Imrama Having finished his chat with Lucent in the garden, Imrama takes to the streets of Rathess, searching for Zahara. He does not wish to leave on this errand without giving her the chance to accompany him.
Zahara is sitting on the steps of the Pyramid, or what's left of it, toying with a chunk of stone aimlessly. She seems strangely calm, perhaps detached.
Imrama approaches Zahara carefully, kneeling down on the air in order to be nearer her seated height. "Hello, Zahara. Today's events have given me reason to visit the Wyld. Knowing your facility with the realm of chaos, I thought I might ask if you wished to share my visit." Imrama wears a loose smile beneath a furrowed brow.
Zahara focuses on Imrama, her hands stilling. "What reason?" she asks.
Imrama 's brow unfurrows, and his eyes brighten slightly. "I have a question to ask of it."
Zahara "I see... and it cannot wait, I take it?" she rises, with a small sigh. "I would say there was no time for such things, but I am not doing anything useful at the moment anyway."
Imrama "It should not take long, Empress. Besides, I have observed an unspoken tradition among this Circle that when faced with dire emergency, the most productive response is to undertake strange and seemingly unrelated missions to far off places."
Imrama "I thought I ought to join in the practice."
Zahara laughs, "Well, how can I fight logic like that?"
Zahara "Will you convey us on your ship? I have only seen it from afar."
Imrama "Of course, Zahara - it is the only way to truely see the Wyld."
Imrama leads the way to one of the city's many scenic, open courts. Imrama's ship, the Fable of the Reconstruction, sits at rest several feet in the air, the giant ring that orbits its midsection still humming away. Climbing a set of stairs set out to allow access, Imrama invites Zahara aboard.
Zahara ascends the steps, refusing to look back over Rathess, and walks around the deck, inspecting the ship with an eye to understanding its design. "Fascinating."
Imrama bows deeply and proudly. "Thank you for saying so." Imrama turns and calls over Zahara's shoulder. "Mr. Iggles-lux! Mr. Iggles-lux we have a very important guest aboard ship. Inform the crew that they are to extend every possible curtesy to Zahara Zahn, Dreambreaker and Empress of the Sunlands while she is with us."
Zahara acknowledges Mr. Iggles-lux and smiles a little at Imrama. "It is but the truth, although the word does not convey enough. I should like to know how to fly it."
Imrama Mr. Iggles-lux, an adult Aalorai who, like everything esle to do with the Fable, is made of pure sunlight, gives a silent bow to Zahara and begins summoning crew above deck with equal quiet.
Imrama "Don't worry Empress, we will be more than happy to show you just that."
Zahara considers that she shall have to introduce Reaver to Mr. Iggles-lux, once she can say his name without giggling.
Zahara "Is he a true Aalorai?"
Imrama Several members of Imrama's phantom crew come above deck to get the ship under way. They are composed of Aalorai, hawk-headed Zipetok, insectile Gha'bi and Pterok Dragon Kings. Taking up their stations around the ship's rails, they begin pulling on unseen lines of essence, shifting the Fable's flight-ring very carefully and taking it into the sky.
Imrama "He is the true image of one." Imrama smiles with pride as he watches his crew work.
Imrama comes over closer to Zahara to speak with her conspiratorilly. "Of course, none of my crew are independant beings in the true sense; these are phantoms produced by Charms. Still, it is impolite to speak about a being's non-reality in front of it."
Zahara studies their movements consideringly. She shifts her vision to allow her to see the lines, and how they interact with them, and smiles faintly at Imrama, "Of course." she replies quietly. "But, do they know anything other than what they need to know to run the ship?"
Imrama "They know what they can observe, but their existence is created fresh each day, and it is not in their nature to be anything other than peerless sailors."
Zahara frowns a little, "A shame. I had thought perhaps mmm Mr. Iggles-lux could teach Reaver how to fly. I have not been a proper mother to him."
Imrama "In our Circle, Zahara, I doubt that Reaver should want for an instructor in that regard. Excuse me, my essence is required momentarilly to set our course and speed."
Zahara watches him, studying his charm.
Imrama focuses for a moment, and then the Fable begins to move at an amost impossible speed. The world below, viewed over the rail is a blur of colors, but the motion is utterly smooth; for Zahara or anyone else standing on deck, it is as though the ship were still at rest.
