23 Descending Air.
Time grows short. The Solars sit in a sizeable antechamber within the Labyrinthine Cascade, meeting with regional warleaders from throughout the Sunlands, discussing plans for the coming war. The areas have pledged as many soldiers as they can, but the numbers are still not enough. Together, the civilized Sunlands estimate that they can bring 75,000 troops to bear, with great effort. This will involve the arming of many who would never be considered to be ideal warriors, however.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "When you say, 'not ideal warriors,' what precisely do you mean by it?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We can't fight this war the way that our enemies want us to fight it, all glorious in gold and armies on the field of civilised battle."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We would lose that war."
<Cerin> "If we can get assassins, yes. But not everyone has the mindset for that."
<Markuran> "I can raise the shamans against the gods. How many thaumaturges and god-bloods are among your own people?"
<Zahara> "The Gods themselves are what we must concentrate on. Kill one god, and you kill all their Exalts." She raises a brow at the delegate, "Yes?"
<Cerin> "I'm unsure of the wisdom of fighting a war of that nature. It would be effective. But it would leave Creation very weak afterwards."
The quiet delegate speaks up. "Ahem, um, mistress Zahara... I, ah, wondered if you'd considered seeking the power of the Hematite Legion?"
Another delegate from Melekin glares at him, then rolls his eyes.
<Zahara> "New Gods can be created to take the place of the traitors, Cerin. Do you truly trust them to not rise up again?"
<Cerin> "With appropriate Oaths, yes."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "The who?"
The delegate stands up and clears his throat, shrinking a little under Helslaf's obvious displeasure. "They're the ancient warriors of metal and stone who assaulted Melekin long ago, mistress."
<Markuran> "Sound like Hundredfold. Do we really need more of those involved?"
<Kai> 'They're not. They're automotons."
<Kai> "If we can reactivate them, they should obey us."
<Cerin> "One presumes you start by finding them.."
<Kai> "There should be a... a lead, uhm, unit. A general. He would be the, uhm, the key, I guess."
<Markuran> "Where would he be?"
<Cerin> "Ah." he smiles "That makes things interesting."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I think we can take it that we will be making a trip there very shortly. Delegates, have we anything else to discuss?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "For the matter of the army - I do not want to enlist the young and the old, if we can avoid it."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I hope that the Hematite Legion helps."
<Zahara> "The old, if capable, are preferable to the young."
The delegates file out, silently.
<Kai> "I don't know much about the region, no."
<Zahara> "How did you know about the Hematite legions then?"
<Kai> "Old memories."
<Zahara> "I see. And in those memories, were they with or against you?"
<Kai> "I believe they were tools of the Solars."
<Zahara> "Meaning yourself, or other Solars?"
<Kai> "Others, I think. But I'd probably recognise them, and maybe pick out the leader."
<Markuran> "No one enters there because it is a city of fear."
<Zahara> "Some fears are justly founded."
<Cerin> "The fear is real enough. I've had people turn and fight me rather than flee through Denandsor."
<Zahara> "I suspect they might have fared better in the city of fear." she smiles.
<Zahara> "So, we have two objectives then. Raise our armies as they are, and discover what we may in Denandsor. I suggest we begin our journey soon."
<Kai> "So, what DO we know about Denandsor?"
<Cerin> "Not that much. It is shrouded by magical mists. Even Scavenger Lords avoid it."
<Markuran> "Any who enter feel fear in their hearts and soon flee."
<Markuran> "But we are great enough to defeat such tricks. Once we determine what is of value in Denandsor, we can return to finish rallying the mortal troops here. And we must pay visits to the allies of Rovak."
<Zahara> "Hmm I wonder if Ssithumi would know more about Denandsor?"
<Cerin> "She might, but I believe it is a human city, and I am not sure how much she knows of them."
<Zahara> "Hmmm it is too bad I don't have enough time to devise a spell to rust the creatures."
<Markuran> "That would be foolish, we need them to fight in days."
<Cerin> "My love, we do want an army left to commandeer."
<Zahara> "I would, of course, require a second spell to remove the rust."
