charlequin The Solars turn to face the gateway as Cerin, a grave look upon his face, steps through; the gate closes almost instantaneously behind him.
Zahara flings herself at Cerin. "Cerin! Where have you BEEN?"
Birds almost flings a sword at Cerin, and then reaches out and catches it when she recognises him.
Cerin lets some of the worry lift from his face as Zahara embraces him, embracing her back "...I don't know, exactly, my love." he says quietly
Kai manages to run spin around and not run Cerin through, and breathes a sigh of relief as she recognises him.
Zahara takes a step back and looks him over from head to toe, examining him, and his Essence to make sure he's the real thing.
charlequin Aliza flits over to Cerin and alights on his shoulder.
Thirteen rests on his spear, paying attention and saying nothing.
Zahara "Well Aliza said you were not in Creation. We know that much at least."
Zahara checks the gate to see where he came from
Zahara "Can you see where you came from before it fades away?"
Cerin reaches up to stroke Aliza "That I suspected." Cerin's eyes leave zahara, noting Birds and Kai both recovering from attempts to stab him, turning to watch the gate, his eyes drifting over Thirteen with a mildly curious frown
Birds gestures at Thirteen. "You don't know each other."
Thirteen "Greetings, Cerin the Wolf."
Thirteen "I am Thirteen Blooming Flowers. I greet you as my brother." He again kneels and taps his head against the ground.
Birds "Now that you're acquainted...we should find a place to sit and confer. We have much to discuss."
Cerin "Greetings, Thirteen Blooming Flowers." Cerin nods his head in polite greeting
Zahara frowns and touches the gate
Cerin "We do, yes." Cerin nods ::My heart, why is he here?:: curiousity in his mental tone.
Thirteen steps over to the gate, again running his fingers along the inlaid glyphs, whispering the glyph names in Old Realm.
Zahara ::He seeks to win the war for us, apparently:: she returns drily. ::Arrogant and stubborn.::
Birds "I'll start! Thirteen's a strategist. We just met! But I think we fought together, once upon a time."
Thirteen dusts off his hands. "Well? We should proceed to a safer location. Eyes seek us."
Birds pokes a wasp and aims it at Thirteen. "Saddle up."
Birds "So, home." Birds goes to the gate and pokes at symbols.
Zahara "Well, we still need to visit the Pole. Maybe Thirteen here can prove himself useful before we bring him home."
Cerin "Birds said you are a strategist?" he asks of Thirteen. "What would you need to plan a trip to the pole of air?"
Thirteen "What is your purpose in going to the Pole of Air?"
Zahara "It's really cold there."
Thirteen ignores that.
Cerin "We need some of its essence, and some elemental ice."
Zahara "Haslanti seems to be at war, as well."
Birds "A painter in Whitewall owes me a portrait. I wrote him an epic once."
Birds "I wonder if he is still alive..."
Thirteen "What do you seek to accomplish with this elemental air and ice? Time is fleeting. Every moment we delay is a moment's more risk for your woefully unprotected manse and resources."
Zahara gives Cerin a long-suffering look.
Thirteen "How does the Haslanti war concern the Sunlands?"
Cerin ::Aside from the fact he is arrogant and stubborn, how much do you trust his purpose my love?::
Zahara ::He wishes an alliance to save his people, that I know for certain. To that end, he ought not betray us, as his people would perish were we to turn on them as well.::
Cerin "Not that much, except that it is orchestrated by the same people who attack us."
Zahara "The Red Lily, as you must already know," she supplies.
Thirteen "Do you often run like an unleashed hound after every false scent the Red Lily drags across your trail?"
Thirteen "Our course of action is clear. Consolidation. Preparation. Then taking the fight to the Lily. Not dancing to its strings."
Zahara "Whether or not we do is not relevant. The Haslanti war is in the WAY of our mission."
Cerin "The Essence is one of the components in the ritual that makes the new exalted."
Birds pouts a little, "I was about to explain that."
Thirteen stands quiet for a moment.
Zahara looks at Cerin consideringly. ::I am not sure how much I wish to tell him just yet.:: her voice is for all those connected - except Markevil - to hear.
Birds ::Naturally. I assume you do not trust him with the tales of the Seals and the Circle of the past, not yet.::
Zahara ::Do not yet mention that we can make ourselves stronger, Please.::
Birds ::But we cannot allow ourselves to look ridiculous, like mortals.::
Thirteen "What is the necessity of gathering this component at this very moment? Will it melt in the summer sun in another three days?"
Zahara "Were you not listening? It is a required component to make the new exalted."
