As Zahara and Markuran fly across the northern edges of the Sunlands, they notice the first signs of proximity to the Sea of Gears. An acrid, burned smell in the air and the waters bellow, even pure springs, shimmer rainbow in the sunlight. As they grow closer the rainbow oil turns black and sluggish, bubbling unheathily. Finally the heaving mass of the Sea itself comes into view. It seems to be exactly what it sounds like, a black sea filled with floating cogs. But anyone who approaches the shores find that the sand is rust and ash and that the water itself is not liquid at all, but rather a massive collection of heaving cables, wires and pipes from which the cogs and wheels that give this place its name rise. Oil seeps from the pipes and conduits here and fouls the surrounding water. Because of its violence and unstable nature, no attempt has been made to harness the Sea of Gears with a Manse.
No attempt, until now.
<Markuran> "If it was cleaner, someone else would have tried to take it by now."
<Zahara> "I have no idea how to cap something that disgusting, nor what the purpose of trying would be. What do you expect to get out of oily cogs?"
<Markuran> "Its not like any place of power I've seen. I think it might be something special. Have you ever seen a sea of wire and gears?"
<Zahara> "Well...no." she admits. "And I can't tell what aspect it is either. Maybe it's just..where a God from the First Age died. In a warstrider."
<Markuran> "I doubt it..they say things live in there. You think the Manse will hurt them?"
<Markuran> "I've never met any of them, so we might..if they're unfriendly."
<Markuran> "How could we cap such a place? There's no land to build on.."
<Markuran> "What if we made the sea into the manse?"
<Markuran> "It's wire, not water, look." pointing to the writhing 'spray' around a newly-erupted gear, Marku indicates the waving wires and pipes
<Markuran> "Can't your demons bend the wire into shapes?"
<Markuran> "Make a manse out of metal."
<Markuran> "When there weren't enough fish to eat."
<Zahara> "you ATE greased eels.. from a SLIME pit? You're so uncivilized."
<Markuran> "We washed and cooked them first, Zahara."
<Markuran> "How soon until we can start work?"
<Zahara> "I'm not sure, it may take weeks, or months, just to design it."
<Markuran> "We'll have to start soon. When we get back, I'll make some roasted eel. It helps you think faster, you know."
<Zahara> "Mmmhmmm. You do that, and tell me how it works out for you."
<Markuran> "You'll have some too. It's good."
<Zahara> "No thank you."
<Markuran> "Or towards metal. This should be fun. of course, I will get the larger Hearthstone, since I found the Sea."
<Zahara> "While you slept, I did the entire design and planning for the collars. You call that doing your part?"
<Markuran> "I've helped make them. You're the smart one, I couldn't help plan those things."
<Zahara> "You could, if you tried. You could learn instead of just laying around."
<Markuran> "I don't need to learn, you're here. And Cerin now."
<Markuran> "I'm happy just being the strong man."
<Zahara> "Well if you want the larger stone, you should do more than your share."
Later, back at the Labyrinthine Cascade, Markuran and Zahara have gotten together with Cerin to start the planning for their new Manse.
<Cerin> "A new demense you say? What aspect is it?"
<Zahara> "Metal and goo."
<Markuran> "It's a sea of wires and oil."
<Zahara> "I've never seen anything like it, but perhaps it's something leftover from a god of the First Age. After all, if flower-gods can Exalt mortals, a First Age metal god could infuse the soil.
<Markuran> "I want to have the demons build the manse itself from the wires and metal of the sea. Fold it into a palace. But, like I told Zahara, it'll be harder then wrestling greased eels."
<Zahara> "Again with the eels, Marku? No thanks."
<Markuran> "They're a treat."
<Zahara> "I'm glad you like them, but I'll stick to things that fly or walk."
<Markuran> "The tribes near the Sea say things live in it. We may want to ensure they will not attack our workers."
<Markuran> "What if they're friendly?"
