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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 51: "The Weight"

by dragonfphoenix


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

Unfortunately, the feast was not to be, at least not immediately. While Malia cleaned up the mess in Aenea, Seppo and I went to his maas to “have a chat.” A portal and a couple transfers later, and we were climbing the steps of Maas Bierg, headed for his throne room. Seppo plodded ahead of me, silent except for the occasional burst of steam from his exoskeleton. When I tried to initiate a conversation, he simply shook his head, his face serious.

I couldn’t tell if he was upset about something, but he certainly didn’t look happy despite his earlier words to Thane. He wasn’t unduly curt, though, and I couldn’t fault him for now wanting to air his thoughts in public. Still, I didn’t like being left to guess without direction as to his mental state.

We reached the top without incident. No sign of the previous earthquakes, although those had most likely been Malia and Tamiyat’s doing. Seppo’s guards uncrossed their spears to admit us, bowing stiffly at the waist as we passed. I couldn’t help falling into a parade rest as the doors swung shut behind me.

Seppo plunked across the cloudy field, his shoulders bowed. Instead of heading for his throne, however, he bent and scooped up a tuft of cloud, winding it around his fingers.

“So…” I let the word drag, unsure where to begin.

“Would you like a seat, Charax?” He kept his back to me, flicking the tail of the cloud past his shoulder, pulling it back, flicking it again. A nervous habit of his.

I coughed. “I’m good, thanks. You?”

He sighed. “Been better.”

“What’s up?”

Seppo caught the cloud in both hands and stretched it like dough. “It’s been a long time since we last fought elder gods.”

“And maybe a long time still before we need to again,” I said. “Malia can be very thorough, when she wants to. The Sea Mother won’t breach Carthian lands.”

“Yes, she’s always been dependable. You both have.” A shrill whistle of steam as he wrapped the cloud around his hand. It thinned from the rushing vapor, and he let it go. “I appreciate that.”

I shuffled my feet. “What’s with this melancholy? You drink some souls while we were gone or something?”

He laughed and half turned towards me. The cloudy expanse around us mellowed into a golden sunset, casting shadows across his wrinkled face. “You’d tell me if you were going to move against me, wouldn’t you? You’d at least give me that dignity.”

“What?” I felt my eyes bulge. That’s what he was worried about? “We would never.”

“You would never.” He pointed his finger at me. “But Malia…” He sighed and let his hand drop. “Well, you’ve seen how powerful she’s grown.”

I folded my arms. “What else?”

“Well, it’s just that—” he flung his hands down, an irritated frown on his face. “It’s never mattered before, how much I depended on Malia to manage our foreign affairs. Border skirmishes were always an unavoidable consequence of Carthia being a mercantile empire. And we’ve clashed with other pantheons before.”

“But none of this caliber.”

“Oh, we’ve been in a pissing contest with the Paedens for several decades now.” He waved his hand, scowling. “But against a primordial? How am I supposed to lead us against that?”

Now it was my turn to frown. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re your Gods of War for a reason. We keep the kingdom safe from threats without, and you protect us from fracturing within.”

“Yes, no better than the mortal paper pushers.” He shook his head and stomped across the clouds to his throne. Above, the clouds darkened to crimson, the artificial light growing dim as twilight descended. Grumbling, Seppo ascended his dias and clunked into his seat. “I don’t begrudge you your ability, you know. But I despise my own frailty.” He lifted his hands and stared at the brass tubing lining his limbs. “These….these can never do more than lead from the backline.”

I felt something tingle on the back of my neck, but I resisted the urge to slap it. “What’s this really about, Seppo?” I walked over and sat at the feet of his steps. He wasn’t too hard to see if I leaned back. “We’ve known each other long enough. You know I’ve always had your back. So what’s really eating at you?”

He scowled. “I hate you sometimes, you know that?”

I grunted. “Don’t we all?”

Seppo snorted. “Well, if you insist.” Sighing, he dropped his chin on his fist and watched the western horizon. He sat silent for a moment, his eyes reflecting the dying light. “That...creature, Tamiyat.”

I hummed in acknowledgement.

“She’s just so…” He screwed up his face, trying to find the right words. “Well, she unearthed emotions I’d thought long decayed.”

“Fear.”

“Like no other.” His eyes, intense, found mine. “She was like an older sister to my mother. Took her under her wing, taught her how to get the most out of her cruelty. Of course, I never met her, but I felt the ripples of her influence.” Voice soft, his eyes glistened with emotion. “And seeing Tamiyat, it was like seeing my mother’s fingerprint. But not just that, the whole hand of the monster the print came from. And as strong as Malia’s become, even she could barely withstand her.” He shook his head. “How are we supposed to?”

