Mara Part Two: A Goddess's Aforethought
By: Jaqal Posted on: February 27, 2006
[The continuation of "Mara's Beginnings"]
"Ahhh, that was simply delicious!"
"Aye, that it was...*reminiscent smacking*...I should hope the rest of them are like that."
"Yeah, besides the weather, this place ain't half bad."
"Still, I couldn't imagine living here for any longer than it takes. When do you suppose we'll move on?"
"Well, it'll take us a while to regenerate, and according to the map, the next city issss, Mhaldor."
"Oooh! They should be nice...Hey! Wait a minute! Isn't Mhaldor full of necromancers?"
"Yeah, so what?"
"Well, you bozo, necromancers have the annoying habit of selling bits of their soul! They're not going to be worth much if it's in tatters now is it?!"
"Well then I guess we can just pass them over...I suppose it's Cyrene then."
"Ugh, I don't envy the front lines, they've got craploads of ice mages."
*shudder* "I should at least hope that Mhaldor will be smart enough to stay the heck out of it...I don't like being attacked by the side."
"Perhaps we should just eliminate them, it doesn't mean we have to eat them...after all, we have yet to reveal the Scorions."
"It sure as heck wouldn't hurt...heheheh! Keep em on their toes and all!"
*A momentary silence permeates the conversation*
"What do you suppose we'll do when we run out of food here? I mean, where will we go then?"
"Well I should hope it's someplace warm! No way am I going to another damp hellhole like this."
"You will if you want to remain enlightened! Though I agree, this place is as damp as a grooks arse!"
"Not to worry, not to worry...I've been reading this man's journal and it says that an..."occultist", whatever the heck that is, can open a gateway to another plane! We've got it set! All we've got to do, is clear out the other three (four if the Lord permits it) cities, capture an occultist, and force them to open the gate!"
"Does it say what the other planes like?"
"Not really, just a bunch of gibberish about some Golgotha dude..."
"Meh, nothing but a pushover for us ay?"
"Aye, Long Burneth the Flame!"
"All we have to do is wait until our troops have regened and then we'll get the Scorions to take care of lil ol Mhaldor and once she's gone we'll make a B line for Cyrene."
"Bull crap, we can stand a full assault from the right, even in our weakened state."
"You have to remember that we'll meet enough opposition along the road to weaken us thrice more than we are already! We can't just rest whenever we want. They'll send ambush parties, and we don't want them to be able to mobilize a resistance against us when we're out in the open. At least we have cover in the cities."
Darkness faded slightly from view. She could see the wooden rafters overhead. She blinked, "Was it all a dream?" "I should hope so...all that fire - and poor Viho! I sort of liked him, he had a good hea-"
She sat bolt upright at this terrifying sound. Still bleary eyed, she scanned the room. She was in a stable. All around was golden straw, it was stuck to her face, her hair, and oddly enough, her teeth. Greyed stalls lined the walls and golden sunlight filtered through an open window, illuminating the fine particles of dust. In one of the furthest stalls she could see a donkey. A rather weathered looking donkey. It's ears sat droopily on the sides of its head and its tail tiredly moved to bat away the incessant flies that tormented it.
"Widget!" the young girl screamed and ran to her beloved companion, "I can't believe my luck! How did you get here? How did I get here? Where am I? Was that fart you? I'm hungry, where can I find some food?" "Wide awake I see...though perhaps not fully, seeing as how you're talking to a donkey."
She whipped around and her face immediately turned a tinge of bright red when she saw who had spoken. A tall young girl stood, leaning in the doorway of the barn. She wore a plain white shirt with brown pants. Her hair hung in long dark braids to her waist and she held a brown, and rather battered, ledger. "I expect you're hungry then, lucky for you I brought my own lunch today." said the girl, holding out her hand, "but please, my name is Coscela, daughter of the stablemaster." Slightly stunned, and still slightly embarrassed (the hay was still in her teeth), the other girl held her hand out and shook hands with Coscela, "My name is Mara."
Absentmindedly, for she was now unpacking her lunch, Coscela said, "Mara huh? That doesn't sound Shallamese, you're not from around here are you?" "Erm, no, I'm from Kamleikan...but, what exactly is this place?" Mara replied. "Silly, you're at the stables in Azzul!" Coscela looked up and saw Mara's face, "Shallam? You know? The Jewel of the South?" At this, Mara understood, and more importantly, remembered. In an instant she could here that warped voice in her mind once more. Repeating her journey, her destiny, and oddly, the screaming Certimene. Mara gasped and yelled "Oh my god! I need to get to find a tutor and get ready! Quick, where is the Basilica!?"
Stunned at this sudden outburst, Coscela told her that she should get some food in her stomach before she dared go into the incense stuffed cathedral, "Tsk tsk, you need food and water before you go out on an adventure or else you'll end up wasting away in front your candles and shrines." Mara, seeing the logic in this, sat down with Coscela on a pile of hay and had some of the lunch she had layed out. There were two pieces of a barbecue sandwich, and some cold tea Coscela kept in an old vial beside her. The tea tasted like the oaken vial it was kept in, but the sandwiches were wonderfully hot and meaty. Coscela had layed out a chocolate pudding too, but Widget's flawless timing of gas ended their appetites almost at once. So, Mara mounted her trusty Widget, and thanked Coscela for sharing her lunch with her. "Think nothing of it. Now, the Basilica is northwest from here, just keep on going thataway and you should run into it sooner or later." Coscela said, pointing, as she bid her goodbye from the barn door, "You'll smell it before you can see it."
Mara would have asked what she meant but Widget seemed to lose no time in getting back onto the Shallamese streets. If Mara had known anything about riding, she would have discarded Widget long ago, as he went where he wanted, when he wanted. Fortunately, she did not, and Widget, seemingly in on her quest, led her directly to the Basilica where Mara found out what Coscela had meant. As Widget turned a corner, Mara seemed to be plunged into a sudden bath of incense. It was not unpleasant. It smelled like something familiar, something old and forgotten. A rare flower on the open tundra, the grass of the Dardanic Hills. Whatever it was, Mara thought it was one of the most seducing smells she had ever whiffed before. They travelled onwards for a ways, looking extremely odd as a young, dark-haired girl riding a forlorn grey donkey. So, after some bug-eyeing from the citizens and some rude comments from some youngsters, Mara came around a corner and gasped in awe. Before her stood the grey-white cathedral of Shallam. It's foremost tower rose to dizzying height and the stained glass windows were tall and narrow, and impeccably clean.
Mara's visit in the Basilica is long and arduous. Clearly not something for a story to go into in great detail. She spent her days training with one of the monks, and her nights, reading the codex. She had three tutors. Antend, taught her tekura, Bujishako taught her the secrets of telepathy, and her kaido teacher taught her such things as Kai Choke or how to transmute mana. After a few months, several things were clear. She was a natural nun, her Kaido could knock the socks off of any self-respecting paladin, her telepathy was astoundingly good, and her tekura was the worst any instructor had ever seen. "That's a palmstrike you dolt! For the eightieth time, it's a swift round of JABS!!!"
