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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:54 pm 
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To recap:

Planeswalker's Guide
Returning Home (albeit in broader strokes)
Dark Comfort

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No more time wasted:

Chapter 1: Waste of Time

A small sliver of sunlight passed through the window, their lids open. It landed away from Panahihou's eye, but still he felt it, he felt that small dart pinch his shadows like a mosquito bite. He grunted, an unpleasantly raspy noise, and rose his head. His eyes opened, but a nictitating membrane kept a final barrier between the unholy blue and the mostly natural black.

Effortlessly, he grabbed the ray like a string and crushed it, his shadows stalling day for a while still.

Not needing to see, he preened, removing slimy stains from his black, oily feathers. It was a combined effort of jaws and talons, clinical yet animalistic. Some feathers were deliberately broken, shafts snapped and barbules disjointed for good, giving him an unkempt appearance. Panahihou loved this sort of "damaged" look, but as of late the possibility that it reflected his emotional state began to dawn on him.

And like all dawns, it was an uncalled enlightenment.

He finished up quickly, and flapped his wings. The noise prompted a brief grunting next to him, followed by a shift in the nest-like bed. His head turned, and his eyes finally opened fully. Feluz was still there, huddling in the bed sheets. Even in the darkness Panahihou could experience his fellow planeswalker in a manner akin to sight. He knew his rosy, naked skin apart from the white sheets, the messy brown hair from the slightly darker plant fibers at the edges of the nest.

He observed his young lover intently. He didn't quite know what to make of him. Generally, Panahihou's life of hedonism meant many passions that lasted until the moment of ecstasy. After that, they would go on good or bad terms, but they'd leave - sometimes not with their souls. Yet, while he was satisfied with most arrangements, he could feel a lapse of some sort, a longing for something... more.

His interactions with others of his species, the Kawau, were limited to his brother Pukehou and uncle Hinuhou. Through them, he learned that Kawau generally formed pairs, sometimes lasting for life, sometimes falling apart due to frictions. The dark Aven were ambitious and selfish by nature, so love was rarely fated to survive. Hinuhou told him that his parents gave him away to the necromancer without a second thought, already plotting behind each other's back. Neither plotting survived to see victory: Hinuhou had them murdered, and offered fragments of the skulls to the brothers, the only gift he had ever given the two.

To Panahihou, love had became especially confusing as the bond with his brother grew. Under their uncle's madness, they had each other, a bond they knew in some way was unusual for their kind. They had each other's backs, each other's shoulders, and managed to endure and nurture. Nothing would have come between them, until that fate day.

The memories left a bitter taste. In one second that connection was gone, and it took another full year for Panahihou to feel anything akin to joy again.

And, for a time, that was all he felt. Every waking moment was devoted to his whims, trying to make up for the lost time and the void constantly increasing, day after day and week after month. Nothing but time being perpetually wasted, nothing but time being stolen from him, and the irony of it all was starting to become clear.

A shift in the bed interrupted Panahihou's nascent mood-swings, and his eyes focused on Feluz again. The human was trying to stretch, but the nest edges stalled his efforts. A yawn followed after, and Panahihou flew out of the bed, his wings carrying him a short distance.

He looked at the multiple hanging beams, supporting his clothes at his eye level. There really wasn't much of a need for him to dress, beyond catering to humanoid social norms, but he always did it in style. As he decided on what to wear, he could feel Feluz shifting the bed.

"I'm not going to kick you out" Panahihou said, not removing his sight from the clothes.

"T-thanks" said Feluz nervously.

A silence followed. Panahihou let Feluz have his moment to vent out any awkwardness.

Experience taught the Kawau that many humanoids felt awfully embarrassed about realizing that they had sex with a bird. At first Panahihou had found this somewhat offensive, but it wasn't long until even these negative reactions had become a source of entertainment for him. They knew what they bought was a phrase his uncle often used in "retaliation sessions", and for once Panahihou agreed fully with that lunatic.

It quickly became clear that Feluz wasn't embarrassed, or at least not in any way Panahihou could perceive as comical. Instead, the silence was awkward for the Aven, but also made his acquaintance more appealing.

"Do you have a home?" Panahihou asked, almost instinctively.

"Excuse me?" said Feluz, more alert.

"Do you have a family? Do you have a place where you can always go to, a place where they're waiting for you?"

"Why are you asking this?" said Feluz confusedly. Panahihou felt a hint of hesitancy.

"Well, I've been a good host..."

His head turned slightly towards Feluz, allowing the human to see the alluring wink. Feluz blushed, bringing his palm to the forehead.

"...and you've been an excellent guest."

This time Panahihou turned fully towards Feluz. Both of them were naked, but the human still had the modesty of the sheets while the Aven strutted his black, slightly iridescent plumage. Panahihou walked towards the bed, shoulders low and wings dragging like a cape, the bright blue eyes looking right into Feluz's own.

"And good hosts and good guests can get together more often..."

A scaly foot unto the bed, the neck and head low, facing the human directly.

"I enjoyed our night together, didn't you?" Panahihou said huskily.

Panahihou lowered himself on the bed, next to Feluz in the sheets. Their bodies, side by side, were very equivalent in terms of tension, visible or otherwise.

"I did, a lot" Feluz said, touching Panahihou's lower jaw, "I hope we can do this again."

"Still, in all the fun we've had, we didn't really stop by to know about each other, did we?" Panahihou said, gentling taking Feluz's hand off his face and cupping it with his own talons.

"Except when you ranted about your uncle and the Nezumi" Feluz said, and almost immediately regretted it, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you-"

Panahihou preened Feluz's hair gently with his long jaws. Feluz moaned softly, and moved his head in accordance to the beak's movements, before the moment stopped and Panahihou looked into his eyes.

"Do you have a home?" he asked once more.

Feluz sighed, and looked to the side.

"I do" Feluz reminisced sadly, "Or had, I guess."

Feluz's knees met his elbows, and he buried his face.

"Back in my home I was a sunrunner. Still haven't seen other sunrunners in other planes, but then again I'm new at this whole thing."

The Aven's plumage puffed slightly. Anything with "sun" in it's name was likely yet another obnoxious enforcer of the light. It would be crucial to have the upper hand, just in case.

"In my home plane the sun needs help moving across the sky, so every day I would light a torch and run my way across the fields and the mountains, all day long."

"No offense, but you don't seem like a runner" Panahihou said, a talon poking Feluz's belly.

"Hey, I just eat a lot" Feluz said, elbowing Panahihou's chest in turn, "And speaking of which, we should go get some breakfast. I'm starving."

"Figures" Panahihou muttered.

***

They had made their way to a tavern, larger and more elegantly decorated than they one where they've met, painted with vivid purples and blues. It had a more somber atmosphere than Panahihou preferred, but he treasured it greatly as the result of one of his most vicious and bloody conflicts.

"Wow, is that what I think it is?" Feluz asked, pointing at the black sun in the ceiling.

"Yes" Panahihou confirmed proudly, "You know about the guilds of Ravnica?"

"A little. Had a scuffle with some arresters the first time I planeswalked here."

"Part of your intriguing backstory I'm sure" Panahihou quipped, motioning to the bartender.

They sat down, a goblin waiter carrying in plentiful plates: one with smoked salmon, a brown edge around the chunks signifying some deliberately induced rot, and the other with a variety of local pastries. The goblin, still bearing the brand of its formal masters, was excited and wanted to join in, but Panahihou waved dismissively. At that sign, the waiter made itself scarce, much to Feluz's confusion and concern.

"They're free and paid, in case you're wondering" Panahihou said, his hooked bill carefully grabbing a paper-thin chunk and lifting it, letting it slide down slowly to his throat, "I saved them from slavery under the Orzhov. Can't stand it in any way, shape or form."

"That's pretty noble" Feluz said, his eyes glimmering with awe and appreciation.

"No, it's not noble at all" Panahihou nodded bitterly, "It's just that I hate being reminded of what I went through. I'm not a sociopath, unfortunately, so I can still see myself in others. And I've been there, done that, for so long."

"If you see yourself in others then that means you care" Feluz said, eating a white, sugar-caped pastry, "Maybe not much but at least enough."

Panahihou shrugged. He normally hated being lectured on morality - something so utterly pointless and that only wasted his time further - but Feluz was pretty non-judgemental and relaxed. Plus, the praise helped.

He wondered what it would be like, to just have this sort of laid-back, pleasant conversation every day, from then on.

***

Everything in Panahihou's body hurt.

He had just barely escaped a raiding party, without any of the cargo he was supposed to carry. The moment he set foot on the landing platform before his home, a pair of undead bats descended from the skies and bit his shoulders, before digging through them with their thumb talons.

He stayed immobile on the ground, too exhausted to fight. He heard the slap-like footsteps of his uncle's webbed feet, and dared look above. Hinuhou wasn't angry, just contemplative, and that alone terrified Panahihou.

"Fascinating" started Hinuhou, a wheezing sound colouring his words, "Even though you've failed miserably and even though you know you're in for a world of pain, you already seem very tortured."

"I was ambushed and nearly blown up!" cried Panahihou in panic, a panic that only exacerbated when he realized he shouted at his uncle.

Hinuhou remained stoic, as if nothing happened.

Then, suddenly, he grabbed Panahihou's head, feathered fingers constricting the skull where the jaw muscles contracted and at the tongue's base. This alone was very painful as it essentially forced in multiple cramps, but it was the feeling of suffocation that drove Panahihou into hysterics, trying to withdraw his head, only to drive the finger on his throat deeper and spasm a pant out of him.

This lasted for about three minutes, before Hinuhou noticed that Panahihou was on the verging of passing out. He released his nephew, and tilted his head.

"Word of advice" Hinuhou said, in a cautionary tone, "Wear beige next time. It might not seem like much, but it really helps my eyes, you know."

With that Hinuhou motioned for the undead bats to release Panahihou, and both he and them flew away. Panahihou lowered his head, and began to sob. Pain spasmed through his neck and head, and each breath he took seemed to only worsen it.

He heard wing beats, followed by a gentle landing next to him. By the time a friendly hand landed on his back, Panahihou was already calm.

"I got a box full of herbs" Pukehou said, sadness edging on his voice, "Hinuhou said he needed them for his aspergillosis. Guess he'll keep coughing for a while."

Panahihou's head rose, staring at his brother in horror.

"Are you insane!?!?"

"Well, I hope not at least. He'll be trying his hardest to not cough, worsening his condition, while my courageous brother - that is you - heals. Then it's just walking into his doorstep and snapping his neck like an arthritic moa!"

Panahihou laughed, shaking his head; this quickly turned his laughter into pained moans.

Pukehou quickly opened the box, selected a mixture of silvery ferns and slippery seaweed, mushed them together and infused them with the abundant dark mana of his surroundings, turning the mixture into a black fluid. He dropped the liquid on Panahihou's back, and the wounds regenerated, patching up with a shadowy mist.

"You know" Pukehou started, "We might have to act soon. We really lucked out on this one."

Panahihou nodded.

"I just hope we can get things done our way" Pukehou continued, but paused, finding himself at loss of words.

Panahihou tilted his head, confused. Then something dawned on him.

"But it's not just about un- Hinuhou, isn't it?" Panahihou said, pain edging on every word he spoke.

"Yes" Pukehou sighed, "I want all of Wairepomango to be safe for us. We have so much here, so much gold to be made on everything from mushrooms to fish lice, and yet we can't make use of any of it. If not stolen by Hinuhou, then stolen by someone else."

"You almost sound like an outpost guard" Panahihou chuckled, the pain only worsening.

"Yeah, they can be worth some money I guess" Pukehou retorted, semi-seriously.

"In more ways than one" Panahihou chirped.

"Eesh, get your mind out of the crop" Pukehou said, semi-seriously, slapping Panahihou's rear so hard that a feather flew out of it.

"Oh, the saboteur, thief and stingy payer lectures me, poor old me, on my business suggestions" Panahihou mocked, the searing pain not stopping his speech, "So ashamed, maybe I should kill myself for my impurity! Panahihou of the Kawau, so vile and degenerate that even the most amoral of his kind pale in comparison!"

"You're the one that sounds like a guard now" said Pukehou playfully, though Panahihou noticed a wistful gleam in his eyes.

In a particularly epiphanic moment, Panahihou almost voiced what he felt was the funniest retort he'd ever come up with. It was a stillborn reply, however, as the brothers heard the loud, inhuman screams from within their home.

For a moment, Panahihou saw hope in his brother's eyes, before it too died, as their uncle's wing strokes filled the air.

"Oh great, another temper tantrum" Pukehou muttered disgustedly.

"Boys!" he crowed madly, flying in circles like a parrot driven mad by years of isolation.

