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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 53: "The Depths"

by dragonfphoenix


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

I cleared my throat to center myself and knocked on the door. “Jade? Are you in there?”

The laughter inside halted, followed by the sounds of frantic scurrying.

“We just need to talk,” I said to the closed wooden door. “When you’re decent, I’d appreciate it if you’d come out.” And then I stepped back.

After a couple more moments of shuffling, Jade finally emerged from the sauna, one towel wrapped tightly around her body and another spiraling around her hair. She looked flushed, and not just from the steam. With how her eyes wouldn’t leave the ground and her legs had reverted to her smoky bronze snake tail, she looked embarrassed enough to melt right there.

Hasda, however, stayed inside.

I sighed. “Hasda, I know you’re in there, and this isn’t the worst thing I’ve walked in on you doing.”

His sandy hair poked around the left edge of the door, followed by his eyes. “I can explain.”

“I’m sure you can,” I said, folding my arms. “But it’ll have to wait, because Jade and I have some things to discuss first, and you have a feast to prepare for.”

“What’s there to prepare for?” His eyebrows pinched.

I gave him a look. “Your Second Trial. Which, I might add, you should have been training for in my absence.”

He ducked back inside. “Sorry. I’ve been…”

“Distracted?”

I didn’t need to see his ears to sense the heat rising on the tips of his ears. He’d never been a blusher, but that had always been a dead giveaway.

“Look, I get it. You’re young, prime of your life, yada yada. We’ll have that talk later.” I kept my eyes on the doorway to lessen how mortified Jade already felt, because she looked like her body hadn’t decided if puking or fainting was the correct response. “Head on back to Maas Bierg and see if Malia’s back. If she’s not, find Phaeus and have him give your armor a once-over.”

“Yes, sir.” Hasda slunk out of the sauna with his towel around his waist, doing his best to stare resolutely at the horizon as he shuffled past us with ears like dying sunsets. And I had to give them credit, all the...marks were on his shoulders, where they’d be covered by his robes.

I shook my head. His first romance, and he was already in deep. The thought gave me pause. I guess he’d had several weeks to spend with Jade already, hadn’t he? There’d been plenty of time for them to blossom while we were away. Or had it been months? I’d already fallen back on my usual disregard of the shorter mortal timespans. I’d had to care while Hasda was young, of course, but that’d been only a drop in my bucket of centuries.

I only realized I’d started drifting off, reminiscing, when Jade exploded into a frenzy of apologies and excuses.

“I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad. Are you mad? Oh, I hope not. We didn’t mean to offend you or disrespect your authority, Tarrha talked to me and she said it was okay because I wasn’t sure it was. Hasda thought it was, too, though, and he’s really sweet. And handsome. And thoughtful. But we didn’t—”

“Jade.” I held up a hand to stop the verbal torrent. It’d been a while since we’d interacted, and she seemed to want to make up for the lost words in a single breath. “That’s not—I’m not mad, no.”

“You’re not?” Her eyes shone hopefully, although she still jittered with nerves.

I frowned. “No, but we do need to talk.”

“About what?” She had her hands clutched in front of her, and she picked at the edge of the towel.

“About what’s in your mines.”

The color drained from her face, and she went unnaturally still. She visibly shivered from her heart skipping a beat.

“Hey.” I held out my hand awkwardly. If she guarded what I suspected she did, she had every right to be terrified of this line of questioning. But I wanted to help ease her panic and had no clue how. “It’s okay.”

She started shaking. “Are you...are you going to send me back?”

Bewilderment spilled across my face. “Back to where?”

“To the Paedens,” she whispered.

“Okay, stop.” I held her shoulders and made her meet my eyes. “We’re not throwing you out of the pantheon, regardless of your past. Or, present, I guess. But Malia and I just dealt with an elder goddess in Aenea, and we have some gaps in our knowledge that you might be able to fill in.”

If I thought she was pale before, that had nothing on the pallor her face took on at the mention of the Sea Mother. “She’s awake?”

“Tamiyat? Yes.”

“This is bad. This is bad. This is really bad.” She tried to jerk out of my arms, but it was a panicked, thoughtless act. I held her firm as her breathing skyrocketed. “I have to go.”

“Look at me.” I waited until she calmed enough to do so. “Let’s play a game, hot and cold. I tell you what we already know and what I think, and you tell me if I’m close, okay?”

Jade bit her lip and nodded, looking like a rabbit ready to bolt.

