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Zahara :: Lucent, Imrama, if you would meet me in the War Room, please? I have a matter which I wish to discuss with you.::

Lucent had been 'hiding' after a fashion. Not very much there, but he does answer to the call... stepping into the war room and bowing to Zahara. "Hmmmm? What is it?"

Imrama is grateful to have been near to the War Room when he received Zahara's call. He enters the room with a slight jump, wary of any last-minute shifts on the part of the manse. "Zahara, Lucent; good to see you."

Lucent "Likewise, Imrama."

Lucent "Always so full of energy..."

Zahara smiles to the two men, and indicates a small buffet set up along the side of the room. "I believe we left the Realm a bit too hastily."

Imrama selects and bites into a juicy plum. "It was kind of a rush. I admit; I thought there was some larger plan we were fulfilling by leaving, rather than...running away."

Lucent "Well, we were drained. Taking out Five Days Darkness had me on my ropes, Zahara had to give too much of herself to stop the Crimson One's spell... we were not up to fighting them in those conditions." He sighs, tapping the floating red orb around him. "But we did forget... something important."

Imrama looks up wide-eyed and mumbles through a mouthful of plum "Arathi Rugado."

Zahara "Tactical regrouping is the phrase you're looking for. It was necessary so that we could find out what Cerin knows, in order to devise a way to defeat our latest opponents, as well as to recover our personal resources. I admit I was not pleased to see them. However, due to the immediacy of our departure, we seem to have left a potential ally in rather dire straits."

Zahara nods. "Exactly."

Zahara "All of us returning would draw too much notice. I propose we three go and mount a discreet rescue mission ourselves."

Imrama It seems clear that this is the first time the long-suffering Solar's plight has occurred to Imrama. He looks somewhat palefaced to have forgotten the poor man. "Of course. We should leave at once."

Lucent "I agree with that. Thirteen certainly cannot be there, what with him and..." Lucent makes a gesture of a pillar of light rising hiiiighhhh... "We should. Who knows what might be done with him... having to face a corrupted Solar would just make this situation worse."

Zahara "Agreed." She takes an apple from the fruit bowl, and tosses it in her hand lightly. "I don't suppose you could disguise your ship somehow?"

Imrama "Unfortunately, no. I could do my utmost to make our arrival as precise as possible, and dismiss the ship immediately thereafter, if necessary. But I can't do much to hide it."

Zahara ponders thoughtfully. "That may have to do."

Lucent "Hmmm. You are a Sorcerer, Zahara... can you not call clouds to cover us? Or something to that effect...?"

Zahara "With the essence expediture required, that would draw attention as well."

Lucent "Drat."

Zahara "Hmm... A cloak is not so different from a mask. I could perhaps come up with an artifact that would hide the ship from casual observers, but it would take me a while. Based on the principles of.." she starts muttering various formulae and such to herself

Imrama thinks for a moment of a favorite scene from "The Fall of the Crimson Mask", in which the Roseate Morning stormed the Pinnacle of Shame by flying out of the rays of morning sun. A smile creeps up over Imrama's lips. "I have an idea."

Zahara pauses, ad looks up at him. "An idea?"

Imrama "Yes. One that, I believe, could allow us to arrive in secret."

Zahara "Hm. well, if it fails we will be no worse off than we already are." She grins. "Let's go be heroes."

Lucent smiles, beggining to walk out of the room. "Let us."

Zahara follows!

Imrama follows with vigor. "I love being a Solar."

Zahara looks over her shoulder at Imrama and smiles. He's not so bad.

Imrama The Fable of the Reconstruction is bright and glorious as ever. It proudly carries the three Sun-chosen across space and beyond the edge of the world, into the stormwracked seascape that the Seven Leagues of the Looking Glass have become. Making a bold and foolhardy decision, Imrama gives the order to go below decks, and sends the ship plummeting towards the monstrous sea. The waves break...

Imrama ...against the ship's prow, as deeper, ever deeper into the waters it goes. Waters filled with such...things.

Imrama And then it bursts forth, out of the bottom of the sea that is nowhere, into the inky black clouds that hang over what was once called the Imperial City, and must shortly be renamed. Imrama is the first above decks again, grabbing a dragline in each hand to pull the ship out of its dive and bring it to a stop, still well within the protective layer of clouds. "We are here," he announces.

