OT: Her Imperial Majesty

on April 3, 2011 in Other Tales

Author’s Note: This is one half of the promised story about the imperial couple Magisterion and Vera. The original idea grew into something bigger than expected. The second part will be the next OT I do, and it will be from Magisterion’s viewpoint.


The Palatium had begun its life as a manor house belonging to a peer of the old empire who fled east across the ocean once it became clear that he’d backed the wrong horse in Magisterion’s War.

The house had been reinforced extensively in the early days of the Imperial Republic, first through such rough means as conjured walls of stone and iron encasing the edifice which were eventually reworked by dwarven architects into more conventional and slightly more aesthetically pleasing fortifications. While the great house originally served as both working and living space for Magisterion I, it was gradually expanded into a complex to provide space for garrisons, the offices where the work of running the new nation could take place, stables, and bays for the official coaches and carriages.

During the long years of peace and security, more work was done so to lessen the appearance that the emperor ruled from a fort of iron and stone. Artisans dressed the manor house and its numerous extensions in marble and gold in Athanasian Revival style. This ornamentation did nothing to decrease the security of the great house, naturally, as the renovation efforts were always done in tandem with an application of all the best defensive magic available.

In its modern incarnation, the Palatium was an unassailable fortress that more resembled an incredible temple or museum with its columns, arches, domes, and spires. It was in some ways an actual museum, as parts of it were open to the public and even the parts that weren’t contained the history of the Imperial Republic and treasures that dated back even further.

The area of the original mansion house was kept for the private use of the emperor and his family, its Pre-Revolutionary, Pre-Republican interior meticulously preserved. Some saw this as a wry statement on the origins of the Imperial Republic: revolution or not, its heart belonged to the Mother Isles. Other parts of the mammoth, labyrinthine structure fell in and out of use according to the custom and preferences of the imperial tenants. Depending on their location and nature, the fallow halls were sometimes converted into galleries for displaying art and artifacts from the Palatium’s collection. In some cases no conversion was necessary.

The Imperial Drakery was a borderline area. Tours visited it twice a week, but the Empress had made it clear that outside of such times and state business involving its occupants she considered the tallest tower of the Palatium to be her own personal domain.

There were no true dragons in the Drakery. At least none that were kept there… the
Imperial Master of Drakes who bred, fed, and cared for the mockdragons was in fact a purple dragon himself, though he only wore that skin on his days off. Shapeshifting was a rare talent for a dragon of his stature. There were known to be a few great and at least one greater dragon in the government service, but to his knowledge Master Drake (the only name and title by which he would be addressed) was the only common dragon ever employed by the imperial government as anything except a siege engine or weapon of war.

His tenure at the Palatium preceded the current tenants of the hidden mansion. He had seen five Magisterions come and go before them. He’d regarded the later four of those as a bunch of upstarts and johnny-come-latelies and had taken pains to have as little to do with them as possible. With the arrival of the newly-minted Magisterion XIII and… more particularly… his consort Vera III, though, Master Drake felt that “the old house on the hill” finally had residents who might have been worthy of its splendor and of his service.

That he was the new Vera’s favorite wasn’t the reason for his favorable opinion of the imperial couple, of course… the fact that she regarded both his race and his vocation as being so splendid only illustrated the sort of discernment that made him feel she alone of the three Veras so far was worthy of the title “Empress”. So he allowed her to feel at home at the top of the tower, to feed treats to the mockdragons as long as she kept things to within a reasonable variation of the diet he ordered for them. He allowed her alone to call him by a name other than the one he’d taken for himself. He even knocked before he entered, so as not to surprise her by entering his own workplace unannounced on the chance that she had let herself in.

“Good morning, Joe,” she said to him as he entered one morning, carrying a cage of winged white rats in each hand. “Did you enjoy your downtime?”

