44 – The Book of Soltana: Artifice –

Underrealm

Soltana

“What is a Lambent?” Onsort asked.

The shock of her sudden presence had worn off and the questions began.

Soltana pondered that herself. All she knew was that her being was made up of a hybrid of three sentient species. Barman had made his introduction by describing her purpose, which was a good place to start.

“I was created to create.”

“Built to build.”

“Artifized to artifice.”

“My existence is to explore, to fabricate, and to help. I have an innate knowledge of my being. The more complete I am, the more I know of myself.”

L’yophin was taken aback at the sudden knowledge.

“So you are a type of Anform?” Onsort asked, scratching his bulbous eye.

“Partially. I am a hybrid of Anform, Angel, and Human. I was created some time ago by the Angel Barman and the Human Mikial McDonough of Primetech.”

She left out the third creator, only because she didn’t know who else assisted.

“Primetech!” Zenner blustered.

Oh, ho ho! Such a small galaxy this is,” Onsort said with a laugh.

“You know of him?”

“All Scarabaeidae do. They were our first contact with humanity.”

“Soltana, my Lambent, you’re speaking to two of the Scarabaeidae that met him!” Zenner replied with excitement.

“Two of the millions, but she gets the point,” Onsort corrected.

“No wonder you are enamored by her, L’yophin,” Onsort said, turning to the suddenly bashful spider.

Soltana needed to push past the talk and get to business. Lucifer could be anywhere and they needed to flee.

“I understand L’yophin has just bartered for parts for his vessel and limpid steel?”

“That is correct, Soltana,” Onsort confirmed with a sagely nod.

“Then we should complete our business as we are in a hurry.”

“And how do you expect to get the ship parts back to the estate? The nacelles will not fit in that cart, much less the ship parts,” Onsort explained.

“What are our options?”

“Renting more carts and help to pull them,” Zenner explained.

“Or renting a vessel to deliver them.”

“Both are expensive.”

Onsort tilted his head, peering at Soltana

“Or if a generous baeidae gave you assistance.”

Haha, Onsort, my good baeidae, That is a good jest!”

Onsort turned to Zenner, stooping to eye-stalk level and cocking his head.

“Zenner.”

“Oh come off it now, Onsort!” Zenner blustered at that.

Onsort stared at the blustery crab who steamed at the serene mantis.

“Zenner, do you not feel yourself dulling?”

“That those around us are changing us, as opposed to us changing them?”

Zenner tapped a leg at that.

“Nothing we’ve done has woken any Scarabaeidae from their drone-state.”

“I think it’s time to move on.”

Zenner sighed, his eye stalks sagged with knowing.

“With them, we may be able to help.”

“You, Soltana. What is the grand purpose? These Seals, what is their purpose?”

Soltana thought for a moment. Adonai had not stated the true purpose, as he was waiting for all Seal holders to meet. But she had a good idea.

“To help set things right.”

The group all stared at her.

“Right now, I need to meet with all of the other Seal holders.”

“Adonai is wanting to use us. Something has happened and we’re chosen to assist.”

“Us?” Onsort replied, cocking his head.

Ruth in disguise suddenly looked uncomfortable.

“Yes. I am a Seal holder. One Seal holder has already arrived. I am to meet two others.”

“Complex,” Onsort replied.

“So you’ve been chosen by this Adonai to assist in fixing the mess of the galaxy?” Zenner replied with a clap of his claw.

“Yes,” Soltana replied firmly.

“Well Onsort, there you have it. She’s insane.”

“Insane? It is the truth!” Soltana shot back.

“I’ve seen what she has said!” L’yophin added.

“L’yophin, you can’t prove what she says is not insanity!”

The room erupted in argument, with Ruth staying silent. Soltana was trying to calm everyone down, with Zenner being the majority of the antagonism.

I’m losing the situation.

 

Soltana processed, trying to think of something to defuse it. They might even lose the deal over it. All over a single question answered.

Should I have deferred the question?

Soltana’s thoughts were interrupted by Ruth bellowing a shout, directing all attention to her.

“What Soltana says is true. I corroborate it!”

Everyone stood stupefied by the Trow suddenly emitting a female voice, dropping the heavy accent.

“L’yophin, my baeidae, who is that-” Zenner said but was interrupted at the horror in front of him.

