9Volt 2

◇ ◈ ◇ Tales ◇ ◈ ◇

Divine Duties, Holy Burnout

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The early days of the Second Hytoth were a time of serenity. After the last remnants of the old world faded away, and as the survivors and primordial beings of Light and Dark migrated through the chaotic void and entered the new universe, they faced no opposition, no gods, no demons. Within was only an infinity of calm. An infinity that could prosper. As the first settlements were constructed in young constellations, seven of the survivors convened in the faintly lit clouds of dark matter. These survivors decided to preserve the peace for the generations to come, for the rest of the existence.

In those clouds the Koru-teusa ascended to godhood.

Diana Olivier stepped into the gray, rocky office. At a birch desk located in the back left corner of the room was Sean Glen-Marcas, facing a shoddy intercom panel. A rectangular hole had been carved in the wall to make it fit on the uneven bedrock walls, though due to an issue with the panel's size it had to be positioned diagonally. The previous Grand Aímact Priest didn't want to damage their office wall more to fix it, so it had remained that way for several decades.

"So. This was a booklouse, right?" he said, his face a few inches away from the panel.

"Well, it looked mostly like one, except that all it's legs were stone," a man from the intercom replied.

A good portion of the desk was covered in books, some historical records of the universe, and others about peace and philosophies. Next to a wooden statue of a four-armed humanoid was a blocky laptop that surprisingly still worked after so many years. Sean repeatedly tapped his fingers on it as he spoke.

"And it leaped at you." He briefly turned his head around, waved, and went back to his business.

"Less leap, more 'lunge while gurgling incantations.'"

"Uh-huh. How big was this thing again?"

Diana carefully closed the door with her foot and stood by another birch desk, placed in the middle of the office. Unlike the other one, little was on it. There was only a curved lamp, a name plate, and an ornately carved ritual pad, made of granite and obsidian. She put a paper cup of coffee down on the desk and waited.

"About the size of my hand. But yeah, we pulled out some Ikonjan evocation guide and I swear it was going to attack us."

"Did it…"

"It jumped off to somewhere before we could go get it, or before anyone got hurt."

The bulky satchel Diana had been burdened with for the past several hours was dropped onto the floor, a few books on strange mythologies and ancient weaponry tumbling out. She quickly crouched down and tucked them back into the bag, then checked the various trinkets amassed over years of attending rock concerts. No scratches. She got back up and left the bag where it was.

"Oh, good. You all had defenses on you, I hope?

"Well… All we had was the lucky Onnumatsu tendril Gordon always brings around, and I can't recall ever having the opportunity to get anything of my own."

Sean briefly shifted and dragged a notepad and pen across the desk towards him, briefly wrote on one of the sheets of paper, and lazily slid both objects over to the laptop. The words "Enchant more trash" could be seen.

"So you think there's more of these in the archives?"

"Probably. Back in the Hoboken church, after Hurricane Sandy, we got back into our archives weeks after a structural collapse. We wandered in and found massive amounts of these insects, eating every tome we had, while glowing weird colors. I practically pissed myself running out of there."

"I take it they reproduce a lot," Sean said with the sound of fake intrigue.

"And, based on what I recall from this rambling wizard hobo we paid to fix the damage, they only eat information on magic."

Sean sighed. "Alright, I'll go ask around and see if any, what, lunatic SH freelance thaumaturges are around that could handle this?"

The person snickered. "Sounds good. I'll contact you if we run into any more issues."

"Sure." He reached into the recess and pushed a small black button, ending the call.

While godhood may bring power, control, and dominance, it can't truly bring wisdom. One must be born with it or earn it through great struggle, something the Koru-teusa would have found invaluable during their first trial. The battle against the Uu.

"So…" he said as he spun his black swivel chair around.

"There's the coffee you ordered."

Sean wheeled over the out of place marble floor to the desk.

"Thanks, I've been needing something to stay alive down here." The two ceiling lights created an outline of the bags under his eyes, an appearance disturbingly reminiscent of how he was in the days following the Holy Sixth's death in 2000.

Diana leaned on the table, taking a sip from her own bottle of coffee. "Been busy, eh?"

He flicked the plastic lid off of the cup. "That's one way to say that," he said while taking a big gulp of the drink. "Everyone's needed advice from me on something. Cleaning out the archives, recruitment, digitizing the archives…"

At some point during the universal settlement, there was a ripple in the growing universe's fabric, something pushing against it. Ripples like this may mean nothing today, but billions of years ago it could cause great change. The settlers of the galaxy where this ripple occurred merged into one, and formed pillars of yellow flesh and soul that connected every physical object within the galaxy. It curled around the central black hole and basked in its cold warmth.

He paused momentarily. "Sorry, but do you mind if I vent for a bit?"

