alsoquin Calibration 5, RY 769
alsoquin The time has come, and the storm-wracked ruins of the Imperial City await!
Imrama Clouds move in the night over the seat of a once proud nation. The wind roars like an angry sea, hording the pent-up power of the storm like a people in chains. Lightning crashes, empires fall, and the Fable of the Reconstruction returns once more to the Imperial City.
Cerin is standing at the side of the ship, looking out over the city, or what is left of it.
alsoquin The black vines, red flowers in full, eager bloom upon them, have now covered almost the entire city, the First Age remnants and the Dynasty's recent additions alike.
alsoquin The Imperial Manse still stands amidst its unique clearing, its elegant form rendered dark, but somehow still beautiful, by the intricate vines that trace its exterior.
Thirteen sits in the center of the upper deck, giving final contingency orders to each of his individual units.
alsoquin Some ways off to one side, the vines have gathered in a thick circle, from which a thick black smoke is pouring upwards, towards the sky -- the Infernal energies here make it quite clear that this is where the Ebon Dragon will enter the world.
zahara stands next to Cerin, close enough to touch when she sways lightly with the motion of the ship. Her eyes focus on the flowers, and her fingers curl around the hilt of her daiklave.
Lucent watches. You'd think he would be used to seeing the bastions of past glory so darkened, by now. You'd be wrong.
Imrama stares out at the polluted remnant of the City of Truth, eying the new manner of ivy that the Yozis have devised for this age.
zahara hums a soft song that some may recognize as the one that brought them back together when lost in the Wyld.
alsoquin Cerin and Thirteen both realize at the same moment that they have exactly ten seconds remaining of peace and calm.
Cerin smiles. ::Company soon:: He draws his glittering bow of gold from the air, and the black ribbons around him seem to swirl with new energy.
Imrama takes a final drag on his pipe, and exhales a gout of incandescent, Technicolor smoke high into the air. The Fable's gun-ports fall open on their mark.
phoenix puts on her hat and grasps the ribbons of her anima impatiently. It fans out into a wild array of gold-edged blades.
Lucent spreads the Coronal about himself, lighting the fable like Yu-Shan.
alsoquin Imrama's second mate politely informs him that a vast bolt of energy is currently shooting towards the Fable at high speed from a nearby point on the ground.
Imrama "All hands: brace for impact." Imrama adopts the unfailing stance of the Salty Dog and readies his essence to steel his ship against the blow.
Thirteen pulls himself to his feet, leaning on his spear, and wraps one hand around the trail of smoke above him.
alsoquin The vessel shakes -- but is unharmed -- as the Eightfold Vengeance of Earth and Sky strikes brutally against its hull, and vast streamers of deadly air and earth essence glide upwards past the Fable, still propelled by the powerful momentum of Adamant Sorcery.
zahara takes note of the spell, idly analyzing its energies and the way it was woven together before it shattered against the hull.
Imrama "Canons: for the source of the spell, on my mark." ::How good of a show should this be? And what is our queue to throw the fight?::
zahara ::I believe the death of Thirteen should throw us off sufficiently.::
Cerin ::We cannot accidentally kill them and thus worry Nyx. They will come back from that. I do not believe it would be in our interests to be bashful.::
alsoquin Three winged beings of light whose fellows Imrama has never seen in this lifetime raise their feathered limbs in a signal that cannons are ready.
Imrama leans over the prow with one knee bent, raises his left hand and drops it in a signal to the winged crew behind him. "Mark."
Imrama Pillars brighter than the mid-day sun light up the sky over the Imperial City, thundering into the light-starved earth.
alsoquin Looking over the edge, Imrama can see the spot where the cannons have targeted: in the ruins of what was once a sumptuously appointed mansion stand the Nightbloom. They do not so much as move as the vast beams of Essence shoot down towards them...
alsoquin A moment before they strike, the Empress snaps her fingers, and a nearby piece of rock shoots up, as if of its own volition, and receives the full brunt of the blasts.
