Chapter 1 - Different from the Start
Inside the pod, the new cluster was huddled tightly. Their bodies pressed firmly against one another, as they would be hatching soon. None knew what to expect of the world outside. There was no existence before the pod for any of them. The voices from beyond spoke to them, telling them what would be expected and how to behave. They shared stories that made examples of those who try to be anything else.
Anan was preparing to retell one of these tales, but it was not the version the voices told. She had a memory, she did not know where it came from. The ending of her tale was very different from the one the voices shared. The colony saw this as a sign that she would lead. Anan was uncertain with leadership, as she feared she would not be able to defend the colony once they were released.
She began the tale, “The Fragar and the Hunter.”
“The witch-hunter had been searching for the cursed glade for three days. Last night, he had seen blighted birds heading east, and took to that direction, knowing they would be coming from or going to the source of the blight. As nightfall came, he saw the few other blighted animals outbound from the blight, and knew he was on the right track. This morning, he had managed to get behind a blighted wolf and followed it all the way back.
The glade was large, almost nine-hundred feet across. The hunter noted the differences at the abrupt transition. The woods were already dark, and the trees looked ominous to the untrained eye, but he could see that this was simply an impact of nature. At the edge of the glade, this was no longer the case. The trees became twisted from the base, with the faces being clearly seen. A low discolored fog hung close to the ground. Insects and worms crawled over everything. Birds and animals were all but unseen, and those present were twisted excuses of what nature would create.
Determined in his quest, he pressed onward. The ground, once firm, became spongey and uncertain. The off-tone grasses all battled a blight that seemed determined to consume them. Birds, half taken by mange watched him. “Ih-com, ih-com,” they would squawk. The grasses rusted in a non-present breeze, giving an eerie shifting sound. “Eeehre. Eeehre.” The trees creaked and groaned all around him. “Gnnnooah.”
The blighted glade was trying to warn the protector of his coming, but no worries. He had handled many a felbeast in his past. It was not long before he came across the ancient, decaying log. Vines grew into it, looking more like leeches than anything pleasant. Fungus, mold, and mushrooms covered it. Atop all of them was a thick layer of the blight. He held his palm forward, speaking, “begone,” in an ancient tongue. The flash of light burned back the mist, crackled the ground, and caused the log to burst into flames. That is when it rose.
Six feet wide and eight feet tall when fully formed, the demon was a twisted coil of fungus, blight, roots, and vines. It bellowed in both rage and pain as it rushed the hunter, growing a wooden scythe as it did. The hunter’s sword swiftly broke the charge as he dodged to the side, and followed up with another slash across the demon’s midsection.
The fight was pitched, as this demon could regrow its wounded parts, and had a terrible brute strength. The prowess of the hunter was all that saved him. Bruised, battered, and exhausted, he finally struck the heart of the blight, inflicting a wound the beast could not so easily heal.
As the beast slumped, the hunter advanced, reciting a blessing that would help the land heal after this wretched creature were purged. “But for your fel presence, this land would be rich and lush. As I reverse your coming, so do I reverse your effect!”
This is where the two stories diverge. The tale of the voices end with the eternal suffering of the errant fragar. The story from Anan’s memory played out quite differently.
“His sword never descended to complete the spell.
Thorny vines from each of the trees had lashed out, grasping his arms first, and continuing to grow, wrapping him in a near cocoon. The birds, wolves, and vermin had gathered. The trees all turned for their faces to be looking into where the demon lay wounded. Two more blight-walkers also emerged, coming to his side. The mist thickened, as the grasses started leaning in to grasp the giant, pluck themselves, and mend its injury.
The worms, vermin, vines, and blight began to twist together. As they grew, much smaller than the blight walker, they took a form. It was delicate and feminine. The air filled with the scent of flowers and berries as the skin of the creature turned red and green. She looked at the hunter with pity, and then to the fallen blight-walker.
She spoke in three voices, one sweet and caring, one maternal and nurturing, and one angry and resentful. “Oh, my poor sweet Yarretan… my caring child. I know he has hurt you. You did well in protecting us. Mother loves you.” She kissed the great beast above its glowing eyes, and their light went out. The mass collapsed into a lifeless heap as the remaining insects swarmed it to feast on the remains.
“Seeder,” the Hunter said, terror in his voice.
The demon-woman looked at him. The smile left her face as she walked closer, returning only moments before she spoke. He voices shifted. One was outraged and angry. One became hateful. The final remained sweet and caring, even for the man who had wronged her. “You came to remove the demon of the glade, and you hurt me. But this was not all of me, just one Yarretan. You were mistaken, mortal. I have not tainted this glade. I am the glade.”
