Mordecai & Aleph was a collaborative role-play effort written by Somarinoa and his high school friend Nightsail Cybertronia in 2009. It has been on hiatus since mid- to late-2010 due to both parties losing the shared file due to both contributor's computers failing. While the full file has not yet been recovered, it is expected to eventually be reobtained and the RP started back up again. For the record, Vordathco Mordecai is written by Somarinoa, while Aleph is written by Nightsail Cybertronia. Like his old poem The Old Continent Fish, Mordecai & Aleph takes place on his primary high fantasy world of Diakatan. Somarinoa only takes credit for his half of the writing and the world that the story takes place within.
Chapter 1: The Pull
As his foot dropped down into the soft, fine sand, he watched as his boot sucked into it and became temporarily stuck. Secretly, he missed the ability to feel the sense of touch; but its sacrifice came with great reward. He had come to Illustria's coastline, come to a secluded place that he knew no prying eyes would notice his forthcoming actions. The concept of plucking from the stars intrigued him, although his dimwitted soldiers could not understand the worth of it. His near-lipless mouth curled back, showing his teeth better in a makeshift smile.
If he had eyelids—for that matter, if he still had eyes in the typical sense—he would have closed them to help him feel his surroundings. Having one's soul in a phylactery distanced from the body had its advantages—out of body exploration was made much easier as the soul was never attached to the body in the first place. Mentally, he began searching the heavens above, barely moving for a whole week until he found a perfect candidate world. With even more focus, he could feel energy flowing here and there, and with a dark sort of excitement, he clung to one at random.
Any species from another world would be a fantastic addition to his menagerie, and if he was REALLY lucky, his ever-growing forces! To him, his soul formed wispy tendrils similar to his own vile hand, and with it he wrapped his will around the being and enclosed around it. This power made him feel a sort of displacement as he served as an anchor for a temporary rift in space-time and even in his undeath he began to feel queasy from it. Everything began to spin and he felt himself growing weaker until he was barely able to hold himself standing. Within mere seconds however the displacement shattered and the spell was over. Mordecai was surprised at how the spell had physically weakened him, but he quietly blew off the personal concern with his infamous arrogance. All he cared about was garnering new power, new power he hoped to find in this....thing that now existed before him.
The thing which rested on the sand nearby was exactly that — a thing. It didn't breathe, didn't move, didn't blink. In fact, it lacked any signs of having an anatomy in the traditional sense. It was clear, with a few somewhat visible planes through it, inclusions of air, bubbles and wandering cracks which separated this part of it from that, though they didn't go all the way through. It was as pure as crystal and gleamingly wet, formless and apparently quite natural, with its own mass, in somewhat more slushlike form, around its bottom.
Congratulations, Mordecai. You've imported a chunk of extraterrestrial... ice.
In his weakened state, Mordecai stared at the substance almost in disbelief. He couldn't understand what had gone wrong, but this just wouldn't do. He grit his teeth together and slid them across each other slowly. The fact that his body barely held on in its mummified state and his grinding his teeth together would mean it would last that much less didn't seem to phase him. From behind him, he heard a poorly-stifled snicker from one of his Orc guards. The glowing green embers that could only be construed as his eyes flickered brighter and he lifted a gray, withered arm and snapped his fingers, causing the Orc to suddenly explode in a beautiful fountain of gore.
The other guards quickly fell silent. The lich sighed heavily and began to rub his brow deeply; the magic that animated his corpse allowed for some pliability of the flesh, and so he could still move the skin of his forehead around a little. He messed with it a little subconsciously while trying to figure out exactly how to salvage the situation. He took to pacing back and forth, a frightening sight when taking into consideration his skeletally thin body; most undead would simply be capable of shambling. Mordecai prided himself at being able to move faster than those pathetic zombies that roamed the Dead Wastes, and thinking about it made him feel a little better about the overall situation.
As their master wandered further and further down the beach, the Orcs looked at each other and silently poked fun at the lich's silly spell. One even picked up a stick of driftwood and poked at the ice as Mordecai began his return towards them from down the beach, moving in quick strides to close the gap he had inadvertently created in his aloofness. He didn't want those stupid Orcs screwing around again. Stupid Orcs. They owed him everything.
The ice, oddly enough, wasn't yet melting, though it was certainly warm enough for it. In fact, there was some evidence that frost was almost forming on it, where only minutes ago at most, it had been entirely liquid on the surface. The cracks were disappearing, if anyone were observant enough to pay close enough attention to it to know, and it.... all right, so it looked pretty much entirely the same as it did when it was first brought in. The being simply wasn't certain what its situation currently was, and playing dead, in a sense—pretending to be nothing more than natural ice with nothing special about it—was one of its best means of defense. If it went unnoticed, was passed by, by others in its world, it wouldn't be pursued. If either of the two biological races in its natural habitat were to recognize it for what it was, they'd flee, or worse, try to capture it. Demon imprisonment was something that it simply was not willing to risk; it was nowhere on its To Do list. It would wait to see what it could learn, and then figure out what to do after it had more information.
Mordecai finally reached his Orc slave-guards and they quickly stood at attention. While every generation was more intelligent than the last, and even though he had forever to watch them evolve, he grew increasingly impatient with their incompetence. "Pick up that ice ball and let's move. While we're here we might as well harvest a few of the local species—I hear this island is known for its Slingworms. Perhaps I could improve you idiots with some powerful arms like that. What do you think?" The Orcs didn't respond—they knew better than to talk.
"Pick up that thing already! We're wasting daylight!"
With that, the quintet moved inwards towards the treeline (or what could be described as the tree-equivalents on their world). Mordecai had several minutes of peaceful silence from his creations that he took to like fish to water; finally, the Orc holding the ice broke the silence, complaining about its hands getting cold.
"Really?" Mordecai swiveled his gaunt form around to look the Orc dead (no pun intended) in the eyes. "I.. can't feel the temperature but it's got to be a hundred degrees out here. And I bred you Orcs to be thick-skinned; a little chunk of sky glacier shouldn't bother you. Remind me when we get back to the spire that you're banned from breeding."
The Orc looked down sullenly, and Mordecai swiveled back around to continue on his quest. In another few minutes he heard the Orc shuffling the icecube around in its hands and so the lich forced the Orc to place it in a cinched sack and carry it that way. With the death of his brethren mere moments earlier, the Orc dared not NOT listen to his master, and began to do so.
Mordecai had spotted a group of flutenecks browsing the lower canopy at the rainforest's edge, and he was intent on teleporting at least one of them to his "kingdom" to experiment on some long necked Goblinoid scouts with which to patrol his borders.
The ice shifted its shape subtly as it was set back down for the orc to pull its sack out. A tendril reached down through the sand, slipping silently between the grains, and pulled at the water beneath the beach. It was careful to pull itself after, to leave as much of the chunk's mass behind as it could, with as little evidence of having changed as possible. The orc might notice that it was just a little lighter.... perhaps not by much, but some... and no longer -quite- as cold. In fact, the surface would soon start to melt again, even as part of the beach froze; if the orc was paying attention, it almost seemed that something had left a pillar of some sort, a trail that went directly down, of cold, stuck-together sand.... if it disturbed the ground enough when it picked the large chunk back up, that was.
The entity, meanwhile, was reaching for the places with less land pressure, seeking out the water with less land mass on top of it. Within a minute, the tide left crystals behind as it swept back out again, more and more..... but since when did the tide on a tropical beach freeze?
The Orc, not being one to enjoy the cold temperatures of the ice chunk in the first place, was somewhat apprehensive to place it in the sack and took his sweet time in doing so, leaving his master a little more than somewhat impatient. Mordecai however was busy trying to restrain himself from exploding another servant - it wasn't that they weren't expendable, of course, but he really wanted to make something out of the trip and if he needed a lot of muscle to drag in some rare beast he really wanted to have it available. He could always kill the Orc later; after all, with every generation born, these greenskinned slaves were only getting more intelligent, and so Mordecai had no problem slaughtering the current generation (whichever generation it happened to be) because he knew the next one would be that much more intelligent, and he almost couldn't wait to put those more intelligent hybrids to work.
Mordecai still felt the need to chastise his stupid muscle, and began doing so immediately—he didn't want the Orcs to begin thinking they had any rights or anything, after all. Who wants slaves that would think they had any semblance of rights? Didn't that kind of defeat the purpose?
"You pathetic simpleton!" he started, "do you have any idea how precious my time is to me?! I may have all the time in the world but that doesn't mean I am willing to let you simply waste it! Now stop being such a wimp and just do what you're supposed to!". His tightened, mummified lips curled back into a sneer as the Orc flinched. Generally speaking, his Orcs were not scared of much—he assumed it was because they knew he could do much worse to them than anything else they came across. Before he could turn back around, however, something caught his eyes - or perhaps it was more accurate to say caught his "glowing magical effluence that took the place of his eyes in their sockets".
Mordecai pushed past his Orc slaves and made his way to the surf, and stared so intently it was like he stared right through it. After a few moments the Orcs got confused and looked at each other before slowly moving towards him; surely he would have something to force their hand upon... he always did. Instead Mordecai's eyebrows furrowed—he noticed the strange happenings with the beach, but hadn't seen anything exactly like it before. It definitely wasn't natural and he was working through his skull to try and come up with a reason for this. "What the Helh is going on here..?" Mordecai looked up towards the ocean beyond the surf and scanned his vision across the area. Was there a mage about? He wasn't necessarily worried, but he certainly was on guard, expecting, as such a hated individual as himself, for some stupid adventurer to try their hand at his head.
The faint sparkle of ice made its way further to sea with each wave that left it, as though being dragged out by the tide, though it didn't disturb a single layer of sand in its wake, left no trench to suggest that the ice itself was being pulled along... quite the opposite, in fact, as the stiffness that the temperature caused in the sand left more of an impression, however subtle, on the landscape. It soon reached a dip in the shoreline, where the tide covered it up for more than a brief pause, and two waves later, it was only the wet remnants of ice left, and nothing more -- whatever it was had slipped out into the waves.
Unknown to Mordecai, the strange phenomenon wasn't simply leaving -- it was merely traveling out of sight, along the coastline toward where the trees were much closer to the water. Evidence of its presence washed up in the third wave, a long, delicate shape of ice thin enough to almost be invisible but for its sharp shine while it lasted; the heat destroyed it almost before the next wave could claim to have melted it. It was part of the thing's trail, a byproduct of its temperature, which could easily have never been found, but for the random chance and apparent generosity of water currents. Any further hints as to its presence, let alone direction of travel, were surely destroyed by the climate long before they surfaced for the old lich to find.
By the time the party had surely decided they'd find few other anomalous things washing ashore, a figure, slick with the sheen of half-melted water, and as clear as the chunk of ice the Orc had originally been carrying, was already hiding in the undergrowth, the stems of bushes and various softer foliage plants reaching directly upwards through its low-crouched form, with enough air between it and them to prevent them from coming to harm from an artificial climate unnatural to them and completely unseasonable. The end result was, not a leaf was out of place above it, to betray it having ducked down -- or more accurately, to betray it having taken shape beneath.
From its new vantage point, the surf was no longer deafening to it, drowning out the odd undead being's words. What -was- the force which had brought it here? The old thing seemed to be quite well connected to it, but it couldn't prove it—not yet—nor how it had been done. There wasn't much real proof of the other's intentions, and the ice being was unwilling to jump to conclusions based on tone of voice and actions which could well be explained by force of anger—after all, did the demons in its own homeworld not fling fire when enraged? Did they not destroy nearby objects out of excitement as well? Did they not fight amongst themselves, just as humans did? But they were certainly allies... or it thought of them as such, as someone to ally with, at least, whether they agreed or not. Perhaps this new being would prove similar in that regard....
Chapter 2: Icy Suspicions
Mordecai would continue to stare out across the ocean for another few minutes before deciding that whatever adventurer out there was planning for his demise—a thought that made him chuckle on the inside because after all, wasn't he already technically dead?—was concealing themselves well. Mordecai may have been, at least in his own eyes, the most powerful spellcaster on the planet, but that didn't mean he was necessarily all-powerful. If a mage wished to conceal himself, there was a chance Mordecai wouldn't be able to locate him by sight alone, and he began to feel open to attack. An undead body certainly had its advantages — for one, he couldn't feel pain (which also came at the cost of being unable to feel temperature, which was both a blessing and a curse), he would live forever unless slain, and even if slain he could be reconstituted so long as his soul wasn't eradicated. And certainly no one knew where THAT old thing was.
