Zahara paces around the deck, the eerie feeling of solid clouds beneath her feet.
Cerin emerges from somewhere in the bowels of the ship, walking over to Zahara and wrapping an arm around her briefly. "You seem pensive," he murmurs in her ear as the embrace.
zahara looks up at Cerin and smiles briefly. "It seems we have too much to do, and too little time, as always. And, no Mister Iggles Lux to accompany us on our journey."
Cerin "That is indeed a terrible shame," he says with a wry smile. "Though isn't Reaver company enough?" he gestures to the many limbed metal creature, who was currently trying to work out if the control panel was edible.
Reaver chomps his tiny metallic mouth onto the panel several times before dropping back to the floor and waving his six wings around in mock frustration.
zahara "Reaver! Stop that!" she shakes her head and fishes an old iron hilt from a bag, and tosses it to him. She can't help but smile at his antics, though.
Reaver catches the hilt in his mouth and tiny hands and immediately begins to chew on it contentedly.
Cerin smiles too. "The Calendar will not effect us directly, it seems. However neither will it effect the Lion."
Lucent Lucent tilts his head, a little maiden of journeys atop his head pointing foward to ADVENTURE! "And how may it affect us indirectly? Remember, the Lacuna begun with a small change, far away from all we could see."
Cerin "Well, indirectly it holds the potential to speed up or slow down time for everything in the Underworld, which obviously could have far reaching effects."
Lucent "How will that NOT affect the lion? Breeding of monsters, training of troops, any sorts of experiments could come faster for him. Well, for THEM."
zahara "Faster... or cease completely"
Cerin "Well, I mean. Should all time stop in Netheos, we would not find ourselves frozen, but neither would he. The direct effect."
Moving at a decent clip, the vessel leaves the Cursed Hinterlands and anyone looking out the front window can get their first clear look at the city of Stygia: (...)
In total, the city is a grisly, mocking reminder of the lost glory of the First Age; what was once vast and intricately beautiful architecture in the city at the heart of Meru here is executed with leering gargoyle faces and crude, obscene skeletal architecture. (...)
All the same, there is a certain funereal elegance to the city and the way that it stands, still defiant of the destruction wrought upon its living complement. (...)
And at its heart lies the district of Monarch's Way: a vast circle, suspended above and around the Mouth of Oblivion itself, its buildings worn by constant use but its streets almost entirely clear, guarded by vast, faceless golems of white jade, armed with elegant yet deadly weapons -- and sitting far above it, (...)
upon a pillar as wide across as a small city itself, its innumerable iron and glass wheels and lenses and ramps and levers all shifting and churning by some arcane schedule, lies the group's second quarry: the Calendar of Setesh. (...)
For now, though, the group seeks out Abbadon, the red death-sun that marks the tomb of Pluto, the slain Incarna, and so the ship banks elegantly upwards as it passes over the city, towards the roof of the sky.
Lucent "And here we are."
Varanim After giving the plasmic its instructions, Varanim drifts away to the rail of the ship, slouching against it and contemplating Stygia with an opaque expression as they sail overhead.
The red sun fills the window as the ship banks upward towards it.
Varanim Eventually, and only when ignoring it would just be ostentatious, Varanim turns her attention to their destination.
zahara descends to the cabin, and returns, herding the two rambunctious demons in front of her. She pauses to squint up at the red Sun.
zahara "Big, isn't it."
zahara "You ready with your spirit thing?"
Cerin looks up at the sun with no discomfort apparent. He tries to discern if anything has changed since their last visit.
The great fiery orb does not indeed appear particularly different from its appearance on their last visit, though nonetheless it is a bit of an intimidating object to be flying directly into
Varanim nods to Zahara, turning her attention back to the plasmic to make sure it does its job right.
zahara herds hers into position at prow and stern, commanding them to protect the ship and promising some fun destruction afterwards if they do it right, and if they don't, a rather painful death.
The demons position themselves at the front of the ship, their hands placed firmly upon its solid shell, as the plasmic dematerializes and slips to the outside of the vessel to thereby do its own protecting.
zahara murmurs a thaumaturgic ritual as protection against fire as they approach the red glare of the underworld sun
The red glare grows stronger and stronger as the ship plunges towards the surface of the red sun, until it is too bright to look at directly... Then the ship lurches, as the smooth flight through the air is suddenly replaced by the impact into the thick magma of Abbadon's surface. (...)
Varanim laces her fingers behind her head and slits her eyes half closed, slouching against the side of the ship with only the frown on her face to show that she hasn't dozed off.
The ship begins to shake rather violently as it pushes through the thick surface, and the effect of the heat is very quick: almost immediately the walls and floor begin to noticeably heat up, and there is no indication that they are about to stop.
At the same time, the tainted energy of the sun seems to bore into the very skin of the Solars, an unpleasant experience most of them remember from their last trip, but which is entirely new to Varanim: the feeling of skin and muscle, rubbed raw over days by harsh surfaces, just from the very touch of the red light.
zahara closes her eyes, bracing her hands against the rail between the two demons, feeling for flaws, for a breach in the defenses of the ship, shuddering as the light scrapes into her skin
Zahara searches, even as the scouring light tears at her skin, but finds no obvious flaw. (...)
Meanwhile, the heat grows stronger and stronger. Where the inside of the ship was cool and pleasant before they entered the sun, now it has shot up to sauna-like temperatures -- and still the temperature is steadily climbing.
