen romantic drama that I managed to mostly avoid.”

    “But blew up in your face anyways?” He gave a knowing grin.

    “Of course.” I nodded sagely. “But I did find out some interesting information either way. Turns out that little miss Gram has a specialty of her own, she’s a—”

    “She is a life shifter, I know. I’ve known for years.” I was left with my mouth hanging open, words slipping from my lips. I pouted and crossed my arms childishly.

    “You’re no fun.” He grinned, full mouth of pearly whites gleaming with mischievousness.

    “Hey, you just dropped a world changing bomb on me, I can at least know about the Apothecaries’ daughter.” I rolled my eyes and waved away the conversation.

    “Anyway, just giving you a heads up that I’ve been letting her use my body as a test case when I get hurt.” Mayer exploded from his chair.

    What?” He said, dangerously low.

    “I said I—” I began smugly before I was so rudely interrupted.

    “I know what you damn well said. Gods, kid, Life shifters are dangerous! One accidental move on their part and they’ve created—”

    “A massive walking tumour who is constantly eating itself, mindlessly wandering under their indirect command. Yeah, got that one from the mediocre rundown on why life shifters are bad from the girl herself,” I scoffed “it’s all semantics anyway.”

    Mayer looked at me flabbergasted for a moment before sitting himself back down in his chair and rubbing his brow in a vain attempt to combat the aneurysm waiting to happen in his head.

    “So what, in your infinite wisdom, have you let her heal, Lord God Maximilian?”

    “Oh, you know, just a few minor arm injuries, fingers, broken bones,” he nodded, breathing a sigh of relief, “A spinal cord injury and a severe brain injury as well. Y’know for prosperity.” Mayer groaned, I just snickered.

    “Honestly, it wasn’t even that bad. When it all went wrong and tumours started to grow out of my eye socket, it was actually pretty easy to wait for the pressure inside my skull to pop the top, with a little help from Rethi’s sword, and then excise the tumour out of my brain, along with a bit extra. Easy peasy.”

    “You could have properly died, Max. I know you have healed from minor brain injuries before, but one as extreme as that could have crippled you.” He said, but his tone was defeated.

    “I know, Mayer. But I think I might be as close to immortal as I ever could be while being actually mortal. I’m not sure that anything short of some crazy shifting stuff or having my body literally annihilated could kill me. Even then, I might just regenerate from a small bit of errant flesh. The regeneration is probably linked to my soul itself, so that’s handy.” Mayer let out a long sigh mixed with a humourless laugh.

    “Well, at least I don’t have to be so worried about you dying on me then.” He took a few moments to recentre his thoughts, “What do you intend to do with the girl?” I shrugged.

    “Nothing special. She can tag along if she wants.” Mayer rolled his eyes forcing a grin out of me, “But when she does, because she definitely will, I’m probably going to try and make her into the world’s greatest healer that has ever existed with a side of medical revolution. You know, the standard Demigod fare.” Mayer considers for a moment before hesitantly nodding.

    “I can… certainly see the logic to it. She’ll be fighting an uphill battle against public opinion though.” I shrugged nonchalantly.

    “She can change that. Especially when she will one day be able to cure whole villages of fatal diseases and immunise the entire future population against that same disease, effectively wiping it out forever.” Mayer had that look on his face that just meant that his head was hurting from all the bullshit I was throwing him.

    “Goddamn Champions and their innovation.” Mayer jokingly shook his fist at me.

    “Hey, I’m not a Champion, I’m a God, I’ll have you know!”

    “Curse the Gods and their meddling.” He said, now shaking his fist at the roof.

    I laughed, Mayer laughed.

    And then the fireplace laughed.
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  22. Threadmarks: Chapter 47: Unsettling News

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 47: Unsettling News

    Mayer whipped around, quickly springing up from the chair and staring at the fireplace, hands glowing with a cool light.

    “Now, now, no need for that, Mayer.” A jovial voice, not too dissimilar to Gallar’s, but reedier and more bookish than the heavyset innkeeper’s.

    “Who are you?” Mayer said quietly, though underneath the level-headed dialogue was a fiercely caution.

    “Well, I can’t tell you that, Mayer. Unfortunately, the other Gods have become very good at tracking us, and with our First One coming to greet young Maximilian over there, they’ve become highly suspicious of our activity.” The fire crackled, as if adding a full stop to his sentence. Mayer nodded slowly clearly still suspicious, but I had another plan. I took in a breath and slowly extended my aura of safety outwards, reaching towards the fireplace and felt it snap to another domain, like a magnetic piece of metal.

    “Ooh, very good little brother! I was just a bout to ask you to do just that.” The pleased voice thrummed through the fire, then after a moment a feeling of relation was sent through the connected auras, just for a moment, and then cut off.

    “What was that?” I asked, cautiousness gone, replaced with curiousness.

    “Bah, nothing complex. I believe that a similar technique is possible with shifting. I believe the kingdoms use it to verify the blood of an heir to the throne. I may be mistaken, the topic frankly bores me to no end.” I turned to look at Mayer, a questioning look.

    “A bloodright ritual?” He inquired of the fireplace.

    “Ah, yes that is the one. Though less spilling of the blood and more swapping of the divine energy that lies within us. If the divine energies are mutually compatible, you are of the same Court, it’s as simple as that. Some courts simply connect their divine energies together permanently.” There was a motion in the fire that you could have sworn was a shrug.

    “Why doesn’t every God do that?” I asked, earning a look from Mayer that said something along the lines of ‘Is this really time for question and answer?’.

    “No, this is the perfect time for question and answer! Well, for the limited time I’m able to be here before the other courts start sniffing in the right direction. The answer to your question, brother, it that it comes with the benefit of true connection, but with the downside of individuality and physical freedom within the divine realm.”

    “You can use the bloodright ritual to take over someone’s identity?” Mayer asked, perturbed by the possibility.

    “Absolutely not. The worst you could get from a bloodright ritual is a blood curse.” The fire said firmly, “Though the basis of the ritual itself is nigh identical, divine energy is a fundamental part of a God’s being. To link yourself to a collection of Gods for a long period of time is to sacrifice identity for power. Somewhat like an army versus a small mercenary group.” Mayer seemed mollified with that.

    “I can imagine why the Hearth Court isn’t interested.” I said with a knowing grin.

    “Of course! I couldn’t dare to sacrifice any of my superb intellect and charm!” I could feel the grin through the fire. Mayer laughed heartily, finally putting down his guard and moving his chair to face the dancing flame in the fireplace.

    “Oh Gods, I can’t possibly understand why you decided that Max was a good fit for the Hearth Court.” I did the same to my chair, pulling closer to the fire.

    “Hey, that’s hurtful!” I say, smiling all the while.

    “Yeah, Max was a perfect fit.” The unnamed hearth God chuckled, “Though we only found him because we were trying to track you down, Mayer.” Mayer’s head quirked to the side in surprise.

    “Why would your court be looking for me? I can’t imagine that I ideologically fit with the hearth court very well.” The flames stopped dancing for a moment.

    “Do you want to save the world from the impending war with the Champions of Earth?” The voice asked, curiously. Mayer’s nose scrunched up.

    “Of course I do.” The fire made another pseudo shrugging motion.

