Four Above, Four Below

Biggerer map


Nice! Love seeing maps for stories.


Memory Three: Fallen Scales

The insect dragged itself across the sandscape, alone, but for the gnats overhead and the bullfrogs singing in the distance. Within its maw it carried a small, curved shard of glass; the only thing it had managed to get away with. It wasn’t the most intelligent creature in the world, but it was smart for an animal, and knew to be afraid. Thymos would be looking for him now; best to stay small and find shelter. And food- the insect needed food.

This portion of the sandscape was largely desolate, sparsely inhabited by little more than wildlife. Some so-called intelligence was present, however, and occasional signs of civilization could be seen. Ahead, a dusty cabin with a buckling roof broke the natural scene, its blackened chimney cap marking the highest elevation the insect had seen in weeks.

It crawled past the old, abandoned house, eyeing the dirty windows to glimpse the inside. ‘Safe?’ This might suffice as shelter, though it seemed the obvious choice. The infant made its way to the low, wooden porch and approached the unhinged door, stopping several strides short. It could smell something; a living thing. There were footprints in the dust leading inside, maybe those of a large rat or some other mammal. ‘No, leave.’

The insect turned immediately and quickly made its way from the weathered boards of the porch and toward the far horizon. It had the means to defend itself, but that would catch Thymos’ dark eye, and the creature wasn’t secure enough for that yet.

It crawled farther, past a stagnant, little pond and over one of the few dunes that still remained in this space. A long moment of travel through rough scrub and muddy soil brought it to another structure, obviously artificial, and made entirely of stone. It was listing in the mud, like a ship taking on water; likely, the sheer weight of it was pressing it into the deep sands. Eventually this little room would be lost beneath the ground forever.

The creature circled the structure warily, bulbous eyes scanning the ornately carved facade, looking for all the same signs it had noticed at the previous building. The slab of a door seemed to have been shut for centuries or more. The lichen patches sprouting from the seams testified to the solitude of this lonely place: nobody was home. ‘Maybe.’

Still, the insect would be cautious. It pressed its mind toward the old crypt, a sense of caution and inquiry, but found no mind to reply. Quietly, it approached the stone wall, gripping the lichen with its meaty palms as it began to scale the building, careful not to drop the glass sliver it carried. There were small windows or vents placed periodically around the perimeter of the stone structure, hidden beneath a soffit near the height of the wall. The little thing pulled itself through one of these, and dropped with a soft thud on a cold granite shelf. Turning itself over, it surveyed the space.

The structure was indeed a single room, largely undecorated, save the occasional carving in the stone walls. These ranged from tastefully ornate patterns matching the exterior, to unidentifiable vandalism. The moldy stone shelf the insect lay on was continuous around the interior of the room, high to the ceiling, and half occupied with papery objects in varying states of decay. The creature had seen those before; Fovos, in his occasionally lucid moments, would hurriedly scratch against them with a small stick he kept. The infant wondered anxiously if this was where the fear god kept his papery things, before remembering the total state of neglect it had observed in the place.

It looked down. There were a few objects strewn violently across the room: a small, blackened ball with some sort of stitching along one edge; an elongated metal box with broken glass bulbs still attached; a plain, bluish-black vase, flared at the top, somehow devoid of any wear or filth. A dozen things lay half buried in a layer of moss and silt, and from the center sprang a large, stone box, as plain as the vase beside it. The heavy lid appeared to have been slid to the side and allowed to drop, leaning permanently against the body of the empty sarcophagus. Inside, a dark, black stain was impressed into the stone floor.

The insect turned its attention back toward the papery objects, processing the blended stink of mold and rot. ‘Food’. Setting the shard down on the stone surface, it clambered atop the nearest one, bloated and twisted from time, moisture and mildew. The meal certainly wouldn’t be pleasant, but the little animal was hungry, and this space seemed safe. It scratched its way into the face of the thing, scooping up scraps of biomass with its mandibles as it dug. The flavor was repulsive, but food in its belly was an almost instant relief.

As it ate, it thought about its predicament. Thymos would never let it stay free, and as mighty a creature as it was, it couldn’t hold its own against all of Thymos’ might. One of the other monster gods would surely be sent against it, and with an army. The little thing needed its own army. ‘I had an army.’

The creature expanded its form, growing to a comfortable size within the safety of the crypt. It consumed the book in a single bite, a warm flood of relief bleeding out from its gut. It glanced down and watched the silvery black ink that had been squeezed from the pages, swirling within itself on the dirt floor, moving like a living thing. ‘Interesting.’

