The surroundings begin to twist and shake uncomfortably, in time with the faerie's laughter. A smell of burnt cinnamon fills the air.
<Zahara> "But I have a gift for you before we meet your master, Tevezst. Aren't you curious?"
<Tevezst?> "I think not, Zahara. I remember what sort of present I gave you, long ago. And you have already met my master -- he is all around you." He lowers his arms and seems to melt down into the earth. The laughing landscape grows louder and deeper.
Cerin notices two things simultaneously -- a brilliantly glowing pillar of red light, off on the southwestern horizon, and a strange, extraordinarily unnatural feeling that seems to suddenly pervade the area.
<Markuran> "And now how are we supposed to get that fae to return Zahara's heart?"
<Zahara> "Of course you do."
<Cerin> "There is a pillar on the horizon, brilliant red light."
<Zahara> "I suppose that has something to do with my friend's master." she says, seating herself at the table as she looks over at the light.
The red light reflects off the cold steel of the surrounding trees.
<Cerin> "...And the most bizzare feeling..." Cerin closes his eyes as he tries to analyse the feeling more.
One of the trees begins to sway back and forth, as if there were a breeze -- then, a few moments later, it uproots itself. The jagged steel tree begins to scuttle towards the Solars, vicious branches swinging to and fro.
<Kai> She let's it approach her, cautiously awaiting the first strike, to test its strength.
Despite her best efforts to walk in that direction, Kai finds herself another 50 yards further away from the tree.
<Zahara> "Ah, fae tricks. What fun."
The bolt curves through space, bearing oddly away from its intended target -- but at the last moment, it seems to correct itself, and the arrow of Essence strikes the tree, neatly severing a single metallic branch and sending sparks off in every direction.
The tree responds by charging forward -- which seems to take it away from the group and back out into the mass of trees.
There is a rumbling as the ground seems to shake. A few drops of the fine wine upon the banquet table spill and mingle with those shed by Zahara's sword.
Massive cracks begin to spread out from the point of impact, splitting the earth wide open. The metallic trees begin to fall in. The cracks, however, continue to grow wider.
The cracks grow larger and larger as the cracks continue to expand, until most of the ground is split into tiny chunks. These each begin to fall away into emptiness, until only the area once surrounding the table -- perhaps forty feet across -- remains. Then, all of a sudden, it begins to rise up, into the sky.
<Zahara> "I wouldn't worry about it, really." she relaxes on the bench as they rise up.
<Markuran> "At least we aren't being attacked by metal trees."
<Zahara> "Yes, nice job on the shattering everything with the food."
The area of ground rises up quite far above the ground, revealing a strange and bizarre landscape of unusual shapes rendered in what appear to be various forms of detritus. Kai is a little startled to see that their platform seems to be merely the head of a massive giant, composed of dirt, paper, rotting food, and held together by ropes of solid rock.
The giant beast begins to walk, crushing a wastepaper schoolteacher and a pyramid of dust under one massive foot.
<Markuran> "Oh, good."
<Markuran> "Maybe Birds can organize its papery bits into a giant poem.."
As if to answer the question, one of the beast's giant hands swings downward violently towards the irritating gadflies on its scalp.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Ack! PENUMBRA STANCE!"
<Kai> Daybreaker swings up in a wash of light, sparking against the oversized trash-paw.
The two daiklaves neatly deflect the hand.
<Markuran> With a bellowing yell, Marku's brawy form goes skiing down a vein-like line of slippery mud that connects the wrist to the central body core of the trash heap. Wrapping his arms around the beast in strategic points so that large chunks of garbage are depressed by his muscles and act as extensions of his body, Marku starts trying to compact the dump into a managable trashbag.
As the vicious blades pierce its skin, the beast begins to buck and thrash about rapidly. A single, extremely forceful jolt of the head forward sends everything on it flying.
Markuran is thrown forcefully from the beast, though he pulls with enough might to tear the creature's hand entirely free of its body as he does so.
<BirdsOfTrinity> She makes a motion like putting on a pair of unseen slippers, and walks out into the open air.
The arrows fly into the beast's head with a satisfying fizz-thump, tearing the eye to shreds. There is a momentary pause, then the creature's head violently explodes and the rest of its body begins to fall towards the earth.
<Cerin> "You're not on my shoulders."
The giant crumbles into dust below, dust that spreads out and sets fire to the refuse that covers the new ground, far below. As the fire burns away the detritus, a sea composed entirely of teeth is revealed below, which sways and flaps menacingly.