“The Paedens bound the Sea Mother when they established their pantheon.” I kept my tone measured and slow, trying to project calm. “While she’s been bound a long time, that doesn’t explain why she’s stuck in the astral realm. I think she’s lost whatever physical anchor she had, and she won’t be able to interfere in the mortal realm until she builds or steals a new one. It has to be a physical anchor, because she said she reclaimed the souls she wanted from Aenean soil, yet she’s still stuck. Am I close?”

Jade nodded but said nothing.

“There was a minor goddess, Lazuli.” Jade flinched back, and I kept my grip steady but firm. “I couldn’t shake the feeling that you two were related, despite your obvious differences. Now,” I leaned down, trying to do less towering and more talking, “you’re both named after minerals. If I went back to Aenea, I’d find lazuli mines, correct?”

“Yes,” Jade breathed, her voice almost gone from the strain her panic was putting on her.

“And you’re both jailors. Or guardians, if you prefer.”

“Yes.”

I could feel the threads singing in my mind as the dots connected, like a weaver’s loom nearly finished with its tapestry. “The Paedens were able to bind Tamiyat because she was heartbroken, because her mate had been brought down. They were both sealed away in the earth, weren’t they?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” Eyes squeezed tight, she thrashed as shivers racked her body.

It was all I could do to hold her. I wasn’t trying to hurt her, but I was definitely doing a piss-poor job of questioning her lightly. Maybe I could have waited for Malia, and maybe she would have laid the girl out if she thought she’d slept on revealing such a threat. Because I knew, from Jade’s face, that she hadn’t told Malia—hadn’t told anyone—what she guarded. Oh, she’d mentioned there being a powerful, elder “demon” during Hasda’s First Trial, but a vanquished demon was a far cry from the fallen head of one’s primordial pantheon.

“Jade, I need you to calm down. Breathe.” Although it put me off balance, I kneeled to try putting her more at ease. I still didn’t let go, though, because she really would split if I let go. And it’d be better to get it all over with at once than force her to go through this again to get the final answer. “Now, I think, but I need you to tell me for certain, that I know who’s in the deepest, darkest shafts of your mines. But I need you to answer honestly. Who is bound in your mines?”

Sobs burst forth, shaking her like reeds in a storm. “Please,” she hiccuped through cries, “I don’t...I can’t...”

“All I need is a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” I said, trying to keep my voice gentle. “Is it Tamiyat’s—”

“Don’t!” She nearly threw herself on the ground, wrenching away from me. Breath hitching, she collapsed on her knees and hugged her sides. “Don’t raise his memory. Please.”

“I need to know what we’re up against.” I couldn’t keep from giving a tired sigh as I sank down next to her. “And how likely he is to escape, if Tamiyat attempts to free him.”

“You don’t understand.” Jade looked up, eyes intense, then dropped her gaze again. Her voice barely lifted above a hushed whisper, so I barely caught her next words. “There’s a reason he’s not remembered.”

I frowned. Malia had threatened Tamiyat with erasure from all cultural consciousness. If a god ever fell that far out of memory, it would be nearly impossible for them, in any form, to be resurrected. Even a couple centuries often led to some strange bastardization, if a dead god were revived. Maybe someone had done the same to Tamiyat’s mate.

But if they had, then we were walking a very fine line. The harder we resisted his release, the more we strengthened the possibility of his return. So long as he stayed out of mortal thoughts, we should be able to contain him if he escaped, but if he found new worshippers...well, you could build a monarchy with how royally screwed we’d be.


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Thu Oct 28, 2021 7:29 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: Ahh this is a very nicely done chapter here. We got just enough of the awkwardness for it to be funny without being too stretched out and we learn some very important information and put together a decent chunk of the grand puzzle this story happens to be. I guess the whole prisoner thing in the prophecy is tied to all this somehow.

Anyway let's get right to it,

I cleared my throat to center myself and knocked on the door. “Jade? Are you in there?”

The laughter inside halted, followed by the sounds of frantic scurrying.

“We just need to talk,” I said to the closed wooden door. “When you’re decent, I’d appreciate it if you’d come out.” And then I stepped back.

After a couple more moments of shuffling, Jade finally emerged from the sauna, one towel wrapped tightly around her body and another spiraling around her hair. She looked flushed, and not just from the steam. With how her eyes wouldn’t leave the ground and her legs had reverted to her smoky bronze snake tail, she looked embarrassed enough to melt right there.

Hasda, however, stayed inside.


