Thirteen walks briskly in the direction of Lai Misuna.
Zahara "Hmmm, now, the other two shards." she says aloud as they traipse after Thirteen. "Where would they be..."
Thirteen ignores her with his usual aplomb.
Zahara "One in my hand, one below my feet, one shining down from the mountain, one with the weight of ages, and one obscured." she pauses, and mentions to Kai, "Imrama and I had a vision that showed them." then continues, "I suspect we have the one in my hand, the one with the weight of ages, and the one obscured."
Imrama "That would leave Meru, and Rintoko, perhaps?"
Zahara "Hmmm why did we never go to Rintoko?"
Thirteen "We ran out of time, much as I am doing now."
Zahara "Maybe the better question is how do we get there before the eclipse is over?"
Thirteen "It would be polite of me to wish you luck on that particular venture."
Phoenix snorts. "Don't start now."
Thirteen "It is of no matter. You do not need all five pieces to free Cerin from his entanglement."
Thirteen "I encourage you to do so, since it will make my life considerably easier, but you will forgive me if I choose not to rely on you accomplishing anything productive."
Zahara rolls her eyes. "What exactly makes you think that? I assure you, all five were in the vision. Not three. Nor four."
Thirteen "Believe me or not, Zahara, it is all one to me."
Imrama "Beside redeeming Cerin, we may require all five pieces once the true masters of the Lily reveal themselves."
Zahara "I fail to see how I was not productive. We uncovered information, recovered a shard, and saved Lucent."
Phoenix "Rintoko you said?"
Zahara nods in agreement with Imrama
Thirteen "You departed from my express instructions with no thought to safety or sanity and endangered us all and Creation itself."
Phoenix digs a scraggly map out of her pocket. "Where is the nearest gate?"
Thirteen "If you happened not to kill anyone or irretrievably ruin our chances, it was not for lack of trying."
Imrama makes an aside to Phoenix: "Aren't the gates currently inopperable?"
Thirteen "As it is, you have put us far behind Cerin and Lai, and you may have made it necessary for me to kill Cerin, if we cannot deal with him in time."
Zahara "If you had taken the vision into account when you made your plans, then I would not have had to deviate from them."
Phoenix "What butt pirate was responsible for that?" She makes a show of thinking carefully. "I am stumped! And greatly inconvenienced!"
Imrama "Thirteen, our company has, largely by accident stumbled into an opportunity to reassemble the greatest super-weapon in the history of Creation. It was a lead worth following by any standard, and it is a mission worth finishing."
Thirteen "My plans are perfect. Your vision is the creation of two wishful dreamers wandering into the midst of chaos and praying for a message from the whirling depths of madness."
Thirteen "I am not sure why you value the one over the other."
Zahara "Phoenix, we disabled the gates, to foil other armies."
Imrama turns back to Phoenix "What do you mean by 'butt pirate'?"
Zahara "Your perfect plans are not always enough."
Thirteen "There was no accident. Cerin gave Zahara one of the shards."
Phoenix bites back a laugh. "Um... I'll tell you when you're older."
Thirteen "Since you have never actually followed one of my plans, I am not sure you have the capacity to judge."
Zahara "You realize there are parts in between the scheduled parts of your plans that are not planned right?"
Phoenix "Okay, you two. Allow me to suggest a plan."
Phoenix "Thirteen, exclude Zahara's doing what you suggest from your strategic projections. Zahara, please do not eat Thirteen. I see you salivating! I don't think he will be very tasty."
Thirteen "I am already doing so, Phoenix."
Thirteen "Please try to keep up."
Zahara "You're right, he looks sour."
Phoenix sighs. "So, Imrama, I am going to find a way into Rintoko."
Phoenix spreads out maps around her feet. "Please notify me when recess is over."
Thirteen looks at Phoenix in disbelief, then turns around and continues walking.
