“Damn.” Alex started, his voice showing quite a bit of nervousness, “I never thought I actually meet another Maker. Kinda hoped I wouldn’t.”
After Norwe’s introduction, their Presence over the others had lessened considerably. With the Maker’s shift in Presence, another thing changed as well: the room.
It now resembled a dining room, with a rectangular, brown table in the center which had six seats around it. On one end sat Norwe, who was cleaning out one of their ears with their pinky, on the other sat Alex, in his still burnt clothing, twirling his kris in one hand as his other tapped his nose. On Alex’s right and in the chair closes to him, Herah, who was still only in her green bra, sat staring at the other person who had come with Norwe. Max sat next to the shirtless youngling doing the same exact thing to Norwe. Jeffery lazily floated above Herah, doing nothing of interest. Across from the three, sat the person who had captured Herah’s attention.
They had been with Norwe when the Maker had first arrived, using the leg of the Maker and their small stature to hide from the other’s view. They looked like a tiny human, an extremely tiny one. His little face was rather pudgy and childlike, with freckles all across it. To Herah, the gnome, that’s what Max had called him anyway, looked to be about 2′8, and was dressed up rather strangely.
Sitting upon his head was a soft, blue cone-shaped hat, that had a little white ball on the tip. The gnome also wore a blue tunic that sounded as if it had been lined with metal, the soft metallic clinks Herah heard and the smell of a metal coming from the little guy leading her to this conclusion. Though unable to see them anymore, Herah remembered that the gnome was wearing some things called shoes, each as soft as his hat with a tiny part of them curling upwards where his toes were. Both shoes, much like the gnome’s hat, had a small white ball atop of them.
Before sitting down, Max had given the gnome a look and said they looked like a toddler, this caused them to blush deeply and use their hat to hide from her, which they were still doing. The gnome hadn’t said anything since his arrival, just looked around at the gathered group nervously before Max had scared him. His behavior had caused a chord to be struct within Herah, bringing up some uncomfortable memories.
“So Norwe,” Alex began, “Why exactly did you, presumably, bring us all here?”
Herah directed her attention towards Alex, who was looking at Norwe with a look not too dissimilar than the one Jeffery had received when the two first met. The human had set his blade down, but was still tapping his nose.
Norwe gave a small yawn, drawing his ear from his pinky before giving the group another lazy smirk. Norwe then provided an answer in their soft voice,
“Well, I have brought you here,” Norwe gestured to the room, “To explain to you what exactly you’ve been dragged into.”
“And that would be?” Max piqued in with her own question, clearly not as wary as her brother of the newcomer.
Herah watched as Alex suddenly stopped tapping his nose and reached for his neck pinching it, before giving his sister a concerned glance. Herah directed her attention towards Max, who’s brow had crinkled immediately after her brother pinched his neck, however the sister still seemed unaware of what exactly was going on. Directing her attention back to Alex, Herah saw his attention back on Norwe, who had been giving him an amused smile. Norwe then began to speak once again,
“I see my Soothsayer knows what’ s happening, “Norwe then gave everyone else in the room a glance, “But does my Liar, Artist or Creator know the same?”
The three others sitting at the table simultaneously felt their breaths hitch at the titles given to them. Herah gave her own glance towards the two others who had done the same as her, pretty sure as to who Norwe had been referring to when naming each. Herah then directed her attention towards Alex and tensely stated,
“You seem to know what’s going on, mind letting the rest of us in on this?”
Alex seemed surprised by Herah for but a brief second, his expression quickly morphing into that of anger. Alex opened his mouth to respond to Herah’s thinly veiled accusations, but Norwe quickly puts an end to them before the human could speak.
“Now now now,”
Two things occurred rapidly, one moment Norwe had been sitting in their seat, the next they were crouched next to Herah with their hand around her neck. The Maker’s grip left Herah unable to breathe as her face was forced to face Norwe’s. Spiteful emerald met playful sapphire as Norwe bore down on Herah. Though Norwe still had a cool expression, their hand made it quite clear that while this might be entertaining to them, they had some things they weren’t tolerant of.
“My dear Artist,” Norwe gave Herah a soft pat on the head, “Don’t be so quick to turn on my wonderful Soothsayer, he, and I would advise you to get used to hearing those type of words, had no idea when I would force his universe to undergo Recompense, or how it would start. It would be such a shame if-”
Herah saw Norwe pause, finally acknowledging what else had happened in the instance that they had moved.
