Lucent stands on the deck of the Sunland's small scouting airship, the Deliberative-Sealed map given to him by Iallu flapping on the wind, showing specific areas of the south that had been tainted by strange and deadly radiation. A document signed by none other than Larquen Quen! "It is just up ahead now...!"
Lucent looks out of the window from the Sunland's small scouting airship, the Deliberative-Sealed map given to him by Iallu against the windows, showing specific areas of the south that had been tainted by strange and deadly radiation. A document signed by none other than Larquen Quen! "It is just up ahead now...!"
zee looks out the window, angling the ship downward a bit to get a better view
Cerin looks out of the window too, letting his vision range out ahead.
The land here is carpeted in red sand, blown up in huge, artful dunes by the wind that almost constantly shifts direction in this part of the south. (...)
From the airship, the vast changes in the landscape's altitute, with literal mountains of sand shadowing curved valleys and hidden oases within, are easily visible under the constant glow of the unclouded sun -- even with its face now almost one-quarter obscured by the creeping black shadow that sits upon it. (...)
The spot marked on Lucent's map appears to be a rather vast valley, nestled within three consecutive rings of massive, sandy hills; a certain level of odd Essence radiation still seems to cling to it, even now.
zee "The valley?"
Cerin "Yes," says Cerin. "It is ... unusual."
Lucent "It IS that place. Terrible..." He sighs. "I thought they would have cleaned it."
zee "They who?"
Lucent "The Deliberative?" He points at the Seal of the Deliberative in the paper, and the signature of Larquen Quen. "We fought to stop it here, you know. Whatever that was. I would have thought they would rebuild, not just... leave it like this."
zee "oh right, of course." she says, rolling her eyes. "I don't even know what happened or when, or who was even left after it did."
Lucent "Oh, sorry." He frowned. "I keep forgetting to EXPLAIN things to you all."
Cerin raises a single eyebrow, but is otherwise silent.
Lucent "This... THING came out of nowhere. Devouring the sky, shattering lakes, taking breath from the lungs and sight from the eyes. It made servants out of the sand like nothing we had ever seen. It was not unheard of for us to fight such incursions, but that did not fit the usual pattern for Demons or the Faerie."
zee flies closer as he explains, circling around the valley
Lucent "We fought back the creatures it made, managed to lure it to this spot of desert, broke everything it created and in the end, exposed the core of what was devouring the sky. I charged at it... struck at its core. Amika being indestructible made me the only one of the group that could get that close. I... think he died, then. I remember hearing the screams."
Lucent "And then I woke up in the Second Age Desert, all my possessions ruined save for the Coronal. And Amika."
Lucent "This is why I brought you here, and Cerin. I want to know what was that thing. What happenned here. What mad me lose all the things and the people I loved to come here. It is Fate, yes, I had to be here... but that does not make this any less terrible."
zee shakes her head slowly. "So this is where you have been, while the age turned."
Lucent "Yes. Where it killed chosen, where it twisted sand, animals and Gods into its servants. It seems like I managed to kill it, at least." He turns to Cerin, "Do you recognize it? Its Essence?"
zee dips down so that she is barely skimming over the ground, moving slowly as she shifts her gaze into the realm of Essence, looking to see what is left
Cerin "It has been some time. It may take a while to get to the heart of the matter," he says, as he draws forth flowers from his pocket, the pale blue of the periwinkle for memory. "If you would please hold the ship steady, my love," he asks and then opens the door to the airship, plucking each of the petals off the flowers, charging them with essence and then letting them drift from his outstretched hand. The petals drift, not on the (...)
Cerin mundane breeze, but upon the currents and eddies of Essence long since departed, guiding Cerin to the very heart of the pattern.
Lucent watches with lips just open. "Beautiful."
Cerin watches the petals drift slowly on the breeze, while his mind draws out elaborate conclusions from their subtlest movements: the vast scope of the creature, the directions of its long-past movements, the nature of its defiling of the local geography, and even the nature of the creature itself. (...)
Cerin can almost see it in his mind's eye: how the vast creature arose in the far south, and was carried northward on the winds; how its form was sewn together, the great Essence boundaries that marked the assemblage of parts by a conscious hand; (...)
the damaged nature of its Essence, damage that seemed to be almost... contagious, as it tore and disrupted the Essence of the land at which the creature struck, in a way quite similar to its own; and, of course, the spot where the pattern dissipated -- indeed, within the nearby marked valley.
