For the first time in a long time, Dee felt quite helpless. She was watching as her body moved as if by itself towards what she assumed was the location of the rift. She saw everything that happened around her, she felt everything her body felt, but her body didn’t seem to be following her commands. Or perhaps it was, and she was just trying to rationalize her actions to conscious mind while her body moved according to her instinct and desires. Perhaps the deeper and baser part of her nature had taken over, while the rational part was just along for the ride.
Be that as it may, she was slowly but surely getting closer to the rift. There were wild and crazed elementals all around her. The closer to the rift she got, the wider the mix of elementals. While the elementals she had at first seen going towards the city where mostly low ranking members of the earth and air elements native to the region, the elementals closer to the rift were much more varied both in their element and type.
The aura Dee usually used for stealth was completely useless against the crazed elementals, as they were both mindless and driven by their crazed instincts. On the upside, the elementals were too busy fighting each other and destroying everything in sight to really search for intruders. Dee was also a master of finding hiding spots where there were none and moving stealthily, so her approach was a little slow but steady.
There was also the fact that whatever had woken up inside her with the burst of hunger she felt earlier seemed to be enhancing her abilities greatly. The shadows clung to her like a cape, making stealthy movement almost trivial. Twice she had run into a situation where she could not avoid confrontation, but whatever improved her abilities also improved her physical strength. Her body moved automatically and almost casually cleaved the offending elementals in two with just her claws. She had no idea of the strength of the elementals, but normally they shouldn’t fall that easily, right?
Dee had only the faintest impression that it took hours to get close to the rift, but it could’ve been just a couple of hours, or it could’ve been days for all she knew. The weird fugue she was in dulled her sense of time. On one hand everything around her seemed to be moving ever so slowly, but on the other hand she seemed to have some blank spots in her memory. How did she get out of the city? Why didn’t Moirai come after her? Despite the shadows hiding her, her diminutive master should be able to find her approximate location at least.
As Dee observed the rift from a distance, she noted that it looked a little like someone had thrown a rock through a window. There were numerous cracks running further from the hole with jagged edges. Except the window in this case was reality, and on the other side of the ‘window’ was a swirling and bubbling maelstrom of mana. The rift seemed to be just some few dozen mel tall and half that wide, but it seemed to be expanding ever so slowly. The rational part of her mind wondered where the expansion would stop, or if it ever would without outside intervention.
The mana within the rift seemed to be of nearly every element imaginable, but some of the elements were clearly winning in this struggle. This was reinforced by the fact that the small war of crazed elementals seemed to reflecting the conflict within the rift. There was clearly more elementals of certain elements, while the other were getting wiped out slowly but surely.
Was the rift spawning more elementals of the winning elements, thus leading to their victory? Or was the war waging outside the rift somehow affecting the balance within the rift? Or were they both symptoms of something else that she was unaware of?
In any case, it seemed that four specific elements seemed to be winning. Fire was the most numerous, and seemed to be focused on eradicating the losing small groups of various elements. The black figures representing shadow or darkness were locked in a balanced death struggle with the light elementals, which didn’t surprise Dee a bit. The fourth major player seemed to be ice which seemed to be content in letting the other elements take each other out. The ice elementals were less numerous, but they seemed to have gained a certain level of clarity and were not acting as crazed as the others.
‘Well, this seems to be as good a time as there will be. The elementals are all busy knocking each other out, so they might not pay attention to me.’ Dee thought to herself, and her body seemed to respond to that thought and started to sneak through the battlefield.
She still had no idea why her body had suddenly decided to take such a crazed risk, aside from the deep hunger that only seemed to grow stronger with every step.
“So why exactly are we here?” Lumen asked with a sigh as she looked at the dreary gray surroundings.
The ever-present gray fog had dissipated somewhat, but not enough to reveal anything but more grey landscape and some ancient remains that may have been a part of a forested ruin. Now even the trees that had overgrown the ruins had withered due to the ravages of time.
“It’s happening.” Umbra replied simply.
“What? Already? But didn’t we already figure out it was happening on her sixteenth birthday? That’s still a few months away?” Lumen asked a little indignant. She had made plans. Plans that were now ruined.
“Well obviously she’s ahead of schedule.” Umbra looked a little exasperated. “Don’t look at me like that! Time’s not part of my purview. I have no control over it!” She looked pointedly at the aged and greyed old man sitting nearby, who also happened to be the master of the domain they were currently in.