<Cerin> "Then perhaps they will agree to a bargin of some kind"
<Zahara> "Yes, we'll build a place to suit their desires. We don't need to cover the entire area to cap the demesne as long as the flows are correct.
<Markuran> "And if they need the Demesne to live?"
<Zahara> "We'll restructure the flows to feed them."
<Cerin> "Mmmm, this eel is very tastey...and cooked so its almost tender..excellent. It should be possible to refrain from fully capping the demense, allowing them to exist"
<Markuran> "Good to see you wouldn't wipe them out just to make it easier on yourself, Zahara.."
<Zahara> "They may become allies, or at least built-in guards to the manse."
<Markuran> "We can hope."
<Zahara> "If they prove to be a nuisance, I'm sure we can change the arrangement later."
<Markuran> "Hmph. Can we design the Manse without knowing more about them? Or do we need to speak with or capture some?"
<Zahara> "Why don't you approach the natives while we work on diagraming the dragon lines, and the physical layout of the area?"
<Cerin> "We would need to speak with them, or at least study them"
Once again the Solars arrive at the Sea of Gears, accompanied by Cerin.
<Markuran> "Can you tell what aspect this place is, Cerin?"
<Cerin> "No. Save that it is not of Creation"
<Markuran> "How can it not be of Creation? It's right there."
<Cerin> "You'll see when I draw the essence flows...the dragon lines practically bend around this place"
<Zahara> "How strange. I KNEW there was something odd about this place, but never thought it was from outside of Creation."
<Zahara> "By the Sun, you'd think he could just ask at a normal level, without shattering their eardrums!"
Xi-Mi-Taxi turns and shifts within the coils and springs and gears below, and stirs to life. Rising up through the coils a great wide head breaks the surface, pipes and cables sliding to either side and with two great eyes of black glass the size of a man's torso regards the two solars.
<Cerin> "Marku is never subtle" He looks about. "That hill should do for the initial survey of the demense and the surrounding flows"
<Zahara> "Beware, the ground is not all stable here."
A whirring is heard for a moment, rising then falling before the great beat nod its head, regarding both of you very intently.
Ancient Zero burbles out words that resolve into crisp Old Realm. "What brings you here, to our home?"
<Markuran> "We want to build a Manse here. We'll be careful not to disturb your home too much and certainly not to endanger you in any way."
<AncientZero> "Please answer, or retaliation will be forced."
<Markuran> "I did answer!"
Again from the large head a great whiring noise is heard, rising and falling as it moves a little closer, eyes scraping in their sockets to regard Markuran.
<AncientZero> "Explain deeper on this Manse. We are two among thousands, and without our consent, we will not allow our home to be disturbed."
<Markuran> "..you mean there are two of you in the lake..or thousands and you are only two..."
<AncientZero> "Then we also require the presence of one who can understand speech and... accelerated whirring suddenly Manses."
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> "Why do you want a manse here?" Comes a voice from the other head, a deep resounding voice that sounds like its been distorted by speaking down a long very resonate barrel.
<Markuran> "Because this place is close to our home. And it's special. It'd make a Manse the like of which no one has ever seen!"
<AncientZero> "Explanation is insuffient to authorize begining. Accelerate reasoning."
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> "Insufficiant." The other beast intones in echo of its mechanical brother.
<Markuran> "If we had a Manse here we could.." the big man appears to think furiously for a few seconds. "Better defend both ourselves and you from the coming Fae. Your Demesne is vulnuerable to them."
<AncientZero> "Otherwise defenses and allies will be activated within 2 times 10 to the 20th power nanos."
<AncientZero> "Our own forces are more than sufficient against such weak and chaotic masses."
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> "Chaos variable insignificant."
<AncientZero> "Accelerate reasoning and speaking further."
<Markuran> "...against a HORDE of Fae that COVER THE LAND IN BLOOD AND CHAOS?"
<AncientZero> "Your offer provides us nothing, as the very fabric of this area burns their own energies."
