z
  • Home

Young Writers Society


16+ Language

The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 78: "The Ring"

by dragonfphoenix


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

We made our way back up the tunnels in relative silence. I hadn’t answered her question, merely spun and escorted her against the current while I pondered what had happened. She didn’t press further, settling into her own comfortable silence. As we trudged uphill, I ignored the thoughts pacing at the back of my mind. I needed to get Phemonoe out, or at least under Xinva’s care, and then I was going to come back and take a walk outside Peklo.

If she really had gone to the astral plane, I needed to make sure her re-entry hadn’t left a massive flare from the transition, or that the Sea Mother’s corruption hadn’t crept this far, or that another monster or hostile entity wasn’t stalking our underworld, now that the scent had been taken beyond. Assuming it had.

When we reached the dark bend to the first tunnel, Phemonoe tugged the elbow of my sleeve. “Hey.”

I paused outside the blackness and looked down at her. “Yes?”

“Did you…hear the vision?” She masked the fear in her voice, but it leaked out through her eyes, along with a puff of that unnatural blue vapor. It had faded almost entirely, shortly after her return, but it still came in fits and spurts as we walked.

“What?” I scanned the spirits around us, thinking I’d felt something but finding nothing amiss.

Her eyebrows quirked down, darting out of her bangs. “So if it wasn’t that, what’s wrong?”

Tilting my head, I gave her a sideways look. “You disappeared.”

Bewilderment slapped her face around. “What on earth are you talking about?”

I turned to face her. “Some kind of ring appeared, and the whole lot of you vanished from the tunnel. Almost like a…”

Like a portal swallowed them. Whatever scowls had graced my face before paled in comparison to the one I wore now. The ring hadn’t behaved like a portal. No glimpse of the realm beyond, and no other portals moved. This one had been an active agent, affecting instead of being affected. My first suspicion, the Sea Mother, made no sense, because why would she steal away Phemonoe only to send her straight back? Not to mention the changes within the Oracle that, if not beneficial, at least had not yet been malevolent.

More of the strange light steamed from her eyes as she gave me a funny look. “The machinations of the gods that I’m not to be privy to?”

“How long were you talking with the Oracles?”

She shook her head. “I’m not sure, as it’s hard to tell without the sun. But hours, at least.” A nervous laugh escaped her. “You were there. I thought you were eavesdropping the whole time, despite how you kept your back to us and acted aloof.”

“You were gone a handful of minutes, at most, and I wasn’t with you.”

“Are you sure?” Concern lined her face. “Not that I don’t believe you, but it’s hard to deny what my eyes saw.” Her voice grew soft as she watched my face and realized what she was saying. “Oh.”

I nodded. “I’m not sure what happened, but whatever it was, it wasn’t real.” I folded my arms. “Not a proper vision, because I saw what must have initiated it, and when the ring hit the ground all of you were gone. I don’t know its origins or purpose, but I’m going to find out.” Trying to keep the frustration out of my voice, I said, “What was that vision you had?”

She went still. “Please, don’t ask about that.”

I frowned. “But the Oracles–”

“They are in agreement.” There was steel in her voice, though not malicious. “I will give you what I can, but even that might be too much.” Emotion bowed the steel, straining her words.

“I just want to understand,” I said.

Face pinched, she nodded. “Most visions are a single event, maybe a few possibilities. This was a flood, dozens of potentialities all at once.” She shook her head. “Even with the conference, I only know a few certainties. But what I do know is that the more I reveal, the fewer pleasant endings remain. Every piece brought from obscurity precludes a branch I would never prune. So please.”

Well that was a rat’s nest and a half. Malia might know how to untangle useful information from that knot without ruining the whole thing, but I wouldn’t mess with it until we had a chance to plan. But with the Sea Mother and Paedens moving against Tingin, and Hasda’s Third Trial riding its coattails, who knew when that would be. Probably not before significant portions of the vision had come to pass, but we’d have to make do.

