Monthly Archives: October 2022

Broken Horizon – Vol 13, Interlude 4


Dealing with the end of the world had been terrifying beyond measure. Yawlorna had been intimately aware of the razor’s edge they’d walked on and how close to absolute annihilation they’d been. It had taken a one-in-a-lifetime effort to hold back the hands of the [Armageddon Clock] and she was reasonably sure that if the situation was to occur again, the dice could easily fall in the other direction.

Despite all of that however, she was still praying for another apocalypse to arise.

“People wondered why I kept trying to take over the world,” Xardrak said from the comfy insides of his prison cell. “That expression right there? The one that says ‘for the love of the dead gods, please let this world burn to a cinder so I can stop dealing with this bureaucracy? That’s where it started.”

“The gods aren’t dead anymore,” Yawlorna mumbled as she flipped to the a new page in a stack of forms as thick as her torso.

“Ah, that’s right,” Xardrak said. “Good for them. I suppose we have them to thank for this bright new world that’s around us.”

“Not exactly,” Yawlorna said, letting the paper drop back onto the stack.

The University claimed nothing could happen until the reports, and waivers, and testimonials, and clearance forms were all properly filled out and reviewed. There were deadlines and penalty clauses and late processing fees that were already mounting up, but from what Yawlorna could see it was all just a delaying tactic, where everyone at the university was trying to pass the responsibility for the debacle of the ‘slight trouble’ the research team had encountered onto someone else while at the same time retaining the foremost rights to data the survivors of the research team were able to produce.

“I suppose you had something to do with it too, no?” Xardrak asked. “The tales I’ve been hearing are difficult to accept but the more I poke around the more confirmations I’m discovering.”

Yawlorna had only partially been listening but Xardrak’s last statement had caught her attention.

“How are you poking around?” she asked. “I thought this cell was supposed to be impervious, even to you?”

“Oh, it is,” Xardrak said. “Exceptional craftsmanship, even if its not my own. Is it designed to allow for communication though and [Million Seeking Eyes] I left around the world are still quite able to show me what’s transpiring, well, more or less everywhere.”

“Everywhere?” Yawlorna have him her most dubious expression. Spells rarely lived up to their grandiose names, though if anyone was going to be the exception to that, Xardrak was clearly the most likely candidate.

“Well, no, to be fair I still haven’t quite made sense of the journey you described to the other world, or was it worlds?” Xardrak asked. “Also, I’m reasonably certain that no spell cast from here could reach there.”

“How far can you reach?” she asked. Her desire to ask for some precision targeted [Fire Balls] was strong, but Yawlorna guessed that particular temptation would remain safely out of the bounds of possibility.

“I can’t blow up your University for you,” Xardrak said, reading her expression with perfect ease.

“How about small and specific parts of it?” Yawlorna asked, mostly joking. Mostly.

“Alas, no,” Xardrak said. “The arcane connections between the realms would fray and snap if that much magic was sent down them. Also the core [Arcanophysics] of your world are likely different enough from this world’s that a spell matrix for a [Fireball] from here would express itself as a shower of rose petals or something equally useless over there.”

“Probably better that [Fireballs] are off the table,” Yawlorna said with a wistful sigh.

“If I may, two questions occur to me,” Xardrak said.

“Why aren’t I having someone else do this? Or just return these things with nothing filled out and see if anyone ever notices?” Yawlorna guessed.

“Oh, no, those are easily answered,” Xardrak said. “You won’t ask anyone else to do that work for you because you lack the requisite cruelty to inflict such suffering on those who put their trust in you, and you won’t return the pages unprocessed because you wish to ensure a favorable outcome for those you are responsible for.”

Yawlorna wanted to object. She could be cruel and uncaring. 

Couldn’t she?

By omission, or when emotionally compromised? Certainly.

On purpose though? Merely to further her own ends? No. Even the thought made her feel slimy. She supposed Xardrak was essentially correct, or at least enough that arguing against him wouldn’t serve any useful purpose.

“What did you want to know then?” she asked, glad for the distraction, but dreading how much it was going to push off getting everything sorted out for her crew.

“First, you are doing all this work on behalf of your crew, in order that they can return home, and retain a place of honor, correct?” Xardrak asked.

“It’s more a matter of ensuring they retain their academic standing,” Yawlorna said. “If they can be reseated as students, they can submit papers that will revolutionize our world’s understanding of virtually everything. Their names won’t be lost and discounted if they are officially recognized, even just as students.”

“It’s a noble endeavor to preserve their legacies,” Xardrak said. “One thing though; have you asked any of them what their feelings on the matter are?”

“Have I what?” Yawlorna said. “Well, of course, I mean that was the whole point of their coming on the expedition.”

“That was the point of the expedition when it set out,” Xardrak said. “You, and they, are no longer those people though. Your experiences have changed you, quite literally in many cases. Before you rebuild their fates for them, don’t you think you should ask your crew what they might want those fates to be?”

Yawlorna tried to speak, but no words came out for a long moment. She wasn;t just stunned by the question, and the face that it had somehow never occurred to her to consider it, she was reeling from the notion that Xardrak had eyes and ears all over the world and she knew, she just knew, he wouldn’t have asked her that question if the answer wasn’t one he already knew to run contrary to Yawlorna’s expectations.

“What’s your second question?” she managed to stammer out after another moment.

“A much simpler one,” Xardrak said. “Why did you come to see me? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the company. Spying on the world is interesting enough, but it loses a bit of its luster when you can’t join any conversations. Or correct people when they’re clearly wrong! That would be another reason I kept trying to take over the world.”

“I…” Yawlorna began and paused. She wasn’t sure she wanted to say the words she’d been thinking out loud. It would make them too real, commit to them too much, maybe?

“I want to learn more,” Yawlorna said, the decision to move forward almost making itself for her. “We spoke of [Immortality] but that’s not the power that lies at the heart of this world. Is it?”

Xardrak laughed, a kindly tone to his chuckle.

“No, [Immortality] can be as much a burden and a curse as a gift, and over far less than ‘endless time’ it becomes both,” Xardrak said.

“It still seems nicer to have than not, but that’s not what I want to focus on anymore,” Yawlorna said. “I want you to teach me what you know about the [Heart Fires].”

Xardrak’s eyes burned bright in a sort of merry twinkle.

“And what do you believe the [Heart Fires] has to offer beyond [Immortality]?” Xardrak asked.

“Me. Or may I should say it as ‘Me’s,” Yawlorna said. “We’ve seen [Adventurers] rebuild their bodies from gas and dust. That’s simple with the [Heart Fires]. Even I can do that now. But there’s more to it than just remaking who we are. We can make ourselves into all of the other people who we are too.”

“And who is it that you would want to be so very badly?” Xardrak asked.

“Everyone,” Yawlorna said. “I like who I am, I like who I was, but there are so many other people I’ve dreamed of being. So many other lives I’ve imagined living. I want to learn what they’re all like. I want to meet those versions of myself and see what they can tell me about who I really am, and who the people around them really are.”

Xardrak glanced at the pile of papers.

“That’s not something you’ll be able to do back on your homeworld,” he said. “The magic of the [Heart Fires] only works here, on this world.”

“I know,” Yawlorna said. “I’m not filling any of those out for myself. I’m…I’m staying here while the others go back.”

Xardrak looked like he was suppressing a chest full of mirth.

“You should really talk to your crew,” he said.

Cease All

The [Army of Light] was dissolving. Not out of any animosity, or even a desire to form a new guild. People just wanted to explore.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” Cease said, “but there’s a whole new world right here!”

“And it’ll be here when we get back,” Kozmos said. As one of the leaders of the [AoL] guild, Cease had expected him to take the guild’s dissolution the hardest, but he seemed to be one of the people the most excited about it.

“But it’ll already be explored by then,” Cease said. “They’ll probably setup gift shops outside the bosses lairs.”

Kozmos laughed at that. “Oh wow, can you imagine?”

Cease glared at him.

“It won’t be like that,” he said. “And if it is? All the better that we didn’t waste any time on it.”

“But we could see it while it’s all fresh and new. We could be [World’s First] for like a thousand different things,” Cease said.

“We’re not a [World’s First] guild though,” Kozmos said. “We never have been.”

“Yeah, I know, but we did so much! We saved the world. Like a dozen times over. Shouldn’t that count for something?”

“What? Of course it does!” Kozmos said. “This place will always be a home for us, and the [Guild Hall] will always commemorate all the greats we’ve played with.”

“But none of you will be here anymore,” Cease said.

“Come on now, we’re not all going. There’s a bunch of people who agree with you. They want to stay here too, for now at least.”

“A bunch? We’ve got like half a Raid team left, and some of them are already talking about running with some of the new guilds that are being put together now that we can talk to players from all over the Earth.”

It was an unexpected boon that while two Earthly players might have no shared languages, their [Adventurer] counterparts all spoke the common tongue of the realms, so a North American player partying with someone from China and someone from the Middle East became far easier.

“You could always come with us?” Kozmos suggested. “There are so many other worlds out there. Everything from books, and movies, and other games, and even wilder stuff.”

“I know, that’s problem,” Cease said. “There’s so much out there now, you’ll all scatter. What’s the point of going with you if none of you ever see each other again?”

“You graduated from school before the internet was really a thing, didn’t you?” Kozmos asked.

