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Torga, now back in his 'normal' form, opened his eyes after an unknown amount of time had passed: He was laying on his back on a cool surface that was as smooth as polished granite. The sky above him was pitch black with a million billion twinkling lights of every color imaginable swirling around a pale colored tree with silver leaves and limbs that spread out in every direction above his head. The sound of waves crashing into a cliff at the edge of his hearing range caused his body to involuntarily relax and he slowly drifted back into unconsciousness...

"Hey..." 

Torga felt something poke him in his side.

"Ken, are you still alive?" 

Torga's eyes snapped open and he grabbed the stick poking him in the side and ripped it away from the spindly limbed shadow standing over him. He attempted to climb to his feet, but the entire world seemed to spin beneath his feet and he fell into the base of the nearby tree. He had to close his eyes and lean against the tree to ride out the sudden onset of nausea he was feeling.

He slid down the tree with his back pressed firmly against it and leaned his head back... He opened his eyes and for a moment, he forgot all about the nausea as he became mesmerized by the tree's beauty: It was probably only twenty or thirty feet tall, but every other branch seemed to stretch out far beyond what Torga could see with his eyes. The leaves on the closest branches glowed with an ethereal light and cast a silver light on everything within a three-hundred-foot radius around the tree.  

"Incredible, isn't it?"

Torga glared at the shadow for disturbing him and climbed onto shaky legs.

"Who are you?" Torga demanded. "And... Where am I?"

The shadow crouched low to the ground so it was face to face with Torga's much shorter form: Its incredibly long legs were bent in such a way its knees were almost past its pointed chin, Its glowing white eyes stared inquisitively at Torga and seemed to be viewing every part of his body at once.

"You're... shorter than I remember." The shadow shrugged at Torga's annoyed look and scratched the back of its neck with one of its long arms. "I suppose I cannot fault you for not knowing who I am since we never technically 'met'. So, hello," It held out a hand for Torga to shake. "I'm Shai."

Torga frowned at the name as a long forgotten memory scratched at the back of his mind.

"That name sounds familiar?"

The shadow disappointedly lowered its hand to its side.

"I was your fate god before you so kindly put me out of work." 

At Torga's continued confused expression, Shai decided to further explain.

"I was the one that managed your 'screen'... I prompted your evolutions and gave you pertinent information based on the situation you found yourself in?"

"Oh... Wait... I do remember you!"

"You do?"

"Yeah, you owe me a beer."

The shadow dropped its head to its chest and sighed disappointedly.

"Was hoping you'd forgotten about that."

"Uh huh... You still didn't tell me where I was."

The shadow gracefully stood up to its full height of sixteen feet and motioned for Torga to follow it towards the darkness. 

Despite his reservations, Torga decided to humor the creature and followed it as best his oddly tired body could. The two of them walked to the edge of the trees light and closer to the swirling lights when the shadow held out a hand to stop Torga from walking past him.

"Welcome, Torga, to the birthplace of creation."

Torga looked over an oddly placed low wall he found in front of him and his jaw nearly dropped at what he saw: Every light he'd seen before he passed out earlier wasn't just swirling around the tree... It was spiraling into a literal ocean of inky blackness that continuously crashed into the low dividing wall. As Torga watched the lights spiral into the water, he began to notice a pattern. The lights closest to them appeared to be moving down into the darkness, while the light furthest away seemed to be moving up.

"What are they?"

"The lights moving upwards are newly created realities. Soon, they will give birth to their very own Yggdrasils and life will be born anew."

"And the lights moving into the water?"

"... They are realities reaching the end of their existence. Whether because life has died out or some other fate befell them, they are brought here to be destroyed."

Torga stared at the beautiful lights in shock. 

"Those are entirely different realities?" He wondered.

"Then... That tree is—"

"Yggdrasil, yes. Smaller than you imagined?"

Torga looked over his shoulder at the beautiful silver tree and nodded his head.

"Much."

 "Don't let its appearance fool you," Shai said in amusement. "That tree carries the weight of all creation upon its branches and has never once wavered in its duty to support it. You felt that weight for yourself, didn't you?"

Torga rolled his shoulder in a circle to rid himself of the phantom aches.  

 "Yeah."

"Then you know its burden better than anyone."

"Speaking of... What happened to the dome? The ground appears completely flat from this side."

"Dome? Oh, you mean the dome Yggdrasil rests upon... Well, you're standing on it."

Torga looked down at the smooth dark stone beneath his feet, then back up to Shai. "There's no way this platform is that massive dome. It's what... two, maybe three hundred feet across?"

Shai actually laughed at that. "This is the place where realities go to die. If you put too much faith in what you can see, you're likely to get destroyed."

"But I clearly remember it being completely black outside the dome after I lifted it. How on earth did all of this come to be, when they weren't there earlier?"

"They were... It's you that washed up here."

"Washed up? You mean I was in the... whatever the hell that is?"

"As strange as it is to say, yes, you washed up completely unharmed." Shai sighed uncomfortably and leaned his tall body over the wall to stare into the water. "I guess on top of everything else, you have the father's blessing."

