Imrama Blazing out of the thunderswept Leagues of the Looking Glass, the Fable of the Reconstruction bursts through the curtain of Essence whose warp and weft form space and time arriving at the Islands of Glass that float in the air beyond Yu-Shan's gates.(...)
Imrama The ship's captain, Imrama Stormfound, stands on the deck in full parade dress, his boots polished and metals shined. He gives the order to cut speed and dock, and the Fable comes to rest just beside one of the myriad gates of Heaven. With a saintly patience, the ship hangs in the air beside those golden walls, and waits.
It is a long, long wait before the door cracks open, just slightly, and a golden paw quickly beckons the Solar to enter.
Imrama enters the doorway.
Selonis One of the gaterooms of heaven -- quite a familiar sight to Imrama -- stands much as it ever does, but in place of the pair of celestial lions standing proudly guard, there is only the one -- whose eyes twinkle with happy recognition, but whose paws and lips say only "Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssh."
Imrama smiles broadly, nods to acknowledge the command for silence, and prepares to follow Selonis wherever he may lead.
Selonis The lion, despite his vast metallic bulk, walks as silently as the gentlest breeze, as he leads Imrama down through a passageway that no eye could discern, through the sharply angled glass caverns underlying Yu-Shan (that only eleven mortals had previously walked through), (...)
Selonis until finally they reach the destination: Selonis' den. Imrama notes with interest that it resembles an actual lion's den far more than he would have expected, except one where every detail -- even the pile of discarded bones -- is rendered exquisitely from the finest of noble materials.
Selonis rolls a boulder that seems to serve as his door in front of the entrance hole, then lets out a long-held breath -- a gesture he probably learned from one of the Solars, as Celestial Lions don't need to breathe.
Imrama raises his brow and holds out his palms, as if to ask "Can we speak now, old friend?"
Selonis leans over and gives Imrama's head a friendly nuzzle, then speaks. "Yes. Here we are safe," he says, and seats himself, looking surprisingly exhausted.
Imrama sits down on the floor by Selonis, in a childlike pose. "It is good to see you, Selonis. I would prefer that it were under more pleasant circumstances, but I would also prefer that I knew what our present circumstances were."
Selonis shakes his head, waving his mane around in the air, before answering. "It is a difficult time for Yu-Shan. As you know, the gates of transport became... non-functional, midway through the Carnival of Meeting."
Imrama "So I have heard." Imrama strokes his chin. "I have come to see what I can do to rectify the situation."
Selonis Selonis nods. "Normally, we ensure that everyone is gently but firmly escorted out of the heavenly city before the Carnival ends, and with it, the protection against violence." He sighs. "That was not possible this year." (...)
Selonis "The Carnival was already tense this year, because of the conflict between those Gods who had sworn to the purpose of the Red Lily, and those who had not... but the magic of the Carnival kept them from acting upon it." (...)
Selonis "Once they discovered they could not leave, however, the Gods flew into a panic; and once they discovered they could once again act against one another.... there was rioting in the streets of heaven."
Imrama 's eyes go wide and stay that way for a long moment. How could it be, in all his consideratios, that he had forgotten of the temporary ban on violence, and the consequences of the Celestial and Terrestrial gods were left to stew with each other after its expiration?
Imrama "That is terrible. Where do things stand now, Selonis? How fares Yu-Shan?"
Selonis "For a time, things did... not look good. Buildings were toppled. Mortals who travelled to Yu-Shan -- though there were few, this year -- perished or sought to barricade themselves in empty spaces. The blood of Gods ran in the streets." He pauses. "Then the Swords of Truth moved from their posts." (...)
Selonis "I believe some of the Gods had planned an assault on the Jade Pleasure Dome itself. Those who led the effort were slain, and none have yet reformed; the two-way war became one of three sides. Finally Heaven's forces were victorious, and now Yu-Shan is in a state of complete lockdown: (...)
Selonis "None of the Celestial Gods can journey beyond those places allowable under their duties, while those of Meru are held under lock and key and forbidden to leave or petition the Incarna."
Imrama "Then is there no one in authority in Heaven, if the Pleasure Dome remains inviolate, but the Celestial Bureaucracy is frozen in place?"
Selonis "The business of heaven continues, in a fashion; we are entitled to move in a limited fashion, that our duties might still be completed. But it is an uneasy situation, and I cannot imagine the maintenance of the heavens is being kept to as it is meant to be."
Imrama thinks for a moment. "Selonis, I have come on behalf of my Circle and our new alliance to offer the authorities of Yu-Shan the means to return the Terrestrial Bureaucracy to Meru. Given this mission, who would you say I should seek an audience with?"
Selonis looks at Imrama sadly. "I suspect that in this circumstance, asking permission will not avail you of much."
Imrama "Hm. I can open the way back to Meru, but only from a single point. I had planned to place that bridge outside of Yu-Shan's walls, out of respect. But if the gates of the city are barred, that would not seem to be a solution."
Imrama "If there is noone to reason with, I may have to take a less diplomatic approach. Can you tell me, old friend, where the gods of Meru are imprisoned?"
