[PDQ] Rise of the Divines: A Godgame RP - Game Thread (Closed, Started)

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Odanda - Harrowgate

"Tomorrow, I am leaving for the Sunderspire Mountains."The chamber erupted in madness.

Odanda glanced about at the assembled dreamers. The dignified Master of the Guard Brendin Aree, old and decrepit in life, tall and proud in his dream, and foppish young Captain Lotiv, dreaming himself crisp and military, and of course fat Swalsby as he must have been 30 years ago, when he was still an insignificant nobleman carving Harrowgate's place out of the grime and muck with words and steel. The First Dreamer stood by her side. He, of course, already knew of this. Odanda, for her part, had taken the form of a giant woman with a thousand arms and no face. Its effect was clearly awe inspiring, and besides, she was comfortable like this. All were arranged on cushions of air high in the air, with all of their courtiers and advisors standing behind them. She had taken to conducting her meetings inside of the collective unconscious, so that she might better address her followers. It made giving orders much easier.

"Oh, hush. This day had to come. I've brought a third of Mortmire under my heel, and more every day, but what of it? Should I remain stagnant, like the water in the marsh? I promised an empire, but Mortmire is a dismal, if dear, strip of land at the edge of the sea, and most of the lesser lords already swear fealty to us. The real prize lies out and away, in the other nations, and ever since Tirias was wiped off the map the only way out is through the mountains. So tomorrow I will be away, with an honor guard of no more than 5. I wish to move swiftly, and safely if possible. She turned to address Swalsby directly. "In my absence, you will spread my whispers to the rest of Mortmire. I want the lowliest peasants and the highest noblemen bowing to me. Begin with the other major population centers. If they resist conversion, well... Our armies are large. I will be available for council any time you sleep. Prepare a wagon for the First Dreamer and me. We won't need supplies. I am a god, after all. You are all dismissed. One by one, they vanished, until it was only the First Dreamer and her, and then he disappeared as well and she was alone in the vast chamber. With a sigh, that too dissolved, and she found herself in the vortex of dreams once more, shapeless and drifting.

There was power in her she couldn't name, a force swirling around inside, a force she could direct. It was strong enough to do almost anything, even, if she wished, manifest in the physical world... But no. She had done well thus far as a passenger in her prophet's head, and this existence was safe. Becoming solid, corporeal, was allowing the possibility of destruction. She would remain here, where she was born, where she belonged. Without really knowing what she was doing, she took the force and burned it away into the dreamscape. By the time she was finished, her presence in the collective unconscious had grown twofold, and she could see everything.

She frowned. There was a god in the mountains. She could feel its presence from the dreams of its followers. But all she could glean was that it was associated with nature. Oh well. She was sure it was kind and loving and that there was no point worrying about it. Besides, she wanted to do something other than worry just before she left. She focused her mind out into the swamp, and began to work.

Theodrid - Riverlands

The mansion grounds had turned into a war zone. Bizarre, arcane chanting filled the air. Starting as a low whisper until it grew and grew into the sound of some heathen choir singing its blasphemous hymns before reaching it's horrible crescendo. but as it grew the sweet music was cut short by the blades of swords and axes, arrows whisked through the air as an armoured party breached the doors. The cultists leaped to their lords defense but they were little match for the self declared heroes that had come to prey on their private religious function.

The priest or wizard or whatever he was supposed to be held his own book high and began reciting the strange language that filled it. All the while Lord Theodrid stood in the circle of dark runes and chanted away, raging against the imposers and their schemes. He was so close.

The two rituals went on and eldrich energies crackled in the air as three great forces of pure will faced each other down. For a moment, among all the madness the air shimmered and rippled, taking on a silver sheen. Anyone looking close enough might have even sworn that they saw something looking through it as if from the other side of a window. The storm of raw magic gathered together as each voice grew louder until... it disappeared. The mansion fell silent for a moment and it seemed as if the forces of order had prevailed. They hadn't. The world around them began to shake as if the air itself was wracked by the aftershock of all this unfettered power. The air recoiled from it and the ground was ripped apart. Everyone surrounding the circle of runes were warped beyond belief and smashed to pieces. Theodrid screamed in abject despair.

Everyone there fell quiet, the few that remained anyway. No one was sure who exactly had one. Until Theodrid started laughing, a full on, maddeningly happy cackle of sheer joy. It bounced off the wall, rang the the corridors and chilled the bones of anyone who could hear it.

***

"I... am...in!" He screamed, coated in blood and gore. "YES! yes,yes,yes-" This and some cheering and various other kinds of incomprehensible sounds of success went on for a little while. "I'm flesh and blood, I'm in the land of opportunity! I'm living the dream!"

Theodrid, at least, what appeared to be Theodrid began to pat himself down as if noticing his own body for the first time. "And look at this, I'm male! Ha, suck my newly acquired genitals Gorvenax I made it to the mortal realm first!" He shouted at seemingly no one. "Look at all this." Theodrid stepped out of the rune circle for the first time, making the runes crack in a bright red glow. He wandered around the main hall like a tourist.

"I have a house, servants, a fancy bed and things! No more just looking at it, it's mine, it's all mine!" He looked around, examining the desolation. "And they're all dead... well at least I wont have to listen to his bitch wife! You hear that Regina? Looks like I win after all and I can put up as many of those tapestries and painting that offend your mother as I want! What do you say to that?"

He spun around, looking for his host's wife. He found Regina spread out like a chunky jam over his favorite painting. "Spiteful to the end I see Regina, think you're clever do you?" Regina's intestines flopped to the floor with a wet slap. "STOP MOCKING ME!!"

As if Regina trying to spoil his big day wasn't bad enough one of the would be exorcists was chanting up the usual incantations of banishment. Normally that kind of thing would have caused our freshly formed hero searing pain and dragged it into the ether. Only this time it seemed to only sound like a harsh grating in his freshly stolen ears. Something that would have been a subject of thought but right now our demonic hero was to annoyed to put any great thought into anything.

He rallied his power and sent his will out towards the fool that dared to challenge him. "When I turn around I expect you to have done the honorable thing and reduced yourself to a gibbering husk."

Raetic - Northlands

"Huh," the god thought, as he stared blankly at the slightly dirty patch of snow that had so easily stained his project. "That wasn't supposed to happen."

Granted, it wasn't like the runes were supposed to erect a physical barrier anyway. It had been designed to specifically target divine beings and constructs, so purely material objects, like people, animals, or snow shouldn't have had any problems crossing over the array. But the etchings should have at least been semi-permanent; there was no way they should been smudged just by a bit of frozen water. Something had clearly gone wrong.

"...Heh," Raetic chuckled, turning his back on the crowd of curious onlookers, "well, this oughta be fun then."

So his power had limits, did it? In hindsight, he probably should have expected that; he was a far cry from omnipotent, after all. Besides, life wouldn't be fun if he could just succeed at any given task automatically. Failure and loss would make things more interesting, would force him to play his cards right and plan ahead. If he wanted to make this story work, then he'd have to write it out well in advance.

But, he mused as he spun around to face the villagers, that would have to wait. For now, he had to deal with the witnesses. It wouldn't do if they thought his first act as their resident deity was a failure, now would it?

"Hey, hey, hey hey hey," he said, loud enough for all of them to hear him, "what's all this then, huh?" Setting his face into a fairly authentic scowl, the god jerked a thumb over his shoulder, pointing at both his runes and the village beyond. "There's nothing going on here. No ancient prophecy being fulfilled, no hordes of devils and demons laying waste to the land, no fair maidens in distress. No heroes, no villains, no nothing! And I should know." To punctuate his words, Raetic gave his array another stomp, deliberately smearing a few of the runes into illegibility. "I just checked."

With a theatrical sigh, the god stepped forward and upwards, walking up an invisible staircase until he hovered a good fifteen feet above the crowd of onlookers. Casting a disapproving glance down at his audience, Raetic continued. "I mean, just think about all the legends and stuff you guys've got! And you're content to just sit around and lead your ordinary lives?"

Pausing, the god glanced upward, allowing a dramatic silence to fall over the scene. Then, when he believed it'd gone on for just long enough: "Alright, alright, alright. Maybe that was a little harsh. There's nothing wrong with a reasonable life, I suppose. Take care of your family, run your village, deal with the occasional marauding horde of bandits or monster; that type of life isn't anything to scoff at.

"But." And then, Raetic glanced back down, a glimmer shining in his eyes. There was power in his next few words, a quiet energy that was his and his alone. "Tell me this: Are there any of you, any at all, that want something more?"

It was apparent to all that the god's breath turned to mist in the cold winter air. But it was the only the most observant that could have possibly noticed the strange symbols and shapes that said mist bent and twisted itself into. Symbols that floated down towards the crowd below. They floated into the ears of the young, the boys and girls who had raised on tales of heroism and glory. They floated into the minds of the adults, the ones in the prime of their lives with so much before them. They floated into the hearts of the old, the elders who had let their golden years pass without once doing anything extraordinary.

