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Zellebeth noticed her hands had begun to shake again as she reviewed the visions of a Shard her new Sisters had provided. It was becoming more frequent, and nothing to do with cursed knowledge or Fear itself trying to consume her. It was the mere lack of the Divine, who had been away too long a period. At least to her body anyway, the time she could be apart from him was growing less by the Rotation. Made worse as her Divine had begun to release his Light in combat against curses that had tried in vain to consume him. She should worry about such things, about a Divine becoming cursed, but his battles were a pleasure to behold. Bliss incarnate, it was a shame her vessel couldn’t hold itself together longer. Shame she couldn’t experience the warmth of his Light to her fully desire before her vessel gave and sleep claimed her. Then the cold, Zellebeth pushed that thought far away, this was not a time to think of it. She, all of them were needed more than ever, the Tasks unending. The Elders had made certain of that, them and their absurd demands.

She could see why the Elders had come down so hard, the Shards provided her all the answers. The Anointed, long in their Cycles of holding such Titles had become, complacent. The Sanctums public treasuries were all empty, the result of many Anointed either ignoring their Task or siphoning much of the goods into their own coffers. But mostly they had been caught off guard, never had anyone expected the Mines to be lost, that the flow of goods to be disrupted. The Flocks were the key to this problem, for whom could have envisioned that all of them would fail. Even after all the effort that had been put into them to make them ready to face this new Swarm. The thought of all the wasted resources her own Sanctum had put into those Soulless and received no beneficial results had her blood boiling.

Zellebeth reluctantly pushed the feeling away. This was the price for placing Worth on Soulless, for expecting them to be able to provide anything of use was folly on their part. Not one the Anointed would get to make again, considering how badly they had failed in their Tasks. They all would be sent to the Front, and given the rage, the Elders were in, most of their Houses as well. Those Above wanted this mistake fixed as quickly as possible, so adamant about it that the Shards showed her Voices were being sent in large numbers. They would take over the role of the Anointed, for it seemed the Elders had lost faith in all of those lower than them to maintain order.

The failing of a few, had all of them judged Worthless in the eyes of the Elders. The thought it had her vessel forming Anger and its servant Rage. Thoughts that those Above had the audacity to look down upon a Divine. ‘No’ she thought, pushing back the clouding whispers,

‘They likely don’t know.’ Even she hadn’t known Arcs ago, she had merely thought him one of the Givers Chosen, more blessed than most. But she knew better now, he was The Chosen, the Givers Champion, Divine in every way. A soul of that magnitude down this low amongst others in a Sanctum nearing the bottom of Worth Halls? No, the Elders even with how high they stood would never consider that. The Giver herself would have to impart that knowledge to them. That would be the only means they would believe the rumors. Unless they witness him with their own eyes. Witness his radiant Light that shined brighter every Rotation.

‘A Light that could be passed on’ she thought recalling the images of the Newborn. Skin endowed with blessed Wards as their Father. She had thought the Wards were lesser, the price of being handed down by blood. But no, the Divine Wards were improving like everything else, becoming more majestic, nearer to the perfect the Giver held.  Already the Wards molded on his skin rivaled any she had ever seen, made the Wards covering the Sanctum walls look as flawed as Lowly Settlements.

He was so beautiful, and the knowledge that she wasn’t by his side brought about pain, a void she had never been aware of until she met him. A void she couldn’t bear to live with now that she knew of it.

She had never felt so relieved to fail in her life. To be outmaneuvered by her oldest rival. A rival who'd been able to gather support and remove Zellebeth own power base. She had thought that was the end of her, be it a Tempo or an Arc later, the match had already been made, and she on the defense. But the Giver shined down on her. The Divine intervened and showed his Wrath. Displayed that in the end, they were nothing to him. No matter how Worthy, all would be removed, cast out without a second chance for going against his rule. And so Zellebeth rival was unmade, her strongest supporters cast out with her screaming in anguish for being forever barred from the Divine’s Light, from the warmth that flowed from him.

To Zellebeth, the order to have those Outcast killed had been the greatest mercy she could bestow. Even for her oldest rival, she couldn’t let her suffer in such a way, consumed by a void they only now were aware of, one that could only be filled by the Divines presence.

Zellebeth should have known something was wrong when the Divine children refused to play their part in removing rivals. Instead of talking things over, they would fall into heated debates even screaming matches when things became truly furious. But never violence. They had known the Divine was not someone to be crossed in the slightest. That the Light which warmed them, could in an instant burn them if it was so inclined. Ever since she had done everything in her power to remain on his blessed side, away from the Wrath that was thinly covered. All were, Sisters acting closer knit than blood, more open than they would with Bondmates. For all knew the price of failure, of gaining his displeasure. ‘Outcast’ how that word had become so layered in cold and cursed thoughts. To be removed from him forever. Her hands began to tremble more, just by thinking of it, the void in her chest growing more noticeable.

