alsoquin Lai has returned from his meeting with Unfolding Petal, a new godly ally under his belt; meanwhile, Akuna has provided the means to contact him when the next stage of the Order's plan will begin. Now it is a matter of locating two other Gods, that each of the three might be empowered.
alsoquin Now, the group sits in the house in Era'vina, readying for their next step.
Lai Misuna "So," says Lai, as he lays out a map of creation marked with the locations of the gates that he has managed to find. "Do either of you have ideas or suggestions for which gods you will approach for power?"
Shikaya sits on the back, sipping on... something. A very strong drink of theirs'. "I do. I have heard of a God who... fits, for what I wish. And I am pretty sure I can find him in Rathess."
Istenda leans back in his chair, idly cleaning his claws with a sharp blade. "Ah, Rathess."
Shikaya "'Kasima the Knife'." She says on a low voice. "A cold blade to cut them away from Creation."
Holbar sits out on the balcony, away from the gathered crowd, gulping his own drink and looking out at the gibbous moon.
Shikaya "Well, it was Istenda who mentioned him out to me." She points idly, "So you know who to blame if we end up having to kill it."
Olosh "There is someone also...its name..." Olosh makes a vague gesture. "There is a number in it."
Lai Misuna sips his drink, restrained "A Number?"
Istenda grins, "Don't be foolish, and we will not have to kill it."
Shikaya "I will be a good girl, Istenda," She smiles wickedly, "IF Kasima turns out to be what I need."
Lai Misuna "Another god, I take it?" He asks, not interjecting between Istenda and Shikaya for the moment
Lai Misuna "Do you know where he lives?"
Istenda "Oh, I think you will be... particularly pleased with your choice, Shikaya my dear."
Holbar marches through the house to fill his drink, leaving a muddy footprint on Lai's map.
Shikaya "Ten-Beasts? Hmmm. Yes, it would fit you well, Holbar."
Lai Misuna raises an eyebrow, but brushes at the footprint. It falls off the map. "A god Olesh mentioned. Ten-Beasts-Rising."
Shikaya nods to Lai, sips more of her drink
Istenda looks over at the others, and appraisingly at Holbar, "Hmmm yes, that would probably suit your temperament."
Holbar snorts and heads back out of the room. "Just let me know when we're leaving."
Lai Misuna gives the most minute shake of his head. "Perhaps we should visit Rathess first." He decides. "Apparently there is a gate right there, too."
Shikaya "At least you pointed out a route with some comfort, Istenda." She smiles to him, getting up and leaving the drink. "We should go already. I am curious to meet this Kasima... and Creation does not wait."
Olosh burbles nonobjectingly.
Lai Misuna considers. Leaving now would put them closer to their ultimate destiny, but leaving later would let him spend more time here. "Unless anyone has objections ...?" He glances around. "Holbar, we are leaving now." He calls out after the large man.
Holbar "About time." He strides back in, tossing his glass over the balcony with a muffled crash.
Lai Misuna Must he break things everywhere he goes?
Lai Misuna rolls the map and rises to his feet, letting the map fall apart into a shower of red lily petals that soon vanish. "Well, let us be off then."
alsoquin The group steps out of the gate onto a dusty, cracked road. The city of Rathess was great and magnificent once, but that was long ago, and none -- perhaps, save, Istenda -- have seen it thus. Now, rubble lies in the streets, and wild hawks swoop down to feast upon lizards,
alsoquin as thick vines grow through the cobblestones and up into the walls of the towers.
alsoquin A ways away, a stalker dashes through the streets -- a bestial, thoughtless dinosaur, naked and vicious.
Shikaya "Hmmm. The east is annoying. At least the wilderness back home had the decency of being dead, not rotting and so... so..." She wipes some sweat off her forehead... "... humid. Oh. Look, Istenda, is that your brother or something?"
Istenda laughs, gratingly. "Perhaps a distant cousin. He must be raised up before I would call him Brother."
Holbar "You people make terrible cities."
Shikaya "The city is not so bad... the place is horrible, though."
Olosh "All you ...fleshbags...do."
Holbar "Eat me, vaporface."
Holbar "What are we doing here again?"
