“I came to watch the Crucible of Last Hope get destroyed. On my way there, I saw a familiar iteration bumbling around in yet another place he shouldn't be. Should I be flattered that you remember me this time?” the bird headed man said.
Wren sighed and said, “Please don't be. Not only am I kinda pissed about you watching me and those around me die when you could have easily saved us, I'm still embarrassed about the times I confused you for Thoth and you played along, Djehuty. How long until Last Hope is destroyed?”
Djehuty said, “Why embarrassed? I was named after him, then made spiritual progeny by him and Astennu. I adore my fathers... Don't get me started. As for when the Crucible gets destroyed, a couple of hours or so.”
Wren could feel his pulse start pounding in his head as he said, “I know you're an observer, not a participant in events, but my whole reason for coming to the Abyss was to use it. Would it be breaking the rules for me to hitch a ride with you?”
Sable said, “Who are you talking to Wren? I can sense something by you but I can't see anything.”
Wren sent his people to his middle realm with a vague explanation about entities that live between planes as Djehuty considered before saying, “Not if it's indirectly. I'll just close my wake slower than usual... I really wasn't allowed to save you or your friends then but I'm not the heartless journalist, sadistic voyeur or other vulgar things you accused me of being... A quick word, once we're there the rules apply. I can't help you and few can see or hear me. And Wren, if you are still alive afterwards this time, would you mind talking with me more. I miss talking with beings who aren't insane or so far removed from people they've forgotten what it's like to be mortal, if they ever were.”
Wren shrugged, “Sure thing, Hooty. Don't expect me to stick around once I'm done but feel free to hit me up wherever.”
Wren followed the ley-line like wake of Djehuti. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles were traversed with the ease and smoothness of a boat ride on a placid lake. As they neared the destination, Wren noticed that Djehuty slowed down before venturing behind the sanctified circle before venturing back outside, allowing Wren to appear within. It didn't seem like much but it ensured that Wren would be able to appear and be beyond a point where outside forces could stop him from reaching his goal.
Stepping out of the wake, Wren surveyed the area. The first thing he noticed was the sheer abundance of solemn and bizarre creatures, between entities like Djehuty, ringing the area. In the sky, was a sizable barge decorated in the lavish and macabre style of Mother Midnight. A procession of the old and infirm being detained by a sizable force of militant demons, made it clear that whatever was happening to Last Hope wasn't exactly a secret. That wasn't surprising to Wren since the Hosts had many talented entities within their ranks and that included seers.
A towering Tier VI asura general saw Wren within the Circle of Offering and said, “I know not how you sneaked past the barricade, mortal rat, but I will enjoy watching your life extinguished within the Crucible. Best hurry before what is coming passes or I may yet do the honors myself.”
Not wanting to miss the opportunity to shame the demon who had killed Rozchereck and himself the only other time he made it to Last Hope, Wren said loudly, “Better you than your child's real father, General Hurley. Letting a devil impregnate your wife to save your life, how have you not died from the disgrace of it?”
Enraged beyond reason, the massive hundred foot demon crossed the circle of multi-hued sigils into the bowl of the crucible. Wren didn't expect that his statement would be enough to urge the powerful demon to suicidal action but he wasn't concerned. He tossed all but a handful of sealed boxes, collected at the outpost, into the center of the bowl. As he blinked to the feet of the demon statue that appeared hewn out of the small volcanic mountain, that was roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower, he whispered the initiating phrase, 'The supplicant offers in humility-'. While doing so, he opened a connection to his manifestation with a request to offer all but the knowledge and spiritual remnants it contained.
All within the stadium sized bowl that sat at the base of the mountain instantly evaporated into essence, along with his manifestation's contribution. The brilliantly swirling mass was then drawn into the demon's mouth. This included the enraged general, obviously excluding Wren.
From that point, were he a monk of the Crucible he would continue with, 'to sustain the glory of the Abyss,' but Wren knew that, theoretically, anything could be asked for within the scope of what had been offered. There was an entire treatise he had once read on just how one could use the Crucible of Last Hope to make requests that wouldn't be overly twisted by the demonic nature of the Crucible. With the aid of BZ, that risk was even further reduced as his interface guided and organized his intentions into requests.