Selonis nods. "There are three places." He roots around under a pile of sparkling bones for a moment before, unexpectedly, pulling out a map of the heavens.
Imrama peers over the gilded cat's shoulder, examining the map intently.
Selonis "Those who... survived, of the Lily-aligned gods, are held in the Dark Circle, here. Those who most strongly supported the anti-Lily forces are held underneath the Crimson Panoply of Victory, here. And those who were rounded up afterwards are held in the Three Step-Towers, here."
Imrama "My friend, I do not want to lead you any deeper into trouble than you already are, but my home with eventually wither and die if those who sustain it are not allowed to return. Can you take me here?" Imrama indicates the Crimson Panoply of Victory.
Selonis nods his shaggy golden head. "I cannot take you inside, but I can take you to the passageway that will lead you inside. But be aware that once you are in, you will not be able to re-enter the tunnels."
Imrama puts his hand on the lion's brow. "Whatever you can do for me, Admiral Longwhiskers the First, I will be greatful for."
Selonis 's eyes fill with a mixture of happiness and sorrow; by the large-and-small rule of adorableness, it would be difficult to easily best Selonis at this moment. Then he turns and without further words leads on into the underways of Yu-Shan.
Selonis The hallways of iridescent, many-layered glass shine with a strange light from within, and the faint edges of other passageways beyond can be made out through their translucent depths; the vision is nearly enough to give one vertigo, so it is helpful that Selonis navigates them with confidence.
Selonis After a seemingly quite extensive walk, Selonis indicates a single passage. "Follow this to the end," he says, "and you will find your destination. Good luck, Imrama Stormfound."
Imrama gives Selonis a long hug, and then procedes on into destiny.
The passageway curves up at incremental 30 degree angles, before finally reaching what looks simply to be a flat, grey wall -- that looks like it would swing open with even a small effort.
Imrama checks his guns (but leaves them holstered), steels himself, and pushes open the door.
The first thing that hits Imrama as he opens the door is the absolute cacaphony: thousands of voices, from low, drawn-out drones to rapid-fire high-pitched squeals, shouting at each other all at once, while sounds of water, fire, objects crashing into one another, and other magnified environmental sounds all carry on beneath.
Imrama covers his ears reflexively and wishes for a moment that he posessed Cerin's sense-filtering abilities.
The room that he enters into is no less chaotic. A vast, angular basement of red brick -- but one large enough to have an imprompteau shantytown of illogical materials within -- is filled to the brim with gods of every description, arguing, building, planning, fighting, and almost every other imaginable activity.
Imrama Unable to leave by the way he came in, Imrama looks first for any guards or authorities, and then for an exit.
At several places around the border -- including one nearby -- there are what look to be rather large passageways, each barred lightly by an elegantly worked gate composed entirely of weapons of war, leading to upward-pointing stairs. (...)
Beyond that, no obvious authorities present themselves within the prison.
Imrama walks up into the air, taking a position over head, in the center of the room. He then bursts into a sunburst of Essence, his anima leaping to its fullest, and begins to address the crowd.
Imrama "Your attention, please. I am Imrama Stromfound. I have come on behalf of the Exalted Deliberative to return all loyal officers of the Terrestrial Bureaucracy to their posts in Meru."
The vast commotion does not subside so much as shift, as the attention of tens of thousands of deities swivels up to his position, then breaks into a panoply of intense and distinct reactions, each drowning out the last. (...)
And then, from out of the seething mass, one single figure takes flight, to join Imrama in the skies: a tall, thin woman, supremely beautiful, yet harsh and cold; her hands are talons vicious and sharp, and from her back spring elegant wings of black and gold. (...)
"Imrama Stormfound," she says, and as she speaks the other Gods, seeing in her the response to the Solar's words, quiet and calm themselves -- and the room grows silent and calm as Imrama stands face to face with Grala, Mistress of the Eternal Hunt.
Imrama folds his hands over his stomach, and bows deeply to the goddess, waiting respectfully for her to join conversation.
"It has been some time that we have been imprisoned in Heaven, Sun-Graced one."
Imrama "Too long, Great Huntress - too long for your august personages, and too long for the world that depends on you for sustenance. Meru calls out for its missing divinities."
"And why," she asks, "have you left us here, to rattle our cage as the silent jailors of the Incarna's construction bar us from our homes and duties?"
Imrama "This past Calibration saw an excess of chaos and woe. My circle and the rest of the Exalted Deliberative have toiled in every moment since to repair the 10,000 broken things. We knew that our gods had not returned to us from Heaven, but we never realized you had been imprisoned here. If we had, we would have come sooner."
Imrama 's eyes grow tearful. "Otherwise, I would have come sooner, Huntress."
There is a thick tension to the silence as Grala's glare becomes a little sharper and her wings slowly -- though not lazily -- flap in the air, but it loosens just the slightest bit as Imrama issues his final statement. (...)
"But you are here now," she says. "So what shall we do?"
Imrama "I will take you all home, without delay. I have only the one ship: hopefully there are enough gods of travel and storage here to makes enough room out of far too little. Otherwise, I will have to do make several trips."