It moved on to the other books as it thought. It could try to gather its forces back, but Thymos had loyalists everywhere, and the creature needed time out of his sight. It was worshipped as a god, once, by some of the people of this world. It had even been the overseer of the other gods, save Thymos and Fovos themselves. None of that matters, though, when your godhood is a title to be rescinded.

‘Maybe I can start small. And far away.’ If Thymos had allegiance through force, then the creature could achieve allegiance via the one thing his old master never had.

‘I can gain their loyalty. Give them what they need.’ He chewed slowly as he thought. Thymos never had a follower that wasn’t planning a betrayal. ‘He never met anyone he wouldn’t betray. So I won’t betray them, and they will love me for it.’ The infant continued his meal, working through the logistics of his ambitions.

‘I could go far away, for now. Make alliances, bridge social gaps, whatever it takes to cement myself into their hearts.’ It would take a great deal of time and effort, though. The Sandscape is a broad and infinite space.

‘True,’ the creature thought, ‘But it’s a flat world unwrapped from a curved world. So the focal point isn’t below anymore, it’s above.’ He looked up at the ceiling of the crypt, imagining the fluid sky beyond it. ‘Travelling to the unset moon and back down would be quicker than walking in a straight line. If I take that place, then I can go anywhere I want in a matter of days.’ Yes, that’s consistent with what’s been observed. The insect allowed himself a moment of satisfaction, both for the full stomach and the ever-clearer path ahead of him.

It occurred to him that the level of clarity he was experiencing was unprecedented, to say the least. He was always intelligent for an animal, but this was a degree of insight the likes of which he had never known previously. He furrowed his brow, contemplating the moment.

‘Was Thymos suppressing my mind?’ Doubtful. This was the occupied mental state prior to having met Thymos. And how do you explain knowledge of folds, books, and social nuance?

‘Books…’ the creature looked down at the book in his hand. ‘They’re called books.’ He opened it somewhere near the middle; the page was mottled and unreadable. He rifled through the pages and found one mostly legible.

‘That’s the solvom alphabet. These are enraki stackforms. This is an old earth scripture in a spanish dialect. That’s a trinary beat pattern in the margins. This language was only spoken in one village on a planet with no name.’ There were 36 languages represented on this page alone, and the insect could read all of them. ‘But I never learned to read.’ But you know why you know it.

He turned, disturbed, toward the tiny pool of ink resting defiantly on the surface of the moldy soil. It swirled within itself, still moving like a living thing. Something in the insect’s gut told him what to do. He dug his fingers into the soil underneath, scooping up the ink puddle and bringing it to his mouth. The gritty earth caked his teeth as he choked down the cold, oily ink, and as he did he felt that same previous feeling; a hunger satisfied.

And now the rest. As many as you can find.

The insect turned to the shelves wrapping around the cold, damp room. He was confused, at least a little; his mind was flooded with information he had never known or considered before, but he knew-- rather, had a strong feeling-- that

“This is a very fortunate coincidence,” he said curiously, finishing the thought aloud. He paused for a moment to reflect on the strangeness of it, but he shook his head as he turned his mind away. He knew what he wanted his destination to be, and this knowledge would only serve to bring him closer to it. As his eyes fell to the small glass shard on the shelf, he reached for the next book.


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Moment Four: Friends, Old and New

“It just has to be higher. You’re not lifting high enough,” Linda said, matter-of-factly. The Human Baby Larvae sighed, frustrated.

“I hear you, but you’ve got to indicate to me where exactly you want it. I still don’t understand what it is you’re trying to do.”

Linda sighed and planted her hands on her hips. “Okay. So, the water from the rain gutters is going to turn the wheels. The wheels are going to rotate the lodestones-”

“Yes, I understand you want an electric current,” interrupted the Master. Linda threw her hands and smiled. “You said you didn’t understand!”

“I understand the science, I just don’t understand where you want it relative to the frame. You only keep saying ‘higher’.” HBL stretched his body like taffy to get a better view of the assembly. He raised the wheel frame again, this time at an angle. “What will be the pitch of the trough? And which port is going to feed it?”

Linda climbed a level up the scaffold and pointed with a length of wood. “Right here,” she said patiently. “We won’t get enough voltage per storm if the pitch is less than 12:4, so the only-”

Linda stopped short and jolted. A loud, hollow impact rang out from the foregrounds of the castle, prompting several people to rise and investigate. HBL and Linda hurried through the open gate to discover the source of the sound; a large, wooden crate dumped unceremoniously across the approach. The motor truck that had evidently delivered it was already speeding away, unidentifiable through the dust screen it threw into the air behind it.