He perched on a tree stump nearby, just emerging from the black waters, wings stretched and neck arched like an heron. In retrospect, Panahihou found those poses ridiculous, but in that moment his heart raced with fear, and he felt a migraine building on a back of his skull.

***

Panahihou winced, clawing at his head. Feathers either dropped or were clogged by blood.

"Is something wrong?" Feluz asked, looking around for help.

"Of course there's something wrong you braindead piece of fat!" Panahihou shouted madly.

The waiters and costumers alike cowered, a few daring to flee the establishment. But their reaction was nowhere near as shocking and heart-breaking as Feluz's, his arms crossed in front of his face, tears streaming down his eyes as he sobbed.

Guilt was an emotion almost entirely alien to Panahihou, whose life revolved around not experiencing it. It was overwhelming, and the Aven turned his head aside, staring at the ground in shame. He grabbed one of his pockets and produced several golden coins and a diamond, laying them on the table, in front of the now more calmed and curious Feluz.

"I'm sorry. I hope I can make it up to you, somehow."

An awkward silence followed.

"The gift isn't working, is it?" Panahihou asked, not daring to lift his head.

Feluz wiped his tears, but a sob still found its way out. Reluctantly, Panahihou dared look at his fellow planeswalker's eyes. For what seemed like an eternity they said nothing, both sights drowning in each other's sorrow, reflected in each other's blue irises.

"Look, Feluz" Panahihou started, choking a sob of his own, "You deserve so much better than me. I told you I'm a waste of time, and I've told you how pathetic my whole life is. I'm so angry, so bitter, that sometimes things this happen, and I don't want to hurt you."

Panahihou rose.

"I'm leaving. I hope you leave, too."

"I want to help you" said Feluz.

"What?" Panahihou hiccuped incredulously.

Feluz rose from the table as well, and wasted no time pulling Panahihou into a tight embrace. For a moment, the Kawau was calmed, lost in the warmth of those arms. He wondered if he could just die there, and spare the poor naïve teen the burden of going through whatever he had in mind.

"I don't want you suffering like this" Feluz said, "You deserve so much better."

"No, I don't" Panahihou said, gently untangling himself from the hug, "I don't really believe in right or wrong, but I can tell you I'm a horrible person."

"And you can be better" Feluz said, his hand touching Panahihou's lower jaw.

"How do you even know that?" said Panahihou brusquely, though he didn't fight the hand massaging his beak.

"I know it, just as you know I've wasted my youth" Feluz said, "And frankly I just want you to be happy. No matter what it takes."

Panahihou wanted to protest, but as he looked into Feluz's hopeful, loving face he couldn't help but feel his heart gaping, as if urging him to fill that void. He didn't want to be alone, not in that moment, and the consequences began dimming in his thoughts.

Both parties began to pant. They both knew what they wanted, but weren't quite sure on how to proceed. Last time, in spite of the sheer amount of affection between them, they didn't ever even tried kissing, beyond light pecks. Their jaws were so different, would it even work?

Feluz took the lead, first pulling Panahihou's face towards his and touching the bill hook with a soft kiss. Then he tilted his head, and it was Panahihou's turn. His long jaws opened, moving forward until they extended past the lover's head. Panahihou's tongue flowed into Feluz's mouth, and it was an odd experience. The Aven's small, rigid tongue was the opposite of the human's muscular one, and Panahihou had it almost severed off with less caring kissers.

Feluz understood the need of being careful, however, and simply bumped against it gently, before surrounding it a few times. It was a rather pleasant experience for Panahihou, who moaned softly, before letting go and breaking the kiss.

They stared at each other, now basking in the mutual surprise, as if each one's eyes was an ocean, inviting the other in.

"I'm going home" Panahihou declared.

Feluz nodded.

"You're not going to 'waste time' anymore?" Feluz asked.

"No. I thought living in the moment was the answer, to make up for everything I deserved to have and yet never did. Evidently, that wasn't the case. Everything dulls, everything needs to be replaced by more things, more pleasures, and I just never really get anywhere. And I don't even have the courage to face my uncle, just killing some random proxies I come across."

"And now you want to start anew" Feluz responded, caressing Panahihou's chest, "You want to go home and confront your uncle, and have a place to truly call home."

"Yes. Make no mistake, catering to my own needs is something I'm always going to do. But right now I need stability, I need to be certain that I'm safe, that my brother is safe."

He looked at Feluz, and sighed.

"Look, what I said still stands. I'm a mental wreck, I can hurt you even if I didn't mean to. You have every right to run away, find someone actually worth fighting for."

Panahihou paused, trying to hold himself back one last time, before he caved in:

"But I feel empty inside, and every moment with you kills that void, fills it with a different kind of darkness, one which guides me and warms me. I'm guess that what I'm trying to say, if that I love you, Feluz, and would be honored if you came with me."

Feluz embraced him again.

"I'll go with you."

And without not a single word more, the two vanished from Ravnica.

_________________
Matahouroa
Planeswalker's Guide
The Story

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:55 pm 
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Chapter 2: The Journey

Maramawhā opened her eyes.

“He’s here” she said, rising herself with her staff.

“Do you know where he is?” Te Māī said, as she kept carving the albatross wing bone with a pounamu knife.

“Yes” Maramawhā responded, “He is on the Wairepomango, though not where I guessed he would be.”

Te Māī snorted contemptuously. If Maramawhā noticed, she didn’t react to it at all, which made the chief of the Kauri Moko wish she could just slash the mystic’s throat there and then.

If only the rest of her tribe were this insightful. Or less desperate.

“I will need you here” Te Māī said, “You’re our best defense in case something happens.”

Maramawhā sighed. Te Māī found the sound as pleasing as she hoped it would be.

“I need to talk to him” Maramawhā, “He shares my gift, but none of my wisdom.”

“Then I like him already” Te Māī blurted.

Maramawhā sighed again, turning to face Te Māī. She was met with nothing but contempt, the only expression she knew of the chief.

“He’s a child, Te Māī. He needs my guidance.”

“Don’t we all” Te Māī retorted mockingly.

It was the chief’s turn to sigh, a sound Maramawhā always found rather piercing and aggressive.

“Go now” Te Māī said, “leave as quietly as possible. Do not talk to anyone, else they’ll demand some sort of ceremony or the like, that could blow our cover. This goes more so for the Kākāriki, which would rather die than keep their mouths shut.”

Maramawhā nodded, and left, climbing downhill through a small path in the woods. Te Māī knew instinctively and instantly that she would in fact tell someone, and only hoped that the other refugees would at least have self-preservation instincts.

Or that Maramawhā fell down and broke her neck. Either was fine to the chief.

Te Māī looked one last time at the albatross bone, and was rather pleased. One last stroke of the knife, and it was now a beautiful flute, intricately detailed with carvings of heroic deeds her tribe’s ancestors performed. She brought it to her beak, touching it with her tongue.

Before she could use it, however, Te Māī noticed that her tongue was stuck.

Ice had filled the flute.

***

Half-an-hour later, Maramawhā had made her away to the cove in silence, only the distant call of a bellbird adding a melody to the woods. The darkness before the dawn was a very fortunate time to leave: providers in the village were just returning from fishing offshore at the edges of the reef, and those that weren’t would almost certainly be asleep.

All but one, as the rushing footsteps thundered in the forest floor, cracking leaves and twigs so intensely. They suddenly stopped, behind a tree, and Maramawhā couldn’t help but smile.

“You still have to work on your stealth” the Aven said.

“Damnit!”

Maramawhā turned as she heard another set of footsteps, now lighter as the feet touched the softer substrates of the shore. They belonged to a human girl, Taramu.

“I hope you improve your stealth by the time your parents return” Maramawhā said, bumping the end of her staff on Taramu’s head lightly.

The girl laughed, swatting it away, but it was replaced by a sad expression rather quickly. Maramawhā didn’t need to ask, and waited for Taramu to say it:

“You’re leaving again, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but just for a short while” the Aven responded reassuringly, “I was hoping to come back before anyone realised I was gone.”

“Oh” Taramu realised, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

“Mm, are you sure about that?” Maramawhā tilted her head, so only one eye was facing Taramu, “I remember one day when someone told the whole village about my sea urchin prank and no one fell for it.”

“Oh come on, I needed to tell that one!” Taramu pouted.

“Alright, alright. Just make sure no one goes on a rampage while I’m gone.”

“You can count on it.”

Maramawhā lowered herself and hugged Taramu, before bidding her goodbye and diving into the calm waters of the cove. She surfaced to wave one last time, before porpoising her way out of the shielded waters into the raging ocean. Beneath her, the mats of corals descended further and further, before they were replaced by a rim of sponges, then pure, oily darkness.

When she surfaced again, some seven miles away from the coast and the sun just barely leaving the horizon, she took a panicked breath. She was certain that Taramu would at least try to keep it a secret, but doubt clouded her mind, as did other possibilities.

Maybe someone else watched her leave. Maybe another member of the village woke up early as well. Maybe a fishermen came in just as she left. Maybe Te Māī would spite her.

Maybe Purūpī’s scouts would have found her again.

The last thought made her gasp, water invading her lungs. She coughed and gagged, the panic and drowning sending her in a convulsing frenzy, waving her limbs madly as she tried to reach the surface.

But it seemed so far away, as she began to sink. The sun wasn’t out yet, but the waters felt darker and darker as Maramawhā sank. Above her, the barely visible white dots of the stars were gone, save for two. In her hysteria those dots became piercing eyes, followed by a crooked beak, then webbed talons out to grab her.

No!, she screamed, her voice bubbles and water forced out of her beak.

Maramawhā’s heart raced, her blood violently pumped through her veins. She gave in fully to adrenaline, and with a pair of particularly powerful flipper strokes she performed a looping turn, propelling herself at full speed into the open ocean. Around her the water seemed to move with her, pushing her further and faster, not an obstacle but not getting out of her way either.

Her lungs ached, still full of water. Little by little, her awareness dimmed, and the world became numb once again.

No!, she screamed, a last pocket of lung air emerging, carrying her fear.

With a violent resolve, Maramawhā swam towards the surface, panic replaced by her will to survive. Even with her lungs emptied, gases lingered on her tissues and bones, compressing and firing her nerves with pain. With effort, Maramawhā began manipulating her own blood, carrying away these pockets into her lungs. The air was deprived of oxygen, and too little to fully repel the water, but she spared herself a painful demise.

In a matter of seconds, the Aven breached the surface, darting into the air in the highest leap she had ever performed. As she did, she vomited the water from her lungs, and took in as much air as possible.

For a moment she was so high she could see the sun finally breach the horizon, its light rising with her, before gravity pulled her down again, crashing her into the ocean. Her beak penetrated the surface with barely a ripple, and once again she darted into the depths.

I will not run away, she thought, exhaling a stream of bubbles as she descended, and if he does find me, we will have one hell of a talk.

Soon, gravity gave way to water density, and the ocean began urging her body to rise. She allowed herself to almost touch the ocean bottom, before performing a tight curve and ascending rapidly with another single stroke, sand scattering in her wake. This time, there was more air in her body, and she was prepared, mentally carrying it to her lungs and even drawing some strength.

She resurfaced more calmly, just a slight jump above the waveline. As she did, she found herself just a mile away from Hinawahine. The massive island stretched across the south, forests and settlements paving the lowlands. On the distance, gray clouds covered the Plateau, but the Hoiho could still figure the tallest peaks, breaking through the mantle.

Maramawhā dared herself to laugh. Even her fears were part of the grand design of things, helping her in ways she couldn’t ever expect. She muttered a prayer to the sea, before diving, propelling herself towards the coast.

Unknown to her, a dark figure hovered in the sky.

***

The sun was just fully visible when Maramawhā reached the coastline. Evading the numerous Empire hōkūleʻa ships patrolling the coastal waters proved surprisingly hard, especially when many carried Karetai Kahuna. Even a novice could tell if she used her water magic to move faster, so she stuck to the sea bottom, using every vitality spell she knew off to survive for as long as possible underwater.

Eventually, she emerged into a protected mangrove lagoon, panting heavily as she hang on to the roots. As she rested, she wasted no time connecting herself to the trees, feeling the water moving through them, from the sea to the sky. With every breath her reach extended, until a good portion of eastern Hinawahine was under her awareness. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to pinpoint Panahihou’s position - as well as that of another planeswalker accompanying him.

“So they did move” she muttered breathlessly.

Leaning against a trunk, Maramawhā considered two possibilities. She could meet them through the Wairepomango, entering through the coast and traversing it. This would be infinitely dangerous: even if the entire region was perfectly navigable, she would still be out of her environment in those swampy waters. Monsters infested the area, alive, undead or worse, and few of the locals would be friendly. In the worst case scenario, the swamp itself would kill her.