As his words of encouragement trailed down, Raetic smiled, an earnest and eager grin. "Come on, tell me. Which of you want to be heroes?"

Mhioden - Silverdock

The six had heard the bird-god's sweet song, it tempted them with power they did not and have and yearning to grasp that for themselves. They departed to find her, however, instead of finding power for themselves, they discovered that it was meant for the so called boy-king they had heard rumblings about. They had dismissed it as nonsense, a rumour, a hoax; something that would destroy them from the inside out if they let it. Nevertheless they had come to the aid of Mhioden and with that they had become entwined in the magpie's plot to usurp a throne that did not exist from them.

Of course, the magpie would not fool herself into thinking that they would aid her for nothing. These were traders, both in gold and in lives. They could rally a great army of mercenaries against her and her would-be-king, they could quietly have the pair assassinated. Nothing was a threat if you had the coin to eliminate it. She had called them there, but the princes followed her and not the page; they would not give their power away so easily.

She would pick the secrets from their minds, yet they themselves were more important then the information theirs minds held. They represented those that had not taken up they bird god's banner and she would need to use them to sway the odds of victory.

Mhioden searched their minds for secrets she could use against them and whispered in their ears sly threats of what would befall them if they made her their enemy.

The Heartlands

Syv shifted as the riding crop jabbed him in the... something... and opened a singular eye to look upon the disturber of his break. Mounted on a less than trusty steed was a page anxiously eyeing the cloaked deity as though it would suddenly snap at him. With a grin like Syv's it might not have been far from the truth but the god was more interested in what sort of message the page had for it. Melting its body into an amorphous form it slid its cloak across the ground to face the mounted man before reforming into its more familiar form.

"Archon's guiding hand, there are others!?" he exclaimed, aghast at the sight of what the tiny being had done.

"There are others?" Syv responded, a smarmy, toothy smile preceding the question.

The page then seemed to remember himself, quickly searching for some sort of document on his person. After a quick pat down and checking both the three scroll tubes and his satchel, the page decided it wasn't worth the bother. Clearing his throat, he began to spout the rhetoric of his master as best he could.

"Yes, of course! I mean- The Divine Lord Archon of Swansdale, deity of the high heavens, has deigned me with the privilege of offering salvation to any man, woman or...uh, thing, that I would deem worthy of his enlightenment. He cordially invites all those I see fit to be graced by his presence to meet with him in Swansdale, not a day's travel from whence I came, to bask in his glory and see the truths of the world he has constructed and divined. I am certain that one such as, uh, yourself would be more than intrigued with the prospect of seeing his divine, errr... divinty..."

The tiny divine being looked terribly unimpressed, its smile gone from its face. Its eyes were narrowed to tiny slits and if they had pupils would undoubtedly be rolling in an unimpressed manner. The page was clearly out of his element and showering him with the praises of another divine soul was all the worse for getting on its good side. As the page began to wake from his practiced look of authority he could only gape at the disapproving stare that greeted him.

"Really?" Syv questioned, his tone dripping with distain, "That's the best you've got?"

"What do you mean 'the best you've got"!?" replied Smythe in an insulted manner. "I shall have you know I am revered for both my speed and measure in the delivery of messages."

The god still didn't look impressed. Its eyes, however, were glistening with ideas behind its deadpan stare, wondering how it could use this one to its advantage. If this mortal was such a smarmy fellow then maybe Syv could use him. This Archon could prove to be a fun distraction but having him usher in potential toys was something it couldn't afford to allow. Then the idea flashed in its mind, bright as day in scope and dark as night in intentions.

"Alright 'Mr. Page', if your god's so great than I can just flip this coin and it'll be whatever he wants it to be, right?"

Smythe nodded in affirmation, sure that Archon would guide the coin's will if the little man was destined to return to Swansdale. "Of course, the power of Archon touches all!"

The pint-sized god's grin returned as the mortal claimed this, finding his faith amusingly misplaced.

"PerfectsoheadsIwintailsyoulose!" the God hastily blurted out a gold piece was flipped from inside the darkness of its cloak and high into the air.

"Uh, er, fine?"

To say that the moment was tense with hope would be a lie. Syv had already tricked the foolish mortal into a lose-lose situation and as the gold piece landed grinning side up it knew what fate lay before the page. A similar smile was on the god's face as it inspected the man curiously, its cloak clutched tightly to its slowly forming frame. Now it would reap the reward it had earned.

"Tails. Guess I win..."

The god extended an arm towards the man. It was strangely quite feminine but quite inviting none the less. The flesh was fair, almost perfect one could say. It beckoned the page towards the god with a single finger and Syv giggled sweetly, its demeanor oddly changing for the moment. Beneath the cloak was a shapely frame, curves like an hourglass finally defining the petite little deity. Smythe could only stare in awe and wonderment, almost falling off his saddle as he leaned in for a closer look. As the man's nose almost touched the inviting hand, Syv's cloak flew open to reveal the deceptive void underneath that had completely and uttered fooled the poor man. Suddenly hundreds of arms shot out from the god's being, all different shapes, sizes, and tones of flesh. They clawed with a ravenous ferocity at the horse, at her rider, at air; reaching out to grasp anything in their blind groping. As the pair were slowly consumed by the twisting, rubber-like arms that protruded from the deity, all it could do was hoot, holler, and cackle with delight at the proceedings until Smythe, the mare and the disturbing amount of hands had disappeared beneath the simple guise of a garment that was Syv.

It had certainly won.

Archon - Swansdale

The bodies began to twitch as the cores started up. One gave out a low moan, but all tested out their limbs. The result was a strange dance made of both involuntary twitches and voluntary movement. Satisfied with their bodies' capabilities, the victims lurched forward and lumbered on. The onlookers stood cried with joy and ran up to their loved ones. However, the only response they got were moans.


Ahlgren - Sunderspire Mountains

The bearded leader of the hunting party smiled at the arrival of such an interesting find. Why bother with bears and badgers when you've discovered something like this? His calm demeanor kept the rest of his band from panicking, and they watched as he dismounted his steed and bowed. "We only wish to hunt down a roc, m'lord. I see no need to sully the spring with blood."


Odanda - Harrowgate

As the attendees left the hall, something sprouted in the swamps. Curious animals dug up the sproutlings, eager to get at the roots and took a nibble, only to be knocked out instantly by the chemicals contained the roots. The appearance of Soma was marked by a decline in herbivore numbers, but it wouldn't be long until the people of Harrowgate found out what the plants could do.


Theodrid - Riverlands

The robed man shook his head as he continued with the chanting. just as he did as the rest of the adventuring party cut down the members of the demon's cult. However, it didn't seem like the chant was working... He threw the book down, turned to the others and made a hand gesture. They nodded and stepped back as the robed prepared a fireball spell. If chants didn't work, fire would.


Raetic - Northlands

The children realised they could grow into something great, the adults envisioned themselves spending the prime of their lives not as simple peons but as mighty heroes, the elderly lamented the fact that they had let their golden years go by without doing anything of note. However, they resolved to correct that. All stepped forward, and answered with, "Me!"


Mhioden - Silverdock

They had been called, they had arrived, and they saw their opponent: the boy-king. The merchant princes saw just how weak he was, and each thought up a way of disposing of the threat to their power. However, a sing-song voice told the six of that the magpie-god was privy to everyone's little secrets, including theirs. It was blackmail, pure and simple, but they accepted the terms.


Syv - The Heartlands

Both horse and rider were still trying to process what just happened. First he had been beckoned, that was probably part of some penalty for losing the coin toss, and then... ARMS. Tons and tons of arms had descended upon him. Smythe stopped thinking about that part and stared at the creature. If the creature was more powerful than Archon... Well, he had better switch to the winning side...


Archon - Swansdale

"Dammit!" Archon swore under his breath as he saw the result of his new experiment, along with the frustration of the mob barging back into the workshop.

"I do not understand." Proto spoke as he recognized his creator's displeasure. "Did you not succeed?"

"Partially..." Archon spoke through a flat grimace. "...their bodies have been revived, a perhaps even their minds...but only to an extent. Those that stand here could probably best be considered as the living dead." Archon looked at the remote he used to activate the cores, pondering what the mob will do once they realize their love ones had become abominations...only to be struck be sudden inspiration. "Proto...don't forget what I'm about to do." With that, Archon headed downstairs, summoning mechanical arms to aid him in replicating the remote he had several times over. By the time he reached the bottom, he had one for every grieving family.

"What happened? Why isn't my son speaking?" The old woman came forward, her blank-faced son being dragged along by the hand.

"I'm...truly sorry, but I'm afraid I can not do ask you wish of me. You're loved ones were too far gone to revive, and my previous failure did not help." Archon gestured the one remote he had on his possession towards the woman, with the workshop's arms doing the same for the others. "However, while I was beyond me to bring them back...I have been able to give you a chance to say goodbye."

