I do not own Mythic Ocean. Paralune does.
Chapter published July 18 2020.
"What if... everyone had powers?"
"Oh, thank the Twins," he said, reaching out to grab the jar. "You're a life saver, Amar."
"Hey, any time, bud!" they said with a grin on their fanged, furry face. The god of revelry wasn't quite as made for moving around on land as for swimming through water, but they were still a god, and made do. Plus, Amar was tall; they could easily lay on their belly, raise their head, and still by eye to eye with Jarir himself. "If ya don't mind, I'm gonna head on over to the other camps. Unless you need anything else?" they asked, tilting their head and opening all three eyes wide.
Jarir bowed to his once-teacher. "No, you've been a huge help. This..." He hefted the jar. "This will save a great many lives."
"Sounds good." Amar paused, then tilted their head. "Jarir, just want to say this before I forget. I'm really proud of you, ya know? You've come a long way."
He shifted uncomfortably. "Thank you, sir. I'll see you around."
Amar pointed one of their purple-tinted paws at him. "Will do, bud!" Amar stood up straight, tail ramrod stiff, and fell backwards into a suddenly-opened portal that snapped shut once they were in; even the other gods had each been granted an ability in the Empowerment, generations ago, and Amar's was the ability to open portals.
Well, they were gone. Time to get to work.
The large white tent Jarir'd met Amar in was filled with the sick and afflicted, all victims of the weapons the dread goddess Alethea and her followers employed with reckless abandon. The air was filled with the sounds of groaning, coughing, and of people voiding their stomachs - from either end - as the invisible sickness wracked their bodies inside and out. Many other healers were walking around, tending to the wounded as best they could with powers and medicine alike.
It was time for him to get back to them. Jarir braced himself, raised the jug to his lips, tilted his head back, and drank.
For the briefest of moments it tasted like tart blueberries, and then it tasted like medicine. Cold and bitter, it slid down his throat, coiled around his gut, and sent surging warmth through his body even as he suppressed the urge to retch. As drop after drop was absorbed by his body, he felt his power replenishing. The warmth turned hot, turned excitable, until he was filled with enough energy to bounce off the walls. Only when he'd drank everything, leaving none for others, was he ready to return to his job.
After all, his power was among the most valuable for treating these poor people.
Jarir went over to the closest patient, a fox woman with her golden fur falling out in clumps. Kneeling over her, he held his hands out and focused on his Twins-given power. A pale green glow, so transparent as to be nearly just a shimmer in the air, streamed from his hands and into her. He felt for her damaged flesh, for the places where the essence of her being had been twisted out of shape, and began to push it back into what it should have been. She sighed in her sleep and her breathing evened out as Jarir finished his work and stood with a heave. He wasn't tired per se, but the use of his power had made some of the warmth Amar's elixir had given him turn to a bone-deep chill.
She'd need more medical attention, but at least she wouldn't be deteriorating any more. She'd make it.
But there were plenty more who needed his help.
It was horrible work. The varying stages of the sickness were something out of a nightmare, and often it wasn't just the illness itself but also the burns and scarring the rebellion's weapons inflicted directly, too. It was all so horrific, yet even worse than that was the fact that Jarir was used to it, that he and the other medics had all seen this so many times his stomach barely even churned anymore. Why was this happening? Why was it still going on, even after all these years?
He walked from stretcher to stretcher, worn shoes sinking into the scorching desert sand. He coordinated with the other healers, directing his power to specific parts of their patients' bodies as they performed surgery with grabbers and scissors and cloths - all reused and stained, but made safe through Katri's power. They asked for tools, they got tools. He asked for them to hold a patient still as they convulsed, they did. Beyond that there was simply nothing to say; what were they going to do, talk about the weather?
The work continued as the sun traced its path along the sky, casting the desert in all the shades of gold and bronze. Portal-wielders constantly showed up from the front lines, carrying the wounded and sick on their shoulders. Portal-wielders who would themselves soon fall ill from having been exposed to Alethea's weapons. There were always more people to treat, always more poisoning to take the warmth from his gut and replace it with ice.
The day went on and, inevitably, his thoughts wandered. He thought back to his home, a tiny village all the way out by the Crashing Falls oasis. Last he'd heard, the rebellion's forces had come across it, but that was all he knew. Jarir feared the worst; his home was poor and out of the way. Few there had combat-oriented powers, fewer still had any formal training at all; he was the only one fortunate enough to attend the great god Amar's academy. If he ever returned, what would he find? The buildings reduced to sandstone rubble by nuclear weapons? The trees and grasses devoured by great, crimson-winged insects? He didn't know, and that was the worst part.
... when would he get to return, if ever? This war had been raging for... years. Despite the vast armies of people trained to fling flame and summon slicing tornadoes, despite the Twins themselves storming the frontlines, it'd been going on for so long. How much longer could this war go? A traitorous part of him wondered if the Twins shouldn't just surrender, give in to Alethea's terms before too much damage was done.