"The... Father?"

"Mmm... The father of creation: otherwise known as The Serpent of Origins by my colleagues in the golden city."  

"That's... good to know, I suppose. But why would I even need this 'father's' blessing to survive? it's just water, right?"

"Nothing is 'just' anything, here." Shai laughed. "That so-called 'water' is the father's home. I have no idea what its made of, but every attempt to study it has erased whoever was dumb enough to try from existence. And they're completely gone too, not even their own mothers remember them."

"But you do?" 

"Mmm... I didn't at first, but I've lived here for so long I eventually figured out the trick to it." 

The two stood in silence for several minutes as Torga mentally digested all that he'd been told... However, something resembling a bright reddish-orange light caught his attention. It was deep down in the 'water', so Torga was half tempted to ignore it, but a pit in the center of his stomach seemed to be telling him 'don't look away'.

"Has anyone ever seen what the 'father' looks like?"

"Mmm... According to legend, the father was a titanic black-scaled serpent large enough to simultaneously eclipse all realities at once."

The reddish-orange light seemed to grow larger as Torga continued to stare into the water. His brain was screaming at him to run and not look back... But try as he might, he couldn't move.

"Does he have reddish-orange eyes?"

"That's... oddly specific. But if my memory is correct, yes, the father was said to have eyes of an orangish color."

The reddish-orange light continued to grow larger until Torga was certain Shai would see it if he only looked down...

"It's funny you should mention eyes because that reminds me of an old saying. 'Don't stare into the abyss, Shai.' My predecessor used to say. ' To do so is to stare into the eyes of the father.' Of course, that's just an old legend. I doubt the father cares enough about some 'children' on his shores to bother looking at them. "  

"Is he more powerful than the originals?"

"Mmm, according to legend, a single tear from the father was all it took to birth Yggdrasil... So yes, I'd say he's more powerful. But, If you'd like a more definable scale. According to legend, even while sleeping the father can create an entirely new reality within a single breath and destroy it in the next. I suppose that's just what it means to be the origin of everything."

A black slitted pupil formed in the light and seemed to stare directly into Torga's eyes. Fear, unlike anything he'd ever felt flooded his body and he desperately wanted to run... But just before he gave in to his instincts and fled, a thought flashed through his mind.

"Would I flee if this thing was after Sarah? Would my fear control me then, as it does now? Since when did I care about how powerful something was?" 

Torga's eyes glowed with power as his fingers dug into the smooth stone wall. "No, I won't look away." He glared into the water and stared directly into the 'eye'— All thoughts of fear were replaced with rage as he met the unblinking gaze of whatever was staring back at him. It wasn't long after he stopped feeling fear that the 'eye' seemingly vanished without a trace and Torga was left staring into the inky black water.

"A hallucination?" Torga wondered.

"Anyway, we should probably get you out of here before some troublemakers show up."

Realizing that Shai had been talking while he was having his staredown with the eye in the water, Torga refocused his attention on the god.

"Troublemakers?"

"Yeah, if anyone finds out you're here, then you can bet they'll come here to finish what they couldn't the first time." At Torga's confused look, he continued speaking. "That little stunt you just pulled? The one where you lifted Yggdrasil? Very impressive, by the way. I'm fairly certain no one has ever done that. Anyway, in doing so you broke the wall separating the underworld from the overworld... In other words, you opened the door for the dead to once again walk amongst the living."

"Oh... Oh... That's going to be a pain in the ass."

"It's also going to be incredibly dangerous for the people around you. Every one you've killed, every enemy you've made over the course of your travels? They're all free. I'd be willing to bet that most of them have already been transported back to the place of their death and are already looking for you. Some may even be headed here as we speak."

"Then I need to get out of here before anything else delays me. Can I teleport out of here or am I stuck flying?"

"Mmm, well, if you wouldn't mind a little experiment first. You could try asking Yggdrasil to take you to her."

 "Ask Yggdrasil? The tree?"

"Yggdrasil isn't 'just' a tree, Torga. Yggdrasil is the mother of creation. If you ask her politely, she just might be willing to show you the way."

"... Why help me? Why tell me all of this?" Torga asked suddenly.

Shai shrugged, "Let's call it repayment for showing an old jaded god something he'd never seen before and leave it at that."

"If you say so." Torga sighed. He pushed off the wall and slowly walked over to Yggdrasil's trunk. He cautiously reached out and gently placed his palm on the tree's trunk. He ran his fingers along the silky smooth bark and marveled at the lights dancing around his hand. 

"You sure this will work?"

"Only one way to find out."

Torga closed his eyes and pictured Reina in his mind. He pictured her safe, unharmed, and by his side... "Take me to Sarah... Please." He whispered as he focused all his energy on returning to her. The silver leaves of Yggdrasil briefly glowed in a dazzling silver light and Torga suddenly vanished in a kaleidoscope of colors.

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Kenaren

  • The insane snake handler

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