<Zahara> "Markuran, I would thank you to put *my* captive down immediately."
<Markuran> "Where would you like me to put him, Zahara?"
<Zahara> "Put him down. I can deal with him myself."
<Zahara> "And please, don't break him. I can do that too."
The Solars can feel a very slight tingle in their skin as they pass beyond the borders of Wyld-touched land and enter Creation proper once again. The gate by which they entered is several miles away.
<Zahara> "Don't bother him, he's thinking."
<Zahara> "It's much better than not thinking at all, don't you agree?"
<Markuran> "I think much of the time Zahara. But spending all your time thinking is bad for you."
<Zahara> "Why is that?"
<Markuran> "Because your brain will get bigger and your head will stretch."
<Zahara> "I'd rather have a giant head from thinking too much than by having a massive ego."
<Markuran> "Having an ego isn't as dangerous. You can let your ego out of your head by telling stories of your exploits, channel it into tattoos and scars. Mementos absorb it and songs spread it around. But thinking..that just piles up inside your head."
<Zahara> "Thinking is the reason Tevezst is my captive, and the Shaped City let us go."
<Markuran> "There was an old man, back when I was first passing the tests of manhood. I was trying to marry his daughter until I found out she was a demon-worshipping witch that wanted to sacrifice my heart, liver and other parts to her master"
<Zahara> "Thinking is how we rediscover our history, learn sorcery, design and craft new artifacts."
<Markuran> "And he thought a lot. When he died, his head was terribly deformed from all his thinking. And he's not the only one."
<Zahara> "Thinking has very little to do with demon-worship, unless you naturally tend towards such things."
<Kai> "I saw a cow like that once."
<Markuran> "Yes, yes, yes. But you do all that in moderation! If you think ALL the time, your head can't mind can't digest all the thinking. And it piles up and stretches your head."
<Zahara> "That's why thinking people TALK. And CREATE."
<Markuran> "Cerin doesn't talk that much though."
<Zahara> "He talks to me a lot."
<Zahara> "Now Kai, Kai doesn't talk much." she passes the woman a faint smile.
<Markuran> "Well, maybe his head won't stretch. But I bet it will. And then you'll be sad you let him think all the time."
<Zahara> "At least he won't be all scarred up and ugly."
<Markuran> "If I'm ugly why do you keep watching my rear end?"
<Zahara> "That's the only part of you that hasn't been shredded."
<Markuran> "I've got no scars on my face, left leg, right forearm, either hand, both feet..lots of places."
<Zahara> "Maybe not physical ones."
<Kai> "... Are you saying he has emotional scars on his ass?"
<Zahara> "No, no, I'm saying his ass is free of emotional scars."
<Kai> "... Oh."
<Cerin> "Carry on walking slowly. There is some trouble at the gate. I will be back shortly." then he simply dissolves into an indistinct crimson blur that flies along the ground towards the gate, barely a shadow after a while
<Zahara> "Just let us know if you have any trouble, dear."
<Kai> "Hm. What do you suppose that's about?"
<Zahara> "It's probably that star-born, or some angry fae." she shrugs.
Tevezst groans but otherwise remains silent.
<Markuran> "Sometimes Zahara I wonder about you and your leashes. I think that if you could you would collar every person in the Sunlands and draw their Essence into yourself every morning at dawn."
<Zahara> "Well, that would be nice, wouldn't it? That much power all at once."
<Zahara> "Doesn't work well with mortals, though. A pity."
<Kai> "Come on, you had to see that coming."
<Markuran> "Zahara, did you not understand that feeling of "stay away"?"
<Zahara> "I'm just *looking* Marku. Don't get your panties in a bunch."
<Markuran> "I don't wear panties. Or smallclothes at all, really. They're uncomfortable."
<Zahara> "Maybe that's why your ass sticks out so well."
<Kai> "I... Uhm. No, I'm not saying anything."
<Markuran> "While Cerin does whatever he's doing, lets go home."
<Zahara> "We can't. He was investigating the Gate."
<Markuran> "He'll know where we've gone."
<Markuran> "We can take another Gate."
<Zahara> "I'm not leaving him here, even if he IS being irritating."
