z
  • Home

Young Writers Society


16+ Language

The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 62: "The Curtains"

by dragonfphoenix


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

It was easy to catch her before she faceplanted in the pool since I already had a grip on her shoulders, but the sudden weight nearly pitched us both in anyways.

She gasped as she came awake and turned on me. “Why did you pull me out?”

“I didn’t,” I said. “You passed out.”

“Oh.” She tapped her chin. Nodding, she spun back around. “That should do it. Send me back.”

“Are you sure—”

“Talk after,” she said, her back stiffening.

I sighed but resumed my former position and bled energy into her again. She jerked at my touch but said nothing. A moment later, and she’d gone all glowy-eyed and moany again. She twitched beneath my fingers and her heart rate sped up, but I steeled myself. Despite her years in Nebesa, she was still a mortal, as she’d so bluntly reminded me earlier. And this was her first foray into a realm that some gods struggled to traverse. It was probably frightening and disorienting for her, even with all the strange visions she’d seen as an Oracle. But she was resilient. She’d acclimate and orient herself and come back with something useful, if she could see anything.

Her heart stopped.

I gave her ten seconds before I reacted. With the way she’d collapsed, at first I thought she’d passed out again, but when I felt her heart stop I waited to see if her spirit drifted away from her body. Since it didn’t, but remained firmly moored in the astral plane, I tapped into her veins and carefully nudged her heart back into motion. The last time I’d had to do something like this was when I’d still been the God of Death, except it’d been this process in reverse.

Even with my help, it still took her a solid minute to return to consciousness after her heart beat again. Whatever protest had been building died when she saw my face. “Passed out again?” she asked.

I shook my head. “Nearly died.”

“Oh.” She nodded. “Not surprising, given how utterly inhospitable that plane is.” Shaking her head, she laughed softly. “You gods can stand to travel through that?”

“How bad was it?” I asked.

“Like bathing my eyes in boiling vinegar, a thousand needle pricks on my skin.” She rubbed her arms.

I scowled. Tamiyat’s influence extended this far? Distance in the astral plane warped in strange ways, but whatever relative to Nebesa was should have at least some manner of protection due to our pantheon’s presence. My frown deepened. “Did you see anything?”

“I’m afraid not,” she said, glancing back at the pool. Straightening, she clenched her fists. “But I did get an inclination of malevolence from Tingid. While I’d rather not try the astral plane again, I will see what lies east.”

I nodded. “Thank you for your efforts. It’s not usually such a wasteland above, but even so, the realm might not be able to support mortal life on its best days.”

She turned her back and held her hands over the scrying pool. “You don’t have to console me. Failure or not, I will execute my duties.”

“If you insist.” I patted her shoulder, this time without infusing her with power. “If you make any breakthroughs, let me know.”

Politely declining the steamed towels her attendants offered me on my way out, I strode through the fog of incense and made my way outside the temple. I paused, hand hanging in the air to draw my portal. If Tamiyat really had corrupted the astral plane around Nebesa, then perhaps she’d discovered our heavenly abode and was setting up to move against us. At the very least, I ought to take stock of the realm’s condition before returning to the Trial. With a tired sigh, I let myself fall backwards, shedding my skeleton for my starry projection.

Phemonoe hadn’t understated the hostility of the astral plane. Even in the body designed for such a space, I was still mildly uncomfortable. The gritty feeling wasn’t quite needles, but it still grated against my consciousness. Unlike the intensity I’d felt near Aenea, however, this causticness felt residual, like an inkblot dispersed in a cup of milk. No angry deities snatched at my ankles, nothing eldritch assaulted my mind, and not a hint remained of whatever had drawn Phemonoe’s concern about the Tingid mountains. As an afterthought, I checked the webbing that connected the maas, but couldn’t see anything that might be blocking our travels.

Frustrated, I tipped forward to rejoin Malia. They’d probably reached the hydra by now, if the witches hadn’t caused too much trouble, and Hasda would be smooth talking his way into its nest any…

What on earth?

Nowhere in Nebesa was a garden like this. Slender trees, barely past the stage of being saplings, ringed a lawn full of grass half shaded in shadow. Upon closer inspection, it seemed as if the shadows were part of the very leaves, matching the contours of the blades as they bent in the breeze. A silvery pond flashed as its surface shifted, concentric rings growing from an unseen pebble that’d shattered its waters. Seated on the opposite side of the pond was a woman so gaunt it was a wonder her bones didn’t split her skin. Or, no, that wasn’t right. I blinked, and she merely looked thin, her stringy hair as wispy as her dress. She smiled, and her clothes and hair filled in, the former golden and the latter the luster of plated copper.