While certainly most would consider Mordecai evil simply by his actions, he felt everything he did he did with ample reasoning. To him, he wasn't evil. He initially had gone through the arduous process of transforming himself into a lich because of a fear of death, and a fear of not accomplishing his goals before his life was over. Originally, he sought simply to mold the world into a better place, a place of peace, with his undead curse being a sacrifice on his own part to make sure the world would become better in the end. However over the centuries he had grown despondent and, to a certain extent, forgot his original calling. Now he spent most of his time creating new creatures to serve him. The orcs—or more precisely the "land orcs", for instance, were created by magically bonding the DNA of Goblins with that of large, powerful sea serpents — the original "sea" orcs.
There were others as well, of course, but he definitely used a lot of orcs. His delving into the unknown and his apparent corruption created along with the world's population's lack of knowledge to his unknown intent on these chimeras bred hatred throughout the world, and so Mordecai lived secluded in the crater of a large asteroid, which he used the material of to build a fortress for himself within it.
With a grunt Mordecai finally turned half way away from the shoreline, pausing for another few seconds, almost expecting a magical missile of some sort to come blazing across the horizon in a vain attempt to destroy him. Nothing came. Without turning his head away from the shoreline, he stated calmly, "We move into the cover of the forest, but we make no sudden movement. Something is hunting us. You will move behind me as a flesh shield." The orcs knew they had no choice and they obeyed. Mordecai turned fully now that his back was to be blocked off by large amounts of orc flesh and began to casually make his way into the forest beyond the beach.
The ice-being scanned the shoreline carefully—what of it could be seen from the shady vantage point, anyhow, and then the air above, and other land, listening intently, but the only sounds to be heard were of animals, the wind, and the none too subtle evidence of Mordecai himself and his company. That, with how he'd been looking at the sand and where the ice-being had been, said that the odd being thought that -it- was the unknown element hunting him. Untrue as it could be argued to be, it wasn't going to blow its cover simply to inform them so. Perhaps they'd disbelieve it and prove hostile? Or worse, believe it and -still- prove hostile. It'd seen nothing to suggest that the odd lich wielded fire the way the demons did, but it wasn't sure it wanted to risk being wrong on that count. It wasn't even certain that it was concerned for itself in this, exactly... but having seen the fate of his aides which he disfavored already, it didn't desire further destruction, nor for the other to become upset when he failed—if he failed—and take it out on the others. Nor did it want him to succeed, necessarily—if he truly did have a connection to the odd way in which it was transported to this warm climate, who knew what else was within his power?
It crossed its mind to note that it probably ought to return to where it had been before, also. Although the term "homesick" didn't apply, and wouldn't, there was still business to attend to there, and as long as it went unfinished, it would bother it. Duty first, after all. The fact that it'd seen nothing quite like this before, though... perhaps it could prove instrumental in aiding that business. A new potential ally? New ideas, new tactics? New knowledge which led to new advantages, new abilities, a greater understanding of itself and the world around him? Its curiosity was certainly going to prompt it to find out what it could.
Even with the casualness of it all, the small band took little time to finally reach the treeline; the island was only a few miles across, certainly, and these large woody floral organisms certainly weren't shy of the briny waters and came up to within a hundred yards of the shoreline itself. Certain island-bound tree-equivalents on his homeworld had long ago adapted to at least a scant resistance to the effects of salt water, and some seemed to be even completely immune to its generally fatal affects. Perhaps the great lich should be looking for saplings to take with him and work to convert into some sort of goblinoid or koboldine florauna that could operate better out at sea...but Mordecai lived hundreds of miles from any shore and he still had his entire continent to conquer before he'd have to even start to worry about needing anything out on the seas. Well, this trip not included. Nor any of the others he would occasionally take to islands in search of fresh and exciting new DNA prospects. Whatever, if he was going to do that—take tree samples—he'd do it later. The thought of the rogue mage was still at the back of his mind and he didn't want to be caught dead at the treeline where he was still out in the open. If he wanted trees, he'd get them after he collected everything else. After all, those trees weren't going anywhere. Probably.
As he passed into the underbrush, he let his withered hands run along the leaves of the various smaller, less woody flora that dominated the grounds. If he had ever been to Earth—or for that matter, even knew of its existence—he may have described many of them as being somewhat fern-like in nature, although numerous other kinds existed, many of which were broadleafs. One of these broadleafs quickly caught his eye and he moved over to it with little to no haste. Its leaves were largely green, but had a red "splatter" on its dorsal side, and a tube that led down a few inches through its shaft that regularly filled with water. As he reached it, he bent over and slowly reached his two longest fingers down into the little pool, and slowly brought them back up after a few seconds. Between his two fingers squirmed a small, slimy creature, almost amphibian in nature, were it not for its head extending out into many small tendrils covered in their entirety with tiny yet sharp spines, which it desperately tried to stab into Mordecai's flesh to deter him from, as it probably figured, eating it. Unfortunately for it, however, he felt nothing of the stab wounds and instead motioned for his Orc to come and take the thing from him, which it did, sticking the creature inside of a large, sparkling bottle which seemed to contract until it was a perfect size to hold the creature in. The creature padded its front legs up the side of the glass, obviously confused as to why the air around it was suddenly solid.
With one new creature in tow, Mordecai began to scan the trees above his head, searching for the slingworms or flutenecks he hoped to encounter this day. Even with only those three creatures he could make two beings that others would likely find sinister and menacing and the things of nightmares, but their fright was not his concern. What did he care if what he did frightened others? Wasn't that their fault for being so afraid of it? What was so scary about a long-necked Goblin, or for that matter a huge green hulk of muscle with a face adorned with a multitude of tentacles covered in venomous barbs and with huge, very powerful arms that it could launch itself around with? I mean, really.
Suddenly in mid-thought, however, Mordecai stopped himself short. For some reason he felt as if he was being watched, and it didn't feel like the watchful eyes of some lowly critter on some forgotten island. It felt more meaningful...sapient. It was a strange feeling of sorts to be able to discern whether something was watching you, but everything seemed to have that ability in one form or another. Over the centuries though, one could begin to feel "stronger" sensations from larger beings, or from sapients. It was an eerie feeling even to the undead, and Mordecai rolled his shoulders uncomfortably... not that he'd ever admit that. Something was out there, in the forest somewhere, and he had a distinct feeling it was capable of intelligent thought processes and perhaps even reasoning skills. Well, at least that was better than some sort of gargantuan forest kraken showing up. He hated those things. But even still, a sapient provided an ample share of danger as well, and Mordecai felt it would be wise of him to remain on guard.
The mass of ice stayed still under the plants around and above it... at least, it did until Mordecai paused to look around. And as he was stepping closer to it, bit by bit, it decided to continue keeping its distance, and waited for a moment in which one of the orcs was moving and making sounds, to touch the ground behind it again with another tendril of ice. It began to withdraw the rest of its bulk from around the stems of the plants it was using for cover; they'd suffered his low temperatures enough as it was. Not that it figured it'd done them any actual damage yet — but if it stayed there too much longer, it thought that perhaps it might, and it wasn't an idea it was particularly fond of. Needless destruction... no, that wasn't how it did things. The plants had done nothing wrong; they were still playing their part in the ecosystem.
It curled its mass around another tree's trunk, pulling itself behind the large object, keeping out of sight still, winding its way through the undergrowth away from Mordecai and his less intelligent followers, and watching as it could through the little cracks in the leaves over it....
Something about the silence disturbed him. When he thought he may have located the source of the eyestares, he found nothing. Well, nothing to warrant any attention at least, besides a little scuttling Illustrian breed of fairy and what looked like some distant relative to a basilisk, no doubt harmless given its diminutive size. Neither were sapient and neither really warranted any more attention, and so he turned his gaze away as he slowly wheeled around to get a better knowledge base on his surroundings. For a few choice moments he considered calling out to his wayward foe—but really, would someone intending him ill-conceived harm really respond? He thought it unlikely. Mordecai had been forced to kill nearly a hundred adventurers in his centuries of life, and none but a very few choice individuals would have prided themselves upon answering him, and those types would have attacked him outright long ago. Proud fools.
His hands moved to his hips, and his knuckles rested in little cups formed from his pelvis as it jutted out sharply from his sides. There he stood, ponderously considering how to reveal his enemy. He could certainly burn down the forest, sure—but then the trip would definitely be for naught. He could simply wait for the attacker to come at him while his back was turned (as they almost all did), but while he was certainly powerful he still didn't feel comfortable simply opening himself up to an attack out of nowhere. He could also send his Orcs to locate the quarry, but then again he'd be left open to attack. And why waste his own energy like that? He so disliked having to remove arrows from his body or the time it took to reattach limbs utilizing magical effluence as a sort of glue.
He then began to consider exploring the region with his soul, which would likely find whatever it was that came upon him, although then his body would stop moving altogether and be entirely vulnerable. Ugh, vulnerabilities. One of the reasons he became a lich in the first place, and he still couldn't shake not wanting to incur damage, even if he couldn't feel it. What a pointless worry. Something then caused him to swiftly angle his head upwards. With the world's star lighting the area through the smattering of leaves in the canopy he saw a swiftly-moving silhouette.
"Ahhh, a Slingworm...yes, yes, they are such graceful, agile creatures." he spoke entirely to himself, yet outloud as if oblivious to his surroundings. "They would make a fine addition to the gene pool." He turned to one of his Orc slaves. "Just think what you could do with massive arms like that. Tear apart buildings, leap great distances—using your arms, of course..."
The Orc let its unintellect get away from it for a moment. "But those arms small. Orc body large!"
Mordecai sighed loudly and longly, followed with an exasperated, "You're an idiot."
The lich wheeled towards both of his Orcs, with the one who spoke "out of turn" flinching, immediately assuming it was dead. However, their master had something else planned entirely.
"You two—go look for whatever silly fool thinks he has me cornered," he whispered in a raspy, throaty voice, "I'm going to work on collecting this creature."
The Orcs knew better than to disobey.
It continued its strategic retreat through the forest floor's cover, slipping through wherever it found a path, as long as it was keeping a fair distance from the old lich... and soon found itself pausing. Yes, the lich had been killing his own helpers, for whatever reason... but all the talk about combining creatures and— ....
All right, so curiosity was winning out over caution, finally. The humidity of the area was a comfort to it, of sorts, and the heat as well. If threatened, there should be no reason it wouldn't be possible to escape—not with a large body of water so close by, and the others... even if they could swim, they appeared to be similar to humans in build, more than they were similar to fish. It would be willing to bet that the others weren't able to swim forever, if fleeing somehow was needed.
But then, the one had brought them here in the first place, wherever this was. They'd have to refrain from making any assumptions about that one's abilities.
The being stood up, cautiously, unfolding its transparent mass into something approximating its usual form—clear as crystal, and solid ice, but not cold enough to earn itself a completely iced-over surface. It retained a glossy sheen of water as it shifted into a bald human shape, slim, though lacking many details still for now. The face was contoured, the shape of the cheeks and chin and brow and nose, without bothering with nostrils or eyes or an opening for the mouth. It would add the last if it found use for such, not that it doubted that it would—but why waste attention on cosmetic details, if one needed to remain alert regarding the being they were approaching?
It leaned out, slowly, from behind the tree it stood behind, making no sudden movements, only a small sound in the leaves to announce its presence as it watched Mordecai. The orcs were far enough away, in the other directions, that it felt safe enough in ignoring them for the moment.
Chapter 3: The Culprit Revealed
While his Orc "buddies" were off tromping through the forest, crushing small flora beneath their feet as they not-so-quietly sought out Mordecai's would-be slayer, the old lich worked on getting the Slingworm down from its roost. He was certainly too frail to sufficiently climb a tree (he surmised he probably could accomplish such a task as his frail form did not truthfully announce his actual physical strength nor was his inability to fall and break his neck in any way of a hindrance anything to cause him to shy away from the project, but it would be a slow process and the Slingworm would have slung away long before he reached the canopy layer), and so he chose the route of magic—as always—to claim success over the faunal organism.
