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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 79: "The Garden"

by dragonfphoenix


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

After collecting Phemonoe (who hadn’t warmed to the guardian goose at all in their short time together) and escorting her to her temple, I made my way across Nebesa to Malia’s sanctuary. No one greeted me on the ground level, and when I descended the stairs to the subterranean courtyard, lit by flickering torches, I found nothing but statues frozen in a variety of poses. Pleading, terrified, exultant–the whole range of human emotion, captured in various stages of completion. My gorgon’s petrified garden.

“In the back, dear.” Malia’s voice rebounded through the shadows, coming from the dark archway in the wall on the opposite end of the courtyard. Scattered pillars held up the roof, disrupting the flow of statues and holding the ensconced torches.

I ducked under a four-armed cyclops and dodged past a humanoid fox with twin tails. Their tan, stony surfaces shone in the torchlight, free of dust. A long snake with a diamondback pattern sprawled across my path, and I stepped over it with my freshly-muscled legs. Pulling the pounds back on was getting easier, thanks in part to my recently-renewed ambrosia consumption. I glared at the serpent, which was as thick as a log and twisted in a dozen different directions, neither its head nor tail visible. “I thought you were going to clean some of these out. There are definitely more than last time.”

“It’s not my fault I had to make more. Sadly, I had to fill the space again.” There wasn’t a trace of regret in her tone, and I would have been surprised if there were.

“You could at least organize them a little better.” A beast that was more manticore than centaur stood prominently displayed in the middle of the chamber. Whether it’d been passing enough to join its equine brethren, I didn’t know, but Seppo would have a conniption if he knew it was down here. He had a soft spot for centaurs, which was part of why they’d risen to such prominence among the celestial citizens. I asked Malia if she’d told our pantheon’s head about the petrified creature, and she laughed.

“Of course not, dear. Now, would you please stop gawking? I’ve nearly thawed her.”

Grumbling, I wended my way around the rest of the statues and dipped through the archway. Magic tickled the back of my neck as I entered, the obfuscating darkness parting to reveal Malia’s, er, “de-petrification” chamber.

Lazuli, still frozen from the waist up, sagged against her manacles. Thick chains linked the cuffs on her wrists to the ceiling, a ball and chain on each ankle. Angry red welts swelled on her thighs, too regular to be from the loss of feathers, because of course Malia had plucked them. No damning piles of ash or burnt smells betrayed the fate of Lazuli’s former plumage, but at least her belly was still covered in down. Several plumes were bent in odd angles, and I pushed away the inkling of how they’d gotten that way. It wasn’t from the thawing, though.

Bronze lamps ringed the harpy goddess, bathing her in warm light. Crackling grated against the air as the petrification receded slowly up her abdomen. Her ribs quivered, her lungs struggling to pull breath, but with her head still frozen no air could get in.

Malia peeled herself off the wall, snapping her own feathers into place with a flick of her wings. Face proud, she strutted around from behind the harpy and jabbed her ribs as she passed. “Glad you could make it.”

“I hope you remembered that we want her in one piece.” I glanced down at Lazuli’s legs, then back at Malia. She was certainly feeling better, and the cuts that had split her face were nearly gone. Based on the energy she was exuding, she was nearly back to normal.

“Her legs showed signs of numbness, so I applied some stimulation.”

“Hmm.” I frowned as the stone flaked off her chest, cracking like dried mud as it shed from her shoulders and neck. The chains clanked as Lazuli struggled, jerking against her restraints. When she started kicking, I took a step back, out of range. The leg restraints kept her from reaching too far, but the way the balls grated against the floor made me disinclined to test the theory that she didn’t have the strength to move them.

Malia wrapped a wing around me as she settled against my side. “How was Peklo?”

“Dark, humid, disturbing, the usual.” I muttered some other complaints, then explained the whole branching prophecy situation. Her snakes tickled my shoulder with their tongues as I talked, adding their annoyance to my own.

When I finished, Malia hummed. “And she’s unlikely to tell me anything, either.”

I nodded. “At first I suspected it was because the prophecy involved me somehow, or Hasda, and that’s why she didn’t want to tell me, but I’m starting to think it’s bigger than the Trials. Tamiyat would be an obvious topic, but if it involves the Sea Mother, why not tell us as much? We already know about her, so there being yet another vision wouldn’t be that strange.”

“Likely it encompasses the entire pantheon.” Malia’s eyes caught in the lamplight as she watched the petrification peel off Lazuli’s beak. The kite harpy gulped air as if she’d been underwater far too long, her body shuddering. Malia smiled. “Or perhaps something bigger than Tamiyat.”