Oh well here we go. Hopefully they can quickly dismiss any potential Awkward Conversation™ and quickly get around to the actual problems at hand here, cause we do have ourselves quite a few of said problems flying around at the moment and it would not do not talk about those immediately.

I sighed. “Hasda, I know you’re in there, and this isn’t the worst thing I’ve walked in on you doing.”

His sandy hair poked around the left edge of the door, followed by his eyes. “I can explain.”

“I’m sure you can,” I said, folding my arms. “But it’ll have to wait, because Jade and I have some things to discuss first, and you have a feast to prepare for.”

“What’s there to prepare for?” His eyebrows pinched.


Wow, dude has already forgotten all about that. Considering how long it might have been that's maybe forgivable, but its still something that probably should've been a big enough deal for him to at least remember faintly...well this is going to get an interesting call out by Charax almost for certain.

I gave him a look. “Your Second Trial. Which, I might add, you should have been training for in my absence.”

He ducked back inside. “Sorry. I’ve been…”

“Distracted?”

I didn’t need to see his ears to sense the heat rising on the tips of his ears. He’d never been a blusher, but that had always been a dead giveaway.

“Look, I get it. You’re young, prime of your life, yada yada. We’ll have that talk later.” I kept my eyes on the doorway to lessen how mortified Jade already felt, because she looked like her body hadn’t decided if puking or fainting was the correct response. “Head on back to Maas Bierg and see if Malia’s back. If she’s not, find Phaeus and have him give your armor a once-over.”


Okayy...Charax being very professional about the whole situation is good to see. He gets in the coupled of expected jabs before quickly getting into business. That's good to see, you don't want to see too much time wasted on some slightly less important matters.

“Yes, sir.” Hasda slunk out of the sauna with his towel around his waist, doing his best to stare resolutely at the horizon as he shuffled past us with ears like dying sunsets. And I had to give them credit, all the...marks were on his shoulders, where they’d be covered by his robes.

I shook my head. His first romance, and he was already in deep. The thought gave me pause. I guess he’d had several weeks to spend with Jade already, hadn’t he? There’d been plenty of time for them to blossom while we were away. Or had it been months? I’d already fallen back on my usual disregard of the shorter mortal timespans. I’d had to care while Hasda was young, of course, but that’d been only a drop in my bucket of centuries.

I only realized I’d started drifting off, reminiscing, when Jade exploded into a frenzy of apologies and excuses.


Hmm, I probably didn't consider that either. I thought this Tamiyat debacle was like a week at most, but it looks like perhaps it has been a bit longer potentially. That probably would excuse him forgetting the whole trial situation. That's a nice little bit of clarity to have there on that matter.

“I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad. Are you mad? Oh, I hope not. We didn’t mean to offend you or disrespect your authority, Tarrha talked to me and she said it was okay because I wasn’t sure it was. Hasda thought it was, too, though, and he’s really sweet. And handsome. And thoughtful. But we didn’t—”

“Jade.” I held up a hand to stop the verbal torrent. It’d been a while since we’d interacted, and she seemed to want to make up for the lost words in a single breath. “That’s not—I’m not mad, no.”

“You’re not?” Her eyes shone hopefully, although she still jittered with nerves.

I frowned. “No, but we do need to talk.”


Hmm...well that looks half serious there to be honest. This could be very interesting going forward, I don't think the story will focus too much on it, but they are both fairly important side characters to this storyline, so you never know. Most of the romance in this one has been pretty wholesome and I like that. I always hate to see unnecessary conflict from romance in stories so many much more important threats like this one.

“About what?” She had her hands clutched in front of her, and she picked at the edge of the towel.

“About what’s in your mines.”

The color drained from her face, and she went unnaturally still. She visibly shivered from her heart skipping a beat.

“Hey.” I held out my hand awkwardly. If she guarded what I suspected she did, she had every right to be terrified of this line of questioning. But I wanted to help ease her panic and had no clue how. “It’s okay.”


Well....I'm guessing we're going to learn some important news today judging by that expression of fear. This should be very interesting to see, more interesting perhaps than what I was expecting based off of what was happening earlier.

She started shaking. “Are you...are you going to send me back?”

Bewilderment spilled across my face. “Back to where?”

“To the Paedens,” she whispered.

“Okay, stop.” I held her shoulders and made her meet my eyes. “We’re not throwing you out of the pantheon, regardless of your past. Or, present, I guess. But Malia and I just dealt with an elder goddess in Aenea, and we have some gaps in our knowledge that you might be able to fill in.”