The first thing he did was to wrap the tree in a breathable magic containment field, which then quickly shrank down around the tree itself as Mordecai concentrated upon the net's shape and overall size. He was great at what he did, this he knew all too well, and he enclosed the tree in the skin-tight containment field before the Slingworm had any real chance to react, and it was now trapped against the tree branch it was laying upon. This was by no means a painful procedure, although it probably confused and potentially frightened the creature. But Mordecai knew better than to harm something he planned to utilize so precisely.
Next came the actually getting it down from its temporarily permanent roost. He tapped a finger to his lips, calculating his plans for a fully-successful capture. In but a short moment he nodded quietly to himself and raised his arms into the air. A few seconds were all that would pass before he made hand motions as if gripping an unseen object, and then he ever so slowly brought them downward. With a small rumbling, the tree itself was forced down into the ground, the ground giving way with only the exact dimensions of each portion of the tree passing downwards. First what was visible of the roots disappeared, followed by the trunk. Next went the overall stalk of the tree, which took the longest time to pass beyond normal sight. The branches swept underneath next, some scraping against the bark of its neighbors as if it contested its burial. When the Slingworm was at head-level, Mordecai stopped his procedure. The containment field itself, however, remained.
With the Slingworm in grasp and unable to free itself, Mordecai let his mind slip away to other thoughts. Precisely to his would-be slayer. Mordecai toyed with the concept of him being just another idiotically proud and honor-bound knight who sought the great lich's head in hopes of wooing some fair maiden's heart. Perhaps she was even some gorgeous princess with long flowing locks capped off with a two-pronged hennim. The boy would all too soon then realize the err of his ways and would die in the process as Mordecai simply defended himself. Was that so wrong, he wondered? No, of course it wasn't. Would the kingdom this knight served welcome Mordecai to town with cheers and swoons were he to come galumphing back with the head of the dear knight as the knight would he? Obviously not. Mordecai had lost his ability to find the logic and fairness in such behavior.
A slight rustle of a leaf stirred Mordecai from his daydream...or since he was undead, would it more precisely be called a deathdream? Daydream was generally a term reserved and coined for and by the living. And he certainly was no longer that. In what could be construed as his eyes opening to full, wakened width, the glowing fires of his eyes began to burn brighter and, presumably, hotter. He wondered what was out there, but a simple rustling of a leaf? Likely little more than some small creature—perhaps another of those celeopteranoid fairies that roamed the place. Then again, perhaps it was a Fluteneck—he did need one of those, and it wasn't like the Slingworm was going anywhere anytime soon... although obviously it'd starve to death if left there. At least, eventually it would.
The lich turned its head to the side, panning his burning stare across the foliage nonchalantly. At this point he didn't expect much to show itself to him, but he planned to keep his guard up at least enough to at least glance around the area. He could discern one thing, however—something was definitely out there.
The ice-thing leaned out just a little further, so that Mordecai could see it better: something that looked as though it might once have been a rather skilled ice-sculpture of a human, but was now currently melting in the environment. Or at least, that's how it -looked-. It hung back behind the tree it was using for cover a bit, as though shy.
Body language, it reminded itself. Body language.
It wasn't actually fearful of the lich—fear would imply the capacity to feel, in the first place—but it was certainly cautious. It had just seen the lich do something which forced the tree down underground, of all things.... it wasn't looking forward to dealing with this person as a potential enemy. And the suggestion of fear, however subtle, would likely put the other a bit more at ease, would it not? Less likely to attack, more likely to try taking a less than aggressive stance in making further contact? It raised the possibility of the other thinking themselves the far more powerful of the two, and taking advantage of it—but then, the other -was- likely the far more powerful of the two. The taking advantage part... that was why it was a good thing that the air was so warm here, and humid.
It revealed itself another inch, moving its foot out a little more for balance, rustling another leaf as it did. Here it was, Mordecai. The ball was in his court now.
It was a funny thing being a lich: while your body continued to rot—albeit far slower than would otherwise occur—and essentially becoming naturally mummified, and the pieces of what used to be organs and sensory adaptations within a species melted away, magic took their place, and so long as one focused on a sense, it could actually become stronger than it would have otherwise been. While this magical reaction did not work for touch as nerve endings were eradicated in order to make one more powerful by destroying the ability to perceive pain, it did work for other senses... especially for both vision and hearing. This allowed Mordecai to be able to pick up on the rustling of the leaf near him and swing his head directly in its direction.
Before Mordecai peeked out something strange, but Mordecai could not immediately place his wretched finger upon it. Something shiny stood out from behind a tree, something with definite shape. Could this be his would-be assassin? Somehow, he doubted it; although if it were, the coward who had sent it to do their bidding was a fool to think some elemental simulacrum could best him.
His head cocked a little unconsciously, and he slowly creeped forward with an almost shambling stride, lips curling back away from his teeth as he prepared himself for it to leap at him suddenly. His Orc bodyguards were much too far away to truly service him properly; if he called to them the simulacrum would be upon him before they would arrive and he would have already destroyed it anyway. It would be a wasted effort. He would deal with the being himself.
However, he chose to still keep his distance, and slowly circled around the tree in plain sight of the oddity. A good 20 feet would suffice for now, he figured. When he was in distance and when the shiny thing was no longer having a tree between itself and him, he chose to address it.
"So, a simulacrum in my midst...did your master send you here to destroy me? If so it is a worthless proposition, you must realize. Why waste your short existence to try to destroy me? Even an elemental such as yourself must have some sort of desire for... exploration." Mordecai took a pause to choose a fitting word to end his sentence with. He gave little time to the creation in front of him before asking another question of it: "Who is your master? What do they call themselves and from whence do they hail?"
Obviously Mordecai had mistaken the being for something of a spell from his world, which created temporary living vessels of an element to do a magician's bidding — these were known as Simulacrums. To Mordecai that would be a perfectly understandable reason for something that seemed built of ice to be nearby, although the craftsmenship was extraordinary even so. It almost pained him to see it seemingly-melting so fast in the tropical heat. What kind of fool would send an ICE elemental to a tropical environment, anyhow? Ice...hmm. Irony at its finest, perhaps?
The being stood there as it had before, though its head turned to watch the lich circle around until they had an unobscured view of each other. It straightened itself a little, lifting one foot, and then the other as it moved carefully to turn itself to face him, its back now to the tree it had originally hidden behind.
The face changed, subtly, a gap appearing where a human's mouth should be, and the light changed within it, catching and bending through the new shapes forming within — a cavity of some kind, extending quickly down through its neck and torso, that moved as a sound was produced. It wasn't much like any human voice, but more a glass instrument of some kind, the only sort of sound one might expect to be produced from air moving through pure ice.
"I am my own master," it said, clearly, quietly. "And I have no wish to destroy you." Its subtle accent, however, put its origins distinctly -elsewhere-, not easily traced to any of the settlements Mordecai might be familiar with.
Its own master? A rarity, indeed. As far as he had ever heard, a simulacrum generally expired the second that their creator did, assuming they were still active when their master bit the proverbial dust. What magic kept this thing in existence? Its accent was far from familiar to him; he could not place it for the unlife of him. Perhaps that could explain how this thing continued to exist. He decided it best if he could delve into its history and find out what nation or city-state or even wizard's cult it belonged to, so that he may discover this ability for himself. Mordecai was never one to be a summoner of elementals, of course, but if he could create them and have them last forever, he thought there were several very useful tactics he could begin to employ.
"You surely had a master once, however. And whosoever that master was, they certainly knew what they were doing—the craftsmanship is superb, I must admit. So much attention to detail—heck, I even think I see faint hint of atmospherical intake organs. Uncanny." He felt it safe to admit being inferior in this aspect to the being because, after all, if it were a simulacrum—which was really the only thing he could base its existence off of from his own personal experience—it could not last forever in this humidity and heat and would not exist much longer.
"Whoever your master WAS, I wish to learn of their identity. Or their identities. What nation do you hail from? Judging from your overall... design... I believe I have some business to attend to there after I finish up here with my specimens... although I suppose you would have no idea what a specimen would be, would you... hm..."
The lich glanced over to the other side of the tree to update himself on the situation of the Orcs. Luckily they were still far off and could barely be seen now in the underbrush—he wondered if they had gotten wanderlust during their mission. Either way, however at least they were not where he were; certainly they might get impatient with the likely-brittle thing (from what he construed as melting, of course) and possibly try and muscle it, which he assumed would break it and perhaps he would lose the location of these insane mages for who knows how long... after all, was the Circle not legendarily difficult to find? For that matter, could this be some Circle construct? The Circle was so mysterious... ugh. He hated it, because he could not keep tabs on any of them. Stupid spellcasters and their mystical land.
"I do," it replied, just as clearly as before, "but I think there has been a misunderstanding." It eyed him—or would, had it eyes—evenly, something about the tilt of its head suggesting that Mordecai had its full attention, at least for the moment.
A... what had he said? Simulacrum? An unfamiliar word, that. But talk of craftsmanship, as though... this odd being thought that it had been created by another?
The thought crossed its mind, to admit that someone else had indeed made it, but that it had no idea who that had been, but only fleetingly. Whomever had made it, it sincerely hoped that that maker had met their end, for the good of its native world, and expressing such sentiment would likely not get a very welcome reaction. It opted to explain something a little more immediate, instead.
"I think that you were probably the one who brought me here, from the Unstill Mountains."
"Unstill Mountains..?" Mordecai's voice almost trailed off at the end, and the burning light that took the place of his eyes dimmed as he lowered his head a little in thought. He could not place his mind on any location known to himself as the Unstill Mountains. He doubted the being was mistaken of this location or its name, and he supposed it was an entirely viable option that his nation home and this thing's nation home had two different names for the same exact loca—...
His thoughts stunted suddenly as if like a fast-moving carriage smashing into a centuries-old tree. The being had suggested that he had brought it forth, but when would he have done—...ice! The lights of Mordecai's eye sockets flared intensely in a mockery of eyes opening wide in sudden realization.
"Yes! Of course! The ice!" his lips peeled back in some sort of a smile or leer, as if he was suddenly proud of himself; this was seconded by his standing straight up, extending out his dessicated ribcage. "You know, creature, I think you're on to something. I did indeed pull something here." Mordecai neglected to state that all that had come from it was what appeared to be an ice cube. "That would explain the feeling of flowing energy that I had grasped for...".
After a short pause as if to reflect upon his own inner monologue, he raised has head at the being. "You are no longer where you would presumably call home, creature. This is my world—while it has gone by many names, my people have always referred to it as Diakatan. My people..." Mordecai paused once more, his mouth moving as if in some form of regret and his lights dimming slightly, but he seemed to wish not to stay on such a secret thought for long and quickly returned to his speech, perhaps in an attempt to change the subject for himself. "Is your world normally populated with such simulacra as yourself, or are you a special case?"
"I'm sorry to say that there are others similar to me, physically, yes." it answered. "I would advise against making contact with any of them. Our goals are entirely opposite. They would do everything within their not inconsiderable power to destroy not just our own world, but this one as well, in the mistaken belief that they would be improving it." A slight pause, as though considering its next words. "You were perhaps lucky that it was me you brought, instead of one of those, or this island might already have been rendered lifeless. And I think I may have been lucky that you took me when you did; others who I did not wish to harm were attempting to harm me. The war in my world is widespread.... my kind is not welcome anywhere, and with good reason, but I must still do what I can against the others of my kind."
It shifted a little, moving its weight from against the tree, standing straighter. "I must ask, however... what is a... simulacrum? I don't know that word."
Mordecai frowned slightly, and touched a wretched finger against his lower lip while he thought. "Yes, I suppose it is a complete miracle you and I can even speak to one another, isn't it. After all, does this world not hold various languages in and of itself?"
