Thirteen sweeps the butt of his spear along the floor of the closet, flinging the items within towards Rannath, along with most of the closet door.
Rannath ducks and weaves in a truly inhuman fashion, his limbs and even his neck disjointing in disturbing, unholy fashion as he brings his daggers about to lightly tap each item, sending them flying past him and impacting with great force into the wall behind.
Rannath The Sidereal tosses his daggers upwards and simultaneously leaps into a handstand stance so that he can catch them in his toes. He then advances menacingly on Phoenix, stabbing in quick, stinglike gestures that trail blackish-green wafts of noxious Essence.
Phoenix` bends to pick up the cudgel as Rannath attacks her, somehow managing to evade his strikes. Cudgel in hand, she advances on him. "Thirteen, if you plan to let Zahara have all the fun, I must suggest a change of plans."
Thirteen "I am not determined. Merely blase."
Phoenix` gives Rannath a quick, appraising look, noticing that he seems to favor his right arm. She aims several strikes at his various joints, and one at...a particularly tender spot.
Rannath Rannath bends and weaves like an evil spider, but Phoenix's observation proves true, and she wallops him with a few well-placed hits.
Thirteen feints a strike past Rannath's head, plants his spear in the wall, and swings around, forcing Rannath into the point with a few well-aimed finger strikes.
Rannath Rannath takes the blade to one shoulder and noticeably grunts in pain. His response is to bend over backwards in a gesture that seems to emulate the visage of a mocking, cruel face, whose very sight somehow stuns the onlookers.
Rannath As Phoenix stares confusedly into the depths of Rannath's strange contortion, he strikes with viciousness, as if from out of nowhere!
Phoenix` stumbles sideways and shakes the stars out of her eyes. "Wait, what did you just do?"
Rannath "The Spider's Web Claimed By Another," he mutters under his breath.
Phoenix` makes a note to consult Iallu.
Imrama , fresh from his travels with Zahara, strolls casually past the compromised hiding closet in which his friends are fighting. Poking his head through the door to check on the noise, he sees them in mid-combat.
Imrama There is neither space nor time between Imrama at rest and Imrama at war in one instant, he has an affable and easygoing air, and in the next, he is holding guns, spitting fire onto the contorted villain.
Imrama The gouts of liquid fire stream towards their target, but en rout they contort and transform. The elemental essence of fire gives way to the stability of earth, as the firebolts become a pinpoint avalanche of red stone, aimed directly for Rannath's head.
Rannath "Oh fu--" Rannath's final obscenity is cut short as a cartload of earth slams into him at immense speeds, slamming him up against the distant wall before dropping his limp -- but still barely alive -- body to the ground under a blanket of rocky crumbles.
Thirteen ambles over leisurely and taps him, preserving his life until a more convenient time.
c strides in behind Imrama, coolly taking in the room in a single sweep of her disapproving gaze. "Where is your army now, Rannath?" she asks the unconscious man with a slight smile, "Are they toy soldiers too?"
Thirteen "Nice shot, Imrama."
Thirteen "Zahara, I have located a weakness in our defenses against espionage."
Thirteen indicates the unconscious Sidereal helpfully.
Phoenix` wipes off the cudgel as though she had gotten it dirty, being careful not to dislodge the bloodstain.
Zahara "So I see. Thank you, Thirteen. I shall have to look into it further?"
Imrama re-holsters his guns. "So is this...the man...who once pretended to be...the other man...who was once a member of this company?"
Phoenix` "That is how the evidence is pointing, but, you know Evidence, he has a complicated relationship to facts."
Phoenix` wraps up the cudgel in one of Rannath's cloaks and slings it across her back.
Zahara lifts the unconscious man easily, "I think a trip downstairs is in order, don't you?"
Imrama shudders slightly, but steels himself for what is necessary. He has more stomach for honest killing than for torture.