He was drawn from his daydreaming by his patient groaning, and vomiting up blood and... other things he'd rather not think about.
... there was already so much damage being done. Even just being near the rebellion's weapons when they fired was terrible beyond words.
Jarir shook his head, and took a moment to wipe his brow. Despite the ever-encroaching cold that came from overusing his powers, his hand came away with a thick coating of sweat on it. These weren't good thoughts to be having. All he could do was do his job as best he could, and save as many people as he could. And for those he couldn't... he could make them as comfortable as possible.
"MOTHS!" came the cry.
Jarir snorted awake. He'd fallen asleep standing up, catching what few minutes of shuteye he could. The nausea and weariness that came with the lack of sleep vanished like a mirage when his brain processed what'd been said.
Moths. The chosen army of Lutra, God of Hunger, who had sided with Alethea in her rebellion. Their vast numbers formed the backbone of the rebel army, and worse, their ability to fly even through the vacuum of space meant they could attack anywhere, at any time. They moved fast and struck hard, leaving entire oases devoid of greenery in mere hours. He'd heard of moth attacks, but it was always someone else, always somewhere else.
Today, here was 'somewhere else'. Today, he was 'someone else'.
Everyone broke into a panic, trying to figure out what to do. Some of the walking wounded startled awake with elemental power crackling in their hands. They ran out of the massive tent, looking to join the fight. Medics leaped for what few supplies they still had and tried to bury them in sand, hide them from the approaching moths. Jarir's first, panicked thought wasn't even in words, just a vague, general sense of how he had to get the injured out.
He'd only made half a step towards the nearest cot before he froze. Get them out? Get them out where?! They were in an undisclosed location out in the middle of nowhere, where would they move the patients? Out into the middle of the desert?
Wait, the watch. He remembered the watchman had a speed power, maybe if Jarir got quick, he could get him to spirit the sick away to safety.
Jarir turned around and ran for the nearest flap. Pushing it open, he emerged into the blazing afternoon sun.
All around him, desert dunes stretched in all directions,scintillating as the minuscule sand grains reflected the sun's light in every direction. From his back came the cool breeze from the oasis they were set up next to. He chances a look up at the clear blue sky; there wasn't a cloud to be seen, but off in the distance, he could see it. Far above, so far up he had to crane his neck all the way back, was something like an eyelash stuck in the sky; small and black and curved. But even as he watched, the leading end of the 'eyelash' grew and turned as the swarm of giant moths spiraled down towards them.
"Where's the scout?!" he shouted to one of the many nurses scurrying around. She lifted a feathery arm and pointed at someone. Jarir followed her finger to find the man in question... finishing a conversation with another doctor before turning into a blur of tossed sand that disappeared over the nearest dune in seconds. "No!" he shouted, reaching out a hand in vain. They were gone.
Well, he couldn't give up! The moths were still some time out, he had to think of something! Jarir rounded back on the nurse, a harpy woman, and spoke frantically. "We've got to find a way to hide the patients," he said desperately, wracking his brain for thoughts.
She had an idea first. "What if we bury them underground? Does anyone have an earth-shifting power?"
"We're all healers, of course not! The only ones who would..." His eyes lit up. "The injured. One of them must have the right power, one who's well enough to use it. Split up! Spread the idea!"
"Right!" she said, giving a hurried flap of her wings as they took off in two opposite directions.
Jarir scuttled about as quick as he could, shouting for someone, anyone, with earth powers. He got a few takers, but they'd need more than one or two naga with broken arms to successfully hide every single one of the recovering patients. Luckily, as he ran around, he saw other healers doing the same, some with increasingly large followings behind them just like he did. They reconvened inside the tent, closing the flaps behind them to hide the ever-approaching swarm of moths.
"Alright, everyone who can use their earth powers, step up!" he shouted, taking a place in front of the crowd. About two dozen people stepped forward. "We gotta hide all the people still recovering, and only place to do that is underground! Put them under, enough air to last a while, but make sure it has a, uh, uh... " Oh no, no, don't lose your train of thought now, of all times! " - solid wall around it," he said with accompanying hand gestures, recovering. "We don't want sand pouring in on them." When they didn't move it, he snapped a hasty, "Move it!" that got them raising their hands and shrouding their fingers in flickering, unsteady earthy light.
He hated the idea of making them use their powers while still recovering. If he had it his way, none of them would be so much as lifting a boulder for the next month. But it had to be done; they could be treated for overexertion later, but if the moths killed all the patients still laying insensate on their beds, there was no coming back from that.
Jarir stumbled as the ground beneath him suddenly caved downward, and he had to run out of the area of effect as the warriors created an enormous sinkhole. He joined his various fellow medics and nurses in making sure the beds and cots were gently lowered instead of being allowed to simply drop - patient and all - into the hole. Once done, they just had to cover them all back up -
A shrill whistle filled the air. And then -
The world turned pink.