The Empress Vera was a vibrant looking woman of not quite sixty. Her hair was an expertly designed mix of steely silver and platinum. It would be impolitic to take extraordinary efforts to keep her husband looking youthful in his nineties, so she made herself appear older so as to minimize the contrast. This also had the effect of slightly blunting the rumors that she carried within her veins a small measure of elven blood. It would have been no great scandal in that day and age for an Imperial Consort to be an elfblood, but an Empress was a different matter… especially when it seemed within the realm of possibility that she might one day take the scepter up herself.

“After a fashion, Your Majesty,” Master Drake answered her. He set the cages down on a table along the outer wall of the tower. Thirty-nine tiny scaled heads swiveled to stare at them. Most of the motion about the tower ceased. While a few of the mockdragons remained aloft, most of those who had been flying landed on their perches.

The mockdragons of the Palatium tended towards the more regal shades: platinum, gold, and silver on the noble side and purple, blue, and red on the ignoble. At least one of them would have gone for the rats the moment a human handler carried them in, and after one had acted the rest would have felt less guilty about swarming him.

But even the greediest, wildest of the reds was mastered by the true purple dragon in their midst. They knew him for what he was truly beneath the skin he put on for seven days at a time. They felt his will working upon them. The will of even a common dragon is nothing to scoff at, and purple dragons in particular were known for the deftness with which their wills could work upon the minds of lesser creatures. He could release the rats into the air one at a time and his little cousins would each wait their turn to hunt and feed.

“I wonder what a dragon does with his time off,” Vera said as the Master of Drakes did a headcount.

“Nothing terribly exciting,” he said, signing the count sheet. “Most of the time I sleep.”

“All three days?”

He nodded.

“Do you not sleep in your apartment here?” she asked him.

“I must, or else this body would fall over on me… probably when I’m working with the feistier of my charges,” he said. “But it isn’t real sleep, laid out on a bed with nothing but paper pay stubs to keep me warm. A human can’t sleep like a dragon can, ma’am. For all the things you esteem and fear us for, you overlook our greatest talent. You know that we slept through the rise of man completely?”

“You say ‘we’ like you were there,” she said. “Are you older than you let on, Master Drake?”

“Well, I didn’t mean me, personally,” he said. “But I have my family pride. You are an empress, ma’am. You must understand that.”

“Empress of a nation younger than you are,” she said. “And I’m not kin to anyone who’s ruled it before. My family only came over two generations ago.”

“Well, then as a Magisterian of later coinage who has found herself wandering the halls of the Palatium, you must understand what it is like to be a member of a collateral line only tenuously associated with an older and greater heritage.”

“You go too far, Joe,” she said, though the reproach in her voice didn’t touch her face.

“A dragon’s apologies, ma’am,” he said, which was to say that he wasn’t sorry at all.

“The forgiveness of an empire falls upon you,” she said. “On the subject of heritage… did you know that the newest inquiries suggest that wyverns are, in fact, a type of true dragon and not a debased copy like the mocks?”

Around the circular room, some of the creatures that had frills and neck pouches puffed them up and some of the others hissed or let out harsh screeches.

“Oh, ma’am, I wish you wouldn’t say it that way in front of them,” Master Drake said. “Many of the little ones have enough speech in them to know what you’re saying.”

“But I was curious what you thought of the news,” she said.

“It isn’t news to me,” he said. “I could have told you that any time.”

“But when I asked, you told me they were just a sort of winged lizard,” she said.

“True, I did,” he said. “But I could have told you they were dragons.”

“Lying to the empress is treason, Joe.”

“Only a citizen can commit treason, ma’am,” he said. “In any event, we’re a snobbish lot, we dragons. Wyverns are nasty, tetchy creatures with no hands and no hope of civilization. Who’d want to be in the same order of creation with them?”

“But… we’ve spent hundreds of years trying to classify them,” Vera said. “Do you mean to tell me that natural philosophy has been set back centuries because you were collectively embarrassed of your cousins?”