Her sidekicks were sloppy, she couldn't manage the horse stance, and her attempts at the scorpion stance made her look like she was sniffing a dead cat. Still, her telepathy was longer ranged than any other monk's and she could bring up a fair Kai Barrier whenever she wanted, but more importantly, Mara had completely accepted the way of the light. The virtues shown in the Codex were now her's. They acted as a guide, and perhaps in some cases, a filter to her actions. She felt certain, that now, her future was carefully watched over. Even though she had long since dismissed the voice as Tarah's and had the slight suspicion it was something of the exact opposite. "Still," she thought, "what kind of divine would lead me to the path of light if he or she didn't believe in it?"
So, after several months of no news from the Flighters (except that they were rumoured to be sitting in the remains of Ashtan...sitting very still), Mara left the Basilica. Widget was now well fed and groomed, and she now wore a white priestess robe. Her face no longer held the youthful naivete it had before, but in its place she held a look of knowing, and perhaps, a small glimmer of power.
"Stop fidgeting! You're supposed to be regenerating for our lord."
"I can't! I'm already charged! Just let me go outside and flame a few people and I'll come back in and regen, I promise!"
"Now young Carory, you will sit down, and regen this instant our I'll report you to the Lord!"
Far away from the hustle and bustle of Shallam, stood the scorched, but still standing, towers of Ashtan. The infrastructure was oddly untouched by the entities within. Huge, flaming people. Their whole body seemed to be composed entirely from the engulfing flames that surrounded them. Their hair was nothing more than waving strands of flicking flames, and their eyes were glowing white, like the embers of a molten fire. Thusly, they were dubbed by the Achaean people, "Flighters".
This one in particular, Carory, was a sprightly young Flighter, full of energy and ambition. His dream was to rise above the rest and become Supreme General of the Lord's Armies, but alas, this was impossible. For one, his waist was still blue (an embarrassing characteristic of young Flighters), and for another, he could never follow a command. When ordered to attack the gates he had wandered in the opposite direction and had run into the oddest sight he had ever seen, a young woman in fur clothing, riding the ugliest of donkeys. He had followed them for about half an hour when he realised that he'd better get back to the gates before someone noticed he'd gone. He was too late, Ashtan had been ripped and gutted by the time he got there. He had entered the city and walked through the already empty and deserted streets. He did, however, manage to sneak into the main building they were using, unnoticed. So, no one ever knew where he had gone.
While his friends gloated over the terrified faces they had seen as they stormed the streets, all Carory could think of, was the girl. Although she had never looked at him, Carory could sense the immenseness of her aura. Now, don't take this lightly, occultists may be able to see, read, and perform upon another's aura, but a they could never see it as a Flighter could. For, the Flighters themselves had transcended so far into aspects of the Universe, that their own Auras shone with such force that it materialised around them. Licking their bodies, and consuming their soul. A regular Achaean's aura, was still held close about them, as they had not yet discovered the secrets of enlightenment.
So, sneaking along behind them, Carory inspected Mara's aura the best he could, "Not a bright one, though seemingly important. Hmm, that could be anything....God! I hate it how these Achaeans hide their Auras!" So, now, back in the comfort of the burned Ashtan, Carory sat, regaining energy. He tried to think of something else, but the memory of the important feeling poked and prodded his brain. All he could think of was that this woman held an important piece of the puzzle, "And by god, she'd better relinquish it!" he thought amidst the turmoil of his mind.
"Ugh, no point in muddling myself, I've got a reception with the General's Secretary tomorrow."
[Morning the next day]
The General's Secretary was a wizened old Flighter and his office was merely a room off to the side. There were no comforts of life. It was a cold dank room, just like the others, but with one main difference, it had a desk. A simple, plain old, puddle-ridden desk. The secretary, Anjonh, sat behind it, looking incredibly frail.
"Come in, sit down Carory." said Anjonh, looking older than ever.
Unlike Carory, his flames were a dark and dangerously red. His eyes were grey, not white, and his hair was merely a whisp around his head.
"Now, you have been ordered here for a very important reason Corory," he said, "You are to immediately go to the Home Crater and summon the Scorions. The rest of our troops will be ordered accordingly once we see them in the sky."
"Yes, my master, when shall I leave?" asked Carory.
"Immediately, by the time you arrive there, our forces will have regenerated." getting up to leave, Anjonh merely added "Now if you excuse me, I have a meeting... Long Liveth the Flame."
"Long Liveth the Flame" Carory replied mechanically.
As Carory left through the office door, Anjonh sat back in his damp chair. A few moments past while he muddled through his soggy thoughts, until the door opened again, and in stepped...a man! Though a balding, fat, and old man, he was still most definitely not a Flighter "Good evening General...???" "Ootah, my liege."
"Enseppi Motaba... Entalia Kotai... Mara Oudogoaboti... Oudo.... Oudogboasdoahd."
"Oudoshaboati!" yelled the indignant Mara.
She was waiting in line at the recruitment office. Monks were in short supply and Mara thought that enlisting would be the best way to bring her into the middle of the action.
"Oudoshaboati, sorry...yeesh," the officer handed her a scroll from a box and continued down the list he carried, "Ikaru Mebugo," Mara unravelled the scroll and read:
Attention Loyal Soldier,
Your duty is as follows: You are required to report to the Shallamese Ministry
office in order to receive your first orders as, Secretary to the Sultan of
Congrats on your new position,
On the back it was dated with a deadline by which the applicant must respond or the scroll would be considered dead and would be discarded and reapplied to another soldier. This was a war-time strategy used by all of the cities so as to save time and fill positions which were of dire importance. So, as Mara realised that she had less than ten minutes to get to the office she yelled above the recruitment officer, "I need a portal to the Sultan's office, quick!"
Scarcely had she yelled when the crystals had been spun. No one saw who did it, or where they came from, they just flung themselves to the ground. After a few seconds of quiet spinning, they suddenly drove into the ground, and up rose two pillars of white granite. In between them was a blurry image of a busy office, and over top, joining the two pillars was a golden arch of immense design.
Mara had no time to enjoy the architectural wonder of the portal however, so she flung herself through it and fell face flat on the floor...of the office. A middle-aged man in a pair of casual slacks and coat walked up and bent down to her "Excellent, you made it...I was starting to think that scroll was dead...anyways, hurry up, we're almost late!"
Mara dragged herself off the floor muttering something about feeling so rushed and only had a few minutes before she realised that the man was already half carrying her in his hurry down a large hallway.
"Well come on! I can't carry you all the way, and we've got a meeting to attend!" said the man, panting from exertion.
Mara lost no time arguing with the man, and instead hit the ground running, and was soon in pace with the now wasted Sultan, as that is who he was...obviously.
After about a five minutes dash through several hot and stuffy rooms, they finally hit a dead end.
As they stepped through the golden handled doorway, they realised that they were, indeed, already late. A group of about ten to twenty old men sat at the sides of a huge desk in the centre of the room, and her boss's position was clearly empty, at the end of the table.
"Sorry everyone, I had to wait for my new secretary." the man said, jabbing a finger at her.
