How Arkayos Met Loki
Arkayos paused. He knew for a fact he had heard no voice with his ears nor his mind from the mine shaft. However... something had made him stop. The adventurer absentmindedly checked his rations and water; he was not far from town, and he was still good on supplies. Shrugging his shoulders, Arkayos turned and entered the abandoned mine.
The mine left wholly unremarkable first impressions - unlit, dirty, questionably placed safety braces... standard abandoned mine shaft aesthetics. Lighting his lantern, Arkayos carefully ignored the various written signs informing of the mine's dangers and lack of profitable work, and continued deeper.
As he reached an elevator, the stench of death hung quite heavily in the air. If I had any common sense, Arkayos thought to himself as he wrapped a cloth around his face and stepped inside, this is where I would turn around and leave. Sadly, I think I left it behind when I picked up all that wanderlust. With a sigh, he pulled the lever and began to descend.
The elevator did not land with a solid WHUMP as it did with a wet squelch. Pulling the gate open and hopping down the last couple of feet, Arkayos turned around to see it had landed on a pile of bodies, mostly human. Taking a closer look, he could see their deaths had not been natural ones. Fear and terror had been etched into the ones who still possessed enough of a face to see, while others had huddled into a defensive position. Sadly, it had not saved them from what had attacked them... nor had it done any good against the elevator.
Taking a cursory glance around himself, Arkayos focused his mind and touched the nearest body. Screams of panic slowly filled the room as he saw himself in the man's final moments, racing for the elevator. Men of the cloth stood inside as the doors slammed shut and went up as miners and workers screamed and pleaded for help. Getting slammed against the wall of people, the person turned around to see more pushing closer, with armoured skeletons closing in. As the undead hacked apart the closest ones, spectral beings wove in between and sucked out the life force of others. A misty hand reached for his face, and the vision ended.
Arkayos stood back up and sighed. He had half a mind to get back in the elevator, but something tugged at his mind again. Undead were always a bother to him, but the fact something was able to touch his mind, through his defenses, without being able to trace where it was coming from, annoyed him greatly. Gritting his teeth and ignoring the very obvious fact he was probably being played, Arkayos drew his sword and went further into the mine.
Most of the bodies and gore stopped after a few dozen feet; it seemed they had been able to move fairly well as a group, for what little good it did. A bit further in, the mine took a bit of an odd aesthetic turn as it became well carved-out floors and rooms, as one may expect to find in an underground city. A few skeletons looked towards the new source of light and began to advance.
While most of his mental powers were of little use in direct combat against the undead, he had long since learned how to focus some of his powers into his wooden sword, making it quite formidable against those who should have left the mortal coil long ago. However, Arkayos was also well aware of his own level of fighting skill, and preferred to keep his battles quick-to-nonexistent if he could help it... especially when he was alone. Taking a defensive stance, he readied himself for battle.
The adventurer gave a derisive snort as the last spectre dissipated. He had been slowly pushed back to the elevator, but the hallway helped keep him from getting too overwhelmed. With the combat finally at an end, he took a moment to mend his wounds before wandering back to the odd mine-cave-city. Possessing more time than he had during his first visit, Arkayos could see it was less of a city and more of a few rooms crafted around a rather large spell circle. In the middle of the circle was another room, with two rather large humanoids standing out front. Their canine heads, glowing wings, and translucent bodies tipped him off to the fact they might be supernatural in some form.
Haaate guardian monsters... Arkayos grumbled to himself as he dug through his belongings. Taking advantage of the time he had while undetected, the adventurer made use of some magical accelerants, along with an unorthodox holy water breath weapon (few members of the clergy appreciated his tactic of spitting holy water at the undead, despite his success) to destroy one guardian before it could react. Soul-rending light shot forth from the wings of the second undead giant, but struck where Arkayos had been, instead of where he was.
The two traded blows while trying to outcircle one another; the monster could strike harder than Arkayos, but the human's barred mind prevented it from using the worst of its powers against him. Unable to read his mind or land a lucky strike, the monster fell before Arkayos, dissolving into mist.
