Thirteen "Cerin, I believe you might find this room to your interest."
Thirteen leaves Cerin to investigate the room, proceeding downstairs, where he begins to carefully scrape handfuls of earth into his mouth...
Cerin abandons his studies of the room downstairs, padding silently up to examine the room and the strange essence cages within it.
alsoquin Much as Thirteen surmised, the egg is intended to store an Essence pattern, like that of a Solar shad.
alsoquin It appears to draw upon the massive energies generated by the Wasirranu itself to create a containment field that holds whatever is placed within.
Cerin tries, though carefully, to determine what causes the shard to be released. If it is the will of the Wasirranu or some other mechanism, comparing as he does, the mechanisms within this cage to those in the Daybreaker, those in the lab and then channel-cages as well as his brief look at the shard itself. The Wasirranu would be rather inconvinient to carry around, after all and so an alternative would be prefered.
alsoquin The niche does not seem to connect specifically, directly to the egg, but does sit at the nexus of many of the tree's Essence xylem. It seems likely that the process is driven by the great tree's will, rather than any external trigger.
alsoquin The actual mechanism for storing the shard once it is extracted is not beyond Cerin's understanding, but the actual methods by which it is extracted seem almost ludicrously complicated, with minute Essence pathways that narrow almost beyond even Cerin's great vision.
Cerin nods to himself and then pads back down to the chamber in which 13 has finished devouring the tree.
Thirteen "I hope that your investigation was enlightening."
Thirteen "If you are ready, perhaps we may again converse with the Wasirranu."
Cerin "Yes and no. Your predecessor was a man of some skill in construction however, or had the aid of one."
Thirteen "I suspect the latter; however, we cannot say as yet. Perhaps our vegetal friend will have more to share on the topic."
Birds "How very exciting."
Thirteen "Shall we?"
Thirteen proceeds outside, laying his hands again on the trunk.
alsoquin The deep voice of the Wasirranu greets him through the bark once again. "Hello, child."
Cerin sets his hand on the trunk
Thirteen "I have gone within, and seen."
Thirteen "You have been a devoted friend to my ancestor, and I honor you."
Thirteen "I must request two further boons, in his memory, and in pursuit of his goals, which are now mine."
alsoquin "You have done well to return here. It has shown that you were not chosen in vain."
Thirteen "What made you decide upon me?"
alsoquin "Few reached me, over thousands of years. And no other truly understood the trial they undertook upon the Spire."
Thirteen "You do me honor, that I cannot repay."
Thirteen "I have sworn an oath, that I will purge the Bone Dagger Kings utterly from within you, that my people can be at peace forevermore."
Thirteen "In the name of this oath, and of your friendship with my ancestor, I beg that you aid me."
Thirteen **three further boons
Thirteen "Contain, and destroy them, all save one, whom we shall corral and parade before us as we return to our home. This, I beg of you."
alsoquin There is a long pause before the tree speaks again. "Tell me, child of my roots. Why do you wish to destroy those who dwell above?" There is another pause.
alsoquin "Know you, that both your kind and theirs have dwelt within my branches for thousands of years."
Thirteen "And in all those thousands of years, the Heartwood Spearfolk have faced death and atrocity, war and slaughter; and in all those thousands of years, the Heartwood Spearfolk have never known peace."
Thirteen "The legends say that Wei Dan underwent his ordeal to save his people from the Kings. I myself climbed the Wasirranu for this very reason -- that I might become the leader he was not."
Thirteen "We have not fulfilled our promises. It is time."
alsoquin "And it is true. You have striven to rescue your people from the conflict that has consumed them." Another pause. "But I have grown here for longer than either race has lived."
Thirteen "And why have you not intervened before?"
alsoquin "None have ever aggressed against me, or harmed my branches."
alsoquin "It has not been for me to act upon what has occured amongst those who make their home within me."
Thirteen "Now is the time."
Thirteen "Wei Dan has invested me with a purpose, and you are his agent."
Thirteen "But my responsibility is to my people."
Thirteen "A great battle is coming, and until I have fulfilled my oath, I cannot prepare."
Thirteen "If this battle is lost, then the dreams Wei Dan had will never be realized."
alsoquin The tree pauses as a great wind blows through its branches, shaking everything beneath the Solars' feet.
Thirteen turns into it, taking great draughts of the wind as it passes.
alsoquin "This shall be the final test I ask of you, then. Enter, and commune with me. We shall decide together what must be done."
Thirteen sighs, and turns again to enter the Spire.
alsoquin Warm breezes beckon Thirteen up to the peak, where the niche lies in the wall of the room.
Cerin watches with interest through the wall.