He then moved his finger to allow him to cross his arms in front of himself. "Yes, right. A simulacrum—plural, simulacra. It is a bound entity produced by giving life—or perhaps a mockery of life—by a master. Generally the masters are of the followings of a Conjurer or a Mage, although there isn't anything that says you have to follow one of these two magical influences to produce them. They are spiritually bound of course to their creator, and do their bidding—menial tasks, bodyguarding, reading bedtime stories to their kids, who knows with those damned fools. They only rarely free themselves, and even then are dead shortly thereafter should they kill their masters. I have not delved into the usage of Simulacra myself, of course. I prefer actual alteration to a species through combination of the things that make them what they are, through the processes of a highly-skilled magitechnician."
His mind wandered to the idea of these other otherworldly simulacra and what may have happened had he brought one of them over instead. Could he have been powerful enough to stop it? He banished the thought from his mind and filled himself again with pride in his own strength—of course he could. He was the great lich Mordecai. He was feared. It's not like they would have been demons or anything—this creature before him certainly did not resemble any demon he had seen anything on in the books of Demoniacs and foolish scholars.
There was a moment of silence while the ice being contemplated this. A miracle that they could speak? No. Not likely. Actually, it was far more likely that this one would be able to communicate with any other being it chose to communicate with, regardless of languages, or lack thereof. It was merely convenience, that they somehow already knew a common language. Were there none in common, and communication became necessary, there were always other means at its disposal, be it visual displays and acting out what it wished to convey, illustrating it in ice, perhaps... or reaching into the other's mind to either implant ideas and meanings, thus bypassing language altogether... or reaching into the other's mind to learn their language and thus have one in common with which to communicate in a less invasive fashion. It again chose not to say anything on the matter; there was no point to informing the odd lich otherwise.
There was no reason not to inform the other of its nature, however. People didn't often treat underlings as equals; it understood this well enough. Would the odd man—it was a man, wasn't it, however ancient and apparently long past dead it seemed?—be more likely to take it seriously, as another intelligent entity, something with its own needs and goals to be respected, than as something to be cast aside on a whim, or disregarded when inconvenient? It was both justified and unfortunate, in its opinion, that in its own world, its kind was treated as so much less than the humans or fire demons. Justified, because of the others' actions, beliefs, and inflexibility, which made them anathema to life itself on the planet. Their goals and needs -ought- to be not only disregarded, but actively thwarted entirely, as far as this one was concerned. Unfortunate, however, because while the attitude was a healthy one for the humans and demons to hold, it made its own undertaking that much more difficult, as they were unable to see it as their ally, even if only on the grounds of holding common goals. For every reason it could think of, for which they ought to trust it, even if only so far as working together, it could think of at least one very solid reason for which its offers ought to be rejected, like that any other of its kind might make the same offers of alliance, and yet prove false, and harm those who would trust it to be within fifty yards of them.
Of course... perhaps if this man knew better what manner of being it was, he would be not only more inclined to take it seriously as having some greater measure of value in its status as a sovereign, thinking entity, but also understand better what its significance was, its role and purpose in its home world? Or perhaps more importantly, he might better understand what danger the other ice-beings posed to this world, and the folly of potentially daring to invite their presence here.
"Myself and those like me in form," it began, carefully, "would not seem to fit that definition. We are brought to this existence by others like us, and not bound to anyone but ourselves, by nature. In practice, however... my kind manipulates the minds of those new members, and—" another slight pause, searching for the right word. What measure of frustration it was capable of, it certainly found, when dealing with the limited vocabulary it had, from its own world. Inexact words... how inconvenient. Why must human speech, as it understood it, be so devoid of ways to convey what it wanted to convey? It would be simpler to bypass language altogether and communicate by mind alone, as it did with others of its own kind, but thus far, it didn't want to risk accidentally interfering with the workings of the other's mind, in order to do such. "...and enslaves their mental faculties, forcibly instilling in them the goals, values, and beliefs of their makers. They are slaves only to their own, entirely inflexible, -flawed- ways of thinking."
Something about it changed subtly with the word "flawed"—the shape of the face that was not there, almost a frown of disapproval, and in its tone, a hint of disgust, the first sign of inflection other than hesitance, in the otherwise entirely calm and neutral, and certainly unnaturally melodic and clear voice.
"There is similarity in the rarity of true freedom between creator and created," it admitted, "but this is due to that practice. I am, to my knowledge, the only one of my kind which opposes the others, and would end them, if such thing were possible, if their minds cannot be changed. I am almost entirely certain that changing them is also not possible... so I must settle for aiding their enemies, and helping them be captured, and freeing their prisoners. I am free of their control because they had no time in which to enslave my mind before I came to my own conclusions about their practices and goals.
"Furthermore, I do not know whether my kind would count as a... 'mockery of life' as you put it. My existence in this state is, arguably, life... but in another form, one which I have not yet been able to explain. I was made, yes, brought to this state by others... but the fact that I existed to begin with is because of the way life continues. Life is not -begun-, as I understand it. It is only continued... it is passed on, changed, and ended... but not begun. At least, that is what seems to hold true, in my world."
"Life is... not too different here, I suppose." Mordecai began, "although here, it certainly would seem to have began. Many races follow the religion of Jaedonism—with good reason. It is said the dragon god of creation himself, Sal'jaedon, bred life onto this world. But it continues over time, ever-changing. While many races might not notice this due to their short lifespans, I have bore witness to it over my centuries of... for lack of a better term, existence."
Mordecai slowly turned his gaze off in the direction of the ocean surf, apparently considering the pseudosimulacrum little threat, at least at this junction. "I have seen much in my centuries, however—much bloodshed, much tragedy. These fools who dominate this landscape seem to care little for what lies beneath their feet and skulks their very own streetways at night. Both the powers of Chaos and the Cult of Bone exist here, doubt you not. I have witnessed both, and while both I have seen but sparingly, this is just simple indication that they are even more dangerous than one may realize. If something is not done to stop Chaos' Demoniacs and the Cultists of the Cult of Bones, they will overrun this world. It is only a matter of time."
Mordecai grit his teeth together and slid them together slowly, rasping through his teeth. "There are those on this planet who would call me evil—in fact, most would. And perhaps they are right in terms of the short-term. I have done things that would dub me a monster to those who do not understand. The people here, they think I do horrible experiments to my creations, transmogrifying them in the most horrendous ways by combining parts of the most frightening or strong of beasts—and sometimes not so strong, if you wish to take a hint from my.... Coblins."
"Those beings—those...creatures that you perhaps saw me with earlier—those are Orcs. Or, more precisely, Orc/Goblin hybrids. I created them through magitechnical procedure by combining Goblins—small, long eared mischievous creatures—with Orcs—large pelagic serpents. I gave them life, and with each generation that dies they grow more intelligent thanks to my magic. In another thousand generations they will be far smarter than any creature alive today. Yet they will, eventually, kill me. If anything can be construed towards death in reference to a wretch such as myself. They will turn, garner their freedom, and strike out on their own. That is their purpose—that is what I have created them for. Their ever-growing strength will aid in the battle that will come for this world. I just hope it will be enough..."
Mordecai paused for a second before swiveling around, his almost-ridiculously long front-and-back loincloth wrapping itself gingerly around his legs as he whipped around back towards the creature before him.
"You state that you are no Simulacrum, yet I have nothing else to call you by. You seem intelligent enough to dislike being called creature, and I can only stab at the concept that you probably have a name for yourself. What can I call you?"
Chapter 4: A Glacier By Any Other Name...
The ice creature was silent another moment as it thought over how to answer. "That is a question I have wondered as well," it admitted. "I had a name previously, but I do not wish to keep it... and most other names I know of, to decide from... names commonly enough used by others... there would be similar problems in taking any of them, to the ones I would have, if I would keep my old name.
"But I have been thinking... I am the first I know of, of my kind, who is not set in the cycle of the same -flawed- reasoning as the others," —and here again, the odd emphasis on that word. How much importance did it actually hold, to this being? "And hopefully not the last, although I would not wish there to be more, unless it were because the others saw the error of their ways."
A pause again. "There is something I know of, from some of the human settlements... a way of making marks, to represent sounds, in speech, and there is an order to these marks, and names for them. I know that the sequence begins with Aleph, and then Beth, and Gimel, Daleth, He, Waw..." Another pause, hesitant. "Zayin...." And the pause was longer this time, but instead of resuming any recitation, the ice being looked up to Mordecai again, quiet. "I do not know the rest. I have yet to find anyone who is willing or able to explain it to me now."
Yes, it really had just admitted to illiteracy.
"I was thinking about the use of the first of them as my new name. Something to represent being the first, and hopefully not the only. I was unsure whether it would be as fitting as I would hope, though. If you would prefer to call me something else, I would not... -dislike- it. I am incapable of being personally offended.
"Hmm...Aleph. If I may be so bold as to incite Human reason, what you listed sounds much like what the Human race utilize for communication. An alphabet, if you will. Elves and others utilize a similar system of course, but we're not discussing them right now. If this is the case, then Aleph would certainly indicate a beginning; a new start, if you will. If I were still a betting man — if I were still a man — I would delight in stating that it suits you."
The lich shifted some in his boots, changing his stance to a more upright stance, which would possibly seem significantly more honorable had he not been, well, essentially a dessicated corpse. "In life, I was known by the name Vordathco Mordecai. I hailed from the village of Zhaylx, in the nation of Althea. I once aspired along the path of magitechnician. I worked for the betterment of everything and everyone, but a Human can only live so long. It only complicated matters when I discovered the hint of what the Cult of Bone actually plan to do, and I did what any selfless person would — I transformed myself into this...wretched shell to make sure I could continue my work as long as possible...but when I returned home, I found out that people do not much like seeing corpses wandering around. Along the way, I found myself a place to do my research in relative peace, and legends sprung up about the dirty old lich in a crater known as Mordecai. Of course, I allowed my family name to drop for the sake of my relatives' descendants; if the world knew the Vordathco lineage spawned me they'd have them all lynched over night."
Extreme old age could lead to extensive bouts of long-windedness, and Mordecai knew this all too well. He cut himself off there and made a sweeping bow with his frail-looking frame, his loincloth brushing against the ground as he bent over in a traditional Althean greeting, with his left arm placed at the middle of his back and his right arm slowly swinging a wide arc below him, almost scraping the ground itself as he kept his face towards the ground yet his eye lights trained on the being before him. Or what was the greeting some centuries ago...sometimes Mordecai couldn't even recall how long it had been since he was born. Was it 400 years? 800? Oftentimes it felt more like 45,000 ¾. Things had likely changed significantly — Helh, he was certain that his garb was likely no longer considered traditional dress amongst his people. Did his people even still exist? He gave them a wide berth out of courtesy.
"I must ask, however — if one ice-creature creates another ice-creature and then could technically either enforce mental enslavement or allow freedom of choice — and YOU'RE an ice-creature, why not begin a new subsect of your species? If the Elves or Trolls are any indication, you could easily adapt to a new environ and transform into a new subspecies or species over time. A conclave of Enlightened Ice."
Aleph listened intently. So this Mordecai, who resembled so much a human skeleton, actually was one? Interesting. Perhaps they had more in common than originally suspected. Except that Mordecai's state was by his own choice....
"There are several reasons. My kind — the humans and demons call us 'angels' — do not continue life as other creatures do. One angel creates another, not by passing on anything, by creating a... baby, or splitting in two, as some forms of life do... but by destroying a human life."
Its form shifted, not in stance, but in shape, as the smooth curves which appeared half-melted quickly took air into them, expanding into well-defined shapes of solid snow, becoming opaque and textured — shirt sleeves, pants, boots, armor, a sword. A human head, with hair, and every feature as clear as the ice it still was, slightly uneven, lined, scarred, even — anything but perfect, but still a perfect example of the human race, unlikely to be mistaken for anything else — looked at Mordecai levelly through eyes which seemed blue, the way that ice only could.
The voice had changed as well, to something less clear, something nearly human itself. "I used to be human. I fought against the angels. I tried to keep them from destroying the lands, and taking more prisoners. They would freeze everything, destroy it all, kill it. Lands that once grew crops became too cold for anything but wind and ice. They turn warm climates so cold that without the demons to warm them again, it is doubtful that they will ever melt. Their prisoners fell under their enslavement, if they lived long enough. They killed people's -wills-, made them little more than living puppets. Humans rescued from the angels are often so far damaged that they do little more than stare into space. Sometimes they don't even swallow, if you put food in their mouths. They're considered to be the living dead. Even if demons try turning them into imps, it doesn't wake them. The angels would eventually take their mindless prisoners, and change them, imposing their own ways of thinking on them easily, as they became one of them. All human past is forgotten. They wouldn't remember more than that they -were- human, if that. Nothing about their names, their families, what they once valued. Nothing. They become slaves to the others', and at that point, their own, flawed thoughts.
