“Sometimes the moon is light and sometimes it's in shadow, but you should always remember it's the same moon.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
The Bridge was more full of life than it had been in a thousand thousand years.
Days pass in paths forged across the old battlefield. Like ants, heroes march across the back of nothing, bringing fresh steel where once only rust existed. Magic whispers amongst the blades.
Reunions sing sweetly, tears salting the earth as the lost are once again found.
The patchwork sky reverberates, time passing before their eyes. Day in some, night in others, and still more that were golden evergreen.
Almost imperceptibly, something that was once balanced shifts.
A piece of the world crumbles, cascading into the endless abyss below.
They’d all been quite busy since the rifts stabilized. Traffic wasn’t a problem that any of the intrepid travelers had expected in such a distant place, yet the wait to traverse through the portal in both Bellacoste and Andras had increased exponentially.
A discovery of this caliber was unheard of for their like-- of course they all want to be a part of it, Jishui thought. There had been many days of introduction already to vaunted and illustrious pouflons and woolyne alike. It was dizzying, really, how many titles these mortals assigned themselves. Still, he found their great variety a spectacle. Their lives were short, but the way their souls shone-- they really lived them to the fullest, didn’t they?
Now- where was…
“Tejat?” the darker twin calls, but the more dour twin was nowhere to be found. The darkstar pouflon stamps a hoof and looks up at the woolyne who was running a hand through his hair. “I’ll go east?” the pouflon offers.
“And I west- you know, I’ll miss this, at least. Tejat always said I should get out of my own head, and here you are!” The pouflon snorts and rolls his eyes good naturedly.
“Good hunting, Jishui,” one facet wishes to the other. “Likewise,” the other replies.
It did Tejat no good to go off by herself. She knew that, and he knew it too. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen her in hours. That was an ill omen, indeed. Well, with two of him, he could cast a wider net.
The unicorn smiles. “Tiny!” he calls. “Oh, and…”
“Queen Asajj,” the fiery woolyne supplies, placing a hand on the younger woolyne’s shoulder. “I hope you don’t need this one for much, I was hoping Tiny might tell me more about their adventures here?”
The heat billowing from the queen ushered a wave of nostalgia in Jishui. The unicorn shakes his head. “Oh, dear me. No, honored Queen Asajj, I only hoped to ask if either of you had seen Tejat. Looks just like me, a little… mmm…” He flicks an ear. “...Purpler?”
“...Grumpier,” Tiny mutters, their muzzle scrunching up. “No, uh, I don’t think we’ve seen her, sorry Jishui.”
The unicorn smiles and sweeps in a grand bow. “That’s alright, that’s alright. Well, don’t let me take any more of your time.”
Tiny watches as the unicorn departs, frowning. The warmth from Asajj tingles on their shoulder. After a moment the queen squeezes and says, gently, “Don’t worry. I have a feeling that one can handle himself. Now, why don’t you tell me all about these strange companions of yours?”
Despite Asajj’s assurances, Tiny wasn’t so sure. It shows in how their ears quiver, but the young woolyne smiles despite this.
“Oh! O...of course, Queen!”
The heads of Bellacoste’s leaders were bowed as King Ericius welcomed Queen Nouvel to The Bridge. There had been quite a bit of to-do about this, Jishui recalled. Naturally there would be, amongst world leaders, though he wondered how they felt here, in a place with no borders. He could taste the tension at times, thick in their voices and stiff in their shoulders.
It was always the same story, wasn’t it? Nevertheless, he did not find Tejat in this parade, nor in the onlookers. With his head above the crowd, it should be no problem to spot his twin, and yet…
“Avalon,” the woolyne whispers, calling the farmer’s attention without drawing too many eyes. The plucky looks at him, and for a moment he can’t help his smile. Oh, she practically glowed. Amongst her people Avalon thrived. It was beautiful, wasn’t it?
“Jishui?” the plucky says after a moment. “Yer starin’, y’need somethin’?”
“Oh!” the woolyne spreads his hands as much as the crowd would allow, smile shifting to apologetic. “I was just thinking- you look happier. It’s nice. I’m glad, really.”
