Running Up That Hill (To Make A Deal with a Goddess)
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Running Up That Hill

(To Make A Deal with a Goddess)

Lake Huron bursts open like a bomb going off, massive wings rise from the depths and five heads rear skyward. Waves are sent across its waters at the sheer force of the wingbeats, as the beast surges from the Earth — millennia worth of dust and dirt shakes free from shining scales. The dragon's rise casts down a veritable hurricane of the lake's frigid water, powerful hind limbs pushing off against the lake bottom as those tattered wings finally find traction against the air, and the great Goddess ascends.

Doctor Brenda Corbin can hear the shrill, blaring screams of Site-43’s alarm as SCP-5866 rises higher, but — against the whipping winds and showers of cold mist — she does not care. She is behind those five, colorful serpentine heads, gripping a jagged spike for support as she stands upon the shoulder of a Goddess.

"They will try to come for us." Tiamat’s voice rung warm in her mind — no longer the weary whisper it was in their first meeting — it was a deep and powerful rumble. "But they will fail."

“I made sure of that.” Doctor Corbin replies in tandem, her eyes raising up to briefly catch the golden gaze of two of the heads, "They'll have bigger things to handle than us, now."

The air vibrated with a pleased purr, as Tiamat rose higher into the sky.

From up here, Site-43 and the great lake look oh-so small.

Perhaps it always was.

She will be a doctor no more. No more will she walk linoleum halls day after day, no more would she aid in holding the key to a million cages. She will live, instead, and as Lake Huron’s waters still thrash and writhe in the wake of Tiamat’s rise, she knew it was the opening of Pandora’s Box.

She made sure Tiamat bore the containment class of her namesake for good reason.

A last message left before departure.

Brenda takes in a deep breath amongst the clouds and the golden glow of the setting sun, the air felt fresh for the first time in years. It is a breathless chuckle that slips from her lips.

Against that same gold-orange-pink of the setting sun Tiamat’s multicolored scales glimmer a variable rainbow. Healthy, bright, powerful.

Brenda smiles, and leans against one of the dragon's necks.

“Where are we going..?” she asks quietly. The adrenaline of their escape is quickly fading to exhaustion, an ache in her limbs and down her back is spreading. In spite of it, there is relief in her sigh.

"Admittedly, I am unsure," Tiamat replies. "The world does not look as I remember."

She pauses, considers, Brenda looks up at the dragon.

“North. Try to head North. The further you go, the less people there will be. It could be a safe spot to remain for a bit.”

"Wise," Tiamat hums in response. "Will you be able to brave the cold?"

“I’ll manage,” she gives a chuckle, “These old bones have bore worse. Being a bit chilly is a small price to pay.” The dragon's own warmth pushes against the cold atmosphere, and it grants a reprieve from the worst of the cold.

One of Tiamat’s heads ducks in a nod, as she shifts in the air, and swiftly sets off. She flies above the clouds, the world rushing along below them. Brenda stays against the dragon's neck, barricading herself slightly from the whirling of the wind. Amongst the rhythmic sound of wingbeats, and a heavy exhaustion weighing down on her shoulders from the escape, she finds her eyes drifting shut. It would be a lie to say that the last few nights had been fruitful in her efforts to sleep. Those nights were spent staring up at the ceiling, at the blank white that made those floaters in her eyes stand out, and while her body was always tired, her mind buzzed bright in conversation with the very Goddess she now was flying alongside.

It was not a true, proper sleep that she falls into, but more akin to the dozing-off one may do on a long car ride — as the world hushes and grows blurred, and time melts away.

She only snaps back to proper awareness some time later when the rhythm of Tiamat's wingbeats shifts, and the air seems to change. Blinking bleary against the cold air, Brenda shakes out her head, and raises her gaze to the dragon.

"Is something the matter?" she murmurs. Upon inspection, they are getting close to the ground. The Goddess has angled her wings, beginning to descend.