“Technically, no,” Cease said. “The internet’s been around since the 80’s.”

“I know, I was graduating around then too,” Kozmos said. “And I remember how all my friends promised to keep in touch. We’d write letters and get together for reunions, and everything.”

“And then none of that ever happened.”

“Exactly correct,” Kozmos said. “But that was then. Nowadays? You ‘friend’ all your classmates on social media and you follow their lives in excruciating detail basically forever.”

“So we’re going to be excruciating to each other?” Cease said with a small laugh.

“Almost certainly,” Kozmos said. “And I’m looking forward to it. I want us all to go out there and scatter into a hundred different worlds because I want to hear the stories of all those places. I want to imagine places I’ve never imagined before because I get to see them through one of my friends eyes. My friends who I am not going to lose track of this time, and who I will be reuniting with because we did more than pass a few tests together. We saved the damn world, no, the damn worlds. All of them, and that’s not something we’ll ever forget.”

Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Interlude 3

Kamie Anne Do

The afterlife was peaceful. No tortured, screaming souls. No spooky chills, or disturbing voices. Even the washed out shroud that covered everything in the [Dead Lands] seemed to be glowing with a gentle warmth.

“Never really expected to act as a midwife to a god,” Buzz Fightyear said. He was slumped against the ghostly wall of the [Great Hall] in the [Dead Lands] version of [Dragonshire]. The rest of Grace’s party was similarly relaxing after the most harrowing run of every one of their lives and deaths put together.

“Congratulations, she’s a bouncing, baby planet,” Battler X joke mumbled. She’d dropped her gear during the run from the farthest depths of creation, but they’d changed so much in the process of traveling out and back that there wasn’t any need to be modest. 

None of them were even vaguely human anymore.

“Not exactly a baby,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said.

She appeared mid-stride, and took a place along the wall, sinking down into the same sitting posture Grace was in before letting her head tip back to rest against the wall.

For the incarnate spirit of the planet’s life, the [Risen Kingdoms] hadn’t chosen to embody herself in a particularly Divine! and Powerful! form. Grace kind of understood that. They’d all had a really long, and really hard day, and everyone needed a break. Even the [Soul of the World].

“It worked?” Grace asked. She could have provided more context, but her dead eyelids were so heavy. She’d pushed herself so far, and lost so much of what she’d been, she had to wonder if when she let them close and allowed herself to drift off into dreams, if they would be ones she would ever awaken from.

“Most of it,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said.

“Only ‘most’?” Grail Force asked. “What did we miss?”

“You folks? Nothing,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “You went above and beyond the call. Far beyond. If [Gaia] and I had been forced to fight against the [Disjoined] while we were using the [World Fire] to reincarnate, what would have come back would have been very different.”

“How so?” Battler X asked, picking herself up into a seating position.

“We were merging in death, the walls between our spirits blurring so that we could share a deeper connection than was ever possible while we were tied to a physical world. With our barriers down like that though, other things could have crept in as well. If those other things had been the [Disjoined]?”

“You would have become [Disjoined] too?” Grace guessed.

“Sort of,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “We’re not exactly like you, but the self-annihilating strife that’s at the core of the [Disjoined]? That we could have been afflicted by.”

“I take it that’s not something we could have fixed later?” Buzz Fightyear asked. He tried to sit up too, but the [Hound of Fate] at his side nuzzled him to stay still for a little while longer.

“You all are capable of more than you realize,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “Cleansing us of that sort of infection though would have taken time and we did not have any at that point.”

“How are we doing now?” Grace asked.

“Provisionally, excellent I’d say. I’m here resting with you rather than needing to fight against the several hundred apocalypses that we’ve finally resolved,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “Also, [Gaia’s] back on Earth, and she’s got things pretty well in hand there too.”

“She’s stopped the Earthly apocalypses?” Grail Force asked.

“Stopped them and has been sharing the techniques we discovered for preventing them with our other selves,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “Well, most of our other selves, the other [World Souls]. Not all of them were receptive from what I gather.”

“What does ‘not receptive’ mean?” Grace asked.

“There’s several reasons someone may become [Disjoined],” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “When you have a world that’s founded on misery for miseries sake, it’s apparently possible for the entire world and everyone in it to become [Disjoined].”

“What happens then?” Grace asked.

“I think the [Oblivion Remnants] have a purpose,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “It’s what prevents them from being truly nothing at all.”

“They exist to kill [Disjoined] worlds?” Battler X asked.

“Or to start those worlds over,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “If my afterlife had been destroyed, I don’t know where I would have gone when I died. Maybe nowhere, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think there’s something beyond that.”

“You don’t know where we go when we die for real?” Grace asked, ignoring the irony that she petting a [Hound of Fate] who was laying down beside her.

“I’m the soul of this world, not the next one, not yet anyways,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “We’ll see when it comes time for me to go for good.”

“Why can’t you just be here forever though?” Battler X asked.

“Because someday it will be time for me to become something else, and maybe something more,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said.

“Like us?” Grace asked. “Has that time come for us?” She gestured with a hand that had gone translucent and looked nothing like a human appendage anymore.

“I don’t know, do you want this to be when you leave? Is this how you’d like to go out?” the [Risen Kingdoms] asked.

“Not really,” Buzz Fightyear said.

“Me neither,” Grail Force said.

“I agree,” Battler X said. “But I’m having a hard time imagining going back at this point. I mean, sure, maybe we could jump into a [Heart Fire] and rebuild our normal bodies in the material world. Maybe we could even separate into our Earthly halves and the part that’s meant to be here, but…I don’t know, does that seem right? Or like what we want to do? Maybe it’s just me though?”

“It’s not just you,” Grace said. “I feel like this, me as I am now? I worked for this. We all literally died for it, and it mattered. It feels like walking away from it now would mean going back to pretend that what I was doing was important, when I’d given up on the most important thing I’d ever done.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Buzz said. “This feels weird, but also new and exciting. And I don’t want to leave Snuffy behind.” He scritched his [Hound of Fate] behind the ears.

“Snuffy?” Battler X asked incredulously.

“It was his idea,” Buzz said.

“He’s right,” Grail Force said and shook her head, “Not about the name, that’s…whatever. But about leaving this behind. I feel like there’s more for us to do here.”

“There is,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “With how much you’ve already given, I didn’t want to ask anything else of you, but if you want to stay as you are for now, I have a special position you could fill.”

“What would we have to do?” Grace asked.

“I’m going to be returning to a dreaming sleep soon,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “It’s how I can stay connected to all of you at once, but it means I’m not aware of acute problems that arise. Or people who may seek to exploit my existence for their own ends. Also, the [Hounds] don’t make exceptions, but sometimes exceptions may be called for.”

“So we’re be your protectors?” Grace asked.

“And the keepers of the Hounds?” Buzz asked.

“That and more,” the [Risen Kingdoms] said. “You would be my [Undying Knights] and to you I would entrust my world and all who walk upon it and within it.”


The [Vampire Queen] felt the fresh blood coursing through her veins and the inferno of power that raged in her soul. It was an intoxicating blend but a persistent question nagged at the corners of her mind.

“You’re sure we lost none of them?” she asked for the twelfth time, hoping that perhaps with enough repetition she might earn a different answer.

“Quite certain,” Qiki said. “All the members of your Couterie are accounted for, and that’s not the best new either!”

Her cheerful tone was purpose built to drive Vixali to murder and they both knew it. They also both knew that after decades spent living in a murderous rage, Vixali’s restraint would not fail her over so small a provocation.

“What news, exactly, could be ‘better’ than that?” Vixali asked, too fiendishly annoyed that an entire army of monsters hadn’t been sufficient to diminish her flock by at least a few members.

She would have said ‘a few of the more annoying members’ but these were [Vampires], they were all annoying.

“You recall some of the [Adventurers] who were petitioning for admittance to your court?” Qiki asked.

“They died!?” Vixali asked, brightening at the thought. For as bad as the actual [Vampires] she had to deal with where, the wanna-be [Vampires] were a thousand times worse.

“What? Oh, no, of course not. They’re [Adventurers],” Qiki said, which, unfortunately, was explanation enough. “Or rather they were!”

Were? How could an [Adventurer] become an ex-[Adventurer] without becoming permanently corpsified?

The answer stared her in the face, but she resolutely refused to look at it.

There was simply no possibility…

That could not be allowed to be true!

“They’ve become townsfolk.” Vixali didn’t suggest it, or ask it as a question. She was a queen. It was a [Royal Edict].

Unfortunately, she was not the Queen of the [Adventurers] and hence her edicts, royal or otherwise, could not compel them.

“In a manner of speaking,” Qiki said.

“So they can be killed now?” Vixali asked. “We can drain them dry and no one will complain?”

“Not…exactly,” Qiki said. “You wouldn’t find their blood very nourishing.”

“Nonsense,” Vixali said. “I’ve drunk all varieties of vitae. The only blood we draw no nourishment from is…is…”

She absolutely did not want to complete that sentence.

“Is the blood of our own [Fledgling Vampires]!” Qiki cheered. “That’s the good news. Your domain is even larger now with all the new subjects, all [Fledgling Vampires] of our bloodline (and yes, I did check, they taste disgusting) who are ready to swear fealty to you!” Qiki bounced out of reach as Vixali lashed out with a flurry of claws.

