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Chapter 1

"You fool!"

"Oh shush you dimwitted tart! If it wasn't for her it wouldn't have even gone off!" Falksi shied away from the finger that pointed at her in accusation.

Kakashi glanced up at the partially demolished house again, her face still red from arguing with Xovious. Then she turned to Falk.

Falksi was set and ready to bolt, but Kakashi's face softened in sympathy as she saw her expression. "I'm sorry my house blew you up."

"Uh, sorry for blowing your house up," Falk responded, most uncreatively.

There were a few moments of silence in which Kakashi and her looked at each other awkwardly. Then Xovious spoke.

"Well, you really shouldn't ha- AGH!" Xovious's reprimand was broken off as Kakashi kicked his feet out from under him. He landed on his arse, grunting in surprise.

The few people who had gathered to watch the argument unfold gasped. Xovious lifted himself up from the ground, pulling his sword out so it filled the space between him and Kakashi. Almost as if the sword didn't exist, the brave (albeit reckless) Aurulian stared straight into the leader's eyes, even having the gall to smirk. She obviously knew that Xovious wouldn't hurt a town member purposefully unless he was given no other choice.

Xovious, still glaring at Kakashi, spoke, and it took Falk a moment to realise that it was directed at her. "Falksi, you are expected to provide the materials to rebuild Kakashi's house. From your own inventory, not the warehouse."

Falk sighed, but was resigned to the punishment. After all, she had exploded herself along with the entire top portion of the house.

"And Kakashi," he growled, "Don't place end crystals on top of your house as decoration, you twit. Next time I will personally go there and explode it for you."

Kakashi curtisied, giving the leader of Auru a sarcastic smile. "I will be looking forward to the blood spatter covering my walls."



The last few hours of the day, Falksi spent poring through shelves of books and scrawled notes. There were no specific accounts that fit what she was looking for, but she found some that lightly skimmed the surface. She flipped open one of the large black books in the stack by me and tracked her finger through the names within, searching for one in the midst of many.

You know he's not coming back.
Falk grunted in acknowledgment to her own thought, a habitual response that she had never gained control of entirely. Some people found it strange when Falk spoke or made agreeing sounds to the air, so she tended to do most of her thinking in the Historians' Guild where nobody hung around. Her death a few days ago had disturbed past memories again, and she found consolation in the musky scent of parchment and age old texts.

I died three days ago, but the Artifact saved me. So why did the Artifact fail with my father?

"To be fair," Falk pondered, "it did fail with Harlum, the father of Computern. Do you not remember? The Outlaws slaughtered him once and he never came back. He simply disappeared from this world. In fact, so did countless others."

Falksi could feel her unspoken words hovering on the surface, a silent threat to her sanity.

So did your father.

"But there must be an explanation!" she replied aloud, restlessly snapping another useless book shut an tossing it aside.

"There's always an explanation," a voice spoke, accompanied by the soft footfalls of a person.

"Jed!" Falk exclaimed, caught off guard. "I-I didn't know you were still here. I had assumed you went home by now."

The woman didn't respond, choosing instead to pull up a chair next to where Falk was wading in literal piles of books and paper. She gently picked up a book from the ground, brushing it off and inspecting it before placing it onto the table. "What has you interested in the Artifact so suddenly?"

Jedoi's eyes then skimmed over the three piles of obituaries towered on the desk. "And deaths," she added, her voice lowering an octave.

Falksi was suddenly aware that Jed had probably been alive long enough to have experienced most of the deaths firsthand. It must have been painful to see them live on as a mere statistic. Her fingers traced over the cover of the book the Jed had placed onto the table. The Artifact Vol. II: Theory of Interconnectivity. Written in Sudkuste. The book had spoken of studies performed in Sudkuste on why the Artifact brought the inhabitants of its worlds back to life. It had delineated a sort of connection between people and the Artifact.

"Life stems from life. If we're all part of the greater whole that makes up life, wouldn't it make sense for us to never really die?"
The quote made sense to her when she had first encountered it, but the more she reread it, the more it struck her as plain wrong. If somebody loses life, they would hold no more connection to the Artifact, contrary to the quote. They were at a lack of life, unless their soul was singularly considered a part of it.