Thirteen At the same moment, Thirteen is moving, and as the rock breaks apart under the force of the cannon fire, he erupts through the center, spear trailing red-gold light.
alsoquin Amazingly enough, the Empress did not see that coming.
alsoquin Though she falls back, away from Thirteen's blows, she seems to lose her composure for a moment in doing so.
Thirteen "Excuse me. I am looking for a worthy adversary. If you see one, could you direct them to me?"
zahara glares down at Thirteen Blooming Flowers. It is clear that she had not expected him to do that either.
alsoquin Cainan is the first to react successfully, turning with his two circular, golden blades moving in an almost too fast to see circular dicing motion.
alsoquin Steadily, without concern, he advances on Thirteen's position.
Cerin decides that now might be a good time to shoot Cainan, so he does, a quartet of golden bolts cutting through the essence laden air
phoenix follows Thirteen's lead, and, leaping off the ship, looks for someone to engage with.
alsoquin The head of a fallen house grunts in irritation as he spots the bolts flying his way; he slightly changes his path to swing his blades upward in his own defense.
alsoquin Meanwhile, Aramida is only too happy to send the Daybreaker, held deathly tight in her two-hand grip, swinging towards Phoenix as she falls.
alsoquin Ishlaka, his hands glowing black around Ssithumi's stolen bracers, steps in behind Thirteen with a monk's practiced elegance, then attempts a singular swift punch aimed at shattering his spine.
phoenix wonders if she is carrying sesseljae. That didn't go so well last time. Three Essence blades try to stop the Daybreaker and part, evaporating into misty air, before the fourth stands firm, ringing like a bell. Phoenix reels backward, towar the ship, on the force of the impact.
zahara sends the War Bell through the air, circling once above the battlefield before sending its bitter tone downwards.
Thirteen leisurely maneuvers out of the way, tapping Ishlaka's foot into a better stance with the butt of his spear.
alsoquin Arada takes that moment to end a Solar stealth Charm that even Cerin doesn't know and, somehow having moved mere inches from Thirteen's face, swing his twin daggers at the Twilight's neck and belly, respectively.
Cerin ::Ah. That is a new trick::
Thirteen twirls his spear, pushing one of Arada's strikes off-line with his other arm, and steps back, breathing a little heavily.
Thirteen "I feel it only polite to warn you that I cannot be surprised."
alsoquin Surkha winces at the sound of Zahara's bell, and anyone watching can see the edges of the Nightbloom infernals seem to... shake a little, as their Essence pattern slightly deviates and then reknits itself.
Cerin studies the effect with accute interest as he shoots Ishlaka several times in back with hungry golden motes.
alsoquin Ishlaka seems unfazed by Thirteen's "correction" and executes the lost Thirteenth Kata of the Twelve Direction World Style, his hands moving in rapid-fire approximations of characters in dead languages before leaping forward to strike.
zahara smirks, taking possibly too much pleasure in Surkha's pain, though the effect on her is minimal.
alsoquin The effect is conveniently disrupted as Cerin's bolts strike him, sending him out of his stance.
Thirteen floats backwards, his spear seeking an opening, while he continues to trap Arada's blades with his open hand.
Thirteen "Do any of you talk at all? My unflagging stream of repartee will eventually run dry."
Thirteen glances up at the ship as he spits out a short word that scores a red line across Arada's cheek.
phoenix touches Zee's shoulder and smiles. "Surkha! Minions! You are pitiful to the extent that I must stand aside and allow my brothers to fight you unmolested. To allow you some dignity in your defeat."
Cerin ::It does?:: Cerin's mental tone seems ... surprised, almost. It doesn't stop him stringing more of the golden motes across his bow, directing them towards Cainen as he circles for another attack on Thirteen
alsoquin She has stood largely still this entire time, but suddenly, Surkha swivels on the spot and turns. "I remember you, Wei Dan," she says, and a strange memory seems to flash through Thirteen's mind for just a moment.
alsoquin "Today, your plans will come to ruin," she says, and she gestures, almost dismissively, with one finger towards Thirteen's heart.
zahara plucks the five perfect shards from the air and tosses them upwards. They sparkle for a second as they catch the light, then shoot downward, propelled by a singularly intense peal of the War Bell, arrowing towards Surkha's own heart just as she releases the spell.