"I do remember my human life, though. I was not one of their prisoners. I was changed during a battle against them, and so they had no time in which to force me into their lies."
Aleph's form shifted again, the snowy armor melting back into the rest of the body, condensing again into something slimmer, more similar to its original, less defined form. A thin layer of snow fell between the legs, covering them down to the now-visible toes, and stayed — a drape of fabric which was only water in reality. The hair shifted, falling down long over the shoulders, around a face which had obviously not been a warrior's. The voice changed, went up an octave to fit better. "I had a wife. And children. And I remember that I would have done anything to keep them safe. I remember that I loved them.. I know that I hated the angels, despised what they did.
"The demons are much revered by the humans. They protect humans. They care for them. They make imps of them, sometimes, to sustain their own race, and it's considered an honor, among the humans. The demons see the humans as little brothers, and the humans regard the demons as guardians. The demons are flesh and blood creatures, who -feel-, perhaps even more than humans.
"But angels are not. They are beings of only reason. I can no longer remember what hate or fear feel like, nor happiness, or love, for I am incapable of them now. I believe that even if I had known, as a human, the truth about angels' natures... I still would not have wanted to become one."
The woman's form was already melting again, slowly reverting, apparently due to temperature, the surface becoming glossy and liquid once more, even though no puddle yet existed beneath Aleph as proof of melting, beyond a little wetness directly underfoot.
"It is also why I would not keep my human name; my friends and family would not be happy to know what has become of me... or anyone else who shared my name. Death is seen as a much-preferred alternative to becoming an angel; they would not understand that I am not like the others. I do not wish to cause anyone further pain or grief.
"I could not ask anyone to give up something that flesh-and-blood beings hold so important, as the ability to feel. I could also not ask anyone else to go through the process, regardless of that. It is..." Another slight pause, as words were sought. "To say that it is -painful- is to say that a fire so hot that it melts rock and metal... is -warm-. It was more excruciating than anything I had ever felt before, or since.
"These are reasons why I say that while I hope I am not the last to retain my free will, I would not wish to create more, but convince those that already exist, of the wrongness of their current ways. To do otherwise would be.... wrong."
Another brief pause, and, a little quieter, "Even if someone were entirely willing, while knowing in full, exactly what it meant... it is not something I have ever done before. I do not know if I would be successful, or whether it would only mean a painful death, and the -waste- of life."
Long-windedness clearly meant nothing to Aleph, as long as the point was made clear.
"Hm. You definitely sound sure of your choice of not making an army for yourself..." Mordecai trailed off for a short moment, and with the pause over, he shifted his gaze, slowly sweeping his ever-burning eye-flames across the underbrush that stood before him, as he continued to speak. "Well then, I suppose you wouldn't take the offer of Orcs to transmute into your kind, then. Not that I blame you for not wanting to, mind you — it is just sacrifice has become the...defining characteristic of my life, for lack of a better term to encompass my existence in its entirety. But the way you say that word...Demon. It sounds so similar to our word, Diimon. Our Diimons are definitely vile beasts, however, and if they feel anything it seems to be malice and sadism at its highest peak. Are you certain they are not one and the same? That these Demons are not Diimons in disguise with some horrible ulterior motive against their Human brethren?"
Mordecai unconciously clenched a fist as he thought about the Diimons of Chaos, his gaze shifting ever so slightly, softening yet hardening at the same time, almost trancing out to the point where he no longer saw whatever his eyes were set upon, but rather seemed to stare directly through it.
"I have seen so much in my time. So much change. So much horror. So much bloodshed and betrayal. Diimons, while often operating in the shadows, are — in the case of some of the species encompanying their forces — are apt liars. Others are simply sadistic. Sometimes it is difficult to tell who might be a Diimon in disguise. That in itself has led to so much bloodshed. Our history has witnessed several crusades over the fear of an individual being a Diimon in disguise. As far as I know none of these individuals truly were, but they say history is written by the winners, and so I generally assume that when history has stated that someone was some horrible beast and they crusaded and slew him, they were still wrong; they simply wished to not come off as dolts when the individual bled blood and so-poorly defended themselves. A Diimon would not drop that easily — at least not one who could commandeer a body like that."
Sometimes Mordecai wondered about himself. He had once been a typical Althean Human, with dreams and goals and hopes and fears. When he transformed himself in what he considered such a selfless act to save the world — everything he ever was traded for the lives of the entire planet — things began to change. Now, while he still considered himself as doing the right thing, he had to admit to the many deaths caused directly or indirectly by his hands. It was certainly true that most of these were either his many minions or in defense of himself, he still HAD killed, something he never could have or would have done in life.
It was an unknown truth that the undead — or at least Liches (and quite likely Vampires, as Mordecai had deduced) — could still feel and fear — and Mordecai feared sometimes that he had become a Diimon himself. If not in physical form than in principle. He hoped to the heavens that he had not become jaded over the years and had gone insane or something far worse. After all, were there not horrid-minded conquerers whose genocides had been caused by their believing what they were doing was indeed the right thing to do?
Mordecai frowned heavily (or at least as heavily as his tightened leathery skin would allow him) but kept his thoughts to himself. Something about this creature made Mordecai's generally-supressed guilt wriggle forth a little, but it wouldn't take much to shove it back down. Certainly he was nothing like the Diimons. Certainly he still knew what he was doing and was still correctly following the path to better the world. Of course he was — he was Vordathco Mordecai, the great and powerful Zhaylx magitechnician who would save the world of Diakatan — or whatever the world's inhabitants might have changed the name to in the centuries since he last was able to properly converse with their kind. Mordecai straightened his posture to aid in making him feel important again.
A nod, without hesitation. "I am certain, for several reasons. One, they cannot control others; that is something the angels alone are known for, and is yet one more reason for them to be stopped. Two, the demons of my world are poor liars at best, and generally honest, in that they speak often before they think. They are not the most intelligent beings; even human children are capable of being more deceitful. And three, related to that honesty, would be their immedate responses to life, and their apparent goals. They are very... -affectionate- creatures, who will care for another's child without pause, and mourn openly, without shame." A touch quieter — out of respect, clearly, "I have witnessed many funerals, because of the struggle between the angels and everyone else. The demons bury their dead, help humans bury theirs, and never do I remember seeing them pleased about the loss or harm of any life, aside from in matters of dinner. Even then they're a little hesitant, but the smell of roasted pig wins them over quickly enough again.
"They also would not be able to pass themselves off as humans if they thought to try." Aleph shifted once more, growing larger — drawing mass from behind itself, it seemed, as the final product certainly weighed no less than the ice-angel's former state, a thin, opaque facade of a snow sculpture which, for all its likely fragility, loomed over Mordecai at a good bit over half again his height, great arms folded across its chest, wings kept close enough beside it to require less substance, but displayed enough to give a clear idea of their truly massive size. Horns were prominent, two great ones that curved down from the head and forward a bit, and lesser ones disappearing down behind its head, the pattern continuing down along its great tail, getting smaller as they reached the tip. Vertebral attachment, no doubt. The only signs of clothing were in the form of a necklace, a large cord adorned with beads its entire length, several resembling claws. Whatever this creature was, it was far more physically capable already, than Mordecai's land-orcs currently were.
The voice managed to be a good deal lower this time, a soft bass, and a slightly different pronunciation due to the massive, pointed teeth. "Although it would be a great challenge for humans to defeat a grown demon in combat, I doubt that it will happen. The demons are the humans' main asset in the struggle against the angels... and there has never been record of a demon attacking a human, but accidentally at most. One would think they've just mortally wounded themselves, from their reactions. And perhaps they would have. Having lived with them my entire human life, I also doubt that the demons could survive comfortably on their own, without humans. It is a beneficial relationship, on both sides. The humans are better protected from the angels, and use the demons' strength in construction and chores... and the demons, never known for their skill in any domestic craft at all, even rudimentary cooking, are given food and drink, and what armor and adornments they want, which are usually minimal.
"If one wanted to be less charitable about the demons' status as intelligent beings, one might go so far as to say that they are the humans' pets.
"Even so... I would also advise against bringing one of -them- here as well, for several reasons. The most important, perhaps, is that they are all needed where they are. They have a difficult time keeping their population up, because of the war. They breed slowly, and survival from conception to adulthood is not as likely as it is among humans. And for this world's sake, too... they are likely to cause massive amounts of destruction. Not purposely, as with the angels, but they produce fire, which is all too easily spread if not carefully controlled, and are likely to react badly to being separated from their den and herd. Their moods are quick to change, and strong. I would not want to see further destruction and death, simply because a demon felt threatened by a sudden change in surroundings... nor because they settled elsewhere."
A little quieter once more, thinking it over, "It has been said that anywhere a herd of demons makes its den, the endless heat follows. I don't know if this true in practice... that it is actually because of them, or if they simply enjoy the hotter, dry places.... but the lands outside of the dens' territories are usually a great deal cooler, and more capable of sustaining life. At current, crops are grown away from the dens, where the heat does not harm them. But I have not seen a den move to another location permanently yet. I have seen that towns that once suffered colder weather because of the angels' encroachment on their territory were revived while demons spent time there, helping with what was needed, after the angels were forced to leave... but it could have been due to a number of factors.
"At any rate, there is a kind of balance in my world, between the demons and angels, which the angels work to destroy. I would not want to see them succeed, any more than I would wish harm to this world, by the introduction of either side here, regardless of their intentions."
The lich listened intently — it would be foolish of him not to, as this was knowledge that really lent itself well to him in his secret battles against those who would claim his world as their own. "Yes, they don't sound to have much in common with the Diimons from my world, although the naming similarity is quite a coincidence, and their overall physiology seems similar. Definitely different personalities it sounds like, though. Those horns could serve to be useful though...hm..." Mordecai leaned into his hand to think for a few moments before stopping himself and continuing on. "But if you say they are K-strategists as you have indicated, I would not wish to be the cause of a world I've never even been to's decimation, when I'm already in deep feca with what I've got here on my own world." Mordecai shrugged a little, mostly to himself.
"Are your powers similar? Does anywhere you go eventually freeze everything to useless chilblain? Are they useless to harvestation? I mean, if you need an army or anything, we could always try to magically combine your glacial abilities with the strength of my — where the Helh are they, anyway — those green guys...err, assuming you can even see color. How do you sense the world around you anyway?" He slowly leaned forward to peer into the being's essence, studying it as if to figure it out with but his eye-remnants. Eventually he straightened back up and rubbed the back of his leathery spine, between his skull and his shoulder blades.
"Balance is important here, as well, of course — I can only assume it's the same on most if not all worlds. But that balance does not include the Diimons...they don't come from this world. In fact, from my delving into the ancient tomes, they infest worlds, stripping them of all life except the life that can hold its own against them...however, in all cases stated in these books the Diimonic hordes finally win — they have numbers on their side, the numbers of a thousand worlds, maybe more. Those who could fight against them appear to often be integrated forcefully into the folds of Chaos, to aid in the consumption of other worlds. The Cult of Bones does exist as a group from this world however, but have otherworldly intentions. Sinister ones that would also lead to the world's end. If they're not kept in check or wiped out completely, I think it is quite obvious what will happen in the end. And I, for one, do not wish for this. The world may end one day, but not on my watch."
Aleph was silent, debating on what portion of what Mordecai had just offered to respond to first. Best to start with the beginning, perhaps... though, sans commenting on the remark about the demons' horns, and correcting the lich on that detail — that their horns, while offering protection much akin to a human's helmet, at times, were also ordinarily mildly inconvenient for daily life.