    “Then we were willing to deal with any other ideological difference. We wanted a warrior, a Champion of our own cause.” There was a crackling hum as the God on the other side of the fire thought. “Though, I don’t believe you would have been given a divine seed. You wouldn’t have been compatible with our domain closely enough to have survived implanting it within your soul. Maximilian was exceptionally compatible, which lead to a rather last-minute decision on our part.”

    “I see, so I would have been given this grand blessing by itself, then?” The fire does a facsimile of a nod.

    “Indeed. It would have made you quite powerful. But after seeing Maximilian and his work throughout his time in our worlds, as well as his aspirations? Well…” The God paused thoughtfully, “you could say that we had the longest and most intense argument the Hearth Court had ever seen. I believe that it lasted a total of two months, if I remember correctly.” Mayer chuckled along with the fire.

    “Causing problems for everyone was he?”

    “Ooh yes, we were deciding the biggest bet that had ever been made in the entire history of the universe, barring the initial creation, I presume. We are betting millions of years of wealth on our little brother, no pressure.” The fire smiled, laughing at my now slightly more pale face.

    “That’s a lot to be betting on a kid.” Mayer said, seriousness creeping back into his voice.

    “A kid you say?” The God questioned, “A kid would be hard pressed to make any difference whatsoever in even a town as small as this. During being here, he has managed to employ a poor beggar and help turn them into a capable warrior, deal with a complex social issue that has been inbuilt in the culture of Virsdis and Orisis for thousands of years, manage to set a child who tried to kill him on the correct path, leading him to find a talent in woodworking, convincing those on their deathbeds to give their bodies to science, creating a culture of being conscious of the greater good, and then convincing a young girl that she is capable of changing the world? I’d consider that something a man would be capable of.”

    Mayer turned to me, amusement clearly written on his face, his thick eyebrow arched high.

    “That’s quite the rap sheet you have there, Max. Even I didn’t know about a few of those.”

    Even I had forgotten about a few of them. The woodworking one I definitely didn’t know about. It was the Jothian boy who had come to attack me, and somehow I’d managed to scare the kid straight. I had said that I’d go check up on him, but I honestly forgot entirely. Good to hear he was doing well for himself, though. Other than that? When you put it that way, it sounded pretty damn impressive. Though I couldn’t help but feel that the God was trending towards the more story-telling side of things. I just rolled my eyes in response.

    “Either way, we found him exceptionally fitting for our cause and our Court. We had been searching for a long time for someone in the mortal world to properly embody out domain, and our First One has been searching far, far longer. To see him so excited about Max…” The God’s voice took on a fond tone, “It was compelling to us. Many of us see him as a father. To see him so excited to bring another of his own ilk into the world? It was compelling in and of itself.” I could feel my cheeks reddening as the seemingly endless supply of flattering remarks were made.

    I certainly didn’t feel impressive, even after I had legitimately become a Demigod, I felt no different than I had, bar some mundane qualities. It slowly reinforced within me just how much I needed to accomplish, if not for me, for those that seemed to trust in me and see that degree of potential within me.

    “Oh look, you’re making the boy blush!” Mayer said, a grin drawn across his face.

    “Of course! We are the next closest things to seducers you know! It’s out Godly duty to make people feel better about themselves.” The warm but slightly nasal chuckle from the fire just made it hit home how quickly the conversation had been shifted from the immediate suspicion that Mayer had shown. I guess Gallar didn’t remark that the Hearth Court were the peacekeepers and Gods of quiet political intrigue for nothing.

    “Regardless, I just wanted to let you know that we are here, and I’ll likely to be the one contacting you in future. Other than that–” There was a sudden cut off in the God’s voice, which seemed odd at first, but over the next few seconds the concern became a real worry when the fire flickered and the voice returned.

    “Maximilian, Mayer. A sister that is helping survey your surrounding area just told me some potentially worrying news.”

    “Go on.” Mayer said, not a lick of anxiousness in his voice, sounding entirely task focused. His emotional state was quite similar. In a way, he felt uniquely at home in this sort of situation, which would be more odd to me if I couldn’t feel the man radiate his emotional state to the world.

    “A few towns over, maybe ten day’s ride, there is a–and I quote–‘man cloaked in shadow’ wandering in your direction. She managed to catch a conversation between a farmer and another man where the farmer recounted being asked by the cloaked man about inn prices. He had no horse of companions, and talking to him seems to have given the farmer a bad case of the shakes.” Mayer thought for a moment and then nodded.

    “Any more information you can give us?”

    “Nothing. That was the only lead we have. We don’t have much time, and I won’t be able to contact you again for a good while. We won’t be able to get you any more information. Be careful, Maximilian.” The fire suddenly disappeared, somehow sucking the warmth out of the room with it.

    Mayer and I sat there for a few moments, staring perplexedly into the quiet fireplace.

    “That didn’t sound good.” I said dumbly. Mayer didn’t bother to respond, his affirmation obvious. A moment later, the man clicked his fingers and a small flame sputtered to life, floating mid air, somehow surviving without wood to fuel it. A testament to Mayer’s shifting abilities that he can read and to other tasks and maintain a completely safe burning fire in the other room, even.

    “I believe I know who is coming towards us and if I’m right, there is no amount of running that would get us away from them.” He said as he stared into the fire.

    “What do you mean we can’t run away from them? Surely I could.” Mayer just shook his head in the negative.

    “If this were anyone else, I’d have a large amount of confidence that you could get away from them. But if this is who I think it is, then there are few people who could dream of running from them.” Mayer sighed deeply as he slouched back into his chair, “You are fast in a very mundane way, Max. You can run forever at a truly impressive speed. But when you add shifting into the mix, and the sheer amount of experience that they have with it? No. We can’t run.” He began to rub his forehead gently in a circular motion, an action that seemed to calm him slightly.

    “So who is this person then?”

    “A Keeper.” I turned to the man, eyebrow raised.

    “Keeper? Like a beekeeper? Do they keep monsters or something?” Mayer chuckled dryly.

    “Close enough, but no. Keepers are a small collection of people that have sacrificed everything to protect the world from what they keep.” I rubbed my chin in thought.

    “Does that mean there is, or is not a Keeper for monsters?” Mayer just shrugged.

    “I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. But, I haven’t ever heard of one. They seem to focus more on singular categories of things, generally very destructive or harmful, especially in the wrong hands.”

    “So they go around and collect crazy dangerous stuff? How do they even determine what is dangerous and what isn’t and what should be kept from the world and what should be left to help us advance?” I asked, trying to understand the morality of it myself.

    “The Keepers are pseudo priests of the Court of Mysteries.” I was about to ask how he knew that, when the Court of Gods of Mysteries were involved, but he waved my brewing question away, “They are an open secret. They have their own fairy tales associated with them. Rethi would probably be able to recount a good amount of legends off of the top of his head.” You both share a smile at that. The boy loved his stories. We had a bet going that he’d try his hand at writing his own at some point. I took nay just for the sake of it, but we both know he will try at some point, if he hasn’t already.

    “So, their Gods tell them what to take and where it is?” I concluded.

    “Basically.” He sighed again and then turned directly to look into my eyes, “Now, the question is, whether they are here for you or me.”
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  23. Threadmarks: Chapter 48: Keeper

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 48: Keeper

    I learned much over the next few days, after the dire warning from whatever Hearth God had communicated that a Keeper was coming in our direction.

    Mayer had called a group meeting between myself, Rethi and even Alena, to discuss this new info.

