Thirteen strides through the Cascade, spear in hand. Ostensibly he is on his way towards the Gate, there to return to Wasirru. In fact, though, the echoes of his foosteps play off the stacks in Zahara's library, bouncing word after word back to him as he furiously considers his suddenly constructed plan of action.
As he walks, the pieces all fit themselves together in his mind. The other Sidereals -- those still part of the process of rebirth -- aren't all dead; they obviously must be gathered up together somewhere. But where? The obvious candidates -- like, say, anyplace in the world -- didn't seem to be very good options. (...)
They must be somewhere though, and with a little rather sketchy essence triangulation and a few attempts at basic tea-leaf divination suggest to him a place where he can get the information he seeks. There's only one small problem: the spot in question is a coordinate outside the world itself, off the grid of the gate network -- in short, a spot that is clearly not supposed to be there at all.
Thirteen reaches the Gate, and examines it with a certain interest. He reaches out with the powers of the Twilight Seal, to see whether he can twist the Essence flows of the Gate to input coordinates ordinarily impossible.
Thirteen 'never mind that'
Thirteen considers this as his path travels directly over the hidden core of Cerin's workshop, gleaning what knowledge he can therefrom.
The matter of extraplanar geometry is indeed something Cerin has explored at reasonable length, which has left the libraries stocked with everything Thirteen needs to successfully gloss the notes he skims. After more research and a bit of even sketchier math than what went before, he works something out about said travel: (...)
the specific motonic pattern that a device capable of travel to such a location would need embedded within. (...)
What's even odder is that after a quick sweep of the premises, it seems that there is indeed such a device already sitting unattended within the walls of the Cascade itself. Odd, that.
Thirteen breaks stride slightly...very slightly.
Thirteen heads over to investigate this device.
A little careful manipulation of the Cascade's pathways takes him to one of the martial practice rooms, now dusty with several months of disuse, in which he locates a weapon rack with what appears to be a small, false panel.
Thirteen raps negligently on it with one knuckle.
The panel drops conveniently away, revealing a single object stored within: what looks to be a simple earthenware bowl, with seven tiny diamonds embedded in its bottom.
Thirteen takes the device, eats it, and examines it carefully.
The bowl definitely has Essence carefully woven into its clay structure, in precisely the pattern Thirteen worked out just a few minutes ago. It seems likely that it's designed to imprint said pattern on something that's put into the bowl -- a handle of liquor or a pleasant serving of homemade soup, for example.
Thirteen coughs it up and looks for a convenient liquid, dumps it in and waits relatively patiently.
The water from the nearby vase of flowers takes on a very slight ruddy glow after about five minutes in the bowl.
Thirteen sticks his finger in.
The water feels warm but otherwise unremarkable.
Thirteen sighs and drinks it.
The liquid tastes reasonably nice going down, rather like cinnamon pie in tea form. As it slides down his throat, Thirteen feels the liquid tug on him, like the feeling of pleasant drunkenness compressed into a shorter timespan. (...)
Within just a few moments of finishing the entire bowl, he finds his head growing heavy with an intense desire to sleep
Thirteen lies down, calmly waiting.
In just a moment, sleep claims Thirteen, and when he awakens he is somewhere very different: a small chamber, wrought of stone almost exactly like the bowl he drank from, gems glittering upon its low ceiling -- and no fewer than three starmetal blades held to his neck, chest, and forehead, holding him down against the ground.
Thirteen "The appropriate way to present your weapons to your liege is to kneel and hold them out hilt first. I trust you will not make this mistake in future."
"And the appropriate way to journey into someone's house is to knock. I suppose we are both guilty of poor etiquette," says an unfamiliar voice from somewhere to one side. "Why are you here?"
Thirteen "To provide you something you desperately lack."
"Despite our current accomodations, that is a very small list," says the voice. "If you have nonetheless identified something useful from it, we are willing to listen."
Thirteen "I was thinking of leadership."
Thirteen "What have you accomplished in the last hundred years?"
Thirteen "Your people have been slaughtered by Qian Mian."
Thirteen "Your Orrery was stolen by the Solars from the east."
Thirteen "You are scattered, few and powerless. I feel compassion."
Thirteen "No. I meant pity. I am sorry. These are words I rarely find occasion to employ."
Thirteen "I have come to guide you. It is time we modernized the system under which you seem to operate."
Thirteen "If possible, please accelerate the process of being convinced by my superior intellect. We must find all the reincarnations of the murdered Sidereals, return to them their intelligence, power, and ability to communicate, locate and detain the Five Who Have Fallen, and identify and subdue their master."
Thirteen Then we must make long-term plans."
"What, exactly, qualifies you for such leadership?" The voice chuckles a little. "Do you even know to what purposes we are acting?"
Thirteen "I know to what purposes you ought to be."
Thirteen "Self-preservation, for one."
Thirteen stands up, allowing the blades to pass harmlessly through him.
Standing up, Cerin sees that there are four figures here, none that he recognizes. The voice seems to belong to a young, cocky looking fellow, quite thin and with an aristocratic beard, in an elegant navy blue outfit and various odd silver bangles. (...)
The voice man sighs, though does not lose his rather smug grin. "Well, if we're going to keep talking about this, you might as well have a seat, then, Thirteen Blooming Flowers." He gestures to a nearby rock. "I'm Berwyn."
