Two Years Later
“Does everyone have their dragon rings?” Taelah asked, and a gaggle of children waved their hands at her for inspection. Some of the older ones, though she wouldn’t call three years particularly old, helped their younger siblings who weren’t paying attention. Her kids, Shayma’s, Iniri’s and a few of the other Village children all had rings that made their skin tougher so there wouldn’t be any regrettable accidents when it came to dragon claws and teeth.
Outside, Ansae was doing the same check with the dragon hatchlings, though their enchantments went in the other direction, softening impacts and blunting edges. It was even more difficult to get young dragons to properly wear their equipment because of how appetizing enchanted items looked at that age, but even very young dragons listened when she spoke. Except for her own hatchlings, who seemed immune to her grand stature and had a tendency to obey Taelah more than Ansae.
Once both sides were satisfied with the preparations, the doors were opened. The two sets of kids more or less charged at each other, with the sort of energy and enthusiasm and noise that only the very young could generate. Ansae followed at a more sedate pace, marveling anew that she actually had children of her own body after thousands of years.
All of Blue’s kids, human-kin and dragon alike, had blue eyes, making them stand out from their fellows. Blue swore he hadn’t done it on purpose, but being the Power he was, it seemed that his parentage didn’t come without some influence. Related to that, the odd nature of Shayma’s physical status resolved itself into her children being ordinary fox-kin — inasmuch as any children of hers could be ordinary. It implied that she could well have descendants among dragons, or indeed even among Leviathans, if she felt like staying in the appropriate form for long enough.
Shayma herself was only ever only a thought away, since even beyond the core recall she was generally touring with the Hedron. Although she sometimes had her own children with her, between the varied environments and her own shapeshifting, she often had to ask Taelah to look after them. All their friends were in the Caldera anyway, so their trips with their mother to strange and exotic climes were just distractions for them.
The kids wrestled and ran and, in the case of the hatchlings, pounce-glided as they worked through their excess energy. Ansae shifted down to amazon form and took a seat next to Taelah, who pushed a tray of snacks her way. With alchemy and access to Blue’s excessive mana materials, Taelah had made some strides in cooking food that could be safely enjoyed by small humans and small dragons both. She had a spread of different Affinity cookies ready for once they tired themselves out.
“How are they doing?” Shayma popped into existence by the pair, looking out over the chaotic swirl of one- to three-year-olds. Her two youngest were cradled in a sling against her chest, since they were still too young to even walk.
“No crisis yet,” Taelah told her, smiling. “I thought you were supposed to be meeting with the Uvarway?”
“Eh. I did, but they didn’t have much to say, and the youngest prince spent the time staring at me.” Shayma rolled her eyes as she took a seat next to the other parents. Taelah just laughed. It was Shayma’s own fault that she chose to be stunningly attractive in whatever form she shifted to, even if it wasn’t anything near humanoid.
“Mommy!” Horan and Sayina came running over to Shayma and she swept them up onto her lap, barely able to fit everyone in her arms.
“C’mon, give me some kisses,” Shayma demanded, and the twins giggled and squirmed as Shayma made loud kissy noises at them.
“Give them some extra for me,” Blue put in. Ansae snorted, waggling a claw at Shayma.
“Wait until you have all four running around. Five thousand years of experience dealing with existential threats and even I find four at a time a bit of a challenge.”
“You have nobody but yourself to blame,” Blue teased her.
“It’s at least half your fault,” Ansae said, squinting her eyes at nothing in particular.
“You certainly weren’t complaining at the time.”
Shayma laughed very loud at that, and after a moment Ansae joined her. Taelah merely smiled demurely.
“Are you talking to daddy talking again?” Horan asked.
“Yes, sweetie,” Shayma said, and Horan flailed his hands at nothing in particular.
After a little bit of back and forth, the pair managed to squirm off of Shayma’s lap and went to join up with the crown prince of Tarnil. Iniri had left Marin and his younger sister, Sirta, in Taelah’s care while she was on an extended tour of the Archipelago.