She calmed herself, focused on forming an image of her Divine, on the Light and it’s warm. The cold slithered away, crumbling even from a poorly made construct of his wonder. Her hands returned to their normal level of shaking, enough it wouldn’t disrupt her work. For there was much to be done, The Elders own Wrath disrupting matters and make life more difficult than it needed to be. So she doubled her efforts, she couldn’t fail to deal with this Task laid before her, she like all her Sisters couldn’t let the Divine become displeased. Though his rule never spoke of being removed for poor performance, only a fool would believe that possibility wasn’t there. The Divine could remove anyone at any time, such is his right, what would happen if Anger sunk its fingers deep enough into the Divines mind. That couldn’t be allowed to happen, they couldn’t let the Light turn into an inferno. Or worse disappear, all of them Outcasts, left to be consumed by the cold within them.

So she worked, sent Messengers to tally their goods, making sure everything was there and accounted for. Made sure none had let Greed tempt them into taking High goods that Lowly had no business having. House Bae had to be made ready, people trained and armed in blessed wears. For the Elders only ask for goods now, from those above the masses. But Zellebeth knew soon enough the Elders would demand Worthy from The Towers as well. If this second wave of Flocks went as poorly as the first.

‘No, NO, don’t look at them.’ She screamed in her mind as it turned to thoughts most cursed. She pulled back quickly enough, able to avoid the raging ice storm that waited in that area of her mind. She could not venture there alone, she’d be cursed by the Rotation end. Only the Divine Light could allow her to traverse that landscape consumed by the cursed knowledge.

Knowledge that would soon be added to, at least she believed such. The Divine had come upon something, something so cursed that he had yet to reveal it to them. That alone made her afraid, made her imagine what it entailed, it had to be a curse above all others for it to trouble their Divine enough that Zellebeth could tell he was fighting with himself. Fighting whether he should share it. She dearly Offered to the Giver that he wouldn’t, she had enough cursed knowledge, more likely than the Archivist of their Sanctum. She didn’t want more, should couldn’t handle the secrets pushed into her mind. If this kept up, just being away from the Divine for a short period of time would soon be enough for the curses to consume her. Blind her with illusions and lies, make her think that all was lost, make her think the Wards would fail them.

Zellebeth opened and rubbed her eyes, using the sensation to pull her from thoughts best dispersed. When she looked up she found that her Sisters had brought more Shards to her, she been too consumed by wicked thoughts to notice their approach. In the past, that would have been a sign of weakness, of her slipping, and an opportunity to watch for later with a Faceless at the ready to dispose of her swiftly. But not now, not under the Divine protection, and the promising Wrath that waited with glee to be struck down on any who went against him. She sighed and relaxed openly, all of them had seen each other at their lowest by now. The curses had made sure of that, there was nothing left to hide, to be embarrassed about.

She popped her neck as she focused on her Atlas, she would need a larger one soon, as much of its surface was becoming covered in Marks. Hadthel was a mess of movement, the High Houses rushing to garner the Divine attention, and now torn with meeting the Elders demands. Her Divine House would be fine, the abundance of wealth he had acquired because of his Worth would make them stable for Cycles to come. If they didn’t become tempted by Greed and be seduced into gathering unneeded goods. They couldn’t let that happen, they needed to maintain their stock of Hearts. With the number of Sisters pregnant as herself, they had to maintain a stable supply. The Divine children came with a terrible toll, but such is the outcome of individuals so blessed by the Giver. An abundant of Souls had to be in reach at all times, even more now. The curses the Divine was finding had the Giver agitated, maybe even worried. For he was under the weight of one forced blessing after the other. Much of his Rotations was spent consuming Hearts to acquire the strength needed to manifest the Givers blessing.

Watching him consume Souls at such a rapid pace had her own heart thumping in dismay. The sheer amount would have been enough to break the Houses within the second tier, maybe some on the outskirts of the Towers as well. But she had regained herself, reminded herself that she was a member of a House blessed by the Giver, watched over and cared for. More goods always flowed to them, all guided by his Light, all eager to feed it, and to stay within its bless bounds.

The Atlas showed her the wisdom of her thoughts, as all the House within their Tower Offered to them. It was a shame they couldn’t be accepted. They were tied to those that had won the venture to partner with the Divine House. They would have to be removed first, an event that was happening all on its own. The Divine own actions had seen to it, was likely what he had planned all along.