Now, speaking directly to her he said, "You will take notes of the meeting, don't butt in, don't add anything, and most important of all, don't snicker!" At this he whirled around and said in a surprisingly different tone, "Good evening gentlemen!" he announced as he walked forward to take his place at a rather long oak desk.
At this moment, a rather corpulent man with a moustache said, "How rude Master Farley! Late for your own meeting, I've half a mind to leave right now sirrah!" "Now now General Ootah, we needn't be so hasty...I brought this meeting about because there has been a sudden lax in Flighter activity, can anyone explain this?"
"Of course sirrah!" said the same man, his southern accent quite obvious, "They're flames right? Well I find it quite obvious that they're dying...I knew this plague was short lived!"
"Nonsense Ootah, our scouts have informed us that the Flighters are only standing still...perhaps they are just regaining their strength?" replied the Minister.
"Hogwash! I should clearly say that we leave them to their slow and painful deaths! Why should we expend resources on something that will take care of itself?!" Ootah reasoned.
All around the table were young men and women scribbling on their papers as their masters spoke. A lone fly was buzzing around the ceiling, inching closer, and closer, to one of the men's balding heads. As she watched the seemingly kamikaze fly closing in on the man's head, she noticed that one of the other assistants were watching the fly as well.
Just before the fly was about to make impact and, supposedly, arouse the general to distraction, the young scribe flicked his finger, and a lone jet of blue shot over the man's head and hit the fly square in mid-dive, freezing it solid. Amazed, and rather jealous, at this young boy's incredible aim and skill, Mara decided to try to put some of her own telepathic abilities to work. But what? The afternoon wore on and the conversation droned forwards while her master attempted to gain an intelligible agreement from the generals, but Mara was no longer taking notes. If fact, she wasn't even in the room! Instead, she was wandering the lone, dark hallways of General Ootah's mind (her master's only source of opposition). Although every man's mind is different, Mara understood the basic layout better than anyone. Along these dark hallways, were different doors. Some were small, some were tall, some were wooden, some were metal, and, on occasion, there was no doorway at all. Everyone one of them seemed to whisper their contents on command to Mara. Some, she passed over completely, and others she asked for what was behind them.
As she wandered the noiseless halls she murmured to herself, "Hmmmm... habits, no...ego, no...friends, no...abilities, no...love life, hell no! Whaaa?!...Betrayal? On the off chance that this isn't some sort of lewd book title, I should probably check to see what the heck he's up to...and maybe, secure a better position than "secretary"!" she said as she came in front of a double chained door.
"Come on now, open up dear door, no sense in trying to hide!" she said as she rapped upon the aging door.
In response, the door croaked, "No! Go away, top secret and so such...make another step towards me and I'll alert the brain of your intrusion!" "Oh preposterous my dear door, you needn't fear me, I should merely like to see what's behind you."
"Well I should bloody well think that I was put here to keep your kind out!"
"Listen," said Mara, her tone now becoming more commanding, "You WILL open to me."
For a few seconds, there was no response, then, eerily, it opened inwards, and Mara was swept inside. At first, it was just darkness, but she was soon surrounded by a myriad of blurry memories and thoughts.
"The young Farley man has taken to running against you for the position of Sultan, General Ootah,"
"God I hate that man!"
"Bad new sir, Farley has won the election."
"General Ootah, your meeting with the Flighters is scheduled for 1500 hours tomorrow."
Mara gasped as a vision of the old red Anjonh, sitting on his decrepit wet chair, suddenly melted into view. "Good evening General...???" "Ootah, my liege." "Very well, Ootah, you have demonstrated a remarkable reverence for us, and thus you have gained this meeting...now, what do you want?!" "My liege, I am but a humble mortal, I bring news of only my loyalty and undying faith! I am yours to command!"
"Interesting...very well then, you have come at a most opportune time...we have a job for you. Tomorrow afternoon we will make a public speech, our first demonstration of linguistic skills. For whatever reason, Shallam is undoubtedly going to march to Cyrene immediately after hearing our announcements. Your job, is to slow them down as much as possible. We cannot travel very well in the mountainous regions as the air is thin and the recent rains have made mudslides immanent. Should you fail to keep them from Cyrene's gates for two days after our speech is made, we shall personally make your ending a gruesome one."
"And if I succeed, my lord?"
"Then you shall be given the chance of evolution..." at this Anjonh grinned a most gruesome smile, "...a chance to become, one of us!"
Mara was suddenly ripped from her telepathic link and was thrown back into her chair. No one noticed her sudden flailing though, and instead, were staring out one of the window opposite to her.
The scribe that was sitting directly underneath the window, unlatched it, and peered out. After a few seconds of strained reaching, she brought a rather ruffled dove from the ledge below. Attached to its leg, was a letter to the Sultan of Shallam, Farley.
He slowly unravelled the message and read it aloud, "The Flighters are making a speech at North of Thera....Holy snippets and crumpets!" the man cried, "Someone, quick, scry North of Thera immediately!"
Without waiting for an explanation, one of the young men on the side lines put down his paper and pencil and held his hands in front of him, facing the ground. Up spewed a whirlwind of water and fire, the Sultan then peered into this fiery bowl to watch, but everyone in the room could hear it.
The sound of hundreds of burning Flighters.
One could her a strong orderly voice, shout out, above the deafening sounds of licking flames, "Good evening, people of Achaea! It was only a few years ago when my people came to this wet world. Before we arrived, we lived very happily on our little planet. Its eternal fires kept us in our enlightened forms but alas, that has been lost. Though you probably already know, and have planned it, the destruction of our home should be told, to inform those ignorant enough to suggest that we attack unprovoked. It was a wonderfully hot day on our planet of Eteri...the children were laughing, the parents were relaxing. There was no wind, no clouds, and no rain. I, myself, saw it coming...a ray of white light. We could see your planet in our skies for years before, but this particular day, your planet was glowing particularly bright. So, with a sudden flash, and a huge beam of light from your planet, we were hurled into space upon a small chunk of earth. A small remainder of our past home. Eventually, we collided with your planet, and our fiery salvation was destroyed.
Survivors were few, but we soon grew to many as the remaining fires of our meteor replenished the dead. Once we had learned of where we were, and who the pink people were, we decided on an act of revenge! You have destroyed our homes, and now, we shall do the same! Fear us, people of Achaea, for when you trifle with the Flighters, you are most definitely going to get burned! We have kept our long silence, only because we found it hard to inform those who are seemingly so oblivious to your destructive act, of your fate, although I should say that our inactivity within Ashtan was only because we were regenerating from the auras of whom we captured alive. For those of you who should like us to leave, I am happy to say that we are of the same mind. For, when you are all dead, how will we survive? If an occultist would open a gateway to the Chaos plane, I'm sure we could make the move peacefully. However, we cannot leave while such a horrific planet remains to destroy the innocent and free. We shall spare all those occultists who should feel inclined to open a gateway, but we shall consume the rest. It is now that I come to the point of my speech, I have come requesting your surrender. I feel inclined to inform you, that as I speak, the fiery manticores we call Scorions are on their way to Mhaldor. We, shall soon be paying Cyrene a visit however, and we hope to fit in Shallam and Delos if time permits. Thank you for your time...Long Liveth the Flame!"