Tarnil was now officially an Empire, and while Iniri’s Class title hadn’t updated itself to Empress yet, it would if she reached the fifth tier. Under normal circumstances, impossible, but with Blue’s backing and three countries to manage, it was actually feasible. The integration of two new countries provided plenty of opportunity to exercise her skills as a monarch, after all.
The ongoing integration of Orrelin and the Archipelago was rather complicated. Ironically, the Archipelago was far easier to bring under Tarnil’s control, despite being both incredibly spread out and former enemies. The mage-kings had been the primary driver behind the animosity and, in most people’s eyes, their former subjects had not been treated much better than their enemies.
Iniri had inherited a mostly-depleted, deeply traumatized populace, used to a rigid and controlled lifestyle within their cities. So they actually gave their new rulers and administrators very little trouble, though at the same time did not actually contribute much. There were very few farmers or ranchers among them, and no experienced crafters.
Blue and Iniri were doing their best to help with profligate use of their respective light magic, helping the people heal over time. Unfortunately, neither of them could help with the widespread depletion, save assuring the people that it would never be an issue again. Compared to what they could do, their children would be capable of incredible feats.
Even now their people were relearning how to fish and ranch and farm with air Affinity wildlife, partly through expertise the Chiuxatli had very kindly lent to them. After all, the people of the Archipelago were fellow sufferers under depletion, not the ones who had unleashed it. It didn’t hurt that Blue had brought Chiuxatlan back to its flush and flourishing self. While they were still rebuilding all the things that had been destroyed, they had at least a whole and intact country to work from.
Orrelin, by contrast with the peace of the Archipelago and the industry of Chiuxatlan, was still under a slow roil of fractious discontent. Despite the nominal rule of their own princeps, the beliefs inculcated by the Inquisition ran deep, not to mention a pride in their own country. Even with the lightest touch, there was significant resistance to Tarnil’s rule. Resistance that didn’t quite boil over to outright rebellion, as Blue’s Presence made all but the staunchest fanatics uneasy when even contemplating action against Tarnil and against him.
Blue’s reputation and role as a power was only growing. Orn in general and Tarnil in particular were a fairly unimportant backwater of a very large world, and despite his close association with The Silver Woe, Blue himself wasn’t much known outside of that small area. The entire war with the mage-kings would have gone unremarked by the great powers on the far side of the planet were it not for the great and terrible moments where the [Starlance] or Ansae’s full power were brought into play, and the destruction of Port Anell.
The great looming presence of The Hedron was an excellent way for Blue to introduce himself, imposing and impregnable. Yet at the same time, bearing entire cities and peoples and with room for more. More than one ruler was interested in gaining a presence in what might well be the greatest intersection of trade in the entire world. Perhaps not the largest, but nowhere else could so many different peoples exchange goods without running the risks of clashing civilizations.
It didn’t hurt that Blue traded his own goods only with the inhabitants of the Hedron, or that when he made landfall in a new place he opened the trade plaza in the Caldera. The latter was accounted by many as worth the trip itself, simply to see the great wonder of the hundred-kilometer mountains, green and misty, reaching toward the skies. It was also one of the few times the outside world met with the Scalemind, who were working hard on achieving civilization under the guidance of One-Eye-Green.
Keri and Annit had gone in the opposite direction of the Hedron. After Keri’s work with the Ells and the people of the Archipelago, she had tiered up to a [Mind and Body Medico], gaining mind Affinity in addition to healing. As one of the few who could genuinely soothe ailments of the mind, she had gone with her bodyguard to tour different continents, out from under the looming shadow of Blue’s presence. Though they were hardly abandoned to their own devices; they had a link to call Shayma if need be, and they bore powerful equipment that the fox-girl had forged for them herself.
Thus the names of both Blue and Shayma spread across the world. Quickly, for some, those who kept their eyes on the movers and shakers of the world, slowly for others, whose lives were not much impacted by what other rulers or distant Powers were up to. Many foreign Classers were more interested in the revitalized Great Dungeon than Blue, for they could hardly pit themselves against Blue’s monsters or delve Blue’s depths for valuable materials.