Okayy...well it looks like she certainly expects a lot of backlash to happen from all of these secrets and she just might know a good amount about this whole situation than she let on at first.

If I thought she was pale before, that had nothing on the pallor her face took on at the mention of the Sea Mother. “She’s awake?”

“Tamiyat? Yes.”

“This is bad. This is bad. This is really bad.” She tried to jerk out of my arms, but it was a panicked, thoughtless act. I held her firm as her breathing skyrocketed. “I have to go.”

“Look at me.” I waited until she calmed enough to do so. “Let’s play a game, hot and cold. I tell you what we already know and what I think, and you tell me if I’m close, okay?”

Jade bit her lip and nodded, looking like a rabbit ready to bolt.


Okay...interesting. I really feel like maybe there was something done to her that makes it hard for her to reveal the truth and she just kind of wants to figure everything out now and that's why she wants to rush off like that. Charax's little compromise here is really good in that sense.

“The Paedens bound the Sea Mother when they established their pantheon.” I kept my tone measured and slow, trying to project calm. “While she’s been bound a long time, that doesn’t explain why she’s stuck in the astral realm. I think she’s lost whatever physical anchor she had, and she won’t be able to interfere in the mortal realm until she builds or steals a new one. It has to be a physical anchor, because she said she reclaimed the souls she wanted from Aenean soil, yet she’s still stuck. Am I close?”

Jade nodded but said nothing.

“There was a minor goddess, Lazuli.” Jade flinched back, and I kept my grip steady but firm. “I couldn’t shake the feeling that you two were related, despite your obvious differences. Now,” I leaned down, trying to do less towering and more talking, “you’re both named after minerals. If I went back to Aenea, I’d find lazuli mines, correct?”


OKayy...well this is starting to go in an interesting direction. I've no idea where Charax is pulling some of those conclusions from so that's a little concerning, but I suppose the puzzle pieces haven't been fully presented to us just quite yet, so we'll see how this goes. At any rate, the tale that is slowly unfolding here is pretty intense.

“Yes,” Jade breathed, her voice almost gone from the strain her panic was putting on her.

“And you’re both jailors. Or guardians, if you prefer.”

“Yes.”

I could feel the threads singing in my mind as the dots connected, like a weaver’s loom nearly finished with its tapestry. “The Paedens were able to bind Tamiyat because she was heartbroken, because her mate had been brought down. They were both sealed away in the earth, weren’t they?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” Eyes squeezed tight, she thrashed as shivers racked her body.


Okayy...wow that's a very strong reaction. I feel like maybe its trauma from the past or something along those lines coming to the surface here rather than a curse or something. It just seems like she's almost glad to tell the truth to someone but all if it bringing up things that are really hurting here mentally.

It was all I could do to hold her. I wasn’t trying to hurt her, but I was definitely doing a piss-poor job of questioning her lightly. Maybe I could have waited for Malia, and maybe she would have laid the girl out if she thought she’d slept on revealing such a threat. Because I knew, from Jade’s face, that she hadn’t told Malia—hadn’t told anyone—what she guarded. Oh, she’d mentioned there being a powerful, elder “demon” during Hasda’s First Trial, but a vanquished demon was a far cry from the fallen head of one’s primordial pantheon.

“Jade, I need you to calm down. Breathe.” Although it put me off balance, I kneeled to try putting her more at ease. I still didn’t let go, though, because she really would split if I let go. And it’d be better to get it all over with at once than force her to go through this again to get the final answer. “Now, I think, but I need you to tell me for certain, that I know who’s in the deepest, darkest shafts of your mines. But I need you to answer honestly. Who is bound in your mines?”


Hmm, well I'm gonna go ahead and calmly guess this means she was supposed to be guarding Tamiyat's lover or whoever they locked away in order to get her under control. At the very least this part of the puzzle does make sense. Lovely description on the tapestry thing by the way

Sobs burst forth, shaking her like reeds in a storm. “Please,” she hiccuped through cries, “I don’t...I can’t...”

“All I need is a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” I said, trying to keep my voice gentle. “Is it Tamiyat’s—”

“Don’t!” She nearly threw herself on the ground, wrenching away from me. Breath hitching, she collapsed on her knees and hugged her sides. “Don’t raise his memory. Please.”

“I need to know what we’re up against.” I couldn’t keep from giving a tired sigh as I sank down next to her. “And how likely he is to escape, if Tamiyat attempts to free him.”