The immediate threats gone, the adventurer decided to inspect the spell circle he had been fighting in a little more closely. His lack of training in the arcane arts prevented him from fully understanding, but with the knowledge he had picked up from previous adventures and friends, he could see it was designed to leech life or energy from whatever was in the center room. Focusing his mind on the circle, he could see it was still operating, despite the recent disruptions.
Searching the surrounding rooms for clues on what may be in the center, Arkayos turned up very little of value, save for a rod. Most of the rooms contained either paperwork pertaining to the mine itself, or the construction of the rooms; mundane information in of itself, but potentially disastrous in the hands of the wrong group of people. The Cancellation Rod, something Arkayos recognized for its abilities to nullify some of the strongest of magic items and spells, was found in a room of religious texts, pertaining to the beliefs of a god he was unfamiliar with.
Finally entering the center room, Arkayos was greeted with a strange sight. A figure covered toe to head in bandages hung upside down over what appeared to be a well. The runes of the spell circle became thick and heavy as they headed towards the figure, becoming very hard to ignore as they twisted the view of what they covered. The figure was held by a chain attached to their ankles, and another attached to some... thing on their backside.
Taking a closer look at the well directly underneath the figure revealed nothing but an eternal blackness. Leaning closer, he could hear a slight hissing from somewhere below where he could see. Arkayos felt his blood run cold as he realized he was not looking at darkness with a hard edge, but a hole in reality. Thaaat's a Sphere of Annihilation, he thought as he slowly stood back up. While he knew that it would probably remain stationary if it had not moved already, he could not help but worry as he tried to inspect the bandages covering the figure.
Finally calming down, he could see the bandages were actually hundreds of individual seals covering the figure and the mysterious mass on the back. Whatever the person was, it was clear those who wanted it contained believed it to be powerful. Over the face was a rather large seal with the image of an eye with an X over it; a common image used to block mental facilities.
This should be preventing them from even thinking, let alone trying to contact someone, Arkayos thought as he grabbed the edge of the mental seal, but even through this, they... oh dear.
The hissing became louder as the hole in the universe began to creep upwards, disintegrating the stone well around it. Arkayos let go of the seal and watched in relief as it moved back down. Once the feeling in his legs returned, he began to rummage through his bag again.
Of course this wouldn't be easy. OF FUCKING COURSE. Digging out all the scrolls he had, he put the rest of the contents back and looked at what he had. One forcefield. Of. Fucking. Course. Fine! Great! WHATEVER, he tossed the rest back into his back and looked at everything once again, holding the scroll in one hand and the rod in the other. And when I end up in front of the judge of the afterlife, they're going to be all 'and how did you end up here again?' and I'll have to say "BY BEING A FUCKING DUMBASS, HOW ELSE?'
The seals were not only draining the figure's power, but whatever might be applied to them as well, meaning any shielding would only last for a few seconds at most. Slapping the scroll to the person and activating it, Arkayos dropped the rod into the Sphere of Annihilation and attempted to brace for impact the best he could with both arms outstretched. Unfortunately for the adventurer, closing one's eyes and grimacing did little against explosions.
He took the ringing in his ears as a good sign; while he had yet to personally confirm it, Arkayos was fairly certain tinnitus was a thing of the mortal realm and not the afterlife. Before he even bothered to pick himself up, he concentrated his mind and closed up what wounds he could. He had become hardy from years of adventuring, but being at ground zero of a massive blast was not the best of places to be. Once he was certain his world was not about to transform into the dimension of suffering, he picked himself up and looked around.
The well was gone, replaced by a deep hole full of stone and debris. The figure still hung in the center of the room, unharmed by the explosive disarming of the trap. While the seals were still active, the spell circle had been broken, meaning the figure was simply being held in check instead of being drained. Walking over to the figure, Arkayos grabbed the mental seal, and pulled it off.
The figure immediately stirred, twisting and growling. He could hear some muttering, but between the unknown language and their mouth being held shut, he could not understand what was being said. And that's when I did the stupidest thing possible, Arkayos thought to himself as he opened a conduit of his mind to the bound being. Twisting their still-covered face in his direction, the person grabbed the mental connection, and entered.
