The Elder Realms
2100 Years Ago
Darkness flooded the vestibule. Morgyn materialized and stepped out from the shadows to meet the God of Death.
“The Realm Gods are gone,” they hissed by way of greeting, “Not even I can recall their names or even their worlds. Is this what you had in mind with your little Owl?”
“They are not gone. The Realm Gods are the oldest among us. They’ll return.”
Morgyn clenched their fists and advanced on the god, “They are Forgotten.”
“Perhaps that’s best for now,” B’Ollithiranon shrugged, pushing past them. “I need to see my mother.”
“Best for now?” they grabbed for him. “There is no such thing as a Remembered god!” They hated how desperate they sounded, but they couldn’t help it. The God of Death sat in the Underworld. He had no idea the suffering going on above. “Marshala took you in because she cared for you, and this is how you repay her? Her son is—”
“My brother is in the Water Realm visiting the Gods of Mer. Yes, I know.”
Morgyn narrowed their eyes but said nothing.
“Is it the word ‘brother’ that bothers you? The fact that I am so lowly, and yet, I count myself part of this family? If you feel so similarly to Omar, you need only trek to his palace. I’m sure you know the way.”
The insult burned. All these centuries helping gods and demigods escape, working with the Titans to try and mount some sort of counter, and B’Ollithiranon dared to compare them to Omar?
“Marshala worries herself sick!” Morgyn chastised, “And what use is that stable of monsters you keep if you won’t use them for anything? What about Agony or Fear?”
As soon as the words left their mouth, they cringed. Phobos was a foul creature and fundamentally unhinged. It wasn’t exactly clear how B’Ollithiranon had personified concepts, but making Fear had been a mistake.
Something unreadable flashed across the God’s face. “That’s not their purpose. And anyways, Phobos would find godhood prohibitive.”
“What about Somnus?” Morgyn tried, “He could be the God of Sleep. He’s reasonably sane and—”
“You don’t know what it’s been like here. Just destroy The Owl and Omar will stop chasing it.”
B’Ollithiranon shook his head and Morgyn found themselves unwilling to accept another refusal. “If you don’t,” they said quietly, “I will.”
Conjuring a ball of power, they let the full weight of untamed magic fill the air.
“You are young,” they rasped, “Foolish. And ages from now, you will thank me for saving you from your naive preoccupations.”
The blast knocked B’Ollithiranon off his feet.
“Don’t bother getting up,” Morgyn spat, “I’ll send word when I’m finished.”
But the God of Death did get up. Faster than Morgyn would have thought possible given the strength of their attack. He extended a clawed hand, angry energy swirling around it, and lifted Morgyn into the air.
A thread of terror lit through Untamed Magic as they found themselves choking and struggling to get free.
“What is that saying you are so fond of? Ah, yes, magic cannot die. But magic is not a body. A body can bend and break and struggle and suffer.” He punctuated every word with another flash of power that felt like lightning shooting through Morgyn’s veins.
Vision swimming, they let out a pained, gurgling sound.
“Is that an apology?” he chuckled, the cadence of his words cold and unfeeling.
Panic warred with agony as Morgyn felt the blood vessels burst in their eyes. There was no warning before B’Ollithiranon released his magic, dropping Untamed Magic to the ground.
The God of Death had grown stronger over the past few centuries, crueler too. “You’ve changed,” they panted, “What happened to you?”
“I forgive you Morgyn. These are hard times and it’s not surprising that you lost your temper.” He reached for the handle on the door, “But if you ever mention destroying The Owl again, I will show you the many things that lie between here and oblivion.”
San Myshuno, The Spice District
Maverick pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store. They had been driving for hours and were now cutting through San Myshuno.
“It’ll be easy to lose anyone following us here,” he explained. “The city is pretty big and we can lose the car and make our way to the airport on public transportation.” He quirked an eyebrow and lowered his voice, “It would be easy to lose her too.”