Zahara looks away from Imrama, to watch the world fly by beneath their feet, contemplating. Her greatest desire had been to rule over everything, but that seems very distant now.
alsoquin Off in the Western distance, a grove of trees that has never known human footsteps has curved and bent to focus Essence to its heart. There, the Essence gathers, and in its uncontrolled state, it is much like the Wyld itself.... Imrama carefully guides the vessel towards it.
Imrama Approaching the secluded grove at ludicrous speed, Imrama stands on the prow of his ship and watches, wild-eyed. Without hesitation, he plunges the ship down into the heart of the forest. Just as it seems doomed to collide with the ancient trees, the space around the ship gives way, folding under and around it to form a tunnel of branches and ever-green flame leading deeper, far deeper into chaos.
Imrama "I am very glad you came with me, Zahara. I usually have to enjoy these journeys all by myself."
Zahara watches with a raised brow as they seem about to collide with the demesne, and instead move beyond it. "That must have been lonely."
Imrama "They were glorious. But yes, they were also lonely." After three switchbacks through the gnashing, tropical mouths of the Brothers Uprooted, the great Vegetroll Giants who are destined to destroy Creation if they can ever stop arguing over who shall eat the sun, the Fable finally crosses over the rough border between the influences of the Elemental Poles of Wood and Fire.
Imrama Flying on into a shy of flame, Imrama presses for more speed, to escape the packs of hunting Flame Gryphons and Magma Whale leaping skyward from the molten landscape below. Finally, the ship comes to a place where fire burns away even the presence of fire, and all that is left is the roiling uncertainty of Pure Chaos.
Imrama "There. We have arrived."
Zahara "Have you been through this way before? And, do you have personal protection from the Wyld?"
Imrama "I have made three circuits of the part of the Wyld that rings Creation, but have never gone the same way twice. Indeed, I doubt I even could. And yes, I have some protection." Imrama runs his hand through the flashing streams of change and possibility just off the Fable's prow.
Imrama produces his pipe and a small cloth bag, and begins to fill it. "Zahara, I am going to take something to facilitate the process of my vision quest. You're welcome to partake, if you would like." Imrama finishes packing the pipe, lights it, and takes several sharp pulls.
Imrama profers the pipe to Zahara.
Zahara casts her protections on herself while he fills his pipe, then eyes the it askance for a minute, figures what the hell, and draws some of the smoke into her mouth, tasting it, before inhaling. "What's the worst that could happen?" she asks rhetorically.
Imrama The smoke from the pipe is a pale yellow-green and hangs in the air with an oily weight. It tastes to Zahara a bit like over-ripe pear mixed with sharp cheese.
Imrama "I would not ask such a question in this place, Zahara. The very worst that could happen is, with all certainty, lurking out there, somewhere, amongst this infinite sea of possibility."
Zahara smiles, displaying her teeth. "Oh, I know."
Imrama All around the Fable's hull, and overhead, forms and visions flash by, changing far to quickly to make any sense or hold any meaning. The intoxicant offers sufficient distortion of the senses, however, that these images seem to slow down. The eye begins to follow them as they move across the horizon of insanity, and the ear begins to pick out distinct fragments of sound from the din.
Imrama But still, what is sensed is no less mad. Imrama waits patiently for the moment when the twisting landscape will acquire some meaning.
Zahara watches, judging the differences between this experience and her typical jaunts to the Wyld. She wonders if she is seeing the same things Imrama is.
alsoquin The landscape churns in its mad, irrational exuberance, and for what seems like an eternity, there is nothing, no sense of even the slightest sanity that might reflect upon Imrama's question.
alsoquin But then, somewhere, in the corner of his eye... one spot -- a tiny star -- grows still, as all the chaos around it writhes yet more strongly.
Zahara toys with the hilt of her sword, the daiklave safely Elsewhere still, this is still the simple one, though the pommel is dark with dried blood she had not cleaned off.
Imrama focuses on that single point in space with an intensity he has never shown in the presence of another living being. He lets the pipe drop from his mouth, and his eyes begin to glow with white lightning. The electricity pours upwards from his eye sockets to form a halo around his head, spelling out obscure mathematical formulae in Old Realm notation.
