Ronda is a merfolk of bizarre appearance and with a wild personality. A self-described "master conjurer," Ronda is often content to stand at the back of any battlefield and allow her minions to do her dirty work. Unpredictable and greedy, Ronda desires nothing less than the finest things in life, the most powerful of minions, and to show everyone that life would be better if they were all under the sea. Recently, Ronda has ascended as a demon lord after absorbing the power of Dagoff.
- 1 Rolling in the Deep
- 2 Conjurer on the surface
- 3 Lost in the First World
- 4 Ongoing Magical Studies
- 5 Magister and Maid
- 6 The Reemergence of the Conquerer
- 7 The Rainbow of the Ocean
- 8 Journey to Babel
- 9 The Awakening
- 10 Tarrasque Hunting
- 11 The Shadow of the Sea
- 12 Losing Herself
- 13 Personality
- 14 Appearance
- 15 Relationships
- 16 Companion Master List
- 17 Short Stories
- 18 Themes
Rolling in the Deep
Ronda was born in Thalassa, an underwater domain that is welcoming to all different walks of life. Thalassa, however, did not exist in the world on Babel, but actually came from a different dimension. While Ronda considers herself a merfolk, it is undeniable that her appearance stands out even among her own king. Though her mother was a merfolk, her father was an Adaros with black and white skin that he gave to his daughter. With the skin of a shark, the tailfin of a merfolk, and the coloring of an orca whale, Ronda is a being many thought was only possible through the wonders of shapeshifting. Thankfully, Thalassa was a city relatively free of xenophobia, and though she always felt different, Ronda felt that this was just all the more reason that she was special.
While Ronda's appearance made her stand out, it was her personality that drew the most attention. Ronda was...a terrible child to raise. Endlessly curious, energetic, and a big enough ego to match any of the actual rulers in their city, Ronda was, for lack of a better term, a "brat." Her parents soon learned that there was no secret they could hide from their adventurous daughter. Any book they brought into their home was soon read. Anytime they told her to stay away from a place, they would find her there the next day. And so when her parents made the mistake of mentioning the surface world in her presence, they knew it was only a matter of time until their daughter journeyed there before she was considered ready.
And they were right. No matter how her parents watched over her, Ronda always found a way to sneak from their home and eventually begin exploring the surface. Of course, life on the surface was difficult, especially when you did not generally have legs, and so Ronda was eventually forced to return to Thalassa in search of a solution to her problem. It was there that her parents finally found a way to get her to stay...
Studying magic. With the promise of eventually being able to go to the surface world, Ronda was enrolled in one of Thalassa's many magical schools where her curiosity once again came in handy. Her teachers remarked that they would find her studying at all hours of the day, often reading through tomes of magic intended for far more advanced students. Though Ronda dabbled in a myriad of magic, they found that she had two specialties: conjuration and divination. Whether it was scrying for information on her enemies or calling upon outsiders to aid her in her studies, Ronda showed promise quickly as a wizard. It was during this time that she formed a longer-lasting bond with one of her companions, Roxanne...
Conjurer on the surface
Once Ronda became old enough to graduate from her training, she continued to show a desire to explore the surface world...a request her parents soon acknowledged that they had to accept. And so, with her powerful companion Roxanne in tow, she began to go on adventures more frequently on the surface. While she was still a novice compared to the more experienced wizards and adventurers, her talents were enough to get her a few good missions, many of which involved the fighting of local goblins that had been terrorizing folks. Perhaps most impressive, however, was her companion Roxanne. Whether it was because of her sense of humor or a sense of Thalassian pride, all of Ronda's somehow resembled other sea creatures. Roxanne was no exception, taking on the appearance of a "giant enemy crab" with strong appendages and a tower shield in hand.
Roxanne is strong, stern, and always serious. Though she is generally short on words, her straightforward thinking often allows her to speak the truth even when others deny it. Furthermore, she has the attitude and demeanor of a knight, at least when it comes to protecting her master Ronda. She is typically found holding her tower shield high and placing herself between the wizard and those who would threaten her up close. While Roxanne admires Ronda for her intelligence and charisma, Ronda admires Roxanne for her peerless strength and powerful body. The two have a strong working relationship, and though Ronda is fond of all of her summons, treating them more like sisters than servants, her bond with Roxxane is perhaps the strongest given the time they have been together.
As Ronda had new experiences as an adventurer, she soon found herself in need of more help. While she was capable of bringing Ronda back from the dead should she pass away, it was often hard to tend to her companion in the heat of battle. While she was capable of learning healing magic, she often found that her team benefited more from her focusing on doing as much damage as possible with her magic. And so, a new companion was needed...the healer Quip! Part-girl, part-squid, all pocket healer, Quip is a companion completely and utterly devoted to healing. Completely innocent, Quip is often surprised by the antics of Ronda and some of her more...adventurous friends and has only recently learned how to swear at people, much to the surprise of her allies. Whenever they need healing and the rest of the party was occupied, Quip always made time for her friends.
It was during one of these later quests that Ronda met her first girlfriend Falenas. During her journey to the land of the elves, she found an elven hunter that she wanted to spend more time with even after their journey was done. In some ways, Falenas reminded her of Roxanne with a strong and noble personality. However, Falenas was also a beautiful elf as attractive to Ronda on the battlefield as she was in private. The two became traveling companions and, in time, found themselves working together on a more dangerous mission than either one of them had taken part in before.
Lost in the First World
It wasn't even an official mission where Ronda found herself in the most danger she had ever been in. She was staying at an inn with her girlfriend Falenas, Grok the Orc, a large man named Volundr, Sasha the monk, and Meva, the woman in a large hat, when they heard that help was needed nearby. Together, the adventurers came to the aid of a stranger who was being attacked by fey. Just when it seemed as though the danger had been taken care of, however, more fey appeared, hopelessly outnumbering them and keeping them surrounded before, suddenly, a portal appeared out of nowhere. Unsure of how it got there, the adventurers took the only escape they had available and entered the First World. With all of them being novices, however, there was no easy way out. They were, for all intents and purposes, trapped. And unfortunately, the First World quickly proved to be a very dangerous place full of terrifying monsters and hostile fey. However, even in the face of such danger, there was a joy to be had. While she never wished to be trapped there against her will, Ronda found herself enjoying her time in the First World if only because it was a new place for her to explore. And there were many wonderful treasures to be found in the First World, from fields of gems, caves full of gold, and dragons, with some being far more beautiful than others. It was one such dragon where Ronda got in trouble for unknowingly touching part of her horde, and only worsened her situation by flirting with her (which got her in trouble with her girlfriend).
Now, however, their task has become more serious. Though some of the details are lost on her, Grok, their team's "Paladin," had been seeing visions that a woman with red hair was in terrible danger. While Ronda was more interested in escaping or trying to profit from the situation than save this woman out of the goodness of their hearts, the rest of her companions felt a strong need to save her...and she knew that she would not last long on her own. Now, they have ventured into the domain of Mab herself, trying to save the woman before something terrible happens to them. Even being trapped in the First World, however, has not stopped Ronda in her studies. Knowing that a new companion might be useful, one focused on destroying foes from afar and sneaking, she soon found her way to Sierra, a being with the sharp teeth and diet of a shark. Her wild and unpredictable personality is nearly a match for Ronda's, though the conjurer in question usually has the intelligence necessary to say when trouble is better off avoided. A master of throwing weapons, Sierra is skilled at destroying the enemies of her master from a safe distance before they even see her coming.
Ongoing Magical Studies
Throughout her adventures and even in the perils of the First World, Ronda's studies have continued. Her primary mode of attack is destruction magic, particularly those involving the use of living crystals. Ronda's skills as a conjurer combine with her skills with destructive blasts to create an entirely new threat. Whenever she wills it, Ronda's blasts leave behind a residue of crystals that resemble diamonds, rubies, and other gemstones, except they move. These crystals latch onto any enemy without the reflexes needed to move away, keeping them stuck to the ground while Ronda's companions finish the job. She is still searching for new ways to make use of this magic and ways she can use it to debilitate her foes.
Her primary magical interest, which has become something of an obsession for the merfolk, is the Protean race. Beings of chaos hailing from the Maelstrom and Limbo, the Protean are beings who are absolutely fascinating to Ronda. Herself a chaotic creature by nature, she has begun to fall in love with any descriptions of the Maelstrom she finds in her studies. Uncharted planes that have gone untouched even by the gods themselves, Ronda longs to go to a world that is ever-changing regardless of how much she explores it. While she is still a novice, Ronda is currently studying ways of potentially traveling to the Maelstrom and perhaps even making contact with a Protean through her summoning.
Though existing knowledge is rare, Ronda has begun to study more about the Protean gods, otherwise known as the Speakers of the Depths. Though worshipers of the Speakers are rare among those who are not Proteans, Ronda has done all she could to research these beings. To one day be recognized as one of their followers and perhaps even call upon their aid when she needs it would be a dream come true for her.
Another project Ronda has been working on is her ongoing study of the individuals who claim to be from another timeline. As a conjurer, Ronda has considerable knowledge of the planes and where her companions come from. The idea of another world, similar to but separate from our own has become an obsession of hers, and she has taken detailed notes on these individuals and their experiences as well as where they first appeared in our world. Where will this research lead? It is impossible to predict. Ronda doubts that this alternate timeline can ever be reached again, but if one thing can be said for sure about magic, it is that nothing is for sure.
Magister and Maid
As her magical powers grew and she became more involved in dangerous missions, Ronda began to make connections with those in power. In particular, she sought out Quill Payori, a wizard whose crafting skills were well renowned, and asked him for an apprenticeship. In Ronda’s mind, the only way she was going to become stronger was by working with someone who had more experience than her. Unfortunately, that experience was not all she expected it to be. While Quill was a very kind wizard, he had little knowledge to offer in regards to the magic Ronda specialized in, and the position mostly gave her the opportunity to practice and hone her skills in a space where her power could be contained were they to become difficult for her to control. Furthermore, he always referred to those who worked with him as maids, and as adorable as her outfit was, she couldn’t help but find it somewhat demeaning.
Ronda’s ambitions, however, were not quelled by her tutelage from Quill Payori. Instead, they only grew. As a child, Ronda had a difficult time living in Thalassa. Many of her fellow citizens regarded her as little more than a predator or monster because of the Adaros blood flowing through her veins and her unique appearance. However, she always wanted to hold a position of importance in order to prove to them (and perhaps herself) that she was worthy of such a position regardless of what she looked like. As such, she made it known that she was vying for the position of Magister, and after displaying her abilities to the powers that be, was offered the position.
Since then, Ronda has lived a complicated life with her time being occupied in multiple places at once. Were it not for her mastery of teleportation magic, such a life would most likely have been entirely impossible for her. Juggling the roles as Quill’s apprentice, Magister of Thalassa, and experienced adventurer was exhausting for Ronda. To add on to her stress, she had a difficult break-up with Falenas, who was not as loyal to their relationship as Ronda was. Heartbroken and exhausted, many would described Ronda as a being who seemed overwhelmed and exhausted.
Ronda did, however, continue working on her conjuration abilities, and was at this time that she made contact with a new pair of outsiders. The first was Mako, an eel who was skilled at grappling her foes, and who was specifically trained to assist Ronda in the formal gatherings often required of her as a Magister. Inspired by Quill’s maids, Mako speaks with the dignity of a proper servant who was comfortable around those of royal lineage...though she has been known to enjoy “wrestling” certain individuals a bit too much.
The second companion was Koi. As her missions became more challenging and she was faced with an often overwhelming number of foes, Ronda found that it was difficult for her to both manage her magic and provide direction to the companions who looked to her for guidance. Because of this, Ronda made contact with Koi, a small outsider with a body reminiscent of a goldfish. With a strong attention to detail and a bossy attitude, Koi is typically riding with Ronda in her satchel, taking notes on any important meetings she has and issuing tactics at a moment’s notice during combat.
There was, however, one big bright spot during this time for Ronda. She found herself becoming smitten with a half-elf named Clara. Always fascinated by these individuals who claimed to be from a timeline separate from but similar to their own, Ronda found herself beginning to think about Clara frequently. She was kind, brave, and loyal to her friends, and there was a surreal beauty about her that made her eyes linger longer than they should. During a chance meeting, Ronda asked her on a date, and to her surprise, she said yes!
What does the future hold for Ronda? There are many possibilities. Quill’s disappearance has brought with it opportunity. Insulted and a bit annoyed that Quill did not think of her when handing out his belongings, she has found that his mansion has been inherited by another, and is actively annoyed by this fact. Her hatred for the Thii has continued to grow, particularly after one event in which the Thii kidnapped Roxanne, forcing her to go on a harrowing rescue operation to free her. Her ambitions continue to grow, and she has begun to look beyond Thalassa and actively consider the possibility of starting her own kingdom.
The Reemergence of the Conquerer
As her power has grown, so too has Ronda's influence in otherworldly affairs. Ronda has become regarded as a very capable summoner and diviner, whose talents are often called upon both for adventuring parties and other types of investigations. In one particular instance, when the Shogun of Yoku, Hoku, was slain, Ronda was called in (albeit in disguise) to investigate the murder. Whereas other methods failed, Ronda's ability to see through time allowed her to catch the killer in the act. Though Ronda was not personally involved in the case, she revealed the identity of the killer to the authorities.
It was around this time that one of the greatest threats to Thalassa and its safety would emerge. His name was Ryker, a powerful Adaros who had become known as the conqueror of the deep. Most importantly, however, she was Ronda's father. Ronda barely knew the man, and given his history of cruelty and warfare, she preferred to keep it that way. Unfortunately, Ryker's lust for power would bring him back into conflict with his daughter. Eventually, Ryker would be defeated by other adventurers, and though Ronda had willingly chosen not to take part in the battle, she was pleased to learn that her father had fallen. The many Adaros warriors who followed her father would, in time, become to regard her as their true ruler, furthering Ronda's ambitious plans to eventually start her own kingdom. This time was not full of only bloodshed and strife for Ronda. She also met a new summoned companion, a Protean Izfiitar by the name of Izzy, who was fiercely loyal to Ronda. Though something of an airhead, Ronda typically regards Izzy as a pet, despite her rambunctious nature and insatiable appetite. Izzy is unpredictable and dangerous, but she is loyal to her master above all else.
The Rainbow of the Ocean
With her powers growing, and a new army of loyal followers, Ronda ascended to a demigod. She became known as the Mistress of the Tide, a deity of summoning and the ocean. However, the biggest change was yet to come, when she was asked to assist in the construction of a ship that could survive traveling the Maelstrom. The ship itself was covered in Prismatic Walls, and after spending an extended amount of time within these magical structures, her body became infused with their power. Now, her body changes color accordingly. Ronda had always been somewhat ashamed of being different, but now, she stood out in a crowd even more.
Along with the Blood War came something new. For the first time, Ronda was in love. Her relationship with Clara continued to grow, and during a chance encounter with Sarenrae, she asked for her blessing in order to propose. The
deity granted her request, and after a date to another world, Ronda would propose to Clara near the planet's ocean. The half-elf would accept, and now the two are engaged.
In time, Ronda would begin the construction of a new city as part of the empire of Tidal. With many of her closest friends serving on her council, Ronda would found a city by the sea, one where aquatic creatures could intermingle with those on land in peace. The studies of magic and art were the primary focuses of the city, and for some time, Ronda was never happier. She settled down, had children, and slowed her adventuring schedule to focus on building her family and a new home for themselves.
