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A note from Philip Read

I advise anyone who wants to stay in the loop on this story to bookmark it 'cause my posting is very irregular.

I hope the wait hasn't quenched all your enthusiasm. Enjoy

Zaraya

 

"So tell us about the other side of the Gates, what should we expect when we Ascend?" Malachi asks as we sit at the table after a delicious meal of fried redish and coala leaves.

"I'm surprised it took so long for one of you to ask," I say seriously all the good cheer and humour locked away within a moments notice, that place always brings out the worst in me. It's both humanity's blessing and a curse, a 'fucken' calamity of a place definitely not for the light or even kind-hearted in most areas.

"Oh honey we were just being polite before, letting you get comfortable first but we've all been wondering when it would be appropriate to ask but we figure two days is long enough," Sarah says honestly with her hand on my arm patting lightly.

I shrug, "I'm not used to the polite company anymore, it's been many years ever since I sat at a table and ate this way."

"Yes, Malachi says you Ascended some 50 years ago if I'm not mistaken," Ericson says smoothly, we both know he forgets nothing, a curse of the long-lived is an exceptional memory.

"That's the first thing you should know about time there. It moves slower than it does here, from my perspective it's been only five years since Ascension. A long five years for sure, but still only five years." I say taking the cup of tea passed to me.

"Couldn't that be just due to the differences in how we count time in the rotation to them there?" Wilson asks his expression still bored.

"No. I knew the moment I step onto Gaia again that I'd been away 50 years from this side's perspective but still only 5 from Omega's perspective."

"Omega, so that's the name of the world or plane the Gates lead?" Malachi leads the conversation back.

"World, and yes it is known as Omega by the local populous. And no, you wouldn't like it there, not unless you were a battle maniac or was supremely powerful."

"We have our own battle maniacs and powerhouses amongst our number."

"No you don't, not in a way that could make you prepared for that anyway. I know you all think you're powerful and you are, to be honest. Even against some of the creatures born on Omega, you would put up a fair fight or even win.

"But in comparison to the really powerful creatures on that planet, it would be almost comical if it wasn't so tragic how ill-prepared we are," I say shaking my head with memories chasing my waking moments.

 "Please, tell us all the is to know about this world Omega. I would be honoured to write a little story about your experience there is you would let me." Questica says with a slight now of her head. The gesture works as intended 'cause for some reason, I don't yet understand she is the only one I currently don't trust in the entire group.

Her humbling herself is a first step in gaining that trust from me, though seeing that she is my Master's daughter that should count for something. Like Angel said, the Ancient produces cool children. 

"I could tell you some stories but I'm not comfortable with stories specifically about myself for distribution."

"Whatever you think best, and your stories will only be distributed amongst the trusted members of the Conclave until such time that Omega is no longer a mystery to the rest of Gaia." She says opening her notepad and quilt.

I nod accepting that. "Well let me start with the world itself and what it made me aware of as I got accustomed to the mana levels."

"Sorry, not to cut you off but I've been dying to ask for years now. Do all the gates lead to the same place?" Take the gnome asks me.

I smile at the question 'cause I wondered the same thing before I Ascended.

"No, different Gates lead to different places. Sometimes the same Gate on this side will lead to different Gates there, I'm not sure why that is but it just is."

He nods with a frown on his face seemingly unsatisfied with the response.

I look at my audience again catching their eyes before I try to express to them the beautiful addictive snake pit that is Omega. 

"I will start with one of the cities, one of the most famous because of it's vast treasures, exotic from all over the universe including dimensions in time vortexes. A city that is alive in the literals sense of the word, the city of Elantris.

There is an Ascension Gate from Gaia on there that leads the lucky few straight into the slimy depths of its filthy alleys. The stink of the city is without equal and the garbage and human faeces can be found at the dark corners of some of the houses of the lower suburbs. 