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> From within the other beast a low hum emanates and it sinks halfway back down into the sea of cogs and coils.
<AncientZero> "You have earned 2 times 10 to the 20th power further nanos."
<Markuran> "We can help you...utilize the energy.."
<Markuran> "And, if you let us build here and this place truly does hold back the fae as you say, we can do other things for you."
<Zahara> "Then listen to what we have to offer. We can help you to utilize the powers and energies of this land. Help you to become better, and live in a more structured environment. One that suits your forms."
<AncientZero> "Quiet low reasoning one... let the form with greater lipid mass speak."
<Zahara> "Markuran, please let me explain to them."
<Zahara> "I am known as Zahara"
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> "Designate Zahara, explain."
<AncientZero> "Then Zahara-one, continue."
<Markuran> "..what is lipid mass?"
<AncientZero> "How exactly shall you render further order to this area in such a manner to provide worth to our kind? What shall it provide?"
<Markuran> "It looks almost...manse-like already."
<Zahara> "If you allow us to move the underlying structures, and it will require further study to discover the best way to do so, we can create two nexi. One, here, to be capped with the manse, from which we will extend feeding lines to you. A second, here, will be pure energy. If you allow us to study yourselves and your brethren, we can purify it in a way that will make it at least twice as strong as currently, if I'm not mistaken.
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> "Flesh reasoning holds 78% probability of improvement along a dyanic axis if statements are true. Explain more."
<AncientZero> "What method of energy transferance, repository, and connector shall be used?"
<Zahara> "As I said, I, and my friends, will have to study the way you use energy and interact with the environment to properly allow you to connect. What methods to you currently use?"
<Markuran> "Well, then why hasn't it exploded?"
<AncientZero> "We may allow this, but the form of the anntena must be finished within half a cycle of the sun from the completion of the Manse."
<Zahara> "If we are to help you in this way, we must form a pact of nonaggression towards eachother. We will give any humans or exalts who are allowed into the manse special tokens so that you may recognize them as part of the pact."
<Cerin> "Its a demense, for one, and for two.." he shows marku another sketch, this one a mass of occult notation and fine lines "These dynamic structures appear to store essence in some kind of loop, buffering against surges and spreading the energy release over time"
<Markuran> "Well, how's it doing that if it isn't capped?"
<AncientZero> "Also, we may require modifications to allow us to more effectively utilize this energy potential. But such a contract is acceptable if we examine it."
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> "We also require to see any plans you may have, to check your flesh reasoning."
<Cerin> "It appears to be a natural feature of the demense. It seems to be partially desgined. Though by whose hand I could not guess. Perhaps the gods of the place will know. They have great power"
<Markuran> "They called me strange, confusing names. I don't think they like me."
<Zahara> "Indeed, I would prefer to work closely with you, so as not to miss anything that your superior logic circuits would find."
<AncientZero> "Then call to us when your plans have been finished, but we shall desire to examine the wording of the contract first."
From within one comes a series of ticks and clicks and whirs, to a response from within the other and then the larger one again turns to regard the group.
<Zahara> "I require some time to write up a proper contract for this."
<Zahara> "What are your Designations, so that I may call upon you when I return?"
<AncientZero> "Ancient of the Oldest Spring-Zero"
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> There is a high frequency whir from the other one for a moment. "Designation not found."
<Zahara> "Ancient of the Oldest Spring-Zero, if I call upon you, will you then bring your companion with?"
<AncientZero> "I shall bring another of proper authorization. If it is this one or another matters not."
<Xi-Mi-Taxi> The other clicks and whirs for a moment, starts toward Zahara, then stops and slides down and below after its cousin.
<Cerin> "What did they agree too?" he looks up from his sketches with a smile
<Zahara> "They wish for us to build them special antennae and a separate nexus in return for allowing us to build a manse with the majority of the essence. There will also be a nonaggression pact between the creatures, and anyone who wears a designated token into the area. That way they can defend against intruders. I don't think they see us as looking terribly different.