“Now old friend, don’t worry I won’t kill or erase her, can’t really thanks to you.” Norwe gave Jeffery a wink, the pencil moving its tip from the Maker’s neck in response and floating back to its place above its creator. Herah sent a quick thought of thanks to Jeffery, before sending another regarding the two’s relationship, curious about how they knew each other.
‘Why did they call you old friend, have you met?’
“That pencil of yours gets into quite a bit when they’re not with you.”
Herah’s head whipped towards Norwe who had returned to their seat at their end of the table. They gave Herah a little wink before letting out a soft breath.
“Back to business,” Norwe pointed at Herah, Alex, Max, and the gnome. “You four will be participating in Recompense.”
“You still haven’t told us what that is?”
“I’m sorry bro but he hasn’t.”
“Do you want to be erased from existence!?”
“No! But I would love to know what’s going on.”
Herah watched in amusement as the siblings bickered, letting out a few giggles at their behavior.
“Recompense is essentially a way for me to entertain myself.”
Immediately, everyone’s attention was back on Norwe, the Maker’s soft grin seeming a bit more threatening. The Maker then clapped their hands together before saying,
” So, why don’t I start with why I chose you guys.”
Norwe gestured to the table, causing several large spheres with galaxies upon their surfaces to appear above it.
“Each of you though created and birthed from one of my children, have all been touched by me.”
Norwe then pointed at a single sphere, causing all the others to fade away and for the remaining one to enlarge. With the sphere now nearly the size of the table, Norwe zoomed in on one of the galaxies.
“La Flamme!” Herah, seeing her mistress once again, shouted in surprise.
La Flamme was currently in her travel state: a supernova. To be exact, La Flamme looked like a supernova given direction, a mass of white light was in her center with an array of colors circling around it as the chieftain of the Cendreux propelled herself through space like a beam.
“That,” Herah looked away from her creator and back towards her Maker. “Is the ninth out of 589,786,890 of my children and whenever I feel like it, I pick a random number of these universes and select however many of their gifted are alive at the time. These will be the participants for Recompense.”
“Shut up sis! He’s explaining.”
Norwe just smiled at the two, entertainment at the two clear in their eyes.
“Depending on how I feel, the selected groups might go through twelve or only one event, which I call acts. In your case there are twenty universes, each somehow only having two gifted. You’ll be in groups of four and you have ummm,” Norwe’s brow crinkled slightly before they just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Sixteen. Let’s go with sixteen acts.”
Norwe raised one of their hands, the image of La Flamme disappearing, and images of Alex, Norwe, Herah, and the gnome replacing it.
“Each of you possess a gift, one given to you by me through that touch I mentioned earlier. Your gifts were formed out of one of the many possible timelines that you could travel down. Luckily for most of you, your gifts were the perfect fit. Onwards, when creating your groups I had to see how each of your abilities would mesh with each other.”
The gnome, Herah, and Max disappeared, leaving Alex to be enlarged.
“My Soothsayer is really the only one of you whose gift is really good at playing off the others, working especially well with my Liars gift.”
“Umm, excuse me.”
An extremely soft childlike voice sounded out, causing everyone else in the room to turn towards it. The gnome, with an extremely shy glance towards everyone their, voiced his thoughts.
“What about me and the pretty dragon lady?”
After the gnome finished his sentence, his eyes met Herah’s, who winked at him causing him to hide under his hat once again. Norwe chuckled slightly before stating,
“I just threw you two with them, no real thought put behind it.”
This caused Herah’s eye to twitch in annoyance, before her mind was drawn towards one of Norwe’s earlier statements.
“Why exactly,” The youngling started, causing attention to be directed towards her, “Do you call this Recompense? What exactly are we repaying you for?”
Herah, though unable to see him, heard Alex make a noise not too dissimilar of that of a dying pig. Norwe’s grin transformed into a full-on smile, this one for some reason rubbing Herah the wrong way. It wasn’t hostile or anything like that, Norwe’s smile just seemed foreign.
“Your existence. You’re repaying me for your existence” Norwe said, snapping his fingers as Alex’s image was replaced with a single universe.
“About fifteen millennia ago, I found myself,” Norwe began to roll their hand, until seemingly finding the word they were searching for, “Bored. So with this boredom, I decided to do what I usually did, immerse myself within my multiverse.”
Norwe then took the single universe into their hands and ripped it apart, causing a multitude of universes to surround them, each covered in its own unique set of galaxies and stars.
“Experiencing omniscience and omnipresence is different than explaining it, so I won’t, but what I will tell you is that while doing this I simply asked myself, “What would entertain me?“”
Norwe snapped their fingers, causing each and every universe surrounding them to disappear.
