Zahara "Imrama, would come with me? I am going to speak with Birds about the Faith." she rises, and picks up the book he'd been reading.
Birds sets out several bottles on a table, and a platter of cut fruit. It feels like Zahara is coming to visit.
Zahara gives him a slightly funny look. "I'll take that as a yes. Follow me, then." She exits the library and walks in what seems an more-or-less straight line to Birds' room, through paths that were not already there.
Imrama follows Zahara close, so as not to get lost as the manse realigns behind her.
Birds acts unsurprised when the two of them appear at her door. "Come in, sit, I've been waiting."
Zahara smiles, "Thank you." she enters the room, and seats herself at the table. She sets the book down prominently and takes a slice of exotic fruit. "How have you been?"
Birds "Acceptable. Experimenting."
Birds "I made flavored air."
Zahara "Does it taste good?"
Birds "The wine air - red bottle - is delicious, but the meat pie air - green with spots - isn't really."
Zahara "Perhaps you should have...bottled it fresher."
Birds "I can't get the crust air and filling air to stay separate."
Zahara "Maybe put the filling air in a separate container and have them pour out together?"
Imrama "Thank you for the welcoming." Imrama sits and stares at the bottles on the table. "How would one...consume it?"
Birds "Just uncork a bottle and inhale, with your mouth. Did you both come here on some errand? I wasn't sure."
Zahara spins some glass out of the air, moulding it into a single bottle with two compartments, one small crust one, and a larger filling one, topping it with a removable pouring spout that would combine both. It's the same color green as the meat pie bottle, but with swirls instead of spots. She offers it to Birds.
Imrama "The war is entering a new phase, one in which I believe the Faith Ecliptic will play a major role."
Zahara nods in agreement. "We need to spread the Faith, to show the gods that there is a viable alternative to war."
Zahara "I need to make the secret I once spoke of come true."
Imrama looks between Zahara and Birds with one eyebrow raised.
Zahara "It involves what we are speaking of now. The redistribution of worship to the gods, and other deserving entities."
Birds "You know of my plan to build the scripture of the Faith as a puzzle for humanity to construct, but I think we do not have the time. What will we do?"
Zahara "It can still have elements of a puzzle, but perhaps the main doctrines should be obvious. Perhaps with several layers of meaning, with deeper truths in each. But a simple message to begin with. Obviously we should begin with the Sunlands, to make sure it is working well before spreading it throughout creation."
Imrama "A vital faith can sustain many, many books of transcendant meaning and prophecy."
Imrama "What is needed now, I believe, is something plainspoken, and direct."
Zahara samples some of the wine-air.
Birds nods. "There's virtue in directness. We can easily make documents of the core doctrines, in the form of teaching texts if we like."
Birds "Perhaps we can implement an education program?"
Imrama "That seems like an excellent idea. Possibly Relovia could offer some assistance in that area - I have noticed her devotion to the Faith and its doctrines."
Birds nods. "Her input thus far has been invaluable."
Zahara "It must spread like a wildfire once we begin, or else it will not be enough to draw the gods away from their rebellion."
Imrama "I believe our best option is to spread the Faith as far and as deep as we can in the Sunlands, a sort of proving ground, as you suggested, Zahara. The great missionary push beyond our borders would be best accompanied by some military victory, something that could demonstrate the power of the Faith's adherents.
Zahara "Yes, I meant after the testing in the Sunlands, of course." she nods. "In addition to a military victory, I believe we could send word ahead of what it could be."
Zahara "But we need to make the Faith compelling. And we have to decide what structure is best for the distribution of worship."
Birds "Somehow, it must be that the gods are adequately supplied, but rewarded consistently for excellence."
Imrama "Ambrosia would be a fitting reward for such, but as a comodity it is exceedingly difficult to control. And what of gods who wish to maintain their long-protected personal cults?"
Birds "I think they will soon observe the inferiority of that method."
Birds "A cult of ten thousand gods is unavoidably more complex and demanding, but more stable as well."
Zahara "Hmm but what of those who have risen above their station to acquire cults that are bigger than they deserve?"