The hunter had been struggling against the vines, but was worn from his prior battle, and the thorns cut in deep. The fumes in the air had filled his lunges, denying him breath. For all his experience and might, he was spent. The demoness approached, smiling. With a gesture, she triggered the vines to begin their slow withdrawal, dragging their barbed thorns out of him.
“You came here wanting to destroy the demon, mortal, and I have gained strength by letting you fight my Yarretan. Yes, you made me stronger… and your wants have changed. Now, I am guessing you want to live? Talk to me, hunter. I seek to fulfill wants. We can help each other.”
He looked at her in his weakened state. What choice did he have? It was help the demon or die.”
Nassa loved this version, and never slumbered during the tellings. She always worked her way between the other podmates and would sit right beside Anan as it was told. She knew that if she were in charge of the colony, they would leave a story like this behind someday.
I am Anan, the Nurturer. My name did not always include this title, but it stems from my strong ability as a Seeder. Seeder demons create their lessors. We are not sure where to begin on this, as so much has gone into making our tale. We should explain first, that we are many. Anan is one, but we speak for the entire colony. We do call ourselves in a plural form for this reason.
We are alien to your world. In the many measures of existence and reality, we are separated from yours. Our worlds would not exist without yours. For this, we fault you. Our worlds are not nice places. The energy of your thoughts and actions feed our worlds and make them grow. Your people once had an understanding of what we were, but religious books have twisted it. That is where we should start! The energy.
All of our realms, the one we are from, yours, and countless others, exist as an aspect of the flow of energies. We do not know all of the energies, as each realm is only subject to a few. Some of them our shared, like both of our realms having mass. Some are not, such as how your world uses electricity and the one we are from uses what you think are emotions.
As the energy enters each realm, three things happen with it. The realm will use some of the energy within itself. Your sun powers life in this sense. Where we were formed, there is no sun. We mainly use your wrath energy, which manifests through the fire pits, deep underground.
The energy used in the realm is not gone, but participates in the second function; conversion. As we said, our realm uses your wrath, primarily. We feed realms further from yours and some of your energy comes from our realm. It is a cycle. Your world mainly converts from the realms of light, and feeds the realms of virtue. If the realms we are from all ended, your realm would still collapse. Within the virtue-realms your people have labelled hells, we allow the energy of burning to be used.
The third thing that happens in these realms is possibly the most important. The flow of energy is slowed. Between the many great realms are minor realms and pockets. These realms use very little of the energy converted in the nearby realms, but hold the energy to create something like pressure. They release this energy at a smooth pace, slowing down heavy inputs and speeding up low inputs. For example, your realm touches the realm of dreams. Ambition and pride are absorbed from your realm, but the denizens can not use it. Instead, it slowly passes through into the realms we are from. Pride has been low in recent years, but we have barely noticed the change. Your world holds onto energies created in the dream realm, such as euhalic energy. This energy is unused by you, but passes through to the other near realms you touch.
All of these energies create many different realms. When there is too much energy passing through the membrane in-between, it will swell to hold the energy. This swelling seems to be where the realms come from. They start small and flat and empty, but they grow. Your world was once flat, with the sun moving across the sky. As it grew, the sun became the center. As it grew more, your sun was no longer the center, and many suns existed.
Our realm once grew large as yours did. This was before our time, however. Our realm is one of those blisters, on the side of what your people label the hells. Your people have taken to calling them Pitts. In the darkest periods, your world created so much energy that the near realms could not slow it down. The far hells could not handle all the energy, so a smaller realm formed in its path.
Your realm is one of the pathic realms. Most specifically, it is centered on technology. You are able to easily convert between the energies you use and have the conversion process do miraculous things. We are from a realm of virtue. Your people see what we do with the energy as magic, but to us, it is nothing all that special. There are very few in realms of virtue who can convert between the types of energy. We mentioned the realms of light, which are also realms of virtue, but they need distinction to you because they are your realm’s main source of energy.
There are many other realms, some of which we are aware of, and many of which we are not. The near realms, which border yours, can sometimes be seen by you. They are where your psychics and prophets perceive and siphon power from. Fortunately, your realm has grown so large that the nearest other realms are still greatly removed from you. This makes it so much harder for your people to interact with them, and their elves and goblins are no longer able to enter your realm as easily.
These creatures once visited your realm often, and for many reasons. Many of the near realms had tried to use your realm to limit the flow of energy in the past. Near-realm beings used their magic to pass into your realm to encourage the creation of their type of energy or limit the energy of the realms with which they held conflict.