The sounds of crackling fire slowly faded and the young scribe closed the window to North of Thera.
"Oh well, what can we do? Best stay here until we hear more." said general Ootah.
"What has gotten into you Ootah! Such impertinence! I say we attack now, and leave Mhaldor to their fate!" said another.
"No...we shall all fight one last battle. We hold no love for the people of Mhaldor, they are doomed...but we owe Cyrene the protection of Shallam for as long as both of our cities stand. Generals!" all of the men snapped to attention, "Order all of your battalions to Cyrene, we shall cut the Flighters off before they reach it. Scribes, inform Cyrene of our alliance, and tell the Mhaldorians that if they wish to live they will unite with us and join the last stand at Cyrene. He then walked up to the still opened window at the opposite end of the room.
Through it, her master yelled with a voice so strong and deep, that it seemed to reverberate through their minds, rather than their ears, "People of Shallam, the last stand against the Flighters has begun. All citizens of age and ability are required to report to Cyrene to aid them in the battle. We have been slandered beyond comprehension. They accuse us of having destroyed their home planet, but what have we done to this effect? Not even the great necromancers of Mhaldor could summon such a fate to these people. Nor does anyone upon the great land of Sapience possess the power to destroy a whole planet! Achaea Unite! For divided, we shall truly be doomed against this fiery foe. "
"But sir," began Ootah, "I feel that we're acting on very little information, that could just be a ruse to lure us out of our protected city! I say we stay where we are and fight when our time comes...if it comes." "Nonsense general, it has already been declared, to detract it now would be folly!" replied Farley.
So, with a wave of his hand, Mara hurried to her master's side as he walked back through the lonely halls to his office.
"So, I noticed you took barely any notes Mara...slacking off already?" Farley said as he opened yet another door to yet another gold lined hall. "No sir, I was...ummm, perusing the thoughts of General Ootah." "Really!? What's ticking in that old dust mop of a man then?" "I believe he's betrayed us all, sir." "Nonsense, Ootah may be shallow and vengeful, but he would never purposefully sell us out...you probably just picked up the thoughts of someone daydreaming...or rather, having a nightmare."
"I can assure you sir, I did not fail in my mind lock, nor did I miscalculate."
"Now now, you're nought but a young girl, leave the important matters such as spying to the professionals...I've had several monks mind lock Ootah over the week and they all say that he's clean."
"Sir, the human mind is like a palace...There are hallways and doors. The hallways are travelled through by the conscious mind, and the doorways are opened to reveal the stored information. Each door has a specific subject and thus a specific strength of lock. Not even the master of the palace can open all of the doors, can he? The sub-conscious doors are the ones that not even the subject can open. It is possible that your monks were not strong enough to open some of the doors, so they discarded them as subconscious rooms." "That's preposterous! My monks are the best in the whole of Sapience, now run along to the stables and prepare your mount...you are to ride ahead to Cyrene to inform them of our forces." At this, Farley walked ahead of Mara, leaving her to stew over her master's ignorance.
"There will be those who will try to stop you..." she murmured again.
Miles away, Carory was nearing the old lake of fire.
"How unfair! All my friends get to rip the stupid Achaeans to pieces and I get to wake up some grumpy old cows!" he grumbled as he passed the final turn. The lake was no more. It had seeped down, through various caverns that littered the crater. In the centre, however, revolved a huge fiery core. So, Carory carefully slid down the crater's towering walls and fell to the bottom with the crumbled debris of molten rock.
"Oy! Scorions! Get your fannies over here! Come on! Time to get up!" he yelled across the crater, clapping his hands.
The fiery ball shivered for a moment, and several black dots started appearing all over it. A wing shifted, a claw flexed, and the ball disassembled into four very foreboding winged Scorions.
Their unruliness was well known to the Flighters, and only their lord and leader of the armies could control the mighty beasts. So, as they surrounded Carory, he realised that he might very well be their breakfast. "Right, well, you've all been ordered to the Western city of Mhaldor, you're to seek and destroy everyone and everything, and then meet up with the main body on it's way to Cyrene...got that?" he said in a strong, firm voice that he knew the Scorions would see straight through.
Luckily for him, the Scorions took no interest in him, and instead, flew up to their task and soared away into the distance. Their wings were strong, their claws were death, and their stinger could send man's internal organs aflame...so, Mhaldor was gone, and there was one less city to stand up against the Flighters.
The same day as the announcement from Farley, the people of Shallam emptied out of their great city, and marched onwards to Cyrene. They made great haste into the city of Jaru, but upon reaching the great silver gates, found that they were closed and locked...and the mayor didn't know where the key was! "I could've sworn I left it in my safe, but I remember running into a serpent before the battalions came. He was a nice fellow, the serpent that is...anyway, I was holding the key in my hand, ready to unlock the gates for them with an hour to spare, and then, for some reason, I just went back into my house and forgot about the whole thing. Now I can't even find the key back!" he explained exasperatedly to the Shallamese.
It took a whole day to knock the beautiful gates down, and many of the smiths committed suicide before they could see their workmanship hammered down. After that, they came to the intersection between the Mohjave desert, the Southern Vashnars, and the road leading on to Cyrene.
There, they rested, and met a grook messenger from Mhaldor, saying that they would take up the Shallamese offer, and ride together against the Flighters and that they would arrive at the Mohjave crossroads a little later that day. They waited...no one ever came, and early the next day they started eyeing the messenger. He said he knew nothing of the delay, and that he was sure they would come soon but after some paralysing arrows and a few mind locks later, they discovered that the grook was using a chameleon tattoo to impersonate a Mhaldorian and that, in fact, he was a cityless serpentine rogue!
Farley was close to beheading the grook, "You dirty, conniving, little, no-good tadpole!" and after several more insults which cannot be described here due to their rather graphic and insulting nature to the grook nation, Farley whipped out his swords and made a long smooth arc against the grook's stomach. The splashing of the intestinal tract against the ground was enough to make anyone sick.
Farley had then realised that Mara had been right about General Ootah, and, that he was working for the Flighters. After he had wiped his blade clean, Farley sent for Ootah, but no one could find him, or even remember seeing him since the messenger arrived. General Ootah, had escaped to the other side.
Luckily for Mara, she was nowhere around. She had been sent ahead, to Cyrene, to notify them of Shallam's incoming help. So, while her citymates drudged up the mountainous slopes, Mara took to wandering the wilds around Cyrene.
It really was a very beautiful place. From the outlying peaks she could see and hear the mighty Aeraithian Falls. The mist flowed along the mountainous peaks, and the roar echoed throughout the lands. Wild flowers grew merrily among the slate, and bushes flourished wherever their seeds fell. Towering pine trees provided shade and comfort from the blaring sun and rain except for one place, where Mara often sat.
It was a huge mountainside along the pathway to Cyrene. There, no trees grew on the slopes. The steep sandy cliffs towered over the little road, covering them in a dark and cold shadow. The width at the feet of these two great mountains made the only path into Cyrene a very narrow one and there were many rocks that had to be moved before the path was traversable.