Lucent puts a hand on Cerin's shoulder. "What did you see?"
Cerin "How curious," he says softly, still observing the movements of the petals "It was not grown, nor formed from the Wyld, but was instead crafted, sewn together."
zee "Sewn together? Whose hand could create such a thing?"
Lucent "So it is artificial? Are you saying this thing was made in Creation?"
Cerin "Almost certainly," he nods. "The Fae or Primordials would have no need of such craft. Perhaps it's final resting place will tell us more," he says, directing Zahara there.
Lucent "Yes. Most things crafted by the Fae are whole - even if they appear to be a thousand birds sewn together, it would still feel to you as a single being; it is more seamless than that, everything melds into one in chaos."
zee pilots the ship as she is bid, curious
Lucent is deep in thought. "But to create this would require a Solar Sorcerer. Or..."
Cerin "I am not sure that nessessarily follows. Sorcery or Necromancy would certainly be a way it might have been constructed, but it is too early to rule out the use of an artifact."
zee "Wasn't Pluto's cloak sewn together of shadowlands?"
Lucent "Hmmm, artifact, yes. You are right. That would require a genius in the field, however. Of course, it can be something of Primordial or Wyld making, if used by an Exalt... but nevertheless, it comes back to that, right? Whoever made that THING was an Exalt!"
Cerin "Not quite my love," Cerin corrects. "It was sewn of the Essences of the Shadeborn."
zee nods thoughtfully
Lucent "Was this similar, however? Was the Devourer sewn of Essence Shards, or something else?"
Cerin "I think the ragged edge might be where Shadeborn Essences were taken to provide the basis of what became the Deathlords," he further comments.
Lucent blinks. "Hmmm, this is good to know. Studying the Shadeborn, we may be able to measure their power, then..." Lucent begins to think about Shadeborn Essence, his mind almost entirely distracted by this tangent.
Cerin "Nothing so exotic, Lucent. Creatures, perhaps even behemoths, but living creatures as far as I can determine."
Cerin "Ah, here my love. You can set us down, please."
Lucent "So we must find the body, to see wether they were still alive when it was."
zee sets the ship down moderately smoothly, and glances out the window. "Is it safe to go out there? The Essence looks... off."
Cerin "I do not think it will prove to be any more twisting than the Wyld can be, my love,"
Lucent "I can protect you, either way. If she can ward us against the wyld, I can ward us against anything that may threaten us directly. Can everyone come closer to me for a moment?"
zee approaches Luc, slipping her hand into Cerin's
Lucent He spreads his arms and anima washes out of him. Anima that was once scorching sands was now crystal, a crystaline globe rising from him. The globe washed around them, feeling like water as it passed through. Liquid crystal. On the edge of the globe there was a calendar, spinning faster, and faster, the crystal clinging to them.
Lucent "This is my world." He finishes a prayer, the black sliver of the crystal sphere passing through Varanim. They feel the crystal touching their Essence, their Caste Marks changing color to crystalline, under the light of the Adamant Sun as he replaced their weather - the sun touching them, the wind, it was not of the world around them, it was just from him. "Not yours'." He says to the diseased Essence outside.
The diseased essence respectfully obeys Luc's command, and stays at bay.
Lucent steps out, close by, letting Cerin lead the way and taking in the sights
Cerin steps out onto the desert floor, barely leaving footprints as he heads towards the centre of the resting place.
The Solars step out onto the edge of the crater, where the sand slope downwards toward what looks like it was once a small oasis, now ruined by tainted Essence. As Cerin moves to the center, nearly a half-mile across the red sands, he picks up on the true nature of what is under his feet: scraps of clothing, bones, armbands and swords -- the remnants of those who perished in the battle against the monster. (...)
He goes down further, towards the vast, blackened lake that lies at the center of the crater, and there, underneath, he sees it: the Essence that suggests that the creature's remnants now lie somewhere beneath the water's surface.
Varanim has been silent all the way over, lost in thought and still looking somewhat distant now, but her gaze gradually sharpens as she follows the others across the sands.