“And I instantly knew what to do. So I went and bothered a few of my siblings, asking for them to make me some empty universes and give me all but omniscience over them. Only the God of Abraham, Benny, and Lucifer were willing to supply but that was good enough for me.”
As Norwe spoke, their voice maintained its softness but their face showed a steady increase of excitement, a sight that was somewhat startling to Herah. Norwe made no notice of Herah’s surprise as they continued on, conjuring up numerous empty globes as they spoke.
“I then took these empty universes and put them on standby while I chose three others filled with life by my children to participate.” Norwe conjured up three universes in a row and tapped each of them, a blurry shape appearing above each.
Norwe pointed at the universe to their left and said,
“From this universe, came 28 individual gifted.” The blurry shape above the universe became the number 28.
Norwe then pointed towards the planet to their right and said,
“From this universe, I brought 20 individual gifted.” A 20 appeared above the universe.
Norwe then pointed at the universe in the center and said,
“And finally, from here I brought two individual gifted.” A two took shape above the empty universe.
With Norwe’s final statement, Herah gave Norwe her own weird look which was mirrored by everyone else who had a face in the room, excluding Norwe themselves. Paying no mind, Norwe waved their hand. This caused the three universes to fade away, which were quickly replaced with twelve others that were empty.
“I divided each of my fifty participants into groups of two,” Lights began to appear in a concentrated area on each of the universes, “Then I had these groups undergo a series of twelve acts, each more terrifying and deadlier than the last.”
Herah watched as the universes started to disappear one after the other, until only a single one remained.
“Until finally at the last act, the universe with only two gifted won.” Norwe said, waving their hand.
“What happened after that?”
This question came from Herah, who was left a bit confused as to why they were being told this story.
“Well the victors got a single wish from me, which could be anything except for omnipotence or omniscience.”
“Wait,” This time it was Max interrupting Norwe, ” Why isn’t omnipresence off the table?”
“It’s a perfectly valid question!”
Herah paid little attention to the arguing twins, hers was solely placed on Norwe who was watching the twins. The reason for Herah’s attention being directed towards the Maker was due to how peculiar Norwe was to her. After all, this was the parent of La Flamme and the apparent Maker of her universe. But they acted nothing like what the youngling’s expectations led her to believe one of such power would. Norwe came off as just some average Cendruex, floating through life as just another face in the large crowd that made up her species.
This reality might’ve been better than what her people’s story said about the being, but it still rubbed Herah the wrong way.
So, Herah decided to do what was normal for her when rubbed the wrong way.
The younging tried voiced her thoughts.
“Why are you-”
Luckily for Herah, Jeffery heard the thoughts going on in her head and decided to intervene before anything suicidal came out of her mouth.
Herah paused in her attempts to strangle Jeffery, and redirected her attention to Norwe who was giving her a knowing stare.
“Now that all attention is back on me,”
Alex nervously chuckled at this.
“Omnipresence is allowed because it wouldn’t interfere with my control.”
“Ok, I can understand that.”
Herah rolled her eyes at Max statement before getting the group back on track.
“You were telling us what happened after the winners were chosen.”
“Right,” Norwe began, “After granting the winners their wishes I returned them to their universe.”
“Um, excuse me.”
All eyes were directed towards the gnome, who had raised their hand.
“Yes, my Creator?”
“W-What happened to the losers?”
“Oh, they lived,”
Herah watched as both the gnome and Max sighed in relief.
“I erased their universes however.”
Herah watched the two’s relief become replaced by terror and surprise. Herah directed her attention towards Alex, who had a grim expression upon his face but nothing else. Herah was surprised like the other two, but that quickly turned into downright angry. The thought that someone got screwed because of another’s action not only pissed her off, but went against one of her key principals.
Just as one’s victories were their own, so were their fuck ups.
“Why the hell did you do that!?”
Norwe turn towards Herah, no surprise at her outburst shown. In fact, they looked like they expected it.
“Four reasons,” Norwe began, “One, it has worked as great motivation for a good portion of the participants. Two, the mere act of participating in Recompense is how you guys repay me. Third, I like to have a set number of universes and this allows for me to add more. Fourth, this adds another factor in the entertainment.”
“Herah shut up!”
Enraged, Herah got out of her chair and marched over to the human sitting at the other end of the table. The youngling then grabbed him by his shirt and lifted him up. The youngling stared into the human’s eyes, finding inside of them something that made her completely disgusted.