The “her” in question was already in full form. She hated the clothes they wore, the truck was uncomfortable, and she wanted to book a room in the hotel they used during auditions for the contest. That they had next to no money and were trying to avoid attention didn’t seem to matter.
“Don’t tempt me,” Miss Hell warned, her eyes dancing with laughter.
As soon as they walked in, the store clerk went on break. Not that it gave them an advantage. There were cameras everywhere.
“Do vampires eat?” Maverick asked as they browsed the aisles.
“We can,” Miss Hell explained, “Though we don’t have to. In fact, sometimes it’s easier not to. The more mortal things you do, the easier it is to get confused…to forget that you’re different.”
Maverick rubbed his chin, “I have a hard time imagining you forgetting you’re not mortal. How old are you even?”
She never gave away accurate information about herself, even to Vladislaus, and she had spent centuries by his side. “350,” she confessed. “Or thereabouts. I was born sometime around 1670. It’s…”—did she dare continue?—”It’s a guess. In those days, there was no such thing as a birth certificate, so the nuns did the best they could.”
Maverick turned to her, surprised on his face. “You were—”
Jimena’s complaints saved her from responding.
“I am the daughter of the Goddess of the Hunt, and you expect me to eat pre-packaged meat!?”
“The alternative is starving,” Miss Hell muttered under her breath. But out loud, she said, “Just pick something and be done with it. We’ll leave the cash on the counter.”
They made their way to the front of the store only to find two mysterious brown bags and a pile of simoleons.
“Don’t touch it!” Miss Hell cried.
But it was too late. Jimena grabbed to the stacks of cash, stuffing them into her pockets. “Do what you want, but I’m flying first class with this!”
San Myshuno Police Department
They were booked quickly and separated. There wasn’t a prison that could hold Miss Hell, given her vampiric abilities. But even if she could escape, Jimena and Maverick couldn’t. Getting out of this situation would require finesse. And fast-thinking, the last thing they needed was for these officers to check the APB and discover they weren’t just holding a group of petty thieves.
“You can keep your mouth shut, but if I was you, I’d be singing like a canary. Your little friends will. How did you know the drugs were being dropped off?” he demanded.
Miss Hell glanced nervously at the two-way mirror, trying to buy herself time to think. He looked over too and laughed, “No one on the other side will help you. Now, give me a name!”
Of course, no one on the other side was going to help her! She wasn’t a fool, she could see—
She could see nothing. Vampires had no reflection. That was the case ever since a powerful witch cursed every mirror in an attempt to root out the threat of “plasma-suckers” in one fell swoop. Their numbers had thinned considerably as vampires scrambled to avoid detection by suspicious townspeople adorning their entryways with mirrors.
But the officer gazed at her lack of reflection and didn’t even flinch. Which meant…
“Whose territory am I in? And don’t play stupid. I am a vampire, and I request an audience.”
She didn’t have to wait long, though when the vampires finally did show up, she almost regretted her request.
“You are in the territory of the Contessa,” a vampire detective in a purple blouse announced, “And when you are in her presence, you will bow.”
Miss Hell hesitated but only for a moment. If there was a vampire worth fearing, it was the Contessa. She was very old and bloodthirsty to the core.
But she also craved power, and that meant she could be negotiated with. After affecting a perfect curtsey, Miss Hell jutted out her chin. “I have a proposition for you.”
“Proposition?” Contessa purred, “How quaint. Danielle, bring me a chair.”
Danielle raced out of the room and returned a few minutes later with a chair and a glass of plasma. It was a power play, but Miss Hell could manage that. She clasped her hands behind her back and lowered her head, giving the best performance of “obedient servant” she could muster.
The Queen of San Myshuno didn’t respond right away. Sipping at her plasma, she sized Miss Hell up. Finally, she spoke. “Your name?”
“Miss Hell, I’m from—”
“Windenburg. Yes. I am aware. You and your king are making quite a habit of traipsing through lands that don’t belong to you.”
Miss Hell swallowed. “I—”
“No,” she replied pleasantly, “This won’t do. When you come into my territory as an enemy, you negotiate with me on your knees.”