“If the empire can spare a touch more forgiveness for a humble working dragon, ma’am, please indulge me to for a moment and try to imagine how much we care for centuries, or for your natural philosophy,” Master Drake said. “This compulsion to order the world is a very mortal failing, you know.”

“I thought only the greatest of dragons were immortal.”

“If ‘mortal’ means that one dies when one is slain, then even most gods are mortal,” he said. “And if it means that one ages every day of one’s life, then the phoenix is as mortal as you are. It’s a question of the orders of creation. We children of the first age are above the petty concerns of the created kinds, even those of us who were born a scant eight or nine centuries ago.”

“Well, you aren’t above natural philosophy. It is a quest for the truth, and the truth should be above opinions,” she said. “Even the opinion of dragons.”

“There is truth, and then there are truths,” Master Drake said. “There may be only one truth… perhaps there is, I don’t care enough about it to have an informed opinion… but there are many truths. Imagine a man discovers his son is a bounder, if that word is still in vogue, and tosses him out on his ear saying ‘I have no son’. This is a truth. Then imagine someone in an ink-stained robe arrives and says, ‘Oh, pardon me, but according to the latest philosophic inquiries it seems to me that perhaps you have engaged in the procreative act with a woman who thereafter gave birth to a child.’ You see what I mean?”

“And what do the wyverns think of this?”

“You’re welcome to ask them yourself, but I recommend you do it from a distance and with several Praetorians between you and them,” Master Drake said. “They have speech, and opinions, but they’re little more than beasts, I assure you. You can expect better manners from Raif there, who is trying to steal your earring again. What have I told you about jewelry in the tower?”

He pointed at the blue mockdragon that had slithered up onto the empress’s shoulder and that was reaching with a forelimb for the golden spire that drooped form her lobe. Under the master’s gaze, it froze and retracted the questing paw.

“I’m meeting my husband in a bit,” Vera said. “I knew I could take more time in the tower if I dressed first.”

“Well, an ear can be regrown, I suppose,” Master Drake said. “But pity the poor mocky who even temporarily disfigures the imperial consort.”

“I’ll be more careful,” she said. She stepped away from the row of perches and began to undo her earrings.

“Put them in an inner pocket, if you have such a thing.”

“My pockets are spelled against thieves.”

“Mockdragons were created by wizards and have the essence of true dragons,” he said. “I would not be surprised if they can find a way into your pockets.”

“Well, I have other earrings,” she said. “Anyway, Joe, I’m surprised you call the wyverns ‘beasts’ when you’re called ignoble yourself.”

“We all are what we all are,” he said. “I wouldn’t call myself a noble, ma’am. After all, I work for a living… and while I’d never turn you out of a room in your own home, I do need to get on with the feeding. They’re dining on the wing today, as you’ve probably guessed… it’s likely to get messy.”

“I should be on my way, anyway,” she said. “We’re entertaining emissaries from the Mother Isles… it’s this Malbus business. They want to make sure we have no plans for annexation. Of course we don’t, and it’s silly to think so. They spread themselves out so thinly, all across the globe, and now their empire is slowly crumbling along those taut and brittle lines. Why would we want to repeat their mistakes, just to brag of catching up their cast-offs?”

“Begging your most gracious indulgence, ma’am, but I have a hard time fathoming why you do anything.”

“Well, I will let you be about your work, and be about my own,” Vera said. She gave Raif the blue dragon a few scratches under the chin and then gently disengaged it from her shoulder and neck. “I may be back in the evening, depending upon how long the reception lasts.”

“We’ll be at the reception as well,” Master Drake said.

“Oh? That’s right,” she said. “Precision flying display… that’s why you’re feeding on the wing today. You mean to drill them.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Master Drake said. “You have it in one.”

“I look forward to seeing it.”