The world became unending pain as his legs buckled. His senses were still sending him information, but his brain became unable to process any of it as he tried to regain his defenses. Whatever he had tried to connect to was completely alien to anything he had contacted before. While the Collective he had formed was still his, whatever the entity he allowed in was too large to eject; the sensation and concept were utterly beyond anything he had experienced before.
Just as sudden as it had began, the pain was completely gone. The person was still there, but more… compact. ‘Standard size’ as a mind typically was. Arkayos knew better than to wonder if he had only imagined it. Even though he now felt fine, he knew what he had gone through was no illusion. He began to stand back up.
“WHO ARE YOU?” The unknown’s voice suddenly demanded of him.
“I’m Arkayos, wh-”
“GET ME DOWN FROM HERE. NOW!”
The adventurer was beginning to lose his patience. “You realize you’re still sealed, right?”
The figure shifted uncomfortably in the seals and chains.
“GET ME DOWN FROM HERE. PLEASE.”
“Just who are you, exactly?”
“I AM LOKI, GOD OF LOVE AND DESTRUCTION! FEAR ME! Or better yet, FREE ME! Please. This is very unpleasant.”
Ahh… that explains it. Arkayos thought to himself. He had never shared a mental connection to a divine being before; part of him realized he was probably lucky to have survived the encounter.
“I cannot help but notice I’m still suspended from the ceiling here.” The god called back through. Arkayos glanced up at the chains; they did not appear to be magical.
“One moment; I need to free your arms first,” he took out a knife and cut at the gaps between their arms and body. While the seals were immune to the god’s otherworldly powers, they had no defense against a freshly sharpened knife. “You’re currently hanging over some sharp, pointy rocks; I doubt you want to stop those with your face.” A few moments later, both arms were free. Taking one of their hands in his own, he began to pull at one of the seals around their fingers. “Just one mom-”
“Ow ow OW OW OWOWOW!”
“ONE MOMENT.” He shouted back through the Collective. Their pinky finger was finally freed, the skin bright red from irritation.
“YOU FUCKING ASSH-”
“I NEED YOU TO PROMISE…” He overrode them again, wrapping his own pinky around theirs, “not to harm me. Okay?”
A pause… then a sigh. “...Are we really doing this?”
“Yes. I have just enough knowledge about gods that they aren’t supposed to be able to break their word bound by contract very easily. ‘Supposed to’ being the key phrase here.”
“Uh-huh.” He could sense a complete lack of caring or enthusiasm.
“I mean, I suppose if any god could break a promise, it’d be a god of destruction… but I’d like to think a god of love would know the suffering which occurs from breaking words and false promises, right?”
“Fiiine. If you free me… and take me to the nearby town to exact my revenge… then I promise not to harm-slash-murder your face off you for beiNG A JERK.” Their finger tightened around his. “And if the town’s already gone, I’ll consider it square. ANYWAY, Pinky promise~”
“Be done…” He felt a surge of energy wash over both of them as he released their finger. He looked up at the chains again.
“If I break my word~” The god continued, making Arkayos blink at the sudden test. He leaned close to their face.
“...I’ll take your tongue.” He completed, slightly annoyed. There was a pause, then laughter.
“Well! Lacking a tongue certainly would make it hard to be a proper god of love, now wouldn’t it! Well played, well played… now,” they reached down, but could find no purchase with the ground, “about those chains. And if you could do it without suddenly dropping me, I’d appreciate it.”
Looking at the two chains suspending the god, Arkayos scratched his chin. He could see some attempted movement to the protrusion from their backside, meaning whatever was in the giant wad of seals was connected to them. While morbidly curious as to what it was, he realized it could wait for later, and cut the chain holding it up. It sagged down, but did not seem to cause Loki any sort of serious discomfort. He grabbed the shackles around their ankles and readied his sword.
“Alright, I’m going to cut… noWOH FUCK, ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE NOT THE CAST-IRON GOD?!” He shakily lowered them to the ground as his arm burned with the sudden weight he was holding.
“Hey, fuck you!” Loki rolled forward as their hands touched the ground. They sat up and turned his direction.
“Is that thing attached to your back your collection of lead castles?!” He was running on snark more than actual pain, but at the same time, he was getting fed up with the entire ordeal.
