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Chapter 8

The Flame's Watch

The Flame burns brightly at the Universe's edge, a solitary light among the darkness.

Divine eyes look outwards towards the endlessness beyond. He senses all else that is out there. So many possibilities unfolding at once. Universes upon universes, worlds upon worlds, all brimming with life. A trillion stories being written every moment. It truly is a wonder.

And yet among it all he feels a disturbance.

A Hatred. An unnatural rage burning brighter than even his own flame. 

It is directed at him, directed at his subjects, directed at his universe - no it is deeper - it is directed at every universe and every living thing, everywhere.

A hatred so strong it has consumed, is consuming, and will consume.

The Flame feels his ancient heart beat faster.

For the first time in aeons, The Flame feels fear.

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A Lesson from The Tome

 

The class of five sat at Arunmila’s feet, their young brows furrowed in focus as they directed their full attention towards the Prime Urisha and the words coming out of his mouth. Arunmila smiled to himself; The Young Urisha were enraptured, he would do well not to disappoint. Arunmila adjusted his monocle and continued the lesson.

“So the Onus system ties directly into the Grand Purpose and only few can see it's visual manifestation in its entirety. I get glimpses, as does Primarch Emaja, but Prime Urisha Ebitola can see it in all it’s glory. He sees Its branches, roots, and ramblings, though he says he still does not truly understand it. He is no god after all.”

“But I don’t understand,” The statement came from the newest member of the class, Ishun. She had moved to the Oruka from the Underwater Kingdom with her mother before the fighting broke out. She looked the equivalent of a fourteen year old human, but was no doubt several decades old.

“What do you not understand, Young Urisha?”

 

“I don’t understand how the Urisha can war with each other. Does that not mean they are going against their Onus?” She asked.

 

“No. Although, we are not sure why this is happening, we do know that the Grand Purpose accepts this conflict. If it did not, and Urisha actively resisted their Onuses we would know.”

“How would we know?” Ishun asked.

“Honestly, I’m not completely sure.” Arunmila smiled and looked past the children as if daydreaming, “A past Arunmila recorded it but then destroyed the records. And as for me... well... I did not inherit memories of the event, just a feeling associated with the event.”

 

“What feeling?”

 

Arunmila paused, searching for the right words, “Sadness, disappointment…. Horror.”

“So in other words,” Ishun smiled , “Never reject your Onus.”

“Indeed, my child,” Arunmila, nodded, "To reject your Onus is to reject yourself."

The Trickster Strikes

Delawo burst into the office panting.

“Prime Urisha Unsin!” The war Urisha exclaimed, “The weapons! The weapons!”

“Slow down and speak clearly,” Unsin said lowering the report in her hand. The younger Urisha caught his breath and straightened up.

“The weapons have all been destroyed.”

 

The Armoury was a short trek from Unsin’s office. It was in the same district, and therefore a quick jump from her balcony could have gotten her there. But a report so ridiculous, though it did warrant her attention, did not warrant her urgency. She took the lift down, to the bottom floor of the Security Divisions headquarters and walked down the road. She looked around and saw several war and metalworking Urisha frantically running back and forth, babbling and arguing.

Her pace quickened.

Unsin finally arrived at the Armoury and entered the first room. She saw a row of newly forged swords lined up neatly in a rack. But something seemed... off. She grabbed one.

“What on the Oruka…?”

As Unsin removed it from the rack, she heard a faint, disembodied giggle in the back of her mind and the sword flopped over, bouncing in her grasp.

“Rubber,” the voice came from the corner of the far side of the room. Unsin hadn’t noticed a group of Urisha there who had been quietly debating the situation.

One figure broke away from the group and walked up to her, his small stature, long grey locks, and blue uniform made him easily identifiable.

“Prime Urisha Arunmila,” Unsin bowed her head slightly, “ I don’t understand, how has this happened? And how widespread is it?”

“It’s everywhere. And I would not even be surprised if it’s affecting the Earth and Underwater Kingdom Urisha as well.”

