The Rise of Oscar
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The sound of a billion voices, all speaking at once, pervades the consciousness of an unknowable entity. Sailing through the blank void that separates cosmos from cosmos, the voices chatter ceaselessly, telling tales of worlds long forgotten. Forgotten by all but one.

In the silence of the void, the Sea flows diligently towards its next meal. It slavers in anticipation, wondering what this one would taste like. What it would learn, and what it would destroy. Knowledge was all that mattered to this terrible being. Who had this knowledge mattered not to it, as long as it did.

No matter how the countless number of the worlds it has consumed grew, it was never satisfied. Never quite full. Never for long. It always needed more. It cared not that everything it learned was destroyed, reduced into an echo of itself that joined the whole. The lives of the many innocents it had destroyed all for the sake of this ceaseless hunger for knowledge were nothing to it.

The process was a long and slow one, for it could not move very far on its own. It relied on its being, an infinite well of knowledge, to entice. It had learned to lay in wait, for it knew that patience often yielded better results. When all was said and done, the world consumed, it moved on, like nothing had even happened. This process it had gone through many, many times before.

And it was excited to do it all over again.


Catorsia woke up in a cold sweat and clutched at their chest. Panting heavily, they looked around to find their bedspread totally destroyed. None of this was quite surprising, as they had just woken up from an awful dream. Their life seemed near-constantly plagued now by dreams and visions, bad omens that seemed to foretell events to come.

They hoped they were merely hallucinations. If it was only paranoia, then there would be nothing to be worried about.

But each one had seemed so incredibly real, it was impossible to convince themselves. The fact of the matter was, whether it was real or not, Catorsia was worried. There was much they did not know, many pressing questions weighing heavy on their mind.

Perhaps today would be a good time to answer some of them, they thought. It was Friday, a mere three days after the last time they had been to Hrefna's tent. Their next meeting would not be until next Tuesday. But that seemed an awful long time to wait, deliberating over nothing.

Catorsia pulled themselves out of bed, and got dressed. With a determined look in their eyes, they left their room, and walked down to the kitchen. Soon enough, the familiar smell of cooking bacon wafted into their nose; evidence that their mom was already up and breakfast was being cooked. Their stomach grumbled, and they decided it would be best to eat first before going out.

Stepping into the kitchen, they knocked three times on the door frame. It was a system the two had worked out to silently alert one another to their presence, as both Catorsia and Letha were naturally very quiet.

Letha looked up from the stove, and turned her head to see Catorsia rubbing their eyes groggily.

"Good morning, sweetie." she said. "How did you sleep?"

"Not very well," sighed Catorsia, plopping down into a chair at the table. "I had another bad dream. Woke up with my blankets all over the place and my pillow thrown across the room. The usual."

Letha leaned her head to the side and pressed it into her hand. "That sounds awful," she said. "You've been awfully restless for the past month or so, but especially after Tuesday."

"That's true." said Catorsia. "I've been having a rough time, I guess."

"You're really sure you don't want to quit doing magic, though?"

"…Yes, I'm sure. Even if things are weird and don't make a whole lot of sense right now, I really want them to make sense, you know?" said Catorsia, waving their hand idly. "It's scary, sure, but you won't get anywhere if you run away from everything that scares you. That fear of the unknown is the opposite of progress."

"I know that, honey." said Letha. "People often have to die before anything can be learned, though. I don't want you to end up as one of them."

"I'll try not to be." said Catorsia, casting their eyes downwards.

There was an awkward silence for a minute or so. Then, Catorsia shook their head and decided to move on and brighten up.

"On a less depressing subject," they said. "What are you cooking over there?"

"Same thing we have every morning," said Letha. "Bacon, eggs, toast. I'm thinking it might need a little more vegetables, though…"

"Vegetables are good." said Catorsia.

"Indeed. Say, I haven't gotten to cooking the eggs yet — would you like an omelette?"

"Sure," said Catorsia. "That'd be nice."

