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Creaking and skittering.  The aura of the forest shivers.  Threads, tendrils and limbs sew a line through the trees.  A dark emerald mass creeping into the dark woods.  It was moving.  Pressing down the mountain.  What few would ever see in their lifetimes climbing down toward their land.  It is ominous to think that a plant could move so aggressively, even those who know better.

The devourer of worlds.  The reaper.  The serpent envy.  The earth mother.  They give it many names, and yet it is a power beyond comparison.

The occasional spirit, spell or impact wanders to the forest edge.  To an otherworldly hiss - an echo of the arcane - they are sapped and dismantled.  Not a force in the world - be it man or machine, magic or construct, ideal or reality - can deny the serpent.

Some say that it is a benign caregiver, but most agree that its absence in the world is appreciated.

The dark forest, or the region where vivacious jungle gives way to mundane trees and mountain slopes, is often regarded as a forbidding place.  Those who wander into it find only a deathly calm, and even those who venture of inspiration find themselves turned away.

They say that knowledge itself bends around the mountain.  That the fabric of space is woven in such a way as to repel the mind.  Many have attempted to explore and map the mountain.  To reach the pillar that stands at its center.  No evidence of the serpent has ever been recovered, but neither have the foothills ever been crossed.

Leaves, vines, roots and trunks swept about the numerous limbs.  The trees reshaped by the passing of the serpent.  Limbs disappeared, the aura about them stripped and dissolved, and yet the forest continued far up the slopes.  A rainbow of light, and a chorus of that seething breath, compounding until the front was all but shrouded in mist.

The air began to settle, and in the wake of the mist, the serpent all but disappeared.  Revealed from its many branches was a child.  An adult.  A sage.  A wraith.  But a single soul atop the mountain.

His existence, an anomaly in itself.  Like the serpent before him, his presence and influence shimmered.  Fading in and out from the senses.

I looked down at my arms, and felt the nebulae of magic rumbling within.  The two and fro of dementia, of faux awakenings, of paradoxical resources.  The unknown, and the unstoppable splitting my attentions in half, and into each nuance a fraction again.

The forest was a dull green, yet my mind split the colors a thousand ways, chewing up and spreading around every ping of anxiety and wave of stress.  Tearing through them until fear could complicate no further.

From there and back again, I smiled.  ‘This place is beautiful.  Am I really here?  Free in obligation to my own path?  Tested by the will of distant peoples?  Shaped by the dance of unaccounted stars?’

“Am I really here?” I revisited aloud, “I want to see them.  My family- no, my true familiars.  I want to help them, to nourish and encourage them.” A shadow flickered in my eyes, “I seek vengeance, and the undoing of distraction.  The true colors and the enduring path they share.  I want that path for myself.  To be held responsible for strangers.  An account for all the struggles they put up with.”

“I seek the whole of the creator.” On my right forearm, from elbow to fingertips, a stiletto split them in half.  From the base to the tip, a ring of energy, a sphere that reflected everything passing through it, and contained every aspect of the universe within.

The arcane seal of soul.  I raised one finger on my other hand.  I traced the pillar and my present location, then traced a path through my line of sight, to a familiar that I could sense beyond knowing.

Per the instability of my ambition, and the resolution of my whim, I lingered, yet drew upon a fierce and relentless element.  Of spear and of veil.  I centered myself.  Dividing the stone between two parts grand and meagre.  I gave each a seal circle.  Parallel in their interpretations, and between them a web of invaluable detail.

I called forth the spirits to feast on this, to hijack and intermingle with this frame of mind.  The rolling boil and shivering waves passed along a fraction of the soul’s ring, and I recalled the elements at my disposal.

The phases of matter.  The tools of the mind.  The mediums of conflict.  The vices of ID.

Piece by piece, I tested my mettle, and sought out a construct that I could weave my bounty two.  A prayer to a distant entity, if you will, yet pressed my feet into the ground.  Rolling pressure through my thighs, and abdomen.  Twisting my presence until I could feel life force forming runes in every region of my body.

I felt the root manifest, and recanted, “Make a landmark of it!”

The horizon, the aura, the forest, the mountain.  Flooding the void, a veil drew back over the mass of green.  Relaxed but ever present.

Zooming through portal, the catalyst sparked prickles of excitement through me, as the aura about me churned into violent storms.  Created scenes sprung toward and away from me in equal measure, and I feel my eyes panning as my minds eye regarded each of them.

The coast broke away from me, the great span of the sea eerily quiet, yet increasingly troubled, until ripples like rainfall were upon me.  Currents, like a thundering whip cracked against my veins, tides hurled, rammed and clashed against my presence, and I invited them into the frame.

I’m getting better at the magic at my disposal, but I know the child of nearly two decades prior still has something to teach me.  I reach out with one hand and grab a stone-