Emboldened by the addition of the general and the surprisingly massive amount of contribution from his manifestation to his fairly sizable original sacrifice, Wren brought out his confused crew, caught in the middle of various activities. Chanda quickly disentangled himself from Vigna as Sable and Rozchereck brought their spar to a halt. Petre blandly stood up from meditation and put his shirt back on as Samskara discretely redirected 'hand in pants' to a less incriminating action of belt adjustment. Noticing where they were standing, the three demons looked more than a little panicked.
Wren said, “Don't be all bent out of shape. I'm borrowing the Crucible of Last Hope to get some things done. It's for your benefit too. Just hold your most important wish to the fore of your mind and close your eyes. It gets a little light showy.”
Some of the demons with good hearing, closer to the edge, started shouting to each other and a tide started rushing into the bowl to steal the benefit. Wren sighed and sent his crew back to his middle space while intoning a phrase to add to the preexisting sacrifice, vaporizing the impromptu army of idiots and a few monks who were slinking from the inner part of the volcano to take control of the situation.
Wren shouted, “I did you a favor. They were obviously too stupid to live. That goes for any who would like to follow in their path.”
Sadly the actions of the first wave of demons and bold monks initiated a cat and mouse game that lasted over half an hour. Wren would bring out his crew to start the imparting and an assassin, monk or group of demons would try to bump off Wren and seize the prize. By the time it was finished and no more overconfident individuals were volunteering for death, the statue was humming dangerously with coiled essence. For a precarious moment, a terrifyingly strong spirit sense swept over the bowl before retracting. Wren held his breath for a moment before coming to the realization that Mother Midnight wasn't willing to risk the seizure but had seriously considered it.
By that point, everyone was well prepared as Wren started the incantation of imparting without interruption. For the three demons, Wren requested minor aid to their personal desires and imparting of the path to absolution, contingent upon their oath of service to him. Chanda didn't hesitate but Samskara squirmed under the presence of tangible gain before buckling to it's temptation.
For Vigna, Wren imparted aid to her personal desire and aid to the awakening of her sisters under the contingency of service which Vigna would carry till all had chosen to accept or deny. Whatever remainder that existed from denial would be granted to Vigna for advancement. Under such weighty gifts, Vigna gracefully acquiesced.
With full understanding of Sable's desires, Wren imparted minor aid and requested inspiration for a balanced path to ascension suited to the Assassin. Conversely, with little real understanding of Petre, Wren imparted minor aid and a request for inspiration on the quasi-paladin's path that wouldn't turn Petre into an unwitting slave to the Will of Heaven. Under the imparting, Wren couldn't stop the horridly binding oaths that Sable and Petre swore once they felt the weight of gifting settle over them. Sable swore himself and descendants to Wren's service in this life and all to follow as Petre swore his life and soul to the protection of Wren till his own was consigned to oblivion.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry over these two zealous people. Sure, I did it to Roz and Aaron but that was because I can't trust them otherwise. I just wanted to help these two guys out. Why do they have to stick me in an unending loop of gratitude!? I'll have to sort it out later.
The final imparting was the most important and the reason why Wren had made this risky trip. Wren channeled all that was left, multitudes more than what had been designated prior to that moment, to the realization of his manifestation into living beings in accordance and difference to the fulfillment of as many oaths they carried as possible. The thrumming in the statue stilled and for one heart dropping moment, Wren had thought that what he had imparted was in excess of available power.
Within his mindscape, Wren saw the demon and angel step out from the door. His view switched to his domain as two additional dimensional layers sprang into existence, an oasis speckled desert lower and lush but barrenness speckled paradise higher. Lightly tethered to the preexisting three, they were strongly tied to each other through a single portal demarcated by a massive door.
The angel subtly shifted into a female version of the form that Troy had first granted to Wren through their binding so long ago. The demon took on a strong likeness to a mature and powerful Jaden with solemn gray-green eyes. As the massive door swung wide, the demon and angel looked upon each other for a moment before rushing to embrace one another with crushing force. As the scene became graphically amorous, Wren retracted his gaze back to normal view and waved his crew back to the middle realm to absorb their gains in peace then looked around. Giving out a sigh of relief, he pulled out a mylar sticker looking artifact and slapped it on then started walking away from the statue.