Miss Hell blinked. It was stupid not to just tamp down her pride. Pride wouldn’t keep her alive. Pride wouldn’t get her a deal. And yet, she couldn’t make her muscles comply.
“Are you having trouble with your hearing?” Danielle asked. “I can help with that.” Her feral grin made it clear exactly what kind of help she intended to give.
“I’m here with a request,” Miss Hell said stubbornly.
“You’re here with a request, and you have nothing to give,” Contessa growled. Her eyes glowed, “Your knees, vampire, or get out of my sight so I can have my meal.”
She couldn’t just leave. She needed Jimena and Maverick freed too. With effort, she forced herself down to the ground. One calming breath, then two, and when she was sure she could speak without bitterness coating her tongue, she made her pitch.
“Myself and my two compatriots were caught up in an unfortunate misunderstanding. We have no intention of interfering with your territory. In fact, we plan to return to Windenburg as soon as possible. We’re retrieving The Owl of Undoing…”
She let the sentence hang in the air. It was always best to let the mark fill in the rest, or else you risked promising them something they didn’t really want.
“I have heard of this Owl,” she shrugged, “But still, you have nothing to offer me, and I am not inclined to grant you anything. Now, which one of your little friends should I start with, and would you like to watch?”
“Yet,” Miss Hell corrected, suppressing a tremor, “I have nothing to offer you yet, but I will once I have The Owl, and then I’ll owe you a favor.”
Contessa paused. “Favor? I do love favors…what do you think, Danielle?”
Danielle was smart enough to know this was not a real question. “A favor is always good,” she agreed.
“It’s settled then,” she lifted her glass in the air as if to toast.
Relief flooded Miss Hell’s veins.
“There is still the small matter of my dinner. Tell me, vampire, which of your little friends are you most attached to?”
have you ever been so disaster that you fell in love and it ended up taking down an entire pantheon for thousands of years and you had to go hide in a conduit & hold a sneaker once
Okay, this is a REAL problem in that while I do have many, many observations on everyone’s outfits, and am processing the information we got about character relationships, and am worried about Contessa, and am wondering where Maverick is going with this—is he living up to his name?—and am bouncing at the sepia tones because sepia tones scream BERNARD to me even though this is bad Bernard (fuck you ColdChip&Truth!Bernard), I want to get other stuff done today, so this comment is going to be big-picture speculation that you probably can’t respond to. Mostly because this chapter has sent me reeling.
There are so many answers to questions I should have asked about the Owl but just… didn’t. Even though the big reveal is its true purpose, and that it wasn’t even initially the Owl of Undoing, the more troubling part for me is that it isn’t single-use like I assumed. So that’s a couple lies the gods told us. Now both Alice and Vlad can get what they want, but I’m getting the message that Vlad can be emotionally healthy and whole and dismantle the patriarchy even though a death cult infused him with the essence of fear itself, which is one I’m Obama-nodding at. The concerning part for me is that it’s not clear how the Owl is used, and in particular whether the Owl can access its own abilities, and I absolutely do not trust Gwendolyn with that kind of power. Yes, it would be awesome for the God of Winning Arcade Games and the God of Vampire-Safe Ice Cream to casually ascend and descend every week or so, but I only think it’s awesome because I don’t live in that universe.
I’m still not buying that Marjorie is dead, and am now questioning whether Alice transferred the Owl’s consciousness or created a new one. But that’s a long shot, given how B’Olliebacksideoneeighty is describing the hoops he jumped through to make it. On the other hand, if he can access magic controlled by other gods behind their backs, I’m not ready to rule that out entirely. And there might be clues related to who was at Gwendolyn’s transformation.
This is another wild guess, but if my suspicious are correct, Orbalis is the spitting image of his father. Well, crap. Now I have to go back in the archives and check again how B’Ollieollieoxenfree responds to seeing him. Oh, oh, and Jimena! If my assumptions are correct. I’m faceblind enough to not recognize Miss Hell in her low-key getup, and had to figure it out from context. That being said, I do recognize the Titans, don’t recognize Janus—but don’t sleep with your students, Solis, holy cow.