The next thing Jarir knew he was laying on the ground, spitting sand. His sunhat was nowhere to be found, leaving the sun to beat down on his head. His vision wasn't... blurred exactly, but it wobbled back and forth too fast for him to make out anything beyond a scene of turmoil and chaos, with people desperately flinging their powers against towering blurs of shadow and flame. Jarir sputtered, another mouthful of sand pouring from his lips, and pushed himself up on his hands and knees. His eyesight stabilized enough that he could hazard a look around.
The moths had descended, swooping down to attack and rising back into the sky before anyone could get a good hit on them. He saw one of them cleave a dryad in half with its serrated insect legs. Another hovered in midair, a struggling young woman in its grip, and took off into the sky. It quickly reached a height that would be too high for her to survive a drop from. Many of them hadn't even joined in the fight, instead descending upon the oasis itself to devour the trees, leaves, grass, flowers, fruit, everything green and growing with terrifying speed. Jarir watched a dozen moths clinging to a tree bear it down with its weight, but it was consumed so fast that it was all eaten before it even hit the ground. The tent was gone, torn to shreds, and he could see several moths in the half-made hole in the ground with the injured, committing butchery.
He got to his feet, stumbling, and a moth touched down in front of him. Jarir took a step back and, gawking, turned his head up to face the creature.
It was... massive. It stood at twice his height, with a sextet of sky blue eyes that stared down at him in cold blood. A ring of dark gray fur surrounded its head, and the six furry antennae, arranged around its head like a crown, waved back and forth like it was sniffing him. Its six legs were folded beneath its body and its wings, the color of dried blood, were fully extended. Streaks of black ran along them, like teardrops of oil.
Jarir tossed a clump of sand into its face.
The sand just bounced off its compound eyes with the light pattering of hail on stone, and the moth did not falter in the slightest.
It raised one of its serrated forelegs and in that moment, he knew he was going to die.
"Hey guys, what's going - ACK!" Amar said, emerging from a portal and immediately going wide eyed. They tripped on their legs and stumbled backwards. The last thing Jarir saw of the god was their black-ringed tail vanishing into their own closing portal.
That was enough of a distraction for him to scramble away and run. There was no way he could fight a moth. Stronger people than him, with more combat-oriented powers, had died trying to be a hero and fight off a moth single-handedly. His shoes sunk into the sand as he ran, every step an uphill battle, and then the moth recovered and rounded upon him.
In the blink of an eye and with a flap of its wings it caught up to him, and a force like a hurricane slammed into his back, throwing him forward. Jarir struggled to get up, only to scream in pain as the moth impaled him through the back, pinning him to the ground. But his scream fizzled out into a mute groan as all the air was instantly pushed from his body as the insect's jagged limb tore up his flesh, leaving him flopping like a beached fish.
As if summoned by the thought, portals opened up all around the battlefield, and from them streamed dozens of soldiers each. They all unleashed their powers on the nearest moths; the one impaling him was barraged by icicles, fireballs, bolts of lightning, miniature tornadoes of glass, and more, with enough force to knock it off.
As it did, the spiked leg in him was wrenched out and his vision flashed red with pain as it did. Made it... worse. I need... I need -
"Hang on there, bud, I got ya," came a familiar voice. Oh-so-gently, Jarir was lifted by four furry arms, and carried through a portal. The heat of the desert instantly vanished, replaced by the cool dampness of some hidden underground chamber. He shivered at the sudden cold, but how much of that was blood loss? He could... he could feel.
"Here, she's got ya," Amar said, and sure enough Jarir felt the familiar burning heat of someone healing his wounds engulf his body. "Man, that gave me a fright. Came through to check up, walked right into a moth attack!" Jarir turned his head over on... on whatever he was laying on, and focused his vision on Amar. "You're lucky, though. There were a bunch of portal-users where I'd just come out of, didn't take long at all to get folks out where you were."
"Amar..." he croaked, unable to even turn his head to look at who was healing him. "... the... injured."
The otter's face softened. "Yeah, it's, uh, not a good thing to be out there, friend." They brought their upper pair of arms together nervously. "Look, I'll head back in a little bit, help look for survivors, but right now it's real hot out there, ya know?" They nodded solemnly. "We gotta wait till the moths are chased off, right? No sense running in until then. Besides." They winked their third, center eye. "You were the one lookin' after them, right? I'm sure they'll be fine."
"But - "
"Hey, just take it easy, friend, alright? You don't gotta shoulder this whole thing yourself. We'll look after ya as long as we need."
Jarir hesitated, then nodded. Teacher's orders. The world, the war, would go on without him.
Time passed. The war was raged and the world was ravaged, but in time the rebellion was put down.