“How do you know this isn’t an attack from the Kingdom? That this isn’t one of Ulukun’s new technologies?”

Arunmila shook his head, “Because….” He picked up another sword, and they both heard the giggle again as the weapon turned to rubber, “This has all the hallmarks of a particular Urisha – and he doesn’t pick sides.”

“Who?” Unsin demanded.

“Ununsi.”

“Urisha of Chaos and Rebellion?” Unsin’s eyes narrowed in confusion, “he hasn’t been seen in centuries. Does he even have the power to do this?”

“Apparently so,” Arunmila began walking, he motioned to Unsin to follow. “Ununsi, has eluded us for years, he’s incredibly hard to pin down and does what he wants. He probably considered the war the perfect opportunity for a large scale prank. One that would stop everyone in the world dead in their tracks.”

“But he’s a prosaic Urisha, how can he be so powerful?” Unsin asked.

“Prosaic? Unrankable would be more accurate. He wants nothing to do with Urisha, society. That’s the whole point. He doesn’t want order or balance – he just wants to have a laugh and spread some chaos.”

“To what end? How does this serve the grand purpose?”

“He and I have been rivals since before this incarnation of mine, so I haven’t had much time to talk to him one on one. But I have a theory; without the breaking of the status quo, without the breakdown of order every now and then, things stagnate, they do not improve. It’s the reason why Bobolu would have been such a great asset to either side of this war. Ununsi exists in a similar manner. To cause chaos and set the grounds for new ways of thinking, but also to help us remember…” Arunmila raised the rubber sword he was still carrying and gently tapped Unsin on the head with it, “To have a little fun.”

“So then what do we do?” Unsin asked.

“We enjoy the peace while it lasts. His power is probably limitless, but even he recognises that life must continue. In a few days when this ends, be ready to continue the war.”

“Do we try to find him in the meantime?”

“You are welcome to try.” Arunmila said.

“Understood, I will send scouts to look for him, in the meantime please report this back to the rest of the Prime Council. Take Care, Tome.”

“You too, young Unsin.” Arunmila watched Unsin leap out of the street into the distance and then clicked his fingers. His form melted away and beneath was left an even smaller figure, covered in web like lace, and wearing a mischievous grin.

Ununsi giggled.

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The Atlas Attack Pt. 1

Kehinde stretched and hopped up and down a few times on the spot as his brother slapped himself on the thighs and shoulders. It was about time they were allowed to join the war; they had not seen battle since the Great Human Siege, and even that had been tame compared to battles fought in previous ages. Kehinde glanced over the edge of the departure point. 

Taiwo looked to his twin, trying not to think of the hundreds of armoured Urisha standing behind them, and the thousands of humans stationed somewhere below, ready to attack on their signal. The responsibility of their lives weighed heavy on him - many would not see another sunrise. 

“Kehinde, you remember the plan?” 

“Yes. We crack open Mount Arguyus and we tear out the Underwater Kingdom insects lying inside,” Kehinde said flippantly. 

Kehinde, paused then gripped his brother’s shoulder. He could sense that Taiwo was stressed, such was the nature of their existence, but he covered it well, as all those who bear responsibility must. As one they turned to face the Urisha soldiers, they raised their right arms to the sky, and the soldiers fell silent, ready for their order. Taiwo inhaled deeply then let out a mighty battlecry and threw himself over the edge followed by his brother and their soldiers. He increased in size as gravity pulled him downwards, and Kehinde and the Urisha dropped lightly onto his back, riding him down to the surface. His goal was the large mountain range a few hundred miles away, and a set of Weather Urisha in their company worked together to adjust his course, ensuring the falling giant stayed on course. 

As he approached, Taiwo felt the humidity of the air change slightly. Kehinde sensed his unease, “you’re doing fine Tai,” Kehinde sent the idea across mentally to him, “It may just be a bit of climate change, we haven’t been on Earth in a while. Keep going.” 