Istenda tugs on the rope he holds, and a scarred human, who was once obviously a warrior, stumbles forward through the gate. "The city was glorious, before y... it was ruined."
Lai Misuna "We are looking for Kasia the Knife."
Shikaya "... and he is on the catacombs beneath Rathess."
Shikaya "How do we get there, Istenda?"
Istenda "Worry not, my fine friends." He tugs on the rope. "I will lead you." And lead them he does, first to the entrance of the catacombs, and then, entering.
Olosh trots along behind. Good to be back in civilised architecture again.
Shikaya walks right behind Istenda, wiping the sweat. Damned humidity
alsoquin The catacombs beneath the city of Rathess are rather unusual, but quite a bit better preserved than the above-ground portion of the city. Stone walkways run beside and above rivers of sewer water, winding on downwards to deeper and deeper levels.
Lai Misuna strides along purposefully, casting glances about to take in the architecture.
Istenda leads them confidently through the catacombs, humming an ancient, esoteric tune that uses tones no human could mimic. Occasionally, he pauses at a passageway, considering which way will lead them to their goal more quickly, and choosing that one.
alsoquin The pathway leads quite a distance underground. At first, things -- aquatic stalkers, it would seem -- move often within the sluiceways, but as they grow lower the life seems to thin. Finally, they emerge upon a thin stone walkway, set in a great circle around a pit -- perhaps 300 meters around -- filled with opaque, greenish-brown water.
Holbar "Well, that's disgusting."
Lai Misuna "Quite."
Holbar trips Istenda and shoves him towards the pit.
Shikaya "Lai, I propose we buy a collar for Holbar. With a short leash."
Istenda turns half a second after Holbar's foot touches his leg and starts to reach his claws towards the annoying mortal's face before a grimace crosses his face, and instead he lurches sideways and attempts to dig them into the wall.
Lai Misuna gives every indication of giving the suggestion serious consideration
alsoquin Something -- rather larger than the stalkers above -- stirs somewhere within the sludgy water, though does not surface.
Lai Misuna "Was that really nessessary, Holbar?" He asks the man instead.
Istenda plucks each claw deliberately out of the wall, and a low growl rumbles in his throat, but he gestures to the water. "I recommend you beware the leech gods below."
Holbar "Just a joke." Holbar smiles.
Holbar "Besides, I wanted to see the leech gods."
Shikaya covers her nose. "So... I hope Kasima is not immersed in that?"
Istenda grits his teeth. "Then please, feel free to. I would be happy to find another candidate to fill your position."
Holbar "Aren't lizards supposed to be cold-blooded?"
Lai Misuna "I, on the other hand, would rather not. Can you both stop threatening to kill each other?"
Lai Misuna "Now, where is Kasima?" He asks, before they can reply
Istenda "Across." He grunts, pointing to the door opposite their position.
Shikaya strides in front of the others and tries to open the door
Lai Misuna watches Shikaya and the door.
alsoquin A ripple that indicates an eyeless ancient god's presence follows Shikaya along the outskirts of the pool, though it does not reach up to strike. When she reaches the door in question, it pushes open with ease, though it creaks quite loudly as it does so.
Lai Misuna walks up behind Shikaya
Shikaya "I am Shikaya, and have come to meet Kasima, God of the Knife." she says simply
alsoquin The room within is undecorated but tightly filled; jars and containers of all description seem to line the walls and floor. At one side, carefully labelled ("Do Not Open", "Experimental Material Within," "This Side Up") is a rather large, ceramic tapered cylinder.
alsoquin It looms over everything else in the room.
Shikaya "... I thought you said we would meet a knife-god here, Istenda. Not an Alchemists' little lab."
alsoquin Otherwise, the room is lifeless; nothing, even the tiny lizards that enter every part of Rathess, seems to be alive in here.
Istenda navigates the pathway around the edge, occasionally glaring back at Holbar. "Patience, Shikaya."
Shikaya crosses her arms. "Very well."
Istenda "Have I yet led you wrong?"
Shikaya "No, of course not. But I expected a great shrine to blades, something with more... grandeur."
Lai Misuna "Not that we know of." Lai smiles.
Istenda "Blades," he notes, "Are for using. Not displaying."
Holbar "And even then, a real man just needs his hands."