Zahara turns to watch Imrama, and to follow his intent gaze to its conclusion
Zahara picks up the pipe silently, and takes another thoughtful pull.
alsoquin As Imrama stares intently at the star, it begins to rise up overhead, leaving a wake of black emptiness in the roiling Wyld behind it. It reaches up towards the sky, and grows as it does, getting larger and larger, shaking the very sky and firmament as it does... until, suddenly, engorged beyond reason, it shatters, and the walls of reality peel away on all sides, leaving the Fable floating in an empty blackness.
Zahara raises a brow. "Well, this is new."
alsoquin The blackness hangs unbroken and still for a few moments, and then, in the sky above... the sun is born from the blackness. Its light shines down upon a building of stone, alone on an ocean isle... but past the shores of that ocean the darkness is still thick.
Zahara "Is this what you intended?" she asks mildly, pacing around the deck to get a view from all angles.
Imrama Without turning or glancing away from the vision in the slightest, Imrama reaches into his jacket and produces a quill and short scroll. He begins to record what he sees. "It may be," he answers to Zahara.
Zahara holds her hand out, watching the way the sunlight falls on the bandages.
alsoquin The ship drifts towards the building, and as it does, more details emerge... the great mountain that sits beside it... the tiny, twinkling stars that fill the sky above it... and the black tendrils that reach from below towards the building.
Imrama seizes upon the detail of the stars above the building, mapping them out with a quick hand while comparing them mentally to his knowledge of the night sky.
alsoquin Up above, a dark shadow begins to slide over the face of the sun, and as the light it casts downwards grows fainter, the tendrils below grow thicker and more numerous.
alsoquin Off far to one side, shrouded almost entirely in darkness, stands a wolf in a red cloak... where his heart should be is only a black emptiness, and he holds the tendrils fast in one hand.
alsoquin The stars above are those that shine on Creation, but Imrama sees that three of them -- brighter, stronger than the others -- are moving, shifting in place... drawing nearer to the sun....
Zahara watches the wolf in red, knuckles whitening on the ship's rail.
alsoquin The shadow passes further and further across the sun, as the three stars move to form a taut triange just around its borders... they reach their places just as the sun is blotted out -- and at that instant, every one of the other stars in the sky transforms to a jagged, mirror-black shard, and as one they all streak down viciously from the sky, most falling into the darkness, but one falling straight to the heart of the manse, an
alsoquin and another plunging to the center of the mountain.
alsoquin In the new darkness, lit only by the three brilliant stars above, more is revealed -- for each of the three sends out its own tendrils, and those of the smallest of the three stars sit wrapped tightly around the emptiness at the wolf's chest.
alsoquin Still the ship grows closer and closer to the great fortress, and as it does, three flowers can be seen.
Zahara shudders, her hand going to her pocket.
alsoquin Upon the ground at the building's foot, a black rose crosses the ocean, its petals constantly falling behind it and coating the land where it steps.
alsoquin Upon one side of the manse, a red lily climbs upwards towards the roof, a golden droplet of nectar suspended within its heart.
alsoquin And in the darkness, the wolf watches both with a hungry eye, as with one hand he lowers a great lotus, with four petals of black and one of brilliant red, a golden light shining mutedly from its heart, towards the manse.
alsoquin He moves to smash it downwards, into the building... but just as he does, time seems to stop. Upon one of his fingers, tiny reflections of the three stars glint for just a moment --
alsoquin then it is as if the very years fall away, and the building, now worn with the weight of years, stands unblemished, and the sun shines over a world too vast to see, cast intricately of the finest gold.
Zahara simply stares, immobile, caught offguard by the sudden beauty
Imrama falls to his knees, and weeps at the vision of the golden world.
alsoquin Faces float about through the sky, phantoms, yet somehow real... a child with a vicious smile, and a green sun upon his brow... a beautiful man whose smile hides unimaginable ugliness... a man who is his own shadow....
alsoquin Upon the newly cast manse, a white-haired wolf with a choker of black lifts a paw cast in darkest ebony in the air, while streamers of grey light flicker from its head and plunge into the earth, where they burrow down far beyond where light can reach....
alsoquin In front of the wolf is an owl, wrought in black and gold; and in its talons it clutches one of the shards that fell from the sky. In a moment, the wolf strikes and tears it apart; the shard falls to the earth, and lets out a vast, pure tone. In the distance, the green child frowns, and his light changes to purest yellow.
alsoquin Then it is the present once again, and the boat has reached the roof of the building; it pulls up silently aside, as if beckoning the Solars to disembark.
