Haradeth hadn’t really thought much about the benefits of an active portal stone network. He’d been aware it had been only an instant to go from the Sylvani lands to the reactivated portal stone in the fortresses courtyard, but the impact of that hadn’t really stuck with him. Now that he was taking his mother halfway across the continent in a few steps – a journey he would have been hesitant to make in any other manner, given Lathariel’s newly vulnerable condition – it struck him that having the entire network up and running would completely reshape the kingdom. Fish from the coast could be brought inland without spoiling. Troops could be deployed to defend any part of the kingdom faster than even Alohym ships could travel.
That revelation, however, would have to be processed later. Right now, his mother needed help that only a psychotic automaton with a penchant for stabbing could provide.
Bix’s portal stone had been moved to allow entrance just outside her laboratory, instead of bringing people directly inside. The shimmering light faded to reveal the underbelly of the Sylvani’s massive city that had once been a ship. Lathariel gasped, and Haradeth smiled. He’d been similarly shocked when he first saw the gleaming steel halls, strange wires, and bizarre flameless light. Bix had talked about things like reactors and electricity, which Haradeth still thought was a strange way to speak of magic.
“Haradeth!” Lorathor said, standing up from the seat he’d taken outside of BIx’s laboratory. “I was wondering when you’d – oh.” It had taken the Sylvani a moment to recognize who Haradeth had brought with him. Immediately, Lorathor dropped into a low bow. “Lady Lathariel. You honor us with your presence. It is truely a blessing to see you ambulatory again.”
“Lorathor,” she said warmly. “I was wondering when I’d see you. Where…what is this?” she asked, looking around.
“You have a unique honor,” Lorathor said, “one fitting someone of your station. Welcome to our home.”
“This…this is Sylvanathame?” Lathariel’s eyes widened. “But…”
“There’s a lot the Sylvani have shared with me,” Haradeth said, gently cutting in. He could fill her in with the full details later, while Bix worked. “It’s quite the tale. But they Sylvani have fought the Alohym before. On another world. This city is the remnants of their last great ship.”
“Light and Shadow,” Lathariel whispered. “I never imagined.”
“We have kept this secret since before you were even born, your Divinity,” Lorathor said with characteristic smoothness. “We are finally being allowed to share it with the wider world. Our…goddess, Anoritia, has relaxed some restrictions.”
Haradeth couldn’t help but notice the hesitation before the word goddess. Lorathor had never fully recovered from the realization that his goddess was little more than a crystal lattice constructed to oversee entertainment and relaxation for the Sylvani as they journeyed across the stars.
“Lorathor…I need to see her,” Haradeth said. He felt for the Sylvani, he did, but anxiety was still clawing at his heart. He knew, intellectually, his mother being mortal at the moment did not mean she’d just drop over dead at any instant. Convincing his fears of that, however, was proving to be a nigh insurmountable task.
“She’s still working on Synit,” Lorathor said.
With everything that had happened, Haradeth had forgotten that Bix had said the reconstructive work on the poor woman, an inexpertly made fusion of alohym and human biology, would take time. How long had it been? Had he really just spoken to her yesterday? It felt like months. “Do you know how long -” Haradeth started to ask, but a voice came in from inside.
“I already finished!” Bix shouted. “Like, half a day ago. I just didn’t tell Lorathor because he wouldn’t let me stab him.”
Lorathor shrugged helplessly. “Well, that certainly-”
“Haradeth!” Bix either didn’t hear Lorathor speaking, or didn’t care. Knowing her, it could be either. “I heard a new voice out there. Can I stab her?”
“Possibly,” Haradeth shouted back, getting a rather perplexed look from his mother. He nodded reassuringly. “But only healing stabs.”
“Boring!” Bix shouted.
“I’ll let you give me a non-healing stab if you help her!”
Bix’s head popped out from under the scrap of cloth that served as a door, getting another startled gasp from Lorathor. The automaton was hardly threatening, with her perfectly round head and wide lenses that served as eyes, but it was strange to see metal moving and speaking. “You never lead with the important part. Why don’t you lead with the important part? Who are you?”
The last question was addressed to Lathariel. “I’m…Haradeth’s mother. You must be Bix.”
“Lathariel,” Bix said, nodding to herself as if she something had finally fallen into place. “Come in, then. Let me see if I can fix you and stab your son.”
Lathariel’s gaze hardened. “You should-”
“Mom,” Haradeth interjected before she could go on. “Bix and I have an understanding. With the stabbing. I promise I can explain later.” He wasn’t sure if he could keep that promise, but the last thing he wanted right now was for Bix to get testy and refuse to work on Lathariel.
“Very well,” Lathariel said, giving Haradeth a look that he’d known since he was a child. The “we’re going to have a talk later about this, young man” look. Even all these years later, it still made him feel oddly guilty, even if he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Bix lead them inside. Lorathor came too, although stayed near the door so he could slip away if Bix tried to stab him. The little automaton tapped a chair for Lathariel. “Sit.”