    The reaction from Rethi had been that starstruck look he always got when Mayer and I discussed some legend in a realistic capacity. It’s frequency was slowly declining, as he got used to the fact that his ‘Master’ was a bona fide Demigod and ex-Champion, for what it was worth. This moment of amazement was quickly washed away when Rethi started to recount what the Keepers actually were to the rest of the group.

    The Keepers were a group aligned with the Court of Mysteries, their sole purpose is to track down and take control over dangerous items, artifacts or even beings within their own purview. They were positively legendary, true fairy tale material, according to Rethi.

    Mayer, however, thought differently.

    “They are entirely real, and have been around a hell of a lot longer than our records of them show, though they have been busy for the last few decades.” He had said.

    Alena, who wasn’t given precisely clear information on just how I got the information, didn’t seem to understand why she was involved in this situation all of a sudden. She simply sat her chair and gawked, being thrust into the presence of Mayer himself and learning that the Keepers are real, and not just a feature of a bedtime story.

    “How… close are they to their fairy tale counterparts?” She had asked timidly, unsure of how impolite she could get away with being in front of Mayer. Mayer, however, didn’t take note of the girl not referring to him in full politeness.

    “Fairly close. Though they are far less giving than they seem in the stories. They do not dole out swords and magic items like a merchant would, asking for something in exchange. They take far more than they give, but when they do give items of power out, it’s almost always at the behest of the Gods that they work for. They are also far more dangerous.”

    Which was about all of the information that anyone got out of those hours of discussion.

    Mayer knew more, and I suspected he’d actually met a Keeper before, but he didn’t elaborate on any past experience he may or may not have had. Though he had said that he was questioning whether the Keeper was there for him or for me, which I found interesting.

    Mayer had all sorts of things that a Keeper could potentially want, like that wand for one. Being as valuable as Mayer had said it was gave it a certain possibility, but he had also alluded to people being able to actually make them and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were relatively commonplace amongst certain shifting types in Orisis.

    I had learned next to nothing about Orisis during my time with Mayer. Too busy doing literally everything else and devoting my time to making pretty footprint patterns in the dirt. But now that it was becoming clear that the day where I would leave was drawing ever closer, it was becoming a point of interest.

    However, the days drew closer to the approximate ten days that the hearth court prescribed before the Keeper himself made it to the small nameless town we were anxiously waiting in.

    It was indeed nameless as well, in fact this conglomeration of towns along the road Rethi, Alena and I had travelled along were simply called road towns. They rarely lasted longer than a few decades and there were constant influxes and outfluxes of people due to immigration between towns, most likely because of constant issues with bandits and monsters. I didn’t even actually know what kingdom I was in, or if there was a kingdom owning this land at all. Mayer would probably know, but if I asked the man every possible question I had about the outside world, his brain would start leaking out his ears from boredom.

    It was day eight of the ten-day approximation when the town was set alight with whispers. Apparently, a mysterious man had rented a room at the bar the night before, which happened infrequently enough that the townsfolk actually cared. Especially when they were ‘spooky’, as the innkeeper had so eloquently put it.

    Rethi had brought that information back with him after he made a trip out to Alena’s home, being told by Michael Gram who seemed to almost be the towns secret seller, probably for the man’s own amusement if nothing else.

    “Well, looks like we’ll be having a visitor in the next few hours then.” Mayer said calmly. Very calmly in fact. You’d be entirely fooled by Mayer, thinking that he had everything well in hand, but I could see into the man’s head, so when I took a peek and saw what amounted to factory creating contingency plan after contingency plan blazing with all the speed of anxiousness, I gave Mayer’s statement a nod and pretended I had never looked.

    “Rethi, I’m going to ask that you sit this one out, mate.” I said, trying to put on a similar anxious less guise. Rethi looked at me, scandalized that he was being sent away.

    “What do you mean sit this out? We went and mowed down a forest full of wolves, but meeting one guy is too much?” I was pretty obvious he was just being petulant, and even he himself knew that the two things he was comparing wasn’t even remotely comparable.

    “You’ve heard what Mayer told us, Rethi.” I said warningly. I wasn’t going to let the kid convince me that it was a good idea for him to stay while this went down. Rethi huffed, irate. There was that clear frustration that I could feel, the one that everyone has felt once or twice, exclusion. I just raised my eyebrow and the boy rolled his eyes and walked out of the door, probably going over to see Alena instead.

    Rethi was usually respectful and understanding, but I can see why he might not be happy with me excluding him from something so big. But I couldn’t risk the boy’s life if this Keeper really was just as dangerous as Mayer says he is. Mayer walked into the lounge room and plopped himself down into his chair, reclining into as comfortable position as he could.

    “Managed to get Rethi away?” He asked quietly. I just nodded and the room was absorbed with the silence.

    There wasn’t anything to talk about, just waiting for something to happen. The warmth of the midday sun was leaking through the windows, brightening the magnificently crafted wood structure that was Mayer’s home. The small trinkets and warm carpets covered the walls and floors, a bookshelf full of books that I had no doubt contained some advanced knowledge on history, though I had never read then and really should have at least tried to.

    This room had slowly become one of the only places on Virsdis that I felt I could relax, if only for a moment. For months I had been so consumed by the need to empower myself, feeling distinctly underpowered and overwhelmed by the new world around me. Maybe the other Champions had made better decisions than me, choosing to read and learn and train all at the same time. But I didn’t have the mental capacity for all of them, so I chose one and it was learning the Sharah at the cost of everything else.

    The silent relaxation that I was able to experience in this room calmed my anxiousness, allowing me to simply think. I knew that at any moment the man we had been anxiously awaiting would arrive, and with him there would be more craziness thrown my way, and that it may very well be the tipping point that will begin my journey across the worlds.

    A nail was put in that relaxation, suddenly killing it when the sound of the front door opening and closing rung out through the hallway and into the lounge where we were waiting. I saw Mayer take in a deep, slow breath and look up towards the doorway.

    “Keeper.” He greeted. I turned to look and saw a tall man, maybe six foot and a bit tall, entirely cloaked in an exceptionally dark travelling cloak with its hood pulled up.

    “Mayer Renue.” The man said. As soon as the Keeper opened his mouth, his dry and cold voice ringing in my ears, I could feel something distinctly familiar yet so very foreign about him. As I dug deeper into that feeling, I started to be able to sense a sort of aura surrounding the man. It was quiet and understated, secretive almost, but visible enough to know it was there but not enough to know what it truly was.

    “A domain.” I said without meaning to, surprised to see another domain so soon. The Keeper’s head turned towards me slowly, the face underneath the hood totally obscured from my vision. When he looked at me for a few moment I felt that same domain make contact with me and, as if it were blind, feeling over every centimetre of my exposed body.

    I felt the need to make the domain stop, but let it happen anyways. I could tell that the domain wasn’t doing anything malicious, just incredibly invasive. The tendrils of the domain aura pulled away from me, but with a whoosh the Keeper stepped closer to me, steeping over me like the towers on a gothic cathedral.

    A Champion.” His voice boomed with a quiet might that made every hair on my body stand on end. In that very second I realised just how dangerous this Keeper was. He was, no doubt about it, a Demigod level being.

    “Keeper Armament,” Mayer said calmly, “what are you here for?” The Keeper continued to steep over me, sweat glands that hadn’t been properly used in weeks—if not months—started to fire up again, leaving my hands clammy. I desperately tried to see inside the man’s head, see any emotion at all, but there was a shroud covering his thoughts and feelings, and without being able to see his eyes at all I wasn’t able to pry any further.