‘How foolish we had all been, thinking we could claim him.’ They hadn’t known the truth that he was already claimed by the Giver, that his blessings would never end. That with his Worth he had come to claim all of them.

It had taken time, but soon the deed would be done. Her old House and all those allied with House Bae would soon fold themselves into it. With the Divines permission to accept all that applied, and her spreading of that truth, whole Houses were coming to join. All their supplies included. The strength of many formed into one and fitted with the Givers Champion.  The knowledge of it had her vessel singing with pleasure, that she was the Prime Maiden of a House that would make all others quake in fear. Hadthel would soon be theirs, in all but name, and in different times she would have raced to be placed as an Anointed. But such Titles were useless now with the Voices out taking charge.

A pity, but there was always later, after the swarm was dealt with, and the Elders turned their eyes upward again. Till then Zellebeth would toil away to make sure the Divines House remained stable. It would be easy if the House wasn’t in a flux of constant expansion, but such is the price of a Light that makes all want to submit to its glory.

A cough to her side had Zellebeth turning, mildly surprised to see one of her Sisters near her. The woman bent her knees enough that the both of them were eye level. But that was all, their eyes remained locked together, and an old part of Zellebeth mind wanted to lash out at the disrespect. To put this upstart in her place, but she couldn’t. A House didn’t fight with it else, as she heard the Divine often speaking to the Newborn. Zellebeth knew better than to display a counter, lest she gain his ire and be removed, or lowered in the Titles, made simply a Maiden again.

“Yes Sister” she finally asked, the woman smiled, taking pleasure in the act of defiance that wouldn’t be countered.

“Houses not under the Divine partnership have sent a joint request to us. They know all of the ones the Divine is in good standing with are about to fold themselves into his House. So they sent their Own Offers as well.” The Sister said, handing over a Shard.

Zellebeth took it and was about to delve within, but her Sister had more to say. “There also the matter with the Voices that had recently arrived.” She said pulling out another Shard and placing it on the table. “They’ve sent more demands to all the Houses.” Zellebeth let a shadow of grimace mar her before push it back under the folds of a calm exterior.

“They involve?” she questioned, eyeing the Shard with disdain. Her Sister, no longer smiling spoke “More resources from the Towers, but their place harsher demands on the first and second tier. Demanding large numbers of Worthy, to the point it will cripple most of the Houses in those Sections.”

Zellebeth displeasure showed plainly as the words echoed in her mind. The Voices carried nothing for the Sanctum they’d been sent to control, they would bleed it dry to see the Elders will done. What did they care that they were destroying cultivated bloodlines? When their Tasks was done the Voices would return to those on High, free from facing any of the consequences of their actions.

She let herself display some weakness as she breathed in deep, exhaling slowly as she thought. Her Sister moved the Voices Shard closer to her, before departing, not a hint of a bow in her steps. The utter lack of even false respect was jarring. Such displays would have had her dead within a Sequence in the past. But not here, family does not harm itself, matters, grievances were to be discussed and a fix found. Zellebeth sighed, forcing herself to drop the matter, going to the Divine with the complaint that others weren’t respecting her enough, was a fool's errand, a waste of his Worthy time. 

She instead turned her attention to actions that will garner his favor, favors that would have him bathing her in his warmth again. She grabbed the Shard with the Houses Offers, their message simple and straight to the point. They knew enough not to waste their time making a detailed display, the Divine wasn’t going to see it after all.

Zellebeth saw it was a small collection of Houses offering themselves. Houses that didn’t have the Worth to survive on their own so they'd banded together. But refused to form into a single House, unlike now. It was a tantalizing Offer, as she skimming through the list of goods that would accompany the many people seeking to join. Not as tantalizing as it would have been in the past, now that it faced up against larger Houses rushing to fold themselves under their Divines Light. But it was still enough to claim her attention.   

She would have to send another group of Maidens out to obtain more Chambers, in addition to the many already out there doing the same Task. She was very tempted to up and claim every Chamber they could get their hands on, but she pushed that impulse down. She would buy what was needed, the Voices had to be appeased for now. But once the Divine House was in order, once Hadthel was under their influence, then the Voices could be dealt with.

The Elders were going to spend them all, no matter the cost, they would do anything in their means to put things back into order. What did they care if a Sanctum or two was ruin for Cycles, they would remain unburdened. They would send Flock after Flock, till either the Sanctum couldn’t or wouldn’t obey. Zellebeth would do anything necessary to make sure it was the latter. Even the Elders could so nothing against the Divine once a whole Sanctum was behind him. Not to mention Hosts of his Risen Children as well. All bestowed with the Givers finest blessings, all an image of him.