"Oh, not at all. I've got nowhere to be besides the archives, but if I go I'll run into Helmuth, so staying to listen is the best excuse I have." She reached her leg out and slowly inched a second, neglected swivel chair from a corner over to her.

"Heh, nobody wants to experience that," Sean said, smirking. "But yeah, there's been too much going on. When you're the Grand Aímact Priest everyone relies on you for everything, since all you are is an overblown regional manger that does holy celebrations here and there."

"Well, hasn't it always been that way?" The chair wasn't particularly comfortable, though it wasn't the worst thing she had sat in. She shifted around in the hope that would change.

"Nada. A few months ago there was really nothing happening, outside of general celebrations and Saira's call for more recruitment. Nothing I was exactly involved in." He twiddled the smooth, heptagonal stone on his otherwise bare necklace. A reminder of the Holy Seven. "Then she asks all of the churches to start modernizing. You know the hassle of getting anything up on the databases, right?"

Diana nodded.

"And then you get to searching through the archives for the safe stuff to put up, and then you need to aid in getting an internet connection in the church. Nobody's prepared for this, so they turn to you for advice, and since you aren't prepared…" Sean took another swig of the coffee.

"Isn't there anyone you can get help from?"

"All of my fellow priests are busy, and Saira is handling even more stuff I reckon. Can't get into contact with any of them."

"Hmm." Hopefully Saira was handling being the Koru Archpriest well.

"And since internet is a long way off, and with this whole place being underground, the only way for people to communicate with me is with the intercom here, and with so many people who need help…"

"You're trapped down here?"

"For most of the day, yes." He pointed at a sleeping bag in the corner.

The creature was a twisted combination of the settlers that made it. A perversion their aspirations of survival and will to expand. The Uu was satiated at first, but as cosmic dust clouds passed around it had to grow, attaching every particle to its whole. The Holy Seven watched from afar, deciding to end this threat.

"I mean, you've got the whole archive not far off. There's enough reading there to last a lifetime and the Eitoth. Can't that keep you entertained?"

"The issue isn't finding stuff to do, it's the office," he said while waving his hand. "It's a bit roomy, but it's disturbingly dull after an hour."

"You could put up some decorations, though I now notice how uneven the 'walls' are."

"Yeah. My knick-knacks aren't helping things, so I doubt any amount of colorful trash could spiff this up."

"Well, at least you haven't lost your sense of humor."

"Ask again once I'm done handling the Foundation."

All attempts at an attack failed. The ripples had caused spatial instability and distortion, disorientating the gods and any attempt at a coordinated strike. Theit-leusa, the Holy Fifth, could not collapse the mind of something that never had one. The luminescent thaumaturgical blasts of the Sixth, Yorun-leusan, simply missed. The Uu couldn't kill them, but it could hinder any progress. As the number of failures grew higher and higher, the animal grew larger and larger.

"Oh, right. How bad has that been?"

He released an exhausted sigh. "Terrible enough to not have a quip for it."

"So, very bad."

"It's just… I don't know how to handle this. People go out to try and find First Hytothan artifacts and come back saying they never went to find anything, friends walk in forgetting entire excursions. Then the church in Jena had stuff stolen with security claiming they saw nothing suspicious…"

"That's worse than I thought."

"If it wasn't for our connections with other groups we'd have vanished by now."

"Koru ainsu to the Library." She raised her cup in commemoration of their sole source of knowledge on the Foundation.

"Koru ainsu indeed. But really, it's just too difficult to handle. Now I'm scared that we'll be raided any day now, and none of us will remember anything."

"Hmm. Well, I've been to the Library enough to times to know that there's people we could hire for protection, like the astral projecting Ur machines. Also, all of the rituals, Ortothan-Daevic War weapons, and relics we have could-"

"No. We can't. Saira doesn't want us doing anything that would make us seem like more of a threat."

She sighed. "Because it would bring more attention to us."

Sean slowly nodded. Diana seemed disappointed.

"The only path to invisibility is brought with silence," Sean perfectly recited from memory.

"Aaand, that was, erm, Zanj who-"


"Right, Janj, that philosopher."

A small piece of paper pushed its way out of a drawer and bent its way to the top of the desk, drawing attention to itself. It folded into the shape of a crab and scuttled off to the door, flattening itself and slipping away.

Sean deeply sighed, his eyes drooping. "And… and then… there was Alison..."

"Look, I keep telling you not to think about that," Diana said, noticing the sullen expression on her friend's face.

"You and I both know it was my faul-"

"It was nobody's fault, Sean."

"We didn't know if the ritual was safe, but I got her to-"

"Don't think about it. Relax," she said in a moderately calm tone.