Lathariel’s forehead furrowed at the brusque tone, although she did take the seat.
“Bix is older than most of the Little Gods,” Haradeth said, frantically trying to smooth over the brewing anger under his mother’s eye. That seemed to do the trick, although the anger was quickly replaced with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.
“How have I never heard of you?” Lathariel asked.
“For the same reason most people never have,” Bix said. “All the Sylvani call me The Tarnished One.” Lathariel gasped and Bix nodded. “Oh, good, you have heard of me.”
“I thought you were some kind of…trickster spirit. A demon, perhaps.”
“Nah. No demons. They don’t walk around the mortal plane much, and got to wrapped up with the Severed World.” Seeing their confusion, Bix shook her head. “Nope. Not explaining that. Too much. Anyway. Lathariel, I need your blood.”
“You need…my blood,” Lathariel said, the words flat as she tried to figure out if she’d heard them correctly.
“Yes. Give.” Bix extended the arm on her back that ended in a long needle. “I promise you won’t miss it.”
“I…find that hard to believe,” Lathariel said, eyeing the needle carefully.
“Psh. You meat. So attached to your blood and organs. You have lots of blood so you can lose some and not die. I just want to take some of your blood. You’ll have plenty left over. But I need to look at it. Hold out your arm.”
It took some convincing from Haradeth, but Lathariel did, eventually, acquiesce and hold out her arm. Bix stabbed it with a motion like a striking scorpion, and Lathariel winced at the prick. “There we go,” Bix said. “Goddess blood. Excellent. Well, former goddess blood. You lost it, didn’t you?”
“How can you tell?” Lathariel asked.
Bix tapped one of her eyes. “I’m very good at seeing things. Things meat doesn’t see well.”
“Wait, if you can see so much, why did you need my blood?” Lathariel asked.
The gears in Bix’s mouth whirled as her smile widened. “I’m going to do science to it. See, you lost your divinity when you lost your core. Without that, no goddess. And you want me to fix that, but I can’t do that without a core. All you Little Gods…you need cores. But I have Haradeth’s blood to tell what he is with a core, I have your blood to show what you are after losing a core, and I have lots of human blood to show me what people without cores are like.” Bix gestured towards an immense vat Haradeth had noticed but never paid much mind to, until now. It was filled with a bright red liquid. It hadn’t occurred to him to even wonder about its contents. Now, however, with Bix’s gesture, Haradeth had concerns.
“Bix…where did you get that much human blood?” he asked.
Bix rolled her eyes. “From humans. Can’t exactly get human blood from cows, can I?”
“How many people did you drain blood from?” Haradeth asked, his voice rising in timber.
“More than you have,” Bix said. “Obviously. Otherwise you’d know how much. Now. Shhh. I was talking. The more you talk, the harder your non-medical stab gets.”
Haradeth closed his mouth.
“Anyway…there’s no way I can recreated a Godcore. Not with the materials I have on this world. We’d need a basic core to work with. But I can probably use the blood I have and my vast, impressive, wonderful, fantabulous knowledge to stop your aging. Probably. And then…you just need to defeat the Alohym, steal one of their ships, travel to another world, get me what I need, and then I can make something that won’t be a real Godcore but will be the next best thing. Enough where Haradeth won’t be constantly acting like you might break if you sneeze.”
“I…thank you,” Lathariel said, fighting back her questions.
“Nope,” Bix said. “Words are stupid and useless. I don’t want your thanks. I want you to do something for me.”
“I’ll be happy to lend what aid I can,” Lathariel said, choosing her words carefully.
“Good.” Bix gestured to the device on the side of the room. “Synit is going to wake up soon. She’s going to probably be all confused and either in a lot of pain and all ‘blah blah blah it hurts so much’ and leaking water like you meat do when you’re said, or she’s going to be all happy and feeling in less pain and then be all ‘bur bur bur, thank you so much.’ I want you to deal with her emotional stupidness, and I can deal with your broken blood, and then I can make sure I actually fixed her or see if need to stab her more. Deal with that and keep her out of my wires, and I’ll consider that thanks enough.”
Lathariel was more than happy to help with that. Haradeth smiled. That was his mother. Always willing to help strays. In fact, it made him-
“ARGH!” Haradeth shouted and dropped to one knee. A brief sensation of pain surged from his leg as something struck him in the back of the calf, causing him to drop reflexively. It wasn’t a deep cut, but it definitely wasn’t shallow enough to be ignored either.
Bix grinned and pulled the slender scalpel from his calf. “And now, your co-pay is accepted.”
Confused by Godcores? Well, this is part of the larger Coreverse. While I promise to explain what you need to know for Dragon’s Scion in the text of this story, so you won’t be lost if you only read this book, you can get far more in depth explanations about how they work on a world that has far more gods – specifically, Keldora. Why not pick it up? I bet you’ll enjoy it.