I sighed. “All right. But is there any advice you could give me, based on what you know, that might help me navigate towards those better ends?”

Her eyes flitted back and forth as she chewed her lip, a very uncharacteristic tick. “I…I’m not sure.”

An overenthusiastic honk startled us. Xinva poked his head into the tunnel, his glossy black eye taking us in.

I jerked my head towards the Oracle. “Keep an eye on her for a moment. I’ll be right back.”

Whatever protest Phemonoe had been preparing, I didn’t wait around to hear. I stormed through Sisiranga, scattering spirits too slow to get out of my way. Unharmed, they re-formed in my wake and shambled on along with the Avoso. Traveling alone, it didn’t take me as long to reach the third tunnel, and when I reached the spot where Phemonoe had met the Oracles I found an absence of spirits lingering. It was an unsettling sight, a blot of darkness which the river of souls should have consumed.

But there it was.

As I approached, I tugged at the edges of the astral plane. My projection didn’t come easily, and by the time I stood in the middle of the empty space it’d barely come at all. I strained against the block, but I couldn’t reach the transcendent plane.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” a soft voice whispered behind me.

I whirled and found a tall, thin specter standing behind me. Her thin robes were several centuries out of style, but distinctly Carthian. Though shrunken, her eyes pierced me with a knowing gaze that only Oracles could achieve. What bothered me the most, though, was how clear her form was. Without my Scythe, she should’ve been a washed-out blur like the other souls.

Her smile was regal, and for a moment I wondered if she’d lived during the era when diviners and royalty had been one and the same. She carried herself well, hands clasped before her as she regarded me. “You won’t find what you’re looking for that way.”

“And that is?” I let the effort drop, although I kept the fringe of my projection on my fingertips.

“You disrupt the currents of prophecy like a stone a still pond.” Her eyes danced. “But you have the subtlety of an elephant.”

“Were you among the Oracles Phemonoe met with? I’m afraid I didn’t recognize any of you.” My mind struggled to place her looks and diction. Something about her was familiar, but I couldn’t figure out if she’d served just before my ascension, or during the early years. She didn’t quite resemble…

“Doune,” she said.

The First Oracle. Of course.

I grunted. “You’ve changed.”

“As have you, bony child.” She raised her eyebrows just a tad. “You promised to put some muscle on. I see you’ve done the opposite.”

“This is just a temporary measure.” I shrugged and turned back to the void. “Did you see what happened?”

“I was there.” That smile of hers hid all sorts of secrets, and she wasn’t sharing. “I know my daughter told you not to pry, yet here you are at our doorstep with an iron bar wedge by the latch.”

“I’m not prying into anything.” I scowled. “If you talked for hours, as Phemonoe experienced, then you’d know the security threat a rent between the astral plane and Peklo represents.”

“That place is sacred to Oracles, and well-protected.” Her eyes were veiled, her lips pursed. “More than that, you are not privy to know, god though you are. But understand that it’s no avenue for the Sea Mother to empty the coffers of our dead.”

“For a class whose sole purpose is to demystify, you’re sure concealing a lot.”

She snorted. “You have only yourself to blame. It’s a wonder Phemonoe could even join us, as she’s no longer an Oracle.” Eyes narrowed, she jabbed a wispy finger at me. “But you already knew that.”

“Yes, yes, an accident with consequences I’ve been reminded of repeatedly already.” I waved her comment away. “Is there nothing of use you can tell me? We’re a little in the dark right now, and with conflict looming on the horizon and Phemonoe swearing herself to silence, we’d appreciate all the help we can get.”

Doune dimmed, her spirit fading more than receding into the river of souls. “Take care of my daughter, Charax. I expect her to rejoin her sisters in one piece.”

