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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 80: "The Negotiation"

by dragonfphoenix


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

Malia thumped the ground with her tail as she regarded the kite harpy. “Well,” she said, “if you have nothing left to offer, then we have no more need of you.”

“What I offer?” Lazuli jerked against her chains. “What I am owed, rather. I was promised the blind bitch, and I will have her.”

“You will watch your mouth, is what you will do.” I stepped between her and Malia, gently pushing my wife back as I did.

Malia gave me a slightly pouty frown but slid back. “She’s not going to be cooperative. Let me cut her loose or put her back.”

“Yes, release me!” Lazuli’s face lit up. “Set me free, and I will hunt down that squelchling and shred her limb from limb.”

“You really need a personality,” I said.

Her chains clanked as she pushed against their limits. “Of course I will personally end her. I wouldn’t leave that to a lesser.”

“That’s not…” I sighed.

Malia folded her arms and assessed Lazuli. “If we do, you’ll cooperate fully, answer any questions we ask, and remain within whatever confines we place on you?”

“So long as I am free to crush my fingers around that slimy shamhat’s throat.” Her fierce eyes met Malia’s calculating gaze. “But you must swear an oath to me, that you will uphold your end of the covenant. I will not fall for such lies again.”

“I could put you back, you know.” Malia drummed her fingers on her arm, but she hadn’t set any weight behind the words. “Seems to me like you stand to gain far more from this bargain.”

“You crave knowledge I alone possess.” She tittered a laugh. “A fair trade, I would wager.”

“Okay, let’s get one thing straight.” I rocked forward and let my aura slip a little. It felt nice to have some power behind me now, unlike the last time we faced off. “We don’t need whatever you have to offer. It would be convenient if we knew, but essential to our plans? Far from it. You, on the other hand”–I pointed a finger at her–“have a visceral need to exact your revenge. So we need something else to balance the scales.”

“I am patient.” Lazuli huffed and swung back on her chains. “It matters not, the when, to me. But I sense urgency behind your desire. You cannot convince me otherwise.”

Malia tapped her jaw. “I could always eat her.”

“You feeling up to that?” I shot her a look.

She smiled. “Always. That asshole who messed up my face was a far cry from filling.”

Lazuli scoffed. “Then how would you get what you want? My knowledge isn’t edible.”

“No, but you are.” Malia flared her wings and slithered up to the harpy, setting a hand on her feathers. As she did, she brushed the astral plane and teased it open behind her. “Ready?”

“On you.” I slipped my hands into the higher dimension as Malia dragged Lazuli out of her chains and into the transcendent realm.

We assumed our projections at the same time, Malia’s blossoming into her starry gorgon form and mine ratcheting together into a rickety skeleton. To my surprise, I had some mass as well, the most solid avatar I’d achieved on my own in ages. It felt good, the weight of my limbs, the set of my feet. Malia gave me a pleased smile and flared the auroras of her wings.

Lazuli screamed. Floating at the bend of Malia’s tail, the harpy thrashed on the analogue of ground. Space dust and the ashes of stars swirled around her as she keened, nearly shrieking herself hoarse the moment she arrived. The purple thread whipped around her chaotic wings, curving in crazy angles with no distant anchor to straighten it. Tamiyat really had severed their connection.

“Perhaps you’ll be more amenable to conversation now.” Malia poked the shrieking harpy. “Get up.”

Her eyes rolled, her screams reaching a fevered pitch.

Malia scowled. “Pull yourself together. Are you a goddess or what?”

“Malia.” I stepped forward and set my pulsing hand over the kite. Wrapping my fingers under her wings, I scooped her up and cupped my hands over her. She beat against my palms like a trapped moth, no reasoned intent behind her movements. The cries diminished, but only slightly. As I shifted to a more comfortable position, I realized that the abrasive texture of the astral plane around Nebesa had gotten worse, but not so severe that I noticed it when we transitioned. To Lazuli, however, without a projection of her own, it must have felt unbelievably caustic. “She’s in her divine form, sustaining her own existence here. Even Phemonoe had my support.”