Zahara "Wonderful. Now, to get inside."

Lucent "... from the bottom of the ocean to a womb of dark clouds, using the Realm Obtenebration System against the Realm..." He claps, walking up using the flattened orbs as a stair... "Imrama, this was awesome! You are on par with the best in any age!"

alsoquin A look down at the city -- so recently the greatest capital of the entire world -- is enough to fill any mortal man with dread. Covering the beautiful stone of the Auric Temple, and winding out through the streets to constrict and tear at the city's buildings, are great vines of inky black (...)

alsoquin -- wider across, in some places, than a human stands tall -- and dotting their length at irregular intervals, five-petalled flowers of blood red. A dark mist fills the streets, and lightning crashes from the dark clouds where the Fable hangs. And though it can be seen only from the corner of one's eye, (...)

alsoquin the faintest silhouette of a long, sinuous serpent seems to hang in front of the great Essence field isolating the city, just out of sight....

Lucent "... she has terrible taste."

Zahara "I don't know, it has a certain dark beauty."

Lucent "Zee! That? It's all... dark. It looks like dirt!"

Zahara looks for a way in that does not involve getting near a tentacle

Imrama "There may be a sort of attraction in its aesthetics, but nothing so evil could posess true beauty. Still, rather than quibble over the finer points of philosophy, perhaps we should descend and look for our new friend."

Lucent "Let us." He looks over at the Palace, trying to see if there is anything between them... and it, while toching one of the flowers and breaking a petal off. "Red Lily..."

Zahara points. "It seems the uh, doors are open." She descends rapidly.

Zahara (after makig sure no one is overtly looking)

Lucent rushes to be in front of Zahara. Just in case! "... why would they leave it open?"

Imrama Close behind Lucent, Imrama shrugs. "I do not know. I would say that it does not bode very well for us, but nothing in this situation would, short of finding the sun back in the sky, the carcass of the Ebon Dragon dead and smoking, and cheering celebrants running through the streets handing out cakes with our names written into the frosting."

Zahara "Oh, that will come soon enough."

Imrama turns to look at Zahara somewhat sheepishly, though with clear contrition on his face. "Empress, I know this may not be the best time, but there is something I feel I should say. I am sorry if my letter displeased you. After speaking with Phoenix earlier, I think I may have made a poor choice in composing it. I promise that I have no intention to challenge who you are as the Empress of the...

Imrama ...Sunlands."

Lucent "That is... a very nice image." He smiles, touching the doors and walking in... "I just hope it is hubris. Even if the Empress was never one to let herself be blinded be it before, for all I read... maybe her new powers made her carele..."

Lucent stops, as Imrama speaks, and smiles back. Good.

Zahara "Yes, well it seems I have been mistaken in many things."

Imrama "Misunderstanding has been in abundance of late, from all corners, my own certainly included. Luckily with have strong reserves of something far more important," his eyes flash. "Phenomenal cosmic power."

Zahara laughs. "Well, we're going to need it."

alsoquin The hallways of the Auric Temple are much as the Solars left them, what seems like such a long time ago -- entering through the same door, and turning down the hallway to see Arathi Rugado -- sitting exactly where he was left, reading intently.

Lucent "..."

Lucent "... something is wrong here."

Zahara looks at his Essence

Imrama checks names, and greets the man. "Officer Arathi - how have your faired?"

alsoquin The man looks up slowly and nods. "Hello," he says, and coughs. "I have... remained here, in this spot, as you requested." He coughs again, louder, and Zahara can see that his Essence pattern looks somewhat odd... shadowed, somehow -- while others can simply see the dark rings around his eyes and sallow tone to his skin.

Zahara shivers a little. "Will you come with us?"

Imrama "We would take you to some place safe, where you can recover and once again become a master of your own destiny."

Zahara ::His essence is shadowed. Be cautious.::

Lucent looks Arahi oddly. This does not seem right... ::Look, we could make jokes about the Empress forgetting he is here, but would you forget a Solar on your basement? I sure as hell would not. She has done something to him. I am sure of it...::

Arathi nods, slowly again, and starts to rise to stand -- he looks a little shaky on his feet, but eventually makes it. It is as he takes a step forward that the other Solars see exactly what is going on with him -- one of the black vine tendrils has run from the wall and buried itself in his back.

Zahara curses softly.