"The demons of my world are hardly known for being strategists at all. Although they do understand what a chain of command is, and even decide on their own leaders, based on who lives longest and fights with the most skill... their success against the angels so far is due to their fire and physical strength, rather than tactics. They often take the humans' lead, in battles." Clearly, Aleph didn't understand what K-strategists were, in the slightest. The thin demon-form facade began to shift, to fold in on itself again, even while the ice-creature continued to speak, the snow condensing again into its rather solid prior form once more.
"If you are able to endow beings with another being's powers entirely, however... in my world, it would likely prove more useful to aid the demons, and spread their abilities, than my own. The demons' abilities are more capable of working against the angels, than the angels' own are. This is part of why I have been somewhat unsuccessful so far, in my attempts to stop them. Most of what I have been able to accomplish has been to work with them... and then aid the attacking demons and humans, at the last moment, before the others realize exactly what it is that I am doing. I can attempt to shield them, to prevent the other angels from harming them... or, if I use enough force quickly enough, force one of them toward a demon... who can, hopefully, capture it and return with it to their den, where it will be melted and used for drinking water, and the rest of it frozen into one of the prisons outside. Or, I can concentrate on removing the angels' prisoners, if they are distracted enough by the demons' attacks. I try for all three, but I can only do so much at once, and there are usually anywhere from five to eleven others with me at any given time. One against five is tricky; one against eleven, harder still.
"When I am not with other angels, however... I tend to avoid both humans and demons. There is much to see, in my world... much I did not understand, as a human, and still know... likely very little, actually, about, but still more than before. I don't yet understand exactly -how- it is that I am able to see, without eyes... but I -am- able, and yes, I do see the color green." A hint of a pause, considering. "In fact, I can see a far wider range of colors, now, and in much greater clarity, than I was able to before. I can see — and more than seeing, I can -feel- — far more detail, as well."
Aleph crouched, a graceful, deliberate motion in perfect balance, now, and delicately picked up a small twig from the forest floor, a slightly twisted little specimen of textured bark with a crumpled, browned leaf at its end. The dead flora was brought back up to eye level, and the ice-being took a slow step toward Mordecai as its hand closed around it, losing its previous form in order to better enclose the small object. Aleph's other hand was extended, and as the ice met the leaf and twig, they were recreated on the palm of the proffered hand — and details, if Mordecai looked closely, were recreated as well. The grain of the twig's bark, the veins in the leaf, the broken edge where it had crumpled already. The ice slipped away from the original, and it was held up beside the replica for comparison, as Aleph took another gentle step toward Mordecai — no sudden movements, just in case, though Aleph doubted that the lich was likely to find the gesture hostile at this point, with the offer of inspecting the new handiwork and the original so clear.
"While alone, I am able to better explore the world around me. I find that I do not, by myself, cause such great harm to my environment... I have no desire to, and no need, although I know from experience, that I am quite capable of doing so. My presence alone seems not to change the climate, but a small bit... and I suspect that it is only because my own temperature is so much cooler; it would be as impossible for me not to chill the ground beneath my feet, as it would be impossible for a fire to not warm the air above it.
"Beyond sight and touch, my ability to hear has been greatly enhanced... and my sense of smell has... changed. I am uncertain how to describe that aspect in greater detail at this time... but I would not be adverse to finding out more about what I am, and everything else as well. And you certainly do seem knowledgable... moreso than most in my world by far. While I have been here, you have demonstrated abilities unknown to me in my world... and I gather, from your lines of questioning, that I have strengths you have likewise not yet known."
A slight pause, and the eyeless impression of a face regarded the skeletal being. "Both of our worlds seem to face hardships that may be beyond one individual's means to overcome... but multiple efforts, focused together, often have a better chance for success. If I were to aid you against your world's problems... would you be willing to aid me, with mine?"
Mordecai was intrigued while watching the twig's icy twin be created, and inspected it thoroughly without causing any direct harm to it, although he was certain his very presence and vicinity to the object likely damaged it on a level far too small to comprehend; he was dead, yes, for lack of a better description that fit the moment, but his garments certainly were not, and even dead bodies and garments can radiate heat they've absorbed from a tropical climate. In life, Mordecai enjoyed the architecture his civilization provided him and his kind, and so he knew how to appreciate the inner intricacies of creation, down to the minute details. This likely fed into his great power in creating his magical chimeric hybrids so well and so easily. He may never again walk the hallways of the Magitechnician's Guild, but he could certainly walk amongst beauty of another sort — an organic sort.
Yes, he destroyed his creations before, and yes, he would do it again — probably a thousandfold before they would storm his throne room, tear him limb from ghastly limb, and scatter them as far as they could to help keep him from returning to seek what they would likely consider vengeance. But that doesn't mean he did not consider his creations all masterpieces in their own right. However, if his creations couldn't even slay him, how could they ever hope to help the world stand a chance against the dual forces at work against them?
Mordecai was snapped out of his own inner monologue that he had developed so well over the centuries of isolation (and having been an aloof magitechnician, it had started well before his death, as well) at Aleph's words; it was not that he found the being uninteresting, of course, but his mind oftentimes ran a mile a minute, causing him to both listen and think on a variety of different subjects at once. He could even do so while talking, but this subject brought his many inklings to a screeching halt.
"Aid your world as well as my own..?" Mordecai lowered his head with what would be a nigh-inaudible creak of leathery skin and bone to the average human ear and the lights of his eyes dimmed as he thought upon the concept for but a moment. With as quick of a movement as he thought to be still non-threatening, he raised his head back up to Aleph, his eyes flaring in indication of what would have been opening wide before demise, "If you were to help me with our—...my... world's problems, I would certainly aid you in your issues as well. I may be dead, but that doesn't mean I have forgotten my honor. I may be a tragic, unsung hero, but what kind of hero would turn down an opportunity to save others in need? I brought you here from this world, it is the least I can do for something such as yourself."
Mordecai's mind plopped in again. "...your vision capabilities have become far expanded, you say. If you have the humanity left in you to judge as mankind seems to most adept at, than I must look even ghastlier to you an the rest of these beings out here in the lands of my world." The lich he chuckled a little.
Aleph's head tilted a bit, considering that last statement. Then the nearly-featureless blob of ice tipped downward — was the being looking to Mordecai's feet? And gaze rising slowly upward, though surely, as it lacked eyes, the gesture was unnecessary, and habitual at best. The lich was being -studied- quite blatantly, and the ice-creature took yet another careful step closer, apparently for a better view. The twig was gently discarded, dropped back to the forest floor, its ice-born replica being reabsorbed into Aleph's hand. There was a heavy silence for what was probably a very uncomfortable moment, before Aleph said anything.
"Life feeds on death; that is how nature works. If a body is not consumed by a living animal, then by plants, by mold, by bugs, by worms. It is returned to the cycle of reuse, its materials passed from one life to another. If this process does not happen yet — if the material is not directly consumed — then the water evaporates, returning at least that to the environment. The material itself, the solid part of it, remains behind. Hide, hair, scale, horn, shell, wood, ivory, bone... muscle and fat are mostly preserved, but in time, all things return to the cycle of reuse by which nature operates. Some simply take longer than others."
Aleph raised a hand again in display, turning its palm upward, and fingers which separated once again from each other gained definition, structure and form much like a human's, down to the suggestion of fingernails. "I no longer have living material... and your material seems to no longer have its previous water content... but in the sense that I could be said to be alive — I am aware, I am able to reason — so are you, regardless of the state of your form. You seemed pleased, earlier, with the idea that a being should inhabit a body's worth of water, as I do. Should one not similarly be pleased with a being anchored to life by another means? My understanding of the aversion to corpses is that it is less an aversion to the form of the body, as few have issue with leather, as it is an aversion to the loss of cared-for life. A body's material in and of itself is not, as you put it, ghastly... it is -nature-, in whatever stage of the perfect cycle of use and reuse it is at, living or otherwise.
"Would you — as you were once human as well, and seem to still be capable of feeling — consider nature ghastly?"
The short response to Mordecai's statement, clearly, was disagreement.
The leathery sort-of-corpse was taken aback by the response — certainly not what he would have expected. He let his shock settle slowly as he took it in. The feeling of shock was not altogether new to him, of course, but over centuries of existence one can become quite unable to express certain emotions as they once could, as things tend to reveal themselves as unchanging, in a negative way. He held onto his humanity enough to be able to revel in the feeling, although in doing so he uncharacteristically showed what he would have otherwise considered a weak side to himself. Eventually he chose to respond.
"No, nature is indeed a beautiful thing. If it were not for nature, I might not have sacrificed what I had when I had for what I do now. Nature brought about everything, and if you cannot figure from my delving into what most would consider the heresy of organismal amalgamy, I appreciate what it has to offer. Most consider the fact that I "toy" with organisms, combining them seemingly against their will as an affront to nature, but I feel that — outside of the obvious need to do so — it in fact compliments nature nicely." A small gust of warm sea breeze blew through the forest, dashing itself against the trees but allowing Mordecai's long loincloth strands to billow quietly.
"My civilization — the Altheans — were or perhaps still are a very proud people. We sought the idea of beauty in everything, and so our clothes, our architecture, our choice of domesticated stock, it was all fanciful. I suppose it is only the man left within me which feels almost a shame towards this form, out of...lingering cultural intricacies. I don't believe my people could truly handle seeing a corpse of one of their own, the idea of life cut short — at least life as they would define it. This world's breed of human generally fear death, and the sight of it brings worry as to one's own eventual end. Only heroes and fools throw this idea to the wind."
Mordecai glanced around without moving particularly much at all for his Orc slaveguards, less really caring too much as to where they had gotten off too (as Orcs were still quite dumb by most's standards and were certainly capable of wanderlust), but still felt he should remain on the lookout for them. Somehow, however, he doubted that this being would enjoy seeing him splatter them for wandering, so he would have to figure out some other punishment for leaving him alone. Not that he felt he was in danger, but they still were not properly doing their duty. Not that he particularly wanted them around, anyway. Orcs were always around him — after all, they were his primary strength-focused subjects. Just as Goblins were his primary number-focused subjects and Kobolds were his primary stealth-focused ones.
"It seems you have some grasp of what we here call science. This is good, and we believe that it goes hand-in-hand with magicka, allowing a more perfect understanding of the universe. It is what we Magitechnicans pride ourselves i—...well...I suppose what THEY pride themselves in. I can certainly teach you what I know, of course, but you would do well to be careful of...err...SOME of my subjects. Not all are as open-minded as I. Nor as...unviolent, I guess you could say. That is to say, if you would wish to learn of them; you seem like you really would do well to know more about the world around you, although it would serve more to retake more of your former humanity than aid in your coming battles...although it could potentially serve you there, too, but as I've yet set foot upon your world, I cannot say that for certain."
"I believe it will be of great use. If not during, then after, certainly. One must understand the properties of the various metals, to be able to effectively create anything from them. One must understand the process of water loss that meat undegoes, if one wishes to dry it for later consumption. One must understand how the different types of material, when harvested, can be used to build, to create a strong enough structure in which to live safely. And so, one must surely understand the whole of nature, if one is to effectively work to repair the damage the other angels have caused. I would not consider them evil, now that I understand why they do what they do... but their views are -flawed-, their reasoning based on false presumptions.
"Their core belief is that perfection is, above all, worthy of reaching — perhaps the only state worthy of striving for. I do not disagree with this. However, I believe their definition to be altogether too narrow. The more they work to achieve their version of it, the more others suffer — and a state worth achieving should not be the reason, in itself, for suffering... which is, by definition, caused by that which is -harmful-. By that which is -wrong-.
"They believe themselves to be perfect... the form and structure of ice, of the tiny parts of water which cling together when frozen, the crystals which form and give shape. I cannot deny this either; the structure is fascinating, and worthy of study. But this does not justify the elimination of all else, as flawed and unworthy. It was from humans, that angels were made, and if not for humans, angels would not exist, to be able to exemplify and assist these crystals' forms. Humans have their place. Were it not for demons, the humans would have perished; demons have their place as well. As do their livestock, their crops, the flora and fauna of the territories outside the settlements, in the waters... the movement of the earth itself, and sun and moons. Everything has its place... and the more I observe of it, the more I have come to understand its workings.