“Fine.” Rolling her eyes, Malia slithered over and glared down at the hidden harpy. “Let me see her.”

I cracked my hand, and Lazuli nearly bounced it. Rebounding off my thumb, the harpy settled for whimpering and rolling around on my palm. Malia bent over and breathed on the kite, enveloping her in a thin, protective membrane. The shrieking swerved into a torrent of eldritch pleas.

Malia snatched her out of my hand and held her a finger width from her nose. “Stop sniveling. Die with some dignity, at least.”

Lazuli grew still, pinched between Malia’s fingers. “You’re not the Sea Mother.” That wasn’t exactly what she said, since she uttered Tamiyat’s eldritch name in a small voice, but the name meshed with the warped space and made its meaning plain. At the utterance of the Sea Mother’s ancient title, the purple thread quivered. The end still connected to Lazuli burrowed into the harpy, spreading like a black stain.

I grabbed the free end and clasped it in my fist. The cord frayed, the fibers twisting and seeking against the folds of my palm. On a hunch, I quested down the thread and felt channels directly to Lazuli’s spirit. But the connection rejected me, the purple line corkscrewing as it recoiled from me and wound on her back. The bundle settled just below the base of her wings, a dull light pulsing along its length.

Lazuli quivered a little when I pressed my senses down the thread, but she didn’t react when the cord coiled itself on her spine.

Malia gave me a questioning look.

I shook my head. “It’s as normal as a transcendent puppet string can be. Avatar channels, but no indication of how it was attached in the first place. But it’s not connected to Tamiyat at the moment, and I couldn’t sense a pathway to her.”

“Answer me this, kite.” Malia brought the full weight of her voice down on Lazuli as she leveled an even heavier stare. “If we let you kill the Paeden goddess, what then? What meaning will you give your life, with your driving force gone?”

“You expect me to ever fully kill her?” Lazuli barked a laugh and shook her head. “No, her existence will never end. I will bind her, as the Sea Mother once was, and torment her until she or I fade.”

“Charming.” Malia’s tail swished back and forth across the starfield. Frowning, she glanced up at me. “Can we use her?”

“That depends on her,” I rumbled. “Considering how quickly she tried to reconnect with Tamiyat, she’s likely to renege any feigned fealty to us the moment she’s in close proximity to the eldritch goddess.”

“My word is far more trustworthy than yours, Carthian scum,” Lazuli hissed.

“You have an unnatural dedication to destroying Nanshe,” Malia said, shaking the kite. “Even given your backstory, making vengeance the whole of your identity casts doubt on your words and intentions. With no variance in your articulated ideas, how are we to know you won’t just say whatever will get you free? Whether that be to return to the Sea Mother or wreak havoc upon the goddess you despise.”

“Have you felt the madness of my Mother? Truly felt it.” Lazuli’s voice was soft, but her eyes were hard. “Nothing survives her scouring of your soul. You find the one thing that will anchor you and you cling to it, or you drown. Sometimes, you drown regardless.”

“So that’s it.” Malia sounded thoroughly convinced. “You just went insane from the constant exposure to Tamiyat’s aura, boiled away to an ‘essense’ of kill, kill, kill, and when that wasn’t enough, you bound yourself to the very thing driving you mad.”

Lazuli cackled. “Ages upon ages will wear anyone down, even the strongest god. And I was never the strongest.” The protective yellow haze fluttered against her breath. “It was an end to madness.”

I snorted.

Lazuli twisted in Malia’s fingers, leveling her sharp gaze at me. “You find humor in this?”

“You’re a horrible actor.” I grinned at her scowl. “You might have convinced me, if I hadn’t seen you before. The power radiating off you, the glee in your eyes as you led the assault. You reveled in your submission to the Sea Mother. And when we unbound you, you went straight back to her, even knowing your connection had been severed.” I shook my head. “You can’t even hide behind your excuse that it was an ends to a means. The sheer exultation on your face from being awash with her power, that was your true emotions bared. I might have argued in your favor if you weren’t such a terrible liar.”

