Deacon stood beside Lilm, his sister, in a field of purple grass. Before them, a rotted temple struggled to stay upright. The sky was the crisp red of a summer afternoon on Aldom. A hundred of their people, all of whom were genetically identical to Abraham Lincoln (not that one) had congregated there, and now watched the pair expectantly.
“I can’t do it,” Lilm said. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“We are faithful,” Deacon said, offering his eight-fingered-hand. “It will work.”
Lilm took the hand, and together they walked toward the ruin. Within sat a stone dais, set before a crystal mural depicting Aldom, floating in space, projecting hundreds of lines out into the stars. The siblings kneeled before it, and they prayed:
“All Things Are One.”
The crystal mural deepened, and the etchings became a vision. It zoomed out, revealing the whole of creation, with Aldom at its center, trillions of lines connecting it to all other worlds. It was incomprehensively breathtaking. One of those threads was Deacon. All of those threads were Deacon. He was microscopic. He was all-encompassing. He was powerful and weak. A mother, a child, an angel, a thief.
All things are one. Headed toward one grand destiny.
“I didn’t feel anything,” Lilm said. “Abbess Jezzlfore was right, D. This is just made up.”
Deacon didn’t believe her then, and he didn’t believe her now, sitting on the edge of a well, in a floating city of giants, in a world he did not know. Even now, he was part of the Thread, heading toward Its one grand destiny. It was just a stranger road than he had ever imagined.
“Deacon, are you listening to me?” Pif asked. Like Deacon, Pif was a humanoid, though she was a bit more human than oid. Unlike Deacon, she had only two eyes, one nose, and no hair upon her head.
Deacon had not been listening to her.
“I said I’m getting biological readings from this well.”
Deacon didn’t especially care.
“So?” Alph asked. He was of the same species as Pif, and dressed in a grey trench coat and trilby. “I’m sure it has microscopic whatevers. We can still drink it, right?”
Pif looked at her metal notebook curiously. It was inscribed with a single, intricate rune which ran along the front and back cover. “What I mean is, I’m getting biological readings from the well itself. Not just amoeba, but the water itself. And, I think, maybe, the stone.”
“Just the water, I think,” the well responded. “Maybe not even that.”
The three Minitoa atop the well stared in shock, curiosity, or wonder, depending on which one you asked.
“You’re a talking well,” Alph said. The well gurgled. “Do you have a name?”
“I can’t remember. Most people just call me The Well.”
“How…how is this possible?” Pif asked.
“All things are possible in the Thread’s infinite weave,” Deacon said. Pif ignored him.
“Are you actually the well? Is there some creature down there we can’t see?”
“I think so,” The Well said. “I don’t really remember. Why are you so small?”
“Why are you so big?” Alph asked.
“Huh. Didn’t think of it like that,” The Well admitted.
“No worries,” Deacon said. “It’s only natural for the unenlightened to be egocentric.”
“Can you stop evangelizing for even a moment?” Pif asked.
“I’m fine with it,” The Well said. “It’s just nice to have company. Gets lonely down here.”
“So, do people drink from you then?” Alph asked.
“Alph!” Pif hissed. “Rude.”
“Quite alright. Of course they do, I’m a well. They drink from me quite a lot, actually.”
Alph began lowering a tiny cup into The Well with a piece of yarn.
“Alph,” Pif hissed again. “Is there anything we can offer you in return, mister…”
“Just The Well. Usually people give me a coin. Not a bad snack.”
Deacon fidgeted with a large pouch in one of his hands. “We have these sapphires,” he said. “But they’re of some importance.”
“And that savage feline nearly killed us trying to get them! No way we’re giving them up.”
“We can find more,” Pif said. “We need to drink more than we need to convert. Marginally.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” The Well said. “I can tell you’re strangers here. And it seems like you’re having a rough day.”
“Are you sure?”
It was. The three took turns moving water from the Well and into their canteens.
“Thanks a million,” Alph said. “You’re the first thing in this city that hasn’t wanted to step on us.”
“I couldn’t step on you if I wanted,” The Well pointed out. “But I don’t want to. Good luck out there.”
“You have our gratitude,” Deacon said.
“Yes. Next time we need water, we will bring an offering,” said Pif, who was already looking forward to further studying The Well.
The Well bubbled kindly.
In Odd & Ends, Skymoore’s homely purveyor of magical goods, Nestor Pinkly was trying to sell a haversack to a traveling merchant.