Holbar walks into the lab and taps the cylinder experimentally.
Istenda "Then, what do YOU need?" He strides up to the cylindar, smirking around it at Holbar.
Shikaya A golden knife slides out of her scarves, and she touches it ends, drawing a drop of blood. "I know, Istenda." She looks askance at Holbar, "A real man also dies like any bull when touched by blade and poison."
Istenda runs his claws along the cylindar lightly, finding the way to open it
Holbar "My little finger is plenty."
alsoquin Istenda locates the proper location after a moment, and several glowing lines appear upon the cylinder's face. Without ceremony, it begins to fold open, and a deep purple light begins to leak from within.
Istenda steps back, with a grin
Shikaya looks up at it, and smiles. "Beautiful..."
alsoquin The delicate, intricate -- and sharp -- form of the slumbering Kasima the Knife lies within, its knife-sharp wings and razor talons held carefully by the form-fitted clay within the container.
alsoquin It looks rather like a beautiful hawk, if that hawk were made entirely of vicious, ethereal, razor-thin blades.
Istenda "Welcome back, Kasima the Knife." Istenda rumbles quietly. "The time for sleep is over."
alsoquin The creature moves its head for a moment, gently, softly... like a newborn infant in its fragility...
Holbar gives Kasima a grim look, and holds his peace.
alsoquin But that is dispelled a moment later as its eyes flash red and its head jolts forward with a horrific screech, though the rest of its body remains locked within the container.
Holbar "Oh, see, now that's cute."
Lai Misuna "Greetings, Kasima."
Shikaya "Kasima the Knife, we came to wake you to a new dawn. To a new age. We came to free you, and offer you to be as the Unconquered Sun in the creation of Chosen." She steps foward, the knife in hand, never forgetting this creature is a walking blade...
alsoquin The shriek is bloodcurdling and awful, and the god's eyes seem to glow viciously as it looks rapidly back and forth between those present... but it does not speak.
Istenda grins at Shikaya, and pushes the prisoner forward, towards her. "Kasima must be hungry, don't you think?"
Shikaya smiles wickedly at Istenda. "Yes." She holds the prisioner, coming closer to Kasima... "We offer you a sacrifice, Kasima the Knife, in good faith." part of the road to greatness. Be proud. she whispers the prisioner... leading it slowly to Kasima, her knife on its back
alsoquin The prisoner is already starved and delirious from poor sleep and feeding... he moans softly and looks about himself as he is marched towards the god, but does not know well enough to attempt escape...
Istenda nods, pleased that she caught on so quickly. "Show her how well you use that blade of yours."
Holbar grimaces again and heads to the back of the chamber, pausing by Lai's side to mutter to him, "Our war for the safety of humanity is off to a strong start, hmm?"
Lai Misuna watches, impassively. "It would appear so." he murmurs back.
Shikaya sinks the golden knife on the prisioner's back, exactly on the back of his heart... taking it out and turning him around, slashing his throat and finally sinking it between his eyes with such force he is thrown almost to Kasima... Shikaya retrieves the knife before he even falls, standing over the body, her dark scarves covered in his blood. She smiles to the God.
alsoquin As even the first knife blow falls Kasima seems to respond -- its translucent feathers grow thicker, more full... and as the prisoner expires its reddish, harsh eyes retreat into reasoned pools of dark blue.
Istenda grins, as Shikaya destroys the human waste, and steps forward, touching Kasima lightly.
Holbar gives Lai an disgusted look. "All right, fearless leader, you just keep doing your thing." He steps forward, and drags the body to the side, muttering the prayers of his tribe.
Shikaya Shikaya's expression does not change as she kills him. It does not change as she steps foward to Kasima. Slowly, she begins to cut her palm. "Kasima the Knife. You are awake?"
alsoquin The creature does not seem to speak as a human might normally do... but it moves its head and a wave of sound-feeling seems to spread past all those present, signalling to all that Kasima the Knife has awakened.
Shikaya "Why is it here, Istenda?"
Lai Misuna silently adds a few verses of his own to the prayer Holbar says for the dead man, as he watches Shikaya and the Knife
alsoquin The god seems to react to Istenda's touch. After a few moments, the God's Essence begins to flow into the Dragon's arm... the wisps of purple Essence wrap around and through Istenda's body as Kasima's form seems to disappear... and when it is done, Istenda is... different.
