“My dearest Fi,
I’m afraid this will arrive rather late. Still, as I’ve always said-- better late than never. Forgive me, Fi, that I could not tell you this in person.
The world beyond the sky is… well, it’s quite difficult to describe. For all of your life I’ve hidden the worst of us from you, and that’s what this place is. I’m afraid there’s nothing I could say that would make you understand it. Maybe I failed you.
We met others here. People not like us. As you read this, they’re evacuating to Aequor-- you may meet them soon. Be kind, Fi. I know you have it in you. Be good to them. I’m not sure they’ll have a home to go back to when this is all over.
You’re still so young, Fi. I know all of this is going to seem like it’s too much for you. But I believe in you. I know you can do it. When I’m back, I’ll tell you about the day I became queen.
Take this letter to the Garden. You’ll know my bloom when you see it. Remember, so long as it’s strong, so am I. Don’t worry about me one bit. I won’t wilt.
I love you more than the sun and stars in the sky, my sweet Fi.
Wait for me,
“THAT’S ALL?” the princess cries once the royal messenger finished her read. Quincey frowns as she begins to roll the scroll once more, the queen’s words disappearing from sight.
“That’s all, miss Fi,” Quincey puts on a smile. “But there’s nothing to worry about. Saw your mom myself, healthy and hale as can be.” She leaves out that was… well, more than a week ago. “Why don’t we do as she said and… check in on her garden plot?”
Princess Fiorel snorts from her nose, and without another word she turns towards the spiraling ascent to the Dawn Garden. The pair climb together, silent as the grave.
“A lion will only retreat if you stare it in the eyes; likewise, so will fear.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo
The Bridge was steeped in chaos. Everywhere one looked, those that remained were embroiled in conflict with their bitterest fears. Even as the stars rained destruction from the heavens, they gained no ground. Skyfall pushes ever forward, insurmountable. How could you defeat fear?
How do you overcome nothing?
They press on, regardless of the futility. Was it brave, or was it stupid? Oh, it could be both. War always was. Stupid, brave soldiers, to the last of them. Andras and Bellacoste glitter like jewels at both ends of the line-- something worth protecting. They all had something back home. Something they wanted to preserve. If that took everything they had, well…
Axel fights as Tejat and Jishui light up the sky, bathed in the light of the dual stars. Wild eyes roll as the Nothing rises high above him, sharp claws and strong jaws tearing and gnashing. He saw his Strata, the faces of his parents and kin interchangeable now with something strange, something foreign. A monster had threatened them once, and it threatened again now. It clawed at the hard-packed floors and screamed for them by name. This time, his Strata had the faces of his friends. Jishui. Avalon. Tiny. Titan. He never fought for anything harder, not in his entire life. This time. This time he would save them.
Kilau grapples with Tooth, muscles rippling as her shifter stone works its influence. “ASAJJ,” shrieks her guard, the shifting form of the other criminals skulk around at the edge of her vision. Something wasn’t right. How had they come to be here? They’d been locked up, and yet-- ouch-- Tooth’s bite hurt just as much as it had before. The Mazri woolyne spreads her webbed wings, sinking claws into the facsimile of her former enemy. A great gout of fire spears the darkness, and with a shriek of effort Kilau tosses Tooth aside and dives into the ash after the beacon.
As the friends climbed towards a necessary truth in a castle high, deep in the city a matronly old pouflon ushers a bouquet of blooms towards the hearth. The grandmother clucks at them as the youngest wobble on their legs. An older bloom settles by the fire and looks towards their guardian ruefully.
“When are our parents coming back?” the eldest asks. “It’s been…” quieter, they add, “...weeks…”
“Any day now,” the elderly pouflon reckons, a waft of magic straightening her glasses. “Settle down now, kids, and I’ll tell you a story--”
“Tell us the one about the QUEEN!” a starry-eyed youngster bubbles over, tail wagging behind them. “A.. a good one!”
“A good one about the Queen?” the matron muses, weary eyes glimmering. “Alright. I think I know one you won’t have heard…”
Even the eldest pricked their ears at that, drawing closer to listen as the matron began her tale, as all tales must begin:
“Once upon a time, before our Queen was queen…”
The battle rages all over the Bridge, pockets of resistance pushing against the immovable force before them. The stars spiral overhead, meteors pockmarking an already stricken land.
If the Mazri queen could hear Kilau screaming for her, she made no effort to answer. The fire spirit within her shrieked to burn, and for once she agreed completely. The object of her ardor laughed as the fire whipped around her, crisping his edges. Every time she burned Baldric, he came back, good as new. “Give up, A̷s̸a̶j̸j̷. I told you, A̴m̶i̶r̴l̴y̴n̶ ̵c̷h̷o̸s̸e̷ M̷͙̝͑E̵̛͈̥̓̂́!” He laughs as the fire engulfs him, his after image remaining as the glow fades. “You miss her, d̴o̸n̸'̵t̶ ̴y̸o̷u̷? Your precious P̴̼̒ ̸͙̄å̶͙ ̶̠̽n̶͖̑ ̶͕̈́d̴̼͐ ̵̻̽o̴̯͂ ̷͍͂r̷̜͘ ̵̳͌ă̵̝?̶̟̊”
“You aren’t worthy of speaking her name,” Asajj retorts, smoke billowing from her mouth. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t wise to let the spirit overcome her, but how could she let this villain slip between her fingers like sand? “Amirlyn has forsaken you Baldric! Your reign ended before it ever began,” with a flick of her fingers, fire billows towards the smoke that concealed him. She follows behind, stalking towards the false king.
“Oh, I see. Y̶o̸u̴ ̵s̸p̶e̷a̵k̶ ̶t̵o ý̸̖o̴̡͂ù̴̼r̷̕͜ ̸̤̋G̶̻̈ȍ̷̹d̴̰͝s̷̲̅?” Baldric rumbles. Asajj reaches for the smoke that should contain him, grasping only air. “Ẁ̶̪ḧ̴̝́ă̵͎t̴͍̔ ̶̡̾ȟ̶̟ȃ̷̙v̴̲̄è̵̠ ̴̘̚t̶̯͠ḩ̴͠e̵̲͛y̶̱̿ ̴̮͋t̴̃ͅo̷̠͛l̵̬͛d̸̺̀ ̴͔̾y̷̡̓õ̸̼ù̵̩?̷̣̍” The Mazri queen takes a step back, looking up. There Baldric towered, at least twice as tall as he’d been a moment before. “Ẁ̶̙ẖ̷́e̸̞̿r̸̠̐e̸͈͑ ̷̫͐ḁ̶͌r̸̙̋e̷̮̒ ̷̫̓t̴̝͂h̵͉̾ḛ̸̾y̴̟͊ ̷̪͝N̸̫͊O̸̹͂W̶̩͒,̴͎̇ Ḁ̷̓͆̚S̴͎̗̔̆͠A̸̲̓̅J̴̼͔̪́̾̓J̶̛̫̘?”
“Nowhere near enough,” the queen responds, sparks flickering between her teeth, “to hear your prayers now.”
The amalgamation laughs as they’re both engulfed by flames.
Princess Fiorel and Quincey arrive at the Garden, the Queen’s scroll allowing them admittance into the sprawling complex. The messenger looks around, trying to disguise her awe. Even Fiorel had to strain not to gawk-- mother took her duties seriously, and even her child had been allowed in the Dawn Garden only a handful of times.
“Where is she?” whispers Quincey.
The princess recalls why they’d come, awe turning to ash. “Deeper in.”
The two venture past blooms new and old, the garden awash with color. But there was only one that they were here to see.
“Did you know, little ones, that we used to be at war?” inquires the grandmother, expression serious.
“...Like now?” one of the middling blooms asks, frowning. “Did parents leave their blooms behind then too?”
“...They certainly did, my sweet dear. But never you fear-- parents always come back for sweet little blooms like you!”
The lie seemed to placate the child. It hurt her a bit, but these little lies were harmless kindnesses. “Long before any of you had taken root, our people fought the vespires of the Ebon Wreath-- oh, they were monstrous back then! Why, we would cower under the eaves when we heard the vespires were flying…”
For a moment the matron is lost in memory. Then, she continues, “They would burn our crops, right to the ground!”