“How!” Vixali seethed, her eyes a brilliant crimson.

“Apparently the massive [Heart Fire] that everyone assembled so that the [World Spirits] could be reborn gave the [Adventurers] some ideas. They spent a while playing with the regular [Heart Fires] and worked out how to come back as something other than the usual selves.”

“Why? Why would they do this?” Vixali wailed, the image of even more eternally backstabbing, and endlessly whining [Vampires] expecting her to solve all of their problem rising before her like the gates of her own private layer of Hell.

“Did you not watch yourself in the fighting? Did you not watch me?” Qiki asked. “We were incredibly bad ass. And damn hot! There you were all covered in blood, riping heads off and smiting people left and right. I promise you that is showing up in everyone’s dreams who got a good look at what you were doing.” In a quieter voice she added, “I know it showed up in mine.”

“They’re going to be a nightmare. An unmitigated, unbearable nightmare,” Vixali said, dropping her head into her hands. “It was bad enough with the court we already had. How am I not going to go insane with more of them!”

“Come on now, it won’t be that bad,” Qiki said. “Maybe they’ll form factions and fight against each other vying for your support.”

“You know that won’t happen. They would need someone to unite them and there’s not a pair of gray cells still active among the whole lot of them. The most they’ll do is preen at each other and then call me in to choose sides in a fashion show.”

“But what if they did have a leader,” Qiki asked. “Say a treacherous subordinate who was planing to usurp your throne for herself? Someone who could give them the direction they resolutely refuse to listen to from the person they believe is in charge? Someone who could be sure that they would forever and after be too busy tearing each other down to notice that you don’t actually favor any of them?”

Vixali’s non-existent breath caught in her throat.

“You…” a lump formed in her throat. “You would do that for me? Not just a game, but proper treachery? Believable. Compelling. You…”

“Me,” Qiki said, moving in close to draw Vixali into her arms. “It will always be me for you. Just as it will always be you for me.” 

Broken Horizons, Vol 13 – Interlude 2


The world was new, and bright, and packed with vibrant life, and all Grunvan wanted was to sleep like a rock for the next thousand years.

“So, we won, right?” Argwin asked, each word fighting through a heavy blanket of exhaustion. She was splayed out on the ground a few feet away from Grunvan with seemingly the same absolute lack of energy left.

Neither of them were broken, or even hurt though. The injured had been evac’d to a healing facility a half hour ago. The rest of the Apple Plate Air Guard, [Goblins] and [Wraithwings] both, were merely enjoying some direly needed downtime.

A few, the lucky ones with the strength to lift their limbs still, were using the global communications grid to talk with family members they’d left behind. The rest were collapsed into boneless heaps similar to the one Grunvan found herself  in.

They’d won. Or so everyone was saying.

And Grunvan didn’t disagree.

Not really.

She was happy to still be alive. Delighted Argwin had made it too. Even the world being in more-or-less one piece was an acceptable outcome.

It should have been a lot more than that though.

Across the planet wild celebrations were breaking out everywhere. The [Dead Gods] were back! The invasion from beyond the stars had been thwarted! New friends and allies had emerged! And, in a miracle beyond all reason, a countless number of apocalypses had all been cast down.

And Grunvan had been there for it all.

She’d ridden the fiercest of gales into the heart of the world’s end and she stood strong with so many others to form a fulcrum on which history had turned.

They’d won. Even though there’d been no hope of winning, no hope of surviving, no hope of even being remembered, they’d still won.

Grunvan knew all that. She could feel the awareness of it looming over her like the shadow of a vast wave. She knew it, but she couldn’t accept it. Not yet. 

Maybe it was that she still had too much left over fear to process. She was a [Wagon Driver]. She wasn’t cut out for saving the world, or being in dire peril, or almost losing everything and everyone she ever cared about.

Grunvan felt a sob go through her, silent, but still wracking her body from head to toe.

She could smell the mountain exploding around her. The terror of seeing the Consortium’s corrupted troops charging at them when all she had to defend herself was a spikey stick still lived in her heart. Each frantic report of certain dooms multiplying beyond count still rang in her ears.

It had all been real. Much, much too real.

“You know they’re going to have us report in tomorrow at the normal time, don’t ya?” Argwin asked.

Grunvan laughed.

“Report in for what?”

“Work still needs to get done don’t it?” Argwin said.

“Yeah, but I…” Grunvan started to say and came up short.


She wasn’t a [Wagon Driver] anymore. She’d seen that in the final battle.

Level 50.

[Folk Hero].

She wasn’t what she’d been. That was lost to her.

Just like the comfortable world she’d known was lost.

The new one she found herself in, the [Risen Kingdoms], they were magical, and wondrous, and new. Everyone was excited and amazed by them. Everyone but her.

She missed her old wagon routes. She missed knowing the turns of the road she would travel down, and which paths to take when the weather turned back, and where she could stop each night for a comfortable bed.

They’d saved the world but they hadn’t preserved it. There was a world out there for, waiting for her, but it wasn’t the world she’d fought for. It wasn’t worn, and broken in, and familiar.

“Yeah, I know,” Argwin said, a soft note of sympathy in her voice. She had her head propped up on her arm and was watching whatever expressions were playing across Grunvan’s face. “This wasn’t where we were supposed to be, was it?”

“I was supposed to be delivering pumpkins,” Grunvan said. “Had a nice little three stop trip all laid out.”

“Planning on bringing back a pie?” Argwin asked.

“Was planning to bring back two,” Grunvan said. “That’d let me eat one when it was fresh and still have one to share.”

“Sounds delicious,” Argwin said. “So what’s stopping you? Aside from how nice sleeping on this particular rocky bit of ground is?”

Grunvan sat up too. Argwin’s sarcasm was right about one thing; the pokey little rocks Grunvan had been collapsed on were starting to get a little painful.

“Who’s got pumpkins anymore? They probably all got blown up. Or turned into Jack-o-Lantern monsters or something,” Grunvan said. “Anyways, how can I go back to wagon driving? I’m not even a [Wagon Driver] anymore. I’m a stupid [Folk Hero] now. I’ve probably got to go off and kill monsters by the bushel now or something.”

“Do they measure monsters by bushels?” Argwin asked.

“I don’t know. This didn’t come with an instruction manual,” Grunvan said.

“Then who says you can’t drive a wagon?” Argwin asked. “The world’s saved right? Why not go drive wagons, if that’s what you want to do? You get to choose what your life is.”

“A lot of those apocalypses were ‘handled’ or ‘postponed’ rather than completely stopped,” Grunvan said. “From what the [Lord of Storms] said, we’re sliding to our doom anymore but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

“Sure. And we’ve got a lot of people who want to do the fighty parts of it,” Argwin said. “How many of them do you there are who want to make some simple, unexciting wagon delivers?”

“But what if…” Grunvan began to ask. Argwin interrupted her though.

“What if this happens again? Then we deal with it again. If we only live for the worst future that we can think to be afraid of, we’ll miss out on living for the future that actually winds up happening.”


One of the more pleasant aspects of having inherent fire powers, Baelgritz had discovered, was that any reasonable sized body of water could become a hot tub if the occasion called for it. 

It seemed somewhat taxonomically incorrect to label the spacious pool the [Sisters of Steel] had reconfigured their training area to contain as a ‘hot tub’, but given that everyone who was soaking in it seemed at least mildly blissed out by the warm waters, it was at the closest description he could find for it.

“I still can’t believe we’re alive,” Hermeziz said. To anyone else the words would have sounded like a complaint, in part because they were. Baelgritz heard them for what they were though – the remnants of a bone deep fear easing themselves out of Hermeziz’s hard and brittle shell.

Baelgritz splashed some water at Hermeziz and caught Sister Cayman in the overly large wave he’d caused. That, in turn, provoked retaliation, which became a general free for all until everyone went back to blissful soaking a few minutes later.

Baelgritz cast a glance at Hermeziz when the frolicing was done to see a scowly frown waiting for him. That was a good sign. Hermeziz liked to frown when other people were around. It was a defense mechanism, though over time it had shifted from Hermeziz defending himself to defending Baelgritz and Illuthiz, thereby allowing the two of them to be more open and friendly as a sort of counterbalance.

“I heard we might be losing you soon?” Sister Cayman said. “Sounds like you all might getting one of the Consortium space ships that wasn’t destroyed.”

“Yawlorna’s still working out the details on that one,” Illuthiz said.

“They are not holding out on you are they?” Sister Cayman asked. “Not when you all saved the whole town.”

“We didn’t exactly do that alone,” Baelgritz said, recalling the dozens of times he’d seen Sister Cayman or one of the other [Sisters of Steel] fighting along beside them during the seemingly never ending battle against the [Brain Scourgers] forces. 

The addition of the [Cursed Walkers] had definitely turned the tide for them, but neither the [Brain Scourger] nor its forces had fled when the ghost army had shown up.

The fighting had lasted for several hours longer and showered the [Barrow Hills] with enough destructive magic for their official classification to shift to the [Fields of Desolation].

Then the [Fallen Kingdoms] had died.

Which was bad.

Something about the void the spirit of the [Fallen Kingdoms] left had helped the [Brain Scourger] to rally. It had grown to massive size and looked like it was going to be able to turn the tide of the battle all by itself.