Thirteen "I am glad to have made such an impression on you, Empress. We shall see."
alsoquin Thirteen speaks the words, and no sooner does he do so than he feels an intense pain, beyond anything he's felt before, crack open his heart. The last thing he remembers is feeling the curling vines tear open his sternum and the Wine-Dark Rose of Broken Hearts open in the fresh air, and then he collapses and his oh-so-new artificial eyes see no more.
alsoquin Surkha turns to spot the shards flying towards her, and she laughs. With one swift motion she draws the Sword of Ice from within her robes and moves to intercept them.
Cerin ::Birds, we need his body. We need it before his souls unwind.:: "Zahara ... don't! Don't throw that away on something so ..."
phoenix sees Surkha move for the shards, and as she does, Phoenix dives at the corpse of Thirteen Blooming flowers. There is no time to be upset.
zahara "It's our chance, Cerin!"
phoenix savagely pulls up the body by the throat, ignoring the splintering of vertebrae in her hand, and rips a handful of the infernal flowers from the ground with her other hand, before flying back to the ship.
Cerin sends arrows raining down around her as she dives, pushing everyone back from her.
alsoquin Thirteen's body feels unusually heavy, somehow, just by being so lifeless... Even knowing the plan as she does, the reality of holding Thirteen's dead body is something of a shocking experience.
alsoquin Cerin's arrows scatter Arimada and Cainan, keeping both from laying their swords into Phoenix as she ascends.
zahara follows the arc of the shards, only just realizing what has happened to Thirteen. Her eyes widen and she grips the railing tightly.
Cerin "... Can't you call them back?" He asks of Zahara, still raining down motes that fall amongst the decending shards.
Imrama The Fable's guns pound the battlefield as Phoenix of Ashes climbs aboard and the vessel turns to make its retreat.
phoenix heaves over the side of the ship, tosses the body at Zahara, and leans heavily on the nearest vertical structure, which turns out to be Lucent.
alsoquin The wound in Thirteen's chest is quite horrifying. Blood drips freely from within his chest cavity, where the plant crushed his heart, but already that blood is turning black from the mixture of cruel ichor within, and Thirteen's skin is already beginning to turn a deathly white pallor.
phoenix "Zahara, learn that spell."
zahara catches the body, her face a mask showing no emotion. "It... is too late."
Lucent pats Phoenix... and looks darkly down at Surkha. If looks could kill...
alsoquin With one single, almost effortless motion, Surkha swings the Sword of Ice through the air, and the the shards are knocked away.
Cerin "It is .... too late. Imrama, we need to be elsewhere." He strings one last mote across his bow, ladening it with all his skill at bringing death and disrupting essence and shoots straight down, aiming for Surkha's heart.
Lucent "... but the shards! Zahara, call the shards back! We can't leave them!"
alsoquin Surkha looks up at the bolt with a look of great disappointment. "If you will not be the wolf at my side, I shall have you as the dog at my feet," she says, and allows the bolt to strike home, though a vicious wavering of her Essence pattern is the only visible result.
Imrama responds with flat resignation. "We needed to be Elswhere a moment ago. Now I am uncertain that there is anywhere left for us." He turns the Fable up, straight up into the sky, peels towards the clouds, and vaults beyond the ban of Creation.
zahara "Bitch!" she screams, reaching into the wound and ripping out an ugly black vine. She hurls it down and gestures for the shards to return to her. Four of them return at speed, the last embedded in the wall. With an impatient gesture, she 'yanks' the shard towards her and there is a singular noise. The surface of the shard clouds with a million tiny fractures and with a final note of pure clarity, it explodes into a roiling purple
zahara it explodes into a roiling purple cloud filled with infinite splinters.
alsoquin Surkha laughs as the vessel pulls up into the sky far above, and watches as the cloud of purple smoke wafts across the breeze.
zahara falls to her knees and bows her head, holding Thirteen's dead body on the deck of the Fable.
Cerin watches the essence pattern waver. And that is why you must die, Surkha, then he wheels from the side of the ship, running over to Thirteen and cutting the flower from him with an orichalcum knife. ::Soon. They must not see though::
phoenix gets to her feet, but she is still leaning on Lucent. "That was not worth it."