Imrama "Much as you both seem to be enjoying the activity, there is no need to make this adversarial. Our party has two objectives before it, both of which I would very much like to see us accomplish, as I believe them both to be necessary to the survival of Creation."
Imrama "This being the case, we should split the party."
Thirteen is already six or seven feet away.
Thirteen "Good idea."
alsoquin Thirteen is already certain he will be surprised, wherever it is he is going.
Thirteen rolls his eyes.
Zahara "It seems we will be splitting the party indeed."
Imrama stands with Phoenix and Zahara as Thirteen and others move further and further away. "Empress, being as I cannot currently spare any of my other selves, I would accompany you to find the remaining shards."
Phoenix puts her head in her hands. "Thirteen, please don't die."
Thirteen "Thank you for the advice, Phoenix of Ashes."
Zahara "Thank you, Imrama. I am glad that you, at least, have some faith in me."
Phoenix "That was not advice, it was a request."
Phoenix stands up. "Wait. I am done with making requests."
Phoenix hugs Zahara. "I have to go take care of Thirteen. Will you be all right?"
Zahara hugs back, somewhat surprised by the display of affection. "Of course. Thank you for asking." She smiles, then looks over at Thirteen, saying quietly. "I don't understand how I can love him and hate him so much at the same time. Be safe."
Phoenix "He's our brother. That's how brothers are, ...I think."
Phoenix nods and dashes to catch up.
Imrama "Well, Zahara, it is to us. Shall we begin above or below?"
Zahara "Hm, let us begin with above...though I suspect we will not find it until "our darkest hour""
Zahara "So... perhaps below will work better, as I hope to have the shards DURING our darkest hour."
Zahara "What do you think?"
Imrama "Rintoko seems the more dire and deadly of our two alternatives. Therefore, we should seize upon it first - it is the more heroic choice."
Imrama "Let's see if we can find a way to the roof from here."
Zahara "Why the roof?"
Zahara "I'd like to find the Solar Circle room before we are through, as well."
Imrama "I had thought to reach Rintoko by means of the Fable. And while there is still much that desperately needs exploring here, I think we should assume that time is a factor."
Zahara nods, "Well, we seem to be at the apex of the manse. I recommend against breaking through the capstone, however. Did you see any windows?"
alsoquin A few moments later, after discovering a convenient secret passageway, the Solars have made their way to the roof. (...)
alsoquin The Ecliptic Sun hangs still far ahead, while the great red and black clouds shroud the outside of the Blessed Isle. Looking out on the island itself, the signs of war are clearly visible -- great pillars of smoke, and the distant screams of falling men. (...)
alsoquin Across the roof from where Imrama and Zahara ascend is an old friend, awaiting their arrival.
Lucent The sun shines in, as does the moon... and the lights of the maidens, circling about. Circling about him, as he watches the skies, surrounded by... bags, as he smiles to them "You are back."
Zahara smiles, "Lucent. What happened to Lai? And...why do you have bags?"
Lucent "Souvenirs." He nods. "You've been gone for awhile, and the Auric Palace is a wonderful little arsenal."
Zahara "We're going to Rintoko. Will you come with?"
Lucent "Of course." He nods. "Oh, and we have plenty of enemies about. Even Five Days Darkness is with them."
Lucent "Puzzling through the Fourth Floor. And not alone either."
Zahara "I'm sure Thirteen will find him. Let's go."
Lucent "Kasima, a god-exalt of storms with a black jade eye, five days darkness, a faerie, and a heavily scarred aalorai... two Abyssals(do they always move in pairs?) and a Lunar... the last three do not seem to be Lai's. That's why I've been securing all the... mobile souvenirs."
Imrama begins the effort of summoning his ship and crew. High up in the darkened sky over the roof, he calls down, "Lucent - it is good to see you again. I am glad you were not secretly evil."
Lucent "I was never very subtle. You saw it."
Lucent "And it is good to see you again too, Imrama. And trust me, if I am ever evil again, you will find out." He nods, "By the overwrought speeches alone."
