The Temple of Vísindi was very different from most of the temples on Anila's world. Unlike the usual fare - stone walls, marble pillars, intricate carvings, and the like - the entire temple seemed to be made out of a bland grayish metal plating. The clank of Anila's boots on the tiled floor echoed throughout the corridors - naturally, were she attempting to be stealthy she would have taken them off beforehand, but as such she was probably perfectly safe. Almost disappointingly safe.
One of the many metal doors that lined the corridor noiselessly retracted into the ceiling as Anila and the priest guy wandered past. Inside, Anila noticed a series of overly-intricate machines hooked up to a large tank of an opaque blue liquid. It reminded her more than a little of the shapeshifter inside of her, except for the fact that it was a lot larger. There were also some cables extending into the mass, though to what purpose Anila couldn't tell. Not that she was afraid to ask.
"Hey, priest guy! What's the blue stuff in the tank over there?"
The priest bothered neither to face Anila or stop walking forward as he answered. "Nothing of particular interest. Just a fluid we suspend our test subjects in."
"Well, that's not that... Wait, test subjects?"
"Ah, yes, of course. You don't think that dragon-manticore hybrids create themselves, now, do you? Kísérlet is just one of many of our creations for this war! She was once a priestess here, before she received the blessing of Vísindi himself!" The priest laughed again. Anila didn't really see what was funny about it, but hey, that was pretty awesome. She quickly made it her goal to get one of these blessings for herself if possible.
The priest soon led her into a small, enclosed cylindrical room which, at his request, moved upward for a few seconds before stopping again. Anila had never seen anything quite like this before, being from a world where elevators are an entirely foreign concept. She didn't bother to ask about it, but Vísindi was starting to look a lot better than every single god in Anila's world.
A stark, white-paneled hallway finally led the two into a large, open room, large rubber cables snaking across the floor and through the air, machinery omnipresent save for a small path leading to the center. There resided what looked vaguely like an altar - two large poles rose from either side of a rectangular panel, each topped with a large silver disc. All of the cables in the room attached into the large, cylindrical machine behind the panel, innumerable blinking lights covering its surface. Ancient writings covered much of the machinery, especially the alteresque panel, including a large number of indecipherable equations of some sort. Chemicals of many colors poured through transparent pipes all along the outer walls, as well as into the central machine, many of them intermixing before being routed back out.
The grinning priest pulled his goggles over his eyes and placed his black gloves on his hands as he knelt before the altar.
"Great Vísindi, the disciples of Science call for you. A new one has come into our presence, quite eager to aid our cause." The room began to dim, and the two discs began to crackle with electricity, throwing great bolts of lightning into the air, but managing to not destroy any of the machinery.
"Come to us, God of Science!"
A series of black screens all around the room began displaying a figure, resembling at first the priest who knelt before the altar - lab coat, goggles, wild hair. However, it quickly became apparent that the figure moving freely from display to display was not, in fact, human, or for that matter even humanoid. Its appearance constantly shifted - a human, a blob of flesh covered with eyes, a mechanical dragon - the only constants were the presence of the aforementioned garb.
"Ah, a new subject! Anila Vakmero, is it? Of course it is. Nothing hides from SCIENCE!" This last word echoed for an unnatural amount of time.
"Now, then, Anila, why have you come here? What is your purpose in visiting these halls?"
"Purpose? To see where that manticore-dragon thing came from, of course! Really impressed with that, actually. Good work! By the way, how does one sign up for that sort of thing?"
Anila, I am fairly certain that it would be a very bad idea to have that procedure performed on us.
Oh, relax, Wizard Jelly. They know what they're doing here! Think of all the things we'd be able to do that we can't now. Number one: flying!
Number two, being incapable of fitting inside of a building. I'm not sure the world's greatest adventurer would have nearly as much fun digging around inside of a wizard's tower through the windows.
You're no fun, Wizard Jelly. I mean I guess you're right, but still.
"Of course, how could I have missed that?" a man with a shark's head said as it drifted to a large screen behind the altar. "You've got a symbiote inside of you! It even looks to be turning you into one yourself. You don't need my help with something like that. If you're really lucky, you might even survive the process."
The god paused for a few seconds, a rapidly-increasing number of eyes staring at Anila. "How unfortunate. It appears that your symbiote was created by a wizard, rather than the glory of SCIENCE! No matter, though. In the end, they're essentially indistinguishable! Everything you see around you could be either one, but you'd never quite no for sure. And that's the fun of it!"
"I like you, Vísindi. None of the gods back home have the same level of style you do. Except maybe Skaza, but most people don't agree with me on that one. Don't know what's wrong with him. He's just a chaos god and all."
"Back home?" the winged velociraptor on the screen asked. "Ah, of course! You don't come from this world at all! I should have guessed from the beginning. Brought here by a higher being... Yes, that makes sense. There are others as well."
