Drawing the vast sea of energy that he had gathered from Tellus to himself took Randidly quite a while. In fact, it took so long that he very nearly thought that he had missed his chance to alter the course of his Soulskill.
The pain in his chest began to pulse with increasing regularity as he struggled to manage the tides of power. All the while, Randidly sat with gritted teeth and funneled more and more energy into his body. The problem was the same one that he had encountered when spreading Aether throughout Earth; energy movement was a cascading phenomenon.
The more of the stuff he moved, the more he had to resist its urge to accelerate even further. Honestly, Randidly had a secret worry that if he allowed the energy suction to cascade, he would end up draining Tellus dry. He wasn’t willing to completely turn this place in an energy desert just because of a Soulskill situation that he himself caused. Such was the heavy weight of responsibility.
It was a game of tug-of-war on a tightrope. Every second seemed to stretch. More and more energy went inside his body, where the strange egg that was born of his broken Skills waited.
This would be the seed of the new world. His world. But he needed the energy in order to force it to grow.
And not just his own energy. He would need the Soulskill’s assistance as well.
But one hurdle at a time.
Finally, the last of the energy slithered into Randidly and he sealed his body to prevent any leakage. Already, the ground on which he sat had been crystallized in a strange wave formation. For the rest of Tellus’ existence, it was likely that this spot would remain a mystery as to what caused the strange crystallization phenomenon. Maybe he was sitting on the site of a future paleontological dig.
Or perhaps they wouldn’t wonder as to the cause, Randidly reflected. After all, word would spread that this was the spot on which the Wights were defeated.
Keeping himself sealed was difficult, so Randidly devoted a lot of Willpower to holding the energy within him. Slowly, he could feel the interior of his Soul Space changing, which was a good sign. Just also a dangerous one. But now wasn’t really the time to worry about the consequences. With the energy handled for the moment, Randidly finally dropped into his Soulskill.
What he found was devastation. The people of the upper lands struggled to rebuild their lives after the Procession had descended through them and took everything required to survive, leaving the remnants practically nothing. Some fled, trying to follow the Procession. Most of those died on the journey. It was just impossible to continue in the wake of that disaster.
There were some small to medium-sized communities outside of the Procession that survived. But Randidly was horrified to see that the experience of dealing with the Procession twisted those communities into extremist communes. Religious elements ruled the roost there, relying on superstition and fear to keep the people under their control.
Aside from the lowest Land, all lands were filled with vast stretches of countryside that were just lying fallow. Discarded farm equipment and trampled towns dotted the landscape. Likely they would heal in a generation or two as vegetation reclaimed the space, but… it was just spooky.
No longer was solely the highest Land haunted by ghosts.
And in the lowest Land, there was war.
Randidly breathed in and breathed out. He felt the fabric of the Soulskill. Then he stepped and reached out with a hand that surrounded his target like a net. “Gotcha.”
Lyra’s reaction was quick, but this time Randidly was prepared to deal with her. His fingers were every root and vine in this entire world. His was the wind and the skies. There was nowhere she could escape.
She was in the middle of beating up a group of people led by the Monster Prince who wore his face. That was somewhat amusing for Randidly to see. For all her other faults, being weak was not a problem Lyra possessed. When Randidly intervened, the Monster Prince flinched as if expecting another blow to smash him backward.
Randidly favored him with a withering glance. Snot-nosed brat. “I’ll get to you in a minute.”
Seeing that the Monster Prince was just staring, Randidly turned back to Lyra. Pouting, she threw her hands up into the air.
“Doggy, you’ll never believe how cathartic this is! Punching someone with your face-”
Randidly shook her once, jarring her soul painfully. Although she wasn’t here physically, she had split off a portion of her soul to slip into his Soulskill. He couldn’t inflict any real damage to her, but harming this bit of Lyra would definitely cause her no end of pain. But honestly, that wasn’t Randidly’s goal.
Perhaps satisfying, but ultimately only a short term satisfaction.
It was still very tempting.