Jarir found himself discharged and, while he still couldn't walk for very long before being winded and needing to sit down, he'd otherwise made a full recovery. More than many could say. At least he was well enough to watch the imminent Judgement.
He stood outside the Palace of the Twins, among the throng of jeering, riotous civilians. An elf held up a sign demanding for Alethea's execution. A minotaur beside him bellowed for the dismantling of all technology related to the defeated and disgraced goddess. Further along, effigies of both her and Lutra burned, sending up pillars of smoke into the cloud-laden sky. Jarir stared up at the palace, simmering with anger that reached his brow and made him sweat, despite the popsicle he was eating. Would he get to see her? Would he get to see the goddess who'd brought all this crashing down around them, whose selfishness and obsession had unscrewed the world? The Palace of the Twins was massive, after all, and towered far above everything else around him.
Near the top, if he squinted, he could see the open tower where the Twins often held court with the mortals. Sunlight streamed through the open gaps between pillars, and if he squinted especially hard, he could see a figure within, bound with chains, looking as though they wore a flowing gown; Alethea herself, goddess of science and discovery.
Jarir seethed. He only wished that Lutra were there, too, but when it was clear the rebellion's fate was sealed, the moths had all disappeared back into the stars. He would have to settle himself for witnessing the ringleader's judgement.
The clouds rumbled, and he smiled cruelly, joining in the rising jeers. It seemed he wouldn't have to wait long.
"ALETHEA!" the Twins' voices bellowed from above. The sky split, revealing Ketri and Esti standing upon the clouds, the sun shining behind them, as tall as the mountains themselves. In the distance, lightning struck the desert with accompanying rolls of thunder. The twin gods' eyes burned pure white with power as they gazed down upon the world, their faces set into expressionless masks. "We wish you had not tried to fight us like this."
"You were our friend, our mentor!" Esti said, clenching his fists.
"We looked up to you," Ketri finished, placing her hands on her chest.
"But it is all over now," they said together. "You have caused so much damage."
They all screamed louder, baying for blood.
"You have killed so many people, and your weapons have disfigured so many more."
"YEAH!" Jarir shouted, his blood boiling, his mind's eye flashing with the horrors he had seen in the war.
"Though your forces are defeated now, who is to say you won't try this again?"
In the spire, Alethea raised a hand to her face, as if the visage of the Twins was too intense for her to bear.
"We will show you the same mercy that you refused the people of this world, and give you your life. In place, we strip you of your godhood," Ketri said, her hands glowing orange.
"You will live the rest of your life as the mortals you terrorized," Esti continued, his hands glowing as well. Between the two of the twins, a colossal orb of pulsing magic expanded out of nothingness, as gargantuan as the gods on either side of it. The twins each placed one hand on the orb.
"You will know hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. You will know sickness, and you will know old age. You are a god no longer, and the day will come when time shows you less mercy than we do today, and then you will trouble nobody any more." With that, the magic between them pulsed and the twins each held their free hand down towards the world. Rays of cascading light in every shade of the rainbow, forest green and lightning blue and ruby red, descended upon Alethea as the crowd, Jarir and all, worked itself into a frenzy at the sight of the Twins' judgement.
The rainbow ended, and Alethea slumped in her chains. The Twins lowered their hands and dispelled the power between them, but their eyes did not cease their merciless glows.
"... however," Esti began, "even as a mortal, you may stir the hearts of those who care not for their fellows. It is such that we banish you, Alethea, to the far corners of the universe. Never return to our world!"
"Find some distant planet and live out your days there, and should Lutra and its swarm find your home, pray they are as eager to obey you as a mortal as they were in the rebellion," Ketri finished.
"NOW, BEGONE!" they commanded, holding out their hands and pointing to the horizon. Blinding, sickly yellow light engulfed the tower Alethea was housed in, and when it was gone, there was no trace of the former goddess to be seen. The clouds closed up, and the Twins were gone.
The crowd continued to scream, scream for blood, scream for death, scream for vengeance. But bit by bit the din faded, and the crowd dispersed. There were jobs to go to, food to buy, long-term patients to check in on. The world continued to turn.
Jarir turned away and looked for someone with a portal ability to bring him back home from the capitol. All the while, there was a sickening pit in his gut. He wished the Twins had killed Alethea. She'd... she'd just done so much! There was this young spider girl, barely into puberty, who'd had half her face melted off by chemical weapons. An old human man who'd died on his lap, gray hair falling out by the clumps as he coughed up bits of his internal organs. The horror of it all was just... just impossible to describe, and her punishment was to just have her live as any old mortal? Far away in the corners of the universe, away from the people she'd hurt? At least make the damn bitch look them in the eyes and say that her little fit was worth it.
How could they let her get away with this?
It just wasn't fair.
"Wouldn't that be WAY more fair...?"
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