Thirteen steps forward, into the depression.
alsoquin Branches extend outwards from around the indentation, wrapping Thirteen within. As they do, he feels the powerful energies, the very Essence flows of the Wasirranu, connecting with his own. The feeling is intense, unprecedented... Thirteen's senses are overwhelmed as the feeling of the vast being is poured into his human mind.
alsoquin Though he knows even as it begins that he will never be able to truly remember this experience once it is over, he knows, he senses everything... the sap that flows within the branches, the animals that gnaw at the leaves... the messenger, running as fast as his legs can take him, up towards the Spire where his two friends sit....
alsoquin Cerin, of course, notices just a moment later, without even having to actively look.
Cerin leaves the tree, and pads out silently to meet the messenger.
alsoquin "Can you feel it? The wind through our branches? The sun on our leaves?" To Thirteen, it is almost like hearing himself speak.
alsoquin The messenger runs up to Cerin. "Please! Friends of the Grand Chieftan! Our forces require your aid!"
Thirteen "I feel it...I..."
Thirteen is lost for words.
Thirteen "Do you feel? Do you feel the messenger?"
Cerin "We will be down shortly. The Grand Chieftan is communing with the Wasirranu. Tell me though, of your immediate plight."
alsoquin "I do," the tree says. "Feel, here.... your people are striking against a city of the Jifan'lo." Thirteen feels his vast perceptions shift, to one of the black and white hives that hang beneath the branches... feels the vibrations of his warriors as they rush in, hears the cries of the Bone Dagger Kings as they charge into battle....
alsoquin The messenger speaks quickly. "I was reporting back on our progress to our folk below, when I observed another force in motion! Twice again as many Kings as in the city, coming about from behind to ambush our troops. They must be stopped!"
Thirteen "The Jifan'lo...I have never known their name."
alsoquin In the city, Thirteen sees more of his enemy than he has ever known, things that no Spearfolk has ever discovered: the beautiful statues, carved of wood heated until nearly ash; the nurseries, where the young claw out of the wood and are tended by the hive mothers; the vast housing caverns, where the interlocking families of Kings speak to one another secretly, in the dark....
alsoquin But also other things: the grey, dusty chambers where the Bone Dagger Kings give up their own lives, drawing out their heart chambers... and where others take them to the prison cells, where they are stabbed viciously into the Spearfolk to create the Fallen of Bone and Ash.
alsoquin "If we are to cast them down into the void, child... you must know what you do. You must bear the burden of remembering them."
Thirteen "But how, then, can I preserve them, in the face of all my oaths, and all my dedications, and the hopes of those who depend on me? Wei Dan gave me his power to save his people...but I took it to save mine."
Thirteen "What other way can there be?"
alsoquin The tree shakes again, and the wind grows stronger. "I see that you speak truly. Both peoples bear the will to slay one another -- but it is the force of your desire to save your own that will end this war."
Cerin ::Thirteen, I am returning with your subject, unless you think this grossly unwise?:: He is already walking with the man though, back down the tree.
Thirteen "Why do they war upon us? Why have they always come to destroy us?"
alsoquin "Simply remember that every hero of war is also the archest of villains. Though all thought of them may pass beyond human memory, I will always remember the Jifan'lo who once lived and died within my branches. Remember this as well, and I shall do what you ask."
Thirteen "Must I forgive?"
alsoquin "No, merely remember. Your parents set you upon one another from before your birth; perhaps no force could have made peace between you."
alsoquin Cerin makes haste down the tree. It is not too great a distance to the spot the main points out -- on one branch, off far to one side, hangs the city that the Spearfolk, even now, strike against; on the other side, drawing rapidly nearer, is a great force of the Bone Dagger Kings, ready to take the Spearfolk from behind and slay them utterly.
Thirteen heaves a shuddering sigh.
Thirteen "You knew this would follow."
Thirteen "I cannot kill them now."
Thirteen ::Cerin, be warned. Do not approach them.::
Cerin ::I had not planned to approach them:: He notes as he settles into a knot several hundred metres above the force.
Thirteen ::We will let them live.:: His thought echoes through the ring, and through the Wasirranu.
Cerin ::That is ... unexpected, Thirteen Blooming Flowers.:: He does, however, allow the bow to fade back into sunlight.
Thirteen clenches his fists within the depression, breathing, and exerts his will. There is a shudder, and a groan, within the great tree. Then, abruptly, the passages and byways of the Wasirranu reshape themselves, and the Kings Cerin can spy are hidden behind a great mass of wood.
Birds shakes from her reverie at this statement. She doesn't speak or think, but merely sends a wash of /curiosity/ through the Unity of Dreams.
Cerin watches the transformations with interest.
alsoquin Wood shifts, as if it were water... across the entire tree, the Bone Dagger Kings... the Jifan'lo... are swallowed up, taken within by the Wasirranu.
Thirteen "I will go to them, and take them from here. They will not trouble my people again."