However, nothing lasts forever.
Journey to Babel
Ronda had two children, Rhea and Zelus, a boy and a girl. Ronda and her wife agreed to raise their children in a timeless demiplane, deciding to expose them to the real world when they were ready. There, Ronda taught them magic and other scholarly studies, while Clara taught them how to fight. However, despite their intentions of keeping them safe in a controlled environment, something went...awry.
Ronda is still unsure of what happened. Perhaps it was the result of chaotic and wild magic going awry. Perhaps it was part of the plot of some villain determined to break her family apart or out for revenge. Regardless, something destroyed her demiplane, causing Rhea to go missing. Though Ronda was able to trace where she had gone using magic, she was unsure of how to get there. She was not in another world, another plane, or any other seemingly unreachable place that she could get to by using magic. No, Rhea had somehow been brought into another dimension entirely.
Thankfully, Ronda had already begun to do prior research on timelines and other dimensions, and so she began to form a plan. It was a dangerous ritual with unpredictable consequences, but along with her wife, she agreed to find her daughter no matter the cost. In a tremendous display of magical power, Ronda completed an epic spell that allowed her to tear through the very fabric of time and space, using the Maelstrom's chaotic and wild energy to her advantage. She emerged in Babel, but such a release of her magical energy left her momentarily comatose. Rhea, however, would find her, along with her friends, and along with the help of the "Keketar Sisters" would return her to health.
Now, Ronda is spending some time in the demiplane the Keketar sisters created, studying Babel, searching for other members of her family, and spending time with her daughter who had a portion of her time with her mother robbed from her. She is surprised how mature she had grown, taking on the mantle of a Time Knight.
Ronda remained active within Babel but behind the scenes. For reasons that were unknown to her, Ronda's powers were dormant. She could only speculate why that was and associated it primarily with the overwhelming magic she had used to journey through the Maelstrom. Either way, Ronda was allowed the opportunity to study the world, along with strange and new forms of magic that she herself could not access. However, in the midst of losing her powers came a miracle.
Rhea was married to Trishna. Ronda was overjoyed (and feeling quite old) now that she had the opportunity to see her daughter wed. Despite all the accomplishments and all of the adventures she had, none of them held a candle to seeing her daughter walk down that aisle. Plus, she likes her wife. She is spirited and reminds her a bit of herself.
However, as her daughter continued in her adventures, Ronda would find her power growing bit by bit. It was only as her daughter began to match and even surpass her in terms of strength that her own power returned, as though giving her a goal to stride towards. Alongside her daughter, Ronda helped to launch a reemergence of the kingdom she had started in her previous world. The Tidal Empire was reborn. And Ronda could think of no better person to lead than her daughter.
Rhea never wanted to be Empress. However, out of respect for her mother, she took on the position. It was because Rhea did not want the power and authority that Ronda felt she was ideal for the role. Only those who respect such power are fit to wield it. However, while Ronda was convinced that Rhea was a splendid ruler, it became clear that Rhea had a different path in mind for her life than her mother. Ronda wanted to rule, and Rhea to serve alongside the Time Knights. She was duty-bound to take the role after having been asked by her mother, but she was not happy. And so, once Ronda's powers had fully returned, in an event that would henceforth become known as the "Awakening," Ronda stepped into her role as the new Empress.
As Ronda's powers returned, she began resuming her search for powerful companions who can help to protect her and her empire. In the midst of the daemonic Four Horsemen invading Etera, Ronda found an opportunity to acquire a Tarrasque, the seemingly invincible spawn of Rovagug. Though it would be very dangerous to try and control such a beast, Ronda believed that it was possible. And so, as multicolored Tarrasque Spawn emerged from a mysterious portal within Etera, her team would move in, prepared to capture the beast.
In truth, Ronda would pity the Tarrasque. It was little more than a beast honed for destruction, never given a choice or a say in its purpose. It was little more than a weapon to most, and she vowed that if she were to capture it, she would show it a good home.
Eventually, her and her allies managed to capture the Tarrasque, and Ronda used her magic to temporarily mind control the beast. However, she would release her hold on the creature once it was clear that the beast would no longer resume its rampage. From there, she would given the beast what she viewed as a more appealing form, and train it naturally, like an overgrown and dangerous pet.
However, her actions were not viewed favorable by everyone. The adventurer known as Akhutai, in response to this and other actions Ronda had taken, including taking the soul of a daemon while attempting to stop her team at the time from noticing, caused him to go to the Kingdom of Sarent. At the time, Ronda sought Sarent as an ally, and when she received word that Akhutai had gone there secretly, it seemed inevitable that the two would come to blows. The two would eventually clash in the streets of Etera, though Ronda ensured that Akhutai struck first before defeating him and attempting to erase his memories of her and their interactions. Ronda would eventually convince diplomats from Sarent that Akhutai was the aggressor and that his claims about her were false.
The Shadow of the Sea
Through her travels and scans of the area, Ronda would become aware that the Demon Lord Dagoff, the Shadow in the Sea, was encroaching upon her city. As his corruption spread, Ronda would find signs in nearby towns and cults becoming more active in the area. Ronda felt that a clash between the two was inevitable, and so she began to increase their city's defenses and look into artifacts that could help her overcome the demon lord's power. Through her search, she would also come across a cultist who would reveal herself to be the mother to Dagoff's child.
And so, upon capturing the mother, Ronda had Dagoff's attention. However, despite their preparations, it was not enough. Ronda and her kingdom leaders gave it their all to repel his assault. Even upon defeating Dagoff, it was revealed that all this time they were merely fighting his astral projection, and the in the battle, Ronda's daughter Almara was slain. Ronda vowed to defeat Dagoff once and for all during their second confrontation, and so she contacted the most powerful adventurers she knew and made preparations.
This time, the battle was different. Upon locating Dagoff's phylactery, the demon lord himself, his true body, would appear, along with his children. It was the most challenging battle Ronda had ever been a part of, but eventually, the demon lord was slain. And with his body at her feet, Ronda would choose to finish the job, and take his power for herself to ensure that no one would ever be able to threaten her family again.
The Rainbow of the Ocean is gone. And in her place is the demon lord Ronda, the Shadow of the Sea.
Ronda would play a role in the war against the Four Horsemen who had invaded Babel, particularly in the fights against Death and Famine. She would actually be part of the team that eventually would slay Death, holding off the Horsemen by herself while her other allies defeated him in both the past and the future. Somehow, she would draw the ire of Famine who, in a rare and brazen attack, would steal much of the Empire's food supply. Thanks to help from local adventurers, this problem would soon be rectified.
Having obtained a the soul of a Daemon, Ronda would have an ally skilled in crafting embed it into a knife. After completing some research, Ronda would discover that the daemon may be a useful ally if she fed it enough powerful souls. The battle with the Horsemen was, for her, an opportunity, and after collecting the souls, she would acquire a new ally, who she affectionately named Zilla.
Ronda would continue to be involved in the events surrounding the city of Babel. Particularly, when the city announced that they would require adventurers to submit to a Geas to ensure their loyalty to the city, Ronda jumped at the chance. She knew that her presence as a demon lord would cause strife within the city, and she delighted as the adventurers now began to doubt the city's intentions. Ronda enjoyed the chaos, but would ultimately conclude that there was little to gain from taking advantage of it. Politically, however, she found it to be to her advantage to submit to the Geas, and encourage her followers to do so as well.
Speaking of politics, Ronda would find herself locked in a tense series of events involving the Scarlet Kingdom. When their Spymaster, Jacob "I don't make appointments" Johnson came to her palace unannounced, he found himself squaring off with her inner circle, and the two sides would threaten each other before parting ways. Jacob would later reveal that he was interested in working with Ronda to take down the monster kingdom of Rushari Vastri.. However, in his ignorance, he had not considered the consequences of entering her throne room so brazenly. What would follow were a series of political events. Ronda would demand that the Scarlet Kingdom not only keep a close eye on Jacob, but that a member of her inner circle be granted full access to Scarlet, and that the kingdom agree to aid Tidal in military matters. Claire, a member of Scarlet, would begin seeking aid from other kingdoms against Ronda and Tidal, which would lead to Ronda threatening Claire's life. In time, the mage known as Alloces would offer his soul in exchange for Claire's safety, and the two would sign a contract.
It was around this time that Ronda would face off with the Fifth Horsemen, and she found that despite her powers, she was dispatched with ease. In fact, it was her soul that was used as a pivotal part of his plans. In the fight, which took place on the Riverstyx, Ronda would find herself holding her daughter Gwen as her body and essence began to vanish. From then on, Ronda would resurrections daily, and even then, her presence in the material world was temporary. Those without exceptionally strong minds would also find themselves forgetting her. Her family was horrified, but the power hungry part of Ronda saw it as an opportunity. She could go anywhere, do anything, and the vast majority of the world would forget about it. Her family, however, would begin looking for ways to end her mysterious condition.
Ronda would also find herself at odds with multiple members of her family, including Rhea (details can be found below in the short story The Flame in the Shadow) and with her adopted daughter Elyn. To acquire money, Ronda would venture to the plane of gold, and become their goddess, sacrificing their people to fill her coffers. Disapproving of this plan, Elyn and Ronda would have a tense confrontation in the world of the Fey, and Elyn would make it clear that she intended to become a true Goddess. Ronda would reject her vision, even if Elyn was trying to save her, and push her away.
Now, Ronda lives mostly in the shadows, living through fusing with her summons. Even her position as Empress is being handled primarily by her Hydra Lilo.
Trying to describe Ronda's personality is difficult as her moods and desires often change as if on a whim. In this way, Ronda is unpredictable and is often a slave to her own curiosity. One she learns that something or someplace exists where she has never been, she will often obsess over it until eventually, she finds a way there. While her journey to the First World was unexpected, it was inevitable that she would have ended up there regardless.
To her friends, Ronda is a lighthearted and friendly being. While she focuses primarily on her own desires, she is very protective of her summoned companions and other people she values, such as her girlfriend Falenas. Ronda enjoys studying magic, often eclectically trying new spells just to see how they work even if she has no real use for them. She hates routines more than anything else and is often so spontaneous that she would try something new if only because she hadn't done it before.
Ronda is also very flirtatious, though her outgoing nature has calmed down since finding herself in a relationship.
As a demon, Ronda's more negative, but ever present, personality traits began to become more...pronounced. Particularly her lust for power, and her paranoia around others, would become more pronounced. She also became far more ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals.
Ronda is a being unlike any other. Under the sea, she resembles a merfolk with black and white skin, blue hair, and freckles dotting her face. Outside of her skin color, she has all of the normal merfolk attributes, including a large tailfin that she uses to swiftly swim through the water. On one hand, she is able to use magic to manifest a pair of legs, but keeps her tail if only because she would feel odd without it. Ronda typically wears clothing that most people would consider little more than bathing suits.
After being exposed to prismatic energy for an extended period of time, Ronda's skin also changes colors spontaneously and unpredictably. At one moment she is black and white, the next red, and green thereafter. Though Ronda can decide which color she would like to be by focusing her powers, she is often content to let herself change sporadically even on the battlefield.
As a demon lord, Ronda's appearance has changed dramatically. Her hair is now red, and she has dark eyes and crimson tattoos. In essence, she has become far more shark-like.
Clara Azureleaf - A half-elf who is the love of Ronda's life, the woman she chose to settle down with to start a family and build a city. Though the two are quite different in terms of their personalities, they say that opposites attract, and Ronda finds Clara's soft-spoken and calm nature to be of great comfort in times of need. It was a difficult choice leaving that behind to journey to Babel, but Ronda remains confident that the two will find each other again.
Rhea - Her daughter and a Time Knight. During their time apart, Ronda and Rhea had also grown quite different. One lives to enforce law and order and protect the space-time continuum. The other makes a mockery of it on a regular basis. However, despite their differences, the two remain close. More recently, Rhea and Ronda have had a falling out, and even a tense battle, over her change into a demon lord.
Gwen Azureleaf - Ronda's adopted daughter and spymaster. Gwen revealed that she never had a family growing up, and Ronda felt compelled to take her in. Now, Gwen is devastated that she has a hard time even remembering Ronda, and that the demon lord herself seems somewhat content with this fact.
Aurelius - The current Horsemen of War. Ronda regards Aurelius as a...somewhat capable ally, but one who needs her protection and guidance, or he would have been dead a long time ago.
Elyn - Another one of Ronda's adopted daughters. Since becoming a demon lord, Elyn has tried to steer Ronda on the right path, but thus far, she has resisted. Now, ever since Ronda began accepting sacrifices from the Plane of Earth, the two have separated.
Companion Master List
Ronda’s attitude towards those she summons is unique among the other magic users she had met with. She regards her companions as friends and, at times, even like family. Why does she do this? In part, Ronda is a somewhat lonely individual who wants to earn both the respect and the admiration of those she works with. If they are to regard her as master, she wants to ensure it is for the right reasons. Second, she finds that it inspires loyalty among her outsiders who often seek nothing more than to stab their masters in the back. For Ronda, this has proven successful, and many of her summons have gone on to develop relationships of their own with different people in her world (sometimes as lovers) and often find it difficult to return to their world afterwards.
Lilo - Ronda's most powerful companion, Lilo the Hydra is a massive and powerful hand-to-hand combatant. She is more silent and menacing than many of Ronda's other companions, but has also been given perhaps the most responsibility, as she serves in Ronda's stead as the Empress.
Zilla - Ronda's newest companion. A savage beast that guards the depths of Tidal.
Roxanne - Ronda’s original companion, and the one she feels the strongest connection with. Ronda first made contact with Roxanne as a child. Ronda always felt a natural connection with conjuration magic. Growing up, she was lonely and loved the idea of calling on a friend. Though Roxanne was initially reluctant, she soon grew to regard Ronda with a great deal of respect and admiration, and acts as her most loyal and steadfast companion. She resembles a crab, with claws and a hard carapace covering her head.
In combat, Roxanne is a powerhouse who uses her tower shield to both bash her foes and protect her allies. Incredibly strong and massive in size, Roxanne is the ideal wall to place between Ronda and her goes. Roxanne’s speech is very slow and deliberate, and it takes her a great deal of time to both speak and to learn new things. Turning Roxanne into what she is today took a great deal of patience on Ronda’s part, but she would not have hard it any other way.
Quip - Ronda’s second companion, Quip is Ronda’s personal healer and support. Though all outsiders are older than they appear, Quip in particular is regarded as a little sister by her companions. She is quick to panic and often stutters over her words, but she is always willing to heal her friends and wants to expand her powers so she is better able to protect them from harm. In rare instances, Quip’s temper has gotten the better of her, and she puts all of the swear words she has learned on her travels to good use. She resembles a squid, with hair that resembles tentacles.
On the field, Quip provides support and guidance to her allies, alerting them to danger at a moment's notice.
Sierra - Ronda’s third companion, who she first made contact with while trapped in the first world. Sierra’s can be standoffish and comes off to those who meet her for the first time as a "grouch." Perpetually tired, Sierra prefers to spend her time these days crafting rather than socializing.
Mako - Ronda’s fourth companion, she made contact with Mako shortly after becoming a Magister. As much as she loves her companions, she found that neither Roxanne, Sierra, nor Quip were quite suitable for the noble company she often kept in her position. Mako was trained specifically to spend time among this crowd, however, and was taught proper speech and mannerisms. Impeccably polite and occasionally playing a motherly role for Ronda, she is often by Ronda’s side as she goes about her duties.