Smooth as butt-
Wren collapsed in paralyzing pain as a portion of himself ripped free to join with the angel side. In dizzying dual vision, Wren saw the statue decorated volcano explode with nuclear force through the dark bubble that suddenly surrounded him from the singularity arc. Simultaneously the small spirit bird merged into the angel, causing her to sprout fiery wings of silver radiance as the demon grew fulgin ones. A familiar tribal tattoo of sigils burned into existence over their hearts. Before pain and inter-dimensional travel robbed him of his sight, Wren saw a multi-colored ball of light that drifted up from the blasted pit where the volcano once stood, join with a sigiled orb of spirit. The scintillating orb then passed through the supposedly impassable barrier before plugging into the essence bleeding hole in Wren's astral body and deeper.
Fourteen years of strangled love, loneliness and pain seared through Wren's subconscious mind, followed by over a hundred years of emotionally numb machinations and schemes. The Diagram of Nameless Transformations, revealed for the passively controlled chaos theory it was, began unraveling in the presence of a rapidly constructing organic machine that composed existence in a conceptual form of cycles and systems, cause and effect. As it stretched out into a labyrinth of extra-dimensional connections, Wren caught glimpses of only half conceived theory that would foster and grow the entirety into something capable of change and evolution, allowing it to roar into life.
Wren's once stable and predictable path to Tier VI had been shredded and dismissed under the superior spiritual structure. This new structure, however, was not nearly as thoroughly conceived and its operation was far more manual and difficult. Lifetimes of mental and spiritual laziness groaned at the thought of tackling it's complexities. Fortunately, the addition to his soul that forced this woeful change, bolstered his will and fortified his creative intellect while repairing most of the tattered intuition that Wren had lost. Aptly named 'Machine of God', Wren marveled and despaired over it. With a final thought to Oscen, his first life's identity and 'Machine of God's creator, Wren came to, still suffering the echoes of profound agony.
“Just for the record, that was ballsy on a level I wouldn't dare, son. The Celestial Host wants to dismember you and seal the pieces away till the end of reality and Mother Midnight wants to commemorate your deed by stuffing you then displaying your taxidermy treated corpse. Go figure, the Crucible of Last Hope was intimately connected to the Alter of Redeeming Grace. They both blew at the same time, opening the one and only natural portal between the Celestial and Abyssal lands. The only good news is that both sides are far too busy fighting to claim or seal the portal to launch any serious campaign to capture you.
“With everything else that's going on, you might even be able to skate through on technicalities to avoid a Tier VI bounty but that kind of street cred makes you admired by the wrong kind of folks and reviled by the type you'd really want in your corner. Surprisingly, the Guardian's Alliance and the Observers are pretty neutral on the subject of you which means that the material plane is relatively safe for you to romp in but once you hit Tier V, people that matter are going to want you as a recruit or kill you. If you manage to ever get to Tier VI before the end of everything, you'll have to stick to me or your sister's side unless your posse gets really beefy.”
Wren's bleary eyes focused on Hiidan in the dim light of his father's dreary void home as he said, “That's one hell of a bleak update... So this is where I think of when I want to be safe? How sad...While we're on the subject, why do I get the distinct impression that there are two Voids and Abysses?”
Hiidan smiled and said, “That's because there are. Unlike the material planes that have butt tonnes of iterations, the afterlife realms and outer realms only have mirror images roughly at the center part of greater reality and unless a being that belongs to them is utterly destroyed on both sides, they have the ability to return. That only matters to Tier VII and VIII existences that aren't singularities, though. As a rough trade, those who are singularities draw greater power of existence to themselves. The mirror line is tough to cross too. You rode over it on your sister's planet, lucky dog, but in another 200 or so years, the mirror line will weaken and the two sides will merge to an approximate average.
“Oh, I wanted to congratulate you on planting Aaron to steal the Infernal Realm's Maelstrom Walker. That only exists on whatever side of the mirror that claims it first. It's nice to earn your own car instead of your dad just giving you one, not that I could easily. As directors go, I'm pretty piss poor. No amount of Balance Keeper raiding is going to get much of the really good stuff. Those all belong to one director or another already...
“Your sister was waiting for you to die or get back before she moved Satyrus down a few iterations... Not to sound callous about it but you have died an awful lot... Did you want to go back there or...”
