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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 42: "The Collapse"

by dragonfphoenix


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

A deluge poured over me, sweeping me off my feet. The water surged, battering me against several bodies, one of which felt like Thane. With how furious the water was, it was impossible to tell. Bubbles clouded my vision and popped in my nostrils. And, for the record, swimming in heavy robes sucked.

Eventually the water settled, scattering us across the ground like soggy, lumpy fish. Thane was off to my right, legs in the air as the temple steps dug into his shoulders. Many other cultists and priests lay in uncomfortable positions as well, some so wound up in their robes it was hard to tell heads from butts.

Coughing, I pushed myself off the ground, yanking at my sleeves as the wet fabric clung to my elbows. My staff was nowhere to be seen, but with my powers back, it would’ve been simple ornamentation so it was no great loss. The Apkalla was nowhere to be seen, either. I couldn’t see him or sense any aura, but with the massive energy levels radiating from Nanshe, I didn’t think I’d be able to sense Galamma even if he were still at the plaza.

Nanshe’s shoulders bobbed as she drew ragged breaths. Hunched over and dripping wet, she resembled a freshly-bathed cat, and her face looked just as pleased. Her eyes were practically miniature suns with how golden they’d become, undimmed from her outburst. At her sides, she flexed her hands, talons screeching as she scraped them together.

“Hey!” I shouted over the squealing. “Where’s your guppy?”

She slowly straightened her head, glaring at me through the ridges where her eyebrows would be. “I sent him to deal with Tamiyat. I can only pray that he and a legion of derketo are competent enough to return the prisoner to her cell.”

Signal fires lit in the back of my mind, but I ignored them for now. Flashing my teeth, I grinned as I approached her. “You’re not worried you’ll need his help? It is two versus one, after all.”

“Ah, a side of humor to this pile of dung.” She sniffed. “I have more than enough power to handle a pair of washed-up, half-dead—” Her voice caught on the phrase, and she tilted her head at me.

My grin widened. “Do continue.”

“Half...dead.” She rolled the phrase around her tongue, looking disgusted and displeased. “You reek of death, but you’re not the God of Death. How?”

“I was.” I couldn’t help the feeling of pride that washed over me, both at what I’d once been and how confused that made her. In my peripheral vision, I saw Thane flanking Nanshe on her blind side, but I kept my eyes steady. “Now? It’s complicated, but you can consider me one of the Gods of War.”

“Pathetic.” She flared her hands, crouching to pounce. “You’re not even strong enough to hold a dominion by yourself.”

Thane grabbed his scythe as it materialized by his side. As he raised it, Nanshe crouched and twirled, kicking up an arc of water that knocked him back. She spun on her heel, raising a vortex around her. Water slapped my feet, waves rippling as Nanshe poured more seawater onto the plaza. When the vortex reached twice my height, a wave surged out.

Well, shit.

Even with my powers marginally restored, my body was never going to outrun that thing. Forearms crossed in front of me, I braced myself and took the wave head-on. It felt like getting an aggressive hug from a brick wall, and the force nearly knocked me off my feet. My vision swam with stars, and I coughed to get the salty taste out of my mouth.

Nanshe advanced as I was still picking myself up. “Is that really all you have?”

“Just getting warmed up.” I staggered, falling to a knee as I struggled to stand up. “You’ll see…”

I trailed off as I saw her. She’d dropped the vortex, or maybe used it up in that tidal wave, but she stood tall, head tentacles flared in a halo, hands channeling streams ready to lance forward at a moment’s notice. But it wasn’t the display of power that caught my eye. No, it was the fact that her skin was rapidly changing color. And not just that, but lighting up, too. Pulses of pale blue light raced down her tentacles and face, bands of burgundy and bronze trailing alternating between the bioluminescence.

“Neat trick.” I grinned. “You must be really popular at parties. Or the circus.”

A jet of water slammed into my chest but with half the force of the tidal wave. Although it rocked me back, I managed to keep my footing. And I could feel the tingle of my power in my veins. Not thawed enough to do any serious damage yet, but returning nevertheless. But if I could keep her annoyed and distracted long enough, I could probably work up something nasty, or give Thane a chance to get a strike in while her attention was elsewhere. Probably.

Speaking of the devil, he was taking his sweet-ass time about doing something. I took another blow from a water javelin across my cheek and had to quickly duck a third. The sudden movement made my ears feel inflated and my head swam. Nothing a little ambrosia couldn’t fix, if I’d had any. I giggled. If only I’d brought some with me. But silly me, avoiding Nebesa for as long as I had, how would I have thought to be remotely prepared for anything? Another chuckle escaped me right before a thick column of water slapped me across the face, knocking my head back and clacking my teeth together.

