In her gaze, the condescending face of the Autarch was all that remained. Her body was dust, her personality was collapsing inward. Memories flew away like flighty sparrows. Would she never see Shal again? Was she wrong to visit Icklid before seeking out Shal?
Who was Shal?
Her one love-
She needed strength-
Her consciousness began to disperse as it forgot itself without the vessel to hold it together. Desperate, Lucretia reached out and touched those karmic bindings that she was so proud of. They, too, were slowly fading into nothing, as she ceased to exist. All except a strange black thread, that seemed to curl around her like a boa constrictor. Her thoughts became sluggish and tired. They seemed to slow to nothing.
But she felt need. More keenly than ever before. It was a strange feeling, one that she had never had before so purely. It was so brilliant and demanding that the fear was blown away from her. That reckless desire brought her a brief flash of joy, the likes of which she hadn’t experienced in quite some time. Not since she had been with Aemont, and had Shal. that changed her life.
That need rose and spun out of the Aether in her chest. A male figure seemed to form, wiry and intense. His hand touched upon her shoulder, and Lucretia’s dwindling consciousness felt a sliver of warmth. Her time with Randidly had taught her that a strong enough image and an implacable will would not change the world, but they would let her survive until she found the means to seize the Path to lead toward that dearly held wish in her chest.
As Lucretia understood what she wanted, a strange thought struck her. Did Randidly know the true wish he held in his chest? Based on how he was acting, it was clear he didn’t.
Her thoughts wandered. The golden karmic threads drifted downwards like spider silk that had lost its mooring.
Lucretia reached. She needed another chance, another life, another body. Because what she wanted more than anything else-
It was a mistake to give in to fear and make up excuses to stay away. For her entire life on Tellus, Lucretia had hurt and taken, ostensibly to live forever. To escape the horror in her chest that was left after her parents died to the Calamity. But It was not fear that haunted her… it was loneliness. She was left alone.
In her chest was a small girl that swore never again, and gathered wicked power to harden her heart with hatred. It was the foolish plan of a child.
What Lucretia wanted was simply to feel connected, to have a home to go back to. To have a family. To see Shal.
Her thoughts grasped onto the thickest golden thread of karma that was attached to her. Even now, it was steady and warm. As her consciousness faded, she could feel her strength growing. The shrill screams of a child filled her ears. It reminded her of Shal. She smiled or tried to, but she was naught but a memory at that point.
And in the next moment, Lucretia the individual disappeared from Icklid, leaving only a pile of flesh and images and experiences that the Autarch began to shape with his hands.
Far away, the spirit of the woman Lucretia settled into a body separated from her home by dimensions. In this strange dimension, Lucretia opened her mouth wide and screamed.
“Aw, love, she’s beautiful, just like you.” A warm voice spoke above Lucretia. Lucretia rolled her head back to look at the speaker, but her head was too heavy and lolled helplessly sideways. Annoyed, she opened her mouth and cried out again.
Already, Lucretia was feeling a headache settling in. Could babies give migraines to themselves? That was a scary thought. Was she really a baby? Her body certainly was strange and chubby enough for it…
“Ah, Halt… that’s sweet of you to say. But we both know that things would be easier for the child if she was-”
“Nonsense,” The first voice cut across firmly. “You are perfect, Massy. Just like our daughter.”
Lucretia squirmed as best she could, but her arms weren’t obeying her instructions. There was too much information coming from too many raw nerves, and only barely did Lucretia suppress her urge to open her mouth and scream again. They were in a dimly lit room. It seemed to be made of dirt or stone, and the only light came from a candle on the table.
Lucretia was held by the second speaker, a woman, in her arms. The woman was laying on a bed, propped up on several sacks that seemed to be stuffed with goose feathers. The first speaker, Halt, was standing over the two of them.
Halt hesitated. “My serving shift will start soon. I would prefer not to leave, but-”
“With me like this, we have no choice. I know. Go, Halt. Stay nimble,” Massy said with a nod.
Halt went to the door, but then stopped and looked over his shoulder at Massy. “Before I go… can I hear our daughter’s name?”
The corners of Massy’s mouth turned upwards as she gazed with affection at Halt. “…Creta. Our daughter will be Creta.”
“In the beginning, there was nothing,” The monk said, sitting on the raised dais above the crowd. “But in that emptiness, their existed three siblings: Houn, Styx, and Creta. Styx was the oldest brother and believed that everything was fine how it should be. The emptiness and the siblings were all that needed to be. Creta was the middle sister and loved her two brothers more than anything else in the world.