“The girl is a hasty one.” He commented simply. He was ever so slightly vexed that his daughters always used his domain when they had things to discuss and arrange. It was a sort of neutral ground for the two, and he had to listen to their yammering and bickering. Being a parent could be so bothersome sometimes.
“Well what happened?!” Lumen asked, still incensed. “I already prepared what you asked for. Five of my stronger servants were supposed to meet with the girl just before her birthday. I still have no idea what you needed them for. They are nowhere close to the girl’s current location now though. This was not the plan.”
Just because the two were rivals and enemies didn’t mean they couldn’t provide some assistance to each other when their interests coincided. And the girl most certainly would be useful for the both of them if things played out right.
“Yes, well, plans change. You’re too hung up on plans anyway. This way is much more interesting.” Of course a goddess that represented change would say that. “The five you provided were meant to keep her awakening contained. It would be kind of bad if she killed her new friends accidentally. Her next awakening could be a bit…explosive.” Umbra finished with a grin.
Lumen narrowed her eyes. Or it looked a little like that, since it was hard to tell with someone made of pure light. “How bad could it be? The worst that could happen is she awakens something like a devil heritage. It would make sense that her creators would use the blood of the most influential race from the thirteen hells. Did they use something like a fiend and make her go berserk?”
Umbra’s grin only widened, which annoyed Lumen further.
“It’s starting in case you were interested.” The old man said in a firm voice, partly to just shut the two up. The normal campfire was replaced with a large floating pearl-like orb that showed the image of Dee’s fox form sneaking into the rift.
“Wait, what’s that? Is that a planar rift? To the elemental planes? So that’s why she’s early.” Lumen asked questions that she answered herself.
As she passed through the rift, Dee’s fox form materialized a pair of large wings that stabilized her in the huge vortex of energies. The gods watched as Dee looked a little confused for a moment, before opening her mouth and starting to draw in the energies surrounding her.
Umbra gave a small chuckle. “That’s one way to absorb energy from the surroundings. Not the one I would’ve chosen, but that works too.”
Lumen gave an adorable grunt. “I just hope she’ll realize that isn’t the only way. It could become a bit gruesome if she starts to eat the powerful enemies she defeats in the future.”
“Eh, she’s a smart girl. She’ll figure it out.” Umbra waved her hand dismissively, before frowning. “I think…” She mumbled remembering how fond of eating the girl seemed to be.
Suddenly the space around Dee shuddered and thumped like a heartbeat and all light of reason suddenly vanished from her eyes.
“And so it begins.” The old man said quietly.
Suddenly the power around Dee surged and started to flow towards her at a much faster rate. If Dee’s earlier suction of power had been like a faucet of water, now it was like a grand waterfall flooding everything. Earlier she had been absorbing mostly pure mana, but now the raw elemental power started to flow into her as well.
“You never did mention what heritage is waking up inside her.” Lumen suddenly asked narrowing her eyes. The inflow of power was too much for a simple devil or a fiend.
“I have no idea what you are talking about. How could I possibly know?” Umbra replied, her grin coming back.
“Don’t lie to me. I know you had a hand in her creation. For all I know, you were the driving force behind the entire project.” Lumen’s tone became suspicious and angry.
“Now that’s a little unfair. Unlike you, I don’t control my servants. I might give them a little nudge here and there. I might have whispered a suggestion or two into the right ear while she was being created. Whether they abided by my suggestions is completely up to them.” Umbra replied innocently.
“What did you do?” Lumen asked with her voice rising.
“The Old Ones.” The old man replied distractedly. He was not the only being older than the two younger gods in this universe. He was the first, and he would be the last, but there were others far older than the two unruly daughters in front of her. After all, he wasn’t a creator god. He didn’t create life. In fact he mostly took lives. So there had to have been someone else involved in their creation. If he was considered their father, then there had to have been a mother.
“The Old Ones!?” Lumen’s voice became shrill towards the end. “Are you crazy?! You had them use the blood of one the imprisoned Old Ones?! You know damn well they were locked away for a reason!”
“I know, I was right there with you making the decision.” Umbra replied with a placating voice. “But why let their existence go to waste? What better heritage could you think of?”
The Old Ones were, as the name implied, some of the oldest and most powerful beings in existence. Some of them where fairly benign while others were dedicated to nothing but their own amusement and pleasure. They were also the progenitors of most of the mortal that came after. As the various gods gained in power, they gave some of that power to the four groups involved in the War in Heaves, in order to lock the Old Ones away. Their existence had become too disruptive. It was also questionable what the consequences of killing them would be, hence the imprisonment.