The city itself is great because it is a dungeon. The entire city is the most elaborate and well-designed dungeon I had ever heard of. Everything authentically made to be on par with everything found naturally on Omega, allowing even the most powerful giant troll go all out without fear of crumbling the buildings.

 As we fight and kill within the dungeon we gain power and purer and denser ether that condenses quicker into our systems. And the more powerful our opponents and the more difficult the fight, the greater the power gained after a victory. The environment caters to a complete bloodbath unless it's every person against the dungeon creatures right?

But that's not how the city runs. The dungeon creatures are the at the most powerful you can be before the dungeon kicks you out. Every single one of them is practically overpowered at power level maximum and can never be defeated in single combat by a single person within the confines of Elantris and they serve at the city guards.

They deal out punishments for murders, theft and general unlawfulness to the extent that they imprison you for years or simply maim. But they can never kill you, not unless you attack them or one of their own direction and lose. People have stopped trying to work together to take them down many centuries ago now.

Instead, people make their lives inside Elantris, living their everyday lives, going to work making ends meet. And all those simple tasks are rewarded by the dungeon. People gaining skill in strange things like pottery making, weaving, bricklaying, building design or even haggling. Skills that are actually acknowledged by the world and interpreted as power skills even outside the dungeon to the extent that even products outside the city are grades on the scale of poor, average, superior, rare, legendary, mythical and divine.

The scale of the product by which a person is graded to determine their mastery over it. Only craftsman or workman that can produce superior products being ever allowed to leave the dungeon, Elantris. But there is a catch in left as well for everyone that leaves the city can never return, it becomes an instance to them forever out of reach.

There are creatures is Elantris said to have been residents for hundreds of years. Slugs that are slimy and intelligent Awakened beasts 20 meters long and able to hold a coherent and interesting conversation with the best of them. No offence Quintin but I have always assumed Awakened beasts were stupid or unlearned for some reason."

"None took, we get that a lit from you humans." He rumbles in his chest voice.

"Thievery and murder are not prevented by the presence of the guards though, on the contrary, it emboldens people to try even more daring crimes. To get away with a criminal act in Elantris is have achieved something and all achievements in Elantris are awarded by an infusion on dense ether and sometimes the development of skills. 

Very few places within the city are deathmatches and even wanton slaughter completely sanctioned but yea they exist to for the crazy fuckers that like to live on the edge. Knowing they could be attacked at any time. But if you stay alive for ten straight days there the dungeon rewards you with ether and coins. The Stela is surprisingly the currency of choice within the dungeon of Elantris, or at least something like it.

There is also a slight time dilation within Elantris so that a single day outside is two day in Elantris. Not much in the short term but a let you consider someone that spends 100 years of their life there getting stronger and come out and only 50 years have passed."

"Is that were you ascended to, this Elantris?" Sisi asks with a whisper.

I shake my head sadly, "No, this is not where I came up to. I Ascendended onto the soft moist floor of the Dark Forest, home to the tall sun blotting Black Widow trees and of course giants of all kind."

I look around the room and it seems I still have the attention of my audience, with Questica not actually writing notes as I expected but actually writing the entire story already in her own words in a beautiful flowing script. I should have known she wouldn't actually need to take notes to remember everything I say a word for word. That annoys me for some run as on, that I missed that minor detail about her, it's almost like she deliberately misled me. I have no idea why I don't like this lady but I'm starting to suspect it's a supernatural reason.

"I know we have some pretty big creatures and being here on Gaia but I can tell you now you haven't seen a giant until you see a red giant. The things are big and wide and in proper proportion with the giant trees of the Dark Forest. 

"I remember minutes after Ascending into the forest and see the red giant coming I thought it was just a normal sized person and my battle sense was broken from the Ascension. I hadn't yet realised how to hug the trees where me as a scale when I saw them looking normal to my charging opponent ahead. 

