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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 72: "The Lizards"

by dragonfphoenix


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

I set my hand on the armor and let the haze wash over my bones. Bit by bit, I tugged wisps of energy into my marrow. It tickled, pin pricks of spice on the cold of the apkallas spirit. But it was difficult to consume its spirit, nothing like harvesting a soul. I wasn’t sure I could actually collect the entirety of the djinn with how much effort it took just to snatch these scattered pieces, but he didn’t need to know that.

“All right! I believe!” The djinn recoiled from my hand as if magnetized.

“Then you'll promise not to harm Hasda?”

“I cannot swear that no harm shall befall him, surely you understand.” Its voice was whiny.

“That's not what I said.” I folded my arms and leveled my weightiest stare at the djinn. “Neither through guile nor pact, inaction or misdirection, shall anything within your power cause harm to hasda. An absolute, soul binding Oath that everything you do is only for his good.”

The djinn hissed. “My aide doesn't come from nowhere. To fulfill wishes, to provide power, prices must be paid. That is unalterable.”

“Then you'd best make sure he gets the best prices, eh?” I had the spirit practically pinned beneath my gaze. “I sense a cent of profiteering, and I'll rip you out at once.”

“As you say, Old One!” The djinn’s tone was sour. “But I cannot contract with any other, besides the binder which has bound me.”

“Have you ever pissed off a god?” I lowered myself to one knee, my eyes level with the djinn’s. “I don’t give a shit about your code, or tradition, or whatever oratory you want to hide your sorry ass behind. So you will swear, or I will carry your soul within my frame and let you fester in the knowledge that any day could be your last, and only my whims keep you from oblivion.”

“Maybe that’s a bit much,” Hasda said. He looked uncomfortable being little more than a mount for the djinn in this conversation.

I grunted. “I’ve had few enough dealings with efreets, but what I know of the stories makes me justifiably wary of their deals.” I jabbed a finger at the djinn, who flinched away. “This one is going to mind itself, or it’s going to learn the hard way about circumventing oaths.”

“We stand by our bindings always,” the djinn hissed.

“My interpretation is the only one that matters.” I put a bit of my power into my voice, making them both flinch. I hadn’t meant to hit Hasda with that, but it was unavoidable. “Are we clear?”

“Yes.” Its purple energy churned at the edges of the chestplate. “Anything else? Or are you going to incessantly vex me with your endless taunting?”

I poked the fringe of its aura and smiled as it squealed. “For now.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, the djinn slipped back into the jagged scar on the breastplate. It might have been my imagination, but the unnatural weld didn’t look as angry or out of place, the metal lumps withdrawn and closer to flush with the surface. What wasn’t imagined, however, was the splash of color that returned to Hasda’s face after the djinn hid. I pulled myself back to my feet and smiled at him. “Much better.”

He didn’t look convinced. “Was that really necessary? He hasn’t hurt me, and he’s been nothing but honest with me.”

“Thus far.” I gave him a look. “When was the last time you looked in a mirror?”

“Huh?”

I grunted. “That’s what I thought. You’ve been growing progressively paler ever since you and the djinn bonded. Now, I trust you to be able to handle yourself with it, so I need you to trust me when it comes to mortal limits.” I glared at the armor. “It putting you on the edge of your grave before your time is where I draw the line.”

“Oh, when we established the contract, I made sure he couldn’t kill me with any of his prices.” Hasda rested the eggs against his sides and smiled.

Well, I had to give him credit for that much. But he still had a lot to learn. I tapped the armor, which seemed to vibrate at my touch. “That would only prevent it from outright killing you. Slowly sapping your strength and letting you fall in combat because you spent too much on it? A letter of the law execution of your agreement.” I sighed. “But you did good, putting such a clause in.”

“Thanks.” He beamed.

I jerked my head at the eggs. “So. More lizards in my temple?”

Hasda barked a laugh. “I haven’t thought about them in years.”

“Yes, well, I spent many a night with your forest finds scurrying across my lap while you slept.” I shuffled past him to sit on the fountain and patted the stone next to me. “You going to tell me how you managed to get those from the hydra?”

