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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 92: "The King"

by dragonfphoenix


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

Choosing a direction would've been hard, were it not for the sudden flare of sour magic on my right. It reminded me of the djinn’s aura, but curdled. I rushed through the forest, summoning my Spear as I neared the nexus of energy.

When I finally found the source, I pulled up short. The two Apkalla swirled around a wraithy figure, their wings scattering the purple fire as they battered him with their downdrafts.The eagle-headed Apkalla, a pair of wings short of his falcon-headed companion, dueled with the figure. Each collision of their swords bent the metal and flung showers of sparks in the increasing rain. Quad wings flurrying, the falcon-headed sage raked his taloned feet and dodged swipes from his quarry’s sword.

If it weren’t for the telltale hue of the flame on his sword, I wouldn’t have recognized the enshrouded warrior as Hasda. He was completely consumed by the flame, his eyes white with fire, arcs of energy slashing in the wake of his strikes. His movements matched the pace set by the Apkalla, his speed increasing as the battle prolonged.

Although Carthians had fallen around them, there weren’t enough bodies to account for the remainder of the squad sent with Hasda. Inkashi was missing as well, and I didn’t see any sign of Jade. The scattered corpses of lightly-armored Paedens showed what had happened to the few soldiers who’d stayed behind with the Apkalla. As for the sages, they fought as themselves and not under Marudak’s control.

No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than the four-winged Apkalla started to glow.

The aura dulled with the falcon impaled on my Spear. I didn’t register moving until I’d flung him off and thrust the eagle-headed one through, his weight trying to drag the Spear from my hand. Hasda had reflexively guarded, but his eyes shone with no recognition of me.

He smelled worse, now that I stood next to him. The mend in his armor had bubbled up like an infected scar and pulsed in time with his labored breathing. His sword, still angled between us, dripped liquid fire the same violet hue as the flame which engulfed every inch of him.

I vanished my Spear. “Hasda?”

The white fire coating his eyes flickered before winking out. “Dad?”

“What is this?” I gestured at the shroud.

“We…I…” He looked dazed. The fire shimmered and subsided to his shoulders, unobscuring his face. Frowning, he shook his head. “We weren’t supposed to use this yet. But there were gods…”

“These two?” I jerked my head towards the feathered corpses.

He shook his head. “There was another. She took Jade. I sent the soldiers after them.”

So that’s where the last of his troops went. I nodded. “Let’s go get her.”

Power surged through the four-winged Apkalla. The body thrashed on the ground, and then settled. With a whistling wheeze, it pushed itself off the ground.

“So…” it rasped. “You’re the soul thief.”

Golden light radiated from its body. Its wings jerked in unlife, shedding a few feathers as they tucked down on its back. Glazed eyes met my own, although there was an intelligence beneath the film.

I summoned my Sword as Hasda helmeted his head in the djinn’s fire.

“At least you finally sent the men.” The reanimated Apkalla coughed a laugh. “Although fielding a tuzshu against me…” It shook its head. “Where did you find it?”

Marudak had clearly assumed control of his sage, and the fact that he could puppet the Apkalla, even in death, boded ill for how well our battle would go. Mortal proxies, even semi-divine, often lost their connection–and therefore utility–to their deity when they died. But Marudak was operating through the corpse with no visible exertion, which meant we’d need to torch the thing through Marudak’s protective shielding if we wanted to stop it.

And we still hadn’t freed Jade.

“Can you follow their trail?” I said as I positioned myself between Hasda and the Apkalla.

“I think so.”

“Then go. I’ll take care of this.” I adjusted my grip on my Sword as I stared down the undead proxy.

“I did not give you permission to leave.” Marudak managed to convey boredom even through the fowl head. With a flick of his hand, he sent a burst of energy arcing towards Hasda.

I deflected it off the flat of my blade, but Pek, that did a number on my wrists. If that was how much power he could send through a corpse, he was going to be a nightmare in person. Grunting, I squared off and planted my feet. Strong or not, he wasn’t getting to Hasda.

The avatar flicked its wings in annoyance. “Must I exert myself for such a slug?”

“Maggots in the carcass already?” I flashed a grin at his avian scowl.

“Must you Carthians persist in your vexatious loquaciousness?” Pinions flared, the avatar flexed his hands as he approached.