The other option would be to make it through the land. Panahihou was at the edges of the swamp, after all, so she wouldn’t have to go through the Wairepomango to get to him. The forests were infinitely more pleasant to her, and with fewer threats.

But as much as she loved the woods, Maramawhā knew she couldn’t trek through them nearly fast enough. The only major river, the Ingikiwai, was on the opposite side of the Wairepomango, which only frustrated her more.

For a moment she considered planeswalking, when she heard a splashing noise, deeper within the mangrove maze.

“Oh my gods, it can’t be…” said a voice coming from that direction.

“Hello?” Maramawhā attempted, grabbing her staff more tightly.

“It is!” said another voice, this time from above her.

Maramawhā turned instinctively towards the voice above, and was as equally shocked.

Above, perched on a branch, was a Patupaiarehe. Their description matched everything Maramawhā heard of them: a marble-like skin, long hair the color of embers, eyes like recently dug pounamu stones. They wore a dress hastily tied together made of various leaves and flowers, seemingly less designed to cover themselves than for aesthetic reasons. On the left hand was a more well built net, an intricately woven set of fibers between two branches, where shrimp, tadpoles and small fish were trapped.

“Fierce-Butcher, come look!” they chirped happily, motioning to the direction of the other voice.

Sure enough, another Patupaiarehe came in, wading navel-deep. He was slightly taller and bore a messy hair and beard, albeit consistently shaped, which reminded Maramawhā of flames. He was fully naked - a small twig-like strip across his shoulders informed Maramawhā that his dress was probably washed away - and carried a larger net, a large crab trapped within it. He was rather miserable, and Maramawhā felt pity for him.

“So are you actually a Hoiho?” he asked melancholically.

“Yes, I am” Maramawhā responded, “And I take it you’re Patupaiarehe?”

“Yes!” said the one in the tree, “She’s very smart.”

“Well, what are you doing here?” she asked, “I thought you lived in the mountains.”

“Very smart!” said the Patupaiarehe in the tree, who jumped into the water.

The splash hit the miserable one - Fierce-Butcher?, Maramawhā supposed - in the face. He remained still, only temporarily closing his eyes, and the planeswalker suppressed a laugh.

“We come here to fish” Fierce-Butcher said in a monotone, “I always end up with cramps.”

“Sorry to hear” Maramawhā said, “Hold on, let me help.”

The Hoiho focused on the water around Fierce-Butcher, finding numerous afflictions: extreme calcification of the tendons, arthritis, a crocodile bite that made the Aven cross her legs. With a deep breath, she infused the water with life giving mana, drawn from the very mangrove woods around them, and began moving the water, touching the contours of the Patupaiarehe’s body.

Fierce-Butcher was rather uncomfortable, but he quickly began relaxing as the wounds regenerated, water tenderly mending the afflicted flesh and bones, until they were fully cured. As the healing ritual was coming to a close he bit his lip, and as it ended he gave a frustrated sigh.

Maramawhā felt some bile piling up on her esophagus, but it quickly subdued as the younger Patupairehe jumped around excitedly.

“Wow, you fixed him!” they said happily, and embraced her.

“It was nothing” Maramawhā said, patting their head.

“It was a little too much” Fierce-Butcher moaned, “But thank you. We are in your debt.”

Maramawhā pondered. She didn’t like the very concept of debt, that these creatures were obligated to her. But she wondered, and couldn’t help asking:

“Do you know how I can go across the forest fast?”

The younger Patupaiarehe smirked. Without saying a word they took a flute from their belt. It was made of wood with pounamu gems scattered across it; if they formed a pattern or picture, Maramawhā did not recognise it.

As they brought the flute to their mouth, a soft, whispery melody unfolded. Maramawhā thought it resembled best the sound of leaves being carried in the wind, except organised and woven together in a way that seemed like an actual song. It was, in some ways, the opposite of the typical Hoiho songs: soft and sweet, instead of powerful and aggressive.

The mangrove branches descended upon them, encircling themselves around Maramawhā and the Patupaiarehe, then rose back to the canopy. It took a while for the Aven to get used to the sensation of branches picking her up - an oddly soft, yet firm grip -, but neither of the Patupaiarehe reacted at all.

“So, where do you want to go?” the flute-player said.

“To the edges of the Wairepomango, near Kōmarumaunga.”

Fierce-Butcher was surprised by the request, while the younger patupairehe merely raised an eyebrow.

“Why do you want to go there?” they asked.

“I thought you were indebted to take me there” Maramawhā said playfully.

“‘Indebted’ doesn’t mean ‘unquestioning’” the Patupaiarehe said, with an oddly aggressive edge to their voice, “I’ll take you there, but you have to tell me why.”

“To find a friend” Maramawhā responded, “He needs my help, though he doesn’t know it yet.”

The answer seemed to be enough for the flute-player, whose mood lightened up instantly. They turned to Fierce-Butcher, who had barely moved through the exchange.

“See you at sunset?” they asked.

“Sure, why not” he answered, and the branches gently laid him back in the water.

The Patupaiarehe played a faster melody, more akin to the cooing of a pigeon, and suddenly the branches rose higher, going over and across the canopy. Maramawhā just had enough time to brace herself before she and the flute-player were catapulted away into the sky.

“Ah, I forgot to introduce myself” said the Patupairehe, “My name is Throwing-Branch.”

The two stayed aloft for half an hour, before they began losing altitude. Throwing-Branch played a sharp, hawk-scream-like noise, and an entire canopy rose to break their fall. Maramawhā held herself across a branch, trying to not throw up. If Throwing-Branch noticed they didn’t show, looking at the Aven expectantly.

“Maramawhā, my name is Maramawhā” she said, a hand at her beak.

“Nice to meet you Maramawhā” Throwing-Branch said happily.

They rose, eyeing the horizon.

“We still have another seven jumps to make.”

***

A shadow landed on a mangrove, her black feathers and shark-skin armour tainted red under the scorching midday sun. At her talons laid the corpse of Fierce-Butcher, mangled beyond recognition. His skin hanged loosely from the quartered limbs, and she couldn’t resist picking at it with her beak.

But she didn’t get carried away. Instead, her eyes followed Maramawhā’s last jump, the Hoiho disappearing beyond Kapongatakere’s waterfalls and Plateau slopes.

Master, I have found the planeswalkers, she thought.

Excellent, Purūpī answered in her mind, his words a searing light as intense as the sun’s, Be my eyes.

With no further words, Atarau took flight, leaving the corpse behind.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:58 pm 
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Chapter 3: Letters

Your Majesty,

It has come to my attention that you believe that I favour the Tohunga Ahurewa’s authority over yours. You appear to believe that I am undermining your sovereignty, “in the most obvious coup imaginable”, and that I intend to replace your authority with what you call “a conservative puppet chaining the Empire to oppression and antiquity”.

Rest assured, in at least this regard you are mistaken. To these ends, I would like to have the privilege to justify myself, in person.

Yes, I have in fact exchanged private letters with Raiti - and as Raiti of the Pūhihi Kahuna, not as Tohunga Ahurewa. I trust you have read them yourself, though a part of me cannot help but think that you have used fallible second hand reports, as none of these letters contain so much as implications of hostility towards you or your regime.

Yes, I do have designs for the Invoking Moai, the kahuna orders and the military outposts outside of Hinawahine. I should have to, considering the former’s undeniable importance is matched by a hilariously vulnerable location, the fact that three of the Empire’s spiritual orders are an outright threat to civic security, and the fact that you’ve made the military the political backbone of the Empire.

Yes, I did discuss these matters behind your back.

In retrospect, yes, I should probably have talked to your beloved general, instead of the person most fervently opposed to your rule. However, I know for a fact that he would not listen to me, as he aggravates most of the problems I needed to address. This left me no choice but to talk to someone else, that could give me some insight on these matters.

As I said, I talked to Raiti as a person, regardless of her agenda. I do not have an interest in displacing you, or undermine anything you’ve accomplished.

To these ends, I would like to talk to you in person. I would like to prove that you have my loyalty, and maybe allay my own doubts about these problems our nation faces. I would like to prove that none of what I said are empty words, or lies.

I wait your decision,

Purūpī, Light of Hiriwa


***

Purūpī,

First of all, let me just say how much I love your passive-aggressive double-meanings. It’s really endearing how you take me for an idiot.

Second, permission granted. You have the privilege to decide when this meeting will take place.

Sincerely,

Prince Whēuriuri


***

Dear Aherenika,

Purūpī and I conceded to have a meeting a week from now, just before the Kahikole. I’m pretty sure he’s being cheeky, but given how it’s the spring solstice I wonder if it’s timed around some ritual. I told Aata to be careful, just in case.

The same goes to you.

Mura’s still training, as always. Yesterday, though, he asked me if he could go to Tīrarae, to join the Tahepuia and learn their ways.

I honestly don’t know how anyone will react to this.

Raiti would preach about the degeneracy of our house, obviously, and I can imagine some controversy brewing, but the Tahepuia have helped the Empire grow, and frankly they’re the only kahunas that aren’t scheming bastards nowadays. Violent, sure, but at least they’re content to stay in the mountains.

I just want him to be happy, but I’d like to hear your opinion.

Stay safe,

Whēuriuri


***

Tianara Aata,

Another Pouakai has been spotted around Hiriwapā. It didn’t attack us, but combined with the previous seventeen reports we have good reasons to think that they are gathering at key locations in the edges of the Plateau.

We also have reports of an Alalā, first on the northeastern coastline and now seemingly moving towards Kapongatakere. We have no evidence of outright hostility, but several mangled corpses found in the area imply its involvement.

Concluding, we need extra reinforcements in the east. We need the involvement of the Pirita Kahuna.

General Haki


***

Aata,

Yes, we will comply to your request. Although we would prefer to leave the Pouakai be, the Alalā vermin cannot be allowed to roam in the lands of Tāme, let alone shedding the blood of the innocent we swore to protect.

If they are conspiring, as you suggest, we will have to wage war on the Pouakai, just as we have on the Kākākea, Kākāriki and Hoiho.

When I heard about this I told a joke to Korare that, one day, we would have all birds wiped out from the sky.

I feel terrible.

Whetu, Scribe of Karemauru


***

Light of Hiriwa,

The Pirita Kahuna have mobilised to the east, as you predicted.

Te Hokioi is very pleased with your strategies. Earlier this morning he was inspired to erect a statue in your honour, built solely from Kōmarumaunga’s gold.

He - and I - still lament our need to work in the shadows, let alone the continued survival of that Alalā, but our faith in you grows stronger, just as the days lengthen.

May you rise in the Rāomārama.

General Kōurahou


***

Dear cousin,

I’m glad you told me this.

I mean, naming your brother as they did your parents should have expected for him to become a Tahepuia Kahuna. He always did seem like he would grow up to be one to me, and I think you and Aata can see it too. You can see the fire burning inside of him.

He shouldn’t leave in fear of Raiti or anyone else. That horrible woman will get what’s coming to her. She will fail to quench Mura’s flames.

Let him be free.

As for me, I’ll come to join you in the meeting.

As Ariki of Karatakara I need to talk to Purūpī. Business is fine as usual, but Hiriwa’s recent trade petitions might start to pressure Karatakara to make up for it. I need to make sure my city can prosper, so I sent him a letter.

Hopefully we can reach an agreement.

See you soon,

Aherenika


***

Kōurahou,

I’m flattered, but a statue of me is beyond unwarranted, not to mention a liability given how the prince suspects me.

Blow it up. You always said you wanted to watch Karatakara burn, did you not?

Purūpī

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:13 pm 
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First thing first: thank you for sharing!

I only read the stories you recommended before diving in this piece, so keep that in mind; I have no more than one background story for each aven planeswalker to "work with".

typos and grammar issues


Interesting moments:

Quote:
Effortlessly, he grabbed the ray like a string and crushed it, his shadows stalling day for a while still.

Nice image, it tells something about both the character's behavior and powers: he needs almost no concentration to use his magic, and he uses it carelessly as he'd use his beak or fingers. Also, I appreciate the theme of darkness as a refuge and healing power that you mention later, when he's trying to explain the feelings for his human lover.

Quote:
And like all dawns, it was an uncalled enlightenment.

This underlines the difference with Maramawhā, who is very focused on attunement with the world and belonged to a culture revolving around meditation and epiphanies. Nice touch.

Quote:
He wondered if he could just die there, and spare the poor naïve teen the burden of going through whatever he had in mind.

Another peculiar insight about Panahihou's thought processes.