HBL shifted his critical gaze to the oversized package in front of him. No doubt this was one of the storage containers they had ordered. More accurately, this was the container received; the image HBL and Linda had seen in the advertisement had promoted a far higher quality build than this. This thing had been left to rot for ages, it seemed, and was caked in dry mud almost to the top edge. Some of the boarding was eaten away by insects, and the whole structure was bizarrely wrapped in rusted iron chains.

HBL bloated his form, reverting his shape back to the one he had when he first arrived. He dragged himself to the old shipping container, recoiling his spine to tower over the rotten thing. The dried mud partially covered the top, too; this thing hadn’t moved in a long time. Linda was peering and scowling at the other side of it, openly expressing her disapproval with every grumble and thrown arm.

HBL grabbed one of the chains, seeking to test its strength. As the massive box tilted, something heavy and solid slid to the lower side of the chamber. Simultaneously, the chains writhed and tightened, like a snake around prey. Linda didn’t blink an eye when the Master lifted the container off the ground, but the sight of the chains coming to life sent her hurriedly in the other direction.

“These chains are cursed,” HBL muttered, pulling the structure closer to his face to analyze.

“You think?” Linda was in the field now, emphatically stepping over clusters of grass and milkweed on her quick-paced journey to safety. She was a few dozen meters out before she stopped and turned around to watch, a disturbed and somewhat frightened expression aimed at the giant chest. The Human Baby Larvae glanced up at her.

“You know, there are actual snakes in that grass,” he said, glancing back down to more closely analyze the chains.

“I don’t mind real snakes.” Linda glanced around her feet, lifting them in turn as she scoured the ground. “Actually, maybe I do.” She leaned back as she laughed at herself, squinting through her jovial smile.

HBL smirked and shook his head as he worked. Each time he turned the crate, the chains tightened a little more. He lowered the container for a moment as he thought it out.

“What are you going to do?” Linda called out through a thoughtful frown. HBL glanced up at her for a moment, then began shaking the container as violently as he could. The cursed chains tightened again in response, this time squeezing the half-rotten box until it buckled. Some of the planks were still sound, but many had been long ago compromised, and the strength of the curse quickly outpaced the woods natural strength. As soon as the structure began falling apart, the chains relaxed and decoupled.

Curiosity won out over superstition, and Linda hurried back to the pathway as the Human Baby Larvae started sifting through the dry-rotted wreckage. HBL carefully separated the chains from the wooden remains and piled them aside as Linda stirred the rubble with one of the boards. A few citizens joined in, piling the solid boards away from the unusable material.

It took less than a minute to find the object that had been rattling about the container: a large staff, possibly some sort of agricultural tool, clearly archaic in design. It was strangely divided by material, with the head carved from basalt or some other stone. The grip was a modest wooden structure, and the base of the staff seemed to be finely hammered gold, at least on the surface.

“Well, that’s interesting.” HBL held the staff aloft; it seemed to match his current stature, but he had no idea who might have wielded it in the past. Linda was still sifting the mess, hoping to see what else it contained.

“Maybe you can sell it to the Techno City,” she thought aloud with a positive tone. She poked one of the softer boards, and it dissolved partially under the pressure. “Recoup the money we lost.”

“Maybe.” The larvae had the tool right before his eyes, slowly scanning the surface for any clues as to its origin. “Though I doubt they would want anything but the gold. They’re not a culturally conservative people, as I hear.”

“Hmm, oh well. At least we had fun- oof.” Linda slapped the support beam she was trying to move. “Jamie, can you come help me with this? Right over there.”

As the humans worked to make the most of a bad deal, HBL held the staff out, testing its weight. It felt natural, like a badge of office custom fit for him. He brought it down, resting the golden end of the staff on the dry earth. The second he did so, the staff began a violent vibration, prompting HBL to drop it in surprise. It clattered in semi-circles across the ground for a moment, before a golden hand wrapped around the grip.

It took little more than ten seconds for the entire being to grow from the staff, spreading like a vine across the ground. A figure rivaling the Master in height, flesh blended through with heavy golden filigree, rose from the ground with a violent fervor. The figure swung his weapon without a second’s hesitation, connecting the end of the hook with the hybrid King’s jaw. HBL grunted his pain as he caught his own fall.

As if on que, Pumpkin Dog bounded into the scene at lightning speed toward the stranger, doubling her size before striking his midsection and flattening him to the earth. The staff fell from his hand, but he did not disappear, proving HBL’s assumptions wrong. The Master, standing upright now, called his dog to his side. Pumpkin Dog obediently trotted over, turning and sitting beside him, patient for his next direction.