“But… ma’am…” one confused child chimed in, “Didn’t the queen stop the fighting?”
“Ah…” the caretaker smiles. “That she did. But you’ll remember, this is a tale from before Nouvel was queen. This is a story about the Old King.”
Glittering fire jets from Azariah’s throat as she soars over the King, her eyes burning as she wreathed his forsaken crown in flame. His eyes follow her through the air. His smile mocks her, all these years later. She thought she had forgotten it, buried it amongst all the other memories she wished not to relive. Years of practice had made her quite good at it, but years of practice folded, crumpling to nothing. They raced back, white hot scars behind her eyes as the vespire wept, screaming pneumir at the cause of all their-- all her hurts.
“You haven’t f̴o̷r̸g̷o̴t̶t̴e̶n̷ me!” thunders the Old King, swiping at the gnat as it ignited his hair. “Ẇ̷͇͓̣̈́͌Ȳ̶̧̯̆R̴͕̞̅̓̋M̶̥̒͐!” spears the horn, tail singing over the head of Nouvel who gawked at his feet. The air itself seems to groan as the gargantuan embodiment of the rift between them sprawled his legs, rearing up to reach for the Arbiter.
“How,” Nouvel murmurs, ducking as the tail swings overhead. “How could he..?”
Azariah shrieks above, words tumbling from those articulate jaws, her rage and sorrow beyond understanding. But Nouvel felt them, deep in her bones, that keening angry sound. Her eyes dance over the faceted form of her haunting past, watering. See saw him before her, larger than life, kneeling, bleeding--
The King snatches the ancient from the sky, teeth closing around a limb before he flings her like a ragdoll through the spiraling ash. The Arbiter spins out of sight, the monster crashing back to earth. His eyes turn on Nouvel.
“Kneel,” the Old King beckons.
Princess Nouvel obeys.
The pair walk through the garden, attendants giving the princess and her entourage a wide berth. It spiraled inward on itself. Fiorel walks the path as if familiar with it, drawn closer to the center.
There, quite out of place amongst the whispering blooms, stood a tree. It’s boughs reach towards the sky, dainty peach blossoms decorating its branches.
Fiorel stops at the base of the tree, bunting her forehead against it. A petal dislodges and spirals down, landing on a hewn stump nearby. Quincey stands slack-jawed as Fiorel murmurs, “Mother.”
“King Vieux was a bellyache of a king,” the matron croons, the blooms creeping closer to her, attention rapt. “But he was ours, and he led us to victory against those that would hurt us time and time again.”
The battles had razed the fields and torn the land asunder, but they had won. What was now forgotten still lived in her mind’s eye. It wasn’t spoken of, really. Not anymore. Call this afternoon a little bit of extracurricular learning.
“There were those that didn’t agree with his tactics. They whispered in the darkness, and behind his back they hatched a plan. Oh, that old King, he was a clever thing. He knew they had it out for him, but he didn’t expect it from…” the old pouflon pauses for effect, eyes sweeping over the bright, wide eyes of her audience. “...his future daughter-in-law!”
One bloom gasped. Another fell over. A third, quite understandably asked, “Who?”
“The princess,” the elder responds gravely. “Our very own Nouvel.”
“ASAJJ,” Kilau roars, reaching through the deluge of flame to grasp the dragon queen. Fire licks up the shifter’s arms as the queen turns blazing eyes on her guard. Recognition glimmers there and the fire withdraws, blowing out in great wisps of smoke. The guard’s grip on her middle relaxes as Asajj returns to herself. The queen reaches out and steadies herself on Kilau’s arm.
“He’s dead,” she says simply, still exhaling smoke.
“Indeed,” her guard agrees, muzzle wrinkling.
With Kilau there to keep her hooves beneath her, the pair advances on the place where Baldric had stood. There the miasma coagulates, shrinking back from them. It leaves behind glimmering pieces.
Oh, how the golds and violets ached. The sky of Andras twinkles as Queen Asajj reaches for it, reverently gathering the scrap with her hands. “Sweet Summer God,” the Mazri queen whispers, the tattered pieces flowing over her claws like silk.
She held their stolen sky in her hands.
More petals cascade from Nouvel’s Tree, carpeting the ground around them. Fiorel snorts her frustration, walking worrying circles through the skyfall. Peach bruises beneath her stubborn hooves, her friend fretting by the roughly cut stump.
“Doesn’t mean anything, Fi,” Quincey insists, looking pointedly at the crown of the tree. “Look at how many flowers are up there! Stars, Fi, your ma must be so strong, having all those…”
“Quin,” Fiorel clips. “Please be quiet.”
The messenger squints her eyes.
“I’m thinking,” Fiorel says after a long moment.
“Roger that,” Quincey replies, flopping down with her back against the stump.
Peach petals rain down on them both.
“Queen Nouvel, when she was a girl, was selected from her esteemed family and brought to court. It was an honor at the time, you see, because she would marry the Prince and one day, become the Queen.”
The blooms gawked at the grandmotherly pouflon. Some began to exchange looks. This story didn’t make a whole lot of sense!
“But the princess saw how cruel the King truly was,” the matron continues in a conspiratorial whisper. “He won battles for us, yes! But he was also horribly mean to his subjects. Have you ever been bullied?” she asks, scanning the crowd.
As a couple of the blooms glance away or nod demurely, the elder waxes on, “King Vieux was a bully, and princess Nouvel hated bullies. You know what she did?”
The children glanced amongst themselves until one ventured, “...What?”
With a twinkle in her eye, the old pouflon leans forward. “She thrashed him and sent him packing!”
Princess Nouvel knelt before the Old King, her ears ringing as the giant loomed overhead. She dared not look at him as he lifted a hoof, offering the cacophony of skies to his prostrated subject. The princess raises her chin to the impossibility of it all, the stitchwork foolishness of her hopes and aspirations. With grit, she steels herself, leaning forward to kiss the proffered hoof.
“G̷o̵o̵d̵ ̴g̴i̷r̴l̵.̷” the Old King murmurs, as if against her mane, the hair trigger at the back of her brain clicking. Her eyes roll towards that vaunted neck as a haze of indigo screams across the sky.
Azariah crashes into the Old King’s skull, dragging her claws across his brow and tearing at his eyes. His head bows as Nouvel surges upward, her sapling sprouting branches. Princess Nouvel rose as David speared Goliath, baptized at last as The New Queen.
In the myriad she saw the Bridge through the Nothing, a land as it once was, verdant, lush and sprawling. It was so lonely. It was so greedy. She tears her eyes from it, plucking the jewel of Bellacoste from the one who sought to consume it.
Together, they drive the Old King down, Azariah tearing shreds of sky from the form as it loses shape. Queen Nouvel emerges with their prize as the Arbiter kicks ash over the remains. They share a look as Skyfall relinquishes itself back to Nothing, pilfered skies fleeing back to the heavens.
As their color strengthens, it hides the stars from sight. They float, unseen, pulled by the gaps left behind with Andras and Bellacoste gone. Responding to that irresistible pull, the twins drift apart, the distance expanding until each was gone.
In the garden, the princess and her best friend watch in awe as another branch sprouts from Nouvel’s tree, reaching ever closer to the sky.
“And that, little buds, is how Nouvel became Queen.” the elder concludes, nodding decisively as if to punctuate it.
In the end, it was less of a victory and more of a noble retreat. Skyfall fades into obscurity as the Nothing sinks back into its lonely vigil. Stolen skies glitter above as dignitaries meet one last time.
“We will usher your people out of Aequor,” King Ericius promised Queen Asajj, Naia glimmering at his side. “With your help, we can escort small groups from our rift to yours.”
“Your hospitality was an unexpected blessing King Ericius, thank you.” The Mazri queen clasped her hands together and bowed deeply. “We are forever grateful to you, and to you, Queen Nouvel, Arbiter.”
While the four exchanged pleasantries, Axel searches feverishly through those that remained, rustling through the camp doggedly. Avalon was safe, of course, with Tiny and Titan in Aequor-- he’d wait to escort them back home-- but where was Tejat? Where was Jishui?
He calls for them above the crowd of weary soldiers bound for home. They’d been right there, hadn’t they? So close he felt he could pluck them from the sky, and yet… now they were nowhere to be found.