“I can still eat her,” Malia said.

Lazuli exploded in shouts and rage. “Fine! Disbelieve me, devour me, dump me in your shit–I don’t care. But I will drown that harlot’s gills with her own blood before I meet my end.”

I stared at the flailing harpy. Sighing, I shook my head at Malia. “Put her back.”

“Are you sure?” The arm of a galaxy crept up her forehead, in place of an eyebrow.

I nodded and tugged at our bond in a way that conveyed we would talk further, when Lazuli couldn’t hear us.

Rolling her starry eyes, Malia twisted the kite around. Constellations twinkled as she prepared her face to gaze. “Smile.”


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Tue Aug 16, 2022 4:58 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: Okay...well this chapter actually managed to surprise me quite a bit with the directions it took. It seemed like it was always twisting just one more time than I was expecting it to and I love that. Gotta have things be a bit surprising every once in a while.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Malia thumped the ground with her tail as she regarded the kite harpy. “Well,” she said, “if you have nothing left to offer, then we have no more need of you.”

“What I offer?” Lazuli jerked against her chains. “What I am owed, rather. I was promised the blind bitch, and I will have her.”

“You will watch your mouth, is what you will do.” I stepped between her and Malia, gently pushing my wife back as I did.

Malia gave me a slightly pouty frown but slid back. “She’s not going to be cooperative. Let me cut her loose or put her back.”

“Yes, release me!” Lazuli’s face lit up. “Set me free, and I will hunt down that squelchling and shred her limb from limb.”

“You really need a personality,” I said.


Okayy...well that's great. It looks like this particular conversation is definitely not going as planned given it seems that neither of these two seem to particularly be on board with the plan besides poor Charax who is just trying to hold the whole thing together here.

Her chains clanked as she pushed against their limits. “Of course I will personally end her. I wouldn’t leave that to a lesser.”

“That’s not…” I sighed.

Malia folded her arms and assessed Lazuli. “If we do, you’ll cooperate fully, answer any questions we ask, and remain within whatever confines we place on you?”

“So long as I am free to crush my fingers around that slimy shamhat’s throat.” Her fierce eyes met Malia’s calculating gaze. “But you must swear an oath to me, that you will uphold your end of the covenant. I will not fall for such lies again.”

“I could put you back, you know.” Malia drummed her fingers on her arm, but she hadn’t set any weight behind the words. “Seems to me like you stand to gain far more from this bargain.”


Okayy...well that sounds like a dangerous deal to be making although the kind of things at stake here means they are most likely going to take that deal and honestly it would not be the worst decision ever made, especially given I'm sure Malia will have ways to try and make the deal a bit better balanced.

“You crave knowledge I alone possess.” She tittered a laugh. “A fair trade, I would wager.”

“Okay, let’s get one thing straight.” I rocked forward and let my aura slip a little. It felt nice to have some power behind me now, unlike the last time we faced off. “We don’t need whatever you have to offer. It would be convenient if we knew, but essential to our plans? Far from it. You, on the other hand”–I pointed a finger at her–“have a visceral need to exact your revenge. So we need something else to balance the scales.”

“I am patient.” Lazuli huffed and swung back on her chains. “It matters not, the when, to me. But I sense urgency behind your desire. You cannot convince me otherwise.”

Malia tapped her jaw. “I could always eat her.”

“You feeling up to that?” I shot her a look.


Okay...did not expect to see that particular plan actually be used as a tactic to scare Lazuli and well it certainly took me by surprise, even though this is not the first time we've seen Malia make that move happen. Also well it does seem like they are going to properly try and tip the scales in their favor here.

She smiled. “Always. That asshole who messed up my face was a far cry from filling.”