    “Many reasons.” He said unhelpfully. Mayer nodded, as if the answer was entirely reasonable.

    “There are many things that are coming to light in recent months, especially on Orisis?” Mayer questioned and the Keeper nodded, shifting to look at me out of the side of his hood for a moment.

    “Some are more secretive than others. One is dead. I have their weapon in my care.” The Keeper pulled a hand from his cloak. What caught my attention first was not the weapon that he held, but the hand that held it. It was horrifically scarred, mangled almost. If I had seen anyone with injuries even remotely close to the Keeper’s I could only believe that they had been flayed or been tortured.

    But I didn’t keep my eyes on the man’s hand for very long, because I soon saw the crossbow that he held. It was mostly a silver looking metal, covered in runic patterns, and a fine wooden stock that was almost silvery as well. It was almost like…

    It was. It was a Soul Weapon of another Champion. One of the other fifty that had been brought over to these worlds and one was already dead. I couldn’t help but gawk at the weapon. I had assumed that the other Champions were so smart that they couldn’t possibly die so early, but apparently they weren’t immune to the dangers of this world as much as I had thought. That just meant that I was even less immune.

    “They died to the hands of a death shifter a day after their summoning. The death shifter was summarily killed.” Mayer just nodded, hiding his surprise. If a life shifter was as dangerous as I knew it to be plus the stories of them creating living abominations, I couldn’t imagine what a death shifter could pull off. Apparently they were dangerous enough the be able to kill a Champion.

    “Do you know the locations of other Champions?” Mayer asked grimly. The Keeper was still for a while but managed to shake his head.

    “No, they are illusive to us. Except for this one.” He turned to me and I swear I could feel a blade slicing through my skin, with the same pain as I used to experience before I had become accustomed to the pain of battle.

    “And what do you intend for him?” Mayer asked, his tone darkening. The cloaked Keeper turned to look back at Mayer, and in an instant the air was on fire. As they looked at each other, fire shimmered in the air, becoming by far the hottest temperature I had ever experienced. The two men, however, stood stoic against the fire that hung in the air around them, licking at their skin to no effect.

    The Keeper, Armament, took a step forwards toward Mayer and the heat rose even further, singeing my hair and lapping at my skin like a ravenous dog.

    “I intend to take his Soul.”

    A/N: Hey there guys, I'm sorry about the short and unintended hiatus. Unfortunately my pup passed beyond the veil, and I've needed some time to just spend time with her before she passed.

    Hopefully I will be able to return to normal schedule from now on.
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  24. Assblaster5000

    Assblaster5000 Know what you're doing yet?

    Jun 7, 2020
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    Don't worry about it, if you need to take some time to yourself then go ahead, we'll be fine with a hiatus if you aren't feeling up to writing. I know I certainly wouldn't feel up to it in a situation like that.
  25. Sarius

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Nah, for me it's better to just keep moving forward. I don't think I'm the type of person who can put everything on pause after stuff like that, I need to keep moving and on my feet, otherwise it'll just delay the difficulty of doing so later.
    At least, that's how I see it.
    Besides, it's better than spending my days noticing the hole that now exists in my living room.
    Such is life :')
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  26. Threadmarks: Chapter 49: The Successor

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 49: The Successor

    “I see.” Mayer said, tone agreeable, but expression stony. “However, I do not think that would be in your best interest, Armament.”

    “Oh?” The ghastly form intoned.

    “Maximilian over here, is not a Champion, but an ex-Champion.” Keeper Armament was silent for a while, the heat of the room cooling ever so slightly.

    “Explain.” Mayer nodded taciturnly and I stayed thoroughly silent, sweating bullets.

    “Another Court of Gods reached out to Maximilian and blessed him and cut his ties with the God of his world.” The cloaked Keeper turned towards me, giving me a long, hard look from underneath his hood.

    “What relevance does this have? Others were blessed by our worlds’ Gods, yet they remained Champions in action and principle. Cutting ties with his God, while intelligent and perhaps a correct step, does not change much to my mission.”

    “Indeed, it does not.” Mayer agreed, “However, you might find it pertinent that it wasn’t just any blessing that court gave him.” The Keeper stopped dead still, the heat and flame leeched out of the air entirely.

    “A Court Blessing?” He said softly, and Mayer nodded.

    “A Court Blessing and more, Armament. He is a mortal Demigod, the first of his ilk.”

    In fact, the flame and heat wasn’t just leeched from the air, it was getting colder and colder as time went on. Then he spoke to me, his voice the sound of shattering ice.

    “Summon your weapon.” His order was almost overwhelmingly powerful, a mixture of anger, surprise and possibly… hope? I pulled my hammer from my hand in record speed, leaking from my palm like liquid fire. The fully formed thing was gigantic, even against my own form. The slightly darker silver contrasting with the extremely bright divine light that coursed through the runic markings that adorned the flat, block head to the horn at the back, and travelling down the haft towards the wrapped hilt and pommel.

    I laid the hammer head on the floor of Mayer’s home with as much grace as I possibly could, the wood groaning under the stress of the hammer’s gargantuan weight, though Mayer probably had the floors super reinforced on the odd occasion you might need an immensely heavy Soul Weapon summoned in the lounging area.

    The Keeper immediately moved closer, scouring the hammer with his obscured eyes. He seemed specifically interested in the markings on the hammer themselves, silently analysing it. Though it wasn’t long before a hand came up to touch the hilt.

    I started to open my mouth to tell him to not touch, but it only took a quick shake of Mayer’s head to keep my lips sealed tight, especially with that doomsday expression on his face.

    As the Keeper’s scared and mangled hands caressed the dark silver metal gently, I realised that his touch wasn’t unpleasant. I don’t know what it was, but he managed to make it a not entirely uncomfortable experience, despite him quite literally touching the manifestation of my soul as a weapon.

    “It is true then. This is undoubtedly divine energy, much greater in quality then what a God themselves could provide another, so it can only be your own energy.” He mused, even as he picked up the hammer by the furthest end of the hilt easily, hefting the unknowably heavy hammer without even a hitch in his voice when he did so.

    “Which Court granted you Godhood, child?” He spoke softly as he admired the hammer in his hand. Even the floors underneath his feet didn’t groan with stress as he swung the hammer without so much as a worry that he might hit something within the home.

    “I don’t think it’d be fair of me to say, Keeper Armament. I’m sure that a man such as yourself would be able to hazard a guess.” I said, keeping my voice as neutral as possible in the face of the terrifying man swinging my hammer around more skilfully than I had seen Mayer wield a short sword.

    The Keeper’s clouded hood turned to me, and for just a moment I could swear that I could see the barest hint of a face, smiling.

    “Ah, the Hearth Court then.” I managed to school my own expression, though I couldn’t be sure it escaped either Armament or Mayer’s notice.

    “What leads you to that conclusion, Armament?” Mayer asked, as if her were only curious. Armament deftly laid the head of the hammer down at his side, letting it rest while he thought.

    “There are not many who can hide from the Court of Mysteries, Mayer Renue, and far fewer still that can hold secrets from them. In fact, I believe the Hearth Court to be the only Court to hold a secret from them for more than a few thousand years. This, however?” He hefted the hammer and tapped at the side of the hammer head, where the larges conglomeration of runic patters were inscribed.

