Intro/Chapter One: Aeimlou
What the Gods Gave Me
When a common raven gains the form of a god, he seems to be the only one not particularly concerned about that. And he's not the only one the universe has chosen. In their change, they will be forced to find the new meaning of their existence.
Figured I'd finally post something from the backlog, especially as that backlog continues to stretch and gets sadder the longer I take to throw it into the internet. And this is something I'm actually quite excited about, if somewhat meandering and unplanned. Feel free to criticize anything you'd like.
General CW for existentialism, near-death experiences, some gore and violence and swearing, self-esteem issues, general mental anxieties and general adult themes. If I'm missing anything, feel free to message me.
In a violent wave of new memories, a fickle little idea sang at him, passing by in a repeated blur as he stared at tangled strands of grass stuck with flecks of dirt.
A name. He should have one, for whatever reason. Aeimlou. He liked the sounds it made in his mind. The importance of this exercise blew past him like the passing of trees beneath his wings, but he’d never distrusted his gut before. It had let him survive many winters, beyond the weaker chicks and unlucky flocks.
A sudden coldness seeped over him at the image. He did not understand it.
Then his thoughts consumed him with the strangeness of his body. He had not been this thing the day earlier. And he did not comprehend the stream of information pouring through his mind
His talons had migrated to his chest, now clumsy and thin and instinctively tucked in. He had rounded and lengthened and grown to a size that would not lend itself well to perching on branches—he certainly could not imagine building a nest to his size. He had no legs and he mourned his wings. He kept his feathers, now black and white spread across a pointed snout rather than a beak. But his wings had been replaced by useless fins jutting straight from his back, those which former members of his flock perched on as he lay immobile on his stomach. His former flock made an awful racket, cawing and screeching at this new intruder.
He craned his neck to stare at the gathering. He had to tell them. He understood the message, a warning, a defending of territory. But they would not understand his meanings anymore. His mind supplied that to him as well, this sense of superiority to the ravens as a former brother darted into his vision and twisted its head with a detached curiosity that beaded also in his dark eyes.
The sounds he used to make would not come, his throat too odd and long. Something heavy in his chest sounded instead and the raven escaped in a burst of feathers.
Once again, something cold settled over him. Liquid pooled in his eyes.
He did not understand.
He did not understand.
Eventually, these pleadings dried into a trickle. He could think about things with the clarity of a still pond. His flock had left.
His flock had abandoned him.
They had realised he posed no threat and had grown tired of pecking him and fled into the trees, black flickering into green. They left him with a great rustling, a chorus of caws fading into the distance as the stinging of their pecks faded from his skin.
Aeimlou sighed. Instinctively. Then stopped to puzzle over the sound. He repeated it, coming to no conclusions except that his stomach ached in hunger.
Spending an atrociously long time trying to flap imaginary wings highlighted his predicament, however. And forced him to reach out with his new claws, digging them into the roots carpeting the forest floor and pulling himself along. His belly ached, feathers shedding as he grunted and dragged himself along. His fins, too, sent bolts of pain down their length every time they bumped up against a trunk. They were more sensitive than he expected.
Through all the grunting and moaning, eventually he rounded a shady grove and lucked upon a berry bush—with the small blue ones. He practically threw himself into it, shoving clawfulls of berries and leaves alike into his muzzle until he slumped into the grass, sticky and out of breath.
He preferred meat. Occasionally, the armoured orange creatures threw themselves from the river, flopping and gasping, offering themselves to his flock as a feast. Those gelatinous eyes were especially his favourite.
Berries were not meat, but they were food. And he enjoyed that these ones looked like eyes. They filled him, too. Their juices coated his face, a sickly sweet scent that also stuck to the grass and glued it to his mouth as he tried to raise his head. They made him warm and tired and longing for more. It gave him an appreciation for the new length of his neck, at least. He could stretch up to reach for more berries without moving from the forest floor, picking them between his teeth and grinding them into paste.
Another binge and that satisfying warmth overtook him, dampened his aching chest, and he slept in the bush.
He continued all through the next day.
Even with all these new thoughts, he failed to understand his next steps. Flight had left him grounded, but unlike other creatures, he had no legs to stand on.
His second night he spent watching stars in a gap through the trees, the darkness of fliers blotting them out on occasion. Unlike the plentiful stars, his bush had no more berries to give. The food no longer satisfied him, either. Instead, the stars crushed him. Another new feeling. One of uncertainty. The end of things and his helplessness to stop them.
He found himself breathing heavily, gasping like those dim orange creatures flopping on the banks.
Did they feel this, too, in the precious pink curls that spooled from their stomachs and into the beaks of his brothers?
Aeimlou did not feel inclined to leave the bush. He hungered. And thirsted—mouth so dry he struggled to peel his tongue from the roof as he opened it to whine.
All motive had left him. He did not know what to do, what he could do. Once, he might’ve ruffled his feathers and kicked up a fuss, but that nature no longer appealed to him. And he could not stop thinking about his flock. It served no purpose anymore; it should leave his mind as they left him to die on the forest floor, but that never happened. He could not forget.
He let the water pour from his eyes until he had no more to give, growing weaker each sunset. He watched creatures pass: some old rivals like the jays, and the predators. He had no name for them except predators. Back in his flock they tore through the forest with foreign powers, launching strikes at each other and ruining all the good perching spots. They either ate the weaker creatures or ignored them.
And now they avoided him, freezing at the edge of his vision with wide-eyed stares, shrinking and muttering lowly noises to themselves and turning back to where they came.
