Grala nods. She turns to the assembled Gods and begins speaking to them, rapidly yet mellifluently, in words that Imrama has not heard since the halcyon days of his childhood -- the language of the Gods.
Imrama listens to Grala make her address, and begins the process of re-conjuring the Fable in the great dungeon-hall.
After Grala lays out the situation for the multitudes gathered within, there is some murmuring and waving about amongst the Gods, many of whom seem paranoid after their recent treatment -- and yet nonetheless somehow feel compelled to trust Imrama -- who, really, is nearly one of them anyway, isn't he?
Imrama As the deck of the great sunship flashes into being under his feet, Imrama leans over to Grala and asks quietly, "Great Huntress: can you tell me of the conditions of your imprisionment? Were any of you formally charged?"
After a moment, the Gods begin to prepare for transport -- opening up Iconic satchels, so other Gods can transform into suitcases in which OTHER Gods climb into and YET OTHER Gods stuff into the satchels so that YET MORE Gods can swallow them whole, and so on.
Grala "No. After the riots began, the Swords of Truth swept through Heaven like a bitter wind. Since we were imprisoned here, we have been offered almost no information. (...)
Grala "After a time, a few Celestial Emissaries came by to tell us a few simple things: that the Red Lily Gods had also been imprisoned in a separate location, that regular access to Meru was still blocked, and that we would continue to be held as the full scope of the destruction was measured and repaired." (...)
Grala "Beyond that, we have no news: we know naught of what has occured in Meru, of what occurs in the streets of Yu-Shan, or of whether we will ever be released."
Imrama continues to talk with Grala as his crew materialize, and begin to help the great throng of gods aboard. "Meru endures. Our home is set upon by invaders from without and betrayers from within. But still, it is home."
Grala "It has always been thus," she says, as she watches five Gods of labor with worrisomely vast arms and teeny-tiny heads and legs carry a particularly large sack of other deities up the ramp into the Fable.
Imrama oversees the boarding of his passengers. He does his best to help with the manual labor, although he clearly isn't built for it.
Grala As Imrama sees that most of the assembled Gods have in one improbable fashion or another secured themselves within the hold of the Fable, something seems to waft across his palette: a scent, like burnt cinnamon and new-forged steel. Grala's face immediately becomes concerned.
Imrama "What's that smell?"
Grala "The Swords are coming," she says, "and they are not happy."
Imrama hastily prepares for three seperate strategies: he takes the deck to greet the Swords of Truth, instructing half of the crew to make ready the ship to fly, and the other half to take to the guns.
Grala flits up to stand beside Imrama on the deck. The other Gods, sensing fear, race to finish piling themselves in to the ship. (...)
Grala It is just a moment before Imrama hears the sound, like -- and yet so much greater than -- glass breaking into a thousand parts: the strange musicality of the fragments striking one another, the hugeness of a sound with ten thousand component pieces, and the finality of a sound that unambiguously marks the point in which something beautiful was utterly destroyed.
Grala The Gods loading the vessel look utterly terrified, while Imrama's shiny crew stand ready and unafraid at their posts.
Imrama stands stalwart on /his/ deck, aboard /his/ ship. He watches the room's gates, and waits for the oncoming storm.
Grala It begins, with simple points of white light, that appear on the walls; they quickly move diagonally across, with a sound like glass dragged across stone, and in their wake the walls crumble... In the wake of the destruction, they step into view: the Swords of Truth. (...)
Grala Imrama can tell, at a glance, that a great deal of visual information is present in each of them: too much, perhaps, for even an Exalted to process. So what he sees is simple: in each, the shape of a human being (but far greater in size), in robes, with four vast, feathery wings, clutching an angular sword in one hand, perfect in every detail; (...)
Grala as if the outline of this shape was cut -- by the hands of a master craftsman -- from the very world itself -- and beyond that hole in existence, lies only a plane of the most brilliant, pure white light.
Imrama walks forward to stand at the rail. Mr. Iggles-Lux brings out an ornate tea service from below decks and places it before Imrama. The captain begins silently pouring cups for his newly arrived guests.
Grala There are eight of the Swords in total, two having burst forth from each wall.