She left him then and headed down the tower into the Palatium proper, heading towards the eastern wing at a brisk pace. She flagged down a passing page and sent her to have a new pair of earrings fetched from her quarters in the old mansion, as her pocket was indeed empty. Another page intercepted her just before she reached the salon where her husband, By The Arms And Sword Of Khersis Magisterion XIII, was waiting for her.

He rose to greet her as she entered. His face showed his age, as custom dictated that it must. Magisterians would only tolerate a tyrant they knew they could outlast. He was healthy as a horse… or healthy as a very old human man with a fraction of dwarven blood to keep him healthy in his old age. An elven-blooded emperor would have been a scandal, but a small amount of dwarven blood was almost respectable. Dwarves were solid and practical, and regarded as being both honest and good at keeping secrets. The former was regarded as laudable for a politician. The latter was regarded as necessary. It helped that he was tall and had never been seen to heft an axe or wear a helmet, and that he was as meticulously shaved as any ruler of Magisteria had ever been.

“Hello, Gerry,” she said, turning her cheek to accept his kiss. “All alone for the moment?”

“For the moment. You skipped tea with the ambassador’s wives, V.,” he said, guiding her to a seat on the divan as though she were the one approaching the dawn of a second century of life.

“I told you I would.”

“And I told you that you really shouldn’t.”

“I am not a wife,” she said. “I’m your wife, when we’re alone in our hidden mansion, but out here I’m Empress Vera.”

“To me, and to all our subjects and citizens, you are,” he said. “They still see things differently in the motherland. They’re old-fashioned.”

“They’re stagnant. That’s what comes of having an emperor who never dies.”

“To be fair to old Kulrak,” Magisterion said, “he has died once more than most sitting heads of state. Discounting those entombed on their thrones, naturally.”

“I think you’d have a hard time finding a king naturally entombed on his throne outside the radius of a volcano,” Vera said. “And don’t you go thinking you must compete with the bag of bones on that score, husband of mine.”

“Oh? Am I your husband even outside our mansion?”

“You’re always my husband,” she said. “But no one will ever hold that against you. Perhaps when we treat with the new governor of Malbus, you should go have tea with her husband or beau while I discuss the weighty matters with her over cigars and brandy?”

“We won’t be treating with her,” he said. “Not in person. We have nothing to do with Malbus and they have nothing to do with us. It would probably empty the island’s coffers to send her here in the first place, and we wouldn’t be able to pay her way back or the hawks in the Mother City would call it foreign aid and claim we were in breach of some treaty or another.”

“So many meetings just to make sure we don’t interfere in the governance of a little scrap of land in the middle of nowhere.”

“Well, the old empire has unpleasant memories of the last time they ceded a little scrap of land, and we’re at the heart of those,” Magisterion said. “I don’t blame them for being jumpy. It’s certainly better than dealing with those outraged potentates from the Shift. Besides, I rather like being begged for assurances from the only other human empire in the world. It sets an attractive precedent for future dealings.”

“Surely they aren’t begging.”

“No, they’re puffing and posturing. But the message is clear: it wouldn’t be worth it to them to defend their remaining interests in Malbus, but they would be embarrassed not to, so they would really rather we didn’t move in when they move out.”

“That isn’t quite the same thing as not being able to defend their interests.”

“No. Their empire is pulling back at the edges, but it’s sound at the core. Don’t make the mistake of thinking otherwise. The day will come when you’re making these judgments on your own.”

“Don’t talk like that.”

“It’s simple fact.”

“But it’s terrible luck to name your successor,” she said.

“Naming my successor? Beautiful woman who is only geographically my wife, I’m predicting a coup,” he said.


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45 Responses to “OT: Her Imperial Majesty”

  1. Jollylawger says:

    Great OT! I wonder what dragons think of the coloring of humans or elves? Has that been addressed?

    Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      I’d imagine they’d find it quite boring. Usually in some shade of brown or pink or something, instead of an actually interesting color.

      Current score: 1
    • Julian Morrison says:

      They are all red on the inside.

