The Elder Realms
2000 Years Ago
The courtyard bore all the hallmarks of the trial Omar conducted earlier that week. A few more demigods had their power drained. They became mortal, and that was when the Pious God’s real fun began. Executions would have been better—a mercy even. But the Pious God of the Sun did not believe in mercy.
“You don’t return any of my messages,” L. Faba complained.
Morgyn balled their hands into fists, “I don’t have time. Are you not paying attention? Look around you, Faba. This world is nearly empty, and you want to complain about Cryptomancy as a Sage?”
“Yes!” she cried, “The mortal world has none of these problems. The witches, oh, you should see them. They will really be something once they’ve learned all the magics. And Cryptomancy is insufferable, even you know that. Come with me. Leave this behind.”
Morgyn stared at her, an incredulous look sketched across their face. “Solis called Janus home. Don’t you see how serious this is?”
She crossed her arms and looked away. Faba felt no sense of responsibility for the Elder Realms. Morgyn might be untamed magic, but she was the one who led an untethered life.
“We finally have The Owl back from Omar. I don’t have time for this conversation.” They turned on their heel.
“Morgyn, wait!” Faba cried, grabbing their arm. “Is Nyx on his radar yet? Does he know we helped you?”
Her desperation was familiar. Up until this moment, Morgyn was sure their’s had hardened into something else. They shook their head, “No, Omar does not suspect Nyx is anything other than loyal.”
Faba threw her arms around them, crying softly. “Thank you, thank you. I don’t know what I would do if…he can’t find out that…”
It was surprising the way Mischief Magic clung to them, her shoulders shaking with some combination of relief and fear. Her time in the mortal world was changing her. This affection was a weakness. Morgyn could see that now, even if they couldn’t ignore the way it tugged at their heart.
“Don’t worry,” they said softly, “It’s our secret.”
B’Ollithiranon stood by the doorway, rubbing absently at his arms. Elmyra sat in a chair by the corner, exhaustion hunching her shoulders. The Owl was severely broken, packed in a box with some sort of machine attached. It wasn’t clear how the device would help. The God of Death would only say it came from Sixam, which did not quell Morgyn’s worry.
“It won’t make it,” the Goddess of the Hunt whispered, her eyes haunted.
“How convenient for you to be worried about that now,” Morgyn snarled. Elmyra had not once acted to stop her brother, and she hadn’t used The Owl to make new gods either. Why had they even helped these two idiots retrieve the damn thing? It would have been better to let The Owl die in Omar’s hands.
“Centuries and not a single new god!” they hissed, pulse speeding, “You have no army! No recourse! And yet you sob.”
“That’s not true,” B’Ollithiranon insisted.
“Don’t,” Elmyra warned.
“We made Somnus,” he admitted, ignoring her. “He wanted to fight, and I thought…I thought you might be right. But that went sideways.”
“Well, that’s another enemy god to add to the list.” Morgyn scrubbed a hand over their face, “We should go to the Fates. They looked the other way when we brought Orbalis back. They always know what to do.”
“No,” B’Ollithiranon closed his eyes. “They always know what must happen. And they’ll push you towards it regardless of whether it will destroy you.”
“Then we are out of options! We should turn right back around and drop The Owl on Omar’s doorstep.”
“I would never!” the God of Death shouted. “And he won’t back down. Omar’s magic helped make The Owl. He feels entitled to it.”
“What?” They could not be hearing him right. “What are you even saying?” they whispered.
Elmyra crossed to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. B’Ollithiranon sighed, resting his chin on the top of her head. “The Universe told me the magics I would need. You, to give it a chaotic nature. Abjuration to suppress other magical effects, Transmutation to manipulate forms and outcomes. I still needed Evocation to manipulate energy and unseen forces. I knew Omar would disapprove, so I went behind his back.”
“You had help,” Elmyra admitted, “There was no betraying my brother without my assistance.”
“I thought he would get past it,” B’Ollithiranon continued, “I thought he’d see the benefits of more gods, and he’d let it go. I thought he’d let me go. I underestimated the depth of his possessiveness.”
The same terror that lit through them all those centuries ago returned. Gods as powerful as Omar couldn’t die, not without The Owl.
“Why do this? Why curse us like this!” Morgyn cried. Only the Titans made efforts to stand against The Pious God of the Sun, and they were failing miserably. Everyone was failing. “Tell me!” they shouted, firing off a blast of power.
The God of Death did not fight back.
But neither did he answer.
Shrieking Llama Pub
“Tell me!” Morgyn woke up screaming, “Tell me!”
William’s voice was so gentle. “I am trying, you’ve not been hearing me. Are you alright? I thought rest would have helped.”
“I’m fine!” Morgyn snapped, swinging their legs over the side of the bed. They rubbed their eyes in frustration. The nightmares—memories—always left them feeling out of sorts. They hadn’t even realized the vampire was talking.
“We need to get to them. Omar doesn’t know where they are but the things he talked about, the things he knew,” William hesitated, “It was concerning.”
Morgyn nodded, and stood, but immediately gripped the wall for support.
“What is happening to you?” the vampire asked.
What was Morgyn supposed to say? That they were unstable because the Goddess of Fertility was gone? Were they supposed to confess every ruthless sacrifice they had made in hopes of maintaining this form? In hopes of getting The Owl?
Did they tell the man they loved that they still meant to get The Owl and use it as it was intended? That to do so would involve a small betrayal but it would save his life?
A whole world.
Morgyn was going to destroy Omar the only way they knew how. “I’m fine,” they lied instead, “My power is just unsettled at the moment. It will pass in a bit.”
San Myshuno Police Department
“Finally,” Jimena sighed. “We’re free and clear. How soon before we can be on a flight to Windenburg?”
Mavericks’s screams had gone on for nearly an hour. Contessa made sure their discharge went on long enough to hear—a reminder of her ruthlessness.
Some combination of grief and nausea swirled in her gut. She was glad to have lied to the Queen of San Myshuno. Let her wait for her favor from The Owl; she’d be waiting forever.
Miss Hell put her hand in her pocket, running her fingers against the Heart of Sulani necklace Maverick left for her.
She had tried it on before they left, staring at the blank space in the mirror, wishing she could see it.
Don’t chase after someone who won’t choose you, he scrawled on a note next to the jewelry box.
It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, Miss Hell believed herself worthy, and she did have a reflection.
Before Somnus and Madame Caliente—
Before she was Miss Hell or Jimena’s caretaker or Vlad’s lover and enemy—
Back then, she was just Anastasia. She lived in Glimmerbrook, where a lovely couple picked her up from the orphanage and took her in.
She was Anastasia Barrister, her parents were Gwendolyn and Robert, and she loved them.
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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!