He set himself carefully on the ledge, struggling to balance the eggs without exacerbating their cracks. “When the mongoose attacked, she split her brood among her heads and hid them in her mouths. That was why she wasn’t breathing fire and acid everywhere at first.” He rubbed the left egg. “Since she still has surviving eggs to raise, she couldn’t abandon her brood to help us. But she offered me the weakest as a reward for protecting her young.”

“So knocking the eggs together was to determine which of the runts was the weakest?” I wasn’t sure that the thickness of its shell was a good indication of the strength of the hydraling inside, but I also wasn’t a hydra myself. Yet both had given before the other, a near miracle.

He nodded. “She wasn’t expecting both to break. It had never happened before.”

“Did she tell you how to raise them?” Even as I said it, I had a feeling this was going to be a group effort no matter Hasda’s intention.

He shook his head. “She said they wouldn’t be much work, I would just need to keep them well fed.”

I let my fingers dangle in the water behind us. “Mm, she makes it sound so simple.”

“They eat a lot?”

“Yes. But that’s a worry for when they hatch.” I nodded at the cracks. “Will those hurt the younglings before they’re ready to come out?”

“I hope not.” He ran a hand over the left bumpy blue shell, tracing the break with his finger. “Perhaps I should swaddle them? Oh!” His eyes lit up. “Maybe Phaeus will let me incubate them in his forge.”

Now there was a thought. I smiled. “I don’t think they’ll need that much heat. But here.” I took one egg from him, wincing as it crinkled. As steady as I could, I lowered it into the fountain water and let the cool liquid bathe the breaks. The water couldn’t repair the damage, but it could seal the cracks until the hydras were big enough to hatch. I hoped, anyways.

“I will see if Seppo knows anything about keeping hydra eggs.” I left one egg to float as I handed its twin to Hasda. Though bumpy, the shell was still slick from its dunking, and my fingers lacked the flesh that made dexterity less difficult. “We can worry about their nurture once they’re hatched.”

Hasda nodded, a motion punctuated by a crack splitting the air. He jerked, clutching the eggs tight.

I was on my feet and had the hilt of my Sword half-formed in my hand when I saw the silver portal glowing a few feet away. Silver? Whose sign was that? While Seated gods had a variety of colors tied to their symbology, none of us had chosen a precious metal. I was even more surprised when Phemonoe walked through.

She gave me a tight smile. “I’m sorry we didn’t get to discuss my vision before. I’m afraid it’s a little too late now.”

Oh, right. Phemonoe had been about to tell me about her sudden vision when she’d burst into the Spinster’s garden. I frowned. Come to think of it, she’d come through a portal then, too. I hadn’t paid attention to its color, but generally mortals required a deity to open one for them. In the rush, I’d thought she must have followed me through mine, but then, I would have closed mine behind me. Especially since the Spinster was a threat.

“Yes, the portal is mine.” She seemed to read my thoughts on my face. “Your presence is needed in the throne room. Seppo has convened a meeting of the Seated gods.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it?” Hasda cradled the eggs as he leaned forward, worry tracing lines on his features.

The High Oracle nodded. “Congratulations on completing your Trial. Unfortunately, I fear the celebration will be postponed due to current events.”

“Care to give me a rundown on the way?” I shouldered on some extra pounds, feeling the satisfying weight of muscles settle onto my frame as I strode towards her sparking portal.

“Bring those with you.” She nodded at the eggs in Hasda’s arms. “The feast might be delayed, but Seppo isn’t going to ignore your accomplishments.” Sighing, she gathered her robes and met me at the portal. “Your maas has a nice smell.”

“Thanks.” I swept an arm through the portal and waited for her to go first. “So, what news?”

She frowned as she passed under. “Bad, and not just omens. The Paedens have invaded Tingin again.”


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Mon Aug 08, 2022 4:53 pm
HarryHardy wrote a review...



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

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Well...this is one of our very rare relaxation chapters I think. We get to see a very rare mildly adorable moment there and it looks like before we dive into possibly less physical but nonetheless still dangerous situations in a little bit, we are going to be catching a small break.

Anyway let's get right to it,

I set my hand on the armor and let the haze wash over my bones. Bit by bit, I tugged wisps of energy into my marrow. It tickled, pin pricks of spice on the cold of the apkallas spirit. But it was difficult to consume its spirit, nothing like harvesting a soul. I wasn’t sure I could actually collect the entirety of the djinn with how much effort it took just to snatch these scattered pieces, but he didn’t need to know that.