Yet for the pair, there was more focus at home, and on the growing families and the gaggle of blue-eyed children running around the Caldera. There was nothing like a small child for grounding one’s view of the world and one’s role in it, especially after having to clean up after the inevitable messes they made. Of course, there was always plenty of help in the Village, whose inhabitants were happy to do their best to aid Blue’s Companions.
“So what are we doing for Iniri’s birthday?” Blue asked, as the kids concentrated on food or, in many cases, naps after a rough and tumble playtime.
“Well, we’re definitely getting her out of the Palace,” Shayma said. “Maybe something at the beach house?”
“Something quiet,” Taelah cautioned. “She’s just going to want to flop down once she gets back.”
“I remember she liked Ms. Burnhade’s revonberry pie,” Blue said.
“Basically sounds like we have a plan, then,” Shayma said, watching her children snooze next to dragon hatchlings. It was more than unusual for races to mingle that way, considering the physical and social differences, but nobody wanted to keep their various children separate. None of them had any idea what the end result would be for Blue’s kids, but it was sure to be interesting.
Twenty Years Later
“So wait, does inviting us over for the midwinter festival mean we finally get to know who your family is?”
“Five drams that he’s a prince from Ir!”
Horan rolled his eyes as his teammates teased him. They all got along quite well, despite one of them not even being human-kin. It had taken some time for Janice and Elkier to learn how to read Chalcilque’s colortongue, though Chalcilque could use air magic to speak aloud if she needed to, but by now they could see what she was saying without issue.
«I still say he’s from the Caldera,» she said, and Elkier scoffed.
“That place is just a myth.” He denied.
«I was hatched there!» Chalcilque insisted. Horan shook his head. Janice and Elkier were both from Gisane, bordering the Summerlands, literally on the other side of the world from Orn. It had surprised him that few people outside the Caldera knew anything about the stories his mother told him, but after having to travel by foot rather than by Blue’s teleports or his mother’s Phantasmal Space, he understood it a little better. The world was pretty large from that perspective.
“So long as it’s someplace warmer than here,” Janice decided. Hoarast was absolutely freezing at the best of times, let alone during the winter. They were all bundled up, even Chalcilque, whose clothing made her colortongue seem rather muffled.
“Our ride should be here soon,” Horan told them. He hadn’t actually told them his real identity yet, and it was only partly because he’d inherited his mother’s mischievous tendencies. Aunt Taelah had quietly spoken on the virtues of being known by ones deeds rather than by one’s name, and he made sure to always listen to her. Auntie Ziir had more bluntly warned him and his siblings that their true identities would draw leeches and enemies, and they should only tell people whose integrity they trusted. At least, before they’d already accumulated merits of their own.
He couldn’t put it off forever, though, and his adventuring group was solid. They had a few advantages because of Horan’s high quality equipment and his stellar Class [Justicar of the Heavens], but they’d also put in the hard work and they’d all made it into the third tier while delving into Hoarast’s glacial mana spring. The winter celebration seemed as good an excuse as any to come clean.
“What exactly do you mean by—” Elkier cut himself off as a winged form appeared in the air, emerging from nowhere in particular and diving down toward them. Even at that distance they could tell it was a dragon, gleaming metallic silver in the light.
“Uh…” Janice took a step back, but before the uncertainty could turn into real panic the dragon’s form shimmered and a fox-girl dropped down lightly in front of them. She grinned at them all.
“Hi, mom,” Horan said with a bit of exasperation.
“Hi, Horan,” Shayma said, stepping forward to give him a hug. “Your father says hi, too.” A Presence filled the air expectantly, and Horan looked heavenward for a moment.
“Hi dad,” he said to the air, the Presence acknowledged him and withdrew a little, leaving his friends a trifle shaken.
“By the five frogs of the abyss—” Janice began, and then stopped when Shayma raised an eyebrow at her. “Sorry, ma’am,” she muttered.
“It’s good to meet you all,” Shayma said. “I’ve heard about you from Horan, but he’s been a bit shy about introducing us properly. My name is Shayma Ell.” Stunned silence greeted that pronouncement, because the [Trickster Hero] certainly was known, especially after she’d broken into fifth tier some years back holding a mana spring from collapsing in northern Ensir.