"Just as ice is formed of crystals, which can be very small, so is the material which makes up living things made of yet smaller pieces, of different form and function, which all work together in harmony. The different pieces are much like the different roles that exist on the larger scale, of plants and animals — many things, in diverse forms, that exist for one cycle. And I suspect that those smaller parts which make up the materials of living beings are probably made of much smaller parts still."
Aleph's voice dropped quieter for a moment — reverence, perhaps? "It is nature. And, though far more complex than crystal, it is also beautiful.... and perfect as well. To -destroy- it is to work against the goal of perfection, and thus the other angels are hypocrites against their every belief. -Flawed-.
"I see no harm in finding ice beautiful... or any other thing. There is truth in calling it such. But one should never discount other parts of the whole as undesirable, simply for not being something other than they are. Everything has its place, and value."
"Err...yes, of course." Mordecai glanced away a little at the thought of what he did — slaying his own creations — as wrong. In a sense, it truly was, but he told himself it was a necessary evil. Due to the magical properties of his Orcs, each one's death increased the intelligence of the others...but he could not expect this creature to understand that. He neglected to speak about his actions on purpose, although he felt it would be difficult on him to progress his aggressive slave-creatures properly otherwise; perhaps for now he'd have to develop an alternate plan — he did not quite know this being's power as he had not witnessed the outright destructive capabilities of it first-hand, and he chose what he felt was likely the wiser path and not agitate it. He looked up again however after a few seconds.
"But intelligent organisms are part of the cycle of life-death-rebirth as well. And I can only assume fauna — and perhaps flora to some extent, as well — on your world kill one another, whether for sustenance or sport or simple aggression or defense of some object they hold dear to them, such as their young. Intelligent beings often wall themselves off from the rest of nature, protecting themselves from it — could that not be seen as an affront to nature as well? If that were the case, would their deaths help, er, keep them in check population-wise? What if the species had obtained some form of collective intelligence — not a hive mind, mind you — but where the intelligence was shared among the individuals and by violent ends the intelligence of the entire species expanded exponentially, whereas if left untouched it barely grew over time?"
Mordecai turned his side towards Aleph and gingerly touched his chin. "A mind more like a slimy, moldy fungus that competes or at least seperates itself from the rest of the lifestream. A mind which grows as such if for no other reason than simply because it encompasses a highly aggressive species, perhaps borne from an amalgamation of other aggressive species..." Mordecai trailed off.
Aleph was silent a moment, considering it. "I haven't heard of deaths increasing the general population's intelligence before... unless it's in the sense of the others learning from that one's demise, not to make the same mistakes. Self-defense and competition are only to be expected among living things... and if one manages to live longer by attempts at isolation, then that is their defense, and it is their right, as a living being, to do what they can to continue living. Whether they die quickly, or after many decades of safety, they will, -eventually- return to the cycle... and in the meanwhile, they still contribute as they consume whatever their diet is of, and return it to the earth. Even I am not exempt — I constantly discard my form. ....Actually, the angels may be a somewhat special case in that regard; it would not bother me, to discard pieces of my form for others' use. It is a well-established custom, among the dens, to take as much of a captured angel's form as possible away from it, for the purpose of having more good water to drink, once it is melted.
"But I was not speaking on such a small scale, that the destruction of one being should be avoided at all costs; it is often required, for another's survival. Plants and animals are routinely killed, to feed other beasts, and humans. I mean that the other angels, due to their flawed beliefs, would discard the whole of nature, but for the beauty of ice, and put an end to the cycle -entirely-. They believe the cycle to be irrelevant at best, and have no respect for the other forms of life involved in it. They are either unaware of, or unappreciative of the cycle's complexity, or resillience, or the many scales on which it operates. Their minds are much too singular in purpose, by far."
Mordecai nodded a little. "Here on Diakatan, each being's soul is not only a sort of individual, but also a part of a whole, known collectively as the lifestream. Upon death, the soul leaves the body, passing through the surface of the planet and down below — it is stated that the lifestream is a physical 'river' of sorts, which rotates itself around the globe and covers its entirety, only below even the farthest reaches of the sea, thereby never actually surfacing. A Diakatanian soul is not actually always made of the same exact substance, either — once it returns to the lifestream, it is like a droplet of water entering a bowl of water — the molecules disperse and knowledge is shared with all individual soul-molecules.
Upon reincarnation the soul placed within the body likely will not consist of all of the same energy as that soul might have been in another body, in the same way that scooping water out of a bowl and then dumping it back into the bowl and then scooping it back out will likely not result in the cup not containing the exact same water molecules as it had previously. As such, let's say for simply an example, I perished finally and my soul returned to the lifestream, and then the soul energy reincarnated sometime later. There could then be, say, three individuals who might believe they were the great Mordecai in a past life, and they would all be correct. Not to mention the Slingworm and the tree which might have some inkling of a greater purpose in the past, despite their current non-sapience."
"However, Goblinoids do not actually return to the same lifestream as the rest of us, as their soul energy upon death dissipates near-instantaneously into the bodies of the rest of their species — likely through the air as opposed to through the ground, which co-mingles with the soul energy within each of these beings and increases their intellect. Let's just say for an example that you took three Goblinoids and had them in rooms separated by thick walls where there was no interaction of any kind between the three of them. Then one dies of natural causes. Its soul disperses between the other two and slightly increases their intelligence even though they have no idea of the other's demise.
Instead, say you killed it violently. Its soul energy would transfer over to the other two as stated before, only the intellectual level increases by a significant amount instead of a barely noticeable one. This seems to be an evolutionary trait due to the violent nature of the Goblinoid family. It halves the time the species reaches a new level of sapience — where it might take a semi-sapient Goblinoid naturally a million years to reach sapience through peaceful means (as an example again, the timeline is not nearly that span), it would take them half a million years if they had all died through violent means."
Mordecai shrugged. "I suppose you could say that Goblinoid souls and other species' souls evolved differently — Goblinoid souls are light, and float through the air, whereas other species' souls are heavy, and drop through the ground. Perhaps this is an indication that Goblinoids do not naturally belong on this world, or that perhaps the other races all moved here at some date long forgotten and have nearly eradicated the natural life on this world, although the former seems the more likely."
He then turned back towards Aleph to continue his conversation a little further. "There is, for all intents and purposes, two other soul energy types found here on Diakatan that I am in immediate knowledge of. First, there is that which is often referred to as Lost Energy. This is soul energy that has been displaced in a regular being by some terribly violent act or through being forcibly brought back to the body in the case of raising the undead from corpses that have been dead before your arrival. This lost energy can't seem to recall what it is or how it is supposed to function, which is why you get things like apparitions and zombies — apparitions go through the motions of daily life without realizing they are dead and can return to the lifestream, wheras zombies and their kin are far more gruesome; they simply feed without realizing that undeath has granted them the ability to no longer need sustenance.
Vampires are different but that's getting too off-topic. The other energy type is referred to as Tainted Energy. It is energy that infests if you will the bodies of Diimonic forces. Often it was formerly a typical soul, but upon chaotic possession and the subsequent mutation that goes along with it, it alters the soul energy itself, transforming the organism into an abomination that wishes to consume everything in a whole different way than zombies. Possibly akin to your Angels. Diimons are bad news. It is good to hate them — it is written that Sal'jaedon's most trusted offspring, Vuul'huukos, fell from grace because of Diimonic taint, which is why he now seeks to destroy the entirety of it all."
The lich paused for a few moments to let that sink in, as he supposed it was a lot of information to provide a being with that wasn't from his world and which might not follow the same soul-structuring as Diakatan did — after all, didn't Diakatan itself have two separate soul-structures to follow? He put one fist on a jutting hipbone and talked a little more, allowing his hand to wave about as if aiding in his discussion somehow.
"And if you're wondering, there is a way to prevent a soul from returning to the lifestream or into the mass consciousness, as should be obvious with my existence here. Liches and Vampires do it all the time — well, as often as one of either of their kind is created, at least. Those are another two separate processes. A lich must conduct his soul into an object of his choosing for it to inhabit before having his body slain. The magic used to create a lich binds the object to the body, and hence the body returns to life, yet is strengthened by undeath. Vampires instead bring a newcomer to the brink of death, where the soul is in the process of extracting itself from the body but when the ethereal ties that keep it bound to the living have not yet been severed, and then introducing their undeathly pathogens to create undeath while keeping the soul bound."
Mordecai sighed heavily. "I am a special case, of course, in that I have kept my soul from being fully...vileized...by the hatred of the species that I once counted myself amongst, whereas other sapient undead far more often than not let the newfound hatred of the many races that inhabit this world taint their former belief system, turning them, for lack of a better word, evil. But undeath in and of itself is a bit of a dark art, and so one is automatically inclined to do devious things. It is a daily struggle to keep myself sane, of course, but over the centuries I would like to think that I have rested control over any dark urges my body may have away from whatever substance seems to point the undead in a destructive path."
Aleph was silent as Mordecai explained, taking it in as much as was possible. "I am unaware of what goes on, in those aspects of my world. Humans tend to believe they'll be... elsewhere, in some form, when they die. It is usually referred to as somewhere with living plants, but the actual description depends more on wishful thinking than anything observable. The demons... I don't know that they understand the concept very well. They certainly understand what death is, but beyond that, it's a little like asking them to explain how the moons move across the sky. The other creatures, I have no idea. As for angels..."
There was yet another hesitant pause. "No one is certain whether they are even capable of dying.
"The demons cannot kill them by melting them. The fire a demon can produce can be far hotter than any normal flame; they help the humans to work metals. But I have seen them, and more than that, I have -heard- them, melting angels before. It does not kill them. It isn't possible, to the best of my knowledge, to completely melt one. The best the demons are capable of, for now, is to contain them.
"You seem to have a great deal of knowledge on the subject... and the fact that you were able to manipulate your own life as you were makes me wonder. Do you suppose it would be possible to discover how one of my kind may die, without actually killing me? ...Beyond that, if it is possible, I should like to learn how to end another angel, if you are willing to teach me."
"If you wish to learn upon how your kind can perish, assuming they can of course, I would be willing to work with you to figure out the way upon which to do this. We Zhaylxi used to practice a belief system that everything happens for a reason; while on my end, your reason for being brought here can hopefully aid me in my battles against the forces that will ravage my world — perhaps through new hybrids, perhaps the reason YOU are here is to learn this with my help, to utilize against your own — well, I can't really call them YOUR kind, now can I, if you two are so exponentially different in spirit? So I shall change that — your reason for being here MAY be to figure out with my aid how to dispose of the Angels."
Mordecai frowned a little. "Although it may be interesting to figure out a way to test this theory without risking your existence. I suppose there's the very dangerous way of trying to travel to your world to attempt to slay one, although if we failed that could end very badly. I may not die and you may not die in the process, presumably, but I really don't fancy being unable to be pieced back together to continue anew. There's the less dangerous way of bringing another being from your world here, of course, but there's no guarantee it would be your kind, and again if we fail it could prove a dangerous move. If there's a way to split yourself in two through some type of budding process that could work I suppose, although I doubt you could, and it probably would be against your moral code to transform other beings into ones of your type just to...you know, shatter them to see if it does away with them. Especially since I would presume that they could be converted into soldiers instead."
He rubbed up the side of his head, starting at his jawline with his fingertips, working somewhat slowly up the concave surface that would have been his cheeks, past his temple, and up along his head adornment, trying to think the entire way through. "You know more about your species than I do, certainly. Any suggestions you might have to shed potential light on the subject?" Mordecai felt his "hat" tip slightly, and worked to readjust it to fit properly on his head again.
"I know how the demons contain them... I know from some limited experience, what kinds of places are preferable... and I know from a few of the fights I've taken part in, what can be disruptive, but at the same time, oddly enough, apparently -helpful-." The ice shifted slightly; although there was no actual face, the shape hinted a little more toward something like a frown. "As a human, I was under the impression that the demons' fire damaged, or at least hurt, angels. They moved very swiftly once hit, and I thought it was in an effort to avoid being hit again. But now that I have been on the other side of such a battle, I find I had only been halfway correct. While whatever ice is formed — and whatever structures are built, or projectiles thrown — is destroyed very thoroughly, being nothing but frozen water, being exposed to heat does not -hurt-, even if it makes one's own form melt a bit. In fact, I find a warmer environment to be -preferable- to one that is already frozen. I am not certain of the logic of this at all."
