She was in the golden court of heaven itself. She stalked along a floor that was made of transparent gold, with a nebula just beneath them. The golden pillars of carved angelic beings held up the skyscraper ceiling. Ruth was dwarfed as an insect to them. There she walked along, seeing the angelic creatures of the court. Seeing the otherworldly beauty of the cherubim, the heavenly majesty of the angels, and the awestruck horror of the seraphim. She strode through the massive walkway, carpeted with blood red fleece. It felt soft on her bare feet. She looked down and inspected herself.
She was human again. She was clothed in a white flowing gown. She felt at her hair, seeing it was the same golden blond in her youth.
The voice spoke. The sound of a loving father, wracked with the pain of seeing his daughter suffer.
“Ruth, you are awake once again!”
She stared at the one who spoke, sitting atop a throne of glory. She was familiar with this place, but could not remember.
“Ruth, my daughter, you have returned.”
The voice of the being atop the throne said, she could hear the tears evident mixed with his speech.
The being left his throne, clothed in robes of golden light, a face like a sun, with seven wings made of a sun’s corona. Ruth would have stood at equal height to the being’s smallest toe. As it strode to her, the perception of his height changed. As she got closer, his height began to shrink until he was at a reasonable six feet. He began to run towards her, with Ruth stopping.
He came in and embraced her.
She felt the warmth and sorrow of the embrace. She felt the mixture of heat and excitement.
He pulled back, gripping her gently by the shoulders.
“Who are you?” Ruth asked.
The being turned His head, making a pained look and sob before looking back to Ruth with a smile. His tears flowed freely with trembling lips. His voice became gentle and soft, of loving father.
“I am Adonai. We’ve known each other before. Before the tragedy of your change.”
“I had given you my Seal that is upon your throat. The Seal of the Tetragrammaton.”
“And now you are in the good hands of the last Seal holder.”
Adonai said with a relieved chuckle.
“I cannot stay long, but understand your calling. My servant Diniel was correct on your calling.”
“Your calling is of The Matron.”
“Your group is in danger. Fulfill your calling.”
“Fight for them!”
Ruth awoke in blackness. She wished she had not as agony began to flow into her head. Something was stabbing her brain over and over again.
Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab.
She shrieked in agony, her flesh twisting, writhing, and changing, trying to become anything to block out the pain.
“Ruth! I can’t think!” Maw shrieked.
Her form grew into a massive formless mound of fleshy slime, pushing the cart upright again. There a massive centipede was gazing at her, focusing everything at her.
The Daer-seehn stared on with a missing limb and smoking holes in one of its segments.
L’yophin lay behind it, crumpled up on his back.
Ruth, in a rage, flowed towards to the Daer-seehn, attacking it with newly formed teeth, quills claws, and bone. A mass of destruction shot towards the Daer-seehn and crashed into an invisible wall. Ruth was slammed back by an invisible hand, her slime form tumbling through the air to splat on the stone road.
“Hurt it!” Ruth wailed.
“Please think! There has to be a-” Maw began before going silent.
The pain was too much as the Daer-seehn turned its gaze back to the spider.
She had to protect them. Soltana and L’yophin were like family, even for the brief time she spent with them.
They were like family.
And she would now be their Matron.
She looked back, seeing a crumpled Soltana, her chassis twisted around, and her body gone right side up as the cart was flipped back over.
Her body was ruined.
She felt the Seal burn against her, channeling her righteous anger against the one intending to harm them. The Daer-seehn snapped its masked face to her, focusing its power and trying to stop her.
Ruth bit down on the pain.
Digging deep within her own mind of those she had devoured.
The pain drove her deeper within herself.
She traveled for a time, flowing among the souls she possessed. The pain did not abate.
Faster she traveled, running from the marauding agony.
She went to the bottom, finding the first ones they had merged with her.
She found her, serenely waiting in the depths of her holds.
It caught her attention. It was foreign, yet it was known.
Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab.
A creature of awesome power.
A creature L’yophin had spoken of. Their gods.
She gazed at her form. And she gazed back with yellow eyes.
“Ruth. I do not fault you for my situation.”
“However I would fault you if you didn’t use the power I am giving you,” The Ancath added with humor.
She held out her hand, and Ruth took it.
Ruth came to, the Daer-seehn was just a few feet away. She felt pressure all around her, invisible hands were attempting to crush her. She felt the Ancath’s power awaken in response to the attack. She pressed back with her mind and the walls around her fell. In her mind she focused a spear, ramming at the Daer-seehn’s face. The invisible blow struck true, punching a small hole through the mask and into its skull. It shrieked the sound of a revving engine and children screaming as it backpedaled from the blow.
The mound of flesh slime opened up and a being emerged. A humanoid figure with pale shiny white chitin where flesh could have been. She stood massive at ten feet in height. its body was curved, humanoid, and feminine, with exposed joint areas being blood red colored muscle flesh. Her face was a smooth and curved chitinous plating adorned with vents where eys should have been. Her chitinous throat had the Sealed adorned to it. Her blood red mouth smiled at the new feeling.