“We’ve already discovered one weakness,” I said, adjusting my seat. “She’s lost whatever physical avatar she once had, so she’s forced to rely on underlings to move for her outside the astral plane.”

“Bah.” Seppo drummed his fingers on the arm of his throne. The metal tinged with each tap. “That won’t be enough to stop her. It may not even slow her down. A being who considered my mother—my mother, Charax—a kid sister isn’t going to be slowed down by some paltry limitation like losing her physical avatar. And it took so many of us to put my mother down.”

I felt my gut go cold. Yes, it had. His siblings, my friends, countless worshippers clinging to their gods through the decimating droughts and plagues that ravished the infant Carthian lands. We’d barely managed, Seppo and I and the gods whose names only we two remembered. But we had, in the end. Oh, more than just he and I had survived his mother’s wrath, but most had since retired, and old Zephyrus was nearly there. The thought made my bones creak, reminding me of my own age.

Seppo nodded. “Maybe I’m just feeling old. But there’s always been two heads of our pantheon, and you know it.” Sighing, he patted his chair. “I owe my throne to you, of course. Without your help, I—”

“Are you done?”

He blinked. “What?”

I gave him a stern look. It was like scolding Hasda all over again, only I never expected to be doing it to my peer. “Did you mean what you said earlier? About trusting us?”

“Well, yes, but I—”

“Good. Then shut up.” I pushed to my feet and folded my arms. He gaped like a fish, gulped a couple times uncertainly. I bit the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing involuntarily. “We’re not coming for your crown, especially not with two pantheons armed and at the door. I wouldn’t even use your throne as a pisspot if you did give it to me. So if you’re done having your pout, there’s some serious things we need to discuss.”

“I—” He swallowed and shook his head. “Asshole.”

I laughed. “It’s been forever since I’ve heard you swear.”

“Yes, well, you always did know how to draw out the worst in me.” He grumbled as he pushed up off his throne. “Fine. I’m better now.” He shook a finger at me as he came down the steps. “I should have you demoted for insolence.”

“Oh? And how do you propose to do that?” I grinned and ignored the stupid itch on my neck, which had decided to come back.

He gave me a sour look. “You don’t have to rub it in. Although, I could make you Co-Head of the pantheon?”

I stumbled. Coughing to mask my recovery, I fell into step behind him. “You wouldn’t.”

“No, but I could have you hold a full office again.” He clanked across the cloudy platform, his exoskeleton catching the last few rays of light.

“Funny you should mention that.” I tugged at my robes, which had twisted from sitting on the ground. “Thane mentioned wanting to abdicate in favor of me. Said he’d prefer to be the God of Wine or something. While he was fairly addled by the souls he’d just annihilated, there was an air of authenticity I couldn’t shake.”

“Perhaps a discussion for after the feast, then.” Seppo placed his palm on the door, sagging a little. “That…” He rolled his free hand. “Whatever that was. Is that what you felt? When you decided to retire.”

I sighed and nodded. “A bit. When the decades start feeling like centuries, the millenia really start to get to you.”

“And the weight.”

“It never goes away.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “I didn’t think it would, but one can hope. Well, let’s get on with this feast, shall we? I finally found some inspiration for Hasda’s Second Trial, and I’m sure the lad is eager to be on his way.”


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Sat Oct 16, 2021 11:02 am
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: Okayy...so this was an interesting little scene. It looks like we're slowly setting up this new direction should now take...with a bit of a debrief happening as a result of the events in the previous one. I really loved this little conversation here between Charax and Seppo. Its not something I thought would happen, but now that its happened, this feels like that absolutely needed to happen.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Unfortunately, the feast was not to be, at least not immediately. While Malia cleaned up the mess in Aenea, Seppo and I went to his maas to “have a chat.” A portal and a couple transfers later, and we were climbing the steps of Maas Bierg, headed for his throne room. Seppo plodded ahead of me, silent except for the occasional burst of steam from his exoskeleton. When I tried to initiate a conversation, he simply shook his head, his face serious.


Well...something is definitely about to happen there, Seppo isn't one to act like that otherwise. Well I suppose things have now got to get moving once again, so it should be pretty fun to see how this takes off again.

I couldn’t tell if he was upset about something, but he certainly didn’t look happy despite his earlier words to Thane. He wasn’t unduly curt, though, and I couldn’t fault him for now wanting to air his thoughts in public. Still, I didn’t like being left to guess without direction as to his mental state.