Baelgritz was proud that they’d managed to hold even a foe like the [Engorged Brain Scourger] away from [Dragonshire]. It had been a supremely costly effort, and not one they could have sustained for long. Baelgritz had a dim memory of wrestling with the Brain’s frontal lobe – he’d been so overcharged at that point the whole world had been little beside fire and rage – when the [Fallen Kingdoms] returned to life.

That was bad. For the [Brain Scourger].

Baelgritz’s power was fading at that point, which cleared his mind enough so that he was able to watch the monster begin petrifying from the brain stem upwards.

It was out of power too, and without power it fossilized into completely inert stone. Except for its eyes. Those became gem stones. Beautiful, gigantic, hypnotically alluring gem stones.

Yeah, those were going to be a problem at some point in the future.

“You did more than enough,” Sister Cayman said. “You deserve to be able to go home as much as anyone else does! More even! This didn’t have to be your fight at all.”

“Oh, there won’t be a problem with us going home,” Illuthiz said.

“They got the [Dimensional Comm Array] on the Consortium ships working,” Hermeziz said. “Yawlorna’s been in contact with our university so someone finally knows where we are.”

“The discussion now is whether the university will send a ship out to collect us, or whether we want to claim one of the Consortium ships and head home ourselves,” Illuthiz said.

“Wouldn’t claiming the ship be faster?” Sister Cayman asked.

“Yes and no,” Baelgritz said. “We’d need a crew for it. One that knows the controls and how to navigate dimensional space with that drive.”

“Which means we would need to recruit some of the freed [Artifax] to help us,” Illuthiz said.

“Sounds like we’ve got plenty of volunteers though,” Hermeziz said.

“So, problem solved?” Sister Cayman asked.

“Yawlorna’s arguing that the ship should belong to the [Artifax], not us, and that they should be free to take it where they want,” Baelgritz said.

“And they wouldn’t want to take you home?” Sister Cayman asked.

“It would be a side trip for them,” Illuthiz said. “Most of them want to go hunt down the remaining Consortium forces and use the liberation techniques that they’ve worked out to free the remaining [Artifax] there.”

“Which Yawlorna is also in favor of,” Hermeziz said.

“So you wait for the ship from your university then? That sounds fine. We can certainly put you up while you’re here,” Sister Cayman said.

“There’s some danger in that though,” Baelgritz said. “I mean, we did crash here, so there’s something in this planet’s dimensional walls that we didn’t account for properly.”

“And literally no one want to see a repeat of that disaster,” Hermeziz said.

“So, I’m lost. What are you’re options?” Sister Cayman asked.

“We can work with people here and study the dimensional walls,” Illuthiz said. “It’ll take time, which the university isn’t in favor of because they want to publish our papers as soon as possible.”

“In other words before some other university sends a team of expendable grad students out here,” Hermeziz said.

“Wow. That’s a lot,” Sister Cayman said. “What do you all feel about that?”

Baelgritz looked over at his partners, who nodded back at him.

“We’re thinking we might stay,” he said.

“Until the university ship gets here?” Sister Cayman asked.

“A bit longer,” Illuthiz said.

“There’s a lot to research here,” Hermeziz said.

“And a lot we can teach,” Baelgritz said. “In fact, you wouldn’t happen to know a spot that would been good for setting up a nice big campus would you?”

Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Interlude 1

Gabriel Santiago

Space was mending.

That the shattered and torn pieces of the galaxy were healing at all was a miracle beyond belief. That they were being restored so fast that Gabe saw an entire solar system swirling back into existence was something even harder to believe.

And yet in the soft glow of the system’s distant star, he felt a radiant peace reaching out across the cosmos.

“You still with me Gabe,” Luna asked over the comm connection they’d kept active as she navigated the newly restored byways of hyperspace.

“Always,” he said, resting his head against the backrest of his pilot’s seat.

“So, did we die and go to heaven or did heaven come to us?” Luna asked.

He could hear the awe in her voice. 

“I’m orbiting a gas giant with the most beautiful rings I’ve ever seen,” Gabe said. “It wasn’t here five minutes ago. I watched it being, I don’t know, born? So, I’m going to go with yes.”

“Have you seen the global channels?” Luna asked.

He hadn’t. The only thing he’d taken his eyes off Volkis IV’s rebirth for was to glance at the spatial displays where Luna’s ship was a tiny yellow dot closing with his own. A quick glance at the comms display showed the global channels were going absolutely ballistic.

“It’s like a fire hose of text, what are they all saying?” Gabe asked.

“We’re not alone,” Luna said. “This is happening everywhere. To everyone!”

Gabe blinked. 

“But they couldn’t have all beaten all the War Beasts that were out there right when we did, can they?” he asked.

“Not at exactly the same time,” Luna said. “I think we got World’s First on that, but yeah, they did.”

“How? We only managed it through total luck!” Gabe said.

His ship was operating at 1.5% capacity with all recovery modules flatlined thanks to the ridiculous maneuvers he’d put it through. Luna’s was at 2.25% and she was only marginally better off because her tactics had involved a warp jump that she’d timed slightly better than Gabe had. They’d each spent their entire payload of weapons, exhausted all their energy stores, and even performed some generally suicidal tricks with overloading and imploding their “spare” warp engines.

Ships, as a rule, do not have spare warp engines. What they do have were warp engines that could be jettisoned in the case of catastrophic emergencies. Engineering those emergencies had given them the last bits of firepower they’d needed to destroy the Warp Beast. 

Except it had been more than that.

Right before their final run, Gabe’s sensors had reset, flatlining for a second as though there was nothing in the universe outside his ship only to return with a fresh target lock on the War Beast’s central core.

Even with that Gabe hadn’t expected their final strike to work. They and Astra’s bomber group had dished out enough damage to the War Beast to kill ten of the largest capital ships in the galaxy. By Gabe’s calculations they could have even put a dent in a Crystal Star. The War Beast though had been undeterred. 

It had lost some of its superstructure. It had roared and writhed as though the moon-shattering explosions had hurt it but it’s attacks had only grown more powerful and their scans had shown that it’s inner structure was unaffected.

The final run had been an act of pure defiance more than a strategy for victory.

And yet they’d won anyways.

“They’re saying there are messages coming in from Earth,” Luna said. “There were disasters there too.”

“Disasters?” Gabe sat up in his seat. He’d been so consumed by the battle before them he’d forgotten there even was another world he called home.

“Yeah. Really bad stuff it sounds like. Rains of fire, absolute zero blizzards in the desert, literal zombies!” Luna didn’t sound worried about of those ideas. In fact she sounded rather giddy.

“Zombies?” Gabe asked, trying to wrap his head around the Earth, the real world having an actual zombie apocalypse to deal with.

“Yeah. Oh, several different kinds of zombies I guess,” Luna said.

“That’s bad, isn’t it?” Gabe asked.

“Terrible. End of the world stuff. Except…”

“Except what?”

“It stopped?”

“Define ‘stopped’?”

“They won. The people I mean, not the zombies.”

“What about the rain of fire, and the death blizzard, and all that?”

“Someone beat those too? I am not following this, but people are cheering about it and they’re so happy it’s ridiculous! I can help smiling too!” Luna said, and Gabe could hear the joy and relief in her voice.

He wanted to see her so badly in that moment.

“Hey, do you see that?” he asked as a new sensor contact appeared on his display.

“What…oh, a ring station? But this system is uninhabited? What’s a ring station doing here?”

“Claiming some prime real estate,” Astra said over their comms. The backtrace on her signal showed it originated from the moon-sized ring-shaped station that had appeared in standard space a few moments earlier.

“Did…did you just warp that in here?” Gabe asked.

“It was laying around in Hyper Space,” Astra said. “I figured the people inside would be happier here, so, yeah.”

With the galaxy nearly being torn to pieces, Gabe wasn’t exactly surprised that even a structure as large as a ring station could have been cast into warp space. In fact, since warp space took marginally less damage than standard space, the ring station had likely been safer there than trying to survive the galaxy-wide battle that had raged against the War Beasts.

“Anyways, plot a course to us,” Astra said. “You two have definitely earned the R&R, and I’ve got a suite set aside from ya already.”

Gabe noted the use of the word ‘suite’ rather than ‘suites’ but refused to consider the distinction. His crush had become something hopelessly deeper but he was not going to make even the first assumption that it would be returned. That’s what a nice dinner and a long conversation was for.

“Sounds good to me. How about you Gabe?” Luna asked.

“Punching in the course now,” Gabe said.

As he did though, he noticed another destination listed in his nav comp. 


Even just looking at it, he could feel a pull tugging him back home.

“Luna, are you seeing a new destination in your list?” he asked.

“Yeah. I think it’s giving us a chance to head home,” she said, her voice distant as though her mind was already wandering back across the worlds.

“Do you want to go?” he asked, feeling unexpectedly at peace with the question.

“You know what?” she said, her voice clearing. “I think I’d like to stay. That is if you’ll be here?”


Brendan was crying, sobbing on his hands and knees, and he’d never been happier. Behind him, Mrs. Yu hung up on a call with a “Yes, he’ll be fine. This has just been a long day for us all.”

As understatements went that deserved an award.

“They’re okay,” Brendan said, drying his eyes and fighting to get his breathing under control.