Quote:
Both parties began to pant. They both knew what they wanted, but weren't quite sure on how to proceed. Last time, in spite of the sheer amount of affection between them, they didn't ever even tried kissing, beyond light pecks. Their jaws were so different, would it even work?

AKA Xenophilia, a Boon or a Curse? :D Jokes aside, that's something I thought about too, having a viashino character that's very liberal in her physical displays of affection.

Quote:
It was the chief’s turn to sigh, a sound Maramawhā always found rather piercing and aggressive.

This section made me think "Nasperge would love to be there" :V

Quote:
Ice had filled the flute.

I liked this because on some level it can be seen as a very deep metaphor (something along the lines of "losing yourself into your ancestor's glory/speaking through your ancestor's voices will only end in misery") and as a very petty prank at the same time.

Quote:
Even with her lungs emptied, gases lingered on her tissues and bones, compressing and firing her nerves with pain. With effort, Maramawhā began manipulating her own blood, carrying away these pockets into her lungs. The air was deprived of oxygen, and too little to fully repel the water, but she spared herself a painful demise.

I'm not sure what is happening here. Is she harvesting the small pockets of gas normally found in most vertebrates' anatomy in her lungs? I'm not sure whether such a maneuver would be very healthy.

I also liked the part where the "elf" literally threw Maramawhā over the forest, though a "jump" lasting half an hour stretches credibility a bit (reminding me of the infamous Spiderman tragedy); the image of a penguin-aven having vertigo is pretty funny to me :D

The most annoying problem with this piece is the excessive quantity of setting-specific terms, in my opinion. Having names with a lot of syllables already weighs on the reader's brain, and the third section is a shower of names and titles and races and places that is really hard to follow; I had to have the Plane Guide on another tab just to understand the basic meaning of most letters, and even then I've given up halfway to understand the references to Purūpī's plans. I think the main culprit is this phenomenon; there are a bunch of letters that are very frequent in most of the terms you use (T,H,A,K and P mostly, if I'm not mistaken), and since most of them have many syllables (and a similar structure, with the vast majority of all syllables being [consonant]+[vocal]) the readers would have to quickly memorize many rather complex letter/sounds sequences to navigate successfully some sections of the piece, something that makes the reading slow in the best case scenario.

(I didn't mind the mentions of the setting-specific ship and stone: since they are few, after the first time you Google it they add atmosphere to the setting, and as long as you don't start to describe a naval skirmish with eight different types of ships it can be very immersive.)

As a corollary to that, is completely fine for a piece to have a few recommended stories to get familiar to a setting, but in my opinion having a whole dossier with more than 16k words as a recommended reading is a problem, especially if said dossier is required to understand the political plot. First you engage the reader with the story, then you propose material to shed light on the more implicit dynamics and details of the setting, not the other way around. (Though I admit to be guilty of that myself from time to time, and I'm not the only one)

That said, I found the story quite enjoyable, even with its issues: the first two sections of the story are pretty interesting, I like the two planeswalkers and I wouldn't mind following their story in the next parts of this arch.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 2:27 pm 
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Thanks! I'll fix the spelling mistakes.

In regards to the air harvesting, it's to avoid decompression, which is a serious problem to all diving vertebrates.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:40 am 
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Chapter 4: Serendipity

“Well, here we are” Panahihou said, craning his neck.

Both planeswalkers had chosen a good starting point: a slope in the Plateau’s outer mountain rim, overseeing the juncture between the great Ingikiwai river and the Wairepomango swamps.

Even in the darkness before dawn, the flowing waters of the Ingikiwai shimmered in green tones like an emerald, until they reached the trees. There, they suddenly lost their movement and their sheen, and gave in to an inky blackness, the only sight of the swamp waters that stretched for miles under the dense canopy. It was as if the water died, and its corpse was buried under the countless pale trunks and black leaves.

Panahihou could “see” it all, and it would have been an awe-inspiring “sight” if not for the expanding yellow line in the distant horizon, above the sea. The air tasted the same as all those years ago, and he couldn’t help but shake a little.

“Are you okay?” Feluz said, touching Panahihou’s shoulder.

The Aven calmed down, and looked at the human.

“I’m more concerned about you” he said, “We’re going to make our way downhill to the swamps. It’s all flooded over, so I hope you can swim.”

Something occurred to Panahihou, and he stared down slope. It was rather steep, the green of the moss-covered outcrop they were in quickly giving way to naked rocks. A thick fog covered the bottom, but the Kawau figured there wouldn’t be anything to break the fall down there.

“Or you can just stay here” Panahihou said, opening his wings, “I’ll bring you something to eat every once in awhile.”

“Oh no, you don’t need to do that” Feluz chuckled, patting Panahihou’s shoulder, “I can get down by myself. We just need to wait for a while.”

“Is that so?” Panahihou responded.

“Yeah” Feluz nodded, staring at the horizon.

He kept staring at the golden line, watching intently. Panahihou blinked at the increasing light, shielding his face with a wing. Then something dawned on him, and with effort he uncovered his face, his eyes straining. Feluz’s fingers began to glow in a soft yellow and orange, light weaving like strands within and around his fingers.

He was grasping sunrays.

The moment the sun finally breached the horizon, Feluz jumped out of the outcrop.

“Are you mad!?” Panahihou shouted, taking flight and diving after.

But to his surprise, Feluz held on to the rays, like countless ropes enveloped in his fingers. The higher the sun rose, the more intense the rays grew, and Feluz’s fall was instantly stalled.

“Pretty cool, right?” he said, loosening his grip slightly as to allow a slow, controlled descent.

“Very impressive” Panahihou cooed, “But I thought you were a ‘sunrunner’. This doesn’t seem like running to me, in fact it seems like my skepticism was right after all.”

Feluz stuck his tongue out playfully.

“No duh, but this world’s sun doesn’t need my help” Feluz said, staring at the sun in a mixture of wonder and wistfulness.

“Is your world a dark wasteland now?” Panahihou said, “Not to guilt you or anything, you got me legitimately interested here.”

Feluz sighed.

“I guess not. I wasn’t the only sunrunner. But I don’t care to find out.”

“I know what you mean” Panahihou said.

He stretched his wings, taking advantage of an air current to hover next to Feluz, gliding down slowly with him.

“That’s why we’re here” Panahihou continued, “To face my demons. If we survive this, I can help you with yours.”

Feluz stared into Panahihou’s eyes. The Kawau found a mixture of hesitation, hope and gratitude, woven very beautifully in the glimmers of the rising sun.

He said nothing, however. In fact, he brusquely began searching the canopy beneath them, as if to distract from the topic.

“So, what are we looking for?” Feluz asked.

It was Panahihou’s moment to be uncomfortable. All he had thought about was returning home, to fulfill his emotional needs, without even considering what would have come after. The thought of killing his uncle had occurred to him, but Panahihou just realised that, even after years of growing more and more powerful in the dark arts, he could still be woefully unprepared.

What was I even thinking!?, the Kawau berated himself.

“You alright?” Feluz asked.

“I’m fine, I just-”

Panahihou stopped, taking a deep breath. No, if he was going through this, then he would go through everything decisively. He would kill his uncle, then the Parekareka who ignited his spark, then whatever else needed to die until he felt at peace.

The Aven’s eyes scoured the Wairepomango canopy, until he found what he was looking for: a small clearing, amidst the otherwise almost unbreakable sea of leaves.

Panahihou glided towards it, landing on a long, lone branch. It rose from the edge of the canopy into the open air above the clearing, like the base of a bridge. Panahihou wasted no time landing on it, measuring the distance between it and the dark waters below.

“Kind of reminds me of a cliff” Feluz said, “Coming out of a steep slope.”

“It’s just a stubborn branch” Panahihou said, “Defying the natural order, as usual here. Why do you think I was born here?”

Feluz sat on the branch, releasing the rays of light. A wave of pressure informed Panahihou that the branch wouldn’t support Feluz’s weight for much longer. Boundaries didn’t matter, but the role of the strong did, and even the branch’s will to pierce the void would be crushed by an outside force.

Nothing and no one will ever change Wairepomango, Panahihou mused, not even the stubborn.

***

The brothers froze, thinking that it was about the healing. As sneakily as possible, Pukehou pushed the box off the platform into the water with his foot. The effort was rather successful, or Hinuhou was too lost in his tantrums to care.

“The Meiolania corpses, they’re gone!” he shouted Hinuhou madly, “Couldn’t just have had the gold, no, they had to take them instead!”

Panahihou sighed in relief, though it was a brief break from his paralysing fear. His uncle didn’t find out about his brother’s waste of the cargo, but he somehow managed to lose even more valuable (to him) instead, and he would massacre them for it.

“The Wairepomango is the master of economy”, Panahihou quoted mentally what a local shrimp farmer had once told him. He had to kill her - Hinuhou wanted more limbs for his chair -, but he took her wisdom to heart.

“It had to be Pō” Hinuhou continued, pacing madly in the stump, “It had to be her! Who else would be tempted with all the riches of Wairepomango and take my masterpieces!?”

“You have obsessed about her lately” Pukehou said, a suggestion carefully laced with defiance, “I’m pretty sure the Wairepomango is full of other… artists.”

Hinuhou glared at him, and for a moment Panahihou feared for his brother’s life. Subconsciously, he began drawing on the mana of the swamps, the area around him darkening.

“You think yourself smart, don’t you?” Hinuhou said calmy, the question toned by just the smallest hint of a crack.

Pukehou clenched his fist. It was time.

“You know my use to you” Pukehou continued, “You know my brother's use to you, every moment you spite him. Without us, you are nothing but a sad man, wasting his time on the undead.”

Hinuhou’s purple eyes widened like nothing Panahihou had ever seen. He rose his clawed hand, now crackling with a black, heatless lightning, and posed to throw it at the brothers. Panahihou cowered and crawled next to his brother. Pukehou stood still, bracing himself for the death...

...that never came. Hinuhou degenerated into mad, intense coughing, spitting blood, pus and bile into the dark waters, the fluids floating above them like water on tar. The lightning vanished, fading into the surrounding darkness, the Aven struggling to keep his balance and avoid falling into the water.

In a brief respite from the coughing, Hinuhou turned to the brothers.

“Pukehou, you will stay here and heal me. Panahihou, you-”

To his and Pukehou’s surprise, Panahihou was completely surrounded in darkness. Deep shadows hid the contours of his body in a deep blackness; it was as if staring into the dark beyond the stars. For a moment Hinuhou doubted if he was even looking at his nephew, before the shadows clung to Pukehou’s side, clearly seeking his comfort.

“Impressive” Hinuhou said sincerely, “You almost look like a shade.”

Panahihou only nuzzled against Pukehou, who responded by cooing softly, embracing him with one wing.

“It’s alright, you impressed uncle” Pukehou said comfortingly.

“Indeed you have!” Hinuhou rose his voice in a barking laughter, “Now I know how to get at Pō!”

Panahihou rose to his feet, back still curved and wings lowered in submission.

“You want me to spy on her?” he asked coyly.

“Bah, stupid as ever” Hinuhou spat, “No, she is an Ataata Kahuna you moron, she would know it was you. What I do want you to do is to go to the village of Whareatua. Well, what’s left of it anyways, since a recent raid by the Tawahou gang put that village off the Empire’s maps for good. Well, until they steal from the dead all that they need, just like us.”

“They were oyster farmers, so I imagine they’re particularly worth the price” Panahihou continued, hoping to impress Hinuhou.

“No duh you imbecile! Just sneak as many pearls and bodies as you can and carry them back!”

He made a dismissive motion, before flying towards their platform. The moment he landed, next to Pukehou was Panahihou’s turn to launch, the weight of his uncle replacing his meager one as he took to the skies.

He looked one last time at his brother, whose expression seemed as supporting and loving as they have ever been. Panahihou smiled at him, before turning his head forward, flying away amidst the trees.

***

“So” Panahihou started, “We will need to remain undercover, at least until I get to my uncle’s throat. This would be easy; all we need a good ambush.”

“So, do we need to gather resources and built a base or something?” Feluz said.

His choice of location - the air between two massive branches in the canopy, holding to the “ray-cords” and swinging back and forth, was very endearing to Panahihou, who flew out of the lone branch to join him at the canopy. Laying on his chest, his neck was long enough to reach Feluz’ nape, and soon the long jaws began preening the hair in the way the human planeswalker love.

“Thanks, love” Feluz moaned.

The memories of Pukehou’s designs for a swamp safe for the two brothers came to Panahihou’s mind, and although he shed a tear he was only more motivated to see his brother honour, either literally go through this designs or to deliberately brand new ones, that honoured his wishes.