The vespire searched until he couldn’t any more, meeting weakly with Avalon as she ushered the kittens back onto the Bridge. Silently he bumped heads with her. Quietly he whispered his fears. The plucky comforted him, and together they escorted Andras’ finest back home.
It was a tearful farewell-- one of many-- because despite themselves, they’d grown quite close, hadn’t they? “Don’t ya worry, sugar,” Avalon hushed a weeping Tiny, “We’ll come see you, won’t we, Axel?”
“...Yeah. Yeah, we will,” the vespire promises, glancing at the Bridge and wondering if that was a promise he could keep. He could, couldn’t he? For them?
Just like that, their struggle came to a silent end. The Bridge remained open as the people of Andras and Bellacoste bid their farewells and stepped back into their ordinary lives. The sky, nurtured and cared for, flew from them like a wisp of smoke. When Asajj looked to the horizon, she saw that the crack was gone.
The rift patched itself in Aequor, the shimmering portal a reminder. The temple doors sealed behind them, and the might of Bellacoste begins it’s long trip home.
When they breached the waves at last, they saw an open endless sky stretching before them. The beauty of it ached, and when followed to its logical end a treasure remains, stark against the white sand.
“Jishui!” cried Axel, jostling against Avalon in their excitement to get to shore.
The darkstar twinkles like the first star in the rising darkness. “Welcome home.”
No matter how hard they fought, it felt like there was no chance. Skyfall would claim more than their stars. It would take everything.
That was a promise.
The ash filled their lungs. It choked them. The Nothing was oppressive. It loomed all around them, unseen except for a frightening shiver. The swarm glittered above, a threatening blade to be swung by a judicious arm. Aequor was overflowing. There’s no more room. Nobody else could cross.
Where there was no hope, fire cleaves through the darkness. Overwhelming heat oppressed the oppressive, the deft hands of Queen Asaaj at the center of the vortex. The nameless many who should flinch from that heat instead turn towards it, their voices joining the Mazri queen.
Elsewhere, magic sings through the air and elemental breath bellows. Here, so far from home, the queens of Bellacoste fight, for once, with the other-- not against. In all these years of peace, no common foe to unite them, tensions grew so taut the carefully penned treaty threatened to fall apart.
Here was the antithesis of all those years of strain. The Old King rears his ugly head, a sardonic twist to bared teeth. Where there was no option for peace, they didn’t have to pretend-- and Azariah, Nouvel-- they didn’t. The Ancient lit fires along those coveted pieces of sky, hatred burning so hot in her heart that she did not notice when Nouvel came away burnt, too.
For her part, the queen of Chrysanthos barely felt the flames. Before them stood the end of everything she’d worked for from the time she’d been her daughter’s age. It would take more than singed feathers to turn her away from the king, his body aglow like the sun. Nouvel burns bright, too, for Bellacoste.
Jishui and Tejat, hand in hand, conquer their own demons, yawning before them with the inscrutable power of the universe. All over the Bridge, eyes turn towards the sky, visible in glimpses, as the twins reach for the blackness and it reaches back.
The stars escape, their fiery trail blazing across the sky and brightening the dark. Their mortal husks still stand, reaching eternally, as the constellations spiral across the empty sky and bring light where there was none.
Then, they begin to crash to ground, white-hot stars studding the Bridge, melting its old prickly swords. They drive craters deep into the Nothing, leaving openings for others to flood into the depths and strike where the miasma was still weak. Like ants they would carve roads through this monster, one impact at a time.
By fire, by blood, by ancient history, by treaties and those who broke them, by stardust, inch by painful inch, Skyfall starts to cede ground.
For the first time in a long time, a faint ray of hope flickers. They were so weary, eager tinder for the first flicker to catch and spread. Here, where things once appeared darker than ever, hope blazes out of control.
Press the attack. Finish this.
As hope races across the Bridge, a RALLYING CRY invigorates you!
From now until the end of the event on September 30th, ALL DAMAGE AND CORRUPTED COIN EARNINGS WILL BE DOUBLED. The [ Corrupted Coin Guide ] has been modified to reflect the Rallying Cry!
Additionally, in preparation of the Coin Auction this month, coin bundles have been added to the [ Corrupted Shop ]. Each bundle may be purchased for CC one time!
For the remainder of the month, all coin bundles are also 15% OFF in the [ Cash Shop ]! Worried about balancing the Legendary Shop and the Coin Auction? Well, worry no longer! May coins rain down upon you!
Hey, you! Yes, you! Did you hear about our [ Ko-fi ]? Ko-fi subscribers get a lot of fun perks, including a behind the scenes look at what's coming next! We're so grateful for your support, which directly funds the development of new events and merch! Speaking of merch...
Have you seen our [ Etsy Shop ]? Bring Bellacoste to your home with our brand new physical merch! Our current stock is limited, but we are working on new stuff already that we can't wait to share with you!
Thank you for being here with us, and good luck out there!
FALL IS FINALLY HERE! As a general reminder, raffles are now hosted completely on Lorekeeper in the raffle section of prompts. Have fun and get gifting!!
Please head on over to September's raffle prompt to learn more and enter this month's raffle!
“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
Where once there was silence, now there was the steady drone of the swarm. For all their struggles, they never seemed to put a dent in it.
They worked together, despite it all. Woolyne, pouflon, vespire and ursuki acted in shifts, forging friendships and strengthening bonds. The swarm was a weapon without a hand to wield it. If they pushed harder, they would overcome it! They had to.
Villains rise between the cracks, spectres of ages past. Woolynes complain of usurpers and worse plaguing the corners of their vision. These evils have a name, but most refuse to speak them.
“You’re seeing them too, aren’t you?” Axel asks Tiny one night, hushed, laying low beneath the unrelenting buzz above them.
Whispered wishes spiral skywards all around them, reaching for something familiar. They slip through the beating wings and chittering teeth, hoping, daring. There had to be something else. There had to be a way out of this.
“Me? I’m--” the woolyne shifts uncomfortably, curling their fingers in their tail. “There’s… something. It’s… I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”
The vespire frowns but doesn’t push it. His heart makes a wish of its own, a small spell that wisps away from him, joining those that came before it. Those whispered wishes mingle amongst themselves, a tireless deluge of color, hopes and dreams. There had to be something. There had to be something else.
The wish breaks through the swarm, a single thread of fate. But it doesn’t find an answer. It doesn’t find the way out.
All it finds is nothing.
It was midnight. Well, maybe it was midnight. There were no clocks ticking the hours here. There were no city guards calling the minutes. It was dark in this hypothetical midnight, hungry mouths devouring the sky. Their wings swallowed what light the evergolden shards cast.
In the darkness, Tejat sits alone with herself.
The hours were tedious. They drifted and flew by at the pace of time, and it irritated her. Everything about this situation irritated her. Even now, she searched for any scrap of color on the horizon. Any glimmer of anything. But there was nothing.
A billow of ash foretells her company. She doesn’t look at Jishui as he sits beside her.
“Hey,” the darkstar says quietly. The lighter twin glances sidelong at her other half before she looks back to the blackened sky. Jishui sighs from his nose before following her gaze.
The two that were four sat like that for a while. Silence wasn’t unusual between them. They’d traversed much greater distances than what lay between them now. It shouldn’t be this daunting, but…
“...No hard feelings, alright?” Jishui says finally. “You’re right, I wouldn’t really have… I was--”
“Shhh,” Tejat cuts in, rubbing her jaw. “You talk too much. Just listen, this once.”
Her twin falls silent, a petulant curve to his mouth that slowly fades as he does just that-- listen.
The realization dawns on him. “There’s nothing,” he says quietly, voice just above a whisper. The drone of thousands of beating wings, the wind whipped by the swarm-- it was all gone. The Bridge was completely, utterly and eerily silent.
Tejat works her jaw, popping it. Then she twists her head back towards Tejat, eyebrows up. “You can feel it, can’t you?”
He could. He could feel the tension creeping into his teeth, a dull ache that was as familiar as it was unwanted.
“Yeah,” Jishui grumbles, pushing himself back up. “I do.”
“....So... what’s your plan?”
