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146. Apocalypse

“Eons ago, when the world was still whole, the Nexeus served as a hub. As a place for travelers— visitors from other worlds— to pass through, to find rest and reprieve, a brief stop in their journey across the vast void.”

As Xidra spoke, recounting the history of the world, Daniel and Edithe stayed silent. They listened, thoughtful, a stark difference to mere moments ago. Both had been doubtful. Such an accusation— it was almost too much to believe. And yet, the enormity of it was too much to just ignore. Such a bold claim.

My companions had to heed the First Dragonling’s words.

“These are no ordinary folk. They are Worldwalkers, Planeshoppers, Realityskippers, Gods. and Devils. If our world was left unguarded, they would have been free to do as they wish. Wrought what they desire to our peoples. But the Old Gods, the Dragons, stopped them. They ensured that their stay in the Nexeus was fleeting. That no permanent damage was left behind in the thin fabric of reality that holds this world together.

“They were not fools. They saw the potential— of what could be done. Every hole that was opened was sealed shut. Every Worldwalker tracked, their actions monitored. If there were Devils and tricksters amongst them, they would be banished, whatever mischief they’ve caused would be reversed. But perhaps they never understood the true impact caused by otherworlders.”

Daniel drew his lips into a thin line. He faced the Kobold woman, almost apprehensive.

“What do you mean by… true impact caused by otherworlders?”

“The space that is torn open will never be the same. No repairs can ever truly be made. Even if each hole is filled, it becomes weaker. More vulnerable. But that is not all— when an otherworlder stays in the Nexeus, their very presence disrupts our reality. It warps the boundaries of the world. Erodes it. Wears down the very earth they walk in, corrupting the soil and the dirt and the grass and the sand.”

There was a gulp. I glanced over at the [Hero]— the so-called ‘otherworlder’— in our group. Those were harsh words. But Xidra didn’t know of his origins. She wasn’t aware that he was a summoned [Hero].

Edithe took over for him. She leaned forward, her eyes narrowed. The shock from before was mostly gone.

“And how do you know this? What makes you certain this is all… true?”

“It was all written in scripture. Left behind by our ancestors. Inscribed in stone— on the tablets in the Draconic Peaks. We have copied their writings, preserving it so that all our children should know the truth.”

“What about Demons?”

I piped up, curious. I wasn’t particularly worried— sure, this seemed like a big deal. My companions were concerned. I just didn’t care as much about this whole Apocalypse thing as they did.

“Isn’t the Netherworld, the Spirit Plane, and the Mortal Realm all part of the Nexeus? What’s wrong with summoning Spirits and Demons then?”

“You are correct.”

Xidra nodded.

“Simple crossings through the various layers of the same world does not erode the fabric of space. Not by itself. But when the world is already weakened, from the mistakes of time long passed, then each small action— especially when carried out by tens of thousands of Humans every year— will slowly whittle away at what is left. The loose thread tying our world together will only grow thinner. Even if a single bug cannot destroy a single crop, a swarm of locusts can destroy a field.”

“Huh.”

I didn’t understand that analogy. I quickly had the First Dragonling explain it to me. Then I leaned back, finally comprehending.

Edithe and Daniel were concerned. Rightfully so. That meant that both were somewhat responsible for this Apocalypse. They may have made little impact by themselves, but knowing that they contributed to it had to be unnerving.

“This is… concerning.”

The Human man let out a nervous chuckle. Edithe was a lot more poised. Her face was covered in wrinkles.

“If this is true, we have to do something about it. But just the three of us alone won’t be able to make much of a difference. We’ll have to speak to Hadrian, Gabriel, Baris. The others— anyone we can. This is…”

She began to list names. Contacts. Anyone she knew. She turned to Daniel, asking him if he knew anyone important. He hesitated, and told her that he would write up a list and give it to her later. I frowned and cut them off.

“What can we even do about it?”

The question was directed to Xidra, but my companions overheard it too. Heads turned, facing me. I continued.

“This seems important and all, but the question remains: what can we even do about it? In the first place, isn't this the job of those Old Gods you keep talking about?”

“It is. Our ancestors, Dragons, left this continent long ago to halt the end of the world. We know not what happened to them. Just that they left us here, aftering bringing our people to safety.”

I raised a brow, and she explained.

“This continent— Sanctuos— was never where us Kobolds lived. We came from the far east. From a land that was lost to the void. The same goes for any Species that lives here. Any that isn’t a Cyclops, of course.”

I glanced back at Edithe. She shrugged.

“This is the first I’m hearing about this too.”

“Do you Humans not know anything? I thought you had schools and academies!”

“We do— but I’ve never been in one. And even if I have, I don't think I’d have learned this. This seems like something big. How can it all just be lost to history? What about the Elves? The Dwarves? The Beastmen? The Cyclopes? Do they not know anything about this?”

“We know nothing about the Beastmen. Our kind have not interacted with theirs in many millenniums. Cyclopes are dubious; they treat our religion as they treat every other culture that interacts with theirs. But as for the Elves and the Dwarves— the Dwarves are vaguely aware of our scripture, but they refuse to accept it. Only Elvenkind knows of the truth. Their long lives let them remember a time long ago. Perhaps slightly differently from us. But they know it is the truth. However, they are too busy squabbling between themselves to care. Not too different from Humans.”