    “This is a far larger secret than I could have ever expected. I had always suspected they held something just out of the Court of Mysteries’ reach, but to manage this right underneath their noses…” The Keeper trailed off.

    “Do you mean the seed?” I asked. Mayer gave me a look, but I ignored it. This man was easily strong enough to wipe all of us off the map, and I’m not even sure that I could bet on Mayer and be confident. He also already seemed to know everything that was important. At this point, it felt stupid to ignore it. Maybe it was my Domain of safety, which I had unknowingly extended after things started getting sketchy, but I was willing to risk it.

    “The seed, is a Divine Seed.” I nodded at the man, already knowing that little factoid, “But it also isn’t any normal Divine Seed.”

    “How so?” Mayer asked, a hint of worry making it into his voice.

    “A ‘true’ Divine Seed is something far too powerful to plant into a mortal’s soul, even those as strong as Champions. Even mortals as strong, or stronger than I.” I scrunched my nose up at that.

    “Then how could it have been planted into mine? I know that Ga–” I stopped myself, “the God who granted my Godhood said a lot of it had to do with my connection and alignment to the Hearth domain.” The hood bobbed in acknowledgement.

    “You are correct, it did. However, even still it would have surely killed you. However, this seed is far different. This is manufactured, somehow, someway, to be a seed of a seed.”

    “So wait, does that mean I am or am not a Demigod?”

    “You are, in every sense of the word. But to move past simply being a Demigod, this seed will have to grow to become more than the precursor of the Seed of Divinity.” I couldn’t help but let a confused expression leak onto my face, desperately trying to unpack the Keeper’s words, but he seemed content to let me question.

    “Though I will note that not just anyone would be able to meld this seed to their own soul. For I would most certainly perish within moments of this seed being planted within me, any energy my soul contains being drawn till it was dry and then dying with me. I only know of a handful that would survive the process, even fewer that would wake up from the endless sleep they would find themselves in faster, and no-one that could possibly stand before me like you do only days, maybe weeks since the seed was planted.” The man picked up my hammer and placed it back at my side gently, almost reverently.

    Honestly, I just took it all as a compliment. It just seemed that I was an anomaly of an anomaly, and to think that I legitimately though that I was nothing special, huh?

    “Regardless of the Demigod’s hammer. I also wish to speak to you Mayer. Of Hindle.” Mayer froze at the word, though made no other expression.

    “What of it?”

    “The sword has been in your possession for far too long. I gave it to you during the war, however, the war has long since ended. The sword is far too likely to end up in the wrong hands the longer that it stays out of my care.” Mayer took a deep breath in and slouched in his chair.

    “I understand, Armament. I’m not as young as I once was, and fighting in the war will only kill me, now. But…” Armament looked at Mayer, graciously allowing him to ponder for a moment before returning to his thought.

    “I understand that the sword is dangerous, and that it should be kept in the correct hands. But I think that I may have a successor.” Armament walked towards Mayer, a chilly breeze following him.

    “This was not in our agreement, Mayer. The sword was for you and only you. The Court of Mysteries lambasted me for that decision even still.”

    “I know. But I think he has a better chance of making a difference in the new war than even I.” The Keeper stood very still, you’d almost believe that he was a mannequin if he hadn’t walked around and swung my hammer about.

    “This successor. Where is he?” The Keeper demanded. Ever since the whole ‘I’ll take your soul’ thing, he seems to be far more agreeable than before. I feel like Mayer and Armament know each other better than they let on.

    “Right outside, of course.” Mayer said casually, “Rethi! Get yourself in here.”

    I watched silently as, after a short pause, the front door softly creaked open and a set of nervous footsteps travelled down the hall and a black-haired youth popped around the corner. I gave him an unimpressed look, and he responded with a wry smile.

    Then Rethi saw Armament. The bolt of fear that hit him as he did was almost amusing, if I hadn’t been experiencing the overwhelming presence of the man since he walked in.

    “This is your successor? A village boy?” Armament asked, though decidedly without the derision that you’d expect.

    “You and I both know that being a village boy has nothing to do with how well you can learn the sword. And I can tell you that, while Rethi is… unexceptional in his swordplay,” Rethi grimaced at that, unable to argue, “he has the ruthlessness and drive that he needs to be truly great. Besides, we both know that skill was hardly ever the requirement to wield Hindle.”

    Armament stood, unpersuaded. He looked towards the young man that stood in front of him. He was slightly taller than the average for his approximate age, and was well built, clearly having put in an inordinate amount of work to create his physique.

    “But he is just that. Unexceptional. In my travels I could find others just like him. I’m likely to find another in this very village.” The Keeper countered. Rethi was well and truly pale by this point. Apparently being argued over by a Demigod level being and Mayer wasn’t pleasant. Though I guess I had my own taste of that.

    “True. But none are dedicated to serve a Demigod of the Hearth, to aid him in his quest to save our worlds from destruction.” Mayer shot back. Keeper Armament, if I could see his face, probably looked suitably unimpressed.

    “What is the real reason, Renue?” The older man looked thoughtful for a moment before he returned his gaze to the Keeper.

    “Because he has what it takes. All he needs is the opportunity.”

    The resulting silence lasted a long, long time. Minutes maybe, but the look the two men shared was it’s own sort of intense conversation in and of itself. I could pick up some of the emotions coming from Mayer, mostly a stubbornness and pride, but still nothing from Armament.

    “I see.” The ghastly Keeper said after a long while. “I will take this risk, if not for what you have given the Court of Mysteries in the past, then for honouring our agreement for all these decades.” Mayer nodded thankfully, not one to become exuberantly excited when things go his way.

    “However.” The Keeper continued, “I require to see Hindle passed on in front of me. I will not let it happen on your leisure.” Mayer’s jaw clenched, the muscles tensing up the side of his face in an almost-grimace.

    “Of course.” Mayer said slowly, which Armament seemed to take as good enough. The Keeper turned back to look at Rethi, scouring his eyes over the young man like he had for my hammer.

    “You are in for an extremely unpleasant experience, young warrior. I hope that it is worth it. For both of our sakes.” Then he walked right past Rethi, footsteps absolutely silent and cloak barely moving. You’d swear he was floating.

    “I, uh, what?” Rethi stammered out. With all of the heavy conversations and clashing ideals, the bou hadn’t even managed to get a word in edgewise.

    “‘What’ is the word of the hour it seems.” Mayer said, sighing heavily as the Keeper closed the door on his way out.

    “What’s this about successors and ‘Hindle’?” The boy said frustrated, looking to me for answers. Come to think of it, neither Mayer nor Armament explained what was actually being discussed to Rethi, and even I was blindsided by all this talk.

    “Don’t look at me. This was all sprung on me as well.” Rethi’s frustration grew as he turned his fiery gaze towards Mayer.

    “Tell me.” He said commandingly, and Mayer just chuckled ruefully.
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  27. Threadmarks: Chapter 50: Hindle

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 50: Hindle

    Mayer had told Rethi and I to walk out towards the open plains where I usually trained to wait and so we did.

    The young man beside me was seething with indignation, furious that he’d be left out of something that was integral to him. I wasn’t anywhere near as worked up, maybe because it didn’t concern me as much, but I could see when the boy was coming from. It’s entirely possible that I simply expected this sort of stuff.

    Mayer, at his core, was a man of mystery to us. His history was largely opaque to me, and even the parts that I did know about were convoluted and highly specific at best. I knew about his involvement with Ryan, the Champion from the last war, and knew enough that he was a soldier of some note during the war itself and, obviously, came to Virsdis from Orisis for unknown reasons.