Despite her posh and often regal demeanor, Mako is actually a very dangerous companion who is skilled at one thing: grappling. Regardless of her foe’s size, body makeup, or abilities, Mako is skilled at bringing her foes down and tying them in a knot with ease. She particularly enjoys capturing foes who attempt to teleport during combat.
Koi - Ronda’s fifth companion. As she was being entrusted with more difficult tasks as an adventurer, Ronda often found herself unable to provide instruction to her companions in the heat of battle. It’s difficult to manage a massive ball of stone and keep it from running over her allies and tell everyone under her command what to do at the same time. Enter Koi, a tiny companion who spends most of her time in Ronda’s satchel like a familiar, providing tactical information and other data when called upon. Koi is also a sort of secretary for Ronda, who keeps notes and illustrations of those she meets. A skilled artist, her sketches are often highly detailed. She can be somewhat bossy in spite of her size, and has strict attention to detail. She struggles to deviate from routine or alterations to her master’s schedule.
On the battlefield, Koi deals in tactics. Whether it’s offering advice on formations, telling her allies when the proper moment is to strike, or warning them of danger, she can do it all. Whether or not her allies listen to her, however, is up to them.
Izzy - A Protean Izfiitar, Izzy is typically regarded by Ronda as a faithful pet, always following close behind her master and accompanying her at all times. Izzy is very unpredictable but has learned to obey her master's commands. Perpetually hungry, Izzy often threatens to eat her adversaries. Ronda and Izzy are very close, and the conjurer is always studying new ways to make use of her abilities in combat.
Crystal - A powerful and perpetually hungry seahorsetaur. Crystal is considered by many summoners to be barbaric and...well, moronic, but she has a good heart and always means well. If the problem can be solved through brute strength, no one is better for the job than Crystal!
Charlotte - A brash, outspoken, and skilled wrestler who is adept at taunting and grappling her foes. Charlotte has once served as the leader of the Tidal Empire's military division, though now she serves her Queen directly by her side as one of her most imposing bodyguards.
Froppy - A skilled assassin and scout, Froppy does her work from the shadows, either taking out key targets or simply observing unnoticed. Froppy is almost always by her Empress's side, even if her adversaries are not aware of it.
Joyce - An odd jellyfish girl. Unable to talk, and skilled in teleportation magic.
Toi - Koi's sister. Far more brash and outspoken. Skilled in fate magic.
Twip - Quip's sister. Just as shy. A skilled healer.
It had been one day since Ronda had seen Roxanne vanish before her eyes during that fight against the Thii in O’kibo. Usually, Roxanne answered Ronda’s call immediately. Even if she was not by her side, Ronda could feel her presence there, taking comfort just knowing that she was available should she need her. But now...that presence was gone, and try as she might, Ronda could not find her.
Ronda had returned to her room in the castle of Thalassa, sitting cross-legged in front of her summoning circle. She had not had to resort to using the circle to call Roxanne in quite some time, but now that her summons were failing to reach her, she was willing to try anything. She opened her eyes, and they glowed with power as she called upon the full extend of her power. A few spare quills and other materials Ronda had scattered around her room began to lift high into the air, along with her hair.
“Roxanne. Come to me!” She shouted, then uttering something that sounded like no recorded language as she spoke Roxanne’s true name. Once again, frustratingly, there was no response. Ronda released her power, looking down at the circle in disbelief. It was as though Roxanne didn’t exist anymore in this world.
“D-Dammit…” Ronda muttered, clenching her fist. The rest of her companions, Sierra, Quip, and Miku stood nearby, watching their master with expressions of concern on their faces. Sierra had her arms crossed, shaking her head and sighing when she saw that Ronda’s latest attempt had failed. Quip’s eyes began to well with tears. Miku, however, retained her composure, watching her master and concerned about what she might do if her emotions got the better of her.
Sierra. Quip. Miku. They were Ronda’s summoned creatures, but in truth they meant more than that to the Conjurer. Ronda regarded each of her summons as though they were close friends, treating them like individuals as opposed to weapons or tools for use in combat. And while she did not play favorites, everyone gathered in that room knew that the relationship between Ronda and Roxanne was special. She was Ronda’s first successful summon and the one she had known the longest. And when Ronda was in danger, it was always Roxanne who came to her aid first, regardless of the size of their foe. Roxanne’s disappearance would clearly have an effect on her.
“GOD DAMMIT!” Ronda said, shouting more expletives and forcing Sierra to cover Quip’s ears. Ronda rammed her fist into the floor, drawing blood from her knuckles as she shook with anger. “Why am I so damn powerless-” Ronda stood up, grabbing some of her materials and flinging them across the room. Since they were underwater, they just slowly floated to their destination. “I failed her...I let Roxanne down…”
“Master, you haven’t failed anyone. What happened to Roxanne was not your fault.” Miku said, trying to comfort Ronda in whatever way she could. “She could still be out there-” “I’ve tried everything in my power to call her to me, and she doesn’t answer! You and I both know that Roxanne doesn’t do that!” She yelled angrily back to Miku. It was the first time she had snapped at one of her companions in quite some time, but they knew not to take it personally. “Maybe it was like with what happened to me. Maybe she just needs time?” Sierra said, giving Ronda a grin with her sharp teeth. “C’mon, gotta keep your chin up master.” “Don’t you think I haven’t tried peering into the future as well?!” Ronda shouted back. “She doesn’t come back! Not in any future I can see!” “O-Oh no...Roxanne…” Quip said, beginning to cry. Immediately, Ronda regretted shouting so much. She went over and placed her hand on Quip’s head. Obviously, the squid girl viewed Roxanne as something akin to a big sister. Ronda wasn’t the only one upset. She pulled Quip close and embraced her.
“We need to think about this objectively. The Thii don’t murder their foes if they can avoid it.” Miku said, trying to help her master regain her composure. “Especially not powerful ones, like Roxanne. I think there is a good chance she might still be out there.” Ronda did not respond as she held Quip, so it was up to Sierra to ask the obvious. “Then why doesn’t she answer the call?” “Perhaps because she is preoccupied.” Miku explained. “Ronda, do you think it’s possible that the Thii have summoned Roxanne for their own use?”
Ronda slowly released Quip, wiping her tears one last time. Quip was still sobbing, but she managed to regain some semblance of composure. She considered Miku’s words: it was possible. Ronda adjusted her hair as she thought, tying it back in a ponytail. “...It’s possible. The Thii are known for stealing the power of others. As such, they may have found a way to take Roxanne for their own use.”
“So...m-maybe we can still get Roxanne back?” Quip asked, trying to smile despite the circumstances. Ronda still had her doubts, but for Quip’s sake if not her own, she had to try. Anything to keep the hope going. She wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
“We’ll get her back. Somehow.” Ronda said, rubbing Miku on the shoulder fondly as she went to retrieve her staff. “We’re going back to where we lost her in the first place. I have an idea for how we can find where she went.”
12 Years Ago
“C’mon...work…” Ronda had decided to stay after school at the Thalassian magical academy long after classes had ended and the rest of the students had left. Most of her magic, however, amateurish it was at this point, came easy to her. Whether it was throwing around blasts of energy, slightly altering the flow of time, or even a little shapeshifting, magic came easily to Ronda despite only having recently entered the school.
Ronda stood out among the other merfolk thanks to her appearance. Whereas most merfolk had the upper body of a humanoid and the lower body of a fish, Ronda looked different. She had black and white skin, akin to an orca whale, and seemed more fish-like in appearance than her brethren. Her father was an Adaros, who were typically regarded by merfolk as predators. Ronda’s appearance meant that she had few friends growing up, as even the parents told their children to stay away from her. Ronda’s mother hoped that if she learned magic, she could figure out a way to make her appearance less threatening.
This was well before Ronda learned to embrace who she was, and so she was quiet, shy, and dedicated to her studies. However, out of all the parts of magic, she found her summoning class to be the most interesting. The idea of summoning an outsider to serve and protect her seemed especially appealing. That, and maybe the outsider would be her friend and not judge her for the way she looked. This desire of Ronda’s, along with a bit of natural talent, compelled her to further her studies. Whereas the class was only just beginning to learn how to summon a familiar, Ronda had already moved onto summoning something far more powerful.
Ronda had looked far and wide for an ideal companion, particularly one that was aquatic so that it could spend time with her in Thalassa. Ronda adjusted her school uniform as she made the final preparations, pushing her desk to the side and looking at the small circle she had made on the floor. She would most likely be expelled if anyone found out about this, but she knew that she had to try after coming so far.
“Alright...it’s now or never.” Ronda knelt down, her book on outsiders in hand. There was one outsider that was mentioned that had caught her eye. She looked big and very strong, almost like a crab. However, most of summoners dismissed her as useless because she was...well, for lack of a better word, slow. She was slow to speak and slow to learn, and would need a lot of training to put her power to good use. Ronda, however, was not worried about the time commitment.
“Come to me... “ She whispered, before saying the creature’s true name. The response was almost immediate as she knelt down and placed her hands on the circle, gathering power. She could feel the outsider’s presence recognizing her own. And it was getting closer. “Yes! I-It’s working!” She said excitedly. The outline of an impressively tall figure began to form in front of her eyes, and in a flash of light and power, Ronda found herself knocked on her back.
Shaking her head and slowly standing up, Ronda looked at the figure that had appeared. It was so large that it seemed to fill the room, casting a long shadow over her. It had blond hair and a thick, crustacean like body with a hard shell. Ronda stood up, eager to meet the creature. “H-Hi, I’m Ronda-” It turned to her suddenly, it’s eyes staring at her closely as it leaned forward to get a closer look. Her blue hair was pushed back as it took in a breath.
“Who...are...you…?” The creature said, speaking very slowly, just as her book described. “I’m...I’m Ronda. Your...your master.” She said, feeling a bit silly even saying that word given their size difference. “...Master…?” The large creature responded, laughing a few times. Ronda wrung her fists, her face turning red. “You...lead...me? Don’t...make...me...laugh.” She said, standing up, her head coming very close to bouncing off the ceiling. “...I...could…crush...you…” “Yeah...I mean, no! I’m your master, that means you have to do as I say! See!” She pointed to the summoning circle. “You can’t move from there unless I let you.” “And…?” The being asked. “I...will...wait...until...you...dismiss...me…” The being said, sitting down and turning around, falling silent.
“No, wait-” Ronda said, swimming around to the other side of the circle she had created. “Listen, I read about you. They call you...Roxanne right? That’s your nickname.” The being opened one eye as it watched her, listening. “The other summoners said that you’re strong, but that you’re not very smart-” Roxanne’s face turned red and Ronda immediately regretted saying that. “Sorry...I didn’t mean that.” “...Don’t....apologize…” Roxanne said, clearly having difficulty forming the right words. “...It’s...accurate...summoned...many...times...before...dismissed...many...times…” “Then work with me.” Ronda said. “Listen, I know what it’s like to be different. Everyone at school...they’re afraid of me. But, maybe if I could summon you…” “So...I...am...a...trophy…” Roxanne shook her head. “No, not that...I was hoping…” Ronda sighed, averting her eyes. “I was hoping maybe you would be my friend.” She then shook her head. “Sorry, this was a terrible idea. I’ll let you go.” “Wait…”
Roxanne then shifted towards her, her claws placed on her knees as she looked over at Ronda. “You...did...summon...me...impressive...for...a...small...one…” Roxanne slowly explained. “But…what...is...friend?” “You...you don’t know what a friend is?” Roxanne shook her head. “A friend is someone who you help because you...care about them. You protect one another. You help each other. You trust one another and do things together.” Ronda explained, trying to put something she never experienced into clear words. She had Roxanne’s attention though. The crab-like creature had never heard those words used by a summoner before, who typically regarded their summoned creatures as little more than tools. “That...I...can...work...with…” Roxanne nodded. “...I...accept...you...as...master.” “You will? No...wait, I can’t accept that.” Ronda said. “If you’re gonna call me master, I need to make sure I earn that title. For now...you can just call me Ronda.”
Ronda and her team traveled back to the small village where Roxanne had been taken. All that was left of the place was a smouldering crater, with the earth and any signs of civilization having been burned away. Few people have dared to venture back here since the Thii assaulted the village and that horrific creature hatched from its egg.
“What are we going to do this time master?” Sierra asked as she looked around, sniffing the air. It still smelled like decay and death. “Didn’t you try to divine her when you were here before?” “I did.” Ronda said, turning to Sierra, her staff in hand. “The problem is that divining only works for stuff that is present at the time. The information that we’re looking for is in the past.” “And what information is that?” Miku asked, holding her arm out and preventing Quip from going down into the crater. “Where Roxanne went. If someone took her with them, I can find her. If someone teleported, I can find them. I can even see the history of this place.” Ronda sighed. “The challenging piece is doing them all at the same time. I’m not even sure if it’s possible.”
“N-Nothing is impossible for you master Ronda!” Quip shouted. “N-Not when your friends are in danger!” Ronda smiled at Quip’s optimism. Well, she couldn’t show any signs of doubt now could she? Not if it would let her down. “Alright. Keep an eye out girls. This may take some time…”
Ronda knelt down at the edge of the Crater, close to the location where Roxanne vanished, covered in a tomb of crystals. She tried not to think too much about that moment: it was too painful to watch. All she needed were the facts and the location. And then...she began. Ronda’s eyes were closed as she began to divine, with the first step being searching the past. When she opened her eyes, she had gone back in time to when the incident occurred. Roxanne was covered in crystal and replaced with some bizarre creature. But was that being still Roxanne? And where did it go afterwards if it was?
This was the challenging part, divining for multiple pieces of information. Right now she was in the past, but now she needed to know the answer to one key question: was that monster that attacked them still Roxanne? She began to divine for outsiders, immediately feeling a massive headache coming on as the effort strained her. However, a second was all she needed...she could feel Roxanne’s presence, at least in the past, nearby. That was Roxanne they had fought. Then where had she gone afterwards?
She began to divine for information on teleportation. She wasn’t certain how the monster that had hatched from the egg had escaped, but the most logical way to vanish out of thin air was to warp. Ronda concentrated, trying to sense whether or not teleportation had occurred but…it was too much. She had a migraine instantly, and her powers began to wane, her view of the past blurring as her focus went elsewhere. It was too much for her...too much for anyone. It was impossible.
She wasn’t sure who had said that to her, but the voice sounded like Roxanne. How could she call herself Roxanne’s master if she couldn’t even protect her? Ronda grit her teeth, ignoring the pain as she pushed onward. A new voice appeared in her mind, Kajjik, who viewed Ronda’s body as a temporary vessel. He taunted her, sensing her vulnerability.
“It’s impossible you know. All you’re doing is hurting yourself and your companions by holding out this long. She’s gone.” Kajjik said mockingly. “Replace her. That should be easy for the likes of you.” “...Shut up, you don’t know anything.” She couldn’t see Kajjik, but she could imagine the Protean smirking at that remark. “This is how the world works Ronda. Your companions are expendable. They serve you. They die for you.” Kajjik said. “Let her go.” “No dammit! She trusted me!” She said, focusing further on trying to trace the teleport. It was slowly becoming clearer now before her. It was working! “I won’t fail her! Not after we’ve come so far!” “...You are quite a unique summoner Ronda.” Kajjik said with a chuckle. “If nothing else, I enjoy watching you surprise me.”