Xidra spoke, a lamenting look on her face. She glanced down at the palm of her hand, the scales covering it were old, nearly flaking off, and it didn’t help that she was likely pricking them with her claws when stressed.

“This is just… a lot to take in, Xidra.”

Edithe shook her head, before quickly qualifying.

“No offense. I want to believe you. I really do. But this is a lot.”

“I understand your apprehension, Edithe the [Mage]. That is why I only wished to speak with you, and nothing more.”

“You don’t want us to… do anything?”

“I do not. This is, hopefully, the first step to building a relationship with Humankind. I wish to reconcile the differences between our Species. Not force you to work with us before we can come to an understanding.”

That made sense. Daniel nodded, agreeing with her. Edithe however, bit her lower lip. She looked like she wanted to do something even more. But the Human man placed a hand on her shoulder.

“As much as we want to help right now, we have to do our own research first. I’m not saying we shouldn’t trust Xidra. Perhaps she really believes what she is saying. But it may not actually be true.”

“Daniel the [Warrior] is correct.”

The Kobold woman spoke, much to both my companions’ surprises. I peered at her as she continued.

“While I have utmost faith in the sacred writings of our ancestors, it is something that could have possibly been tampered with. Interference by zealots to push their own agenda. Other such forgeries. And it is natural of you to be dubious of its origins. So, worry not, Edithe the [Mage]. I have told you what I wanted. What happens next needs not be rushed.”

She gestured for us to follow after her. I was quick on my feet, at her side in an instant. My companions dragged themselves across the floor, lazy, or maybe still caught up in the revelation made by Xidra.

“For now, I will do whatever is necessary to ensure your protection. If you need to travel across the Plaguelands, I will have Hoxle—”

“No.”

I shook my head, waving a hand at Edithe’s Bag of Holding.

“There is no need for that. We promised you we would keep the Totem of Incense safe until its destruction. Especially if Zix the [Warrior] decides to act brashly. You say that there may be laws preventing him from doing as he wishes, however I have seen Humans act outside the law. Humans, Kobolds, Cyclopes, Demons— we are fickle beings. Words alone cannot stop us. Especially if we are beyond motivated to act.”

Daniel, Edithe, and Xidra stared at me. I cocked my head.

“What?”

“...it’s nothing.”

Xidra sighed, bringing us out of her room.

“Very well then. If you insist. We only have a little more preparation to make for the ritual to be complete, but I will ensure that you are properly accommodated.”

—--

For the next two days, me and my companions stayed in the tall minaret, in guest rooms close to the rooftop. It was not the most comfortable room we had been in. Especially since the three of us had to squeeze together in that small space.

It only made sense. Kobolds were smaller than Humans; they didn’t need as much room to sleep in. And this was a place of worship— they didn’t prioritize making it fancy or anything like that.

We spent most of that time holed up in our room. We weren’t Kobolds. I mean, I could have gone out pretending to be a Kobold. It wasn’t like I transformed out of my Mortal Form once. But Daniel and Edithe were Humans. Neither of them could do much to hide that fact.

Even if the Risen Dragons were less discriminating against them than other Kobold factions, they still stood out. So, it was better for them not to wander about.

The pair of Humans spent most of their time discussing the details of the Apocalypse. They wrote down everything they found important. Each piece of information they could possibly learn more about. Things they could ask Xidra to elaborate upon.

However, before either of them had the chance to speak with Xidra once more, there was a ruckus. Something happened which required the First Dragonling’s attention.

A clamor came from outside. Beyond the barriers set up by the Risen Dragons. The Nature Spawns were riled up. A crowd gathered around the shrine. There was a bellow. A shout.

“Let us in! We wish to speak to the First Dragonling!”

Zix the [Warrior] stood with a retinue of his followers, arms folded, dressed in decorated garbs. I glanced out the patterned window, staring at him as he provoked the crowd around him.

“Gaze upon their cowardice, people of Unarith! The Risen Dragons have holed themselves up since their heresy has been revealed! The First Dragonling refuses to show her face. Come out, Xidra the [Herbalist], and accept your crimes!”

I glanced at my companions, seeing nervous looks cross through their faces.

“Do you think they’ll try something?”

“I’m… not sure, Salvos. But that Kobold was the one who razed Ghostlight to the ground.”

Edithe pursed her lips. Daniel placed a hand on the hilt of his longsword.

“We should be prepared for anything.”

“Right.”

I nodded.

I prepared a Star Forge and waited, watching Zix with uncertainty. He could be trying something here. Perhaps he might be trying to build up a mob— one that would swarm the Risen Dragons. But that was reckless. Too reckless.

If not, then what else could he be doing?

I soon found out.

Xidra stepped out of the entryway of the shrine, marching up to the angry crowd, flanked by high leveled Kobold guards and Hoxle. She stopped right at the edge of the barrier, meeting Zix’s gaze. Before she could say anything, he raised a hand and pointed at her.

“By the primeval traditions of the Old Gods, I challenge you, Xidra the [Herbalist], First Dragonling and leader of the Risen Dragons, to the Trial of the Scales!”

 

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