    For him to have a powerful blade was almost a no-brainer and being told that he was going to pass it on to Rethi was pretty par for the course. In a way, I was more Mayer’s equal than an apprentice, Rethi was the one to truly fit that role.

    I learnt most of what I know myself, though Mayer did spark most of what I did learn. Rethi had grown close to the older man, treating him almost like a grandfatherly figure. Mayer taught the boy everything he knew of combat, mostly against me as a practice dummy. The sword style Rethi was taught was ‘standard, military grade stuff’, in Mayer’s own words, though it was easy enough to see that was an understatement.

    Mayer had refined that sword style through Gods know how many battles and experiences. To say that it was a standard sword style was almost an out and out lie. Though Mayer was humble to a fault, generally, and hadn’t exactly been jumping at the chance to give his own personalized sword style an actual name. Though his student has a different idea about that.

    The poor boy seemed blindsided by this, and I had the instinct to reach out and comfort his confusion and frustration, but I thought that it might be best to just let him find his way through it, along with learning more about Mayer’s plan for him.

    In the distance I saw Mayer slowly walking towards us, in his hands an object wrapped in rough cloth, like you’d find made into a potato sack. Rethi and I waited patiently for the man to finally stop in front of us, silent and sporting a dour expression.

    “Rethi, Maximilian…” The older man began, “there is much that I have not told you of my past. Some of that past I will talk about here.” I nodded, unperturbed. Rethi’s jaw and fists clenched, but he had the sense to wait for the man to continue.

    Mayer started to unwrap the cloth from about the sword. It was a slow, methodical process, and it was only due to my natural empathic abilities that I was able to see the man’s feelings.

    It was… confusing. This blade was something that he never wanted to see again. It instilled in him equal parts of hope and strength, will and fear. A relic of his own past that terrified even him.

    The cloth wrapping slowly unfurled from the blade, revealing an odd, but entirely mundane looking blade. It was maybe a little bigger than the standard sword that Mayer had trained Rethi in, though it was a lot wider than normal. The usually thin blade made for manoeuvrability and lightness was replaced with a wide and thick double-edged blade.

    There was seemingly no grip, leaving only a raw tang to grab. No pommel or even a handguard, though the wideness of the blade served similarly anyways. The colouring was odd, even in the light of the sun slowly setting. It was a bronze colour, but looking like it was severely burnt, dark scaling covering the blade. Honestly, the blade looked half finished.

    Looking towards Rethi, I could see the confusion and disappointment on his face. He felt like he was being cheated, for sure. Maybe even being tricked, not that Mayer made a habit of that. Though Mayer didn’t let the silence linger too long.

    “This blade is named Hindle. It is the Divine sword of Light and was my companion through much of the Champion War, as well as for many years after that.” Mayer grabbed the metal tang of the blade, and in that moment we Rethi and I both saw the blade in truth.

    The blade roared to life, the metal shining brightly, though not gaudily. It looked no different in form, but it now shone with the light of the evening sun, warm and confident even as it slowly hid behind Orisis. The metal that looked so tarnished before glowed with a radiance I didn’t know was possible, as if it were a window to the sun itself.

    “This blade was created untold millennia ago, gifted by the First One of the Sun to who he considered his mortal son. A warrior of untold might and unparalleled greatness. However, all must die, and so the blade fell into the hands of a Keeper—and thus the Court of Mysteries. Hidden from the world.” Even as Mayer spoke, I could see the man change. The smile lines that coursed through the old man’s skin like dried-up river beds slowly crept away, leaving the man who looked in his sixties fall in age to ten years younger. I could feel the bewilderment from Rethi, his eyes wider than dinner plates, staring at the man he had known to be impressive all this time, but realising just how impressive was still a shock.

    That was the thing. Mayer radiated power like nothing I’ve ever seen. The only other comparable people are Armament and Gallar, a First One himself. Mayer’s presence was overwhelming, standing in the field and radiating like a miniature sun, an ironclad monolith of security and a symbol of hope.

    Suddenly I could understand why the Hearth Court’s first pick was Mayer.

    “However,’ Mayer said, his voice just as radiant as his presence, “I can no longer use Hindle.” The light sputtered and died, the radiance that had so quickly become normal disappeared, leaving me feeling cold in spite of being resistant to the climate in general.

    “W–” Rethi started, confused, “Why?” Mayer grinned sadly.

    “It’s nothing special, Rethi. It’s not that I am too old, or too weak to use Hindle, but that I don’t have the will for it anymore.”

    “The will?” I asked, gently probing the man. Mayer nodded, a dark cloud of emotion shadowing his thoughts.

    “I was a strong young man, prideful and righteous. I’m proud of who I was, even now.” He looked out to the distance pensively. “I was like that for many, many years. Decades upon decades. And when the Champion War began in earnest, Armament appeared before me and granted me Hindle.”

    “Wait, how old are you exactly?” I asked, eyebrows scrunching up. Mayer’s grin broke through the dark cloud of his emotions.

    “Old.” He replied unhelpfully, “I was close to dead when the first Champions arrived, life being extended because of my ability to shift, but I was night on close to one-hundred and thirty. After Ryan came and Hindle was granted to me, well…” He gestured to himself. The de-aging from earlier had mostly diminished, but there had been a noticeable permanent effect. Hindle had de-aged him from an age where his deathbed was just around the corner to a middle-aged man.

    “You’re saying that sword makes you immortal?” Rethi gaped, but Mayer laughed.

    “Not immortal, child, but pretty close to it. It’s nothing like Campion healing, or whatever Max has now, you’ll still die from having your head lopped off, but other than that you can’t die from old age or sickness and become highly resistant to ether of all sorts.” Mayer shrugged casually. The effects of the sword were great, but nothing of interest to me. Though that put my brain onto something else. After doing some quick mental math, I realised that Mayer was a whopping one-hundred and thirty years old before he received Hindle, roughly, and that was around when he met Ryan. It’s been seventy odd years since then, according to the man himself.

    “You’re two-hundred years old, Mayer.” Mayer just snorted.

    “No need to make me feel any older, Max.” Rethi gaped at his teacher’s age.

    “I’m not even close to the oldest person you’ve met. The both of you.” Mayer accused jokingly, as if his pride was being assaulted.

    “That Keeper? Was he the same Keeper that took the sword from the original wielder of Hindle?” Rethi asked, dumbfounded. Mayer shook his head.

    “No. The Keepers are ancient but are still mortal. I do not know much about Armament, but from the way the depictions of the Keepers change over time, Armament has been a Keeper for quite a few thousand years.” Rethi still seemed mind boggled by that, and honestly, I couldn’t help but to be either. I had expected the age with Gallar being probably millions of years old, but Mayer? He was almost ten times my age. I may as well be a two-year-old in his eyes.

    “Anyway. It has come the time to return the blade to Armament. It was something I always knew was coming, but for it to happen in conjunction with your appearance on Virsdis is simply bad luck. However, Armament seems to be allowing me to let the sword go to the next generation. And I have chosen the next wielder of Hindle to be you, Rethi.” Rethi knew all this but was still dumbfounded by Mayer’s declaration.