<Cerin> "An attenna? How curious...did they indicate why?"
<Zahara> "to increase their ability to utilize the energy in the demesne, well, manse. Ancient of the Oldest Spring-Zero described it as a 'radiating energy antenna' ...which Is why I made sure to mention the nonaggression pact.
<Markuran> "Are they..friendly? And why did it call me "low reasoning one"?"
<Zahara> "Yes, in a manner of speaking. And because you are."
<Markuran> "Damn metal fish."
<Zahara> "Then what exactly did you plan to offer them? You knew that they would want something in return, other than friendship, didn't you?"
<Markuran> "Well, I didnt think they'd be incomprehensible machine-gods. I was thinking they might be metal pirannahs.."
<Zahara> "You knew they were planning on destroying us if they didn't get an answer they liked, didn't you?"
<Markuran> "Those two metal fish, destroy us?" laughs.
<Zahara> "No, those thousands swimming beneath the surface, soaking up energy for possibly millenia"
<Cerin> "They had the same ..spiritual strength as we do, though I do not know how they can apply it"
<Markuran> "...thousands of giant metal fish?"
<Zahara> "Sentient giant metal.. well they're not fish, but yes."
<Zahara> "Not to mention any potential defenses they've built into it. It looks at least somewhat structured."
<Markuran> "Did you get enough sketches to start planning? Of the fish too?"
<Zahara> "No, but the Ancient did mention others of the proper authorization."
<Cerin> "I have enough for preliminary plans, at least until we can discover exactly what this antenna array will involve"
<Zahara> "Ahh, I also got leave to study them further."
<Markuran> "How will you do that? You can't swim in there."
<Zahara> "And they will help us with the work, I believe."
<Cerin> "I would be most grateful if I could come along"
<Markuran> "And what if they can't leave?"
<Zahara> "I'm sure we can come to a compromise along the shoreline."
<Markuran> "Are we sure these things won't try to kill us when we finish their machines?"
<Zahara> "I told you twice already, as long as you wear the token, you will be fine, or the wrath of the Sun will come down upon them."
<Markuran> "What token?"
<Zahara> "One we agree on. An amulet or tattoo of some sort, I imagine."
<Cerin> "An amulet would make more sense, though it could be stolen"
<Zahara> "That is what I was afraid of, Cerin. But it is much easier to give guests an amulet than a tattoo. and easier to take it away."
<Zahara> "Especially since Markuran will frown upon carving them out."
<Markuran> "Just draw a line through them."
<Cerin> "And then if they wish to visit again?"
<Markuran> "Have your demon-bugs put them back."
<Zahara> "They would need an Essence signature, to divide them from false ones."
<Markuran> "We could just make some little trinkets from jade. And enchant them."
<Cerin> "Perhaps we could make Amulets that would crumble after a month, to give out to general vistors?"
<Zahara> "Well then we shall designate two levels of protection. The tattoos will be given only to those deemed most trustworthy, and allow access to all levels of the Manse. The visitors can have the amulets, which only last a month or so as you said, and also only give them access to the public levels of the Manse when unaccompanied.
<Cerin> "That seems most wise"
<Markuran> "I'd be happy to give you the tattoos."
<Markuran> "A simple gear-shape in bronze?"
<Zahara> "I'll test the toxicity of the waters, perhaps we can use ink derived from the demesne itself.
<Markuran> "Water? That's oil."
<Zahara> "Well you're the one who called it a sea. I was extending the metaphor." Zahara says airily.
<Zahara> "And, as I was saying, it'll need an Essence signature. Yours will do."
<Markuran> "Where do you want your tattoos to be? On your greater lipid mass?" the big man grins
<Zahara> "The inside of my wrist, or calf would probably be best. Unless you have a better idea that won't get you killed."
Tags: (:tags Sea of Gears, Hundredfold, Xi-Mi-Taxi, Ancient of the Oldest Spring Zero:)