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Niko Borozov and the Quest to Deal with this Supernatural Bullshit




Niko Borozov and the Quest to Deal with this Supernatural Bullshit


He wasn’t going to lie, Niko had gotten pretty fucked up from his encounter with the Rat Lady. He had no idea how long he’d really been out for, but he had vague recollections of coming to on the floor, after a good solid minute of Doug poking his face. They then proceeded with an awkward stumble back to the Smiling Goat.


“I… I’m getting that, ya know, that feeling. Aw, fuck whaza word?” Niko mumbled, the world around him still rather more like molasses than normal. Or syrup. Aunt Marma’s Genuine Maple Syrup. That made him sad for some reason. He would have stopped in the middle of the street to think about it if Doug hadn’t practically been dragging him along already.


“I know what you mean. It’s... uh, uh, shit, it’s…” Doug’s words reached Niko a solid second after his voice did. He sounded a little more together than Niko was, but it was clear by the way his head kept bobbing a little that he was still feeling it too. “Deju vu,” he finally supplied.


“Tha’s it.” Niko nodded and almost fell over. “Hey, Doug,” he said after what seemed like a very long time but probably wasn’t.


“What’s goin’ on, buddy?”


Any other time, Niko would have commented on the diminutive phrasing, but he was so focused on remembering his first thought that he barely considered it. “I keep thinkin’ I’m… seeing shit, out of the corner of my eye. Is this what it’s like for you all the time?”


“Depends on what you’re seein’.”


“It’s out of the corner of my eye, dumbass. But, I… it looks like… I think they might be birds.”


“Ah, then that’s not like me at all.”


“What, what do you see?”


“Hot chicks, mostly.”


“Damn. Lucky bastard.”


He chuckled bitterly at that. “Yeah, one would think.”


Luckily for them, the Smiling Goat wasn’t too far from the Soul Market, and all downhill. But Niko only remembered bits and pieces from there, mostly because he’d been dangerously close to falling asleep the rest of the way.


Tommy and Flora had been there to meet them, looking concerned. Cowell was there too, and had waved his hands obnoxiously in front of Niko’s face before Niko told him to fuck off.


“Well, he can’t be too far gone if he can still manage to curse with such gusto.”


“Oh, leave him alone,” Flora snapped, grabbing Niko’s slightly limp body from Doug. “I’ll take him upstairs. Doug, why don’t you stick around for a little while, please? I don’t want you wandering around the city before you’ve come down.”


The last thing he heard was Tommy gently questioning Doug before he passed out entirely.


And then he abruptly woke up the next morning in bed. Somehow it simultaneously felt like the best and the worst sleep he’d gotten in ages.


For a very long time he just lay there and stared upwards at a crack in the ceiling. As his faculties slowly returned to him, Niko got the distinct impression that he’d dreamed about something. Yet for the life of him, he couldn’t remember what it was. Probably fucking birds, at this rate.


He spent a good deal of time wondering why the hell he felt so out-of-sorts before it slowly started to come back to him. Thankfully, he felt more normal than yesterday, just a little lethargic mostly. So it appeared that he hadn’t been too fucked up physically by whatever had been in that pipe.


Mentally, however, he wasn’t so sure. If he hadn’t already been in the midst of dumb supernatural bullshit, Niko would have just chalked the vision up to random hallucinatory weirdness. But it had all been so oddly specific, so… for lack of a better word… real.


And then there was the matter of the name. Okin. It very well might not mean anything. It probably didn’t, considering that it was just his own name backwards. He wasn’t a dumbass. If all that had been a simple creation of his own head it had really been phoning it in. Like, where was the creativity?


But, no, he was pretty sure it was legit. Niko had the distinct impression that he’d heard it somewhere before. It might not be the name of whatever the fuck was haunting him, but it was a start. And he thought he knew just who he should ask. However, he didn’t know how easy it would be to get in touch with her.


As loathe as he was to do it, he’d have to ask Cowell.


It must have taken him twice as long as usual to crawl out of bed and change out of his now very wrinkled clothes. He was also busting for a piss. Yet eventually he managed to make his way down to the bar looking some degree of put-together.


Cowell and Flora clapped as he stumbled down the stairs, and Tommy slapped him on the back so hard he almost knocked the breath out of him. “How’re ya doin’, champ?”


“Aw, shut up,” Niko frowned. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”


After several minutes of dodging their questions, they finally left him alone. That made it a little awkward to try to regain Cowell’s attention, but as soon as Tommy and Flora became occupied elsewhere he sucked it up and did it. “Hey, so, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, how easy would it be for me to get in touch with Aurum?”