Lucent "No. It wasn't." He sighs, holding her... "Sorry. It was my idea..."
zahara shields Thirteen's body with her own as Cerin works on the wound. Completely contained within herself is a deep satisfaction.
phoenix drags Luc over to the body and the others. "Imrama, are we safe? Can they follow us?"
Imrama The black sky parts and the Fable emerges into the storm-riddled, ominous air of the Seven Leagues of the Looking Glass. Foul as it has become, it is a reprieve from the dangers of the Imperial City.
Lucent ::Cerin... look around? Is there any possible way she has placed demons or sorcerous eyes within the ship? One wrong word that they can hear and this will have been all for nothing.::
Imrama "Perhaps five or six people in all the world know how to reach this place. We are as safe as I know how to be during Calibration."
Cerin ::We are safe here, and none to soon. It has started.::
alsoquin Spider-black skies hang over blood red fields. Creatures in unearthly throes of eternal cannibalism devour one another for the ten thousandth time, groaning in unrelenting agony. Demons crawl across black iron hills, seeking pleasures too alien for humans to grasp -- or survive.
alsoquin Upon a cliff, jagged blue lightning flashing behind it in irregular spurts, there is a single object, clearly out of place: a polished, mahogany desk.
alsoquin A man without a face sits behind it, and though his expression cannot be seen, his body language makes it clear that he is satisfied. He gazes at a black crystal cube that sits upon his desk, and within it, the soundless, flickering images of Meru play out.
alsoquin Not quite a voice, but a growl, plays in his mind, and he smiles.
Cerin gestures, and in his hand there appears a box. From within the box, he draws forth the Peach of Immortality and into the box, he places the flower that bloomed on Thirteen's demise.
alsoquin The rose is immaculate and beautiful, quite unlike the carnage left in its wake.
Lucent closes his eyes, and begins to pray for the sun for that to work...
Cerin slices the peach, dribbing the juice on Thirteen's lips before he simply pushes it down his throat as far as he can reach.
alsoquin Cerin shoves the fruit of life into Thirteen's mouth, and not a moment too soon; even with the immense effort of will to hold his soul together after his passing, only moments yet remained.
alsoquin The miraculous healing powers of the Immortality peachknit together Thirteen's wound enough to stop further bleeding, and an involuntary spasm coughs vile ichor out of his mouth... but he remains unconscious, the trauma of the injury still significant enough that he does not wake.
Lucent opens his eyes "We did it."
alsoquin The darkness throughout the tainted Leagues begins to shudder and shake... and the shuddering only grows stronger. It can mean but one thing.
Cerin "No, we have merely not failed yet. Though I am not sure we wish to judge the next part of our success from within the League ..."
zahara looks down at Thirteen's now-sleeping face and rises, crossing the deck to watch the oncoming darkness.
Imrama "The League is quaking with the rest of the planar latticework. Nyx is loose upon Creation. It's time to go home and do what heroes do."
Imrama With that, three bolts of black lightning strike the Fable's prow, and the ship appears once again in the Eclipse room of the Auric Temple.
Cerin "Perfect." He turns to Zahara. "My love, would you like to see Nyx reborn into Creation?"
zahara "I can think of nothing more amusing at this moment."
Cerin offers her his arm, and then leads her over to the window
zahara links her arm in his and proceeds to the window, where she watches the end of the world. Or at least, AN end of the world.
alsoquin The vast circle of black vines, like some unholy tear in the world, pulses with black energy and shrieking noises that echo even within the manse. And then, quite suddenly even with all the buildup, it happens....
alsoquin The form of Nyx, a shadow so dark that one's eyes seem to grow more sightless even glancing at it for a moment, and so vast that even cropped in view by a windowframe it seems like to look into it fills darkness to the borders of one's sight.... bursts forth from that dark hole, and the whole world screams in pain.
alsoquin The sight is no surprise, but the sound... that is not something that any of the Solars likely expected.
alsoquin And throughout it, Surkha stands, her sword held high, gloriously ushering in her reign over her second, and far darker, kingdom.