[Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

The story unfolds around Osaka, Japan, with the unlocking of one girl's hidden potential, and a gathering of Young mages whom are destined to change the fate of the Earth.
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Mr. Blackbird Lore
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

Post by Mr. Blackbird Lore »

A single finger tipped back Jane's hat to reveal a warm smile. In a single glance she soaked in the sights of her glorious friends. She paused thrice: first at Aulan; second at the young ghost of Ruarc; and finally, on the sight of two Eryls. She hesitated. What could she possibly do for this woman out of time?

Kneeling, the gunslinger placed a hand on the shoulder of the only Eryl she had known. She mulled over a great many things, but for once her cosmic wit was at a lack for proper words. But sometimes, silence is just as well.
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Kokuten
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

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The ethereal soul of the young man came from the tree, a questioning look in its eyes as it observed its older self.

"Ah don' know what happened," said the portion, wearing his voice somewhat strangely, "and ah can' do anythin' to fix it. Ah don' like it, that feelin'."

The piece of Ruarc's soul walked towards him. Each step the young Druid took added a year to its life. Ruarc watched himself grow from the unsure teenager he had been to the well-rounded man he had grown into. Years of loneliness, anger, frustration, sadness, recovery, success, and happiness flowed over the being until it became a reflection of the haggard Keeper.

"Oh. Ah see," it brought a hand to its mouth, unable to meet the other's gaze in the torrent of emotions. Yet, despite the rush, it reached out and placed its hand on his shoulder. The reflection was beginning to break up, but it managed a bit of a grin.

"Honestly, ya did well."

In a blink, it was gone, only the vacant warmth of the hand on Ruarc's shoulder remained, along with a sense of fullness he hadn't felt in almost a decade.

====

As Jane's hand rested on the other woman's shoulder, Eryl jumped, her face coming up from her palms. She still looked rather roughed up from the previous battles, a long way from the prim and clean wizard that had trespassed on her ranch a few hours ago. The Librarian's fingers curled tightly inward, and she snuck a look to who it was. Seeing it was Jane, she jumped again, and started to wipe her eyes.

"Oh Lady Smith, it... you are awake," Eryl seemed to be struggling to put her words together. Another tear worked down her face, and she wiped at it. "I was speaking... with... with myself."

The spirit of the younger nodded her head and gave a little curtsy, and the elder continued, "It seems I... I'm not who I thought I was... I've come to find I'm quite... artificial. My life has been quite the lie, and I've... I've pulled you all in on it quite terribly."

Again, more tears, which started to come more quickly than she could wipe away, "Oh look away will you? I can't bear you to see me like this. It's pitiful."
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Mr. Blackbird Lore
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

Post by Mr. Blackbird Lore »

Jane smiled ruefully. "None us ends up bein what we thought we was. We all change. That's called life. Speakin o which, ye jus helped us all save one. Maybe doesn fix the scales, but certainly tips em back toward even."

The American rose to her feet and offered Eryl her hand, ignoring her pleas. "C'mon. I'll help ye up one last time." After an initial reticence, Eryl would rise and be slowly pulled into a reassuring embrace. "Everythin's gon be alright."
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Kokuten
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

Post by Kokuten »

Eryl had turned her face away from Jane, clearly embarrassed in her moment of vulnerability. Yet the gunslinger's wisdom brought her back around. In truth, a second chance was all the triclops wanted, and that bit of mercy almost felt too sweet for her. A couple of words died in her throat as they bounced around with the still turbulent emotions.

And then came the hand.

The same hand that had been offered to give her a chance. The same hand that had dealt out judgement to all of their enemies this evening. The same hand Jane had threatened to bring retribution with should her trust ever be betrayed. Now it was there, offered from that same trust, and when she stopped doubting it, she took it.

As humans do, Jane would find Eryl much lighter than a human of her same size. The thinly triclops came up with a bit of a gasp, right into her arms. The comfort provided was something she was unused to, but the safety was another thing.

