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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 45: "The Kite"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

Thane splashed up behind me and rested a hand on my shoulder. His touch emanated both chill and divine power across my shoulders, a strange, death-tinged warmth blossoming between my shoulder blades. Although I knew he was trying to suppress it, I felt his fingers tremble against my back.

The portal sputtered and then brightened, the orange fringe solidifying in the air before us. I didn’t ask about where Thane was siphoning his magic from because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to know.

“Hey,” he said after a moment. “Did you see Azoria? Is she okay?”

“Yeah.” I nodded, straining against the threads to the portal. Stupid bastard was trying to jerk away and disintegrate. “I don’t know where she went, but she’s not coming back with us. Which doesn’t mean we’re abandoning her, just that—”

“I get it.” His fingers tightened on my robes. “Thanks.”

I nodded again and set my mind on the task at hand. But I couldn’t help processing the blurry images in my peripherals. A shallow pool covered the ground from Nanshe’s vortex and the storm clouds she’d drawn from the Great Sea, which had begun sprinkling in a prelude to the coming downpour. Bodies of twice-fallen derketo horrors littered the ground, their carcasses growing bloated. Apparitions disappeared in bursts of fog as the undead merfolk monstrosities disapparated them.

The commoners that had followed me to the temple had disappeared completely, however, once the fighting started, as well as Nanshe’s priests. Although I’d knocked Azoria unconscious, either she’d recovered and vanished or the waves had washed her away, because I couldn’t see or sense her anywhere. Just dozens of preternatural dots pricking my divine senses as the undead armies clashed. Even Nanshe’s aura had diminished, withdrawn as she raved in the shallows.

The whole situation was a mess. Once we were out, we’d regroup with Seppo and see what he wanted to do about the elder god, if anything. After all, she—

“Watch out!”

Thane wrenched me away from the nearly-complete portal, throwing himself in front of me as a dark shape swooped down on us. His scythe, held in a diagonal guard in front of him, cracked as the strange creature collided with it. The impact blasted him over me, nearly dislocating my shoulder. It didn’t look any more fun for Thane, who lost his hold on his weapon as he ragdolled across the surface of the water.

His winged assailant fared no better, sending up a plume of water as they crashed into the ground. They hit the ground so hard I could hear the crunch of bone as something snapped. Shaking off water, the figure stood up and flung a round, gourd-like object at Nanshe. “Got you a present, bitch.”

The merfolk queen didn’t react, chittering as she rocked back and forth on the ground.

I summoned my spear and pulled myself up with it. This newcomer was certainly a threat, but since she’d gone after Nanshe first, perhaps she wouldn’t be antagonistic to us yet. As she turned and I got a good look at the expression on her face, I quickly changed my assessment.

Perhaps “harpy” was the closest equivalent to what kind of creature she was. Large wings with mottled brown feathers extended off her back, the tips tinted black like she’d dipped them in an inkwell. Her face was human except for the sharp, pointed beak and the dark feathers that hugged her head in place of hair. Tan plumage hugged her neck, descending down her body all the way to her thighs. Her arms and lower legs were armored in golden scales, obsidian claws tipping her fingers and toes. The tail flicking behind her resembled a hawk’s, although it was slightly forked. So a kite, then.

Her eyes were the worst part, though. Black and beady, they were filled with murder, and considering that what she’d thrown at Nanshe was Galamma’s severed head, I didn’t really think she was in a friendly mood at the moment. She also bled power, an energy that felt borrowed rather than innate, its signature ancient. I couldn’t help breaking her stare, though, as I saw the feathers above her right knee swirl as the shattered bone pulled back beneath her skin and reknit itself as her loaned power healed her.

“Who are you?” Her voice was fierce, the enhanced words hitting me like a slap in the face.

“I could ask you the same thing.” I kept my grip on my spear firm but non-threatening.

“Lazuli.” The harpy sniffed. “I can smell that you’re foreign.” She paused. “And a god. So why the games?”

I shrugged, forcing a smile. “Without the games, what else is there to do?”

“Fair.” She gestured at Nanshe, who’d taken to rolling on her back and gurgling. “Did you do this to my kill?”

“The haircut was Thane’s idea.”

She blinked. “The...what?”

“The shorn tentacles?” I let my spear rest against my shoulder and mimed chopping at my non-existent hair. “The unintelligible babbling is a recent development, though, and I can’t claim any credit for that.”

