alsoquin As Cerin slips the ring onto his finger, there is a brief moment, perhaps one second long, where he feels nothing at all change. If Cerin were capable of surprise, he might have used that second to wonder whether the ring did anything at all -- but no. In that moment, the dark pools that are Siram's eyes meet Cerins, and Markuran's body grins. (...)
alsoquin Then, the second is over, and Cerin feels an astounding experience, like his entire body and all of his senses have been jerked across thousands of miles, through ice-cold water... all his senses go completely dark, and a few moments -- or an eternity -- pass where Cerin can feel and sense nothing, even his own thoughts.
alsoquin Then, the darkness of sight begins to fade away, replaced by a pattern, almost impossible to look at accurately. Hundreds of billions of tiny strands of rope, in every color, twist and shift through and around each other in every direction, moving so swiftly they almost cannot be seen; the whole of them blur to a grey mass, though one that shifts and changes so rapidly that a mortal might go mad from seeing it.
alsoquin It surrounds Cerin in every direction; he can feel the core of himself, somehow, but his body as he knows it is not present.
alsoquin At first the hazy weaving around him is endless and directionless, no part distinct... Then, in one corner of infinite space, a tiny glimmer appears... a light, distinct from the background.
Cerin Cerin doesn't react -- outwardly -- to the look in Siram's eyes, to the grin that Markuran's flesh wore, his face impassively meeting that monsterous gaze with one only scarcely less inhuman himself. Inside though, the process of thought it is not so pleasant. It stops. Everything stops. And when he knows thoughts again, there is only the self. Stripped of the body, his thoughts change a little. Become ... harsher. He watches. He (...)
Cerin wonders. He focuses on the light
alsoquin As Cerin's soul gazes upon the light, it begins to rush towards him... or he it? It is hard to say. From an infinite distance, the diamond shape begins to ever so slightly become visible, and the facets... multicolored, and glowing with their own internal light...
Cerin Who is this that approaches? Cerin wonders, as the lights draw closer. What are they? What is there purpose here?. It seemed too late to be afraid, if he was going to consider that route in anyway, and so he wonders, with a now detached curiousity
alsoquin As the jewel draws nearer, its true form becomes clearer... it is not a jewel at all, but a collection of smaller objects, held together with gossamer twine in a complex pattern. The intricate relations within it seem to defy reason, as objects hang together in two ways, at once impossibly contradictory yet utterly natural. As it grows nearer and nearer he can make out the details.... (...)
alsoquin Four trays, each increasingly deeper, stack within one another, each having an intricate fractal border resembling a gemstone of a different color. At the center of the middlemost tray sits a rock, carefully painted and carved to resemble a mountain; and around it, held by shards of gossamer to it are six other objects:
alsoquin a tiny potted plant, a seven-faceted jewel, a black stone from which a silver liquid flows, a sparkling fountain, an ash-white carving of a city with a black hole at its center, and a yellow-jade carving of a lion. (...)
alsoquin Beyond them sit two crystal palaces, each unimaginably different from the other, one dark where the other is light, one cold where the other is hot; though the true nature of each is obscured by their contrast with one another. And in the outermost tray, rolling in perfect orbit, always exactly opposite from one another,
alsoquin are two perfect marbles -- one is clear, with a single violet occlusion within, while the other is cloudy, and as it rolls images, like pencil sketches of living creatures, humans and stranger things, flicker over its surface.
Cerin Though what is that, beyond the boarders which I know. That is what the poles spoke of.
alsoquin The unrestrained momentum that compel's Cerin's consciousness towards the melange continues unabated. And as he grows closer, more details begin to resolve themselves... for each of the objects is exactly what it appears, but at the same time is alive... a perfect geometric form of a being, alike yet unalike humanity... heads can be seen, and limbs, and wings, but in infinite combinations, in orders that are perfect and yet impossible... Each of the objects, even the trays, are folded thus...
alsoquin And each of the creatures, in further fractal glory, is built of tinier creatures folded through space to exactly define its own form, and so on down beyond the ability of perception to detect.