The only part that seemed to stick with her was the concept of connections. Falk believed there was a special connection or bond between the Artifact and the residents of every world, but she also believed that the connection wasn't quite the same for everyone; different to the point of not working.
"Jed, where do people go when they die?"

The Guardian looked at Falk, confusion written across her face. "They return back to Aladra, of course."

Falksi nodded, expecting that answer, but her curiosity was still unsatisfied. If all the missing people were still truly alive, and headed off to a continent as nomads, statistics would dictate that eventually someone would run into them. And when they did, the rest of the world would know. But, out of the hundreds of people who went missing, only a few dozen ever came back. Logically, unless there was some hammerspace part of the world where they congregated, the missing people were truly dead, and the Artifact wasn't as perfect as people wanted to believe.

"What about people who have left this world forever? The deviants from the pattern?" Falk pointed to the obituaries to emphasize her point. The names of thousands of people lived in those pages, never to be seen again.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, what about the people who never returned? Those who mysteriously disappeared from their homes and towns, never to be seen again. We list them in our obituaries, but are they really gone?" Falk paused for a moment, thoughtfully stroking the book on Artifact theories before looking up at Jed again. "If the Artifact never fails, then where do they go?"

Jedoi glanced at Falk with an expression she couldn't pinpoint, and for a moment Falk got the disconcerting feeling that she could read her thoughts. For all Falk knew, she could. There was no telling what a person with that caliber of power was capable of.

"I really don't know what to say on this, Falk. I've always just assumed they got lost on an adventure and never found their way back before we sliced our way to the next worlds."

"That makes sense," Falksi said, nodding, "but it doesn't explain how nobody has reported sightings of any of the hundreds of people that have already gone missing in this world. After all, there are only so many places they can be."


Hatt was dead.

Of course, Hatt wasn't sure if he was even dead, just certain of the single fact that he was "not alive". He couldn't say he was disappointed. In fact, he was quite relieved. Even in the partial state of subconscious that he was floating in, he knew he wouldn't have wished for anything else.

Perhaps some intermediary state of being, he thought to himself, conflicted by his impression of death and ability to function properly.

Out of the nothingness that clouded his mind, however, a shape appeared. It closed in on Hatt, and stopped before him, it's red eyes only inches from what must have been his face.

"Another one?" it hissed, tone rising to form a question. "What world do you hail from, child?"

Hatt, overwhelmed by the sheer redness staring him in the face, swallowed nervously. He must have ended up in some twisted hell to have been approached by a creature like this.

"Am I dead? Who ar-"

"Where are you from?" the red eyes hissed, more insistently this time.



"Loka!" Hatt forced out, genuinly terrified.

The demon, crimson eyes bleeding with satisfaction, backed off from Hatt, giving him room to recover. He gladly took the time to ease his own shock and wonder if there was a way out of hell. He didn't quite fancy spending the rest of his afterlife floating through through a cognitive abyss and being followed by a monster whose name he didn't know.

"Very good. Very good indeed," the demon crooned, ignoring Hatt's presence completely now that he had gotten his answer. "The child's soul shall act as a fine passage."

Hatt's heart stopped (although it certainly shouldn't have been capable of that if he was really dead) and he stepped back, away from the monster with it's evil eyes and voice. His foot hit something hard.

"Where might you be going child?" a voice spoke into his ear. Hatt stiffened, his breath now coming out in gasps.

"Who are you? What do you mean by 'passage'?"

"I have some ends... that require meeting," the monster said. It shifted behind him, but Hatt dared not move. "I assume," the demon said, smirking, "you would like to know the name of your killer."

The knife was in Hatt's stomach before he had time to register its appearance. He gasped and folded in over the newly formed wound, confused on whether he was able to die a second time in this strange transitional realm.

"Some call me Preksak. Of course, you won't need to call me anything after I'm done with you." The demon, Preksak, lowered its voice gleefully. "The soul is trapped, and the Knife is complete..."