«I was right!» Chalcilque said triumphantly, and Shayma flickered into Chiuxatli form to give her the colortongue equivalent of a wink.
“Uhh, pleased to meet you?” Elkier managed, and Shayma returned to her normal self.
“Darn right you are,” she said with a grin, and then waved her hand dramatically. A portal appeared in front of them, warmer air spilling through. “Let’s get you to more hospitable climes. It may be winter but it doesn’t have to be this cold.” Chalcilque darted through without hesitation, followed after a few moments by Janice and Elkier.
“Thanks, mom,” Horan said, before going through himself, the sensation of Blue’s spatial magics a familiar one. Most people couldn’t sense them at all, but he’d always been able to see Blue’s efforts, quite possibly as a result of his parentage. Being the son of a dungeon Power had to have some benefit, after all.
On the other side, his friends were gawking at the Tree. So far only one person had felt compelled to walk up to it, some traveler that had come through the Hedron almost completely by happenstance. He hadn’t been there, but Aunt Taelah had told him that he had received a fruit, a staff, and whispers. Five years later and Horan still didn’t know what that was about.
For most, that initial reaction was pretty usual, something everyone did the first time visiting, and in a way the rest of the Village didn’t really look special. It hadn’t changed too much since Horan was a kid, still the same small settlement it had always been. The only real differences were that the stores were being run by the children of the people who had founded them.
What was worth looking at were the various Scalemind wandering about, putting up decorations. While they still mostly lived underground, a number had come up to establish their own Village on the surface of the Caldera, and there was a healthy trade between the two places. What was interesting was that for the first time, there was something slightly different about the mana aura of the Scalemind.
“Yup, there is a good reason to have a big celebration this year,” his mom said, appearing from nowhere. His friends jumped, and she smiled unrepentantly. “One-Eye-Green is through the moon. Apparently they all got their Status at the same time. No idea what pushed them over the edge, but they made it.”
“Probably the clothes,” he said absently. The last time he’d been there, adoption of clothing had been an iffy prospect among the Scalemind, and the clothing that did exist tended to be the simplest of simple. Now they were wearing proper outerwear, with pockets and decorations.
“That’s what Blue said,” Shayma said with a shake of her head.
“Dad’s smart,” Horan agreed.
“Sometimes,” his mom said.
“Wow, this place is…” Janice said, staring at the walls of the Caldera. “Wow.”
«It smells familiar,» Chalcilque said, after shucking the heavy wrap she’d been using.
“So!” His mom clapped her hands, attracting their attention away from the Tree of Eschaton and the Scalemind. “Welcome to the Caldera. Feel free to wander around; Horan knows where the guest house is and if you get lost just ask anyone. We’re all friendly here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Elkier said. “Thank you, ma’am.”
“Now, I won’t stay and embarrass you, but we are having a family dinner tonight,” she told Horan. He nodded, actually looking forward to it. His twin had decided to go adventuring down in the Underneath rather than the surface, so their paths hadn’t crossed in a while and he was looking forward to catching up.
“I’ll be there, mom,” he promised, and blessedly she just gave him another hug and wandered off into the crowd.
“I can’t believe you never told us,” Janice muttered.
“We all agreed that being incognito when going out into the world was for the best, at least before third tier. Maybe even fourth,” Horan explained as he led them out toward the village square.
«We?» Chalcilque questioned.
“All of Blue’s kids, my mom, Aunt Taelah and Aunt Iniri, and of course Auntie.”
“Auntie?” Elkier said in disbelief. “Who do you call Auntie?”
Horan silently pointed to the big silver dragon at the other end of the village square, who was overlooking the food preparations. She was still somewhat protective of her name, so he only ever referred to her as Auntie, because her full title was such a mouthful. Not to mention it tended to distract people. Fortunately for everyone she had her Presence tamped down, though he’d noticed that it was never as strong in the Caldera as it was elsewhere.
“Is that The Silver Woe?”
“To you, yes. To him, she’s Auntie.” A somewhat smaller, blue-eyed silver dragon appeared as it from nowhere next to them. Everyone but Horan jerked in surprise. “How are you doing, brother?”