An imperfect one, to all their disappointment. They, unlike the Divine that seeded them, had not retained the Givers eye, so far they had not received another blessing from her. Only the Divine does, only he continues to shine brighter. While all his children remain the same, even his oldest children. Compared to the Newborn they were lacking in every way, Worthy still, but Lowly in comparison to the youngest.

They would still be desired, would garner the interests of another’s, they did have the Channels to make for Worthy breeders all the same. Would help raise Hadthel above the other Sanctums around and above her. But for now, they all would be obedient, act like the Lowly Servants the Voices believed they were.

Zellebeth looked through the Houses Offers one last time, memorizing the names and marking them on her Atlas for later discussion with her many Sisters. She then turned her attention to the Voices Shard, to the Elders who promised suffering.

As she took hold of it and closed her eyes a list of demands flowed before her. And only a list of demanded items, the surrounding was dark. The Voices only passing through the needed information and nothing more. The Hallmarks of a rushed message, one she would normally have taken as an insult. But this was from Voices, and for those particular people, none of them was Worth of a sufficient portion of their time. Zellebeth could see, as she skimmed the lengthy details that this message was for all. It was not costumed tailored to her or even the Towers. No, it held the demands for each person for all to see, all of it separated into Titles of Worth. She flinched as she looked upon the demands the Voices had placed on the Lower Houses. The first tier was done for, only the strongest Houses of that section would survive, but be left horribly spent. The Second Tier fared better but the damage done was still staggering. Only the Towers remained unmarred by the demands for Worthy, no instead the Voices demanded goods that made Zellebeth chest ache.

She felt a small hiss escape her lips as she scanned through the obligations placed on them, the absurd demands. Though the Voices wasn’t taking Worthy from them, they were making up for that. The demands would leave many of the smaller Houses in the Towers on shaky ground, the treasury’s left rather empty. Zellebeth could see many after this, slight, turning their eyes towards the Divine. Looking to join themselves with his House as a means to solidify their stay within a Tower. It would be beneficial for all, the influx of goods would be a blessing, but the numbers would be the greatest advantage. The Voices would pause against a House making up most of a Tower, be wary to gain too much resentment from it, from them.

The Giver be willing, there would be enough time for her to have people in agreement with her plans. The Divine, even in a Tower deserver so much more, deserved more recognition. People should know and understand that the Giver had handed down a Divine for them to gaze upon. He needed to be the Head of this Sanctum, but that was only a start he was Worthier still. She would make sure he was elevated higher, but it would take time, and the Elders were getting in the way. Slowing her Divines ascension, slowing all of them from being raised.

‘One step at a time Zellebeth, like before, like it had always been.’ Patience was her guide, and provider her the means to surpass of all her rivals. It would aid her again in these precarious times.

 -----------------------------

Vollow stepped away from the Chamber Heart, his knowledge for the Rotation embedded within. The Newborn placed their hands upon its surface, eyes closing as their minds became taxed with the role to absorb information. He looked at them, their skin adorned with Wards that glowed brightly with the Givers blessing.

‘It should be yours.’ Envy whispered in his mind, a new voice, where he was accustomed to the endless chatting of Fear and its servant Worry. Vollow picture his Father in his mind's eye, envisioned his Light and the warmth that followed. The voices left after, burned away from even a poor imitation of what Father had to Offer. The voices would come back in short order, they always did, such was the price for being away from Father presence for too long. But there was much to be done, most of which couldn’t been completed by his Father side. Such as training the Newborn, a simpler Task than he expected, but it was still a time consuming one. Especially since he couldn’t disciple them, he would never go to the degree his Mothers had. But the ability to use a whip to work out rough edges was something he wished he had available.

Already he could see the Newborns attention waning, more interested in lazing about or being sung to by their Father. So Vollow had to implement more dire acts to keep them focused on their teachings. For them to be ready to aid their House, rather than staying a considerable drain on it. He still much preferred to hit them, a quick smack across the face would do wonders, but given their Wards, it would be a moot point. He had already seen many times the Newborn didn’t feel pain, anything that could cause harm was stopped as the Wards upon their flesh activated to shield them from the threat. So he had to implement other methods of pain, such as cursed sights. Vollow watched, waited, then as one, the Newborn screamed as they rushed back from the Heart, pushing into each other, many of whom tripped on themselves and fell to the floor with others piling on top of each other.