"This will work well," it said, twisting the knife impossibly deeper into Hatt. When it removed the weapon at last, it glistened in the lowlight of the intermediary, its light akin to that of Preksak's eyes. Hatt fell to the ground, eyes dull, and Preksak moved forward to begin the process of latching onto the soul gate.

"Watch out little Lokans, this monster is coming out from under the bed."



Falk rolled out of her bed. The sun shone straight into her eyes, so she had to blunder until she was able to reach the curtains and pull them down.

"Nnghnn," she groaned, returning to her bed and lying down again to ponder. The alcohol must have fueled her dream to be extraordinarily terrifying that night. She thought she remembered something about a demon and being in a body that was far to bulky for her.

The headache pounding at her brain also reminded her of the detour that she took the night before when heading home from the shooting range. She'd been trying her best to improve upon her archery skills, but her arm could hardly pull back the string on the generic War Guild bows, much less aim and shoot an arrow. The disappointment as she left had been overwhelming enough that she ended up stopping into the tavern for what she promised herself was going to be a "light sip". That light sip eventually became half of the tavern's running storage and Falk had stumbled between houses until she passed out somewhere on the street. Someone must have noticed her lying around, and brought her back to the bed in her small abode behind the Alchemy Guild.

Falk stood up, trying to hold back the nausea that threatened her stomach. She made her way shakily down the stairs. Dogs swarmed around her feet all the way, and she had to avoid stepping on a few tails here and there. The headache seemed to be fading quickly, most likely attributed to her heightened immunity to alcohol. There were some perks to alcoholism in that, but it was constantly contested by the symptoms she suffered the next morning.

You sort of overdid it last night, don't you think?

"I'm fine."

You're not fine.

"Fight me."

I'm in your head, dumbass.

Falk sighed wearily, and the voice quieted itself, obedient to her unspoken plight.

A knock suddenly sounded at the door, followed by furious yelling. Among the cacophony, Falk could pick out the voice of Tyrriel and, surprisingly enough, Iyo. She didn't peg him for one who would start up an argument, much less participate in one.

"-you really expect her to know? Wouldn't someone more...," the voice paused momentarily, but resumed again, this time too quietly for Falk to make out. She threw a nervous glance at the mirror she held above her crafting table, noting her frazzled bed head and awkwardly protruding vines, but moved to open the door.

Iyo and Tyrriel froze when Falk threw open the door. The sunlight from the right bit seared her eyes for a bit before she adjusted to the change in lighting, and her headache greedily took the temporary discomfort as incentive to start up again.

"What the flippin' farts are you doing out here at this time and why are you so damn loud?" Falk practically yelled, gesturing to the ever bright sun rising over Auru's wall in the east. Fortunately, both men had the decency to look ashamed, and Falk lowered her voice.

"I wasn't sleeping anyway," she amended.

Iyo spoke and his deep voice took a concerned tone. "Someone died."

"So?" Falk responded, confused. "Someone's always dying"

"No, someone has died... for good."


"They were found by the Artifact a few days ago, a stab wound in their stomach", Tyrriel added, but Falk wasn't paying attention.

Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead...


Dead, dead, dead, dead...

Fingers snapped in front of Falk's face, breaking her mantra and bringing her back to reality.

"We came to you first since you have the most experience with... situations like these." Tyrriel awkwardly trailed off, knowing that he was dangerously close to a sensitive topic. Most who were close to Falk were aware of the unusual disease that had claimed her father for good. If anyone was experienced with death, it was her, especially having spent the last few weeks holed up in the Historians' Guild building reading documents and past obituaries.

"I-I'll check it out. Where is the body?"

"Uh, here's the thing," Iyo said, expression darkening. "The body... It's gone."
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Chapter 2

"What do you mean gone?" Falk asked.

"Like the wind," Iyo explained. "The person who discovered it found the body and returned to Aladra to notify officials of it. When they returned, it had simply disappeared."

"If nobody else has seen it, how can we trust that it wasn't some passing homeless drunk with an active imagination?"