“Like the…?” We didn’t even have a word for them yet, the Sybil, Spinster, and their two nameless sisters.

Malia nodded. “It’s a possibility.”

Lazuli lunged forward and snapped her beak. The crumbling stone still covered the upper half of her head like a falconer’s hood. “Foreign scum! Release me at once.”

“Looks like someone’s finally awake.” Malia’s fangs showed through her smile as she slid towards the kite. “Have a nice nap, little bird?”

Keeping one eye on Lazuli, I touched the edge of the astral plane, as Malia was likely doing as well. It was far easier to contact it here than in Peklo, although I didn’t actually need to breach it here. Just to keep an eye on it and watch for disturbances.

“Where is she?” Lazuli snapped. Her beak pointed straight at Malia.

“Right here,” Malia said.

Chunks of rock and dust crumbled to the floor as Lazuli shook her wings free. “Not you, bitch. The Paeden.”

Malia’s tail stopped an inch from Lazuli’s stomach. Gathering herself, she gave Lazuli a quizzical look. “‘The’ Paeden? You mean Marudak?”

“She’s obsessed with the Paedens’ Queen of the Sea, Nanshe,” I said in a hushed whisper.

“Of course not,” Lazuli snarled. “He can drink piss, for all I care. But that broad-mantled whore–” Her words devolved into a string of eldritch phrases we could barely understand, but the closest root words carried connotations of marine rock sludge, unbridled promiscuity, and feces.

Pleasant.

The last of her cranial petrification fell away as she finished her tirade. Her dark eyes, rage roiling in her irises, locked on mine. Tilting her head, she said, “I remember you. You promised to bring her to me.” Her beak clicked. “Where is she?”

“Misplaced her.” I folded my arms and stared her down. “We have some questions regarding your former relationship with the primordial deity known as the Sea Mother.”

Eyes narrowed, she tucked her wings and hunched over. Clenching her fists, she strained against the chains, but stayed stuck. Another yank, and nothing but the rattle of steel on celestial steel. Grunting, she flared her wings and arched her back, face scrunched. A thin, purple thread floated from her back, its end drifting into the edge of the astral plane. When it brushed the film of the higher dimension, Lazuli’s eyes snapped open.

“There,” she said, chirping in triumph.

Malia and I waited, our fingers on the proverbial heartbeat of the astral realm.

No answering call came.

“Seems like your patron abandoned you.” Malia’s grin was feral. “But thanks for letting her know we’re on our way, herald.”

“How dare you!” Lazuli lunged forward. The chains ran out of length and yanked her back. Panting, Lazuli hung by her wrists and glared at Malia. “I am no herald of yours. I spurn you.” She spit.

Malia raised an eyebrow at me. “You have the more recent experience with children.”

I turned my eye roll at her into a stern face to Lazuli. Bending over, I put myself at her eye level. “Like I said, your ‘former’ relationship. We need to know how she made you her proxy, and how–”

Her piercing laugh, almost a raptor shriek, rent the air. “Unlearned simpleton,” she squealed. “You know nothing of the madness of the Ancient Mother. Locked, forever, next to her vastness, the tides of lunacy washing over the mind, unrelenting.” Another peal of laughter. “Make? There is no make. Does one make the sun? The wind? One might more easily make the rivers flow. Make.” She spat the last word and speared me with her dark eyes. “In that pit, things are. What was before matters not, in the after of the pit.” Her face hardened. “And I will slay the hibara that threw me in there.”


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Mon Aug 15, 2022 5:50 pm
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...this was certainly an interesting start here to this interrogation of sorts going on here. I have no doubts that this isn't done just yet and there'll be more of this to come quite soon.

Anyway let's get right to it,

After collecting Phemonoe (who hadn’t warmed to the guardian goose at all in their short time together) and escorting her to her temple, I made my way across Nebesa to Malia’s sanctuary. No one greeted me on the ground level, and when I descended the stairs to the subterranean courtyard, lit by flickering torches, I found nothing but statues frozen in a variety of poses. Pleading, terrified, exultant–the whole range of human emotion, captured in various stages of completion. My gorgon’s petrified garden.

“In the back, dear.” Malia’s voice rebounded through the shadows, coming from the dark archway in the wall on the opposite end of the courtyard. Scattered pillars held up the roof, disrupting the flow of statues and holding the ensconced torches.