I took a step forward—and gasped. My foot splashed into the pond, where before I hadn’t even been near the water. My legs were too full, my hands thick and young again. It’d been so long since I’d felt vitality like this coursing through my body that for a moment I didn’t even recognize the vigor of youth. And I had no idea why this was happening.

“You have questions,” the woman said, her voice soft.

I narrowed my eyes. “Have we met before?”

“No, but I believe you’ve met my sister.” Her smile was faint as her eyes searched mine. “It’s been ages since she last meddled in anything. Did she mark you?”

“I’m afraid I don’t quite follow.”

“I wonder what she sees in you.” She tilted her head, letting her hair veil half her face. “What makes you special?”

“Who are you, again?” I folded my arms and resisted the urge to squirm. The last thing I needed was to shift my weight and find myself slamming into a tree from the uncalibrated movement of this space.

“I didn’t say.” Her breath puffed against her hair. “Well, I can’t see it, but she was always the one with the eye for these things.” Brushing her hands on her dress, she slid to her feet. “Perhaps I—”

“Charax!” Behind me, Phemonoe burst through the trees, her face flushed with excitement. “I’ve finally had a vision.” She trailed off as she realized that she wasn’t on the steps of her temple.

“You shouldn’t peek behind every curtain,” the woman said, frowning. As she flicked her hand, the sky fractured like shattered glass, and a shard of reality spiked towards the Oracle.

“No!” I reached out to stop it, and something pulsed. The broken pane shifted and impacted the ground next to Phemonoe, who paled and swayed unsteadily on her feet. Fire lanced my shoulder, like I’d run into a pillar. I didn’t quite catch the woman’s reaction, but when I glanced at her she wore a wolfish smile that was at odds with her delicate features.

The smile softened as soon as she noticed my attention. “I must admit, that was absolutely marvelous. What pantheon are you from?”

“I didn’t say.” I couldn’t resist throwing her earlier words back at her.

Eyes sparkling, she folded her hands together. “Well, that was certainly something.” She sniffed. “No elder gods among you? But someone quite close to it, I’d wager.”

My hackles rose. “Just tell me what you want and get on with it. It’s bad enough having one rogue entity running around in the background.”

“Then let me part the curtains.” Her eyes flashed.

Phemonoe squealed as the ground swallowed her, leaving no trace that the Oracle had been there.

The woman held a finger up before I even got my mouth open. “She is unharmed. I’ve simply returned her to whatever you call your celestial home.” She raised an eyebrow. “Did you…elevate her?”

“She was having trouble with her scrying. We experimented.” I crossed my arms and stared at her. She still hadn’t given away what her angle was, but she was able to sense far more than any divine being should be able to. Sampling the power of our pantheon just by smell, realizing Phemonoe had been to the astral plane without even touching her—it was deeply unsettling. And I wasn’t even sure this wasn’t a dream. But if it was, that was a very realistic Oracle that had just waltzed into it. My dream, the divine slumberings of a god, which not even other deities could traipse across with ease. Despite my age and experience, I felt very much out of my depths.


Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
672 Reviews

Points: 81482
Reviews: 672

Donate
Thu Dec 30, 2021 3:11 am
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

I enjoyed this chapter! It was quite mysterious; we've got another seemingly very powerful woman here. I swear, we're getting to so many it's getting tough to keep them all straight. I enjoy the fact that it's unclear where her alliances lie; it furthers the intrigue.

One thing I enjoyed was the metal journey of Charax in this chapter. It's rare that we see him so confused, and the contrast from the assuredness of the beginning where he was the one with superior knowledge to the end, where he was kind of kept in the dark/very unsure of what was going on. It was conveyed very nicely, and I enjoyed seeing that progress. I liked that classic Charax logic at the end there, too; it was good to reinforce to the reader what exactly the interactions with the mysterious woman could mean in terms of her powers.

I did feel a little confused throughout, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that I'm not able to keep reading. In fact, I think it's good you're confusing readers, because it means they're going to want to read more to see how it's all explained. It's also interesting to show how truly confused Charax is; normally, he's been this all-knowing god, but now we're faced with something he's not too sure about either. I'm curious if she has any relation to Tamiyat, or if she's involved with that other oracle vision lady from some chapters back. Either way, she's very mysterious, and I look forward to finally getting her explained. Hopefully it happens sooner than later! I do think there are some parts that could be a little clearer though; for example, how exactly Phemonoe got to where Charax was when even he didn't know, and what happened in that one part where Charax seemingly saved Phemonoe from the fracturing sky. It felt almost like a dream, but without being privy to the logic of it. It could be just me, too, but I thought I'd point it out anyways.