Lucent winces. "Zahara, can you... break that? You broke the things the Red Empress did, before..." He walks a little closer. Just a little. "Arahi... you are not feeling... anything odd?"

Imrama covers his mouth. "My friend, I am terribly sorry. That must hurt a great deal. How long have you been...in this condition?"

Zahara "I do not think it is Sorcery."

Arathi "I am feeling a little... light headed, now that you mention it, but... I have been in so much pain for so long...."

Lucent "Thought so. He is not... feeling much of anything, apparently."

Lucent "So... Arathi... there is... um."

Lucent "Do not panic, but a tendril of the Ebon Dragon has pierced your back. If you have anything to burn unclean beings away from you, now would be a good time to use the trick..."

Zahara walks close, inspecting the tendril, using her knowledge of essence and anatomy to discern how it is bonded to him, ad how it might be removed.

Zahara ::Harming the tendril will no doubt alert the Dragon to our presence::

Lucent ::... oh, true...::

Imrama ::Then we should determine the best way to do it, and be ready to run very quickly as soon as its done.::

Zahara :: Can you bring your ship to us? When we need to depart?::

Lucent ::Can he not just make the ship appear right outside the Manse? It has a big enough garden...::

Imrama ::I can send the order to dive and retrieve us, or I could dismiss the ship above and remake it on the ground, if absolutely necessary.::

Arathi A close examination reveals that, quite unsurprisingly, the tendril is intricately woven of the Essence of the Ebon Dragon (though it is not literally a part of his body), and it appears to have spread out once it entered the Solar's skin, sending dark roots throughout his back that have begun to creep towards his vital organs.

Zahara ::The dive should be sufficient. Conserve your stores of energy for defense.::

Imrama ::Will do.::

Lucent ::So... how bad is it?::

Zahara ::It has not reached his vital organs yet... but it is moving through him

Lucent ::What would happen if a severed it with the sun orb? Would it die within him, or...?::

Imrama ::We may not have all of the tools and capabilities to fully cure him here. But if we can cut the tendril without killing him, we should do that quickly and leave. Anything more can be done back at the Cascade.::

Zahara ::I believe we could sever the tendril, and take him back with us to work on more carefully.::

Lucent ::Then let us do it. The longer it takes, the more it borrows in him, right?::

Zahara lifts her Daiklave, and looks at Arathi. "Hold still. This might hurt, but trust me, it is better than the alternative." ::Lucent, strike with me.:: With an unspoken prayer on her lips, for all the good that did last time, she raises the blue jade sword, and brings it down with shattering force upon the tendril.

Lucent turns the golden orb in the perfect representation of the Dawn caste, sharp at the edges, falling together with the blade as a saw, not cutting the tendril so much as burning it away with impossibly thin fire and light!

Lucent prays to the sun, prays that it will not hurt too much... for while his body may not feel too much now, if this pain goes straight to his soul...

Arathi Zahara's blade neatly severs the vine in one swift blow, and for just a brief moment, thick black ichor spurts from both severed ends -- until Luc's orb passes by, cauterizing the wound. (...)

Zahara flips the sword back into its sheath, picks up the solar bodily, ad hightails it out of there

Arathi stands bolt upright, his face scrunched up ever-so-tight, and then begins a scream of intense pain -- before fainting and collapsing to the floor halfway through.

Lucent runs right after Zahara, the last one to go this time, looking over his shoulder at every second...

Arathi As the Solars start to abscond with their fallen comrade, the very ground itself begins to shake -- and a cold, icy wind seems to blow through the hall, chilling them beyond even the coldest northern winter.

Imrama is already halfway out the door when the tendril is cut, and meets the Fable as it swoops down from on high. He gives his companions just enough time to get over the rail, and then heaves the ship up into the air.

Arathi As Imrama pushes the ship to rise up, he sees -- only from the corner of his eye -- the great, sinuous shadow break away from the Essence barrier, and propel itself with great speed directly at his vessel...

Lucent throws the orbs blindly behind him, at every shadow that even seems to move, even slightly, jumping on the Fable as fast as he can, only letting go of his breath when it rises...

Zahara more or less drops Arathi gently on the deck, and stands above him, drawing her slab of a sword. "How many more shall I rip from your breast, lizard of shadows, before you crawl back to your prison?"