The new stranger clambered to his hands and knees, glancing about for his staff. He looked up at HBL through vertically stacked eyes, his hawk-like stare lowering to the dead animal that had just felled him. He looked back up to the monstrous figure towering over them both, but made no move to rise.

HBL brought a claw to his face, turning his cheek into his palm and massaging the point of contact where the newcomer had struck him. The pain would subside fairly soon; what interested the Master was the fact that this being was strong enough to hurt him so badly to begin with. His eyes flicked over to the stranger, whose gaze had not broken. HBL thought for a moment, then spoke.


~ IV :small_red_triangle::small_red_triangle_down: IV ~

Ellion watched another chariot fly overhead from the relative safety of a muddy alcove. He dialed his skin tone to match the earthen outcropping for the twentieth time, even as the undulating vibration of the chariot’s phonon elevators grew faint. He knew Hapet-Ra’s hunting parties sometimes baited their prey into false security, and he refused to be a rabbit in another man’s snare.

He crawled backward stealthily, shapeshifting his extra arms back into his torso as his feet contacted the earth. Bastion was still there, knelt to the ground, hands on his thighs. Ellion watched for a moment, waiting until the ogre was done. It was a short moment, and at the end of it, the cyborg opened his eyes and raised them to meet Ellion’s.

“It’s one we’ve seen before. I think seventeen makes the fleet.”

Ellion’s bulbous eyes shifted downward. “But the infantry are not wearing tags. Hapet-Ra knows your talents.” Bastion nodded his agreement.

Ellion peered up through the gap overhead, watching the starfield glisten. They couldn’t stay here much longer. Hapet-Ra was an impatient man, and had moved his party ahead of the swarm, but sooner or later the insects would cover this place like a blanket. Even now, the Bug Animal was snaking its way through swamp and desert, systematically overturning each stone alongside its myriad soldiers. It was only a matter of time before that overhead gap became a chasm, and the two fugitives would be plucked out like weeds.

Ellion, are you any nearer? The voice was a balm on the hellgrammite’s nerves.

‘No, my Lord. Thymos’ hunter has caught up to us. We’ve been cornered.’ A brief silence ensued, but the growling voice returned before too long.

I’m sending an ally of mine to see you out. I cannot afford to be known by Hapet-Ra, but my friend will gladly lend her talents to your safety.

‘Thank you, my Lord. We will await your-’

The ground rumbled, and Ellion nearly missed the handhold that kept him upright. Bastion was already on his feet, halberd in hand. A shower of packed clay and grass roots obscured the gap in the cavern roof, capping it completely on one end.

“Bastion?” Ellion turned, almost frantically, to the seasoned guardian.

Bastion nodded. “Climb, now. Go!”

Ellion leapt onto the wall, his many arms scaling the soft earth too rapidly for it to crumble beneath his grip. At the top, he turned and reached in, stretching to grip his friend’s hand. Rolling onto his back, he curled his arm and pulled the ogre from the disintegrating hovel in one motion, depositing the soldier on solid ground.

A wedge of chariots flew over the bluff, two on the leader’s left and one on the right. The two fugitives ran alongside the cliff face, bounding over scrub and stone as they tried to clear the soft, unstable ground formation. Further out, the chariots broke formation long enough to double back and rejoin, firing a volley of ammunition toward the bluff. They arched as one toward their targets, their rounds exciting the earth in a rapid chase behind the figures below.

At the sound of gunfire, Bastion turned and slid to a stop, ramming his halberd into the earth and aiming its pike at the incoming vessels. With a tight grip and planted boots, he fired a jet stream of violet light, rippling at high speed into, and through, the lead chariot. The assaulting ship seemed to bubble like boiling water before blowing outward in all directions, a blueish-purple fireball curling eagerly from the freshly torn gaps in its hull. The other chariots opened formation just long enough to let the debris fall, before closing again behind the new lead vessel.

Having missed their target, the wedge flew overhead, soon to repeat their assault. The down ship was rolling and bouncing wildly in their direction, and while Bastion forced his weapon from the earth, Ellion brought the head of his staff to his free palm. Manipulating the mechanism atop the staff, he rerouted the directional momentum of the dead chariot ninety degrees to its right. The vessel responded with a sudden, seemingly impossible course-correction, tumbling away from the duo and safely grinding to a halt.

Bastion was already repositioned in the opposite direction, preparing another counterattack. Ellion turned to join him, hand on his cane. Before either of them could take a shot, help arrived in a rather unexpected form.