Leaving the remote with the woman, Archon moved towards her son. "Though his expression may be vacant and his eyes glazed, your son lives on...but is trapped within his own body. Each of you now has a device which controls the source of your loved one's current state..." Archon tapped the glowing object on the son's chest. "...their power core. I urge you to use this chance to give parting words to your friends and family, then turn the cores off...sending them back to an eternal rest with the knowledge that their sacrifices saved the ones they cherished."

After making sure the gathered people knew what to do, Archon left them to say goodbye....or to see through his lie. Regardless, it was out of his hands. When he returned upstairs, Proto gave the best perplexed look an Automaton could give. "Creator, I do not understand, why did you want me to remember this?"

Archon's pleasant mask dropped back into a depressing frown. "So you can remind me that my road to greatness can't be ridden on with a high horse."

Theodrid - Riverlands

Well would you look at that! Not only did the dogma spouting home invader not do the decent thing and drop dead or even grovel for mercy. But he and his horribly rude friends continued to bump off our courageous protagonist's possessions - I mean minions - I mean servants - I mean friends. Yes, they killed his friends. why if he was the androgynous hero of a fantastical epic, with clean cut good looks that women swooned over because he was steamy but non threatening so their mothers would approve of him as well in fact maybe they'd... wait, what was happening again?

Oh that's right, the killing!

Well needless to say the demon god wasn't happy and he made sure everyone knew.

"You know, back in the old days people used to offer us a variety of virgins. They'd offer us droves of treasure. I even heard of others getting right brought right through a tear right onto a battlefield so they could get right into the fun of watching you lot go crazy. Mortals used to be a welcoming folk, now look at you!"

He motioned around to the band of hunters, all baying for his death, his infernal gaze coming to rest on the man who was swirling fire around himself with violent intent. He looked at them like some parent he thought they should all be very ashamed of themselves.

"You know..." He started, really getting annoyed now. "Back in my day... people at least had the grace and manners to KNEEL!!"

The air crackled with eldrich energy and the eyes that had once belonged to the man called Theodrid turned a baleful shade of red. The sun was shining in through the huge windows and yet the light seemed to flicker for a moment as the air grew stale.

Raetic - Northlands

"Me!"

Raetic allowed himself a smile that was in no way scheming or sinister. "Fantastic."


The next few weeks whirled by in a blur of activity. Under the guidance of their new deity, the people of the village began to plan for their future, most of them dropping their ordinary lives and throwing themselves enthusiastically into their new existence. The young began to actively train themselves in the ways of combat, wit, and rhetoric, focusing on whatever area interested them the most. The old struggled to turn up any old legends or stories that lingered in the fogs of time, the older and more deadly the better. Blacksmiths stopped repairing plows and pots and began forging blades and shields, horsemen stopped herding flocks and started to practice long gallops and jumps.

Soon enough, almost the entire village was thrown into a frenzy of activity. Just the way Raetic liked it.

Sure, there were some problems. With so few people actively tending the fields, for instance, odds were that the next harvest wouldn't be looking so good. And similar problems plagued the other boring but necessary things in life. People didn't want to wash clothes or cook meals or make sure the kids were brushing their teeth, not when there was adventuring and hero-ing to be done. This type of lifestyle might have been fun, but it wasn't exactly sustainable. If this kept up for a few months, odds were the whole village would just fall apart.

Besides, the god mused, having so many potential protagonists was hardly interesting. There were a few hundred people in the village, after all; it wasn't like they could each have their own story. No, if he wanted to do things right, then he needed to find a way to cut down on the number of potential candidates.

Mmmmm... And what better aspect of a hero to test than their courage?


This particular patch of no-man's-land, situated somewhere between the Northlands, the Sunderspire Mountains, and the Grey Valley, was a desolate stretch of rocky, lifeless earth. The soil here was poor, inhospitable to all but the most sturdy and inedible of plants, and the lack of an easy, clean source of water deterred travelers from ever passing this way. It was large, empty, and quiet. Perfect for Raetic's needs.

After ensuring that the area was free of unwelcome eyes, the god began to focus, struggling to focus the raw energy coursing through him without using his typical domain. Sure, things would likely be easier if he would simply tap into his allotted power, but that would it make it possible for a skilled mystic, or even another god, to trace this deed back to him. That was to be avoided at all costs; he didn't want to set himself up to be the antagonist just yet.

Though it took him a while, he eventually managed to tap into the power needed. Then, with a muffled grunt, he swung his hands into the hard, stony ground. There was plenty of raw material here, so long as he could shape it to his will...

Odanda, Mortmire

"Why are we doing this again?"

Odanda sighed. "Because, you idiot, I can't just stay in Mortmire forever. You don't realize it, but there are other beings like me out there, and they grow stronger with every passing moment. We can't have them getting the upper hand, now can we?"

The First Dreamer scratched his chin. "Er... No?"

"Right you are. And the mountains are the only way out of Mortmire, so it's off to the mountains we go."

"Sure, sure... I just don't see why I have to come."

Well, ignoring the obvious, you're my prophet. You're sort of required to come along. Besides, it's probably bad form to be seen without your chief worshiper. If we do meet another god, I don't want them to think I'm rude. Besides, it's the Sunderspire Mountains!" She conjured up images of vast forests and snowy peaks. "The heart of Oriscos! The most beautiful place in the world!

The First Dreamer cast his arms about. "And this is an ugly, bumpy, marshy road. Can I at least ride in the wagon? This horse is making me sore in all the wrong places."

Odanda gave him the mental equivalent of a withering glare.

"Alright, fine. So when we do get to the mountains, what's the plan? Meander about preaching?"

"No, none of that. I wasted time in Mortmire doing just that, but now I've learned. I'm going straight for the power.

Without waiting for a reply, Odanda turned her thoughts away from the troubles of the corporeal world and retreated to the comfort of the collective unconscious. Lately, she'd found that everything in the maelstrom was bigger, brighter. The people of Oriscos were a sea of sparks, and she was among the brightest of them all. The First Dreamer lay beneath her, with the knights they were traveling with in formation around him. Swalsby had told her their names, but she'd forgotten them instantly. It didn't matter. She knew them all through their dreams, and that was more than enough.

She flew away from the lights, toward a field of brighter glimmers in the mountains. Distance was fluid, and she arrived at her destination in no time at all. Odanda made her selection and alighted as best she could. She'd been scouting out this one for days now, and she was sure it was the right choice. A powerful mage of force and fire, hidden away in one of the Three Sisters. She reached out and grabbed it, holding it in her hands. All she had to do was break the surface, and its secrets would be revealed.

The Heartlands

It had seemed like an eternity when the courier was finally released from the god's clutches. Several lifetimes of images and messages were bombarded upon him in an otherwise existence of complete and utter sensory deprivation. What was left was a broken man, gibbering incoherently. Syv simply smiled, as if it was proud of what it had accomplished. Now with a proper messenger it could begin to spread its word... what ever that was.

First and foremost, Syv wanted to make sure that above all else, no other being with similar powers was going to be pilfering its courier like it had just done. The god rummaged through its cloak for a good time, clearly searching for something to amend that concern. Eventually the mess of a man's attention was caught and he began to stare curiously at the deity's actions. Closer and closer the man's face inched until he was barely a foot aware. It was then that the god suddenly sprang into action and slammed what was supposedly its palm into the man's forehead.

"THE POWER OF SYV COMPELLS YOU!!!" it screamed out, plastering a small symbol onto the man's forehead as it attempted to place an enchantment on the man.

Mhioden - Silverdock

The six accepted the bird-god's terms and each of them, if not without some reluctance; for their power had been gained through hardship, effort and a small amount of bloodshed. To hand it away to the page would be to throw away all they had worked towards. However, the majority agreed it would be better to be powerless and still have some pride than to be dead. Hence, the majority swore fealty to the boy-king.

The stern Baldassare had refused to join in with the folly. While it was true the boy-king could be manipulated at whim, probably just like the magical magpie was doing, his pride stopped him from giving up all that he had earned. He was the eldest of the Merchant Princes, and knew from experience that hostile takeovers were rarely this tame.

Gaspere noticed his twin's trepidation and nudged him with his elbow. In contrast to Baldassere, he saw an opportunity with the deal. However, he knew the common rabble were itching for a good ol' fashioned revolt. Someone had to be the scapegoat and while his twin had been an excellent partner in trade and excellent company, Baldassare had been a bit overbearing... 'He'll do.' He was the least popular one anyway.

"She of Dark Wings, I believe your public wants a show." Gaspere said with a snarl, inclining his wine glass towards Baldassare, "Surely throwing a hated noble to the wolves will be enough, no?"

The hyena would be the first to betray his brothers and would be the first to betray her. Mhioden would remember this misstep in the future. To try and keep a secret from the god of secrets was a foolish endeavor indeed. The stern Baldassare would shatter once given to her revolutionaries, he would be broken and useless, but, she would not need him once she had succeeded.

"The wolves are hungry and need feeding," She sang to Gaspere, "But once fed, they will call for more blood."