They turned, even though their face was still covered. “What do you mean ‘that thing’? You mean my tails?! Wait.” They tried to feel, but were still quite hindered. “Get this off of my face! NOW!”
Arkayos gave one of the seals a sight tug; their face moved with it. “I’m assuming you’d like to keep your eyebrows and eyelashes, but if not…”
“DO YOU HAVE ANY WATER.”
He sat down next to them and dug through his bag once more. Pulling out his waterskins, he found one to be full, one to be a quarter full, and the rest empty. Replacing all be the partially filled one back in his pack, he laid Loki down and poured the water over the seals. After letting them soak (and another prompt from them), he gingerly pulled the seals away from their face and head.
A mess of orange hair and a pair of blue eyes drawn into a scowl greeted him. Fox-like ears protruded from the top of her head.
“You,” she said in his native tongue, using her actual voice, “are an asshole.” She pointed her free pinky down to her bound ankles. “Feet.”
He brought the sword down on the chain, breaking the binding. “Y-*” He began to say before his voice suddenly cracked. It had been days since he had actually talked, his throat was in dire need of clearing. “You’re welcome.” He sent through the connection instead. She stood up and looked herself over, then back at the mess wrapped around her.
“What the fuck?! What the fuck did they do to may tails, man?!” She screamed in dismay. She turned back to Arkayos. “Gimme more water!”
The human shook his head and sighed. “I might have just enough to get to town without being dehydrated, assuming you’re a light drinker.” He stood up and took a better look at the god before him. She was surprisingly short, just a little over four and a half feet tall. “You are tiny. How can you weigh so much?” Arkayos sent, then blinked. He realized the stress from the day was starting to take a toll; he normally had a bit of a diplomatic delay after a thought and before it became a projection, but that seemed to have cut out. Loki however, gave a bemused smile to his question.
“I have more muscle than you realize. More than you at any rate, so hey!” She held her arms open, “Time for strength training!”
Arkayos stared blankly. “...what?”
“Um. No. You weigh a tonne.”
Loki said nothing, but her slit pupils narrowed. Arkayos sighed, turned around, and crouched down.
“I make no promises of not simply falling over backwards on you when you eventually shatter my poor, abused spine.” He sent to her as she climbed on for her piggyback ride. “Oh… you’re lighter than before.”
“Even when I was mortal, I assume a gaseous form; I can do something a little more in between now. Won’t do much good in combat, but it’ll help me recover more quickly.” She pointed forward. “At any rate, onward!”
Aside from a brief pause in front of the dead under the elevator for a prayer, the journey out of the mine was uneventful. With Loki pointing him in the right direction, they made their way towards the town. Nightfall approached quickly, and the two set up camp for the night.
“So, how did you end up in there?” Arkayos asked as he served her some food from the fire. He had offered her a blanket, but she assured him the weather did little to affect her.
“My fucking priests betrayed me!” She growled through mouthfuls of food. “I entrusted them with my power, helped them establish that town, lead people there to be followers, and then when I try to sleep IN MY OWN GODDAMN HOUSE, they must have sealed me!” She stared off in the distance, still seething. “There’s something fucking wrong with the people on this plane…”
Arkayos only grunted in response as he placed another slab of meat on her plate. Although they were now actually talking out loud to one another, Arkayos had yet to cut her connection to their Collective Conscious. Within it, he could sense her feelings of hurt and betrayal mixed in with her torrent of rage. The adventurer himself had dealt with plenty of others screwing him over, only he tended to have a bit of an advance warning with his psionic powers. As her venting and her meal came to an end, he collected the plate and utensils from her.
“Well, with any luck, we’ll be able to deal with them tomorrow afternoon.” He lit his pipe and took a few puffs before offering it to her.
“Who’s ‘we’?”She muttered, accepting the pipe. “I will take care of this tomorrow. Oh, this is good!” Her expression suddenly changed as she tasted the smoke. Arkayos nodded as he gestured to her.
“Feel free to indulge; I’ll clean up here before bed.”
Loki sat and smoked as he got everything squared away; the adventurer could feel her calming down through their connection. With everything cleaned and packed up, Arkayos finished off the last of the herbs in the pipe before putting it away as well.