Bounding playfully into view from around the bluff, a massive skeletal animal gracelessly contacted the right flank of the wedge formation, sending it into a tailspin. The previously displayed discipline of the other two chariots went into a tailspin of its own sort, and the pilots split what was left of their formation in wild bee lines. Behind them, the hundred-and-fifty-foot tall canine pounced again and again on the fallen aircraft, and the two hunted loyalists looked on in surprise as she crumpled it like foil into the surface of the earth.

A sharp, hollow sound emanated repeatedly from the creature’s enveloped head; a deafening vocal crack that was no doubt heard for miles around. The giant dead dog wiggled her hips gleefully for a moment before she perked upright, perfectly still. Ellion turned to see the two chariots had regrouped and were bearing down on the dog just as quickly as their thrusters could carry them. The dog leapt in the air and flailed, her joy renewed, and once more she was bounding at high speed, headstrong into the gunfire of the two remaining ships.

Ellion worked his gimbal rapidly, rerouting the trajectory of the aft-most vessel straight down and into the ground. The sudden counterforce blew the phonon elevators almost immediately, and the back feed of energy ignited the power cells just as the chariot flattened itself. Massive arcs of electrical force rose and fell from the corpse of the vehicle, diffusing into the surrounding land.

Meanwhile, the final ship had pulled up sharp, its ammunition largely ineffective against a creature that was both riddled with gaps and already dead. Unfortunately for the pilot, the height of the chariot was well within the reach of a fifteen-story animal, and the dog pawed the vessel to the ground without ever lifting her back feet. The roaring thrusters sputtered into silence as she batted the relatively small vehicle across the steppe like a toy, dropping into a low pounce and barking at it happily. After a short moment of no activity, she stood upright, staring blindly at the unrecognizable chariot. She whined as she turned to face the direction she came from.

Good girl.

Ellion turned his head to match the direction of her obstructed view. Two dragons, one much smaller than the other, were flying toward the victors at a leisurely pace. Bastion was the first to see the figure perched atop the larger reptile.

“Lord.” He pointed his free hand at the approaching dragon, even as Ellion’s azure eyes caught a spot of lavender color. The two airborne creatures glided in for a landing, the smaller one fluttering closer to the giant dog.

HBL dropped down from his ride, shifting into a feline form to more gracefully transition to terrestrial travel. Ellion and Bastion moved to meet him, and as the old god approached, he shifted his form again. The tendrils on his head and back lengthened into spider-like legs, and his body shriveled into a more familiar, larval appearance.

“Lord.” Ellion pressed a flat palm to his stomach and tilted his head down. Bastion repeated the gesture, and the Human Baby Larvae nodded his appreciation. Ellion spoke again to his lost master. “I did not realize how close you were to us.” The Master turned his narrow eyes to the far horizon and pointed.

“I’m on my way to make a new friend, and I thought you might welcome early assistance.” HBL swept a gesture between his loyal servants. “Are you hurt?”

“No, Lord,” said Bastion, deferentially, “But for time wasted away from you. Might we join your quest? Hapet-Ra and the swarm are nearer each moment we wait.”

“Of course.” The god-king placed a hand on each of their shoulders. “Ellion, Bastion. These are Oram, Screech, and Pumpkin Dog. They’ve graciously accepted me into their lives where Thymos drove me out. And here…”

The Master of the House turned and gestured to another figure, a titanic golden being, striding slowly from around the rise. He was ornately decorated head to toe, crowned with two massive horns, and brandishing a gilded, wooden adze.

“This is Siram Nie, one of the ancient gods. He has found a home with us, and agrees to help secure an alliance with the god-king of Techno City.” Ellion’s expression was of shock.

“The Eye Mongrel?” he reservedly exclaimed. HBL nodded with a smile.

“His royal highness. An ally beyond the grip of Thymos may be advantageous.”

Ellion nodded, accepting his Lord’s direction without rebuttal. Still, some apprehension prompted him to speak. “I fear my presence may sour the deal, Lord. I’ve never spoken to him on amicable terms.”

“And that’s my fault, isn’t it?” The larvae tilted his head. “I don’t want to force you into another dangerous situation. You’ve done enough for my whims as it stands. I do think, though, it will take both of us to rebuild this bridge. I don’t see fit to keep Thymos’ enemies for him.”

“Of course, Lord.” Ellion repeated the earlier gesture of deference. “I trust your judgement on the matter.” HBL nodded his thanks.

“Well, with that settled…” He gave a shrill whistle, and the gargantuan skeleton trotted over. “Let’s be on our way.”


Memory Four: Judgement

In the bright light of the auroras, on a main street in a typical city, a small square of paper drifted through the air, weaving between vehicles and pedestrians alike. The printed sheet glided along the ground, caught by the wind until a foot dropped down on it. The owner of the foot reached down to pick it up, glancing around to find its source.