Lazuli scoffed. “Then how would you get what you want? My knowledge isn’t edible.”

“No, but you are.” Malia flared her wings and slithered up to the harpy, setting a hand on her feathers. As she did, she brushed the astral plane and teased it open behind her. “Ready?”

“On you.” I slipped my hands into the higher dimension as Malia dragged Lazuli out of her chains and into the transcendent realm.

We assumed our projections at the same time, Malia’s blossoming into her starry gorgon form and mine ratcheting together into a rickety skeleton. To my surprise, I had some mass as well, the most solid avatar I’d achieved on my own in ages. It felt good, the weight of my limbs, the set of my feet. Malia gave me a pleased smile and flared the auroras of her wings.


Well...that was definitely quite the power move, its going to be quite interesting to see how that ends up playing out here. I think maybe this is finally going to twist towards a slightly more civil conversation without all of the screaming going on from earlier especially on the part of Lazuli.

Lazuli screamed. Floating at the bend of Malia’s tail, the harpy thrashed on the analogue of ground. Space dust and the ashes of stars swirled around her as she keened, nearly shrieking herself hoarse the moment she arrived. The purple thread whipped around her chaotic wings, curving in crazy angles with no distant anchor to straighten it. Tamiyat really had severed their connection.

“Perhaps you’ll be more amenable to conversation now.” Malia poked the shrieking harpy. “Get up.”

Her eyes rolled, her screams reaching a fevered pitch.

Malia scowled. “Pull yourself together. Are you a goddess or what?”


Okay...well yeah that's definitely going to be a massive shift in the power dynamic, not that it wasn't pretty nicely skewed already, but well, this is definitely reaching a bit of a peak so if anything is going to give with Lazuli,, its probably now.

“Malia.” I stepped forward and set my pulsing hand over the kite. Wrapping my fingers under her wings, I scooped her up and cupped my hands over her. She beat against my palms like a trapped moth, no reasoned intent behind her movements. The cries diminished, but only slightly. As I shifted to a more comfortable position, I realized that the abrasive texture of the astral plane around Nebesa had gotten worse, but not so severe that I noticed it when we transitioned. To Lazuli, however, without a projection of her own, it must have felt unbelievably caustic. “She’s in her divine form, sustaining her own existence here. Even Phemonoe had my support.”

“Fine.” Rolling her eyes, Malia slithered over and glared down at the hidden harpy. “Let me see her.”

I cracked my hand, and Lazuli nearly bounced it. Rebounding off my thumb, the harpy settled for whimpering and rolling around on my palm. Malia bent over and breathed on the kite, enveloping her in a thin, protective membrane. The shrieking swerved into a torrent of eldritch pleas.

Malia snatched her out of my hand and held her a finger width from her nose. “Stop sniveling. Die with some dignity, at least.”


Well...that was...thoughtful of Malia. This is definitely shifting very fast...and I get the feeling this is either going to finally reveal the information they've been looking for this whole time or somehow its going to end with Lazuli being lost in some fashion that leaves them with nothing.

Lazuli grew still, pinched between Malia’s fingers. “You’re not the Sea Mother.” That wasn’t exactly what she said, since she uttered Tamiyat’s eldritch name in a small voice, but the name meshed with the warped space and made its meaning plain. At the utterance of the Sea Mother’s ancient title, the purple thread quivered. The end still connected to Lazuli burrowed into the harpy, spreading like a black stain.

I grabbed the free end and clasped it in my fist. The cord frayed, the fibers twisting and seeking against the folds of my palm. On a hunch, I quested down the thread and felt channels directly to Lazuli’s spirit. But the connection rejected me, the purple line corkscrewing as it recoiled from me and wound on her back. The bundle settled just below the base of her wings, a dull light pulsing along its length.

Lazuli quivered a little when I pressed my senses down the thread, but she didn’t react when the cord coiled itself on her spine.