And then she was gone. Despite being no more luminous than the other souls, the light felt softer now that she’d left. The absence in the river had filled behind me as we talked, although its subtle glow diminished none of the feeling that something important was missing. Scowling, I turned and headed back up the tunnel to retrieve Phemonoe, the not-Oracle with an unspeakable prophecy, and tried not to grind my teeth too hard.

This was going to be one nasty fight.


Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
4346 Reviews

Points: 304732
Reviews: 4346

Donate
Mon Aug 15, 2022 12:55 am
View Likes
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: Okay...well this chapter certainly reveals an interesting bit of information. Its the sort of chapter that confirms all the half possibilities you've got swimming around without adding too much onto it, so it does also feel like a bit of a break to process the information from the previous couple of chapter and then sharpen the knowledge of the action to come.

Anyway let's get right to it,

We made our way back up the tunnels in relative silence. I hadn’t answered her question, merely spun and escorted her against the current while I pondered what had happened. She didn’t press further, settling into her own comfortable silence. As we trudged uphill, I ignored the thoughts pacing at the back of my mind. I needed to get Phemonoe out, or at least under Xinva’s care, and then I was going to come back and take a walk outside Peklo.

If she really had gone to the astral plane, I needed to make sure her re-entry hadn’t left a massive flare from the transition, or that the Sea Mother’s corruption hadn’t crept this far, or that another monster or hostile entity wasn’t stalking our underworld, now that the scent had been taken beyond. Assuming it had.

When we reached the dark bend to the first tunnel, Phemonoe tugged the elbow of my sleeve. “Hey.”

I paused outside the blackness and looked down at her. “Yes?”


Hmm...well Charax it seems is already concerned with all sorts of matters that seem like they should only be dealt with by the god of death, but of course it is quite clear that Charax is probably the best option to do this at the moment given the current god of death is probably not fit enough. And well it seems this Phemonoe situation is being slightly ignored a bit for the moment at least while she's still stnading there.

“Did you…hear the vision?” She masked the fear in her voice, but it leaked out through her eyes, along with a puff of that unnatural blue vapor. It had faded almost entirely, shortly after her return, but it still came in fits and spurts as we walked.

“What?” I scanned the spirits around us, thinking I’d felt something but finding nothing amiss.

Her eyebrows quirked down, darting out of her bangs. “So if it wasn’t that, what’s wrong?”

Tilting my head, I gave her a sideways look. “You disappeared.”

Bewilderment slapped her face around. “What on earth are you talking about?”

I turned to face her. “Some kind of ring appeared, and the whole lot of you vanished from the tunnel. Almost like a…”


Hmm...that conversation probably could have happened a little earlier there when Phemonoe asked about it but I suppose maybe Charax was a little busy with his thoughts or something which is what led to him to being quite that mysterious about the whole thing earlier.

Like a portal swallowed them. Whatever scowls had graced my face before paled in comparison to the one I wore now. The ring hadn’t behaved like a portal. No glimpse of the realm beyond, and no other portals moved. This one had been an active agent, affecting instead of being affected. My first suspicion, the Sea Mother, made no sense, because why would she steal away Phemonoe only to send her straight back? Not to mention the changes within the Oracle that, if not beneficial, at least had not yet been malevolent.

More of the strange light steamed from her eyes as she gave me a funny look. “The machinations of the gods that I’m not to be privy to?”

“How long were you talking with the Oracles?”

She shook her head. “I’m not sure, as it’s hard to tell without the sun. But hours, at least.” A nervous laugh escaped her. “You were there. I thought you were eavesdropping the whole time, despite how you kept your back to us and acted aloof.”


Hmm...well I suppose something like that really shouldn't be as surprising as it manages to be here, but well it seems like whatever force is responsible for this really worked quite hard to make sure Phemonoe was provided with something here. Its clear they weren't really trying to trick anyone since as it's proved here, what happened isn't exactly remaining particularly hidden but they definitely wanted something done to have all that effort go in.

“You were gone a handful of minutes, at most, and I wasn’t with you.”

