[RESTRICTION – LOCK IN PLACE] [!]
[CONDITIONS NOT MET] [!]
Another horrible nightmare.
There's the sun.
Calm and warm. Not red, not swirling. It watches from beyond a window of thick glass. Lazy and bored, rising up towards the sky.
Distant sounds of voices follow it. Echoes from outside the walls, shouts of commerce, hollers of trade. Around me, there's cloth, wool and dust.
There are no unearthly voices screaming, and there are no creatures are dancing around in my vision.
In this room itself, there's nothing but a quiet sound of breathing.
In... and out.
In... and out.
It was only a dream. I'm alright.
Just a nightmare.
I really don't remember getting dreams like this, before.
Not even when I was human: not ever. Not after late-night takeout, not when I was sick, not that one time I took too much nightquill just to see what would happen.
At least, I think that’s true...
That's just the trouble.
The more I dwell on this, the harder it is to remember. Fades off into the black. Just like every time this has been happening…
I'm just not sure anymore. Whatever it was that I think I saw is already halfway to oblivion now.
Hiss... there are bigger fish to fry than weird dreams anyways.
Weird dreams ain't got nothing on reality.
Now, waking up with an existential dream-induced sort of dread is distracting even when it happens on a regular basis, but mixing that in with the lack of a human body can really take one's focus away.
I don't know how long I've been alive in this world, but I still can't really claim I'm completely used to it.
Sometimes, when I wake up, I still really feel like I'm in a different body for a couple of seconds. I get an odd sense of phantom limb syndrome before my mind catches up. I'll try to rub my eyes, I'll try to yawn, and then nothing happens.
I'll try to sit up, and I feel all bendy. Like a rubber man, sort of feeling. After this, I typically try to mutter something along the lines of horrified profanity, and it comes out a "ssssss"
The rapid and jarring sort of adjustment settles in shortly. It's routine.
Today I got through all of these pretty quick though, so I guess I'm streamlining this process as time goes on.
[Voice of Gaia] what is my status.
Check that off the list.
I figured as much, troubling or not.
I've got more questions than just that one.
Lot more, in fact. There's a very long list of things I want answered right now. The jotted mental notes in my brain have been keeping track bit by bit.
Where are we, exactly? How long has it been since the forest? What happened to us? Why did it happen?
The list goes on, and on…
These aren't questions I would save for a lazy afternoon to pick at [Voice of Gaia]'s weird rule-set, or whatever system it once seemed to operate on. These aren't silly curiosities like "Why was that lizard I saw in the desert licking a rock?" or "what was making those boulders move around?"
I can live happily without really digging much further into depth on those, but I'm not fully certain going without answers to the rest is going to be good for my long-term health. Somehow, I'm going to have to manage on my own to get to the bottom of these things. If I don't, my gut tells me I'm going to deeply regret not doing so.
Little warning in the back of both my human and my snake instinct says so.
But this can wait.
There's always something gearing up to kill me. It's a new-normal, but I don't have to let it drive me any more crazy than I probably already am.
See, it's very important to start the day out right.
Crucially important, I think, so thoughts of unanswered questions can slither aside for a minute. First thing's first: I must adhere to daily tradition and begin the morning ritual.
Yes, it's part of my "maintaining sanity" how-to guide.
I've been adding to this as time goes on. Whatever I throw at the wall and happens to stick, this is part of a growing work in progress.
As a human, I could argue that I had things really good. Great even, better than great. I could talk, I could walk around, I could pick stuff up- I even had hands! That's like... ten tails worth of picking up capacity: maybe even twelve if you could how you could hand things on the crux of an elbow.
No, as a snake I'm no longer the NA Grocery-Bag carrying champion. That title among many others is no longer within my grasp.
But still, there are a few benefits to the body of a serpent.
For one, when emerging from a deep sleep (after the existential panic attack has settled) there's a wondrous feeling of simplicity.
Your arms can't get that awful pins and needle thingy going, which is pretty great. Your legs don't hurt or have those annoying skin textures from a pillow or a blanket. The downside, of course, is not having arms or legs at all, but hey: there's a tail, and a tail can sort of do arm stuff if you really-really focus on it.
Not completely worthless.
So anyways, there's that.
No limbs can fall asleep or anything, and sleeping in weird places is a lot easier. Rocks, holes in the ground, weird tree stumps- whatever. Snakes can just do that. Easy-peasy stuff.
Another thing I can vouch for though, is the stretch.
The perfect stretch.
You know, when you wake up and give a big yawn, push your feet down and your arms up in the morning, and you try for the big one. The "hoo" and "haaaaa" and "foooooo"
It's an art really.
We've all tried to get one of those perfect, and probably failed. With a human body, it's simply not obtainable for mere mortals to pull off. There's always some sort of flaw.
A pulled muscle here, a knee-jerk there, or god-forbid a shoulder twang.
Homo-sapian physiology simple doesn't allow for such a thing to be pulled off.
But beings given form in the image of a higher tiny power don't have these problems. Those are strictly human issues. Flaws of a body not modeled upon the perfect that is the Tiny Snake God.
I now can obtain the perfect stretch. Behold my power.
Upward, like a tiny serpent tunneling towards the heavens!
Downward, like the path of the sun reaching for the horizon's distant air!
Move it side to side, like he just don't care!
In the legendary words of the goofy glasses and the dancing robot: "Wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah."
It's not all bad.
Life can really suck sometimes: soldiers can try to chop you up, undead can try to feast upon your flesh, cults can try to murder you with blood magic-
But, it's not all bad.
Not all the time.
I've come full circle, and perspective is a powerful thing.