<Zahara> "Well, for all its faults, the Wyld is at least interesting. Shall we continue on deeper?"
<Kai> "My dislkie for this place is definitely growing."
<Zahara> "I'm sure it has far more to grow, Kai. Especially if you meet a Fae who can actually touch you."
The red glow Cerin noticed earlier still shines in the northeast.
The ground slopes up to meet the Solars as they advance towards the column; the teeth seem to have solidified and rooted into a series of elaborate wooden structures spiralling out of the ground, which they jut out of like pearlescent white flowers. The wind makes an odd whistling noise as it blows through them.
As the Solars walk closer, they can begin to see where the red light emenates from -- a huge castle juts up from the ground, spiralling upwards in almost infinite detail. It appears to be made entirely of bricks composed of constantly flowing, running blood -- each a little self-contained waterfall.
In the front, a giant clam serves as a drawbridge into the central courtyard.
<Zahara> "Inviting, don't you think?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Oh yes."
<Zahara> "I particularly like the little waterfalls. I should add something like that to the Cascade when we get back."
<Markuran> "Not in blood."
<Kai> "Althuogh maybe wine..."
<Zahara> "Wine would suffice."
the sword neatly separates it, as it would a regular waterfall.
It stabs cleanly as far as Zahara pushes it.
No such thing is apparent.
A faint murmuring noise comes from within.
<Zahara> "Well," she calls to the castle, "Are you going to show yourself, 'master'?" the last word is filled with mocking laughter
As if in response, a great face extrudes itself from the castle, and two of the towers stretch out to form crude hands. The face is utterly unlike any human face, though the basic regions of eyes and mouth can be identified.
<Zahara> "Good enough."
<Master?> An inhuman voice, grating and amelodic, speaks up from the face. "You resist for naught. You bring your wicked shape within my great chaotic borders but it is for naught. I shall absorb you and render you unto chaos."
<Zahara> "Well, that sounds like fun but I must decline. You could just give us a bit of Deep Wyld essence and we'll take our shapely forms out of here. Or, well, I wouldn't recommend the alternative." she says mildly.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "It is interesting, O lord of chaos, that you rigidly define shape thus."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Do tell us more of the things that you believe and desire."
<Master?> "All shape wears away at the perfected chaos. The very realm of order defines us by its existence. Your very presence defines us by your conversation." The face slowly shifts its shape in the falling blood as it speaks. "All shape must be destroyed, whatever its form. There can be no compromise."
<Zahara> "If all shape wears away at chaos, why are you taking the shape of a beam of light, a castle of bloody waterfalls, or the face you produced to talk to us? Surely you must destroy yourself now."
<Master?> "This shape is impermanent. It does not constrain me." No sooner is this last word uttered than the blood castle shatters, the sky falls down to the earth, and a thousand identical bushes spring up, each forming a distinct face of its own. "Your kind are immutable. You bear with you the risk that we shall become immuatable as well."
<Zahara> "But it does constrain you while you wear it."
<Master?> "Only while we do not take other forms." Suddenly the trees melt away, and a great pool of deep blue water opens up, from which the words flow out of the sounds of the water lapping against the sides.
<Zahara> "Why do you require form at all, if Chaos is so much better?"
<Zahara> "That makes chaos inferior, then, doesn't it?"
<Zahara> "That makes you inferior to Shape."
<Zahara> "Of course you are. You can't even interact with us without taking Shape. Obviously Shape is more powerful."
<Kai> "It seems like Chaos is just a long string of Shapes, all mashed together..."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Maybe this isn't Chaos at all."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Just, like, shape that got beaten up in the wash too long. Kind of frayed at the edges."
<Zahara> "It's a terrible tragedy. Chaos is too inferior to deal with Shape, yet it is inherently the cast-offs of Creation, once Shape, now useless."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I'm not sure I would know Chaos when I saw it; I think that 'seeing' might not mean what I think it means, there."
<Zahara> "We cannot leave without what we seek."
<Zahara> "Thank you. If you ever decide to take on a Shape, come visit. We'll chat. Say hi to Tevezst for me."
<Kai> "I bet he wouldn't1 I just bet!"
He begins to stab towards Zahara's heart with it.
<Markuran> "Zahara! He has to return your heart first!"
<Zahara> "Don't be silly, he's not dead."
His hands smoke from his attempts to grab at the iron on the collar's exterior.
<Zahara> "Markuran, there will be time for that back at the Cascade. And quit saying that, my heart is exactly where it belongs."
Tags: (:tags Tevezst, Unshaped :)