Baldassare was not ignorant of his position, as both the most successful and the least popular. However, he was also not ignorant of how to turn the tables, a terse chuckle "Blood? Food? There is plenty of food on the battlefield. Why not restore the Silverbirch Empire as well as its monarchy?"

All sound faded from the room; all knew of that name and the ruin it had brought upon other settlements and Silverdock itself.

"Ha! " The hyena laughed, it was an empty laugh that covered his nerves, "Nice one brother!"

Meanwhile, the yet-to-be-crowned boy-king squirmed in his seat. He looked to Mhioden for guidance. What should he do? Was it worth keeping the scheming snakes around? The boy-king lowered his head in defeat, regret began to bite at him, telling him of how simple things were when he was just a squire.

The page's head hung low, power was not an easy responsibility, she had given what was promised, but she had never promised him that it would be. She flitted over to her would be king's shoulder and told him: "The snakes will eat themselves until one is left and is too fat to move, easily trodden on and disposed of." Mhioden whispered to him, trying to reassure the unsure page.

He nodded and whispered back, "I... I still get a crown, right? People respect crowns."

The bird god bowed her head in response, "Of course you will, my king."

Ahlgren - Sunderspire Mountains

"We only wish to hunt down a roc, m'lord. I see no need to sully the spring with blood."

"Yours." Ahlgren corrected with a growl, his eyes opening again and focusing on the one arrogant enough to speak, to justify his murder in the forests that are his home. "YOUR blood is what you want to save, with no regard to my most faithful of followers... Though, perhaps I will give you a deal."

Ahlgren took to the air once more, his voice becoming like thunder as he surveyed the mortals, the greedy and the unwanted. "I give you an ultimatum, an option; Leave now and fear no consequence, or trade one of your own into the Druid order, in exchange for the beast in which you seek. Blood for blood, and all that... Not that I limit it to simply one of you."

"Joining my order is strict, I must admit, but in return... power, beyond your wildest dreams. Change your shape into a beast of which you hunt, control them, bend the very trees to your will! Bring your family, attack the ones you may call neighbors now and take back the world, return it to it's true beauty!"

Ahlgren was filled with fire, and he ended with a flourish, and around the hunters a ring of elms appeared, with only two gaps, one led deeper into the forest, the other back to their home... Ahlgren could only hope they'd choose wisely.

Archon - Swansdale

The old woman nodded and washed away her tears. She hug her so and whispered into his ear, "Goodbye sweetheart. I'll miss you. What you did... I'll cherish it until it's time to join you." Afterwards she fumbled around with the remote and managed to turn the core implanted in his body off. The rest of the crowd did the same. Their silent gratitude hung in the air as bodies slumped to the ground.


Theodrid - Riverlands

The once-confident adventures were shaken to the core as their bodies betrayeAhlgren d them. The fireball collapsed as its caster was forced to kneel. A lad with a sword suddenly burst words of surrender, "We yield! Please, please, please, please, don't do anything more to us. T-That's our terms! Just let us leave and we'll be off, I swear on my honour as a knight!"


Raetic - Northlands

The ground shook and growled as it was twisted by the word-god's raw power. Claws attempted to slash at Raetic, and something which looked like a bear's head attempted to bite his head off but they quickly sunk back into the ground from whence they came. It didn't take. The ground would remain ground, despite Raetic's desires.


Odanda - Mortmire

Her hands were swift and her aim was true. As if to reward her efforts, Odanda received a flickering vision of a ruined floor which was covered in blood. Heavy breathing could be heard as well as muffled words. Just as that image left her mind, it was replaced by a succession of images: a crowded room, a demonic smile, a wrecked mansion, their locations and in return, the mage's.


Syv - The Heartlands

A symbol was transferred to the man's forehead, like a stamp. It glowed with power. Syv had made its mark on poor Smythe, both physically and mentally. Others would have a hard time claiming the man for their own - if they wanted a gibbering wreck of a courier to be part of their cults. Smythe simply stood and took the god's abuse, he lacked the will to resist.


Mhioden - Silverdock

The other five joined in with the laughter, only because it would cover up their up nervous. However, Agostino was the first to stop laughing. He was growing impatient. Agostino tapped the table and swifty turned the conversation back to the topic of the boy-king, "A king needs a crown and therefore he needs a crowning ceremony, yes? I believe we need to sort out the expenses..."


Ahlgren - Sunderspire Mountains

While the leader of the group was somewhat scared of the sprite, when he heard the terms of the deal he couldn't help but laugh. "Ha!" He chuckled, "We'll leave. I, for one, don't want my prey handed to me on a silver platter! Come friends, let us be off." With that, they blasted their horns again and thundered out of the elm circle, back to their homes. After all, there were other routes to the mountains...


Nabesh'i - The Dustlands

The wind blew and the sands scattered, revealing a masked figure. She had awoken, but she found differences in the land and in herself from when she was alive. However, she was not alone. A lone traveler with a camel stood over her, clearly bound there by curiosity. He extended his hand, but quickly jerked it away as he realised who she was...


Theodrid - Riverlands

Nearby, a water wheel creaked. Peasants could be seen as they tended the fields, and roofs could be seen in the distance.

"Oh this will never do!" The demon exclaimed. This was all far too quaint and homely. He only had to look at these rancid peasants to see that this would never work. Half of them must have been inbred or plague ridden.

"No. No if I'm to get work back up to the great days then I'm going to have to do it with subjects that are far more interesting than this!"

Nearby a group of children were running around doing disgusting children things. Oh they were hideous to look at, be glad you weren't there. They started heckling like drunken bar patrons, "Look, look, there's Sir Burwick! And that's lord Theodrid!"

One of their parent's came over, no doubt to grovel or to ask for spare change. She was a young mother by the looks of her, though all the mothers must have been young when you were lucky to live past thirty. Mayflies, all of them! She wasn't even something to look at. Not interesting in the slightest, by human or demon standards.

"I'm sorry m'lord they ju-"

"NO!" The demon cut her off, shoving its hand over her face. "NO, NO, NO, No, NO! This will not do! Everyone stop what you're doing and listen to me!" It roared out to anyone within earshot.

It was time to get this ball rolling! The peasant woman froze in silent shock, unable to make a sound as her face gave way under the lord's touch. Her flesh shifted and flowed as the hand set to molding it like clay. She didn't feel any pain but there was plenty of fear in her just now.

Odanda, Border of Mortmire

The First Dreamer was getting worried. The Lady hadn't spoken in hours, and she remain stubbornly silent when he called out to her. Now the sun was down and the group was bedding down for the night. The First Dreamer had forgotten what it was like to sleep without Odanda's presence, and he was almost frightened of what might happen. Would he dream as he had before? Or would he remain awake in the dreamtime, drifting in the collective unconscious? The First Dreamer didn't want that. He had only been out in the exposed maelstrom once, and he had no desire to go back.

To his relief, when he finally slept, he found himself on a featureless white plain, standing next to the five knights and a confused and irritated Lord Swalsby. The Whisperer, in her thousand armed form, sat motionless nearby, back turned and staring into the void. Swalsby puffed himself up and waddled over to where she sat, shaking his fist and shouting.

"My Lady, if I might speak frankly, this is completely intolerable! I was in council with the lord of Riverside, on your orders, I might add, when I suddenly find myself ASLEEP! The implications..."

"Shut up."

Swalsby stopped. "I... what?"

The Whisperer whirled around, and one of the arms extended and grasped him around the neck. "I said, SHUT UP!"

Swalsby gagged, clawing at his throat. Odanda stared at him for a moment, then flung him down. Her countenance changed, and the mood shifted. All present suddenly felt, through the internal logic of dreams, that she was reasonable, respectable, and that this had always been so.

"I have... news. There is a god in the Riverlands. I have seen him through the dreams of his followers, and he is a monster. A monster who warps the flesh of men, who kills for fun... But a god, nevertheless. The first I have seen directly, aside from myself. I cannot allow a being like that to wield so much power... So he must be eliminated. But I don't have the power on my own." She turned to address Swalsby. "Half the army of Harrowgate, and any military gained from the other cities, are to be redirected into the mountains, effective immediately. Once Mortmire is mine, the other half will follow. Bring the Soma." Now to the prophet."First Dreamer, you and I will establish a holding in the mountains, as was originally intended. I hate to say it, but encountering this being may have been a stroke of luck. It will give us something to rally the people against. As for the knights... I felt you should be here. You are already my guard, and it is fair that you understand the situation."

"I'm not sure I do," said one of the knights. "Who is this god? What form does he take? What is he?"

"I'm afraid you'll find out soon enough. Now sleep well. The days ahead will warrant it." With that, the dreamscape dissolved, and Odanda got down to work.

In each of her thousand hands, she took a tuft of dreams, and began to stitch them together. This one paired with this one, that one with that, these three together, split those in two... Whenever she finished a set, she brought it to her featureless face and gave it the equivalent of a kiss. Finally, she dropped her hands and surveyed her creation. Mouths. Hundreds upon hundreds of mouths. She breathed in deep, and exhaled a fine purple mist. In unison, they opened. She listened intently for a whisper...