Zahara leads the way through the mazey corridors of the Cascade until they reach the White Room. She palms the door open, and lays him down on the table in the center of the room, long enough to search him extremely thoroughly, removing all of his possessions and placing them in a neat pile for later study. She pauses a second before slipping a starmetal collar around his neck, for good measure, wondering if it will work on him.
Rannath Rannath remains resolutely unconscious.
Zahara shackles him securely to the table, working quickly and surely. It is obvious that she has done this before, though there is a tension in her that is not usually there. She opens one of the floor to ceiling cabinets, this one filled with various bottles, and selects a particularly vile vial of smelling salts, which she experimentally waves beneath his nose.
Rannath "....ck!" Rannath wakes up with a jolt.
Zahara smiles pleasantly at him. "I'm sure you remember the dungeons, Rannath. Or shall I call you something else?"
Phoenix` "I vote we call him 'Suckerpunch.' Or possibly 'slave.'"
Rannath The man on the table looks back and forth between the faces that stand over him, and spits angrily.
Phoenix` rolls her eyes. "Do behave. The help always make such a fuss when they have to mop in here."
Zahara picks up a small, serrated blade. "I think 'slave' will do for now. It's shorter. I am curious, though, if one such as you is affected by normal starmetal artifacts." She taps the collar with the tip of the blade, making it ring, and looks for any sign of Essence flow using her sorcerous sight.
Rannath No such view is visible.
Zahara digs the tip of the blade in beneath his chin slightly. "So. I am given to understand that you have been spying on us. I'm sure you recall what happens to those who betray me? Are you going to cooperate or am I going to have to get creative?"
Rannath The man on the table grunts. "What are you going to do, exactly?"
Zahara ACTION glances at Imrama, noting his discomfort, then leans down to whisper in Rannath's ear a series of very detailed possibilities involving the application of various physical techniques she's picked up over the years, occasionally pausing to explain variations. Then she moves on to the manipulation of his essence channels and limited soul surgery - she's still working out the details on that, but she's sure she'll discover new t
Zahara but she's sure she'll discover new things with him.
FierceRedStar "What is it you think I will be able to tell you?" His body shakes a little, but his voice is steady. "Except... what your fellows do in their spare time."
Zahara "I am interested to find out more about your...employer."
Zahara raises a brow
FierceRedStar "I work for... myself."
Zahara "Yourself, you say. But there was a hesitation there."
FierceRedStar "And what do you think that means?" He laughs again, even as his body shakes.
Zahara lays the blade against his skin, digging into a painful pressure point. "I think that you think yourself part of something larger."
Imrama grits his teeth and addresses the prisoner. "You lay in secret in this house for rather a long time, Red Star. You collected information on this circle and its nation, interfered in our affairs to an as-yet unknown degree, and assaulted Birds-of-Trinity. Tell us why you did these things, before Zahara does something that will turn my stomach."
FierceRedStar shakes his head. "It's simple." His eyes blaze with a fierceness, even as he lies powerless on the table. "The entire sham existence that humans live in this world is empty and meaningless, because soon it will end." He laughs, more maniacally than before. "Just as it all ends."
FierceRedStar ^--- "Just as it always ends."
willows "That doesn't follow."
FierceRedStar "How so," he chuckles.
willows paces back and forth in the corner of the room. "If this pattern is an inevitability, then why must you work so hard to bring it about?"
willows "It sounds like wishful thinking, to me." Phoenix twirls a curl of hair around her fingers. "But then, I'm a silly mortal too. What do /I/ know?"
FierceRedStar "Oh, you misunderstand," he says. "I'm not trying to bring it about." He grins, and there is something... hideously empty behind that grin. "I'm just going to be on the right side when it happens."
Zahara "If everything ends, what does it matter what side you're on?"
willows "Oh. So sorry we had to ruin your plans, then."
FierceRedStar "Why does it matter if you find a mountaintop when the world is swallowed under the waves? Why does it matter if you kiss your sweetheart goodbye as they march off to their death?" He looks around the room, at each of the Solars. (...)