At the top of one of the mountain sides, however, was a merry little river, twisting along, but never over the ledge. And it was this, that caught Mara's attention. She often sat next to this little river, watching it endlessly. It seemed to demand every waking moment of her life, wanting to tell her something, screaming, shouting, but she could never hear. Then, during one sunny day of sitting by the riverside, she remembered her old master shaman's words, "Nature doesn't talk like you and me, Mara. It has its own dialect, it's own special way of speaking. Instead of yelling, the wind will blow, instead of crying, the rain will fall, instead of walking, the earth will shake."
"Wheezy old know it all!" she thought, "...Hmm, actually he might've been onto something," she added as she suddenly noticed the many gurgling sounds of the river.
It didn't sound like a rushing river at all, instead it sounded sort of hollow...like a sink emptying or the final bit of water swishing down the drain. She scanned the water's surface, searching for the source of the sound, and soon found it.
It was a small whirlpool in the middle of the river, almost unnoticeable amidst the rushing torrent of water. Mara, who was always a great traveller, had had the foresight to have the fly-freezing scribe enchant her boots with waterwalking before she left. So, she walked out upon the water's surface, steadily keeping her balance, until she came to the whirlpool. The water was only a foot deep here, and Mara could clearly see the water draining into a tiny hole, only about an inch in diameter. So, she rushed back to the river's edge and picked a rather fat reed. Cutting off both ends with her pocketknife she poked one end into the hole, and put her ear to the other. Inside was a sound most intriguing to Mara. The drippings of a wet cave.
"Sir!" yelled a weary young soldier from the back of weathered pony, "We're getting reports of missing soldiers at the back of the lines!" A sudden commotion from the back of the entourage caused a clamber of yells and galloping horses.
"What?" Farley yelled above the noise, "Missing soldiers? Probably some mischief of the Mhaldorians!"
At this moment one could clearly see that at the end, several horsemen were thrown high into the air by something really, really big.
The Shallamese all inhaled as one and exclaimed, "Holy ****!!!"
The Flighters had caught up to them at last. Although there was no sign of the Scorions, they had placed a rather large fiery dog-looking creature the size of a rhinoceros in the front of the lines. It had three horns upon its face, two on its forehead, and one on its nose. Speared and gutted on these horns, was General Ootah. His hands were impaled upon the two upper horns, with the third one slashed through his stomach. The shirtless, bloody, and now disembowelled corpse of General Ootah sung to and fro as the fiery dog shook his head with blinding fury (probably at being made to wear a corpse on it's face). Behind it, were the usual, multi-hued Flighters. They resembled a thousand campfires, swaying, and marching towards them. But they were nothing compared to what was behind them...their lord.
There were no steeds in the Flighter army, everyone walked. So, you could get a pretty good picture of a soldier's size. A normal Flighter stood at about 7'9 or 7'6, but their lord was just a tad bigger...about 10'5. With a Flighter that size, and an aura so bright, he attracted a fair amount of attention. Sort of like watching your house burn down instead of trying to recruit some forestals to put it out. So, you can understand that some special pants wetting went next to the usual occurrences one would usually expect upon encountering a Flighter.
However, Farley was the first to snap out of the mesmerised awe of this huge burning mass, and his pants were probably still dry (I didn't have the mind, nor the will to check), "RuuuuuunnnNNN!!" he yelled, "To Cyrene, we'll regroup there!".
And so the race was on. The Shallamese on their white, mail-clad horses, and the Flighters, jogging behind. They were no longer trying to utterly destroy the Shallamese army...just antagonise it. They figured that a single, huge banquet at the end, would be better than snacking along the way...besides, they might get cramps.
Unfortunately, the reason Flighter's don't ride steeds (besides their tendency to turn the back of a horse to bacon), was because they can make fair speed on foot. So, the horses ran, full-speed to Cyrene, with the Flighters charring the path close behind them.
The horses, being weighed down with the steel armoured Shallamese, soon tired and became clumsy and heavy footed. Soldiers at the back kept having to throw their stuff at the Flighters to both, keep them at bay, and lighten the load. Several crying paladins were forced to throw away their spending money in order to keep their swords...Had the Flighters any interest in bank accounts, the chase would have ended abruptly as they stooped down to pick up the fortune that soon littered the path. Unfortunately, the undying pain of their prey was more pressing for the Flighters, and the gold coins were melted to the ground by the charring steps of the fiery beings. The soldier felt heartened, however, as the towers of Cyrene came into view.
Mara had spent the rest of the day, scouring the mountain for an entrance to the cave. She had several frightening encounters, one with a bear, another with a hidden cliff-side, and one with a rather mangy looking cougar which she blasted off the cliff with a rather over zealous mind throw. "Oops!"
Poor kitty...anyhow, she came upon the entrance some time as the Lady Sol began her descent to the outer rims of Sapience. It was a dank and dark entrance. Not very pleasant, although the smell was of something very familiar...it smelt sort of like...wildflowers. Which doesn't really matter, because Mara was completely oblivious to all of these things. She had adjusted her eyes to the Kaido ability of nightsight, and was too intent on the sound which radiated from the cave to notice the wonderful smell. The sound, which echoed out, was the sound of splashing water. Not like your regular, foreboding splishing cavern, but a regular downpour, sort of like a waterfall. It was this that attracted Mara to the entrance.
She had searched with her eyes for the better part of the day, and the gruesome end of that putty didn't help her any. Ironically, it was the death of the villainous feline that helped her find it. She had peered down afterwards to see what became of the puma, when she saw, or rather, heard right below her, the entrance! And upon further investigation, and some timid leaning, she found a neat little stairway down to it, carved intricately into the side of the cliff. Even from the top of the cliff she could see the ivy carved into the sandstone steps...the mountain lion was a less than pleasing image however, as its vaporisation was not in ivy patterns.
So, after some careful navigating on the beautiful steps, Mara entered the cavern, hoping against hope, that this was not another bear lair. It was not, instead, Mara walked along the dank hall for a while. It became so dark, that even her nightsight wasn't helping. She kept on tripping on little bits of rock, or missing a turn and running into the opposing wall. Still, she kept on, carefully and slowly, feeling the sides to guide her, until, the walls on both sides of her, disappeared.
"What the heck?" echoed through the cave, and painfully through her brain as it resonated everywhere.
Then, light flowed. The cavern was illuminated suddenly by candles along the sides. The sparked suddenly into life, and flooded the cave with a warm, wholesome light. It no longer seemed to be cold and damp, instead, it was warm and humid. As the light flowed forth, Mara could now see just what exactly she had stepped into.
The rocky walls jutted out all along, providing sitting places for the candles. Along the middle of the floor, was a deep, stone groove...sort of like a waterslide. In the far right corner, was a small ivory desk, with several lights sitting on the back bookcase. Again, the ivy pattern sketched upon the intricate desk was apparent, even from here. At the back of the room, in the centre, was a huge basin. It resembled a swimming pool of types, and it was filled with crystal clear water, which poured down from the ceiling. The only natural light glittered against this small pour, making the droplets seem like glistening diamonds falling from the sky.