Is Solis… controlling Sims? Experiment with them? What a monster! Some Goddess of Calculus she’s turning out to be.
Lastly, either Morgyn is being a really good sport about having worn the same dress as Marshala to the party or they’re silently dying inside and plotting revenge.
I have died, ascended, and then been undone in reading this comment, all while laughing until my sides hurt.
Oh, you know how I like to do, casually drop a bunch of secrets to send everything careening out of control just I promise to wrap up in two chapters. Actually, this is my method with BBD. Throw out so much insanity with one hand that you can’t see what the other hand is doing. Your eyes are on The Owl, not on Miss Hell’s real name being Anastasia Barrister. Like…Gwendolyn Barrister, which I’m sure is *fine* and won’t result in any kind of conflict with Vlad at all.
:: whistles a little tune ::
I love how suspicious you are! I also love how changing a character’s perspective in one chapter can completely throw a wrench in things. I mean, Janus/Transmutation is Solis’s magic—he belongs to her. Not so different from Vlad/Phobos, who technically belongs to Alice. Vlad and Janus are both sleeping with the boss.
Okay, TIME FOR CLOTHES, AND THIS GONNA BE SO MUCH BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS PEEP MY COSTUMING CHOICES, AND IT FILLS ME WITH GLEE:
Morgyn is actually wearing the same outfit as Marshala in every scene they are in together. Untamed Magic belongs to the Goddess of Fertility. In Morgyn’s view, they are supposed to act as a support and an extension of her. They see Janus/Faba’s galavanting around the worlds, having relationships with their gods, and pursuing their own interests as selfish and frivolous. They are horrified by the idea that Transmutation might see himself as a separate entity with a life outside of his god. To them, that is not love or devotion.
Fast forward 2500 years, and Morgyn (who has lost their god) is willing to do anything to keep that separate form. In Chapter 29: Life After Death, they ponder outfits at the end of their meeting with Miss Hell. The chapter isn’t just “life after death” because Alice brings Deacon back. It’s life after death for Morgyn, too—the life they live after the death of their God. Choosing their outfits based on their desires and goals has become commonplace for them, unlike Faba, who has a god (Nyx) and always wears some form of purple/pink.
Meanwhile, B’Ollithiranon (every time you spell his name, I crack up) starts out in rags when he is young and hopeful and makes The Owl of Ascension. A few centuries in, at the height of his power and using The Owl to make Somnus a God, they are dressed to the nines—Hair: on point. Nails: on point. Everything: on point.
Yes, chew on that. Somnus’s motivations just got a lot murkier. I mean, the God who made you a god suddenly falls, and they intend to hand the job over to a 30-year-old convenience store clerk from the worst desert town in Simnation (stunning, but holy hell is StrangerVille a tiny world)? Who wouldn’t be pissed?
Anyways, when B’Ollithirnanon hits the place in the timeline right before they are about to lose their godhood, he is back in rags. And he looks much closer to the version of “Ben” that Alice comes to know.
And this has been Outfit Choices with Ferosh LOLOL.
I love Vlad’s future, becoming emotionally mature and dismantling the patriarchy. Though he lacks empathy and a moral compass, and it’s hard to imagine his way of “dismantling” would not be a bloody coup. But, ya know, semantics.
You are 100% right that Gwendolyn should not be trusted with that kind of power, and it would be irresponsible of me as an author to give that to her. :: looks directly into the camera ::
Who else was at Gwendolyn’s ascension? MY GOD, THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION. :: looks at notes, grins :: Yup, great question.
“have you ever been so disaster that you fell in love, and it ended up taking down an entire pantheon for thousands of years, and you had to go hide in a conduit & hold a sneaker once.” — This is the most beautiful distillation of BBD ever, and when I get around to updating my site, I may beg you to use it, lol.