Iyo held up a finger and ruffled around in his bag with his other hand for a moment, before extracting what appeared to be a crimson satchel. Falk marveled at how Iyo's bag never seemed to run out of space. Whether it was stone or logs, Iyo always had it and everyone could count on the wealth and convenience of his hammerspace bag. Perhaps that's what makes him so impossibly good at building, Falk pondered as she took the crimson satchel from Iyo's hands. A familiar smell met her.

The crimson paint of the box came off on her hands unsettlingly, staining them pink, but it was likely that whoever had dyed it wasn't very skilled in that field. Only few were capable of the artistry required to craft and paint using fundamental materials from nature such as flowers and bone material. She wasn't sure if she fit into that category, but she obviously knew more about it than whoever had created the bloody satchel.

Falksi regretted her unintentional pun when she opened and took out what was inside the satchel.

A hand. A fucking hand.

Need a hand?, her mind offered, most unhelpfully.

Bile rose in her throat, but she pushed down her discomfort to calmly place the slimly, severed limb back into its carrier. What she had thought was a bad paint job wasn't really so. The places where her skin had made contact with the satchel tingled, uncomfortably aware of what they were covered in.

"What the hell, Iyo."

"Before you freak out any more," Iyo explained, his voice tight, "I can explain."

"Oh, you'd better."

Tyrriel broke in. It seemed he had a tendency to finish other people's thoughts, although whether it was intentional or not escaped her. "It was the hand of the dead man. The only thing recovered it seems, although it's uncertain why it would not disappear along with the body of the man." Tyrriel hummed thoughtfully. "Nobody has seen anything of this caliber since-"

Falksi coughed.

Tyrriel looked confused at being interrupted, but after a moment his eyes widened in understanding. An awkward silence pervaded the air, suffocating any semblance of conversation.

Why are you so scared of the past?

I'm not scared.

She could feel part of her mind hissing in snarkish doubt. Then why do you try to protect yourself from it?

Instead of answering to her rogue mind, Falk asked Tyrriel what she was expected to do with the limb.

"For now? Nothing," Tyrriel said. "We need it in unsuspecting hands however, and the investigation is to be placed directly under you so it might as well be in your arsenal already."

Falksi frowned.

"Why me?" The age old question. Depending on the answer, you could find yourself soaring at the head of armies and councils, or trapped in a corner through mindless manipulation. Unfortunately, by the time you found the answer, one of the two had most likely occurred. She could only hope that she wasn't being placed under the investigation for anything but others' trust in her.

"I'm not certain," Tyrriel admitted. "Although, I know the order was passed from high up in the Lokan chain of command. If you are really curious, you can probably find out from Jedoi."

That wasn't the answer Falksi was searching for, but it was enough to sate her for the moment so she waved farewell to both men and stepped back into the suffocating and confining space of her home. After attempting and failing to close the door with just one leg, she simply gave up and tottered unsteadily back up the stairs to her room. She noticed that she had long ago lost feeling in her fingers and they had turned a nasty purple shade from how tightly she had been clutching the bag. The red and pink that mixed with it made her hands look ridiculously like blooming flowers, something that did not seem too unusual, given that she was, in fact, partially plant.

She pried her fingers off of the satchel and knelt to inspect it, all feelings of revulsion pushed to the corners of her mind. Unfortunately, it seemed that doing so left little else at the forefront of her mind but the inspection and her mind's aggravating little guest.

Look at that pattern on the side!, the voice piped up.

"I can see it," Falksi muttered. "You see everything I see." Falk conveniently left out that she didn't notice anything unusual about the marks until they were mentioned, but she assumed that she didn't have to say it out loud for the voice to know. The marks themselves could be easily overlooked unless someone was looking for them. It looked like something she would expect a burn to look like, but it was only half a finger long, and as thin as a hair. There were several on the side of the man's hand under his thumb.

But doesn't it look familiar? I remember back when I was a few saplings, I saw travellers with similar marks, but many more, and much larger. They carried some dark energy with them...

Falksi perked up in interest. She never had queried the strange voice that had begun arguing with her so long ago. It still seemed that it was just a part of herself and she was compartmentalizing her feelings in that manner, but she also had the feeling that there was something alien and pervasive about it's tone and strange memories. Falk certainly never remembered being a sapling, and she definitely couldn't split by the powers of cellular division into a plural form.