"With cheese?"

"Sure."

Letha bustled about the kitchen, grabbing a number of spices, a fresh wheel of cheese, and some vegetables she had picked the day before. It looked like it was going to take a while, so Catorsia decided to broach the question of going out.

"So, Mom."

"Yes?" asked Letha.

"I was thinking of going back out to Hrefna's tent."

"Well, of course you're going to back there." said Letha. "You told me you want to study magic, I'm going to let you study it."

"No, not on next Tuesday, I mean."

"No?"

"Today."

"Oh."

"Would that be alright?"

"Well…" said Letha. "I suppose it would be fine. We don't have much to do today, no errands to run… I was kind of looking forwards to spending a relaxing day with you, though."

"Oh." said Catorsia.

"May I ask why?" asked Letha.

"I wanted to ask Idwal some questions."

"Really? Not Hrefna?"

"No, I don't think she would know."

"What did you want to ask Idwal about, then?"

"Mostly I wanted to ask her about what she thinks is happening. With the Chalice and how my magic is reacting and all that. She jokingly diagnosed me with a fake disease — 'hexalepsy,' — but now I'm wondering if maybe there really is something wrong with me. And I thought maybe she'd know, or be able to figure it out."

"I see," said Letha. "That does sound like quite a pressing matter. I imagine it's been weighing heavy on you."

"Yeah, a little bit." said Catorsia. "I'm sorry that I have to leave today, because hanging out with my mom sounds nice, but I'm really worried. I promise I'll be back home before dusk, though."

"Okay, honey." said Letha, as she walked over to the table with two full plates of food. "Breakfast's ready. Eat up before you go."

"Like I could ever turn your cooking down, Mom." laughed Catorsia. "You're the best cook I know."

"You flatter me." said Letha.

"It's true, though." said Catorsia, as they began to chow down on their omelette.

"Oh, hush."

Catorsia soon devoured the delicious breakfast their mother had cooked them, and moved as though to get dressed and ready to leave before realizing they had already done so. Shaking their head, they picked up their thaumaturgy books, packed a couple of snacks into a bag, and began the long walk to Hrefna's tent.


Ring-ting-a-ling-ding-ding…

Hrefna and Idwal had been engaged in chat, discussing at length their past and the changes Hrefna had experienced in the past eighty years, when they found themselves suddenly interrupted by the sound of the chimes at the front of the tent. They tingled softly all day, every day, due to the winds roaring across the plains ceaselessly, but this time was much louder.

"Darn wind's kickin' up a storm out there." grumbled Hrefna. "Maybe I oughtta get rid of them chimes after all. They're always interruptin' things, more of a bother than they're worth. I'll just rem'ber to put them up on Monday nights."

"Hrefna," said Idwal, who had paused sipping her tea and was now looking towards the front of the tent. "I don't think it's the wind this time."

"Catorsia ain't due for another couple days, so what else could it be?"

"Well, maybe if you'd look, you'd see."

"Damn it all." said Hrefna, as she craned her neck to follow Idwal's gaze. She nearly jumped back in sheer surprise to find herself eye to eye with Catorsia Cauxten, who had crept up behind her.

"Boo," they said.

"Jesus, Catorsia!" cried Hrefna. "You tryna give an old woman a heart attack? This is exactly why I had them chimes installed in the first place!"

"Sorry," said Catorsia, giggling at themselves as they stood up to their full height. "It's just so much fun to creep around. My paws hardly make a sound."

Hrefna stared up at Catorsia, tilted her head when she found herself staring at their neck, and then looked further up to meet them back at eye level.

"Ain't used to how tall you are now, yet." she said.

"I still ain— am not used to being this tall." said Catorsia. "It's nice though. People don't look down on me so much anymore."

"How tall were you before?"

"Five foot four, I think. I'm now a solid five eight."

"That's quite the growth spurt." said Hrefna. "Wish I'd've gone through one like that. Now I'm just a tiny, crotchety old lady."

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