Birds takes some slices of fruit and chews contemplatively.
Birds "You mean, they are performing insufficient acts to earn the worship that they have gathered, by the Faith's standards?"
Birds "I am trying to set myself outside this situation so I can examine it most effectively."
Zahara nods "Yes. Or demanding things of their worshippers, such as the Shining Lights."
Birds "These will be difficult to seduce to the cause."
Zahara "and yet, if we enforce their joining, it will not be a religion, it will be tyrrany."
Birds nods. "Well, they will resist it, but they are not the only decisionmakers that matter."
Birds "It is heartless, and it pains me to say, but I think that we will be stealing worshippers from such gods whether we wish it or not."
Imrama turns his head in thought for a moment, and the speaks. "Forgive me, I wish to make sure I understand: excellence in service to Creation will result in a proportional cult. Presumably, this cult must be made to increase or decrease as quality of service varies. Given that cultists most often choose, and are indoctrinated into the worship of, their gods, how are we to enforce this?"
Zahara "Perhaps we must devise a way for all worship-essence to be drawn into a web, regardless of whom it is directed towards."
Birds "Maybe the 'cult' is not exactly the model we are working toward."
Birds "I imagine something like a cooperative farm, where everyone tills the same earth and they distribute the harvest amongst themselves."
Zahara "Except there is no option to eat if one does not join the cooperative."
Imrama "That is a moving image, Birds-of-Trinity. It may be a hard thing to sell to those gods who are already comfortable. We shall have to prove its worth among the discontents first."
Birds nods. "What of the matter of Exalting humanity?"
Zahara "Exalting humanity?"
Birds "It's something ...Thirteen and I had discussed at Rathess."
Birds "We think it is shameful for the humans of Meru to be Essence-blind."
Birds "It makes them slaves."
Zahara "They are not slaves... well not except the slaves."
Imrama , visibly startled at the idea, responds with vigor. "It had not even occured to me, Birds-of-Trinity. But now that you speak the idea, I can see no other course."
Zahara sighs and puts her head in her hands.
Birds "I hope to someday reintegrate the Hundredfold as well. What would the aalorai do with them? The Fifth?"
Imrama "If we can find the means to truely democratize essence-use, we will have the means to win the hearts and minds of every god in Creation."
Zahara "It will take more than power to win the hearts and minds of everyone. Do not forget. The Lily has exalted mortals and look what they do."
Birds "And beyond!"
Zahara "Is that what you want to do? Shatter more shards, and distribute the power to the powerless?"
Imrama "The Lily still works on a minor scale. If we exalted, say, every mortal in the Sunlands, this single nation would have prayer resources vastly out of proportion to its population."
Zahara "How, pray tell, will you exalt them then?"
Zahara "Perhaps take the shards of the Lily operatives and shatter THEM?"
Imrama "We cannot brake a single shard. We cannot build utopia on a mountain of skulls."
Birds gives Zahara a sharp look. "We are not the Lily. We will not scavenge the broken souls of our kinfolk, no matter how dire enemies we are."
Birds "That is a destiny I could not wish on anyone. We will have to make our own shards."
Imrama thinks for a long moment, staring at Zahara with a troubled look.
Imrama "I would go into the Wyld. I would look to the Unshaped."
Zahara sighs again and sits back. "I'm sorry. I did not mean to snap."
Zahara "We may have to acquire the assistance of the Incarna or Primordials to create Shards. Perhaps that can be one of the things we speak of to Sol Invictus when we cough speak to him."
Birds touches Zahara's arm. "Of course not. The broken shards are heavy on all our minds."
Birds "There are some problems with using shards, perhaps."
Birds "One of the larger problems is that a soul can only support one."
Birds "To exalt all humanity with shards, we would eradicate our own kind. We have to find another way."
Zahara pauses, and composes herself. "Do you mean to exalt them all as we are, or do you consider the abilities of the god-blooded, the peoples of the other planes, to be your goal?"
Zahara "Perhaps Hesiah will have some insight."
Birds "The latter. We want to bring humans dignity and capacity, but not topple the world as they understand it."