<Zahara> "Go alone if you like. I'm going to get Tanty and Reaver.. they should be around here somewhere."
In response to Zahara's calls, her two pointy pets trot out of the nearby woods. Reaver waves his tiny arms and gurgles in a metallic voice, while Tantamount asks "How many roads must a man walk down?"
<Zahara> "Hmm I wonder if the number differs for mortals and Exalts."
<Zahara> "And you thought it wise to face them alone?"
<Cerin> "No. I thought it wise to let them march."
<Zahara> "Which way did they go?
<Markuran> "We really must create a way to destroy large numbers of these creatures."
<Zahara> "But, Markuran, that will involve THINKING. What if our heads get warped?"
<Kai> "At least our asses will be okay."
<Markuran> "Possibly some sort of unbearable light or smell or sound...or we could simply let Zahara talk to them for long enough and they will surely all die of boredom and broken eardrums."
<Cerin> "Towards Halta."
<Zahara> "Or you could use your boundless charm and lead them away by the ass."
<Markuran> "Do you think the Haltans could help negotiate to get Fair Reinforcements to battle the god-exalts?"
<Zahara> "If they survive."
<Markuran> "We really should simply slay all the Gods doing the Exalting."
<Markuran> "They are the threat."
<Zahara> "I've suggested that before."
<Markuran> "Really. I must not have been listening to you."
<Zahara> "How very odd."
<Markuran> "Not really."
<Zahara> "Don't the Haltans have some deal with the Fae?"
<Cerin> "It does pose certain problems however. You saw the light grove, did you not?"
<Markuran> "Maybe if we just maim them?"
<Zahara> "Well, they'll have to be replaced. Perhaps if those in Yu Shan actually CARED they would be replaced already. I should really talk to Herons about that."
<Cerin> "No, what we have to do is take out the head. Those gods we can eat. Anyway, we should make haste back to the sunlands. The invasion has begun, it seems."
<Markuran> "Ah. Yes. Back then."
<Cerin> "What good could he do my love? He is no more allowed in heaven that us, I believe."
Reaver squeaks with delight and grabs one of Zahara's fingers with four tiny metal hands.
<Markuran> "If the invasion has begun...I think it best if we conquer the Realm with all due speed."
<Markuran> "A few trips with Relovia to the Realm Gates and I could begin to gather support for us."
<Markuran> "It would not take much effort."
<Zahara> "You wish to recruit them?"
<Markuran> "The Dragon-Blooded would be a great help."
<Zahara> "I suppose."
<Markuran> "As would the Defenses of the Realm."
<Cerin> "That will have to wait."
<Zahara> "Perhaps we should finish getting our ingredients together."
<Zahara> "Or we could split up. Let's go home, first, either way."
<Zahara> "Oh dear. Aren't your forest spirits in there?"
<Cerin> "Zahara, might I have the service of one of your pupetteers for a moment?"
The puppeteer obliges and stretches itself up, allowing Cerin to look out to the surrounding area. What he sees is trees burning for miles around.
And then, in the air, appears a tremendous image, miles high, of three people -- a thin man in red robes, a dark haired woman in purple and white sashes and a veil, and a stout, bald man in yellowish-brown clothes.
The image is big enough, and the hole in the clearing large enough, that all of the Solars can see the image.
All five recognize the man in red, though not necessarily for the same reasons.
The man in red begins to speak, in a deep, booming voice that echoes across the land.
<Zahara> "Oh yes." she looks at Cerin. "We do."
<LaiMisuna?> "Know that the overlords of old are powerless. The Dragons slumber and cannot be woken; the Sun hides in his palace and will not come out. The empire of the Dragon-Blooded has fallen, and chaos consumes the Blessed Isle.
<Zahara> "Well he's got SOMETHING right at least."
<LaiMisuna?> "We, the Army of the Red Lily, bring a new order to Creation. Surrender your arms and join our cause, and you will find yourselves empowered within our new order; resist, and you will be destroyed."
<Zahara> "Yes, burning down our forest really encourages us to join. Brilliant, that."