Lucent crouches and slides his fingers over a Blue Jade Daiklave. "Tamara."
Lucent "Yes, this IS the place..."
Cerin "The remains are down there," he gestures to the pool.
zee puts her hand comfortingly on Lucent's shoulder. She leans over to murmur in his ear "Are you alright?"
Lucent touches a few more items close by without getting up, murmuring more names. Names of unsung heroes. "No." He smiles, standing up. "No, I am not." And strides towards the lake.
zee 's lips tighten, but she lets him go on, following at a short distance
Lucent picks the remains of a tattered armband from Kadomony army, representing a grand general, the band of a Chosen of Battles killed that day, and also the crest of a kingdom long gone; a Dawn Caste come to help a friend in need. A king that never made it back home. Lucent has his feet on the edge of the pool as he tries to catch any glimpse of the creature within.
Cerin trails his fingers over a collection of items to as he walks, trying to build a picture of what the battle must have been like when it was fought all those centuries ago. How the hereos had moved, how the monster that they fought had moved, how the battled had finally ended.
Cerin And then he was the monster.
The waters are thick and black; nothing is easily visible.
Cerin sees the massive fight that occurred here: the great lidless eye devouring its way across the sky; the offensives launched by the Exalts who fought it vainly from below; the despair of these gathered here, most of them youngsters only recently into their power, visible on their faces. (...)
Cerin sees those who rally around Lucent, certain that he can bring them to victory -- and watches as rains of dark energy from the sky fell them, one by one, until only Luc remains. (...)
He sees Luc's final, desperate charge... Essence swarming, enormous teeth gnashing, fires burning -- until Amika's tail makes a single, careful strike at the center of the great eye -- and suddenly, there is an incredible burst of light. (...)
Then, the immediate aftermath -- Lucent, infused with strange Essence, being blown backwards, his scorpion mount wrapped around him, until he crashes into a sand dune with immense force, the very sand itself seeming to melt and immediately crystallize around him under the churning power of the creature's warped energies.... (...)
Then, without warning, the creature itself breaks into pieces, its motive force seeming to dissolve. The eyeball and teeth fall from the sky and plunge into the lake below; the strange and warped body parts that filled out its beastly form rain down on the sands, to rot away with time... (...)
Then the black waters cover over the beast's remains, and the windswept sand Lucent's frozen body... so it is there that the vision ends.
Lucent thinks up ways of getting the thing out of the water
Cerin "I think I need to go for a swim," Cerin announces, after his vision clears.
Varanim quietly drips a bit of blood in one eye, blinking to reveal the view across the Shroud.
Lucent "You think you can drag that thing out of the lake? I did not think you were so strong."
Cerin "Perhaps not, but I can have a much closer look."
Lucent "Be careful." Lucent nods, watching them field before them, sorrowful.
The other side of the Shroud here is similarly warped; the creature clearly carried whatever twisted radiation it is animated by through on its trip into Netheos.
Varanim ::Cerin, can you bring a piece of it to the surface?::
Cerin ::Any particular piece?:: he asks curious, before whispering in Zahara's ear "I won't be long."
Varanim ::Hm, the kind you can lift? It shouldn't matter.::
Cerin ::Very well::
zee kisses Cerin before he disappears beneath the black surface
Cerin After kissing Zahara, he walks to the waters edge, wrappings himself in his own proctective essence, warding his form against anything he hoped he was likely to encounter down there. And then he dived cleanly below the surface, being very careful not to breathe.
Cerin He had two goals whilst down there, first to find and study the eye, and then to find a peice for Varanim.
Lucent touches a final object, reciting some last names, and turns to Zahara. "Zahara, can you make me something? Something... beautiful? Something that would look as if it was worth its weight in jade?" He looks about, and there are indeed many pieces of chipped gems and jade in that graveyard...
Cerin moves around under the black water, which is thick with obfuscating essence, even against his incredible senses -- it takes him a few minutes to locate one of the great, sky-devouring teeth, and several more beyond that to find where the remnants of the eye have fallen. Nonetheless, he does eventually find both -- the tooth easily retrievable from beneath the water, the eyeball less so.