Nabesh'i - The Dustlands

Questions immediately leapt into her mind, 'Why is this man acting like this? What I have done to deserve--'

Answers soon followed as she remembered how the others had shunned, the rumours, the whispers, and - most prominently - the pain. Nebesh'i clutched her head and rocked back and forth, causing the traveler to think that she was going some sort of fit. He would be perfectly right. Meanwhile, utter chaos consumed the waif's mind. From her current state, she inferred that the stories were still being told. It had been about five years since she had died, a decade at most - she wasn't sure - but, the stories were still being told. Those stories were the only record of her mortal existence; without a doubt, Nebesh'i absolutely detested that.

Nevertheless, once the influx of memories and pain stopped, she smiled beneath the mask. If that was the role fate had given her, she would give her best performance. She would be a predator, not a simple scavenger.

Nebesh'i raced over to the traveler, who had started to plod away ever since her fit. She grabbed his robes and pulled, forcing him down. Suprise almost overtook anger as she fell down with him. Nebesh'i had never been that strong, however, she had no complains about that. The waif quickly sprung up and began to kick sand into the traveler's face, to his dismay. Nebesh'i launched a tirade of abuse, literally adding insult to injury, "Leaving a person to die like that... Have you forgotten the custom of hospitality? Have you forgotten the ways of your people? Well, have you?! Then choke on sand, as your actions reflect those of the harsh desert."

Hopefully that would be enough for the man to see the error of his ways. If not, well, he could die a pathetic death. Many had been killed by the desert heat and afterwards, she could just eat him up. Just like the tale!


Raetic - Northlands

"C'mon, c'mon..." He grunted as he attempted to pull the (hopefully) newly-created creature out.

Raetic's eyes widened as the ground shook, urging the beast within to come forward. But as the claws sank back into the stony ground, his heart sank. The villagers wanted to be heroes and heroes needed a villain, something to fight against and overcame, just like in the tales. He just needed this to work, no matter the cost. However, the word-god couldn't forgot that his part had to be kept a secret. If anyone found out... Well, the story would turn into tale centered on Raetic and as much as he liked the idea of carving out a legacy of words and deeds, that would have to wait for later.

And so, once again the word-god swung his hands into the stony ground again, just with a little more oomph.


Mhioden - Silverdock

Agostino's words cleared the hostile air; of course, when talk turned to money, the six would finally act like the Merchants Princes they were. But what good would a crowning ceremony be if there was no crown. The symbol of the king's authority couldn't just be a simple thing of precious metal, no, anyone with the resources could make that. The magpie-god took flight again and flew around the table, singing an old rhyme in a singsong voice:

"Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after."

"What?! The crown has been lost?" Baldassere roared with outrage. Suddenly the meeting room erupted into chaos. The squire squirmed yet again in his seat, only this time he was joined by the six Merchant Princes as they shifted in their chairs. Obviously, they blamed each other for losing such a valuable thing. Of course, it had never existed. But a lie believed by many is just as good as the truth. In a world where belief is power, doublely so.

The magpie chirped again in an attempt to calm them down, "The crown is not lost, just hidden. Hidden in my nest of secret things!"

Archon - Swansdale

Archon gave a weak smile as he ordered the Automatons remaining to usher the people and their newly-dead relatives out, and to help them with the burial. "That was taxing, but it could've been much worse..." Archon trailed off as he looked to Rickon, who had composed himself, but still appeared distant and morose. Finally with a quiet moment, the god approached the immortal child. "Rickon...are you all right?"

The child heaved an empty laugh. "Of course I'm all right, I'm immortal, aren't I?" Rickon shrugged as he picked himself up. "I just..." Rickon groaned as he started down the steps back towards the bottom floor of the workshop.

Archon could see the depression and how it weighed on Rickon, one careless mistake had sealed him in a body of a child until he was ready to die. Something told the god that if the boy left, he might do just that. So, Archon caught up and stopped the boy from leaving. Forcing on his best imitation of the mortal Archibald: inquisitive, mystical and full-of-it, all at the same time. "Leaving so soon, my boy? There's so much more left to do!"

"Archon, please, I don't-"

"But who else can spread my merry gifts to the good people of the Heartlands? Who better to spread my good word and display my power?" Archon summoned his mechanical arms and immediately set to work, binding bits and pieces of metal into an exotic staff topped by a shining brass gear. "Let me make a fine tool for my most trusted messenger!"

The Heartlands

Everything was going according to plan. Now Syv's less than mentally stable follower was ready for the journey of journey. Their quest would be grander than grand, a literal epic in the analogues of history. Smythe would be the Watson to its Sherlock, the Lewis to its Clark, the Enkidu to its splendiferous Gilgamesh. They would be the ones to take this world into their hands and do magnificent things with it. The god could barely contain itself at the various tricks it would bestow upon the world to keep it and itself endlessly amused.

"Hyah mule, hyah!" Syv cried out, slapping the riding crop into the flank of Smythe.

The devious deity rode his newly acquired follower into the sunset, piggybacking the man as he unquestioningly and dutifully carried the god. Smythe had piqued it's interest with the prospect of meeting a power almost as great as its own. Now Syv would have the former Archonist stride back to its former master in order for it to see the god with its own two beady eyes. It would find this Archon and weed out exactly what he's up to...

Ahlgren- Sunderspire Mountains

"Ha!"

Ahlgren stiffened at his laughing, did he think this a joke? Did he not see the ravenous beasts in the forests behind him? The god raised an eyebrow at the man's boldness. Who laughed at the prospect of very real power? A fool, or a madman?

"We'll leave. I, for one, don't want my prey handed to me on a silver platter! Come friends, let us be off."

Ahlgren blinked hard at that, turning down a god simply because you wanted to hunt the thing he'd forbidden from being hunted? Madness. He clenched his fists in rage and thought as he watched them pull away, and leave. As they turned to leave, a thought rose to the forefront of the god's mind, making him loosen up ever so slightly.

"... It seems you misunderstood me." Ahlgren said to himself, snapping his fingers to signal his 'hounds'. It sounded like thunder to the fleeing hunters, as his voice rose above the tree's behind them, "It's a pity, isn't it?! One so bold and stupid would make a fantastic worshiper! BRING HIS BONES BACK TO ME!"

Theodrid - Riverlands

"Stop it, please stop it!" The woman cried as her face was being shaped by the god, even the drunk patrons stopped their drinking and revelry to watch the strange sight. Interest soon turned to terror, all but the adventuring group began to scream and whimper. Only a god could do such things, and such a god would want worship. Well, he would get it from this group of mortals.


Odanda - Border of Mortmire

The multitude of mindless mouth began to whisper. "Modanda... essersa... sferow... xe shir foveri... decoad wep..." It was utter nonsense, to put it simply. After all, the Mouths of Odanda had just taken form. Meanwhile, in the material realm, Swalsby commanded his men to do as the Whisperer had requested. He just hoped that it would work out...


Nabesh'i - The Dustlands

He was struck with terror, surely the child from the stories was an innocent thing, devoid of worldly knowledge? At least, that was what he foolishly assumed and was now being punished for it. Maybe if he changed his tune, shie would stop? "My... apologies..." The traveler managed to spit out, "It was foolish of me... to believe a children's story... Forgive me."


Raetic - Northlands

The word-god felt the ground rumble, again. He also felt the formation of limbs, again - the cause of said rumbling being the movement of the creature within the stony ground. Once again, there was a roar, but it was more triumphant this time. The Sunderspire Ursa didn't need to be pulled as it suddenly it leapt out of the ground, to fulfill the purpose it was created for.


Mhioden - Silverdock

The Merchant Princes and the boy-king gasped as a crown appeared in a flash of light. Now the magpie's claims had some legitimacy, at least to those without divine sight. The crown looked somewhat dusty, but that was only to fool the mortals presents into thinking that it was the same crown that had fallen off a certain monarch's head years ago.


Archon - Swansdale

Hissing noises could be heard as the mechanical arms when about their work. They grabbed whatever junk the sightless, thoughtless fingers could curl themselves round. Afterwards, the mechanical arms moved too quickly for anyone to see what was going on. That was revealed when they slowed to a halt, and with a *ding* their work was done, without a hitch.


Syv - The Heartlands

Smythe had gone from a first-class courier with a mighty stead to a less-than-mighty stead of the mischief-god. However, he didn't have the capacity to object to that turn of fate, thanks to Svy's work. Speaking of Syv, it came across a lonesome tavern, one created to make money off weary travelers - with a stable! Smythe groaned and changed his course as he needed rest.


Ahlgren- Sunderspire Mountains

Wolves howled, signalling the start of the manhunt. The forests seemed to empty themselves of animals as the swarm ran after the hunting party. As soon as they saw the rabid animals, the hunters drew their weapons and tried to cut down as many as they could. Nevertheless, there were at least forty. The hunters cried out as they were torn to pieces by fang and claw...