Shikaya "... what did you just do to my Patron?"
Lai Misuna "Yes, what did you do, Istenda?"
Holbar "Screw us."
Holbar "Now I bet you feel dumb about not letting me dump her in the pit, huh?"
Istenda-bar-Kasima "An... old friend of mine created Us." His voice has now changed as well, sending muted sound-feelings along with each word. "We have joined eachother. Become greater." They smile. "Do not fear, you will still get what you came for."
Holbar "See, I told you two from the beginning, but you never really seemed to get it."
Shikaya "Like a possession? And did I end up choosing an... false God?" She scoffs.
Holbar "These two fuckers aren't our friends."
Holbar "They're just out for what they can steal, like all the other gods."
Holbar "What do you want, Shikaya? To gut somebody? To feel their blood over your fingers, and twist your knife in their belly?"
Holbar "Why'd you sign up for this in the first fucking place?"
Holbar "Does anything matter to you more than revenge?'
Lai Misuna "... created you?" Lai asks, eventually. He seems to be surprised enough that Holbars bitching has passed him by.
Shikaya "Exactly." Is all she says. "We are not friends, Holbar. They will steal, we will steal. All that I want to know is if this false... idol-thing is powerful enough to give me what I want. If it is, who cares?"
Istenda-bar-Kasima "We are not False." The second tone harmonizes with the first in a stragely hypnotic tone. "The joining of a God to a Dragon King is an ancient ritual. One almost lost in this Age. You wish to worship a God that will stay behind, watching from the shadows? We will walk with you."
Holbar "This poor fucker might have given a shit." He nudges the corpse with his toe.
Shikaya "The path to any victory is a road of bones. The prize to any victor is a throne of bones."
Shikaya "Grow up, Holbar. We do not live in some peasant's little dream."
Holbar "Spill your own blood, bitch. Don't steal somebody else's."
Lai Misuna "No, but we are making that dream, Shikaya."
Istenda-bar-Kasima stretches and flexes his claws. "Eritrus made Us more powerful than any god alone. More powerful than any Ochilike before Us."
Holbar "Are we done here? Can we go see Ten-Beasts-Rising now?"
Holbar "Somebody's got to be ready to look out for what actually fucking matters."
Shikaya looks up at Istenda. "We are, Lai. But do get there, we must play by their rules." She nods. "And beat them by their rules, before we make our own. But... do you have power to give me, Istenda the Knife? I will be your Chosen. I will make you as the Sun. If you give me the ability to cut those I hate from this world."
Holbar spits, and walks away.
Istenda-bar-Kasima grins, and his claws slash out, trailing purple lights. The cylinder trembles for a second, then slides in several pieces to the floor. "I will do this for you, Shikaya." He takes her palm, the one she cut with the knife, and presses his claw into the wound. There is a shift inside of Shikaya. Power pours through her veins.
Shikaya closes her eyes, feeling the power pouring through her... an anima spreading like knife-sharp wings...
Istenda-bar-Kasima "No False God could give you this," he murmurs, withdrawing his claw.
Holbar "On the contrary. That's usually how you can identify them."
Olosh "That's rather pretty. Can you do any other tricks?" The yellow-green swirl of alarm spores betrays Olosh's nervousness.
Shikaya She holds her knife... and with a single slash, strikes the wall, gouging deep into it, a long, deep slash.... "POWER! No... no false god..." she says, exilirated, excited... "... could give me THIS!"
Holbar clenches his fists tightly.
Holbar "So, yeah. Can we go now? Boss?"
Lai Misuna eyes the slash, before looking to Holbar, letting him see just a hint of concern. "Yes, I think that would be best. Olesh, where did you say the god lived?"
alsoquin Some time later, the group has journeyed again -- this time, to the far southeast, where palm trees look out upon patches of desert, and none but nomadic tribes dwell.
alsoquin The location where Ten-Beasts-Rising is said to dwell is not far -- perhaps a quarter mile to the north.
Istenda-bar-Kasima "Well, Holbar, are you ready to prove your beasthood?"