Taiwo nodded in response and pointed his head downwards. As they neared the attack point, he glimpsed the point where their human soldiers were camouflaged by Earth Urisha below, a gap opened in the ground briefly and a light flashed up at him a few times. They were ready. Good. Unsin’s plans rarely failed, this battle should be over swiftly. 

Taiwo bucked his back gently, and his Urisha riders lifted from the surface of his back as he shrunk down to his usual size. They landed with soft thuds at the foot of the mountain. 

“I still preferred Egun’s plan to drop on the mountain and completely obliterate it,” Kehinde whispered pulling out a club. 

“You know we couldn’t handle the guilt of destroying an entire landscape like that. The region would be completely out of balance after.” 

“Ha! Let’s see how less guilty I’ll feel after we’re done here.” 

The two turned to their soldiers and roared again for the attack to begin. 

 

Later that day... 

The Ebeji had taken most of the mountain, the Underwater Kingdom Urisha and human forces inside were completely overwhelmed, and many science Urisha had been captured. It appeared that since its capture, this base was being used as a research and training facility for augmented humans, and many had been destroyed in the battle. The Ebeji felt little guilt in destroying them, they felt it was their responsibility to make sure the purity of the human and Urisha species were maintained.  

 

“Just a few levels more and then the mountain will be ours,” Kehinde said punching through a heavy stone door. 

 

“But something still feels amiss, I feel like the humidity keeps rising,” A human spear broke on Taiwo’s chest, barely damaging his armour. He caught it before it hit the ground and threw it back at the owner, pinning them to the wall. 

 

“It’s just the environment, it will be fine. Push onwards!” Kehinde shouted as they forced their way through another barricade.  

They descended another set of stairs at the end of the corridor and came to a heavy stone door. 

 

“I don’t need to be Arunmila to know there’s someone important in there,” Kehinde said, tightening his grip on his club. 

 

“Then we go in one group at a time. I’ll go first, you go after,” Taiwo replied. 

 

“As is always our custom,” Kehinde nodded. 

 

Taiwo jammed the hilt of his club into the door and levered it open, then slipped through with five Urisha and ten humans. They were greeted by a dark corridor, which they swiftly crossed, and were met with another large, stone door. Taiwo motioned to his soldiers to ready themselves and then counted down from three with his fingers before ramming the door open with his shoulder. It burst of its hinges, shards of masonry scattering across the room beyond. And what a room it was. 

 

Before them lay a large lab, full of whirring and beeping machinery that all centered on one individual who lay unconscious on an operating table. Standing over him, hands behind their back was a large figure with long green locks reaching down to the ground. It was a figure that should not be anywhere near dry ground. They turned around and smiled.

“Taiwo of the Atlas twins,” Ulukun said, “How good it is to see you after all these centuries.” 

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The Atlas Attack Pt. 2

 “Traitor!” Taiwo roared, hoping his voice and his mental impression would reach his brother, “You who would abandon their responsibility!”

 

“Are you talking about me?” Ulukun laughed and walked towards him. Ulukun raised their right hand slowly and and water began to stream out of the drains built into the floor. The human soldiers began to retreat behind the Urisha.

 

“Dear Taiwo, I always looked up to the Ebeji as a Young Urisha. You put The Grand Purpose before all else. Your friends and family passed on while you slept, but still you did not falter. You came when called and returned to Idaduro when the task was done. And you especially Taiwo, you who always goes ahead of your brother. Taiwo, the Atlas Twin, the first to taste the world...”

The water splashed as Ulukun’s bare feet made their way right up towards Taiwo and gently lowered the twin’s club.

“I too know the weight of such loyalty. My loyalty to balance. I once broke this world to punish those humans who would not care for it. And now I am breaking it again to wrest control from the Urisha who loosen their grip on order.” Ulukun smiled sadly and shook their head, “Indeed. I do not abandon my responsibility. In fact, my Onus has evolved, it allows me to do unspeakable things in order to bring about a superior world.”

 

The water rose into pillars that surrounded the fifteen soldiers behind Taiwo.