“All right! I believe!” The djinn recoiled from my hand as if magnetized.

“Then you'll promise not to harm Hasda?”

“I cannot swear that no harm shall befall him, surely you understand.” Its voice was whiny.

“That's not what I said.” I folded my arms and leveled my weightiest stare at the djinn. “Neither through guile nor pact, inaction or misdirection, shall anything within your power cause harm to hasda. An absolute, soul binding Oath that everything you do is only for his good.”


Well that sounds like the sort of thing that just ends up encouraging those loopholes to be found there Charax, are you a 100% sure you want to do something like that. As safe as it sounds somehow all I can sense from this is danger especially with the kind of attitude this djinn has so far proved to have.

The djinn hissed. “My aide doesn't come from nowhere. To fulfill wishes, to provide power, prices must be paid. That is unalterable.”

“Then you'd best make sure he gets the best prices, eh?” I had the spirit practically pinned beneath my gaze. “I sense a cent of profiteering, and I'll rip you out at once.”

“As you say, Old One!” The djinn’s tone was sour. “But I cannot contract with any other, besides the binder which has bound me.”

“Have you ever pissed off a god?” I lowered myself to one knee, my eyes level with the djinn’s. “I don’t give a shit about your code, or tradition, or whatever oratory you want to hide your sorry ass behind. So you will swear, or I will carry your soul within my frame and let you fester in the knowledge that any day could be your last, and only my whims keep you from oblivion.”


Yup well...this is certainly starting to heat up quite a bit and from the looks of things Charax is going a little too far out in terms of the yelling and threatening. Its making it looks like he's pretty desperate at the moment and this djinn if its been anything like what we've seen so far is going to pick up on that. As reasonable as it is for Charax to act in the way he is at the moment I can't help but think nothing good is going to happen as a result.

I grunted. “I’ve had few enough dealings with efreets, but what I know of the stories makes me justifiably wary of their deals.” I jabbed a finger at the djinn, who flinched away. “This one is going to mind itself, or it’s going to learn the hard way about circumventing oaths.”

“We stand by our bindings always,” the djinn hissed.

“My interpretation is the only one that matters.” I put a bit of my power into my voice, making them both flinch. I hadn’t meant to hit Hasda with that, but it was unavoidable. “Are we clear?”

“Yes.” Its purple energy churned at the edges of the chestplate. “Anything else? Or are you going to incessantly vex me with your endless taunting?”

I poked the fringe of its aura and smiled as it squealed. “For now.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, the djinn slipped back into the jagged scar on the breastplate. It might have been my imagination, but the unnatural weld didn’t look as angry or out of place, the metal lumps withdrawn and closer to flush with the surface. What wasn’t imagined, however, was the splash of color that returned to Hasda’s face after the djinn hid. I pulled myself back to my feet and smiled at him. “Much better.”


Yeah...this is definitely going to backfire before this story is done...but for now I suppose we can put the djinn to the back of our minds until this whole thing ends up going ahead and becoming a massive problem again sometime later in a future fight of some sort.

He didn’t look convinced. “Was that really necessary? He hasn’t hurt me, and he’s been nothing but honest with me.”

“Thus far.” I gave him a look. “When was the last time you looked in a mirror?”

“Huh?”

I grunted. “That’s what I thought. You’ve been growing progressively paler ever since you and the djinn bonded. Now, I trust you to be able to handle yourself with it, so I need you to trust me when it comes to mortal limits.” I glared at the armor. “It putting you on the edge of your grave before your time is where I draw the line.”


Well...that seems like a good line to draw although I do have to say Hasda standing there sort of having to watch two people kind of argue a little bit about using his life force is probably not very nice on him.

“Oh, when we established the contract, I made sure he couldn’t kill me with any of his prices.” Hasda rested the eggs against his sides and smiled.

Well, I had to give him credit for that much. But he still had a lot to learn. I tapped the armor, which seemed to vibrate at my touch. “That would only prevent it from outright killing you. Slowly sapping your strength and letting you fall in combat because you spent too much on it? A letter of the law execution of your agreement.” I sighed. “But you did good, putting such a clause in.”

