The Solars stand before the gate in the (now slowly recovering) woods beyond the Cascade, preparing to journey into the cold, frigid north.
The gate roars to life, as it has so many times in the past, leading out onto a flat plane of ice.
Upon the other side of the gate is a vast sheet of ice, much like the one the Solars discovered on one of their first trips through the gateways. In most directions, it is flat and featureless, but to the northwest a set of icy mountains rise up out of the ground, their vicious crags hiding whatever might lie behind them.
<Zahara> "It occurs to me now, that it's too bad he didn't."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Mm. Then we wouldn't have to clean up after evil-Marku."
<Zahara> "Well, which way is Iallu's?"
Birds' info tells her that the Temple is likely to lie within that mountain range.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "In the mountains."
<Kai> "Who's Iallu now?"
<Cerin> "Iallu is a goddess of secrets."
<Cerin> "Birds met her in Yu Shan."
The Solars find themselves at the foot of the jagged, steep cliffs; the temple, apparently, lies beyond.
The group, not deigning to actually set foot on the mountains, progress onward. It is some distance to reach the top, but no particular difficulty. As the four crest the top of one particular peak and get their first glimpse beyond, they can easily spot it: the Temple of Unfeeling Ice. In a valley between several of the larger, more jagged peaks lies a large structure, circular and perhaps a quarter of a mile wide. Twelve great pieces of ice arc up from its outside borders, nearly meeting over the center of the temple; in between pathways and promenades wind inwards from the borders towards a central cupola.
<Zahara> "Very fancy."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Funny, her place in Yu-Shan is like a librarian's boudoir."
<Zahara> "Covered in illustrations of the Immaculate Positions?'
Perhaps a minute passes with no response, then a figure -- a woman, apparently possessed of entirely faceted surfaces and wearing fairly extensive purple robes -- steps out from a small door visible on the south-southwest side of the building. "Why is someone knocking on my temple?"
<Zahara> "That would be Birds of Trinity attempting to get your attention. It seems to have worked." she smiles pleasantly.
<Kai> "I wondered what was making that noise..."
<Zahara> "I'd be sure to feed it soon, if I were you."
The door opens in on a domed room utterly unlike the exterior of the temple, decorated as it is with elaborate, almost gaudy, gold trim and red velvet drapery. Vast, sweeping, curved shelves line the outside walls; past a circular balcony of perhaps ten feet the floor drops almost five feet downwards. In the inset portion at center, smaller sets of shelves form intricate passageways and room spaces that can easily be seen and examined from above. The tiger cub, the apple, and the wine are neatly piled to one side of the entryway, while Iallu herself is not instantly, immediately visible.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Yes. It's very... ...tidy."
There is no immediate response.
There is kind of an uncomfortable pause for several minutes.
After about five minutes of no one making any obvious motions towards leaving at all, there's a sudden snap. Appearing from within a reasonably nearby bookcase, Iallu shouts out with sort of an exasperated "AIIIRRRGGGHHHHH!" and slams the front door closed before standing in front of it, unconsciously imitating the state of breathlessness.
<Zahara> "I am curious what Birds has done that causes you to be so...mmm..surprised that we would make a social visit."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Not at all. Are you going to tell us?" She grins. "I love stories."
<BirdsOfTrinity> A bit later, "Oh, also, sorry. I probably didn't mean it."
<Iallu?> "This whole war against humanity. I have no interest in it. Why would I? So many more interesting secrets this way. But NO. The Dual Triad, they're not interested in that position. They want EVERY god to participate."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Oh, pardon my manners. Everyone, this is Iallu the Ten-Faceted." She indicates the others, clearly waiting for them to introduce themselves.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We are, how do you say....comrades?"
<Zahara> "Cerin the Wolf, Hunter of Men and Gods, and Kai Buckthorn Weilder of the Daybreaker.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "You didn't get my letter?"
<Zahara> "Roland? Didn't he have that mmm trouble with the Sentient Trees of Dhaal last week? I was under the impression he was still there."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "How embarrassing. Well, as you can see, we brought you some treats, and I believe that Cerin had hoped for your counsel."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We were in the area looking for Essence of elemental Air."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Since you mention it, who are the Dual Triad?"
<Zahara> "And there is no dissent?"
<Zahara> "Indeed, then, is there any argument?"
<Iallu?> "Some of us are happy with how our roles have fallen out in this Age, but most have been waiting for such an opportunity. They are not happy laboring to keep the world in shape for humans to live within. When the Empress disappeared the last part of the ancient geas fell away and gods like Ahlat were only too happy to take the opportunity presented."
<Zahara> "How is the Empress tied to the gaes?"
<Zahara> "Will it indeed? It may help you out of your situation, in which case, you should be paying US."
<Zahara> "Mmmm, although the mortal danger could end in you no longer pursuing your purpose ever again." she notes absently.
<Iallu?> "STORIES! I hear the whisperings of what you've done and where you've been. I can guarantee you've unearthed facts that even my extensive collection can't match..." She trails off as Zahara leans over.