<LaiMisuna?> "Remember my words. Your heroes are powerless; only we hold the key to the future. Glory to the Army of the Red Lily." The two others nod to him, and the image disappears in a massive gout of fire and smoke.
<Kai> "Who are they?" Kai hisses.
<Cerin> "The Red Lily is lead by Lai Misuna. It is they who are raising the God Exalts."
<Kai> "And the others?"
<Zahara> "I think this would be an excellent time to hunt him down and eat his soul."
<Zahara> "But for now, we need to keep this fire from spreading. Both fires."
<Cerin> "His cohorts I would guess. The woman is probably Exalted of Kasima the knife, the man of ten beasts rising."
<Kai> "I see. When do I get to slay them?"
<Zahara> "A moment, if you will."
<Cerin> "I'm not sure yet. How do you know of Lai?"
As Zahara completes her spell, a truly massive wave of water reaches up, towering over the tops of the burning trees and holding there for a moment, before crashing down violently upon the forest, rushing forward to flood the entire area and thoroughly extinguish the flames.
After several moments, the water calms down and stops moving, then begins to slowly drain away.
<Cerin> "Start to work out what we should do next? Check it is unharmed? I'm not doing this to protect you my love, but it does not take three of us to check the forest."
The fae seems largely unresponsive.
<Markuran> It takes only a few moments after the arrival in Chaya for Marku to gather nearly the entire city. Most had gathered in the central squares to see the strange vision in the sky and were still stunned, congregating and talking worriedly. Wrapping himself in armor of brilliant golden light and finding the best-lit position for his Speech, the golden warlord waited for silence. It came easily.
No sooner does Zahara step within the Cascade than she can sense that something is very wrong.
<Markuran> "You have heard the message from the Red Lily. I tell you this: they speak the truth! The Sun hides in his palace. The Dragons slumber. Even Luna and the Maidens hide themselves from the world. The Realm is tearing itself apart. The Second Age comes to an end!"
<Zahara> "Sol's Nuts." she mutters, taking Marku's little saying. "Burn the forest AND they did something in here too."
<Markuran> "The Red Lily will bring a new order. If you join them, you will be Exalted by a lesser god, granted powers beyond your imagination. Your strength may some day rival that of the Dragon-Bloods that have so long ruled the world."
<Markuran> "But the Red Lily lies as well. They say the old champions are powerless. I tell you that my arms have not grown weak, my voice is not feeble and my mind is as sharp as ever. I still have my powers, though he who granted them cares not what we do."
<Markuran> "A new order will arise in Creation. But not that of the little gods, the petty masters of trees and brooks. The Second Age ends. But the Third Age will not be the age of human slavery to the gods of trees and bugs! You will be slaves, as surely as those who swear to the Yozis are slaves! They too gain power! You have seen it, you have suffered it."
<Markuran> "That is what the Red Lily offers you."
<Markuran> "I offer you freedom. And a life that is your own. If you follow the path that will save Creation from the Dead. From the Fae. From slavery under the petty Gods, you will thrive. My Circle and I will make you thrive. The power of the Sun is ceded to us as is Creation. The Realm of the Dragons crumbles and the Realm of the Sunlands will soon rise. Our realm. And yours, as these lands are yours."
<Markuran> "Answer the Red Lily and swear yourselves to gods no better then the bugs and snakes they lord over. No better then demons. Or answer MY call and swear to the Empire that saved your lands, your homes, your families from the Dead and preserves you against the Fae."
<Zahara> "Care to learn the underways of the Cascade, Kai?"
<Markuran> "We have demonstrated OUR intentions and OUR power. The Lily is mighty, YES! But we are mightier still! And with us, you will live free, live well. You must decide between slavery to the gods and freedom under men and women. Let yourselves fall to their charms and the world will die. The dead will rise and the Fae will come."
<Kai> "Nothing I enjoy more than a dank walk."
<Markuran> "We offer safety and life. Make your choices, people of Chaya."
<Zahara> "Well I shall provide plenty of light." she leads Kai to a heretofore unnoticed door and unlocks it, descending into the depths.
The sickly-sweet smell of the sewers wafts up to the two Solars' noses, and small critters scuttle out from underfoot. Zee can tell that what she's looking for is about two hundred yards away.