Feeling safe, for the first time in many years, Eryl laid her head on Jane's chest and let her emotions out quietly and quite tearfully.
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Gwathdraug
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

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Erin shoved their otherself off of them with a none-too-gently application of both their knee and elbows. Riley rolled once - and then once more for theatrical considerations - before groaning all too real-ly and pulling her sheathed blade across her eyes to block out the sudden light of the group's pastoral surroundings.

"Everyone can see that you aren't asleep-" The words were barely out of the phantom's mouth before the same voice responded back from the stage magician. "And they all know that I could be."

With a snort Erin nudged Riley in the side again with their knee. The white masked magician didn't even bother to groan this time and instead rolled onto her belly and shoved her head into a suddenly raised castle wall of limbs and misused weaponry.

As the contact between the two settled to the side for the moment Erin did nothing more than watch as Riley smothered herself away from the world. The unmasked half of the phantom's face was held tight and was a void of any nameable emotions. With a simple flick of their index finger Erin flipped their mask off their face - catching it before it hit the ground and setting it in their lap as they sat up with their legs crossed - and turned their attention towards where Aulan was laying.

"Still afraid of me?" The phantom asked the so far unmoving godling.
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Kokuten
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

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The godling stirred, with a subtle movement, followed by the opening of her eyes. She looked as if she had come out of a feverish dream, her body too weak to come upright in any manner of shock. One of her metal clad arms sluggishly pulled back, and then pushed her up.

Aulan looked pale, but at least rested. When she gained her bearings, she craned her head to look up at Erin.

That brilliant light of divinity was gone in her eyes.

"You fought nobly," the words came slowly, wearily. "You did not flinch but instead rode into honorable battle with the beast that had consumed my father. I was awed and scared of your might, but of you? No. I am not afraid. I am grateful."

The small, fallen godling hugged herself, and steaming tears came to her eyes.

"The Land of Dreams and Mist has finally awoken."
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Kai
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

Post by Kai »

Miyuki stirred, but didn't quite wake up, seeming rather content as she was. The woman, whom had constantly been either working, or searching for Percival for the last three years, was quite exhausted, especially with the events that they had gone through. Her wound had closed up, though even whatever magic had healed them could not return her missing arm. instead, a fresh scar graced the torn open sleeve hole of her shirt, jaggedly shaped and still quite raw. Contented to simply rest where she was, the Japanese woman smiled softly in her sleep, her remaining arm softly felt its way around until her fingers were able to intertwine with those of the man she was resting on. She squeezed his hand, pulling herself closer into his lap and making herself even more comfortable.

Despite not being properly awake, Miyuki knew she was safe at the moment. That she could rest.
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Kokuten
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

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Miyuki would feel the hand in her own squeeze possessively. Percival stared down at her resting face, and he reflected on everything he had put her through. The content look on his face fell. Jakku, seeing this, rapidly applied a hug to the man's cheek, commencing emotional resuscitation. It seemed to work, as the man broke out into another, small smile.

Then, from the sky fell a body, a small one.

GONK!

It fell a couple meters away from Aulan, who jumped, startled. It was a miniature, armored figure, sheathed in a carapace of iron armor. It landed head first, legs up in the air stiffly before it timbered over on to its face.

Motionless for only a couple seconds, the small thing pushed itself up to a sitting position. It had two large red horns jutting out of its forehead, over two dull, glassy, red eyes. The tight features of its face were accentuates by a small pointed beard.

It was another godling, like Zulan and Decanus, and just like them, it appeared as though it were in a permanent daze.

Out of the grass came Zulan, in her small form. She stepped over to the new one, and poked its head with in one of her shields. It wobbled, but seemed more interested in staring through the empty space in front of it. Zulan stared, with a similar, glassy look, before sitting herself next to the newcomer.

A discomfortingly loud, especially for Riley, thought washed over their minds.

-- Do you mind coming to me? I'd rather not stir Miyuki --

Percival looked over his shoulder apologetically.

-- I'd like your advice, particularly in finding a home for them. For her. --

Instinctively, or by suggestion, Aulan stood at the mention of her. Then, the remaining Godlings came out of the grass near Percy.

Akanus, still carrying the rifle for Jane.