The stabbing had stopped.
Ruth could feel the being lashing out at her. But her mental presence dwarfed it.
That was what the Daer-seehn had been using, on top of its active mantilla and massive bulk. It could paralyze a being with its thoughts. She understood how it did it. It kept expanding and contracting nerves in the brain, bringing down a creature of any size.
The Daer-seehn charged, skittering like a rockslide. It dove in head first, attempting to crush her. She spread out her seven-fingered hand, using her shapeshifter abilities to complement. The fingers expanded to a large pincer trap, catching the Daer-seehn and stopping it. She reinforced her strength with her psychokinesis.
The Ancath had trained her, showed her the memories of her ability. For her, it had been an age when in reality it had only been moments.
The Ancath’s name was S’yliska, whose role was of craft, of wisdom, of combat, and of defense.
The Daer-seehn whipped its tail, slamming into Ruth. Her psychokinetic shield shattered, breaking her hold of the larger creature. She felt it, that S’yliska was a pale shadow of her former self.
But still, she was formidable.
She recovered, landing to a low crouch. She grew a massive mane of quills and pirouetted from another tail slam, the earth shook from the blow as the Daer-seehn bellowed a shriek at her. The quills flicked with minds of their own, sticking into the larger creature’s chitinous hide. There her cells began to work, trying to devour it from the inside. The massive centipede’s bulk slammed into her psychokinetic shield, shattering it again and blasting her away.
She felt her chitinous hide cracking and snapping from the blow. Her legs twist and snapped as she landed. She felt the intense agony of the damage her body sustained for a brief moment. She only needed to know once as she quieted her cells.
Can’t stay down like this…
The new form was powerful but inexperienced.
Another volley of quills struck true in the side of the Daer-seehn’s face causing it to flinch, diverting its massive bulk. Her flesh flowed, her legs and chitin becoming whole again. The flesh chimera monster side of her complimenting her newly discovered Ancath form. She stood quickly as the Daer-seehn wrapped around her, boxing her in. The massive clawed limbs lashed out, forcing her back in the center. The head rose up, towering over her as she continued to quill the segmented chitin.
The head tilted back, revealing the blender maw that threatened to engulf her whole.
She smiled at that.
Let’s try this again.
The Daer-seehn rushed in, maw first. Both hands blossomed massiv talon claws that gripped the head at that mask, the grinding drooling maw snapped at her vainly. Her psychokinetic powers were maxed out, hold the massive creature in place.
The Daer-seehn pressed in, scrambling with its stabbing legs to get a grip on the strange massive fingered hand that held it in place. She gripped down with raw strength, discovering that Ancath had a strength greater than demons. The mask cracked and the centipede shrieked. It lashed a massive snapping tail, which was blocked out by its own circling. She moved in, growing a third arm beneath her left. Her third arm flowed and changed into a large hooked spear. The Daer-seehn shrieked and struggled as she twisted at her midsection and crouched, putting her body’s core power into the blow. With her third arm, she thrust and punched through the armor plating chitin of the Daer-seehn and into the flesh bits.
I need to end this, now!
And then she thrust again. The Daer-seehn tried to thrash about, but she pinned it down with a thought. Her abilities blossomed the longer they fought.
Thrust. Thrust. Thrust.
Violet blood flowed from the wound.
Thrust. Thrust. Thrust. Thrust.
The chitin holding the section together buckled to pieces.
And with a final thrust, Ruth flowed inside the creature, becoming as fleshy slime and absorbing its internals. She flowed along the insides, the Daer-seehn reared up shrieking, its muscles freezing. She occupied every segment of the massive centipede-like creature.
Then she changed her flesh to become spear quills.
The Daer-seehn resembled a hundred-foot pincushion from head to tail.
The quills retracted.
The Daer-seehn let out a gasping shriek as it fell, violet blood draining and flowing. The revving voice died down. The ruined massive beast went still.The limbs and tail twitched as its current existence ceased.
The massive body began to collapse in on itself as the internal organs were absorbed. Then the chitin collapsed, with a hundred-foot flesh slimy mass remaining. The blood had vanished alongside the body and soul mote. She felt in her being, the Daer-seehn was a Scarabaeidae product. An attempt to recreate their Ancath gods. It was a poor imitation. It had escaped and ravaged the land, with the Scarabaeidae giving no thought on collecting it. A strange oddity. She understood how to use active mantilla, the psychokinetic attacks, the armor plating, and biology imitation of the creature.
Ruth then took her familiar form of the red-headed goblin.
Who was very naked.
She hurried over to the cart, finding her disheveled clothes. She quickly got dressed, hoping they were both unconscious during the fight.
She inspected Soltana, seeing her chassis was ruined. A single eye was glowing, peering at her.
“R-Ruth… You saved us,” Soltana said, her voice coming out as static.
“Wait, how did you know my name?”
“Since the m-mines when Basil met us.”