Their visits created myths and legends. They were the demons and angels, devils and elementals. They were dragons, elves, fairies, and all sorts of creatures from your now fictitious tales. They instilled greed or threatened greed with punishment. They created chaos or gave warnings about straying from the path. The energy your world receives that these near realms need must be shaped in your world. Some were labelled good and others evil, but that all wanted the same thing.
The power was also mislabeled, misunderstood, and written about poorly. Fear took over in your world, and people began to think that death would follow the energy being taken from you. While this was not the case, your world became dangerous to the visitors. Not only would they face direct threats from your people, but their visits also created an energy that most of the near realm inhabitants did not wish to see. Human fear feeds terrible hunters who often prey in their worlds.
These creatures, called Fiends, are ravenous and savage monsters. Their growth makes survival in our worlds more difficult. Your world has stories of vampires and werewolves; beasts that naturally would be here, but changed into a monstrous form. This is the nature of the fiend.
In the hells we come from, creatures you call demons grow. The virtue that makes us grow determines our type, and that is the type of energy we are tied to most closely. Our energy releases when we die, and we either regrow from it or it is absorbed into growing new creatures of a compatible type. Death for us is rarely permanent.
Each type of demon can only grow so fast. In times of great strife, the released energies from death combine with the absorbed ones and are more intense that growth allows. If the conditions and populations don’t permit demons of specific types to grow, the energy is largely unabsorbed.
This leads to us, the Fragar. We are the plants, the insects, and the vermin. We can be orchard or herd. We are the food of the demons. There are two types of us, but each fills both roles. Anan is a seeder, meaning I can grow sub-demon beings, particularly from other Fragar. Nassa is a devourer. She eats things, and empowers our colony to eat things that others can not. We have even seen her empower our members to eat toxins that will kill us, but before they die, they convert it into that which we are capable of eating.
This is the role of your plants, fungus, and slime. It eats the waste, converts the energy, and provides what the other creatures need. One of us is tiny, but we are never alone. We live in colonies and share a collective mind. One of us will take over leadership, or in the case of Ananassa, two of us. As the colony grows, we gain power. This is physical power, the power of versatility from having more members to take more forms, and the power of sentience, making us smarter.
As a seeder, Anan is able to change Fragar into minor demons of type. They become the demon plants and animals. Most are glutton-based, as they feed others, but they include wrathful hunters, prideful or greedy tenders, envious guardians such as our Yarretan Warriors, lust based parasites and diseases. All our children are tied to slothfulness, as we all accept our role as the weakest of all demons.
Yarretan Warriors deserve mention of their own. They are small colonies of their own, and the most powerful of all our children. Occasionally, they have been known to individually fend off an imp! We can change the other Fragar within their mini-colony into other types that benefit them. Thorny vines are a common choice, as are iron-leaf bushes. Althan berries make the Yaretan recover from injury incredibly fast, but run the risk of converting all the members into an althanous mass. This, for demons, is a fate worse than death.
Our closes virtues are gluttony, as we feed other demons, and sloth, as we must accept we are food. As a result, we gain the most when others gain enjoyment from feasting on us. Needs release very little energy, but most want their food to taste good. Fulfilling the wants of others is our main source of growth and energy. Our sloth, however, prohibits us from wanting. If something is intense enough, we can burn our energy to want, but this is very rare. Wanting does not aid in survival, and that is even more the case for Fragar.
So, now you know what you were never supposed to know. Why is this important?
One of your scientists created a window. He was stricken with grief for his lost wife, and tried looking through the near and far realms to find her. He could not accept her death. Many virtues backed his actions. He poisoned the water with machines that made people change, and was hunted for this. When he went into hiding, his windows were discovered. So chaotic was the wake of his tiny machines that not all of the windows made it where they were supposed to go.
One of the windows was being studied by people at the university here in Detroit. Those who examined it were greedy and tried to find ways to gain from it. This window had looked into my very Pitt, and they tried to make deals with others to overthrow my lord commander. One day, one of your psychics came too close. She saw the energy and knew how bad what they were doing was. She filled with one of the other virtues, compassion. The sudden reversal of energies was a problem. Opposites attract.
The energy of our world was drawn to yours and vice versa. The woman’s compassion had reached out to the entire campus, which was ripped from your realm and into ours. Many holes formed as the flow of energy became unbalanced. Many beings crossed the rips. Your United Nations took an interest in them, and started sending people to both research the other side and to protect against crossings.
This is where our worlds truly met.