FierceRedStar "You thought you could destroy it, in a greater Age, and you were wrong, even with Erevel at your side. What chance do you have now?"
Imrama "Again, your reasoning is nothing more than the absence of reason. You draw analogies to the actions and choices of human beings, human lives, when you have already stated your belief that such a "sham existence" is "empty and meaningless"."
FierceRedStar "Then let me put it to you clearly," he says, and the mania that animated his features a moment before is suddenly gone, as if it was never present.
FierceRedStar "When this world was built, it was built with a flaw," he says. "Why? I don't know, and neither, I think, do those who built it." He pauses. "That flaw has hidden, moved, just out of sight, for as long as the world has existed. And it has grown." (...)
FierceRedStar "If you fight it, you will lose. If you flee from it, you will lose. If you try to stop its growth, or make peace with it, you will lose." He grins unpleasantly once again. "But someone will be the person who taps its power. And whoever is with that person," he says, "will win."
Zahara "What does it have to do with me?"
FierceRedStar "Well." He looks right into Zahara's eyes. "Some of those I thought most likely to seize the power quite naturally had an interest in you." He grins. "Or you might have just done it yourself."
Zahara 's gaze flickers for a moment as she considers this. It does sound interesting, except for the bit about selling her soul.
Zahara "I see. What else do you know about this flaw?"
FierceRedStar "What... do you want to know?"
Zahara "What is its nature, and its power? Who is trying to seize it?"
FierceRedStar "Had he lived," the captured Sidereal says, "Nyx would have been drawn to it, inevitably. And in his absence, I am certain that the Deathlord will seek to use it."
Zahara "What of Erevel?"
FierceRedStar "Still fighting a war that he has long since lost. He will not destroy the flaw, no matter how much he dreams of ruling all of Meru once again."
Zahara "And who did you align your soul with?"
FierceRedStar "I told you." He smiles again. "I work for... myself."
FierceRedStar Zahara scrutinizes the Sidereal's soul. There is... something wrong with his shard, but despite being quite certain of that, Zahara would be hard pressed to explain /what./
Zahara "And yet your soul is not pure." She traces over the lines of essence that house the soul, with her knife, leaving a brilliant red pattern before. "Explain."
FierceRedStar "I am fallen."
Zahara "Do go on." She smiles..encouragingly.
Cerin ::My love, where are you?: Cerin enquires
Zahara ::Ah, Cerin, you are just in time. I am in the Dungeons with our good friend Rannath.: She holds up her hand to stop her prisoner from continuing, "A moment, if you will."
Cerin ::Ah, I shall be with you momentarily: And soon enough, there is a tap of a foot on stone and then a shadow in the corner of the torture chambers is suddenly Cerin, wrapped up in his armour of black.
Zahara touches Cerin's arm lightly, and indicates the man before them, "The Fallen Sidereal, known to us as Rannath. According to Imrama, his name is Red Star. He is just about to explain to us what taints his soul, and how he has fallen."
Cerin nods, and studies the sidereal closely, looking past the wounds and into his soul.
FierceRedStar The shard that Cerin looks at, within "Rannath's" body, is at /first/ glance utterly normal for a Star-Chosen; if he stopped there, he would pronounce it entirely unremarkable it has no evidence of Primordial taint, no strange wounds or unusual Essence flowing across it. (...)
FierceRedStar But Cerin looks deeper, and he notices two things. Firstly, the godly motes held in solution within the bridge framework would normally hold one of the five orientations -- in all Celestials, one that corresponds directly to their Caste. But, somehow, these... do not, as if they are detuned.
FierceRedStar And secondly, the actual structure within the strange, as-yet-poorly-understood substance that forms the framework of the shard is far more complex than Cerin is used to -- where normally only a minute set of bends and pathways exist, an intricate and almost imperceptible spiderweb network spreads instead, enough to maintain an elaborate essence network.
Cerin radiates satisfaction into the unity. "I would be very interested to hear his explanation, yes. Very interested indeed."