The dark twin was already headed back towards the camp. He calls behind him, “Wake them before it’s too late!”
Tejat wrinkles her nose before settling back into her vigil.
“It’s already too late,” the cynical star mutters to herself.
It’s just past hypothetical midnight.
The Bridge is quiet. Ash rolls across the severed plains, swallowing rust. The world is dark and ominous, wearing a cloak of wings. A star careens towards inevitability. Sleep while you can.
Nothing is well.
Pressure is building. There’s no solace in this oppressive place. It’s too late to wake up. It’s too late to go home. It spirals beyond control.
How could silence be so deafening?
It would be a comfort, to sink into the disquieting quiet. To relish familiarity in an alien place. The growing, screaming pressure in their heads was a comfortable misery, as suffocating as a blanket wrapped too tight.
Axel sits still as a statue, a sentinel staring into the darkness above. His jaw tightens as a comforting wing sweeps over him. Azariah rumbles in her chest. The Arbiter breaks the silence with the first note of a song--
--Throughout the camp, more join. The vespire first, then others. Jishui waves his arms frantically from too far off to matter. It was not the star that alerted the camp, but instead a note that zipped through their sleeping minds and brought them, slowly, cautiously, back to reality.
Salvation in B minor.
The song winds through the camp like a snake, drawing more bodies into its thrall. It does little to ease the pain in their heads, building now behind the eyes.
A younger brother clings to his older sibling. Quietly, oh so quietly, Titan whispers, “I want to go home.”
Tight lipped discussions happen in the dark. Nouvel begs for clemency. “We have to evacuate,” the queen pleads with Ericius. “All of us.”
“We cannot spell all of you,” the dark king fires back. “It’s that simple! Stay put or drown, what’s your choice?”
There is no right answer. No. Nothing is well.
The pressure builds until the two are arguing, the king putting on a colorful display of flashing lights that flicker against the dark canopy. Their voices ring throughout the camp, contrasting the song and the dreadful silence beyond.
Something had to give.
Something did, in the wee hours of the morning. It was not a release, like before. The pressure lifted in a cold, trickling way, slipping and sinking from behind their eyes to the pits of their stomachs.
There it sits, becoming hard like ice. Frigid, sick dread. It creeps insidiously throughout the camp, sleep a distant, fond memory. Anxiety of anticipation, they wait with growing trepidation for the sky to fall.
It doesn’t. Distant worlds glimmer between the darting of the silent plague. Something imperceptible shifts. A tremor rips through the Bridge, shaking everyone on its back. Ash kicks up, shrouding the camp.
“CLEAR IT! CLEAR IT!!!” shouts someone, but who?
No number of beating wings could do the job, magic sputtering and failing at their fingertips. The pressure builds again, running under their skin and prickling the hair along their necks. Something immense was just out of sight. They could feel the weight of it. Looming. Waiting.
“Wait-” someone pleads, their wish choked before it could fly.
The veil pulls over them like gossamer, silk caressing them before it was gone. Axel points skyward with a shaking claw.
As the ash settles, they can all see the sky as it twists like a piece of fabric. How could it be taut in one place, and flowing in the next? The sky does not fall so much as drape languidly, little pieces of other worlds becoming little more than a colorful swatch on a quilt.
Following the line of motion was madness. The sky ate the horizon. But it wasn’t normal. It wasn’t natural. It twisted and took and took and took until there was nothing left but the facsimile of atmosphere. Nothing remained. It swallowed the ground as it moved, kicking up more ash.
The sky had form but it was… nothing. The eye slipped over the form consuming the horizon line like water off a tin roof. It pings, painfully, but you could not perceive it. Those that gazed too long felt it in their heads, the pressure building and building and building--
--this shouldn’t exist, it couldn’t exist. Some mumbled prayers as the form shifts, stretching the sky and bulging where there should be no mass. The swarm flocks to it, darting in and around its pieces. As they give back the sky, the camp discovers that it’s dark. Empty.
There’s nothing left.
Every bit of sky now lay before them.
“It’s gaining!” warns a scout as Queen Asaaj claps Tiny on the shoulder.
“Do as I told you, both of you,” the Queen smiles at the siblings. “Stick with Avalon, alright? She’ll take care of you.”
The plucky shifts uneasily on her hooves but puts on a smile for the two kittens. “That’s right, ain’t it? Never let y’down before. Now, let’s hightail it.” Her tail sweeps behind her as she looks up at the dragon queen, brows pulling together.
“I’ll take’m through the portal,” Avalon promises, “Just… come get’m when yer done here.”
The queen nods as the farmer turns, ushering Tiny and Titan with her wings. When, Avalon had asserted. If only they could all be so sure of their uncertain fate.
“Queen Asaaj,” her guard murmurs, beckoning with a hand. The fire along the queen’s tail spits and flickers as the Queen sees the two children off before joining Kilau.
Their battle lines had been hurried, a song still worming through the camp. Stay awake. Be ready. Be strong. Kilau watches the approaching mass, gesturing with her claws. “It’s split. There are smaller bits now. Don’t stray, Queen Asaaj. The ash is thick.”
Asaaj places a hand on Kilau’s shoulder and squeezes. “Look for the fire and you’ll always find me.”
Kilau glances sidelong at her charge and smiles halfheartedly. She opens her mouth to reply, but before the shifter could speak, a darkened form streaks out of the ash to collide with her, knocking Queen Asaaj away as the two tumble into the darkness.
“KILAU!” the queen screams, staggering back to her feet and searching the ash. Guttural growls and feral screeches clasped her heart and squeezed. She takes a step towards the source but Jishui’s arm thumps hard into her chest just before a shot of fire lances through the ash near enough to singe the star’s whiskers.
“Don’t,” the twin warns just before another shadow leaps for him, fangs bared in the form of dual steel. The swords sing as a guard cries the warning--
“IT’S THE ARCANUM!”
As the camp dissolves into chaos around her, Asaaj tries to follow the movement of Tooth, Tail and Nail, fire whipping between her fingers. If she could only get a clear target-- maybe she could burn away the ash? But would that risk hitting someone else?
With grit teeth the queen calls upon her bonded spirit, fire pulsing down her arms and filling her veins with the aching, terrible desire to burn. She raises her hands as a figure steps from the direction Kilau should have been.
It wasn’t right, a shifting amalgamation of color. An otherworldly glimmer clings to him still, even like this, dripping like wax. The king of lies reaches for her, his voice strained and gravelly, “I thought I told you to s̶t̷a̵y̵ ̵o̸u̶t̸ ̷o̸f̴ ̸ A̵͈͕͒̅l̴̨̍̓d̸̞̀͗l̸̮͛͠i̶͉̜͌g̷͔̹̈́h̶͙̒t̴̖̂?”
The Mazri queen clenches her fist, fire escaping through the cracks. She stares Baldric the False King down, a grin slowly twisting her mouth.
“Finally,” Queen Asaaj comments just before going supernova.
“Single file! One at a time!” the darkstar directs, glancing now and then over his shoulder as those that could evacuate, did. Despite King Ericius’ protests, as many as Aequor could handle were pouring back into the temple built around the tear.
Woolyne were welcomed, too. Anyone who could was stumbling away from inevitability as fast as their legs could carry them. It was too many. It wasn’t enough.
Queen Nouvel and the Arbiter discussed strategy hurriedly as the camp shifted behind them. They would distract while the rest evacuated, and then… and then--
“Take this down for me,” Nouvel instructs, the dutiful messenger whipping out pen and paper from her pack. “Dear Princess-- no. My dearest Fi.”
As the queen finished her letter beneath the watchful eye of the vespire representative, the messenger whisked the scroll away. As Nouvel turns from her, the pixie speaks, “‘Scuse me, miss Queenie, but…”
Nouvel turns to face Quincey, “...Sorry, but you make it sound like you don’t plan to come back.” The messenger adjusts her goggles with a snap. “None of my business, ‘course, but I thought I should say… come back, y’know? Fi’ll miss you.”
With that, Quincey turns with a jaunty salute of her wings. “Hurry,” Nouvel murmurs. “She’ll need you now more than ever. Fly fast, Quincey.”
At length, Azariah asks, “Do you think your daughter will be a good queen?”