“Are you sure?” Concern lined her face. “Not that I don’t believe you, but it’s hard to deny what my eyes saw.” Her voice grew soft as she watched my face and realized what she was saying. “Oh.”

I nodded. “I’m not sure what happened, but whatever it was, it wasn’t real.” I folded my arms. “Not a proper vision, because I saw what must have initiated it, and when the ring hit the ground all of you were gone. I don’t know its origins or purpose, but I’m going to find out.” Trying to keep the frustration out of my voice, I said, “What was that vision you had?”

She went still. “Please, don’t ask about that.”

I frowned. “But the Oracles–”


Okayy...now that is a little odd. There's really no way she could be thinking that somehow Charax can't handle the sight of the vision, given the fact that she should know he's seen far worse things that what she'd consider horrible which means something about these, especially given they are dealing with the future must have to do with Charax in some fashion at least in terms of affecting the future.

“They are in agreement.” There was steel in her voice, though not malicious. “I will give you what I can, but even that might be too much.” Emotion bowed the steel, straining her words.

“I just want to understand,” I said.

Face pinched, she nodded. “Most visions are a single event, maybe a few possibilities. This was a flood, dozens of potentialities all at once.” She shook her head. “Even with the conference, I only know a few certainties. But what I do know is that the more I reveal, the fewer pleasant endings remain. Every piece brought from obscurity precludes a branch I would never prune. So please.”


Well...I suppose that deduction was correct after all at least to some extent. That really was the only logical reason why Phemonoe would hide the whole thing from Charax, not too many other reasons the High Oracle would essentially ignore her actual job description.

Well that was a rat’s nest and a half. Malia might know how to untangle useful information from that knot without ruining the whole thing, but I wouldn’t mess with it until we had a chance to plan. But with the Sea Mother and Paedens moving against Tingin, and Hasda’s Third Trial riding its coattails, who knew when that would be. Probably not before significant portions of the vision had come to pass, but we’d have to make do.

I sighed. “All right. But is there any advice you could give me, based on what you know, that might help me navigate towards those better ends?”

Her eyes flitted back and forth as she chewed her lip, a very uncharacteristic tick. “I…I’m not sure.”

An overenthusiastic honk startled us. Xinva poked his head into the tunnel, his glossy black eye taking us in.


Well...untangling the threads of time is certainly not the sort of thing that can be done very easily so even with the help of multiple oracles I have no doubt that Phemonoe isn't lying here, in fact that whole untangling scenario is maybe why she even requested to speak with them in the first place.

I jerked my head towards the Oracle. “Keep an eye on her for a moment. I’ll be right back.”

Whatever protest Phemonoe had been preparing, I didn’t wait around to hear. I stormed through Sisiranga, scattering spirits too slow to get out of my way. Unharmed, they re-formed in my wake and shambled on along with the Avoso. Traveling alone, it didn’t take me as long to reach the third tunnel, and when I reached the spot where Phemonoe had met the Oracles I found an absence of spirits lingering. It was an unsettling sight, a blot of darkness which the river of souls should have consumed.

But there it was.

As I approached, I tugged at the edges of the astral plane. My projection didn’t come easily, and by the time I stood in the middle of the empty space it’d barely come at all. I strained against the block, but I couldn’t reach the transcendent plane.


Well...that was quick...I was not expecting Charax to get to business quite that quickly but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, especially given just how crazy this particular situation has been in recent times. It does certainly look all of his concern was quite justified too if the way things are currently going are any indication.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” a soft voice whispered behind me.

I whirled and found a tall, thin specter standing behind me. Her thin robes were several centuries out of style, but distinctly Carthian. Though shrunken, her eyes pierced me with a knowing gaze that only Oracles could achieve. What bothered me the most, though, was how clear her form was. Without my Scythe, she should’ve been a washed-out blur like the other souls.