    The pure power that Mayer had shown, just holding the blade totally recontextualized Mayer passing it onto Rethi. In essence, the man was offering a young boy true power and agency. As for me? I felt blessed in a totally different way than I already was. In the past few hours, I had felt so many unique emotions from other people. Awe, fear, anger, sadness, elation, happiness…

    “Are you seriously crying, Max?” Mayer said, his face morphing into a wry amusement, Rethi spinning around and looked at me, shocked. I chuckled as I wiped the tears from my face with my sleeves.

    “What’s with those faces, guys. Can’t a man cry?” Rethi just looked concerned.

    “W– why are you crying?” he asked anxiously. The boy hadn’t ever seen me cry, and I could feel his emotions flare strongly. I was a strange and alien creature to Rethi. A literal Demigod. I can’t fault him for thinking that I’d be above emotions.

    But I wasn’t.

    I walked forwards towards Mayer arms outstretched. He rolled his eyes at me, but he put the Divine Weapon aside and returned the gesture. I hugged the comparatively small, and much older man strongly.

    I could feel the emotion well in him, and I started to get a real idea of what passing on this blade meant to him.

    In some ways it was an absolution. To give the blade to someone else, for some else to take the burden of its power and the weight of the actions taken with the blade. But in other ways it was an act of mourning. This blade, however estranged he had become from it, had been his partner in truth, the last symbol of himself left after the war.

    He was passing everything that he was worth down to Rethi, and even then he knew that he didn’t have the time. We were on a schedule that finished with the worlds dying. He didn’t even have the luxury of training the young boy for years to come, to allow him to perfect the blade and surpass him in every way.

    With that I pulled back from the man, nodded to him solemnly, and left, leaving them to speak properly.

    Maximilian had left a few hours ago and since then Mayer and Rethi had been sitting across from each other, the divine blade he was set to inherit, Hindle, laying between them.

    Rethi, the beggar boy. He was going to wield a divine blade, of all things.

    Every word out of Mayer’s mouth was unable to quell that excitement. The massive number of options that opened due to that ragged looking sword was mind fuddling.

    “Rethi.” Mayer said gently. “You need to understand that inheriting this blade… it isn’t fun, or good. It feels so at first. The power at your fingertips is astounding, the ability to do anything.” Mayer recounts wistfully.

    “But it doesn’t stay that way forever. Soon it becomes chains that bind you. In every moment you wonder how you could be using that power better, more efficiently. How could you save more lives, defeat more foes. The obsession will destroy you, if you are not careful.”

    Rethi took it in. He understood, he really did. He understood the risks of power. In fact, Max had talked about it at great length. He had taken in what the man was trying to teach him, but always thought that it was a worry for the actually powerful, not children with a sword, like him.

    His mind couldn’t help but wander back to the tall form of Max, strongly hugging the old man in front of him, tears leaking from his eyes. Did Max know that he was going to get this sword? That he was going to find this power somehow?

    “I understand, Master Mayer.” Rethi said to the older man softly, “But what choice do I have? For months I’ve wondered what use I’d be to Master Max, out there on the battlefield he’d find himself on. I have no doubt that Master Max would find something for me to do, maybe even something great. But now Alena is a life shifter…” He stopped, the silence laying heavy on my shoulders until the wielder of Hindle looked up at Rethi with a small smile and spoke.

    “That’s good. To feel useful, to contribute, to be accepted amongst your peers is a valuable aspiration, though as all-consuming it may be. Know that Maximilian will need you just as much as you need him. He will always be more powerful than you, in one way or another, but you will one day stand amongst the most powerful people alive, as I once did. And your commitment to use that power for your friends…”

    “That’s what you need to hold on to, potentially at the cost of everything.”

    A/N: And here we sit at 50 whole chapters. That's a few chapters, my guys. Thankfully I've still got quite a few in the tank ; )
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  28. Threadmarks: Chapter 51: A Pact

    Sarius Getting sticky.

    Jun 9, 2020
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    Chapter 51: A Pact

    I watched Rethi prepare for the passing on of Hindle over the next few days.

    It was mostly a meditation type exercise, consisting of Rethi and Mayer sitting down cross legged silently for hours on end. I’m sure that Rethi would find it boring beyond boring if a divine sword wasn’t the end goal, but I wonder what the use of the meditation was for.

    Rethi had been taught very limited shifting, so it wasn’t as if meditating would significant boost his capabilities, and even then, what would he use it for?

    Master and student were inseparable for a few days, and I kept to myself during. This was Rethi’s moment to shine. I’ve had my moment for months now, and the boy’s emotional state was wired with anticipation and jubilation. If I butted into that with any reason less than absolutely necessity, I’d just be an asshole.

    So, instead I put myself to other uses. Number one on the list was swinging by and having a conversation with Alena who, as far as I can tell, has been out of the loop since she got back.

    I made my way easily towards the Apothecary, not much in the way of traffic, everyone busy at work. Gram’s Apothecary was open, as usual, the scent of dried herbs and a mixture of what must’ve been thousands of potent smells leaking out of the door and into the unruly streets of the unnamed town.

    Now that I think of it, it’s pretty impressive that Gram managed to put together a collection that big, maybe he managed to get word out that he wanted medicinal herbs through the travelling merchants that swing by on occasion, something that should become more common now that Rethi and I dealt with the main reason people didn’t dare make the trip.

    I took a step into the store and saw Michael Gram rifling through the numerous bottles and drawers, obviously searching for something.

    “Good afternoon, Michael.” I said happily. The man in question froze, jumping slightly at my voice. He turned towards me without even a smile.

    Since the time I caught Michael Gram taking a peek at an exhumed corpse that was not given to him, the man has been nothing but cordial and exceptionally frightened of me. I got the distinct impression that whenever he looked at me, he saw a snake, eyeing a chirping chick in a nest. This time, however, the man was clearly angry with me, only supported by a hint of fear.

    I didn’t try and reinforce the man’s perception of me, but it seemed to only grow over time, which meant that every time I dealt with him, I came out feeling more and more like a villain, not something I really liked about myself.

    “Avenforth.” He began, his jaw clenched, and body tensed, which was almost comical on his scholarly frame. I quirked an eyebrow, sensing the ensuing argument. I turned back to the door and pulled it closed, and closing the blinders on the windows as well, leaving the room far darker than before, the light forced into golden bands, bleeding through the gaps.

    “What is this about, Gram.” I said quietly, and the man practically exploded.

    “What do you mean! You convinced my daughter that her… abilities are perfectly safe! Are you insane?” Gram yelled, incensed. I crossed my arms over myself and looked at the man sternly.

    “Perfectly safe?” I chuckled, “Hardly. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could be a legendary killer with her exact skillset.” The man gaped at me, anger rushing forwards to overtake the shock of my words.

    But,” I continued, “the same could be said for your own abilities. Many of your own kind have committed horrors, you even contributed your own to that pile, did you not?” My accusing tone dissuaded the man for a moment before he pushed forward.

    “You have no idea the kind of horrors that her abilities can breed. You had no right to tell her to use them!” I took a few steps closer to the irate man and stared deep into his eyes, purposely turning off my safety aura which I typically kept on.

    “Gram. Who, exactly, do you think she has been experimenting on to learn to use her abilities?” I asked darkly. I wasn’t angry, and neither did that show in my voice, but the man wasn’t going to listen to me if he was running high on all the anger that he had. I needed to assert myself.

    And it worked. Confusion filled the man as his anger drained.

    “Who?” He asked dubiously. I shook my head ruefully.