Wren said, “As sick as I am over the thought of being on Satyrus, I don't think my domain is quite strong enough to survive iteration hopping at the edge of reality disintegration yet so, I guess.”
Hiidan nodded and said, “Alright then. Open your void space so I can dump some junk and I'll be on my way. Honestly, how much Tier V garbage does the Balance Keepers have to bogart?... No, son. Open your 'void' space. I'll save the stuff I think you might be interested in for round two. Do you want a mountain ring of trash to sift through?”
Wren's knees went weak at the sight of the bulging pile of wreckage Hiidan dumped into the devouring void space. It would take years, at a rough guess, to digest it all. Hiidan's version of 'interesting stuff' was a lot more impressive than Wren had thought it would be too. Ultimately it was all crutches. Anything of particular value, Hiidan likely kept but the sheer amount of essence models, useful raw materials and organic stuff was staggering. He was ensured to have plenty of stuff to keep his progress growing in his professions for a great deal of time to come.
Hiidan shook his head and looked somewhat sad as he said, “That you can look at all that garbage so gleefully... Any other child of a Tier VIII would despise all but the smallest part of that. Of course, most of them would be Tier VI before the age of ten. Some of the things you've managed to get for yourself, outshine it all by leaps and bounds.”
Wren smiled and said, “Most children of Tier VIII existences will never advance beyond Tier VI either and I'd be willing to wager that they don't think about the welfare and advancement of their friends and subordinates more than just a little, if at all. Coming up the hard way has it's own advantages.”
Hiidan shook his head again and said, “Existence beyond Tier VI just gets more and more restrictive. Sure, there's a whole new game to play but it's a hella lot less fun... Try hard not to die anymore. There aren't any iterations of you left and this is a really bad time to be reincarnating. There's no guarantee that you'd make it to rebirth, much less Tier VI, before total reality collapse and that would be very bad.”
As Wren stepped through Hiidan and back to Satyrus, Wren said, “Sorry for being such a lower back pain when I was Oscen. Even through the numb, I loved you a lot.”
Hiidan was quiet for a moment before responding in a warbly voice, “Stop it with that. You trying to embarrass me in front of your sister?”
With a soundless change in air pressure, Hiidan disappeared, leaving Wren alone on the beach of Seaside. As Wren meditated over events and took some time to consolidate the influx of memories, a powerful but non-threatening presence appeared but respectfully waited for him to finish. Not in the mood to immediately have a likely unpleasant confrontation, Wren continued.
Wren noticed that his evocation power and sprite creation had returned under manifestations. More than that, Wren had awakened an unknown grade, Tier IV embodiment called Echo of Creation. The embodiment's limitation was consciously tied with his existence structure and would naturally grow with it. It was inconceivable to Wren that a Tier IV structure with a larger, more dense, tank to fill than Nameless Transformations could exist but he was wrong. Machine of God was larger by over double and easily converted essences to liquid state. The terrifying part of that was the extra-dimensional, single ring tank that kept essences divided by several natural laws in operation, the least of which was centrifugal force.
Wren was nearly scared completely out of his meditative state when he noticed the pinhole maelstrom portal within the center of his realm's 'pool room' and within his soul core. If his soul wasn't as tough as a weak Tier VI's or his personal realm not a domain tied directly to his own soul's strength, the presence of such a thing would pop either one like a water balloon at the slightest outside force. Most entities who had discovered a path of ascension had to carefully balance wants, needs and combat readiness against growth. Wren would have to constantly make sure he didn't get too full or he would, as a rogue Balance Keeper had said so long ago, 'explode like a slow motion firework.'
After a quick check over his realm side crew, Wren stood up and turned to Knight then said, “How can I help you?”
Knight's poker face looked particularly inscrutable as he said, “You can start by not running off to one of reality's most dangerous places...again. I can sense that Blackguard is still alive. Would you mind summoning him forth?”
Wren looked at Knight blandly and said, “He's currently solidifying his gains. I believe he's currently forming some kind of impressive feeling spiritual armor after having finished some sort of astral mount summoning thingy. The wings were pretty neat too but I think they're just an extension of the armor.”
Kight went slack-jawed for a moment before he said, “That's ridiculous! Blackguard was only a low Tier V with barely enough power of existence to be of use only a few weeks ago. There's no conceivable way that muddy hearted knave has been anointed as a Celestial Paladin before me.”