Zahara "Yes, thank you for showing me what you did. You may want to stay away from Thirteen and Phoenix for a while though."
Lucent "I had a long time to get used to the fact he is going to try to kill me, Zahara. I am fine with that."
Zahara "Don't let him." She watches the ship form
Lucent "Actually... I kinda promised I will. It was, um. The condition on him not trying to make your mind against me."
Zahara "Well, don't go near him without me around then."
Imrama The Eclipse-sky is filled with dread and forboding. And then, a single point of sunlight forms in the palm of Imrama's hand, hanging in midair. It blossoms like a lotus, spinning and unfolding until Imrama is standing on the deck, holding a thin line of light dangling from the ship's drive wheel.
Zahara climbs into the ship. "Captain," she greets Imrama. "Shall we be off?"
Lucent walks into the ship, placing the bags over the orbs. "Yes!"
alsoquin Space opens. There are a thousand screams, and then, silence.
alsoquin In the depths of the Auric Temple, a red-clad hand -- a different one -- clutches a gold disc, sunburst cut across its face. It rubs the design once, with great familiarity, and then, it sets the seal into the black jade panel.
alsoquin In Lord's Crossing, the citizens sleep an uneasy sleep. War tears at their homeland, and darkness envelops the daytime -- but at least sleep promises a brief respite, they hope.
alsoquin It is the last sleep they will ever know.
alsoquin Throughout the city, they bloom: ten thousand vicious rose bushes, their branches and vines of jagged iron, their thorns as sharp as any blade.
alsoquin They bloom, and they grow -- snaking through doors and windows, over roads and under hedges, and at their tips, every man, woman and child, every mortal and Exalt and every bird and beast, perishes in an instant.
alsoquin As blood runs into the streets of the town, and a thousand more screams fill the air, already the necrotic Essence begins to seep around every corner.
alsoquin Within a minute, it is done: no soul still breathes in the once-grand city, and the geomantic heart of Lord's Crossing plunges like a thunderbolt into the netherworld.
alsoquin He might smile within the armor, though it is hard to be sure: an observer would only see the First and Forsaken Lion begin to march his troops into the city.
alsoquin And back within the Manse, the owner of the red-clad hand smiles -- and behind her, four others in black nod as well.
alsoquin A great metallic-red light flashes far in the horizon, from the direction of Lord's Crossing.
Zahara "That could not have been good."
Imrama "One cataclysm at a time."
Zahara "That would be easier if there were only one cataclysm happening at a time."
Imrama "Easy - but far less interesting. A course for Rintoko, then."
Lucent stares at Imrama. The man is clearly insane. It is just like being back home.
Imrama Imrama does not have far to look for a patch of Wyld - on the outskirts of the Imperial city, the summer-palace of one or another of the Dynastic families lies a shattered ruin. Lightning launches up from the ground to the sky, and the air is thick with all the smells of Creation."
Imrama Imrama walks the length of the deck to stand on the prow as his ship dives headlong into the weak-point in the threads of Creation.
Imrama As he breaks into the Wyld, he thinks >It is nice to have a clear mission again<
alsoquin The maddening roar of the chaos that surrounds and enfolds Creation screams from every side as Imrama dips his vessel into it through the gaping wound in Creation's stable fabric, and he dodges and bends with a practiced skill, seeking re-entry upon the spot of his destination.
alsoquin The ship pushes and pushes, and then, without any obvious warning, they are simply... arrived.
alsoquin Quite close overhead, glowing blue mushrooms as big as palaces hang from the jagged rocky ceiling of a cave ten miles or more across; and hundreds of yards below is the city, Siram's home, the deepest point of the First Age civilization: Rintoko. (...)
alsoquin The city itself is like a spun sugarglass fantasy; thin towers of highly reflective mirror spin upwards in improbably smooth and narrow curves, rising far higher than any city of the present day; in the narrow geometric streets lies the rubble of fallen towers.
alsoquin The air itself is stale, with the scent of lime and dank cave water; and a strange, greyish Essence charges the air.