    “Me, Gram. She has been experimenting on my body since we learned of her powers.” His eyes widened as he frantically looked me up and down, searching for something.

    “H-how? You couldn’t possibly survive a failed shift!” I thought for a moment on how to answer the man.

    Fact is, not many people actually know about me being a Champion, or anything of the sort. I spend most of my time with others that know my status that I’ve almost forgotten the fact that I need to hide that from the outside world. But, even if I cannot tell just anyone about being a Champion, or a Demigod for that matter, I can keep things vague and let them fill in the blanks themselves.

    “I am Mayer Renue’s nephew. My origin past that is none of your business. What I can do is none of your business. But I can assure you that there is almost nothing your daughter could possibly do to me that would permanently harm or kill me.” I said, my voice like iron. Gram nodded his head shakily, not wanting to dig deeper into that conversation more than he needed to, probably fearing that he’d displease me.

    “Why, though? My daughter, she is young and… if anything happened to her…” He trailed off, worry clouding his mind.

    “The why is simple, Gram.” I lectured, as if speaking to a child, “You should know just as well as I that life shifting has astounding potential. Where I come from, such an ability could only be dreamed about, the endless possibilities.” My wistful tone seemed to sway him ever so slightly. He was a doctor. Exceptionally advanced for, frankly, a backwater like this. It was impossible that he hadn’t gone to sleep and dreamt of what could be done with that power.

    “However, the other point is muddy. But I think something is clear. You cannot protect her from herself.” Gram’s body tensed and anger rose to fight me, but I waved it away with a hand, reasserting my safety aura, “You couldn’t stop her from following us on a trip she knew to be dangerous, to follow a boy she loves. She would hardly be content to watch Rethi drift away into her memories, forever gone on an adventure away from here. She is young, yes. But, how long can you keep her bottled up in this little nowhere-town?” I asked genuinely and found the answer on Grams face. I didn’t even need to look into the man’s emotions to know that he felt defeated.

    He walked around the counted and reached underneath, finding two cups and a bottle of some alcohol. He placed the two cups down and poured a small amount into the bottom of each, pushing one across the counter towards me.

    I took the glass and smelled it. It smelt strong enough to sterilize a wound. He might even have it for that reason. I downed the drink in one blow, my unnatural constitution the only thing stopping me from coughing my lungs up afterwards. The other man didn’t seem to notice the slight strain on my face as he downed the glass soullessly.

    “I know.” He said mournfully, “I always did. At the start—when her mother was still alive—it was a secret even from me. I never knew that life shifting was passed down through bloodline, and her mother was an exceptionally powerful one and a brilliant doctor, in her own right.” I smiled at the reminiscing man, softly urging him to continue with my aura of Safety.

    “After years of learning, studying and practicing medicine I heard rumours. A tribe in the far reaches of Orisis that collected those with the ability to life shift, teaching them to become the greatest life shifters on the planet—a far cry from the horrors we learned about in bedtime stories.. I wanted to know about them terribly, to learn what they knew and bring that back with me, to advance understanding of medicine for the benefit of everyone, rich and poor of every race. I went there and found her mother, the youngest daughter of the tribe’s priestess, and then we eloped against the wishes of our families. I was, from then on, the dark horse of my family to all except my father.” That was odd, atypical even. Usually the fathers were the ultimate adversarial force in families like these.

    “It wasn’t until my father died years later that I learnt that he had left me everything medical he owned. Suddenly I owned one half of the greatest repository of medical knowledge on Virsdis, the other was in the hands of my wife’s sisters.” The man poured another glass, offering to refill mine, but I declined.

    “My wife was a paragon of kindness. Truly something rare, and when I learned she was with child, I knew she would be a great mother.” A silly grin tinged with old pain grew on the doctor’s face, a remembrance of a happier time.

    “After Alena was born, things became odd. Indescribable things started happening that I couldn’t help but clue into. I would find small rodents covered in tumours around out house, our pet dog at the time miraculously healed from an injury that I had determined was fatal. I confronted my wife and was told the truth, that my daughter had inherited life shifting. Young children with life shifting aren’t capable of controlling it, which is why my wife’s tribe would take them from their families, with life shifters capable of counteracting a small child’s missteps. We began to run from place to place, seeking refuge from those that began to question things to closely.” The middle-aged man sighed deeply, downing more alcohol, and rubbing his hand against his lightly haired head.

    “When my wife died something was lost, a link between Alena and I.” The man didn’t need to talk about the circumstances of his wife’s death for me to feel the emotions triggered by remembering it. First was the fear, overwhelming and all encompassing, like watching the world shatter beneath your feet. Then came the hopelessness, and the tough decision. The decision that brought finality and an intense sadness that never truly left.

    I closed my eyes to the emotions, finding myself slightly overwhelmed. It was something that was both band and boon. I was able to empathise with someone’s very emotions, say that I could truly understand, but the cost was clear and all the more heart wrenching when you could do nothing.

    “You’re right.” He said after a long moment of silence between us, staring down into his empty glass. “I can no longer protect her from the outside world, from the persecution she would face if someone was to find out that she was a life shifter. I know that she will leave, as I once did with her mother, but knowing that she will be actively trying to learn to actually life shift?” The man shivered like a cold breeze had hit him suddenly.

    “Michael, I cannot guarantee that your daughter will face no persecution, nor will I be capable of protecting her from all the world’s dangers.” The man slumped slightly, “But, I can say that I will do everything within my power to keep her safe.” Then the room was flooded with light.

    I was overwhelmed with a sensation of something tying itself to me, to my soul, in a powerful way. It was an inherently anxiety inducing feeling, much like when someone was manhandling my hammer, but with no pain whatsoever.

    The man before me looked at me with wide eyes, radiance beaming from me like a warm fire. He swallowed dramatically, speaking with a shaky voice.

    “Well, that was a touch overboard, don’t you think?” I just smiled, no knowing what happened at all, but assuming that the other man did.

    “Either way,” I said as the warm light beaming off of me died down, “I will protect your daughter the best I can, especially in learning her own abilities. I hope that one day she will be the reason why the world accepts life shifters and wishes to train them rather than shun them.” The sighs heavily.

    “Alright, alright. You’ve made your point. Why don’t you leave me alone with my thoughts for a bit. I’ll…” The man paused, searching the bottom of his glass, “I’ll talk to Alena about this. I need to tell her many things.”

    I found it odd the man was so easy to convince after the light but I nod at the man and, with a silent farewell, leave him to his drink.

    Now that I was outside of the man’s storefront…

    What the fuck was that?

    “You made a Divine Pact.” A cold, hard voice replied to my inner thoughts. I snapped around to look at the cloaked Keeper.

    “Armament.” I greeted quickly, “A Divine Pact?” The hood nodded.

    “Those in connection to the Gods,” he said while walking in the direction of Mayer’s home, “find themselves capable of creating Divine Pacts, which holds their soul ransom for that which they promise. It seems, Demigod, that you have accidentally made a promise you must keep.” I swear that I could hear amusement in the man’s stone voice.

    “I– well… I guess it doesn’t change much.” I said hesitantly, “I was going to do it anyways, ransoming my soul or not, but the pressure is on now, hey?” I asked rhetorically, and the hood just bobbed in agreement.

    We walked in silence after that, the path quickly losing out to the beaten road that finally made its way to Mayer’s home.

    “Come, little God. Today we see the birth of a great warrior.”
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