Varanim frowns and narrows her eyes a bit, as if something expected is missing from the desolate scene.
Cerin spends some time hanging in the water, studying the eye, trying to judge what manner of creature it was orginally from, what it might have done in the larger form of the beast.
zee thinks for a moment, then moves about the area, plucking shards of recognizable objects from the sand along with various pieces of jade and gems. She returns to Lucent and murmurs, "Tell me a story about each of the ones these shards belonged to."
The eye, once taken -- Cerin is almost certain -- from a Behemoth that almost certainly had many more just like it, seems to have formed the nexus of the patchwork creature that rode across the skies -- the devouring teeth were held in place through the tension of their Essence bonds to it, and the other monster scraps yet further out seemed to trail the motion of the eye.
Cerin next turns his attentions to the teeth, making sure they are at least unlikely to kill him instantly should he pick one up.
The tooth does indeed seem safe.
Cerin picks up a Sky-Devouring Tooth, then, and kicks off back towards the surface. The tooth crests the surface of the lake slightly before he does, a black figure rising out of a black lake. ::Will this suit, Varanim?:: He deposits it at the side of the water, stepping fully out as he does, the water of the lake slicking off the not exactly silk material his armour was made of into the sands.
Varanim nods in thanks to Cerin, squatting by the tooth and spreading her hands to touch its surface, feeling for the peculiar vibrations that linger in Essence and reveal the precise cause of death.
Lucent picks up the first piece. It was a broken Green Jade Feather. "Kestrel," he said, "Was a prodigy among the Emerald Dragons. She had six wings of Green Jade, and her song could move a man's heart or shatter the Essence of demons, and her silver Daiklave was made of solidified song, striking always like a lamentous chord."
Lucent "She was loved by all birds on the south and a prot?ge of the Goddess of Nature, but her song was of sorrow ever since her enemies turned her love into glass, so her song would shatter her and rend Kestrel's heart. She carried on, however, although her armor had a hollow over her heart, from which you could see the other side. It never healed."
Lucent He picked a jagged shard of ruby. "This was the Third Eye of Ravi. Ravi was a Chosen of Battles who thought himself connected with the world. He wished to not just control others, but also understand them, and thus this was made for him by a great craftswoman, and imbedded into his forehead. It channelled his Caste Mark and gave him grand powers of comprehension, of all souls, and all battles."
Lucent "He always knew what I was up to. Always saw two steps ahead. At his best, Thirteen reminded me of him, although Thirteen never had his... vices. For the eye showed him too much, and he felt like he had to drown it on his vices. A certain eastern plant which brought the end of all senses. But he was such a tactician that he learned to fight even without all senses, relying only on his understanding of his own life and his opponent in the tapestry of existe
Lucent He moved to the next. It was the end of a sword of blue jade. "Tamara was a Solar Exalt. She was a Dawn, Queen of the Eternal Sea Levantine, a city that moved on the sky. Her Lunar Mate carried her like a chariot, an immense Bird of Paradise, Seiran. This was a piece of Infinite Sky, her Daiklave which could rend the heavens.... it was the one thing that managed to stop the creature long enough for us to mount an offensive. She was mounted on her mate like
Lucent looks askance at the bones of a winged humanoid not too far from them. "He was a great fighter, able to shift his plumage and disappear completely, whose touch of his feathers felt as eternal springtime to heal a man's soul."
Lucent "For the standards of that time, we were so young. And so brave. I loved them like I love you."
Touching the tooth and probing its deepest recesses, Varanim sees the image of the vast beast -- the Maw of Nine Dark Truths, it was apparently called -- as it tore across the sky, long ago... and she sees how Lucent's strike was perfectly placed to sever the Essence chains that held the vast phantasmagorical creature together, slaying it instantly where the efforts of the many could not.
Lucent places parts of the Opaline Raiment of Seras and the Wax Blade of Seiran as well, telling the tale of another two Solars.
zee As Lucent tells each story, Zahara twines the strands of them into a skein, the colors of his memories shimmering softly in the light. And as each story is completed, she weaves the objects together, into a greater whole. Each fragment is remade whole in memory and story.
zee finally stands, smoothing the great tapestry she has woven, depicting all of them in peace and joy, surrounding Lucent and Amika. "Will this suffice?"