"Where was that?" she asked, feigning nonchalance. Unconsciously, her hands began probing the marks on the severed limb. Her left arm tingled, and a few vines unfurled on their own accord and wrapped around the hand. Falk didn't question it. The vines seemed to have minds of their own sometimes.

The voice, unsurprisingly, had went silent again, stubbornly refusing to giving up anything on its origin. Despite its resistance to divulging that information, the existence of more marks like that on the hand was curious indeed, especially if what the voice said about dark energy was true. If anything could keep the Artifact from performing it's restorative work, it was the work of evil magic. The only real question following that would be why the hand didn't disappear along with its body. Could the man have been restored to life and left his hand behind? Although he would definitely be spotted as his person gradually materialised back in the spawning town. There was a strict track kept on deaths and revivals to ensure that no supernatural events like this one occurred without the notification of the higher-uppers.

Falksi delicately maneuvered the hand back into the bag and stood up. If she was in fact leading the investigation, she'd need to begin sniffing around the area where the body was found and listening to the local gossip. You never knew what you could learn from an unsuspecting individual, given proper eavesdropping skills and a knack for timing.


Falksi tried her hardest to not get intimidated by the child's stare. She twitched in discomfort, but she could hardly bust through the line of the marketplace on the justification that a child of all things was staring at her.

"What are you?"




The child looked genuinely confused, wrapping his chubby little arms around his mother, who did not seem to realise that her son was speaking with a complete stranger over her back, or else didn't care either way. "Are you a plant?"

Falksi's face got uncomfortably hot, but she narrowly stopped herself from snapping at the child. After all, how would it be expected to know that just because she had vines didn't mean she was a plant?

"Not exactly," Falk explained awkwardly. "I wasn't always like this."

"How did you become a plant?" Falk sighed. Children were children.

"I made a mistake," she said smiling eerily.

Falksi stretched onto her toes, only to see the line just as long as it had been. Waiting at the marketplace was like traversing mountains--as you thought you were progressing, a glance to them made it seem as if you had merely been standing in one spot the entire time. Impatient, Falksi turned her attention to one of her favourite past-times that didn't include sketching or brewing: eavesdropping.

She caught snippets of conversation such as what kind of cloth was 'in style', a lecture on the formation of various precipitates, and even something that appeared to be a scandal. She chose to not inform the last lady that her husband was in fact cheating on her and that his frequented trips to the library didn't stem from an interest in history, but from an interest in the new intern there. Unfortunately, style and a scandal wouldn't get her anything useful on the unexplained death of the man. Her plan to speak to the market vendors and ask them for sightings on the dead man could be postponed for a day that was less busy.

"Can you photosynthesize?"

Falksi didn't even ask how a young child would begin to know a word like that, instead choosing to ignore him in favor of leaving the line and heading back to Aladra's center. The town was strange, much different than it had been in her childhood, but with her frequent deaths and respawning, she'd gotten used to the renovations and revitalized energy. She was glad that if anything, time could fix any disaster and its memory, at least in the masses. Each individual, however, was a different story. Luckily, she could prevent-

Stop being edgy.

Falksi choked. "I'm not edgy!"

A few people turned to look at her, some enemies and some friends she realised, but she lowered her head and stalked off.

You don't seem to realise how important it is that I find something on this man. I'm being trusted to lead the entire investigation.

Speaking to little children doesn't give you anything?
Falksi grit her teeth as the voice responded.

"At least I'm not being a hypocritical nuisance" she hissed. "And your sarcasm every five minutes gets irritating."

Then why don't you ask me?

Instead of moaning about it, take advantage of what you have. I have the most experience between the both of us, so use it, for Crypt's sake.

"So you aren't me!"

Correct, but not entirely.

A few more concerning looks from passerby forced her to take solace in the shadows behind a wooden house that was built along the path leading to the docks. One person even had the gall to throw her a few shards before she had left the public area, as if she was some lowly beggar scavenging the streets.