“Oh, right.” She gave a fierce smile and twisted her leg as her knee popped, the last of the healing finished. “Tamiyat’s influence. Well, perhaps the Sea Mother will withhold her madness long enough for me to get some proper revenge on that whore.”

“Ah, the Sea Mother. I’ve heard so much about her.” I kept my eyes on Lazuli’s, pointedly ignoring the sudden chill that settled on my shoulder as Thane absorbed dozens of souls as he forcibly healed himself.

The harpy felt the cold as well, but merely shivered once. “All good things, I hope?”

“I’m afraid I had a biased source,” I said, flicking a hand at Nanshe.

“Perhaps you’d like to meet her?” Her eyes flashed. She pointed north, where the clouds were darkest and thickening fast. “She’ll be here soon.”

I squinted at the cloud formation, struggling to make out any details. Like a solid wall of foam, the clouds roiled together as they rolled over the Sea, surging up to collapse under the clouds behind them. Sheet lightning flashed, stripping clouds of their depth as they were illuminated from within. Slow and steady, an outline formed behind the storm of a snout large enough to swallow the tempest whole.

Shit.

A pair of eyes, each larger than Nanshe’s temple, peaked through the stormfront. For a brief moment, our eyes connected, and I felt my sanity splinter.

Doomed. We were all doomed. That thing was far bigger, far more powerful, than the best we could muster. We would be crushed underfoot, and she wouldn’t even realize she’d squashed us. A being who thrived on primordial forces, who made the very fabric of reality her plaything, how could we hope to withstand her will? My heart pounded in my ears as my vision darkened. Not even death would bring solace from her, no escape in an eternal end. She would follow us wherever we went, no matter how far we ran, how hard we struggled. We were caught, every one, in her snare, and she would harvest us at her pleasure.

Yet she paled in comparison to the terror I’d felt of the Sibyl in my dreams. The absurdity of the juxtaposition ripped laughter from my frozen lips. I clutched my spear as my vision returned, clinging to the lifeline of corporeality as my sanity returned.

The harpy gave me a look that sent shivers down my spine. It was a curious look mixed with...hunger and intrigue, and not the good kinds. “You resist her influence. How?”

I coughed and put a hand to my racing heart. Stupid thing felt like it was going to rattle right out of my chest. “She’s not the scariest thing I’ve seen.”

“Oh?” Lazuli’ nostrils flared.

“After my wife?” I laughed. “The only person who’s come close was this crazy dream lady I’m not even sure was real.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Is that a jest?”

“It could be.”

“You know,” a smile flickered across her face, one I disliked even more than her hungry gaze, “the Sea Mother could use a powerful god like you.” She flexed her hands, making the air crackle with energy. “Just look at me. A minor god mocked by her pantheon, spat upon and sentenced to the most humiliating of labors. Now?” Grinning, she glanced over her shoulder at Nanshe. “I can master her with a word. And you could be so much more than you are, with Tamiyat’s blessing.”

“As tempting as your offer is, I think I’ll have to pass.” I shook my head. “My wife would kill me if I did.”

While Malia might, metaphorically, there’d be nothing figurative about dying from being subservient to the Sea Mother. Minor gods were minor because their powers were, well, minor. They couldn’t handle massive amounts of divine energy and they’d burn out—quite literally—if they were supercharged for too long. Although her wound had healed, Lazuli was still bleeding energy down her leg. She was young, overconfident, and in way over her head. She had no way of knowing she was slowly killing herself.

I shivered. And the total disregard Tamiyat—the Sea Mother or whatever else the elder bitch decided to call herself—had for the bearer of her Blessing chilled me. Not only did she disrespect the bond with her empowered, but she was strong enough to overcharge a goddess and not even blink at the exertion. Such callousness was not a trait I wanted in any head of my pantheon, and didn’t bode well for the kind of underling serving the Sea Mother. If we had to fight her elder pantheon, we were in for a bad time.


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Wed Sep 15, 2021 6:04 am
HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm baaack for another review!!

First Impression: Okayy....we finally see the ever so hyped up Sea Mother making her appearance and she's definitely every bit as impressive as everything we've heard so far made her out to be, that's a bit of a rarity in these stories.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Thane splashed up behind me and rested a hand on my shoulder. His touch emanated both chill and divine power across my shoulders, a strange, death-tinged warmth blossoming between my shoulder blades. Although I knew he was trying to suppress it, I felt his fingers tremble against my back.

The portal sputtered and then brightened, the orange fringe solidifying in the air before us. I didn’t ask about where Thane was siphoning his magic from because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to know.