Solis is THE BEST Goddess of Calculus damn it.
Yeah, the Universe is the one who made sims, cough, I mean mortals. I wonder who she is?
HOW COULD I HAVE LEFT THIS COMMENT WITHOUT MENTIONING BAD BERNARD?
cold chip and truth bernard is officially the worst bernard.
Ooh, I wonder what Maverick’s agenda is here. Hopefully he’s not actually giving Miss Hell the real story and is more of a double (triple?) agent… though there’s probably a reason his family didn’t take him along or share more of their plans with him. Unless they did share and we just didn’t see that yet. Which could be good or bad.
Oh wow, old timey god realm, I didn’t epect that! 2000 years ago is quite the flashback! For some weird reason I assumed pre-sage Morgyn that was pure magic didn’t have a physical form. Though that would be a nightmare to screenshot if it was all just chatting mist, lol! Oh, how interesting, so the three sage disciplines were sort of just decided at random out of the three magics that were willing to go to the mortal realm? Those could have been some interesting combinations – not that the one we ended up with a safe and easy one, haha. Oh look, it’s Titania and Akira! Back when they had a god status! Aww. OMG, and Elmyra! Oh boy. It’s all about to go tits up! At least this was thousands of years ago, I guess!
The owl has a failsafe? Interesting! Don’t shush Ben now, Morgyn!
That escape went very smoothly. “I loved someone like that once. They took up so much space, I didn’t even realize I was suffocating.” Must know more! Who did Maverick love? And what happened? Is that what drove a wedge between him and his family? Oh my god. He is helping them BECAUSE of Alice? Urgh…. Oh Maverick. I blame the family, they really should have included him in their road trip.
“if you ever mention destroying The Owl again, I will show you the many things that lie between here and oblivion.” That’s definitely not going to come back in any shape again, I’m sure.
Oh, the Contessa, I’ve forgotten all about her! I’m sure she’ll not have any ill will or dwell on some minor incidents that happened way back, right? I’ll just will all these deluusions into reality haha. I wonder if the Contessa infilitrated the police, or if this is not really the police. I suppose it might not necessarily matter as far as Miss Hell’s predicament goes. So the Contessa accepts a speculative offer of the owl, though it’s not clear if the contessa even knows what the owl is. Perhaps she doesn’t care, though, beyond it clearly being something that matters to her adversary here. I suppose the value of things is always just determined by what someone is willing to offer in return, so all it might be to Contessa is a valuable trading asset. Aaand that’s not looking great for Maverick.
I mean, Morgyn claims that affection is a weakness Faba gained among mortals, but they clearly are no stranger to affection. In fact they’ do anything for their god and her children, and are helping out L Faba here on her quest to protect her loved one (I think? Faba and Nyx? I don’t really remember all that much about Nyx anymore, other than the general god disclaimer of “can’t be trusted” :D). Just because they express it slightly differently doesn’t mean they’re not already suffering from the same “weakness.”
Oh, I guess the magics were not all that random after all. I think. Ok, I probably understood about 5% of that scene. I wonder how much of it present-day Morgyn understands. Probably more than me, lol. Sooo is Morgyn now intending to steal the owl and pring it to Omar? Or just flat out destroy it? Whatever it is, they are certainly not sharing with William. Which is a shame because a) it will inevitably cause their fragile relationship and any resemblence of trust between them to be irrevocably damaged and b) I need a version for dummies so it would be helpful to hear them explain it to William 😀 Lol.
Oh shit, is Maverick dead? I wonder what Miss Hell said to the contessa, that it was him or Jimena that was more important to her. Oh man. Just as they were starting to build that connection. Although, when it comes to a change of heart, in the long term Maverick may have changed Miss Hell more by dying than if he lived. Not that that’s much of a consolation for him.