Zahara hangs on to the railing as they fly around, staying out of the ephemeral sailors' ways, and just watching. "So. This is Rintoko. Thank you for bringing us so quickly."
Zahara "The essence of this place feels... wrong."
Zahara "But I suppose any essence is better than none."
Imrama looks out over the fallen marvel. "Any thoughts as to where to begin our search? Lucent - you don't have any lingering secret insight, do you?":
Imrama looks around for a city center, a formerly tallest building, or other signs of important structures.
Zahara looks for the taint of Siram, to see where it is concentrated
alsoquin There is a central courtyard, elegantly defined by the buildings that surround it; and at its center, what looks like it was once a vast rock, cut down and levelled into a flat agate table.
Lucent follows Zahara, looking about...
alsoquin The taint, the Primordial Essence that seems to permeate the air here, is thick everywhere within the cavern -- though it seems to somehow be seeping up from a place yet lower than the city.
alsoquin Imrama, besides verifying the identity of the city itself, is able to note a few points of interest -- the Courtyard of the Underearth Sun was once, long ago, known as the Plateau of the Beauteous Birthrock, and the three highest towers -- the Pillars of Sol, Luna, and Gaia -- once stood in reverence to the Triniti Draconis.
Zahara descends from the ship, and lands in the courtyard, next to the agate table.
alsoquin The dust here is thick -- but it is clear that someone has passed through much more recently than the millennia since the city was abandoned.
alsoquin The table itself is all that remains of the once glorious Birthrock; now, sigils of sun-worship, unfaded by time, are carved upon it.
Lucent makes a sunburst symbol on the dust
Zahara places her palm over the sigils, feeling their ancient energy, to see if it's linked with the rest of the essence of this place
alsoquin Zahara can feel the geomantic connection to the rest of the city -- this is clearly the heart of Rintoko's geomantic energy, and if there were any place to attempt to divine an object's location within the city, it would be here.
Zahara She nods to herself, "If you would join me, I could use your assistance in a divination ritual. Please stand there, and there." She points. "And when I tell you, place your palms flat on the table, and look into the center."
Imrama takes position.
Zahara While she instructs the others, she sets about inscribing various thaumaturgical symbols, setting one shard in each of the three places (the third she hadn't needed to point to), and entwining them into the larger essence of the rock itself, with circles where each hand will rest, surrounding the shards.
Zahara takes her position at the third point (the shard that Cerin had given her, she caresses for a second before beginning.) "Please, concentrate now." She places her palms on the stone within the circle, breathing on the tracery that connects them all and bringing it to life once all hands are in place.
Lucent takes position and concentrates...
Imrama also concentrates.
alsoquin Zahara feels the Essence trace through the earth, the cave that lies at the bottom of the entire world, and into the great glass city... upwards, upwards, into the very peak of the Pillar of Sol.
Zahara "Hmmm." she looks up at the Pillar. "Did you see it?"
Imrama follows Zahara's line of sight.
alsoquin The tallest tower of the city shines beautifully under the fungal light, its narrow form elegantly curved and astonishingly narrow.
Zahara carefully removes the shards from the table, leaving the underlying pathways intact, and approaches the tower
alsoquin At the base of the great tower, an ovaline archway -- partially broken by some force -- marks the only entrance.
Zahara checks to see if she can open it
alsoquin At even the slightest touch, the glass filling the doorway breaks away and shatters, falling to the earth in a musical cacaphony.
Zahara picks up a shard thoughtfully, and looks up at the tower, wondering if the whole thing is so fragile.
alsoquin Within, a simple ramp winds lazily upwards, curving around a central triangular pole.