Not entirely? Who are you?

To some extent, I am you, or else I wouldn't be able to exist. You might find that souls hold far more importance on Loka than you might imagine.

The statement itself sounded dauntingly like a promise. Falksi closed her eyes and let the pervasive and chaotic thoughts and voice fade to black. Her mind's fine balance returned and she turned right from her shadowy enclave, to walk down one of Aladra's side streets. She recognised it to be the original path by which most of Loka's current denizens arrived by and followed it up past the farm before diverging to head into the mountains. She hated it, but the voice had a point. Falk wouldn't get anywhere just whining about responsibility to an invisible audience.

As she crested the top of a hill, the wind whistled around her and blew her hair out from behind her ears and around her like an open fan. It felt good, like she was finally getting a breath of air after being trapped under the stress of daily life. From where she stood however, she could spot her destination, and despite knowing that the body was gone, foreboding crept up her spine like ice.

When she arrived, the Artifact looked the same as it had always been, obelisk faithfully floating in the air between the four corners of its foundation. She knew better than to touch it, but curiosity led her to the center of the construct, right under the floating orb, where the ground under the obelisk appeared to have subsided and created a shallow dip. When she stepped into it, the stone tilted precariously.

On the ground she spotted nothing at first but a few specks that were presumably blood left from the incident, but something caught her eye from the corner. Falksi turned.


It was night in Loka, and the street lamps hung like stars from their poles, illuminating a cobble pathway through the dusky town. The ethereal glow highlighted a lonely man standing on the street. He pulled at his cigarette, slowly drawing his breath in before releasing it out in a white cloud. The milky smoke danced and swirled by the lamplight and the man looked into it, as if he was trying to find an answer. He didn't seem to find what he was looking for, by the way he sighed and threw the still burning cigarette to the ground, stifling the ember with his boot.


Hatt turned to the woman who spoke, as she walked up to him and wrapped her arms affectionately around his shoulders. "Can't sleep?" she asked him, and he nodded, his fingers twisting at his coat now that his cigarette wasn't there to occupy them. This woman made him nervous despite her affable nature.

"Jedoi," Hatt said, his voice laced with pain. "There comes a point in our lives, where no matter what atrocities we witness, it simply isn't enough to fuel a purpose." He sighed, and his hand moved from its nervous wringing to hold Jedoi's. "I may have gotten out of the forest, but I'm still trapped in the woods. Quite literally." Hatt's fingers tightened around Jed's hand, most likely due to the memories brought up of his venture into that forest. Time could erase all but history after all.

"Seek not why it is dark, but rather how to turn on the light," Jed said, in a tone that implied she was reciting something from a text she had read at some point in her career as Auru's Historian.

"Deep," Hatt said, smirking cynically. "However, I think I've made my choice. If this world won't let my body die, I'll just let my mind die in its place."

Jedoi pulled away from Hatt, frowning at him. "I don't understand."

He smiled wryly. Instead of responding however, Hatt stuck his hands in his coat pockets, and brushed past Jed, walking down the cobble roads, past the street lamps, and into the darkness that waited beyond.

Jedoi watched him go, curiosity marking her deceivingly young face. She'd seen enough in her lives to know that inside she was worn down like the leather on a competitive horse's saddle. Despite that, she still tried to be a light in the darkness of the world, like the streetlamps, the stars, the moon. She could only hope that this wasn't the last time she would see Hatt.

Unfortunately, hope was a game of chance, and Jedoi had run out of luck.
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Thought I had this lore piece finished, but returned one time to see that i had left it off at a cliff hanger-esque place. Looked through my notes and saw it was unfinished. Crap.

Will I complete it? The world will never know! (that is, until I do)
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is this ever going to get finished? Falksi why are you partially a plant anyway, and can you photosynthesize? Oooo, I seemed to bring up this topic again! (excitement)


I used to think it was weird that you were partially plant falksi, but now I feel bad that you have a plant parasite clinging on to you leeching nutrients from you to survive. You should ask it some more questions more often, it might give you some answers. (I think it's Mother Nature who clung on to you falksi ;) )