“Which one?! Which Old One did you use?!” Lumen demanded.
“Take a wild guess. Which Old Ones did the demons imprison? Anyway, you’ll see soon enough.” Umbra replied mysteriously.
The foresight of the deities was not very precise and Umbra knew that Lumen had not seen the exact nature of Dee’s powers in the girl’s future, just that she was strong enough to fulfill the purposes the goddess had in mind.
‘Thump.’ Another heartbeat and a ripple of power extended outwards from Dee. Her tails started to change color. One took on the color of gold, representing the element of light, one took on the color of blue representing the deep cold ice of the permafrost, one took the color of deep black representing darkness and one became fiery red. The fifth tail took on a grey hue, and seemed somehow intangible. The change only lasted for a moment before the tails turned back to their usual white.
As the thump-thump of the heartbeat accelerated, a ghostly apparition started to take a form around Dee. As the form became clearer, the observing gods could recognize a form very close to a dragon, except there was something odd about it. The dragon had a dark matte black scales that looked metallic, but there was an eerie purplish red glow radiating from between the scales. Similarly the dragon had the same glow where the eyes should have been, and the open maw filled with razor sharp teeth was also glowing purplish red. The dragon’s back had a row of jagged and sharp spikes running its length, ending with a long and sharp tail.
The apparition stayed ethereal around Dee, while she seemed to be inside the apparition. The apparition seemed to be protecting her, which was good because the elementals finally started to respond to the intruder within their rift. These elementals however where not the crazed low level spirits seen outside the rift. That did not make them any friendlier though.
“You gave her the blood of Tiamat?” Lumen asked quietly, her voice tinged with tension.
“Indeed. The progenitor of all dragons corrupted by chaos and darkness, the father of all Abyssal dragons.” Umbra was actually more than a little proud of her idea. Tiamat might have been the progenitor of the demonic dragons, often grouped under the moniker Abyssal dragons even though they varied as much as normal dragons, but unlike most of his progeny Tiamat was less…unbalanced.
Most Abyssal dragons were a savage bunch, even by the standards of dragons. They inherited the penchant for violence from both their demonic part and their dragon part, which led them to be one of the most aggressive beings in the universe. One of the most powerful, but also one very prone to going into a frenzy. As a result, the Abyssal dragons caused wide scale destruction and often became the target of desperate hunts by the other races. Notably even other demons had a habit of hunting them down due to their habit of attacking everything that moved, including their fellow demons.
Tiamat on the other hand was more in control. He wasn’t much less destructive, often being called by the moniker ‘Destroyer’, but he didn’t do it in a fit of frenzy, but with cold calculation and malice. On the other hand, Tiamat wasn’t strictly evil. Even the gods had to admit that Tiamat was more of a representation of an apex predator than anything else. He may have caused wide spread destruction, but mostly due to a desire to find more powerful enemies to fight. Those fights usually had a lot of collateral damage. The dragon didn’t really go out of its way to attack those weaker than him.
The three gods remembered Tiamat very well, and the apparition around Dee was different. It looked similar, but it was much smaller and less powerful. Not that it was weak, judging by the almost disdainful way it cleaved through the ranks of the elementals attacking it. However, just the aura of Tiamat would’ve been enough to kill the elementals and much stronger foes as well.
“It seems the girl will rampage around for a while, until she regains control of her faculties.” The old man said.
“That’s why I wanted Lumen’s servants there, in case she had awakened among her friends. They would’ve kept her contained until she regained her sanity and I doubt she can differentiate between friend and foe at the moment.” Umbra replied.
“So why not use your own servants? And how would she have gained all the necessary power for all this without the rift?” Lumen asked.
“My servants tend to draw the ire of all types of templar and priests when they appear. Also they’re less about containment and more about beating things into submission. As for the power, the same way she’s doing it now. Drawing from her surroundings. You forget, the Pantheon is filled with power, which is why the rift appeared in the first place. It would’ve just taken longer, and maybe would’ve been less effective.” Umbra explained.
“How will she get out? I doubt the elementals will just let her go, and the real powers within Pantheon will soon come to take over the rift.” Lumen asked a little worried.
“Well that’s a good question. Sneaking around is her forte, plus she should have a much better control over the shadows after this. Do note though that this wasn’t part of my plan.” Umbra said a little defensively.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that, but at least she had my blessing to fall back on if things get too bad.” The old man mentioned off-handedly.