Varanim "Your blow killed it." Varanim speaks aloud for the first time in hours, to give Lucent at least that small piece of the mystery that brought him here.
Lucent holds it. "Yes. I will want one for myself later." He nods... then looks at Varanim and smiles. Smiles so... bright, as if hearing that made everything worth it. Made it so he had a reason to be there, to exist. That his friends had been avenged by his hand, that he did not lose all the others to nothingness for nothing. "... thank you."
zee "It will have to be a slightly different one - this one is unique. But I shall make you one of your own."
Lucent And with that lucent turns... the tapestry weaving that in the wind! "Kabeira! Goddess of the Forge, Flames and Dolls! Kabeira, mighty craftswoman of the South! Blessed be thy name!" It is need little of his anima to start a small bonfire over an old military uniform. "Blessed be thy flames! Blessed be thy creations! Blessed be, oh Goddess!"
Lucent "I hold my story, I hold our story. The story of heroes in my hand, woven by the greatest craftswoman of this age! Out of the hands of Zahara Zhan, in our homage, and given to you!" It touches the flame. "A sacrifice in thy name! For what has been promised, for what has been given, for the piece of cursed craftsmanship you had sworn yourself to clean!"
Lucent "The time has come. Kabeira, hallowed be thy name, I require you to grant me Testament Sublime." He touches it to the tapestry and it burns, and his essence spreads, and he makes the story come to life, all around them, the tapestry real in his light, in his prayer, all for her.
There is a hot breeze, and at its tail end, a goddess stands on the edge of the crater: a lithe beauty of polished obsidian, a brilliant orange flame burning in her eyes, white tattoos covering her skin and bronze clothing hewing close to her divine skin. (...)
Kabeira hefts her great, sparkling hammer over one shoulder as she speaks. "I arrive at your behest, to deliver what you have paid for me to wrought."
Lucent bows gravely. "Kabeira, you look beautiful as always. Kabeira, Goddess of Forge, Flames and Dolls, this is Zahara Zhan, the Dreambreaker, pehaps the greatest champion of your word. Zahara Zhan, this is Kabeira."
Lucent "She is the one I gave the stolen Orichalcum to." He adds as an afterthought.
zee eyes her sharply then nods slowly. "You did a fine job on his armor," she admits finally.
Lucent "Wait until you see the one she brought."
And indeed, for she waves one hand, and what she has brought is revealed, as a tiny sand dune is blown away and the product of her forge is shown beneath.....
Lucent ... an armor of Copper, of great plates and oversized shoulders and bracers, shining as it did to Zahara long before, the symbol for Malfeas on its chest in carved glass that holds eternal flame within. A carapace for the Harbinger of Malfeas, it is far less malignant-looking than before, inlaid now with gold to break he menacing crimson instead of the Iron it used to hold. Its cape swirls on the wind, appearing like a night sky.
Lucent "Testament Sublime." He says, contemplating the same armor he had worn on the First Age, upon first taking his name, before being rescued by Zahara and liberated by the Chime of Ages. "Kabeira... it has gold. It is beautiful."
Varanim examines the symbol for Malfeas with a jaundiced eye, then raises a mute eyebrow at Lucent before shrugging and returning to her contemplation of the lake.
zee takes a sharp breath as she recognizes the armor. "Lucent... "
Lucent walks to it, touching the armor. "Thank you, oh goddess." He smiles. "Yes, Zahara?"
The goddess nods. "With that, we are once again even, Lucent."
zee "I am... surprised to see this armor again. Though it is, in retrospect, not so."
Lucent "We are once again even, Kabeira. I wish to see you again, however. I have many projects for the South." Lucent begun to put on the armor, clicking it in, and looking at Zahara. "I know what you are thinking, but it is nothing like that."
zee "Ah? And... then what is it?"
Lucent finishes putting on the armor. That was... incredibly fast, making the onlookers feel as if they had missed something. He closes his eyes... and it goes through him. The crystal shot through flame into his heart, a sound like it going in... and out. His Presence spreads through the sands, touching and feeling all the objects, mussing Zahara's hair... and going through Varanim.