We reached the top without incident. No sign of the previous earthquakes, although those had most likely been Malia and Tamiyat’s doing. Seppo’s guards uncrossed their spears to admit us, bowing stiffly at the waist as we passed. I couldn’t help falling into a parade rest as the doors swung shut behind me.


Hmm, well let's see where this goes. They've all now come into a more private setting so that they can talk about whatever it is that's causing this suddenly tense atmosphere after the much more relaxed one during that confrontation.

Seppo plunked across the cloudy field, his shoulders bowed. Instead of heading for his throne, however, he bent and scooped up a tuft of cloud, winding it around his fingers.

“So…” I let the word drag, unsure where to begin.

“Would you like a seat, Charax?” He kept his back to me, flicking the tail of the cloud past his shoulder, pulling it back, flicking it again. A nervous habit of his.

I coughed. “I’m good, thanks. You?”

He sighed. “Been better.”

“What’s up?”


I love how they just kind of default to regular pleasantries there for a moment as they both kind of seem to figuring out how to start the conversation. It's a pretty neat little touch there to show just how bad the situation currently is here.

Seppo caught the cloud in both hands and stretched it like dough. “It’s been a long time since we last fought elder gods.”

“And maybe a long time still before we need to again,” I said. “Malia can be very thorough, when she wants to. The Sea Mother won’t breach Carthian lands.”

“Yes, she’s always been dependable. You both have.” A shrill whistle of steam as he wrapped the cloud around his hand. It thinned from the rushing vapor, and he let it go. “I appreciate that.”


Hmm...somehow I don't know if he's fully convinced about what he's saying, or maybe he's just feeling down about something else. There is a certain weight to his words that make them sound very sincere, but there's also another thing that's currently dragging him down and it sounds a bit scary.

I shuffled my feet. “What’s with this melancholy? You drink some souls while we were gone or something?”

He laughed and half turned towards me. The cloudy expanse around us mellowed into a golden sunset, casting shadows across his wrinkled face. “You’d tell me if you were going to move against me, wouldn’t you? You’d at least give me that dignity.”


Ohhh...well, didn't expect that one, but hmm, not surprising that his mind would go there considering what's just happened. Those who leading things like this always get that slight sense of paranoia especially when they've been doing the leading thing for a good long time.

“What?” I felt my eyes bulge. That’s what he was worried about? “We would never.”

“You would never.” He pointed his finger at me. “But Malia…” He sighed and let his hand drop. “Well, you’ve seen how powerful she’s grown.”

I folded my arms. “What else?”


Hmm, well it looks like Seppo is having a slight existential crisis maybe from having seen a few things put in a perspective he probably hasn't stopped to consider before...so you can't blame him for that mood at all.

“Well, it’s just that—” he flung his hands down, an irritated frown on his face. “It’s never mattered before, how much I depended on Malia to manage our foreign affairs. Border skirmishes were always an unavoidable consequence of Carthia being a mercantile empire. And we’ve clashed with other pantheons before.”

“But none of this caliber.”

“Oh, we’ve been in a pissing contest with the Paedens for several decades now.” He waved his hand, scowling. “But against a primordial? How am I supposed to lead us against that?”


Ohhh..and he's doubting his ability to lead as well. That's where the real problem stems from I assume. Its not just that he saw how powerful these two were, he believes these two would be better in leading a war against someone like Tamiyat and believes if they attempted to take control everyone would probably side with them.

Now it was my turn to frown. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re your Gods of War for a reason. We keep the kingdom safe from threats without, and you protect us from fracturing within.”

“Yes, no better than the mortal paper pushers.” He shook his head and stomped across the clouds to his throne. Above, the clouds darkened to crimson, the artificial light growing dim as twilight descended. Grumbling, Seppo ascended his dias and clunked into his seat. “I don’t begrudge you your ability, you know. But I despise my own frailty.” He lifted his hands and stared at the brass tubing lining his limbs. “These….these can never do more than lead from the backline.”


Ahh, well there we go, I have a feeling Charax trying to be comforting there for a moment, but then accidentally worse. BUt hmm, Seppo is being super relatable at the moment and I'm here for it. This is going to be a bit of an important scene by the looks of things.

I felt something tingle on the back of my neck, but I resisted the urge to slap it. “What’s this really about, Seppo?” I walked over and sat at the feet of his steps. He wasn’t too hard to see if I leaned back. “We’ve known each other long enough. You know I’ve always had your back. So what’s really eating at you?”

He scowled. “I hate you sometimes, you know that?”

I grunted. “Don’t we all?"