Wren scratched his head with mock confusion as he said, “He hasn't? I think it was like Illuminated Templar or something. It's like paladin but without the whole slavery to the Will of Heaven thing.” Wren let a little heat into his voice as he continued, “Even if that wasn't the case, Petre may not have undies as spotless as yours but he definitely caries himself with a noticeably larger amount of charitable humility than you. Or do you honestly believe that aiming for celestial anointing gives you a license to freely judge all that you personally find distasteful as tainted or evil?...”
Knight flared angrily shortly before reigning it back in as he said, “Don't you understand? You... you don't even remember. A person left a hole in me when they abandoned me. I filled it with a cause so that I could survive. I care not if you-”
Wren interrupted with, “I remember now, Pete. In my first life, I gave you over to my sister and distanced myself from you so my mother wouldn't kill you out of her anger at me. It was the self-righteous actions of a naive teenage boy who knew too much but understood very little. I'm not going to even try justifying Oscen's actions because I'm still struggling to forgive them myself.
“Knight, I'm not Oscen but he is a part of me just like you are no longer Petre but he is still a part of you. Neither one of us are going to be whole until we can forgive and accept them. The scars that they have given and carry are a part of that. For my part, all I can do is ask forgiveness on behalf of that sad, lonely little monster and hope that one day you can give it, even if I don't think I deserve it.”
Knight stared blankly as Wren checked in to see that Petre was done for the moment and brought him out with a word of warning to be civil. Whether by accident or design, Petre stood in full winged armor embodiment. Despite the obvious achievement, Petre looked towards Knight with apprehension like a defensive child waiting for their parent's disapproving lecture. He didn't have opportunity for surprise or comment before Knight drew him in.
With a sudden realization, Wren said, “I release you from your oath, Petre.”
Knight said thickly, “You cannot, Wren. He swore it to himself, not to you. Neither of us are ready to face this tangle and my original solution to it was obviously in err. I have no hold over you I am willing to lever but for the sake of Petre within, try to survive until the day I can face you again. In either event, there is nothing left to forgive. That was another life, for both of us.”
Knight walked away, managing to look reluctant and in a hurry at the same time. As Mage opened a portal to parts unknown, she gave an irony laced smile at Wren before following Knight in. Wren, taking a queue from them, entered his middle space before anything or one could manage to stop him.
With new understandings of natural laws and inner workings of reality, Wren's domain became less distinguishable from the the functioning world by the moment. Bringing the demon and angel manifestation fully to life had a synergistic affect on his domain. Their very existence acted as a conduit of his will and ability onto it. Soon, perhaps within a year or so, he would have a secret plane all his own, albeit a small one. If he continued to find a way to feed the plane, it would evolve into a secret world. Beyond that was hard to guess. Even if his understandings grew, the resources needed to expand it further would be astronomical.
BZ filled Wren in on the pinhole maelstrom portals. When the Crucible and Alter had been destroyed, they released an existence that had formed between them. It's composition was no different than any other sprite, the spiritual equivalent of an amoeba but with the latent potential to be an elemental should it survive for thousands of years and be nourished in an environment conducive to it. The building pressure between the two artifacts combined with the residual power and essence of countless beings made such a thing possible. BZ theorized that it was likely attracted to Wren as he had a connection with the Maelstrom. Upon combining with the part of Wren known as Oscen, it traversed the singularity ark barrier and fused with Wren on a fundamental level, strengthening his connection with the Maelstrom enough to open a direct conduit.
BZ said, “All this may not be of great interest to you personally but I explained it because your son, Trauart, was born with such a connection. In theory, many have likely been born with this perceived advantage but were unable to withstand the pressure, their souls being consigned to oblivion due to explosion or combustion. I contribute his survival to two major factors and many minor ones.
“His soul's astral shell was tempered and strengthened due to the peculiarities of his birth/rebirth and the efforts used to ensure his physical survival such as your sister raising his power of existence and Thetus occasionally relieving him of excess essence. Additionally, within the iteration of his original existence, an astral genesis seed that you had placed within your 'pool room' came into contact with the blood mark on his eggshell. This bonded it to him and nominally to you as well. Through several iterations, you would acquire another iteration of the same genesis seed and upon your demise, it would transfer through your nominal connection to your son's realm then fuse with the preexisting one.”