Nouvel shoots the ancient a look before sighing from her nose. “Yes. Without a doubt.”
“Good,” the vespire responds, turning her attention to the horror on the horizon. “Then we can fight without regrets.”
Nouvel joins the Arbiter, frowning. “Yes,” she responds, despite herself. Still, this isn’t how she wanted it to be. Fiorel wasn’t ready yet. She wouldn’t be for a long time. Were any of them ever ready, though? The crown was heavy. That weight was hard for even her to bear.
“You were younger, when you reached for the throne,” the Arbiter reminds her.
Nouvel’s muzzle wrinkles. “That... was different.”
“Not so,” Azariah counters. “You were protecting the kingdom, just as you are now.”
“For all the good it will have done,” Nouvel murmurs, watching the shape beyond them shifting. “I’m… grateful, that you’re here with me. This time.”
“Mm,” the Arbiter sighs. “As am I.”
As Asaaj dealt firmly with her past, so too did theirs appear. Slowly at first, then faster, greedily clutching at the colors and claiming all of them, a dizzying array. The way they moved was sickening, undulating and pendulous and formless-- until they weren’t.
Where once there was nothing, their fear takes form. Mountainous, like the regrets they had yet to overcome. Worlds stack high, up and up and up, scaling over top the ones that came before. The young evacuate, one fearful face turning towards the queens as they confronted their combined history.
To the child, it was just the mass. It was nothing. Queen Nouvel reared back, wings splayed. Azariah the Arbiter grew stiff, ears flicking back and pneumir wafted from her mouth in spades.
To them, the mountain spirals from a molehill, a towering reminder of the rift between them.
“You,” hisses Azariah.
The Old King smiles, rictus grin. Then he lunges for the vespire, tail swinging like a morningstar at his usurper. The arcane burns through the air as the ash swallows the trio.
Just like that, they were gone
PHASE THREE of Skyfall ♊︎ has now begun! This is the final phase and it will last the entirety of September. Something’s very very very wrong in the Bridge, but I’m sure it’s Nothing.
Cloaked in the skies of dozens of failed universes, the entity living in the Bridge has risen and made itself known to us. Is this what’s behind all of this? We’re not sure, because it’s not saying. Some call it the Nothing. Difficult to perceive and unimaginably horrible, the Nothing lacks a form of it’s own. Clothed with stolen sky, some have begun to call it Skyfall.
Two new [ quests ] have released with Phase Three! The nature of the Nothing is transmutive. Face the horror head on in Skyfall. The entity you face can take on a number of different forms. It may be drawn as it truly is-- an ever shifting Lovecraftian horror-- or it can take on the form of your character’s fears. Stand against it now, or both Bellacoste and Andras may be lost, consumed by the Nothing and trapped, forever, in the Bridge.
Explore the nature of Skyfall and corruption itself in Stemming the Flow of Corruption. Corruption feeds on our fears, manifesting them and deviously worsening the more afraid the host is. The Nothing has grown tired of our games and is attempting to flush us from this place by any means necessary. Face off against villains of our shared past and show Skyfall that we aren’t so easily defeated!
There are several unlocks remaining in the [ Corrupted Shop ]. You’re pretty close to the next one. Don’t stop now!
September is here, and with it, Autumn has begun in Bellacoste! Need a break from Skyfall? Why not kick back and indulge in our new [ seasonal quests ], Pumpkin Picking and A Time of Harvest?
Summer’s finally over! We sure got into a lot, didn’t we? Did you enjoy our Bellacoste Beach Episode? During Pride month we as a community managed to raise over $1000 for The Trevor Project! This summer we introduced an all new recurring event, Mersummer, and with it we revealed a never-before-seen city of capricorns, Aequor! We capped our summer off with the continuation of Skyfall. What did you think? Let us know your thoughts in our [ Seasonal Feedback Survey ]!
Note: We will have a unique feedback form for the Skyfall Event so please try and save that feedback for when that survey goes out at the end of this month!
There are several auctions to be on the lookout for this September! We will host a Skyfall auction the week of September 13th. I’ve heard rumors that there may even be a Coin Auction starting sometime during the week of September 20th. Make sure to save up your coins! There will be some unsold mod designs for grabs as well as a handful of guest artist designs! Our monthly mod design sale will be at the end of the month like normal. See you then!
Did you see our [ Fall Banner Contest ]? Enter by September 24th for a chance to have a permanent seasonal theme designed around your banner design!
Last but certainly not least, our [ August Raffle ] ends on September 7th. Make sure to get your entries in by then!
Whether you’re ready to lean into the season change or you’re chomping at the bit to show Skyfall what for, we hope you enjoy the final month of our crossover event!
“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.̴
I can hardly wait for Fall to get here, and while we're waiting let's have some early Fall goodies for this month's raffle! As a general reminder, raffles are now hosted completely on Lorekeeper in the raffle section of prompts. Have fun and get gifting!!
Please head on over to August's raffle prompt to learn more and enter this month's raffle!
SKYFALL ♊︎ BEGINS N̵O̴W̷.̵ BEWARE-- D̷O̶ ̵N̴O̵T̴ ̸T̷O̸U̶C̴H̴ ̵T̸H̵E̵ ̵C̵O̸R̸R̷U̴P̸T̶I̸O̸N̸.̴
Welcome, at long last, to Skyfall ♊︎! For the next two months, we will dive headfirst into the unknown, and by the end of September, we will have reached some well-deserved conclusions. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Right now we’re only in PHASE ONE. There is much, much more to come. Let’s take a look at what we know now, shall we?
As many of you figured out from the Skyfall intermission, this event is a crossover with [ Woolynes ]. Please check them out if you haven’t yet, and drop our event organizers on their side a line if you have any questions about Andras! Thank you to [ Alley ], [ Key ] and [ Pines ] for your support!
This event isn’t taking place in Bellacoste OR Andras though… but somewhere else entirely. Learn about The Rift and The Bridge on our new [ destination entries ]! Pixel images are on the way, but aren’t quite completed yet. Let us know if you have any questions!
Did you spot the new NPCs in the release story, [ Don’t Panic ]? Jishui and Tejat are neither pouflon nor woolyne, but they appear as both while in The Bridge! That’s so confusing… perhaps some clarity might be found in Phase Two? WHO KNOWS? Our new NPCs now have entries on our [ Characters ] page.
Phase One of Skyfall ♊︎ has brought all new [ Event Quests ] with it! Are you helping with Stabilizing the Rift, be it above or below water? Perhaps you’re ready to embark on the journey of your life in Into the Rift? Stabilization, exploration, and search and rescue our the top priorities in Phase One. Finally, help us locate and secure our missing NPCs in Axel and Avalon.
More quests will unlock as Skyfall ♊︎ progresses! Get in early if you want to experience the story from start to finish! ALL quests in Skyfall ♊︎ will reward Corrupted Coins alongside regular Coins. If you’re looking for more peaceful ways to earn Coins, look into our existing [ Seasonal Quests ], or our new [ Monthly Quests ].
Through the hard work of dozens of brave explorers, the Rift in Aequor has been deemed safe and may now be traversed. Beware-- entering The Bridge is NOT for the faint of heart! Traveling through the Rift will INSTANTLY corrupt all characters that have not been previously Corrupted or Cleansed. Corrupted characters may participate in the prompts but will generate NO Corrupted Coins (regular Coins will be rewarded like normal)-- tread carefully and be sure to heal the Corruption as soon as you can!
Characters that were previously Corrupted or Cleansed will not be Corrupted again, but if currently Corrupted will need their affliction to be healed before they can proceed at full rewards. BEWARE!
Confused about how Corrupted Coins work? They’re a special event currency, and so the normal Coin claim guide doesn’t apply. Please read this special [ guide ] on Corrupted Coins before you submit your quests! Concerned about earning Corrupted Coins instead of normal Coins? Never fear-- at the end of the event there will be options to convert your event currency to normal currency if you so desire.
If you don’t? Well- there are a number of new rewards available starting TODAY in the [ Corrupted Shop ], as well as all of the rewards from the first part of Skyfall. As with the first part, there are MANY additional rewards available to unlock as we progress through Skyfall ♊︎.
Yes, the numbers are quite high, aren’t they? Never fear-- Woolynes are contributing to the event progress total as well. Bellacoste and Andras are in this together.