Her smile was regal, and for a moment I wondered if she’d lived during the era when diviners and royalty had been one and the same. She carried herself well, hands clasped before her as she regarded me. “You won’t find what you’re looking for that way.”

“And that is?” I let the effort drop, although I kept the fringe of my projection on my fingertips.


Okay...well...I suppose if anyone is going to help Charax figure anything out, its going to be one of the other Oracles, although it does look like this one is one of the particularly old ones judging by Charax's own deductions and just the way she seems to speaking there as if she's seen a lot more than Charax ever will.

“You disrupt the currents of prophecy like a stone a still pond.” Her eyes danced. “But you have the subtlety of an elephant.”

“Were you among the Oracles Phemonoe met with? I’m afraid I didn’t recognize any of you.” My mind struggled to place her looks and diction. Something about her was familiar, but I couldn’t figure out if she’d served just before my ascension, or during the early years. She didn’t quite resemble…

“Doune,” she said.

The First Oracle. Of course.

I grunted. “You’ve changed.”


Well I think my suspicions once again have been confirmed a bit, although I have to admit I did not see the fact that this was literally the first oracle, although I suppose it makes sense. Rather just any old oracle, the literal first one would certainly be the person who'd have the kind of confidence and comfort in their own skin this person has here.

“As have you, bony child.” She raised her eyebrows just a tad. “You promised to put some muscle on. I see you’ve done the opposite.”

“This is just a temporary measure.” I shrugged and turned back to the void. “Did you see what happened?”

“I was there.” That smile of hers hid all sorts of secrets, and she wasn’t sharing. “I know my daughter told you not to pry, yet here you are at our doorstep with an iron bar wedge by the latch.”

“I’m not prying into anything.” I scowled. “If you talked for hours, as Phemonoe experienced, then you’d know the security threat a rent between the astral plane and Peklo represents.”


Hmm...well judging by the whole elephant comment earlier I feel like Charax's fear here is being treated so casually because somehow there's something going on here that only the oracles know about. I suppose they are in whatever mythology always going to remain very mysterious.

“That place is sacred to Oracles, and well-protected.” Her eyes were veiled, her lips pursed. “More than that, you are not privy to know, god though you are. But understand that it’s no avenue for the Sea Mother to empty the coffers of our dead.”

“For a class whose sole purpose is to demystify, you’re sure concealing a lot.”

She snorted. “You have only yourself to blame. It’s a wonder Phemonoe could even join us, as she’s no longer an Oracle.” Eyes narrowed, she jabbed a wispy finger at me. “But you already knew that.”

“Yes, yes, an accident with consequences I’ve been reminded of repeatedly already.” I waved her comment away. “Is there nothing of use you can tell me? We’re a little in the dark right now, and with conflict looming on the horizon and Phemonoe swearing herself to silence, we’d appreciate all the help we can get.”


Hmm...well yes that interaction panned out exactly as I was expecting it to. Oracles do absolutely love their secrets...and it seems this one is being a little accusatory as well, although I suppose she is a little justified in that particular accusation.

Doune dimmed, her spirit fading more than receding into the river of souls. “Take care of my daughter, Charax. I expect her to rejoin her sisters in one piece.”

And then she was gone. Despite being no more luminous than the other souls, the light felt softer now that she’d left. The absence in the river had filled behind me as we talked, although its subtle glow diminished none of the feeling that something important was missing. Scowling, I turned and headed back up the tunnel to retrieve Phemonoe, the not-Oracle with an unspeakable prophecy, and tried not to grind my teeth too hard.

This was going to be one nasty fight.


Well every main character has to have one of these moments right after listening to an oracle. At least it seems for a change most of the mystery presented by these oracles seem a lot more justified that them simply speaking in random riddles.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, another intriguing chapter joins the mix. Well this definitely suggests that its one of those scenarios where a good ending is not the sort of thing you foresee happening which definitely puts an extra darker twist on things. Its not often you see that in this story given there is a more lighter atmosphere around it all times despite some of the more horrifying things that happen. Well let's see what comes next.