"Ahhh...the friendship between these two is amazing," says Harry Hardy for the fifty thousandth time because it is true. And that aside, well it looks like Charax sees something more going on there and wants to get to the bottom of things here.

Seppo snorted. “Well, if you insist.” Sighing, he dropped his chin on his fist and watched the western horizon. He sat silent for a moment, his eyes reflecting the dying light. “That...creature, Tamiyat.”

I hummed in acknowledgement.

“She’s just so…” He screwed up his face, trying to find the right words. “Well, she unearthed emotions I’d thought long decayed.”

“Fear.”


Oooh, that's a clear sign that these two know each other very, very well. Charax doesn't even need to hesitate for a moment before he knows exactly what Seppo is about to admitto there.

“Like no other.” His eyes, intense, found mine. “She was like an older sister to my mother. Took her under her wing, taught her how to get the most out of her cruelty. Of course, I never met her, but I felt the ripples of her influence.” Voice soft, his eyes glistened with emotion. “And seeing Tamiyat, it was like seeing my mother’s fingerprint. But not just that, the whole hand of the monster the print came from. And as strong as Malia’s become, even she could barely withstand her.” He shook his head. “How are we supposed to?”

“We’ve already discovered one weakness,” I said, adjusting my seat. “She’s lost whatever physical avatar she once had, so she’s forced to rely on underlings to move for her outside the astral plane.”


Hmm, ooh, I didn't even think of that way. I just assume primordial beings like that just kinda hang out in the astral plane in general and the reason Tamiyat had no form was just a byproduct of who she was...huh, so that's an actual limitation in that way too...hmm, I prolly should've figured this out earlier but oh well, better late than never.

“Bah.” Seppo drummed his fingers on the arm of his throne. The metal tinged with each tap. “That won’t be enough to stop her. It may not even slow her down. A being who considered my mother—my mother, Charax—a kid sister isn’t going to be slowed down by some paltry limitation like losing her physical avatar. And it took so many of us to put my mother down.”


Hmm, well that's a lovely way to put the gravity of what theyh might have to do in proper perspective there. You're so far really going out of your way to throw in comparisons to give us a relative of just how crazy these fights which is awesome because if it wasn't for bits like this to ground the power levels, a story like this can quickly get to a point where we just don't know if a fight has any impact.

I felt my gut go cold. Yes, it had. His siblings, my friends, countless worshippers clinging to their gods through the decimating droughts and plagues that ravished the infant Carthian lands. We’d barely managed, Seppo and I and the gods whose names only we two remembered. But we had, in the end. Oh, more than just he and I had survived his mother’s wrath, but most had since retired, and old Zephyrus was nearly there. The thought made my bones creak, reminding me of my own age.


Well this is a nice little glaze of backstory being added in there. I always appreciate seeing these teensy details that you sometimes work in. It just makes this whole world feel more real and lived in.

Seppo nodded. “Maybe I’m just feeling old. But there’s always been two heads of our pantheon, and you know it.” Sighing, he patted his chair. “I owe my throne to you, of course. Without your help, I—”

“Are you done?”

He blinked. “What?”

I gave him a stern look. It was like scolding Hasda all over again, only I never expected to be doing it to my peer. “Did you mean what you said earlier? About trusting us?”


Ohh...wow, he's feeling bad enough about himself that it looks like he almost wants to pass his throne onto Charax and Malia there although if Charax's tone there is anything to judge by, Charax is not onboard with that plan and is about to shut those thoughts down here.

“Well, yes, but I—”

“Good. Then shut up.” I pushed to my feet and folded my arms. He gaped like a fish, gulped a couple times uncertainly. I bit the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing involuntarily. “We’re not coming for your crown, especially not with two pantheons armed and at the door. I wouldn’t even use your throne as a pisspot if you did give it to me. So if you’re done having your pout, there’s some serious things we need to discuss.”

“I—” He swallowed and shook his head. “Asshole.”


Oh wow...although hmm...Charax maybe not the best comparison to use there. That seems like something you wouldn't use a throne for in a respectful manner...but then this is Charax, he wouldn't be him if he didn't say something like that.

I laughed. “It’s been forever since I’ve heard you swear.”

“Yes, well, you always did know how to draw out the worst in me.” He grumbled as he pushed up off his throne. “Fine. I’m better now.” He shook a finger at me as he came down the steps. “I should have you demoted for insolence.”

“Oh? And how do you propose to do that?” I grinned and ignored the stupid itch on my neck, which had decided to come back.