Several rewards are available starting now! First is the Lycore Cub, a strange kitten from another world-- and one who misses their mother terribly. Rift Eyes have also been made available for Corrupted Coins! Finally we have an unusual MYO-- let me talk you through that reward.
In part one, I promised a BIG PRIZE to those who participated in three prompts from that stage. If in addition to your part one prompts you complete, at minimum, Into The Rift in part two, you will receive a VERY special MYO ticket that enables you to create an all-common alternate form for the character who stepped through the Rift… as a woolyne.
One of these tickets will be provided to everyone who meets the prerequisite requirements! You may [ Claim Your Reward ] by completing the special prompt "Skyfall MYO Exchange" - make sure to link ALL three Skyfall Part One quests you completed as well as your Into The Rift prompt featuring the character you want to redeem your free MYO ticket for. Be sure to link the character as well so we can pass that on to the Woolyne team!
For those of you who did not participate in part one OR would like to make an alternate form for any other character, never fear! The third and final item available in the shop today will permit you to do just that. If you purchase the ticket, PLEASE fill out the claim form above with your ticket attached as well as the character you would like to lock the alt form to.
PLEASE NOTE: these are not free-for-all make your owns, they MUST be an alternate form of one of your Bellacoste characters! You may make your pouflon, vespire OR ursuki into a woolyne. Please note as well that these slots are common only-- you will have to earn any other traits you’d like through the Woolyne ARPG.
IT IS CRITICAL that you fill out this prompt whether you earned a free MYO ticket or purchased one from the Corrupted Shop. Thank you for making communication between our two groups as seamless and efficient as possible!
Once your MYO has been created by the Woolyne team, we will delete your ticket on our end. Likewise, if you’re coming over from Woolynes, welcome! Let us know if you need any help and enjoy your time here in Bellacoste!
The [ Badge Claim ] for the Skyfall event badge is still available. You may submit Skyfall ♊︎ quests for the badge as well, but you may only claim it one time! Be sure to get your badge if you haven’t yet!
Almost done, I promise! A couple of reminders for you before I let you go to explore Skyfall ♊︎!
Our [ July Raffle ] will be coming to an end on August 7th at 11:59:59pm EST! Make sure you get your entries in before the raffle closes!
Got legendary thoughts tumbling around in your head? As always, Chester and Mochi will arrive on August 10th with a fresh supply of legendary items! Be sure to catch them before they close up shop again on August 20th!
That’s all for now! I hope you’re as excited as we are about Skyfall ♊︎! If you haven’t yet, why don’t you join our [ Discord ] and talk to us all about it?
“There is a moment in every dawn when light floats, there is a possibility of magic. Creation holds its breath.”
-- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Smoke spirals up from the small camp of refugees hitchhiking on the back of another world. From this far away, they really looked quite small.
Little pieces of ash float. The light filters hazily down from hundreds of skies, held together like so many pieces of broken glass. Bellacoste and Andras were up there, too, if you only looked hard enough.
Time ticks backwards. How many weeks has it been now?
They’ve lost count.
It was Avalon’s turn to guard their camp. Every night-- or what they decided was night in the perplexing twilight-- they took shifts. In all of the pendulous days they had not run into another living soul, but Axel complained intermittently of apparitions. She wasn’t sure if she believed in all that, but their young charge Tiny seemed to believe the vespire, so begrudgingly she sets up for another lonely watch.
Axel’s ghosts, as always, fail to appear. The Old King and spectres on two legs he complained of never came for her. The vespire would bump his head against Tiny’s, and late at night they would talk of Andras’ villains. The vespire said he’d seen them, too. The farmer listened with mild interest, but whatever foe they saw she was blind to. Nothing haunted her peripheral vision.
Perhaps it was for the best. One of them needed to retain their sanity and strength, right? Whatever had happened to Axel and Tiny had left them seeming shockingly frail to the plucky. Perhaps that’s what the corruption did to you, even once it healed? Thank the stars she’d held her own back.
Someone has to keep them safe was the last thought Avalon had before her fatigue caught up with her. Heavy eyelids close and the plucky drifts off to sleep.
“FALL BACK!” King Ericius shouts, a lance of magic spearing another creature as it slips from the rift. “WE HAVE TO DO IT NOW! GIVE IT EVERYTHING!”
Dozens of capricorns swarm the rift, their collective magic sweeping over the pulsing wound and strangling it. It burns, the water bubbling as the ocean boils. The heat washes towards them even as the king forces them back. It was now or never.
“FOR AEQUOR!” Naia rallies, the crowd echoes her roar. The rift fights back, cooking the water around it and pushing out unbearable heat, even at a distance. Together, through sheer power of will, the denizens of Bellacoste face fate and tell it No, I don’t think so. Not today.
As their souls rush towards the rift, the collective will of Bellacoste constricts in a dizzying array of color. Together they stare down the barrel of the heat death of everything they love and they tell it again, No.
This isn’t how our story ends.
In that moment, their souls shone so bright, like scattered stars on the backdrop of the infinite universe.
The rift stabilizes.
The water cools down.
“Did we do it?” somelon asks breathlessly.
We certainly did.
A guard hurries along the halls of Andras’ highest security prison, stopping to huff and puff and wipe his brow before taking off again at a sprint. He slaps the lockdown alarm as he runs, sending Arcton into high alert. Alarms blast as doors lock and gates come crashing down.
“WHAT THE HELLS IS HAPPENING?” bellows a lookout as the guard sprints past.
“THEY’VE ESCAPED,” the guard calls back, doubling over and wheezing. “All, all three,”
“A-... Arcanum’s dogs,” spits the guard after a moment. The lookout stares breathlessly before she smashes her fist down on her own alarm.
The news gets out, despite their efforts to stop it.
Tooth, Tail and Nail were nowhere to be found.
Far to the north, an expedition pushes forward through the snow. The news travels fast, but not fast enough to catch the intrepid explorers. Nikyaks carve paths through the drifts, but the most treasured cargo is held by Queen Asajj herself-- a single Lunar Flower. The flowers had proven effective against the strange swarm destroying their crops and their livelihoods.
Sadly, it was rare-- and with precious few blooms, they had thus far been unable to turn the tide. The logical next step was to find the source-- something she trusted few to do, and so with a determined set to her jaw she set out herself.
A small contingency forges their way through the mountains far north of Ur-Bahn, the fire licking along the queen’s horns and lighting the way. Her guard Kilau sticks close by, eyes shifting towards the small woolyne riding upon the nearest nikyak.
Titan had insisted on coming, despite their protests. The child had gone so far as to stow away in their supplies, and when discovered, it was far too late to send him away. It couldn’t be helped, Asajj sighed. Of course the boy was distraught, with Tiny missing. They’d all seen the posters.
“Getting close to Myrrka,” two tagalongs murmur to one another. “Surely she wouldn’t take us all the way there?” whispers one. “Those lands are cursed,” scoffs another.
“I didn’t take you all for being so superstitious! Don’t believe those fairy tales,” the Queen calls back. “Eyes on the prize,” Kilau grunts, gesturing at the crack shooting through the sky before them.
It shouldn’t have an end, but the lights play against the flurries, golden and violet.
The rift almost sneaks up on them, shrouded as it was in the snow. The expedition gathers in its glow, just south of the deadlands its members had so feared.
Titan nearly slips past them, diving for the glittering jewel-- if he’d been a little quicker, he would have certainly made it, but Kilau sweeps the child up, holding him in her arms as he begins to sob.
“Tiny’s in there,” Titan wails, “I know it, I know it, I just know it.”
“Shhh,” the guard whispers. “We’ll go. But you can’t go without us.”
The kitten curls his fingers in the heavy fur of the queensguard and nods his head silently.
The rift beckons, unflinchingly.
A hand closing over Avalon’s mouth wakes her with a start. A husky, feminine voice warns, “Don’t scream,” as the pouflon realizes she’s restrained. The plucky thrashes and a lighter, masculine voice chides, “Did you have to be so threatening about it, Tejat?”