"I have not used my wings in millennia," Tiamat rumbles. "We are not being followed, and thus I shall rest. It seems like you need it, too." There's a hint of amusement in her tone.

"Very well," Brenda replies with a nod, a faint chuckle in her voice.

"Steady thy grip," the dragon says, before the descent grows far faster. Brenda adjusts her position, and grips her hands around one of the rough spines down Tiamat's neck. All five had different little rows of them — some webbed like a fish's fins, others just rows of sharp, bony spurs.

If Brenda had to venture a guess of where they were, by the mountains, she would estimate the far Northern portion of the Rockies. Up towards Alaska. Which means they did not go exactly North, but it was… close enough? On the plus side of things, the Great Lakes were practically upon the other side of the continent, alongside any possible pursuit. There is not a single fleck of a city's shimmer in sight, aside from the faint glow of light pollution on the horizon down to the South — but even that is far off. It gives her relief, to know they were at least temporarily far from the Foundation's reach.

With a mighty thud, Tiamat lands within the clearing. Her tail sweeps over the grass as she turns in a slight circle, ten eyes surveying the land. Brenda too, raises her gaze.

It is a large, open field of tall grass and the occasional shrub — all surrounded by trees. Large pines line the horizon, rising up the mountains in dotted clusters. It looks like a spot carved once by an ancient river, which left them in something perhaps akin to an eroded valley. The mountain's tips were dosed in white, and the snow glow from the setting sun made them glitter golden-pink.

Tiamat crouches low, allowing Brenda to slip off her shoulder and onto the ground below. She lands heavily, with a grunt, and stretches — joints stiff from both the cold and travel. She brushes against the cool, tall grass. A light breeze ripples them like the waters of the lakeshore they had fled from.

"How long do you think you'll need to rest?" Brenda asks as she scans the clearing.

"Not long," replies Tiamat, "but what of you? How long do you require rest?"

Brenda pauses, "I don't know." despite the exhaustion in her, there's still an underlying sort of excitement. A quiet giddiness and shock at… everything. Everything that has occurred in past hours, the culmination of their weeks of planning. Their success.

Brenda turns her gaze to Tiamat, to finally look at the great Goddess and take her in at full glory. Free from the Earth and lake, alive and well. Tiamat seems to notice this, making an amused hum as she shifts to sit on her haunches — wings tucking inwards.

As expected, her five heads are chromatic. Red, green, blue, black, white — but the multi-coloration does not stop at the heads. Down her back these five colors trail in stripes, before coiling in loops around her tail to create a prismatic bands of colors, and ending in a glimmering, sharp spade at the tail's tip.

Without thinking, she places a hand on Tiamat's wing — runs her fingers across the scaly membrane that stretches between the wing fingers. It's smoother than the dragon's scales, like a bat's wings, and the red deepens in coloration towards the tips. The membrane is torn and tattered in places, a show of just how… ancient the being before her was.

"…you think I am beautiful…" it is not a question, but a quiet, almost surprised statement. Information picked from her mind.

A chuckle, "Reading my thoughts?" she raises an eyebrow. She's not bothered by it, the two made ample use of Tiamat's telepathy, but there's something that makes her face burn. Embarrassment?

"You grew quiet. I grew curious."

Brenda realizes just why her face feels flushed, and looks away. She clears her throat, and rubs the side of her face. The dragon's scales had been pleasantly warm, especially against the cold night.

"I… cannot deny…" She opens and closes her mouth a few time — fails to produce further words, in a almost startled, flustered sort of manner.

"You are first in millennia to see me in full." Tiamat says, "though I do not think I have appeared quite like this before." She was some sort of combination of previous depictions of her — serpentine and draconic, with heads like five horned snakes, a pair of wings, a pair of legs, a tail with a spade tip. Wyvern-like, in a way.

"And that is an honor. You're… wonderful. It's all wonderful." Brenda finds herself smiling, "that it… it worked. We restored you."

"You restored me, Brenda." The great dragon exhales, five puffs of warm air condensing against the cold.