“Feluz, I love you.” Panahihou said, trying to approach his beak to Feluz’s face, “I love you so much, this whole plane could blow up and I could die and I’d still love you.”

“Aw, I love you too” Feluz said, pushing himself up through the light rays.

The faces were in now more or less equal ground, and repeated the same, awkward kiss as before. The same protective jaws around the human’s face, the same invitation of Panahihou’s tongue into Feluz’s mouth, the same sweet and careful bumping and licking, as quick as it began.

They stared at each other’s eyes, drinking each other’s blues - albeit Panahihou’s dark, cold blues against Feluz’s bright, intense ones. Like the night and day skies together, thought Feluz, eager to plant another kiss on his beloved Panahihou.

Suddenly, however, his stomach began to rumble.

“Of course” Panahihou rolled his eyes.

“Sorry” Feluz lowered his head, before he started sniffing the air.

Most of the swamp smelled of salt and rot; the closer one was to the water, the more intense those horrid scents were. But on the canopy, small hints of fragrancy came once in awhile: pollen, nectar, small fruits and berries. Feluz turned his head to the left, and was greeted by a series of colourful berry-like fruits amidst the leaves. Most had two sections, a thicker, red tubular one and a smaller conical blue one, while others had more usual berry-like fruits.

“Can I eat these? Feluz said, his mouth salivating.

“As a Kawau I really don’t know a lot about fruits” Panahihou shook his head, “I do know that humans sometimes eat the fruit of these podocarps, but normally they either cook them or eat just a few raw ones. They say too many will poison you.”

“Aw, that sucks, to be limited to just a few” Feluz said sadly, picking a purple one, “Mm, it’s delicious!”

“Remember, diet or death” Panahihou said.

He looked below. On the clearing’s bottom was the same black, oily water as in the rest of the Wairepomango, dotted only by a few water lilies and azolla ferns. Small undulations betrayed the presence of fish.

“Hold on, I’ll get you a proper breakfast” Panahihou said, and jumped.

He glided down to the water, holding his wings back and diving head-first like a gannet. Bubbles marked his underwater trajectory, before his head emerged triumphant, an eel in his beak.

“Woo!” said Feluz excitedly, picking some fruits to eat as he watched.

Panahihou wasn’t done yet, and dove again. A trail of bubbles and other triumphant surfacing, this time with a catfish, head trapped in Panahihou’s hooked jaws. The eel was nowhere to be seen, however, and Panahihou’s neck had widened.

Deeming it enough, Panahihou rose from the water, extended his wings to dry off, then flew back to the branch. Feluz was sitting on it two, having pushed the sunlight into positioning him there. Only one half of a purple podocarp fruit remained and it fell from Feluz’s fingers into the water down below.

“I’m not feeling very good” Feluz moaned, an arm on his stomach.

“Told you so” Panahihou chirped, “Now how about a real breakfast?”

Feluz eyed the fish, and raised a hand to his mouth.

“I can cook them for you” Feluz said, his hand just enough away from his mouth so that the words weren’t too muffled.

“Right” Panahihou said, laying the catfish on the branch.

Feluz looked at it, and soon enough the sunlight on the fish intensified. Panahihou winced, his wings covering his face and the air around him darkening.

“Sorry” Feluz said apologetically, “I forgot you couldn’t stand the light.”

“I’ll wait there until they’re ready” Panahihou said, a talon pointing down, to the shadows beyond the clearing.

“Okay, call me to stop if you need anything” Feluz said, “Where is the other fish?”

With effort, Panahihou removed the wings from his face, eyes squinting as best as he could. Even if cast in magical darkness, the light managed to pierce through slightly, hurting his eyes.

He walked next to the catfish and arched, something he found hard to do with his neck full as it was. Carefully, he expelled it from his esophagus into his palms, using the abundant viscosity against it, gluing it onto the branch as he spread it.

Panahihou took out his staff from his belt and divided it in two, stabbing the eel’s skull and tail into the branch with the junction ends. With effort, the slippery fish was now well attached.

The same could not be said of Feluz’s stomachal contents.

Panahihou stared at the stream of half-digested fruit with a morbid curiosity; it was like a waterfall and a rainbow had a baby. They took the longest while descending down the abyss between them and the Wairepomango waters, until they finally touched them.

As Panahihou had predicted, the chunks of fruit and bile hadn’t sunk right away, spreading out as if even the darkness rejected them, if only for a brief while.

***

The sun was much higher in the sky, much to Panahihou’s dissatisfaction. Even before he had learned the ways of the shadows, daylight was rather unpleasant, being too bright and too hot. Now, while not necessarily lethal, bright daylight was almost painful, and he avoided it whenever possible.

He had flown down to the edges of the clearing, taking advantage of the shadows cast by the massive trees. There, the darkness was only a penumbra compared to other areas of the Wairepomango, but a shadow spell was all it took for it to fall into the same eternal night.

Landing on an emerging root, he looked around. The last time he had been on the Wairepomango was 6 years prior, one spent in slavery and five spent avoiding Matahouroa. The memories of the swamps almost seemed distant, until that very moment, when he saw its splendour and beauty in person once more. Panahihou’s eyes welled, tears running down as he closed them and took a deep breath.

He was home. He was finally home.

He sat down on the root, his feather fingers touching the oily waters. In their density they had a curious property, at once too heavy to remain stuck but too thick to slide off neatly, resulting in drops that would either fall fast or very slowly in what seemed entirely random. Panahihou felt the mana infused in the water, its sheer power, and it made his heart race.

He fully emerged his hand in the water. Although the water seemed stagnant, beneath the surface there were currents, some subtle and some strong. In that particular area they run in all directions, but they were stronger than in the clearing. Panahihou reached out to them, and sure enough he felt a much greater area of the Wairepomango.

“Guess this is how tree-huggers feel about ley-lines” Panahihou mused, rejoicing in the power he discovered.

Suddenly, there was a pulse. Not just in the currents, but the water as a whole. It was as if they were being shaken.

Another pulse, more intense, and the waters shook. Something was coming.

“Come see this!” Feluz shouted from the canopy.

Sighing, Panahihou took off, flying to the clearing. This time, he was cloaked in shadows, though it helped little against the harsh midday sun. Feluz was standing on the branch, staring intently at something afar. The cooked fish were still by his side, now turned over.

“What’s going on?” Panahihou asked, landing next to Feluz.

Feluz pointed. Far to the northeast, a part of the canopy rose like a tidal wave, before descending slowly.

“The same thing happened some time ago” Feluz explained, “Only further away. I couldn’t exactly make it out well, but I think I saw two people being thrown in the air.”

Panahihou stared in disbelief. Even after years of having his expectations and sanity tested to the limit, this was unbelievably surreal.

“Oh, it’s happening again” Feluz pointed.

Part of the canopy began withdrawing like a catapult, before it projected itself forward and above rapidly. Just as that happened, the canopy around them began to stir, branches shifting and rising.

“They’re coming here!” Panahihou said, taking to the air.

The branch they stood in bent and moved to join the rest of the canopy, ending its unique loneliness. The fish fell from it, caught mid-air by Feluz.

The two planeswalkers, now aloft, watched the clearing be emerged by the rising canopy. The mass of branches and leaves continued to expand upward, the softer foliage pushed towards the front and the top.

The combined cacophony of a scream and a laughter alerted both planeswalkers. Approaching them quickly were two figures, a young Patupaiarehe and… a Hoiho?

“It’s her” he muttered, staring at his former saviour plummet like a screaming, waving meteor.

Feluz waved a hand, and just as the two newcomers were about to touch the canopy, sunlight lassoed their limbs, halting them in midair.

“Aw, why did you do that?” said Throwing-Branch, struggling against the light, “It was cushioned and everything.

Maramawhā, by contrast, was rather relieved, catching her breath and muttering a thanks.

“Feluz, put them down” Panahihou said.

Gently, the sunrunner laid the newcomers on the canopy. As the Patupairehe had said, it was indeed soft, and both of them sank slightly. Panahihou joined them, landing next to Maramawhā. Noticing the weight next to her, the Hoiho rose her head, staring at him.

An awkward silence followed.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:14 pm 
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No chapter today, so I'll add:

Semi-Canon material

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=5215

Trash

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=5234&hilit=dark+waters+panahihou

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:46 pm 
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Chapter 5: Radiance

From the tower window, Hiruhāramānia seemed like the most pristine, idyllic work of art. A single building forming an entire city, each house a chamber within a much greater edifice, each street a corridor, each plaza a hall. Each citizen - each family - a cohabitor, technically in the same house as the prince himself.

Raiti, however, knew better.

She had first seen Hiruhāramānia in its full splendour 64 four years before, from that very same window. And she had the privilege, almost every day, to look at at it and find something that would make her lose faith in that beautiful visage.

All were in the same house? Didn’t mean they’d all get the same quality of the rooms, the same food, the water, the same sunlight.

The streets were hallways? Didn’t mean that they would be warm and welcoming, in fact sometimes they might as well have been as desolate as the mountain peaks.

An entire city living under the same roof as the prince? Didn’t mean he’d ever have to see them if he didn’t want to, and thus be forced to reconsider his projects and desires..

Every time she looked, Raiti saw not just cracks in the whole, but that there wasn’t truly a whole at all.

Still, every day, Raiti remembered that first visage, that moment she saw the pristinity. She knew what it really was, but that didn’t mean she’d have to give up the way she felt in that moment. She would never forget the sheer wonder and humility that overwhelmed her, the awareness that she was part of that majestic place and that she would help it shine further.

The hard part was sharing this memory. No words could express what she felt in its full capacity, but words would hopefully make it easier for others to find their own way to experience it.

So she held on, and spoke, every day. And every day, she could feel that, in spite of the multiple cracks, there was a semblance of at least two wholes: one that would bask in that memory, even if they hadn’t experienced it, and another which would reject it, and never feel the same awe and especially not the same humility.

Those stood with Prince Whēuriuri, who in turn stood across the room. Although Raiti wasn’t facing him, she knew for a fact that he was cast in shadow, just as she was basked in morning light.

“I won’t warn you again” the prince said between his teeth, “Stay away from Mura.”

Raiti sighed.

“If you even remotely cared about our nation” she said, not bothering to face him, “you would know why I can’t stop reminding him of what he is.”

“Damn it Raiti, he just wants to follow his own path! Why can’t you let him to be free to be himself!?”

“It’s easy to preach about freedom when you’re in power” Raiti retorted.

“Indeed, leader of all kahuna” the prince responded cruelly.

Raiti said nothing.

“I swear, I’ll find any way I can to make you regret this” Whēuriuri said.

“Prince, if you could you would already have” Raiti said, turning to face him, “just as I would have ended your disgraceful life - and his - long ago.”

She turned away from him back to the view of the city, just in time to evade seeing him fuming. Though she would gladly admit that she preferred honest ugliness to a façade.

“Besides, nothing you could do would ever dissolve my faith. So enjoy your wickedness while you can, before the Rāomārama comes and you and your brother and whatever filth you consummate with are burned from existence.”

Raiti waved dismissively.

Sure enough, she heard him shout furiously and finally storm off. A strange thump, followed by a panicked whimper, informed her that the prince bumped into some unfortunate soul on his way out. She felt sympathy for whoever it was, but when she turned back around she saw no one to console.

“Alas, we must endure” she muttered.

Using her staff, Raiti rose herself from the sit by the window, and left the room.

As she passed through the hallway she greeted and blessed the servants she came across, until she reached a particular stand. There, a man dropped by, pushing a rather stubborn moa with a harness. Atop the flightless bird was a pile of white plates, secured through a ribbon-like rope.

“Fresh off the quarry, I see” Raiti smiled, petting the moa.

“Your holiness, I apologise for my delay” the man said, torn between respecting the kahuna and pushing the moa, “This stubborn thing just started getting moody all of a sudden.”

“Well, its pace allowed the plate I needed to arrive just in time” Raiti said graciously, “So your moa did do a favour for us all. Sometimes, a sudden and harsh action is just the guidance one truly needs.”

The man just smiled politely. The moa nonetheless calmed down, and Raiti took three plates, replacing their space on the pile with the equivalent weight in coin and diamonds. Once she left, the bird sat down and rolled on its back, scattering these along with the plate shards.

The man just kept smiling at Raiti.

Eventually, Raiti reached the golden doors at the end of the hallway. She traced her fingers through the carvings, literally skimming through history, and pushed the doors open. An intense light as strong as the midday sun’s poured through, a radiance the kahuna still flinched slightly at.

The ensuing chamber, the largest in the entirety of the city-building, was entirely immersed in a deep gold, without features or nuances. However, her staff clacked against mere wood, simply tinged deeply by the light, it’s textures long burned off. Light radiated from every corner of that room, but the most intense and blinding radiance came from the center, the eyes of the Invoking Moai.