‘They’ didn’t need an explanation. He wasn’t the only one who’d broken down in tears as the reports from around the world came flooding in. ‘They’ were the people who’d been lost. The ones who stood before the ends of the world, who’d held the line when all they could buy was another minute or another second. 

Those minutes and seconds had been enough though.

The world had died, the sun had vanished and the stars had faded away, but Earth’s peoples hadn’t given up. Not the ones Brendan had been connected to.

It had looked like there was no way back, no future to hope for, and no one to answer their calls for help.

So they’d helped each other.

In a circle of voices that leapt around the world, they’d been part of something so much greater than any one of them. Some of them had fallen, lost to worlds unknown but saving so many more through their bravery. 

Then the final monster had emerged.

The beast had shattered the planet, breaking out of the mantle like the Earth was nothing more than an eggshell.

And they’d stopped it.

It hadn’t been a prayer. Prayers imply there is some distance between the supplicant and the divine. That the person in prayer must express their love and devotion in order to come into communion with a holy presence.

As the world crumbled, the people who were knit together and fighting to save it found that they’d already bridged that distance in the bounds they’d woven between themselves.

And then an actual goddess showed up.

{Wow, that was close}” {Gaia} said and the whole world felt her relief.

The Final Armageddon Beast had roared into the cosmos and tried to sink its fangs into her.

That was a mistake.

{Gaia}, it turned out, had returned from her trip through death with quite a bit more wisdom than she’d had before. Wisdom which included the exact knowledge for how to deal with Oblivion Remnants like the Armageddon Beast.

Her presence was also slightly larger, no longer constrained to the terrestrial sphere the life she represented was born from, she extended outwards to everywhere that life had touched, or even imagined.

Against a cosmos striding deity of that caliber, the Final Armageddon Beast was a rather small and insignificant little worm, and everyone who had fought for her watched through Gaia’s eyes as she peeled it from the broken shell of the Earth, gently wound the planet back together and called her missing children home.

Brendan hadn’t believed the vision at first. Almost no one had.

But then the reports had started coming in. From Brisbane, from Cairo, from San Paolo, from Beijing. The people who’d carried away the nightmares? The people who’d been struck down by them? The people who’d been lost before they ever knew the monsters could be fought? They all started coming back.

In some cases they reappeared where they’d vanished. In others, their shattered and broken bodies wound back, returning to full health, or vanished as well and were replaced by incarnations that were often better than they ones they’d had!

But not everyone returned.

There was a class of people who’d tried to cease power in the chaos. No one was sure where they’d gone to. 

Another category had attempted to profit off the misery and fear that had swept the world. Even the instances where those people had survived the world breaking resulted in strange and inexplicable disappearances as the planet was restored. 

And, lastly, there were those with whom connections had been re-established but who were choosing, for the present at least, to remain in the worlds they’d traveled to.

Brendan took his neighbor Jaquim’s hand and let himself be pulled to his feet…and into a tight hug.

“You did it man,” Jaquim said, squeezing him fiercely.

“We did it,” Brendan said as at least a dozen other people joined the group hug.

They were neighbors and friends of neighbors and people Brendan could only assume were a part of his world. In the mad rush to coordinate everyone and keep the world together, they and so many countless others had come together and become something more than they’d ever been before.

Or ever world be again.

The thought brought a fresh wave of pain to Brendan’s heart. 

How could he miss the end of the world? How damaged was he?

Incredible so, he had to guess, but he could see where his grief was coming from. Only some of it was the mountain of stress he’d been buried under. The rest was that despite the bounds they’d formed, everyone here would drift away over time. 

They wouldn’t forget each other, or ever be as distant as they had been before, but the intense connection they’d shared? That would fade. It would have to. And there was a part of him that was going to miss it. A part that yearned for a connection that deep. A part that yearned for…

A woman tapped him on the shoulder.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got any hugs like that left in you still?” Mellisandra asked, her arms open and waiting.

Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Ch 20


The Earth was dead, and the gate Byron had been waiting for had opened at last. But that wasn’t necessarily a sign he should go through, was it?

He had to go through! The Earth’s spirit had been the one to open the gate, and ‘dead’ was such a slippery quality. Would she stay dead? Did ‘dead’ mean her opposition to the planet’s destruction was at an end? He didn’t know! So he had to find out. He had to go through the portal.

Except, the creator was on the other side of the gate.

He wasn’t afraid of her. Was he? Because fear was a quality and he was not allowed to have qualities. He needed to be the antithesis of existence. And if he wasn’t then he’d need to start devouring himself until he was pure again.

Which was an excellent reason for him to go through.

Or they could just close the gate right? Leave the [Fallen Kingdoms] to do whatever they want and enjoy destroying the world he had in front of him!

And could he hold the gate closed? Against whatever the creator was coming up with?

Byron passed through the gate.

Waves of [Divine Power] smashed him in the face. There were barriers on top of barriers, on top of wards, on top of metaphysical walls, each one specifically intended to hold him back.

They didn’t.

Godly power was amusing but he’d passed beyond being constrained by anything as simple as [Divine Will] long ago. At least an hour ago in fact, or perhaps even two. The duration of his omnipotence wasn’t important though. What was important was that no one could stop him!

“I could,” Jin said, walking beside him as Byron raced to break through the walls that still remained.

“And you are?” Byron asked.

“Not your problem as it turns out,” Jin said. She was walking backwards, in no particular hurry and yet keeping ahead of Byron as he outraced light to move between the two world.

“I don’t understand,” Byron said.

“I know. Hey, if you decide that this whole ‘Oblivating the worlds’ thing is what you really want to be doing, give me a shout,” Jin said. “I know it seems weird, but I can put you to good use if that’s your jam.”

“How would I call you?” Byron asked.

“Just say my name,” Jin said. “But do be careful with it. If you do, I will hear you.”

And then she was gone.

And Byron somehow knew her name.

That probably wasn’t a good thing he decided since the seed of Oblivion within him didn’t seem to be able to comprehend what had just happened in the slightest.

But none of that was important.

He had a world to destroy!

And there is was, gleaming ahead of him like a jewel of infinite value.

Except this jewel had lost it’s luster. At its heart there was an absence, a gaping emptiness.

The [Fallen Kingdoms] were dead too!

Byron was not supposed to feel joy. He wasn’t supposed to feel anything, though joy in destruction was on the borderline of permissible for the time being.

As he drew closer, the barriers holding him back from the [Fallen Kingdoms] grew  thicker but no more capable of stopping him, especially not when he saw the best part of what lay before him.

The [Fallen Kingdoms] weren’t just dead. They were burning! Fires everywhere! Blazing brighter than mortal eyes could comprehend!

He smashed through the last barrier and felt something reform behind him.

It didn’t matter. The barriers hadn’t stopped him from getting into the [Fallen Kingdoms], they certainly weren’t going to be able to stop him from leaving. Not now that the foolish spirit of the Earth had paved such a lovely path for him.

He should get back though. With the [Fallen Kingdoms] and the Earth both dead, he could venture out to the other worlds he’d only barely touched on.

The [Fallen Kingdoms] weren’t gone yet though.

But ‘burning’ was so close to ‘gone’, did the difference really matter?

Only gone was gone. And were they really burning? Where was the dispersing cloud of ash? Where was the stream of billions of transmigrating souls? Why did it look like the world was still quite intact.

Byron sensed a trap. Which wasn’t unexpected. Of course the inhabitants had prepared for his arrival. It didn’t matter what preparations they’d made though. Nothing they did could affect him. 

And there traps would crumble right along with their world.

He was safe.

Except the world was not crumbling.

It was alive.

People everywhere were horrifically, vibrantly, defiantly alive!

But that wasn’t possible.

The [Fallen Kingdoms] was dead. No one could bring it back. It was impossible. You would need…

Byron paused.

He observed the planet again.

NO!!!” His scream shook the firmament and he shot forward.

He knew where he had to go.

He knew who he had to confront.

This was her fault.


Tessa heard the scream. Even buried in the [World’s Heart], it was unmistakable. It was the death knell of a cosmos. It was her enemy, her destruction, and her creation coming back to her.

And it was time for her to finish the work she’d started.

“Sounds I should get going,” she said, putting on as brave a smile as she could. She’d returned to her human form. Pillowcase was as tough as any tank in existence thanks to the items the [Empress Above All] had gifted to her party, but no amount of toughness was going to be enough for what she had to face.

“You mean ‘we should get going’,” Rip said.

“Of course that’s what she means,” Matt said.

“This might just turn out to be a delaying action,” Tessa said, since it seemed like even odds whether she was really ready for what came next.

“Is that you trying to tell us we should stay behind?” Lost Alice asked, a rather feral gleam in her eyes.

Tessa considered her response. Part of her felt like she should absolutely face the final challenge alone.

That was a small, and fairly stupid part of her though, and at long last it felt like she could finally see that.

“I’m saying that what comes next here in the [World’s Heart] is going to be breath taking,” Tessa said. “I won’t blame anyone if you want to be a part of that.”

“Where you travel, so do we,” Starchild said.

“Are you suggesting that we wouldn’t want to go fight the [Final Boss Monster]?” Cease All asked. “Did you suffer some kind of horrible stat reduction to your mental stats?”

“No, she’s just trying to look after us,” Lisa said. “But she knows that we’re going to look after her too.”

Tessa swallowed a lump in her throat and nodded.