“Well enough, brother.” He bumped his fist with a somewhat large draconic one. “The outside world is a little bit odd, to be honest.”
“I hope I can see it soon,” he sighed. “If only there were any reasonable sources of spatial mana outside the Caldera. Mother insists I break third tier before leaving.” Since it was basically impossible to hide Montagne’s identity, and he couldn’t grow much stronger without an adequate source of spatial mana until he reached certain thresholds, Montagne was more restricted than his human siblings.
“Just imagine the mess Auntie and dad would make together if you got hurt,” Horan offered.
“True,” the dragon admitted.
“Anyway, everyone, this is my brother — technically half-brother, I just call him brother — Montagne.” For his part, Montagne ducked his head briefly to the rest of the adventuring group. He was Horan’s brother, but he was still a dragon.
The midwinter celebration in the Caldera was the largest they had ever thrown. All those who had gone out into the world came back for it, though quite a few of Blue’s children had remained in the Caldera. His younger sister, Senna, was a sort of junior member of the Piping Hot Pies, who had taken up the torch of jaw-droppingly amazing baking from the late Ms. Burnhade.
By contrast, Grant and Eva simply started their own farms in the Village, though neither was contented with ordinary grain and vegetable crops. Eva grew an array of plant textiles that covered every Affinity and could be made into everything from the finest gossamer to incredible armor, while Grant actually had an orchard. He provided exotic foodstuffs and wood to the Caldera and, occasionally, a lucky visiting crafter.
Taelah’s role as the Matriarch of the Caldera had only become firmer, especially once she reached into the fourth tier and became [The Caldera’s Heart]. She didn’t need Shayma’s shapeshifting to commune with the various races that inhabited the Caldera, even though many of them were not human-kin at all. In time, she approved a Leyn village, a Xicoatl settlement, a Husclar burrow, and a Tennair eyrie, which hardly strained the capacity of the Caldera at all but did add some interesting aspects to the internal relations.
Iniri and her three children attended the celebration, as did a number of the Wright family, to their bemusement. Nearing fifty, Iniri had aged like fine wine, though she often joked that Shayma aged like fine art, which was to say, not at all. [The Empress of Sheltering Sun] kept the Tarnil Empire firmly under control, though Orrelin and the Archipelago were not restive at all after so many years under her rule.
The newest acquisition was the revitalized Northern Wastes, which Blue had rejuvenated in a process nobody outside of his innermost circle really understood. What had once, long ago, been Old Tarnil was now Upper Tarnil, the vast dust bowl green and lush. In the center was a tall tower with a glowing constellation of [Contained Stars], flooding the region with stellar mana and nourishing the life that migrated into the area.
Nivir and Haerlish were not particularly comfortable with the resurgent Tarnil, but there was little they could do about it. There was no interest in adding them to the empire, but such an immensely powerful neighbor was terribly threatening. However, they had to admit it was also a boon, as they were able to engage in trade that would have been impossible before, and access to a brand new Great Dungeon. Despite delicate inquiries, however, Blue remained uninterested in adjusting Nivir’s Great Dungeon to not use void Affinity.
Despite the somewhat strained relationship between Tarnil and its neighbors, Keri the [Wandering Sage] and her bodyguard, Annit, found time to attend, on the strength of past association if not the immediate state of affairs between her homeland and Blue. It was difficult to call her Nivir’s fourth-tier, exactly, she spent so much time elsewhere. She often found herself in the same area as her old adventuring companion Shayma, as the two of them worked to mitigate disasters in their own ways. It was no great trip for her anyway, with one of the dozens of Blue’s seed-ships there to provide transportation.
The grand celebration had One-Eye-Green as the hero of the day, even if she was a [Vanguard of the New Dawn] and not a [Hero]. While many Scalemind still became Brothers of Burden or Scythe Sisters, some of them followed One-Eye-Green’s example and kept a more humanoid form. At the toast she was surrounded by not only her own family, such as the aged Big Brother and Big Sister, but also her younger successors, dressed in bright colors and smiling toothy smiles.