“Behold! Thou shalt likewise curb thy verboseness..” I prepped for our collision, though I kept my aura concealed.

“Prattling simpleton.” Marudak dashed forward, his strike rattling my Sword nearly out of my hands. Wind rushed around the proxy as it spun, slamming its wings into me.

This close, our limbs tangled and I couldn’t get an angle with my Sword. I vanished my weapon and thrust the avatar away. As we separated, I switched to my Spear and brandished it to maintain our distance.

“You are as ignorant as a child,” Marudak spat. His fingers twitched as his clouded eyes tracked the point of my Spear. “Stealing the souls of my sages, trespassing on sacred ground, and reviving an order that should never have seen the light of day.”

“I haven’t harvested these two yet,” I said, gesturing at his proxy and the fallen Apkalla behind him. “But I’d be glad to take them off your hands.”

The avatar shrieked, a cry made pitiful by its stiffening syrinx. “Return what is mine, at once, and leave my land.”

“What, this place?” I looked around at the forest. “Seems to me you’re on Carthian territory, and your mortals are trying to kidnap one of mine.”

The carcass sniffed, its head twitching side to side. “This smell….What have you done to my realm?”

“You mean my realm.” I bared my teeth in a wide grin. “And I can smell the cooking flesh from here. Your avatar isn’t going to hold up much longer.”

Scowling, Marudak flexed his fingers, although the digits moved perceptibly slower than before. “What a nuisance you Carthians have become. Does your God of War know you antagonize a foe you cannot handle? There can be no diverting from direct conflict with me if you do not rescind your claim immediately. Your pantheon and your mortals’ lives will be forfeit.”

I barked a laugh, hefting my Spear. “You don’t get out much, do you?”

“I have no need.” The Apkalla’s left eye went dim as Marudak’s power burnt it, its wings sagging. “My servants, with the occasional reprimand, serve me faithfully. But you–” He narrowed his remaining eye. “You are the God of War. Or what’s left of him.”

“Perceptive.” I shifted to his left, anticipating his next move. With his body falling apart, if he was going to attack, he’d have to strike soon. His left side was deteriorating more quickly, so staying on his weak side would give me the best counters.

“So this is your declaration of war.” Extending his claws, he turned to shield his declining half. “What a mess an errant child can make.”

I surged forward, putting my Spear through his chest. His right leg buckled beneath the sudden weight, and his claws swiped nothing but air as I brought him to the ground. Crushing his ribs underfoot, I set my full weight on the shaft. It didn’t kill him, obviously, but it immobilized his proxy.

“First of all,” I said, twisting the weapon, “she is ours, not yours. You have no more claim over her than you do the dirt you’re eating. Second, land you abandoned does not qualify as ‘yours’ anymore, either. And third, you’re just an asshole.”

“I will remember your face.” The corpse glared at me before combusting. Divine fire, sizzling against the rain, consumed its feathers and blackened its limbs. Despite the trembles shaking its body as the power consumed, it managed a hateful look. “When I come, you will be among the first to die.”

“Threaten me again when you’re not falling to pieces.” I yanked my Spear out and let the last of the fire cremate the proxy.

Rays of sunlight burst from its ribcage, a particularly thick beam from where my Spear had impaled it. Golden light mingled with the shriek fleeing its mouth, spots of brilliance dancing across its charred limbs like leaves floating down a river. With a woosh, the blaze went out, and the light with it.

I blinked at the rain and the sudden stillness.

Marudak was coming here. I didn’t know if the Paedens had an equivalent to our portals, but a god as powerful as he could cover leagues in an instant, in all likelihood. I vanished my Spear and ran in the direction Hasda had gone. We needed to get Jade out, and fast. It was highly unlikely that the Sea Mother and Marudak would work together, but they didn’t need to coordinate to crush us between two fronts.

A peal of thunder shook the air above me. I sprinted faster. We had to get her, not soon, but now.


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Mon Aug 29, 2022 2:54 am
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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...that confrontation was over faster than I thought it would be, which is great but also whatever is coming next is certainly not going to be pretty and that is certainly not great. Well, I think the climax approaches soon.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Choosing a direction would've been hard, were it not for the sudden flare of sour magic on my right. It reminded me of the djinn’s aura, but curdled. I rushed through the forest, summoning my Spear as I neared the nexus of energy.