He let out a third sigh. "Honestly, I don't think I can."

As Diana searched for a good response, the conversation hit its brakes.

As the rest charged on, Rakmou-leusan, the Fourth, chose not to join them. He soared through the blackness on trails of blood, searching for a place of true emptiness. The conflict was far off by the time he found a suitable location. The area was surrounded by the soft blue and purple hues of developing nebulae, but was filled with the calm blackness spawned by the One of Dark. By some miracle there was nothing in the space, not even microscopic spectral beings. That was where he chose to meditate and plan.

The remaining coffee had been lukewarm for a minute by now, so there was nothing that could be done to distract themselves from the intense silence.

"Look, I think you really need to take a break."

"And abandon my duties as a priest?"

"You've done so much work and you're so stressed. You deserve some relaxation."

"I… I'm sorry, but I just can't, especially with everyone relying on me."

"You don't need to apologize to me." She glanced at her watch. "Ah, looks like I can't put off going to the archives any longer."

Diana got up from her chair, carefully dropped her cup in the nearby trashcan, and opened the door.

"Try to have a good afternoon!" she said while leaning over to grab her bag and dragging it out of the room.

"You too."

The door slammed shut.

When the Fourth returned he saw that no progress had been made. While the expansion was largely slower than it had been before, no major victories had been won, and he realized why. Halting the growth in hopes of protecting other galaxies had distracted the Seven from the greatest vulnerability in the organism.

Sean opened one of the drawers of the desk and pulled out a thin vial. After positioning it above the ritual pad he carefully unscrewed the lid. Blood seeped out and splatted onto the black and gray surface. As if willed into doing so, the blood filled the heptagram and connected four rhombi etched into it. A dull red glow emerged, rapidly transitioning to a bright pink and then a brilliant white. The blood was now with Rakmou-leusan, and all that remained was a sense of satisfaction.

As he put the vial away he continued to think about Diana's suggestion, as he had been doing for the past four minutes….

Rakmou-leusan flew towards what was once the galactic core and the tumor at its center. The mass pulsated like an eldritch heart, occasionally sprouting small appendages to connect to the smallest specs of matter. He went to work destroying the existing pillars that anchored it to the rest of the galaxy, with Onia-leuso, the Seventh, eroding the attempts by the Uu to regrow. Yorun-leusan slowly melted its surface with luminescent magical torrents, and Theit-leusa gave the Fourth the mental knowledge to navigate the distorted realm. The First, Second, and Third continued to prevent the growth.

…with the memories of grandpa's fables flooding the remaining space in his thoughts.

After a grueling experience, the center of the Uu was fully disconnected from the rest of its self. It could no longer support its size, nothing anchoring it and keeping its structure, and it crumpled inwards, stretching into the oblivion it surrounded. All that was left was a galactic corpse.

His eyes drifted to the office "ceiling" as he remembered. Grandpa would always sit beside the old bed with its rusty frame and tell a myriad of fables, all from heart. His voice was far from soft, the result of one too many cigarettes, but the landscapes he painted when speaking were breathtaking. Despite the ensuing nightmares of being engulfed by massive webs, spectral floaters, and many more horrors, those were Sean's most cherished memories.

From that day on the Koru-teusa have held the cosmic peace… and… and…

The last portion of that sentence was seemingly impossible to recall. Perhaps that was when he was always whisked away to the lands of dreams, though having read the physical story multiple times hasn't helped him remember it.

He thought about why the story would come back to him at this time; why it was the one thing he kept remembering each day. Sean's mind wandered.

Once again he spun around to look at the intercom, then again to look at the door. Sean realized what he needed to do. He took in a deep breath and walked over to the other desk. He fumbled around through multiple drawers until he retrieved a single sticky note and a pencil, briefly scribbling a message on it. As he shuffled over to the door, opened it, and placed the note on the outside portion of it a beeping sound filled the room. A dreaded beeping sound.

Someone was trying to talk to him on the intercom.

He stood still, holding the door open, staring at the small nook his face had been next to for a good week. The red light in it blinked on and off in harmony with its noises. He turned his head around, gazed into the hallway's rock corridors, and shut the door.

For the next week I won't be available for advice or other jobs within the Church. If you need to consult anyone, please check the staff directory to find the right person or people.

Thanks for understanding, and have a good day!

Grand Aímact Priest Sean Glen-Marcas

Thanks to DrMagnus, DrBleep, SpectralDragon, AbsentmindedNihilist, Roget, weryllium, Modern_Erasmus, Hippo, Varaxous, Icepick/Mortos, Conwell for crit

Things to change:

  • Get crit on the layout of both stories (potentially disrupts the flow of both?)
  • Add more context behind what the Church of the Second Hytoth is
    • Bonus worldbuilding


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