Imrama , lost somewhat in his own world, mutters. "I wonder, about the Ochilike"
Birds "Yes...I suspect the elementals are feeling a little left out, what with the gods and ghosts and humans all involved in this fascinating war."
Zahara "Well, I, for one, have appreciated them."
Birds "...? Olchilike are very interesting people. We will have to introduce you to Ssithumi-an-Tohatep."
Zahara "The Ochilike requires a god to fuse with a hundredfold, but the Dragon Kings are natural essence channelers."
Imrama "I do not mean a method identicle to the sacred orders of the Ochilike. I mean one inspired by the same, but on a much larger scale.
Birds takes a bunch of grapes and listens.
Imrama "Imagine that we could buuild, or find, or convince some very large, very potent Essence-field, such as a god, to bind itself not with an individual, but with a group of individuals."
Zahara downs half the bottle of wine-air, for good measure.
Imrama "Those linked together by such a field would share a common bond by their very natures."
Imrama "They might be more inclined to the cooperative sentiment that our new prayer economy would require."
Zahara "Can god-blooded receive benefit from worship? How strong can they become?"
Zahara "Those linked together by a single god might be tempted to encourage worship towards it.
Imrama "Yes, if we chose to use gods for this strategem." Imrama gets a twinkle in his eye.
Birds "Thirteen knows about god-blooded." ::Thirteen, are you busy? Come visit.::
pigeon ::I am never too busy for you.::
pigeon ::What do you require?::
Zahara "But, what of those who encourage worship towards their god - who would attempt to coerce such from others? After all, a group can often overpower an individual."
Birds ::I have some thoughts about the effort to uplift humanity.::
pigeon ::I will be there presently.:;
Zahara takes a slice of fruit that shades from lime green to an orangish-red, and chews on it thoughtfully.
Imrama "I submit that we cannot employ gods for this purpose: even the Ochilike do not last for more than a single individual's lifetime. I would look to a different source of power entirely: the Unshaped."
Zahara "I have tried many things with the Wyld and the Fae, but that is not one of them."
pigeon walks in, only very briefly surprised at the gathering he finds.
Imrama "Hello Thirteen, I'm glad you're here. I believe our conversation is now entering the realm of concrete strategy."
Thirteen "Oh yes? It is fortunate that I have arrived, then."
Thirteen "How have you expanded upon the discussion we had in Rathess, Birds-of-Trinity?"
Zahara The exaltation process for the godexalts is, by all accounts, quite painful. Our method should be less-so, if it is to be widely adopted. Hello, Thirteen."
Birds gives Thirteen a little hug and a yellow fruit covered in blunt spikes. "We are considering various Essence sources for the humans."
Zahara "Yes, I have been informed that you two spoke of exalting all humanity recently."
Thirteen swallows the fruit immediately. "I had assumed that our method would be conquest."
Thirteen "We are provided with a surfeit of enemies we must destroy. The power we reclaim from them must go somewhere."
Zahara "I thought you wanted to mend the shards of the Solars."
Birds "We were also just discussing how undesirable it is to adopt the tactics of the enemy."
Thirteen "We shall mend the Solar shards, of course."
Thirteen "If we only had a few hundred mulifariously powerful nemeses, I would indeed worry that we would thus exhaust our supply."
Thirteen "Fortunately, we have been better supplied than that."
Zahara "How does it work for the god-blooded? What is it that bridges the souls?"
Thirteen "Imagine the divison between the two souls as a river."
Zahara nods, inspecting Thirteen for differences between him and a 'normal' solar
Thirteen "The powers of a God-Blood are bridges that connect the two sides. They may cross, but only at specific points, in specific ways."
Thirteen "Exaltation is a meteor, that crashes into the river, and fills it with stone."
Thirteen "The bridges that had existed before are smashed and swept away. But now you may cross at any point, whenever or however you decide."
Zahara "Hm. Fascinating. I should ... " she trails off.
Thirteen "If we are to avoid our enemy's tactics, Birds, we must find a way for humans to create their own Essence, rather than relying on us."
