Super Dungeon: A Council of the Gods
This theme reveal was written by Alice L., Theme Master of Super Dungeon 2022.
At night, the city of Nidor was an unexpectedly lively place. Bars along the pier and in the city were packed with sailors and overworked interns alike, and the loud, bawdy noise of these establishments carried far and wide.
Sitting atop the highest spire in Nidor, a little Kenku child swung his feet back and forth as he contemplated the lights of the city and the teeny tiny animalfolk scuttering back and forth below him. Punkiedory, as he was once called, was definitely, 100% not allowed to be here – if anyone saw him, he’d absolutely be shouted at. But alas, people rarely look up, so here he was.
And oh, what a view he had! The city spread out below him like a tapestry, so similar yet different from the place he remembered. Now, steel and copper encircled the trees along with vines and wood, steam spurted from valves and mingled with the smoke from sacrifices, and the clanking of machinery was as common as the gentle clinking of bone wind catchers. Yet Nidor was still Nidor, Bracorax was Bracorax, and he would stand by them until the end of days.
The end of days… With a small frown, Punkiedory turned his eyes up from the luminous city to the inky sky above. He quickly picked out the familiar constellations – the crow, the tortoise, the scales, all complete. Yet four – the water bearer, fire eater, earthshaker, and airbender – were missing stars.
The rift was still there, he thought dejectedly. The gash in the sky had been there for over a week at this point. Though it hadn’t been growing, or spitting something out, or doing much of anything at all, he didn’t like the rift. It made him uncomfortable. And more importantly, nobody, mortal or divine, seemed to know why it had appeared.
A flutter of wings at the edge of the Punkiedory’s vision shook him out of his musings. Looking down, he saw that a sleek black crow had landed next to him. Ah. He wondered what was the matter. Ever since he’d gotten ungrounded, he’s usually allowed to go out and about as he pleases.
“Hello sister!” He gave a cheerful little wave to the crow. “It’s rare to see you here these days. Do you need something?”
Though the bird didn’t open its mouth at all, he heard the reply all the same, reverberating directly into his brain. “A council has been called. Your presence is requested.” Punkiedory cocked his head a little. That was weird. His sister’s voice sounded…well, not quite anxious, but tinged with something of that sort. This must be serious then. Still, he felt the need to liven the mood.
“Requested? Or ordered?”
The crow didn’t give him the dignity of an answer, instead side-eyeing him before dissolving into the blackness of the night. With a sigh, Pupsilludo stood up and stretched. Of course he knew that the gods never made requests. And if even he had been called, this must be an assembly of all the gods – something that almost never happened.
When Pupsilludo stepped through to the plane designated for the meeting, he found the rest of the pantheon already present, exchanging pleasantries. Oops. He wondered how long his sister had spent looking for him – and how long the meeting had been delayed. Ah well. At least he was here now. He discreetly made his way toward his siblings, stopping only to wave at Tor Avitpaxu, the tortle god being the only one that noticed he had slipped in.
“Is everyone here now?” Bcaesorr’s voice rang out above the soft murmur of side conversations among the gods. Nobody answered, but the gathering quieted. The question was rhetorical, of course. Though the milky-eyed god was blind, Bcaesorr had a better idea of what was going on around him than most people with eyes do – a fact that has cost Pupsilludo many times. “Excellent. I trust you all know why we are here today?”
Vicnaritas was the first to speak, his horse tail flicking as he readjusted his four hooves. “That rift in the sky, right? I regret to inform you that I have no knowledge on what it is. The greatest mortal researchers can only come up with theories too.”
“Yes, what is that thing?” Lucretor jumped in, sounding quite frazzled. The rings on his claws shimmered alluringly as he waved his hands around, and Pupsilludo had to focus really hard in order to not be distracted by the shininess. “Whatever it is, it’s driving some mortals rather crazy with worry – can you imagine how that’s affecting the economy?”
“That’s what we’re asking.” Sidastrea’s voice rang in everyone’s head, sounding vaguely annoyed by Lecretor’s outburst. Dark eyes flashing, she continued, “Now, do any of us have an idea, or are we just as clueless as our followers?”
“Well,” Tor Avitpaxu raised one gnarled hand, though there’s no need. “I may have some inkling of what it’s about.” With everyone’s attention on him, he continued. “You see, the river of time has been acting a bit…strange since that rift’s appeared. Sometimes it’ll show images from Ritenus, but other times it shows strange beings – featherless, scaleless, and hairless, except on their heads.”
Pupsilludo felt his beak drop open involuntarily. Whaaattttt???? He had never even heard of such beings – and he was no silly mortal, he was a god! Was the river really malfunctioning? But why? It wasn’t as if anything they did affected the river anyways – it was far older than even Tor Avitpaxu.
“So you think the rift is somehow manipulating time itself?” Though it was hard to read the half-mechanical god, Charchaeon sounded skeptical at best. “Why would anyone do that?”
Tor Avitpaxu shrugged. “I’d love to know the answer to that, just like you. But if I had to guess…doesn’t it feel a bit like her?” Though he avoided saying the name, only Charchaeon, Lucretor, and Wilehelion looked confused. Pupsilludo knew everyone else understood what he meant.