Looking down, into the basin, one could see that its depth was most inappropriate for a swimming pool, as it stretched down into darkness, and far out of sight. Though its depth was alarming, Mara thought that the contents were rather safe and homely, like a fountain...instead of a lake within a cave a thousand miles from Cyrene.
Next to the water fall, between the desk in the corner and the basin, was a rather odd ornament welded to the wall. A set of two circular rings about the size of a dinner plate melded together. In the centre of the middle ring, was a empty hole which went clear through the mountain side and looked out upon the mountain path, it was evening now as she could see from the darkness of the sky. When Mara took a closer look at the rings, she found them to be of a shimmering silver, gilded with jade leaves and a sapphire outer circle.
"Right," she thought, "Obviously there's something circular that goes in that hole...probably a little bauble or something."
The desk to her right, held only pure white papers with a bottle of ink and a quill that looked as if it came from a rare mynah bird. The only thing that looked as if it would hide something, was the basin. And upon further investigation, Mara could see a glimmer of something white in it. Mara watched it for a while, thinking of how to get it without drowning. "A fine time to forget my pocketbelt with prickly pear in it!" she thought. She was close to leaving and coming back with some pear, when she noticed that the glimmer was moving. Swaying, shifting, coming closer actually. It got bigger, and bigger, until Mara realised something...it was a fish. "Now how would a fish get through that hole?" she said aloud.
"I didn't come through the hole."
Mara stood back in disbelief as she saw a huge opaline fish with clear diamond-like fins poked its head out of the water and started speaking. "Although I should say, that it's only logic that I would come through the hole as a small fry and grow up in here!" said the fish as it struggled to maintain its awkward posture.
"Erm...quite...I don't mean to be rude, but could you explain just how you got in here then?"
"Actually I bloody well would mind! Its hard work keeping my head up here you know, and darned if it isn't the longest bloody story I've heard. Nevertheless, I'll shorten it for you...I'm not actually a fish...I'm a prince!"
Mara smirked and said, "Forget it fishlips."
"Hmph! Well I should say the other three women fell for it."
"Get on with it! I don't have all night!"
"Oh button it you lanky pink goon!"
"That's it!...I didn't come all the way from Kamleikan to get sassed by some knowitall albino catfish! You tell me what goes in the hole in the wall, or by Tarah, you'll be filleted!"
"Savage! You're supposed to roll an opal into it...its somewhere at the bottom of this basin...I wouldn't put it in there though, or else this whole tank of water will empty out into the old mountain path..."
As the idea which you probably would've figured out hours ago, hit Mara, she stilled to silence as she contemplated how to put it to action.
"Well, where's the opal?"
"Ugh...I'm not going down there to get it for you! It's all cold and blechy."
"Don't argue," said Mara as she delved into the fish's clammy mind.
It was only a matter of minutes before the fish was zombie-like holding the opal in its mouth for Mara to take.
"Wha? Where'd that come from! Hey! Don't put that in there! Get AWAY from the hole, woman!"
Mara merely replied, "Once this is all over, I might buy you a nice fish bowl or something."
As evening approached, the Shallamese could see the rocky cave entrance to Cyrene. The Flighters had picked off a considerable number of people in the back. This was mostly because they refused to throw away some of their heavier possessions, so, the huge flaming dog bounded up and over their horses, throwing them to the ground to be trampled by the following troops.
Farley, who was at the head of the Shallamese, could see a dark figure nearing them on the road. It wasn't a person, that was for sure...something more along the lines of an animal. Being afraid of a trapping ambush from the Flighters, he whistled to his falcon, and it sped off from the whirling cloud of loyal birds which followed them. As he looked through his trusty falcon's eyes, he could see the oncoming figure grow clearer and clearer.
It wasn't a person...not a dog...not a Flighter...it was a donkey.
"A donkey?!" he said aloud, "Get out of the way!" he began yelling, "You'll be trampled and burned to death you stupid animal, run away!"
But it just stood there, supposedly very busy doing nothing. It responded to the exasperated yells of Farley only with a slight wag of his tail. After a few seconds, it seemed that the poor mule would be mowed over, but he finally turned around, and ran up and into the cliff-side entrance to Cyrene. Relieved, Farley breathed a sigh, "Ugh! What in the dickens is that horrible smell?" he said in disgust as the came nearer to where the donkey had been standing.
"Ugh, there's a whole cloud of it here...some dead animal around or something?"
The smell lost priority in his mind however, as he realised that their huge, galloping ranks, could never make it into the narrow cave entrance without being burned alive from behind!
As he neared the entrance he was forced to slow down, but then came a bit of luck...the Flighters ran into the gaseous cloud that had settled in the ravine.
Before they could smell it, the Flighters ignited the deadly concoction of methane, etc. and caused an explosion, so massive, it knocked their whole army off their feet! Of course, being flames themselves, the fire did not harm them, but they sat on their fannies for quite a while, wondering just what the heck happened.
So, as they sat, stunned on their fannies, the Shallamese bumped and scraped their way into the tunnel, and had some of their Jesters fling Tower cards behind them, in order to block and stall the Flighter's immanent pursual of them.
It never came.
Peering through her tiny peephole, with opal in hand, and her kaido deafness turned on (the fish was still fluently insulting her), Mara watched the armies approach. It was horrifying to say the least. She could see her master, Farley, at the head of it...sweating and cursing.
"Should've listened to me when I told you, you idiot!" she cursed, "Now we have to deal with how to get you inside the tunnel before you're turned into Farley flambeau!"
Tearing her eyes from the oncoming troops, she saw a small figure, grazing on the mountainside, "Is...is that Widget?!" she said.
It was, and much to Mara's delight, he was within range of her telepathy. So, after a few seconds, he started trotting with an uncharacteristic sense of urgency, down the slope and onto the path.
"Thank god you're so gassy Widget, although I don't understand why I don't have to make you fart...are you doing that subconsciously...or is it just reflex?" she echoed through his brain. Unfortunately, there was no response, and Widget just kept on doing what apparently came naturally. After a few moments, Mara hurried Widget into the tunnel with a few mind proddings, and she watched as the armies stormed through it. The "phewing" was almost unanimous among the soldiers. "Sounds sort of a like a warcry really..." she thought. Then, with a blast that almost tore down the cave itself, the first Flighter ran into the invisible fog. She, herself, was surprised at how well it caught flame...but then again, it was Widget she was talking about. Hurriedly, she popped the opal into the hole and again, pressed her eye to it. It rolled down for a bit, but then dropped into a hidden hole in the line. Mara could here it clicking and clacking its way down some sort of hidden system of rails. Then all went silent for second, but then there was just the tiniest *plop* sound and it all came down.
The ground shook and quaked as a seemingly hidden door, gate, or some sort of hole opened up. Through the tremors, Mara pressed her face against the peephole and attempted to steady herself.
The fish was still complaining beside her, "Now you've done it! Just wait until I get out of here and into another pond! I'll send a-", and with a roar, he was flushed out.