Ronda opened her eyes. She was in the present once more, surrounded by her allies. She stood up, rubbing her skull, her brain feeling as though it was trying to leave it’s vessel behind. Her nose was bleeding, and she felt exhausted. While Miku and Sierra looked on concerned, Quip got to work, healing Ronda as best she could. Ronda slowly stood up. She knew where the Thii had gone that had taken Roxanne...and she could find them.
“Did you-” Sierra began, but Ronda cut her off, already forming a gate. “We don’t have any time to lose.” She said. “We move. Now. Prepare for combat girls!” And then she jumped through.
The Thii were known for the many large tunnels they kept underground. It may gauging their presence difficult as nobody was quite sure how deep these tunnels and, and anyone who dared to venture there was extremely unlikely to come back alive. Ronda barely had any time to register where exactly they were or how deep they had gone. All she cared about was the fact that this was where she had sensed Roxanne.
Her and her companions emerged from the portal invisible and silent, making their way down. Ronda continued to divine for Roxanne’s presence and was pleased that she had not gone very far from their current location. That being said, if they needed to fight to get her back...that was easier said than done. The longer this operation went, the higher the chance of attracting attention from other Thii.
Slowly, she crept down the hall, doing her best to focus only on the presence of Roxanne, tuning out the smells and the sounds she was hearing from nearby Thii that made her skin crawl. Then, she turned the corner, and found what she was looking for. It took all of her willpower to not gasp out loud at the sight.
Before her was Roxanne...or what once was Roxanne. Currently, she did not look like herself, her face now more insectoid than before, with a few large crystals jutting out from her body. She looked for all intensive purposes like a Thii. She could hear Sierra growl next to her, eager to fight. “Careful Sierra. If we fight them, you know that means we’d be fighting Roxanne too, right?”
Sierra snarled. “We can’t just leave her there!” “We won’t, don’t worry. Just need to be smart.” Ronda said. “Miku, incapacitate Roxanne as best you can. Sierra and I will take out any of the Thii surrounding her. Quip, hang back. We may need you to patch her up before this is through.”
“...You know, I trained with Roxanne daily. Helping her increase her defense.” Sierra said. “Wanna know how many times I got past her shield?” Sierra asked. “Not. Even. Once…first time for everything.” “Alright, don’t hold anything back girls!”
Taking out the other Thii was simple. Their attack was unexpected, and Ronda immediately used time clone at the start of the battle to launch as many balls of stone into the narrow hallway as she could. It was loud, and likely would draw attention, but it was effective. Sierra also launched her chakrams at any targets still moving, fighting with renewed vigor after seeing what had become of Roxanne. And...as the dust cleared, all that remained was a familiar sight...of a tower shield.
Ronda made herself visible. “Roxanne, it’s me, I-” And without hesitation, Roxanne charged forward, heavy spiked shield in hand and ready to run her right over. In a split second, Ronda teleported back, launching a massive ball of stone at Roxanne. Her original companion was quick to respond though, bracing herself against her shield and slowly but surely shoving the stone back.
“Roxanne, don’t you dare attack master Ronda!” Sierra shouted, launching her chakrams from behind. Roxanne spun, knocking the two chakrams out of the air with ease. However, that was all Miku was looking for. The eel woman wrapped around Roxanne’s leg and, with a sudden burst of strength, knocked Roxanne to the ground, pinning Roxanne’s arms behind her. With all her strength, Roxanne continued to struggle violently, shaking the ground. And more Thii were likely on their way…
“R-Roxanne, please…” Quip said, walking forward. She had no idea how she would go about curing what had happened to Roxanne, but she couldn’t stand to see her friend like this. She reached out, rubbing Roxanne’s face even as she continued to thrash about, but Miku held firm, not letting her budge. No matter what Quip did though, Roxanne did not return to her usual self.
“H-How do we get her back master Ronda?” Quip asked, turning to the summoner. Ronda stepped forward, looking closely at Roxanne. She knelt down before her, sitting cross legged even as Roxanne reached out as though she wanted to bite her old master.
“...I told you a long time ago that I would earn the title of master from you Roxanne.” Ronda said. “You belong with me. Not with these Thii or anyone else. But right now...I can’t do this for you. I know you’re still in there.” She leaned forward. “Resist Roxanne. Come back to me.” Then, she reached down, pulling Roxanne close, and even with all that anger in her eyes, kissed her on the cheek.
Roxanne stopped momentarily. Then, she began to thrash and struggle harder than before. Even Miku lost her grip, and Quip ran back. Sierra drew her chakrams, ready to strike, but Ronda she stood still, watching closely. “Master, get back!” Sierra shouted. “No. I trust her.” Ronda said, staring Roxanne in the eyes. The creature stood up to her full height, fists held high and ready to crush Ronda...and then her fists fell next to her, missing their target. Roxanne stood there silently, heaving and catching her breath...before bowing her head to Ronda. She remained silent as her master reached out and patted her down.
“...Alright girls. Let’s take Roxanne home.” She said, and then snapped her fingers as they returned to Thalassa.
It took some time for Roxanne to recover. She needed a lot of rest. But, everytime Ronda called on her, she answered, and looked more and more like herself. It would be some time before she returned to action, but for now, Ronda was just happy to have her best friend back by her side.
It had taken months of research and preparation, but at long last, Ronda was prepared to move forward with her greatest experiment to date: the summoning of a live Protean. While Ronda had always been a skilled conjurer known for her array of colorful companions she employed in the field, her real passion has been making contact with the denizens of the Maelstrom themselves. If successful, Ronda would be one step closer to realizing her true goal of making contact with the gods of chaos and lords of the Proteans, the Speakers of the Depths.
Ronda has been called many things: a wizard, an incanter, a conjurer, a summoner...but her primary focus has always been her fascination with chaos itself. The merfolk did more than just enjoy chaos; she worshipped it, and there were few things more appealing to her than the unpredictability and lack of control found in the Maelstrom. Anarchy was music to her ears, and this love of hers, combined with her knowledge of the planes, lead her to the Proteans.
Ronda had taken several precautions prior to her first summoning. She had selected a location in a secluded part of Quill Payori’s manor using a spare room that had few pieces of furniture and as rarely inu use. The perfect place for the summoning of a potentially dangerous creature. Though Proteans were not evil, they were chaotic beings who Ronda would imagine were not fond of the idea of someone trying to pull them into their world. Thankfully, Ronda was not alone in her endeavor. As usual, she had her companions by her side, and her mentor Quill Payori was always available should she find herself overwhelmed by what was about to occur.
Ronda and her companions wore maid outfits per Quill’s requests. While there was a time that Ronda would have scoffed at the idea of wearing such an outfit, especially for someone else’s sake, but it was a small price to pay to live under the tutelage and protection of a more experienced and powerful wizard. Her companions, who for years had grown accustomed to thinking of Ronda and Ronda along as their master, were able to make the adjustment more slowly...though they did seem to enjoy the outfits Quill had gifted them with.
Ronda herself was a merfolk, though she did not look like most of her brethren. She had black and white skin and blue hair, looking in many respects like an orca whale. Her other companions were similarly unique looking. Roxanne was a huge woman with the body of a human combined with that of a crab. Strong, stoic, and silent, Roxanne kept watch over Ronda at all times, always ready to protect her master with her tower shield. Her second companion, Quip, who looked comparatively younger than Roxanne, had hair like the tentacles of a squid. Her primary skill was healing, and though she still had much to learn, her skills were often invaluable in the field. And finally there was her newest companion, Sierra, whose sharp teeth and gray skin made her resemble a shark. She was flamboyant, outspoken, and unpredictable, but knew how to stay silent in combat. Her primary role was that of Ronda’s stealthy scout and assassin, picking off key targets.
Together, all clad in maid uniforms, they were working on the summoning circle. While none of her companions were knowledgeable enough about conjuration magic to perform the ritual on their own, they were good enough at following directions to assist Ronda with drawing the summoning circle itself. Both Quip and Sierra made their way back and forth across the floor, using chalk to draw the circle per Ronda’s instructions. Sierra was grinning mischievously, eager for what was to come, while Quip was more nervous, both about whether or not the Protean would be safe and whether or not it would be her friend. Roxanne stood and watched, ready to do what was necessary regardless of what should occur.
“M-Master Ronda, I t-think it’s complete!” Even after years of knowing her, Quip was still hesitant to speak, constantly stuttering over her words with every sentence. Ronda made her way over, inspecting the portion of the circle Quip had just completed to ensure it was accurate. She could not afford to have any errors.
“Well done Quip. It’s perfect.” Ronda said, reaching out proudly and patting Quip on the head. The squid girl blushed and fell silent, moving to the corner and retrieving her staff. “And that is the last section we need. We’re ready to begin.” She could barely hide the excitement in her voice. After years of studying, she was finally about to meet a Protea for the first time.
“...safe?” Roxanne asked. The crab guardian was a woman of few words and found speaking to be a difficult and exhausting process. Still, she could make her points heard when she needed to. “Live a little Roxanne. Not every piece of magic we use can be safe.” Sierra said with a chuckle. However, just like Roxanne, she had arrived to this ritual armed should the worst come to pass. “Ronda knows what she is doing. Show faith in your master.”
“Relax Sierra. Roxanne has a point.” She turned to Roxanne, her first and most loyal companion. She trusted Roxanne with her life and understood her concerns. “We’ve inspected the circle multiple times Roxanne. We’ve taken every precaution. What we are about to attempt is as safe as possible, but I understand your concern.”
She walked over and patted Roxanne on the arm, whose arms were as thick as tree trunks and hard as stone. Roxanne nodded as Ronda touched her. “Should anything happen, I trust you to handle it as you see fit.”
“And now...without further ado, we begin.” Ronda said, retrieving her spellbook and opening it to the selected page. The Protean they were attempting to summon was known as an Imentesh: a missionary of chaos and madness, and Ronda could not wait to meet them. It was said that being in the presence of an Imentesh could cause one to go mad, but Ronda felt that she would go more insane if she was never able to meet one after coming so far.
“I shall begin to call out the Protean’s name. Be on your guard ladies. It’s time. Allow nothing to interfere.” Indeed, even the slightest interruption in the summoning process could have catastrophic and unpredictable effects. Roxanne hefted her shield, Sierra’s hands gripped her knives, and Quip grabbed her staff should anyone need heawing. Ronda, meanwhile, began to chant in a language unknown even to the outsiders gathered in the room with her, saying the name of the Imentesh over and over and calling upon them.
It was an eerie sight. Ronda’s eyes began to glow as power flowed out of her, and her hair stood upright, allowing her face to be clearly seen by her gathered companions. What looked like a small portal, swirling endlessly in mid-air above the summoning circle, slowly began to open. Sierra chuckled to herself as she watched, eager for what was to come.
And that was when the incident happened, the sort of thing a more experienced summoner would have accounted for. Even the slightest change to the summoning circle could have a catastrophic effect on the spell, and in this case...along came a spider. It descended slowly, either completely unaware or uncaring of the magic at play below, and as it’s thin web slowly dropped from the ceiling, Roxanne’s eyes went wide. It was on the side near Quip.
“Quip! Spider!” Roxanne bellowed. Quip immediately stood to attention. “I-I got it!” Quip shouted. She closed her eyes and took a swing at the spider with her staff, only for the web to suddenly wrap around her staff and for the spider to fall. While Quip and Roxanne’s eyes were focused on the spider, Sierra bore witness to something extraordinary. A being, resembling a snake with the mouth of a crocodile, was being dragged through the ever-widening portal, screeching against its will as some unseen force drew it into this plane, with Ronda never faltering in her chant.
Then the spider touched a small portion of the circle. There was a flash of light and a surge of magical energy that forced her companions to shield their eyes. Ronda gasped, stopping her chant, as she was suddenly dragged forward. For a few brief seconds, her and the Protean were brought closer and closer to the point where, based on their silhouette, they seemed to occupy the same space only to be followed by another flash of light and then...silence.
“W-What happened…?” Quip said, slowly walking forward, worried that her failure to remove the spider may have harmed her master. Roxanne placed one massive claw on Quip’s shoulder, stopping her movement, as she gripped her shield. A figure at the center of the circle slowly began to stand up, coughing a few times, and then turned around. Much to Quip’s relief it was Ronda, her body intact.
“...good.” Roxanne muttered. She pointed towards Sierra who immediately began to rinse to summoning circle away with a bucket of water. Ronda, meanwhile, stepped forward, leaning onto Roxanne’s shoulder for support.
“M-Master, are you alright?” Quip said, gripping her staff and shaking. “T-There was a spider, and I tried to stop it-” “I’m fine Quip. Not accounting for something like insects was an oversight on my part. You did what you could.” Ronda rubbed her head. “I have a terrible headache though…”
On cue, Quip began to call upon her healing powers, curing Ronda of her pain...but still, there was something off. Ronda massaged her temple as Roxanne guided her to a chair when she suddenly heard a masculine voice, far different than that of her companions. She looked around, but Roxanne, Sierra, and Quip were silent, and there was no one else in the room.
“Who...are you? Where...where am I?” She heard in her head as clearly as though the source were right in front of her. She tried to speak to it mentally. Was someone trying to communicate with her telepathically? “I am Ronda, a summoner. And who am I speaking with?” Ronda asked curiously. She was surprised when she got an immediate response. “I am an Imentesh. Some call me Kajjik.” The Protean said. “So you are the one who called upon me.”
Ronda could not believe what she was hearing. Was her summoning actually successful? Had she succeeded in calling upon a Protean? She rubbed her eyes, unsure of whether or not what she was hearing was too good to be true. “Yes...yes I-” “HOW DARE YOU!?” The Imentesh screeched, it’s voice so loud in her mind that Ronda worried that her skull would split in two. “I speak for the White One himself! You...you would dare try to call me to your service and trap me inside your mind?” “This was not what I was intending-” “SILENCE!” Kajjik screeched once more. “I reject your proposal! Release me at once!”
Ronda sighed, scratching her head. Negotiations were clearly not going well so far. Still, she couldn’t help but take some pride in her accomplishment. Though the destination was clearly wrong she had succeeded in summoning. But, she was not going to agree to Kajjik’s terms. She looked as her companions cleaned the circle she had created. Though her relationship with them was unique compared to other summoners, one thing that had always remained clear was that she was the master.
“No.” Ronda said, an edge to her voice. “Excuse me?” Kajjik shouted, once more screeching. This time, Ronda paid the pain no mind. She had come this far and would not show weakness before her first Protean. “My name is Ronda. I summoned you. That makes me your master.” Ronda explained. “You may reject my terms Kajjik, but since you are currently in my head and are asking me to release you...I’m going to guess that you’re stuck here.”
Kajjik fell silent. She was right. “And if you want to have any hope of being released, you need me. So, let’s start things off properly. First…you will regard me as master Ronda.” She said confidently. The response was predictable. “Never!” Kajjik screeched, but this time Ronda didn’t even flinch. “You think that just because you’re a visitor in my mind that makes you safe? I can find all sorts of ways to warp my psyche, and you along with it.” Ronda said. “And there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.”