Zahara touches the ramp, feeding essence into it to strengthen it
alsoquin The insides of the tower are quite plain -- though the walls shine with opalescent beauty, there are no decorations or patterns to mar their smooth surface.
Zahara heads upwards, cautiously
Imrama follows Zahara.
alsoquin The tower winds up quite a great distance, though its great height is featureless and identical for almost all of that distance.
Zahara finds herself falling into a somewhat meditative state on the long walk
alsoquin It is only when the Solars reach the very peak that anything differs -- another ovaline door, this one set into the ceiling as the ramp runs up towards it.
Zahara tries the door
alsoquin It slides open easily, revealing a room of simple splendor: golden benches and black jade meditation altars, tattered tapestries and upturned earthen shelves. In one corner of the room, atop one of the few still-standing shelves, on a tiny stand, is what the group has sought: a shard of the Chime of Ages. (...)
alsoquin What is in front of that shelf, however, is what is perhaps more important to note: a dark, slate grey form, like an abstract drawing of a woman with eight horns, long and sinuous arms, and in the place of legs an infinitude of elegant bird's wings... (...)
alsoquin Imrama's glasses tell him her name: Slunahi, the Egret of Passing Sorrows, Third Circle Malakim of Erevel.
Zahara steps aside to let the boys through
alsoquin She lies in repose, but somehow the fact that she has yet to act upon the group's arrival might be more worrying.
Imrama "Egret of Passing Sorrows. I assume you have been waiting for us?"
alsoquin The voice, like the sound of the bird's wing that beats for an eternity against the harshness of stone, speaks, though she does not move: "I have been waiting for any who might come, Suntainted."
Zahara "What do you wish in return for the chime?"
alsoquin In response to that statement, she seems to rise... her motion jerky and uncentralized, like a puppet pulled up on taut strings... and her wings begin to beat slowly at the air. "I will not give it to you."
Lucent "Your death is as good price as any, Egret."
Slunahi waves one long-fingered hand and feathers begin to blow about her body in a phantom wind.
Zahara , without further ado, draws her daiklave to join with her floating swords, and allows the double peal of the bell to send its shattering call to Egret, bouncing it off the contours of the walls to magnify it back in a precise pattern that surrounds the malakim for a scant moment before coalescing into pain
Slunahi winces as Zahara's peal drives pain into her unearthly ears, and follows up by striking viciously with one ki-fisted hand at Zahara's forehead, midsection, and right knee.
Zahara flips her daiklave forward at the moment the sound touches the woman - if she could be called such - and executes an elegant thrust towards the wings that lift her aloft. She's still pissed that she can't fly anymore, and will take her shots where she may.
Slunahi Slunahi deftly avoids the strike as her fist swings towards Zahara.
Zahara turns sideways, three blades diving down to intercept the blows even as she swings the daiklave back around to deflect Egret's fists, "Why doesn't anyone ever just give me what I want? It would be so much quicker."
Slunahi Zahara beats away the attacks, emerging unscathed.
Lucent "Get away from her." He says, the pools of gold in his eyes losing color until they are a metalic shade of grey... the coronal sinks into Lucent's skin, and he explodes in light. A god of adamant, shimmering in all colors, holding in his hand a pulsating azure orb... letting shards of gold, silver, yellow, green, red and violet flow from his palm into it...
Lucent ...overflowing the blue orb until it explodes, jagged Venus caste marks swarming over Slunahi from all directions, cutting her with the power of all incarna, and the love Lucent feels for his friends. "You threaten my friends, Egret, and you court destruction."
Imrama matches eyes with the Malakim, and raises his left eyebrow. He simply stares for a moment, and then the air around him explodes in a bonfire of sunlight. "Slunahi - the reign of your kind is long past. We are the champions of this world, and that shard belongs to us."
Slunahi Lucent's powerful attacks blow through the wave of feathers, blasting them out of the way as they move to strike true against the malakim's colorless form. Slunahi makes a grim face and five of the feathers whip out from her still-churning cloud and fly towards Lucent's face, their surprisingly jagged edges glinting in the low light.