“What an oddly specific question.” Cowell’s tone expressed confusion, but the look on his face stated rather plainly that he knew exactly what he was asking for. “I sincerely doubt the phone in the bar would be sufficient, but I believe Mathilda may have a device capable of inter-realital communication.”

“Could you do me a favor and talk a little slower, just for today?”


“If I spoke any slower we’d be here all day. Now, shall we away?”


Begrudgingly, Niko followed Cowell out of the pub at just the right time to run into Kuro heading in. “Glad to see you on your feet,” he muttered with a slight smile on the way past.


Niko sighed. Just how in the hell did he know? Kuro hadn’t even been there, at least to Niko’s knowledge. Did everybody in Discord know? Not that it was a really big deal, ultimately, but if word somehow got back to Ede Valley that bigshot Niko Borozov couldn’t handle a little pot, his rep would be ruined.


“A little annoyed by the attention, maybe?” Cowell’s omnipresent grin had taken on a slightly coy quality.


“Just wish they weren’t so proud. I mean, Tommy, sure, but aren’t adults supposed to be disappointed or something? It’s weird.”


“Us adults aren’t often as responsible as you might think,” Cowell stated sagely. “In my experience, the most successful adults are the ones who are the best at faking it. The adults that are the most fun, however, are the ones that aren’t.”


Niko blinked a couple of times. “That was surprisingly profound coming from you.”


“I think you may still be a little caned, my friend,” Cowell laughed. “Because that was no more than my usual brand of gibberish.”


“Then I should never get high ever again.”


Surprisingly, except for a singular blue tag on one of its sides, Mathilda had been largely left alone. The wagon was still sitting at the end of a lonely, brick alley, just waiting for Tommy to come back. Niko got the distinct image of him sobbing at the sight of the very removable paint.


Cowell unlocked Mathilda’s door as beside him, Niko fought desperately to avoid thinking about just why he had his own key. Once inside, Cowell made himself right at home, shoving aside some of Tommy’s bedding to get at the mechanisms at the back. Of course, Tommy had been sleeping out here as opposed to over the pub, and Niko wrinkled his nose a little. It definitely had the smell of a bachelor pad.


“Let’s see, where is… ah, here.” Cowell had been fiddling with a few dials on a panel that he’d pulled from the wall. “This should connect you to the phone in the East Branch.” He pulled a stool up to the panel and gestured Niko to it.


“Is there anything this wagon can’t do?” Niko asked.


“It can’t get Tommy to take a bath, that’s for damn sure. But no, in all seriousness, it’s a pretty advanced little machine. I’ve been wondering myself how that old fortune-teller got his hands on it.”


“If even Tommy doesn’t know then I doubt we ever will,” Niko sighed, but plopped down onto the stool.


“Now don’t fiddle with the settings,” Cowell instructed. “Hit this button when you’re ready to call, and this one when you want to speak.”


“So it’s more like a radio than a phone.”


“Precisely. Well,” Cowell abruptly turned on his heel. “Tell the old girl I said hello, she’ll hate that, and oh, be sure to lock up when you’re done,” he threw the key back to Niko.


Niko frowned. “Where are you going?”


“Back to the pub, o’ course,” Cowell shrugged. “Perhaps I’m overstepping my bounds again, but it seems like this is a rather private conversation. Anyway, I hope you find the answers you’re look for. Tootle-o!”


The revelation that he’d never told Cowell that he needed to ask her anything should’ve upset him, but it just made him tired.


It took a minute for Aurum to pick up. This wasn’t necessarily unusual for her, but it rang just long enough for Niko to start worrying that it might not be working.


“Hullo?” the voice on the other end was decidedly not Aurum.


“Hey, Servus. It’s Niko.” Admittedly, Niko had never quite known how to talk to Servus. The fact that he was essentially a robot was bad enough, but on top of that, he was a child. “Is Aurum there?”


“Yes.”


There was a pause.


“Uh, could you get her?”


“Tommy?”


“He’s not here right now, but he’s doing alright, yeah.”


“I’m being helpful.” There was something a little accusatory in his tone, and Niko realized after a second just what he was trying to say.


He chuckled. Okay, maybe the kid had some balls, after all. “Listen, if I put in a good word for you with him, will you get Aurum?”


“Thanks, man. Hold please.”