 

“You forget our ways and desecrate the tenets we live by!” Taiwo shouted.

 

“Dear Taiwo, I have surpassed the old ways and have become someone willing to do anything and everything to fulfill my Onus!” The pillars of water compressed to paper thin sheets and whizzed across the room in a flash, slicing the five Urisha and ten humans into shreds.

 

“No!” Taiwo looked on in horror at the carnage left behind him, “you are a monster! You are unfit to lead! Unfit to be the one responsible for this world!”

 

“Is that so?” Ulukun raised their hand again and a tendril of water floated a silver spear across the room and into their palm, “then deliver your judgement.”

 

Turning Point Battle: Taiwo vs Ulukun

 

The two Urisha fought ferociously, striking at each other with blows that carved into the stone walls and Lab equipment. Shards of rock, glass and other debris scattered in every direction as the battle moved around the room. The battle seemed closer than one might have thought considering their rank, but if there had been anyone else alive in the room to witness it, they would have soon understood that Ulukun was holding back in order to protect the unconscious augmented human. All Ulukun really needed was the perfect opening within which to claim their victory. And all it took was one literal slip to bring it about.

 

While dodging a particularly vicious swipe from Ulukun’s, Taiwo slipped on the blood of one of his fallen soldiers, and in that instant the battle was decided. That small gap in which Taiwo steadied himself was all Ulukun needed to plunge their spear into the twin’s stomach. He gasped in pain and doubled over.Ulukun pushed him to the floor and raised water upwards to wash their spear with a flick of the wrist.

“Kehinde…” Taiwo gasped clutching at his abdomen.

 

“Your brother is occupied with Turesi. Don’t worry, I’m sure his life energy will join yours in the Underlands soon enough,” Ulukun said quietly as they turned away from Taiwo and slung the unconscious human over their shoulder, “Such a waste.”

 

“Ulukun!” Taiwo called. The Supreme Urisha ignored him and continued gathering materials and notes.

 

“Ulukun, look at me!” Ulukun paused for a second and looked at Taiwo. Taiwo’s eyes widened in shock at Ulukun’s expression.

 

“Kehinde, do not come after me…” Taiwo said as his strength failed him and the sun set upon his Onus.

 

Across the hallway, Kehinde felt his brother breathe his last breath. Turesi was mid-attack when the realisation hit him that now he was alone. He screamed with a strength that sent shockwaves through the mountain, it sent Turesi hurtling backwards and split the mountain down the centre. The ground rumbled as the mountain’s innards were exposed to the elements and the forces of both sides began fleeing the area. Kehinde hammered the ground with his fist is grief and threw boulder into the sky them leapt off into the distance. Whether they claimed the area or not, the base was now useless and too much had been lost.

 

The mountain siege had failed.

Death and Company

 

"Master Egengen, when you said we were going on a mission, I expected to be scouring some ancient catacombs in the belly of the Oruka. Not... This." The barely matured Urisha gestured to the empty fields as he walked alongside his superior.

 

"I have told you Sunjin, we are Urisha, we carry out our Onus no matter how grand the task, or how menial." The corner of Prime Urisha Egengen’s mouth turned creeped upwards slightly and he increased his pace.

 

"I still find this Onus thing strange," Sunjin said, "I could always feel it, but now it's just sort of there. All the time."

 

He shook his head as if trying to remove sand, and looked at Egengen slightly confused. The Prime Urisha returned his gaze with a pitying stare. He had personally taken Sunjin under his wing for two reasons: Firstly, his Onus and powers appeared to be linked to sleep, and the current Urisha of sleep was long past retirement age. As such, it was fitting that he, the Urisha of death, train a replacement. Secondly, Sunjin's origin matched his own. Sunjin did not find out he was an Urisha until he stopped aging in his late teens, and without the proper preparation, he was lost and struggling to find his place in the world.

 

"Give it time, Sunjin. Soon you will feel the joy and purpose that comes with carrying out your Onus," Egengen paused for a second, "just promise me you will never resist it's pull."

