The children lead Jaom and Kin to one of the brighter and cleaner streets where several shops bear the gemstone and eyeglass of the jeweler's profession. A few even hold the stamp of various guilds and certifications of Earth Cults. One has the demonic leg-mark of using demonic crafters in the manufacture and others bear similar, but less controversial, markings.
Instead of taking the pretty lady and her gruff, one-eyed servant to one of the merchants, the children lead them to a tavern and look expectantly up at Kinqueduran.
Jonjon: "You said you'd get us dinner."
Kinqueduran: "Dinner later."
Jaom: "... I dunno, Kin. We're here, I suppose we could get them something and look about on our own."
Kinqueduran: "I'm always a grump."
The other children scamper off to order themselves a vast dinner, but Jonjon disappears into the back of the tavern. He returns soon after, holding the slim and elegantly gloved hand of a tall woman with pale golden skin and hair blacker then obsidian, with less shine then Soulsteel. She pats the young child on the head and passes him a clinking bag.
Vanyara: "Hello. Will you come with me? We must..speak."
Vanyara: "No. No trouble. Come with me, it is..a distance."
Kinqueduran: "I'm guessing since that roadside hole we stopped in."
Jaom: "Figures, figures."
Vanyara: "We have watched since your teacher died."
Vanyara: "Come. It is a distance."
Kinqueduran: "...see, that was the bad news, I think."
Jaom: "... teacher, Kin?"
Kinqueduran: "I'll tell you later."
The pale woman leads you through the streets of Great Forks. In contrast to earlier walks in the city, it seems as if you have become invisible. People move to avoid you without looking at you, no one attempts to pick your purses or to sell you any objects or services.
Vanyara: "Do you have any questions? I can answer while we travel...but my own must wait for the destination.."
Kinqueduran: "No, I expect most of my questions will be answered at our destination, even if I ask them now."
Jaom: "Who do you work for?"
Vanyara: "I work for no one, child. I exist for myself. All of us do."
Jaom: "That's... comforting, I suppose."
Kinqueduran: "Don't know why you think so, dear."
The woman turns a corner after some twisting and turning lasting nearly an hour. Behind the corner is not more street, but a large doorway. She bows to the doorway and whispers to it without words. Slowly, silently, the doorway of mist and fog made metal opens to reveal a dark tunnel.
Vanyara: "Proceed, please."
Kinqueduran: "I'd much rather follow you."
Vanyara: "I must close the door, child. Proceed me."
Vanyara: "I am unused to names. But if you insist, Kinqueduran."
With another wordless whisper, the door closes and vanishes behind the woman. The dark tunnel wavers as if in a strong wind and then is no longer a tunnel. Two other women stand on a featureless, windswept plain of grey-black dust and flat stones. Both the same height as the one leading you, though one has milk-white skin and the other is as gold as the Sun himself.
Vanyara: "We are here."
Kinqueduran: "We're never anywhere else."
Jaom: "Here is where you are, and there is where you're not... until you get there, and then it's here and where you came from is there."
Kinqueduran: "Well, I was trying to be brief about it, but yes."
Purvas: "You should be more serious and pay closer attention."
Amania: "You are in trouble, my dear. You are very much in trouble."
Kinqueduran: "She's been in trouble since .. when did you get in trouble?"
Jaom: "Since that job that I took. But right now, unless you all are going to gut and filet me, I don't *feel* like I'm in trouble."
Jaom: "Point taken."
Kinqueduran: "Anyway, shall we get to the meeting?"
Vanyara: "We know you already...Cathak Jaom and Kinqueduran. But you almost certianly do not know us. I am Vanyara. My sisters are Purvas" the milk-pale woman nods sharply "and Amania" the golden lady smiles faintly. "You have met another of our sisters...indirectly."
Jaom: "You have an idea who they're talking about, Kin?"
Purvas: "She now styles herself the Wailing Daughter of Light and Silence."
Kinqueduran: "Oh. That."
Jaom: "That... is a name I don't know. She responsible for all this business?"
Kinqueduran: "Something like that. Remember the guy who got his head ripped off? Probably worked for her."
Purvas: "She is the Deathlord who betrayed the Malfeans to side with Celphindal."
Amania: "You are impatient, my dear." Her tone reminds you of Nine Roads at her most motherly. "We have a long history in this world. And, unlike the remainder of our sisters, we wish it no ill. Nor those within."
Vanyara: "You have by this point learned the intention of Celphindal and the Daughter?"
Kinqueduran: "Sort of."
Purvas: "They intend to release the Yozis by taking command of the Celestines through the Essence of the Exalted." the comment is a curt snap.
Jaom: "I hate to interrupt, but where does this put us, then?"
Kinqueduran: "In a lot of trouble."
Jaom: "See, I already knew that part."
Kinqueduran: "I think that's really the long and short of it."
Kinqueduran: "...I didn't even curse for once!"
Vanyara: "You are central to this, for the Brothers have marked you. They do not wish the Yozis to be freed."
Kinqueduran: "She's right. I'm not surprised."
Amania: "No. They will instead slay the Yozis by forging the ritual's gathered power into a vast weapon and break the bonds that prevented the Incarna from rebelling. Then all seven Celestial and all five Abyssal Incarna will unleash their power, willingly or not."
Vanyara: "And the Yozis will be slain."