But then I did realise nothing was broken and this thing is now only 200 meters away, only a few steps to reaching me. The ground didn't shake though and I kept thinking how the ground was so still below my feet. Normally when something of that size runs at such speeds with such obvious power there is usually shaking of the ground with every step. None of that's here as I faced my first of many opponents on Omega." I say with a sigh.

*

We take a break for me to explore the grounds and meet other people that live here that aren't part of the founding 17.  There compound is more extensive than I initially thought it was going at least 10 stories down underground with ceilings 6 meters high and wide corridors. More than enough space to accommodate someone of Quintin's stature but not enough to actually accommodate giants, not that there are any true giants on Gaia.

The lower floors are extensive and not just having rooms but wide open halls with underground gardens and other empty growing areas for the apothecary and other projects of some of the residents. 

Not everyone in this compound is actually super strong I'm relieved to find. Some of the people here are mundane and others don't seem like warriors of any kind. This eases some of my tension especially since Sarah said these people aren't servants but actually trusted peers.

"Hello there, I haven't met you before." A voice says from the side drawing my attention to the speaker. A gnome that is selling vegetables it looks like, though selling may be the wrong word.

"Hello, I am Zaraya a guest here. Sarah is showing me around but she has wandered off somewhere."

"Yes we all know who you are, we were informed of your arrival a few days ago, this is a small close community. Gossip and anything novel spreads quickly and having an Ascendant amongst us is a great honour." The white-bearded gnome walks forward and stretches out his hand for a greeting. "I'm Yoshinda." He says flaring his mana signature slightly as our hands meet.

With my skills and my mind, I will always be able to identify him by his signature now, even find him from a distance unless he learns to cloak it. It's not the first time I've been greeted in this way here and it's actually staring yo make sense to me that people should know each other's signatures if they don't intend to be enemies.

"I can't believe you call this a small group, there must be at least 300 people in this hidden compound you have in this forest," I say as I try to place his face and energy that seem so familiar.

"The compound has only recently been built in the last five years, the land was claimed by Sistysis. A woman that was a naga, one of the founding members of the Conclaves and an old friend of grandfather Aaka."

"I can see the resemblance between you and your grandfather. So you said she was the claimant of this terrifying, what changed? It still feels like it's claimed territory to me."

"The story goes that after she defeated a wyvern that challenged for this part of the forest she was too injured to survive on her own and went into the pocket dimension where they've been building their world all these years. There she used the last of her energy to bind herself fully with the planet though it meant she died quicker, she left a part of herself behind. And now so long as that world is connected to this one at this point the territory stays hers."

"Interesting dilemma to have, what happens when another creature tries to claim the territory."

Yoshida shrugs, "Anyone that has stayed here long enough can act as a proxy in such cases, and it doesn't even have to be one on one. Don't worry, with the current accumulated strength that is here right now, no creature on Gaia would dare to challenge for a claim."

I wasn't really worried but I keep my mouth shut as Sarah arrives and takes me from Yoshi's hands. There are children here I notice, and some of the children resemble the founders too much for it to be a coincides.

"You all have children here?" I ask Sarah as we walk through an area that looks and feels like a natural cave system with moss and mushroom and precious minerals sparkling on the uncut walls. I can hear the distinct flowing of water from one of the passages but we don't go there.

"Most of us that can have children do have children at some point, our children eventually have children of their own. It is inevitable." She says, softy.

We continue our tour mostly in silence as I greet new people and explore the extensively reinforced and warded underground compound. In places, there are glow balls that are mounted on the walls to slightly increase the lighting, in others the walls themselves glow slightly and in others still, there is complete darkness as those beings that have a high darkness affinity also need to be catered to.

 We go outside and I explore the immediate surround forest as well. The is an Ancestral beast only within a 100 km of this place I sense and a number of other string creatures. It isn't long before I'm back inside setting up on the table with a slightly greater audience to continue my story.

 

 

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About the author

Philip Read

  • South Africa

Bio: Who knew that writing could be almost as addictive as reading?

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