“Feel better?” He offered a hand.
“A little. I’m free, and that’s what’s important.” She took his hand, nearly pulling him down in the process of getting up. “I’ll feel a lot better once I’m out of these ridiculous seals.” She looked at her hands for a moment. “I think they’ve lost most of their strength to contain me, but they still make it hard to move. Tanglefoot bag of the damned or something…”
They entered the tent; it was a little cramped with two people, but still manageable. “Well, would you like first watch, or second?”
Loki shook her head. “I’ve slept enough for now. Rest, and I will recover while keeping watch.” She cracked a grin as he got into his bedroll. “After all, you’ll need your strength to carry me the rest of the way.”
A little after sunrise, Arkayos once more found himself with a mummified kitsune hanging from his back as he traveled the countryside. Aside from the distraction of catching a fresh breakfast, their journey to town was uneventful. Once the walls surrounding the settlement came into view, Loki stopped Arkayos.
“Give me the rest of the water.” She stated, hopping down from his back.
“Why?” Although he asked, he handed it to her before she answered anyway. The god simply held out her covered hands.
“How many powerful foes have you fought wore mittens? They’re not the most destructive piece of clothing.”
He continued to hold out the waterskin.
She made no motion to take the water, simply wiggling her fingers to the best of her ability.
Arkayos closed his eyes and sighed. “At least bring your hands together,” he muttered as he started to pour the water for her, “else you’re going to be fighting with one mitten on.” After a few moments of hand wringing and seal picking, her hands were finally free. She spun around with a huge smile before jumping onto his back.
“Onwards!” She pointed towards the walls, ignoring his sudden groan of pain. “To destruction!”
“Are you sure you’ll be fine?” Arkayos asked, walking next to the line of people. Although the gates were open, it seemed an inspection was slowing down entry to the city proper.
“Yes, mother.” Loki rolled her eyes. A guard started to approach the line-breakers.
“Well, that’s a no-dessert attitude if I ever heard one.” The adventurer could normally slip through a guarded gate without being seen, but kitsune gods did not make for unobtrusive entries. The guard grabbed Arkayos’ arm. Loki grabbed the guard’s.
“Hey, you didn’t give me dessert last night!” She suddenly accused, throwing the guard over the caravan. “I want dessert.”
“Then stop gathering attention!” Four more guards came towards them, hearing the commotion. The god let out an irritated sigh.
Loki reached out past Arkayos’ face and flicked a green bead towards the guards. It flew with an arrow’s speed, causing two of the guards to automatically turn around when it whizzed by them. The other two quickly turned when they heard an explosion rock the wall. Nearly forty feet of the wall had melted from the acidic impact from her spell, with the connecting sections and ground continuing to corrode away.
“Normally I see that trick done with fire.” Arkayos commented as they continued forward, weaving through the fleeing masses of people. It was not long before the line had disappeared.
“Yeah, I’d imagine so.” Loki smiled in amusement.
As they reached the hole in the wall, guards and adventurers in town had formed up, blocking the way.
“Shoo.” Loki waved a hand dismissively to the group in front of them. “Go on! Shoo!” Arkayos stopped and let the god down to the ground. He took a moment to pop his back while she stared down the blockade. “Do you honestly think I can’t do that again? Do you really think your flesh is any hardier than the walls?”
“Okay, no dessert for you,” the adventurer travelling with her put his hands on his knees, stretching his back in the other direction, “it’d just go to your cast-iron bottom anyway.”
Loki blinked and turned to Arkayos. They stared at one another for several seconds, making the gathered group shuffle uncertainly. Her companion stood back up again.
“Am I wrong?” He finally asked.
“Jea~lous~” She responded, turning back to the group. Both of them grinned.
“I don’t think-” One of their opponents began. Loki interrupted with a torrent of magical energy.
“Thank you for your honesty!” Waves of exhaustion overcame them, causing many to double over or fall to a knee. She began to march towards them. “I’ve come to kill those have crossed me; that does not include you. Yet.” Slamming her hands together, Loki pulled them apart to reveal two obsidian blades in her hands - a katana and a wakizashi. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to stop by my house.”