Hmm...I mean, how bad could the place Thane draws magic from be? He's the god of the dead so worst case scenario he's drawing it from the souls of somebody and Charax can't exactly be a stranger to that, having being the god of the dead himself earlier.

“Hey,” he said after a moment. “Did you see Azoria? Is she okay?”

“Yeah.” I nodded, straining against the threads to the portal. Stupid bastard was trying to jerk away and disintegrate. “I don’t know where she went, but she’s not coming back with us. Which doesn’t mean we’re abandoning her, just that—”

“I get it.” His fingers tightened on my robes. “Thanks.”


Love how Charax realizes that Thane might not be happy with having to leave her behind and tries to clarify things there before Thane can ask any questions.

I nodded again and set my mind on the task at hand. But I couldn’t help processing the blurry images in my peripherals. A shallow pool covered the ground from Nanshe’s vortex and the storm clouds she’d drawn from the Great Sea, which had begun sprinkling in a prelude to the coming downpour. Bodies of twice-fallen derketo horrors littered the ground, their carcasses growing bloated. Apparitions disappeared in bursts of fog as the undead merfolk monstrosities disapparated them.

The commoners that had followed me to the temple had disappeared completely, however, once the fighting started, as well as Nanshe’s priests. Although I’d knocked Azoria unconscious, either she’d recovered and vanished or the waves had washed her away, because I couldn’t see or sense her anywhere. Just dozens of preternatural dots pricking my divine senses as the undead armies clashed. Even Nanshe’s aura had diminished, withdrawn as she raved in the shallows.


Hmm, well this is some good post battle description, always good to get this almost debrief style chapters to reflect on the consequences that lie around them here...although umm...kind of not sensing the urgency we had at the end of the previous chapter...it feels like the tension there is kinda of released here at the start of this one.

Thane wrenched me away from the nearly-complete portal, throwing himself in front of me as a dark shape swooped down on us. His scythe, held in a diagonal guard in front of him, cracked as the strange creature collided with it. The impact blasted him over me, nearly dislocating my shoulder. It didn’t look any more fun for Thane, who lost his hold on his weapon as he ragdolled across the surface of the water.

His winged assailant fared no better, sending up a plume of water as they crashed into the ground. They hit the ground so hard I could hear the crunch of bone as something snapped. Shaking off water, the figure stood up and flung a round, gourd-like object at Nanshe. “Got you a present.”


Well that came a bit out of nowhere...oh dear, what could possible be attacking them this time...it definitely doesn't sound like the most friendly creature not to mention it appears to be pretty dang powerful if the impact there was felt quite that much.

The merfolk queen didn’t react, chittering as she rocked back and forth on the ground.

I summoned my spear and pulled myself up with it. This newcomer was certainly a threat, but since she’d gone after Nanshe first, perhaps she wouldn’t be antagonistic to us yet. As she turned and I got a good look at the expression on her face, I quickly changed my assessment.


Hmm, well I suppose that could be something good...although if the creature attacks Nanshe too, its probably not going to be afraid to attack everything else present there.

Perhaps “harpy” was the closest equivalent to what kind of creature she was. Large wings with mottled brown feathers extended off her back, the tips tinted black like she’d dipped them in an inkwell. Her face was human except for the sharp, pointed beak and the dark feathers that hugged her head in place of hair. Tan plumage hugged her neck, descending down her body all the way to her thighs. Her arms and lower legs were armored in golden scales, obsidian claws tipping her fingers and toes. The tail flicking behind her resembled a hawk’s, although it was slightly forked. So a kite, then.

Her eyes were the worst part, though. Black and beady, they were filled with murder, and considering that what she’d thrown at Nanshe was Galamma’s severed head, I didn’t really think she was in a friendly mood at the moment. She also bled power, an energy that felt borrowed rather than innate, its signature ancient. I couldn’t help breaking her stare, though, as I saw the feathers above her right knee swirl as the shattered bone pulled back beneath her skin and reknit itself as her loaned power healed her.


Okayy....well that is not the friendliest looking creature for sure...but hm, at least it doesn't appear to be a straight up monster but rather and intelligent animal of some sort that's threatening them here...may even be some kind of goddess with how she's healing things there.

“Who are you?” Her voice was fierce, the enhanced words hitting me like a slap in the face.

“I could ask you the same thing.” I kept my grip on my spear firm but non-threatening.

“Lazuli.” The harpy sniffed. “I can smell that you’re foreign.” She paused. “And a god. So why the games?”