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping... I think those are birds. There's a scent of... cinder? Fresh cinder in the air. I guess that makes sense, in light of all the god-awful nonsense last night.
Point is: this is exactly when some people might say "it's time to attack the morning!" or whatever it is peppy folks used to say in my world. "Take on the new day!" or whatever.
I should get out of bed.
That's sort of what I'm working myself up to.
It was a late night, I was half-alive after the mana-induced tired started setting in. Slithered the line on passing out for a little ice needle and paper-cut heal so my memory is a bit frazzled.
I remember shouting some really weird… stuff about stealing?
Did I say that?
I know I set some stuff on fire. Imra was running this way, that way- she told me she found a sign, I believed her…
Pretty sure I had a reason.
Simple and easily answer question to start with... where the heck am I?
I guess I'll start with the basics.
Okay, so far, so good.
In this room, to the untrained or unexperienced, many might think it simple.
The furniture is lacking- perhaps even spartan to the point of poverty. Scuffs and scratches lay abundant on the surfaces visible, and the dirt on the floor seems to go right on with that theme.
There are walls, yes. Nothing pleasant to the eye, they look sort of... malformed. Made with of some sort of ancient plaster: cracked in some places, crumbling in others. Even the window seems decrepit. It's just some weirdly thick glass compensating for the lack of quality in its un-uniform mold.
A small desk and a matching dresser sit side by side at the far wall, and there are some wooden posts for hanging things by a shoddy looking door I think I could easily slither right underneath. No closet, so listing this as a bedroom probably doesn't even work in my understand of the old-world legal context. It's more like a really large pantry or something.
That more or less completes the box room.
If someone were to peek into this reality, at best they might raise concerns of splinters, the need for a dust-rag, and perhaps provide a lecture of the dangers of poor indoor air quality. Nothing I have described would impress anyone in my old life.
But my eyes have been opened on this beautiful day.
Though the room which houses these things smells weakly of dust, my eyes witness this place as a splendor which might surpass any pile of riches or wealth.
We shouldn't have made it here in the first place. By all rights, we should be dead somewhere out in the street, getting eaten by people who-might-be-zombies, or giant rats.
I understand now, oh Tiny Snake God: this room is a precious gift.
The very image of peace and safety.
Thought my morning ritual has freed me from the covers, beneath me is still a bed. Cloth blanket, some sort of covering and... straw, I think.
But still, it's a bed.
A real human bed. Not made out of stone, or moss, or leaves and dirt: this is a solid frame with fabric and stuffing and pillows.
Laying here, stretched atop it from head to tail, I feel like I've obtained more in life than I deserve. This whole giant bed, all for little ol' me.
I suppose the only ways I'd feel better about this if Imra wasn't sleeping on the floor.
Am I the jerk here?
I find myself asking that a lot, but to be fair she's not really sleeping and I definitely didn't order her to the corner of the room. I don't live by the strict rules of an old-fashioned household's slumber party.
I think it's a [Skill] on account of this world being weird like that.
I mean- I knew it wasn't just me, and I've seen humans do some rather impossible things, but I feel like I've gained a bit of awareness since the start of this.
Miss Paladin and Young Gandalf used spells, which I've come to think are probably different from skills. They sometimes said something, even if I didn't really understand the language. Little bit of gestures and some sort of verbal command.
But then Young Gandalf did some stuff without talking. He made a creepy box to put me in, and I saw him throw some crazy magic around without yelling or doing fancy prep work... so maybe that's something. I got to personally witness Talia pull off some pretty inhuman feats beyond magic though. She scaled us up a tower most Olympic athletes would have had some trouble with, and she beat monsters to death with a tiny bit of rock. Most women I knew back in my last life wouldn't have been able to do three chin-ups.
Makes me think some sort of weirdness had to be involved there.
Of course, after all that, I watched Swordmaster Zane wave around a bit of metal and break the laws of physics, so I know some humans are absolutely in another class when set beside what I'd think of as a normal.
All along though, I guess I've had the same thing.
Most are sort of lame, passive things that aren't really flashy- but I've gained abilities for killing things. Destroying the nest of spiders (and a large list of unfortunate bystanders) got me [Leviathan Breath] which is like a spell because it uses magic, but isn't scaling off of the regular magics I had before that. [Resistance] has, or had, been accumulating for all sorts of things, and was slowly grinding upwards based on experience. The aspect of painful-trial and direct reward for actions seemed to feed right along, even though I started almost hopelessly disadvantaged.
So why wouldn't the same apply for everything else in this world?
There were plenty of monsters in the dungeon that had seriously unnatural abilities. The Megalodon for example: that was a straight-up boss level sort of creature. I'll bet that had probably been swimming around eating everything for centuries, but even huge and terrifying: there's not a single creature on earth that could just munch down bed-rock like birthday cake.
It was eating an island.
That’s not a normal creation of nature: that's something that can bypass the rules.
Heck, even when we were in the plaza, when the riots started I saw things that looked impossible for a normal human. One minute they're just an average-looking person, the next they've gone and broken some sort of agreement with nature and someone in front of them died.
Imra sitting here in silence with a weird mix of mana moving around her skin is almost tame compared to any of that other nonsense.
Some of the Elves did much crazier stuff... well, actually... did they?
Quick and strong, sure, but I didn't actually see anything too out-there until they started draining dino-blood into a bowl. None of them were throwing around magic like humans seem to.
Now I'm second guessing myself.
That's no good, I've only been up for like, a minute or two. Questioning like this is best left for the late afternoon and evening, I think.
Still, I wonder-
Hold on a second. What it this? This smell?
Flicking out my tongue to grab this flavor doesn't do it justice.
Someone is definitely cooking... Oh.
Oh: hell yes.