Imrama "Agreed." Imrama samples the contents of the 'crust' bottle.
Zahara "As i mentioned earlier, perhaps the Dragons will have a way to do this. Lucent said they would fight with us."
Zahara "Dynasts exalt through the blood, and... actually I have a chart of their essence flows."
Zahara wishes she had kept it in her things, rather than with the other treatises on essence and exaltation that Cerin keeps. Kept. will keep? urgh.
Thirteen "Perhaps we should investigate Cerin's study's of Essence flows."
Zahara "I... yes." she rises slowly. "we should."
Kraken Cerin's room is unlocked, at least to Zahara's touch, the space within the study mostly dominated by several large bookcases, though there is also an easel and a large writing desk. Sitting on the easel is a curious painting. It shows Atomnos at the top, cascading down to the malakim souls, then the hundredfold, Ascendant and recumbant at the base. Lines in a fine script label flow and orientation, a complete description of (...)
Kraken primordial essence in a painting. That isn't the only work of art present, several sketches of Zahara hanging from the wall beside his desk, showing her in her dress of true love, showing her casting sorcery, showing her smiling at him from the sheets, showing her at work in her forge. While one of the bookcases actually seems to hold notes - in the form of carefully bound notebooks, several crystals and some leather bound books - (...)
Kraken the others seem to be used more like trophy cabinents. Those shelves are filled with things such as obsidean claws, large seed pods and other hundredfold relics, as well as two boxes. One is made of orichalcum and is rimmed with frost, the other the smooth grey box they pulled from the northern wyld. In a small tank, a couple of pulsating spheres float, half-submerged. The desk is mostly cleared of papers, though a large quill made (...)
Kraken from one of the feathers of the haalime sits in an inkwell, ready for writing more.
Thirteen immediately walks over and opens the frost-rimmed box.
Kraken Within the box is purest elemental ice.
Zahara lets the others in, hesitating before entering. She keeps her eyes on the floor, feeling the memories wash over her in a deluge. She does not look at the paintings, she was there when he painted them. She does not look at the trophies, she was there for so many and heard tales of the rest.
Zahara "Thirteen, please." her voice is pained. "Leave it alone."
Thirteen "Ah." He replaces the lid.
Zahara walks through the room determinedly, and passes her fingers along the sheaves of notes, pulling them out. They are there, just where he left them. "Here."
Zahara would avoid meeting his eyes if he had any, and instead settles for crossing her arms over her waist once he has taken the papers.
alsoquin The notes describe what Cerin has worked out about the fundamentals of life itself, complete with the latest understandings that motonic orientation had provided. The way that a being's existence is based upon an Essence field, maintained by the attractive qualities of its physical body and in turn defining the shape of that body. (...)
alsoquin The way in which a being is formed from a combination of the Essence patterns of whichever beings had contributed to its parentage. The way that humans with descent from Essence-using beings have limited, inflexible channels between their two souls through which their legacy abilities manifest.
alsoquin There are other notes showing the flows of Exalts:
alsoquin how Dragon-Bloods are Exalted by their physical blood, enhanced to allow free passage of Essence and therefore to serve as a medium for the souls to join;
alsoquin how Celestial Exalts are implanted with a pre-defined Essence matrix that sits between the souls, and grows and shifts within as they grow in power;
Zahara extracts the note describing her own essence flows (in detail), before passing the sheaf over.
alsoquin how the God-Exalts are implanted with a matrix that is carved directly into their being, defined by a channelcage and suspended with the power of the superconductive medium generated (Cerin theorizes) with the completion of the checklist.
Thirteen "All we must do, then, is find a way to imbue the blood of every human being in Meru."
alsoquin There are a few, less well realized notes -- especially about the Primordial Bloods and strange Exalts in Atomnos, neither of whose qualities Cerin studied as much as he would have liked, and the olchilike processs.
Birds "That is not so hard."
Birds "All we need are a few drops of rain."
Zahara rubs her thumb along the drawings, not really paying attention to the others. She sits on the edge of the bed.
Imrama gives a quizical look.