Raiti bowed before the alabaster statue, the power and sanctity of not only Hiruhāramānia, but the whole of the Empire. It, and it alone, was conceded by her as the only material thing devoid of flaw, and it helped her remember that memory of her beloved city. That reason alone made Raiti intensely thankful to it, a gratitude she would never be able to repay, even when the Rāomārama came and cleansed her.

“Great mediator” she said, her voice faltering, “I bring you another plate. May your will be known.”

She kneeled. Around her laid many piles of plates, each already inscribed and their messages long heeded - in some way or another - white alabaster columns that now reached her eye level. She placed her own plate on the ground, and closed her eyes.

The light of the room pierced through her eyelids, and for a moment all she could see and feel was an intense white.

***

Whēuriuri spent all the way to his brother’s chambers cursing Raiti. His clenched fists spasmed, and a few drops of blood flowed from his right hand fingers. Everyone in his path scattered, and the few ones that didn’t were rather pitilessly shoved aside.

When he finally arrived to the chambers he heard sobs, muffled by the doors. Calming himself down, Whēuriuri knocked softly with his black arm.

“Mura, can I come in?” he asked softly.

No response, only more crying.

Whēuriuri’s heart was damp with worry, and couldn’t it it anymore. He slowly opened the door, revealing just barely lit insides. A warm, reddish glow lit up the room, coming from Mura’s body. Earlier that day he had gotten the basic Tahepuia Kahuna tattoos, which he had asked Hāwera, a free kahuna, to burn into his flesh. Mura had felt the proudest in his life, much to his brothers own pride and affection.

And Raiti couldn’t let that pass.

“Go away” Mura said weakly.

For a moment, Whēuriuri considered conceding to his brother’s request. But something in him dawned. No, he wouldn’t let Raiti hurt him anymore, he wouldn’t let her win anymore.

“Mura, you can’t let her have her way” he said, empathy laced with assertiveness.

“I don’t care!” Mura shouted, his golden eyes briefly flaring like molten metal, “Just leave me alone.”

Mura realised his outburst, and looked to the side in shame, before burying his head in his knees. Whēuriuri entered the room, and sat on the bed, laying a hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“You can’t let her trample over you, Mura” Whēuriuri whispered, “You can’t let her feel confident so she can hurt you over and over until you kill yourself.”

“But what can I do?” Mura said exasperatedly, looking at his brother, “You can’t lay a finger on her, I can’t do anything!”

“I have any idea”, Whēuriuri said, “But you need to stay strong for as long as I need you to be. I can tell Aata to look after you if you want to, but you mustn’t let anyone get to you until the meeting. Promise me this.”

Mura suppressed a sob, and took Whēuriuri’s hand in his.

“I promise.”

“Good” Whēuriuri said, “Do you still want to become a Tahepuia Kahuna?”

Mura nodded wiping his eyes.

“Then you will be one” Whēuriuri said decisively, “I’ll take you to Tīrarae whenever you want.”

“I want to go today” Mura said.

“Good, I’ll tell Aata to make an excursion there and take you along. Just be back before the meeting.”

“Alright” Mura said, “But why?”

“You’ll know then” Whēuriuri said.

The two brothers did the hongi touch, and the older prince left. Mura watched Whēuriuri leave; for a moment, he began to suspect something dark was being woven in his brother’s mind. He quickly let that go, however, as his spirit was lifted by the prospect of escaping Raiti, even if for a while.

Wasting no time, he began packing his things.

***

Raiti opened her eyes, the white fading away as reality shone through, in an ironic overlaying of lights.

She always felt sadness when this happened, as the connection with Rāo was inevitably severed. The perfect, wondrous world of the divine was a blurr to her, but it was still far more beautiful and united than the flawed city, even in it’s most sacred chamber.

If anything, it made her all the more bitter.

She inspected the tablet. It was now fully inscribed, tip to tip covered in characters. Normally this would convey a divine message, a new law to be implemented on the city, but lately she had to use it to communicate. Part of her felt guilty about this, but she comforted herself with the knowledge that Rāo would forgive this, especially given her role in the coming revelation.

“Raiti,

This is the last message I’m sending you through the Moai. There is no more time to correspond. If you trust me still, follow the instructions below:

Send a taskforce to the Wairepomango. Maramawhā is there, apparently accompanied by four other individuals according to my sources. Do not kill her, but make work of the others - a sinful Kawau, a reckless Patupaiarehe, and an obese disgrace.
Make sure that the way to the Invoking Moai is free for my armies to reach it.
Keep the Pirita Kahuna under your control. I don’t need them to be on our side, just to be unable to kill my subjects.

That will be all. May Rāo guide the way to a new dawn.

Purūpī, Light of Hiriwa


Raiti did not question a single thing. She was far too desperate and excited to do so.

Carefully, she rose from the ground with her staff… and stamped the plate with it, breaking it in a thousand pieces. Guilt instantly overpowered her other emotions, but she could not let that sacred message to fall into the wrong hands.

She left the chambers, her eyes glowing with light, brighter than the sun.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:08 pm 
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Chapter 6: Alliance

“It’s been a while” Panahihou said, breaking the silence.

Maramawhā nodded, rising.

“Wait” Feluz said, his eyes widening, “She’s the one who broke you out?”

“Indeed” Panahihou said, “Which means she’s come here to claim the favour I owe her.”

“You don’t owe me anything” Maramawhā said, “I didn’t save you from that prison to replace it with another one.”

“Good, then we’ll be on our way” said Panahihou, motioning Feluz to follow him.

“Wait!” Maramawhā said, “At least hear my proposal.”

“Not interested. I’m too busy to deal with whatever trivial matters you must want me to assist. Surely you must understand, since you seem to be one of those ‘for the bigger picture’ types.”

Maramawhā sighed. She didn’t want to resort to it, but the greater good demanded noxious words:

“I do understand you might not like the Parekareka.”

“Oh?” Panahihou craned his neck, “Now this has me interested. You must be really desperate if you’re against them.”

“Wait” Feluz scratched his head, “What are Pare, uh, Praeka-”

“Another type of Aven” Maramawhā interjected, “The Parekareka and the Kawau are basically the same species-”

“Please don’t” Panahihou said, his feathers puffing ever so slightly.

“Planeswalkers have a duty to learn” Maramawhā said, “especially a young one such as this.”

“How did you know?” Feluz asked, his hands on his cheeks.

Maramawhā and Panahihou both stared at him.

“As I was saying” Maramawhā continued, “the Parekareka and the Kawau are the same people, but they chose different paths. Now that are war for frankly petty reasons-”

“I wouldn’t call genocide petty” Panahihou said venomously, “And from what little I’ve heard, back before my spark ignited, your people were targeted by them as well. That’s why you’re here, yes?”

“Yes” Maramawhā said, “My people were outed to the Pirita Kahuna by Purūpī’s spies. He is planning something big and wants to force the Hoiho to cooperate with him. I’m here to ask for your help in defeating him and restore balance and peace.”

“That’s very interesting” Panahihou responded, “And why should I care?”

Maramawhā stared at him in disbelief.

“You can’t be serious!” she said exasperatedly, “I mean, I wasn’t expecting kindness or compassion-”

“Good” Panahihou quipped.

“-but I thought you’d be at least intelligent enough to understand that the leader of your people’s enemy doesn’t have anything good for you in mind!”

“Nah, I’m dumb as an egg” Panahihou opened his wings, “Very stupid really. I think I’ll be leaving now.”

“Wait,” Feluz said, touching Panahihou’s shoulder, “I think we should listen to her. If Puru-whatever’s really planning something, he might come after you.”

Panahihou sighed and rolled his eyes, but lowered his wings nonetheless.

“Look,” he said, his fingers massaging his beak base, “Right now I need to kill my uncle as fast as I can before my self-doubt kicks in. He’s a pretty... evil necromancer, who has murdered thousands of people just for a stupid chair, so I’m pretty sure you can’t tell me it’s wrong in any way.”

“It’s true” Maramawhā conceded, “Hinuhou’s atrocities have been heard of even in Inanga. But he’s still a far lesser priority than Purūpī, someone with actual political power and an agenda.”

“The point is” Panahihou continued, “that this might be the one chance I have to kill Hinuhou, and I’m not going to waste it. If I’m successful, then I might feel empowered enough to kill Purūpī as well.”

“Because your self-esteem is above all other life apparently” Maramawhā spat, disgusted.

Yes, actually.

But Panahihou didn’t voice that thought. He noticed that Feluz was looking at him in a pleading way, and he realised that he couldn’t afford to lose his fellow planeswalker’s favour if he was to win.

More disconcertingly, Panahihou also noticed that the Patupaiarehe, who had been entirely silent through that entire exchange, was glaring at him. Its face seemed to be neutral, but its eyes were piercing in a way that the Kawau couldn’t describe as anything other than wrathful. Did it know about planeswalkers and their nature? Did Maramawhā inform it? Or was it staring at him for some other reason.

Whichever the case, Panahihou didn’t risk it. He composed himself, and extended a hand to Maramawhā:

“If you help me kill Hinuhou, then I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

Maramawhā stared at him stoically. For a moment she seemed impossibly distant, entirely unreadable to Panahihou. This unnerved the Kawau, but to his relief, she took his hand.

“Deal” she said.

Panahihou glanced at Feluz. His was definitely happy and excited, and the Aven knew he had him entirely by his side. And he also looked adorable. The Patupaiarehe also lightened its gaze, but a distrust remained. Panahihou decided he couldn’t care less about that.

“Good, then let's get moving.”

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2017 8:29 am 
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Careful there, Pana. Your "good man" is showing. :smirk:


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:39 pm 
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Chapter 7: Speaking

Aata had known Rinomaunga for as long as he could remember.

It was impossible not to: the mountain’s ash and soot clouded the heavens to the northwest, a black stain in the horizon seen from anywhere in the Plateau. It was as mundane as the sky itself, even if it stood well apart from the majority of the white peaks.

When he finally did get to see it up close, as a young soldier, the area couldn’t possibly be stranger. A place where hot and cold existed almost simultaneously, rivers of lava running along tracts of cold black rock or pumicite-covered snow. Where vast expanses of pure emptiness were dominated by the roar of the crackling earth or gas vents, where unrefined boulders co-existed with the impossibly intricate sculptures of the Tahepuia Kahuna.

As Aata rose in the ranks, he found less time - and need - to visit the place, making each subsequent visit all the more surreal.

And as he and his small contingent arrived through the clear waters of the Kapongatakere river, six years since his last visit, that feeling didn’t die at all. As the Hōkūle‘a travelled upriver, the stain in the sky increased, until it was as thick as a storm cloud, the sun only passing through as a dim ember. Lights from distant lava flows and lightning bolts lit the slopes in orange and purple glows, always dying and being replaced by new ones.

“Wow!” Mura said, pointing at a lightning ball flying overhead, “Did you see that!?”

Aata nodded, his eyes tracing it until it reached a slope opposite to them, blasting a boulder into molten pieces. Some rolled into the Kapongatakere’s shoreline, stopping just before they touched the water. Similar piles edged the waters, now blackened and solidified together.

“I can’t believe I’m finally here” Mura said, “It’s so beautiful. It’s as if fire is painting the mountains, and with so many inks no less. And sculpting it too!”

Aata smiled at Mura’s enthusiasm. He traced his left index finger on his right forearm, then circled a vortex outward, carefully making this spiralling motion resemble a mountain.

“I know” Mura replied, “It's like energy flows everywhere, like a heartbeat. I never felt this excited.”

Mura stood on the edge of the Hōkūle‘a. They passed through a pair of stone half-arcs, one emerging to the right and another further forward to the left. Streams of lighting periodically connected these arcs in an ever shifting maze of purples, reds and whites. Cracking, violent sounds were heard across the bolts and the rock they touched.

“I never felt this...” Mura said, watching the crackling web intently, “welcome.”

Aata didn’t respond, but he didn’t have to.

“I’m sorry” Mura excused himself,” it’s just that, after yesterday, Raiti-”

Aata scratched his left arm, then slid one open palm against the other and clenched his fingers. It was a motion he didn’t quite feel expressed his intended message. Mura simply nodded in response, and Aata worried if this was indeed the case.

As the crew passed the arcs they arrived at a massive valley expanse. Impossibly tall slopes surrounded them to the north and south, black and gray rock crossed by orange and red streams or white sheets, surrounded by mist as they melted or froze instantly. The air vacillated between intense heat and cold at a moment’s notice, and Aata suspected that the Kapongatakere was the only thing keeping those extremes survivable. The river grew shallower and shallower, and it branched into two upriver streams, each impossibly apart.