Okayy...well it seems likes there's less talking and more literal yanking going on to figure this whole thing out. That's definitely not quite the approach that I was expecting to see but given the situation that is currently going on, this method makes a surprising amount of sense compared to talking.

Malia gave me a questioning look.

I shook my head. “It’s as normal as a transcendent puppet string can be. Avatar channels, but no indication of how it was attached in the first place. But it’s not connected to Tamiyat at the moment, and I couldn’t sense a pathway to her.”

“Answer me this, kite.” Malia brought the full weight of her voice down on Lazuli as she leveled an even heavier stare. “If we let you kill the Paeden goddess, what then? What meaning will you give your life, with your driving force gone?”


Aaand just like that with that little investigation done, it seems we're actually turning back towards talking although I have by now given up hope of this ever turning into a properly civil conversation at any point.

“You expect me to ever fully kill her?” Lazuli barked a laugh and shook her head. “No, her existence will never end. I will bind her, as the Sea Mother once was, and torment her until she or I fade.”

“Charming.” Malia’s tail swished back and forth across the starfield. Frowning, she glanced up at me. “Can we use her?”

“That depends on her,” I rumbled. “Considering how quickly she tried to reconnect with Tamiyat, she’s likely to renege any feigned fealty to us the moment she’s in close proximity to the eldritch goddess.”

“My word is far more trustworthy than yours, Carthian scum,” Lazuli hissed.


Okay...well I guess at the very least Malia has mostly joined the civil conversation club. Its almost hilarious to have them now calmly discussing the plan while Lazuli just continues to yell out all her insults.

“You have an unnatural dedication to destroying Nanshe,” Malia said, shaking the kite. “Even given your backstory, making vengeance the whole of your identity casts doubt on your words and intentions. With no variance in your articulated ideas, how are we to know you won’t just say whatever will get you free? Whether that be to return to the Sea Mother or wreak havoc upon the goddess you despise.”

“Have you felt the madness of my Mother? Truly felt it.” Lazuli’s voice was soft, but her eyes were hard. “Nothing survives her scouring of your soul. You find the one thing that will anchor you and you cling to it, or you drown. Sometimes, you drown regardless.”

“So that’s it.” Malia sounded thoroughly convinced. “You just went insane from the constant exposure to Tamiyat’s aura, boiled away to an ‘essense’ of kill, kill, kill, and when that wasn’t enough, you bound yourself to the very thing driving you mad.”

Lazuli cackled. “Ages upon ages will wear anyone down, even the strongest god. And I was never the strongest.” The protective yellow haze fluttered against her breath. “It was an end to madness.”


Okay...I have no idea if somehow Lazuli has completely lost her mind through everything here, which honestly given how she has been yelling of late would not be surprising in the slightest, or there is somehow something more at play here.

I snorted.

Lazuli twisted in Malia’s fingers, leveling her sharp gaze at me. “You find humor in this?”

“You’re a horrible actor.” I grinned at her scowl. “You might have convinced me, if I hadn’t seen you before. The power radiating off you, the glee in your eyes as you led the assault. You reveled in your submission to the Sea Mother. And when we unbound you, you went straight back to her, even knowing your connection had been severed.” I shook my head. “You can’t even hide behind your excuse that it was an ends to a means. The sheer exultation on your face from being awash with her power, that was your true emotions bared. I might have argued in your favor if you weren’t such a terrible liar.”

“I can still eat her,” Malia said.

Lazuli exploded in shouts and rage. “Fine! Disbelieve me, devour me, dump me in your shit–I don’t care. But I will drown that harlot’s gills with her own blood before I meet my end.”


Okay...well I guess on the bright side Lazuli is at the very least being consistent in her screaming. That means either she hasn't lost her mind completely, or she's lost it very thoroughly, neither option seems like it'll really help out here though.

I stared at the flailing harpy. Sighing, I shook my head at Malia. “Put her back.”

“Are you sure?” The arm of a galaxy crept up her forehead, in place of an eyebrow.

