The Newcomer

10 minutes read

01-05-2024

Anodyne’s laugh echoed through the chunk of the forest he sat in as the deity in front of him looked up at him with large, doe eyes. Anodyne slowed to a chuckle and breathed out with a sigh of delight.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“No.”

There was a long pause as they looked at one another, neither giving the sign of speaking. Anodyne rolled their eyes as they grinned at themself.

“Look, my offer stands. I can offer you some chaos for your magic, but I am not giving you my heart. I am using that.”

“No… I will take both and be able to do some truly powerful magic with them.”

Anodyne went to speak but was cut off as his mouth was left ajar.

“I will also need three teeth, some hair and one of your arms. Although the arm is not for magic reasons. That is a more personal piece for myself, for secret things.”

“I mean, a whole arm without any magic? Surely, there is a little bit of magic with the arm, right?”

“A smidge maybe, but mostly for the hidden reason.”

“You drive a hard bargain. I can already see some issues with your request. But you have not even told me what I get from this or who you are. As a matter of fact, you have sat down in front of me with these wild demands for the purpose of magic and no explanation of what I get or even an introduction.”

“Well, as far as I have heard, you don’t care much for names, or who others are, and as for the return, you will see. Well, you will get progression.”

Anodyne leaned forward as he squinted at the newcomer, his black eyes with silver cross pupils covered by his eyelids so much that they appeared as silver lines.

“What do you mean progression?”

The newcomer chuckled to themself and rolled backwards on the grass.

“I like what you have done with this area of space. These chunks of land floating around, with a forest growing through them, are very dreamlike.”

“It is a memory from one of my mortal lives. It brings back strange feelings of almost memories back to me. Like being on the cusp of solving something or having a mental itch that is on the precipice of being scratched. And it is that sensation that I like to farm when I am not doing anything.”

“It is whimsical in a very macabre-ly beautiful way. I like how the trees all look like they are dying, even though I can sense they are alive and striving. You are a bit cliche about your taste, do you know that? Little dark, brooding baby in their spooky forest.”

Anodyne’s face drooped slightly, and his tone shifted. He spoke with a deeper voice and lost any jovial vocal pattern he had.

“You avoided the question, what is progression?”

Anodyne reiterated. His eyes focused on the newcomer with a dwindling patience. The newcomer stood up with a hand outstretched.

“Come, I’ll show you what it means, and if you are not convinced by the end, I will leave with nothing.”

Anodyne cautiously reached out a hand to the newcomer, who lurched forward and grabbed it suddenly. Then, they were both gone, leaving the floating chunks of forest to wither in the cold of space without Anodyne’s powers to protect them.

As the two of them arrived back in a physical reality, Anodyne dropped to their knees, vomiting. Their hands gripping the dirt of the new location, their whole body lurched as their elbows buckled slightly; catching himself, he fell to his side as he continued to vomit a strange icker that bubbled on the soil.

The newcomers cooed slightly as they leaned down. Scooping up the bile with their hands, they poured it into a vile and sealed it with cork and wax.

“We will come back to this later; a few hundred years should help it reach its triple point where we can siphon some truly unique energy.”

“What have you done to me? Where are we?”

“You get an answer to one question. Choose.”

Anodyne growled on the ground as he stood from his knelt position.

“You don’t get to tell me what I get,” Anodyne said as he stood tall beside the newcomer. “I take what I want.”

The newcomer watched as Anodyne swayed gently as he stood, his eyes losing focus and then refocusing over and over as he stared them down.

“I took you to my home, and we are at my home. You are feeling ill because we have stepped into a dimension you have never been in before; it can be jarring to come here for new deities. It is beyond comprehension for most, even those like you.”

“Like me?” He said with a sneer.

“Yeah, those who dream to exceed expectations. But I am curious, what drives you to push yourself this hard in the face of something greater than you?”

“I don’t see anything greater than me. I see a worm with a parlour trick; a moment of misdirection is nothing more than a trick of power. It is not real power.”

The newcomer grinned uncontrollably, stepping closer to Anodyne. They stared.

“And what is real power?”

“Real power,” Anodyne said, face twitching in pain. “Is to have the ability to never lose, and I never lose!”

The newcomer clicked their tongue and rolled their eyes.

“I expected more; try harder,” they said jovially, snatching a few strands of hair from Anodyne’s head. They stepped off. “Come along; we have many others to meet.”