Wren said, “I've done nearly all the preparations I can. I could return to Earth and be a part of my son's life. When I need more resources, I could maybe make a run out with Thetus and spend some time with him too. That wouldn't be a bad way to spend some of the remaining time left within reality.”
BZ replied, “That would be a difficult thing to do Wren. The Earth your son is on lies on the other side of the mirror divide your father spoke of. In approximately 200 years that barrier will weaken. This is not a cause for egregious alarm. The time progression within Earth's cosmic space is much slower. As reality deteriorates, that time contraction will grow as ours accelerates. Though he will not likely be a child any longer by the time you can reach him, he will not yet be fully a man either, by Earth's accounting of such things. The time when the mirror barrier fails will be a strenuous point as most of reality will suddenly be aware of the impending collapse. You would be better served to reach for ascension, for yourself and your sons. ”
Depressed and weary, Wren said, “Just as well. Reality might be falling apart but that won't stop Pop's enemies from reaching far to find an advantage against him, and after hearing what my father said, it seems I've gained some notoriety myself.”
As much as he would have liked to visit with the newly minted existences of his manifestation, Wren saw that they had fallen into some kind of meditative trance after consummating their repressed desires, enacting Wren's vision for his domain. It was comforting for Wren to have that kind of help in shaping it all into something more to his liking after never quite finding time to tackle the task that would only grow more monumental by the day now.
After reveling in a bit of fawning and thanksgiving from the dryads in the grove and moving the ones who did not accept service to the hidden valley behind Seaside, Wren asked them where they would like to be placed within his domain. Vigna abandoned her spot at the garden for a place she thought had the beginnings of a good forest patch along with her walnut, almond and maple sisters. The small hawthorn dryad, named Daphne, and Pear volunteered to stay on as gardeners 'if it were found pleasing' to Wren. Apple and Peach took individual glades in the 'upper realm' while Pomegranate decided to go to the 'lower realm' to help cultivate the oasis spots there after Wren started handing out copious amounts of seeds and Tier IV resources to them.
With the, not so subtle, metamorphosis of his domain underway, it was no surprise that Wren's crew was congregating within the only relatively stable place. Not that the cabin area had been left untouched as it too had transformed to a simple but elegant walled manor with various facilities on the grounds. After moving the small mountain of resources his father had given him into the multi-floored warehouse, built into and under the large hillock behind the manor, he activated some re-appropriated golems his father had given him to organize it all. With a deep breath he blinked to the main hall of the manor.
Wren faked a cheery smile he wasn't feeling and said, “Looks like room won't be an issue any more. If you guys want to spread out and play hide and seek with the dryads, yes there are more, then feel free. The major changes are done. From here on out, it's steady and subtle stuff. There's also doors that lead to the new upper and lower realms on the manor grounds if you feel like exploring too. Though I warn, at the moment, the lower realm just has the pomegranate dryad and some green ringed spring pools at the moment. Be nice to them and don't rip up the greenery... Sable, we're at Seaside if you'd like to see your people.”
With no words, Samskara eagerly started marching out the door, likely eager to test his new equipment. Wren had to admit that the deeply tanned, dark haired youth was easy on the eyes. The double bulges showing just how 'eager' he was, threw Wren's momentary admiration quickly in other directions.
Chanda shared a few words of thanks and left with a subdued form of the same eagerness. The man had shown the most dramatic of changes so far as he had dropped the extra faces and limbs. Shrinking down to a little under eight feet tall, he was still a very intimidating being with his powerful frame. Glowing crimson eyes and pronounced fangs still betrayed his demonic disposition, however.
Rozchereck didn't seem like he was going anywhere. In fact, there was a bit of body language suggesting that he was waiting to share private words with Wren. As far as changes go, he was the most human looking to begin with. Now that his legs were no longer back-bent and his feet were five-toed, if a little on the big side, he could blend in on Earth as long as he wore some kind of head gear to hide the gentle curve of horns holding the volume of soft, raven mane off his face.
The only real change to his closest and most cherished subordinate was only visible with Wren's special sight. Sable was surrounded by writhing void power that could manifest with little more than a thought. Wren had no doubts that those with a bit of sensitivity would either be seduced by the additional subtle magnetism power lent to Sable or feel a premonition of dread at the thought of landing on the wrong side of his regard.