Another plucky peers over Avalon’s head, heavy brows set and mouth twisted with distrust. Ah. The father. He best be quick, hadn’t he?
With some confusion, Avalon glances back at the brick wall by her side. “Thank you? I am?”
The woolyne brings his hands back together but not before waggling fingers in a little wave to Avalon’s father. “Sorry, just thinking aloud! Anywaaaaaay… you haven’t seen Tejat, have you?”
The pouflon’s face wrinkles with obvious disgust. “Her? No. You’d have better luck with Axel, y’know she an’ I don’t see eye t’eye.”
Jishui sighs from his nose. Now that was an understatement. “Now that’s a shame, but one of her own making. Thank you Avalon and… sir.” He nods to the farmer’s father, fingers tapping impatiently against his own knuckles. “I suppose I had better keep looking! Enjoy the… whatever this is!”
Before Avalon could explain, the woolyne was already strides away, nervous energy bubbling in his gut.
Where was she?
Even in the expanse of space, one twin would always find the other. It was only the magical signatures of dozens of others that kept Jishui from Tejat for so long, but their collision, as always, was inevitable.
He found her far from the crowds. The facets sat together and stared at the broken sky. That in itself was nothing to worry about, not just that moment.
What worried him more was the circle of disturbed ash around her. Perfectly shaped and wider in circumference than something her size-- pouflon or woolyne-- should be able to create. The pouflon Jishui frowns-- he’d been the lucky one to come across this, eh?
A star spirals from his coat and zips off. It would find the other piece of him, and then they would settle this, wouldn’t they? Still, he could not simply stand here and wait. The unicorn takes a deep breath before venturing, gently, into Tejat’s circle.
Both heads snap around at once. Two sets of eyes glare daggers, and for a moment, that is enough to hold the unicorn. He shuts his eyes against her displeasure and sighs. “Tejat,” he croons softly, “How long have you been at this?”
“If you could rip yourself away from your little pets, you might know,” his other half retorts. Oh, her tongue was sharp, and he was so unlucky as to have to deal with two of her. “Leave me be, Jishui, I do not want to talk to you.”
“Well, that’s a shame, isn’t it?” the unicorn takes a step further into her domain. “For all I want right now is to talk to you. Tejat, come on. Did you think you would be able to hide this?” Oh, he hoped his counterpart would arrive soon. “I know what you’re trying to do.”
“You know nothing,” spits his twin, and before he could react the stars were branching from her, spinning and twinning with the shared stars on her doppleganger. The constellation snakes far beyond her size and the air aches trying to make space for her. He wanted to- he wanted-
No, Jishui tells himself. No. No, no no no no no no, “STOP,” he screams, unfamiliar legs tumbling beneath this small, cramped body. They collide, as destined, and the air snaps back into shape with a crackle.
“YOU,” Tejat snarls, clawed hands curling in his fur and a sharp horn threatening to spear him. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t. He stares at her defiantly, fur rising in a ridge along his back.
Still, his voice was gentle, “Tejat, you can’t. Please listen to me. Please.”
Her brows snap together, the pouflon muttering something rude. The woolyne tightens her grip on him before she tosses him off. “Oh, you think you can boss me around, do you Jishui? You’re as sick of these bodies as I am.”
“I am,” retorts the woolyne Jishui, just now stepping into her ring. “But you’re going to burn yourself out, and everyone else on this stupid disc. Now listen to me.”
Tejat bares her teeth, but she backs away, ears against her head.
“Have you considered the consequences? How could you so… so glibly reach, knowing what would become of everyone here? I’m sick of it too. I know you can’t stand it, but I can’t allow you when their blood would be on my conscience, too.”
“You’re so fond of your little mortal toys, aren’t you, Jishui?” Tejat sneers. “They are doomed if we can’t find a way out of this, anyway, you know that. So what is your grand plan to save them?”