Zahara sits in the silence of the bedroom, the conversation of the others blocked off now by the door.
Birds "Rain is water. All humans need water..."
alsoquin that's so crazy it just might work
Thirteen "That...just might work."
Zahara tries to hold them back, but surrounded by all of the reminders of how things were.... and knowing that things will never be the same again, no matter if he is redeemed or not. The tears come, and soon flow unchecked. She curls up, and mourns the loss of what was, trying to hold onto the hope of a future that, though different, may be bright.
Thirteen "Zahara." He calls into the other room.
Thirteen "We need you to design rain."
Zahara "Go away. I'll design rain later."
Birds writes something on a bit of paper and slips it under the door. Having done so, she curls up over a chair with one of the old scientific books from Rathess.
Thirteen shrugs slightly, and begins paging through Cerin's files, eating some.
Zahara sighs, noticing the note. She squints to see if she can make it out from her sulking spot.
Birds There is just one character on the note, the Old Realm pictoglyph "Not leaving you."
Zahara dissolves into a fresh bout of tears, and when they are gone, feels a bit better.
Zahara sighs, and gathers herself, rewrapping the bandages so that the wet ones are hidden, and emerges from the bedroom. "What's this about rain, then?" she asks, her voice a bit rough. "Where did the files on... why are there things missing?"
Thirteen "They are not missing. I am pursuing Cerin's studies in his absence. Someone must."
Birds slips the book back into the Rathess shelf.
Zahara "Put them back. You can study them here, can't you?"
Thirteen "I would prefer to study them at my leisure."
Thirteen "I do not wish to spend more time in here than is necessary."
Zahara "At least put them back when you're done. Please."
Thirteen "Of course."
Zahara "Thank you."
Zahara "So. Rain."
Birds "Well, here is my thought. We need a way to distribute the Exaltation to all mankind."
Birds "It happens that all people drink water, and in most of the world, people get water from the rain."
Birds "So, if we can deliver the Exaltation by means of the rain, then we will not have to build our own Creation-wide delivery system; the Bureau of Seasons is already in place."
Zahara stares at Birds. "Sometimes I think you can no longer surprise me. And then you prove me wrong." She smiles a bit, and folds the piece of paper that she found under her door neatly, tucking it away. "So you want to put something in the rain? Or change what rain is?"
Birds 's eyes dance. "Do you suppose we can change what rain is? That would be splendid. But, I was thinking about doing the other thing."
Zahara "It may be possible... but it will certainly be difficult. Do you have any allies in the water court?"
Birds "I don't, but we do have Relovia and her Immaculates. Perhaps they do."
Zahara nods, "Lucent seems to have all sorts of strange allies these days. He may as well. I wonder if Danaa'd ever saw that gift Markuran left her." She smiles sadly. "It's funny how these things are coming back, isn't it?"
Birds grins. "I love it when things come back."
Birds "You're right about Lucent...I'll talk to him about it."
Zahara "If we do this, they must know where it comes from."
Birds "Luc says things about how he saw the Sun when he was Chosen..."
Zahara "You think we could put that in the rain?"
Imrama as the others converse, Imrama stands in one corner of the room. He is afraid to touch anything, to disturb anything. He feels like an univited guest in the home of an estranged friend. And so he only listens, and casts his eyes about the room.
Birds rubs her temple, thinking, and revolves slowly in the air. "Maybe."
Birds "Remember what Imrama was saying about connecting all the new Exaltations to the same Essence?"
Birds "Maybe we can have them all spread out from the Cascade, and each new Exaltation can sense the journey of its Esence outward from that centre."
Birds "And also those people it's connected to... the new Chosen around them, and the source, and us."
Imrama continues to stare at the paintings that decorate the room, searching for familiar hints of old, lost Ymir. "How would you connect them, Birds?"
Zahara "Hmm hopefully they will not disrupt the Cascade while we are setting this plan in motion."
Birds "It's hard for me to describe; I'm thinking in metaphors. But I think, maybe, if they all dip from the same pool, then they could also submerge things in there for others to find, or scent the waters with perfumes..."