Stepping around the worn out guardians, Loki and Arkayos entered the city. She pointed her sword towards the church. “That’s where I’m going,” she moved the blade towards the buildings across the street alongside it, “you should be able to find supplies there. I’d recommend you stock up before people start running in fear and getting in my way.”
“Arright, if you need any help, just shout.” Arkayos left Loki to her own devices as he headed over in the direction she had indicated.
“Welcome to the general store,” The clerk greeted as the adventurer entered, “what’cha after?”
“Hello, I need a week’s worth of rations and enough water for four skins.” He set the skins on the countertop.
“Local church handles purified water if you’re in need of it for components, otherwise we have mead.”
“HEY FUCKERS! I THINK IT’S TIME FOR A THEOLOGICAL DISCUSSION!” Arkayos could hear faint screams following Loki’s declaration.
“Mead will do.”
The doors and windows rattled as Arkayos paid for his supplies. The clerk’s eyebrows twitched.
“What’s going on out there?”
Arkayos put his supplies away. “Destructuring of the Church’s chain of command, I believe.”
“You mean ‘restructuring’?”
His eyes slowly moved back up to the clerk’s face, considering his words.
“...technically true, I suppose. Farewell.”
Chaos had begun to spread to the streets surrounding the holy building. Guards and adventurers rushed towards the burning building, while civilians ran in the other direction. Over all the noise, Loki’s screams of rage could be heard quite clearly. Moving one door down, Arkayos quietly entered the Apothecary.
“Welcome, hey- what’s happening out there?” The adventurer glanced around the shop before looking at the clerk.
“The ah, local god has come to list her grievances with those in power at the church, I believe.” The doors and windows rattled from another explosion. “Discussion are still ongoing, it seems. Do you sell moko grass here?”
“Ah, yes, I-”
“Excellent, I would like to buy an ounce, along with some alchemical matches.”
The apothecary measured out the herbs. “W-what do you mean by grievances?”
Arkayos placed the matches and herbs into his smoking bag. “I think she took umbrage with their treatment of her and some of her followers.” He smiled lightly as he slid the payment across the counter. “If you’re a devout follower, I’d advise leaving; I don’t think she plans to stay after this is all said and done. Take care.”
Loading his pipe, Arkayos wandered over to the church. The people who were rushing in before now limped away. Screams of anger and terror still erupted from the building, becoming more holey than holy as time passed. Arkayos stood in front of the entrance a good thirty feet away as he tried to get his old lighter to ignite, but to no avail. Sighing, he put the malfunctioning magic device away and pulled out one of his alchemical matches, lighting his pipe.
The flickering light in the doorways and windows disappeared, and people ran out of the church screaming. Those who appeared to be regular churchgoers had some scrapes and bruises, but looked to be mostly unharmed. Those in robes seem to get caught in an invisible net, and were slowly dragged back inside the building. Arkayos took another puff.
Another man in robes made a beeline for the adventurer, recognizing his profession by his outfit. Arkayos leaned back slightly as they made a grab for him.
“BONESHATTER!” The incantation came from within the church. Before he could reach the adventurer, the priest suddenly screamed and fell to the ground, their skeletal structure shivering and cracking from within.
“H-help me!” The priest screamed. “She’s crazy, we can pay you to stop her!”
“No, she’s angry.” Arkayos mumbled as he watched the cherry go out in the bowl. He fished out another match as the priest was slowly dragged back by an invisible force. “And having seen what I’ve seen, she’s more than justified.” With the pipe relit, he focused his attention back on the priest, only to see him disappear back inside the church. The flickering light reappeared around the doors and windows. “Or you can just ignore me, that’s cool. I guess you have bigger problems right now.”
He resumed his smoke as he glanced around the town. Other than the church and the section of missing wall, it did not seem like too bad of a town. The citizens not currently in a panic had been friendly, and the guards were actually helping get people to safety instead of looking after their own skin.
The screams of terror and died down and the maniacal laughter followed suit. Arkayos tapped the ash out of his pipe and put it away. The flickering light of the force fields around the broken building disappeared as well.