I shrugged, forcing a smile. “Without the games, what else is there to do?”

“Fair.” She gestured at Nanshe, who’d taken to rolling on her back and gurgling. “Did you do this to my kill?”


Okay....well she's definitely not a fan of Nanshe judging by how she considers Nanshe to be "her kill" and well, it seems like the Charax and this one is getting along well enough here...at least I don't see any immediate danger of them fighting at the moment.

“The haircut was Thane’s idea.”

She blinked. “The...what?”

“The shorn tentacles?” I let my spear rest against my shoulder and mimed chopping at my non-existent hair. “The unintelligible babbling is a recent development, though, and I can’t claim any credit for that.”

“Oh, right.” She gave a fierce smile and twisted her leg as her knee popped, the last of the healing finished. “Tamiyat’s influence. Well, perhaps the Sea Mother will withhold her madness long enough for me to get some proper revenge on that .”


OKay....this conversation is taking a very interesting direction there..also loving that subtle humor as always :D

“Ah, the Sea Mother. I’ve heard so much about her.” I kept my eyes on Lazuli’s, pointedly ignoring the sudden chill that settled on my shoulder as Thane absorbed dozens of souls as he forcibly healed himself.

The harpy felt the cold as well, but merely shivered once. “All good things, I hope?”

“I’m afraid I had a biased source,” I said, flicking a hand at Nanshe.

“Perhaps you’d like to meet her?” Her eyes flashed. She pointed north, where the clouds were darkest and thickening fast. “She’ll be here soon.”


Ahh, love to see some causal soul harvesting going mostly ignored as they have a very relaxed conversation about the famed Sea Mother, it does finally look like we're going to get to see said Sea Mother.

I squinted at the cloud formation, struggling to make out any details. Like a solid wall of foam, the clouds roiled together as they rolled over the Sea, surging up to collapse under the clouds behind them. Sheet lightning flashed, stripping clouds of their depth as they were illuminated from within. Slow and steady, an outline formed behind the storm of a snout large enough to swallow the tempest whole.

Shit.

A pair of eyes, each larger than Nanshe’s temple, peaked through the stormfront. For a brief moment, our eyes connected, and I felt my sanity splinter.


Well...that is a pretty impressive there...the Sea Mother is certainly living up to all the hype that we've seen for her in the previous chapters...definitely a very ancient and very powerful being by the looks of things there.

Doomed. We were all doomed. That thing was far bigger, far more powerful, than the best we could muster. We would be crushed underfoot, and she wouldn’t even realize she’d squashed us. A being who thrived on primordial forces, who made the very fabric of reality her plaything, how could we hope to withstand her will? My heart pounded in my ears as my vision darkened. Not even death would bring solace from her, no escape in an eternal end. She would follow us wherever we went, no matter how far we ran, how hard we struggled. We were caught, every one, in her snare, and she would harvest us at her pleasure.

Yet she paled in comparison to the terror I’d felt of the Sibyl in my dreams. The absurdity of the juxtaposition ripped laughter from my frozen lips. I clutched my spear as my vision returned, clinging to the lifeline of corporeality as my sanity returned.


Well that paragraph kind of went suuper dark there for a second, I wonder how they evena attempted to keep said Sea Mother contained and imprisoned...or was that not what happened, cause hmm, it could have referred to something else I suppose. Also love the reference to that dream here.

The harpy gave me a look that sent shivers down my spine. It was a curious look mixed with...hunger and intrigue, and not the good kinds. “You resist her influence. How?”

I coughed and put a hand to my racing heart. Stupid thing felt like it was going to rattle right out of my chest. “She’s not the scariest thing I’ve seen.”

“Oh?” Lazuli’ nostrils flared.

“After my wife?” I laughed. “The only person who’s come close was this crazy dream lady I’m not even sure was real.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Is that a jest?”

“It could be.”


Hmm...well...Malia is one of a kind...

“You know,” a smile flickered across her face, one I disliked even more than her hungry gaze, “the Sea Mother could use a powerful god like you.” She flexed her hands, making the air crackle with energy. “Just look at me. A minor god mocked by her pantheon, spat upon and sentenced to the most humiliating of labors. Now?” Grinning, she glanced over her shoulder at Nanshe. “I can master her with a word. And you could be so much more than you are, with Tamiyat’s blessing.”

“As tempting as your offer is, I think I’ll have to pass.” I shook my head. “My wife would kill me if I did.”


Well I get the feeling that particular refusal by Charax didn't quite have anything to do with Malia's reaction and more with something else...it just doesn't sound like he genuinely meant that there.