Raetic - No-Man's-Land

"Hoooo!" Raetic cried, skipping back a few paces as a claw the approximate size of his torso nearly tore his head off. As he rose up into the air and as a monstrous roar split the air, the god displayed a mad grin. It looked like the second time around was the charm after all.

The Ursa ripped itself from the earth with primal fury, splitting rocks in twain without the slightest hint of effort. Its enormous, hulking form lifted into a standing position, and the beast let out a great howl towards the sun shining overhead. Guided by little more than raw instinct and purpose, it turned and began to lumber north, its keen senses already bent on tracking down prey to maim and slaughter.

While his creation lumbered off towards the horizon, Raetic simply watched in admiration. "Heh, I'm good," he muttered to himself, gathering his will to travel back to the village.

He'd need to let the Ursa run rampant for a while, allow it to really cause some carnage before dealing with it. He'd give a week or two. Which meant that, at least for now, he had some time to kill.

I guess it wouldn't hurt if I tried to set the mood a little bit...

Nabesh'i - The Dustlands

The child - no, she wasn't a child anymore... The goddess smirked. But was there enough shame in those eyes? Nabesh'i thought that a little more couldn't hurt. Yes... The only way to relieve yourself of it is just to push it onto others. Just as those stupid, ignorant villagers had done. Cruel words clawed her way into her mind, 'Remember, this is what you turned me into - I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask to be resurrected as this... this thing.' However, they served another purpose other than mentally mocking the man: Nabesh'i had to remind herself who she was. Not the daughter who ate human flesh with childlike innocence, but the girl who had been harassed over a simple misunderstanding.

After all, she wasn't a child anymore.

With divine strength, she pulled the traveler up. Nabesh'i stared into his wide eyes. "That's good enough for me, however, it is not for your ancestors. I am not just the incarnation of that silly little girl, but of their vengeance as well. They have marked you, and in return, I will do so as well!" Of course she knew, it was complete tosh. Regardless, while revenge was such a petty thing, it was somewhat enjoyable. Part of Nabesh'i told her that misusing her newfound power for petty acts of vengeance for something buried deep in the sands of the past was wrong - totally immoral. However, there was method to the madness: the mark would bring others to her. From the feeling she got when the man finally gave in, she assumed that more followers could only be a good thing.

Nabesh'i traced her mark upon him - a brand of shame - and waited to see if her idea would work.

Theodrid - The Riverlands

"Oh hush now." The demon wearing Theodrid tutted. "You know back in the day people used to sell their neighbor's children to get this kind of treatment." It pulled its hand away, it's fingers bloodlessly sliding out from under her skin and resting it back where it should be, smoothing it over and not leaving a single trace of the horrific process that had just occurred.

The crowd of onlookers had started to get closer now. The village woman's face was in plain view now revealing the demon's handy work. She was stunning, it looked noble, graceful, regal in fact. It was reminiscent of the old paintings that hung in the halls of the nobility showing princess and naked women that jump out of the sea or get kidnapped by monsters because they were just so pretty. The demon was pretty sure that kid of look was still in style.

"Congratulations. Now go kill off your husband, you officially do better." It said flippantly before wandering off, not bothering to see her reaction or learn her name. It was still busy trying to think of a new one for itself. Most of them probably thought it was actually Theodrid. Suppose it'll do for now. Ugh, these meat sacks and their clearly defined genders.

And to make matters worse it (HE) had a stray piece of bone under HIS fingernail. He twirled the small shard between his fingers absentmindedly. The group of fighters, his first followers, followed along after him as he went in search of larger crowds. It was time to spread the word after all. The four adventurers had remained stalwart throughout the whole face-shaping moment but even they struggled to hide their horror at it. It was how casual their new benefactor had been about it that had really unnerved them and each was left wandering if it wasn't too late to back out of the bargain. Deep down they knew it was.

It was scab that noticed it first. That the bone shard was getting bigger, curving outwards. Theodrid didn't seem to notice. He was busy surveying the village. This wasn't what he was hoping to start with but it could work. A villge made a nice foundation before he moved onto the proper lordlings. For now it would settle with finding the town center. Humble beginnings could lead to great things after all. All these plebs needed was the proper time and care. Meanwhile it was wearing one end of the bone away into something which might have resembled a hilt.

Archon - Swansdale

Archon's now-trademark smile creeped up his face once more as he saw his gift completed. "Ah, a perfect tool for you, Rickon!" The god grasped his new creation and turned on one heel, offering the staff to the boy. "With it you shall taste a sample of my own power!"

Rickon inched forward and tentatively took the staff from Archon. At first he did not know what to do with it, looking back at his gift's creator with a puzzled expression. "So, how do I use it?"

"Let your imagination run wild, my boy! Just focus you mind, make a clear picture, and let the staff do the rest." Rickon nodded as he closed his eyes. Soon, ethereal energy began to flow to the gear at the top of the staff, and suddenly, as if shooting out of a tiny portal, a mechanized songbird appeared! It tweeted a few notes and flew around the boy, but it quickly disintegrated after the first few passes. "You must keep your focus." Archon preempted what he knew would be the boy's next question. "The power of the staff can only sustain what it makes so long as you hold focus. Why don't you practice here while I got take care of some other things?"

With a parting nod from Rickon, who quickly resumed his stance of focus, Archon ascended back up to the higher floors of the tower, finally having the free time to check in on Hawke. The bird had returned a little while ago, perching obediently by the window, but the commotion from earlier kept Archon from addressing his pet until now. "Ah, so what wonders did you see on your return trip?" Archon adjusted his monoggle to review what Hawke had seen, if only out of curiosity.

However, in his review, he happened upon a stunning development. The divine being he had observed before ensnarling a dog had come across one of his messengers, Smythe, and converted him! "Dammit, Smythe, why did you have to go messing with something that obviously wasn't human?!"

Archon's face distorted into one of distress when he realized that the god was following the path Smythe rode on, it was coming here! An event Archon would've found joyous turned to one of dread, because what Archon had seen of the god so far did not paint it in a good light. Once the playback was finished, Archon sat in his chair and thought of what disaster this god could bring down on his plans. "If only..." Archon mutter out loud, thinking of possibilities to extend his reach before the god came. "...ah...worth a shot!" Suddenly coming upon inspiration, Archon summoned his mechanical arms to assist in modifying Hawke.

The bird did not seem to like his chest being pulled open and devices being stuffed inside, but soon settled down after realizing that there was nothing it could do to break free (along with the fact that it wasn't feeling pain). "Now...if I adjust these two things here, a saddle should pop up too!"

Odanda, The Sunderspire Mountains

"The troops have been diverted, my lady," said Swalsby. They were sitting in a replica of the throne room in Harrowgate. Swalsby's throne had been replaced with one much grander, upon which the Whisperer sat. Swalsby knelt before her. "I fear how the Spirites will react. They'll hardly welcome an army marching through their lands with open arms."

"Don't worry, Swalsby. By the time the men arrives, the way will be well paved."

The lord sighed. "I hope so. The Spirites are a hardy bunch. Fighting a war against a god is bad enough. I don't want the wrath of the Mountains on my head."

"Plans are, as always, in motion. You are dismissed." The construct dissolved into the vortex, and Odanda found herself swarmed by her Mouths.

"Mother," they whispered, hundreds of them, thousands of them, flying circles around her, darting close to say their piece, all whispering the same: "Mother, Odanda, dreamer, dream, Lady, the Lady, Whisperer, mother, mother, mother."

Odanda laughed. "I see the First Dreamer has been teaching you well."

Upon the mention of the First Dreamer, they switched their tone. " Dreamer, dream, mortal, immortal, power, wealth, love, desires, all your heart's desires, fame, fortune, all your heart's power fame love desire hearts, open your hearts open your minds open your dreams the most beautiful dreams, all your heart's desires."

Odanda frowned. "Though not well enough, apparently." She flung her arms down into the vortex. "Back down you go! There's work to be done!" And the mouths obeyed, spiraling down and disappearing into the fabric of the collective unconscious with a thousand small pops.

Odanda gazed at the spot where they had once been for a moment more, and then flew up, into the sea of lights that was the mortal world. Tonight, she found herself in the city of Reapak, at the base of Skyjagg Peak. She would need the support of the Reapakians if her army were to pass safely through even a portion of the mountains. And so she searched for a mortal of higher standing, one who could ensure both sanctuary and passage. Her many arms sifted through the lights, peering into each in the hope of finding a candidate.

The Heartlands

"You useless...!"

Syv's sigh could almost be heard all the way over at the town its less than loyal steed was making his way towards. The expression on the tiny god's face was anything but amused with the turn of events. It didn't much care for this Smythe being fatigued; it needed to reach Swansdale as quickly as possible. It was the entire reason it had bestowed upon the courier a vision of its true self as well as giving him the lovely mark of his new god. That privilege belonged to him alone and Smythe was acting as though Syv had unleashed some sort of eldritch horror into his mind.