"Yeah, there are others. It's hard to decide which one I want to meet first! There are so many to choose. Some kind of shadow thing that kills people, a worm with all kinds of eyes and these robot arms... I think she eats planets or something. Oh! There's also this huge armored ice soldier thing. He seems the least human besides the shadow thing. I want to go see him."
"So quick to leave, are you, Anila?" a centipede-human hybrid with an excessive number of arms intoned, barely as a question at all. Very well. I'm sure you will return, after all. None can turn away from the light of SCIENCE!" Silently, Anila wondered how many more times he would shout that word.
"I suppose you don't know where to find such a creature yourself. The Valley is quite a large place, after all. I have a quarrel with few gods myself, so you're probably safe for the most part. Just stay away from Obscura and Desolo, unless you intend to take on their forces yourself. These gods believe they have command of what is and is not, what is fact and what is fiction. In reality they are both fools! They know that the absolute truth is mine and they hate me for it! Now go forth, Anila Vakmero. Find allies if you like. If you are looking for one of ice, the few remaining forces of Frigidus may be an excellent place to look. High Priest Altes here should be able to help. Now go, and try not to die! Vísindi laughed at these last words, his very spidery visage fading into blackness as the electricity discs shut down.
"Well, you heard him, Altes! I've got an iceworlder to find!"
The priest drew his goggles from his face. "Finding one such as that will not be easy. The troops of Frigidus are known to be extremely difficult to track, at least by most of our devices. Fortunately, we've stolen a bit of technology from Raxis's followers, designed specifically to find those of such low body heat."
He pulled a small box from his labcoat and mumbled into it for a few moments before continuing. "By the way, Raxis is another you may want to watch out for. He's the God of War, and he's the reason everyone's fighting in the first place. As far as he cares, everyone's his enemy."
"So what's this technology you mentioned?"
Altes paused for a few moments, as if waiting for something to arrive on cue. The maniacal grin on his face slowly died down when he realized that no one was arriving in a timely manner. He tapped his foot for a few more seconds, and another, probably-lesser priest ran into the room with a small metal rectangle, a screen occupying one side.
Altes cleared his throat. "The display on this device will inform you when any of Frigidus's followers are nearby, and will point you toward them. It's refined slightly from the original design and works a little better, but even the original was enough for Raxis's army to wipe out most of Frgidus's. Don't let it fall into the wrong hands. Don't want even more war on our hands!" Another fairly inappropriate laugh. What was so funny about this stuff?
"Anyway, go talk to Kísérlet. She'll take you wherever you like. Goodbye, outsider."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"So what's it like being a manticore-dragon thing?" Anila asked, reclining against the priestess's dragon head.
"Very different from being a human," Kísérlet replied. "It's pretty nice though. A lot easier to destroy our enemies, for one thing. You're a lot more skilled than most people who try to fight me."
"I try. Does it bother you that you can't fit inside of buildings anymore?"
"Well, sometimes, but the blessing of Vísindi is usually a mixed one. I'd say the good parts outweigh the bad. It's not often that a priest or a priestess gets to be-"
Anila's conversation was interrupted by a muffled beep from the device stowed in her coat. She whipped it out immediately, and was informed that a small group of Frigidus's followers - four, in fact, plus an unidentified fifth being. They were very close, too - practically directly under them.
"Sorry to cut this conversation short, but our target's directly below. See you later, Kísérlet!"
"Wait, don't you need me to-" As confirmed by the eyes of the dragon and both snakes, Anila had disappeared from the mantragon's back.
She was, of course, in free-fall, the bloodstained battlefield beneath approaching very quickly. She grinned as she felt the wind rush past, seemingly oblivious to her coming demise.
Anila, should I ask why you are currently falling to your death? I hope you have something planned that doesn't involve hoping the impact doesn't turn you into "Wizard Jelly". I don't think it will.
Oh, come on. Why would I be that unprepared? Just you watch, Wizard Jelly.
"Spalvu krišana!" Anila shouted, her descent gradually slowing to one more akin to sinking into a pool of water. She landed on her feet directly in the middle of the cluster of soldiers, which just happened to include an eleven-foot tall, armored, gun-toting creature that looked remarkably identical to her mark. She was met with noticably shocked expressions, and at least three weapons leveled toward her head.
"Halt! Who are you and what do you think you're doing?" one of them yelled. The armored creature looked ready to blow her head off at a moment's notice.
"I'm Anila Vakmero, the great adventurer! Put those things down, I'm not here to hurt anyone. I'm only here to see this guy!" Anila pointed at Arokht. "We're all friends here, right? Just a battle to the death. I'm not even interested in the fighting!"
The rapidly-approaching troops of Raxis, however, were very interested in it.