Avalon’s eyes roll wildly, trying to see beyond the violet arm holding her head down. Her captor grunts with annoyance at the second voice, and after a moment a hoof hits her periphery. A dark unicorn lowers his head, glittering eyes sizing her up for a moment before he smiles, assumedly to calm her down. What a shame it wasn’t working!
“Don’t be afraid,” the masculine voice-- so this was him-- soothes. “We just didn’t want you alarming your friends before we could talk to you. Fell asleep on watch, huh? I get it, it’s really boring out here.”
Avalon glares, struggling under the impossible weight of the accomplice on top of her. The unicorn sighs, looking past her. “Tejat, could you let her go? It’s not like she can hurt us.” He pauses. “Look, we’re here by accident just like you! We already have something in common. No need to treat each other like enemies, is there--”
“AH!,” Tejat shouts, pulling her hand away. Avalon spits and bucks, throwing the second assailant off her back. “IT BIT ME,” she hisses. The unicorn’s ears lay back and he reaches a hoof out as if to soothe Avalon. “...We really don’t mean you any harm, I’m sorry, Tejat can be kind of…”
Avalon snorts and lowers her head, ramming full force into the unicorn and bowling him over. So much for diplomacy! “AXEL! TINY!” the plucky cries, bucking her legs before running full tilt back towards the camp. There she found a similar scene-- a two legged creature like Tiny, a woolyne, and another unicorn.
Their colors were swapped.
“Shit,” the woolyne with the masculine voice swipes his hand down his face. “Tejat, I *told* you this was a stupid idea.”
The violet unicorn tosses her head and stares defiantly across the smothered campfire at Avalon. Then, she shrugs. “Fine, do it your way.”
The black and teal woolyne immediately plops on his butt, right between a startled Tiny and Axel. He snaps his fingers and the magical gags holding their tongues dissipates. “This looks bad, doesn’t it. Look, I’m defenseless, so you don’t have to worry.” He holds his hands out, palms empty. “No weapons. We just want to talk.”
He looks sidelong at the violet pouflon before very purposefully patting the ground beside him, sending up a puff of ash. “Why don’t we all just… sit down and relax, have a little chat? Okay? Okay.”
Bewildered, Tiny and Axel look at Avalon-- and not at her, but behind her. The unusual woolyne beckons. “You, too. All three of you.”
Avalon startles, looking behind her. There were the other two-- mirror images of the ones at the fire. What the hell was going on?!
“You must be confused-- listen, I get it. It’s really confusing! I’m Jishui…” the woolyne jerks a thumb at the violet pouflon. “That’s Tejat…” he points at the violet woolyne, “THAT’S Tejat… and…” finally he shrugs helplessly at the black and teal unicorn, “That’s Jishui.”
“What the heck,” Tiny mouths. Axel shrugs at him as Avalon begrudgingly joins them at the remains of the fire. She remains standing, stamping a hoof and flicking her tail nervously.
“I was surprised, when I saw your fire,” the pouflon Jishui says just behind her right shoulder. “It was very helpful, actually, led us right to you. We didn’t think anyone else was here.”
Woolyne Jishui nods, stroking his chin. “Maybe they’re locals, I said to Tejat. But of course, nothing lives here anymore.” The violet woolyne-- Tejat-- inspects her bite wound before crossing her arms with a huff. “So I was wondering, actually, just how the three of you got here?”
“Why should we tell you?” Avalon snips back. “Appearing in the middle of the night and accosting us, why would we--”
“Avalon,” Axel says quietly, eyes averted. The pouflon immediately stops, looking at the vespire. His claws fiddle with a piece of charcoal. “I think…” he says, slow, ponderous, like he’s pulling the words out of his throat, “...I think it’s okay.”
The plucky huffs before she slowly sits down, staring hard at the strangers. Jishui sits next to her, and Jishui smiles at her from across the firepit. Why did they have the same name? What was going on?!
“You’re wondering what’s going on!” the woolyne Jishui claps his hands together. “So are we, actually! How long have you three been here?”
Tiny pipes up, cradling Teeny in their hands, “...A few weeks? We aren’t totally sure…”
At Avalon’s shoulder, the pouflon Jishui nods, peering intently across at woolyne Jishui. “...Are you from the same world?”
“Are we… what?” Avalon grumbles. “No, we’re from Bellacoste, Tiny’s from…”
“...Andras,” Tiny adds, brows furrowing. “Are you from…?”
“Interesting! Interesting. No, we’re from--” pouflon Jishui starts, but before he can finish he winces in pain, glaring sidelong at woolyne Tejat who had unceremoniously stomped on his tail. “Is that necessary?” he hisses, and she waves a hand at him.
“Is this necessary?” she replies. “They clearly don’t know anything, so I’m not sure how this little interrogation of yours is meant to help.”
“It’s not an interrogation! It’s like… an interview, at best,” the woolyne Jishui sighs. “So you were pulled here somehow from two different worlds. Tejat, don’t you see? It’s happening again.”
Both Tejats glare, malevolence wafting from them in spades. Jishui’s ears fold back against his head and he spreads his arms plaintively. “What Tejat doesn’t want me to tell you is that we’re in danger here-- and so are your worlds. See, Tejat? This involves them too, why shouldn’t they know?”
“Do what you want,” the violet pouflon flicks her tail impatiently. “I hope your little pets are able to help you.”
Avalon whips her head towards the woolyne Tejat and snaps her teeth again, pointedly. “Run along then!” She looks back to Jishui-- well, between the Jishuis. “What do you mean we’re in danger? Is Bellacoste…”
Jishui arcs his eyebrows, shrugging his shoulders at Tejat before flicking his hand in a wave. “Still there, so far as we can tell. There’s a rift about…” the pouflon Jishui squints before finishing the thought, “40 clicks west. And another to the east, that must be yours?”
Tiny sits up straighter. “There’s a way back?”
“Yes and no,” Tejat mutters.
“...What she means is that… well, there is, but they aren’t stable. We could use your help, you should be able to attune yourself to them-- it’s, well,” he waves his hands, “...complicated. I could explain, or we could set out now. If we hurry we could get it done by morning, and who knows, maybe you can all go home.”
Tiny leaps to their feet as Avalon protests to deaf ears, “What do you mean maybe!”
“Magic, I’ve found, if we can call it that, is never a sure thing,” the Jishui by her side says quietly, and when she looks over at him she was surprised to see kindness in his eyes. “Let’s split up in groups then, shall we? Bellacoste and Andras?”
“Bellacoste and Andras,” Axel agrees.
They take a chance, trusting their strange new companions. The trio ventures with Jishui and Tejat into the night, and just before dawn they arrive at the edge of the universe. Avalon and Axel stand at the eastern precipice, Tiny at the western.
“You’re the keys,” Jishui explained on the way. “If we use you as a conduit, I believe we can bridge the gap between the worlds, and if we’re lucky, that means you can go home.”
It didn’t feel real. None of this did. As they stood at the end of everything, Axel looks into the abyss. This world was crumbling. It had always felt dead, but here on the edge they could see that all that was left of this place was the husk, and even the husk was deteriorating. Avalon calls to him, and though the vespire hesitates for a moment, he comes away from the rim.
“This may sting,” Jishui warns. “But it won’t kill you. Are you ready?”
At opposite ends of the deadlands, Avalon, Axel and Tiny nod.
The twins join hands, and together their power flows through the conduits. Jishui had been right. It did sting. It hurt as the corruption had, tearing through their insides and robbing them of their voice.
It doesn’t last long, their bleary eyes clearing as the pain ebbs. The rifts, once jagged and obscure, now looked like smooth mirrors. Avalon and Axel look on in awe as Aequor appears to them.
Tiny, on the other hand…
“TITAN,” the woolyne cries, holding their hands out as Andras reaches back for them. Titan, hearing his name, squirms free of Kilau and sprints for the portal, jumping through and straight into Tiny.
The pair fall to the ground, embracing each other as tears wet their cheeks. Jishui looks down at them before commenting to Tejat, “Looks like it worked.”
The way was open.
SKYFALL ♊︎ BEGINS N̵O̴W̷.̵ BEWARE-- D̷O̶ ̵N̴O̵T̴ ̸T̷O̸U̶C̴H̴ ̵T̸H̵E̵ ̵C̵O̸R̸R̷U̴P̸T̶I̸O̸N̸.̴
Axel was determined to find the cause of Bellacoste’s misfortune. He knew if he could source it, he could solve it. The adventurer would go down in the history books for his work-- but not for the reasons he’d hoped.