"I've half a mind to do it, too!" the god yelled out in frustration at the courier, finishing its thought aloud.

The man winced at the verbal abuse but said nothing of it, continuing to gibber to himself under his breath about incoherent nothings. His reaction was unsatisfying for the Mischief Maker, mostly because it didn't solve its problem. Syv was now faced with the very real issue of either having to stop for the night or find some other mode of transportation and neither felt like an appropriate response. With a quick kick of both its legs, the god brought its steed to a halt, who was now gasping for air in his exhausted state. Clearly there were some breeding issues the god would have to sort out later.

"Now how are you going to make up this absolute blunder to me, hmm?" Syv grilled, staring down Smythe with a look of clear dissatisfaction in his performance.

"Teeth and hands... SO many teeth and hands..." the man replied, jittering violently as he hunched himself over and wrapped his arms around his body, almost as if he was trying to hug himself for comfort.

"Of course! Why didn't I think of that?" the god exclaimed.

In a flash the god's cloak was thrown open, keeping what was underneath away from prying eyes. It didn't take long before a figure began to emerge, the glossy chestnut colour of Smythe's mare shimmering in the moonlight. The horse was crazed, turning its head in odd ways and looking fairly perturbed for what it had experienced. It didn't look very serviceable, considering its erratic behaviour, but the tiny god didn't seem terribly bothered by it in the slightest. In fact, it seemed quite pleased with its work as that tell-tale grin appeared on its face.

"Perfect, good as new. Maybe even better?! Now, let's get outta here."


Swansdale

CRASH!!!

Not a moment of peace had passed for the artificer god before a brilliant chestnut steed had forced its way through the front door of his magnificent tower. Astride the majestic beast were two figures, both familiar. In the lead was Syv, god of mischief and all things entertaining to itself. Straddling the steed behind it was poor Smythe, looking worse than ever as he held onto the midget god for dear life, still muttering under his breath which had become an unsettling white noise at this point. Up and up the tower they rode until reaching Archon, sitting at a workbench, diligently working away at his newlest project. Not an inch from his figure, the god reared the horse without hesitation, the mare neighing with all her might as if to make the tower shake with their announced presence. When the maneuver completed itself, Syv simply stared at the other god with wide eyes and a grin that covered his entire lower face. It was indeed pleased.

"Hi!" it chirped out, almost too eager to see the other of its kind. "I'm Syv! Who're y-"

The god stopped for a moment, looking oddly perplexed for no real reason. It had begun to feel this slight vibration and hear this dampened buzzing coming from the back of its head. Was this one of Archon's tricks or something entirely different? Instinctively, Syv began to search through his thoughts until it reached the Aether and found a small glowing orb awaiting it. Intrigued by the development, the god quickly shuffled over and touched it, release the power held within in a magnificent display only meant for it.

Within real space, the god had become stalk still and began screaming at the top of its lungs as the message came through...

"INBOX: SYVARUUHZ

YOU HAVE ONE NEW MESSAGE. TO PLAY THIS MESSAGE, PRESS O-

MESSAGE SENT, YESTERDAY, AT, FOUR, THIRTY-SEVEN, P, M.

"HEY~ SYVY~! IT'S ME, MHIODEN, MAIDEN OF SECRETS. LIKE, I'M NOT APPRECIATING YOUR LITTLE LIGHT SHOW; IT ISN'T IMPRESSING ANYONE, KAY? NOT LIKE MY NEW LITTLE KINGEY-POO ON HIS THRONE HERE IN SILVERDOCK. TOTES GONNA MESS YOU UP IF YOU EVER TRY AND COME HERE. SERIOUSLY, DO NOT COME TO THE FISHERLANDS, OR I'M GONNA END YOU. TEE HEE! LATER, LOSER. CIAO!"

END OF MESSAGE. TO DELETE THIS ME-

MESSAGE, ERASED.

END OF NEW MESSAGES...

As the message faded away into the ethereal, Syv pulled its mind back from the Aether. A look of confusion was smeared across its face, whether from the message or how it had been delivered one couldn't be too sure. It was as if it had tasted something terrible and it couldn't wash the after-taste from its own mouth. Soured by the experience, it could only stare blankly into nothing as the god reflected upon it.

"Well, that was...interesting...and weird...and strange... and- Oh~ was'sat?!"

Syv's mood immediately changed from confusion to excitement as it noticed Archon had been working away at some doo-hickey or whizz-bang. The three had come uncomfortably close now, trying to peer over the artificer's shoulders and head in an attempt to view the creation. It wouldn't have been so bad if they hadn't been shifting their gaze so much, heads bobbing every which way as they jockeyed for the best view.

Ahlgren- Sunderspire Mountains

"My my... a waste. Good boy." Ahlgren studied the bone a wolf had gifted to him, as per his order, as he patted his matted bloody fur. Healthy victim, he supposed. Could've been a good follower, alas... some are just blind to reason. Ahlgren threw the bone over his shoulder, hearing the sound of the another wolf snatching it in mid air and gnawing on it. The god smiled as he began walking off.

He needed more followers, to have more power, of that he knew. If only beasts could follow him like men should, then the world would be so much better! Or, at least in his eyes, perhaps the greedy and "Civilized" would take issue, but there was no reason to sit still, atrophy in a place at the expense of the world around you!

Ahlgren groaned, Sunderspire was his home... he retreated to his forest, for a quick nap.

Mhioden - Silverdock

A crown for a king, a crown for a fool, a crown for a puppet drawn in by the magpie's schemes. The princes discord had ceased, and all stood in wonder of the wonderless crown. Mhioden's prince now had a a crown, but there was still the ceremony to complete. It would not do just to smuggle him to power, to have the citizens who had not taken up their banner to have a king crowned under their noses. They must all know of who will lead them and who they will be following. She had the merchant princes in her grasp; they would organise a the coronation.

"I have provided the crown," She chirped, "You will provide the throne."

Raetic - No-Man's-Land

The heavens rumbled, and both thunder and Ursa roared. The pitter-platter of rain soon accompanied the fearsome percussion of nature and the divine, driving the sun away. No doubt the villagers took that as an ill omen of what was to come. Nevertheless, the would-be heroes wouldn't let a bit of bad weather dampen their spirits or their washing...


Nabesh'i - The Dustlands

The robed traveler shriek as the mark emerged, almost like it was there, hidden beneath the skin, to begin with. Still, the amount of pain was... incredible. It was like being branded but not with a simple fire poker. No, it was like if the oppressive heat of the desert sun was concentrated over a small surface area. But it was too much, and he died.


Theodrid - The Riverlands

The woman caught her reflection in a puddle and smiled - maybe she was now good-looking enough to marry into the nobility. However, the world would soon teach her that wasn't enough. She would only be a treat, as opposed to the main meal. Regardless, the irritant soon grew and grew. Though, one might call it a horn with a hilt, rather than a sword. It was bone, not metal, after all.


Archon (and Syv too!) - Swansdale

Even with the three uninvited guests, the artificer-god worked as diligently as ever on his pet bird or, more realistically, his giant surveillance device. With a few tweaks, Hawke's size capacity increased. As Archon had said, a saddle popped up with a mechanical *hiss*. A similar sound came from a cat, frustrated with the magical, but short-lived, bird-like things Rickon was conjuring.


Odanda - The Sunderspire Mountains

The almost Hekatonkheire-like Odanda came across a battle-hardened woman, deep in the solace of sleep. There was no doubt about her status as rich, lavish fur-lined robes covered her and she was adorned with silver jewellery. Not to mention her regal air. After all, Lady Alexis took her role as queen-regent very seriously.


Ahlgren- Sunderspire Mountains

The sounds of nature didn't seem to bother the forest-god, not even the roars of predators or screaks of the birds-of-prey in the sky seemed to bother Ahlgren. The forest was his domain, after all. Speaking of which, the beauty of the woods were only matched by nature's - or Ahlgren's - ferocity, especially in the summertime as bluebells framed the god's body.


Mhioden - Silverdock

Agostino laughed heartily at the magpie's remark and drummed his fingers on the table, "Of course. Well then, we'd best get things going!" He snapped his fingers and a servant appeared with an abacus, a quill along with an ink pot and some paper on a tray. He placed them on the table and left as soon as he had entered. Agostino then asked, "So, will you leave to us?"


Archon - Swansdale

Archon sighed with relief to see that his project wasn't ruined by Syv's sudden arrival. Though he expected more time, there was not much of a point in voicing such exasperation. "Hawke, leave us." With a snap of his fingers, the god ordered his bird away, which shrank on the way out to fit through the small opening in a nearby window.

With Hawke out of the way, Archon turned to face the intruders, feeling a pang in his heart when Smythe entered his view. Memories of the man bringing raw materials for the mortal Archibald to work with being recalled. "Well, hello there." Archon repressed his feelings of anger at the unknown entity that converted a good friend, mixed with the guilt that it was he who put Smythe in danger. Instead, the god defaulted to his more friendly face, a moderate smile attempting to create a comfortable atmosphere. "I am Archon, an..." The god paused for a second or two as he tried to come up with a description for himself that would appear modest. "...inventor of sorts. And you are...?"