Holbar "Suck my dick, knife-lizard."
Holbar begins striding off to the north.
Lai Misuna strides alongside him.
Istenda-bar-Kasima chuckles, and walks behind him. "You would like that?
alsoquin Just visible, amidst the heat haze and blowing sand, is what looks like a simple hut... but wrought of the sand itself. A small plume of reddish smoke climbs out of a tiny chimney in its roof.
Holbar "But ideally, you'd hate it."
Holbar walks up to the hut, and peers inside.
Istenda-bar-Kasima grins, and his fangs glisten. "I suspect you would hate it more than I."
Holbar "In wartime, everybody has to make sacrifices."
Olosh knocks on the door cheerfully. "Ten Beasts! You have guests!"
Olosh Without waiting for an answer he barges in.
alsoquin The hut is much larger within than without, though it still has a simple, open layout, and it is still wrought of sand. Animal skins hang upon the walls and lay upon the floor in thick coats. (...)
alsoquin In one corner, the god that they have sought out stands -- Ten-Beasts-Rising, nine feet or more in height, in form like a man exaggerated with all the harshest qualities of animal: jagged tusks, long matted fur, vast shoulders, the beginnings of curving horns, and backwards bending, hoofed legs....
alsoquin "Olosh?" He looks at the others. "Who have you brought here?"
Holbar "Hi there."
Holbar "My name's Holbar."
Lai Misuna "Greetings, Ten-Beasts-Rising. I am Lai Misuna."
alsoquin The vast creature tilts his head and bends down rather far to look at Holbar. He speaks without notable malice: "What are you doing here? This is my house."
Holbar screws up his mouth and breathes for a second, then:
Holbar "I need your help."
Istenda-bar-Kasima chuckles quietly.
alsoquin Ten-Beasts-Rising opens his mouth slightly, then closes it again, making a clicking noise with his tusks as he does so. "I do not generally help mortals anymore."
Holbar "That's okay. I don't generally get help from gods either."
alsoquin looks at the others assembled, and stops to cast an extremely scornful glance at Istenda.
Olosh "Um, these here are my...associates."
Holbar "What do you think of, uh." He catches the look. "The Dragon-Kings?"
Istenda-bar-Kasima simply smiles back.
Ten Beasts Rising looks at Istenda again with a wary eye. "I have dealt little with... most... of their kind."
Ten Beasts Rising "Why... have you come to me?"
Holbar "It's okay, you can be rude to her. She doesn't have any feelings."
Holbar "I need..."
Holbar "Listen. I don't know much about you. Or what you want."
Holbar "I'm here because Creation has a disease."
Holbar "And somebody's got to do something about it before it's too late."
Holbar "But in order to keep this ragtag band of maniacs in line, I need...well."
Holbar "I need power."
Holbar "Power you've got."
Istenda-bar-Kasima applauds politely.
Ten Beasts Rising looks back and forth between the Dragon and the mortal, and makes a grimacing face. "You came here to mock me."
Holbar "Okay. You, you, you." He points at Istenda, Olosh, and Shikaya. "Get the hell out of the hut."
Lai Misuna "We did not come here to mock you." Lai says, as he gives the three a look that asks Could you please humour Holbar?
Olosh shrugs, helps himself to a nicely aged chunk of gazelle, and oozes out.
Istenda-bar-Kasima bows ironically to Holbar and follows Olosh out.
Holbar ushers Shikaya out and turns, breathing heavily again.
Holbar "I don't...understand."
Holbar "Clearly you have some history going on here that I don't know about."
Holbar "Wanna fill me in?"
Holbar "Assume I'm a moron. Everybody else does."
Ten Beasts Rising raises his eye ridges in a surprisingly human gesture before clacking his tusks again.
Lai Misuna "I do not, Holbar. For what that is worth." Lai notes as he seats himself to listen.
Ten Beasts Rising "I am exiled from my kin. I was cast out for a crime you would not understand."
Holbar "Wow, really? What?"
Olosh pokes Istenda experimentally. "So what's it like having a knife in your brain?"
Holbar "I love things I don't understand."
Istenda-bar-Kasima raises a brow, "There is no knife in our brain."
Ten Beasts Rising leans over to whisper. "I tricked another god, and stole in to take his turn at the Games of Divinity."