I love and am terrified by how your mind works and I am so enjoying the divergent paths our Morgyns are on, even as they both make insanely terrible, self-destructive choices (I know, I know, they got reasons!). I don’t think Morgyn sees how fragile this thing with William is and they are about to enter an even more fraught situation—meeting his family, a family that now includes The Owl which (you are right) Morgyn is determined to use as a weapon and then destroy.
When I finally wrap up book one, the first thing I’m doing with my break time is making an updated character page and a worldbuilding page that explains the magic because holy f-balls it is complicated!
The main thing to know is that all gods have magics and all those magics, like Morgyn, can have physical forms. This is mostly because (as you pointed out) trying to do screenshots with the magics as sentient mists was a nightmare so conveniently, if a magic is present they’ll be in “human” form. Anyways, B’Ollithiranon is a bit of an anomaly. His skill and the reason why he was granted godhood, is that he can take magics from other gods and combine them together to make something new. For reasons we don’t know yet, B’Ollithiranon wanted to create The Owl of Undoing and needed help making it work, so he asked the Universe for advice. She told him which magics he would need from the other gods and everyone agreed except Omar. So B’Ollithiranon made the “smart” decision and decided to just steal some magic from his ex-boyfriend who was dangerously possessive and already furious at being dumped for his sister.
Ah, love, so sweet and simple 🙂
Really though, I do think as the story progresses and Morgyn and others have to actually explain the Elder Realms to Alice and crew, some of this will start to make more sense. This is my biggest struggle with creating this insanely large fantasy world—when and how do I introduce information?
Anyways, yes, The Owl has a fail-safe! Should you be concerned about that? Hmm. Moving on, you really have Morgyn dead to rights. They can’t really see themselves clearly and their words don’t always line up with their actions. And yes, Faba is Nyx’s magic and you know, not trusting the gods is probably a safe bet in this story. They are complicated, as seen in B’Ollithiranon and the way he threatens Morgyn. No wonder people fear The God of Death.
But I digress.
The Maverick/Miss Hell adventure is so fun! Man, the hard thing about these chapters coming out once a week is that Contessa showed up in the story like a year ago so it’s easy to forget all about her. Her motives are…opaque. But since this already happened, I can confirm that the police job is one that Alice got her and Contessa knows all about The Owl, despite what she said to Miss Hell. The rate at which everyone in this story lies to each other is alarming.
Speaking of lies—interesting that you immediately questioned Maverick warming to Miss Hell but are also very worried that he’s not and he’s in over his head and he might be dead. Is he dead? Should you be worried? Hmmm. Moving on…
HAHAHAHA jk jk all I can say is that you’ll have your answer next chapter but Maverick’s family did call him during all their heist plotting and the necklace he gives Miss Hell is the same one Amisyia and Caleb retrieved and shipped to Strangerville. That doesn’t exactly confirm that he’s alive but we shall see! Either way, you’re right, it’s definitely made an impression on Miss Hell.
Haha, all the self-destructive Morgyns, I love it 😀 Oof, meeting the family should definitely be interesting…
That helps! I think the main thing I was confused about was the reason why B’Ollithiranon decided to make the owl, but if we don’t quite know that yet maybe I’m not as confused as I thought! 🙂 I do love the nunaces of the different relationships the magics had with their gods and the different attitudes the gods had to the bond with their magic too. It’s fascinating!
Lol yes, clearly my thoughts about Maverick are all over the place! I definitely initially thought he was playing an angle there but he kept sticking to his guns for so long that I became convinced. Or thought maybe his angle changed in the process. I’ll definitely cling on to hope that he is alive, though. Or if he’s dead that he’ll meet up with Alice in the underworld, or something 😀
I have written a novel-length comment on this chapter three times now, and every time I end up brain-broke and wanting to re-read the whole story so I can comment something better than complete brain-gibberish.
Soooooooo that’s what I’m gonna do! Once I have enough free time, at least. I’ll be back later 😙 after thoroughly re-reading everything because all these reveals are just blowing me away and my perfectionist self wants to look at everything again from the beginning 😁
Lol I cannot express to you how deeply I understand that impulse hahahahahaha. Hooray!