“The youngest brother was named Houn, and he was unsatisfied. There was an ache in his hands as he looked in the emptiness. In his heart, he knew that there could be more than this. There SHOULD be more than this. For several millennia, he abided by Styx’s wishes and refrained from acting. But there came a point where he could resist the urge no longer: Houn reached out his left hand and smote the nothingness, and created stars. He stretched out his right hand and clenched it into a fist, creating the world. His two eyes spread apart to view his new toy and rotated around to view the planet in its entirety, forming the moon and sun. He became the Progenitor, by whose hand we were born.
“His breath fell on the world, forming the wind and the rain. Houn poured out half his soul, creating a thousand small lives. They awakened, almost from a slumber, and joined in the worship of Houn. For a long time, the world grew, prosperous on the breath of Houn.
“But then Styx discovered what Houn had done. Furious and jealous that his precious brother valued these small lives so, Styx used his might to curse the creations of Houn, that they might be made, but they would always return to the dust that had birthed them. So was the world doomed, or so Styx believed.
“Houn believed it too. He saw the curse afflict his people and sighed deeply. Although he kept his hands as the stars and planet, and his eyes as the sun and moon, the distraught Houn pulled away and fled deep into the abyss, leaving the planet. He couldn’t bear to watch his creation be destroyed by his brother, and fled.”
The monk bowed his head, as did everyone else in the congregation. After a few seconds of silence for the emotions of a god, the monk raised his gaze once more. “It was then that Creta found that despite Styx’s trick on Houn, that the small lives continued to struggle. Although they would each die, they possessed to grow more lives and used their brief time on the planet to make it a better place for the next generation. In this way, life on the First Planet prospered.
“But soon Styx discovered that his curse was foiled by these inferior beings, and was filled with wrath. He slit his wrists, letting his blood spill until he was naught by skin and bones. So the Abyssal Sea was formed, and its waters rushed to engulf the world. With his bones, Styx made a thousand tiny automatons, ones far beyond the ken of even the most blessed Spriggit, and they marched to the world to end life there.
“Immediately upon discovering Styx’ plot, Creta flew into the abyss, searching for Houn. He was without his left and right hand, without his eyes, and without his breath, all having been left to nurture the lives he had made. But he still possessed his heart, and Creta followed the trail of tears to find Houn in the deep emptiness.
“‘Houn!’ Creta said upon finding her brother. ‘Your people yet live, and Styx moves to return them back to dust. You must speak to your brother, and explain you aren’t attempting to replace him. You must-’ But then she stopped speaking with a gasp. Houn simply smiled at her. His mouth was crooked, but his expression was sad.
“He had no breath. He could not say anything to his brother any longer. The very breath that he could use to reason with his dangerous brother… was needed by his people to remain alive.
“Houn stood and began to rush back towards the small world he had made. Creta attempted to keep up, but she didn’t know the deep emptiness like Houn and was very quickly left behind. She extended a hand, shouting for help, but Houn smiled at her again. His hands were gone, and his people needed him. He could not help her.”
Everyone bowed their heads once more. Lucretia frowned sourly in her tight woolen blanket. If her mother wouldn’t jostle her around so much during these bows, that would be ideal. The monk raised his head and spoke once more.
“What occurred then was the great war in which our ancestors fought. The jealous Styx attempted to destroy us, but Houn returned in time to give us his fury and his honor, forming the weapons the Chosen One used to defeat the bones of Styx.
“Still, the battle was so devastating that the blood of Styx, the Abyssal Sea, had time to surge up and attempt to drown the world. But at the last moment, Creta arrived. She cried red tears to see her brothers at each other’s throats like this, and she transformed herself into a giant tree. The tree gathered the pieces of the shattered world as best it could, and raised the seven lands above the reach of the Abyssal Sea. So this world was formed, and so we give worship to the Progenitor, Houn, and to the sister that sacrificed everything for her brother’s fault, Creta. And we remember Styx so that we are never controlled by our darker impulses or misunderstandings. So it is.”
“So it is,” The congregation rumbled in answer. Lucretia rolled her eyes. For the thousandth time since realizing where she was, Lucretia said a prayer to Randidly.
Get the fuck down here and save me.
There was no answer. Of course, there wasn’t, he barely paid any attention to this place. So Lucretia began to plan. How did one grab the attention of a god…?