“On this day, we celebrate becoming a people,” she said, much of the childish nature gone from her voice. “No longer are we monsters, but equal inhabitants of the world. It has been a long road, one often trod blindly, but now we have reached the end. Thanks to Blue, thanks to Shayma, and thanks to the gracious care of the Village, we have a future as the Scalemind race.”
Two Hundred Years Later
“All systems nominal.”
“I’m still not convinced that’s the best way to say that everything is working,” Ansae said, amused.
“Yeah, but I like it.”
“It does have a certain ring to it,” she admitted, looking over the intricate runework that covered the core of The Far Voyager. What had once been [The Dragon’s Eye], her great moon, was now [The Great Lady’s World], though it was not a globe like the one far below. Instead, it was an enormous wheel, a flat disc a thousand miles across.
It was domed with [Transparent Firmament], the absolute nature of Blue’s miracle metal still unsurpassed after centuries of tinkering with it. He had, at least, come up with some variations to make it rather more than just a very impressive steel. Yet it was still merely indestructible, rather than perfectly protective, so the dome was laced with a grid of invisible [Phantasmal Phaseweb] to protect against the more intangible things.
Like gamma-ray bursts, for example.
The interior had been expanded a thousandfold, populated with great mountains and deep valleys, bulk terraforming and draconic tweaking turning the million-mile expanse into a breathtaking landscape. Nor was it just simply composed of Climates, for all of Blue’s hard-won experience with them. The entire worldship was effectively one massive, complex magical item, made of interlinked Artifacts and mana and material.
Once Blue had introduced the concepts of computers and formal logic and abstraction layers, and what such devices could do with sufficient development and iteration, she had started work on her own version. It wasn’t just her endeavor alone, however; she had called upon the greatest minds alive to join her in working through how to wring such a useful framework out of the rules of magic.
The end result of fifty years of work was christened arcanologic, an entirely new branch of runescript that had given Ansae a second Originator Skill. The exact details of how it operated were so complex that they put most of Ansae’s prior efforts to shame. At the same time, it filled the precise niche that she’d been grasping for the whole time with things like runes and her hoard inventory, though she hadn’t realized it.
The arcanologic scripting integrated with the worldship meant that it could and would grow over time, even as large as it was, automatically developing interesting features in unoccupied areas and ensuring there was always something at the frontier for its draconic inhabitants. It could also add physical material to itself, the arcanologic controlling [Neutronium Mana Forges], the successor to [Mana Diamond Anvils], and [Affinity Infusion Manufactories] for anything that didn’t require supermaterials.
Most importantly, the arcanologic restrained the drift of mana, even going so far as to exclude individuals from the local mana fields entirely. The enormous gulf of space was not full of mana, and to casually introduce such in their journey would be unwise, verging on catastrophic. Perhaps some civilizations would welcome its introduction, but for others it would be an apocalyptic disruption. Considering who she was, Ansae had seen to those restrictions herself. If need be, she could forcibly pull the mana out of something or someone, as well.
Much of what it could do was thanks to Blue’s work on souls and their structure, which had been borrowed and heavily sanitized to create some of the more ingenious flourishes. It was an absolute marvel, and putting the most complex version yet directly on her Artifact had the curious side effect of making the entire operation connected to her. She didn’t need to use the interfaces to know exactly what it was doing at any given moment, and why.
Ansae strolled past the reactor room, glancing in at the rosette of [Contained Stars] orbiting a [Contained Singularity], which had been quite an exciting thing to make at the time. Plasma wisped into an accretion disk as the containment arcanologic hummed, pulling power from the arrangement to fuel the massive needs of the worldship. The mana ecology of the actual landscape was completely separate from the needs of the ship, which was provided entirely by dedicated reactors buried underneath her tower at the center of it all.
Down the hall was a portal back to the Caldera. For all that the entire purpose of The Far Voyager was to go out to the most distant places, the fact that it was still part of Blue meant that she was never more than a thought away from the planet of her birth. She was still The Silver Woe, and if there were some great existential threat, she would simply return to deal with it. But she hoped she might earn a new title, out among the stars.