“Earlier I acknowledged you as an equal, not just because of the fact you were able to take me down so easily. It was because I saw that you were not only confident, I also saw that you were brave.”
Herah let out a snort of smoke.
“But now I just see a little bitch.”
Alex didn’t look at all bothered by Herah’s statement, the human just glared at the youngling harder.
“Well sorry for wanting to live, goddamit!”
“Norwe dammit please, God is my sibling.” Norwe piqued in.
Ignoring Norwe, Herah continued to focus on Alex.
“The hell does that mean!?”
“Are you fucking with me or are you really that retarded?”
“Just answer my damn question!”
Alex shoved Herah away from him, straightening his shirt back out after doing so. The human then looked back at Herah and said,
“Norwe is a Maker. Specifically our Maker.”
“Yeah, they said that already. What are you getting at?”
“GRRHH!” Alex pinched his neck several times in rapid succession before continuing, “It means that he,” Alex pointed towards Norwe, “Has complete control over us.” Alex pointed at himself, “He could with a snap of his finger, make me disappear.”
Alex scoffed before sitting back in his seat. As the human sat down, Herah heard him say under his breath,
“I don’t see why you don’t get that.”
Herah almost continued in her questioning, but after hearing Alex’s words decided not to. Herah might’ve thought his actions unbefitting, but that didn’t mean that the youngling was going to push him anymore.
“My Soothsayer” Herah turned to Norwe, the Maker grinning softly as they continued, “The reason why my Artist is so willing to talk back is due to how I’m perceived in her universe.”
“What do you mean Norwe?” Alex said, now visibly calm and collected, but clearly still on edge.
Norwe then gestured towards Herah, the youngling understanding that this meant that the Maker wanted her to continue. Though not too liking of Norwe at the moment, Herah would never past up a chance to spread the reach of La Flamme.
So with those thoughts, Herah walked over to Norwe’s end of the table and turned to face everyone else in the room. All eyes were on her, Max and the gnome staring at her with clear curiosity in their eyes while Alex watched her with his ever-searching glare.
But Herah did’t speak.
“Bois D’Allumage,” Herah began, her voice filling the room as her tone became deep and powerful, “Is considered the parent of La Flamme, the creator of my species. Our tales tell that at the beginning of our universes life-span it was just a piece of coal. This coal piece was infinite in mass and held a conscious.”
Herah then brought one of her hands to her chest, her voice rising in tandem with her excitement. Her eyes sweeping the small dining room as her story went on.
“My people called it Bois D’Allumage. And for eons, it was perfectly fine with its existence.”
The youngling then brought her other hand to her chest and clinched both fists, her voice taking on a sorrowful tone.
“This feeling of satisfaction however slowly changed into sadness and depression. And as the centuries went by, these feelings compounded until finally, Bois D’Allumage couldn’t take it anymore.” The youngling placing special emphasis on the last part of her sentence.
“So what happened next?”
This question came from Max, who looked to be getting into Herah’s word as much the youngling herself. Herah smiled at Max in response, always happy to see someone willing to listen, before continuing with her sorrowful tone.
“They ignited themselves. And began to burn”
Herah smirked as the sounds of the gnome’s and Max’s surprised gasp graced her ears, her eyes making a slight twitch at the dismissive grunt Alex made. Herah brought her hands to her side and continued, her tone now like it was in the beginning, powerful and heavy.
“As Bois D’Allumage burned, pieces of it began to fall away still engulfed in flame. And while most of Bois D’Allumage burnt away and gave way to our universe. ”
Herah sent a quick message to Jeffery, the pencil responding by launching her backpack towards her. Herah caught it without problem and drew out her sketch pad and pencil. Within moments, Herah had drawn and used Traduire to bring five pieces of coal into existence. With her mouth now dry, the youngling took the pieces of coal and ignited each of them with her fire.
Throwing the now flaming pieces of coal out and over the center table, Herah continued to preach,
“However five of these falling pieces didn’t burn away. Instead, they changed and as they changed they gained sentience, recognizing each other as siblings.”
The five burning pieces landed in the center of the table, each one beginning to take a different form. Herah sent another message to Jeffery, the pencil responding by lining up its eraser with the form that was closes to the youngling before launching it at her.
Herah caught the flaming form, which caused its flames to extinguish. This revealed the fossil of a dinosaur’s foot that was the size of Herahs palm. Allowing everyone in the room to see it Herah said, her voice still loud but much more gentle,
“The first of the coal fragments to take form was Le Dinosaure. The eldest of the siblings”
Herah dropped the piece and caught another of the flaming coal pieces, but unlike the one before, the coal didn’t lose its flame covering. Instead the coal burnt away until there was only fire left sitting in Herah’s hand.