Hmm, well you can certainly see where Charax is trying to come from here, but Jade...Jade seems to really not want even that name to be uttered out loud for some reason and I don't even think Jade can say said reason without it bringing up a lot of horrifying things. Well, this is going to be an interesting situation for Charax to have to workaroudnd.

“You don’t understand.” Jade looked up, eyes intense, then dropped her gaze again. Her voice barely lifted above a hushed whisper, so I barely caught her next words. “There’s a reason he’s not remembered.”

I frowned. Malia had threatened Tamiyat with erasure from all cultural consciousness. If a god ever fell that far out of memory, it would be nearly impossible for them, in any form, to be resurrected. Even a couple centuries often led to some strange bastardization, if a dead god were revived. Maybe someone had done the same to Tamiyat’s mate.

But if they had, then we were walking a very fine line. The harder we resisted his release, the more we strengthened the possibility of his return. So long as he stayed out of mortal thoughts, we should be able to contain him if he escaped, but if he found new worshippers...well, you could build a monarchy with how royally screwed we’d be.


Okayy...so that's an odd strategy there...but sounds like an effective one. Its also a very smart strategy that seems rather plausible considering the kind of forces that may be at play here. That does sound like one of the few ways a pantheon of weaker gods could restrain the mate of a primordial who I assume is probably also very strong like Tamiyat...maybe...I guess you can't be too sure on that last point.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, another strong chapter here. So much to look forward to with all of this. Aaand well I don't believe I have too much else to say here, so that's it for this one :D

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Thu Oct 28, 2021 12:37 am
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Ooh, what a fun chapter!! I loved all the explanation we got, and I really enjoyed the return of Jade. I'm left wondering about the possible connections this information might have later on; I'm curious if Tamiyat's mate is going to be the next plot arc, or if this is going to be out of sight, out of mind until a bigger battle towards the end.

One thing I really enjoyed was the way you explained all of the stuff that Charax is realizing. I loved how you pointed out on small details I hadn't noticed, like how Jade and Lazuli are both named after stones. I'm also curious to see if Hasda's trials will have any bearing on the mines again, or if Tamiyat's ex-partner will end up rising again. I also thought it was super interesting how resurrection can depend on the memory of mortals; it does make sense, but it was super cool of you to like, officially establish it. It also puts the gods in an interesting predicament; they have to not think about Tamiyat's mate, but they also want to address the problem... I'm super curious to see how this'll turn out!!

Specifics

With how her eyes wouldn’t leave the ground and her legs had reverted to her smoky bronze snake tail, she looked embarrassed enough to melt right there.


I feel like this sentence is phrased a bit awkwardly here; I feel like replacing "with" with "given" would make it feel a bit more natural, but that could just be me.

And I had to give them credit, all the...marks were on his shoulders, where they’d be covered by his robes.


The ellipsis didn't feel that natural there; I do think it would be better if "marks" was italicized. I know that copy/pasting here doesn't do formatting, though, so if it's already italicized in the original document, feel free to ignore this!

Overall: nice work!! Really looking forward to seeing what comes next; until next time!!






Catching up on comments here.

I don't mind the repetition lol, it means I'm being consistent. I'd be more worried if they suddenly dropped off. XD

During my rereading, I haven't really felt like anything is "filler," necessarily. There's been stuff that needs to get cleaned up a little (like discovering I originally had them not knowing anything about the Paeden predecessors to Seppo's mother used to hang with Tamiyat lol), but it's felt smooth thus far. I could also just not have hit any of those chapters yet, though.

There are a lot of fun plot paths we'll be returning to. But the only thing I'll say for certain is that we're going to have a Second Trial ;) (the 'announcement' scene is in a couple chapters)





Catching up on comments here.

I don't mind the repetition lol, it means I'm being consistent. I'd be more worried if they suddenly dropped off. XD

During my rereading, I haven't really felt like anything is "filler," necessarily. There's been stuff that needs to get cleaned up a little (like discovering I originally had them not knowing anything about the Paeden predecessors to Seppo's mother used to hang with Tamiyat lol), but it's felt smooth thus far. I could also just not have hit any of those chapters yet, though.

There are a lot of fun plot paths we'll be returning to. But the only thing I'll say for certain is that we're going to have a Second Trial ;) (the 'announcement' scene is in a couple chapters)




What's the point of being a grown-up if you can't be a bit childish sometimes?
— 4th Doctor