“Yes. I was deciding on whether to c-c-confront you or wait for you to t-t-tell us. It was a small thing that tipped u-u-us.”
“Is L’yophin… OK?”
Ruth reached out with her mind, finding the spider was out cold, but physically well.
“He is out, but well.”
“Ruth. I am afraid.”
“My power is faulty.”
“I don’t want to be lost again.”
Ruth silenced her by patting her head.
“Shh, don’t say that. You’re not alone now. We’ll take care of you.”
“I’m glad we found you.”
“You dummy, I found you!”
Soltana suddenly went silent, her eyes going dark.
Ruth grimaced at that. A tear ran down her cheek at seeing her new friend hurt. She had little idea if Soltana was alright. She rushed to the Dugrum, who was still crumpled up on his back. She checked him as he began to stir. His eyes were blinking as he came to.
“L’yophin, are you alright!?” Ruth shouted.
“Ugh… Too loud. Oh, hi, Ruth,” L’yophin said in a stupor.
“Did everyone know??”
“Oh, now you know I know. Please don’t eat me,” L’yophin murmured with unfocused eyes.
“I’m not going to eat you! But I am going to do this, finally,” Ruth stated as she plucked a hair from L’yophin’s hide, absorbing it into her being.
She then understood how to produce the silk, that the talons of Dugrum were capable of tearing said silk. She understood their multi-limb abilities and ambidexterity.
“Ow, don’t do that, I’ll go bald. Females don’t like bald Dugrums…”
“Wake up! Soltana’s hurt.”
L’yophin shook his head, becoming aware of the tiny goblin nearby.
L’yophin shouted he got up and skittered to the Lambent.
“Soltana, no… Please no…” L’yophin begged as he surveyed the twisted wreckage of her chassis. His limbs were at a loss.
“L’yophin, we need to hurry. She powered down just now. I’m unsure what other damage there is,” Ruth explained.
L’yophin stared back at Ruth and nodded.
“Load up the cart,” He said with a worried grunt as he went to gather the scattered goods.
Ruth gathered the scattered goods, not bothering for disguises anymore now that she discovered hers was subpar due to the Seal and Fae. Her flesh flowed around her face, giving her spidery eyes to spot the slightest glint. She gathered much of what she could, with L’yophin nodding the affirmative.
He undid Soltana from the cart, cutting loose the straps. His limbs trembling as he picked up the crumpled wreck of Soltana.
Ruth peered at the chassis, seeing it cracked and bent down the middle, the crab limbs were snapped and bent. L’yophin pried off the clamps, releasing her from her chassis with great effort. Ruth helped, using her great strength to pry the chassis apart.
L’yophin breathed a sigh of relief as the internal nacelle casing was damaged, but still intact. He checked the connector cabling, finding them still attached.
“She is still good,” L’yophin explained with a nervous look.
“What about the cart?”
“Damaged, but wheels, spokes, and dowels are good.”
Ruth placed Soltana’s head gingerly in the cart, putting the tarp over her.
“L’yophin, I will pull the cart,” Ruth started.
Her flesh flowed and changed, her form becoming a large trow. The goblin sized clothes were discarded.
L’yophin backed up, his eight eyes going wide. She had changed forms into a familiar Trow; Mik.
“Oi, where ya’ takin’ this ting?” The Trow spoke.
“Don’t do that,” L’yophin admonished.
“Haha, you’re a funny Dugrum, ain’t ya. You said Vulnerado. Less go!”
“Don’t do that!” L’yophin shouted with horror at seeing the transformation.
Ruth ignored him and reached into the cart, grabbing some Trow sized leather pants from the pile of gear they found before.
The Trow grabbed the cart dowels and began to march, with a stunned L’yophin in tow.
“Basil said she could shapeshift… Seeing it…” He murmured.
Ruth could hear L’yophin mumbling as she pulled the cart.
Ruth had taken on the personality of Mik, who was more laid back and friendly, for feral Trows comparatively. The trip through the canyon was fairly uneventful. Things tended to stay away from a loud singing Trow with a strapped pulse rifle.
“Why are you so loud?” L’yophin complained.
Ruth broke character for a moment as the spider skittered alongside her.
“No one likes dealing with Trows, apart for a Daer-seehn. I’m making my presence known, a Trow defense mechanism. And it’s fun.”
Ruth went right back to bellowing, her voice carried by the canyon.
Ruth would do anything to get them to Vulnerado safely.
She glanced back at Soltana, seeing her still powered down.
Maw. Are you alright?
Ruth noticed the rage that had controlled her through her journey in the Underrealm was quiet.
She would think on that as they walked.
L’yophin was glancing back at her, murmuring to himself. She knew he had questions.
Ruth kept up the journey. She would get them to Vulnerado.
The trip was a big boon, giving her more new abilities and forms to shapeshift into. She had unlocked more of herself, more of what made her the monster.
But for now, her thoughts were grim on Soltana.
She hoped she was alright.