I nodded and tugged at our bond in a way that conveyed we would talk further, when Lazuli couldn’t hear us.

Rolling her starry eyes, Malia twisted the kite around. Constellations twinkled as she prepared her face to gaze. “Smile.”


Okay...I guess that's pretty much over then, unless of course this is going to end up causing some form of mayhem halfway through the process. I suppose I need to head to the next chapter to find out.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, it seems like we learnt very little from this chapter but at the same time we also kind of learnt a lot. Its an interesting one, since it did seem to almost revolve in the same circle as the previous chapter did. Well let's see how this connects to the next chapter.

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Wed Jun 22, 2022 11:53 am
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hello again! I've actually got a bit of extra time today so I thought I would come straight over and read this next chapter too!

Nitpicks

“What I offer?” Lazuli jerked against her chains.

This didn't feel like it flowed well from the previous line. Malia is talking about what Lazuli has to offer but the transition from that to what Lazuli felt she was owed felt a little clunky to me.

“You really need a personality,” I said.

The 'I said' here felt a little flat. You generally do so well with dialogue tags but I felt like this one made what Charax said not seem as interesting.

Lazuli provides and really interesting contrast to a lot of the characters we've interacted with recently. She's very abrasive but also very focused on a clear goal and that makes her characterisation very different! I agree with Plume in that I was starting to feel sorry for her especially with the positioning of Malia's attitude towards her which seemed so cold and formidable. Then as we progress I find her more and more grating, and I'm ready to be rid of her!

I do wonder, if they had this astral plane trick up their sleeves why didn't they use it right off the bat? Or is it that it was more of a last resort type technique? I'm not sure they got out of her what they were looking for... I wonder what the next step is!

Happy Wednesday :)

Icy






Lazuli has always been a bit deranged and a bit single-minded in her approach lol. So the clunky was a bit Lazuli being Lazuli and a part "how can I twist this back to 'I want to kill Nanshe'" from her.

Yeah, sometimes the drafting is a little rough lol. I'm planning on cleaning things up when I'm finished, so I'll note this one down. Thanks

The astral plane thing was it's inconvenient to project without reason, coupled with the realm slowly becoming more toxic from Tamiyat's influence. But it is also the "big guns" and Malia likes to have her fun XD



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Wed Jun 01, 2022 5:08 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!! Sorry for the backlog in reviews— May is always a weird time for me because of exams. But I'm glad to be back and reviewing! I'll try to catch up on all the parts I've missed within the next week!

So we're back to trying to get information from Lazuli. It's a shame it didn't quite pan out—the information they could have gotten would probably have been valuable, but these things are never easy, are they? And I suppose they did uncover Lazuli's intentions even further. The way you manipulated readers' attitudes towards Lazuli in this chapter was a nice touch—at the beginning, and then when she went on her whole madness spiel, I almost felt bad for her, in a weird way, but then by the end, I found myself glad that she was being turned to stone again. I did think it was interesting how Malia didn't catch on to Lazuli's lies; it seemed slightly out of character for her. I guess she is still on the mend, though, so that could explain it.

I enjoyed the description of the astral plane very much—it didn't sound like a very pleasant place to be for Lazuli. The contrast between Malia and Charax's large forms in this celestial space and then Lazuli, small and shrieking, was both funny and effective. It was a very visual way of showing the power dynamics in this pseudo-interrogation, and I think it worked nicely to set this chapter there.

I also think Lazuli's voice is incredible. The way you write it makes it so annoying yet formal, and I feel like I can hear it grating inside my skull. The creative insults that spew from her mouth about Nanshe and Malia are also a neat touch. Guess we won't be getting more of the voice in coming chapters, though. I'm curious if she's ever going to get the revenge she so dearly dreams of haha.

Overall: nice work!! I'm curious to see what Charax and Malia's plan of action is from here, now that the whole thing with Lazuli somewhat failed and she's being re-stonified. Until next time!!





We're all stories in the end.
— 11th Doctor