I ducked under a four-armed cyclops and dodged past a humanoid fox with twin tails. Their tan, stony surfaces shone in the torchlight, free of dust. A long snake with a diamondback pattern sprawled across my path, and I stepped over it with my freshly-muscled legs. Pulling the pounds back on was getting easier, thanks in part to my recently-renewed ambrosia consumption. I glared at the serpent, which was as thick as a log and twisted in a dozen different directions, neither its head nor tail visible. “I thought you were going to clean some of these out. There are definitely more than last time.”


Well...this is a delightful garden, I suppose you shouldn't be too terribly surprised that Malia has gone and done something like this. She is definitely the sort of person to be doing this kind of thing.

“It’s not my fault I had to make more. Sadly, I had to fill the space again.” There wasn’t a trace of regret in her tone, and I would have been surprised if there were.

“You could at least organize them a little better.” A beast that was more manticore than centaur stood prominently displayed in the middle of the chamber. Whether it’d been passing enough to join its equine brethren, I didn’t know, but Seppo would have a conniption if he knew it was down here. He had a soft spot for centaurs, which was part of why they’d risen to such prominence among the celestial citizens. I asked Malia if she’d told our pantheon’s head about the petrified creature, and she laughed.

“Of course not, dear. Now, would you please stop gawking? I’ve nearly thawed her.”

Grumbling, I wended my way around the rest of the statues and dipped through the archway. Magic tickled the back of my neck as I entered, the obfuscating darkness parting to reveal Malia’s, er, “de-petrification” chamber.


Well..Charax summed that situation up quite well I think. There is definitely a very specific sort of air that accompanies Malia and he is very good at bringing that up, well I suppose he should be really good at it by now given how long he's known her.

Lazuli, still frozen from the waist up, sagged against her manacles. Thick chains linked the cuffs on her wrists to the ceiling, a ball and chain on each ankle. Angry red welts swelled on her thighs, too regular to be from the loss of feathers, because of course Malia had plucked them. No damning piles of ash or burnt smells betrayed the fate of Lazuli’s former plumage, but at least her belly was still covered in down. Several plumes were bent in odd angles, and I pushed away the inkling of how they’d gotten that way. It wasn’t from the thawing, though.

Bronze lamps ringed the harpy goddess, bathing her in warm light. Crackling grated against the air as the petrification receded slowly up her abdomen. Her ribs quivered, her lungs struggling to pull breath, but with her head still frozen no air could get in.

Malia peeled herself off the wall, snapping her own feathers into place with a flick of her wings. Face proud, she strutted around from behind the harpy and jabbed her ribs as she passed. “Glad you could make it.”


Okay...well Malia is absolutely not skimping on the whole torture aspect on things and given the sort of things that Lazuli got up to that does not surprise although it does actually manage to make me feel a little bit sorry for her, just the tiniest bit, I'm sure she'll make sure that's gone by the time she starts speaking here. Lazuli has a knack for that.

“I hope you remembered that we want her in one piece.” I glanced down at Lazuli’s legs, then back at Malia. She was certainly feeling better, and the cuts that had split her face were nearly gone. Based on the energy she was exuding, she was nearly back to normal.

“Her legs showed signs of numbness, so I applied some stimulation.”

“Hmm.” I frowned as the stone flaked off her chest, cracking like dried mud as it shed from her shoulders and neck. The chains clanked as Lazuli struggled, jerking against her restraints. When she started kicking, I took a step back, out of range. The leg restraints kept her from reaching too far, but the way the balls grated against the floor made me disinclined to test the theory that she didn’t have the strength to move them.

Malia wrapped a wing around me as she settled against my side. “How was Peklo?”

“Dark, humid, disturbing, the usual.” I muttered some other complaints, then explained the whole branching prophecy situation. Her snakes tickled my shoulder with their tongues as I talked, adding their annoyance to my own.


Okay...well that's not ominous at all there right as we go ahead and mention the very prophecy that hints at all sorts of potential doom if all of these oracles are to be believed here. I have no doubt this chapter is about to be quite an entertaining conversation right here.

When I finished, Malia hummed. “And she’s unlikely to tell me anything, either.”

I nodded. “At first I suspected it was because the prophecy involved me somehow, or Hasda, and that’s why she didn’t want to tell me, but I’m starting to think it’s bigger than the Trials. Tamiyat would be an obvious topic, but if it involves the Sea Mother, why not tell us as much? We already know about her, so there being yet another vision wouldn’t be that strange.”