Even in his weakness, Aeimlou found a certain warmth in that. He must look intimidating. Certainly, he must be the largest creature in the forest now. He would die happy knowing this would be his territory. Regardless of whether he had the chance to defend it.
But, ah, that did not remain true for long.
The one who found him would be a… what would he call it? The ravens rarely concerned themselves with much, but the biped creatures with fleshy skin and furry heads were an exception. Certainly, they dominated the landscape. In their cube nests. But not nests. But nests: Aeimlou had no other words for them. They controlled the empowered creatures, too, with stiff hands to draw elements from them.
Unlike their empowered charges, they had a mixture of concern for the flock. Sometimes they chased them off and sometimes, in the green spaces between their nests, they palmed seeds and fruits for them to eat.
This one in particular had flowing white cascading from its shoulders, a large swirl of brown fur on its head and softer features than some Aeimlou had previously seen.
Aeimlou would have been concerned; he would have raised himself up, but he barely possessed the strength to slip his claws beneath his stomach. He settled for a shaky growl as it paused under the bow of a string tree. Green drew lines across its expression, though Aeimlou would’ve had difficulty interpreting the wide eyes and open mouth into a readable emotion anyway.
It murmured to itself. Something Aeimlou would not have appreciated before. The sounds startled him so much it took a moment to focus and realise he understood them.
“--Incredible! But so far from Hoenn? Goodness, it must have been a long flight, do I— can I come a bit closer?”
He understood them? He understood them. Though he did not understand the meaning. The creature’s voice had a pleasant lilt to it. Like the whistling through the trees, but with power behind it. A chorus, perhaps. It could be the novelty, but he would be happy to listen to that noise until he died.
In wondering, Aeimlou held unblinking eye contact for a very long time until he realised it had addressed him.
“Sorry, was I not loud enough? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable; may I approach you?”
Staring. More staring. It began to shuffle in place. Only then did he realise what he was missing.
Ah. He had to respond.
Aeimlou tried to imitate the sound, but his odd, dry mouth filtered it into something like a wheeze. It broke into coughs soon after.
“You seem to be struggling. Let me help.” It approached anyways, without answer—hands raised to the sky. This must be its territory for how bold it was. If true, Aeimlou supposed he must oblige. The best he could do was lay his head back on the grass, moaning as hunger flared in his stomach again.
“Alright, let’s get you untangled from these bushes.”
It spoke to itself as it worked, peeling thin branches away from Aeimlou’s bulky form. Truthfully, he wouldn’t have had an issue extracting himself, if not for the weakness.
“Odd colouration,” it mumbled, patting Aeimlou’s neck. Strange to feel the pressure and warmth press into his feathers. “Not consistent with other sightings in Hoenn. We’ve always thought there was only one of you, but this pokes holes in that theory, huh?”
Yes? These thoughts it shared were so complicated that Aeimlou could not tell how to respond. He tried not to break eye contact—difficult when it began circling him. He craned his neck backwards, but unfortunately could not fold himself in half.
It hissed once finished, showing teeth. Aeimlou blinked. Curious sound. That one he could imitate, pressing his teeth together and forcing his breath out through them.
It jumped back, both hands held out before it.
“Oh, sorry did I hurt you? I didn't mean that.”
How fun. He did it again. And again, watching its face harden. The creases around its brow deepened.
“Something’s wrong?” it asked. “Are you hungry? Thirsty? Can you move?”
Yes, yes, yes, no. He would like not to be here anymore. He would like to live.
Still, he had no way to express these things. So they sat. In their individual bubbles, watching across a boundary drawn in roots and long grass. It tilted its head, face scrunching up in what Aeimlou assumed was sickness.
“Nod your head for yes and shake for no. Do you understand that?”
Ah. Brilliant. He could do that. He repeated sluggishly, a wave of dizziness cresting over him as his chin skimmed the grass.
“Great. Good job. Now, hungry?”
“Can you move?”
Questions finished, it settled. The worry in its face did not.
But none of that mattered; Aeimlou had done it. He spoke! He warbled in delight, tired voice cracking. A warmth bloomed in his chest. One unlike hunger and the pain of dragging himself across the roots. The creature did not share that, instead making a low sound. Shaking its head.
Which, as he’d learned, means no.
“I don’t have anything for you out here, can I… hold on one second,” it said. It looked around, limbs drawn into its sides, one hand vanishing in its white. After a moment, it sighed and drew an object out from inside, holding it out in front of Aeimlou’s nose. Red on top, white on the bottom Some sort of orb, so perfect in its shape, in the separation of its colours, it could only have been made by the creatures.
The orb being in their possession was also compelling evidence to that fact, true. But it did not hurt to be thorough.
“I know you probably don’t like it but it’s the only way to get you out of the woods and back to Nuvema.”
The creature must have taken his stillness as permission because it shuffled forward until Aeimlou could see his own reflection spread in the polish.
And that became so much more fascinating than the object itself.
Aeimlou watched his new face, awed by this complete understanding. He twisted back and forth, the black arrow of his snout stretching and distorting as he moved. This was the fault of the orb, though. And he understood that. The world existed in so much more clarity than before.
He cooed happily as he continued, widening and narrowing his eyes, flexing the new muscles on his face. He opened his mouth and inspected the inside, all those sharp teeth like cliff stones. A much longer tongue now, too.
Then he discovered how wide his face could get as he moved closer.
Ignoring how much strain it put on his neck, he happily slid back and forth into his reflection, getting closer and closer until finally his nose met the cold hard metal and it sent a shiver down his body.
Which was not as shocking as when it cracked open at his touch.
He did not have the chance to wonder if he broke it before a violent flash of red overtook his vision. Then, nothing.