Decanus, wearing Riley's face, but quite knowable by his size.

Tulan, fidgeting thoughtlessly with a blade of grass.

Modeka, her eyes closed, standing in quiet wait.

There was one more that rose behind them, wrapped in the resplendent white of a magical woman. She was not a miniature, small godling, but a full-size human like the rest of them. A certain dullness clouded her vision, gently fading as Miyuki's mind adapted to the dream-body. Like their first trip into the Elementalia, she was represented by her spirit, wrapped by the image of her inner self. A look at her hands showed one pale and one represented by coiling lines of light, like a tattoo with no arm beneath.

-- Forgot that could happen --

Percival smiled apologetically, still holding Kagami's real body close to himself.
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Straken
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

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Ruarc simply stood for a few moments after his counterpart merged with him. He was whole again, and his chest felt incredibly heavy. Closing his eyes, the druid took some centering breaths as he focused on his feet. When he reopened his eyes he took a moment to look around at his allies. They were all back together again; Miyuki and Percy were reunited, the little gods were returned to their true selves, and Laoise was safe. Ruarc smiled. His bottom lip quivered.

Putting a hand over his mouth, Ruarc cleared his throat to cover the slip from his friends. Moving the hand up he scratched his head before turning around and walking to the far side of the large tree. The weight on his chest was becoming a little painful, and he didn't want to bring his friends down during this moment of tranquility. Leaning against the tree, Ruarc focused on his feet again. With the adrenalin fading, everything was settling in. Laoise had died, which is a distinct possibility for the familiars of Keepers but the event itself is fundamentally scarring; he himself had almost died after both being shot and then stabbed, during which he had an existential meeting with his dead girlfriend who had started him down the path he was currently on; he had faced down demented gods and a serpent large enough to rival Norse mythos; and after it was all said and done he had gained something he had lost and didn't realize he was missing.

Ruarc focused on his feet, because if he didn't he felt like he would fall over under the weight of it all. Covering his mouth again, the Irishman stifled a sob as a couple tears began to grow in the edges of his eyes.
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Kokuten
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Re: [Chapter 1.3] A Theater of Gods

Post by Kokuten »

Tulan's fingers continued to fidget with the grass, almost nervously. Her large glasses turned to reflect Ruarc in her sights, and she bounced over to him. She walked past Aulan, who stayed with the droning image of her parents, past the embracing pair under the tree to move behind it. There were no words to say; she came right up to his leg, not daring to look in his eyes and wrapped her arms around his leg.

-- I have taken their place. --

Percival spoke gently, his voice ringing like a bell in their minds.

-- Because of this, the Guardians cannot stay. The risk they pose unchecked here is too great for what may happen, but they don't deserve to be wiped away. So I want to ask for your help in one last task. They are spirits themselves, but above all they are protectors. Until their minds heal, they will do what the mages of old intended of them. --

Once he had managed to gather them, the grass in front of him melted into the soil, which in turn melted off the stone it stood upon. The stone extruded upward, revealing a elaborate set of buildings, fenced in by a perimeter.

It was Safeholme.

-- They should go where they can do good, beyond the scope of corruption. --

The front gate reshaped itself into a wide archway. At the top was brazier that burned with a small fire. When the fire lit, the small god next to Aulan and Zulan disappeared.

A small copse of greenery grew behind the rocky mance, representing the forest, and a small, standing stone rose from the earth in the what looked like a small glade. Gnarled roots began to grow over the marker, and at that, Modeka disappeared.

Another building rose a small ways a way from the property, in the shape of the dormitories. The fountain there sparkled with a marble shield at its crest, and another fountain emerged at the front of the mansion, glittering with runes. Zulan and Tulan, at once, disappeared.

The scene melted, and Jane saw her ranch come forth. Atop the house that she had built herself, which stood upon the land her family had owned for generations, was mounted a weathervane in the shape of a flying eagle. Akanus's form had too disappeared.

Lastly, the stone washed into a simple arrangement of furniture. A sofa, a desk, and some other items strewn about in what Riley would recall was the apartment she occasionally stayed in. A pair of glowing eyes shined under the gloom beneath the couch. Decanus had disappeared.