 

"Yeah sure, I promise," Sunjin said flippantly, he didn't understand why Egengen was making such a big deal about it. "Shall we keep moving?"

 

"No," his mentor answered, "We are here."

 

Sunjin looked out to see a devastated town half burned to the ground, faint trails of smoke still snaking towards the sky. Next to it was a small group of tents around which small figures scuttled, busy with the reconstruction.

The pair of Underland Urisha made their way down towards the ruined town and Sunjin was surprised to find the figures were a mixture of both human builders and construction Urisha. A grey haired Urisha, dressed in red workwear jogged over to them as they approached.

 

"Good to see you Egengen, it's been a while."

 

"Good to see you are keeping busy in your retirement, Alimo," Egengen's mouth flashed into a full smile briefly then returned to its serious countenance, "Why is it you have summoned me? The Underlands overflow with unprocessed life energy from the war. Time is scarce."

 

"I know, I know, but I wanted you to take a look at something... Personally," Alimo said quietly and motioned to the Prime Urisha to follow him.

 

They wound through a few burnt down buildings until they reached a shirtless human in his thirties, sawing a plank of wood in half. The man looked up from his work as he heard the Urisha's footsteps.

 

"Is it my time to meet Lady Ruin already?" The man threw down his plank, "I meet her willingly. This world's got nothing left for me."

 

"Oh cheer up Costas," Alimo said, "Your wife and children are safe with the Asonu. Let Bobolu and his Urisha do their job and we'll do ours."

 

"Hmph." the man sat down and looked upon Egengen and Sunjin with annoyance.

 

"Tell them what happened here."

 

"Unsin happened here. She found out we had an Augmented human hiding here after she chased him back here after a battle.”

 

"She didn't take long to find him." Costas continued, "said she could smell his Alympian blood a mile out. But she didn't have time to waste searching for him. So she snapped her fingers and blew half the village open."

 

Sunjin looked around at the damage, he'd heard rumours and seen impressive things since joining the Urisha. But the damage seemed like too much for one person to have done, especially with a snap.

 

"She knew my crew were nearby," Alimo explained, "she went for efficiency."

 

The man scoffed. "Well it worked. She found the Aug and crushed him with one swing of her mace. Splat!"

 

"So what do you want me to see?" Egengen asked, "all of this sounds like typical war activity."

 

"I want you to see what happened after." Alimo said, "show him Costas."

 

The man sighed and rose from his seat. The three Urisha followed him as he wound through wreckages of homes, carts and villagers belongings. Eventually they slowed to a halt.

 

"This appeared a few hours after Unsin killed the Aug." Costas said. Before the among a pile of bricks and dust was a charred skeleton. Pouring steadily out of it was a glowing green vapour.

 

"what's that green stuff, Master Egengen?" Sunjin asked, trying to use his Urisha powers to sense the nature of the vapour.

 

"Life energy." Egengen said.

 

"No it's not. I know what life energy feels like," Sunjin said.

 

"He's not wrong Egengen," Alimo added, "I'm no death Urisha, but I've seen you work with life energy - this isn't it."

 

"It is. It's just not from our universe," Egengen whispered and moved closer to have a closer look.

 

"That would explain a lot," Alimo replied, "I noticed when I first saw it that reality feels a bit... Off here."

 

"Alimo, I'm forbidden to say much. But simply put, the physical structure of reality is breaking here. That's what you're sensing as a construction Urisha."

 

"I see, is this dangerous?" Alimo asked, concern clear on his face.

 

"I'm inclined to say it's incredibly dangerous," Egengen admitted, "please leave us while we rectify the issue."

 

Alimo nodded and motioned to Costas to leave with him. Once they were gone Egengen turned to Sunjin. He could now speak a bite more freely since Sunjin was also an Underlands Urisha.

 

"Everything okay Master Egengen?" His student asked.

