The Many Lives of Cadence Lee

by

vladerag

Chapter Thirty Nine - A Quick Peek Behind the Curtain

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A note from vladerag

  Meatier chapters are coming.  The latest one I've written, which brings Patreon to 3 ahead, is close to 6k words - and none of it is Statblocks.  I've no idea why I ended up writing so many short chapters, but I noticed I had and I didn't like it so they will be lengthening again.

[Priestess] Ophia POV:

 

  To serve Alet was to see the Truth in all things. Although I lack Her sight and so it takes me time to pierce every barrier, eventually they always fall. To see the world with Her blessing is to see the workings of existence, to look at a grain of sand and see the parts that make up the parts that make it up. To see its long history and the many paths of its future.

  [Priestesses] of Alet were trained with a grain of sand inside the Empty Room at Alet’s main temple. To survive, you had to be able to ignore the infinite knowledge that poured from that single grain of sand because otherwise it would drive you mad. Once you made it that far without becoming a gibbering wreck, the [High Priestesses] would begin to send you to find information. First, broad things like the age of the piece, but then more and more specific pieces of information. A [Priestess] of Alet must be able to pick out a single grain of sand’s worth of information from the infinite amount of knowledge that lies within a grain of sand.

  I had passed that trial and now could see the workings of the world. I could see particles in motion, know their velocity and direction and see how they all worked together to form the marvel of reality. In Truth, for I cannot lie to myself, I understand almost nothing of what I see. It might be possible, but to try and peer into the minutia of creation was to lose your mind.

  It was a tradition for servants of Alet to attempt it just before they died.

  I knew better than to look too deeply, to try and understand the strange and small mechanics that inhabit every single mote of the universe.

  I knew better than to look too broadly, to try and understand the whole of creation itself is to try and go beyond the Gods themselves. A mortal who could understand and imagine such a universe might as well be a God, able to create an entire reality in their own mind.

  What I did see I could never speak of, save to a servant of Scalus and even then only in service to justice and Justice.

  And I greatly appreciated that restriction, because I would never be able to explain what I saw when I looked at that wyvern - no, that Incarnator. Cadence Lee.

  She stood out like a beacon and the Truth itself rippled from her touch. The many lives - the many worlds - that I saw were shocking enough, but what I saw running through them was terrifying.

  There are no words to describe the breadth of the Truth, nor any human mind that can withstand it without couching it in metaphor.

  Her very existence was pierced by a megalith, one that not only dwarfed her meager years but my entire world. I looked deeper and saw the workings beneath, the infinite and depthless machinery of gears churning without rest. Turning, ever turning, grinding worlds to dust and gathering the dust of worlds to make them anew. Infinite suns going dark and lifeless, endless stars being ignited in the void.

  Time had no meaning: a world was born, lived, and died and the gears merely reversed themselves and the unending march of time was halted effortlessly and rolled back. The calculations ran, a variable was changed, and the world did not end again.

  I could not stop looking. I could not stop seeing how the Truth I had seen my entire adult life was bent and broken by the gears of a machine, only to be remade anew, yet different, reality bending second on second. I could feel my part in the Truth be fed to those gears,

.  I could feel myself being shattered like glass and reforged, again and again and again every moment. There was so much, there was so much, there was too much, TOO MUCH, TOOOOO MUCCCHHH, OH GODDESS HELP ME!

  A pair of hands covered my eyes and there was blissful nothingness.

  Some things are not meant to be seen, child,” I heard the voice of Aleth, but I could not reply. “And there are some things that must be hidden even from the other Gods, for merely knowing draws attention from Beyond. Now sleep little one; sleep and do not dream. I shall borrow your body and speak to the servant of my younger brother while your spirit recovers.”

 

Cadence Lee’s (as Hewka) POV:

 

  Well, now this is awkward.

  I’ll admit, my first thought when I saw the [Priestess] faint with blood leaking from her eyes was, “Oh, come on - I’m not that ugly!”

  I mean, really, what else am I supposed to do here? Yes, the human part of me wanted to help her, but this really wasn’t a situation that could be helped by adding a wyvern to it. The wyvern part of me was considering eating her, but given the woman’s advanced age I didn’t think she would taste all that good. Other than that, I was only wondering if this would jeopardize my safety here.

  I was now at the center of a crowd again, which I wasn’t much of a fan of, and the guards looked halfway ready to try and kill me. I couldn’t even speak in my own defense, although I could fight in my own defense. That would be an incredibly stupid move, even for me in this life, because I wasn’t exactly a small target that could escape with ease.