“Why are you here?” Randidly asked, the sharp fingers of his grips tightening on her for emphasis.
Lyra shook her head helplessly for several seconds before speaking. “I… miss you. I don’t know why, but everywhere you go, you alter the System. It’s so fascinating! So I wanted to see how your Soulskill-”
“Can you see how this is not helping me trust you?” Randidly said tiredly. He didn’t have time with this. For all Lyra’s mature looks and harsh upbringing, she was young. At her twisted core, Randidly knew that she was truly fascinated by him. Even if that fascination only extended as far as the next way to manipulate him, the curiosity was genuine.
But Randidly couldn’t stomach what parts of herself she was willing to sell in order to satisfy that burning curiosity.
“Hey! I actually have an answer for that.” Lyra said with a grin. She was lovely and cute as an impish kitten and knew it. “Randidly, you don’t need to worry about the Creature anymore, I promise. She believes she has already won. She’s moved on to other worlds. Because she shaped your fears enough that-”
“I get it. I’m sorry Lyra, but what follows is private.” Randidly flicked his wrist and shredded the soul a bit before banishing it from inside himself. Then he turned to the Monster Prince.
To his surprise, the Monster Prince spoke first. “...you…. You are the one running around claiming to be me!”
Shaking his head, Randidly just said. “I really don’t have time for this. Spend less time worrying about what others think about you, and more time improving the lives of your subjects.”
Randidly stepped and crossed the battlefield to a broken corner of the canyon. Here was an area covered in cracks and burns from a battle that had even Randidly raising his eyebrows. These fighters could hold their own, even if he brought them to Tellus. As he drew closer, he found a Weaver body cracked open like an egg in the middle of a crater. Beyond that, there was an ancient looking White Hunter with both of its arms ripped off lying slumped against a piece of stone.
As Randidly approached, the White Hunter stirred and looked up at him. “We have waited so long, Progenitor. This old one cannot keep to the ways any longer. Apologies.”
After hesitating, Randidly reached and touched the White Hunter’s head. For a split second, Randidly saw this old man’s entire life. One of Annie’s, this White Hunter was filled with an unyielding loyalty. Stubbornly, his entire life, he taught young White Hunters the gathered stories of the Progenitor. Struggling to help those who came under his wing, never compromising. When slighted, this White Hunter would bury the emotions and remember the grudge. But his was a fair and principled mind. Always, he would see justice done.
And as the world began to fail, he never once lost faith.
But what Randidly also saw was that this White Hunter barely had enough blood left in his body to be living, let alone truly see. All he could witness was a blur come into his vision, and the White Hunter hailed it as the Progenitor. Hell, it felt like almost anyone could have walked by and been called Progenitor.
But of course, it wasn’t anyone. It was him, the true Progenitor. And for that White Hunter’s soul, that strange twist of chance would make all the difference. Carefully gathering those powerful feelings and traits into himself, Randidly continued forward.
That was the trick of faith, Randidly suddenly thought, believing for long enough that the one time it matters, you won’t fuck it up.
Beyond that was a one-armed Earth Golem holding a broken saber. Even though his body was crisscrossed with grievous wounds, he looked up as Randidly approached.
Cailm grunted, his annoyance clear. “So you have come. I should have known. You are a pestilence upon my fate.”
Randidly’s smile was sad. “A moment, one who had been High King. You come second right now. There is another who I need to speak with much more pressingly.”
After blinking, recognition filled Cailm’s eyes. “Ah. Of course. It is so. Ah… you will need to excuse me, just step around. I am unable-”
“I know, it’s fine,” Randidly said softly. He really did mean to speak a bit with Cailm before he continued through the area. But there was another who demanded his attention.
Beyond Cailm, laying in a crater with her lavender hair spread around her, was Lucretia. A saber blow had cleaved her almost in half at the midsection. She slowly bled out, staring up at the sky.
As she struggled to speak, her lips were so very dry and her tongue was too clumsy to properly lick them. “I… I lost.”