While Malia might, metaphorically, there’d be nothing figurative about dying from being subservient to the Sea Mother. Minor gods were minor because their powers were, well, minor. They couldn’t handle massive amounts of divine energy and they’d burn out—quite literally—if they were supercharged for too long. Although her wound had healed, Lazuli was still bleeding energy down her leg. She was young, overconfident, and in way over her head. She had no way of knowing she was slowly killing herself.

I shivered. And the total disregard Tamiyat—the Sea Mother or whatever else the elder bitch decided to call herself—had for the bearer of her Blessing chilled me. Not only did she disrespect the bond with her empowered, but she was strong enough to overcharge a goddess and not even blink at the exertion. Such callousness was not a trait I wanted in any head of my pantheon, and didn’t bode well for the kind of underling serving the Sea Mother. If we had to fight her elder pantheon, we were in for a bad time.


AHa..well that theory got proved entirely too quickly there...but hmm, introducing some very interesting concerns there to go forward with. At any rate, it looks like the whole urgency to run away on the portal is long gone somehow...I don't quite understand why that particular shift but otherwise, well looks like we get to finally meet the Sea Mother soon, so that should be fun.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, hmm, well a fairly well done introduction to this one...you get a good sense of the type of character she is quite quickly...and that's good to see. Really excited to see how this meeting is going to end up going.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry






Yeah, there was a slight tonal shift between chapters, the urgency kind of went away because the portal went from "not really forming at all" to "Thane made a bunch of magic juice so now we're just waiting on the portal to finish." With Nanshe out of the fight completely, there's also less tension from the battle dissolving. But I'll definitely take a look at smoothing that over during revisions.

Yep, Sea Mother was imprisoned. If I haven't included the explanation of how they managed that it's coming in the next chapter or so. She's been super fun setting up for, and hopefully the fun eldritch god stuff lives up to the hype :)



HarryHardy says...


xD, I'm hopeful, so far most of the hyped up scenes have definitely lived up to the hype. :D



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Wed Sep 15, 2021 12:48 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there, and happy RevMo! Plume here, with a review!

I thought this chapter was really great! I mean, it got the job done. I was super intrigued when you introduced Lazuli; she seems like quite a character. I'm also left wondering where the story's gonna go from here; there are a lot of places you could take it, and I'm just curious to see what path it takes!!

One thing I really enjoyed was how in the moment it was. I think that writing action is one of your strong suits, and I've sure been blessed by the fact that these past chapters have been pretty action packed. I also love the way you separate that action with banter/other description to create a nice change of pace and keep the reader's mind engaged. I feel like at this point, I can't really find new things to praise about your writing, because it's just always so amazing and consistent. So, good on ya for that!!

Specifics

A shallow pool covered the ground from Nanshe’s vortex and the storm clouds she’d drawn from the Great Sea, which had begun sprinkling in a prelude to the coming downpour. Bodies of twice-fallen derketo horrors littered the ground, their carcasses growing bloated. Apparitions disappeared in bursts of fog as the undead merfolk monstrosities disapparated them.


I really loved this description. The post-battle feeling was really accurately conveyed in this; I thought it was completely immersive.

His winged assailant fared no better, sending up a plume of water as they crashed into the ground. They hit the ground so hard I could hear the crunch of bone as something snapped.


I thought that the use of the word "ground" so close in proximity to each other threw off the flow a bit. I think synonyms could help, or just rephrasing it so you only use the word once.

“Oh?” Lazuli’ nostrils flared.


Tiny thing: you forgot an "s" after the apostrophe.

“You know,” a smile flickered across her face, one I disliked even more than her hungry gaze, “the Sea Mother could use a powerful god like you.”


Since "a smile flickered" isn't a dialogue tag, you need to interrupt the dialogue with em-dashes rather than commas, I think.

Really looking forward to the next part. I desperately want to see whether Charax ends up sticking around to see the Sea Mother; at this point, I'll be sad if he doesn't, as you've certainly really built her up! Until next time!!

Image






Thanks, it means a lot. Fight scenes are really fun to write lol, but gotta keep that balance so they don't grow stale (as much fun as a novel-length fight scene might sound).

Well, all I'll say is the direction of the story is shaping up nicely. There will definitely be a "return to the roots" arc after this one, although how soon that will be remains to be seen, because every time I think I'm almost there, I discover another two-three chapters of stepping stones to get there.




Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
— Søren Kierkegaard