When I finally found the source, I pulled up short. The two Apkalla swirled around a wraithy figure, their wings scattering the purple fire as they battered him with their downdrafts.The eagle-headed Apkalla, a pair of wings short of his falcon-headed companion, dueled with the figure. Each collision of their swords bent the metal and flung showers of sparks in the increasing rain. Quad wings flurrying, the falcon-headed sage raked his taloned feet and dodged swipes from his quarry’s sword.

If it weren’t for the telltale hue of the flame on his sword, I wouldn’t have recognized the enshrouded warrior as Hasda. He was completely consumed by the flame, his eyes white with fire, arcs of energy slashing in the wake of his strikes. His movements matched the pace set by the Apkalla, his speed increasing as the battle prolonged.


Okay...well it seems the real battle of sorts where things are properly going down happens to be over here. Its certainly quite a sight there...and pretty much exactly what was probably set to happen when Charax provided that warning to Hasda earlier on about not fighting things.

Although Carthians had fallen around them, there weren’t enough bodies to account for the remainder of the squad sent with Hasda. Inkashi was missing as well, and I didn’t see any sign of Jade. The scattered corpses of lightly-armored Paedens showed what had happened to the few soldiers who’d stayed behind with the Apkalla. As for the sages, they fought as themselves and not under Marudak’s control.

No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than the four-winged Apkalla started to glow.

The aura dulled with the falcon impaled on my Spear. I didn’t register moving until I’d flung him off and thrust the eagle-headed one through, his weight trying to drag the Spear from my hand. Hasda had reflexively guarded, but his eyes shone with no recognition of me.

He smelled worse, now that I stood next to him. The mend in his armor had bubbled up like an infected scar and pulsed in time with his labored breathing. His sword, still angled between us, dripped liquid fire the same violet hue as the flame which engulfed every inch of him.

I vanished my Spear. “Hasda?”


Well Hasda certainly doesn't look like he's in the best of shape, which does make sense given just how dangerous this particular situation looks. At the very least it looks like nothing life threatening has managed to happen just yet so that's something good.

The white fire coating his eyes flickered before winking out. “Dad?”

“What is this?” I gestured at the shroud.

“We…I…” He looked dazed. The fire shimmered and subsided to his shoulders, unobscuring his face. Frowning, he shook his head. “We weren’t supposed to use this yet. But there were gods…”

“These two?” I jerked my head towards the feathered corpses.

He shook his head. “There was another. She took Jade. I sent the soldiers after them.”

So that’s where the last of his troops went. I nodded. “Let’s go get her.”

Power surged through the four-winged Apkalla. The body thrashed on the ground, and then settled. With a whistling wheeze, it pushed itself off the ground.

“So…” it rasped. “You’re the soul thief.”

Golden light radiated from its body. Its wings jerked in unlife, shedding a few feathers as they tucked down on its back. Glazed eyes met my own, although there was an intelligence beneath the film.


Okay...well I suppose at the very least it means that this Marudak is getting involved in the fight much like Seppo so the diplomacy if such a thing can even be counted on after so many deaths on both sides, is a little bit more sound than it otherwise could have been here.

I summoned my Sword as Hasda helmeted his head in the djinn’s fire.

“At least you finally sent the men.” The reanimated Apkalla coughed a laugh. “Although fielding a tuzshu against me…” It shook its head. “Where did you find it?”

Marudak had clearly assumed control of his sage, and the fact that he could puppet the Apkalla, even in death, boded ill for how well our battle would go. Mortal proxies, even semi-divine, often lost their connection–and therefore utility–to their deity when they died. But Marudak was operating through the corpse with no visible exertion, which meant we’d need to torch the thing through Marudak’s protective shielding if we wanted to stop it.

And we still hadn’t freed Jade.

“Can you follow their trail?” I said as I positioned myself between Hasda and the Apkalla.

“I think so.”

“Then go. I’ll take care of this.” I adjusted my grip on my Sword as I stared down the undead proxy.


Okay...well it seems Hasda is going to be tangling with some proper divine beings pretty much all by himself after all. At least it does seem like he can reasonably hold his own. The only somewhat disappointing part her is that its clear Inkashi ran away with Jade and is not willing to release her.

“I did not give you permission to leave.” Marudak managed to convey boredom even through the fowl head. With a flick of his hand, he sent a burst of energy arcing towards Hasda.