The Solars prepare to enter the City of Fear.
<Zahara> "So how did you propose to leave these automatons in working order again?"
<Cerin> "We evade there notice until we can find the command automaton?"
<Markuran> "By not making them attack us."
<Zahara> "Mmmhmm. How do you propose to do THAT then?"
<Zahara> "You go first."
<Zahara> "Although I advise you don't pass through the spell that's been set to guard it."
<Cerin> "A brilliant wall of essence."
<Markuran> "A dangerous one?"
<Cerin> "It is what creates the fear. And it is being renewed constantly."
<Markuran> "Can you tell what I must destroy to end it?"
<Cerin> "Something within it. And I am not at all sure destroying it is the wisest option. Retuning it might be better."
<Markuran> "Well, whatever I must do. Can you find the thing?"
<Cerin> "When we are within the city, I am sure I can. The generation device is within, certainly.""
<Zahara> "There is always the option of trying Countermagic, although that won't do much for our efforts at stealth."
<Cerin> "I am not sure that it is Sorcery."
<Zahara> "And, also, long-term effects are not always able to be countered after their casting."
As the steeds fly down towards the city, its magnificent architecture becomes ever clearer. The city juts out of the flat plains around it like a great silver crown -- steep, rounded towers of grey and white jut upwards from the earth throughout the city, intercut by the concentric city walls that divide the districts.
<Zahara> "When one feels the fear, the others will support them through the Unity. Remember, we are not alone."
Here and there, the signs of the First Age lifestyle, so deteriorated in Rathess, are clearly visible -- the aeries, the extensive roads, the elaborate devices placed in many places across the open streets.
<Zahara> "Except you." she nods toward Kai.
In one section of the city, what was once a hanging garden is overgrown with elaborate weeds and brambles, but no animal moves within.
<Zahara> "Had I thought of it before," she notes charitably, "I would have included you."
<HelslafGruntiron?> As the Solars enter the city, the effect is palpable -- an intense, almost palpable feeling of fear settles over them, surrounding them in every direction. It is not enough to drive them back -- but even pressing on in the face of the fear does not cause it to go away.
As they approach closer, the unusual decor of the city becomes clear -- throughout, various huge elaborate statues of armed men and women stand in positions of readiness. Growing closer to the ground, a few other figures can be picked out -- statues the size of men, all built entirely of sheets of hematite and iron, each standing as if it were directly in the middle of fighting a pitched battle.
<Zahara> "Ahh," she murmurs, "There's our legion."
<Zahara> "It would follow that the leader would be protected, in the center.
<Cerin> "I would think so, yes."
<Zahara> "Shall we go directly there, or see if those guardians are still awake?"
<Markuran> "They do not look awake, they are frozen."
<Zahara> "We have not yet triggered any of the traps that I do not doubt are laid around the city."
<Markuran> "So, don't set off any traps. Simple."
<Cerin> "We cannot set foot down there without triggering them, unless we are very careful."
<Zahara> "Then it is good we are a-wing."
<Kai> "Look for one in green and red!"
<Cerin> "It is not outside."
<Zahara> "Lead the way"
<Kai> "Careful! There should be a lot more of them."
<Cerin> "You are deluded, Markuran."
<Markuran> "I am not. I saw it."
<Zahara> "We will check there after we check inside, Marku. Does that sound fair?"
<Markuran> "I know what I saw."
<Zahara> "Personally I'd rather face a building than one of those."
<Cerin> "Everyone, get ready to move. Something unpleasant is about to happen." Cerin states as he looks around for the threat, flushing his body with magic as he does.
A few seconds pass, and all of a sudden, several of the large statues rear to life -- their great swords tearing up the ground, their joints giving off horrific squeals as metal moves across metal for the first time in a thousand years.
<Zahara> "Disable, do not destroy, if possible."
<Markuran> "Cerin, can we touch the ground now?"
<Cerin> "Try to avoid it. We do not wish to wake more."
The statues are built of bluish steel that seems to glow faintly as they rise up to attack. Each is arrayed in a suit of decorative armor -- serving no real purpose, being made of the same stuff as they are -- bearing elaborate sun insignias upon them.