As between them was Rinomaunga itself.

If the other mountains reached the sky, their peaks hidden by the ash clouds, then the barest hint of the slope outmatched all of them in sheer bulk. Occasionally, winds blew away the smoke, showing parts of the slope in the firmament above, and periodic flashes of orange and gold appeared in the distant sky, as distant as the sun. Lightning flashed almost perpetually, bolts replaced by swirling vortices and more esoteric shapes in a myriad of reds and purples.

Loud roars and screeches of the earth and thunder filled the air every second or another, which surprised Mura and intimidated most of the crew. Even Aata was still shocked by the occasional explosion of sound that came awfully close, but he quickly grew used to the cacophony. He noticed that no two bursts of noise were alike, preventing him from finding full stability, but he allowed himself to notice things no one else had.
Like a strange old woman standing on the bottom of the mountain, where the Kapongatakere split in two.

She wore a shimmering fabric that reflected the multiple glows, that Aata recognised as made from the hair-like fibers in lava. She was of the Tahepuia Kahuna, bearing a warm, welcoming smile.

“What?” Mura asked Aata, before he saw her as well.

The woman’s lips moved, but none of what she said passed through the screen of explosions and blasts.

“Hello?” Mura shouted.

The woman shook her head calmly. At first Aata thought that she didn’t hear Mura, but she made no other signs about this. His mind replayed the movements of the lips - something easier said than done, especially as he could already feel his memories of the movements distorting. Carefully, he placed together:

Words are air. Air needs you as a vessel, but you don’t need air to speak. Speak with your real voice.

That sounded about right to Aata, so he turned to Mura. Going through the usual gestures would take time, so he simply mimicked the woman’s lip motions.

“Aata?” asked a confused Mura.

Aata pointed to the woman - who waved back. She moved her lips again, no sounding passing to them. The message she delivered was the same.

“You know what she’s saying?” asked Mura.

Aata responded with a rather impatient nod. Breathing deeply, he began raising his hand to his mouth, and breathed in and out. First the flow went unrestricted, then Aata’s fingers began blocking the air randomly, either at exhaling or inhaling. As he did so, he rose another hand to his throat, touching his Adam’s apple. He winced slightly as he scraped the perforation.

Mura tilted his head at this display, and touched his chin. Aata’s doubts returned, and he exhaled with frustration.

“Sorry” Mura said, “Let’s try something.”

Mura stared at the woman. She repeated the same lip motions, but this time she pointed her fingers to her chest. A pinkish glow emanated from her crooked finger tips, small but reflecting all over her mantle, obfuscating the other myriad of lights.

Mura closed his eyes, imagining that glow in his mind. As he did, he felt it darting down like a falling star, reaching his heart. He felt a strange burning sensation, which rose and lapped his chest like a flame. Around him, the explosions and sounds seemed like air itself, ready to be burned, to fuel these flames out of control.

Mura opened his eyes, and stared at Aata. As he did, the prince heard another, much lower sound, emanating from the general. It was a nervous pulse like the lightning above and around them, starting to subdue in favour for a cooler, breeze-like whispering, twisting with the tilt of Aata’s head. Both were accompanied by “colour”, like the thinnest trick of the light, spreading a pink filter over Mura’s eyes whenever he looked and listened at the same time.

Mura looked at the other crewmembers, all display the same interplays of “pulse” and “breeze”. They also had other sounds and colours, lapping flames in orange glints, voiding wails like sinkholes, and what seemed to be the sound of light, accompanied by a brighter palette.

Mura looked at the woman. Alone, she had all of these, a storm of “pulses”, “fires”, “breezes”, “wails”, even a freezing sensation. Right now, the most dominant state was that of “lava”, a sound of bubbling emerging through her warm, welcoming face, painted in gold and red.

Mura’s fingers snapped.

“I know what to do!” he said to a still confused Aata.

A moment of realisation dawn on Mura, and he hugged the general.

“I know how to understand you. Well, better than what I do now. I can feel, well, feelings now.”

Mura disentangled and looked to the side, ashamed.

“I can feel you were pretty frustrated with me” Mura said, “I’m sorry. I know this is hard for you, and I know I should be getting used to this after so many years, but please-”

Aata hugged him, and Mura felt his insides as the pulse giving way to “molten rock”, bubbling upwards, and flame, rising and rising. Quickly, Mura began picking several small nuances, small “winds” and “dust” and “fallen grass blades”. Aata began moving accordingly, but Mura already knew the words that would come out.

“I know” he said, “You’re worried about this. I’m worried too.”

Mura disentangled himself again, and moved to the edge of the Hōkūle‘a.

“But I have to go, Aata. I was meant to be hear. My heart wants to me here, I want to be here. I’ll come back before the Kahikole, okay?”

Aata nodded solemnly, not allowing his watering eyes to flood forth. He made a heart with his hands, which Mura perceived as lightning, flowing between the fingers and the palm like it did between the arcs.

“I love you to” Mura said, “Tell Whēuriuri to not get jealous.”

Aata couldn’t laugh, but his expression didn’t need sound for it to be the same. A few soliders exchanged “oh” or “burned… literally” in their whispers, a moment of undiscipline that Aata would make sure they’d get punished for. Mura basked in these jokes, before turning around and jumping into the water.

Kapongatakere was remarkably cold, and shallow, the prince having scraped a knee. He moving quickly, swimming or dragging along the shallows, until he reached the shore. As soon as he left the protection of the river, the air grew impossibly hot and cold within seconds, and Mura screamed.

Aata, worried, motioned for some men to go after him, but he felt a burning sensation in his heart. It was the old woman, raising her hand. This was Mura’s test.

With a knee scraped, his body on the verge of burning or freezing within seconds and the storm louder than ever, Mura screamed, first in pain and then in rage, the sheer emotion in the sound drowning all others. Lightning and molten rock fired at him from all directions, but in a moment of euphoria he dug his hands on the rock, touching the black ground, now cracking with yellow. He felt the heat, he felt his fingers burning in agony and their ashes reaching his nostrils, but it was an improvement over frost and fire burns every two seconds.

What remained of his fingers was immersed in lava, and the pain ceased. Instead, the lava became part of his body, an extension of digits that no longer existed. He was quickly enamoured by it: first he made elemental fingers, some plastic like molten lava, other rocky and crooked like insect legs. He would’ve spent a lot of time playing with his new found prosthetics if not for the coming blasts of fire, rock and lightning. In a moment, he dug into the lava, and around him jets of gold intercepted every disaster.

Feeling particularly powerful, Mura summoned a wall of molten rock, swatting at everything he could find that was coming in his direction. As he did, the hair-like fibers fell around him, prompting him to sniff. It didn’t take long for him to realise their potential, and so he turned to the woman.

“Your fibers, your coat” she said in a low, guttural voice.

Mura understood, and sat down. He felt every single fiber, as thin and as light as hair, if he had hands to touch them with. Instead, he willed them to come together, to encircle and cross each other, first in agglomerations slowly weaving other agglomerations. Unlike normal hair, the fibers were thick, frictioned easily and caused small explosions, which fueled Mura’s craft further.

Eventually, two major metallic sheets were formed. These were “ironed out” with bursts of heated air, leaving a smooth surface like polished metal. Metallic ropes were tied by Mura’s rock fingers, and the two sheets formed a perfect shoulder cap.

“Now, you’re one of the Tahepuia” said the woman.

For the first time in his life, Mura felt happy. No sunlight to punish him, just the warm embers of the lava to guide him. His rock fingers and robe didn’t hurt either.

As he turned to the Kapongatakere, the contingent had left. Only Aata remained, looking at him from the back of the boat, tears running down his eyes. He didn’t gesticulate, and he didn’t speak. Mura knew exactly what he said in his mind.

Can’t wait to have you back home.

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Planeswalker's Guide
The Story

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:19 pm 
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Fascinating. It appears as though the lessons learned here at Rinomaunga are a sort of red card-draw spell - recognizing the surges of wind, earth, and lava in the lungs, bodies, and hearts of other people, and using that to gain insight about what they're saying and doing. And, in the channeling of that red mana, Mura has gained empathy. Thoughts?

Suffice it to say that the worldbuilding here (especially in the context of how they use the framework of the M:tG multiverse) is top-notch.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:28 pm 
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Thanks!

AND card discarding...

He always had empathy, but the push that the woman gave him in the right direction allowed him to use it to its full potential for the first time.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:24 pm 
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Chapter 8: Priorities

Panahihou glided silently in the darkness of the Wairepomango. Even as midday coursed, only a few weak beams of daylight pierced the black mantle beneath the canopy, fading quickly as they descended, always gone before touching the waters.

His eyes, however, weren’t bothered: the waters, the roots, the black masses of floating ferns, they all were different shades of black, different expressions of darkness that not even other inhabitants of the swamps were able to fully make out. The shadowmage had come to learn the “colors of darkness” by his own, a natural consequence of specialising in the absence of light.

When it started, Panahihou didn’t know for sure. He simply felt connected to the Wairepomango, loving it's dark expanse and its black waters, and over time that connection became more and more refined, until he could command the shadows. It wasn’t unusual for a Kawau, but shadow-magic was usually ignored in favour of more tangible displays of power, like necromancy or whatever benefits a pact with Pango would bring.

Panahihou laughed. As if that old reptile had any idea what someone like him, a planeswalker, had seen in his travels. The Aven couldn’t resist watching the dark practises wherever he went, sometimes for amusement, sometimes as inspiration for his own art. From his time as a prisoner of the nezumi, where he learned to mimic the harmony between shamans and their insects and kami, to his sensuous retreat to the singed beaches of Azoria, where another planeswalker’s atrocities granted him both the fuel and space for practise. And, of course, his designated hub of Ravnica, where both the Rakdos and the the darker of the Gateless were all too eager to teach how to channel indulgence into power.

But to him, no swamp was as powerful as the Wairepomango. There, darkness flowed in ways Panahihou couldn’t replicate even in places as dark and foreboding as Diraden or Ulgrotha. It had to be the Weeping Moai, and the mere thought of it left Panahihou with a mad impatience.

Panahihou landed on a blackened platform, the remnants of a boat, stuck amidst the floating foliage. It moved slightly with the Aven’s weight, but he didn’t mind. He felt inspired, and wouldn’t let that moment of confidence go to waste.

“Why did you stop?” Throwing-Branch asked from the safety of the canopy, their loud voice sending shivers of rage down Panahihou’s spine.

“To speed this up” he said with a mild lilt, “Now sit and enjoy my masterpiece.”

Panahihou extended his wings, and breathed. Soon, mana gathered to him like an ocean to a fissure, the darkness of the swamps enveloping him so thoroughly within and without, earning to be shaped into whatever his mind could conceive. And he wasn’t out of ideas: maybe enhance his sensory range, maybe send a shade as a scout, maybe send thousands of shades as an army, maybe create a portal and show in right before Hinuhou and stab him right in the heart. If he even had one.

Inspiration, however, struck him as he felt something move well ahead.

Crawling out of the water into a tree’s roots was a horrific beast, an amalgamation of legs and arms like those of a mammal, but twisted in ways only a spider would recognise. Many of these arms were connected by membranes, forming crude wing-like capes. The lower body, by contrast, was that of a seal. And in further contrast, the head was divided in three, two lower jaws splitting further to reveal countless rows of teeth and barb-covered tongues. The eyes, lacking sockets and fused into each other, resembled those of an octopus, but the whiskers and fur were distinctively mammalian. The skull profile, though hideous, was vaguely seal-like.

“A tipua”, Panahihou muttered.

He’d seen those abominations. Matahouroa’s answer to demons, born of the magics of the Wairepomango or the oceanic depths. Mere beasts, with the occasional smart one. Panahihou felt both repulsion and pity for that creature, and decided exactly what he would use the abundant mana for.

Flapping his arm-wings, Panahihou let the shadows pool in front of him, a void so absolute that even the night around him seemed like daylight. The tipua turned towards him and jumped into the water, drawn by the void. It quickly stopped in its tracks when the void began taking shape, membranous wings and vicious horns manifesting and solidifying. Mana pooled in itself, forming a distinct, self-sufficient body of darkness, a brand new creature spawned from the void.

As soon as it saw the malicious, toothy grin, the tipua began turning around desperately, but a wing flap and a splash marked its end. Agonising screams echoed through the swamp, limbs broken and marrow freed by the newcomer. Entrails burst and tore, their contents spread in incredibly bright vermillions, yellows and greens unto the black waters.

On the canopy, an unrest of leaves paused the torture as both demons and conjurer stared at it.