“ARKAYOS!” A familiar voice screamed from inside.
The inside of the church was about what Arkayos had been expecting: body parts, broken furniture, organ slurry everywhere, and signs of elemental distress all over the building. In the hall, the fountain near the altar was rather undamaged. Loki sat inside, leaning against the edge. She gave a single wave.
“And here I thought you were going to clean your room when you invited guests over.” He carefully made his way over to her, making sure not to slip. She shrugged.
“Eh, it’s not like I’m trying to impress you; I think it’s safe to say you know what kind of person I am.” She waved a hand, replacing the forcefield around the building once more. The god stood in the fountain and turned away from him. “Any~way, unwrap my tails.”
Grabbing a nearby stool which had miraculously survived the onslaught, Arkayos began pulling off the countless seals attached to her protruding backside. A few minutes later, nine soaked tails were free. Loki ran a hand across them, expelling the water.
“I honestly have no idea how a kitsune without magic would even handle more than one tail.” Loki muttered to herself as they dried and fluffed up. “By the time you worked out the snarls and mats, it would already be evening.”
“It’s a goddamn mystery.”
“Okay, enough distractions!” She held out her arms again. “Continue!”
“So… I don’t suppose any clothes survived the reprimanding of your priests?” Arkayos looked around everywhere, but at Loki. The seals had finally been removed, leaving the god free from restraint… and any sort of covering whatsoever.
“My treasure room still has my seal on it, so probably.” She turned to face him. “Why? Hey…” Loki tugged on his sleeve, grinning, “what’cha lookin’ at over there?”
“G o p u t o n s o m e c l o t h e s p l e a s e t h a n k y o u .” Arkayos muttered quietly. Loki simply laughed and wandered off to her room. Sitting back down on the stool, he resumed his smoke as he waited.
“Were you able to get everyone tied to this?” He sent through the link as he tried his lighter, but to no avail. Breaking off a splinter from one of the pews, he lit it on a nearby fire and used it to start his pipe. The apothecary had given him very few matches, and he wished to save them if he could.
“Those who were not present I summoned to the church.” Loki responded. “While you don’t really seem like the religious type, just remember if a god grants you divine power, especially a god dedicated to things like love or compulsion, it provides a backdoor into your mind. Also, DON’T TRY TO ATTACK YOUR OWN GOD WITH THE POWERS THEY GAVE YOU, THEY CAN TAKE THEM AWAY WITHOUT A THOUGHT.”
“What was I thinking with this place? These people would have died via stupidity had I not intervened. I should have just let nature take its course…”
Some time later, Loki returned to the hall, dressed in a full-length kimono and a wide-brimmed straw hat. Both of her swords were in proper sheaths, tucked into her sash. Arkayos smiled as he put away his pipe.
“Ready to blow this shithole?” The god asked as she pulled him up from his seat.
“Good to go when you are.”
Holding her hand up high, the church began to crumble and melt. The walls, the furniture, and the remains of the priests dissolved until only the foundation remained. The townsfolk had gathered around, afraid but compelled to see what was happening. Witnessing their god in the flesh with their own eyes, all fell to their knees and bowed their heads. Loki looked over the crowd, her face a blank slate.
“The priests of this town have been punished for their crimes against their god.” She declared in a clear tone. “I have decided to leave this town standing as none of you were complicit in their deeds. However, I am withdrawing my divine protection of this settlement.” Loki pointed her hand to the crowd. “You are now on your own.” Seizing control of the surrounding arcane energies, Loki and Arkayos disappeared.
Waves crashed upon the shore at a lazy rate. It almost seemed as if the tide was producing waves because it was expected of it, not because it particularly wanted to. The sun was still somewhat high in the sky, but with the direction it moved, and the position of the nearby mountains, the cool breeze would only get colder. Arkayos passed the pipe back to Loki as they both watched the sea.
“It hurts to do that.” She finally whispered. Her teleport spell brought them to the beach a few hours ago, but she had said nothing. Instead, Arkayos dragged over a log for the two of them to sit on while he waited for her to be ready. “To cut off an entire people like that. Some of them still believed. You can always feel when they believe. It makes you want to pay attention to them. To see what they do with their lives.”