Ruth’s flesh changed and flowed like water, reshaping herself into her Ancath form. Her glory radiated throughout the vessel. Zenner and Onsort bellowed a cry of alarm at the sudden body horror. They then went silent in awe at seeing one of their fallen gods. Ruth had taken her Ancath form, crouching down gracefully to stoop beneath the ceiling.

Soltana felt at peace now, knowing the situation was all but diffused.

“Ancath’s mercy…” Onsort murmured as he stumbled to his knees.

Zenner was a blustery mess, falling on his back, spilling his hat and monocle.

“Zenner, Onsort, look upon my Seal,” Ruth boomed. Soltana could feel pressure but was unaffected by it.

They gazed at her, unable to look away.

“You know me. S’yliska, Odonata: Defense. Caelifera: Craft. Mantodea: Offense. This Seal, given to her by Adonai, is proof of Soltana’s claim,” The Ancath spoke power through Ruth.

“And my name is Ruth. I am proof that what Soltana claims is correct,” Ruth interjected, using her own voice.

“I am shapeshifter, chimera, monster, Maw. changed against my will by a being of great evil and strength. S’yliska was there, awaiting me to discover her. I can interact with her soul, and see parts of her memories,” Ruth stated.

“The Church? Did the Church do this?” Zenner said with a bluster.

“No. Another party did.”

“How did they infuse you with her soul mote? How did they acquire her soul?” Onsort asked.

“That is a mystery. As is the perpetrator. My memory is sporadic; fugue,” Ruth replied.

“And that is why I am doing this,” L’yophin interrupted, tears in his eight eyes at seeing S’yliska again.

“And as I am bound to Ruth, I will assist her with all of my power,’ S’yliska stated through Ruth.

“Now,” S’yliska began as she addressed Zenner and Onsort

“You have a choice. Will you assist, or stay in your distractions?”

“Will you continue sleeping, or will you wake?”

Both Scarabaeidae glanced at one another silently.

“Onsort, my baeidae, I feel you shouldn’t have been holding us back, this place has been dulling you,” Zenner jabbed.

Onsort slapped the crab’s chitin in response.

Zenner scrabbled up and stood, not bothering with his attire. Onsort did the same, standing above the crab.

“What is your decision?”

“We assist.”

“Quite right.”

Both replied in unison.

“Good. Then let us make haste,” Ruth proclaimed.

Her fleshed flowed and changed, causing many to be taken aback. What stood in front of them was her diminutive goblin form, pre clothed in spider silk. She wore a grey turtleneck with vest, a grey tweed hat, and loose slacks as well as silk boots. She kept the red hair.

“Now I just need figure out how to dye the silk,” Ruth mused as she inspected herself.

Everyone else was silently staring wide-eyed.

“What? Make a girl blush with all your staring,” Ruth said with playful bashfulness.

“Do not worry,” L’yophin began.

 

“You never get used to it,” He commented snidely.

He other Scarabaeidae shook from the body horror.

“We should get to the matter at hand, transportation and your assistance,” Soltana directed to Zenner and Onsort.

“Yes, we can assist. Your friend Ruth has convinced us,” Onsort said, staring at Zenner who returned a nod.

“I’ll order the parts to be delivered here,” Zenner replied.

“But how will we transport it?” Soltana asked.

Onsort perked up at that and addressed everyone. There was suddenly a red round cap in his hand that he placed atop his head.

“Welcome to Onsort’s transportation service! What is your destination for today?”

“Feh! It was a setup from the go!” L’yophin rasped.

“L’yophin my baeidae, we’ve had eons of experience. Limpid steel should barely hold a single gold bar value,” Zenner explained.

L’yophin snapped his head to the crab, furrowing his brow with narrowed eyes.

“And the nacelles should be priced at fifty a piece, maximum,” Onsort added.

“Mmm, quite right, quite right,” Zenner replied.

L’yophin looked down and sighed with closed eyes.

 

“Even when we won, we lost,” L’yophin complained.

“I’m afraid so.”

“You did trick me into think you crafted the blasted adamantite though; good show!” Zenner complimented.

L’yophin grumped at that, folding his front arms.

“Now the payment of the items?” Zenner began.

“I have more adamantite and treasure to trade. I would like to keep the finger,” L’yophin began.

“Zenner, go through his goods and see if you can get the equivalent,” Onsort replied.