The rest that didn’t fall soon followed their siblings, joining them on the floor as they hugged each other. Vollow had seen that act many times as well, these Newborn were a very close bunch, an effect their Father had brought about with his lessons. Vollow felt a bit of annoyance by it, the Newborn rushed to consume Father knowledge but gave him only passing attention. Even though he was their older sibling, was the Founders Advisors, yet they gave him little standing.

‘No matter, their opinions mean nothing, in the end only Fathers holds weight. As long as he holds me in High regard I shall remain Above others in want.’ He focused on that piece of wisdom, held it close to Ward off Worry that began to nag at him again. As long as he stayed useful, kept completing Father Tasks he would remain Above others, even with a House quickly filling with Worthy that made him look, Lowly. Again he had wished he’d been born later in their Fathers life, so he too would have been blessed so High, have Wards carved into his skin. Wards that made the worries of life into laughing matters as they slapped meaningless against skin that could not break.

He sighed, pulled himself from pitying thoughts and focused on the Newborn, they remained as he'd last noticed them, curled together on the floor. One of the girls, the one he could tell was going to be the guide and leader of the batch, glared at him as she rubbed one of her fellows gently on the back. Vollow kept Fear back with a push of will, he knew from his time with his Sisters that displaying weakness in front of women only encourage them to act. So with well-honed practice, he stared down at the girl with a bored expression. One he wore many times in the past when dealing with his Mothers.

“Do not glare at me Newborn” he said in an authoritative voice. “This is the price for taking in your lessons half-Hearted.” The child looked away from him, her Anger still marking her face. “You forced me to display the reason for them. Those beasts you just now saw are called Nightmares. They hound us always, only kept away thanks to the Giver and the Wards all around us.” The Newborn hugged themselves tighter, to Vollow annoyance. These Newborn were safer than he, had vessels that would not shatter, could stand against a Nightmare with fists alone and come out of the mess unscathed. Yet they let Fear hound them, blind them to this truth. It made him all the more envies. How many of his Worries would vanish if he had skin such as theirs, how much easier would his life be?

“There is nothing Worry can do to you, ignore Fear and its endless lies.” He called out to claim the Newborns attention. “You are all safe, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore your lessons. There may come a Rotation when our Father calls upon you to aid him. When that time comes he will expect the lot of you to be able to weave your Souls, to Chant just as skillfully as he does.” A lie, for there was none who could sing like him. The Chants themselves played to his Father tune, bowing to his Divinity like all else.

The Newborn perked up, the boy’s ears flexing at the mere mention of their Father. Fear was pushed aside, from what Vollow could tell, as the Newborn unbound themselves from each other and looked towards the Chamber Heart. The girl to glare at him was the first to rise and return to her training. The rest of the girls were quick to follow her, and slowly the boys who looked to one another doing the same. Soon the Heart was covered in hands, glowing bright as the Newborn took in what he had displayed for them to see.

Worries withered away at the sight, his Task moving ahead on schedule, and soon would be complete. Once these Newborn had gone through their final changing he would have over a hundred new hands to help me train the future batches. By then he would be able to free himself from this Task altogether and focus on other matters.

He could feel a Fear clawing at the barriers keeping it way, one formed when he first laid eyes on the Newborn. One look was enough to have visions play out in his mind, what these Newborn could do once grown, once in control of their Souls and able to weave Chants. In a normal House, he would have feared for his life or worry of being downcast to the point of being considered Lowly. But not here, not under his Father protection. Yet still, there was a small part of that Fear which remained. For the truth of it remained the same, he was Lowly compared to them, all of them were. And it would only continue with each batch if everyone inherited his blessings. If Vollow fell from his Fathers grace, he would never have the chance to reclaim it, there would be too many others there waiting. All so much Worthier than him.

‘I ‘am safe, I ‘am wanted, I ‘am needed.’ He repeated in his mind and he brought forth the vision of his Father holding his hand. His Father looking into his eyes, asking for aid. The vision as it always did produce the closest imitation of the warmth his Father gave off. Vollow submerged into it, his body relaxing, and the naggings of Fear and Worry became distant, then faded altogether.

 

“Mentor?” a voice called out, and Vollow eyes sprung open and looked upon the girl who was the leader for the Newborn in all but Title. His vision moved about as he studied the environment, the Newborn were away from the Heart and looking in his direction. He returned his attention to the girl. “You have taken in all the Heart had to Offer?” he asked pulling the remainder of himself from the warming vision.