“The second coal fragment to take form became La Flamme and later went on to create my race.”
Herah dropped the fire next to the fossil, the table not catching fire, and differentiating from before caught two of the burning coal fragments. One of them burnt away to reveal a palm sized bubble held miraculously by Herah’s middle and thumb claw, while the other revealed a scorch mark on the youngling’s palm.
“Two of the final three coal fragments became Le Serre and Le Scorch, the twins of the group.”
Herah let go of the bubble and flipped her hand while over the table. The bubble floated down to rest next to the still burning fire, with the scorch mark landing right next to the bubble. Jeffery launched the final coal fragment at Herah, and the youngling caught it without problem. This time, like the first, the flame was immediately extinguished.
“Is that a diamond?”
“Can you make me one?”
Herah rose a brow at the reactions of the three mortals in the room, not seeing what was so big about the what the final coal fragment turned into. Shrugging her shoulders Herah named it.
“And the final piece, the youngest of the group, became Le Diamant.”
Herah dropped the diamond next to her other creations before finishing her sermon.
“With the creation of these five, Bois D’Allumage died and left the universe to the will of these five siblings, who we call Les Frères et Sœurs à base de Carbone.”
Herah then created a wisp lantern, crushed it in her hand, and brought it to her chest in order to create her flame shroud. After letting Max and the gnome give their little oohs and aahs, Herah bowed to the group and said, “Let your flame burn eternally.” The shroud disappearing with these words, Herah rose back up and moved back to her seat.
After sitting down, Herah looked back at Alex who was tapping his nose once again. Not a word was said by anyone else, the entire room silent as everyone just watched each other. Alex, of course, was the one to break this silence.
“Your people don’t believe that Norwe is all-powerful, do they?”
Herah shook her head, and spoke,
“Amongst the Cendreux the idea of something or someone being unbeatable is not only unaccepted, it’s frowned upon greatly. We believe that all can be surpassed.”
“Even your god, The Flame?”
Herah nodded her head.
“Especially her, La Flamme isn’t even the most powerful of her siblings.”
Herah used the flame still burning at the center of the table to launch the diamond near it into her hand.
“That honor goes to Le Diamant, who is also the most durable. La Flamme is the most loving of the siblings, hence the reason my planet was the first to gain life that worshipped one of the siblings. We were created due to her sense of loneliness.”
Alex nodded, before turning his sights towards Norwe, at least that’s what Herah assumed.
“Are you okay if I ask one more question?”
“Sure.” Norwe answered, their voice showing no form of annoyance, “It’s best if you learn as much about each other as possible, it’ll allow for better collaboration.”
Herah watched as Alex nodded his head, before setting his sights back on Herah.
“So the five siblings are, in this order: the dinosaur, the flame, the scorch, the greenhouse, and the diamond, right?”
Alex leaned forward, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“How do you know about the others exactly?”
Herah immediately noticed the suspicion and growled at the human.
“La Flamme told us.”
“Told one of your ancestors right?”
Herah gave Alex a blank stare before saying,
“Of course La Flamme did that, but our goddess also showed up eight cycles ago to spread the word herself.” Herah smiled softly, “I met with her personally.”
Alex blinked in shock before tapping his nose like crazy, presumably a lot more questions being created by that statement. Herah heard a gasp come from both the gnome and Max. This caused Herah to look at Norwe in confusion, the Maker answering her unasked question.
“Where they come from their gods rarely interact with mortals, and even when they do, they don’t it on the level in which my daughter does.”
Norwe then checked a clock that they got from nowhere, and said,
“Now look at the time,”
“Where did you even-”
“He’s a Maker sis.”
Norwe shook his head in amusement before continuing,
“It’s about time that you guys got to your first act.”
With those words, Norwe snapped their fingers causing a black mass to appear in front of the table and suck the gathered group in, excluding Norwe and Jeffery.
Norwe turned to Jeffery and said,
“You better get going old friend, my Artist will be needing your help.”
Jeffery scribbled a message on the wall before flying up and out of the pocket dimension in search of Herah, her backpack on their back.
Norwe didn’t even look at the message on the wall, already knowing what it said. The Maker just said,
“I forgot to fix the Soothsayer’s clothing.”
The Maker then thought briefly and added,
“Also the Artist needs to put a shirt on.”