A short way down a side street, surrounded by a moderate crowd of onlookers, was a man, tall with red skin and bright blue eyes. The woman, paper still in hand, couldn’t place his species but noted his archontan body shape, exotic apparel, and distinct lack of a mouth. Despite this, the man was projecting his words quite clearly, pairing his silky voice with a choreography of dramatic gestures. Curious, the woman glanced down at the paper.


The EXPANSION of Godostihl DEFIES the Right of The Four Above to Rule



The woman had heard about this man, actually. She continued walking and thought about him as she turned into a coffee shop within eyesight of the demonstration. She placed an order with the cashier and took a seat by the window, swapping a traditional chair for a backless stool that could accommodate her.

That man, and his message, had been a topic of conversation for nearly a month. Expansion Proposal 37 was set to expand the residential district, introduce a new agricultural district, and link the city to The Hub via a new Hubway. On top of that, every road in the city was going to be resurfaced, and most of the smaller buildings would be provided an opportunity for financial assistance to upgrade their HVAC and electrical systems.

The woman watched him from the window as she wondered. How could EP37 undermine the gods’ right to rule? Surely they could rule a thriving people as well as they could over a struggling people. In fact, other megalopolis like The Machine World or Rat Nation were head and shoulders above the rest, both technologically and financially. Surely Godostihl could also be allowed to rise to such great heights?

“Rava?” The barista called her name, and she rose to collect her drink. She thanked him and made her way to the door. As she approached, she passed a projector screen on the wall. Usually, when she visited, it was talking about the strange man down the street. Today, however, was the EP37 vote, and different newscasters were trading theories regarding the outcome of it all.

Rava exited the shop and walked toward the man, sipping her coffee. She had already wrapped up her morning shift, and had some time to kill waiting for her husband to finish his. Anyway, she was curious, and wanted to hear what the man had to say for himself. She wasn’t a frequent voter, and didn’t see the connection between the proposal and divine destruction, but she didn’t want to dismiss him out of hand. Maybe he knew something she didn’t?

She approached the rear of the crowd, and those already gathered were muttering amongst themselves. Most present were of the godo population, which was to be expected, but there were humans, apeys, sapiofrawns; a fairly diverse crowd. Some were completely silent, transfixed by the supposed prophecy of the mysterious person in front of them. While he spoke, his arms waved to and fro, and his tendril-like, shoulder length hair waved to match. As he moved hurriedly along the face of the crowd, he tried to personalize his message to them individually, speaking and gesturing first to one person, then to the next, and so on. He spoke urgently to the small crowd, appealing to their self-preservation, rarely deviating from the simple points written out on the flyer she still carried.

Rava paid close attention to his words, but she didn’t seem to get an answer to her question. Why Godostihl? Why none of the others? What need was there for limiting the people of this city, as opposed to another? The man was certainly charismatic, but Rava never found charm to be particularly meaningful anyway. It was reason that appealed to her, and to her disappointment, she had so far observed very little.

She was about to walk away when someone else approached him, a well-armored soldier with some kind of spear. Unlike the crimson man, Rava could identify this new person as an ogre, with blueish skin and a heavy build. The presenter stopped speaking long enough for the soldier to whisper something to him; whatever it was, it seemed to reconstitute the disposition of the initial man, and as the soldier departed, the presenter spoke again to the crowd.

“The Four Above have found you absent from their hearts,” the crimson figure proclaimed. “May the Four Below find room for you within his gates.”

As the mixed crowd chattered their confusion and curiosity, the windows of the towers above them began rattling, and street lamps took to bouncing on their wires as the earth shook. A low rumble bled into an ear piercing shriek, and before the people could think to block the pain with their hands, the earth split, and rose twenty feet high.

People screamed their panic as vehicles and shop displays rolled around and over them, and those that weren’t buried under rubble could see a giant lavender creature erupting from the ground they once stood on. It wasn’t until the thing was as high as the nearby towers that Rava could make out any distinguishing features: pulsating, grub-like flesh, teeth as big around and longer than telephone poles, a flurry of disjointed human arms erupting from its back, and two massive, black eyes, infinite darkened pools that seemed to watch her even when they weren’t aimed her way.

Rava had fallen back, her hind legs folded beneath her, and she used her forelegs to push herself back into an open doorway. Her first thought was an instinct to hide right there; her next was of her husband, navigating an average workday a few blocks from here. Still numb to the moment, she picked herself up and hurried into the service hall in the back, weaving her way to an exit in the far side of the tower.