Zahara "I could perhaps modify the Benediction of Archgenesis to start it off, with the assistance of some of the more powerful of the Weather court.
Birds "...or like a pod of dolphins, they all seem to know what the pod is doing, without having to talk about it."
Zahara "...Assuming they are not joined with Lai, as well."
Imrama listens, and then thinks to correct himself. "I suppose I did not mean 'by what means would you connect them', but rather 'according to what scheme'?"
Imrama "Will it be by family, by nation, by nature, by purpose?"
Birds continues to revolve. "What an interesting question."
Birds "I think it cannot be by preexisting bonds of loyalty; that would merely serve to drive chisels into the gaps that people have between them already."
Imrama , finally brave enough to stir from his corner, walks through the air to one of the trophy cabinetts and peers inside.
Birds "I almost think it must be ungoverned, so as to connect people in many walks of life, without pattern, and so every person will retain a unique perspective on the world, but it will be sharply broadened."
Zahara "It will be disconcerting, for them, to be suddenly connected to others. Consider the strangeness of the Unity when we first joined together. Though we were expecting it, it still took time to grow used to it."
Birds "That may need to be arranged so that it's less dramatic...maybe it is weaker over a distance? Like a stone falling into water, the waves get shallower as they expand."
Kraken Covering the shelves are a massive range of ... bits ... from a wide variety of creatures. and beings. There is a tentacle made from shadows, a tiger's paw that burns, a signet ring from the realm, a faded leaf from a glade of trees, a larged and bloody ended fang ... and many more...
Imrama meeting eyes with a skull who's species he does not recognize: "I think there must be some system to it - if we create a deep connection between numerous strangers with absolutely nothing in common, we will be inflicting a severe dissability on humanity, not exalting it."
Zahara "It will certainly expose many secrets in the unexpecting."
Birds nods. "One of the things I hope to avoid is the widespread collapse of human society."
Zahara "Though if it is solely a sense of community, it may be easier."
Birds "Maybe there are certain actions that create a link between persons? Love, hate, accepting an object that is the work of someone's hands, or giving it..."
Imrama "Possibly a dynamic connection then? One that can change and evolve with time, adding and discarding members from each group, trading from one to the next?" Imrama eyes the tentacle of shadows, and shudders.
Birds "Yes, exactly."
Zahara "Hmm a dynamic connection. That's intriguing."
Zahara "Being able to strengthen or weaken bonds would make it more palatable, I'm sure, to many people."
Birds "That's good, then."
Zahara sits down at Cerins table, takes the haalime quill and a clean sheet of paper, and closes her eyes for a moment, then begins to draw, sketching out various permutations of the concept, and how they would relate to the essence structures she knows best, working through to the ones she knows the least about and using concepts from each to enhance the others.
Birds watches over Zee's shoulder surreptitiously.
Zahara works in silence for several minutes, flips back to an earlier page and adds a few more notes, then turns. She is mildly surprised to see Birds there, but smiles a little and holds up the diagrams. "This is the best I could do without trying it out."
Birds looks. Truth be told, she has not really been keeping up with Cerin and Zee's rapidly evolving soul diagramming system. "Um, looks good!"
Imrama eyes the signet ring, and dreams of a world in which no one is ever alone.
Zahara "Thanks." She raises a brow, "Do you want me to explain it?"
Birds "Um...yes. Please do."
Zahara describes the workings of the diagram, attempting to stay away from the jargon that she and Cerin had come up with so as not to extend the retelling into a dictionary.
Birds points to something on the diagram. "That's very clever."
Zahara smiles, "Thank you."
Zahara explains it in a little more detail before realizing she's probably being very boring.
Birds asks a few more questions, and takes a couple of notes.
Birds "Do you suppose it'd be possible to run a prototype population and see how it goes?"
Zahara "I'm sure we can get some volunteers."
Imrama "And what shall we call them? Humanity will be mortal no longer. They will be dream blooded and blood bound to each other."
Zahara looks at Imrama, surprised. "I don't know... Chosen of the Sunlands?"