Oooh, okay he's back to threatening Charax, I think maybe we are good for the moment and Seppo believes in himself just a little bit more. Hopefully, I don't think that sort of insecurity can be solved in one conversation, but he definitely took a step in the right direction.

He gave me a sour look. “You don’t have to rub it in. Although, I could make you Co-Head of the pantheon?”

I stumbled. Coughing to mask my recovery, I fell into step behind him. “You wouldn’t.”

“No, but I could have you hold a full office again.” He clanked across the cloudy platform, his exoskeleton catching the last few rays of light.

“Funny you should mention that.” I tugged at my robes, which had twisted from sitting on the ground. “Thane mentioned wanting to abdicate in favor of me. Said he’d prefer to be the God of Wine or something. While he was fairly addled by the souls he’d just annihilated, there was an air of authenticity I couldn’t shake.”


Hmm..well this is interesting...maybe Charax's position will change after all, there's a few less jokey sounding ideas now being tossed about that Seppo and Charax both might be seriously considering at the moment.

“Perhaps a discussion for after the feast, then.” Seppo placed his palm on the door, sagging a little. “That…” He rolled his free hand. “Whatever that was. Is that what you felt? When you decided to retire.”

I sighed and nodded. “A bit. When the decades start feeling like centuries, the millenia really start to get to you.”

“And the weight.”

“It never goes away.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “I didn’t think it would, but one can hope. Well, let’s get on with this feast, shall we? I finally found some inspiration for Hasda’s Second Trial, and I’m sure the lad is eager to be on his way.”


Ohhh Hasda, you exist...I forgot...okay no, but it has seriously been such a long time since we met the guy and did that whole crazy dance with a djinn or something, I might be misremembering. Well...I suppose on we go for some good feasting and some relaxation before this next arc kicks into gear and swamps us in more mystery.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, this is another lovely chapter here. I feel like maybe the next chapter or two will now be somewhat relaxed with a feast coming up along with the announcing of Hasda's second trial, but of course I'm sure it'll all jump back into the action soon enough. :D

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Sat Oct 16, 2021 12:51 am
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Oh man. I love this chapter. You never cease to amaze me with how well you write both high points of action and lower points like this one. It's just incredible to me how you're able to take a simple conversation and capture all the ebbs and flows of it miraculously and naturally. Though I suppose this conversation was anything but simple.

One thing I really like about this chapter (and just in general) is how well you write from the perspective of a god. I think that was one of the first things that drew me to this piece when I first started reading it. I really like your interpretations of immortality and the duties of a god. It's like a magical government combined with a whole host of other problems that come just from their standing, and it's so cool how believable you're able to make it despite there not being any known gods in our real world today. Honestly, at this point, I'm half convinced you're a god yourself.

Specifics

Unfortunately, the feast was not to be, at least not immediately. While Malia cleaned up the mess in Aenea, Seppo and I went to his maas to “have a chat.” A portal and a couple transfers later, and we were climbing the steps of Maas Bierg, headed for his throne room. Seppo plodded ahead of me, silent except for the occasional burst of steam from his exoskeleton. When I tried to initiate a conversation, he simply shook his head, his face serious.


As much as I love this opener, it feels more like something that would happen in the middle of a chapter rather than the beginning of one. Chapters offer that sort of "cut to black" thing, so having this to transition us into the next chapter feels a little unnecessary. I think you could maybe open with the scene at hand and then maybe make it clear that they skipped the feast? It's also slightly stylistic, and it works as it is. I just think it could be interesting to try both ways.

He laughed and half turned towards me. The cloudy expanse around us mellowed into a golden sunset, casting shadows across his wrinkled face. “You’d tell me if you were going to move against me, wouldn’t you? You’d at least give me that dignity.”


Man. This was a really eloquent and deep part. I think you revealed a lot about Seppo's character here, and I'm really starting to like him more! I feel like a lot of your characters are kind of like that to some extent.

But there’s always been two heads of our pantheon, and you know it.”


Foreshadowing??? Are Malia and Charax going to become co-heads of a Pantheon together? Because honestly, couple goals

He nodded thoughtfully. “I didn’t think it would, but one can hope. Well, let’s get on with this feast, shall we? I finally found some inspiration for Hasda’s Second Trial, and I’m sure the lad is eager to be on his way.”


Heyyy!! Hasda's back!! Looking forward to seeing what Seppo's ideas for Trial #2 are!

Overall: really nice work on this one. I loved the conversation Seppo and Charax had, and I think the way you wrote their lines was fitting for both characters and very enjoyable for me to read. Super excited to see what Hasda's been up to and what's in store for him! Until next time!!





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