“Thanks.” He beamed.


Hmm and therein lines the classic loophole that you can always find when you try and actually bind something like this. On the bright side I do love that Hasda was smart enough to do something like that. It seems like the sort of basic rule that gets forgotten a little often in some stories.

I jerked my head at the eggs. “So. More lizards in my temple?”

Hasda barked a laugh. “I haven’t thought about them in years.”

“Yes, well, I spent many a night with your forest finds scurrying across my lap while you slept.” I shuffled past him to sit on the fountain and patted the stone next to me. “You going to tell me how you managed to get those from the hydra?”


Well that was an oddly adorable moment that I did not see coming. I do love to see little things like that happen ever so often. Although I suppose the bigger questions besides the adorableness is a far more interesting thing to see.

He set himself carefully on the ledge, struggling to balance the eggs without exacerbating their cracks. “When the mongoose attacked, she split her brood among her heads and hid them in her mouths. That was why she wasn’t breathing fire and acid everywhere at first.” He rubbed the left egg. “Since she still has surviving eggs to raise, she couldn’t abandon her brood to help us. But she offered me the weakest as a reward for protecting her young.”

“So knocking the eggs together was to determine which of the runts was the weakest?” I wasn’t sure that the thickness of its shell was a good indication of the strength of the hydraling inside, but I also wasn’t a hydra myself. Yet both had given before the other, a near miracle.

He nodded. “She wasn’t expecting both to break. It had never happened before.”

“Did she tell you how to raise them?” Even as I said it, I had a feeling this was going to be a group effort no matter Hasda’s intention.


OKay..well raising a Hydra is an idea that I don't believe I've ever seen before in a story, so that's definitely going to be very new and probably very disastrous and hilarious. Well that certainly sets up a very intriguing situation to come here.

He shook his head. “She said they wouldn’t be much work, I would just need to keep them well fed.”

I let my fingers dangle in the water behind us. “Mm, she makes it sound so simple.”

“They eat a lot?”
ver
“Yes. But that’s a worry for when they hatch.” I nodded at the cracks. “Will those hurt the younglings before they’re ready to come out?”

“I hope not.” He ran a hand over the left bumpy blue shell, tracing the break with his finger. “Perhaps I should swaddle them? Oh!” His eyes lit up. “Maybe Phaeus will let me incubate them in his forge.”


Oh dear...well this is certainly setting itself up to be the hilarious disaster you expect something like this to turn out to be. The whole well fed thing also seems like one of these things that sound really simple but are going to end up causing mass chaos.

Now there was a thought. I smiled. “I don’t think they’ll need that much heat. But here.” I took one egg from him, wincing as it crinkled. As steady as I could, I lowered it into the fountain water and let the cool liquid bathe the breaks. The water couldn’t repair the damage, but it could seal the cracks until the hydras were big enough to hatch. I hoped, anyways.

“I will see if Seppo knows anything about keeping hydra eggs.” I left one egg to float as I handed its twin to Hasda. Though bumpy, the shell was still slick from its dunking, and my fingers lacked the flesh that made dexterity less difficult. “We can worry about their nurture once they’re hatched.”

Hasda nodded, a motion punctuated by a crack splitting the air. He jerked, clutching the eggs tight.


I get the feeling these eggs are going to join the list of things on the back of the reader's mind until they just decided to hatch at possibly the worst moments that can be conceived for them to be hatching.

She gave me a tight smile. “I’m sorry we didn’t get to discuss my vision before. I’m afraid it’s a little too late now.”

Oh, right. Phemonoe had been about to tell me about her sudden vision when she’d burst into the Spinster’s garden. I frowned. Come to think of it, she’d come through a portal then, too. I hadn’t paid attention to its color, but generally mortals required a deity to open one for them. In the rush, I’d thought she must have followed me through mine, but then, I would have closed mine behind me. Especially since the Spinster was a threat.

“Yes, the portal is mine.” She seemed to read my thoughts on my face. “Your presence is needed in the throne room. Seppo has convened a meeting of the Seated gods.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it?” Hasda cradled the eggs as he leaned forward, worry tracing lines on his features.