I deflected it off the flat of my blade, but Pek, that did a number on my wrists. If that was how much power he could send through a corpse, he was going to be a nightmare in person. Grunting, I squared off and planted my feet. Strong or not, he wasn’t getting to Hasda.

The avatar flicked its wings in annoyance. “Must I exert myself for such a slug?”

“Maggots in the carcass already?” I flashed a grin at his avian scowl.

“Must you Carthians persist in your vexatious loquaciousness?” Pinions flared, the avatar flexed his hands as he approached.


Okay...well that is a bit of trash talk I did not expect to see. Everyone was busting out the thesaurus in that moment. Well on the bright side this is more familiar territory for battles with Charax. It when things get silent and very serious that you need to start worrying so I'm not too concerned just yet.

“Behold! Thou shalt likewise curb thy verboseness..” I prepped for our collision, though I kept my aura concealed.

“Prattling simpleton.” Marudak dashed forward, his strike rattling my Sword nearly out of my hands. Wind rushed around the proxy as it spun, slamming its wings into me.

This close, our limbs tangled and I couldn’t get an angle with my Sword. I vanished my weapon and thrust the avatar away. As we separated, I switched to my Spear and brandished it to maintain our distance.

“You are as ignorant as a child,” Marudak spat. His fingers twitched as his clouded eyes tracked the point of my Spear. “Stealing the souls of my sages, trespassing on sacred ground, and reviving an order that should never have seen the light of day.”

“I haven’t harvested these two yet,” I said, gesturing at his proxy and the fallen Apkalla behind him. “But I’d be glad to take them off your hands.”

The avatar shrieked, a cry made pitiful by its stiffening syrinx. “Return what is mine, at once, and leave my land.”


Okay...that is a very interesting declaration. As much as I am not a fan of this dude, I get the feeling something about this isn't quite adding up and maybe Charax is blaming this Marudak for something Marudak isn't necessarily as aware of as Charax imagined.

“What, this place?” I looked around at the forest. “Seems to me you’re on Carthian territory, and your mortals are trying to kidnap one of mine.”

The carcass sniffed, its head twitching side to side. “This smell….What have you done to my realm?”

“You mean my realm.” I bared my teeth in a wide grin. “And I can smell the cooking flesh from here. Your avatar isn’t going to hold up much longer.”

Scowling, Marudak flexed his fingers, although the digits moved perceptibly slower than before. “What a nuisance you Carthians have become. Does your God of War know you antagonize a foe you cannot handle? There can be no diverting from direct conflict with me if you do not rescind your claim immediately. Your pantheon and your mortals’ lives will be forfeit.”

I barked a laugh, hefting my Spear. “You don’t get out much, do you?”


Well if we ever do meet this one in person, I have no doubts at all that he would make a particularly charming sparring partner. This is definitely one god that does not like stepping outside at all but staying behind lots of puppets and thinking everyone is beneath him. But then you also wonder if this one can in fact get out, it could just be that thought of everything being beneath him but I'm wondering if there's more to this here.

“I have no need.” The Apkalla’s left eye went dim as Marudak’s power burnt it, its wings sagging. “My servants, with the occasional reprimand, serve me faithfully. But you–” He narrowed his remaining eye. “You are the God of War. Or what’s left of him.”

“Perceptive.” I shifted to his left, anticipating his next move. With his body falling apart, if he was going to attack, he’d have to strike soon. His left side was deteriorating more quickly, so staying on his weak side would give me the best counters.

“So this is your declaration of war.” Extending his claws, he turned to shield his declining half. “What a mess an errant child can make.”

I surged forward, putting my Spear through his chest. His right leg buckled beneath the sudden weight, and his claws swiped nothing but air as I brought him to the ground. Crushing his ribs underfoot, I set my full weight on the shaft. It didn’t kill him, obviously, but it immobilized his proxy.


Okay...well this guy certainly has some attitude, it puts Charax's to shame at any rate. The declaration of war part of this was unfortunately not as surprising as I expected it to be and I get the feeling that is the end of diplomacy for this one, no matter how many valid points Charax and Malia bring up.

“First of all,” I said, twisting the weapon, “she is ours, not yours. You have no more claim over her than you do the dirt you’re eating. Second, land you abandoned does not qualify as ‘yours’ anymore, either. And third, you’re just an asshole.”