Anodyne lurched forward reluctantly, stepping slowly behind. Their pace sped up as their body slowly returned to normal. They stared at the newcomer, who seemed to prance forward more profoundly into the landscape without an issue. Just as Anodyne felt as if their head was beginning to straighten out, they suddenly felt a sensation of weightlessness. Holding back the urge to vomit, they looked up to see the newcomer standing still, leaning over and grinning as Anodyne fell to the ground. His breathing was rapid and shallow, his vision swirled, and he struggled to focus on anything.

The image of the newcomer grinning stuck in their mind; it was burned into their mind, the only thing able to last in his muddled mind.

“It is hard to think, isn’t it? It is overwhelming at first, but after you have passed out a few times, you should learn to cope with the feelings of this new dimension.”

Anodyne lay on the ground, drooling as he struggled to close his mouth. He could feel the dirt rubbing against his jaw as his body moved with every bit of breath.

The newcomer stood above Anodyne, waiting patiently for him to pass out.

“Come on, are you really going to drag this out? It will go much quicker if you just succumb.”

“I, do, what, I want,” Anodyne said through slurred speech and droopy eyes.

Slowly, they stood until they were at eye line, their vision nearly black. They fell to the ground and fell from consciousness.

When they came to, they were lying in a large bed of ferns, their heads spinning but their brains free from fog. Their vision still blurred as they watched a sea of strange shadows interact in a way that made him feel like they were talking about him. How the shadows would face one another and then look down at him filled him with rage.

“I can’t believe you brought this one here.”

“You don’t understand; this one is different.”

“I don’t you understand how much we value what we have here, just for you to bring a stranger into our world. How do we know they will not cause damage?”

“We don’t, but something they offer freely is chaos, and I intend to take as much of it as I can while it is on tap.”

“That is not enough to risk our home.”

“For me, it is more than enough.”

Anodyne passed out again; this time, they awoke already standing, looking out over a lake.

“Where am I?”

“You are at one of our lakes.”

The newcomer said, standing next to Anodyne. Anodyne breathed deeply, smelling the sweetness in the air. He turned slowly, watching as his vision blurred at the corners.

“How did I get here?”

“You walked, still unconscious. It was quite impressive, actually.” They said with a smirk as they stared at Anodyne through the side of their eye.

“How does it feel?”

“How does what feel, Anodyne?” The newcomer said with a grin and beaming eyes.

“Knowing you are stronger than me,” Anodyne said as they turned from the environment back to the newcomer. “But wishing you weren’t.”

The newcomer opened their mouth slightly to protest, and their tongue rolled over their teeth before they closed their mouth again. Shrugging, they smiled.

Anodyne looked back at them with their head tilted down and their eyes aimed up at the newcomer’s eyes. The newcomer watched as Anodyne slowly raised his hand to his mouth, grasping a tooth he slowly pulled on. The flesh tore, and a suction noise escaped his mouth as the tooth held on to the gum. He threw the tooth on the ground as he spoke.

“You said that you needed three of my teeth. Anodyne looked down at the tooth as his tongue ran through the gap. “These are not my original teeth; those were torn from me by another.”

The newcomer stared at the blood dripping from Anodyne’s lips, transfixed.

“Mhm. They said, lost in thought.

Anodyne raised his hand to another tooth and methodically pulled it out, dropping it to the ground.

“I was held down by these fungal monsters, the underlings of another deity. A deity that was more corpse than being, he spoke with spores flooding from his rotted jaw.”

The newcomer licked their lip slowly as a solid stream of blood drooled from Anodyne’s mouth.

“I traded my full set of teeth for an item that helped me reclaim my world, my Hollow. A world that had been taken by another usurped in my absence. But despite being in a position where I did not have enough power to defeat them, I took back my world. I was beaten, but I did not lose.”

The newcomer felt Anodyne’s hand on their chin, dragging their eye line up from his mouth to his eyes. They stared at one another as she could hear Anodyne rip the third tooth from his mouth and the sound of it falling to the soft soil below.

“I have had my eyes burned from my skull, my body ripped apart, my body inhabited by strange things, crushed inside black holes, died on repeat for millennia, merged with an angel of a thing that is beyond comprehension. I have been put in my place time and time again. But I will never lose or give up, and you are nothing more than another obstacle in my way, something for me to surpass.”

“Mhm, The newcomer said as they pressed themself into Anodyne’s hand.

“Pick up the teeth, and tell me, what is your name?”

The newcomer locked their eyes with Anodyne’s as they knelt on the ground. Picking up the teeth, they stood with a grin.

“I will give you my name, but I still need that arm.”