Aulan was the only one left, and she stared pensively at the group.

"What is to become of me? What am I going to do?"

Percival looked at the others. A tear in the fabric of space split not far from where they sat. As the portal yawned open, they saw the library from where they came. The Percival of their world, the real blood and bodied man, stepped in, looking as haggard as any man could.

"Live," said Percival, smiling as best he could in his wearied state.

He turned his hand over and held it out to her.

"Live. And make that decision yourself."

EPILOGUE - The Vision

Percival Caxton winked away the dust from his eyes in the darkness of the centrifuge. He lay on his stomach, upon a round patch of dark, earthen soot that marked a spot in the center of the vast, empty land. He looked up, the vast serpent above him constricting tightly around a barrier that he was trapped within.

“Modeka, do you think I could spend a little more of my leg?” he said, uncomfortably lighthearted, lowering his dirty face to look at the Guardian. She was sitting at the edge of the circle, her clothes disheveled, her stare vacant. Aurus paced behind her, intermittently cutting down what the Alchemist could only deduce were thralls gone mad.

The whole world had gone mad.

His friends were fighting for their lives out there, and he could barely see them. Every time he tried, more of him crumbled away. First his left leg, then most of his right, burning off like kindling each time he tried to help them.

“Modeka.” Percival tried again.

Not a single breath.

“It’s getting a little silly at this point, don’t you think?” he humored, but she didn’t laugh.

A mote of dust landed in her eye. Percival laid his head down.

The vision of shimmering towers greeted his mind again. Every time he closed his eyes, he would see it. A brilliant city, filled with life, a vibrant metropolis. His mind couldn’t take it for long, and his eyes forced themselves open.

Her head had moved.

It pressed against the barrier that kept him here. Those empty eyes were on him now.

The man's body snapped forward, clawing desperately over to the edge, dragging his torso. There were tears in his eyes, as he began to laugh. He couldn’t help it, it bubbled out of him as he pressed his forehead against the barrier.

Modeka’s lips began to move soundlessly, and he could see the words.

They need you.

“What?”

The battle was concluding, the feeling was palpable. He pushed his mind out to see how they were doing. They were winning, and for once in this horrible place he could feel relief.

Until he saw Laoise.

His sight whipped back to the centrifuge, his lungs gasping for air, more of his mind crumbled to the floor. Denial sputtered from his lips as he began to shake, his worst fears now reality. He gripped his chest, as if his heart would suddenly leave him.

Modeka’s lips moved again.

The binding must be broken.

“Modeka,” his voice cracked, the features of his face twisting, still reeling, “I don’t know what you mean. I don’t understand.”

I have served my purpose.

He searched her eyes for meaning, and she smiled.

You will understand soon.

She made a noise, and the haunting figure of Aurus turned, glowing eyes upon her. The feeling of slumber washed over his mind, and Percival suddenly understood.

“Modeka.”

“Ah,” she uttered a little louder. The Fire God began to approach with his blade in hand.

“Modeka,” repeated Percival, slapping his palm to the barrier. "Modeka, stop this."

“Ah,” she said with more of a pained smile. He became desperate.

“Modeka!”

Aurus loomed over the bent form of the Healing Goddess. The Alchemist repeated her name, helplessly, he kept repeating her name in some vain hope it would do something. She hadn’t the strength to summon a word to put them to sleep, but the warrior above her was not particular to risk. Percival begged him to accept it.

Against the growing protests of the Font, Aurus drove his blade through Modeka’s back, silencing her.

The sight of the murder drove Percival to madness and he slammed his fist against the barrier, screaming and striking until his knuckles were bloody. Repeatedly, he hurled curses and pained denial, but the blackened figure ignored them.

The blade was withdrawn, and the goddess’ body fell limp through the barrier.