Birds "Regardless of what you decide, we will need to go to the Cascade to dress for it. I will meet the rest of you there."
Thirteen "Which we are going to do tomorrow?"
Zahara is, in fact, already dressed for the trip, and has been since they ventured to the North.
Birds steps through the gate
Kai "Well, we clearly have one vote for going home." Kai says, gesturing after Birds.
Thirteen "I think our wisest course is the one Birds-of-Trinity has set for us."
Zahara "I don't know why she didn't get dressed properly in the first place." she adjusts her elaborate fur cloak around her shoulders.
Cerin "As you wish. The ice will of course be here tomorrow."
Thirteen "Thank you, Cerin. I am most interested in hearing about your excursion."
Kai "So, back again. Everyone, uhm, try to stay together." Kai says, moving toward the portal.
Cerin puts his hand in his pocket as Thirteen says this, and nods. He steps through the gate.
Thirteen taps the Gate with his hand, gesturing.
Thirteen waits for everybody except Zahara to enter the Gate, then enters himself.
Zahara smirks as his back disappears through the puddle of essence. "asshole."
charlequin The Solars find themselves once more in their home forest, safe from prying eyes.
Thirteen smiles to himself.
Zahara takes a few minutes to enjoy the fresh air, untainted by Thirteen's presence, and casts her eyes to the North. "Well, Tanty, do you think we could do it ourselves?"
Birds is absent when the others arrive, but a servant is present, holding a basket of warmed blankets.
Thirteen takes a blanket and carelessly wraps it around himself. His rough robe is clearly not enough clothing for the cold North.
Zahara "I tire of listening to that child tell me everything is wrong, with no proof that he could do any better. After all, if he were THAT wonderful, his people would not be in peril."
Cerin ::My love?:: Cerin interjects
Birds appears with a basket of roast pork buns. "Where's our fearless sorceress?"
Birds "I hope she isn't having another unplanned excursion."
Kai takes a bun. "Bein' snooty," she says through a mouthful of pork.
Thirteen takes a pork bun and eats it rather abstractedly, cocking an ear to the nearby sounds.
Birds thinks :: Hey, your snacks are getting cold :: to Zee.
Birds "Okay, so, Cerin. What was that about?"
Thirteen "Yes, I wonder the same."
Zahara ::I am considering whether it is worth it to wait yet another day when we are all imperiled::
Birds ::You're so -careful,- dear. Don't worry, it's just some upstart rabble-rousers with a neat toy.::
Zahara ::The Red Lily is an upstart rabble-rouser with a new toy?::
Cerin eats one of the buns as he considers, a deep frown on his face. ::He is as powerful as us my love. If his skills in strategy have progressed as far as yours in craft or birds in poetry then I think he could be worth the wait.::
Birds ::I guess they have been around too long to be fairly called upstarts.::
Birds "Birds-of-Trinity is nothing, if not fair!"
Zahara ::Indeed.:: she does not sound convinced.
Thirteen does a slight take at the totally unexpected interjection.
Kai leans over to Birds. "You said the last part out loud."
Birds takes a large bite of pork bun and chews intently as if nothing just happened.
Zahara ::I will take this opportunity to scout our best path out, and return in several hours. I will stay in touch with you though.::
Birds ::Do take care of Tanty.::
Zahara ::With my life.::
Cerin :: Be careful, please. :: Cerin sends a complex of emotion through the unity
Zahara ::Of course. This jaunt will give me a chance to cool off, as it were.::
charlequin Aliza, a little annoyed at having been left behind and now tired of listening to humans argue, prods Cerin's neck with her nose.
charlequin "Where did you go?"
Cerin eats another cake as he considers, stroking Aliza's head as she pokes him "I was in Malfaes. In a realm analogous to the Islands of Glass."
Birds "Really? Was it a gate malfunction, or something more interesting?"
Thirteen "Fascinating. Did you get any indication as to how they diverted the Gate, much less how they did it specifically to target you?"
Kai narrowly avoids spitting pork bun onto Cerin. "Malfeas?"
Cerin nods. "It was a specially modified gate, though how exactly they targetted me I am not sure. I suspect it could have been via the Orrery of Light."
Thirteen "The sending gate was modified, or the receiving one?"
Birds "...damnable astrologers. I KNEW that Herons fellow was trouble."
charlequin Aliza nods her head. "The Isles of Ash."
Cerin "The recieving one."
Thirteen "I have not heard of this Herons."
Birds "His formal name is something along the lines of A Flock of Herons Migrates as Winter Encroaches. Unnecessarily grand. Has strange eyes."
