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16+ Language

The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 126: "The Change"

by dragonfphoenix


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

The sight of the sandy-colored flagstones was a comfort I hadn’t realized I’d missed. Cushioning this was the reassuring babble of the fountain, a relaxing contrast to the hostile aura of Strixenvaas’ tributaries. Strangely, the pavilion where I’d recovered after fighting the Sea Mother still stood, its wispy curtains furling in the soft breeze.

Malia’s purple portal flared to life next to me, edges bleeding red.

“What’s that look for?” Malia kissed my jaw as she slipped through.

I jerked my head at her collapsing portal. “When did yours start changing color?”

“Has yours begun shifting as well?” Her eyes flashed triumphant at my nod. “Well, then that sounds like cause for celebration.”

“And which of your plans has come to fruition this time?”

Smiling, she slid under my arm and pulled me towards the fountain. “I had a feeling all we needed was a nudge.”

“Hmm.” The fountain splashed our backs as we settled on the ledge. “Nudging us towards what?”

She giggled. “Notice anything unusual about your astral projection?”

“So you cleared Tamiyat’s toxins from that plane?”

“No.” That turned her grin to a pout. “She likely hasn’t involved herself above Curnerein long enough to have infected its correlative region. But that wasn’t what I was getting at.”

I arched a brow. “Must I guess?”

Another pout. “Well, it’s less fun if I just tell you.”

“While we do have extended time in the maas, the more we take advantage of that, the further away Hasda can get.” I rubbed her shoulder. “And his men aren’t going to last much longer. So while I normally enjoy your surprises, there isn’t enough time to enjoy them right now.”

“You didn’t call me here for some fun? Dick.” Her wing lightly bapped the back of my head. “Our continued conflict with the Sea Mother is strengthening our astral forms. By the time we discover a way to bind her, we should be able to match her as Titans.”

I frowned. “So we’ll have astral portals?”

“That’s a thought.” She hummed thoughtfully as she nestled closer. “I’ll have to test that theory next time.”

“Speaking of theories.” Gently I shifted her around to pull out the piece of rent barrier I’d saved. “Could we use this to create a Divine Veil?”

Malia jerked upright and clasped the fabric.

“Now, hold on.” I gave her a look. “This was designed to inhibit movement, not sight. But could we change its functionality?”

Snake tongues flickering, she rubbed her thumbs across the material. “Perhaps. But you’ve given me another idea.” Eyes glittering, she looked at me with a mix of fervor and passion. “You stupid, beautiful bastard. I knew I chose well, but how dare you one-up my gift giving.”

I grinned. “Are you going to tell me this new idea? Or is it a future surprise?”

“Astral barriers.” Her fangs pressed into her lower lip as she smiled. “And, perhaps, an Astral Veil. Although, if Veils are tied to the plane below—given the current one blocks us only from mortal view—then we’d have to go above Titanic to make such a thing. But we could probably construct a Veil to shield us from other gods, once we’ve solidified our astral forms.”

I hugged her close. “An astral barrier could be a way to keep the Sea Mother out of Carthia, if we can’t confine her. But something tells me we’ll need more than a wall for a long-term solution.”

Slipping the shorn piece of barrier out of sight, she cuddled into my side. “If you’re not here for some us time, why did you call me?”

“Hasda’s encountered some obstacles that have proved difficult.” I rubbed her shoulder. “I was hoping you’d have some suggestions.”

“Depends on the hazards.”

I grunted. “For starters, the Stitcher has started a battle of attrition. He ambushed Hasda and his men with a flock of undead birds, which have left all but our chosen in dire condition. Apparently, Jade gave him a stash of ambrosia, which he used to force healing on the men—and yes, he diluted it—but it left the mortals on death’s doorstep.”

“Abandon them.” Malia nuzzled my neck. “I know he’s as sentimental as his father, but they’ll only slow him down. And he’ll have a better time avoiding and answering ambushes alone.”

I nudged her shoulder. “We both know he won’t do that.”

“Mmm, his stubbornness is also familiar.”