“What on earth are you laughing about?” Nanshe demanded. Another whip of water spiraled above her.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” I cackled. I couldn’t help myself. Not only was my vision going blurry again, I was practically giddy, which was very, very bad. She was barely damaging me, and yet all my recovered energy was going towards preventing damage and restoring what had occurred. Belatedly I realized that the tingling I’d felt was my body regenerating at an accelerated rate, and the mental fog and black rings in my peripherals meant I was exerting myself too much. But I had my powers back, if only in part, so that shouldn’t have been a problem. Right?

The world tilted. My nose crunched against the stone, my knees hammering into the hard ground as the whip snapped across my ankles. When had she struck? I hadn’t even heard the crack as the water went supersonic. And it had. My fractured ankles told me as much.

“Drop your avatar!” Thane shouted. His scythe flashed as he twirled around Nanshe, trying to carve through her protective vortex. She was still pulsing with that strange light, and several times Thane’s steps faltered in their dance of war. That light must have some mesmeric properties or something. So pretty.

Fog. Sparkles. Oil-spilled rainbows on the surface of seas. The fangs of hunger tearing at my abdomen. Sleepy, so sleepy. Nose pain. Hard to breathe. Avatar?

Excruciating torment spiked in my chest. The delirium cleared, revealing that strange priestess with the white face and funny expressions. Her eyes were pinched with worry, her fingers wrapped around the hilt of the dagger in my chest. Water had streaked through the powder on her face, revealing the telltale tan hue of a Paeden.

“Charax?” she whispered. Her breath puffed against me, and she was so close I thought we were hugging. But then the pain lanced across my chest again, and I remembered the dagger still embedded there.

Ah, she was trying to kill me.

I laughed. Even without being half delirious, it was still a funny thought. “Can’t kill a god,” I mumbled. My eyes rolled, my head tilted, the world swam.

She twisted the knife, and I gasped. “Drop the body, you idiot.”

“Drop...what?” I coughed blood and sagged against her. Ow.

“Eject!” Snarling, she yanked the blade out and stabbed me once, twice, thrice. The last strike pierced my solar plexus, and I retched on her white tunic, staining it yellow and red.

That hurt, gods damn it.

“Why, you…” I gasped. Or tried to, anyways. I wasn’t sure my tongue was quite obeying my commands. And my voice sounded congested. Oh, yeah, the broken nose bit.

“Fine.”

One moment, she was before me, the next, she was on my back. My robes tightened as she yanked on them, arching my spine as she pulled my head back. Like a sacrificial animal, she raised her knife over me, ready to sink it into my neck. The blade dripped with salt water and blood, the gray, exposed metal glinting in the sunlight. As the point plunged down, my spirit recoiled and pushed backwards, fleeing my body.

The lifeless husk collapsed in her arms as the blade made contact. Gasping, she shot up and jerked back, flinging the knife away from her. What had once been my avatar crumbled to dust, dissolving into the water that had flooded the plaza. 


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Fri Aug 27, 2021 4:10 am
KateHardy wrote a review...



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

Hi! I'm baaack with another review!!

First Impression: Alrighty, we have ourselves a proper fight for the first time in ages and it managed to live up to all of the expectation I had at any rate...because this was a pretty awesome chapter here...definitely throwing more questions into the mix but also answering a few I think.

Anyway let's get right to it,

A deluge poured over me, sweeping me off my feet. The water surged, battering me against several bodies, one of which felt like Thane. With how furious the water was, it was impossible to tell. Bubbles clouded my vision and popped in my nostrils. And, for the record, swimming in heavy robes sucked.

Eventually the water settled, scattering us across the ground like soggy, lumpy fish. Thane was off to my right, legs in the air as the temple steps dug into his shoulders. Many other cultists and priests lay in uncomfortable positions as well, some so wound up in their robes it was hard to tell heads from butts.


Oh wow...I do appreciate that Charax made sure to state for the record that his current attire was not very conducive towards swimming. But also...well, looks like someone wanted to really make a grand entrance there judging by that massive wave swamping everyone in sight.

Coughing, I pushed myself off the ground, yanking at my sleeves as the wet fabric clung to my elbows. My staff was nowhere to be seen, but with my powers back, it would’ve been simple ornamentation so it was no great loss. The Apkalla was nowhere to be seen, either. I couldn’t see him or sense any aura, but with the massive energy levels radiating from Nanshe, I didn’t think I’d be able to sense Galamma even if he were still at the plaza.