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

Stay Safe
Harry




User avatar
1524 Reviews

Points: 160372
Reviews: 1524

Donate
Tue Jun 21, 2022 8:49 pm
View Likes
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hey again! Icy here for another review!

A quick nitpick first before we get into the main part of the review:

“Did you…hear the vision?” She masked the fear in her voice, but it leaked out through her eyes, along with a puff of that unnatural blue vapor. It had faded almost entirely, shortly after her return, but it still came in fits and spurts as we walked.

“What?” I scanned the spirits around us, thinking I’d felt something but finding nothing amiss.

Her eyebrows quirked down, darting out of her bangs. “So if it wasn’t that, what’s wrong?”

I found this exchange didn't flow quite as I'd expect - I think it was the combination of the blue vapour alongside them talking about the vision and I got confused as to what they were talking about. I got it eventually, but had to reread this section three or four times before I did!

I feel like I've both been given answers and also way way more questions, which I think is a really effective technique here. I couldn't help feeling a little cheated by the lack of information from Phemonoe - maybe even knowing what the vision relates to could help? I appreciate we'll presumably find out later on, but this was quite the journey to not really learn anything.

Duone was an interesting addition to this chapter too, and I'm really enthralled by how all these different beings interact with each other. It seems founded on a certain amount of respect, but they definitely don't all trust one another completely. I wonder how the rest of the Oracles felt about the fact Charax was there.

As always, looking forward to the next chapter and hopefully some more Malia!

Icy




User avatar
702 Reviews

Points: 87926
Reviews: 702

Donate
Fri Apr 15, 2022 1:29 am
View Likes
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

So that chapter left everything somehow both clearer and more mysterious, which, I gather, was likely the point. It was a little frustrating not to know what was in the vision, but also the lack of what we learned definitely adds more to the mystery! I would have liked maybe a crumb of what Phemonoe saw, even if it was a really foreboding warning. It just felt like a bit of a letdown to go through all of that and then not even get info from it. Here's to hoping Malia will be of some help in the future with that regard.

I am really curious about the whole vision/not-vision thing. It was interesting to see Phemonoe's perspective on the whole consulting-with-the-oracles thing; it's certainly curious that it felt much longer for her than it did for Charax. The whole flood of visions that Phemonoe mentioned was interesting too, even though we didn't get to know the details. We didn't get so much into the lasting effects of the oracle conference in the chapter, but given that Phemonoe is still emitting smoke a little and hearing the select details the first oracle provided, it seems that the weirdness still left behind was a byproduct of Phemonoe not being a true oracle anymore...?

I also very much enjoyed the description and characterization of Doune. She definitely added a whole other level of otherworldliness to the chapter, and while her obfuscation was frustrating at times, the clarification on the astral plane and the Sea Mother was a good detail to reveal. Even though we probably won't be seeing much of her again, I like the air of mystery you've given her.

Specifics

“You disrupt the currents of prophecy like a stone a still pond.” Her eyes danced. “But you have the subtlety of an elephant.”


I wasn't too sure about this dialogue—to me, the "but" seemed oddly placed, as both metaphors seem to connote some form of clumsiness/disruption. Maybe "and" would work better? It's also possible that I've just misinterpreted the phrase, too.

Overall: nice work!! I look forward to hopefully getting some more clarification at some point in the future, and I am looking forward to seeing where you take it from here! Until next time!!




dragonfphoenix says...


I've definitely figured out what's going on with Phemonoe because I'm the author and authors know everything about their stories

The vision is planned to be a subplot of Phemonoe figuring out all the ways she can help them regarding the vision without revealing it or enough clues for them to crack it.

Next section should be a few chapters, and then we'll be heading onto the whole Sea Mother mess section woot




Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.
— Quentin Crisp