“But...I’m the sort of master who prefers to spare the rod and instead extend a hand.” Ronda explained. “Believe it or not Kajjik, I seek to be your ally. I’ve heard that your kind likes to spread chaos. So do I.” “And what would I gain from it?” Kajjik asked. “A powerful ally skilled in summoning, one who could bring more of your kind into our world if need be, and who already has access to three powerful companions. You can continue to resist me and we can go back and forth in a mental war until I go insane or wipe you out. Either way, you lose. Alternatively...you can work with me. Surely the Proteans have enemies. Perhaps I can help you against them.” Ronda said. “What is your answer?”
Kajjik fell silent briefly, before laughing a bit, a cold raucous laughter like the cackling of a madman. “You, go insane? Ronda, I think you are already well beyond that point!” Kajjik shouted. “Very well. I agree to your terms...master, but I reserve my right to resist should your interests not align with the Proteans.” “There. Was that so hard?” Ronda stood up, beckoning her companions to her side now that their cleaning of the circle was complete. “Just be forewarned master, the longer you spend with me...the more you may become like one of us.” Kajjik said with a chuckle.
“I look forward to it.” Ronda replied, before being picked up by Roxanne and making her exit, a mischievous grin on her face that belonged to both her and someone else.
My mom is pretty amazing.
Sure, I’m sure most children probably say that. But for me, I think the word amazing carries a bit more weight. Maybe if I was smarter I’d have the vocabulary necessary to describe how incredible she is. When I say my mom is amazing, I mean it in the sense that she is an extremely powerful wizard capable of accomplishing miracles or turning nightmares into reality.
The fact is, growing up her daughter always brought with it a certain amount of weight and responsibility. I was the daughter of an Empress and Goddess, who accomplished things that most can only fantasize about and saved the world countless times. It was a lot of pressure. People made assumptions about me by association before we even met. No matter what I did, my actions and decisions would be compared to those she had made in the past or would make in the future.
I love my mom. Really. Not only is she incredibly powerful, but she is also beautiful, kind, and I love how unpredictable and spontaneous she can be. No day with her is ever the same. And yet, despite these things, there are also some things about my mother that do annoy me. For a woman who can make the impossible possible, it is very hard to convince her that something is a bad idea once she sets her mind on it.
My name is Rhea Azureleaf, and my mother is Ronda. You may know her as the Rainbow of the Ocean, the Empress of Tidal, or some other honorific. And after being separated for years, my mother’s head is now resting, cradled in my arms, after quite literally tearing apart time and space so we can go back together. With my knees in the sand of a demiplane, and her head resting on my lap, she never looked so peaceful or vulnerable. My new allies assure me that she will wake up soon, but I’ve always been impatient.
Welcome home mom.
A different time and reality…
Rhea grew up initially believing the world was flat. And, for her, the world was. Growing up in a demiplane would become a difficult experience for her to describe since, for her, it was the only life she had ever known. There was nothing to compare it to. However, it was clear that her world had clear borders, and that if she walked in a specific direction, eventually she would come to a point where she could not move further no matter how much she wanted, and where the world seemed to be wiped away in white.
“Now, focus Rhea. Your power is only as good as your ability to control it.” And there was her mother. Ronda always looked different from other Merfolk. She had black and white skin that caused her to resemble an orca whale due to the Adaros blood running through her veins. “Say the magic words clearly, focus your powers into the wand, and go. Let it become an extension of your body.”
Ronda was trying to teach her daughter how to use arcane magic, which was based mostly on the knowledge of the user. Compared to other forms of magic, the way of the wizard was mostly based on one’s studies and intelligence. She was trying to cast a fireball spell. For Rhea, generating fire was easy. She was born with a tremendous amount of energy in her body. However, controlling her powers, and doing so in a way that wouldn’t destroy everyone around her...that was much trickier.
“Okay mom, here goes…” She uttered the words clearly, but when the fireball came out, Ronda was forced to immediately dodge as it lit a nearby palm tree on fire. One of her mom’s servants, a massive crab-like creature, immediately put the flames out while her other mother, a half-elf with blue hair, laughed.
“A shame. You almost hit your target.” Clara said with a laugh, patting Ronda on the back. They say that opposites attract, and for Rhea, it was one of the universe’s great mysteries how the Warpriest of Sarenrae ended up with the merfolk wizard. One valued law and order, the other thrived in chaos.
“Very funny. Aren’t I already got enough?” Ronda said with a smirk as Rhea blushed in embarrassment.
“Sorry, mom…” Rhea said, averting her gaze.
“Don’t worry about it. Why don’t you do some combat practice with Clara?” The half-elf took out her sword to train with, a confident smile on her face. Rhea was much better in combat practice than arcane studies.
And this was her life. She spent a lot of time being trained by her parents, had visits with lots of outsiders (Ronda was known for summoning). She felt loved, but much like her mother, she was curious about what she was missing and what the world was like outside her demiplane. It happened so unexpectedly that day. She and Clara would prepare themselves, each one with a wooden training sword, and just as they were about to strike…
Rhea would vanish. She had a vague sensation of Clara reaching out for her, of Ronda screaming her name, and then...she was falling. And what would happen next was difficult to describe. A dizzying mixture of colors and dreamlike scenery as the world she knew seemed to vanish before her eyes. And when she landed…
She was in another world.
It still felt like something out of a dream. Rhea thought that if she looked away for a moment, her mother might vanish, so for a few moments, she just stopped and stared as she watched her mother work. She hadn’t even been to this sector of reality before, and already, Rhea could see that she was hard at work, studying whatever texts the Keketar sisters could provide her about the history of the outside world. Ronda looked up briefly, but that glimpse was all it took before she teleported over and scooped Rhea in her arms.
For a brief moment, all was right in Rhea’s world as she embraced her mother, arms clasped around her tightly, as if she wanted to physically hold her in their world. Rhea was taller now than she had been when she vanished, but she was still a bit shorter than her mother. Her embrace reminded her of home and a sense of despair that she had been hiding for some time over recent events suddenly reappeared within her. Thankfully, her joy from seeing her mom helped to block all that out.
Ronda stroked her hair. “You’ve grown quite a bit.” Her mother said with a sigh. “I wish that I was there to watch, but I’m proud of the woman you’ve become.”
“I haven’t become anything special…” Rhea said.
“That is not what the sisters told me. They told me that you worked for the Time Knights here, and how you use your powers in battle. Quite impressive, and following in the footsteps of your mothers.” Ronda nodded, stepping back and admiring her daughter. “Clara would be proud.”
“Is...she not coming?” Rhea asked.
“...I’m not sure. Getting here myself was not easy.” Ronda sighed before she began to explain. “Even a high-level wizard cannot normally travel to a separate dimension...timeline...wherever or whenever this is. Though I could trace where you had gone, it took me a very long time to figure out how to get there myself. That kind of magic is not easily replicated.”
“Yeah...it was...really dangerous…” Rhea said, recalling the portals to the Maelstrom and the tears in time and space her mother had left in her wake. “How did you figure it out?”
“The Maelstrom is a natural source of chaotic and wild magic. Apply enough force at the right point and it can poke through anything, even reality.” Ronda said with a smirk. “Honestly, I was not even certain it would work. Such a thing had never been done before.”
“So...you traveled here on nothing more than a chance?” Rhea asked.
“It was worth it to see you and hold you in my arms,” Ronda said, shrugging off her daughter’s concerns as she sat down. “And now here we are, back together again.”
Rhea was now visibly frustrated, and her mother’s unconcerned, nonchalant attitude was beginning to annoy her. “Mom...as much as I appreciate you being here, you single-handedly put this world at risk!”
Ronda stared back at Rhea and shrugged. “I was willing to do whatever it takes.”
“But you don’t get to decide that! I’ve lived in this world for a long time by myself, and these people...they don’t deserve to have their world sucked into the Maelstrom by a wizard who doesn’t understand the consequences of her actions!” Rhea said, her voice rising. Ronda was taken aback, raising an eyebrow.
“So...you’re mad at me for coming here?”
“Yes!” Rhea said at first, before she realized what she had said. “No...I just...mom, when I came over here...people noticed. Even though I still have no idea what happened, the Time Knights noticed right away when someone who didn’t belong here slipped into the world. I swore an oath specifically to prevent this kinda thing from happening, but nobody put the world in as much danger as you.”
Ronda sighed, shaking her head. The two stood in silence for a moment. There was a bit of frustration evident on her mother’s face, but also a tinge of admiration. “You are so much like Clara. To think that my daughter would join the Time Knights. How did I raise you?” She said with a chuckle. “I’m just joking sweetie. And, while I know words can do little in this situation, I’m sorry. But I...needed to come find you.” She emphasized the word “needed.” Rhea was not sure what that implied, but if Ronda had not come here, she is not sure what would have become of her mother.
“I’m sorry mom. For what it’s worth, I’ve done what I can to make a life here. It’s been hard and...really scary.” Rhea averted her eyes, her usual confidence momentarily slipping from her face. “But I did it. And I’m happy you’re here.”
“Speaking of Clara...is she coming as well?” Rhea asked. Ronda looked distant, and more sad than Rhea had ever seen her mother before. She could not face her daughter as she spoke, crossing her arms and looking away.
“Leaving her...was the most difficult thing I have ever done.”
A different time and reality…
The Empress of Tidal was not well. It was known that her daughter had gone missing, and the once affable ruler who would spend time amongst her subjects, attending plays and walking through their university, Academia Aquatica, had secluded herself from the public eye. Many feared that the Empress had fallen ill, others suspected that the pain of losing her daughter was just too much to bear. In truth, they were both correct. Losing Rhea had changed everything for Ronda, and she was unwell...mentally and emotionally.
While the Empire continued to grow and expand thanks to the work of their council, the merfolk wizard had locked herself in her studies. Anyone who made contact would be forced to listen to her ramble on endlessly about her plan to get Rhea back. Indeed, the Empress claimed that she had done the impossible. She shared that Rhea was not gone...no, she had merely achieved what even wizards had thought impossible, traveling across dimensions, and Ronda claimed that she had found a way to go to her. Though most felt that she had possibly gone mad, others felt that maybe, just maybe, the wizard could pull it off.
However, her wife was more concerned for Ronda’s well-being more than anything else. Having been unable to get Ronda to leave the room in weeks, Clara determined that it was time to stage an intervention. Though she was similarly affected by the loss of her daughter, she, unlike Ronda, was not so magically inclined as to think that she could find her. With her guards posted outside the door, Clara knocked on the door to Ronda’s workshop. Who would greet her at the door than a familiar Protean, Izzy. The fuzzy-snake like creature grinned at her.
“Izzy is happy to see Clara.” She said, a hint of mischief in her voice.
“Izzy, open up please, I need to speak to my wife.” Clara said, prepared to force her way in if necessary. However, Izzy pulled the door back, and allowed her inside. Izzy was loyal to Ronda after all, but it appears that she was not currently turning away visitors.
“You are just in time.” Izzy said with a chuckle. “It is beautiful. Master is just about to pull it off!”
“Pull off what…” Clara said skeptically as she scanned her surroundings. The room was dark, but a myriad of colors was lighting up the opposite wall. Something was going on, and Clara’s gut instinct was that she was not going to like it.
“Master found a way to find the small one.” Izzy said. She had always described Rhea that way, and Clara recognized her meaning immediately. “Izzy has been helping her.”
Clara followed along as Izzy led her down the hall, and gasped at the sight her eyes fell upon next. There were massive, glowing runes covering every inch of the room. All furniture had been discarded to make way for the bigger project. And at the center of all these runes was Ronda, whose skin was covered in similar runes, like tattoos encompassing her body. Ronda was rapidly changing colors, her skin turning every shade of the rainbow, and Clara could sense the wild magic in the air.
“Honey...whatever this is...please stop.” Clara said, stepping forward past Izzy. Ronda whirled around, holding up her hand.
“Clara, I-” Ronda was looking at her but, her eyes were distant, as though her mind were elsewhere. “I...I’ve found it. I found a way to get Rhea back. It wasn’t easy, but I know how I can reach her.”
“Ronda…” Clara sighed. She wanted to trust her wife more than anyone, but right now, she sounded crazy. “Just explain what is going on, please.”
“I still don’t know how she did it...but Rhea is in another dimension. And there is only one place with enough raw, wild, and destructive magical energy to reach her. The Maelstrom…” Ronda said. “I’m going to harness the plane’s magical energy and use it to find our daughter.”
“...” Clara turned to Izzy. “Did you put her up to this?”
“Izzy would never be able to pull off what master did. Izzy just offered her advice.” She said with that same mischievous grin.
“Do you know this will work? Has such a thing been done before?” Clara asked.
“You are talking about the Maelstrom. Your calculations don’t mean anything. C’mon Ronda, you’re smarter than this.” Clara said, holding out her hand as she made her way forward, trying not to accidentally trigger one of the runes. “It’s a land of chaos and anarchy. You can’t control it! That’s the entire point!”
At first, her wife averted her eyes. “You’re right...but I have to try.” Ronda whispered back. With a snap of her fingers, all of the runes began to glow, and the magical energy present in the room became so strong that both the Empress and her wife began to float. Crackles of energy and raw magic sparked across the room, forcing Izzy to dodge out of the way.
“Ronda...please don’t do this. I miss Rhea as much as you do. We’ll find another way. Please, just talk to me…” Clara said, pleadingly.
Ronda did not turn her focus away from her spells, but she did respond. “I haven’t been able to do anything since Rhea disappeared. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. You have to understand Clara...I have to do this. I can’t live with myself otherwise!” She yelled back. “Let me go. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
Clara did reach Ronda, however, and she grasped her by the hands. A gate suddenly opened behind them, and based on the swirling images and strange visions, Clara knew she was looking at the Maelstrom. “Take me with you.” Clara said, looking in Ronda’s eyes.
“It’s too dangerous. I need you to watch over Zelus and the kingdom. I...I can’t put anyone else in danger.” Ronda’s focus returned, and she looked her wife in the eyes as the gate began to pull her body away. “We will be together soon my love. As a family.”
“How do you know…?” Clara said, not wishing to doubt her wife, but fearing the results of such experimental magic nonetheless. Ronda would snap her fingers, and the world slowed to a crawl around them. Timestop.
“Because you are my sun Clara. It doesn’t matter which dimension we find ourselves in. You are what greets me in the morning, and what tells me everything will be okay when I go to bed for the night. No force in the universe can keep us apart for long.” With a final kiss, Clara tried to cherish these final few seconds as much as she could before the spell came to an end, and Ronda soared into the gate before it immediately closed.
Rhea felt a mixture of emotions as Ronda explained what had happened. She felt sorrow over the fact that the two had been separated momentarily due to something that had happened to her. She felt anger that all this had happened due to forces beyond even her mother’s control. And she felt a sense of longing for the parent that she had been separated from. Rhea was still upset with her mother, but that emotion would not help her to move forward. She had been trained by the Time Knights to try and be objective, even when under stress.
“So...what happens now?” Rhea asked.
“That is a hard question to answer.” Ronda stood up, hands clasped behind her back as she stepped through the sand. “For now, I’ll be focusing on research. Being in a new world such as this piqued my curiosity, though my primary focus will be trying to find a more sustainable way to travel between these worlds.”
“Did you...plan to take me back home?” Rhea asked, though she wasn’t sure how well the phrase home still applied. She had grown up in this world, and had fought hard to defeat the Empire and bring peace. She was uncertain if she could step away.
Ronda turned around, eyeing her daughter curiously. “You seem uncertain. Is that what you want?” She asked.