“Likely it encompasses the entire pantheon.” Malia’s eyes caught in the lamplight as she watched the petrification peel off Lazuli’s beak. The kite harpy gulped air as if she’d been underwater far too long, her body shuddering. Malia smiled. “Or perhaps something bigger than Tamiyat.”


Well...this particular line of speculation about the prophecy is an angle I actually didn't consider...but hmm, the whole thing that Phemonoe did mention there would actually make sense in a situation like that too, although which option is the most dangerous is not easy to judge at this point. This is certainly adding a few extra thoughts into our minds as the readers.

“Like the…?” We didn’t even have a word for them yet, the Sybil, Spinster, and their two nameless sisters.

Malia nodded. “It’s a possibility.”

Lazuli lunged forward and snapped her beak. The crumbling stone still covered the upper half of her head like a falconer’s hood. “Foreign scum! Release me at once.”

“Looks like someone’s finally awake.” Malia’s fangs showed through her smile as she slid towards the kite. “Have a nice nap, little bird?”

Keeping one eye on Lazuli, I touched the edge of the astral plane, as Malia was likely doing as well. It was far easier to contact it here than in Peklo, although I didn’t actually need to breach it here. Just to keep an eye on it and watch for disturbances.


Okayy...well...here we go. Its time for Lazuli to not make us feel sorry for her anymore. Her opening line is straightaway getting to the point and I am loving it. I do hope she doesn't end up somehow breaking out of this at the end though, that wouldn't be too fun to witness here.

“Where is she?” Lazuli snapped. Her beak pointed straight at Malia.

“Right here,” Malia said.

Chunks of rock and dust crumbled to the floor as Lazuli shook her wings free. “Not you, bitch. The Paeden.”

Malia’s tail stopped an inch from Lazuli’s stomach. Gathering herself, she gave Lazuli a quizzical look. “‘The’ Paeden? You mean Marudak?”

“She’s obsessed with the Paedens’ Queen of the Sea, Nanshe,” I said in a hushed whisper.

“Of course not,” Lazuli snarled. “He can drink piss, for all I care. But that broad-mantled whore–” Her words devolved into a string of eldritch phrases we could barely understand, but the closest root words carried connotations of marine rock sludge, unbridled promiscuity, and feces.


Okayy...well there we go Lazuli didn't even need to have two full paragraphs of speech before we no longer that sorry for her after all. I suppose she is mildly justified in reacting this way given the past few hours she's had, but it is quite clear that she's not really been that badly affected by most of the more torturous aspects of things.

Pleasant.

The last of her cranial petrification fell away as she finished her tirade. Her dark eyes, rage roiling in her irises, locked on mine. Tilting her head, she said, “I remember you. You promised to bring her to me.” Her beak clicked. “Where is she?”

“Misplaced her.” I folded my arms and stared her down. “We have some questions regarding your former relationship with the primordial deity known as the Sea Mother.”

Eyes narrowed, she tucked her wings and hunched over. Clenching her fists, she strained against the chains, but stayed stuck. Another yank, and nothing but the rattle of steel on celestial steel. Grunting, she flared her wings and arched her back, face scrunched. A thin, purple thread floated from her back, its end drifting into the edge of the astral plane. When it brushed the film of the higher dimension, Lazuli’s eyes snapped open.

“There,” she said, chirping in triumph.


Okay...I suppose that went pretty much exactly as these two wanted it to...although consequences of this feel like the sort of thing that wouldn't exactly obey the sort of laws these two would prefer.

Malia and I waited, our fingers on the proverbial heartbeat of the astral realm.

No answering call came.

“Seems like your patron abandoned you.” Malia’s grin was feral. “But thanks for letting her know we’re on our way, herald.”

“How dare you!” Lazuli lunged forward. The chains ran out of length and yanked her back. Panting, Lazuli hung by her wrists and glared at Malia. “I am no herald of yours. I spurn you.” She spit.

Malia raised an eyebrow at me. “You have the more recent experience with children.”


Ahh...well a scene like this wouldn't be complete without a hilarious moment like that one. And well somehow it seems as if things are going exactly as Charax and Malia would have hoped even though I was not expecting things to end up being quite this good for them here.

I turned my eye roll at her into a stern face to Lazuli. Bending over, I put myself at her eye level. “Like I said, your ‘former’ relationship. We need to know how she made you her proxy, and how–”

Her piercing laugh, almost a raptor shriek, rent the air. “Unlearned simpleton,” she squealed. “You know nothing of the madness of the Ancient Mother. Locked, forever, next to her vastness, the tides of lunacy washing over the mind, unrelenting.” Another peal of laughter. “Make? There is no make. Does one make the sun? The wind? One might more easily make the rivers flow. Make.” She spat the last word and speared me with her dark eyes. “In that pit, things are. What was before matters not, in the after of the pit.” Her face hardened. “And I will slay the hibara that threw me in there.”