Icarus reaches for the sky, fire licking at his wings. Oh, stars, how success burned.
The fire rages through him, inflaming his joints and charring his nerves. It takes him by the throat and pins him to the sand, white hot glass bubbling and spreading from his jaws, wide open but soundless. The ocean swallows Axel’s tracks, and the sky takes him somewhere else.
The fire doesn’t stop, tendrils reaching deep, deeper, grasping his heart and choking out his sobs. The corruption envelops the vespire who silently weeps for endless possibilities in endless realms colliding together.
Axel doesn’t move for a long time, the sea of possibility swimming in the corners of his eyes. It hurt. It hurt more than anything else he’d felt in his entire life.
The things he saw didn’t make sense. The things he saw weren’t real. Yet they were, weren’t they? There was the Arbiter in Banelaire-- the day she was crowned? There were his people, piled upon each other, a mountain insurmountable. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no…
But that wasn’t real, was it? Or was it? It didn’t matter-- the uneasy threads of fate whip past, gone, forgotten. The vespire reaches, clawing, struggling, lurching to his feet. A light lunch burbles in his stomach before he loses it, corruption slopping from his mouth.
Vertigo washes over him and he shuts his eyes, flashes of what was and what would be still assaulting his mind. It was wrong. All of it. Where was the beach? Where were the mountains? Where was…
The vespire collapses again, a splintered sky swirling above. Glimpses of a hundred different realities, there for the taking, but so, so far out of reach.
Avalon didn’t know where she was, but she knew that no matter what, she had to keep going.
One moment she’d been in the smoking crater at the center of Goldfair, a concerned neighbor doing everything she could to keep her own safe and happy. Now she was here-- and where that was, well, she was just a humble farmer, so how could she say?
What she did know was that there was nowhere like this on Bellacoste. At least nowhere she’d ever seen. It wasn’t how it looked, exactly-- but how it felt. Eerie, ominous, still-- nothing growing, nothing breathing. Fine ash stirs around her hooves as she runs, billowing into dark clouds only to cascade again.
Old, rusty weapons were everywhere, dull blades laying openly or jammed deep into the ground. Something happened here. Something awful happened here. She could feel it in her teeth, the same dull ache that they’d all felt the night the sky shattered.
And the sky-- oh, the sky. It was shattered alright, and no piece of it felt like home.
Limbs churn as the pouflon runs, the burn licking at her heels. She’d seen the corruption at work and was doing her best to fight it back, magic searing through her veins. She wouldn’t last forever, but if she just kept running, maybe she could find help before it overtook her.
Everything looked the same, here. Everything felt the same. Musty and stale. A plume of smoke rises on the horizon, and with a tearful cry of hope, Avalon runs for the only lifeline she can find in this desolate place.
The premonitions keep coming through rolling blackouts. He couldn’t think. Couldn’t move. Ash settles on Axel, dark tendrils bent on drawing him down further. He coughs, sticky inky black. How long had it been? Minutes? Hours? Days? He couldn’t tell anymore. He’d seen it all. His demise. His rescue. The day he hatched. The vespire he could have been on another path. The world, revolving, and around it a million more.
The only thing he couldn’t seem to see was how to get up. How to help himself.
In the growing darkness, an apparition appears before him. It was like so many of the other visions, indistinct and formless. None of it was real. It would be gone soon, replaced with something else. His mother, perhaps? That would be nice. He missed her.
But it doesn’t. The visions roll on, colorful renditions of how things would end for him here in this alien place. The darkness creeps closer, its shape shifting as he looks through bleary eyes. Four legs. Four wings. A single, prominent horn.
No, Axel tries to say. No, no no no no no no no no no--
The Old King smiles at him as the vespire tries to drag himself away, a jaw full of far too many teeth reaching for him.
“Don’t be afraid. Poor little creature.
It’ll be over soon.”
Axel curls in on himself, away away away, a desperate mewl of pneumir all he can muster. No. No, not like this. He fell long ago, how could--
As the jaws, so cold, close around his neck, he squeezes his eyes shut. Would the pain end? Would the deluge of sights stop? Would… would they remember him?
He can feel sharp points all around his neck, squeezing tightly. Then, as soon as it started, it stops, dull vibrations pulsing through his body as the apparition blows away like smoke. Slowly he opens an eye, light blocked by something with… four legs… four wings…
“HEY,” Avalon huffs, lowering her head and sucking in a breath through her nose. “Oh, stars… you’re alive… thank goodness, I thought I was alone…”
Axel opens his mouth to speak but no sound comes out. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be.
But it was. A moment later her magic envelopes him, and with it comes sweet, blessed relief. The corruption melts away. Oh, he felt small, he felt frail, but the pain, at last, comes to an end. Tears wet his eyes as he looks up at the pouflon, gasping softly. Avalon stares at him with self satisfaction as the corruption clears before glancing back and swearing.
“Quick, help me out, it’s catchin’ up to me,” the pouflon urges as corruption licks up her legs. She’d stopped focusing on it for just a second.
When Axel doesn’t respond she snorts and tosses her head. “HURRY! Please!”
With his remaining strength, Axel scurries to his feet and reaches for the pouflon. He envelopes them both in a cool mist in a panic, claws burying themselves in her mane and proving, at last, that she was completely, totally real.
And right there with him.
“I’m Axel,” he mumbles around the pneumir spilling from his mouth. “...Thank you.”
“Avalon,” the pouflon sighs as the corruption recedes. “Didn’t think anylon was out here… thought I was on m’ own.”
As the mist fades the plucky takes a step back, looking past them. “But then I saw the smoke. Y’see it over there?”
Axel blinks, hard, pulling his claws towards his chest to straighten the fur there. “...Yeah. I see it.”
The closer they got, the more obvious it became that the source of the smoke was a fire. Closer still, and they could see a figure curled by it.
“Corrupted,” Avalon says after a moment of squinting at the distant figure. “Come’n, Axel, let’s go see who it is. See if we can help’m.”
“...Yeah.” the vespire scratches absentmindedly at his throat. It still hurt. Did it happen? He really couldn’t tell.
The pair approach the fire and the vespire takes a moment to really take in his surroundings. All of these weapons-- the splintered sky-- what did it mean? “We aren’t on Bellacoste… at least, I don’t think,” he murmurs, glancing over at the pouflon.
“Nope,” Avalon snorts, “I don’t think we are.”
“...You’re real, aren’t you?” Axel responds quietly.
“...Well, yeah, I sure hope I am,” Avalon laughs softly. “Shh, though-- we’re gettin’ close now.”
The vespire lowers his eyes for a moment, wings settling uneasily on his back. The pouflon forges ahead, though more carefully now, squinting at the figure bathed by the light of a modest fire.
They weren’t on Bellacoste, and whatever this was certainly was not of Bellacoste. The unusual figure twitches and convulses as they reach the fire light’s edge. Axel frowns and glances at Avalon. It looked like a cherub, would the pouflon be upset?
“Poor thing,” exhales the farmer, and Axel sighs with relief. “Come’n, let’s help them.”
The two step into the firelight, and together their magic sweeps over the figure. As they cleanse it, something small escapes its clutches. A little creature, not unlike a pippet, chatters and dances around the cherub.
“...Teeny?” croaks the figure, green eyes opening slowly. “Teeny, it’s okay, I have you… don’t worry, they won’t--”
The cherub gasps and claws themself backwards, sitting up abruptly. Avalon and Axel look on, the latter glancing at Avalon before clearing his throat. “...We won’t hurt you. Are you…”
Avalon cuts in, brows furrowed. “Sugar, where are your wings?”
“...Wings???” the cherub asks, sinking into their own shoulders. The little creature squeaks and leaps into their arms. Actually, the longer they looked, the less the figure looked like a cherub.
“...Are you an ursuki?” Avalon asks, head tilting.
The figure swallows uncertainly. “...No?”
“Wait…” Axel mutters under his breath. “That’s…”
“I’m Tiny,” the figure says quietly. They hold out their hands and reveal the small creature again. “...This is Teeny.”