  Besides, sitting here has given me time to think and plan. My recent Evolution to a Young Gale Wyvern had given me an extra forty Willpower and Acuity, and the difference was incredibly obvious. My thought process was still shot - half way through a thought I might start wondering if the [Priestess] had collapsed because Podi had turned me into an eldritch abomination and my very existence was anathema to…

  Yeah, my ability to reason really was shot. However, I felt like I was waking up from a long dream and I had put together a provisional plan. One that required me to interact with people for a while at least.

  But then this woman just had to come along and ruin it! Several people were crowding around her now, and I could see her sitting up, but she was very clearly avoiding looking in my direction. She was speaking to a [Priest] who was wearing a blindfold, who went and talked to Ray and Ray eventually came over and led me away from the temple.

  I honestly couldn’t tell what her emotions were through the bond, they were too complicated. Relief, fear, anxiety, hope, sadness, and happiness were all mixed together, so I mostly just tuned it out. The bond was nice, but it was no replacement for language. That was step one of my plan: learn the language.

  Now, there wasn’t any guarantee about my second step, but I had some hope that it would work out. Over the last year, whenever I had the ability to do so, I had considered what Podi awarded points for. So far, Podi seemed to award the most points - aside from Achievements - for killing things and for introducing technologies. Well, that whole pantheon business from my last life was worth a ton of points too, but I don’t think I could reproduce that reliably.

  However, Podi also gave points for Classes, Levels, Skills, and abilities. So I could probably gain a lot of points simply by Leveling my Skills in this life, and I think that the people around me could tell me about Skills I didn’t know about yet!

 

  [You have learned the Skill: Acting! Acting is now Level 1!]

  [The Acting Skill helps you pretend to be someone or something else!]

  [For every Level of Acting your effective Charisma is increased by .5% at all times. Additionally, all of your Stats are increased by an effective .5% while acting.]

 

  Like that one! Sweet!

  I also wanted to learn more about Evolution, although I doubt they would be willing to tell me that kind of information. I would be very hesitant to tell the magic air shark how to become a better magic air shark, were I them. So I needed to earn their trust. It shouldn’t be too difficult, I am actually a good person; or wyvern, anyway.

  Step three was: murder the fuck out of all the monsters in the wilderness with the strength I gain from working with humans. I am sure that I have the tools to launch poison gas attacks, so I should just be able to fly over a forest and kill very nearly everything once I figure out how.

  Environmental ethics were so much easier in a world with monsters in it.

  My grand plan… wasn’t really all that grand. In my defense, thinking was still hard. I kept getting distracted and having to force my thoughts back on topic. It is an incredible pain in the ass!

  On the bright side, it does make the time fly by, we were already at our destination! I was fairly sure it was an inn and Ray was talking to the innkeeper. I could see what looked like a stable just behind the building, and I was fairly certain that I would have to sleep there. Doors were kind of an issue for me right now and I don’t imagine wyvern sized beds would be a common thing.

  Ray seemed upset, but resigned, after the conversation. My prediction was correct as she led me to the stable, but Ray seemed particularly unhappy about it. I’m not sure why, where else could I realistically sleep? Besides, it was better than my little hut in the valley and my last life had gotten me used to sleeping on hard surfaces.

  Although, my home in the valley - Kohome? Boldhome? - didn’t smell like horse manure, but [Aerokinesis] solved that issue quickly. I expected the horses to freak out, but instead I felt the bond between myself and Ray stretch to include the horses briefly and Ray projected calmness and friendship through the bond to the horses until they calmed down and then withdrew the bond. I wonder if the horses had to agree to it like I did? I somehow doubt it. Something for me to think of later, I suppose.

  I curled up in the hay, expecting Ray to head back to the inn, but she sat down and leaned against me. Well, I won’t say no to the company, especially when she started to point to things and start to name them! Step one of the plan was already going well!

  Ray stayed with me the entire night, only leaving to grab a meal for both of us and a blanket for herself. Getting to eat real food after so long was wonderful, I could feel her amusement at my own excitement about the food, but there was no way I could help myself! Yes, as a kobold I was able to cook, but my maid training did not cover how to cook lizards over a campfire using a rock!

  I got a cooked breakfast too! Forget my plan, I’ll swear myself to you as a pet for eggs with hot sauce! I haven’t had hot sauce for nearly forty years and finally I’ve been able to eat it again! Ah, Podi I take back every bad thing I said about you for making me a toad. Bringing me into this world, even if it had to be as a toad, was fantastic.