The dust clouds had already wrapped around the building by the time Rava stumbled into the street, callously routed by the ebb and flow of a panicking crowd. She fell under the weight of a particularly large swell of people, catching and partially suspending herself from the side of a parked car. Something prompted the mob to begin scrambling over the vehicle, and several of them dug their feet into her gut, shoulders and face as they raced for an escape route. The weight of the frantic citizens forced the breath from lungs already filled with concrete dust, and the hard edge of their boots against her bones forced the tears from her eyes.

Eventually, the crowd thinned enough for her to pull herself upright, and she wiped away the mud from her face, trying to see through the dust cloud that, by now, had enveloped the whole street. Finding her bearing, she limped through the debris and toward her husband’s office, even as a fresh wave of sobs and horrified screams seemed to flood toward her. Something inside wanted to look back, if only to know the threat, but the shock was wearing off now and her mounting fear stiffened her neck to keep it from turning.

Rava cut a diagonal line over a cross street, stumbling through the pain of what was likely a broken leg, and reluctantly approached another crowded and rioted street. The air was no cleaner here than anywhere prior, and this crowd was wrought with a panicked violence she wasn’t sure she’d survive. But Deai, her husband, worked on this block, and she wasn’t leaving without him. She weaved her way behind vehicles and other barriers, trying to keep herself as separate as she could from the rancorous masses in the street, just trying to stifle the sobs that kept welling up and instead keep a focus on her goal.

Lest she forget the wave of terror rolling in behind her; the shouts of panic, anger and grief in the crowd were quickly overtaken by shrieks of horror and strangled cries for help, altogether rising as a cacaphony of terrorized voices. This time, Rava looked, and saw a mass of flesh undulating into the scene from the direction she had come. As it moved closer, she saw through the smoke a writhing mass of disjointed arms, capped with, of all things, human hands, reaching blindly but successfully toward the already terrorized civilians.

The arms, adult-like in size but infantile in appearance, snaked endlessly around every obstacle, evidently born of some infinite source. The thick bristle hairs that grew from their flesh scratched away the paint and accumulated the filth of any surface they touched, the occasional hiss and shriek of their contact highlighting the journey as they chased their prey. The godo and others present sobbed their confusion and panic, some calling to their loved ones, some scrambling over their kin to save themselves. More often than not, those slime coated hands would find the ankles or necks of their target, an iron grip condemning the writhing citizens as they retracted back to their grotesque source.

Rava gave into her instincts now, crying hysterically as she ran in the direction of Deai’s workplace, her fear serving well to overcome the sharp pain of her broken leg. She rushed over dropped handbags and toppled benches with such urgency, she nearly overtook a small child, apparently abandoned in the walkway. Quick thinking told her to pull her foot back, and in her effort to avoid hurting the child she dove head and shoulder into the concrete just beyond. Blinking away the sharp ache in her skull, she stumbled to her feet and resumed her flight – until her ears caught the sound of the baby, too busy coughing up dust to let out a proper cry.

Rava stopped for just a second, crying out herself in conflicted grief. She turned and ran back, careful to keep her eyes away from the unnatural things rapidly approaching her. She scooped up the child, unceremoniously wrapping it in the blanket left nearby, and resumed her desperate journey.

As she pressed through the riot, Rava’s ears were filled with the madness in the streets. Not to be forgotten, the massive thing she had run from earlier let out a shriek, some unsettling blend between a newborn’s cry and rended metal. The sheer volume of the call shattered many of the overhead windows, and a steady rain of glass poured itself into the already bloodied crowd. Rava curled her body over the infant, as much to muffle its terrible screaming as to protect it from the lacerations she now bore. As she squeezed past a group of despondent souls huddled on the sidewalk, she glanced aside, catching a glimpse of the madness around her.

The worm-like claws roping their way through the city seemed to surge forward with every childish cry of the beast they stemmed from. Many people, delirious and frightened, were attempting to scale the surrounding buildings as a means of exodus. One person pried open a sewer cap in an attempt to hide away from the creatures, but as he repositioned himself to crawl in, a few of the hands rose up from below, snaking around his legs to pull him down. The man screamed, digging his own fingers into the cracked pavement as he tried, unsuccessfully, to escape the very place in which he had just sought refuge.

As Rava approached her husband’s workplace, it was clearer with each step that the building had already been consumed by the creatures. Many of these windows were also blown out, and from them the occasional godo or archontan would hang, desperately crawling to certain death to avoid the hands pulling them back inside. Rava could see their clothes had been shredded; the monstrous hands dug their fingernails in hard enough even to cut the skin on the victims’ backs.