The High Oracle nodded. “Congratulations on completing your Trial. Unfortunately, I fear the celebration will be postponed due to current events.”


Oh well naturally just more mysteries to be thrown our way ever so casually, well I am certainly not going to try and dissect that just yet since it seems to be fairly inconsequential given there does seem to be our very next plot point emerging right here.

“Care to give me a rundown on the way?” I shouldered on some extra pounds, feeling the satisfying weight of muscles settle onto my frame as I strode towards her sparking portal.

“Bring those with you.” She nodded at the eggs in Hasda’s arms. “The feast might be delayed, but Seppo isn’t going to ignore your accomplishments.” Sighing, she gathered her robes and met me at the portal. “Your maas has a nice smell.”

“Thanks.” I swept an arm through the portal and waited for her to go first. “So, what news?”

She frowned as she passed under. “Bad, and not just omens. The Paedens have invaded Tingin again.”


Hmm...well I suppose that is at least one of the less violent cliffhangers we've had of late so I am totally going to take that although I am pretty sure this is definitely one of the worse bits of news we've received so far.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, it seems this is the one little break we're going to get before presumably that new bit of news leads to some more craziness in the times to come. At the very least I am looking forward to seeing how this trial is going to be received by everyone else.

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Mon Jun 13, 2022 9:48 am
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hello! Icy here with a quick review to celebrate the month that is Team Tortoise

This was definitely an interesting chapter. I enjoyed the interactions with the djinn and how careful they were being about their instructions. I don't know if they'd learned from previous bad experiences but I've certainly read/seen other stories where interpretation of a wish/instruction is an issue so I like that there's seemingly no out for the djinn.


The following interaction between Hasda and Charax also worked well. I've only read a few chapters of this novel as you've posted it but I can really see how their characters have grown and changed through the course of their journeys. Their conversation was very interesting, and makes me wish I had the time to read the full way through the novel! It started to feel like it was going on a little long though, so perhaps this would be an area to consider when doing your line edits.

I really liked the last sentence - just when it looked like everything was going smoothly a war looks like it's about to break out! I'm thinking Hasda might be crucial in helping stop this invasion now he's completed his trial (maybe with his hydras?).


Overall a really enjoyable read!

Hope this review was helpful.

Icy


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Thu Mar 10, 2022 3:02 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review! Sorry it's a little late!

This was an interesting chapter! I loved how you both closed up Hasda's trial as well as introduced a new problem. So glad Phemonoe made another appearance— I love her character a lot. And gosh, that's some big news. Very curious to see how they'll handle the invasion! Though I am having a little trouble remembering where Tingin is— could I get a little reminder? I feel like it's been a while since they've been there.

One thing I really liked was the moments between Hasda and Charax in this. I really think you did a nice job characterizing Hasda. I like how you've shown how he's grown up. I also think the story of the hydra was really nicely done. I loved the details about them both breaking, and two baby hydras will certainly prove interesting later on!! Very much hoping they make a cameo somewhere (or even play a bigger role, too! That'd be pretty epic).

I also liked the bit of lore with the portals— very curious how Phemonoe has her own portal. Is she still a mortal but has special powers because of Charax elevating her, or has she undergone deification? I do like how each god has colors associated with the portals. I feel like I should have picked up on that by now, but it was nice to get that little factoid regardless!

Specifics

It tickled, pin pricks of spice on the cold of the apkallas spirit.


Two things— I think pinpricks is one word? And I think that "apkallas" should be possessive, so with an apostrophe after the "a."

[quote]“Neither through guile nor pact, inaction or misdirection, shall anything within your power cause harm to hasda."

Another small thing: I think "Hasda" needs to be capitalized there.

Overall: nice work!! I loved the resolution to the Trial/djinn deal, and it seems like we've got a new problem on our hands! I look forward to the next chapter! Until next time!!






No worries!

I knew you'd be happy she's back :) Tingin is the place the first Trial happened--the mines and all that. The *plan* is for the hydras to be more than just backdrop material, but I have no idea when that'll come to fruition. Other stuff is getting rafo'd (read and find out) lol

Blaming all typos on the fact that I'm writing at work now with kids running around lol.




When a good man is hurt, all who would be called good must suffer with him.
— Euripides