Lucent "THIS!" He says in joy! Remembering the feel, of being greater, of spreading in all directions! He points towards the water and his presence ripples its surface, as he feels the objects within... and begins dragging them OUT! "Being without bondaries! Sublimating on the world! Like a Primordial!"
Varanim jumps a little bit and shoots Lucent a distinctly offended glance, presumably at the grandiose speech although her cheeks are a little red.
zee looks somewhat concerned
The force reaches down, down into the murk and mire of the tainted pond, and eventually, with an almost thunderous appearance, the still-preserved eyeball and the remaining teeth pull upwards from within the black waters and drop unceremoniously on the sands.
Lucent puts on the helmet, one of an almost insectoid bent. It had clearly been made by Alveua. That finishes the attunement, and he watches the eye and the teeth before him. "Think you can tell more about it now, Varanim?" His voice sounded... strange, through the helmet.
zee subtly checks to see if Lucent is still wearing the torque she gave him
Varanim "We'll see, won't we?" Varanim says, contemplating the great eroded remains of the corpse and rolling up her sleeves with the air of someone who anticipates needing a bath later.
Lucent The torque is on the ground with his rosary, the coronal and Lost Mirage, his former armor. Lucent needed purity of Essence to attune to the Testament.
zee toys with her rings but says nothing, just watching.
Even a cursory examination of the beast's body suggests to Varanim that it might actually be better to cart it off somewhere else before she, ah... delves in.
Lucent takes off the helmet, making it disappear like gemstones fading in the world, shaking his head. "Aah, always too cramped with that thing."
Varanim "Hm. We'd better take this one off with us, if that's possible."
Lucent makes a gesture and they begin to lift again. "I can carry them."
As Lucent packs up the remnants of the creature and begins to head back to the airship, Kabeira looks at him sidelong for a moment, as if considering whether to bring something up, and then, after the ship is loaded, finally decides to speak. "Lucent."
Lucent looks over his shoulder, beaming. "Yes?"
"...while you are here, have you been to the tomb?"
Lucent "Tomb?" He blinks. "What tomb?"
Varanim perks a semiprofessional ear at that, although her attention is mostly fixed on the strange new corpse-goodies in the ship.
Kabeira points a single lithe finger out towards a seemingly empty section of the desert. "Out there," she says.
zee "Whose tomb?"
Lucent looks. "There is... nothing there, Kabeira"
Kabeira turns her head. "You will find it," she says. "Goodbye, Lucent." And she vanishes, in a spray of sand.
Lucent "Goodbye, Kabeira..." He looks at the specks of sand, then at Zahara. "Could we, by any chance...?"
Varanim takes her place in the ship, casting occasional longing glances at the new occupant.
zee "Mmm Tombs ARE fun. Don't forget your artifacts." She gestures to the forgotten pile, and heads for the ship, waiting for everyone to get in before taking off
Lucent gets in, looking at the place one more time. He would come back. "Go."
Zahara flies the ship out over the sands. And at first it looks like nothing is there, just as Lucent said... but then, as she banks the ship to turn around, take another glimpse, she sees it -- the tiny spire of rock, sticking out between two dunes... the downward-sloping valley that leads into a rocky door...
zee circles once, then lands a short distance away, ready to pull back up if the sand tries to suck the ship down or something irritating like that
Lucent runs out of it, jumping between Coronal-plataforms towards the door without a word!
zee "Lucent... be..." She sighs. "careful."
Varanim follows at a much more leisurely (some might say lazy) pace, making her way across the shifting sands with a brief smirk back at Zahara for her ignored warning.
zee gives Cerin a long-suffering look, and then follows after them.
Lucent runs up to the doorway of the tomb, and reads the words written upon it, carved in thick characters of the Old Realm: "Here lies Lucent Copper Haze, blessed servant of the Solar Deliberative in its waning days. May the sun guide his path from here to eternity." (...)
And then, written below, is the date of death... a date almost four hundred years after Lucent's battle with the Maw of Nine Dark Truths.
Lucent Zahara had seen Lucent's face when he found the Sun had betrayed them. She had seen his face when he was told they were from the future, that Rosada was a traitor, when he was broken out of infernalism and when he discovered about the White Room, his savior's torture chambers. But she had never seen him his jaw quite so open.
Lucent "What the HELL?!?"