      Current score: 7
  2. The Dark Master says:

    The only constant is change, the empiror knows this, and the old empire is learning it.

    Its neat to see how life is in the MUverse at all the different echelons of life.

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  3. Alderin says:

    I love the way you write dragons!

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  4. Kevin says:

    I believe this is the first time the Unnameable Emperor has been named. As for why he is unnameable I don’t understand why a linguistic shift rendering the name divine would keep people from calling him by name. Unless of course Khulrakh is not a god and addressing him as such would be blasphemy where as using the vulgar letters would be pretentious.

    Current score: 0
    • Kiraya says:

      I’m guessing that’s the case. From the sounds of things, he’s some sort of undead being, which is a rare thing for deities (usually).

      Current score: 0
      • If you think about it, in a D&D style fantasy setting in which priests have the ability to raise the dead, no monarch would ever be more than ten feet from at least one, if not several, high level priests with Heal Severe Wounds and Raise Dead at the ready. Undead, or at least Really Fecking Old potentates would be the standard, rather than the exception.

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          Neither Raise Dead or Resurrection will work on someone who has died naturally of old age.

          Current score: 1
          • Sailorleo says:

            That depends on which version of D&D you’re working with (and sometimes who is casting it: D&D has always liked playing with the idea of rare people who can break the rules, as long as it’s not a PC).

            And he did say D&D-style, which includes a number of settings and systems that didn’t have that restriction as well.

            Current score: 1
  5. TLOU says:

    saw one typo “eventualyl”

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  6. Kaila says:

    My hand to Owain, I read the title and thought ‘Hazel?’

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  7. Quentari says:

    “…were eventualyl reworked by dwarven…”
    eventualyl should be eventually?

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  8. tigr says:

    🙂

    One typo: “were eventualyl reworked” in the second paragraph has two letters swapped.

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    • tigr says:

      Strange; I could’ve sworn I re-loaded the page and double-checked the comments to make sure I wasn’t being redundant…

      One more: “or healthy as a very old human man with a fraction of dwaven blood” is missing the r in dwarven.

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      • Comments by first-time posters are held in moderation to cut down on spam and random abuse.

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      • Brenda says:

        “more work was done so to lessen the appearance”

        Looks a little odd, maybe should be just “to” or possibly “so as to”…

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  9. Another Greg says:

    Wonderful as always!

    Should “He rose to greet him as she entered.” be “He rose to greet her as she entered.” or is he rising to meet the page?

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  10. Potatohead says:

    So the Mother Isles are rules by a lich (or something similiar). Very interesting.

    More worldbuilding plox.

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    • Potatohead says:

      ..*ruled*. Grr, typo demons.

      Current score: 0
  11. Burnsidhe says:

    Heheh. I see they’re pretty happily married, bantering like that.

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  12. tigr says:

    I’m impressed by the amount of tagging going on! That’s really helpful, especially if you DON’T want to read through the whole archive again (or just don’t have the time to …..), but want to remind yourself about a particular character or topic 😀

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    • Thanks! It’ll be more impressive as I get through the archive myself and get the older stories tagged up. There will be another set of potentially really useful tags that appear at the top when I put the next chapter up.

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    • I second this as well. This is the first time I’ve noticed the multifarious taggage… is it new?

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      • Yes. I added the coding for it in anticipation of volume 2. It only shows up on pages that have been tagged, which are new ones and the very oldest ones that I’ve begun to tag and re-edit.

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  13. OhPun says:

    It was in some ways an actual museum, as parts of it were open to the public and even the parts that weren’t contained the history of the Imperial Republic and treasures that dated back even further.

    It took me a while to parse this correctly. If you replace the first “and” with a period, it might be a bit clearer to dolts like me. Alternate version:

    It was in some ways an actual museum, as parts of it were open to the public. Even the parts that weren’t contained treasures of the Imperial Republic and some that dated back even further.