Next to Pupsilludo, Sidastrea visibly flinched, feathers ruffled. “Even if it does, it cannot be her. Yl is long dead. We established that 238 years ago, no matter what some stubborn mortals continue to believe.”
“Now, now,” Tor Avitpaxu waved his hand, dispersing the tension. “I never said it was her, only that the rift feels a bit like her. And you need not feel so guilty. She did it willingly, if I recall.”
“…perhaps.” Sidastrea did not appear to be significantly reassured though. Watching her slightly slumped form, Pupsilludo vowed to ambush her with a hug later.
Noticing his sister’s clear agitation, Bcaesorr redirected the conversation. “So time may be messed up. Is there anything else we can discern? Or is this the work of a power greater than even us?”
A chorus of nos and shaking heads met his question, and Pupsilludo felt his stomach drop. However, he’s distracted from his growing feelings of dread by the ever chipper voice of Wilehelion.
“Well, even if we don’t know much now, we’ll probably know some stuff soon. I’ve heard the mortals have some plan to investigate the rift.” Here, he paused, tapping one finger against his chin. “I think they want to shoot some people through with a contraption of some sort? Quite ingenious, if you ask me!”
Incredulous silence met Wilehelion’s sudden proclamation. The Phoenix finally broke it, flaming wings flaring in disbelief. “You mean to say that the mortals are planning to shoot their own through a mysterious rip in the sky that no one, not even us, has any idea about?”
“Yup!” Wilehelion seemed almost satisfied with the fact, but even Pupsilludo had his doubts about the mortals’ sanity at this point. He could tell that the plan was probably a very, very bad idea – and he was practically famous for making questionable decisions! It would be a minor miracle if it actually succeeded the way the mortals were planning. From the anxious murmurs all around him, Pupsilludo could tell the rest of the gods shared his views.
But once again, Tor Avitpaxu restored the meeting to order. “Though I’m sure we can all agree that the mortals are quite mad, we must consider their circumstances. What else can they do? The rift is a mystery they must solve, and if even we cannot assist they must take matters into their own hands. Let us wait and see. Perhaps we may yet learn something new.”
The gods continued to deliberate, some arguing for the mortals’ plan, others wanting to stop them, fearing the potential repercussions. Pupsilludo, however, quickly lost interest. He knew the passive-aggressive arguing would amount to nothing fruitful anyway – it rarely did. And no one really cared about his opinion anyways. Most of the gods still thought he was a little kid. Instead, Pupsilludo let his eyes wander discreetly over the demiplane all around him, looking for something more interesting. Unfortunately, the place was dreadfully plain and boring – no trees to climb, no clouds to stare at, no rocks to hide behind. It must have been one of those weird pocket places that simply existed, with no god to shape it into some other form. Everywhere was the same, the same, the same – except for there!
Wait, what? Pupsilludo squinted at the spot where the air was…jiggly, but the abnormality remained. So he wasn’t imagining things. Probably. But that still didn’t explain why the air was jiggly in that spot, wavery and fluctuating. Pupsilludo wanted to investigate so badly, but he also didn’t want to get caught. Being grounded was not his idea of a fun day, thank you very much.
He discreetly looked back to assess his chances. The conversation had shifted from civility once again, and at least half of the gods were busy trying to convince Lucretor that the state of the financial market should probably not be their main concern at the moment. All in all, they were thoroughly not paying attention to him.
Excellent. With quick, careful steps, Pupsilludo sidled over to the aberration. It was situated at just about his eye level and only the size of his wing. He could see through it perfectly fine, but everything behind it was weird and distorted. Also, even though it was jiggly and wavery, it seemed to be stuck to the spot it currently was in. Huh. Pupsilludo wondered how it would feel if he touched the thing – was it as incorporeal as it looked? But he also knew that he probably shouldn’t – after all, who knew what kind of weird thing it would do to him! Pupsilludo was impulsive, not stupid, so he pulled out a rock from his pocket and carefully tossed it at the patch of air first. Much to Pupsilludo’s surprise, the rock disappeared as soon as it hit the abnormality, vanishing before his eyes.
Wha??? Now Pupsilludo was really interested. Drawing close to the aberration, he carefully stuck the tip of his wing into it, watching as it disappeared. Though he could no longer see his feathers, he could still feel them…being tickled by a light breeze? There was no breeze here though. Fascinated, Pupsilludo stuck his wing further and further in, wiggling his feathers around on the other side. Maybe this was a portal of sorts? Unfortunately, he probably didn’t have enough time to figure out where it led – he’d have to investigate more thoroughly later.
Going to pull his wing out and return to the meeting, Pupsilludo found that there was a slight problem. His wing was stuck. He yanked harder, but still couldn’t seem to get free – in fact, it seemed as though something was actively tugging him on the other side.
Oh no no no no no! Valiantly, Pupsilludo tried to brace himself against the floor and yank his wing back, but it was too late. With a floomp! he disappeared. Pupsilludo was gone.