Cerin wraps himself in essence to ward off the heat, still looking up into the strange, dead sun.
The ship begins shaking even harder, enough to begin throwing anything that might happen to not be nailed down around. The walls have grown hot enough to burn at a touch, and Zahara sees with concern that even the demons are beginning to sweat. (...)
The heat itself has grown hot enough that those without any protection against it have started to feel the air burn at their skin.
zahara fishes around in her bag again and withdraws several misty cloaks, one for each person and a little bitty one for Reaver. "This should help with the heat a little. I hope."
Lucent is untouched by the flame, but there is nothing worse than being unharmed while others burn. "This is not working!" He shouts to the others, "Turn this thing around, it is not working!" His gaze is urgent, to Zahara and Varanim.
Varanim catches her cloak out of the air, swirling it around her shoulders in one impatient motion. "Not yet," she snaps to Lucent.
Nails begin to pop and steam begins to shoot out of various places on the inside of the cabin. The Magical Material framework of the ship is fine, of course -- but the other materials that connect and fill it out are suffering from the heat. (...)
Varanim suddenly feels lightheaded and sick to her stomach, all in a single intense rush.
Varanim Varanim, a connoisseur of nausea, is forced to admit at least to herself that the combination of raw burning and vertigo is a new blend. She hunkers into her slouch, glaring at the slightly disintegrating ship and gritting her teeth.
Lucent holds her, trying to keep her from falling. "Zahara, she is NOT going to make it!"
Varanim "Ignore him!"
Varanim glares at Lucent, holding onto her stick and thinking stable thoughts.
zahara x1;ACTION pulls the cloak around her shoulders as the first nail streaks past her in a superheated stream of half-molten metal. The reality of the situation takes a second to set in, before she stares around at the ship sharply, calculating. By the next moment she is running about the ship, catching nails and boards as they char and explode, Essence flowing through her fingers to secure them back where they ought to go. The Exquisite B
zahara "If this ship breaks, none of us will!" she calls over her shoulder
zahara The Exquisite Bonds of Rapture trail behind her in an lengthening snake, slipping around the hull and tying the sucker together, radiating their own chill along their lengths - one of which is conveniently near Varanim.
The ship continues to rattle and buckle, though Zahara makes an incredible effort to hold it together. As her Bonds release frigid coldness, steam rises profusely from them until the air grows so thick that it's almost impossible to see without the aid of Essence. (...)
Somewhere in her head, where it's hard to pay too much attention, Varanim feels the plasmic peel off of the outside of the ship, and although Zahara's repairs seem to be keeping the ship together, the heat grows even more intense. (...)
Meanwhile, Cerin calculates that they are more than halfway through the surface.
Cerin "Almost through," he calls out helpfully for people.
Varanim "Great," Varanim mutters through gritted teeth, at both the plasmic's departure and Cerin's encouragement.
Lucent does not let go of Varanim, his mind racing, trying to remember some technique that could keep her safe. None comes to mind.
Varanim "I'm FINE. Leggo."
Lucent does not comply. He is focused in prayer.
zahara continues to run about the ship, more by memory than sight, cringing as the hull gives a particularly loud groan "Someone remind me why we thought this was a good idea..." At the prow she plunges her hand through the deck, which parts beneath her hand as if it were made of clay, and grips the line of the keel, strengthening and repairing it with sheer willpower. (...)
zahara Her gold-streaked hair lies matted and straggling against her skin from the steam, the misty cloak offering some measure of chill that only highlights the heat that is nearly melting her ship. HER SHIP. Her golden essence coruscates, roiling against the omnipresent red glow and pushing it away from her, the bonfire of her defiance suffusing the ship that is tied to her, remaking it as it is unmade.
Through sheer force of will, Zahara holds the ship together for those last precious seconds, and with a last violent shake it forces itself through the back side of the reddish barrier and into the empty space inside. (...)
The sudden rush of cool air back into the ship is too much for Varanim, however, and she finds herself suddenly, and profusely, vomiting.
Meanwhile, far below, the blue-black, chaotically writhing form that was once the god Pluto continues its churning suffering.
Lucent "No, you are not." He touches her heart, and the heat is gone. The sickness is gone. The Sun appears over his chest, cold, white, taking all sensation from Varanim. Everything is white and cold. He turns to Zahara with a big sigh. "... you did it."
zahara As they burst through the sun, into the space beyond, Zahara stands braced against the railing, which sizzles in her grasp. The clouds of steam slowly clear around her, and she pries her fingers off the bar, turns, and slides down against the wall. "Mine." she mutters, and then rests her head on her arms.
Varanim leans over to vomit with the practiced ease of a professional, wiping her mouth with a raw-feeling hand, then closes her eyes for a moment in relief as it all vanishes. Then she remembers where she is, glares at Lucent, and cranes to look at the view below.
The dead god's vast bulk is much as it was before: torn, shredded, unalive yet somehow not quite destroyed, churning and moaning, utterly unrecognizable as a glorious member of the greatest Gods of Creation.
As Cerin looks out upon his dessicated frame, he notices something unexpected.
Cerin "That is strange ..." he remarks quietly.
Cerin sees that the seams of his cloak seem to be pulsing and glowing in time with the churning motions of the dead god below.