Nanshe’s shoulders bobbed as she drew ragged breaths. Hunched over and dripping wet, she resembled a freshly-bathed cat, and her face looked just as pleased. Her eyes were practically miniature suns with how golden they’d become, undimmed from her outburst. At her sides, she flexed her hands, talons screeching as she scraped them together.


Okay...well, she certainly doesn't appear to be pleased at that turn of events so we can safely rule out the possibility that this is some kind of scheme that she orchestrated, I'm assuming this is definitely the "more dramatic" work of the Sea Mother...perhaps she was listening when that earlier situation occurred.

“Hey!” I shouted over the squealing. “Where’s your guppy?”

She slowly straightened her head, glaring at me through the ridges where her eyebrows would be. “I sent him to deal with Tamiyat. I can only pray that he and a legion of derketo are competent enough to return the prisoner to her cell.”

Signal fires lit in the back of my mind, but I ignored them for now. Flashing my teeth, I grinned as I approached her. “You’re not worried you’ll need his help? It is two versus one, after all.”


Hmm...signal flares is definitely appropriate in that situation because that sounds like the Sea Mother is somehow supposed to be imprisoned in a cell for some reason or am I not remembering these names correctly...well...at any rate, we should finally have a proper fight on our hands.

“Ah, a side of humor to this pile of dung.” She sniffed. “I have more than enough power to handle a pair of washed-up, half-dead—” Her voice caught on the phrase, and she tilted her head at me.

My grin widened. “Do continue.”

“Half...dead.” She rolled the phrase around her tongue, looking disgusted and displeased. “You reek of death, but you’re not the God of Death. How?”


Hmm...well, that took her long enough to figure out...I suppose that's fair enough considering exactly how confusing and unique the current situation that Charax is in must be with respect to what she might have encountered before.

“I was.” I couldn’t help the feeling of pride that washed over me, both at what I’d once been and how confused that made her. In my peripheral vision, I saw Thane flanking Nanshe on her blind side, but I kept my eyes steady. “Now? It’s complicated, but you can consider me one of the Gods of War.”

“Pathetic.” She flared her hands, crouching to pounce. “You’re not even strong enough to hold a dominion by yourself.”


Okay...she's really reaching for the trash talk there...but I suppose it is somewhat accurate, or at least would seem accurate from her point of view.

Thane grabbed his scythe as it materialized by his side. As he raised it, Nanshe crouched and twirled, kicking up an arc of water that knocked him back. She spun on her heel, raising a vortex around her. Water slapped my feet, waves rippling as Nanshe poured more seawater onto the plaza. When the vortex reached twice my height, a wave surged out.

Well, shit.


Well...not a bad opening salvo there...definitely some interesting mechanics going on in this fight with Charax and Thane both appearing to be attempting to use weapons and well...whatever Charax plans on using but Nanshe is just going full water on everything.

Even with my powers marginally restored, my body was never going to outrun that thing. Forearms crossed in front of me, I braced myself and took the wave head-on. It felt like getting an aggressive hug from a brick wall, and the force nearly knocked me off my feet. My vision swam with stars, and I coughed to get the salty taste out of my mouth.

Nanshe advanced as I was still picking myself up. “Is that really all you have?”


That's a big ouch...I have to say first round of that fight goes solidly to Nanshe, these two were practically swatted aside there...not managing to do any kind of damage to Nanshe at all, and it looks like Charax just about barely managed to avoid getting knocked out by the first blow itself.

“Just getting warmed up.” I staggered, falling to a knee as I struggled to stand up. “You’ll see…”

I trailed off as I saw her. She’d dropped the vortex, or maybe used it up in that tidal wave, but she stood tall, head tentacles flared in a halo, hands channeling streams ready to lance forward at a moment’s notice. But it wasn’t the display of power that caught my eye. No, it was the fact that her skin was rapidly changing color. And not just that, but lighting up, too. Pulses of pale blue light raced down her tentacles and face, bands of burgundy and bronze trailing alternating between the bioluminescence.


Well I suppose that goes very well together with the tentacles..and its a nice way to try and sort of intimidate your opponents although I highly doubt that this is some form of offensive attack there...unless her plan is to hypnotize these two or something.

“Neat trick.” I grinned. “You must be really popular at parties. Or the circus.”

A jet of water slammed into my chest but with half the force of the tidal wave. Although it rocked me back, I managed to keep my footing. And I could feel the tingle of my power in my veins. Not thawed enough to do any serious damage yet, but returning nevertheless. But if I could keep her annoyed and distracted long enough, I could probably work up something nasty, or give Thane a chance to get a strike in while her attention was elsewhere. Probably.