The woolyne rumbles, growling deep in his chest. The pouflon was stiff, too, but he shoots his counterpart a look. “If we were to return their skies, I believe it would cut them off from this place entirely, and then-”
“If,” Tejat echoes. “You haven’t got a plan, and you never have. I’m so happy you’ve enjoyed playing house with these animals, but I’m ready to go home.”
“I won’t let you,” Jishui snips back even as Tejat turns from him, again drawing from her wellspring of strength and reaching to the swirl of skies above them. As the stars reach back for her, he calls, “This is your last chance to stop this, Tejat!”
“Or what, JISHUI?” snaps Tejat.
“You’ll face the consequences,” speaks his soul, two voices joined as one. Ash sweeps away from them as something titanic reaches from within the darkstar. Nebulas swim between them, a great heat widening the distance and melting what weapons remained. Stardust gathers as Tejat turns to face him, a grin twisting her features.
The sky seems to draw closer, reaching, watching, wanting.
“You wouldn’t,” Tejat goads.
“I would,” Jishui responds.
“...Uh. Sorry to interrupt,” a third voice cuts through the tension like a knife. “But you’ve caused quite a stir.”
Jishui’s head twists towards Axel and at once, his magic falls away. There were no stars. The cosmos, again, seemed unobtainable. Tejat scoffs but the heat falls away from her as well.
Much to Jishui’s chagrin, it wasn’t only Axel. They’d gained quite an audience while they were preoccupied, hadn’t they? Onlookers craned their heads to look, eyes as wide as saucers.
“They called the stars,” one murmurs to the other.
And just like that, the farce falls apart.
“We should explain,” Jishui mutters to Tejat as the circle tightens.
“Do what you want,” Tejat grumbles back. “I’m done dealing with you.”
“Don’t say that,” he begs, but it was too late for them to quibble now.
The eyes of two worlds on him, Jishui welcomes them closer. He could not go back now, and the longer he thought of it, they deserved to know, didn’t they? He and his sullen twin were stuck here with them for the time being, and- well, it would come up sooner or later, wouldn’t it?
“Sorry,” he apologizes to those curious, worried faces. “Sibling squabble. We…” he looks towards Tejat. His twin glowers at him before turning her face away. “...We… how should I put this.”
“...In the simplest terms possible, probably…” Axel suggests before smiling encouragingly.
Jishui blinks at him. He’d wondered about Axel. He’d have to ask later if the vespire had always known. “...Right…” the woolyne ventures, glancing towards his pouflon half. “Alright. Okay. Shouldn’t be too hard, should it? Gather round, then, because I don’t want to have to say this twice.”
“We,” he gestures between himself and Tejat, “Are not like you.” He waves broadly at the small crowd that had formed. Curse Tejat-- it was likely the disruption in the air that had called them here. “Well, we are just now, in these bodies, but…”
His expression sours, “As some of you may have guessed, we are native neither to Andras nor Bellacoste. Or this place, for that matter. Your people and your cultures- what I’ve learned so far- are lovely, so I do not mean this derisively, but we are…” he looks again to Tejat, plaintive, asking for help. She offers him nothing.
“...We’re stars,” he says at last, plainly. “Travelers. And our true forms are far too large for this place to accommodate.” He doesn’t look at her again, but he can feel Tejat stiffen. Good. Let her squirm. She nearly caused a catastrophe.
“How did you get here?” someone asks. There was grumbling in the crowd, murmuring as mortals exchanged the facts for rumors. This always happened. Perhaps Tejat’s caution would have served them better? It was too late now. The only road forward was ahead.
“By accident,” Jishui admits. “We were trying to visit elsewhere, but… well. This place pulled us to it much like it did your own worlds, I imagine. Trust me, we’ve tried to leave like we might usually, but there’s something…”
“...Something is holding us here,” Tejat adds finally. “You should leave while you have the chance,” she adds darkly.
“You know, she may be right,” Jishui sighs. “There is power here, and I’ve felt it shift since the stabilization. Perhaps it’s time for you all to return home?” He smiles hopefully.