<Iallu?> "I'll make it easy for you." She gestures again and a sizeable tome opens up on an end table sitting next to Birds' chair. "Just write something in there, something I can make halfway decent use of. That's all." It would appear that the difficulties of the past months have drastically lowered Iallu's standards.
<Zahara> ::The Seal::
<Iallu?> "The Empress disappeared five years ago, leaving beyond the boundaries of the world. When she did so, the last seal of the Solar Deliberative left as well. All magics held in place by the power of that body were broken at that moment."
<Kai> "The LAST Seal?"
<Zahara> "Their return does not reinstate the rules?"
<Iallu?> "The bindings of the Deliberative were built on the power of all the seals. Just one of them was strong enough to maintain those bindings, but they are broken now. It would require the reinstitution of the Deliberative as a whole to have any chance of reawakening those magics now."
<Zahara> "I see. That is mildly distressing."
<Zahara> "Not that it wasn't one of our long-term goals to begin with, but it seems a bit difficult to pursue with the Empress' seal outside of Creation."
<Zahara> "Hmmm Do you recall Alahwi at all, Iallu?"
<Zahara> "In the First Age, she defeated Kiriath the Destroyer, among other things.
<Zahara> "All knowledge of the First Age has been hidden, turned secret, by the conspiracy of the Immaculates, who are also the authors of the Hundred Gods Heresy - those who deny you Gods the right to your due worship.
<Iallu?> "Yes, yes, I'm familiar with all that. I know that the Knights orchestrated an elaborate plot to eliminate traces of the Solar Deliberative and build an inferior rulership of Terrestrials, this is all quite elementary knowledge to me."
<Zahara> "Somehow I cannot see that being resolved simply through being able to force mortals to worship you directly. For one thing, the population of these mortals remains the same, and for another, they are a notoriously fractious bunch.
<Zahara> "You perhaps heard of The Three Lights, and what happened to them?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "The problem lies in the worship itself, not how it is applied...freely demanding worship creates problems like Ahlat."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "...yes, and the Three Lights."
<Zahara> "Of course." she smiles, "I am merely eliciting your opinion since you have spoken to the others, and have a vast store of knowledge to which I am not part. And as for the Three Lights, I am referring to when the mortals decided they were no longer in need of their services, before the debacle that ensued."
<Zahara> "It occurs to me that a more centralized system that could distribute the benefits more evenly to those Gods who keep Creation running on the Fringes, may be something we could devise."
<Iallu?> "Such a thing is certainly possible. Perhaps you are different and would implement such a system where your predecessors did not. Then again, perhaps not." She doesn't particularly sound bitter, just... realistic.
<Zahara> "On the other hand, there will certainly be many open portfolios after this war truly begins."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We are imperfect, but idealistic!"
<Zahara> "Would this idea be of worth to fight for? For those who wish to join in the war, of course."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I find it is an inspiring combination. Why, my volume of Odes to Zahara is nearly as big as my head..."
<Zahara> "As I see it, Gods should get the proper worship due them in the Celestial Hierarchy, with regard to the power of their position, not simply how many *ahem* mortals.. they can gather 'round them."
<Zahara> "Ah, but I have the power of Sorcery at hand. And a monkey."
<Kai> quietly: "It's my monkey..."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Monkeys are essential."
<Zahara> "So. I do not claim that I could do this alone. It would take cooporation from those who wished to be a part of it.
<Zahara> "If this secret plan of mine were to get out, well, I would not be unhappy."
<Zahara> "I have been thinking on it long and long, but have not yet been able to act on it, due to other pressing concerns such as this highly inconvenient war."
<Zahara> "May I take it that we see eye to eye on this matter?"
<Cerin> "Very interesting things." Cerin agrees with a nod.
After considering matters and deciding that Cerin is not, in fact, evil, she truns over to speak to him. "I understand you had a matter you wished to speak to me about."
<Kai> :: Perhaps we could share some First Age secrets back-and-forth ::
<Cerin> "Well, there were three things I wished to ask of you. All relatively unrelated."
<Cerin> "Ah, I thank you for both those pieces of information. The second question concerns souls. How are they woven together, if that is a thing you know, or who could tell me?" Cerin draws the essence patterns of the souls of the mask of winters into the book.
<Iallu?> "Regarding your second question...." She pulls out a map of Rathess and marks a location, in an out of the way corner of the fifth octant. "I don't believe the buried laboratory here has been fully excavated yet. You might want to look there for answers."
At about the same moment, an origami flower falls from a nearby shelf and lands on Birds-of-Trinity's shoulder. She grasps it and looks at it intently.
<Zahara> "Can you tell us where they are NOT?"
Shooting a glance over to Birds of Trinity, still entranced by the elaborate folds of the flower, she says: "I'm afraid I can't tell you ANYTHING about them."
Tags: (:tags Iallu, Temple of Unfeeling Ice, Nibbles, Dual Triad, Scarlet Empress, Geas, Dawn Caste Seal, Solar Deliberative, Seals of the Deliberative, Alahwi, Kiriath, Sidereals, The Three Lights, Ymir, Thousand-Faced Man, Souls, Orrery of Lights, Rathess :)