“I’m not sure…” Rhea began, trying to put her thoughts into words. “I’m fighting for the rebellion here, and I feel a need to finish this war with the Empire, come what may. I owe it to the people of this world. They took me in, and there are those who I wish to protect. As much as I want to see mother again I-”
Ronda raised her hand. “Me too sweetie, you don’t have to defend your beliefs. She would want you to finish the fight as well.” Ronda said. “My priority is just to bring our family back together. Whether it's here or there is not as important to me.”
“But what about everything you started there? What about Tidal?” Rhea said.
“Give your parents some credit Rhea. I did not leave with no one ready to take my place.” Ronda explained. “An apprentice of mine, Charlotte, has been preparing to rule in my stead for some time. It was inevitable anyway. One can only go so far if they wish to be both a goddess and a ruler of a kingdom. Eventually one has to win out.”
“The point is Rhea...when I was your age my parents did not want me to explore either. They wanted me to live my entire life in the ocean, but eventually I found my own way to the surface. I’ll never be the type of mom who tells you where you belong. I’m just happy to see that you’re safe.” Ronda said with a smile. “So for now, finish what you started. Because I’ll be here, biding my time, and finding out whatever there is to know about this world before I bring our family together again.”
Rhea, overcome with emotion and gratitude, suddenly lunged forward and embraced her mother. Ronda was a bit taken aback, but she returned her embrace, running her hand through her daughter’s hair. When the two separated, they knew that it would now only be temporary as Rhea returned to the material plane to continue her work as an adventurer. And Ronda would continue her studies. Using her magic to scry and study the world, Izzy would appear by her side, a mischievous grin on her face.
“What does master plan to do now?” Izzy asked.
“I did something I’m not sure any other wizard had ever accomplished. The problem with our old world was that there were too many established powers. We were playing catch-up with kingdoms too vast to compete with. But here...when I see this world...I see opportunity.” Ronda said, an ambitious look in her eyes as she looked back at Izzy. “Wait until this world gets a load of me.”
One would think that entering a new world would be more exciting. However, for one recent arrival, they were already beginning to feel incredibly bored from what they were seeing. For someone capable of traveling across planes with ease, it's always discouraging when the grass smells the same, the trees look the same, and birds sound the same. It was all so...dull. Having tried to remain at least somewhat inconspicuous upon their arrival, this newcomer to Etera slowly walked out of the forest. In this form, he resembled a kitsune, his ears twitching in the breeze as he stepped away from the trees. He dressed like a cowboy, and outside of the firearm holstered to his side, seemed relatively harmless and ordinary.
However, anyone who knew him and his history would know that this was certainly not the case.
The kitsune reached into his pocket and retrieved a pair of dice. Unaccustomed to making his own decisions, this kitsune preferred to let chance dictate his movements. And so, as he began to look around, wondering which way he would proceed, he tossed the dice into the air, watching as they bounced off of a rock and landed...to the North East. The kitsune peered into the distance, spotting what appeared to be smoke on the horizon, and smirked. Soon he would be done with the wilderness and find himself in civilization.
He also spotted something else. It was difficult to see from this distance, but it appeared to be a being flying straight towards him. As though they had been warned, or knew something he didn’t, the birds that had seconds ago been singing were flying away, trying to put as much distance between them and him as possible. The kitsune did not even have a chance to respond before, suddenly, the ground around him began to explode and erupt all around.
Magic exists in this world, and any experienced warrior has grown accustomed to the sight of fireballs and other spells on the battlefield. However, seeing a master in action...it is still truly awe inspiring. Crystalized ice, perfectly crafted to cut apart and freeze their target, began to chase after him. Massive stones, the likes of which had lay dormant on the forest floor for centuries, were suddenly ripped in two due to the sheer volume of magical energy striking him. Most people would never have been fast enough to dodge this kind of attack. However, this kitsune was just quick enough to live...for the time being. He seemed to move so quickly that he left an afterimage in his wake, as he hopped into the air, landing on a nearby branch. Below him, the patch of open air he had just been standing had been completely destroyed. Whoever had attacked him wanted to ensure that he was annihilated.
“Well, that’s a mighty fine way to greet a new arrival to your world.” The kitsune said with a sneer. Anyone who would attack him like that clearly knew who he was. No sense in trying to hide it any longer. “And to whom do I owe the pleasure?”
A woman, whose legs seemed to have been replaced by a small tornado, slowly lowered to the ground. She had black and white skin, red hair, and was wearing what most would call a swimsuit. As the smoke cleared, the kitsune found that he recognized her immediately, and he knew that things were going to get more interesting. Yes, he knew Ronda the Merfolk very well.
“The next attack won’t miss Dingo.” She said. Despite her efforts to remain calm, it was clear that she was furious. Her eyes were glowing, and her hair was standing on end, her palms still surging with magical energy as she stood on one of the crystals she had created. “What are you doing here?”
And she remembered him as well. Dingo couldn’t help but feel a little pride. “Same reason that you have for coming here I assume. To make a mockery of the laws of the universe and discover an entirely new world.” Dingo explained, his hand hovering to his gun in its holster. “You just tried to eviscerate a tourist.”
“Don’t play coy with me. Whatever it is you have in mind for this world...I won’t let you.” As Ronda spoke, Dingo felt the branch he was perched on shake. Turning around, he spotted the face of a massive, crab-like creature staring back at him. Anyone who knew Ronda also knew that she was a summoner, and she never worked alone. As a massive tower shield was suddenly sent flying towards him, Dingo hopped to the ground. For him, time seemed to move more slowly than for everyone else around him.
He was greeted there by a quick snake-like woman, whose lower half was that of an eel, who tried to slash at him with a spear. Dingo had to give Ronda credit. Her companions were certainly well trained, and even the most experienced of warriors without Dingo’s distinct advantages, would have been killed by such a coordinated attack. Dingo, however, managed to catch the eel woman’s spear with his hand, slamming his elbow into her face and driving her back into the tree behind her.
Dingo tried to recall the companions that Ronda had at her disposal. He knew about the crab and the eel. That should be-
He found himself caught off guard as a greatsword slashed into his back. It nearly cut his entire body in two, and most likely would have if it were not for the fact that Dingo’s movements made him hard to see. That was new. He didn’t recall any of Ronda’s companions wielding a sword. That was new. Diving through the air, Dingo twisted his body to get a look at his attacker, and saw a squid girl wielding the sword. The sword seemed to be about the size of her body, but she wielded it well nonetheless. She seemed nervous, but nonetheless flung a dart at him. Dingo felt it strike his arm, and momentarily, his body slowed down as the magic left his body. It felt like he was standing in an antimagic field.
“What the hell…” He said as he pulled the dart from his skin. Already his wounds were beginning to heal as his body regenerated. As the squid girl began to charge towards him, he pulled his revolver and fired, only for the same tower shield he had spotted before to be planted in front of his target, blocking every one of his shots. A gargantuan shadow fell over him.
Dingo was forced to admit, now might be the time for a...tactical retreat. As much as he hated to admit it, he was on unfamiliar ground, and outnumbered. Not unusual when fighting a summoner, but Ronda was in a league of her own when it came to calling upon the aid of her outsiders. And if the coordinated attack of her companions was not enough, he knew that Ronda was watching him, waiting for an opening. If he wanted to survive this encounter, he needed to retreat. With a snap of his fingers, reality seemed to warp around him. The trees shifted into misshapen shadows of their former selves, the ground seemed to melt into a mass of colors that were indescribable, and the visions of all the nearby outsiders seemed to blur. It was illusion magic, but far more potent, as Dingo’s powers would actually have a lasting impact on the world around him. As Ronda began to fly towards them, Dingo found the eel woman reaching for her spear. He kicked it out of the way and wrapped his arm around her throat, placing the barrel of his revolver next to her temple as he stared down the wizard.
“You know that she will come back even if you pull the trigger.” Ronda said. “She is an outsider. You can’t hurt her.” The wizard said, seemingly preparing for another attack as her outstretched palm began to glow. Dingo, however, did not flinch.
“Correction...I can’t kill her. But this will sure as hell hurt. And the memory of what it feels like to get shot in the head...that will stay forever.” Dingo said. Behind the wizard, her other companions gathered around her, weapons ready, but not attacking. “And for most summoners, they wouldn’t even hesitate. Outsiders like this one are easy to replace. But that’s now how you work, is it Ronda? You care too much.”
“Please master Ronda, take him down! You have a clean shot!” The eel girl shouted. Admittedly, she was hard to keep hold of. That being said...Dingo would not need her for much longer. “Destroy him now while you have the chance?”
“She’s right you know. Use another one of those crystal blasts. You can take us both down with ease.” For a moment, it seemed as though the wizard would do just that...and then her palm slowly lowered. He had called her bluff and won. “That’s a good girl. Finally, we can handle this more like adults.”
“What is it you want Dingo?” Ronda asked. Her eel companion continued to struggle, but Dingo held her throat a bit more tightly so she could not speak.
“Come on Ronda, you know myself and my kind well enough to understand it isn’t about what I want. It's about what I’m gonna do. Plans...plans are for mortals. Our kind thrive on chaos and anarchy.” Dingo stepped back, and a portal began to open behind him. All he had to do was step inside. “Maybe I haven’t even decided yet? You’ll never know. You missed your one shot.”
Dingo looked around, and noticed that one companion he had expected to see was missing from Ronda’s squad. “Say...where is my little soul sister? Didn’t think you could trust Izzy to fight me?” Dingo said as he peered back at the wizard.
“No...I did. She wouldn’t betray me.” Ronda said firmly, her fists clenched. “But she didn’t trust herself and didn’t want to be a liability.”
“Wow...either you are the first woman to tame a protean...or you’re lying to yourself. Our kind aren’t exactly trustworthy. There was a time when you understood that.” Dingo said. “In truth, I’m a bit surprised to see you here Ronda. What exactly brings you to this dimension? At least you didn’t forget your own pal Dingo.”
Ronda didn’t respond. Perhaps there was something to that, Dingo thought. Something...or someone she did not want him to know about. “Fine, keep your secrets.This was a fun little reunion. You almost got me a couple of times there. Still...you and I both know I didn’t go all out. Guess we’ll have to wait for our rematch huh?”
“This world already bores me. Time to spice things up. Until next time…” With a salute, Dingo kicked the eel woman forward and launched himself back into the portal. Ronda unleashed her magic the instant she had an opening, but Dingo had used time stop to ensure that nothing prevented him from entering the portal. As the tear in reality closed behind him, Dingo smirked, looking at his new surroundings. He had not even teleported that far, but it was enough. Now that he knew someone was actually looking for him, even here, he cast a few new spells to block anyone from looking for him as he made his next move.
Exiting the alley he had teleported into, he found people milling about, barely noticing him. Perfect. They had no idea what was coming, just as it should be. Picking up another pair of dice from his pocket, Dingo rolled them in his hand, walking towards the nearest tavern and his next move.
The Darkest Depths
Over the years, I have come to understand a fundamental difference between myself and my mother. When I first came to this world and the continent of Etera, all I wanted was a return to normalcy, or at least some semblance of it. I wanted to go back to being with my family, in the same world where I had grown up.
In hindsight, I realize that those words may be confusing to those of you just reading this. My name is Rhea, and I’m from another dimension. Keep up with me, okay?
Anyway, all this time, I had been striving to get back what I had lost. In the absence of my ordinary family, I joined the order of Time Knights. They gave me a home. Friends. Purpose. Finally, I had found something that resembled normalcy in a strange world I could not call my own.
But my mother...even with her family back, reunited, a kingdom under her control, thousands of worshippers and students...she was not satisfied. For while I wanted to go back to normal, my mother was not the sort of person who would ever be satisfied with that sort of thing. Completing one goal just caused her to want to start on another, and for her, there was never an end in sight. It didn’t matter what happened, what she achieved...there was an emptiness inside her that nothing could fill.
Which made me scared about what she would try next.
From the journal of Rhea Azureleaf, Time Knight
They say that space was the final frontier. But the truth was, there was plenty to explore within the oceans that most people, even those who call the waters of the world their home, had never seen. The deepest depths of the ocean often felt darker than even the void of space, and those who dared to explore them would find plenty of rare creatures that could not possibly exist anywhere else.
A small squid girl was glowing within these depths, guiding her allies as they descended deeper into the ocean. She glowed brighter than any man-made light ever could, somehow cutting through the darkness and lighting the way. The fact that said squid girl was incredibly shy did nothing to deter her light. She attempted to shroud her face in her blue tentacle hair, wishing that everyone was not being forced to look at her. Quip, Ronda’s familiar, was riding atop her master’s shoulder who, along with her squad, rested on top of a massive centauress, magical gills allowing her to swim in the ocean as long as she wished, like some massive submarine.
“Quip, you’re just making this harder than it has to be.” Her master said. Ronda was always very smooth, confident, and poised whenever she spoke. The merfolk, her skin the color of an orca’s, black and white, looked around. Her hair hung to one side and the tattoos on her arms continued to glow as she held Quip aloft.
“C-Couldn’t you have c-caused someone else to glow master?” Quip asked.
“Both Mako and Izzy are helping us keep an eye out for trouble. And causing Crystal to glow....well, we don’t need to light up the entire ocean.”
The aforementioned Mako, an eel girl with a long yellow tail and a spear in her hands, slithered over to Ronda’s side. Despite her appearance, Mako was Ronda’s companion best suited to “polite company,” knowing how to speak to nobles and keep things tidy, earning her the role of Ronda’s maid. “To think that there is magic capable of even blocking the sight of those who see in darkness…”
“A proper wizard knows that there is a counter to everything,” Ronda explained with a chuckle. “Remember who we are dealing with girls, and keep your guard up. Things have been smooth so far, but I find it doubtful that we won’t run into any trouble.”
“Don’t worry master, if we find any trouble, I’ll smash it!” Her noble and gigantic steed shouted. It was hard to make out Crystal’s face through the darkness. Standing at well over sixty feet tall, with long blond hair that flowed behind her as she swam. Still, her overconfidence was oddly comforting.
“Master, Izzy sees something!” Her other companion, a protean by the name of Izzy, was standing towards the front of Crystal’s torso, pointing out in the distance with one of her several arms. With a long snake-like body and plenty of fluff, Izzy often resembled a cute pet more than a dangerous Protean.
Ronda joined Izzy by her side, looking in the distance, and indeed. For the first time since they started traveling to the darkest depths of the ocean, she was what appeared to be buildings. Or, given their current state...ruins. Still, it was a sign that life had, at least at one point, been here.
“Arm yourselves girls. We’re about to make land.”
Crystal would eventually land on the ground, causing the ground to shake as the gargantuan creature came to a stop. Her sheer size made even slight movements potentially dangerous, but the fact that the ruins of this former city were seemed to be a sign that there was no one left to disturb. Ronda would float to the ground as well, Mako and Izzy flanking her on both sides, as Quip glowed overhead, an unwilling beacon of light in the darkness.
“Our scouts made very limited contact with this village...but this was once a thriving town of undine. Something obviously happened here.” Mako said, clearly alert. She took her bardiche down from her back and eyed her surroundings warily.
“I think we can safely say that something happened here. The question is what and...why.” Ronda said with a sigh as she began to walk out into the darkness. “There are few beings that we know of that are capable of wiping out a village in this manner, and even less with a desire to do so. This might just be something new.”