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    • Brenda says:

      Or simply put a comma after “public”.

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      • Rey d`Tutto says:

        One is asking for a Period.
        One is asking for a Comma.

        Surprise us all (and use rarely used punctuation) and Put in a Semicolon; It allows a bridge between related sentences (which a comma won’t), without breaking the association those sentences hold (like a period would).

        Current score: 1
  14. Riotllama says:

    I wonder what a bounder could be. So many options and not very many clues.
    There were a bunch of typos that I noticed, but I don’t care.

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    • TeaLovingDave says:

      Bounder = old fashioned word, roughly equivalent to “rascal” or “cad” – in other words, a man of low moral fibre.

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      • “You’re a cad and a bounder,
        A dog and a cheat,
        All the lies that you’ve had,
        All the hearts you eat.
        You’re a rascal and a rogue,
        A villain and a crook.
        Still I tug at your line,
        I’m a fish on your hook.”
        -You’re a Cad / The Bird and The Bee

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        • beappleby says:

          “He’s a tramp, he’s a bounder
          He’s a rounder, he’s a cad
          He’s a tramp, but I love him
          Yes, even I have got it pretty bad…”

          Current score: 0
  15. Lindzy says:

    illustrated the sort of discernment that made him feel she alone of the three Veras so far was worth of the title “Empress”.

    I think “worth” should be “worthy”?

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  16. Zathras IX says:

    Crocodile tears and
    A dragon’s apologies—
    Trust, but Vera-fy

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    • Seth Gray says:

      This is my favorite of your concoctions so far. “Vera-fy” is brilliant.

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  17. 3023ogilvyd says:

    “…for the golden spire that drooped form her lobe.”

    ‘form’, obviously, should be ‘from’.

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  18. DeNarr says:

    I think this is the first time I realized that the Unnameable Emperor and Magisterion weren’t the same person. I thought he just had the whole “He Who Must Not Be Named” thing going on.

    That said, would it be possible to get a map of your world? I’d love to see where all the named locations are.

    Current score: 1
  19. TJ says:

    I noticed a possible spelling error – First paragraph

    The Palatium had begun its life as a manor house belonging to a peer of the old *empire* who fled…

    I believe it should be “emperor”?

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    • Sailorleo says:

      Titles of nobility (and occasionally of clergy) are also called peerages in some places, and a person holding one is a peer of the nation.

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      • TJ says:

        Ah, I was not aware of that one.
        Cool. Learn something new everyday 🙂
        Thanks.

        Current score: 0
  20. flooge says:

    “Naming my successor? Beautiful woman who is only geographically my wife, I’m predicting a coup,”

    Lol, Love that line.

    Current score: 1
  21. Xanni says:

    “more work was done so to lessen the appearance” missing “as” between “so” and “to”?

    Current score: 0
  22. ShadowKat says:

    ah! I’m fascinated! what are the levels of dragons? do we know from previous comments? I don’t read them all… but Purple dragons seem to be relatively low on the scale. so there’s Greater dragons and Lesser dragons. to my knowledge only colors like silver, gold and primary (like blue, red, yellow) can be Greater. isn’t that the system of the mockdragons too? or I might be making that up. are the Lesser dragons on a scale of ROYBGIV? haha that would be cool but also seems too simple for the world of MU. perhaps purple (violet) dragons would be the lowest they could get? that’s also interesting about the wyverns/mockdragons. classification-wise (I am human after all) wyverns sound like they’re closer to dragons, but dragons themselves prefer to deal with mockdragons. all so interesting and rich. I love the way AE describes her world.

    edit: I like the new edit system too. that’s good. lol

    Current score: 0
    • Jechtael says:

      Hmm. Perhaps a human comparison would be the difference between apes and cloned homunculi. Apes are in the same genus as humans while the homunculi wouldn’t be, but the homunculi were made from heavily-modified human essence specifically for the purpose of interacting with civilized sophonts.

      Current score: 0