“...And leave you here?” it was Axel who spoke, pneumir leaking from his mouth. Ah, the vespire was kind, and knew more than he should. Jishui smiled sadly at him and shrugged helplessly. What more could they do?
“Not much choice, is there, my friend?”
Once they had spiraled through the cosmos. Jishui couldn’t remember when consciousness found them, but one day he had awoken. The warmth of his sister still kindled his spirit to this day. Oh, how they romped the stars, constellations chasing like a comet’s tail. He wished he could go back to those days, endless wonder and discovery.
It was still there, of course, in small ways. In the light of the sun setting on a new world. In the desire that pulled two beings together. In the love and tears spent day by day by the countless thousands. Tejat could not always see that. But he tried, all these years later, to find that spark everywhere they went.
It would be better, still, if these little universes returned to their own homes, wouldn’t it? Surely they had all been brought here for a reason, but the thought of it prickled the hairs on his neck. Something else lived here too. He had felt it from the very start.
Something in Axel told him that the vespire could feel it, too.
The darkstar reaches for the warmth in Axel’s heart and the vespire looks to him, mouth parting as if to speak. But something there shifts too, friendliness changing to horror before Jishui’s eyes. Slowly he pulls back.
“They’re coming,” Axel manages, voice tight.
“Who?” Jishui asks.
To the east, alarms are raised. The first gnut to drift through the portal had been easy enough to deal with, but dozens more followed, then hundreds, then thousands. The plague that had blighted Andras disappeared in an instant, their skies clearing to reveal only the ugly wound.
Farmers breathed a sigh of relief. But what had finally turned the swarm back? Had Queen Asajj finally deciphered the secret of the flowers? Oh, Mazrim was surely on their side. Perhaps they would be able to harvest something that summer after all!
In The Bridge, the outlook was grim. The tide of corruption pouring from the Andras rift could not be stemmed. Returning home, at least for the woolynes, was no longer an option. To try would mean their death against the beating of wings and gnashing of teeth.
The swarm rises, the sky growing dark as thousands of bodies rallied together. It happened so fast. Jishui could only gape as the blight shifted before his eyes.
Knights fumbled for their sweet, fresh steel. Mages mumble the words of protective charms. The swarm doesn’t hold still, already moving to overtake them. Where there was life, it would flush it out.
The swarm washes over them like a tide. There was no end to them.
“FIGHT,” shrieks Tejat. “FIGHT OR DIE!”
Ah, Jishui thought. I didn’t get them out fast enough.
Time to see what they’re made of!
Phase 2 of Skyfall ♊︎ has now begun!
How is your character coping with the news that Jishui and Tejat are… well, like nothing they’ve ever seen before? Are they curiouser than ever about the origin of the stars? Are they eager to help solve the pickle the celestials have found themselves in? Or, perhaps, they’ve decided they want to wash their pooves of this debacle entirely? The Twin Stars quest is now available!
As interesting as sentient stars might be, I think we have more pressing issues! Do you feel like you’re being… watched? Well, never mind that, because a massive swarm of gnuts is on it’s way in Corruption Swarms. The swarm has been plaguing Andras for months- but for whatever reason, it’s doubled back to the Bridge, and it seems intent on flushing us out.
Are you more inclined to explore? Perhaps your curiosity has gotten the best of you? In the Dual Skies quest you will have the opportunity to cross over into Andras for the very first time. Are you seeking the source of the corrupted swarm? Or are you simply curious what lays on the other side? Remember to make friends- we will need every last one of you!
I’m sure you’re raring to dive into Phase 2 right away, but not so fast! Have you seen that there are several more item unlocks left to reveal in the [ Corrupted Shop ]? I promise you these are items you won’t want to miss! Oh, and we’ve heard you loud and clear- with Phase 2, several new Corrupted Shop items have been added to the [ Cash Shop ].
One last, little thing. As disturbed ash settles back onto this broken world, something fragments. There’s so much to worry about and so little time in the day. Even when you’re alone, you get the sense that something else is there with you.
Good luck out there. S̸t̸a̶y̶ ̴s̵a̷f̸e̸.̴
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