"I owe this all to you," her voice rumbles, "my return to life. The glorious reclamation of my ascension. It is far more than I ever imagined. It is living." The last word comes with another exhale, like a breath of excitement. The dragon's tail slowly swishes against the grass, meters behind her.

"It far beats bones in the dirt, does it not?" Brenda chuckles lightly, sitting down heavily in the grass, just beyond Tiamat's talons. "I think we're… even, in our 'pact'. I helped you, and you helped me. We're both free."

"…Even." Tiamat echoes, the dragon rests her heads against the grass — the red one snakes forward slightly so that her eye resides next to Brenda. "I would never have imagined to find myself even with one of mortal ilk. But it is something I have found myself… welcoming. I enjoy you, Brenda."

The words bring a warmth to her face, that same as before. There's a fondness in her eyes as she then turns her head to meet Tiamat's gaze.

"I enjoy you too, Tiamat," she smiles, "I am glad that we are here — that we got out of there — together." Part of the newfound freedom is overwhelming, the lack of any clear options laid out before them as they sit here in the wild on a cold night. She does not know where they will end up from here, whether they find a place, forge one, or return to wandering. The cold bite of the night air makes her shiver, and she rubs her arm as if that will dispel the goosebumps. Her limbs feel stiff against the elements, a tiredness weighs on old bones.

Tiamat watches, the head closest to Brenda studies her carefully as she sits and thinks. After a moment, the Goddess breaks the silence.

"May I gift you something, Brenda?"

She tilts her head, "A gift?" Brenda turns her body to face Tiamat's central head — met with scales and a glimmering, emerald eye. "I don't know what more you possibly could give me, after all you already have."

"There's one last thing," Tiamat says with a chuckle, "for it would be selfish of me not to share with you."

Brenda keeps her head tilted, as the Goddess continues.

"You are mortal. Fragile. Even now the cold bites at your limbs and weakens your breath." Tiamat speaks softly, gently, "May I share with you some of myself? To keep out the cold, to strengthen you." There is something heavy to her words, the offer carries more significance than just an offering of warmth against a cold night.

And Brenda realizes that.

"You… are offering to share with me your own power?"

"Indeed I am," Tiamat hums, "While I cannot forever fend off inevitability, I can grant you strength. Grant longevity. I can share with you what you spent months helping me regain."

"You do not have to feel obligated," Brenda says gently, "we are even."

"This comes not of obligation." Tiamat's tone is low, warm. There's a careful sort of gentleness to it, and Brenda can feel that from the Goddess' mind. It comes not of a need to repay, not of an obligation, but of care. Of respect.

"Ok," she replies, "I will accept your gift."

Tiamat jaws part slightly, like a smile.

Brenda pushes herself to her feet and stands, as Tiamat does as well. The dragon sits back on her haunches, and unfurls her wings a bit — but instead of taking off, she lowers her five great heads down to Brenda's level. The central red head moves closer, and Brenda closes the gap between them. Both of her hands come to rest against warm scales, and with a shuttering exhale she presses her forehead against Tiamat's snout.

"I'm ready," she breathes.

Though her eyes are closed, she can see from behind her own eyelids that a light has spread across Tiamat's scales.

A warmth pulses through her chest, it starts out small — like striking sparks from a stone, but then those sparks find tinder and it starts to grow. To glow. It is not a fire that scorches, that blackens, it is a fire that burns with life. It is a spreading heat like a gentle campfire, or water warmed by a summer sun.

Though her eyes are closed, she still sees — glimpses of memories from the mind of a Goddess. Of battle, of bloodshed, of deep waters and streams, of gods and men and monsters. Mythology, stories, thoughts. She could see the influence that she and the Foundation had wrought. Could feel the great power beneath her fingertips. Thrumming and humming like a great, wonderful heartbeat.

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And in response, she pours something in return. A gentle brook, carrying old memories and new feelings like a stream does vibrant leaves — a reciprocated gift. Of running through fields as a teen, of dancing under a night sky, laughter shared with old friends and family.