The girl nodded, her face blank, but he could still see resentment in her eyes. Too young to know the way to mask it, and to youthful to not know that others could see into her. “Let us see then,” he said motioning to the range which held lines of targets. It was far above what he had when he was a Newborn, practicing their craft in a small Chamber, forced to wait in long lines for their turn. Unlike the sizeable Chamber he was in now.

“Stand at the woven line on the floor, and cast your Chants, try and aim, use your will, guide your Soul to hit a target,” Vollow said. The Newborn followed their instruction swiftly for once, the girl leading them, even though these lessons were far more important for the boys.

The girls lined the length of the room, some forced to wait their turn, as even with the size of the place there was too many of them needing training. His Father batches numbered in the Hundreds after all.

The Leader raised a hand, began to Chant, and Vollow grief it came out perfectly. She matched their Father in swiftness, and to Vollow Fear, the others did as well. Yet another blessing they had inherited it seemed.

‘Are they Father reflections?’ he wondered as they fired off Chants. Chants that veered off course, most striking the walls and flooring. A few hit constructs, but those were of luck and had not been the ones the Newborn had to been aiming at.

Vollow breathed out relieved to see the Newborn weren’t perfect, weren’t even more above him. The girl’s scowled or gave looks of either embarrassment or anger at their displays before trying again. Newborn traded places as time moved on either out of frustration or the heckling of their others wanting to try themselves.

Vollow watched as the Newborn formed and launched one Chant after the other, none showing the slightest sign of weariness from it. No, they weren’t like his batch, forced to stop practicing because they had spent themselves. Not these Newborn, they were as their Father, their souls seeming just as large. And yet lacking, they may have inherited his blessing, but something was missing, an understanding their Father held that made his Soul and will weaving in ways others could not. Secrets likely passed down to him by the Giver, and probably instructed not to teach, or maybe unable to. Just apart of him in a way he could not explain. The same with his warmth, his true make of Divinity, none of the Newborn displayed that either. Too many of the Maidens disappointment, and his Sisters.

“That enough for this Rotation.” He called out after the Newborn had spent almost four Rounds practicing and showed no signs of tiring or stopping. The Newborn lowed their hands and turned to him, many marred with disappointment as they had begun a game of contest with each other. “You can continue after the Renewal.” He said heading over to a Symbol to summon Servants, the ringing of bells sung out as he pressed it, and in a Sequence, Servants came flocking into the Chamber. He gestured to the Newborn “They need to be cared for.” They bowed to him before they turning towards their task.

Vollow left them to it and departed, rushing down the halls to his own quarters. Chanters showed their respects as he passed, most recognizing him, others that didn’t quickly became aware when they saw the Symbol he had placed on his robes.

The House was a mess of activity as people hurried about and made way for him, a river of strangers and unknown faces. Something he was still coming to terms with. Before he had known everyone, down to the lowest Servant. Now he fought to memorizers the ever-growing list of Maidens and others near the top as himself. His Sisters were more attuned to such Tasks always aware of who was whom, and what their opinions were. He had to use them frequently now when in the presence of all the Maidens. During their council with one another when their Father was away taken by his need for solitude. Normally it accorded when the Giver was getting ready to bless him again, and their Father needed his attention focused fully on the acceptance of it.

Every Rotation, in an orderly manner the Giver came to their Father, placing one blessing after the other. It left Vollow disgruntled, he Offered to her constantly, begging for more so he could better serve her Chosen. Yet his pleas were met with silence, and the growing feeling he was going to be left behind.

“You’re not nee-“Fears voice cut off as he pushed it away with an image of his Father, hands intertwined. He maintained that vision all the way to his Chamber.

Messengers where there outside his quarters, waiting patiently and watching the endless flow of people passing by floating or carrying goods and furniture. They stood straighter as they caught view of him. Vollow walked passed and strode into his Chamber as the doors were open for him by a pair of Chanters. It was just as swiftly closed as he and the Messengers entered. Vollow walked to the head of his table and sat, happy to be away from the bustle of people racing about the Estate. His Messengers followed his actions sitting around the circular table, and emptying their pockets of the Shards they had collected from the daily Task. There was quite the number this Rotation, he saw, but given the events happening to the Vail as a whole it wasn’t something to be taken as a surprise. The Elders had come, their Voices spreading wide to deal punishment to all below them.

They floated the Shards over to him, were the piled together at his side. He turned his attention to the Messenger nearest, “Report.”

His brother inclined his head before speaking. “The Host has been made, those of the first and second tier acted swiftly to sign themselves to it, given the goods Offered. They have already been sent out, and provided the instructions you formed.”