Thirteen takes a seat calmly on the proffered rock. "Berwyn. What do you feel we must talk about? There is little time and much we must do."
Doctor The formalities of implicit threats of violence now safely out of the way, Berwyn has invited Thirteen to sit with him and his fellows in their current digs -- such as they are. At the bottom of the agate chamber, milky water pools in deformations in the floor, while the group sits around a rock that conveniently holds a tablesque shape. (...)
Doctor Berwyn sits at a jaunty angle on the largest of the nearby rocks and gestures Thirteen to take a seat across from him. The other Sidereals -- a thin, severe woman with a scar across her left eye and short-cropped red hair in the green robes of Secrets, (...)
Doctor another more robustly figured woman of olive complexion and simple yellow traveller's clothes, and what to all appearances is a cheerful, tow-headed farmboy of no more than 15, clad in the dark purple of Endings and with two vicious assassin's daggers at his belt -- sit between them.
Doctor "Well, you visibly have a purpose in travelling here and you have always struck me as one who prefers speaking to listening," Berwyn says. "So tell me why you are better qualified than we to achieve the goals you have spelled out, and to what ends you seek to do so."
Thirteen "I had thought it relatively obvious that you have demonstrated your complete incapacity to accomplish even one of the tasks I set out."
Thirteen "How could I possibly be less qualified?"
Thirteen "Leaving that aside, though, I had thought it absolutely obvious why I would be more qualified. I am a Solar of the newly reformed Solar Deliberative, Twilight Ascendant, your rightful leader and lord as overseer of the Celestial Bureaucracy. I have just finished saving the world from immediate consumption at the hands of the Ebon Dragon."
Thirteen "In doing so, it was necessary to laugh in the faces of two Primordials, several murderers from before the dawn of time, and at least one concealed inhuman elder race."
Thirteen "What have you done lately?"
"Well, you have no knowledge of matters of destiny, and cannot participate in the Triad of Prophecy. You also," he grins again, "have the subtlety of a rhinoceros with a large hammer. That has been drinking. That said," he adds, "I cannot generally argue with your results." (...)
"What we have 'done lately,' as you put it, is severalfold. We have prevented the further degradation of the barriers of creation. We have repaired quite a bit of extensive damage to the fabric of destiny left behind by the events of the last year (quite a bit of it the result of your circle's actions, naturally) that would likely have had rather dramatic consequences, left unchecked. (...)
"We also put some of the tools in your hands that allowed you save the world from the Ebon Dragon. It was by our actions that the fifth shard of the Chime of Ages came into your circle's possession, after all." All this said, however, he sighs. "But there are only six of us here and that is certainly not a sufficient task force when one is used to the Fivescore Fellowship."
Thirteen "How many more of you survive?"
"At most, thirteen."
Thirteen does not quite smile. "Excellent. Then at least ninety-seven await us, scattered throughout Creation, ready to serve the Flowers again."
Berwyn looks rather bemused. "And what exactly do you intend to do with all these infants? Start an orphanage?"
Thirteen "Educate them."
Thirteen coughs and gargles, then spits out a book and hands it to Berwyn.
Thirteen "Think of all the things a Sidereal must know in order to serve."
Berwyn screws up one eye and twists his mouth as he begins to think back to his irritating and excessive training, and the words begin to flow across the pages of the book.
Thirteen "While you are lost in consideration, perhaps some of your compatriots might be so good as to locate one of the babies who will, in time, become a Sidereal."
Berwyn snaps his fingers and the severe woman leaps to her feet, makes an elaborate mixed hand gesture and bow, and dashes around the corner into the small entrance area of the strange room to (presumably) disappear.
Thirteen waits patiently, taking the time to listen to the Essence flows of everything nearby, looking for anything unexpected.
The Essence flows clearly stop just thirty feet out from where he sits, and beyond there's just some form of white noise. The Secrets' vanishing, on the other hand, involves some sort of minute Essence-folding trick that Thirteen can briefly hear before that side chamber goes back to normal.
"She'll probably be a bit," Berwyn says.
Thirteen "Perhaps you might take this opportunity to explain to me the Trial of Prophecy."
Thirteen "Apparently that is my next order of business."
"Given the correct circumstances and three of our kind of different flavors, we can cast our perspectives out to the weave of destiny and come back with specific knowledge of future and past events. Our capacity for such is somewhat limited by our current small numbers, of course."
Thirteen "We will need to look to Imrama or Zahara for that, I suppose."
Berwyn nods. "Your specific talents would most likely be better served formulating the questions than summoning up the answers, I imagine."
Thirteen "I am not sure I understand your sudden reticence to follow. If you put the Chime of Ages into our hands, you must have already decided we were the last best hope for Creation. As we are."
"That is an excellent question, one I am certain will be answered to your satisfaction in time. Ah, here's Harab with your request now," he says, as Thirteen hears the Essence-warping sound once again.
Thirteen "Give me the book."
Berwyn hands it over wordlessly.
Thirteen eats it, of course.
The book's contents are incredibly dry and overly intricate, but nonetheless rather extensively informative.
Thirteen turns to the baby, after digesting the knowledge, and puts a finger over each of its unfocused eyes. He leans forward, and whispers, "You are a Sidereal," into his ear...and glows.