As Zahara walks around a corner and comes to the spot in question, she instantly realizes two things. First, she notices what is wrong -- a single block of stone, a water channel drilled through its center, sits on the walk, neatly removed from its position in the wall; the water that should have flowed through it dribbles down onto the ground.
And secondly, she comes to the sickening realization of what this means -- the creature that the Cascade bound within itself has escaped.
<Zahara> "Well it seems our guardian has been recruited."
<Zahara> "We had a River God bound here to defend the Cascade's waterways. He wasn't very nice."
The crowd in Chaya rises up in love and worship towards Marku -- he can feel the surge of power that flows within him as they do so. As he steps down from his speech, townspeople throw flowers at his feet.
Cerin discovers a large quantity of the leafwalkers, hidden within a hastily constructed breakwall of earth. Their mother, the forest goddess, hides amongst the center of them, weeping bitterly for the destruction wreaked upon her forest. Many of her children stand, vicious looks of hatred upon their faces.
<Cerin> "Greetings, forest mother. Greetings, children of the forest."
<Cerin> "I am sorry that we did not return sooner, and I am sorry for the losses of your trees."
<Cerin> "How many came?"
Markuran is similarly received throughout the Sunlands, as eager townspeople are swayed ever more strongly to the Solars' cause.
Shortly thereafter, Cerin arrives to find Zahara and Kai waiting for him.
<Cerin> "What is wrong my love?"
<Zahara> "Lai stole our Evil River Spirit. That asshole."
<Cerin> "Ah. That is not good ..."
<Zahara> "I don't know how he even got IN. We had wards!"
<Kai> "Hm..." Kai wanders off to find her monkey.
The monkey is easily located.
<Zahara> ::Reaver makes angry baby A noises, puffing up to look fierce::
Mishkin indicates excitedly that several strange men in purple ninja outfits swept through the building.
<Kai> "Did they do anywhere aside from down below?"
<Zahara> "Inventive isn't the word for it! Our HOME isn't safe. How can we protect everyone else?"
<Zahara> "That is unacceptable. I won't have it!" she stomps.
<Cerin> "Perhaps there is some spell of the adamant circle that will be more effacious than your thaumaturgical wards, my love?"
<Zahara> "There's a bloody Adamant Circle spell on the whole COUNTRY, for what good THAT does."
<Cerin> "That protects us from armies, my love. Not from small groups."
<Cerin> "Perhaps I can search the libraries in Denandsor for such a spell and others like it ..."
<Zahara> "It'd likely be of the Sapphire Circle to be so focused." she says, beginning to get lost in thought
<Zahara> "Where did Kai get to?
<Cerin> "She was in her room when I saw her last ..."
<Zahara> "I thought I heard her say something about Lai, but then the water got too loud."
<Zahara> "Her name rhymes you know. She might be evil."
<Cerin> "Lai killed her father."
<Kai> "With a knife," Kai says calmly as she reenters the room.
<Zahara> "Well. That usually works."
<Kai> "It was the woman, actually, but all three were there."
<Zahara> "Why were they there?
<Kai> "Why do you think?" she says, drawing Daybreaker halfway out of its sheath, then sliding it pointedly back in.
<Zahara> "The sword, hmm? How did they know it was there?"
<Kai> "I don't know. They'd been in a week earlier, and looked at it... But I can't think they were just shopping casually..."
<Zahara> "It was on display? I thought it was passed down from your parents?"
<Kai> "Oh no. It was something we had in the shop. Came in in a lot we picked up somewhere."
<Zahara> "Really... from where?"
<Kai> "I don't know. It wasn't really important beforehand, and afterwards, well, everything was gone. Even if I had thought to look, the records were burned away with the rest of the shop."
<Kai> "Well, as I said, they'd been in a week earlier and showed some interest in the sword... When they came back, they looked around a bit more, then became suddenly violent. My father was holding the sword when he died... I picked it up, to defend myself. That's when I, uhm, Exalted."
Tags: (:tags Tevezst, God-Exalts, Lai Misuna, Chaya, Labyrinthine Cascade, Leafwalkers, Daybreaker :)