Arkayos said nothing, but scratched her back. The tiny god finished off the bowl and handed back the pipe. Standing up, she stretched her arms and let out the smoke.
“Anyway…” She turned to Arkayos and pulled him up. The adventurer himself was beginning to understand her mood swings a bit better; while she was still upset, she was not one to dwell, and saw no need to do her grieving all at once. Time and distance were needed for any more learning from this particular problem. “You’ve helped me out, but you haven’t really received anything for it, so let me change that for ya!”
With their hands still bound, the world melted away from them, only to be replaced with the interior of a building. As his senses acclimated, he could feel the minds of a number of people in the surrounding rooms. From each one, he could hear soft murmuring; loud enough to notice, but not to discern the individual words. Taking his hand, she pulled open one of the doors and entered.
Getting pulled into a seat, Arkayos could see they were in a university of some form. Nobody seemed to have noticed their entrance, including the people right next to them. As he was trying to make out the language being spoken, the teacher, who appeared to be an aasimar, turned back towards the class. While his lecture did not pause, Arkayos could see his eye twitch somewhat bad when his gaze fell upon Loki… who promptly waved.
“Friend of yours?”
“Of a sorts!” Loki grinned. “Mostly the sort that doesn’t want to spend time around ya, you know the kind!”
It was not long before the class ended and the students left. Loki run up to the front of the class with her arms spread out; Arkayos trailed along behind her.
“Hey~ Tek!” She jumped in front of him, full of smiles. The aasimar simply looked down at the kitsune.
“Why?” He asked, full of dismay.
“I got a faaavor to ask of ya!” Spinning to Arkayos, she grabbing his bag full of smoking supplies and pulled out his lighter. She handed it to the teacher. “Fix this! Fiiix.”
Tek looked at Loki, the lighter, then Arkayos. “You’re her new friend, I take it?” He sat down at his desk and began to dismantle the little firestarter.
Arkayos nodded. “Arkayos Propadapolis. I… found her a day or so ago.”
“My condolences.” He looked at all the pieces before him. “You somehow burnt out the entire fire shard in here.”
“It gets sparks sometimes…” The adventurer mumbled.
“I highly doubt that.” He turned to the god. “Loki, this is well within your capacity to fix. Why did you come to me?”
“Because I can’t do delicate stuff, Tek!” Loki shot back as she removed a rather large crystal of fire from her robes. She held it over the desk and squeezed until it shattered, causing an explosion to start, but suddenly pause. Holding her hand over the shards, she kept the escaping energy contained, letting it eventually flow back into the shards, supercharging them. Tek grunted and picked up a suitable piece. “He doesn’t want to use that to launch fireballs, he wants to light his pipe and smoke!”
“Burn my eyebrows right off, I would.” Arkayos nodded.
“Yes yes yes, I forgot, control is something beyond you.” With everything put back, Tek used the lighter, causing a flame to rise. “Here,” he handed the lighter back to Loki, who passed it to Arkayos. The god reached out and gave the teacher’s nose a squeeze.
“Thanks for fixing my lighter!” Arkayos called out as Loki dragged him out of the classroom. Tek said nothing in response, and simply closed his eyes until they left.
“So… what are you going to do now?” The two of them sat near the campfire, eating dinner. Loki took her time and considered his question.
“I think I may just explore for awhile. While gods truly prosper with believers, it is possible to survive without them, if you know what you’re doing.” She turned to the adventurer. “How about you?”
“Probably just go back to adventuring when I get home.” He thought for a moment. “How did you know my lighter was busted?”
Loki smiled as she polished off her plate. “Your Collective is very secure against most things, but if a god inside knows how to listen… well,” she rest a hand on his leg as she handed him her plate, “just be careful in the future.”
Arkayos smiled lightly as he took her dishes and set them to the side. Both of them watched the fire for a bit.
“Do you always travel alone?” She eventually asked.
“Usually; just haven’t found a group I feel comfortable staying with for very long.”
“...would you like to travel with me for a bit?” She held out her pinky. “I promise to return you home if either of us tire of the other’s company.”
He linked his pinky around hers. “I believe in you.”