As he waited, Niko had the annoying thought that he never figured out how he was going to go about broaching the subject with her. He under no circumstances wanted to go into the specifics of his drug-fueled hallucination. She’d read way too deeply into it and try to analyze its literary merit or something.


Surprisingly, there was no need for verbal dodging of any kind. She was so excited that anyone wanted to talk to her about her specialty that she needed no persuading. “You want to know about Okin? Well, frankly I could talk at length on any number of sub-topics…”


“Just the basics, please.”


“Well, classically speaking, Okin is a god of the Atlantean pantheon. At the height of their society he was even considered the king of said pantheon as Meratus Okin, arbiter of order.”


That explained why the name sounded so familiar. “At the height? Was he not always?”


“Bear in mind that there’s so much we don’t know. If only the Ptolemaics hadn’t stolen all those books… anyway, very little literature about Lemuria survives, and that which does consists exclusively of second-hand Greek and Roman accounts. Lucius has been an invaluable resource in that regard. From what we do know, Okin seems to be a supplanted deity.”


“Supplanted?”


“He originated from somewhere else, and was later brought to Atlantis. He had a really very minor cult at first, but rose rather dramatically to prominence in later centuries. From what we can gather, he was initially only a rather minor psychopomp, more of an angel than a god…”


“Aurum, Aurum…” he had to say her name a couple of time to get her attention. “Please try to remember that I failed history in high school.”


“Niko…”


“Twice.”


Niko.”


“Hey, it’s not my fault! That bitch had it out for me. And dad wouldn’t let me use any muscle to get her to change her mind. So, please, a little slower. First: what the hell is a psychopomp?”


“Psychopomps are those that guide the dead into whatever afterlife is applicable. Think the grim reaper, or the Valkyries. Oh, but you…”


“I know what those are,” Niko frowned. “I know the Norse shit at least, that stuff’s cool.”


“Then, actually, this may interest you,” he could hear her grin through the speaker. “Some scholars think there may be a direct lineage between Okin and the later Odin of Norse mythology. There are many reasons for the connection, but principle among them was found on several different recovered tablets. Though their relationship later evolved to that of servant and master, in those early tablets Okin appears alongside another deity, who is labeled as Akaina Valki: Valki the Red. Lucius is of the opinion that the epitaph refers to her hair, but personally, I’m not…”


She was still talking, but Niko wasn’t listening anymore. How could he listen when he couldn’t even breathe? It couldn’t be. It had to be a coincidence, right? Of course, there were lots of red-headed goddesses, no doubt. Plenty of… red-headed goddesses in subservient roles to… gods whose names were just his own spelled backwards.


It was her. It had to be. He didn’t know how, but somehow he knew.


“Niko?” Aurum was asking. “Niko are you still there?”


“Yeah, I’m here. Listen, Aurum, I’ve gotta go, but thanks for the info.”


“But I was just getting started on—”


He hit the call button, hoping it would hang up. Even if it didn’t, Niko didn’t bother to check. He just ran out of the wagon, doubling back as he remembered he was supposed to lock it behind him.


Though he didn’t know exactly how to get there, Niko started running downhill, hoping that he’d eventually stumble upon his destination.


Outlook rock was a little hard to miss, so it didn’t take him all that long to find it, which was just as well, considering how ragged his breath was becoming. He scrambled onto its surface, trying to calm his racing heart. He had no idea if she would even be here, after all.


At first that appeared to be the case, as the only sound that served to greet him was the wind whistling past. Out past the edge of reality, the Other shifted slowly, seeming nearly as restless as he felt. It scared him a little, though he had no idea why. It was a deep, almost instinctual sort of fear.


And for a while, that was all there was. She wasn’t here. There was nothing here. As much as he was loathe to do it, he called out that name that wasn’t hers. It was just a whisper, he couldn’t manage much more.


“Valki,” he said to the void. “That’s your name, isn’t it?”


“You did what was asked of you,” came a voice, so different and yet so achingly familiar. Once again, a shape appeared in the mist, but she didn’t venture quite close enough to make out properly. “But that is not the only name you learned, is it?”


He sighed. “Okin,” he muttered. “That’s the guy who’s gatecrashing my dreams.”


“Well done.”


“But who is he?” Niko asked. “I mean, I know he’s a god or something, but why the hell is a god invading my dreams?”


“It is a story of some length,” the figure warned.


“Well shit, I don’t have anywhere to be.” He plopped down on the hard stone.


“Then please, listen well. You may know him as an Atlantean god, but even their knowledge was incomplete and fragmented, passed down from a people even more ancient than they. You see, he was so much more than that...”

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