Imrama Once the eighth cup is poured, Imrama bows to the Swords of Truth, and lifts his tray to offer them the tea. "Good day, most loyal and upstanding servants of Heaven."
Grala The Gods still on the ground -- for there are not many left -- squeal with terror and abandon all decorum to charge into the vessel at top speed. (...)
Grala The heavenly guardians, meanwhile, raise their blades and begin to charge the rather vast distance towards the Fable, at the center. It does not, at least superficially, appear that they are particularly interested in tea.
Grala stares out at them with a set, but resigned look.
Imrama waits for the last of the gods to climb aboard. He stands in the opening, awaiting the charge of the Swords, and addresses them again. "My name is Imrama Stormfound. I am chosen of the Unconquered Sun. I would speak peacefully with you."
Grala "They speak only through action," Grala says, and, indeed: the Swords come into place surrounding the Fable, four of them raising their swords into an easy swift-chopping position, and although they stop their motion as if preparing, at least briefly, to listen, they do not speak.
Grala And while the sturdiness of his craft shields it from the outside world, Imrama himself can hear the piteous mewling, whispers of terror, and other signs that the Gods within his hold are far beyond terrified of the creatures outside.
Imrama raises his voice to a volume suitable to the room's epic scale. "I have come from the middle realm to the realm above, in order to retrieve what has been lost to us, and to restore the links of transit and commerce between Heaven and Earth."(...)
Imrama "Neither I, nor my passengers, have been charged with any crime against the laws of Heaven, nor has any opportunity to appeal to the powers that be been made available to us. We wish only to leave, in completion of the Calibration ritual, in order to restore the proper order of things. Will you allow us to depart?"
Grala The Swords stand before the vessel -- for what manner of attention they pay to it is impossible to determine -- for a long moment, and then: the four bring their swords back as if preparing to strike.
Imrama closes his eyes as the bright swords fall upon him, and the Fable of the Reconstruction falls in turn. Faster and faster it falls, for a year and a day, in and out of love, further than can be imagined. And then, with a great spray of blackened flower petals, it lands in the roiling tempest of the Seven Leagues of the Looking Glass.
Imrama takes up the draglines, and begins charting a course home.
Grala As the feeling of falling sets upon the vessel, Imrama can hear the sighs of relief let out by many of his passengers -- including, to his at least potential surprise, the goddess of the hunt who rides on the deck with him.
Imrama "It will not be too long now before we reach home, Huntress. I would warn you that much of Meru did not fare well during the eclipse, but, so far as I know, little harm has come to your places of power. Any of the city gods aboard ship may be greeted by unwelcome sites on their return, however."
Grala nods. "I do not fear what awaits us at home," she says. After a short pause, she says, more quietly: "They held their strikes, you know."
Imrama "I know. But they swung, nonetheless. It does not bode well for the tasks remaining to me."
Grala shakes her head. "Heaven is infested with snakes. And a hunt of snakes in narrow crawlspaces is ten times the hunt in an open field."
Imrama raises a brow and looks at Grala from the corner of that eye, still facing the horizon. "You would lay this mess at the feet of corrupt ministers and false counselors, then?"
Grala "Heaven does not function as it should, with open doors and grateful arms for those of Meru. Whether the rot began at the bottom or the top is irrelevant," she says, and ruffles her feathers slightly. "That which is rotten must be destroyed."
Imrama "Yet you and all the others you were imprisoned with fought to keep the Lily's forces from the Jade Pleasure Dome. If you wish to abolish the heavenly order, why did you stand against the conspiracy and not along side them?"
Grala looks out over the bow. "Because I am a hunter, not a soldier," she says. "And because I do not wish to see the order replaced by spiritual mob rule, and humanity retaking its place as slaves that the cycle might repeat again." She pauses but does not turn her head. "If the Dome must fall, it should be the Gods' Chosen who do it."
Imrama "It would be the most symmetrical ending, if nothing else. Once we are all safely returned to Meru, my circlemates and I will seek to entertain you and all the other leading divinities of Creation in the new House of the Deliberative. Much of what you have said resonates with the tenants of the Faith Ecliptic."
Grala nods, and continues to stare out into the Seven Leagues.