“Good” he commented at the news, he had been worried none would take up the Offer, but Vollow had to remind himself frequently that most were not privy to the cursed knowledge he had. Those of the lower tiers were unaware of how bad the situation Below really was. If they did, Vollow wasn’t sure they would be able to get enough Lowly to form a Host, no matter the number of goods they promised. The dead aren’t ones with the ability to spend materials.

He turned his gaze to the Next Messenger, to his right. To the Sisters, he had charged with the more difficult Task. “The inquiries sent out to the Sanctums Above were answered, once the requested supplies were sent.” The Sister closest to him said, “Houses from various Sanctums had sent out Hosts to, in some wish filled illusion, search for mines that have yet to be found. It’s not a hard guess to know they failed in their charge, as everyone has over the Cycles. But” His Sister paused for a breath. “They have, and still are finding rivers of Souls washing their way down to our level.”

Vollow eyes widened at the news, he had heard of the blessed ponds that dwelled high above guarded furiously by Sanctuary. But never of rivers, and certainly not of ones flowing down to the Depths Below. “The Elders know of this?” he asked just to be sure.

His Sister nodded “Many answering our inquiries complained that is the real reason the Elders have arrived so swiftly, and their Voices being so harsh and demanding. Already the Sanctum’s report hastily made Hosts and Flocks have been formed to mine the changing rocks that are forming due to being touched by so many Souls. It’s a frenzy up their right now Advisor” his Sister added “The Houses buckling under the weight of the Elders demands are sending their own Hosts to collect from the rivers in order to Offer the Souls and stones to the Voices.”

Vollow pressed into his chair, lost in thoughts of wonder, but he turned his attention to the rest who were given similar tasks. He didn’t need to ask, his gaze was enough for them to start speaking. “We report the same Advisor, the realm Above are in a race to collect from these rivers, rivers that keep appearing, all coming from Above. We haven’t been able to get word what Sanctuary has send about this event. But the contacts we have in the Higher Sanctums claim inquiries of their own have been sent, and so far have been ignored.

‘Souls flowing down to us, it would be a grand blessing indeed if our House could find where the souls were headed. We could collect the Souls for ourselves, it would do wonders to aid in Father’s blessings, ease the burdens the Giver places on him.’

“We’ll have to form more Hosts then” Vollow send to his Brother to the left.

The man nodded in agreement the rest in the Chamber flowing suit. “Shall I go now, and begin the process?”

“No,” Vollow said shaking his head “Inform the rest of the Advisors first and the Prime Maiden of this event, they are the ones who decide the number of goods that can be Offered after all.” His brother rose and bowed once to him before departing in all hast, well aware of the strength House Bae would gain if they found where the rivers would appear down on their level.

He returned his attention to his Sisters “What about the Nightmares? Are the realms Above still unaffected?”

His Sisters nodded, the closest answering, “The Sanctum’s informed us that the tunnels are almost empty, only Carvers remain, but they run the moment Vail come into sight. An event playing into the Sanctums favor as their flooding the tunnels with Lowly poorly geared rushing them to the rivers to begin extracting Souls.”

Vollow hummed at the news, annoyed some, he had hoped to find what was ailing his Father, what threat the Giver had deemed Worthy enough for her to risk harming her Chosen. “Keep inquiring to those Above us, we must find what burdens our Father.” His Sisters bowed to him and quickly departing from him as he signaled them to leave, they knew as he did this was a Task they needed to fulfill.

He took a few moments to organize his thoughts, going over the Tasks still in need of tending to, then rose from his chair. Piling the many Shards into a sack before leaving his Chamber in search of his Father.

 ------------------------------

Dailin coughed as he smelled the air, a side effect of the latest experiment. It wasn't foiled by any means, yet it left him not wanting to breathe it in. Or more like it didn’t feel like he was breathing air in, it didn’t come with the flow of strength that normally followed. That up till this point he’d completely forgotten about. No, it took a few seconds of breathing the changed air, to realize the fault. It was just air, plain and simple, devoid of any Mana in it that he had become accustomed to. There was no longer a feeling of replenishment from taking it in.

His new spell, if he could call it that, had worked better than he thought, pulling all the Mana around him into his body. All it required was for him to simply demand the Mana within him to pull more of itself from the environment. So simple, like everything else when it came to this wonderful substance. As long as the command or intentions were clear and repeated often enough Mana would do its best to supply.

‘It’s a petty I couldn’t use this when I’m spent.’ He thought, but the spell required a portion of Mana to start and maintain it, not something he could do if he had none within him. But he would never let himself get to that point, he would activate the spell when he was getting low, suck up every speck of the stuff in the vicinity to him. A shame what it did to the air though, people will notice, maybe grow annoyed with him if he did it often. Even he found the air unpleasant now, and that was with the experience of living lives with normal air.