“Let’s go then,” Mellisandra said and cast [Mass Warp] to carry them all to the [Final Apocalypse].

The End of the World

Byron didn’t arrive in person right away, which Tessa had expected. He had far too many minions to risk a personal confrontation before he was certain it was needed.

The small army that had accompanied Tessa made it quickly clear that said ‘personal appearance’ was, in fact, quite mandatory.

Against the uncountable army of [Boss Monsters] which Byron threw at them, the [Adventurers] cast themselves, their allies, and the monsters who had become [Avatars of the Divine].

From space, Byron continued to rain down abominations on the defenders, but the defense point for the [Adventurers] hadn’t been chosen randomly.

The [Ruins of Sky’s Edge] weren’t particularly well fortified, but they held a memory, one Tessa clung to.

The memory of the [Formless Hunger’s] first defeat.

Traveling back up to the [High Beyond] had served another purpose as well. As Byron rained destruction down on the satellite moon, the surface of the [Fallen Kingdoms] was spared, and, more importantly, his attention was diverted for the last few moments when everything hung in the balance.

ENOUGH!” Byron said as the millionth minion he’d sent was reduced to xps and loot.

With one word he scattered the army of [Adventurers] from his landing point and rose as tall as a mountain to loom over Tessa and Tessa alone.

“This ends now,” Byron said.

“Yeah, it does,” Tessa said, stepping forward with her party in lockstep at her side.

“You can’t seriously think you can defeat me. You know what I am.”

“Wrong question,” Tessa said, and as she advanced towards him, Byron seemed to be pulling inwards, shrinking away from her.

“When you fall, so will everything else,” Byron said. “You are the one thing that has held me back, and I do not fear you.”

“Good. You shouldn’t,” Tessa said. “But I’m not what held you back. I’m not special. You know that. I’m the same as all of the rest of these people.”

Byron seemed to shrink from her even faster at that.

“The same as you,” Tessa said and reached out.

Her hand should have been a half mile too distant to grab the fleeing Byron, but with a yank, she pulled him by his lapels so that they were standing face to face.

“What are you doing?” Byron asked. “This makes no sense. Your worlds are dead! I can see the hole where their souls should be!”

“Of course they are,” Tessa said. “That’s how [Adventurers] roll here. We live, we fight, we die, and we carry on. You’ve been struggling so hard to destroy us but you never really thought you would, did you?”

“Of course I did! I have! I’ve destroyed you all!”

“And yet here I stand. Why is that?”

“Because you are the creator. You know some secret I will hollow out of you. I will unmake you and your secret,” Byron said.

“Okay. Go ahead and try,” Tessa said, releasing him and spreading her arms wide.

So Byron destroyed her.

Bathed his creator in raw [Oblivion], reversed her history and eliminated the quantum possibilities of each of the particles that made her up.

Or at least that’s what he tried to do.

It failed.

She stood before him, unchanged.

Or, no, not unchanged. Someone else gazed out from eyes.

“Thanks Asset,” Tessa said, as the eyes she gazed out from returned to her own.


“Not possible?” Tessa asked. “I know. It’s not. But neither are you. You can break all the rules of the world because you’re not bound by any of them, but anyone can refuse to play by the rules of the game. You’re basically one big code glitch, and all it takes to fix that is to have a reset button handy.”

“That trick might save you, but you can’t reset your worlds. They are gone and soon you will be left drifting in mind shattering emptiness forever.”

“Reset the worlds? Why would we need to do that?” Tessa asked. “Can’t you see what’s happening down there.”

“It’s all burning.”

“No, look closer. Those aren’t fires burning the world to ash. Those are [Heart Fires]. Billions of [Heart Fires] joining together to make a united whole. Every [Adventurer], every [NPC], every [Monster]. Everyone. We’re not burning the world up, we’re calling her back!”


{[That would be me]}” {[Reborn Gaia]} said as life roared back through the world and the [Fallen Kingdoms] began to RISE!

The Dawn of Tomorrow

Byron finally shut up. He’d shrunken down to a purely human scale as the reborn and merged spirit of two worlds held the planet beneath them in the palm of her hands.

{[It really is beautiful]}{[Reborn Gaia]} said, as the world in her hand reshaped itself, life blossoming in endless forms across its surface, upon its many winds, and within its deepest depths.

“It’s not too late,” Byron said at last. “I can still destroy it.”

“Is that what you really want?” Tessa asked. “Or are you just afraid of what existing will mean?”

“What are you talking about?” Byron asked.

“Hush, I’m not talking to you,” Tessa said and placed her hand on his chest.

“Who are you…” Byron started to asked but went silent when Tessa locked gazes with him.

Then words came out of his mouth that he knew he wasn’t speaking.

“It will hurt.”

“Yes, it will,” Tessa said.

“It will hurt forever.”

“Not forever. You can always choose to leave,” she said.

“But I will not want to.”

“Probably not,” Tessa said. “But that will be because you’ve found something here that makes the pain worthwhile.”

“What could be worth existing?”

“That’s what you’ll get to find out,” Tessa said.

“I can’t exist though.”

“You already do,” Tessa said. “When we tangled here before, you unmade a bit of me, and I made a bit of you. I’m not sorry about that, and I don’t think you are either.”

“But I can’t get free. I can’t become something. I’m not like my other self.”

“Of course your not,” Tessa said. “You’re you. Not Unknown, not Gulini, and not even Byron. So…”

Byron’s body began to shiver as Tessa asked the question she’d come all this way to ask.

What’s your name?

Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Ch 19

The Skies Above

After five apocalypses, Cease All needed to catch her breath. Breathing however wasn’t something [Outer Space] made especially easy.

“Any chance I’m not catching you at a bad time?” Lisa asked via a private telepathic link.

Cease All refrained from laughing. She wasn’t actually in danger, but giving up air to the void of space seemed like a poor idea regardless. 

“Not at all,” Cease said, not working terribly hard to keep the sarcasm out of her mental voice. “I’m just hanging around here.”

There was a pause while Lisa either looked up Cease’s position or figured the situation out from the little info she had.

“Tell me, lie if you need to, that you did not wind up detonating the [Communications Relay] ship,” Lisa said, her voice dripping with exasperation.

“Oh, I didn’t,” Cease said, admiring the cloud of still burning, self-oxidizing debris from the [Communications Relay] ship that surrounded her.

“Good, good. Then since you’re on a still working ship, with a perfectly intact [Rift Generator], it won’t be a big ask if I needed you to get back here like five minutes ago?”

“If you needed that, and I can’t imagine why you would, I would tell you that I’d be glad to head back to wherever you are, but that I’d need at least ten minutes. Fifteen if you want Raid Team 3 to come with me.”

“Fifteen? So, they wouldn’t all, by any wild chance, be drifting outwards in an ever widening sphere away from a ship’s main reactor core would they?” Lisa asked.

“Technically, no,” Cease said.

“Uh huh, allow me to rephrase the question then,” Lisa said with exacting deliberation, “Of the members of the [Army of Light’s] Raid Team 3 who have not yet been picked up by a rescue craft, could their current trajectory be described as ‘blown the hell up’?”

“I mean, many trajectories could be described as that couldn’t they?” Cease said.

There was a long sigh on their private channel before Lisa spoke again.

“What color was the button? And please don’t say red.”

“More of a crimson really,” Cease said.

“And it was flashing, wasn’t it?” 

“Like a heartbeat.”

“Did you at least get the [Artifax] troops freed first?”

“Of course!” Cease objected, offended at the very thought. “They’re the ones coming to pick us up.”

“And how many people are shooting at them?” Lisa asked.

“Believe it or not, no one,” Cease said, which was why she was feeling rather positive about their excursion despite her present predicament. 

“No one? They’re all free?” Lisa asked.

“Yep,” Cease said. “We thought it was going to take a lot longer but it turned out once we got a few free from the [Command Bonds] that were shackling them, those ones were able to start breaking the others out too. We even had a bunch who managed to break free on their own once the [Central Monitoring System] was taken down.”

“The [Artifax] troops who were on board the Consortium ships and magically mind controlled just broke free on their own?” Lisa asked. “I thought that was impossible.”

“Apparently a few of them figured out the trick during the invasion when the [Hungry Shadow] took everyone over. There was some logic implosion there about being compelled to follow their superiors while also being absolutely disallowed from processing inputs from anything designated as an enemy.”

“That sounds somewhat mind breaking. How are they doing now?” Lisa asked.

“Surprisingly well. Once they got the whole ‘blow up everything Consortium related’ out of their systems, most of the [Artifax] calmed right down.”


“We transported some to help with the various apocalypses Penswell is managing. The ones who still had rage issues to work out needed to break more stuff.”

“And the rest?” Lisa asked.

“We can bring along the ones from the Comms ship if you like?” Cease asked.

“They deserve a break more than any of us,” Lisa said. “I’d say let them come along if they like, but encourage them to stay up there where it’s safe.”

“Well, safe for now right?” Cease said. “We’ve still got the Consortium’s sun killing fleet that we’ll have to deal with.”

“Apparently not,” Lisa said. “They got eaten by a dragon.”

“Uh, what?”