<Zahara> "Markuran, now's a good time to try being nice."
Four of the statues rise up in front of them, the shortest a mere 16 feet tall, the highest rising up to 30.
One of the machines seems to stop for the barest second, gazing at Cerin, before charging forward once more.
<Cerin> "I showed it my badges of office." He gestures to the 2 pin badges and the night seal. "Perhaps it needs to be accompanied by some anima flare."
No sooner does Zahara speak than the sentinels leap headlong into the air, their blades swinging swiftly at the mounted Exalts.
Kai brings her blade up to deflect the vicious blows of one of the sentinels -- as her dark blade strikes the statue's sword, the latter shatters into a thousand vicious pieces -- but their momentum carries them forward nonetheless, and slice deeply into the Solar's flesh.
The automaton Marku has targeted ducks, and Marku's missile smashes into a sizeable building instead.
<Zahara> "Who needs doors anyway?"
<Zahara> As they strike, simultaneously, the bell rings out from its place in the clouds. Somehow its song holds the sorrow of ancient metal, gone to rust in the rain, neglected for aeons. It rattles the joints of the machines, causing them to bind and slow.
Cerin's arrows strike deep into the heart of the automaton, sending one of its limbs flying and dealing great damage to its innards.
<Kai> Kai circles her wasp, and moves in toward the statue adain, this time forcing essence into Daybreaker. The blade pulses with solar light, burning it clean of her blood, splashed there when the statue struck her. she digs her heals hard into the wasp's... Thorax? and shoots straight toward the automaton's throat.
With the creature badly damaged already by Cerin's arrows, it has little resistance to Kai's powerful blow -- Daybreaker neatly severs the statue's head, and it collapses to the ground below.
Cerin's arrows once again tear through the statue, causing another to collapse upon the ground. As the Night Caste once again displays his badges of office and commands the automata, they seem to finally acknowledge his commands -- the two remaining guards cease moving.
<Cerin> "...Zahara, I was going to command them to take us to the control centre."
<Zahara> "There's one left. You just broke one!"
<Zahara> "Ask a little one to."
<Cerin> "Well, if you would be so kind as to take us down."
<Zahara> "Are you alright, Kai?"
<Kai> "I... I think it's taking hold."
<Zahara> "Ah, I see... well I have just the thing for that." She unwraps one of the Bonds from her waist again, and tosses it over to Kai, "Wrap that around yourself. I promise I won't electrocute you."
<Cerin> "We're going down there to shut it off now. you do not have to hold for long. Stay strong, Kai."
When they reach the building, Cerin leaps down off Tanty's back, then holds up his hand for Zahara. When everyone is assembled on the ground, he leads them down, the centauries old locks no obstacles no trouble, until eventually he reaches the source of the field.
The Solars find themselves following down an elaborate series of underground passageways, narrow stairways, and interlocking halls, further and further into the ground. The light provided by the magical lightstrips is eerie and a little unnerving, especially given the ever-increasing terror present in the air.
After some time, the group reaches a broad, double door, which stands closed. Cerin is quite certain that he will be surprised when the door is opened.
The light in the room is dim, but Cerin needs no light to see what he sees --
At the center of the large antechamber, resting upon what must have once been a great feasting table, sits a beast -- a sphere made up of writhing, ichorous tendrils, all with what look to be pieces of human anatomy sticking out from them -- the tip of a foot here, half a screaming face there -- and numerous more tendrils that extend out to fill the room. As the Solars open the door, some of the tendrils shift to reveal a single, giant, bloodshot eyeball... and the creature looks at them....
<Markuran> "Can I kill that?"
A great behemoth, exquisite in its power, from the ancient ages of the world.
The fear in the air suddenly becomes that much sharper.
<Kai> Daybreaker shakes silently in Kai's hand.
<Zahara> "Unless it's willing to bargain with us."
Tags: (:tags Sunlands, Melekin, Hematite Legion, Denandsor, Night Caste Seal, Endu :)