Overall: nice work!! I think this chapter introduced a lot of depth to some of the problems Charax has been facing, and I'm eager to know more information! Until next time!!




User avatar
4154 Reviews

Points: 266735
Reviews: 4154

Donate
Wed Dec 29, 2021 10:59 am
KateHardy 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: Well...there's a few things going down here by the looks of things....and it seems like Charax might just have met someone that perhaps can and is willing to answer the mystery of the visions and beings of immense power that Charax has so far been having trouble with.

Anyway let's get right to it,

It was easy to catch her before she faceplanted in the pool since I already had a grip on her shoulders, but the sudden weight nearly pitched us both in anyways.

She gasped as she came awake and turned on me. “Why did you pull me out?”

“I didn’t,” I said. “You passed out.”

“Oh.” She tapped her chin. Nodding, she spun back around. “That should do it. Send me back.”

“Are you sure—”

“Talk after,” she said, her back stiffening.


Okay..well that was a surprise, given how the previous one ended, I was expecting this to run towards something much crazier than this but we end up with what appears to be a pretty simple moment there with the whole passing out situation. Although there is a sign that whatever was being tried did in fact work as they had expected, that's certainly quite something.

I sighed but resumed my former position and bled energy into her again. She jerked at my touch but said nothing. A moment later, and she’d gone all glowy-eyed and moany again. She twitched beneath my fingers and her heart rate sped up, but I steeled myself. Despite her years in Nebesa, she was still a mortal, as she’d so bluntly reminded me earlier. And this was her first foray into a realm that some gods struggled to traverse. It was probably frightening and disorienting for her, even with all the strange visions she’d seen as an Oracle. But she was resilient. She’d acclimate and orient herself and come back with something useful, if she could see anything.

Her heart stopped.

I gave her ten seconds before I reacted. With the way she’d collapsed, at first I thought she’d passed out again, but when I felt her heart stop I waited to see if her spirit drifted away from her body. Since it didn’t, but remained firmly moored in the astral plane, I tapped into her veins and carefully nudged her heart back into motion. The last time I’d had to do something like this was when I’d still been the God of Death, except it’d been this process in reverse.


Hmm, well I suppose it is only realistic to expect this sort of reaction to occur here considering the fact that we have now been reminded multiple times that she is in fact a mortal being here and not one that should be messing around too much in planes reserved for gods. It does put in perspective some of the other scenes we've seen before as well.

Even with my help, it still took her a solid minute to return to consciousness after her heart beat again. Whatever protest had been building died when she saw my face. “Passed out again?” she asked.

I shook my head. “Nearly died.”

“Oh.” She nodded. “Not surprising, given how utterly inhospitable that plane is.” Shaking her head, she laughed softly. “You gods can stand to travel through that?”

“How bad was it?” I asked.

“Like bathing my eyes in boiling vinegar, a thousand needle pricks on my skin.” She rubbed her arms.


Hmm, well that was a very calm way to discuss almost dying and describe a pain that has to have been just unimaginably horrible judging from that description. I suppose she has really been through some crazy things as an oracle to act this way.

“I’m afraid not,” she said, glancing back at the pool. Straightening, she clenched her fists. “But I did get an inclination of malevolence from Tingid. While I’d rather not try the astral plane again, I will see what lies east.”

I nodded. “Thank you for your efforts. It’s not usually such a wasteland above, but even so, the realm might not be able to support mortal life on its best days.”

She turned her back and held her hands over the scrying pool. “You don’t have to console me. Failure or not, I will execute my duties.”

“If you insist.” I patted her shoulder, this time without infusing her with power. “If you make any breakthroughs, let me know.”


Hmm...well I guess that's someone pretty dedicated to her task. Despite the fact that clearly this is something that she's going to have major trouble with doing and could almost certainly lead to a painful death, she doesn't even seem to show a hint of fear or any second thoughts at all.

Politely declining the steamed towels her attendants offered me on my way out, I strode through the fog of incense and made my way outside the temple. I paused, hand hanging in the air to draw my portal. If Tamiyat really had corrupted the astral plane around Nebesa, then perhaps she’d discovered our heavenly abode and was setting up to move against us. At the very least, I ought to take stock of the realm’s condition before returning to the Trial. With a tired sigh, I let myself fall backwards, shedding my skeleton for my starry projection.

Phemonoe hadn’t understated the hostility of the astral plane. Even in the body designed for such a space, I was still mildly uncomfortable. The gritty feeling wasn’t quite needles, but it still grated against my consciousness. Unlike the intensity I’d felt near Aenea, however, this causticness felt residual, like an inkblot dispersed in a cup of milk. No angry deities snatched at my ankles, nothing eldritch assaulted my mind, and not a hint remained of whatever had drawn Phemonoe’s concern about the Tingid mountains. As an afterthought, I checked the webbing that connected the maas, but couldn’t see anything that might be blocking our travels.