Imrama leads the shadow of death on a merry chase through the towers and spires of the Imperial City. Winding five times around the second tallest building in the vicinity, the Pagoda of Scales and Winds, Imrama twists himself around, crossing his draglines for just a moment, to laugh literally into the face of the Ebon Dragon.

Arathi The creature's shadowy maw opens wide and it pushes towards the vessel with renewed vigor, its great teeth drawing nearer and nearer to the ship's stern.

Lucent "You are not getting any closer to us, monster. Not anymore. Not EVER AGAIN." Lucent calls, but then, he touches on Zahara's shoulder, his other hand steadying himself as the Fable makes such maneuvers... "Zahara... we would be better heading down..."

Imrama "This is my ship, this is my soul. While I am her captain, there is nothing in Creation so fast or so true. This craft is the dream of an Age reborn, the doom of all the evils of the dozen worlds, and the sign by which humanity shall know their glory is at hand. But most of all, it is mine, and you may NOT have it." Imrama sends the ship into a dive, down into the chasms of the city's...

Imrama ...streets, trying to use its comparatively smaller size to his advantage.

Zahara looks at Lucent, then at her charge, and nods.

Arathi The shadow of evil bends through the air and turns to follow, even its semi-intangible form smashing buildings and raining rubble down on the empty streets below as it does.

Zahara lifts Arathi again, with one hand, and, still guarding, follows "

Zahara ..lucent below

Lucent goes below, but to the closest, biggest window, to know exactly what is going on.. as the dive almost makes him slip and fall! And yet, that does not make him annoyed, or even more fearful... he just smiles. "He IS a great captain."

Imrama In a split second, Imrama gauges the space in front of him carefully: the rough rectangle made between the street, the two buildings, and the skyway between them. He leads the Ebon Dragon into the box, cutting his speed to narrow the gap between them to as little as possible. Then, just after passing to the other point of the narrow, he banks sharply upwards and over the skyway, twisting...

Imrama ...back down and around to re-thread the needle. The Fable just barely squeezes between the left-hand building and the Ebon Dragon's hide before banking skyward again with the Ebon Dragon double-wound around a needle's eye.

Zahara laughs, watching the Dragon caught in his own coils, "Indeed."

Imrama Momentarily free of the Yozi's pursuit, the Fable climbs for the sky, and the route back to the Seven Leagues, and home.

Imrama The journey back to the cascade, despite the grueling and violent place that the Leagues have become, holds nothing to compare it to the Solars' initial escape. The Fable lands just outside the manse, as Imrama tries to reduce the distance Arathi must be physically carried.

Imrama addresses Rugado with soft eyes. "My poor friend, you are safely away from that foul and hateful creature now."

Zahara inspects the man cautiously to see if the tendrils are yet connected

Arathi Though his direct connection to the web of dark vines is severed, those that wormed their way into his flesh remain within, their dark Essence still tainting his lifeblood with Yozi energies.

Lucent "And we will never let something like that touch one of our own like they did to you. Ever again." He nods, holding Arathi's shoulder. "Zahara... pehaps Thirteen could do something about him? He has been developing into quite a healer."

Zahara narrows her eyes slightly. "Perhaps. I would trust Cerin more with something as delicately bound to his essence though."

Lucent "Hmmm. Essence surgery?"

Zahara taps her fingers thoughtfully, then brings out one of the shards. She lays the edge of her Daiklave at the entrance of the wound and strikes the blade with the chime experimentally

Imrama continues to chat with Rugado, trying to keep his mind off the gravity of the situation. "What did you think of the book, eh? Did you guess the identity of the Marquis in Tatters before the big reveal?"

Arathi waves his eyelids weakly at Imrama. "I... had narrowed it down to... either the sorceress... or the disgraced knight..."

Arathi The Chime causes a slight distortion within the dark Essence, but does not effectively dissipate it.

Lucent shakes a little. "Say... is that a good idea to use the chime? Is it not too... big? Might end up hurting him..."

Zahara "I only used a fragment."

Lucent "Still..."

Zahara frowns. "The Sesseljae could probably extract them, but..."

Imrama "Well good on you that you even had the sorceress picked out as a possibility. The first time I read that book, I thought it was the drunken captain for sure. But the sorceress or the disgraced knight, huh? Must have been a thrill when you found out it was both!"

Arathi nods. "That was a possibility I had... not considered..."

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