The Caldera itself had not changed much in two centuries. The Tree of Eschaton was larger, with a statue of Taelah smiling serenely from beneath it, but the Village was much the same as it always had been. They were the beneficiary of some arcanologic creations, but they didn’t adopt anything that would radically change their lifestyle. They were just small, humble, and produced some of the highest-level crafters and the finest creations of anywhere in the world.
The skies of the Caldera were also one of the few places in the world where dragons could still be spotted, the rest having moved to the worldship far above. A dozen different races were spotted about it, but the Caldera was if anything less crowded than before, as Blue’s improved spatial expansion had resulted in an even larger interior than before. It did more than offset the loss of land when the Bargain with Tarnil ended, though Blue had never been particularly worried about the size of his holdings. Even if the Caldera and the Hedron were the only lands that Blue actually held, they were more than enough for anyone.
The Hedron itself became a populated mini-country, with representatives of almost every race, each with their own unique settlement. The inhabitants eventually thought of themselves as independent polities, rather than representatives of their original governments, which did on occasion lead to certain restiveness that required Blue reassert himself as the actual ruler of the Hedron. It never became a grand flagship, but it sufficed to be a traveling powerhouse of trade and ideas, connecting different parts of the world.
Closer to home, despite not having Blue’s enormously potent Fields and the implicit defense of being a Power’s own territory, the Empire of Tarnil’s star was still on the rise. Empress Iniri had passed on a powerful set of stellar Lineages to her line, and provided a solid and stable base for her children. It had never absorbed its neighbors, but it had two mana springs and a Great Dungeon, as well as friendly relations with powers such as the Leviathans and the Chixuatli. Even if Blue was no longer bound by Bargain to protect it, his children were still on the throne, so it had no problem thriving and cooperating with Ir, bound by blood as they were.
Even though Iniri’s children inherited the capacity for becoming a Companion without undue intimacy, Blue didn’t find it necessary to bring any of the subsequent rulers of Tarnil into that limited group. Of Blue’s descendants, only a few were brought in as advisors and confidantes. The few that accepted that role were Taelah’s descendants, taking her place on Blue’s council. Lover-Companions, from outside that pool, were even rarer, but Shayma did find someone on occasion, no doubt thanks to the fate element of her Class. But Ansae and Shayma were Blue’s only immortal companions, even if Ansae never became a Companion.
The Silver Woe climbed up her tower, scooped whole from the Caldera but augmented with the growing arcanologic to expand itself as needed. It had become immense, disconnected pieces floating in lazy orbits and connected by portals to her laboratories and experimental scripts. Strictly speaking she didn’t need to be there in order to operate The Far Voyager, but everyone else was waiting in the big control room, with scry-views of deep space and the worldship itself in its orbit around the blue-green jewel of her homeworld.
“Captain on the bridge,” said Shayma as she strolled into the room, even though the fox-girl wasn’t technically part of the crew. While Ansae could have controlled most operations herself, she didn’t want to, so she had allowed a small number of trusted people to handle certain elements of the worldship. Arcanologic was great, but it was always better to have a person involved in the process.
“Everything’s ready,” Ansae said, giving Shayma a moderately repressive look, which she was entirely unaffected by. “Take us out, Montagne.”
“On it, mom.” Her son was the first and so far only space Affinity dragon to exist, which made him uniquely qualified to pilot the vessel. He sat in the draconic piloting harness, forepaws resting on the control orbs as he looked out through both the interlinked scrying magic and the illusion displays that covered the room. The ceiling was entirely transparent so they could see the stars shift beyond the great dome that covered the worldship.
Through her own link, Ansae could feel the energy from the reactors shifting through the massive gravity engines, though there was nary a tremble in the worldship itself as The Far Voyager broke orbit. The planet withdrew behind them, shrinking visibly as they headed outward. A great field unfolded to cradle the vessel, ready and eager to move faster and break the bounds of simple velocity. Ansae reached out with the worldship’s senses, which were even more potent than her own, looking at all the bright stars dusted across the skies. She smiled.
“Let’s see what’s out there.”