“I will remember your face.” The corpse glared at me before combusting. Divine fire, sizzling against the rain, consumed its feathers and blackened its limbs. Despite the trembles shaking its body as the power consumed, it managed a hateful look. “When I come, you will be among the first to die.”

“Threaten me again when you’re not falling to pieces.” I yanked my Spear out and let the last of the fire cremate the proxy.

Rays of sunlight burst from its ribcage, a particularly thick beam from where my Spear had impaled it. Golden light mingled with the shriek fleeing its mouth, spots of brilliance dancing across its charred limbs like leaves floating down a river. With a woosh, the blaze went out, and the light with it.

I blinked at the rain and the sudden stillness.

Marudak was coming here. I didn’t know if the Paedens had an equivalent to our portals, but a god as powerful as he could cover leagues in an instant, in all likelihood. I vanished my Spear and ran in the direction Hasda had gone. We needed to get Jade out, and fast. It was highly unlikely that the Sea Mother and Marudak would work together, but they didn’t need to coordinate to crush us between two fronts.

A peal of thunder shook the air above me. I sprinted faster. We had to get her, not soon, but now.


Hmm well...okay...I was not expecting that to be the conclusion of that. I was imagining that confrontation being a bit postponed for later but it appears we're instead going to have it happen right now. Well that definitely catches me a little off guard. I was expecting an epic battle, but not one quite this big. I have a feeling things are about to really fall apart very soon.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, I think we're witnessing the setup to that final confrontation. The pieces are falling into place and those stakes are being slowly established. I can't wait to see where you end up taking things here. :)

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Sun Aug 07, 2022 2:37 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review! Sorry it's been a while— I was working for the month of July and now I'm starting to tour universities, so it's been hard to find time to review, but here I am!

This chapter was great! It had both Charax showing his opponents sass and some father-son dual dueling, which are some of my favorite elements in this story. I liked how those lighter elements were contrasted with the unmistakably foreboding atmosphere these last few chapters have been building up. We're definitely on the brink of something big, and now that Marudak and the Sea Mother are fast approaching, I'm quite curious as to how everything will play out.

The dialogue between Charax and Marudak through his proxy was definitely the meat of the chapter, and I enjoyed how you wrote it. On the one hand, Charax with his quick wit was welcome in a more grim time like this in the story, but on the other hand, I was a little frustrated at Charax for agitating Marudak as much as he did. Like I get that smack talk is an important defensive manoeuvre to reiterate that the goddess and land are yours, but you really don't need any more powerful and angry beings coming for you right now. Still, it definitely added some much needed levity and also was, y'know, fun to read. The moment where Charax had the proxy pinned to the ground and said his list of things was a definite mic drop moment, and it (and the other exchanges) made this chapter super engaging.

Specifics

If it weren’t for the telltale hue of the flame on his sword, I wouldn’t have recognized the enshrouded warrior as Hasda. He was completely consumed by the flame, his eyes white with fire, arcs of energy slashing in the wake of his strikes. His movements matched the pace set by the Apkalla, his speed increasing as the battle prolonged.


I enjoyed this description of Hasda; I think you did a good job of highlighting this new warrior side of him. I feel like we haven't seen much of him in action, or at least, not like this—he's really come into his own in this arc of the story, and I like how we get to see that here. I'm curious how much of it is the djinn's work/manipulation and how much is Hasda, though. I'm beginning to think I should be worried about how much Hasda seems to be tied to the djinn.

“Behold! Thou shalt likewise curb thy verboseness..”


Small thing: can't tell if the two periods are supposed to be three, to form an ellipses, or just one. Either way, it seems like a typo, so I thought I'd point it out!

Rays of sunlight burst from its ribcage, a particularly thick beam from where my Spear had impaled it. Golden light mingled with the shriek fleeing its mouth, spots of brilliance dancing across its charred limbs like leaves floating down a river. With a woosh, the blaze went out, and the light with it.


Great visual moment. This would be a super cool special effects moment if this were ever made into some sort of visual media, and I love how you convey a just-as-stunning image through your words.

Overall: great work! I liked the ominous ending. Hopefully Marudak will be easy to handle, but I doubt it'll be that way. Eagerly anticipating the imminent showdown that seems fast approaching! Until next time!






No worries, glad you're back. Yep, we're definitely shaping up for something massive lol. Idk when but very soon




cron
It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
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