“What is the point of this?” Maramawhā asked, craning her neck down.

“I need to ambush my uncle, maybe have him begging for his life when I finally face him” Panahihou said, his irritation turning into a happy lilt, “Wouldn’t killing an abomination such as this one please you?”

He could hear Maramawhā sighing, the shift back to irritation as quick as his creation’s clawed hands slashing across the tipua’s face, crashing its skull.

“It is a living being” Maramawhā said, sighing, “It is a dark being, to be sure, perhaps even one that does not truly need to exist. But it is still a creature feeling distress and pain needlessly.”

“Needlessly my cloaca!” responded Panahihou brusquely, before a more elaborate response began shaping itself, like a dark cloud: “I need to test my creation.”

A punch to the jaws, loosening one, while another was grasped by the black hands almost instantly.

“This is the only way to be sure my masterpiece can be strong enough” Panahihou continued, “Do you not value strength?”

“Yours, not your lackey’s” Maramawhā said.

Panahihou detected even more irritation in her voice. She had clearly given many of these speeches, and was tired of repeating the same things over and other. Panahihou felt better about himself, knowing someone wasted her life worse than he did his.

“I-Is your uncle weak to sun magic?” Feluz asked; only a few yellow beams pierced through the foliage.

Panahihou hadn’t thought about that. For him, sunlight ranged from annoying to fatal, and though less affected most of the Kawau preferred the darkness. Still, Hinuhou was not a specialised shadow mage, his arts laid within necromancy. By his own experience, many necromancers feared the light.

Also by his own experience, just as many didn’t.

“Maybe. You’ll be our last resort.”

First resort, Panahihou would normally say. But he wanted to spare Feluz from ever meeting his uncle. Panahihou knew that the boy was far from innocent, but he didn’t need that monsters miasmic presence in his life.
While he pondered, the demon he created had clearly won the battle, the tipua being reduced to a mass of broken bones and sinews, being consumed by the newcomer.

“Enough” Panahihou said, and the demon ceased eating.

Panahihou extended a wing and picked out a feather, one of the larger primaries, which he then offered to the demon. The shaft had drawn blood, just a few drops of his essence, now flowing into the darkness to never again be seen. The feather itself crumbled into dust, breathed by the demon.

“Find my uncle” Panahihou, “Scout, then ambush. At my sign you will attack him, but I will get the satisfaction of killing him.”

“And why would I do any of this?” the demon spoke at last, a wind chime-like voice gradually deepening.

Panahihou flicked his fingers, and suddenly a thousand cuts manifested on the demon’s wing membranes. The beast screamed in agony, before Panahihou waved his hand and the injuries were gone.

“I hold power over you” Panahihou said, “ I don’t like slavery, so tell you want: killing my uncle is in your best interests. After you do so, you’re free to pillage, destroy, rape whatever your black hole heart desires.”

Panahihou extended a hand graciously, his blue eyes emitting a mocking glare.

“Deal?”

The demon snarled, but shook his hand. He sniffed the air like a dog, and took off, each wing beat casting deep waves.

“I do mean my promise” Panahihou said, his head facing the canopy, “It’s just a matter of whereas Pango kills him.”

“Which he might do right now?” Maramawhā asked.

Oh crap.

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Planeswalker's Guide
The Story

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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 8:20 pm 
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Chapter 9: Watching

Atarau’s efforts bore fruit. From her cover amidst the clouds, she could see the forest canopy beneath her ripple like waves, spreading across the mountain slopes.

The Pirita Kahuna were moving, en masse.

She willed the air and moisture around her to shimmer in a thin coating of whiteness, between liquid and ice. Her dark feathers and clothes were concealed, and in the glimmer her shadow dissipated.

Now, she could just watch, and think.

***

Atarau watched from the shadows.

Beneath her, the marketplace went on as usual, giving purpose to the city. The silver from which the buildings and streets were built glimmered between light grey and blinding brightness as clouds rolled above. Buildings rose tall, almost all competing for the tallest towers, but all failed in comparison to the temple-palace, its triangular edges emerging like a snow-capped mountain in the distant horizon.

When Atarau had arrived there, so many years beforehand, she found it to be surprisingly quiet, the likes of which seen nowhere else outside of Hinawahine. Hiriwa’s people took pride in their sophistication and self-restraint and so, even when advertising their wares and their fish, they seldomly shouted. Wild birds like seagulls did not even dare fly above, and music dared not be played outside of establishments, of which none was in Atarau’s sight.

Whatever other sound resonated loudly enough, it would be dealt with.

She had long learn to stand still. To watch, before taking any rash action. That was what her stomach and her fragile, bony bulk demanded.

Her sight locked to a fish stand. Slowly, she descended from her perch, gliding silently to an alley. Back rasping against silver, and arm-wings following suit. Her feathers made only the barest possible of sounds, inaudible to the ears of the humans she intended to steal from.

She made it so closely that, had she reached a few inches further, her taloned hand could have stolen a juicy lobster.

But then, it began.

She felt an intrusion in her mind. For a second, she visualised an intense white light, brighter than the sun, that flared just for a few seconds in her eyes. She couldn’t help but scream, a loud, desperate noise that echoed across the market.
For once in her life, all caution went to the wind and she took to the air, flying as fast as she could. She didn’t care about where she went, fear and humiliation having taken over her in a mad daze.

A sharp pain flared in Atarau’s shoulder: the metal edges of a roof had cut through her arm, blood staining the metallic white. She plummeted accordingly, crashing into a stand. Lobsters fell all around her, an irony she would laugh at bitterly for years to come.

But in that moment, she couldn’t do anything but look around, trying to find any shadow to crawl into and just die.

All around her, the silence became a cacophony, human and Aven voices indistinguishable from a storm. It disoriented her, and made her feel all the more helpless. She crawled in a fetal position, wings shielding her knees, an action that portrayed weakness and earned her more humiliation.

Just as she was at her worst, the light flooded her mind again, and for the longest while all she could see was a white blank.

***

When the white blank finally dissipated, Atarau still found herself in her fetal position, but now there was silence.

Welcoming, merciful silence.

She rose. Around here, silver was still dominant, but the blue of the sky was gone, as were the soft, dark greys of the clouds.

Instead, she was in some sort of chamber or room, ornamented with elaborate drawers depicting historical events, Parekareka and human statues in still, austere poses, and a sword made from whale ivory. There were no windows but plenty of ambient light, allowing no shadows to exist. It wasn’t as blinding as that light, but it still felt intrusive, and Atarau looked for some semblance of darkness.

“That is of no use” a commanding voice said, cold like the crash of waves, yet bright like the dawn.

Atarau turned, and saw another Aven, a Parekareka. He was adorned with silver clothes - literally so, as Atarau noticed the metallic fibers - trimmed with whale ivory and pounamu. His eyes shone with an eldritch white light, that seemed to pulse vividly, as if threatening to purge her.

“I am the light of Hiriwa, and shadows have no place here. Except for you, my child.”

“Wait” Atarau realized, “You’re-”
“Yes” he answered succinctly.

He waved a hand, and silver glistened, turning liquid. A table was formed, as were two benches on opposite sides.

“Come sit, child” he invited, “You must be starving.”

Atarau wanted to refuse, but her stomach betrayed her, roaring loudly. Embarrassed, she sat, and the Parekareka snapped his feathered fingers. A door - no, a wall - shimmered and opened. Beyond it there was the same white void, and from there came two humans.

Atarau thought that they couldn’t possibly be servants. They were well dressed in blue, purple and silver robes with gold, coral jewels and even diamonds sewn into the clothes in bizarre constellations. Each carried a mirror, made of silver and ice.

Yet, in spite of this, they carried in silver plates of food: roasted sweet potato, whale meat - raw and cooked -, podocarp fruits covered in honey, fish slices randomly mixed up, that included tuna, sunfish, shark, barracuda and mackerel. Oysters were lined around the edges of the plates, while sweet little krill and fish organs got their own small plates.

As a bird, Atarau’s sense of smell was minimal. To Aven, that sort of preparation was purely aesthetic, all the colors and shapes mixed in inviting the hungry Alalā to peck her away. The Parekareka, however, held his hand.

“We’ve also gotten your favourite” he said calmly, and extended a wing.

Another open wall, another totally-not-a-servant servant, drawing in a wooden tray, it's dark brown a relief to Atarau’s sore eyes. But she quickly ignored that in favour of what it carried: lobsters, so many lobsters. All raw, except for a soup, nested in a depression within the trail..

“Your favourite, I presume?” the Parekareka asked.

Atarau nodded enthusiastically as it was all laid on the table. She reached to touch a lobster, but just as she grabbed a leg she hesitated.

“Why?” she asked.

“What’s the matter, should it had been cooked” the Parekareka said sadly..

“You know very well what’s the ‘why’” Atarau hissed. She didn’t like being taken for a fool.

The Parekareka pondered, talons dragging along the lower jaw. Atarau could not read his pulsing eyes, but she could feel a sense of detachment on his part. He became less of a host and more of a cold observer.

“I need your services. I thought it would ease your predicament if I started with hospitality.”
He grabbed a simple silver cup, letting its clear water fall on his gaping beak.

“The food is edible” he continued, “if there was poison, I wouldn’t enjoy it as well.”

And so he took a lobster from the tray, and swallowed it whole, impressing and disgusting Atarau at the same time. He reached for another one, but Atarau’s hand was faster, and she shielded her prey with her arm-wings, pecking at it, ripping large chunks of soft crustacean meat.

The Parekareka turned his hand away from the tray, and picked slices of whale meat instead, sliding them down his throat at his leisure. The servants stood still, though one had to cover her mouth, glowing blue with an easing spell. A single gag was enough to draw Atarau’s attention. She threw the emptied lobster away, and picked a spoon, eating the soup.

“So, what are they?” Atarau asked, staring at the humans.

“Humans” the Parekareka asked.

Atarau stared at him coldly. It had little effect, especially as his own eyes unnerved her. Still, he shook his feathers in a triumphant way.

“They’re my pupils, Karetai Kahuna initiates. They are not from this city, so they must prove their loyalty to me.”

“By being your slaves?” Atarau retorted, a hint of jealousy cracking in.

“No, attendants. You, on the other hand, are my slave.”

Atarau dropped the lobsters, and rose from the table.

“If you think bribing me with food will make me your slave, then you are mistaken” she said.

She thought of all the dark places she had been in: sewers, caves, deltas. Darkness began to pool inside her, her eyes now a void. Fear consumed the Karetai Initiates, who began to cower, but the Parekareka rose his own hand, and stared at Atarau. The light of his eyes began to fill her vision once again, so she looked away. In desperation, she blasted a cloud of pure necrotic energy, intended at the Light of Hiriwa.

Instead, there was the sound of wind passing through, and one of the initiates screamed in agony while the other crawled beneath the table.

“I am beyond your comprehension” the Parekareka said, an odd lilt spicing his otherwise austere voice, “But that doesn’t matter. If you leave, you will have the military and all Parekareka of the world after you, in every island you chose to go.”

He rose from the table. It and the benches became liquid again, sinking the food as well as the unlucky initiate, who screamed as she was entombed alive.

Softly, he landed a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t dare look, remaining still as a statue.

“You have to serve me. In return, I can promise you happiness.”

“W-what do you want me to do?” Atarau asked, fearing the worst.

Beaked jaws approached, uncomfortably close to her earholes.

“You will be my spy, and you will be my blade. But, most importantly, you will be my eyes.”

Suddenly, a talon touched the back of her head, and the light flooded her senses.

***

A window opened, and Atarau was home. From the outside, the silver apartment was rather bland, but on the inside not only it was large, but full of everything she ever wanted.

Gold and jewels covered the ground, metals and stones far brighter and more colourful than the monochromatic silver. It made walking painful, but it was just as she liked, loving to figure out the puzzle of where to put her feet. A well positioned respite came into view: the corpse of a vendor, allowing her to perch herself on it. She dove her beak into his exposed back, making a snack out of his rib tendons.

Feeling full, she flew, gliding shortly before reaching her circular nest-bed, made of the finest down and sea urchin wool, filling elephant seal pelt pillows. A bed stand tripod displayed a plate full of lobster legs, that she pecked at ease.

Nothing better to greet her home after a night of assassinations.

A light flared on her mind, and she grunted.

“What is it?” she said.

I need you to fly to Inanga. Take your time, but be there before dawn. My subject has arrived.

Atarau didn’t protest further, both because she couldn’t but also because she wanted to learn what the “subjects” he had talked about actually were.

She dropped her lobster, spread her wings and legs, and took off, flying out of her home.

***

Now she knew, and now she waited.

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Planeswalker's Guide
The Story

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