That probably is very much necessary there, while the plan there looks fairly solid in theory, I don't think he's taking into account all the damage that Nanshe is currently doing to the two of them, they might be just never have enough power to make any sort of decisive move, especially Charax.

Speaking of the devil, he was taking his sweet-ass time about doing something. I took another blow from a water javelin across my cheek and had to quickly duck a third. The sudden movement made my ears feel inflated and my head swam. Nothing a little ambrosia couldn’t fix, if I’d had any. I giggled. If only I’d brought some with me. But silly me, avoiding Nebesa for as long as I had, how would I have thought to be remotely prepared for anything? Another chuckle escaped me right before a thick column of water slapped me across the face, knocking my head back and clacking my teeth together.


Okay...I mean Charax is usually fairly chill about battle but this seems to be something else almost, its as if he's getting a bit light headed from all of the pounding that the's currently taking, or at least that's the vibe I'm getting from these descriptions, if that wasn't meant to happen, you may want to reconsider that description a teensy bit.

“What on earth are you laughing about?” Nanshe demanded. Another whip of water spiraled above her.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” I cackled. I couldn’t help myself. Not only was my vision going blurry again, I was practically giddy, which was very, very bad. She was barely damaging me, and yet all my recovered energy was going towards preventing damage and restoring what had occurred. Belatedly I realized that the tingling I’d felt was my body regenerating at an accelerated rate, and the mental fog and black rings in my peripherals meant I was exerting myself too much. But I had my powers back, if only in part, so that shouldn’t have been a problem. Right?


Yup...okay, Charax is most definitely getting light headed there from being knocked around earlier and his limited powers are being fully stressed to their limit in preventing any major harm from being done to his body here.

The world tilted. My nose crunched against the stone, my knees hammering into the hard ground as the whip snapped across my ankles. When had she struck? I hadn’t even heard the crack as the water went supersonic. And it had. My fractured ankles told me as much.

“Drop your avatar!” Thane shouted. His scythe flashed as he twirled around Nanshe, trying to carve through her protective vortex. She was still pulsing with that strange light, and several times Thane’s steps faltered in their dance of war. That light must have some mesmeric properties or something. So pretty.


Ooooh...so this light is actually enacting some sort of hypnosis...or is it just Charax being really low on power...ahhh...its actually difficult to try and pick one of those reasons and it might just be a bit of a mix of both here. At any rate, I'm loving this description here, you can feel exactly how he's feeling here...and its like we're being disoriented ourselves.

Fog. Sparkles. Oil-spilled rainbows on the surface of seas. The fangs of hunger tearing at my abdomen. Sleepy, so sleepy. Nose pain. Hard to breathe. Avatar?

Excruciating torment spiked in my chest. The delirium cleared, revealing that strange priestess with the white face and funny expressions. Her eyes were pinched with worry, her fingers wrapped around the hilt of the dagger in my chest. Water had streaked through the powder on her face, revealing the telltale tan hue of a Paeden.


Okay...now this is in fact probably from the pain of getting impaled in the chest...although it looks like Charax is currently unable to process much and my hunch from earlier about that odd looking person being Azoria could be true...or at least someone that knows Charax cause she definitely recognize him.

“Charax?” she whispered. Her breath puffed against me, and she was so close I thought we were hugging. But then the pain lanced across my chest again, and I remembered the dagger still embedded there.

Ah, she was trying to kill me.


Hmm...well...I mean...hugging is a good way to think about it if cause I suppose gods are in fact immortal in some sense in this world...I must admit I don't remember those mechanics...although I think you did mention them wayyyy back when Hasda and Charax were first visiting the godly realm that I totally have not forgotten the name of

I laughed. Even without being half delirious, it was still a funny thought. “Can’t kill a god,” I mumbled. My eyes rolled, my head tilted, the world swam.

She twisted the knife, and I gasped. “Drop the body, you idiot.”

“Drop...what?” I coughed blood and sagged against her. Ow.


Okay...for some reason they seem to be thinking Charax needs to get out of this mortal body...is this referring to him doing the whole essence transfer into creating a mortal form thing...ahh...this could only mean that...right??

“Eject!” Snarling, she yanked the blade out and stabbed me once, twice, thrice. The last strike pierced my solar plexus, and I retched on her white tunic, staining it yellow and red.

That hurt, gods damn it.


Definite big ouchies right there...she seems very concerned about keeping her cover and making sure that Charax leaves whatever mortal body he's currently conjured here...or at least that's the feeling I get from this scene.

“Why, you…” I gasped. Or tried to, anyways. I wasn’t sure my tongue was quite obeying my commands. And my voice sounded congested. Oh, yeah, the broken nose bit.

“Fine.”