 

Egengen shook his head. He thought back to his meeting with Hermus and Hediz after Ikkarias' death. If each augmented human that died could create a rift between worlds, then a massive slaughter of them could cause major issues. Fundamental laws may not allow abuse of death custodian's powers, but laws always had loopholes and work-arounds. The ramifications could be devastating.

 

"What's wrong?"

 

"Sunjin, the augmented humans may be more than just a way to give humans powers," Egengen reach out his hand and began to draw the energy into a glowing green sphere.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"I mean, that they might be gateways. Portals to another universe."

 

"I still don't understand. Is this a serious problem?"

 

Egengen finished collecting the energy and hid it within his robes. He turned to his student.

"Sunjin, this is a potentially world ending problem."

The Tears of Ishun

 

Turesi roared victoriously as the remaining Urisha and their human allies fled the city. She had never imagined the siege would be over so quickly. Miaritra’s strategy had proved flawless – she owed him a drink when she got back to the palace.

 

Sheathing her sword, Turesi turned to her attendant and instructed him to pass on a message to the legions under her command. They would hold the city until an Urisha overseer came to reorganise it while she returned to the Underwater Kingdom to receive her next assignment from the Supreme Urisha. 

 

Turesi smiled to herself as she mounted her horse and began trotting back to her based at the City Hall. Soldiers smiled back, assuming her to be happy with their victory. But this was not he case, for this smile belonged to an Urisha, and to him alone.

 

"I wonder," she thought, "If Isangbe thinks of me too?"

 

***

 

On the other side of the city-turned-battlefield, the small figure of a child walked slowly through the ruined streets. Her eyes darted to and for searching for something. 

For hours, she walked and she searched tirelessly.

 

And then what she was searching for was found.

 

The child dropped to her knees before a fallen body - an Urisha. She paused for a moment and then lifted the head of the Urisha into her lap.

 

"Mum..." She shook the Urisha gently, "Mum, wake up."

 

But she knew the Urisha would not. For the girl had seen decades of war and myriads of dead. And now her mum had joined that number.

 

The girl wept. And from her tears a river formed: trickling, flowing, then gushing. It ripped through the streets and carved through the buildings, dividing the city in two and cascading all the way to sea.

And still the girl wept.

It flooded the sewers and the houses, it shattered bridges and skyscrapers.

And still the girl wept.

Hours turned to days, and the city was abandoned but it did not matter.

 

For indeed, Ishun wept.

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The Will to Live Again

 

Toju lowered her watering can and gently tapped the topmost bud of the plant she was tending to. It immediately opened, and turned to face outwards towards the sun that was slowly rising over the sea's horizon.

 

Toju stretched her limbs, careful not to unbalance herself on her only complete leg, and gently leant her elbows on the balcony to her room. From here she could see the ring of the Oruka – her true home - in the distance. But it was out of reach, for if she leapt from this balcony tower, Aya's protective wind currents would float her right back into the tower that was currently her prison.

 

"The sea gets larger every day.” The voice came from behind her “Amazing isn't it?"

 

Toju's human attendants often came early with her breakfast so she answered without turning: "It's less amazing when you know the source," Toju said, "This is the third sea to have appeared out of Ishun's tears, and still she weeps."

 

"Fret not Toju, she will find peace eventually. We all shall."

 

"Who are you to speak of- " Toju turned angrily to the attendant and then instantly dropped to her knees. For it was not an attendant she was speaking to.

 

Xipe of the forgotten smirked and pulled up a chair.

"Rise, Urisha," he gestured, "I wish to speak with you."

 

Toju used the balcony to pull herself up and then lightly hopped across into her second chair.

"Apologies for my impertinence, Lord Xipe."

 

"It's fine, it's fine." He waved his hands, brushing aside her apologies, "I just thought I'd pass by since I find your story quite intriguing."

 

"My story? It's boring and frought with failure and sadness. I fear there's not much life left in me." Toju stumbled over her words, still in awe that she sat before a New God.

 

"Oh nonono, my dear," Xipe smiled, "Your story is just getting started. There's a lot of life left in you still. I feel it, pouring off you in abundance."

Toju was speechless.

 

“Ok, well since you're not much for words, let me give you two options, gardener."

 

"Options?"

 

"You can't regrow limbs yourself. You're a prisoner to your old Mentor. This is a most unfortunate position to be in," Xipe leant forward and clapped his hands together, pointing them towards Toju, "So here are your options:  1. I grow your leg back and release you, or 2. I leave you here and you figure it out yourself.”

 

"Why would you do this for me?" Toju asked, trembling slightly.

 

"Because I know what you'll do if you get out of here,” Xipe smiled knowingly, “But I won't force you. To be honest you could even waste the life energy I gave you at birth and wallow here for the next thousand years for all I care. It's your choice.”

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(Community VOTE Tied. Nathan's decision is for Toju to reject. )

Xipe watched Toju with intrigue as she struggled to make her decision, her face contorting and twisted as her mind broke down consequence after consequence.

 

“Why are you struggling so much to decide?” Xipe finally said, “This is a gift from the gods. Just accept it.”

 

"I’m struggling, Lord Xipe, because although I am thankful for your kind offer, it doesn’t sit right with me. I am no better than any Urisha or. Many have lost more - many have done more. I don't deserve this."

 

Xipe's smile vanished.

 

But..." Toju continued

 

Xipe's smile returned.

 

"But right now, there is a girl out there, afraid and alone, who has no one. Someone who deserves all the help we can give her."

 

"So what will you do?"

 

"I'll take control of my own life. For once, in my I'll decide how I serve the Grand Purpose and my Onus. Not Aya, not Etin, not even Unsin."

 

"Yes, yes! This is it. This is what Life is about!" Xipe leapt out of his chair and snapped his finger. A portal appeared and Bia flew out of it. 

 

"Do you require assistance Master Xipe?" The machine asked.

 

"No, Bia, not at all! In fact we're leaving - this Urisha has much work to do!"

*******

Toju grabbed her outerwear from her cupboard and readied herself. Leaning on her crutches she made her way to the locked door and knocked loudly on it three times.

“Aya!” She called once. There was quiet for thirty seconds, then she felt a gust of wind behind her and she turned to see the Supreme Urisha standing on her balcony.

“Yes, my child?” Aya was in her battle robes and must hurriedly left a war room meeting when she heard the call. There was a slight warmth in her eyes that Toju had not seen in a long time, the Urisha of the wind was no doubt happy to finally be called upon by her former apprentice.

“I wish to leave,” Toju stated flatly.

“Unfortunately, I can’t let you do that,” Aya sighed, “If you are not with us then you are against us, and therefore still our prisoner.”

“I have no desire to be against you, Aya,” Toju responded.

“Then what do you desire?”

“To be there for someone who needs saving,” Toju pointed out towards the sea.

Aya’s eyes widened in surprise and then she smiled.

“You’re leaving me again,” Aya said quietly.

“I am.”

“Maybe…” Aya looked out to the sea and listened carefully to the whispers on the wind. She could hear riding upon it the sound of a child sobbing, “Maybe this is where the student surpasses the teacher. Where you become greater than even I - Not in power, but in purpose.”

Aya paused for a few seconds, then turned suddenly and flicked her wrist. The bolt in the door unlocked and she smiled sadly at the defiant figure before her.

“Yinza and Etin would be proud. Go Toju. Go and do for Ishun what I could not do for your family all those years ago.”

Ishun and Toju

Toju rowed hard.

She had been at sea for a day already and Aya's tower had long disappeared into the distance behind her. As she continued to journey towards the sea',s source, she could hear the weeping getting louder. Toju gritted ger teeth and rowed on.

In the middle of the second day, Toju had a divine visitor: The Highmother.

The New God appeared in a gentle flash of light and a flap of dark robes. She sat opposite Toju, hands folded gently over her knees, eyes unshifting.

 

"Apologies Highmother, I cannot stop," Toju said continuing to row.

 

"I understand. I am simply here to assist you in any way you should need."

"I already told The Forgotten, I do not deserve your help." Toju replied.