  Curiously, by the time Ray’s party made it back to the inn, I was already starting to understand the language a bit. I suppose that [First Words] was usually activated when I was a human baby and had basically no Acuity and my much higher Acuity now was making it easier to learn? Or perhaps the bond was helping me to understand what Ray was teaching me. It could be both.

  Everyone, aside from Ray, left to go to the temple - at least, that is what I think they were doing - but she stayed with me. They came back without the kid, so he was probably still healing. I was actually pretty impressed, the kid would have died in Ra’Sharon or the Hin’Tye Empire because of the weakness inherent in healing magic. They seemed much more advanced here.

  It seemed that they were going to wait for him to recover before they left again, so I got a lot more lessons on the language over the next few days. It was day three when I realised that my “act” had failed hard. They - the low B ranked adventuring party, Seeking the Horizon - were perfectly aware that I was as intelligent as a person and had been pretty much the entire time.

  I would have been terribly embarrassed, but for once my instincts were quite helpful because wyverns were pretty much shameless. Instead, I focused on trying to use my [Aerokinesis] and Air Magic to talk. It… wasn’t going well, even with Ylma helping me learn to better use magic. Still, I had gained a couple Levels out of it, so that was good.

  It was five days in total before the kid - Tamlin - returned.

  “Hewka, thank you,” he came straight to me and bowed. “You saved my life; I owe you my life.”

  He bowed to Ray and repeated that to her - don’t think I don’t notice that slight blush kid! Probably the entire team did, because they all had very high Stats. They never mentioned their exact numbers, but I had watched Rauvin help a cart get unstuck from some mud. The man lifted the cart like he was Podi-damned Jean Valjean!

  Ylma and Rauvin started teasing Tamlin almost immediately, with Ylma leading the way. I couldn’t quite understand it all, but I did see him go from a slight blush to bright red! Even if I don’t always know the words, understanding tone and body language is easy enough. Ray’s are slightly different from the human’s, but it wasn’t different enough to make much of a difference.

  Karlin - who barely ever talked - threw in a dry comment of his own, and Ray started to blush as well, hiding her face by turning to me and inspecting my scales. The whole group was laughing and I had to say it was a nice atmosphere. I think I could stay here for a while.

 

*Two Days Later*

 

  “-an equal part of all gains, plus repayment for costs incurred while working with the party.” Rauvin was reading the contract to me, with that [Priestess] from before - Ophia - in attendance to guarantee his truthfulness. She very conspicuously refused to look at me and wouldn't - couldn’t, apparently - tell me why. “In the event this contract is broken or canceled during an officially issued Adventurer Guild quest by the Contractee, the Contractee will forfeit all claim on their share of the issued reward except that which is otherwise required by-”

  So it turned out [Lawyer] was a Class and Rauvin had paid one to draw up a legally binding employment contract for the party. Officiated as it was by a [Priestess] of Aleth - when I learned what they could do it became really obvious why Ophia had fell over screaming earlier. Podi does seem like the kind of ass who would be very big on his own privacy rights, despite not giving me any - it could be confirmed by a servant of Aleth and enforced by a servant of Scalus anywhere in the world.

  After much miming and difficulty, I had managed to ask and apparently there wasn’t a God or Goddess of Law in this world. I found this interesting, because personally I didn’t see how there could really be a God of Justice without a deity for Law. Apparently the law was completely in human hands though, which seemed a very poor choice but was more functional than I was used to due to the influence of Aleth and Scalus.

  I was asked if I understood the terms of the contract, which was a fair question given that it was written in fantasy legalese. The contract didn’t have any real surprises in it, in my opinion. I didn’t sign away any rights except claims on treasure (treasure was to be divided equally after costs had been paid) but I couldn’t actually use any “treasure” anyway. I wasn’t even sure what I would spend the money I’d be paid on, but I am sure I could find something. So I agreed that I understood the contract and agreed to it.

  [Priestess] Ophia signed on my behalf and I became the newest member of Seeking the Horizon.

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A note from vladerag

  For those interested, this is where Hewka's name comes from.

  Also, don't forget to PM questions for the character AMA that will be happening at the end of this... Volume?  Again, I'm not sure what to call it with a web serial.  Major Arc, perhaps.


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About the author

vladerag

Bio: Hello! I am Vladerag the author of several stories here on Royal Road! I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, and I hope you check out some of my stories!

You can find them here! https://royalroadl.com/profile/76129/fictions

And if you are interested in supporting me, you can do so here as well! https://www.patreon.com/vladerag

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