A first kiss to a lover long gone decades ago upon a stony beach.

Her face rests against glowing scales. A purr vibrates through her very bones.

A sharing of essence. A sharing of power, of divinity. For there is something divine their act. In the magic that Tiamat pours into her heart. The warmth hums at her fingertips, too. The stiffness and chill of the cold air has melted away entirely. Her exhaustion from earlier has ebbed, it feels like air comes easier. It is bright, it is wonderful, it is warm like an embrace.

Brenda opens her eyes, and stares up into Tiamat's ten.

"I… I think I love you."

"And I, you."

There is branching, glowing light across Tiamat's scales and along her own arms — shining underneath her clothes. Myriads of swirls — pulsing color and light — like paths carved by a meandering stream. Brenda briefly closes her eyes again to rest her head against Tiamat's. She can feel the dragon give a long, relaxed exhale.

With a breathless chuckle, face flushed from more than just the newfound shared energy, Brenda takes a step back. The glow from Tiamat fades, wisping off into the night and rising into the sky like multi-colored fireflies. The two of them watch those glimmering motes, as they float off and join the heavens above. The bright, sparkling stars. Tiamat stares upwards, she blinks, one of her heads blinking and rising up a bit higher.

"The stars are so bright." There's awe in Tiamat's tone. "The world has become so different than the one that I knew."

"This world has grown smaller, I think." The response comes with a slight sigh.

"I do not think it shall stay that way forever. The waters still roar with change. No monolith lasts eternal."

"You seem to, after all these centuries."

A series of low chuffs, a laugh, "I do, and do not," replies the dragon, "but I am not eternal, not the way I am. My nature lends me to be as fluid as the sea. Eternity is to rot in stagnation, but change? Change is renewal, Brenda."

"Do you think this world can change?"

"It must. All things must."

She gives a small smile. "…Good."

There is a pause. The two of them lapse into a comfortable silence, as though they have known each other for years. Brenda shifts her hand, and places it on the large and warm snout that has come to lay by her side. Her fingers run over glittering scales as she strokes them in slow, gentle movements.

"Do you want to see something beautiful, Brenda?"

"More beautiful than what I already behold?"

There is a laugh in her mind — warm and low, and the serpent before her makes a rumble so great it vibrated in her bones. She looks up at her with a smile.

"You flatter me so."

She smiles, chuckles. "Do show me."

Brenda takes a few steps back as Tiamat rises to her talons.

The dragon rears up, so that she can unfold her wings — the moon above becomes blotted out by the great shadow cast, as Tiamat turns all five heads to the heavens and bursts into the air with single leap.

Brenda turns in a tight circle, watches as the Goddess ascends into the night sky. Higher and higher, iridescent scales glimmering in moon and starlight, the dragon turns in the air once, twice —

"Let me show you what I can really do."

— and the heavens above burst into light.

From five maws comes five streams of energy — and with it Tiamat paints the night sky in every color that Brenda can imagine. Vibrant red guided by rightmost head, a slow and methodical swirl burns that pattern into the sky.

Reds, golds, greens, blues, purples — and even after Tiamat closes her jaws their light remains. They glimmered and mingled amongst the stars, like aurora borealis that Brenda had only seen in photos.

And it was breathtaking.

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From the ground, Brenda found herself cheering and hollering until her voice grew sore. A fist pumped towards the sky as she watches the Goddess dance. Tiamat tucks in her wings and drops into a dive, flames gathering in each maw, and just before she would hit the earth those great wings snap open in a vibrant display as the light from the fire glimmers along the webbing.

Brenda steels herself against the force of the wind as the dragon swoops over her head, and laughs harder than she'd ever has. Tiamat swirls into the sky once more, five roars piercing through the night. A sixth cry of jubilance joins her.

It was of victory, of pride, of freedom.

And the night shone with every color of magic imaginable.

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