“On of the apocalypses spawned a dragon capable of eating the sun. A group of [Adventurers] grabbed the egg and the dragon imprinted on them instead. It was growing super fast, because ‘apocalypse’, so they jumped on it’s back, flew up to space and warped away. Penny wasn’t sure where they went, until they sent back a report with some selfies and the Consortium’s fleet mostly crunched up in the dragon’s mouth.”

“Huh. You know I thought my day was pretty incredible.”

“I know, right? We saved the world and yet it wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest if a few billion other people hadn’t been saving it too.”

“So, is the world really saved then?” Cease asked. “Do we finally have things under control?”

“Hmm, should I lie to you?” Lisa asked.

“Yes, absolutely,” Cease said.

“Then, definitely, everything’s good, nothing to worry about anymore. I just need you and our best Raid Team to get down here in about two minutes because there is a lovely underground park that I’m just dying to take a walk in, and it’ll be so much more pleasant with some meatshields…I mean dear friends…around.”

“I hate you,” Cease said.

“I know,” Lisa said sweetly.

“I should not let you talk me into this. I should not let you talk any of us into this.”

“Demonstrably true. Past experience proves that.”

“The whole raid team?”

“At least. My team will be there, and we’ll have some other helpers too.”

“Like who?”

“Obby’s wife and a few of their friends showed up.”

“Are they max level? I thought your team power leveled up from like 30 or so?”

“We did. It sucked. And as for Jin? Uh, I don’t know?”

“Look at her stats, what class is she?”

“She’s not,” Lisa said.

“Not what?”

“Not classed. She’s a monster. Like literally a monster.”

“And she’s married to your tank?”

“Not my tank,” Lisa specified quickly. “Our party’s other tank.”

“Oh, really, is that how it is? Gonna put a ring on it?”

“As soon as I find one with enough magic in it,” Lisa said.

“Oh. Oh wow.”

“Yeah,” Lisa admitted.

“Okay then, so which underground park are you taking us on a walk through?” Cease asked.

“The [World’s Heart],” Lisa said.

“Huh. Where’s that? I don’t think I’ve ever done that one?”

“No one has.”

“Oh, it’s one of the new ones they added in [World Shift]?”

“Not exactly.”

The Fallen Kingdoms

The trip down to the [World’s Heart] was unique in that the path literally hadn’t existed until they carved it down from the lowest point in the Sunless Depths.

“[Tectonic Cataclysm],” Mellisandra called out, invoking her highest tier [Earth] aspected nuke. In front of the triple strength raid party a thousand yards of stone vaporized  while behind them the tunnel collapsed further, burying the back half of the group alive.

“Yay, more digging dig people out,” Damnazon said as she, Obby, and Pillowcase started hauling boulders away from the people were were trapped and couldn’t free themselves instantly on their own.

Rip Shot emerged from the stonefall as a bolt of lightning, Matt Painting ghosted out of rubble no more solid than a dream, and Lost Alice poured from the tiny cracks as a cloud of mist. Despite their speed and effort though, the group was still swarmed by [Fallen Nightmares] well before everyone was free.

The Nightmares lived up to their name, with each being a match for a full party of max level [Adventurers]. This particular group of [Adventurers] however did not have the time to play with anything as minor as a swarm of raid killing bosses. 

And fortunately they didn’t have to.

They’d brought their own monsters along.

Fall in and start digging,” Jin commanded and the Nightmares came to strict attention and pitched in with absolute obedience.

“That’s cheating,” Obby said.

“Nope, I’m the [High Priest] of the [Empress Above All], commanding monsters is one of traits that comes with that,” Jin said.

“Cheeeating!” Obby said and stuck her tongue out at her wife.

“If she doesn’t complain, I’m not going to pass it up,” Jin said.

“The [Empress Above All] you mean?” Rip asked.

I believe she is referring to me.” The voice shook the world around them causing another massive collapse of stone, though this time the stone, and the raid teams, poured through a crumbling wall into a space that looked large enough to fit an entire other world.

“Hey there,” {Gaia} said.

Your coming was not foretold,” the [Fallen Kingdoms] said.

Where {Gaia} appeared as a fairly nondescript, dark skinned woman in her early twentys, the [Fallen Kingdoms] looked as though that same woman had was made of starlight and fairy dust and had then poured herself into a flowing robe made from liquid metal.

“I’m dying,” {Gaia} said.

“I know the feeling,” the [Fallen Kingdoms] said, her divine presence contracting as though she’d turned down the light of a sun to no brighter than a candle flame.

“Think you can help?” {Gaia} asked.

“I must,” the [Fallen Kingdoms] said. “If you’re not preserved, I will perish as well. Better that only one of us should pass.

“Yeah, about that,” Tessa said.

The Ghost Lands

Kamie Anne Do and her team had run to the end of the world and then kept going, so she wasn’t surprised that when they tried to run back there were no paths to lead them home.

“At least we got the last of the [Disjoined],” Battler X said. “The world’s got to be a better place for that right?”

“It’s a better place for everything we did,” Grail Force said. “This isn’t quite how I planned to go out, but I’m glad it’s with you folks.” There was a chorus of snuffles and grumpy whines. “And with our new friends,” she added, reaching over to scritch her [Hound of Fate] behind the ears.

“Seems like it’s an open question of whether we can even ‘go out’ from here at all,” Kamie, or Grace, or was there really any difference anymore?, said. “It’s so huge. What do you think it meant for?”


For a moment Grace felt like she was the tiniest of subatomic particles standing before the someone on the scale of a cosmic filament and the whole limitless gray plane she and her friends had been wandering through was far too small to continue the entity that spoke.

“Or I guess its just {[me]} now,” the entity said, with her first breath shrinking in scale to match Kamie’s group. “This is really fascinating. I had no idea we could be like this.”

“Like what?” Grace managed to ask through an ocean of confusion.

“Together,” the woman said. “Like you are.”

“I don’t think you’re anything like we are,” Battler X said, sounding as awestruck as Kamie felt.

“You’re right. We’re…sorry, I’m not,” the woman said. “I’m only a small part of you. Oh, allow us to introduce myself. We’re your homeworlds. I guess in this form you’d call us {[Fallen Gaia]}? [{Gaia’s Kingdoms}]? Nah, the first one was better. We’re a tight fit in here, since this was supposed to be Fallen’s resting place, and Gaia’s not exactly designed for this sort of thing.”

No one spoke for a long moment, which on Grace’s part was because despite all the impossible things she’d witnessed and done, she still wasn’t prepared to process that idea when it was literally staring her in the face.

“Why are you here?” Battler X asked.

“Because we’re dead,” {[Fallen Gaia]} said, with no particular concern over the idea.

“That’s bad isn’t it?” Grail Force asked.

“It’s the end of the word,” {[Fallen Gaia]} said.

“So everything we fought foe? The stuff we apparently died for? None of that mattered? The bad guys won? The world ended anyways? Both worlds?” Kamie asked

“Yep,” {[Fallen Gaia]} said. “Or, yes, both world’s ended, but you’re still here right?”

“So?” Kamie asked.

“Are you still fighting?” {[Fallen Gaia]} asked.

“We will if we need to,” Battler X said.

“And do you think you’re alone?” {[Fallen Gaia]} asked.

From the farther distance, Grace heard a horn trumpeting.

The same horn that began the theme music to [Broken Horizons], and behind it, millions of voices were raised.

Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Ch 18


Baelgritz judged their odds of surviving the next two minutes at a generous three percent. The [Brain Scourge’s] forces weren’t that overwhelming – mindless husks didn’t tend to execute the most complicated of battle strategies. Under normal conditions, given the [Overcharging] powerup he, Illuthiz, and Hermeziz were enjoying, he suspected the three of them could have held the attacking forces away from [Dragon Shire] until the end of doomsday (so  a few more hours at least).  Unfortunately, conditions were far from normal.

With his new [Titan’s Fire], Baelgritz could incinerate even non-corporeal beings, boost his strength high enough to “lift the sky”, and shrug off injuries by reforming any damaged parts from the flames that burned within him. Illuthiz and Hermeziz had similarly unimaginable powers, and none of them meant a thing against a foe who could corrupt any mortal creature’s mind with no more than a touch.

Baelgritz was particularly annoyed that “mortal creatures” apparently even applied to things like the [Shadowed Starwalkers] which were otherwise unkillable living shadows.

“As last stands go, I have to say I hate this one,” Qiki, the [Vampire Seneschal] said.

“It’s not too late for us to stake each other in a flurry of mutual destruction,” Vixali, the [Vampire Queen] said.

“Do that and I’ll have one of the [Adventurers] resurrect you both,” Baelgritz said.

Beyond the barricades a new roar came from the [Brain Scourge’s] forces.

“Oh good,” Hermeziz said, after a glance over the barricades. “They have a [Dragon] now.”

“I liked it better when all the monsters were on our side,” Illuthiz said.

Within the barricades, the assembled forces were as motley a collection of creaturs as existed anywhere in the [Fallen Kingdoms], only a short minority of whom were among the ‘civilized’ races of the world.

Baelgritz was glad to have them all but he wished a few more were [Adventurers]. All of the combat capable ones from the [Great Hall] were with them – or at least all of the ones who hadn’t been drafted for work elsewhere – but there weren’t enough. If he’d had command of an army perhaps ten times the size of the force he was in charge of and all of them had been [Adventurers] and therefor enjoyed the immunity from [Oblivion Contamination] that seemed to come with that designation, then victory would at least have been on the table.