All this aside, Rava rushed toward the building against the flow of would-be refugees. As she crossed the walkway, she collided with another godo- on she knew.

“Borda!” Rava held on to her friend’s shoulder. “Borda where is he? Where’s Deai?”

“He was there,” Borda turned and gestured, almost aimlessly. “I saw him on the stairs behind me, he was there!” Borda tried convincing her to stay away, that he had a truck that could take them to safety, but Rava shouted over him.

“I have to find him!” Rava shoved the human child into Borda’s arms, weaving through the now thinned crowd of escapees, making her way up a short flight of concrete steps leading to the front doors. Borda called after her, but she pressed on at the sight of another group of people just inside the lobby. She cried out her husband’s name. The response she received was the fearsome shriek of the massive creature looming over the skyline, and a hard rumble as something made impact with the building before her.

She collapsed, as did everyone else. Shortly after, the building began to follow. Borda had pursued her up the stairs, trying to pull her back from the building when the quake hit. She watched helplessly as some of the inner floors buckled, several stories collapsing atop the crowd of unfortunate people. Rava screamed her grief, trying to crawl toward the detritus, even as Borda tried again to stop her.

“Rava, he’s gone!” The old man hooked a leg around her midsection, pulling her back from the shower of debris, closer to the street. “We have to go, now!”

Rava sobbed, reaching forward with every appendage as Borda dragged her toward the motor wagon. Rava climbed, almost unconsciously, into the bed of the covered truck, blinded as much by her tears as by the concrete dust that kept coating her eyes. A sudden crack and rumble rolled down from the high rise building, the audible approach heralding imminent collapse. Borda turned to shield the baby from a plume of dust, thrown into the air as a massive slab of grey stone punctured the walkway they had only just a moment ago occupied. He thrust the screaming child into Rava’s arms, ignoring the woman’s sobs as he wordlessly scrambled into the cradle and pressed the ignition. The vehicle sputtered, its intake largely clogged with dust and ash, but it powered through and turned over. Borda pressed the stick forward, and they were moving.

Cutting through the newly stirred dust cloud was easy. Avoiding fallen debris and people fleeing on foot was the hard part. The truck moved slowly, albeit as quickly as Borda could make it move. A few dust-coated and bloodied survivors had clarity enough to jump on, and Borda let them. He turned down an alleyway, largely overlooked and passed up by the rushing crowds, and picked up the pace. There weren’t as many seeking hands out here, but there were some, and Borda tried to keep the truck quiet and tucked away in the long shadows of the high rise towers; as much as he could control that, anyway. Twice, he saw another godo fending off the long arms of that terrible monster, but he did not slow down for them.

Eventually, he broke away from the city proper, following a county road out into the area allotted for the proposed farm district. A light rain had settled in, unnoticeable in the chaos of the city but quite clear out in the open. Flickering orange and yellow light in the reverse mirrors told him at least some part of the city was burning, no doubt a byproduct of the unprecedented destruction. Even though the brightness of the auroras was waning now behind the storm clouds, he left the headlights off, afraid that thing might see them from a distance and still reach them.

The wagon slid at every turn, barely evading the occasional rut or boulder while Borda hurried through the cover of darkness. The rain was falling a bit harder now, and the small sounds of the falling city were hushed by the patter of droplets on the canvas, a mild relief for Rava’s nerves. Still, every so often, that infantile shriek would cut in from far off, stirring the anxieties of the child in the woman’s arms. The baby cried out, agitated, and the distraught woman flinched at the sound.

“Shhh,” she forced a consoling tone, though her words shook through her stifled sobs. “It’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay…” She wrapped the blanket a little tighter around him, but the coarse fabric was unpleasant on the child’s soft skin. The baby cried again, and the woman turned partially away as she flinched once more, the image of that thing in the sky flashing across the back of her eyelids. She sobbed again, but regained her composure, bouncing the child lightly. “It’s okay…”

The truck took a frantic turn around a low hill, and it was gone. Back in the city, the screams of panic and crash of falling stone had subsided. Most of the fire had been doused by the rain now, and likewise the smoke filtered from the air. There was nobody left alive, but if there had been, they would have heard only the rain, save one final, animalistic shriek from somewhere amongst the rubble.


Hey look it’s HBL


would you please spell my name correctly :dizzy_face:


Very mostly finished map of the known Sandscape as of the establishment of the Discount Kingdom

Porhap one day I’ll make a seamless digital copy with cleaner text than my handwriting


how have I not checked this since june 2023

that’s what 845 unread topics does to you I guess


If only you had been here for me, Cordax

You might have been the threshold that launched me into literary infamy :disappointed: