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Prose Equus 20: Abyssal Priestesses.

By Mandroid
Created: 19th December 2020 02:16:13 PM
AIE Safe Anon OC Adventure Action Drama

  1. Prose Equus 20
  2.  
  3. >Sunshine peaks through the leaves of the Yggdrasil through the open skylight above you. Although the World Tree extends beyond the clouds for miles above Asgard, it always seems to let the sun past it. Leaves from the great tree drift gently into the room and rest themselves on the surface of the bath water, intermingling with the soothing flower petals drifting across the surface of the water
  4. >And right past a mane of red bobbing its way around.
  5. >Baldur bursts from the bath gasping for air. “TIME!”
  6. “Forty-seven seconds.”
  7. >Baldur pants and makes his way to the side of the bath to rest. “Guh…h-h-how do the fish do it.”
  8. “So does that mean that suffocating is a way to hurt you?”
  9. >”I don’t know, I’ve never tried.”
  10. >You shrug.
  11. “Did it hurt?”
  12. >”It wasn’t fun, if that’s what you’re asking.”
  13. >Baldur rolls over upside down and does the backstroke through the pool.
  14. “Why are you even here, Baldur? You can’t be hurt.”
  15. >”So you’d rather be here by yourself? How painfully boring. How is your wound?”
  16. “Tingly. But it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
  17. >”I’m told that means it is working.”
  18.  
  19. >In your latest journey, you’d been injured gravely. Your task was to search the Zebrican plains for a potion of immortality, stolen from the bottom of the underworld. During your search, one of Mjolna’s thunder cracks upset a heard of mammoths and you ended up poked through the gut dangling off one of their horns. Between your bouts of consciousness and once the panicking was done, you remember being returned to Asgard and told to get to “the pools”.
  20. >You lift your hand up and let some of the water dribble down.
  21. “A healing spring, hmm? Wish we had these down below.”
  22. >”Can you imagine the chaos?” Baldur asks. “Mortals already through their lives away in all your wars and battles, imagine what would happen if you all knew you could just kill each other JUST enough so that you could make your way to a healing spring and recover.”
  23. “Yeah imagine the immaturity that’d develop if you couldn’t suffer physical harm.”
  24. >You gather up some of the leaves nearby and throw them at Baldur.
  25. “LOOK OUT! ANOTHER ATTACK OF GREENERY!”
  26. >The wet leaves cling to the Prince’s face as he floats past you, unamused.
  27. >”Ha-“ he spits a few by his mouth away. “Ha.”
  28. >You lean back against the wall of the bath.
  29. “Will you tell me what had you so frightened during our tussle with King Krampus now?”
  30. >”No.” he responds.
  31. “And why is that?”
  32. “Because you keep bothering me about it?”
  33. >You’re about to kick Baldur in the head when the doors to the healing bath slam open.
  34.  
  35. >”No-name, are you finished bleeding all over my palace floors ye-“
  36. >Baldur nearly shoots out of the water and throws his hooves down below his belt. “MOTHER!” he cries. “GET OUT! WE’RE INDECEN-“
  37. >Baldur’s head shoots back under the water just as fast as it shot out while his Mother approaches to a double-timed “clipclipclopclop”.
  38. >”Princes. Do not. Interrupt. Baldur.” the Queen declares as her son thrashes about. She leaves his head under for a bit before Baldur can burst from the water yet again. “I raised you better than that.”
  39. “Hey, that was fifty whole seconds. A new record.”
  40. >Baldur spits and moves a strand of hair from his face. Sleipnir looks down at you.
  41. >”Your wound. Recovered?”
  42. >You let your hand drift down and tap the spot just below your belly button. You find it a bit stiff, like a cramped muscle, but don’t recoil from the touch.
  43. “Sealed, Highness. A bit tender, but closed up, at the very least.”
  44. >”Good.” She replies. “Make yourself decent and don your armor, then come to the south veranda. Do not make me wait. Leave your sword behind.”
  45. >With that the Queen turns and goes to the door.
  46. “Where are we going?”
  47. >”I must travel the roots of Yggdrasil beneath Midgard, you will accompany me.”
  48. >Beneath?
  49. “What’s down there?”
  50. >”The Well of Urd.”
  51. >Baldur gasps next to you, calling your attention away just long enough for the Queen to give you the slip.
  52. “Baldur? What’s the Well of Urd.”
  53. >”I…don’t know, No-name. Mother visits the well periodically, but NEVER takes another soul with her, nor speaks of what transpires on her visits to anyone.”
  54. >You look back to the door and narrow your eyes.
  55. “Okay, but should I dress warm or cold?”
  56.  
  57. >You decide that keeping the All Mother waiting is a really, really stupid idea, so you hurry back to your room and slip into your armor.
  58. >Your gaze lingers on your sword resting on the wall, the slight weight displacement on your hips making you feel naked without it, but leaving it behind was as direct an order as was to hurry, so you leave it where it lies.
  59. “Next time, I promise.”
  60. >You make for the door to head out but get stopped by someone short in love with the color green.
  61. >”The walls talk. Tell me they’re lying.”
  62. “Loki, please? Your Mother is waiting for me and she almost drowned your brother earlie-“
  63. >”ARE YOU GOING TO THE WELL OF URD OR NOT?”
  64. “I guess! Now please!”
  65. >You try to slip past Loki, but she repositions herself to block you. You expect a verbal lashing, but instead she just purses her lips and begins to bend her knees over and over.
  66. “Loki, you’re bouncing, stop.”
  67. >She continues to bounce, slightly humming to herself.
  68. “Loki!”
  69. >No dice, she was unresponsive.
  70. >you reach out and grab ahold of the princess.
  71. “HEY!”
  72. >The princess finally freezes.
  73. “I’m feeling on edge about this already. You’re not helping matters.”
  74. >Loki takes a deep breath. “Apologies, No-name, but…you do not understand the gravity of the situation.”
  75. “Sum it up in thirty words or less.”
  76.  
  77. >Loki, practically beside herself like you saw Twilight act when the new encyclopedias came, looks you in the eye. “The Well is of the Primordial World! Set by the old gods and told to contain all the things the Nine Realms cannot hold!”
  78. “Twenty-four, okay.”
  79. >Loki ignores you. Think of the knowledge that you may see peering into its waters. Tell me you have it!”
  80. “Have…?”
  81. >”The stupid gem, No-name! This is no time to play as dumb as you are!”
  82. >You stand and pat your pocket, Loki reaches into a hole in the air and hands over her amulet piece, nearly drooling at the thought.
  83. >”I am giving you this so you can see all there is to see when Mother inevitably leaves you somewhere on this journey to go forward alone. You MUST take it and you MUST remember everything you see so you can tell me!”
  84. “Loki I-“
  85. >”ANONYMOUS, PLEASE! There are few things I desire in this world more than the secrets of the Well of Urd! I have no idea why Mother is taking YOU out of everyone, but we cannot let this opportunity pass either of us by!”
  86. >So she could use your other name…
  87. >Loki’s face was etched with desire and longing so strong you feel nearly dwarfed by it. You hesitantly reach out and take the Palantir base, pocketing it.
  88. “Alright, I’ll do this…but please, move. Your Mother will know something is the matter if I don’t hurry.”
  89. >Loki smiles an oddly earnest smile. “Thank you…No-name. From as far in my heart as it will let me dig. Now go! I need those secrets!”
  90. >You slide past her and head down the hall.
  91. >”Remember to take notes!”
  92.  
  93. -Later-
  94. >”Keep us steady, No-name. Right towards the center.”
  95. “Yes, Highness.”
  96. >You maneuver the oar in your hands a bit and get your boat back on course.
  97. >Once meeting the All-Mother, the two of you walked into a dense mist collecting off the edge of the veranda. You emerged at the edge of a black lake, with waters still as glass, before a single small canoe that Sleipnir had wordlessly climbed into and instructed you to paddle.
  98. >You hear nothing. Not the wind, nor wilds, nor even the waves against the shore of the Well, and the Queen sits silently at the bow with lantern in grip keeping you on course.
  99. >Still you can’t help but look anywhere else, towards the blackened constructions at the edge of the shore to the trees branches held in place amidst still air to the moon shining from behind clouds that do not move.
  100. “Where…are we?” you ask the air, not expecting an answer.”
  101. >”Somewhere between.” The Queen says, to your surprise.
  102. >Sleipnir nods her chin to the far shore, where a twisting shaft of wood unrivaled in size rests on the shore, one end going below the surface of the water and the other snaking its way through the hills and beyond.
  103. >”In a space between spaces, betwixt the realms of the living and the realm of the dead.”
  104. >You continue to paddle.
  105. >”The Well of Urd…exists in perpetuation as it feeds Yggdrasil. All moments within happening simultaneously, endlessly, nourishing the World Tree eternally.” Sleipnir takes her eye off the waters and looks at the shores. “This place was beautiful, once…swans danced along the ripples and the grass smelled of dew.”
  106. “Did something happen?”
  107. >The Queen focuses again. “Something always happens…there, the reflection of the moon, stop us on it exactly.”
  108. “Aye.”
  109. >You maneuver the boat until it sits centered in the reflection of the moon and let it settle.
  110. >”I must ask you to do something else, no name.”
  111. “What?”
  112. >”Do not shout.” She says, right as you notice your boat lowering and black water collecting at your boots.
  113.  
  114.  
  115. >You open your eyes, but keep your breath hitched after about a minute holding both.
  116. >Queen Sleipnir looks over the edge of your boat as it slowly descends through the air in a shaft of moonlight from the water’s surface above your head. The root of the World Tree from above descends with you like a second shadow, stretching out beneath the infinite blackness surrounding your shaft of light and going further down still. You wave your hand in front of your face and find it simply moving through empty air and with no small amount of hesitation, let the breath you’d been holding go.
  117. “You could have warmed me…”
  118. >”You wouldn’t have believed me if I did, you were too afraid of drowning.” Sleipnir looks back at you. “Fear denies faith, No-name.”
  119. “Mm…so…where are we now? Further, uh…betwixt?”
  120. >Sleipnir gently nods, looking below the boat again. “Betwixt…and beneath.”
  121. >You follow her gaze and see the two of your lowering onto another body of water, this one holding ripples in it from the less-still air. Come to think of it, you hear things flirting off in the shadows, like air passing over the gnarled bark of twisted trees.
  122. >”We are nearly there. Row is towards the guiding light and we’ll make our final destination.”
  123. >You REALLY don’t like anything “final” down here, but you comply.
  124. “Yes…”
  125. >When the boat touches the water, you grab the oar and begin rowing again. Sleipnir keeps her gaze focused forward letting your thoughts remain to yourself.
  126. >You see the orange guidelight the Queen spoke of in the distance, a dim orange ember from a lantern, no doubt. Keeping the boat steady was a simple matter and you soon found yourself more at peace with your surroundings.
  127.  
  128. >Soon you feel your heartbeat fall in line with the gentle swaying of the boat, the rhythmic wind at your back, and the creaking of old timber. It’s a simple pattern you find meaning in, only stepping out of it when the wind at the back of your neck becomes warm and damp.
  129. >You reach back to your nape on instinct and pat it, turning to look behind you in this unending darkness.
  130. “What in-…”
  131. >The creaking wood grows louder as something in the darkness moves.
  132. >No, it’s more accurate to say that the darkness itself moves.
  133. >The soft shaft of moonlight behind you, your only way out of this place, was now a mere needle at your back but as bright as Luna’s Eye itself in this place of shadow.
  134. >The black expanse behind you shifts and grows stars as dark scales catch the faint hint of light from the moon while weaving through roots of the world. Pearls in the darkness open lids and turn to you as a blackened snout pierces through the shadow behind rows of glistening teeth. It’s size is truly massive as it slithers its neck directly towards your boat and shifts the very wind with its putrid breath escaping from its maw.
  135. >In all your years, for all the dragons you’ve helped deal with and all the horrors you’ve helped face, nothing causes a tight spear of fear to drop into your gut faster than this creature before you. As you see yourself reflected in its empty eyes, you stumble backwards in the boat into the Queen.
  136. “H-H-H-“
  137. >The creature stops, still as a statue, as the Queen Sleipnir meets its gaze.
  138. >Your heart thunders in your ears in perpetuity as the three dead eyes meet one another and all the creaking in this place stops.
  139.  
  140. >Eventually, something louder than anything before sounds.
  141. >”Go away.” The Queen says.
  142. >The serpent hisses low and long, sending a draft throughout all around you. You grip the sides of the boat with both hands as it turns its head upwards and creeps back into the shadows, vanishing from sight and bringing the clicking of wood back.
  143. >”Blind fool…”
  144. “Wh-wha-“
  145. >”This place is where Nidhogg resides…as living is too kind a term for it. Between chewing on the roots of the World Tree, he gnaws upon the oathbreakers and thieves who drift down to this accursed realm on their way to Helheim. He will not harm you so long as I am here.”
  146. “Wh-why?”
  147. >You hear a haughty grin in the Queen’s voice. “He’d choke. Sit yourself back and muster your courage, this old bat will row us the rest of the way.”
  148. >Your eyes are fixed ipwards as Sleipnir takes the oar, watching the twinkling scale-stares disappear into the blackness even while they leave their terror in their wake.
  149.  
  150. >”We’re here.” Sleipnir says as the boat knocks against a simple wooden dock at the edge of a small mass of land.
  151. >You lower your hands from your face, steeling yourself again and looking past the All Mother.
  152. “I’m ready.”
  153. >The dock serves as a front porch to small hovel the a hollowed-out husk of one of Yggdrassil’s many roots down here.
  154. “…This is what we came here for?” you ask.
  155. >”Come…” the Queen says, tersly.
  156. >You follow her out of the boat and along the dock, she doesn’t stop as she throws the front door open and lets herself in.
  157. “I must ask, do you not care at all for privacy?”
  158. >”I’m expected.” Is her only answer.
  159. >You follow her inside the hovel and find it empty. A fire burns in the hearth, tables and chairs are sat around, and spools of yarn sit among effigies of ponies and griffons and everything in between.
  160. >But no one greets you.
  161. “Highne-“
  162. >”I want you to sit.”
  163. >Sleipnir turns to you from where she is, before a doorway further into the hovel that many of the lines of yarn go under. “And await my return.”
  164. >The Queen looks back to the door with a stone-etched face. “You go no further this day.”
  165. >You feel your rear falling into a seat before you realize it.
  166. “Just…sit and wait.”
  167. >”…Do as you will until I return, but do it here.” Sleipnir says, before opening the door and walking inside.
  168. >Moments pass, a few to know you aren’t being listened to, before you quickly dig out the pieces of Palantir, assemble them, and look deep into the soothsayer’s gem while the mist begins to overtake you.
  169.  
  170. -Sleipnir PoV-
  171.  
  172. >You feel something prick at the back of your neck, the feeling of being watched through time and space. The trinket in his pocket screamed like a newborn to your senses, and so you worked that much harder to mask its presence.
  173. >Now you do the same to him as you walk down the stairs beyond the door.
  174. >Your body aches with pain as you descend, from your withered joints to the runes carved in your teeth, as you suppress the hatred you feel for this place once more.
  175. >You descend the stairway to a small grotto, hidden in this husk of the World, by following the trails of string. At the shores of a small pond of water black as the Well above, the twines dip inside and sink to the bottom, with a single strand of silver, threaded rope rising from the center of the water and up to the ceiling.
  176. >There, like every other time, you can see the blue sap of the Yggdrasil, more precious than any life that ever lived, softly glow and illuminate the smooth stone cavern as the silver string was gently yet firmly woven into it between the bark. You believe the wound was an old place that Nidhogg chewed on and left, possibly warded off when the chittering voices in the cavern began to echo through it.
  177. >”She’s here.”
  178. >”Of course, we called her.”
  179. >”I’m always afraid she won’t show.”
  180. >”It’s not like she can say no to us.”
  181. “I am here. Whisper not in the shade like children and appear before me if you make me go through all the effort of coming here.”
  182. >”My my…” one says.
  183. >”Who are even we to resist an order from the All Mother?”
  184. >The surface of the water begins to ripple.
  185.  
  186. >From the depths arise a trio of hippocampi, multicolored scales shimmering in the light of Yggdrassil’s blood.
  187. >”We come, as called. Great One.” The blue one says.
  188. >”Not that we didn’t plan to come up for air now anyway.” Said the purple one.
  189. >”Though who can say when we may go back to our work?” says the golden one, ushering her sisters beneath her hooves. You knew them as Wyrd, Veroandi, and Skuld; ministers of the Past, Present, and Future respectively. They have as many names as there are names to call, stretching from all corners of all realms. The Three Faces of Hekate, The Sisters, The Weavers, the Spinners, but collectively you call them-
  190. >”Great Norns.” You say, bowing your head. “I have come, as I heard your call through the Bark. Why do you seek me?”
  191. >This close, you push all but your surface thoughts down away, lest they find the thread connected to them.
  192. >The Three Sisters each grin in unison, floating around you in the air like fish in water.
  193. >”We have watched, Slippy, as we always do.” The gold says.
  194. >Wyrd flashes her purple teeth against the sheen of the sap. “We saw what you did at the Gate of Tartarus! The Asgardians and the Mortals, fighting side by side!”
  195. >”Yeah!” says the blue one “Way to go! It’s really impressive what you’re doing!”
  196. >The silence brought by Veroandi’s remark is only broken by your sigh.
  197. “Yes. Asgard intervened to save the mortals from opening Tartarus and sending the world into ruin. We would be more involved than we are now if anything escaped.”
  198. >Skuld flutters in front of your face. “Did it occur to you that perhaps we PLANNED for the world to get ruined a bit?”
  199. “No.”
  200. >”Why?”
  201. “Because I know your plans.” You hiss.
  202.  
  203. >All three of the sisters huddle close together before you and all grow the same wicked grin at the same time.
  204. >”Yes…you do, don’t you?”
  205. >Together they usher out a single strand from the twine going into the World Tree, a strand you were familiar with.
  206. >”Look at you, O One Eyed Mother. The fates have put so much work into you that we needed all five of your children to wrap everything together at the end!”
  207. >A fire strikes at the end of one of the strands but is quickly put out.
  208. >”Whoops! Too early. Yours and your children’s story isn’t meant to end…just yet, is it.”
  209. >You lower your head slightly, knowing to what they refer.
  210. “Yes.”
  211. >They pull the strand back further away from the fire, into the past. “And you know what would happen if you maybe…stepped out of the line again, right?”
  212. “Stop.”
  213. >Voices from your past echo through the cave.
  214. >”Brother, come join me.”
  215. >”I will be all that I must be.”
  216. >”This is our world so it isn’t theirs.”
  217. “Stop.”
  218. >”…And who might you be?”
  219. >”She is beautiful…”
  220. >”Keep. Up.”
  221. “STOP!”
  222.  
  223. >Finally, your words overpower the echoes and leave just you and the Norns.
  224. “I KNOW your plans and I KNOW what you have in your hooves, do not take me for a fool! Simply tell me what you desire me here for so I may leave this place!”
  225. >”Are you giving us attitude!?” Skuld demands.
  226. “Are you interested in becoming dinner? Which is faster? My spear from Asgard or you getting to that string.”
  227. >Skuld’s sisters look between you and the string, snarling their teeth before Skuld raises her hoof and laughs.
  228. >You grit your own teeth and pull back your lips as she gets closer.
  229. >”Slippy…you always make me smile…but I’d watch that mouth of yours, it’ll get you into trouble one day.” She reaches out and pats your check with her hoof, you restrain yourself from biting it off.
  230. >”We wanted to call you here today to say we saw what you did and to tell you that it hasn’t upset anything major, but don’t think bigger than you are “All-Mother” A Queen is nothing to a God, and both are nothing to US.”
  231. >Every muscle in your body urges you to either lunge forward and decapitate them or scream until their ears burst. But you know that so long as they have that string, anything you can do, they know you can do.
  232. >So you simply lower your head as they wish.
  233. “As you say…Great Norn.”
  234. >”You can go.” Skuld says, taking back to the water with your thread in her mouth. Her sisters either make faces or wave at you like fools before joining her and leaving you alone to return up the stairs. No-name would still be there.
  235.  
  236. -Anon PoV-
  237. >You’d seen it all.
  238. >Couldn’t make sense of half of it, but you’d seen it all.
  239. >The boat ride back is quiet, neither you nor Sleipnir having anything to say to one another after what you’d both just experienced.
  240. >Even Nidhogg didn’t approach you both as the shaft of moonlight carries you back to the world.
  241. >Finally, she speaks. “I desire you to not tell Baldur or Loki about what you saw.”
  242. >You thought she knew about the Palantir, but don’t have the energy to ask now.
  243. “Why?”
  244. >”It is not their place, and they will worry. Tell them I…communed with water spirits to foresee calamity.”
  245. “Another lie?”
  246. >”You’d be frightened to know how much of our world is built on lies and myth.”
  247. >You think back to the cavern and what you saw, the mind races with wonder, and your mouth can’t keep up.
  248. “Who were they?”
  249. >Sleipnir is silent.
  250. >”You treated them like…they ruled over you.”
  251. >Still, nothing.
  252. >After everything in the past few hours, your patience is short, so you turn your back to face her.
  253. “Well!?”
  254. >”If I tell you.” She immediately begins. “Then you will no them as they are, and thus they would know you. Do you want that?”
  255. >You think to the things you’d seen in the cavern, the power they held over the most powerful.
  256. “No…”
  257. >”Then sit down.”
  258. >You obey but hate feeling helpless. You risk speaking once more.
  259. “They look familiar.”
  260. >Sleipnir says nothing, but her eye turns slightly to see you.
  261. “In a story Twilight told. Three Sirens, Adagio Dazzle, Aria Blaze, Sonata Dusk, were ancient terrors that used their magic to terrorize Equestria. Starswirl the Bearded was said to have thrown them into another dimension.”
  262. >Sleipnir looks ahead as the boat appears again on the surface of the Well of Urd. “He missed.”
  263. “Yeah…”
  264.  
  265. >You grab the oar and take the two of you back towards the place you came from.
  266. “What do we do now, Your Highness?”
  267. >”What we can do, No-name. Continue.”
  268. “But those creatures…what were they do-“
  269. >”Do not concern yourself with them now.”
  270. >Sleipnir turns her eye to you. “Do not fear the past, do not dread the future. Focus on here, now, today. What can you do? What can we do?”
  271. >You feel at peace looking upon her steely gaze and find yourself firing up.
  272. “What we have. Continue to travel around and find things that would disrupt harmony around the world, mostly magic artifacts and the like.”
  273. >”Indeed…and you will do something for me between these searches. You will learn of the Frost Giants.”
  274. “Highness, there are no Frost Giants.”
  275. >”So they say…” Sleipnir ponders as the boat reaches the shore. She steps off and heads back towards the mists, you follow.
  276. >”Tell me when next you travel to Midgard, No-name. I would accompany you.”
  277. >You nearly trip at that.
  278. “My Queen…why?”
  279. >Sleipnir steps on a rock as she enters the mist, the rock explodes into dust and pebbles beneath her diamond hooves. “After today I find that I have some rage I wish to express.”
  280. “Yes ma’am.”
  281. >You hurry along after the Queen and into the mists.

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Prose Equus 22: Dust and Crypts.

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