Holbar blinks a couple times.
Holbar "Yeah. I don't really understand that at all."
Holbar "Well, okay, good job."
Holbar "Why...would that mean we would be here to mock you?"
Olosh looks at Istenda funny.
Ten Beasts Rising "Because I am cast out. Because the Terrestrial Bureaucracy no longer acknowledges my existence, and I am barred by the Earthly Censors from the Carnival of Meeting. Many often come to laugh at my plight."
Holbar "We came because we're outcasts too."
Lai Misuna nods to reinforce this.
Holbar "I used to be the leader of a tribe."
Ten Beasts Rising listens intently.
Istenda-bar-Kasima "If you mean the merging of two beings, I cannot explain the feeling, other than to say that it is glorious."
Holbar "Here, in the southlands. The Grey Walkers. Maybe you'd heard of them."
Holbar lowers his head. "They're dead now."
Holbar "I'm the last one."
Istenda-bar-Kasima listens in
Ten Beasts Rising nods. "I had heard that they perished. That is too bad."
Ten Beasts Rising picks up a sheep carcass and begins to chew on it slowly as he speaks. "But what does that have to do with me?"
Holbar "Do you know why they died?'
Holbar "Because the world is full of monsters."
Holbar "Creatures with the souls of demons, and the minds of humans, and the powers of gods."
Holbar "Creatures who call themselves Exalted."
Ten Beasts Rising nods. "I have seen them."
Holbar "That's why I need your help."
Holbar "Someone...came to me."
Holbar "They said they could give me enough power to stand against these monsters."
Holbar "But I'd need to find a god to help me."
Ten Beasts Rising "Hmmmmm." He seems to be thinking about it. "And if I help you... what does that mean... for me?"
Holbar "You've been fucked over by the gods, right?"
Holbar "So have we."
Holbar "Maybe if you help me out...I can help you out, one day."
Holbar "We've got plans."
Holbar "Big plans."
Ten Beasts Rising nods.
Ten Beasts Rising "I do like the sound of that," he says, through a mouthful of mutton.
Holbar "So. Can we work something out?'
Holbar "I'll level with you. Those fuckers outside are all assholes."
Holbar "The longer they go without somebody who can stand up to them, the more people are going to be hurt."
Ten Beasts Rising looks at Lai, then at Holbar, then at Lai again.
Ten Beasts Rising "I... Yes." He nods. "I can aid you."
Holbar sighs again.
Holbar "Thank you."
Ten Beasts Rising nods. "What do I... need to do?"
Holbar "I dunno."
Holbar "Hold on."
Holbar "HEY, ISTENDA!"
Istenda-bar-Kasima rolls his eyes.
Istenda-bar-Kasima opens the door "Have you run out of useful words again?"
Holbar "He said yes."
Holbar "What does he do?"
Istenda-bar-Kasima opens his mouth to say something snide and then visibly controls himself, and instead replies, "Touch him, will the essence of yourself into the vessel you have deemed worthy of your power. Plant the seed."
Holbar "Also, you're a dick."
Ten Beasts Rising nods, and looks at Holbar with his head tilted to one side. "Hmmmmm."
Holbar turns back to Ten-Beasts-Rising, and reaches out his hand.
Ten Beasts Rising reaches out and taps Holbar on the forehead with one meaty finger, with great intentionality.
Ten Beasts Rising Holbar feels the Essence... strange and earthy... begin to flow into him, head-first, like a warm trickle.
Holbar breathes. He feels his face, and falls to his knees.
Ten Beasts Rising seems a little confused overall, but also fairly satisfied.
Holbar digs his hand into the sand beneath them, and takes a handful, squeezing his fist until the bones creak, then opens it, and turns it over, dropping a diamond with a hard clunk onto Ten-Beasts-Rising's table.
Holbar "Keep this. Just as a reminder, if nothing else."
Ten Beasts Rising picks up the diamond and looks at it curiously for a moment, then places it in the eye of a deer's head on one wall of the hut.
Holbar stands again, looking Ten-Beasts-Rising in the eye.
Holbar "I owe you one."
Holbar "And I always pay my debts."
Ten Beasts Rising grins.