Cerin ::I would very much like to be there when you do::
Thirteen "Thank you for your wisdom, father."
Thirteen ::Naturally, I would be honored to have your company.::
alsoquin Thirteen feels the joy that radiates throughout the miles of wood that make up the Wasirranu. "When you stood upon my doorstep a second time, returning to claim your birthright, you equalled Wei Dan. But in this moment, you have surpassed him."
Thirteen "You humble me with your praise. I can do no less but attempt to live up to it, in what manner I can."
Thirteen "There remain two things I came in search of, when I journeyed into your branches, father."
alsoquin Thirteen feels the agreement that the Wasirranu shares with him at this moment. "Take of my body to show yourself to the Kings. Let them know that I stand behind you in what you do."
alsoquin "And what are they, child?"
Thirteen "I will tell you when I have done this."
Thirteen ::Cerin, Birds. Please gather together...and stay very still.::
Birds moves over to Cerin and holds onto his arm.
Cerin waits, curious
Thirteen concentrates again, feeling the wood shift within him as if it were his own body.
alsoquin A grove of branches suddenly grows up in an instant around where Birds and Cerin stand, then the ground begins to sink beneath them. They feel themselves pulled into a bubble, a tiny dome of air within the wood, which transports them rapidly through the tree's insides.
alsoquin They find themselves deposited gently on a ledge overlooking a vast, wooden cavern... at the bottom of which stand the throngs, the masses of Bone Dagger Kings.
Cerin looks around him, at the Kings and their city
Thirteen breathes deeply, and suddenly, near the other two Solars, a mass of wood, exactly in his shape, steps out of the wall.
Birds nods to the wooden figure.
Thirteen "Cerin, nearby you will find a Gate. Please, set it to the coordinates corresponding to Xara. I must speak with the Kings."
Thirteen steps forward, creakingly, and calls to the throng.
Cerin nods and wanders off to find the gate, watching the conversation through the tree.
Thirteen "My name is Thirteen Blooming Flowers, and I am Wei Dan returned. Today I stand before you in the person of the Wasirranu, who has gifted me with its power, that my designs might come to pass."
Thirteen "For years upon years we have battled, casting our children upon each other, throwing away our lives in spite and vengeance."
alsoquin The creatures look up, almost as one, at the unlikely sight presented to them. The Essence in the room is thick and palpable; it seems to draw attention to the avatar like a magnet.
Thirteen "Wei Dan himself climbed the Wasirranu to bring wisdom, that he might destroy you, and one thousand years later, I did the same. For all the years I have lived, all my ventures and all my journeys have been for one purpose: to slay the Bone Dagger Kings, down to the last creature."
Thirteen "I came today secure in my purpose, and prepared to execute this desire with all the power at my command. I swore a great oath, that I would not rest until I had seen the last of your warriors vanish from the Wasirranu for all time."
Thirteen "But I was vouchsafed a great vision, of your people, and their glory; of the wonders you create, and the love you exhibit, even as you turn these traits towards the extermination of my kin."
Thirteen "And I cannot slay you now."
Thirteen "Instead, I have brought you peace."
Thirteen "But there is only one way for us to have peace, for while we both live within the branches of the great tree, there can be no accord."
Thirteen "Therefore I bring you a new world."
Thirteen "My compatriot is preparing the Gate even now. In this world you will find many others like yourselves. They have lived for years in peace with each other, and with humans, and they will accept you without the need for bloodshed. There need be no more lives lost."
alsoquin An unsettling clicking rises up amongst the crowd that might, amongst humans, be a murmur.
Thirteen "It may not seem a great mercy to cast you away from your home and into another land, and indeed I sorrow. It is my hope that the day will come when there will be peace among the people of the Wasirranu, and we may reconcile, and share the branches, each to each."
Thirteen "And I will travel among you, and learn your ways, and give you ours."
Thirteen "But this is all I can do today."
Thirteen "I swear to you, by the tree that grows around us, that gave me strength, that when the Heartwood Spearfolk and the Bone Dagger Kings can live in peace, I will return you to your home."
alsoquin The sound of Cerin activating the gate roars through the chamber, amplified by the wood, so that all may hear it clearly.
Thirteen "Now, go, and prepare yourselves. The Gate will not remain open long. And we have many battles before us, for the fate of the twelve planes hangs in the balance."
Thirteen "Be well. I, Thirteen Blooming Flowers, say this, and I do not lie."
alsoquin There is a pause after Thirteen speaks... and then, one by one, the accumulated masses begin to trudge towards the gate.
Thirteen turns back to his friends, sagging slightly.
Thirteen "I fear that this may come as a surprise to Ikara."
Birds "It will do her some good, I think."
Birds supports the figure gently, ignoring for a second that it is wood and not the original Thirteen.
Birds "At that age, I think she would appreciate a surprise or two."