People who hadn’t? Dailin could see some heightened reactions from walking into an area that he had just made. He was going to fix it, release some of the Mana he took in back into the environment so the change wouldn’t be so apparent. But he stopped and sniffed when he noticed a change. He sniffed again pointing his nose upward. That is when he noticed it, Mana was flowing down from above filling the air back up slowly.

“Well, that problem is solved.” It would take a few hours but eventually, the room would be back to its normal self, people none the wiser. Next time he would try his spell in a far larger room, the amount from this smaller Chamber alone had been equivalent to a Heart. Which was a boon considering how many he been consuming of late, he wasn’t worried about his House suffering from the expenditure. But it still didn’t make him feel all that happy about it. Not with how much they were spending on growing his children. He had thought them inheriting all his gifts a boon. But given that the cost for growing them was going to rise with each new generations. It had him wishing they’d stop inheriting everything. If not the only alternative would be him no longer improvising himself, which was never going to happen. Not with dread and instinct weight growing at a rapid pace.

He had experienced another episode where a large influx had knocked him to his knees, luckily he'd been alone at the time, able to push the dread back by himself without people hovering around him pestering him. But the act had left him worried, the Nightmares were growing in an ever-increasing speed, overshadowing everything he tried to do to strengthen himself, to the point he was wondering if he could keep up. He might, maybe if he consumed everything he had and left his house broke and ready to collapse. But then the Nightmares would overtake him again later in the future, if things continued in their current course.

Sighing he made for the door rubbing his forehead, ‘gods what am I going to do?’ Further thoughts stopped as he opened the door and it swung open as if pushed forcefully. A blast of wind rushed passed him flowing into the room. At first he thought some fool had tried to kill him with a weak wind spell. But then he breathing in, and notice the air within the Chamber had returned to its normal Mana filled state.

Chanters guarding the entrance looked inside confused as Dailin had been a moment ago, Vollow was with them. They entered, looking for some unknown intruder and left baffled when none was to be found. “Are you alright Father?” Vollow asked walking up to him, worry plainly shown, he son began fixing his robes and layers of flowing garments. All of which was about to do himself, but stayed his hand and let his son busy himself.

“Fine son, just caught off guard.” Looking at the Chanters who eyed the interior of chamber quizzically. “No one is here, the wind was a side effect of another blessing, one that I wasn’t expecting.

“Of course Divine.” The duo said slowly, eyeing the Chamber one last time before returning to their post outside.

Dailin retuned his attention to his son, the boy lost in the act of smoothing out his clothing. “So,” he said, “What brings you to me this Round son?”

The words got Vollow attention as he looked up into his eyes, then looked away, down to the sack that Dailin only now just notice he was carrying. “Word from the Messengers I sent to inquire about the matters happing outside, much of it blessed, if things work in our favor.”

“Blessed?” Dailin voiced “That’s good to hear, come let’s talk about it with the others, best to make plans about the information with those taking care of our House.” Dailin commented with a smile as he thought ‘Thank the gods, I needed some good news.’

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Freethorm

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tyes77 @tyes77 ago

I dont think it'll be good news for long

galileo persons @galileo persons ago

Ah~ but the question is rather whether it be some good news or some good noose? *wiggle eyebrows*

Takhimar @Takhimar ago

Thank you for the chapter.

Ashcheul @Ashcheul ago

Thank you for the chapter!

Ashcheul @Ashcheul ago

I kinda like Zellebeth and Vollow.

Huh. This long-eared race is cursed. Both Light and Darkness bring doom to them. Light - as in their rulers -chanters, gleaming with magical drugs. Darkness - as in Nightmares that wait to break ther walls, to drag them out screaming and bury heads in their organs. Life is difficult for these little cuddly monsters.

I wonder what is the reason for their addiction? Natural evolution? Or it is magical bioengoneering of their progenitors at work?

StorySeeker @StorySeeker ago

Zellebeth should have known something was wrong when the Divine children refused to play their part in removing rivals.

Divine’s children

Till then Zellebeth would toil away to make sure the Divines House remained stable.

Divine’s house

A House didn’t fight with it else, as she heard the Divine often speaking to the Newborn.

Fight with itself

She then turned her attention to the Voices Shard, to the Elders who promised suffering.

Voice’s shard

The Divine, even in a Tower deserver so much more, deserved more recognition.

Deserved so much

It’s a petty I couldn’t use this when I’m spent

Pity

If not the only alternative would be him no longer improvising himself, which was never going to happen.

Improving