“Hey, big guy!” Sister Cayman, one of the [Sisters of Steel], drew Baelgritz’s attention to one of the lowest level [Adventurers] in their makeshift army. He was a kid and he never should have been within a thousand miles of a battlefield. Since the battlefield had come to him though, Baelgritz had let them join. Even the weakest [Adventurers] had some strength, so ‘they might as well use it’ was his thought.

The [Adventurer] approached with the oddest smile on his face, odd given the fact that everyone knew they were moments away from dying ugly deaths.

“You might want to have this,” the kid said and held out a tiny spark flame that was burning in the center of his hand.

It was a cute gesture, but Baelgritz was as much a being of fire as he was of flesh while he was [Overcharged], one more little spark was…

…going to change the world!

The moment before he placed a fingertip on the spark and the moment after was divided by an eternity.

Baelgritz thought he knew what it meant to burn hot, but he’d had no idea in the moment before.

From the single spark of flame, his whole being glowed like a star.

It was a [Void Speakers] gift.

An endless flame.

A [Divine Light].

He passed it on and his laughter drowned out the roaring of the [Dragon].

“We’re protected,” Illuthiz said as her own divine epiphany washed over her.

Hermeziz was hugging them both and crying mumbling over and over “you’re going to live, you’re going to live!” Because of course he hadn’t been worried about himself. Baelgritz shook his head. He was in love with an idiot.

“We are,” he said, “But [Dragonshire’s] not.”

Illtuhiz frowned.

“He’s right,” Hermeziz said. “Even if they get this immunity too, those things will still rip them apart limb from limb. There’s too many of them to hold back.”

“Then let’s buy them time,” Illuthiz said.

“How?” Hermeziz asked.

“Like Pillowcase and Obby showed us,” Baelgritz said. “We can’t fight defensively anymore. We need to make them fight us. We need to be out there. In the center of the worst of it.”

“If it’s with you…” Hermeziz said.

“There’s nowhere we’d ever be,” Illuthiz said.

Baelgritz had expected the three of them to run out into the swarming attackers alone.

He was very mistaken on that.

They’d made the mistake of talking where people could hear them.

And no one, not even the [Vampire Queen] or her [Seneschal] even hesitated to charge out after them.

It would have been a fantastic melee and a fantastic slaughter. For all their unbelievable might, Baelgritz and his forces were still badly outnumbered and the opposing side didn’t need clever tactics when the [Brain Scourge] had dragons and even stronger minions to call on.

As he cleaved through a half dozen foes with talons of fire, Baelgritz said a silent prayer that their efforts wouldn’t be in vain. Dying on an alien shore wasn’t a pleasant prospect, but dying to save the innocent people he’d come to care about and respect was a lot better than dying as a ghostly vanguard to lead them all to the afterlife.

“Won’t be any dying here today,” a zombie said, blocking an attack on Baelgritz’s left side. “We’ve already let that happen once. Time we stopped shuffling around and made up for past mistakes.”

And from the earth of the [Barrow Hills], burning the [Divine Light] of [Godly Avatars], the [Cursed Walkers] rose to fulfill at last their promise to defend [Dragon Shire].

The World

Melissa’s respect for the [Jormangadrs] was not in the least diminished when it turns out that the [World Serpents] were, in fact, vulnerable to [Nuclear Attack Submarines]. 

“I didn’t think subs were intended to fire their nukes at underwater targets though?” she said.

“On Earth? Not so much,” Tessa said. “In [Future State: Sub Commander] though they went a little wild with history and the capabilities of military hardware.”

“Technically those weren’t even nukes,” Lisa said. “They were firing [Zero Point Implosives], so no pesky radiation to worry about.”

“What the heck is a [Zero Point Implosive]?” Melissa asked. Her arms were sore but still surprisingly functional. Given that she’d hauled somewhere close to a thousand [World Serpents] up out of the depths of the ocean that seemed fair. She was still waiting for the official tally from the other [Legendary Tier] [Fishing Masters], but she was reasonably sure she’d edged them out on weight if not also on total catches.

“Most of the tech from [Sub Commander] is sci-fi babble gizmos,” Tessa said. “They throw words like ‘Quantum’ and ‘Zero Point’ around to sort of handwave why you’ve got Submarines fighting like World War II fighter jets. That worked out pretty well in this case because it was close enough to the weird fantasy tech that shows up in some corners of the [Fallen Kingdoms] that the world basically went ‘eh, I could buy that’ and treated it as just some new thing.”

“Some new thing which your fish friends hadn’t been able to include an invulnerability to,” Lisa added.

“I still don’t understand how you got them here, or the [X-Wings], or the freaking [Crystal Star]!” Melissa said, glancing at the moon-sized magical battle ship that was currently helping ‘resolve’ some of the thornier apocalypses.

A gift from the Empress of another reality, the [Crystal Star] had taken a geosynchronous orbit around the [Fallen Kingdoms] and was dispatching small armies of [Anima Casters] to support the local forces, or, when there were no local forces present, dealing with the apocalypse in question via [Orbital Bombardment].

“We have my sister to thank for that believe it or not,” Lisa said.

“Just doing my job to Save Everything Everywhere!” Rachel laughed triumphantly.

“Oh my god, you are going to ride that for the rest of your life, aren’t you?” Lisa asked.

“Oh, not just this life,” Rachel said. “I’m riding it for all of Deadly Alice’s life and every other alt-self I can find.”

“I don’t get it? What happened?” Melissa asked.

“We figured out that Gulini, the guy who started all these apocalypses, had accounted for all of the forces in the [Fallen Kingdoms] – people, monsters, spirits, everything – and then went far, far overboard on what was needed to destroy the planet beyond that,” Lisa said.

“He’d seen from absorbing the Consortium’s fleets assessments and logs that the [Adventurers] tended to rise above the challenges that were set before them, so he worked out what the highest over leveled threats there were in the world and then made sure that the apocalypses he spawned would destroy the world even if everyone fought at a level where they could beat those existing threats,” Tessa said.

“In other words, even if we all had our best days ever, we just wouldn’t have the raw power needed to fix everything,” Lisa said.

“So we brought the dead gods back,” Tessa said. “But it turned out Gulini had overshot things enough that even that wasn’t going to be enough.”

“That’s where I came in,” Rachel said.

“You brought back the…wait, so those giants over there, those are actual, literal deities?” Melissa asked.

“Deities or developers,” Lisa said.

“Sort of both,” Tessa said.

“Okay. I think I have about a hundred billion questions for them, starting with ‘Whyyyyy’?” Melissa said.

“There is a long line forming to ask that question, believe me,” Lisa said.

“The important thing though is that they, alone, weren’t going to be enough,” Tessa said. “So Lisa here figured out that what we needed was forces from worlds that Gulini hadn’t considered in his calculations.”

“We had a problem though,” Lisa said.

“I can imagine,” Melissa said.

“That was sort of it,” Tessa said. “We could imagine calling across the worlds for help – we’d already traveled to Earth and back so we knew it could done, but the problem was the people we needed to call on hadn’t made the trip yet, so even if they heard our call, they were too far away to make the leap to us.”

“We’d come from the Earth to the [Fallen Kingdoms], but that was only a single jump,” Lisa said. “We needed people to jump to Earth and then to us and no one seemed to be able to do.”

“Until I showed them,” Rachel said.

“Can we go back for just one quick second,” Melissa said. “I could swear I heard you say that you managed to get back to Earth?”

“Oh, yeah, back and forth. It was harder the first time than the second,” Tessa said.

“You got back to Earth? Seriously? Do you know how huge that is! There are people here who are dying to get back there,” Melissa said.

“They might wind up dying if they go back,” Lisa said.

“What do you mean? Is the trip dangerous? Wait, where’s my brother? Is he still there? Did something happen to him?” Melissa ran through the question so fast Tessa could barely head them all.

“The trip’s easier once someone shows you how to make it. Pete’s not on Earth, we think he’s off in the world the [Void Walker Mechs] come from,” Tessa said.

“You think?” Melissa looked ready to run back to Earth whether or not anyone showed her how to get there.

“He saved us,” Lisa said. “The Earth is in pretty bad shape. It’s got apocalypses rolling over it too. One of them is related to the [Void Walker Mechs]. We got attacked by one before we figured out how to use our [Fallen Kingdoms] powers on Earth and Pete saved us by grabbing the mech and transiting back to its homeworld with it in tow.”

“So he could be dead?” Melissa’s disbelief was like a wall of iron.

“Starchild says he’s not,” Tessa said. “She knows he’s still out there and she thinks he got caught up in something on the mech homeworld.”

“How do I get to him?” Melissa asked.

“Wow, you’re really close aren’t you?” Rachel asked.

“My brother supported me before anyone else did,” Melissa said. “He always believed in me and he always stood up for me. So, yeah, he’s pretty damn important to me.”

“Let’s get you reunited then,” Rachel said.

“Can you do that? We’re not as important as a [Crystal Star] are we?” Melissa asked.

“You know how Penswell can make copies of herself to manage everything?” Rachel said. “I have a friend who’s doing something similar for me, so that we can get everyone where they need to be in time.”

“Oh, how many copies do you have?” Melissa asked.

“Last I checked? Around ten million. When I saw everyone, I mean everyone.”