Jaom: "I dunno much, but... I know that if something's endangering *everything*, I'm gonna do what I can. Whatever that is..."
Kinqueduran: "...now, I'm not exactly on the best of terms with Malfeas, but...is it really wise to -slay- all of the Yozis?"
Purvas: "They will become Malfeans and together, they will be able to awaken and drag all of Creation into the Void."
Kinqueduran: "See, I knew there was a catch.
Jaom: "... okay, that part I can understand, and I don't fucking like it."
Kinqueduran: "I feel so special. I get to save the world from the guys who picked me to save the world."
Vanyara: "In a manner of speaking."
Vanyara: "There was a Solar that you saved, under orders?"
Kinqueduran: "More or less, yeah."
Purvas: "He was our father, long ago. It is he they wish to use to bind the ritual to slay the Yozis. He slew our mother, before she came to him in the dream world and was given us."
Kinqueduran: "...so...do I kill him?"
Jaom: "... Kin, that isn't the answer to everything."
Kinqueduran: "It has been so far."
Jaom: "I like shivving idiots as much as the next Bells, but there's a time and place for all things."
Kinqueduran: "Remember that demon from the corpse's stomach? I tried being diplomatic with it, and it just ended with me beating that thing against a rock until it broke."
Kinqueduran: "Well, what about the Abyssal?"
Vanyara: "No. We do not wish him to be killed. But he must not be delievered to the Brothers."
Kinqueduran: "Yeah, I was debating that myself, to be honest."
Kinqueduran: "Kind of unfortunate, though. I was just getting used to the one-eye thing. Now I'll have to adjust to blindness."
Vanyara: "It is dangerous to cross the Brothers and their father. But you must."
Jaom: "... wait. Waitwaitwait. If you're asking him to go against someone that can touch him from anywhere he is, and probably do more than just make him cry red, what in the hell are you going to do to help us out?"
Purvas: "You have covered the general ideas."
Jaom: "Still, are you just turning us in the direction and patting us on the butt, or are we getting some kind of assistance here?"
Kinqueduran: "I don't expect assistance."
Jaom: "I'd expect it if I was being told to run headlong into something like that, even from Realmers."
Amonia: "Yet, it will be forthcoming. You must return to the North soon. Tell the Brothers that the Solar has hidden himself and you are following his tracks. But return to the home of the Maiden of the Broken Shield. She had many things that will help you."
Vanyara: "When you arrive, we will be able to show you which things you must take."
Kinqueduran: "Any chance you can help Mars hate me less?"
Purvas: "Mars is your own problem, Kinqueduran."
Kinqueduran: "Bluntly, I've still got half a mind to go ahead and turn the Solar over to Deimos, then just sit back and wait for the end of the world."
Vanyara: "Then it is possible we have misjudged you, Kinqueduran. I hope that is not so."
Kinqueduran: "You probably have."
Jaom: "You know damn well I won't let that sit, Kin."
Jaom: "Dammit, man... let other people *help*, then. Jeez... no one can do stuff like this alone."
Purvas: "That is not an option for the Exalted, Kinqueduran."
Kinqueduran: "I leave the opening for other people to help. I can't really -make- them do so."
Jaom: "Well, I'm in."
Jaom: "... besides, if I live, this'll make for the best story ever."
Kinqueduran: "I've pretty much given up on that eventuality." He turns in the direction he thinks the door was in, then glances over his shoulder at the sisters. "Anything else? Maybe a great nation needs to be overthrown and rebuilt? The Immaculate Order must burn and rise again? Shall I reshape the Wyld into a mighty army? Carry the Elemental Pole of Fire to a new location? Make a fresh pot of tea?"
Amania: "We can never drink tea or our voices will be quinched forever."
Kinqueduran: "Oh. Water, then? Some cake?"
Kinqueduran: "Right. The Pole of Air has to be carried off first. Silly me."
Vanyara: "There will be help, if you know where to look. Have you not already found an ally?"
Jaom: "Eh? That one guy from before, Kin?"
Kinqueduran: "What have I overlooked?! Where is the help that I /need/ for this to have even a vague hope of being accomplished?!"
Amonia: "You overlook those you have mentioned. And what of the other Red you met on the way to Great Forks? Your mentor had other students across the centuries. You have rescued a Lunar Exalted and the Solar himself."
Purvas: "You must."
Kinqueduran: "Didn't say I wasn't going to try."
Jaom: "... if we fail, we fail knowing we did our best. That's all anyone can do."
Kinqueduran: "Let's just go."
Jaom: "... just think about what I said, okay?"
Kinqueduran: "It's a given that I'll do my best. I just don't think we have any hope."
Amonia: "Kinqueduran. There is a year before the second part of the ritual must come to its close. If you return home, the wind will blow better."
Kinqueduran: "I can't go home. The Celestial Lions will fucking eat me."
Vanyara: "Heaven was not your first home, Kinqueduran."
Jaom: "Where did you come from, Kin?"
Kinqueduran: "Nowhere special."
Kinqueduran: "Greenpiers. Just a little town on the coast."
Amonia: "Return to your home. And then return to the North."
Kinqueduran: "Now...let's go."
Purvas: "To find us, Kinqueduran, sing."
Purvas: "To find us in a good mood, have someone else sing for you."
Kinqueduran: "I don't sing anyway."
Kinqueduran: "Might want to start practicing."