FierceRedStar "What, exactly, are you hoping to hear from me?" He grins smugly.
Cerin "Everthing you tell me. And everything you don't, too."
Zahara "Consider yourself something of a science experiment. You can tell us what we want to know, or we can dissect your body soul until we discover it for ourselves. There is magic preserving your life, so you will not be able to die, unfortunately."
Zahara (body and soul)
FierceRedStar "Then I guess I won't keep anything from you." He rolls his eyes and mouths an obscene term for Zahara under his breath. "As you know doubt guess, I was one an upstanding and law-abiding member of the Knights of the Golden Chrysanthemum."
Cerin "And then you got bored?"
FierceRedStar "And then, I... slipped away. You can remember the difference between your mortal life and the feeling of a god, planting its flag in your chest, yes?
Cerin indicates with a small nod that perhaps he does.
FierceRedStar "Well," he says. "It's as if one day I woke up, and the little flag had... floated away..." He makes a little "floating" gesture with one hand, even though he can't move his arm to give the full effect.
Zahara raises a brow
FierceRedStar "I kept doing what I had always been doing for some time, because, well... it's not like I was trained to do anything else, was it? A little red cog in a vast starry machine. But then."
Cerin indicates that perhaps he might considering continuing.
FierceRedStar "I died!"
FierceRedStar He laughs.
Zahara ::I am beginning to think he is not entirely sane.::
Zahara "You died. And then what?"
FierceRedStar "Well, it had never happened to me before. It was all your fault, anyway," he glares at Cerin. "We definitely needed backup against that fucking demon. But anyway." He mumbles to himself for a moment. "The next thing I knew, I was a baby."
Cerin "Which particular demon would this be?" Cerin interupts.
FierceRedStar He blinks. "Reshina, /obviously/."
Cerin nods "And when were you a baby?"
FierceRedStar "Have you ever tried BEING a BABY? It's TERRIBLE! You can't talk, you can't walk, no one will give you any liquor!"
Zahara resists the urge to roll her eyes and continues patiently, "And your soul was still... unflagged, I assume."
FierceRedStar "Unflagged, and in possession of every scrap of memories I had accumulated in my years of worthless, pointless service." He spits again. "I figured they would come for me, eventually, as they had the previous time -- 'Oh, you're all grown up, little Sidereal, time to go off to the indoctrination chambers!' But no one ever did."
Zahara "And you did not go to them."
FierceRedStar "Why would I have? To waste away another thousand years on paperwork and meaningless actions?"
Zahara "So you feel the Chrysanthemum do no good in the world?"
FierceRedStar "Not particularly, no."
FierceRedStar He thinks for a moment. "You can tell. I mean, most of them are dead now, aren't they? And yet the world continues to live on."
Zahara "I'm sure they're around, railing against their babyhood."
FierceRedStar "What? Oh, no. That's not how it works."
FierceRedStar He laughs again.
FierceRedStar "That's just me."
Zahara "Oh, how lucky for you then."
FierceRedStar Cerin can tell, relatively clearly, that Rannath's experience of retaining his memories was unusual.
Cerin "So, you didn't work for the Chrysanthemum. What did you do instead?"
Zahara looks down at him, trying to decide whether she should let him go on as he is, since Cerin has given no indication that he is hiding things, or if she should get rid of his attitude problem.
FierceRedStar "I travelled." He looks around. "I've been everywhere, man."
Zahara "How did you find out about the flaw?"
Cerin ::The flaw?::
FierceRedStar "I've talked to more than a few people in my time. Elorel, certainly, would not shut up about it."
Zahara ::What you call the Lacuna. While you were away, he told us about it. Apparently he wishes to ally with whoever will tap into its' power, so that he can "win." ::
Zahara "But apparently Elorel is not good enough to tap into its power?"
FierceRedStar "He wanted to destroy it. He is a fool."
Zahara "Indeed. It would be wiser to tap into the power, as you say."