Okay....so that was a smart move. Charax just making doubly sure to check for anything immediate that could strike while Malia and him are away on the trial is a nice step to be taking there and this picture we're shown here seems to be yet another little clue as to what might just happen in the not too distant future.

Nowhere in Nebesa was a garden like this. Slender trees, barely past the stage of being saplings, ringed a lawn full of grass half shaded in shadow. Upon closer inspection, it seemed as if the shadows were part of the very leaves, matching the contours of the blades as they bent in the breeze. A silvery pond flashed as its surface shifted, concentric rings growing from an unseen pebble that’d shattered its waters. Seated on the opposite side of the pond was a woman so gaunt it was a wonder her bones didn’t split her skin. Or, no, that wasn’t right. I blinked, and she merely looked thin, her stringy hair as wispy as her dress. She smiled, and her clothes and hair filled in, the former golden and the latter the luster of plated copper.

I took a step forward—and gasped. My foot splashed into the pond, where before I hadn’t even been near the water. My legs were too full, my hands thick and young again. It’d been so long since I’d felt vitality like this coursing through my body that for a moment I didn’t even recognize the vigor of youth. And I had no idea why this was happening.


Okay...the fact that someone like Charax is responding in such a confused and disoriented manner here as he's making sense of someone that appears strange and mysterious even to him suggests we've just run into a very, very powerful entity of some kind. Things just got even more interesting.

“I’m afraid I don’t quite follow.”

“I wonder what she sees in you.” She tilted her head, letting her hair veil half her face. “What makes you special?”

“Who are you, again?” I folded my arms and resisted the urge to squirm. The last thing I needed was to shift my weight and find myself slamming into a tree from the uncalibrated movement of this space.

“I didn’t say.” Her breath puffed against her hair. “Well, I can’t see it, but she was always the one with the eye for these things.” Brushing her hands on her dress, she slid to her feet. “Perhaps I—”

“Charax!” Behind me, Phemonoe burst through the trees, her face flushed with excitement. “I’ve finally had a vision.” She trailed off as she realized that she wasn’t on the steps of her temple.


Well there's a lot happening with reality these days it seems...it looks like we've got beings with just insane amounts of power playing around even with the literal gods here judging by how this is panning out here.

“You shouldn’t peek behind every curtain,” the woman said, frowning. As she flicked her hand, the sky fractured like shattered glass, and a shard of reality spiked towards the Oracle.

“No!” I reached out to stop it, and something pulsed. The broken pane shifted and impacted the ground next to Phemonoe, who paled and swayed unsteadily on her feet. Fire lanced my shoulder, like I’d run into a pillar. I didn’t quite catch the woman’s reaction, but when I glanced at her she wore a wolfish smile that was at odds with her delicate features.

The smile softened as soon as she noticed my attention. “I must admit, that was absolutely marvelous. What pantheon are you from?”

“I didn’t say.” I couldn’t resist throwing her earlier words back at her.


Okay...clearly whatever Charax did there saved Phemonoe somehow..and that seems to have impressed whoever this being happens to be. Well this is getting a little trippy here, but clearly there are some very powerful forces at play here, although whether it is for good or for bad, there's really no telling.

“Then let me part the curtains.” Her eyes flashed.

Phemonoe squealed as the ground swallowed her, leaving no trace that the Oracle had been there.

The woman held a finger up before I even got my mouth open. “She is unharmed. I’ve simply returned her to whatever you call your celestial home.” She raised an eyebrow. “Did you…elevate her?”

“She was having trouble with her scrying. We experimented.” I crossed my arms and stared at her. She still hadn’t given away what her angle was, but she was able to sense far more than any divine being should be able to. Sampling the power of our pantheon just by smell, realizing Phemonoe had been to the astral plane without even touching her—it was deeply unsettling. And I wasn’t even sure this wasn’t a dream. But if it was, that was a very realistic Oracle that had just waltzed into it. My dream, the divine slumberings of a god, which not even other deities could traipse across with ease. Despite my age and experience, I felt very much out of my depths.


Well the fact that this entire last paragraph was pretty easy to infer just from Charax's reactions earlier is a fun testament to how familiar these characters are now, but also this acts as a very nice summary here to let us the readers know exactly why we should be very worried right about now. Its a great place to end on.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: This was a very interesting ending here. I don't quite know where this is going to end up, but it seems things are only getting more mysterious for the moment, although I sense at least a couple of answers in our immediate future here.

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

Stay Safe
Harry





The man who never makes a mistake always takes orders from one who does.
— Anonymous