Raetic - Northlands

It hadn't taken long for the Ursa to set off on its rampage of death and destruction. Mere hours after its creation, the monster had managed to make its way to a small town on the outskirts of the Northlands, and had in short order reduced it to little more than a pile of rubble and corpses. Those lucky enough to escape the beast's wrath had of course fled to other nearby settlements to seek shelter and spread the word about it, but no amount of warning or preparation was enough to stop the divine construct.

By the time news of the Ursa had reached Raetic's new home, the body count was already horrifically high and was showing no sign of slowing. The frightened peoples of the northern lands, unable to do anything to stop the beast from ravaging their homeland, desperately latched onto the rumors of a new god and his army of heroes. Surely they would be able to do something to stop the monster's endless advance, yes?


"Right!" Raetic shouted aloud for all to hear. "Here's how we're going to do this!"

Standing in the center of a makeshift arena, the god slowly spun around, his cheerful eyes tracing over the crowds of people that surrounded him on all sides. Many of them were strangers, people who had fled here hoping to escape the Ursa's devastation. Others were natives of this village, the ones who, when they heard word of the tremendous bear, decided that maybe they weren't cut out for heroism, or at least the monster-slaying aspect of it. But they stood outside the arena's walls, and therefore they were of no use to Raetic. Let them serve as farmers and herders, blacksmiths and craftsmen; he didn't care what they did with their lives, so long as they recognized that he was the one who had saved them.

No, the people he cared about were those who stood with him, inside of the, admittedly quite small, coliseum. The ones brave (or stupid) enough to risk their lives for the greater good, to defend the innocent, and, most importantly, earn a bit of glory.

About fifty in number, it was an eclectic group that stood closest to their god. Of varying age and gender, and coming from any and all walks of life, they were all willing to take on any challenge to make their dreams of legend and glory a reality. And that was enough for Raetic. If he could have done so, he would have willingly given them all their chance to shine, their chance at everlasting fame. With their courage (and his divine powers, of course), they could have taken down any threat that might oppose them.

Sadly, he couldn't just send off a small army, not against a single bear, monstrous though it may be. The stakes would be so much higher, and the payoff so much greater, if it was only one hero facing off against an impossible threat...

Hence his instructions. "Now," the god continued, addressing the whole crowd but with an emphasis on those in the arena, "I know that all of you are prepared to risk everything to defend your homes and families, to avenge the fallen, and to make the world a safer place. And I commend each and every one of you for your courage!

"But," Raetic said, pausing just long enough to create a sizable throne at the very edge of the ring, "not all of you will get the opportunity to do so. Only one warrior, the greatest among all of you, will be able to prove their worth against this ever encroaching threat, this Ursa that has torn through the countryside unchecked for too long!

"And how will we determine which of you will receive this great honor? Simple! Through a test of strength and arms!"

Of course, the potential heroes were already well aware of what was going on. They had been outfitted with armor and dulled weapons ahead of time. Still, it didn't make Raetic's speech any less impressive.

"Remember," the god cried, "to use every bit of your skill and force! Rest assured, if you are worthy, then you will have my guidance and protection, no matter how great the danger may seem!"

Spinning on his heel, the deity began to stride towards his throne, making his way through the crowd of warriors clustered around him. "I wish you all the greatest luck," he continued, placing his hands on their shoulders as he passed, giving them a reassuring shake or two. "Show me what you are capable of."

Though a mortal eye wouldn't have been able to notice it, the god lingered for a fraction of a second longer on one of the potential heroes than any other. The man, young, tall, strong, and handsome, was Raetic's personal favorite to win the match, but just in case...

'A bit of extra luck for you, Wiglaf.'

A barely detectable burst of power flowed through the god and into Wiglaf, a stream of energy that centered around the man's heart. Slowly but surely, tattoo-like markings, glowing with an otherworldly light, would begin to spread across the warrior's body, forming words like "Power", "Strength", and "Victory". If Raetic's timing was right (and it very nearly always was), the markings would spread out from under Wiglaf's armor and across the rest of his body just when the fighting was at its thickest, just when he would need a boost of morale the most.

Smiling, the god finally broke through the crowd and made it to his throne, collapsing into the grand seat without another thought. Raising his hand into the air, Raetic only had one more thing to say: "Begin!"

Nabesh'i - The Dustlands

The smile behind the mask faded as the man expired.

Maybe she was taking things a little too far? Maybe she should stop with silly revenge and be the better person? 'No.' Her thoughts replied. Turn the other cheek that it'll just get slapped. They had played a dirty trick on her, bringing her back like this. Nabesh'i just relished the thought of returning the favour. Why not just do that right now? The man was just a lonesome traveler, but he was also her first follower. Nabesh'i wasn't completely heartless, that was just the mask she wore. Just a vicious persona she needed to achieve her goal. Nevertheless, the dissonance between that and her true personalty was increasing.

This was a compromise between the two.

Mhioden - Silverdock

So they were willing to give control of the ceremony to her? It was a nice gesture but ultimately one she would refuse. Mhioden turned to Aureliano and stated her answer, "Like Tremotino, I will have to say no. A secret isn't a secret if it is shared or shown."

It was a pity that they needed to be lectured on the nature of a secret, but at least the secret of the magpie-god would keep the bickering Merchant Princes together, just as it did for the Returners.

"So control what you like of the ceremony." She added, "The details have no importance to me."

Theodris - Riverlands

"Huh, well would you look at that." Theodrid said absentmindedly to himself as he looked over the razor sharp shard in his hand. It was a weapon fit for a killer. "Have fun with that." He threw it to his errant knight, who's name he'd already forgotten.

"Th-th-th- thank you my... sir!" The mortal stuttered, almost ham handedly fumbling it into the mud. He wasn't sure what to make of it and judging by the strange looks from his companions neither did they.

Theodrid made a mental note to fix that knight's stutter if he could be bothered to later. He couldn't be seen to be linked to such comical types... not unless they were comical in some kind of imposing way which so far the knight was not.

What was his name again... something I couldn't pronounce. And that was saying something considering how the demonic language was translated into writing.

He quickly came across the village center. Like everything else here it was a simple affair. Taverns, stores, a town hall all the usual paraphernalia. It was so boring! What had happened to the mortal realm? Where were the blood sport arenas? Where were the wild beasts roaming the land for fresh pray? hell, they could have at least had a giant bear or something! What was wrong with these people, surely they couldn't have been happy with this?

And it was almost empty! There were only a handful of people wandering about the place and half of them were the onlookers from the face sculpting incident. This would not stand. Even in its current skin they should have thought that the demon was the liege lord.

"Ugh, how am I supposed to work under these conditions?" The demon sighed. He couldn't even think of a creative way to gather peons in such a rural environment, not without full scale riots or bandit attacks anyway. "Guess I could try the whole puppet trick again." Theodrid flexed his freshly claimed muscles and tried to reach out across the town through the ether.

This would either end brilliantly or terribly... or neutrally. So it could go anyway at all really.

The Heartlands - Swasdale

"I am Archon, an... inventor of sorts. And you are?

Syv looked at its counterpart with a contorted brow only noticeable by the shift in its eyes. Though odd to see only a pair of eyes moving, the look of skepticism was unmistakable. Hadn't it just introduced itself to the other? Maybe this "inventor" wasn't as smart as the tiny god once imagined him to be. You would think that a tinkerer and creator would be a little more organized and put together, but there Archon was, divine proof of the contrary.

"Really?" the pint sized deity questioned.

With the most unimpressed look one could fathom, Syv turned away from Archon and began to find other, less scatter-brained things, to amuse itself with. All about the workshop were contraptions and gizmos of all shapes and sizes. Each creation was whirring, buzzing, beeping or humming in some fashion or another, marvels of artifice and attention grabbing alike. It was almost too much for the divine being to take in! Yet it managed and soaked up the information like a sponge, floating about to look at this gadget and that whats-it with gleeful curiosity. Then it hit it: it should try to make something like Archon did.

The prospect of owning its own creation was too good to keep the prospect solely within its mind. Swooping back down to the same level as Archon, the Mischief Maker found its own workbench to begin the work upon its greatest creation yet. With two opposite swipes of its arms it wiped away most of the clutter blocking the work space. Dozens of gear, rods and other assortments of widgets scattered themselves across the floor. The god then picked up a small copper pipe and a long pink crystal that gave off a soft glow, one in each of its sleeve covered hands. It then raised both pieces into the air, keeping them as far apart as it could manage.

"Stand back!" it warned in a perilous tone. "I'm going to artifice!"

With all its strength it smashed the two components together, creating a brilliant pink light that washed over all the occupants of the tower. Within its mind it focused on what exactly it wanted to bring into existence and began to weave the threads of creation. What a wonderful thing it would be. What a wonderful trick it would become...

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