Chuckling, I kissed her head. “Hasda had found an ambitious family of rats, or perhaps they found him. Their self-proclaimed king has offered to assist with the undead animals at the cost of granting him divinity.” Briefly I related Kydon’s stipulations, and my own concerns as to who could fulfill the request and what kind of task Hasda could complete in payment.

Malia hummed against my chest as she listened. When I finished, she clicked her tongue. “I don’t know that I’d want to raise a beast I couldn’t control. And I don’t like his scheming.” Shaking her head, she sighed and sagged against me. “Those elvish shamans, the coilna, were among Vythar’s retinue yesterday, though they broke away by evening. Perhaps they could work some magic that would satisfy the rat. If I see them again, I’ll send them your way.”

“How has Vythar been conducting himself?”

“Besides harassing Thrax’s flank and being an ass?” She looked up through her snakes and gave me one of her unsettling, predatory grins. “It’s been a fun dance intimidating him enough to have him keep his distance, but feigning weakness enough to encourage engagement.”

“That explains the annoyance.” Massaging her shoulder, I smile at her sudden frown. “And the Sleepless?”

“Vythar has been useful in that regard, at least.” A self-satisfied smile split her lips. “I’ve diverted a few bands of undead into his lancers, and he’s handled them easily. But the only hint he’s given to his abilities is that he might have inherited his father’s metal affinity. His right arm is entirely silver, although I haven’t determined if it’s sheathed or a simulacrum.”

“Is he the only deity in the vicinity?” I held her close as her wings flicked. “The Weeping Queen’s daughter appeared once, but she hasn’t returned as of yet.”

“I’ve seen Lazuli in the distance a few times, but never close enough to merit leaving Thrax behind.” She frowned. “I don’t like that the only indication we have of the Sea Mother is Lazuli’s presence. The astral plane should be worse than it is if she’s close, she’s abandoned Lazuli more than once, and yet every instinct screams that she’s waiting at the end of this Trial.”

“A bridge to burn when we find it.” I kissed the top of her head.

“The daughter still doesn’t have a voice?”

I shook my head. “I thought I could hear something last time, but very faintly. It’s like her spirit is fragmented among her willowisps.”

“Or she’s yet to be born.” Malia slipped a hand into the fountain and let the water wash over her palm. “It’s not impossible that she’s still developing, especially given the state of her parents’ pantheon. With her father gone and her mother insane, she might have lost her mold.”

“And we should let her make her own, or wait for her mother,” I said, grinning at Malia’s sullen look. “We’re supposed to leave the local pantheon intact, remember?”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t fashion a burgeoning goddess in my image.”

I tapped her nose. “No, but just a moment ago you were worrying about a scheming rodent getting out of control. You want a divine pupil potentially matching you?”

“You’re no fun.” Withdrawing her hand, she flicked water at me before folding her arms and sagging against me. A little quieter, she said, “Have you had any visions on this trip?”

“Thankfully, no. And may the fates remain ignorant of that remark.” I sighed. “Did you ever figure out what Phe told Kydon about this Trial?”

“Not yet. Oh, which reminds me.” Wings flapping, she scooted upright. “There’s a rider among Vythar’s troop that is distinctly non-Elthiian. From his garb, I suspect he’s Paeden, but he’s not divine.”

“A Paeden, all the way out here?” I frowned.

Snakes hissing, she nodded. “I didn’t want to spook the little godling, getting too close. But from the foreigner’s proximity to Vythar, and the way the lancers respect him, he’s either a significant mortal or one of those demigod mages Marudak favors.”

And where Apkalla were, Paeden deities seemed to follow.

Malia snapped her wings and hissed. “I could find out why he’s in the region, but that would mean stalling Thrax’s advance to capture him. And we can’t fight mounted soldiers while protecting our flank from the undead.”

“Which means leaving your curiosity to burn unfulfilled.”

“My favorite.” She flashed an insincere smile.

We sat in silence for a bit.

Rubbing her shoulder, I said, “Oh, one last thing, before I head back.”

She held up her hand. “Two, but you may say your peace first.”

I laughed. “All right. How is the wildlife in your region of the forest?”