Aleph regarded Mordecai as the admission was made; did the old lich have any ideas, perhaps? "So far, my theory is that it is simply easier to move ice which is closer to its melting point, than ice which is already entirely solid. But then, if this always held true, the demons would not be able to return to the dens with them, how they do. They take hold of one, physically," and Aleph's hands raised, coming together in demonstration, shifting into the appearance of a demon's, in form. Thick claws pressed into a hollow mass of snow which was forming between them - another shape, smaller, vaguely humanlike, but of the ribs and above, arms pinned to its sides, or what of them didn't appear to have been broken off already. "And then, they apply heat. The sound that is produced is..."
There was another pause, as appropriate words were sought. "I am not certain how to describe it, other than -loud-. It is regarded as a scream, although I'm no longer convinced that this is accurate. Unfortunately, I have been unable to sense anything from one who was captured, aside from demands to be released and a strong intent to do great physical harm." Another slight pause, and then an amendment. "Stronger than usual, I mean. I can only assume that the effects of that strength of heat may have caused some measure of pain. Why the angel did not simply -leave- the demon's hands... I have no idea. To change one's own form, to exit such a hold, is not an especially difficult feat... or I cannot see any reason why it should be."
Indeed, the "other" angel merely twisted a little, and proceeded to slide mostly down out of Aleph's hands, leaving the ice-creature only holding onto it by a relatively small trail, after. For a being capable of shifting its own shape to the degree that Aleph had already demonstrated, such a task would indeed seem trivial — a simple narrowing of the figure, perhaps pulling itself down through its own center, and there would be no feasible way for the demon to keep hold on what refused to behave as a solid.
The thought did cross Aleph's mind that revealing so much might prove problematic later on, if Mordecai should have a change of heart, figuratively speaking... but the potential benefits of this sort of cooperation — answers to things Aleph had only found more questions for, the further they were investigated, and the possibility of being able to use it against the others — seemed to greatly outweigh the currently-known risks.
"They return with their captives to their dens, where they break off as much as they seem able to, for use as water... and then melt down that which is specifically the angel's, currently, into a deep hole in the ground, where there are many other angels already... perhaps many dozens, or hundreds. The new addition freezes against the others, and cannot leave... there are too many of them concentrated in one place, to be able to let themselves melt enough to move again. It is for this reason that angels rarely work in groups of more than a dozen, and very commonly only half that... as they seem to want to constantly affect their environment negatively, in terms of temperature, which eventually renders it difficult to move freely. I would imagine that with several hundred angels all in very close proximity of one another — melted into the same small form, even — reshaping one's limbs would be entirely difficult.
"Other than that... I don't know much else yet. I would be willing to experiment to some end with myself as a subject... but to actually test a possible solution to ending an angel's life..."
Another brief pause. "I don't suppose that the ability to transport entities from and to other worlds is something else you could teach me? I should want to at least look at my own myself, to see if I could distinguish another angel from the other beings that live there."
"Hmm..." Mordecai paused with thoughtfulness for a time before speaking up again. "The mobility of the great glacial sheets here on Diakatan move faster near the temperate zones — the areas with enough heat to allow the melting of such glaciers — is greatly increased in comparison to those that cover the entirety of the arctic zones. This seems to be because the water on top is certainly warmer than the water underneath, and melts ice beneath it which creates cracks through it and eventually leads to a huge river upon which the glacier rolls along. As for the sound produced, perhaps it is the scream of evaporation? It creates a sort of loud hissing sound. Perhaps your movement through warm areas as opposed to cold areas indicates that you're more like...slush, perhaps, than full-fledged ice. Maybe the cold causes the angels to become too solid to move properly?"
Mordecai stopped himself and a look of what might be construed as confusion crossed his face. Were he more certain about the question he was about to propose, it might instead have been worry in one form or another. "Err...wait. If several angels can be combined together into one place, one embodiment, what would occur if somehow something happened to give them more body again, more space to move? Couldn't that form a sort of unstoppable juggernaut? A true angel of death."
Again Mordecai paused to ponder, before glancing slowly up, located an object in the sky and pointed at it. "You see that? That is Diakatan's local star. It gives us our light, our heat, our lives. However, Astronomer study indicates that it is likely absolutely enormous in comparison to us, and is exponentially hot, beyond a range we can even comprehend. Obviously my test on pulling something from one world to another works. What if your angels were sent to a place like that? If your planet has my...well, my former species on it too, than I can assume your area of the outer dark possesses one or more of these stars as well. Could it be used to imprison or extinguish them completely? At such great heat, I can only assume nothing similar to ice could survive therein, and if its as large as the Astrologers suggest, than it would have immense gravitational pull, and perhaps they couldn't escape its force."
Mordecai looked somewhat hopeful.
There was another pause while Aleph considered all of this, head turning to follow Mordecai's gaze, though it was likely an unnecessary gesture . "Perhaps... or it may cool the star, instead. I don't know much about stars and suns... but I do know that when demons apply greater amounts of heat, the sound produced is not actually accompanied by any great amount of steam. Very little of it, in fact; the angel seems to actually become far -colder- after that point, rather than melt, as that sound is made. There seem to be many contradictions in the whole situation, depending on the different factors, like the strength of heat applied, the environment's temperature, the number of angels in close proximity, the ice mass of the angel in question, and the water available around it. I must admit that I don't understand well it myself... but I would be quite willing to experiment, if you are.
"And for what it is worth to you... while such cooperative forms are entirely possible, they are hardly unstoppable. Ice shatters... and they are easily broken apart as they move. However, that is the method the others use to construct their fortresses. They work in unison to build a giant structure of what is normally solid ice, at least on the outside, in which to house their prisoners. They do work together in battles against the demons and humans... but not in the form I hold right now. I would offer to show you, but I would prefer to do it more out in the open. It takes a great deal more space, and lowers the surrounding temperature significantly."
He frowned a little and tapped a finger to his chin. "Could they be...supercooled plasma..? Some form of alcohol? ...Solidified carbon dioxide..?"
Mordecai forced himself to digress with a forced shrug, almost as if it he was going against nature to stop pondering; in fact, in some ways, it was; he had grown accustomed to simple pondering outloud to himself for hours, days, sometimes even months on end, babbling what those creatures around him could only take in as incoherant nonsensicals as he tried to figure out the complexities of what he needed to calculate at any given time. He had to remind himself that he could not be sure that Aleph's planetary habitat was anywhere near on par with his in terms of understanding scientifically the workings of the universe, although he had to also take into account that their world could be far in advanced over his own, and perhaps they even had different major elements to be composed of or to utilize that Diakatan may not even possess or have any knowledge of. Certainly celestial bodies fell to the surface of his world on a regular basis, sometimes bringing elements that could not be found on Diakatan, correct?
"It is good to know that a juggernaut cannot be created, then, even if a behemoth is entirely possible. Certainly there must be a way to stop them. After all, it is stated that for every action there is an equal yet opposite reaction, correct? Perhaps this is why they do not simply melt in a Demon's grasp. But I digress again — yes, we can locate ourselves somewhere better to see this battle form of yours. But...are you not wanting to kill flora? We can certainly leave this tropical island if you need; teleportation is a skill I don't readily use but I do have some knowledge of it. I could always gather my things from here and find us a nice flat wasteland or something, would you prefer it. Then again...I could just make us a clearing too, I suppose." Mordecai chuckled a little, as it could be so easily to force trees underground for a time and bring them back up later—oh yes, he had a Slingworm still magically bound to a tree. He reminded himself not to forget it when he eventually departed the area.
"The beach will suffice," Aleph informed him, turning to take a step in its direction, and waiting to see that Mordecai was willing to follow, before continuing. The sandy area Mordecai first brought him to was still in view — at least, to the angel. "There're more things to take into account than the plants, although they are part of it, since I find little reason to destroy something, without a benefit of some kind. I'm not sure that taking an airborne form would kill them, but there is also the matter of the trees interfering with the air patterns involved."
"Air patterns you say? Airborne, you say? I cannot say I'm privvy to something like that myself. Although if I had I suppose I wouldn't have needed a boat to get here." he chuckled nonchalantly as he raised a leg over an arching root and stepped over it, slowly moving around a flowering organism here, a fungal shelf on an overturned tree there, his loincloths brushing significant tracts of their length along as he went. While he felt like brushing off the little bits of undergrowth that clung to his garb, he decided now was not the time to do so, as he'd simply get more underbrush on it anyhow.
Mordecai mostly followed in Aleph's pathway, but took a small detour over to the tree where he held his slingworm captive, and standing next to it, his eyelights dimmed for a second in indication of what should be his eyes closing in quick concentration. He raised a hand up perpendicular to his face and closed the hand into a tight fist, the leathery texture of his mummified skin making a slight scraping sound against itself, although the noise was drowned out by the waves so nearby. In a sudden movement Mordecai opened his closed palm, producing a minor orb of light and as he pulled his hand slowly away from it, it hung there as if attached to an invisible string. He then lowered his hand and brisquely followed after Aleph to the beach.
The beach was what a Human — at least a Diakatanian Human — would have considered a paradise. Perfect tropical sunshine glistened off the sand and gorgeous infinitesimalely minute shells from long-dead invertebrates littered the area, gently scooping off into the softly breaking surf. Barely 3—5 inches tall at their highest, the waves lovingly lapped at the shore, kissing it with moisture that several tiny creatures smaller than ones' hand scurried and played about in, barely noticeable to the untrained eye. Very few tufts of flora grew in this general area, although less because of the lack of nutrients and more because of a lack of anyway to hold itself in the sand properly without being washed out to sea. The earliest steps onto this island Mordecai and his posse had made had long been washed away, but the later steps still existed, further up the beach.
Mordecai noticed that most of the small critters roaming the area had actually moved over to feast on the leftovers of one of his Orc slaves...Mordecai chose to ignore it, sweep it under the rug so to speak, and figured Aleph would likely notice it if he hadn't already, but hoped it would not instigate the creature in any way, although he really felt he was certain the being would not act in malice towards him now. Still, perhaps he better not let his guard down too much, if the creature was going into a battle mode of sorts in the area as well...not that he thought there was any trickery afoot. He had come to the mental conclusion that this creature, this Aleph, was likely not particuarly capable or willing to perform trickery.
Aleph paused to watch as Mordecai left himself a visual marker. Good that the creature wouldn't simply be forgotten about, after all the trouble that had been gone through to bring it to its current position. They continued on their way toward the sandy expanse of the beach without incident, and the orc's remains went unremarked on, though it was obvious that they hadn't gone unnoticed — Aleph seemed to pick a place relatively free of them, perhaps out of consideration for the creatures enjoying their newfound meals.
"This airborne form is an efficient way to travel over great distances... however, it has disadvantages as well. One of those is that it is nearly impossible to carry anything. Not entirely impossible, but I could not use it to transport... you, for example. It is also more difficult to communicate by way of sound. While I can still hear, I cannot hear as well, because of the air's noise, and speech does not come as easily. The form is not all that solid, you see."
While speaking, Aleph's form was changing again, the legs melting into each other, the form thinning overall as it stretched up, taking its time in doing so, for Mordecai's benefit.... and then with a very swiftly-increasing pull of air that was somehow, by some currently inexplicable means, localized around the mass of ice, it blew apart from the top, down to a small spire which was left on the sand, much like a bare flower stem after its seeds had blown away.
The frost crystals — for they no longer held together in any solid way, but very briefly, it seemed — swirled about quickly, in a couple definite patterns. Several layers held position in a way that looked not too very much unlike wings of some kind — sails, maybe — or billowing cloth, carried on the wind. Forming in the middle, a mass that looked a little more solid, though not by much, though it held the impression of a face, or at least as much of one as the more solid ice form usually had.
Around it, the air was cooling perceptibly, even to someone without a sense of touch or temperature sensitivity. Condensation was already occurring on the sand around it, forced out of the air by the quick cooling, and momentarily turning to a light frost.
And yet, Aleph stayed there for Moredecai to watch, hovering in midair, within reach if the old lich had a mind to try.
Chapter 5: UNNAMED
Currently lost, will attempt a recovery...