“It keeps an inventory of everything inside of it, and magically transcribes it onto a list. Now you don’t have to do all that boring counting business!”
The merchant tapped their foot as they thought it over. “Are you trying to say I’m bad at my job?”
“Of course not! It just saves time on the road.”
“There’s nothing but time on the road. But I am kind of bad at my job, for the record. I just thought it was rude of you to say so. Just last week I traveled halfway to Dol Belvargamar to deliver twenty ivory wands, and it turned out I only had eleven left. I had to buy two pianos and give the keys to a wandmaker just to fill the order, set me back a few hundred gold pieces.
“So I guess what I’m saying is yeah, I’ll take it.”
“Great! That’ll be fifty scales.”
The merchant blanched at the price, but ultimately decided it was worth it.
While they worked out the conversion from gold to scales, up in the rafters of the store, three Minitoa arrived at their makeshift home. After some testing, they decided this shop had the most comfortable rafters in town. On top of that, Nestor left behind snacks for the rats and spiders whenever he closed up shop, which meant an easy meal for the little folk.
“We’re home, Almo,” Pif said as the group set the water beside their bedrolls and cooking supplies.
Almo was the fourth member of their scouting party, a young, blue-haired botanist with three eyes. Her eyes were closed and her chest rose and fell in a slow rhythm. It’s how she spent most of her time these days.
“We had a successful day,” Pif went on. “Met a nice well who gave us water. Found some orange sapphires pure enough to help us breathe. And the mustachioed fellow’s closing tonight, so we’ll have a nice big meal. But…nothing for you, I’m sorry to say.”
“I’m sure she understands,” Alph said.
“She will wake up soon, and the Thread will guide us home. Back to our destiny,” Deacon added.
Pif nodded and approached the shabby metal cylinder which whirred quietly a few feet from their camp. It was emblazoned with the shiny golden apple insignia of the Trans-It! corporation, but it certainly didn’t meet company standards. Not anymore. So much of its outer piping and innards had been replaced over the course of their travels, the thing now had patches all over the hull, and rattled slightly when in use.
But it still glowed an arcane green when Pif flipped the “on” switch, and that’s all that mattered. The scientist held out her hands. “Okay, everyone. Double A’s.”
Each of the Minitoa removed the metal plates they wore on their chests – the Trans-It! brand Atmosphere Alchemizers – which converted the outside air into a chemical makeup suited for the individual, and pumped the result directly into their lungs.
Alph removed Almo’s Double A gently.
“Okay Deacon, hand me the gems.”
“I handed them to Alph when I withdrew water.”
“Yeah and I handed them to you, Pif.”
Pif’s face fell. “I never held the gems. Not for a second.”
“Oh. Maybe I, uh. I guess I could have set it down on the Well.”
“No,” Pif said. “You couldn’t have. You really couldn’t have. Because that would kill all of us.”
Deacon held up a scaly hand. “Now Pif, do not fret –“
“Because the Thread will bring us to our destinies, yeah, okay. Well what if our destiny is to die here?”
“That is not how a leader should talk, Pif.”
“I never asked to be a leader. I’m a scientist. Do you want to lead, preacher?”
“I do not lead,” Deacon said calmly. “I follow the Thread.”
Pif leaned against a wooden beam and sighed deeply. She eyed Almo mournfully and matched her breath with the young woman’s. It calmed her some. Almo reminded Pif of Mida, Pif’s daughter. She reminded Pif of why she needed to get home. Why she would get home.
“We’ll get the gems,” she said. “And if we don’t, we’ll find more. But we won’t die here.”
“No we won’t,” Deacon agreed.
“But if we do die…” Pif looked pointedly at Alph “…this young woman’s death is on your hands.”
Alph looked down at Odd & Ends as Nestor finished his transaction. Before he started working as a private detective, and before he was drafted into Captain Ernad VI’s expedition, Alph worked at a small magical clothing shop in a corner of Lucidia. It looked a lot like this one. Day in and day out, Alph folded clothes, so that all of the shop’s displays looked neat. Day in and day out, customers destroyed the displays. He hated that cycle, and it made him miserable.
Now, day in and day out, Alph and his squad searched for air and water and nutrients. Now, day in and day out, life dangled these resources on a string right in front of him, keeping the prize just out of reach at all times. He hated that cycle, and it made him miserable.
He wanted to voice this. He wanted to scream. Instead, he took a breath.
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
And the cycle continued.