Imrama Bathed in light, Imrama draws his pistols as his motions become a blur of mechanical imagery, his sillouette seeming to peer into a network of gears and cogs.
Imrama dashes to his right, sweeping up into the air and over Luc's head, circle-strafing the Malakim with bolts of liquid fire.
Slunahi Two of Imrama's shots penetrate the thick curtain of feathers, striking in great gouts of flame across the creature's shoulders.
Lucent flares so bright, he touches the ceiling of Rintoko, shines on every glass for miles. Around him the Adamant Sun appears, masked and four-armed, a great scorpion's tail. And Lucent himself... is unharmed. "That is the best you can do, Egret?"
Slunahi More feathers blow out from the veil and strike at Imrama's outstretched arms.
Zahara "Do you know," she asks conversationally as she reaches up with her off-hand to tap the bell with the edge of a chime, "what I did to Siram? I had a bit of a vendetta against him, when he took over my friend's body and used it to hurt me. So I trapped what was left of him in eternal torment. Shall I do this for you as well, or will your death be enough?"
Zahara moves forward smoothly, the glittering edge of her daiklave, a blue that matches her eyes, slices towards the creature's heart
Slunahi "You will be ground to dust beneath the master's feet!" She shrieks, and suddenly charges through the air at Zahara, heedless of the daiklave's motion.
Slunahi Zahara's bell tears at Slunahi's flesh and her face clenches from the pain, but it does not affect her forward momentum.
Zahara laughs, twisting the blade between them, and using her momentum to step sideways out of the path, the swords that guard her forming a barrier. "I have already defied your master, and I will do so until the end of time. "
Slunahi finds herself skewered handily on Zahara's daiklave, and strikes the wall with great force, shattering its glass-woven surface outward with an immense force. Just as she strikes, however, she reaches out along the blade with one of her long, sinuous arms, and grabs at the hand that holds its handle.
Zahara stares in surprise as the hand closes over her wrist, and she is yanked out through the wall after Slunahi. "Bitch." she informs the woman, as they fall through the air.
Slunahi The fall is long, quite long. Grey blood streams up from Slunahi's wounds, and she spits in Zahara's face. "You should have served the master again as you did in another life, pathetic godling."
Zahara makes a face and refrains from spitting back, as she recalls what happens when one spits into the wind. "You know, I thought about it for a while, but I didn't want to be on the losing side." Behind her, like a flock of seagulls, the swords and the bell follow her down.
Imrama As Zahara and Slunahi plummet, Imrama dashes out of the ragged hole in the room, racing downward at best speed, attempting to catch up with their terminal velocity.
Zahara "Why is it that you so desire my company?"
Slunahi Slunahi begins to answer, but at that moment Imrama grabs Zahara by the shoulders and executes an impressive mid-air stop, leaving the Malakim to plummet hundreds of yards further and crash into a much shorter glass building, caving it in atop herself in a shower of vicious shards.
Zahara "Thank you, Imrama. That looked quite painful."
Zahara "I feel like I need to have a little talk with Erevel."
Imrama "Don't mention it, Empress. And a talk, or something similar, may be warranted - though wouldn't that require us to know where Erevel is?"
Zahara "Well, we can use what's left of his two souls to track him down."
Zahara "The emptiness... Is that still there?" She pauses and calls up to Luc, "Will you bring the shard down?"
Lucent "Of course! I will be down in a second!" And Lucent, just the young, normal Lucent once again, makes his way down, with the shard on hand... but still flaring bright as the noonday sun.
Zahara rearranges herself so that she is hanging on to Imrama in a less akward fashion, and gestures down towards the shattered body of Slunahi
Imrama walks causally down to the ground, and restores Zahara to her feat beside the crumpled body of Slunahi.
Zahara slices off some winglike things, and takes a few feathers.