The basin was surprisingly deep she thought, as the nearby lake in the pathway suddenly turned into a rushing geyser of water. Within seconds, the path was a roaring river, and the Flighters could only be heard to shriek and scream as their no longer eternal flames were extinguished. The only one who wasn't immediately swept away, was the huge leader in the back. He stood, shocked, for a moment, as his feet were put out and swept away as ash. He slowly shrunk down, into the roaring river, until his burning white eyes submerged below the crystal water and a sudden explosion, scattered the remaining evidence of the Lord's existence. The geyser continued to flow and rush out water, except for now, it started spraying a very fine mist. It glittered in the evening sun and wafted upwards, through the air. Almost as if guided by the invisible currents of the sky.
The screams of the now apparent Scorions could be heard overhead. Mara couldn't see them, but she was sure that they had been blinded by the sudden barrage of mist, and were now plummeting downwards, earthbound. And sure enough, within seconds, three huge bodies the size of dragons splashed into the water. One, rebounded off the cliff and almost managed to clamber to his feet, before, the river, awkwardly, slapped out at it with watery hand, and it too fell into the flowing grave and disintegrated into ash. Mara was close to rejoicing, but she suddenly noticed her own impending doom. The water level was still rising, coming closer and closer to her peephole. "Oh crap!" she yelled.
She whirled around and ran head on into the dark hallway which flooded with light as the candles along the wall burst into flame. She could already hear the splashing of the water over the floor. Narrowly missing a jagged stalactite, she could then hear the cracking of the wall as the pressure became to great. She could see the evening sun at the opening. The wall broke loose, and Mara ran breakneck to the entrance, but slipped, and was washed over. The cave soon became a regular waterfall, pouring an immense amount of water into the now, turgid Lake Muurn...never allowing the water to flow over its mountainous boundaries, but washing away all those it faced.
"I should say so Mr. Dafras, truly an act of the divine."
"Aye Mr. Farley," said Dafras.
It was a beautiful day in Cyrene. The river had washed away all signs of the Flighters, but had also made the path back to Shallam a huge, narrow river passage. Though it was not so much as a river, as a lake. The Shallamese were stuck in the city until the Cyrenians had managed to build docks and ships to carry them back. The Cyrenians were rather grumbly about this since the Shallamese hadn't really helped them at all, but you know...politics.
Lake Muurn had risen quite considerably, and the southern edge of Cyrene had now become submerged, but nobody minded. They just built on the rooftops of their old buildings and had a sort of floating city. The only concern, was the disappearance of Mara. She was nowhere in Cyrene, and despite various falcons and scouts, no one could find even a hair of her.
The manager of the inn in which she stayed had said that she often enjoyed hiking on the mountains by the city entrance, but she always came back by suppertime. So, they searched the entire forested mountaintop, but to no avail.
They had discovered the now, waterfall, cave entrance, and marvelled at the design of the flood; the cave acting as a drain so as not to flood the entirety of southern Sapience, but there was no evidence of any human activity anywhere except one.
Below the waterfall, was a jutting ledge of rock, and upon this edge was a rather disturbingly vaporised cougar.
"Since when do cougars fall off mountainsides?" they said.
That was the only thing they could find, everything else was completely normal. So, sitting in their luxurious palace suite, Farley and Dafras (Dafras being the Imperiate of Cyrene) were sipping their tea and chatting happily about plans for shipping in between the now two coastal cities. "No longer have to rely on Jaru for our chocolate, thank the gods!" said Farley.
"Oh yes, they've been running quite the monopoly, and I should dare say their prices are ghastly at the market. We shall complete our wharf on the...well, what should we call our new river?" asked Dafras.
"How about...Farlington?" replied Farley innocently.
"Erm, I don't think that would go down well with my constituents...I say, why don't we call it the Tamarah River?...That would be a tribute, both to that poor young nun who died in the flood, and the Lady Tarah!"
"I'm not sure I agree with that. Not only has the young woman probably just doddled disobediently off somewhere, but we're not quite sure she's dead anyways."
At this moment the two gentlemen were both interrupted by a breathless messenger, "Sirs!...Begging your...pardon, but a...a...young woman has just washed up on the new shore...the workmen spotted her!" "That sounds like one of her dramatic entrances..."said Farley, carefully placing his teacup on its saucer.
And so it was. Farley, Fadras, and a collection of citizens who had heard the news from afar, gathered at the still grassy shore. The workmen, standing on their half-submerged building platforms, stopped hammering, and silently watched the procession.
A lone white canoe, oddly resembling the ivory desk, was being pulled through the now stone still water. In it, lay Mara, with her black hair diligently combed and a flower, accenting her fair face, neatly placed on her bangs. She was clothed in her white nunhood robes, though they were now completely clean and cougar blood free.
Pulling this odd load, was a single white fish. In the crystalline water, you could clearly see its opaline scales and its long, transparent tail, slowly waving behind him.
The fish came as close to the shore as it could, directly in front of Farley, and gently poked its head above the water and said, "Right then mates! How's it hanging?"
Mara sat bolt upright in her canoe, ripped the flower from her hair, threw it aside, and said, "Oh very good! God, you couldn't wait two more seconds!? Nothing like a bloody goldfish to ruin your entrance!" The applause was instant, though nobody knew her true accomplishments, nor her significance in the destruction of the Flighters, it was still a joyous occasion to find someone isn't dead. The party was city-wide. Everyone stopped their work, and celebrated around the city. Even Saervio joined in, though he insisted on borrowing Farley's falcon to clear out some blackbirds...the falcon was happy to oblige. Streamers flew from the sky, and confetti rained down upon their heads. Jesters amused, and entertained. Drinks were passed around like candy, and Mara led many a tango line.
She never told anyone of her deeds. No divine speech took place either, and though a few puzzled simpletons demanded an explanation, the divine remained silent on the subject, leaving, and sometimes frying, those who dared to question their motives. Mara herself thought "The Lady Tarah did not choose to advise these people, and to be humble is proper, I guess I am to play a different role."
Mara's miraculous survival was not a fluke of chance. She was not swept down to her death in Lake Muurn, as everyone had previously thought, or drowned in an unconscious deliria, instead, as she fell with the lashing water, she faded into a sleep that felt not unlike floating.
A dreamless sleep, that lasted forever. Before her, she saw great shapes, people, demons, mountains, fields, places beyond her imagination. Also, unfortunately, beyond my descriptive abilities (it is so very hard to describe the awesome images of the divine). The story goes, that Mara was whisked away to the Lady Concordia herself. They talked for, what seemed to Mara, forever. It was not a long and droning speech about ethics, or principles, but rather a laughing one, about Mara's life, or, sometimes, about Tarah's life! This friendly chat seemed to go on forever, but, before she was sent back, Mara was told how the Flighter incident all began.