Scrambling, Percival took her as best he could, but as mangled as he was, he could only rest her on the black soot. The Font choked his sobs, the dirt on his face streaming with the tears. His trembling hand gripped her lifeless fingers. Feeling the warmth leaving her made her death real and his voice howled, wailing pain he had never known before. He wanted to wake up. He wanted this nightmare to end. He closed his eyes, wanting to open them somewhere far from where he was, but all he saw were visions of the city.

"I never intended this to happen."

His eyes opened, and he could see his friends standing around him. He saw Ruarc leaning over Laoise, the rest of the group recovering the wounded from the first bloody engagement.

"This was the reason I fled.”

His mind felt like it was trying to escape, but still he tried to speak, it was the only thing holding him together. Something kept pulling him away, trying to break away the thoughts from his body. He opened his mouth, but words were becoming difficult to produce.

"I knew that I would cause such sorrow. Three are gone. Three remain. At what cost? I know much, yet understand little. I feel life, yet cannot find it. The universe unfurls for me, but I am powerless to protect even one benign dove."

Laoise. He imagined her flying again, and the sadness filled his chest.

"Trees, flowers, spriggans, birds... What good are they in a battle of gods?"

He closed his eyes. Again, the shimmering towers. This time his friends were there, telling him to not lose hope. They weren’t supposed to be here, not in the vision. As they tried to encourage him, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was about to happen.

When he opened his eyes, the feeling faded, and something heavy weighed on his hand.

It was Laoise. Her pure, white form was marred by a little red mark in her breast. He looked up into Ruarc’s eyes, and felt ashamed. The pain in the Druid’s eyes tore him to pieces, and he looked to Miyuki, seeing some glimmer of hope in her. In her, there was some measure of happiness in this madness.

"All of my life, I lived in fear of my power, and the lack thereof.”

He imagined her flying again, and understanding filled his mind as the crumbling of his body began to spread into his neck.

"I feared for so long that I let a sickness take over my entire being. Skirting trust. Barking at shadows. Concealing myself behind subterfuge. So afeared that I hid from all of this, hoping it would kill me first. Yet here you are, despite what stands before you."

Modeka still lay in front of him, in quiet repose. He steeled himself, and pulled Laoise to his chest. Not knowing what would happen next.

“No more hiding.”

The power was overwhelming, it washed away his mind. He held tight to the bird in his palm, and forced himself to focus on that thought. Her flight. If he closed his eyes he would lose her. The method was lost on him, but the truth was there, buried deep in the Elementalia. He drew it up into himself and the little form awakened.

A spark went off in his hand as she flew away, and, like a pilot light, the energies erupted from within him, wiping away what remained on the black spot in the centrifuge.

With no eyes to open now, he saw that same horizon. A scene lined with shimmering towers, a massive city filled with people. A blue sky stretched above, traced with the figures of flying craft, carrying commuters to and fro. This was a world much like his own, but far removed by the measure of time. A new awareness filled him, one that connected his mind to the people he could see going about their day. He could feel their happiness, their sadness, and their fear. The fear was growing, it grew into a fear that consumed an entire world.

The horizon began to burn as the sky fell apart in a storm of bombs and warlike pillars of light. In mere seconds he felt the deaths of millions: continents shattered, oceans boiled, society destroyed. Suffering was paramount, and the hailstorm of destruction only continued, systematically spreading across the world in a wave of corpses.

“No.”

He tried to escape it, and found himself above the world, a marble once blue, now brown and red with the blood of billions. Whatever sought to erase life on the world finished it with one fell stroke as it split the planet apart.

“No!”

Again he tried to look away, to distance himself, but it only served to expand his sight across the stars. His ears were filled with the death screams of trillions, as lives were lost on a terrible scale. The scope was unimaginable, witnessed all at once, in scenes of untold suffering, with no end in sight. The nightmare filled his mind, threatening to push out everything that was Percival Caxton, making his very soul numb.

A voice rose in the darkness of his mind. It started small, but it began to grow into a lullaby, one that put his tortured senses to rest. It sang for him long after he couldn’t hear the screams anymore, until he could find himself again, seeking shelter in the embrace of his lost humanity.

And so the centrifuge hummed, a pillar of untold power; coiled by a serpent, guarded by a traitor.
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