Imrama The room is bare, almost frightfully so, by the standards of Heaven. The walls may be formed of Orichalcum, and the doors of Adamant, but the absence of filigree and adornment is deafening. There is only a single table of ruby and two diamond stools on which two beings sit facing each other: Imrama Stormfound, and the Bull God Ahlat.
Ahlat sits, irritated and angry, but nonetheless he is here.
Imrama produces a caraffe, and a glass, pouring out a sizable drought of Celestial Wine. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me in private. Would you care for a drink?"
Ahlat nods. "Yes."
Imrama places the cup before Ahlat. "You have had many long centuries in which to acquire your pride, Father of Horns. I have no intention of disabusing you of it now, the comments of my circlemates not withstanding."
Ahlat "Good," the Bull God snorts. "Your circlemates do not understand the proper place of the Gods in the workings of Creation," he says. "Though they do battle like warriors and not children, at least."
Imrama produces a pipe and begins to smoke something yellow and cinnamon-scented. "I may don the trappings of an officer, but you know me to be a soldier, o Master of the Herd. I would speak to you, then, with the frankness of the battlefield."
Ahlat nods, and grins slightly. "Do so," he says.
Imrama "The cause of the Lily is lost. Whatever goals you had in working with them, your collaberation ultimately served their ends, and it is they who have abandoned you to your present condition. Under the laws of Heaven, you are a prisoner of war..."
Imrama "As such, you have three options: remain a prisoner, lobby for your own execution, or find a new side to fight on. Out of respect to you and to your people, I have come to present the case for your third option."
Ahlat empties his cup of wine and places it down, rather forcefully. "I will not remain a prisoner. So tell me of this case."
Imrama "I have travelled in your land, and sojourned with your people, great Ahlat. They have a greatness within them, a might forged in war, but constrained by centuries of in-fighting and self-destruction. They are hungry for a work, for a war, that is just..."
Imrama "I have endeavored to make them ready for this calling. But you are their god, so I have in the hopes that this great purpose may be pleasing to you as well as to them."
Ahlat "I am not one to shy from glorious battle," he says. "Pour me more wine, and tell me what war you would set my aurochs to."
Imrama pours another, more generous cup. "Not only your aurochs, not only your brides, nor just your infantry and calvalry. This war would enlist every soul in Harborhead, a mobilization the likes of which Creation has not seen since the Primordial War."
Ahlat raises a shaggy eyebrow.
Imrama "For the whole of its national history, the people of Harborhead have used their passion for battle, the craft you taught them well, to tear themselves and their nation apart. To take up sword against their brothers, to burn fields, to slaughter cattle. What I propose is different..."
Imrama "What I propose is a war not against Creation, but for it. To make safe its newly restored borders, and take the fight to the gates of its many enemies. To vouchsafe the life and freedom of all its inhabitants: mortal, or exalt, god, or cow.
Ahlat "I cannot make war to end war, I am certain you know. But a war need not be for conquest," he says, and downs half of his second cup of wine.
Imrama "You and I both know that war cannot end war. But unlike peace, war may contend with itself. For generations, Harborhead has contended with itself, to the detriment of its citizens, and to the limited and prosaic benefit of yourself alone..."
Imrama "That cycle of violence has kept you small, in one corner of the South, passed over by history. Yet I know it has become familiar, perhaps comfortable to you. And so, in the interest of you and of your people, I have done the only thing I could do: I have changed the game."
Imrama lets out a long gout of yellow smoke, and watches Ahlat's face.
Ahlat responds internally with the immediate, knee-jerk rage of the consummate bully, but given his situation, he restrains himself admirably. "Then what is the game now?"
Imrama "One in which benefit comes from furthering the common good, rather than undermining it. As we speak, in every villiage and settlement in Harborhead, save the capital, the sacrifice of bulls has stopped. Your people have forsworn all violence against your holy cattle. Never again will they slay them, nor slay each other to possess them..."
Imrama "Instead, they guard and pay homage to every bovine in Harborhead. Each is treated with reverence as a living idol to you, their beloved god. Every herdsman is now your priest, every drop of milk your sacrement."
Ahlat sneers slightly. "And how will I maintain the flow of ambrosia to which I am accustomed, if none will be slaughtered in my name?"
Ahlat scratch that
Ahlat sneers slightly. "And so I will maintain the flow of ambrosia to which I am accustomed, though none will be slaughtered in my name?"
Imrama "If my math is correct, and those wiser than I have checked it, you should experience a significant increase in your rate of return. Not to mention that these reformed cult practices will free up resources to the benefit of yourself and the rest of Creation."
Ahlat finishes his goblet. "And you have a purpose to which these resources will be put, I am certain."
Imrama smiles broadly, clenching his pipe in his teeth. "I have a suggestion, but only because I believe it to be in your interest and the interests of Harborhead..."
Ahlat "Yes. Yes! Tell me already," he says, and slams his goblet back down on the table once more.
Imrama "Your people are unsurpassed in shock-troop tactics. Your brides, in particular, are the greatest single strike-force in Creation. I would like to see Harborhead assume a place of honor in the lands of the Deliberative, your people, its elite troops and your their comandant."
Imrama "A fleet of airships is under construction in Denandsor. Once the Haslanti," Imrama grits his teeth, "are admitted, we will have no shortage of transport and air cavalry. Their crews will be tendered by Wavecrest, Coral, and the other maritime nations..."
Imrama "I would look to your picked troops to form the backbone of our marines."
Ahlat grins. "So we shall be the foremost warriors of Creation, those who all other nations look to in envy, those who all men and women of fighting spirit dream of in their slumber, those who are the first to shed glorious blood in the pursuit of any truly desirous endeavor."
Imrama folds his arms, and nods. "That is the essence of my proposal, yes."
Ahlat pauses for a moment in a rare moment of contemplation. "And should I agree to this proposal, I shall be free, to return triumphantly to lead my people once again?"
Imrama "Yes. My goal is to ensure that I and my friends, and you and your people, can go forward as allies and not as enemies. As a help rather than a hinderance to each other. Here are the terms I propose to ensure this:"
Imrama "When I came to your people, to free them and you from a debilitating cycle of reprisal, and prepare them for their natural greatness, many of them took me as your promised son, the Ishadhi."
Imrama "I know not from whence I came, nor to where I am destined to go; I could not promise them I was in truth, your son, but I could not deny, for certain, that I was the one they had waited for."
Imrama "So, great Ahlat, I offer myself to you for adoption. You would have a son on the Perfect Circle of the Deliberative. You know that I know what it means to be the adoptive child of a god, that I have been a loyal son for all of my life. If you will pledge yourself to me as a just and filial father, I will honor you as such."
Ahlat thinks about it for a long moment before finally nodding his asset. "Yes. This shall be acceptable."
Imrama extends an arm, glowing with the telltale halo of the oath-seal. "Then I offer you my hand, Father, to honor you as you honor me, and together to lift up the nation of Harborhead, and the whole of Creation."
Ahlat reaches his meaty arm out to touch that of his newfound son.
Imrama grips Ahlat's hand tightly, and smiling an honest smile, reaches across the table to hug his newfound father. After the family moment, he opens the door to the chamber to introduce his circlemates to his dad.