Cerin follows at a reasonable distance as the group of strange Exalts -- and their Hundredfold companions -- move off through the trees.
A little thought and careful examination suggests to Cerin that these are almost certainly the Ygdommu -- five-limbed plant creatures living in the East, serving the Yozi Laerad.
The Exalts continue tomove onwards for some distance, beginning to move further into the unusual area of trees, which grow increasingly dark and twisted as they move. They also seem to be heading far, far downwards, and the sun grows less and less visible as they go.
As they move onward, Cerin can spot their eventual destination -- a set of three fairly large trees, their tops severed sharply at 30 degree angles, their insides hollow, red lights shining ominously from small borehole windows and from the hollowed-tree covered bridges that run between them.
Cerin can hear a variety of weird sounds emenating from within: low chanting, combined with the sound of wood sliding against wood, and possibly a faint trickle of water.
There's a fairly high-placed window near Cerin's position that he can easily look into. The bridges appear to be solid logs that have been hollowed and given holes for ventilation, and some strange magic appears to have grown their ends into the trunks they connect, giving them a decidedly solid appearance. The only entrances Cerin can spot are down some ways on the trunk and reachable from the outside.
There appears to be a magical warding on the doors -- nothing beyond the level of a powerful Dragon-Blooded, which leads Cerin to believe he could bypass it without too much difficulty. As he examines the door, he can hear sounds within more clearly -- what sounds like the use of knives, and more chatter in low, incomprehensible tones.
As Cerin approaches the second door, it suddenly bursts open with a violent motion. Six Exalts, accompanied by several of the Ygdommu, burst out the door with intense speed, completely missing the Solar Exalt hanging just feet above their heads as they rush off into the distance.
Cerin finds himself within a claustrophobic, dark room, lit only by deep red fire. There are several tables of dark wood in the room, each with a human being laid out upon them. The first two are both dead, their hearts carefully cut out and some sort of strange seed placed in the empty cavity; each also has extensive cuts made to their body, letting their blood efficiently drain out into channels built into the tables for this purpose so that it can drain out through a sluice in the back of the room. On the third table is a young man, still alive though bleeding out as perhaps half of the intricate cuts have been made to his arms and legs. There are passageways out of the room, leading to extremely narrow spiral staircases up and down, leading into other parts of the tree....
The staircase winds down the outside of the tree for some some distance, touching on a variety of inner chambers as it does so. Cerin passes what seem to be living chambers and small arboretums where large windows are carved to let strange, blackened plants grow in pots of deep red soil. Further down he spies rooms that seem to contain more of the corpses he saw above, the seeds within beginning to germinate and spread v
Further down he spies rooms that seem to contain more of the corpses he saw above, the seeds within beginning to germinate and spread vines out from their empty chest cavities. The staircase eventually reaches its bottom, letting out into an area where the tree has been hollowed out for a seemingly infinite way down. Sluices from above lead into the walls, letting out slow and steady trickles of blood that drip down to an unknown distance. The true nature of what else lies below is hidden.
On the way down Cerin studies the growing vines, trying to confirm is what he suspects is true, that the vines are the 'infant' Ygdommu, before pressing on down until he reaches the deep, dark pit. It is not difficult at all for Cerin to confirm his guess.
As it falls into the darkness below Cerin can see the blood continue to flow down the walls for some distance. Watching with his Essence sight he can see that various Essence collectors seem to feed motes into the blood as it trickles, causing it to grow extremely charged over time. Eventually the flower falls far enough that Cerin can no longer see anything by it.
Above that chamber, Cerin finds only two rooms: one that appears to be merely a meeting hall of some kind, and another with a great lead and brass statue of a tree planted firmly in the center, upon whose branches hang various talismans and other strange items.
As he returns to the chamber he began within, he can hear footsteps coming from some distance -- most likely individuals are entering this tree through one of the bridges.
They appear to be fairly basic talismans encouraging growth, prosperity, and so on. It would appear they are making offerings to Laerad in the hopes of receiving such gifts themselves.
He can hear at least nine distinct sets of footsteps.
Cerin heads down the rather lengthy passageway carved out of the inside of a living tree, finding the relentless red and black colorscheme to be rather dreary at this point. It lets out into another tree, in a meeting chamber much like one he had seen in the first tree.
The rooms in this tree seem to largely fill similar roles to those he spotted earlier, though with a heavier emphasis on living quarters and other needs (such as an area for food preparation.) Cerin would estimate that the three trees together could house as many as 150 humans.
As he enters the third tree through the bridge he can hear voices and other sounds from within. It would appear that most of the population is currently there. The first room visible from a hiding spot within the bridge appears to be some sort of prayer area, as a number of the Exalts he had observed earlier appear to be in meditative or genuflective postures, and various elaborate sigils and tree-based designs line the walls in brass.
Cerin easily escapes from the strange cult building and back out into the forest once more.
Tags: (:tags Infernals, Hundredfold, Ygdommu, Primordials, Laerad :)