Time sped up, a blur that flew by faster than one could track before it stopped. Stood still as a statue and just as pointless. Bone clack-clacked against itself in an unspoken warning that was no less strong for the lack of words to accompany the sound. The sickly sweet clink of metal on metal and the soft plip plop of blood made everything seem far more ominous, dangerous, than before.
There was a brilliant flash of light, blinding in its intensity, and what it illuminated stole what little breath chimed in and out of lungs burning with exertion. Made strained muscles give out, knees collapsing under the sudden dead weight. Heartbeat sped up, body jerking from impact with the ground. Hands that shook rubbed at disbelieving eyes.
In all directions there were webs. Webs with intricate patterns. Webs with strands as thick around as a warrior’s thigh. Webs so small a fledgling’s teardrop was larger. Webs that glowed as bright as the sun at midday. Webs that were as sheer as gossamer. Webs that hummed. Webs that sang. Webs that were torn and half formed. And right in front of disbelieving eyes, one was being built, the first two strands completed. The spider-creatures sparing no attention for their audience, too focused on their task to care.
A trembling hand lifted towards those beautiful strands, colored like precious aquamarine gemstones but stopped when a voice that carried a resonance of thousands of others cautioned, “We would not touch that, were We you.”
He dropped his hand and looked over his shoulder at the one who spoke. Was glad he was already on the ground when his mind finally let him process what he was seeing. Because it just couldn’t be real. Fate wasn’t an actual thing, a god, it couldn’t be. But that sure as fuck is Fate’s Mark on that forehead… He swallowed dryly and bowed his head to that godly figure that stood tall and imposing but wasn’t intimidating; each movement containing an after-image, like an echo, each one taking longer to catch up to the main body than the one before it.
“My sincerest apologies, Honored One,” he whispered, not knowing what else to call it. After all only one race had ever borne Fate’s Mark and they were tight lipped about those who were Marked, let alone how they made manners to their Patron or referred to it.
“We are simply Fate, the first Multitude, the one from whom all Others were born,” They replied and his head shot up before he could stop himself. “Aye, Nhulynolyn Otherborn, it is We who lay claim to the Otherborn race.”
“But you god-Mark only the Storyteller race…”
They smiled, that eerie after-image flickering through a thousand replicas of that tiny, fond movement. It made his head swim to see it. Made him wonder which was the foundation that all the rest branched off from.
“That is true but the Storytellers are not Our children, merely the race to whom We taught the Way of Things.”
He just stared, unable to wrap his head around any of this. It was too much and in that moment, none of it was important.
“Where am I and why am I here?” It was never a good plan to question a god but he had just died saving his twin so he figured, just this once, he could be given a pass. Especially when facing off against his kind’s creator.
Fate chuckled, the sound echoing all around him, as if they were standing in a deep cave, one whose end was far into the darkness, lost to sight but still known. “You are in Our domain. And you are here because something is gravely wrong in the Worlds but We cannot walk with Our Chosen Children like We once could. But you can.”
“But…” he frowned and slowly pushed to his feet, looking around in wonder at the webs all around him and felt like fainting. “But I’m dead? Unless Rhys revives me from the in between, I cannot walk the Worlds again. Not until he dies an’ we are both reborn.”
“Aye, that would be true,” They agreed and smiled, showing perfect, white teeth that seemed at once dull and sharp, “were you merely a regular twin.”
“I don’t understand.”
Fate was suddenly inches from his face and he flinched back at Their sudden appearance but didn’t move away. “You are an Other and the laws that govern the living do not apply to you.” A hand with fingers that had three joints above the knuckle instead of the normal two reached out towards his face. Nhulynolyn stepped fully back before it could make contact on instinct, eyes wide at the sight of it. Fate chuckled again and dropped Their hand, seemingly unbothered by the insult of not being allowed to touch him. Which was nice, least he hadn’t been that rude. “That and your twin saw fit to give you something no Otherborn before you has been given.”
Nhulynolyn raised his eyebrows and made a well you gonna spill or just leave me in suspense expression. Fate laughed full and deep throated, the sound like thunder from a far off Storm, shaking the air all around him. The spider-creatures went still at the sound, all those eyes turning to look at Fate, like they’d never heard that sound come from the god before. He couldn’t judge them the reaction, after all he was disturbed and he didn’t share this place with Them.
“Oh, Nhulynolyn,” Fate waved that multi-jointed hand through the hair, tears sparkling at the corner of Their eyes as Their laughter faded slightly but didn’t stop completely. “We can see why Our brethren enjoy you so much.”
Do not bitch face at a god. Do not bitch face at a god.
“What did he give me?” he pressed when They didn’t continue right away.
Eyes that glittered like every single start in existence lived within those irises stared at him unblinking for another long moment before that voice comprised of the resonances of thousands answered, “You are kè just as much as he is.”
At least he wasn’t struggling to bitch face at a god anymore.