“Quite right, quite right,” Zenner replied.

“I just need enough adamantite to change,” Soltana replied

Soltana heard that, but was fine with L’yophin trading the finger away, as long as they had enough adamantite for her to Chrysalize.

“Also, my baeidae I have some news,” Zenner began as he gently grasped at several sacks.

“And what would that be?” L’yophin stated, more than slightly annoyed by the scamming Scarabaeidae.

“The news is the deal has changed, my baeidae!”

“And what would that be?” L’yophin said again, frustration was now evident in his eight eyes.

“Going from a two-way communicator, I understand you are in possession of a profitable mine and estate.”

“That is correct.”

“How about we all go into business, the five of us?” Zenner inquired.

“We’ll see,” L’yophin responded with a shrug.

“Better than a no! Zenner, we leave once the parts arrive!” Onsort declared.

A knock on the Shell Shop’s hull paused everyone.

Onsort and Zenner glanced at one another before skittering to the entrance. A loud bustling noise drew Soltana’s attention as Zenner and Onsort were practically pushed back by a crowd of Scarabaeidae.

“I said we’re closed-” Onsort began, but the crowd didn’t want it.

“We felt it! Ancath! Where are they?” One of the onlookers chittered.

“Ancath!”

“I felt it…”

“It must be real!”

“They have returned!”

Soltana felt their gazes sweep over her, inspecting and curious.

Desperate.

Broken.

A despondent people in search of redemption.

“Where are they?” One cried out.

Zenner and Onsort shot their nervous gazes to Ruth.

Soltana saw her face. It was one of sadness.

She understood.

Ruth shook her head slowly, a deep knowing in her eyes.

A deep pain.

Onsort nodded, with Zenner’s countenance dropping.

They understood as well.

“Alright, alright! Listen!” Onsort shouted, turning to the crowd of insectile beings.

“Do you see any Ancath?” Onsort asked.

The crowd shuffled, glancing around.

“I felt them!” One cried.

They all burst into an uproar at that.

“Calm down! I said stop it!”

“Who felt them?” Onsort asked.

The crowd glanced at one another, a few raising their limbs.

“Do you feel an Ancath now?”

Onsort stared hard at them, with no Scarabaeidae able to hold it.

“Do you feel them?” Onsort asked again, stressing each word.

The mob mumbled, unsure of itself.

Soltana saw the cracks form.

“My baeidae! It appears this was nothing but a delusion of a few. It happens, I know, I know.” Zenner interjected.

“The war has done much to crush us. Steal our hope.”

“But I felt it…” One shot back.

“Did you? Or did you want to?”

The crowd crumbled, with many leaving the vessel.

“Why are you here, Zenner?” One shouted.

“Hah! I am showing up my dear Onsort this treasured discovery!”

She spotted Zenner winking at her.

L’yophin was silent. She spotted him, trembling with anger. With sadness. He said nothing.

The crowd murmured as they turned to each other.

“Now, would you like to purchase a nacelle? Only five hundred a piece!” Onsort began.

The crowd grumbled as they parted.

She spotted the moment the Scarabaeidae went back to their drone nature. The mob vanished as quickly as they came. Onsort closed the docking ramp to his ship, closing the store.

Onsort and Zenner glanced at one another, shaking their heads.

“We should go,” L’yophin suggested.

“L’yophin? Are you alright?”

The Dugrum glanced to Soltana, skittering in view. He looked deeply into her glowing aquamarine eyes. His eyes blinked in a wave as he pondered her question.

“No. It is pain- agony seeing them that way. But. Seeing you well makes it all better.”

“I swear it, L’yophin. I will help you and your collective one day.”

“Let us keep the promises… Reasonable,” He shot back with a sad spidery smile.

“Come along L’yophin! We’ll need to grab those ship parts!” Zenner barked as he skittered to the exit.

“I will-” L’yophin began, but stopped himself.

He left quietly.

While Soltana felt satisfied with the results, the sadness had made it bittersweet. Between the scarabaeidae’s massive disappointment and seeing first hand how forlorn they were, to L’yophin’s pain being resurfaced reminded her of what she had to do.

Of what was at stake.

They gained ship parts, limpid steel, nacelles, and new allies. They could then work on their main objective.

Leaving the Underrealm.

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