Thirteen "Who is 'they'?"
Birds "Exalted by one of the Maidens."
Cerin "Thank you Aliza." he offers her some of the cake. "I am sure you will meet him soon. But yes, he is one of the star chosen."
Thirteen "This is information I will need in more depth."
Thirteen "But continue."
charlequin Aliza takes a bite and seems pleased.
Birds digs in the basket and finds a jam bun. "Isles of Ash... one wonders if all the spirit realms have such Isles. You looked upset when you returned; what did you meet there?"
Cerin "The room was an essence damping prison. Which is getting entirely too common." he notes with a small sigh.
Birds "We -do- need to work on a counter-enchantment for those, I guess."
Cerin "There I think I met The Man With A Thousand Faces And None."
Birds "The Mirror Flag has not used that name recently..."
Kai (as happens) looks lost.
Birds :: The Flag's an actor or something, no one ever sees it without a mask. ::
Cerin "Not that I am sure. He had enchantments against identity woven around him so tightly I could barely see that there was any essence there."
Birds "That would explain his name."
Cerin nods to Birds.
Thirteen "What did he want with you?"
Cerin "He wished to talk to me."
Thirteen "About what?"
Birds wonders, loudly enough to be heard through the unity, whether Cerin chose to say "talk to" rather than "talk with" specifically.
Cerin "He wished to extend me an offer. To help him take over the world." ::With::
Thirteen laughs slightly.
Thirteen "Hopefully you did not agree. I think I can outbid him."
Zahara ::I think you should take him up on this bidding war, love.::
Birds "Just this world?"
Birds rolls eyes and makes a "small" gesture.
Cerin "It was he who gave the secrets of Exaltation to the Red Lily."
Thirteen reaches out and lightly tickles Birds's arm. "However many worlds you want."
Thirteen "Oh yes? Did he tell you what his motivation was for precipitating this war?"
Cerin "I can only assume it is at the behest of his master."
Birds 's eyes light up. Mmm, worlds.
Cerin "He has recieved power directly from the Ebon Dragon."
Thirteen "So his ultimate motives, presumably, are to destroy all that is, that he may again be one with the universe."
Birds quickly takes another bun to hide her expression, but her brow draws together with concern. "The Ebon Dragon. Hm. What does master Faces want from -us-?"
Birds "And what do we get out of it? Besides the world, I mean. Good stuff."
Cerin "Knowledge of the secrets of the universe. It was an intriguing offer."
Birds "Oh, secrets, those are good. I was meaning to make an offering..." Birds writes something on a bun before eating it. "Mm. Offerings."
Thirteen "And you turned him down?"
Cerin "I told him I would consider it. And he left, after saying we would meet again."
Thirteen "This is very good."
Thirteen "They are panicked, they resort to underhanded maneuverings. Their position is worse than I suspected."
Thirteen "Did you happen to glean the coordinates of the location to which you were taken?"
Cerin "As I said, it was one of the Isles of Ash."
Thirteen "And you could reach it again?""
Thirteen "By the by. Do you have a complete understanding of the coordinate system? This would be extremely useful knowledge."
Cerin "If I wished to travel to a one way gate into an essence dampening room, I believe so, unless the gate has been modified further."
Thirteen "Ah, it was a one-way gate? How did you return?"
Cerin "The gates are powered by ley lines. The line for this one could be diverted from outside the room."
Cerin "When I said it was a prison cell, I was being serious."
Thirteen "We will have to either prepare a method by which we can perceive when a gate's line is diverted, or a method by which we can ensure that the lines remain undiverted for at least a short time."
Cerin "I can see that at the gate, though remotely I am less sure."
Cerin "The co-ordinate system itself is relatively easy to understand."
Birds "How did you get back?"
Cerin "After he left, the ley line was restored."
Birds "Nice of him."
Thirteen "I understand the method by which the coordinate system operates. I merely require a directory."
Cerin "Birds, if I could have a book please."
Birds produces paper and scribbles.
Birds "Naturally." Her Castemark flares as she makes a last stroke, and hands the papers to Cerin.
Cerin glances over what birds has written, then concentrates on the papers, first drawing a map of the planes, then explaining the co-ordinate system, before expanding out what he knows of the gates, giving a short description of the various locales. It's written in old realm.
Cerin offers it to thirteen.
Birds "Oh, wait." Birds scribbles a glyph in the corner of the top sheet, and the paper ripples with a pattern of bumps and lines.
Thirteen pauses as he feels the papers shift in his hand.
Thirteen "Thank you very much."