Zahara steps off the ship onto the roof, moving cautiously, the image of the green child still lingering in her head.
alsoquin Far out beyond the roof where she stands, the star-lit bounds of the world extend -- to where they did a moment ago, in gold -- but now, they are wrought in iron, and twisted by ages.
alsoquin Abovehead, the sun has been hidden entirely... but it does not emerge out again from the other side. In its place, two new lights rise: one deepest crimson red, and one most brilliant, alien green.
alsoquin As Zahara walks, she feels a burning at her neck... as the locket she has just recently repaired grows fiery-hot.
Zahara gasps, looking down at the amulet, but enduring the pain
alsoquin The wolf still stands overhead. He places the five-petalled flower down upon the building, and as he does jagged thorns of iron and waves of carnage wash over the world, burying it beneath a sea of death. Then he blows once, and the red lily's petals blow off into the sky.
alsoquin For a moment, all that either can see is the utter destruction of all, the world ravaged by fire and ice, and darkness filling every crack in the world even as the unforgiving red and green lights fill the sky....
Imrama walks out onto the air over the building. "Where is it?" he mutters. "What do I have to do? What is the key?"
Zahara looks up at Imrama, "Imrama." she says softly, lifting the amulet from her chest, holding it up.
alsoquin When Imrama looks at Zahara, he sees something overlaid upon her -- grey feathers, speckled with spots of blood. And as he looks, he sees the shards -- one in Zahara's hand, one below her feet, one shining down from the mountain, one with the weight of ages behind it... and one... obscured...
Imrama "Ah." Imrama nods, solemly.
alsoquin They float around Zahara's locket... her heart... and ring, with five pure tones... and as one, the darkness in the wolf's heart and the darkness in the sky shatter and turn to insubstantial smoke as they fall...
alsoquin And from the sky, where the one sun once stood, miniature suns... hundreds of them... begin to rain down, each perhaps an inch and a half across, tendrils of reddish-gold fire leaping from them as they rain upon the earth.
Zahara closes her eyes as the tone peals through her, and when she opens them again, her calm demeanor has cracked, and tears fall freely, silently, as she smiles.
Imrama looks up into the sky, smiling, allowing the fiery rain to wash over his face.
alsoquin As light fills the vast world once more, the slightest tinge of darkness impinges upon the edges of the world, and traces of black run into the earth... as if to say: "This is not the end...." But then the vision begins to fade.
alsoquin Two of the tiny suns fall upon Imrama's face and seem to hang there before his eyes, suspended by nothing... and as he stares through them, the world takes on a clarity he had never before believed possible.
Zahara releases the amulet from her grasp and looks up at her newest friend, "That must have been some question."
Imrama "It was simple enough: "How may Cerin the Wolf be redeemed from the Yozis and restored to himself again?"
Imrama "And that seems to be my answer." Imrama signals to his crew, giving the order to turn back toward Creation
Zahara 's smile falters for a second, and she reaches up to touch Imrama's arm. "Thank you." Then she climbs back on board the ship.
Imrama touches Zahara's hand where as it touches his arm. "You are welcome Zahara Zahn. I could do nothing else."
Imrama takes the suns floating before his eyes into his hands, clasping them together. Then hebrings his hands to his face, removing them. A pair of sun-colored rectangular lenses now float before each of his eyes.
Imrama "What do you think, Zahara?"
Zahara smiles, "Quite dashing."
Imrama produces a hand-mirror and checks for himself. "Yes, I rather agree."
Zahara "How do you like standing in the way of the destruction of Creation, so far?"
Imrama "I find that it suits me quite well, and I would like to do rather a lot more of it."
Zahara "Excellent. There is a lot more to do."
Imrama "It is a good thing that we are nigh-immortal god-monarchs of a lost age of glory, destined to reshape all that is into all that can be."
Imrama "Otherwise, we might not get all of it done."
Zahara "It is a good thing to have hope again."
Imrama "You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that."
Zahara touches the necklace, "And yet, you barely know me." she pauses thoughtfully. "Let us make the return journey at a more leisurely pace so we can have more time to talk."
Imrama "Capital idea." Imrama turns and gives an order in the booming voice he hasn't used since he first met Zahara. "Mr. Iggles-lux; we will be returning via a more scenic route. Tell the crew to hold off on the draglines."