But despite her foreboding words, Ronda was smiling. Mako was slightly taken aback but knew that her master could not help herself when her curiosity presented her with a mystery or a challenge. It was what made her master powerful, dangerous...and often in need of protecting. Izzy slithered alongside Ronda as she walked forward, with the massive Crystal looming over the group.
Ronda scanned the buildings, or at least what remained of them, around her. The people here had access to some magic and technology of their own, but nothing like what was available in the Tidal Empire or other cities on the surface. They built their homes into stone, having few other options for materials this deep in the ocean. There were also clear signs of a struggle. Damaged walls, scrapes along the ground, and even dried blood on a few surfaces. But the most peculiar thing was the lack of any bodies.
Ronda began to look things over with her arcane senses, scanning for signs of magic. Any traces that were there were faint. Either magic had nothing to do with this, or whoever had used it was such a master of their craft that they left behind no signs. However, there was one thing that seemed to stand out to her. Signs of enchantment magic and they were getting stronger as they made their way down the street.
“Crystal, what is it that you see?” Ronda said as her large companion loomed overhead. The centauress was gnawing on a large fruit of some kind. While Crystal was not...very bright, according to most, she did understand one thing well, and that was combat. Her head turned around, looking things over.
“Based on where the footprints are...whatever struggle was happening seemed to lead here, with...that building at the center.” She pointed to what appeared to be a church or temple of some kind in the center of the city. “This would seem to be where they made their last stand.”
“Why here? It’s like, at the center of everything…” Izzy asked.
Crystal would shrug. “I am not sure they had anywhere else to go. It is hard to say.”
Ronda would nod. Crystal’s description seemed accurate to her as well. Quip floated overhead, still shining like a torch. Barricades had been erected in front of the church, but how well they worked...well, given the fact that she still had not seen any signs of life...Shaking her head, the wizard would sit down. “Keep an eye out girls. I need to see what happened here for myself.”
The wizard fell into a trance. Her eyes were open, but it was clear that she was not looking at their surroundings anymore. Ronda had long ago acquired the ability to see the past, and time seemed to unfurl around her, like a storybook in reverse. She waited until she saw people, and what she saw...was horrific. Given what the merfolk had seen during her life, that was saying something.
It was as though the entire town had gone mad. Men, women, children, young and old, no one was immune. The people seemed to be ripping each other apart, and though they were attacking one another, the focus of their aggression was clearly the temple she was now looking at. The guards seemed to be doing everything they could to hold them off, until, eventually, they too would turn against their allies. This was mind manipulation magic the likes of which she had never seen, the result of a festering corruption. On one of the undine’s head, she swore she saw a tattoo, and she had to rewind time until she could see it clearly.
It took her longer to believe that it was real than it did to recognize the symbol. It explained everything. Ronda’s eyes snapped open, and her allies look towards her. “I know what happened here.” She said, standing up.”Dagoff.”
The outsiders looked at one another, recognizing the name of the demon lord very well. If he had taken an interest in this town, then it explained what happened here perfectly. Dagoff’s corruption would spread like a plague, and try as the people might resist, they could only withstand the force of a demon lord for so long. Their presence here put them in danger as well, but as much as she wanted to leave, she had to confirm one thing...what was inside this temple that the undine guards had been so desperate to protect?
Ronda and her entourage made their way to the church. The door had been barred, but all it took was one tug from Crystal for the entire door...and a portion of the wall...to come down. Unable to fit through, Crystal would stand guard at the entrance, like a pet whose owners went into the store.
The wizard could tell that the inside of this church was much different. Magical defenses had been placed on just about every surface, and one false move would overwhelm even her powers. Thankfully, by binding with a certain spirit, Ronda’s very touch was dangerous to magic. All she had to do was touch these traps with her hands to completely disjoin their effects. Slowly, they made their way forward.
Eventually, they made their way to the center of the temple. However, she saw something unexpected in this part of the ocean. She saw a large tree. From the looks of it, this tree had been attacked on all sides, with claws and spears, but nothing had punctured its trunk. However, the tree itself was emanating powerful magic. “Now this is interesting…”
“Any idea what it is master?” Mako asked.
“...A caster’s last defense. They wanted Dagoff to be unable to get something. This must have been a custom spell though. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.” Ronda would place her hand on the trunk. “No physical or magical force could breakthrough to what’s inside.”
“So what do we do?” Mako asked.
Ronda grinned from ear to ear. “We cheat.”
It was a difficult task, and Ronda could have spent days trying all manner of spells and experiments. Or, she could simply ask a Ronda that had already done so from the future. Another Ronda would appear, this one looking far more frustrated, her hair disheveled, but after some back and forth, she revealed the solution. Ronda’s body would turn incorporeal, with some other defenses added in, as her body slid into the tree. On the other side, it would emerge, a black orb clasped in her hands.
“Oooh, tasty....” Izzy said, drooling a bit at the giant piece of candy.
“Not for eating Izzy. This...seems to be an artifact of some kind.” As she raised the orb, she found that it began to glow. Slowly, Ronda began to scan it over, analyzing its functions. “Evidently, this was meant to help the people here detect Dagoff, but it was completed too late. It glows in the presence of his corruption...but by the time it was created, it was too late. He was already here.”
“Those guards gave their life for this artifact. It would be foolish to let it go to waste.” Mako said.
“Agreed. Plus, if Dagoff has set his sights on a city like this, close to Tidal...we may need its powers soon enough.” Ronda said. As she lowered the orb, it began to glow more brightly. They may have already garnered some of his attention. Ronda would reach out her arm, her tattoo beginning to glow as her companions armed themselves.
She wasn’t sure how they arrived so quickly, though Ronda suspected teleportation, as the city’s former residents began to surround the temple. She could hear them swimming through the entrances. Doubtlessly Crystal would try to fend them off but by herself…
“Do we attempt to gate master?” Mako asked, aiming her bardiche at the hallway as Izzy barred her fangs. Quip, meanwhile, cowered behind the pair.
“Someone like Dagoff doubtlessly anticipated that. He won’t make it easy. But…” Ronda sighed, runes of magic beginning to appear around her. “It doesn’t matter, we don’t have a choice. Hold them off for me!”
Mako was ready. She mentally made a zone around herself and her master, filling most of the room. The undine themselves were not powerful, but all other thoughts beyond obeying the demon lord of the sea and destroying their target had been taken away. They swam at them with no sense of self-preservation. Mako moved so quickly that she seemed to be in multiple places at once, cutting down undine cultists rapidly. Their bodies had been butchered, adorned with jewelry, tattoos, and cuts signaling their allegiance to Dagoff. She knew they were once ordinary people, but right now, Mako viewed them as little more than threats to her master.
Izzy was also fighting, but she did not have the mind for complicated strategies or keeping an eye on certain entranced. With fangs barred and several sets of claws, she tore through the undine like a tornado, leaving blood in her wake. However, despite the efforts of her servants, Ronda still found herself being swarmed. A frightened Quip erected a barrier around them, but it would not hold long. Ronda scanned, and sure enough, there were indeed traps and other failsafes set if she were to try and teleport. She should be able to work around those, provided she had the time. Quip tried to hold the barrier, but they were surrounded on all sides. It was only a matter of time-
The wall came crashing down as Crystal made her presence felt. With a single sweep of her sword, she cleared out a large mass of the undine. Her hair glowed as the centauress flew into a rage, fighting off any who would dare threaten her friends. Regaining her focus, Ronda completed her spells, and soon, a portal opened back to Tidal. They had only a moment.
“Time to go ladies!” Ronda shouted. With Crystal covering them, Ronda, Mako, and Izzy made their way through. The centauress had to duck a bit to fit through even the large portal, but soon, they were back in Tidal. Teleporting has brought with it risk. While it had saved their lives, Dagoff may now know where they came from, and where to go if he sought revenge. Still, they did not have many other choices.
“All present and accounted for?” *Ronda said, taking a breath as she checked over her allies. Despite having just taken a trip to explore the depths of the ocean, never before had it felt so...small. A powerful threat had entered her corner of the sea, and it was unlikely they would be apart forever.
Training the Tarrasque
Jaffar Azureleaf, Ronda’s eldest son, was considered to be the black sheep of the Empress’s children. Were it not for his royal status, it was suspected that Jaffar would have been jailed or exiled long ago. In simple terms, Jaffar was a young man addicted to romance, known to flirt with anyone he finds appealing, including the staff at the palace. Which had led to many...awkward and embarrassing exchanges for the Tidal Empire’s leadership.
And now it was being taken all away. Jaffar had gotten the notice from his mother last night, that after his years of carefree lazing about had come to a close. The prince had been told not to view it as an exile, but as a field trip, where he would learn to be more independent and to take care of himself. And...not to flirt with everything with a pair of legs (though for the prince even that part was negotiable). So, Jaffar had spent most of last evening packing whatever belongings he could, but without the benefit of his family or the kingdom’s fortune.
Jaffar had woken up, annoyed and frustrated, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Ordinarily he had maids who would help him get ready for the morning, ensuring that his clothing was suitable given his social positioning, but now...that had all been taken away. The Prince was a mess, looking like a disheveled mess who had been up partying throughout the night, but in reality, he had been up packing and being stressed, wondering how he would even survive being out on his own. He would make his way over to the palace gardens, and spotted his mom sitting on a nearby bench, a few of her companions nearby as bodyguards.
“Hey mom…” Jaffar said, making his way over. Mom was a merfolk of most peculiar origin, with her appearance similar to that of an orca whale. She was a renowned wizard, but as a parent, she was generally the one who was less strict, which made her easier for Jaffar to talk to...when he wanted something. “Mind if I join you?”
Ronda would turn and smile warmly, gesturing to some space on the bench.”Of course Jaffar. You’re not usually up this early. Come, sit with me.”
For many, the sight of an underwater garden was peculiar, with coral and other forms of sea life where bushes and flowers would ordinarily be. However, for Jaffar, it was the surface world that seemed more strange and peculiar, having spent most of his life underwater. He sat down next to his mom, ordinarily he wasn’t intimidated by her, but given the circumstances…
“Your mother and I already chatted, so I’m up to date. And I stand by her decision.” The Empress said firmly. “So if you wanted to try and sway me, don’t waste your time. You’ve been given so many second chances Jaffar.”
“I know mom...I just wanted to chat, believe it or not.” He said. “What...are you doing in the garden anyway? Usually you are too busy for this sort of thing.”
“Training. See that large woman over there?” Ronda said.
Jaffar would look over at a massive woman, approximately eight feet tall, with long blond hair and a little crown atop her head. Despite her human appearance, the woman's movements were...animalistic and bestial, as she would run on all fours when she picked up speed, and she would growl and snarl at others as opposed to talk. Another woman, with the appearance of an eel, was throwing what appeared to be a large stick, which the woman was retrieving and returning to her.
“Who is that…?” Jaffar asked curiously, having not see her around the castle before.
“That is Tara...she’s a Tarrasque-spawn I captured while on a mission.” Ronda explained calmly, despite the subject matter. It was strange how comfortable an experienced wizard would become with such oddities.
“Wait...a Tarrasque Spawn?”
“The Armageddon Engine?”
“The daughter of one, but yes.”
“In the form of...a rather attractive female. Living...in your castle, playing in your garden.”
Ronda would laugh, leaning back on the bench. “When you put it like that, I suppose it reminds me of how strange it is.” The Empress explained. “She was marching towards Babel when I came across her. And now, yes, she lives here. I have experience training similar creatures. Right now it's just playtime.”
“Does this strike you as a good idea…?”
“Good in the sense of, was it smart? If trained properly, she will be a strong ally. Good in the sense of morals? Depends, would you rather it be captured and allowed a second chance, or be killed like a beast?” Ronda would shrug. “I find such debates to be a waste of time.”
“Heh. I guess it really is just like you.”
“The Tarrasque-spawn didn’t make a choice of where it was born, or what its purpose was. It was born to be a monster. But, does she look so monstrous now?” Ronda would ask. Jaffar would watch as the Tarrasque, who seemed quite pleased with herself, retrieved the stick, and received some pats on the head for her trouble.
“No...I suppose not.” Jaffar would grin.
“Down boy.” Ronda said quickly. “I relate to her story. I have told you about your grandfather before, right?” Jaffar would nod. “When he discovered that I had magical potential, he viewed me as little more than a...weapon for his choosing. I would help him conquer the ocean, regardless of my own desires or objections, a tool to be used and discarded. We both had pretty evil fathers that tried to shape us a certain way.”
Ronda would take a breath. “Initially, I had to use mind control to calm her down, but since then, I have released her. Training has gone well. She is still very clumsy, but in time, she will learn. I think she will turn into someone very different than who she was intended to be.” The Empress said. “I do not believe anyone is destined to grow into a specific type of person just because of their upbringing or their parents. Which...brings me conveniently to you Jaffar.”
Jaffar would blush, embarrassed as he placed his hand on the back of his head, running it through his hair. “I was wondering when I was gonna get a lecture.”
“Not a lecture. There isn’t anything I can say you haven’t heard before.” Ronda sighed. It felt like not so long ago, Jaffar would sit comfortably on her lap, but now he was taller than her. “It’s time you grew up Jaffar. I think myself and your mother...we did everything we could for you. But growing up a prince, it made you spoiled and...immature.”
“So the solution is cutting me off?”
“Not cutting you off. This is your home.” Ronda said, taking her son by the hand, as he avoided her gaze. “Your mother and I love you very much, and we always will. But...to appreciate what you have, you need to learn what it took to acquire it. To explore and see the world through your own eyes, without us or the palace guards around to clean up all your messes.”
Jaffar would slowly meet her gaze, laughing and smiling. “Sure. You put that...much more nicely than mother.”
“She can be stricter than me. Besides, with all those women you spend time with, who do you think you get that from?” The two would laugh.
“Is that why the Tarrasque…” Jaffar gestures to his chest.
The Empress would blush, chuckling awkwardly. “We...all have our preferences. And who are you to judge?” *She said, standing up. With a snap of her fingers, her servant and the Tarrasque would rush over.* “I’ll see you off soon Jaffar. You’ll do great, I know it.” She said, before hugging her son one more time and making her way back to her throne room, to attend to royal matters. Jaffar would watch the peculiar trio go, trying to think more optimistically about the journey he himself would be making soon.
The Flame in the Shadow
As the White Time Knight, I was my team’s medic, healing wounds and providing support. Like all Time Knights, I was capable of fighting hand-to-hand, but it was far from a specialty of mine. However...when I returned to the Time Knights, there was an opening in their ranks that they had asked me to fill.
The Red Time Knight.
The Red Time Knight is the leader of the Time Knights, commanding the squad and bearing the responsibility of fighting impossible odds and getting their team out alive. Survive or die...they are the ones who bear responsibility. However, the Red Time Knight’s mantle also comes with considerable power: unrelenting flame that cannot be quenched. While there are countless individuals in the world who would use time magic for evil purposes, the visage of the Red Time Knight strikes fear into their hearts.
And so as I held the helmet of the red suit of armor in my arms, I came to a realization. My adopted sister, Gwen, had just informed me of what had happened to my mom, who she and the rest of the world now struggled to remember. But...I did. How could I forget? My mother...the Empress...the Demon Lord...the Shadow of the Sea. And I can’t keep avoiding confronting her. I sighed, exhausted, and dreading what was to come...but knowing that the course could not be changed.
I donned the helmet and got ready to fight my mom.