"For you to truly understand how this began Mara, you must first understand that Achaea is always moving...mostly forwards, but sometimes backwards. In the void of space, there are many planets. In this plane, the divine rule, but I'll let you in on a little secret...we're not as all-powerful as you like to believe. There are hundreds upon thousands of planes. We believe that we're somewhere in the middle of them though. There are billions to our left, and billions to our right. We cannot go to the very end, as our power drains the further we go from our domain. Though the planes closest to us have signed treaties with us, there are still undiscovered planes further along the line, in both directions. There is a system of rulers for each plane, and each with their own unique powers (although sometimes there is repetition). We believe that the Flighters come from a distant plane, far to the east of ours. We, as the divine, have our weaknesses, and it is true that there are beings and entities that can take advantage of them. Since you have had a major part in stopping this particular invasion of pestilence, I will tell you how this whole thing started. Now, as I said previously, the divine are the rulers in this plane, and since Sapience has been chosen as our prime planet, its path in space is pre-defined by the Great Maya, although it was The Logos before... or is it Clemmy that does that thing? Eh, they can't seem to decide who is which and what nowadays. Anywho, as our path is pre-defined, we can never clash with other planets or space-debris. By the time we get to where another planet was in our way, its already moved out of it! It's all too complicated and intricate to explain in full detail Mara darling. So, one day, we see this huge flaming star in our way...we figure, eh, let Maya do her thang and we'll be fine...turns out, the "star" was actually some sort ship, just like Sapience is a sort of ship. It also turns out, that this ship was sent millions of years ago, from another plane...We can barely manage transplanar activities for ourselves, so you can understand the awesome powers the eastern planes must contain if they can send a whole planet! Anyhow, when it didn't move out of our way, we blasted it right out of the sky...the meteor that crashed by Hashan was just a bit of debris left over."
"Erm, so then why did you just let the Flighters wreak havoc on your creations?" asked Mara.
"If we could, don't you think we would? We had our own problems in the Garden. Blasted dust specks from the explosion kept on falling everywhere...sort of like when you step on a fire to put it out. It's funny that our garden DID save you from most of the Flighters this way, acting as a sort of filter between Sapience and the sky. We had our own army to defeat, and no time to rally any sort of opposition. Plus, they're just like Romeo and Juliet, given some sort of protective fire by their "divine", though it's far stronger than ours. We haven't even figured out from which exact plane they came from! Though we've captured that ignorant Carory, he's not saying anything intelligible...something about Lord?...kumquats?...heck if I know. Though I can honestly assure you when I say that there's not another Flighter ship in sight, but who knows when another will appear in our infinite journey through the void?"
"So another one is immanent?"
"Oh undoubtedly, but I should say that we can't see anything for the next couple of millennia. Anymore questions?" "Well then, if you don't mind me asking, was it you who first advised me of the way of the light?" "Of course, how else would you have the patience and bravery to find my safety trap?" "You built that basin on purpose? And if it was you, then why did you sound so UNlike you now?" "Well, I was talking through your thoughts...my voice was just warped by the emptiness of your head! Heh heh heh, just kidding, but a goddess under the stress of fighting off a burning army isn't at her best. Sort of like you...here," at this, the Lady Tarah whirled Mara around, and she stood, in her beautiful white robes...now white again. "Oh thank you!" "Don't mention it...seriously don't...Clemmy'll be on my butt about using my essence on cleaning clothes when half the Garden is still in cinders." "Ooh, right...hush hush...but you still haven't explained about the basin." "Oh right! There was a previous conflict with similar creatures (though smaller and far weaker). They attacked a few trillion years ago and I built that to make sure at least one city could be saved! I had originally planned on protecting Shallam, but it was virtually impossible to create a proper trap...it's all open plains and hills there...not like Cyrene. Though, I wonder you people didn't notice the purposeful design earlier...I mean, narrow road, no way out, river on top, it's pretty obvious."
"Our mere mortal minds could never comprehend such divine aforethought."
"Quite right! Although you don't know the half of it."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh nothing, nothing...can't ruin ALL the surprises for you! Now, I see some horrendous unjustments are being made at Cyrene...you should probably go, I'll send that horrible fish of mine to help you. He used to be quite brilliant when he was smaller, but ever since I left him in that cave to watch the opal, he's been a bit "kooky" to say the least, anywho...bye for now Mara, I've talked to Clemmy, and all he'll allow me to "disclose to you" is that, your future will be a grande one!" she yelled as Mara seemed to fade away. "Farewell, my lady!" Mara yelled back. "Say hi to Jutan for me! Oh! Crap...don't tell anyone I said that okay?" Tarah yelled again. "Jutan?!" but Mara was already back in her sleep. For a while, she muddled over what The Lady had said, "The Divine were not the omnipotent rulers of the Universe? That of course would not include Sarapis, since he was the First. I should think he would just tell everyone what the Flighters were and how to kill them though. Or would he? I mean, being the First, wouldn't he understand the balance, the struggle, and the meaning of life? If, of course, he is not alive himself, he is, after all, still the creator of it. To have cast the Universe into existence from nothing would mean that he must understand everything...everyone...How am I supposed to comprehend his intentions for our existence when he himself transcends everything that is?" She continued on like this, until she woke up to that same old voice of her albino friend, "Right then mates! How's it hanging?".
So, as Mara "cha cha chaed" at the head of her tango line, she thought deeply about her adventures, but mostly how she had never dreamed to have come so far from mixing potions in a cold and blistery village thousands of miles away to have had an audience with the Lady Concordia herself! She would have continued to marvel at her own accomplishments, but one of the Jesters in her line had the stupidity to attempt a joke.
He was still a newbie in the land of Achaea. His short dark hair and glittering blue eyes could not even attempt to distract people from his most apparent lack of clothes. He wore only the basics: A shirt, and some pants. So, a Jester cha cha chaing in bare feet, without a hat, and no jacket of any kind was naturally the life of the party...until he opened his mouth. "What do you call a guy who lives in a hole?...Phil!", such a monstrosity of a joke had not yet been heard upon the land of Sapience, and all those who had the misfortune to have heard it uttered, fled in despair. The tango lines immediately vanished, and several Atavians flew to their windy sanctuaries. Mara, however...giggled (can you believe it?). She alone remained in the room. "Where's everyone gone?" the young man asked quizzically. "Heck if I know, you want to get a drink?" Mara replied. "Sure! You're paying though." he said jokingly. "Fine with me, my name's Mara by the way." "Mine's Jutan."
Mara was not the only one who was having the time of her life that night. Although he was a long ways away from the Cyrenian festivities, Widget was probably still cheerier than anyone there. He was finally doing what he had dreamed of since he had first heard that musical voice in his head. The voice of a Divine had encouraged him along all of his travels. Although he had not known, nor cared for that matter, who or what the voice was, it reminded him of an air he had once smelled. The air of the Dardanic plains, where the flowers bloomed, the grass was great, and every now and then, a nice shady tree grew upon a hill. He was finally roaming the wilderness he so longed for. Never to be seen by mortals again, he sticked to the plains, never wanting for anything more, and though he was almost forgotten in Achaean history, he lives on in animal history as the "King of the Dardanics".
Normally, a donkey would be eaten the instant he was whiffed by a cheetah, but instead, his enemies, which always approached down wind, usually turned tail and ran. Though his loyal subjects never knew why, he remained their king and protector until the day he died...which was about the same time Farley grew a pair...so, needless to say, Widget lived a very long life. No offense to Farley of course.