Sable said, “That would be appreciated. As fondly distracting as Vigna painted my perception of dryads to be, the familiar company of warm blooded men and women after our brief visit to the Abyss, sounds far more appealing...Before you send me-”
Wren interrupted, “Of course, um, what kind of comfort gifts would you like to take this time?”
Sable said, “No, Wren. What I was meaning to say... Are you well? I hope this is not unwelcome curiosity but you seem shadow haunted. If you would like company to speak of it with, I would.” Sable looked at Rozchereck then continued, “I'd like to clean up before doing anything else. We can speak more after, or...during, if you like.”
As Sable walked away, Wren asked himself, once more, why he had never formed a bond with Sable so he could know what the man was actually thinking. He knew Sable didn't see him in a romantic light but was well aware that Sable was a very 'practical' person. It didn't help Wren's currently tangled thoughts that he was inordinately aesthetically attracted to this iteration of Sable.
Before Wren could follow those thoughts down the rabbit-hole any further, Rozchereck's new found patience had reached it's limits as he said, “Now that I have returned to the Abyss, the lost pieces of myself have started returning, on this side of the great divide and on the other... I seem to have formed some sort of shared memory with the other... Out of our memories there are pieces missing but enough exists for me to understand the details. For what I've done to you and what we have been in the past, You should either want me dead or want me back at your side. You have done neither. Why and what has absolved me of oaths that should still bind us?”
Wren sat down heavily.
After getting off easy with the hardest ones to let go of, the second easiest is the one who gets to confront me? At least if it was Aaron I could have said, 'Because, fuck you, back-stabbing dick swab.'
Wren said, “Those relationships were the answer to, 'What if I go north instead of west.' The answer for my side was pain and loss followed by acceptance then love, if a bit twisted. It all ends in a short life whether from murder, pregnancy complications or a botched attempt to use Lost Hope.
“Find a real woman who's in to spousal cannibalism during sex. I'm sure there's one out there... somewhere. I hear darker aspect dryads are into a little dinner with their baby making.”
Rozchereck responded, “Wren, demons who grow to treasure their lovers do that to strengthen them and increase the chance of a healthy child... It's the greatest act of devotion a demon knows.”
Wren sported the ghost of a smile as he said, “Roz, it reached a point where you couldn't get off if I wasn't taking a bite out of you... That's not the point. This is a new life. Don't focus on what you now know, focus on what you now feel. Even if I somehow fell in love with you again, I wouldn't want to live the rest of my life as a woman for you.”
Swiftly, not giving Wren a chance to order him to stop, Rozchereck snatched Wren into a crushing embrace, stuffing Wren's mouth with his tongue. Wren would have bit the impulsive demon's tongue but it was tougher than his teeth and knew that would only stimulate Roz further. After few seconds of pantomimed intimacy, Rozchereck let Wren go.
Roz quickly apologized then explained, “I just had to know. I did respond to you. After my change is complete I know I could accept you as you are. I would only hurt you now but if we could-”
Wren stared down the demon angrily, “Damn it, Roz, listen! We weren't even happy. There is better people out there for both of us, people who won't just settle or make do for some lukewarm kind of contentment. So what if we loved each other before. Soon you'll be able to follow that weird-ass true dream of yours to look for that 'Lady Love' or whatever. I'm not asking you to forget but I'm telling you to move on.”
Rozchereck shot, “That's easier for some of us than others, obviously...” In mid intention to storm out, he stopped and continued, “You can walk away any time you want but I'm yours for as long as you want me, oathed to your service, whether I like it or not.”
Wren sighed, “I'm not a child to be manipulated, Roz. Neither are you. So stop with this false histrionics to weasel your way out of service... Now!”
Rozchereck dropped his stiff pose and deflated as he said, “It's only half false.”
Wren looked to the floor and said, “The most dangerous. Don't blame you for trying but if you manage to pull this crap once you aren't demon enough to justify it, there will be consequences. Not the sexy kind. Get lost and try to have some fun... Consensual fun, Roz.”
Not wanting to be alone with his thoughts at the moment, Wren decided to follow his curiosity and find out what Sable was up to with the vague, for Sable, invitation.