Rhea stood in the center of Sirenea, right before the palace. As the centerpiece of the kingdom’s capital, the palace was a sight to behold, a testament to both the kingdom’s power and considerable wealth. Guards and statues covered the courtyard, and fish of all shapes and sizes swam by, intermingling with the servants. However, while it all appeared to be a normal aquatic kingdom on the surface, the reality was far darker...Ronda’s presence as a demon lord was a naturally corrupting presence, and many of the fish were native to the Abyss, not the oceans of Siacros.
Rhea took in a breath, wishing for a moment that she had been bold enough to confront this issue before. But everything changes when the ultimate evil you plan to confront is family. She was clad in her full armor, a red suit of metal that did not exist in this world...yet. It was forged by Time Dragons to protect the Time Knights from the harmful effects of chronal magic. Needless to say, as Rhea marched forward, she drew stares and attention, but all of the guards only watched and stared. They recognized Rhea, daughter of the Empress who once held the role herself, but they were not accustomed to seeing her armed.
However, as she made her way straight to the throne room, there was one being who was bold enough to confront her. Rhea soon found herself face-to-face with Crystal, her mother’s centaur companion and the gatekeeper to her throne room. Crystal was a massive and muscular being, with a gargantuan greatsword strapped across her back that she could wield with one hand. Yet despite these intimidating features, Crystal had a smiling, friendly face and long blond hair, and she was munching on a fruit of some kind. Rhea liked Crystal...but if she wanted to face her mother, she knew that she would have to deal with her summoned outsiders as well.
“Hey there Rhea, long time no see!” Crystal said in her usual perky and cheerful manner. She was perhaps the most charming Demon Rhea had ever met. However, Rhea did not smile back, looking her in the eyes.
“Hey Crystal. I’m here to see my mom.” She said, moving forward and trying to pass around Crystal, but the centaur held out her arm.
“Of course Rhe-Rhe! Your mom will be super happy to see you.” Crystal explained. “But...I’m going to have to ask you to remove your armor. Sorry, just a security poto...prot...thing.” She said, having a hard time making the right words. Crystal was not particularly smart, which made what Rhea had to do more difficult.
“I’m sorry Crystal, but I’m not going to remove my armor, but I still need to see my mother.” Rhea said, her tone serious. Crystal would scratch her chin.
“But...master said that people shouldn’t wear their armor in the throne room. So you can’t see her…” Crystal sighed, this whole exchange clearly confusing her. “Sorry Rhea, but you can’t go in.”
“Crystal...I would rather not have to fight you. Please, take this opportunity to just walk away.” Rhea said, though she already knew the answer. For something like this, Crystal didn’t have any way to say no, even if she wanted to.
“I...I don’t know what you mean Rhe-Rhe…” Crystal said, reaching for her sword.
“...I’m sorry. I’ll try to make it quick.” Rhea said, a blade of pure plasma, as white as the fires of the sun, forming in her hands.
An explosion rocked the palace. The doorway leading to the throne room was flung open, Crystal’s charred form being knocked inside, crashing against the floor. She tried to rise to her feet, but this time, she stayed down, her body slowly dissipating. She wasn’t dead, but her essence that clung to this form would now dissipate. [i]At least I didn’t have to kill her…[/i] Rhea thought to herself.
The throne room was dark, making it almost hard to see, were it not for the blade of light in her hands. She stepped forward. At the back of the room, on the throne, was her mother’s current form of choice, a towering three-headed hydra, one hand in her hands as she watched Rhea walk forward. If her mother was surprised, she didn’t show it. Shocking a divination wizard was almost impossible.
“You should be proud of her mom. Despite my hope of ending things quickly, Crystal held out for some time.” Rhea said. “I’m sorry Crystal…”
“Rhea, it’s been some time. I like the new armor.” Ronda said, standing up, her arms crossed behind her hands. Though the effect of being Hollow caused Ronda to be forgotten by most other individuals, the outsider she was fused with was not similarly cursed, and had become known as the Empress of Tidal. “The Red Time Knight...you earned that title.”
“Mom....” Rhea said. Despite envisioning this moment for some time, her throat seemed to clog as she hesitated to speak. “Mom, you know why I’m here.”
“I don’t know, but I do suspect…” The fused form of the hydra crossed her arms beneath her chest, all three heads staring down at Rhea. She wasn’t alone in the room, as several other beings were watching her from the shadows. “You think that I’ve gone too far.”
“No...no you went too far a long...long time ago. For a while, I bought into the same lies everyone else did. I think it was because I wanted to. I wanted to believe it. It was better than the alternative.” She explained. “That...I lost my mom a long time ago.”
“I’m still here Rhea.” The hydra took a step forward, extending a hand. “I’m right here.”
“That isn’t you!” Rhea shouted. “My mom wouldn’t become a demon lord! My mom wouldn’t be content being forgotten by the rest of the world! My mom...my mom would never put her daughters through what you’ve done. Forcing us to try to accept you even as the title of demon lord corrupted you right to your very core...only to watch on as those who depend on you struggle to even remember your face. And you don’t plan to do anything about that do you?”
“There is...power in being forgotten. For most of the world, I have a clean slate. It is something that even the fifth horsemen possessed. It is the sort of opportunity I can’t turn down.” The hydra said. “I don’t expect you to understand, but as Empress-”
“Stop hiding behind that! Your responsibilities...I knew a long time ago how many people depended on you. It doesn’t excuse what you’ve done! What you’ve done to yourself!” Rhea said. “You always said that you made your choice because of what happened to Almara...stop blaming us! Your family never asked for this! We...I never wanted this! I was happy with my mom, I never asked for her to change!”
“Before you say anything...please tell me it won’t be another lie. Just...just give me the truth for once.” Rhea said, pleading. “Why?”
The hydra seemed to hesitate, which was rare for her. She crossed her arms behind her back, the center head looking off in the distance. “I think...there was a time where what I said was true. But now...it’s about power. I like having it. And I’m very good at using it. And...I’m not sure when I’ll be satisfied.” She explained.
“Mom...I’m sorry I didn’t try to stop you a long time ago.” She said, drawing a second blade. Despite being underwater, nothing could douse the flames of the Red Time Knight, as her plasma weapons illuminated the dark room.
“...I won’t fight you Rhea.” The hydra said, tensing.
“You don’t have a choice!”
Rhea charged forward. As the Red Time Knight, her workout routine was incredibly intense, and she moved faster than she had ever moved before. However, the other beings in the room were watching her intently, and the second she moved, one of them sprang into action. Charlotte, a large blue woman with red hair, grabbed her out of midair, slamming her to the ground. She was her mother’s wrestler, and she had taken down many a foe on her own.
But the Red Time Knight was no ordinary adversary.
As she was about to strike the floor, flames suddenly billowed out of the ground, ash and lava spilling forth. Charlotte was forced to stop in her tracks, while Rhea sank into the lava, swimming through it as easily as she did water, before launching back out and carving into Charlotte with her blades. Her mother stood there, watching calmly. The hydra snapped her fingers, and more of her outsiders appeared. Roxanne, her mother’s first companion, Mako, her mother’s maid, and Izzy, the former Protean turned demon. Roxanne held her shield forward.
“Stop making me fight your outsiders mom! I’m not here for them! I’m here for you!” Rhea shouted.
“I’m not making you do anything my dear. You chose this fight, not me!” Her mother watched calmly, crossing her arms. The outsiders sprang forth, Roxanne slamming her shield to the ground to crush Rhea, who teleported away. She found herself suddenly stabbed in the back by Mako, who was very skilled at intercepting teleportations. And off to the side, Izzy leapt towards her, fangs and claws at the ready to rip her to shreds. When she was growing up, these companions were her friends, and they too had been corrupted by her mom.
“Forgive me…” She said, before Rhea’s body was surrounded by a tornado of flame, immediately causing her mother’s outsiders to vanish. She could feel her mother trying to suppress her magic, but nothing could stop her flames. And when the dust settled, the outsiders were gone, with the exception of Izzy whose charred body fell to the side.
“Does this feel good Rhea?” Her mom asked. Even as her companions fell, she knew that her mother was still plenty dangerous without them. “I’m impressed. Your powers have come a long way.” She said with a chuckle.
“There is no joy in this. I don’t want to fight your companions.” She said, standing at the ready.
“You and I could be a very powerful team. Picture it. With my intellect and resources, and your undying flame...who could stand against us? We could change the world however we choose.” Ronda said. Rhea remained silent, staring her mother down. “...Have it your way then.” She said, snapping her fingers, and a portal would open. What would appear was one of Ronda’s more recent companions, the Tarrasque. However, she was different from how Rhea remembered. Her hair seemed to be made of lava and her expression was one of fury.
“What did you do to Tarra…?” Rhea asked, knowing she did not want to know the answers.
“Her body has been merged with a sphere of annihilation. She is far more useful this way.” Ronda said. Rhea would snarl. Her mom would never have forced one of her servants to change like this. But...if Tarra entered through the portal, she had no idea what would happen to the palace or the people inside it. She had to act fast.
Rhea would roar, launching forward with impossible speed. Time would seem to stand still as she launched herself, colliding with her mother with all the force of a jet. In a fraction of a second, she opened a portal behind her mom, disrupting Ronda’s concentration and causing the portal with the Tarrasque to close. The two would fly through the portal, leaving the palace behind.
Ronda and Rhea would emerge on what appeared to be a beach that stretched on as far as the eye could see. Ronda’s hydra form looked around, taking in her surroundings before looking back at Rhea, who was crouched across from her.
“You brought me to a demiplane.” Ronda stated.
“If we’re gonna do this, I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.” Rhea said. Still, she now knew that her mother would be willing to destroy the palace via the Tarrasque if it meant defeating her daughter.
“I don’t want to do this Rhea…” Ronda said, uncrossing her arms.
“..I didn’t get a choice when you chose to become a demon lord, and you don’t get a choice now!”
Rhea once again launched herself faster than the eye could see, and as time froze around here, she would appear behind her mother, blades drawn. Her goal was to try and separate her mother from the hydra, as in a physical contest, she should be able to defeat her. However, just as she thought that she had an opening, the Hydra suddenly moved, ramming her massive fist right where Rhea’s head had been a fraction of a second ago. Even though she dodged, there was so much force behind the punch that Rhea was sent tumbling back, forced to take stock of the situation.
“You should know better than to think that would work on me.” Ronda said, entering a fighting stance as the three heads locked onto Rhea. The Time Knight had one more trick up her sleeve, but she knew that once she tried it, it was unlikely to work a second time. Rhea waited, letting her mother approach. Ronda let loose a powerful, but cautious punch, making sure she did not give Rhea any openings . Once more, time seemed to stop, but even as the Hydra began to move, keeping pace with her, this time as Rhea dodged to the side she cast a spell. Time sped back up, and the hydra seemed surprised that Rhea would choose to end the effect so quickly. However, as time resumed, there were two Rheas charging towards her, one from both sides, and when they met in the middle, the Time Knight slammed a sword of light through the hydra’s side.
Ronda’s form was disjunctioned, and in a flash of light, she and the hydra were separated. Lilo, her companion, fell to the side, her hulking body lifeless as Ronda was knocked to the side. Her mother’s red hair and tattoos glowed in the brightness of the demiplane, and as she got up, her eyes watched Rhea. A mixture of pride and fury filled her face. “Delayed metamagic. Clever.”
“I’ve learned to keep up with even you mom.” Rhea said, gasping for breath. This had taken a lot out of her. “See? You don’t need to protect me anymore.”
“Perhaps. But you are mistaken if you think I’ve gone all out.”
Ronda would open a bag at her side, and out would emerge Quip, her familiar, the formerly shy Squid who had been similarly transformed in a more demonic form. She would cast a spell, army across time, and dozens upon dozens of copies of the same familiar would appear. The familiars completely surrounded Rhea and her mother, and together, they began to chant as Ronda rose into the air. Rhea began to move to intervene, but her mother was ready, launching her spell with aid from the many quips.
It was like a meteor shower.
Ronda’s tattoos began to glow as she launched several balls of force, each one massive in size. It was awe inspiring, as the amount of magical power on display filled the sky of the demiplane. Rhea forced herself to move, unsure if even she could dodge this. She attempted to stop time, but found her spell countered. She should have figured that her mother would not allow her to use that a second time, as she negated the spell.
Rhea found herself desperately trying to dodge the attack. Using her teleportation and acrobatics, Rhea was able to dodge many of the balls of force, until the last one. Try as she might, as fast as she moved, she couldn’t dodge them all. Rhea tried to open a portal at the last moment before the force collided with her. Ronda watched on, thinking that this battle was over, when her daughter emerged on the other side. Rhea roared, blades of light in her hands, as Ronda held one last ball of force in her hands. Rhea’s helmet was cracked open, allowing Ronda to look her daughter in the eyes, and she saw both how hurt and how angry she was.
The two launched their attacks at the same moment. A blade of pure plasma cut deep into Ronda’s skull, as the ball of force blasted apart Rhea’s armor on her midsection. The many Quips vanished, and Rhea and Ronda fell to the ground. Both could feel the pain coursing through their bodies. As her vision began to fade, Rhea looked over at her mother who, despite the burns covering her face, seemed to be smiling.
She said. Ronda was drying, but it was never that easy to take out a wizard. She snapped her fingers, and she would abuse time magic right in front of the Time Knight, turning back the clock and returning her body to the form it had been in just moments ago. Rhea’s body, meanwhile, disintegrated, as the visage of a phoenix appeared and a new Rhea emerged from the ashes. Both had landed a killing blow, and now both were still standing.
“I can do this all day Rhea…” Ronda said. “You’ve come a long way though-”
Rhea did not wait to respond. She began to swing her blades. Ronda would form barriers and cast spells, but everything she used was instantly dispelled by Rhea’s blades, one by one, as the Time Knight made her way through her defenses. In close quarters, without her allies, Ronda had never been more desperate. She tried to teleport, but Rhea saw it coming, aiming her blade at Ronda’s throat. The demon lord smirked, raising her hands in surrender.
“Go ahead. You’ve earned it.” Ronda said. “Better you than anyone else…”
Rhea’s face hardened as she stared down her blade at Ronda, and something broke within her. Despite the demonic corruption, despite the changed features...she saw her mother, and she remembered her holding her in her arms. Her eyes began to well up with tears. “Why mom...why won’t you stop…”
“...I don’t think there is any way for me to come back from what I’ve done Rhea.” Ronda said. “It was great seeing you in battle. You’ve come so far.” She said proudly. “My little girl...now the Red Time Knight.”
“...It didn’t have to be you, you know…” Her mother whispered. “Rhea, with this much power...think of what we could do. We can shape this world however we choose.”
Rhea fell silent, her blade not moving.
“Think of it. You and I...we’re immortal. We can do whatever we choose for as long as we choose. Who can stop us? Think of the problems we can solve!” Ronda said. “We don’t have to fight. We can go back to how things were!”
Rhea sighed, shaking her head as she lowered the sword. Even now, her mother was trying to manipulate and lie to her. Rhea stabbed down, and a clone of Ronda that was emerging from the ground behind her was stabbed, instantly dissipating. One last trap from the Shadow of the Sea. Rhea shook her head.
“I came to kill my mom...but she was already gone a long time ago, wasn’t she?” Rhea asked. She sighed, shaking her head. “...You’re right, it didn’t have to be me. And I...I can’t do this.” Rhea would create a portal. “Don’t come after me.” She said, departing through the portal and leaving Ronda in the demiplane.