“Hmm.” Her eyebrows scrunched together. “I hadn’t been watching for them, but I also can’t recall seeing any.”

I nodded. “Watch out for jackals. I haven’t gotten a clear look at the ones I’ve seen, but my gut doesn’t like the way they were moving. Not migration patterns, and not really any sensible reason for them to be where they were. For scavengers, it was strange they avoided the piles of undead Hasda left behind.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Now.” Burying her hand in my robes, she tugged me close. “Time’s been stretched, so I don’t want to hear any excuses. I will be satisfied before you leave.”

I grunted as our lips met. She could be very persuasive sometimes, and she was right. Hasda wouldn’t get that far before I returned.

And Kydon was there. Hasda was safe.

“Stop thinking so hard and kiss me, asshole.”

As you wish.


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Thu Jun 27, 2024 10:12 pm
EllieMae wrote a review...



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Hey there, friend! Ellie here to leave you a review. Let's jump right in (:

The sight of the sandy-colored flagstones was a comfort I hadn’t realized I’d missed. Cushioning this was the reassuring babble of the fountain, a relaxing contrast to the hostile aura of Strixenvaas’ tributaries. Strangely, the pavilion where I’d recovered after fighting the Sea Mother still stood, its wispy curtains furling in the soft breeze.


To begin, the first thing I noticed about your writing in this chapter is your incredible vocabulary and your wonderful detailed sentences, rich with layers of details. I love how you describe the flagstones as sandy-colored. That gives me a really great idea of the color right from the start, instead of just using some sort of basic color like 'beige' or 'cream'. Describing the fountain as babbling as well really stood out to me. Just great word choices here and everywhere. This makes it so much more exciting to read thought and stay engaged with!

I grunted. “For starters, the Stitcher has started a battle of attrition. He ambushed Hasda and his men with a flock of undead birds, which have left all but our chosen in dire condition. Apparently, Jade gave him a stash of ambrosia, which he used to force healing on the men—and yes, he diluted it—but it left the mortals on death’s doorstep.”


Above, I mentioned how much I loved your word choices and attention to details. The quite above is an example of how you can set this stream/flow and stick to it throughout the entire novel. It seems to flow like an incredibly detailed stream of consciousness, like a river of words, telling a tale. Overall, great work!

I really liked this chapter and look forward to reading more! I have sort of just been hopping around to the odd chapter here and there, but I would love to really start from the beginning and make my way thought the whole novel soon.

Like I said, fantastic work! Keep writing!

Your friend,
Ellie

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Wed Jun 19, 2024 12:24 am
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Back to the Sea Mother, I see! I liked how this conversation tied Tamiyat into it as well; I feel like, in a way, that's Charax's Trial, and even though this is technically Hasda's moment, it's nice to keep all the conflicts relevant. We also had some blasts from the past in this conversation between Malia and Charax, what with the Paeden; now I'm probably going to have to go back to remind myself who exactly Marudak was.

I'm also curious about the jackals; Charax has brought them up a few times. It seems like they might serve a role in Hasda's Trial and the eventual downfall of the Stitcher, given all that you've revealed so far. In all, I feel like you're building up a lot of unanswered questions in these most recent parts, and I'm anxious to get some closure on at least some of them!

Specifics

“Our continued conflict with the Sea Mother is strengthening our astral forms. By the time we discover a way to bind her, we should be able to match her as Titans.”


Well, that's certainly a development! This is making me even more excited for their eventual face-off.

A little quieter, she said, “Have you had any visions on this trip?”

“Thankfully, no. And may the fates remain ignorant of that remark.” I sighed.


This somehow feels like foreshadowing.

“Stop thinking so hard and kiss me, asshole.”

As you wish.


I know formatting sometimes gets messed up when you copy-paste from elsewhere, but I think that the last sentence should either be in quotation marks or italicized. The way it's formatted now, it seems like a weird switch into second person where Charax is addressing the audience.

Overall: nice work! It was nice to have Malia again, and I look forward to seeing how Hasda's trial progresses! Until next time!





I do not use my siblings as the cleaning equipment.
— Tuckster