Uh oh....that can't be good...well it might be good for Charax in the long run but it certainly isn't going to look very good for Charax here.

One moment, she was before me, the next, she was on my back. My robes tightened as she yanked on them, arching my spine as she pulled my head back. Like a sacrificial animal, she raised her knife over me, ready to sink it into my neck. The blade dripped with salt water and blood, the gray, exposed metal glinting in the sunlight. As the point plunged down, my spirit recoiled and pushed backwards, fleeing my body.

The lifeless husk collapsed in her arms as the blade made contact. Gasping, she shot up and jerked back, flinging the knife away from her. What had once been my avatar crumbled to dust, dissolving into the water that had flooded the plaza.


Aaaand so he's dead..but he's not dead...well...definitely a fun ending there...gotta love those cliffhangers, they are always quite a bit of fun...well, I'd say a pretty satisfying conclusion to that fight there...aaand despite the deliriousness and complications during the fight I feel like this scene still managed to flow beautifully from start to finish. :D

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, this was a pretty solid chapter right here to run into...definitely enjoyed this one quite a bit. Ahh...the thought process of Charax especially in that mostly delirious state was as hilarious as it was accurate there...and I think I'm gonna read this chapter one more time cause it was that good. :D

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

Stay Safe
Harry




dragonfphoenix says...


Haha, I'm glad you liked it. I've been trying to get to this fight scene basically since they discovered the derketo in the temple. (Yes, it's taken forever to get here.)

Nebesa is the heavenly realm. (I definitely don't have a notebook of names helping me keep things straight, definitely not.) With Nanshe's light show, I took a bit of inspiration from the cuttlefish, a creature I was reminded of teaching the ocean-themed summer course for work. It's meant to be hypnotic on mortals, and Charax being in the state he was made it more effective than "zero affect," but it still would have had a greater influence on a normal mortal.

Next few chapters should be good as well, this whole section has a good bit of chunk to it and it's taken forever to get here lol.



KateHardy says...


:D

Also...oooh...that is pretty cool :D

Looking forward to that :D



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Fri Aug 27, 2021 12:20 am
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Ooh, this was a fun chapter!

One thing I really liked was all the action. Normally, I find it hard to write/read action. There's a delicate balance between too much and not enough, as well as intermingling dialogue enough in between that it keeps it varied but also not developing a repetitive pattern. You've somehow managed to do all that and make it so exciting to read. Nanshe and Charax's battle was very nicely executed and you hit it all at the right beats. Good job!

I'm also really curious about the character who emerged at the end. She knew of Charax, which seemed odd, because I don't think he shared it with anyone there. She also seemed to know Charax and how the gods worked. Could it be Azoria's in disguise, or is this a new character? There are a lot of possibilities, and I'm curious to see who she is!

Specifics

Well, shit.


This one felt like a more internal thought from Charax rather than narration, so I feel like it might benefit from italics.

It felt like getting an aggressive hug from a brick wall, and the force nearly knocked me off my feet.


I really loved this bit of comparison. I've been hit by a huge wave that quite literally knocked me over before (given, not one as big as that one, but still) and it definitely feels quite similar to that. It conjured up the feeling quite nicely, I'll have you know! Nice work.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.”


I'm torn here, since this is technically a question but it's also a taunt and I understand you were trying to convey tone. I feel like it might be better with a question mark, but it's really a stylistic choice up to you.

Fog. Sparkles. Oil-spilled rainbows on the surface of seas. The fangs of hunger tearing at my abdomen. Sleepy, so sleepy. Nose pain. Hard to breathe. Avatar?


I feel like this is another part that could be italicized.

The lifeless husk collapsed in her arms as the blade made contact. Gasping, she shot up and jerked back, flinging the knife away from her. What had once been my avatar crumbled to dust, dissolving into the water that had flooded the plaza.


Well. That might prove problematic. I'm also really curious about this priestess! She knew who Charax was and seemed to be on his side. Very curious to know what her connection to the story is.

Overall: nice work! I think this was a very action-packed chapter and was definitely enjoyable to read. I'm looking forward to the next one immensely! Until next time!




dragonfphoenix says...


Haha, thanks. It's been far too long trying to get to this fight, so I'm glad it went down well.

Hopefully more answers coming soon. (I know for a fact that some answers I wanted to get to next chapter still haven't come out yet, and it's annoying lol)

With the thoughts-as-narrative, I've consistently left them normal throughout the text. I know that it's become pretty standard convention to italicize "mentally spoken" things, but for my first person narratives, leaving the mental comments as just part of the text is something I've preferred doing, and I think it works better .




Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.
— Welcome to Night Vale