"But the child does."

 

Toju opened her mouth to speak, but The Highmother held up her hand to silence her. "You have reached. Go. Do what you must."

Toju looked past the god to see a calm region of water, still and perfectly reflecting the sky. The only slight disturbance that marred its surface was the tiny figure curled up in it's centre, shaking with the force of her tears. Toju stepped out of the boat onto the water's surface using her crutches to steady herself. Despite it's immense depth, she did not sink. Slowly, she made her way atop the water to the young Urisha, pausing only once to look back at the Highmother who remained watching from her perch on the boat, still as a statue.

 

When she reached the girl she carefully lowered herself to the surface and slowed her breathing, whispering:

"Ishun."

 

The crying continued.

Toju thought of what she wanted most after losing everything. She remembered screaming for her father and trying to fight her way out of Aya's arms. Strong arms. Arms that held her back.

But Toju's arms would be different.

She leapt forward and pulled the little girl into an embrace. She was freezing.

"Ishun it's okay, you're not alone." 

The sobbing slowed as Toju's warmth spread across into her, and as Toju cradled her, Ishun fell into a deep sleep. One that would last to the end of the war for the young Urisha had fallen into Idaduro (Stasis).

Toju, unsure of what to do now, craned her neck round to where The Highmother sat. The New God nodded approvingly and waved her hand. Toju watched as the world shuddered and warped, then suddenly she was on land in a dark, dimly lit cavern.

"Another gift from the gods, eh?" The voice came from the darkest corner of the room - it sounded familiar.

"Who are you? Where are we?" Toju asked.

 

"Don't worry," the voice's owner emerged from the shadows, his tawny robes dragging on the floor as he walked, "You're among friends."

"Bobolu? Toju gasped.

 

"Good to see you, too, Toju," Bobolu smiled, "Welcome to The Asonu."

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Isangbe and Turesi

"Ulukun is still angry," Turesi leant her head against the window, following the fish with her eyes as they swam by.

 

"Ulukun is always angry," Isangbe mumbled from his seat on the floor. He was in the process of restitching a piece of Turesi's armour that had come loose, much to her chagrin. She hated when he did what she considered menial, after all he was Urisha and even though they may be romantically involved, he was still her superior.

 

Isangbe, too busy with his task to notice her expression, continued with his attempts reassure her; "Ulukun was literally known as ‘The Ocean's Rage’ for a centuries. Don't be too perturbed by their anger."

 

Turesi sighed. It had been a few months since Ishun's tears had washed away most of Turesi's progress. Entire cities had been lost beneath the waves. She bumped her head gently against the glass.

 

"Stop beating yourself up about it. You came back to me in one piece, and you brought your army back with minimal losses. That's all that matters," Isangbe's head remained down, focused on the stitching."You could have stopped after 'you came back to me in one piece', you know?" Turesi smiled and walked towards the Superior Urisha.

 

"Well, I am the Urisha of Justice. Favouring your life above the rest in a case such as this would be.... Unjust" Isangbe looked up and winked.

 

Turesi rolled her eyes. "Ever the romantic." She reached out her hand towards him, "here let me finish it."

 

"No," Isangbe did the last few stitches while she waited, then raised up the finished piece above his head for his partner to take, "all done."

 

"What did you do to it?" Turesi asked, she sniffed it and could sense the power on it."I've been working on my boons, the armour's strength will grow with your willpower, "the more justified you feel about our cause, the more protected you will be.

 

"You worry about me too much," Turesi said holding up the armour and inspecting it. Her heart beat frantically as she tried her best to hide the joy the gift had brought her.

 

"I am right to worry.” Isangbe stood up and stretched, “Because we have a new assignment straight from Ulukun."

 

"Together?" Turesi's could not hide her excitement this time.

"Together." Isangbe smiled. She leapt into his arms and as he sunk his chin into her shoulder the Superior Urisha’s smile faded. For he knew the next battle would be their hardest yet.

 

Their opponent would be Unsin.

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