Okayy...well that ended a little bit more violently and unhelpfully than I was expecting it to, but then again it probably shouldn't have been too surprising. Lazuli is a little bit of a fanatic as was made evident that last time that we managed to run into her.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, it seems like we've caught Malia up on a couple of the more interesting things that happened in the last and we're moving forward with getting information out of dear old Lazuli. Given how much semi random screaming was in this chapter I assume the ones to follow will have more intriguing things happening.

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Wed Jun 22, 2022 11:12 am
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hello again! It's time for my almost daily chapter of this novel and I've already seen Malia's name in the text so I'm excited.

It's interesting to see her in a very different context to how she was presented in the previous chapter she made an appearance in. There it was a combination of me feeling sorry for her and laughing at her quick wit but here she's somehow more sinister, especially given the setting.

“It’s not my fault I had to make more. Sadly, I had to fill the space again.” There wasn’t a trace of regret in her tone, and I would have been surprised if there were.

This seemed a bit of a contradiction to Charax's comment. There are too many of them but she added more to fill space?

Lazuli, still frozen from the waist up, sagged against her manacles. Thick chains linked the cuffs on her wrists to the ceiling, a ball and chain on each ankle.

How is she standing if she is still frozen on top? Isn't it too heavy for her legs? Or is she the ceiling holding her up?

I admit I struggled to follow the speech from Lazuli and who she was referring to, but I think that was more on me not having read the whole background to this than it being unclear. Maybe you could give it a critical look over from your perspective just to double check you're happy with it? I think it was this particular line that lost me:

“She’s obsessed with the Paedens’ Queen of the Sea, Nanshe,” I said in a hushed whisper.

“Of course not,” Lazuli snarled. “He can drink piss, for all I care.

Who is the he to which she is referring?

I like how you linked back into Phemonoe's vision to tie back to the previous chapter but also gave something to move forward to and progress the plot.

Looking forward to the next installment!


Icy




dragonfphoenix says...


This isn't Lazuli's first appearance, so a lot of her speech references the last time she showed up. The manacles are what's keeping her up (so yeah technically the ceiling lol).

Malia's comment is acknowledging Charax's, that she did clear out some statues, but then she made new ones and added even more than she had before, hence the lack of space.

Marudak is the "he" (head of the Paeden pantheon). Lazuli didn't hear Charax's comment so that's who she's referencing.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to review the chapters! :) I'll try to clear up any confusion as you go, but I may not respond to all reviews.



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Tue Apr 26, 2022 1:13 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review! So sorry about the delay; I've been in my school's musical, and last week was the week before opening night, so I've had a pretty hectic schedule.

This was an interesting chapter! Even though Lazuli is on the opposite side, I can't help but feel a little bad for her! The way you described her condition definitely didn't sound entirely humane. I guess they don't exactly have the Geneva Convention in this universe, but still, it did sound cruel. Again, I think your descriptions really were well done—if they made me feel bad for Lazuli, I think you're doing something right! The addition of Malia's rock garden was quite eerie too; that I found slightly less endearing and more disturbing. I honestly feel like this chapter was a reminder that Malia isn't always the kindest goddess. It did seem at the end there, though, that Lazuli was a bit resentful towards the Sea Mother and that her experience left her a little less sane than normal; I feel like there was another chapter that I speculated about a potential alliance with her, and I'm still thinking that it could be a possibility, if a whole lotta forgiveness happened.

I also appreciated the continued insight into Phemonoe's vision; I didn't consider myself that it could be about the Sybil or the Spinster, but now that the characters bring it up, it definitely sounds like they'd probably come into play, especially considering the interactions they've had with Charax. It makes me want to know Phemenoe's vision even more, and makes it all the more infuriating that I can't.

Sorry if this review was more me just reacting to the text; I couldn't really find much wrong with it, and I'm looking forward to reading more! If there's anything specific you want feedback, on, though, always feel free to ask! Until next time!!




dragonfphoenix says...


No worries! Good luck with the musical.

Yeah, it's been a while since we'd seen Malia's not-so-nice side. There's a lot of stuff coming up in the next few chapters too lol, next one especially has more on the Lazuli situation lol




You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.
— Rod Serling