Thirteen attempts to smile in a friendly fashion, but clearly doesn't have much practice at it.
Birds "I didn't know whether it could actually do that."
Birds 's tone makes it clear she's pleased it does.
Thirteen rolls the papers up and...shoves them into his mouth, pushing them deep into his throat.
Cerin raises an eyebrow at this
Thirteen taps the end of the papers firmly until the papers have completely disappeared into his mouth. He then reaches for another pork bun.
Thirteen "Thank you."
Thirteen "This is extremely interesting."
Thirteen "I will have to study it at some length."
Cerin "That would be why you ate it, I imagine..."
Thirteen smiles a bit. "I have it safe. If you need it back, I can return it."
Cerin shakes his head "I have no need of it."
Thirteen "So. Can we guarantee that your manse will not be sacked and reduced to rubble in the two days it will take to retrieve the elemental essences you seek?"
Cerin "No. The Red Lily could turn up with the 9.5 million uncommited Exalts they potentially have this evening."
Thirteen "Presumably, if they have not done so yet, they will not do so until conditions change meaningfully."
Cerin "I find that unlikely however." he nods
Thirteen "We will have to guard against the security issues that are present and relevant. At my earliest convenience, I will provide you with a detailed brief."
Thirteen "Perhaps, then, the best course of action at this moment is to gather together whatever information you have on the quality and disposition of your forces, so that we can begin our assault as quickly as possible."
Birds nods and summarises their military assets.
Thirteen reaches over and taps her arm as she begins. "Could you wait just one second?"
Thirteen suddenly doubles over, retching loudly.
Cerin watches, curious.
Thirteen cough cough blargh
Thirteen sits back up, a long thick scroll and a sharply pointed stick in his hand.
Thirteen "Thank you. Continue at your leisure."
Birds does so.
Thirteen scribbles down information as he receives it, scoring deep marks in his scroll but not penetrating it.
Cerin interjects occasionally when birds has passed over a detail that he considers important, but allows her most of the narrative.
Cerin "What do you know of the God Exalts and the Hundredfold?"
Thirteen "I am aware of Lai Misuna and his army. I would appreciate a briefing on the specific capabilities of his God Exalts."
Thirteen "And of the Hundredfold."
Cerin "The God Exalts powers vary based on thier patron, though they are predominantly at the dragonblooded end of the power spectrum, some of the more powerful ones approach solars in terms of power, if not versatilily."
Cerin "As to the hundredfold. Their powers are many and varied, though generally less than an Exalt of the same Essence. On the other hand, they tend to be old. I have seen large groups with no individual having less essence mastery than you or I."
Thirteen "These essence-dampening prisons. Have you given much thought to creating devices that project this effect over a large area? This would neatly neutralize any God-Exalt of whatever stature."
Birds "I think Zahara has mentioned such a thing in passing."
Thirteen "It is, after all, the obvious common weakness of your opponents."
Birds "Though, much like the Essence feedback weaponry, it seems to be a good way to start a war of increasingly profound escalation, and collateral damage."
Birds "We must consider the vineyards."
Cerin "And more importantly, the essence damping webs cannot cut off techniques that are truely internalised. There are several species of hundredfold that use such powers exclusively."
Thirteen concentrates, his caste mark suddenly shining brightly. He reaches out to the table and scratches a complicated glyph at its center.
Cerin watches the flows of essence with interest.
Thirteen "Place this symbol at every entrance to the manse. It is a teleportation ward -- for the purposes of such magic, the area in question does not exist."
Thirteen "I noticed a somewhat similar ward on the Sunlands proper."
Cerin "They have cut through through such wards in the past, but that is a new form of the ward."
Thirteen "It is not a permanent solution -- they can research it and bypass it. But it will hold them off for," he pauses, "fifty hours, assuming that their research department has not meaningfully changed in the last month."
Thirteen "This should be enough time for us to get the elemental essence and return."
Thirteen "At which time, we can institute more complicated measures."
Thirteen "Shall we proceed? I am sure Zahara" -- he doesn't QUITE sneer -- "is waiting."
Cerin nods. "Acacia and ash flower..." as he considers the best thing to make the symbol from.
Thirteen "It's best, if you can, to do the actual inscription using iron that has not been worked."
Thirteen eats another pork bun.
Tags: (:tags Isles of Ash, Elemental Poles, Haslanti, Exaltation Checklist, Seals of the Deliberative, Malfeas, Orrery of Light, Herons, Thousand-Faced Man, Primordials, Ebon Dragon, God-Exalts, Hundredfold :)