Cerin Cerin forces himself to watch, to consider, to try to understand. To not twist under the pressure of it all. It one thing to know what a primordial was, to sketch its flows and souls. It was quite another thing to see them. All.
alsoquin It is at this point that three more creatures present in the scene come into Cerin's view.... the perfect forms of three dragons, curled through the gossamer shards that tie together the objects... like forms carved by perfect artisans into the most flawless jade.
alsoquin On one side is one of perfect whiteness, so brilliant its details can almost not be seen -- except for the droplet of brilliant red blood that sits at its eye, as if it weeps. (...)
alsoquin On its opposite side sits one of perfect darkness, so empty and bleak that its details can almost not be seen... and the shards of gossamer that extend from the crystal palace wind tight around its limbs and neck, holding it tightly in place.
alsoquin In the center is a dragon of perfect neutral gray, and it is as if the entirety of it cannot be seen for how little distinction it bears; its coils wrap tight around the rock-mountain and squeeze at its base, and when it glances up briefly Cerin knows beyond all doubt that he has looked into its face before.
Cerin The three dragons. Child, Mother and Father. And yet I have seen one of them before. Why does my memory fail me? Or is it inevitable? Have all beings seen this dragon, and none?
alsoquin As he draws nearer and nearer, Cerin begins to glimpse the details... though picking out things to focus upon from the choice of every event in every part of the universe is difficult at best...
alsoquin He sees, sitting in an earthenware bowl outside the world, a brilliant golden lion, with one paw bearing black claws and the other opal; and around it circle seven stars;
alsoquin In the ashen city, a young boy with a long white beard sits while two icy masks juggle the sun, and then the boy looks over the edge, into the black pit;
alsoquin In a nine-tiered city built of jeweled mushrooms that pokes up through the tapestry, just outside the edge of the mountain, a red flower sits entwined with a pale fungus, while two tiny chairs sit empty beside it, and the thorns that hide beneath its petals are lowered so that they do not sting;
alsoquin A boat of gold sails over the northern horizon into a vast circle, cracked into pieces, as it passes its own past, gone the other way thousands of years before;
alsoquin A city of glass glows from within, while seven times seven times seven more crawl into it from below;
alsoquin in one jeweled palace, a pure light shines, though it holds up a mask to hide its face; and in the other, a thousand masks hide one another, and hold up a darkness to shield themselves from view.
alsoquin in the one palace, six maidens knit a cloak of blue and white from discarded scraps; while in the other, six figures stand, one green, one red, and four black, as the green hands out bowls of golden light to each.
alsoquin and finally, somewhere, somehow, the tiniest dot of utter emptiness hides; but though Cerin sees it, he cannot tell where it is.
alsoquin Cerin now realizes the exact nature of the course he is on -- the universe stretches out below him, and he is falling towards it... directly towards the dragon in black.
Cerin Cerin feels a chill start to grow at the core of his being, even as the fringes are still lost in the wonder of it all, all the gloriously impossible things that he can see. Because now he can see his destination and that makes it all so much more real. So very, very real.
alsoquin Cerin falls a little further, and the eye of the black dragon, though equally black to the rest of it, springs open and stares directly at Cerin. Though the strands of gossamer hold it tight, it writhes and bends against them to tilt its head upwards, to open its black maw wide towards the sky...
alsoquin And it's only now that Cerin can truly see how grand it is, how truly large, as it sits, as large as the world... larger, an inky black void mouth from which there is no escape. Though the ropes burn at its neck, it twists up and that maw hangs open as Cerin plunges into it.
alsoquin Then the great maw closesd behind Cerin, and for another eternal moment, all is darkness once again.
alsoquin Then, two great red eyes open in the darkness, and Cerin finds himself illuminated by their crimson glow. He can see himself... thinking, logical, and cold... and himself, angry, upset, burning and heaving, like two buildings over a vast river... and a golden bridge of light connects them.
alsoquin From all around, one thousand voices and yet only one speak: "For what one thing alone did you cast yourself towards me?"
Cerin Cerin is silent for the longest time, watching himself, both of them. After a time he says a single word. "Zahara." It is a completely accurate and yet, completely fails to explain it even to him.
alsoquin "Then let us inscribe it upon your heart." From the blackness, five tendrils of equal darkness reach up and move to the bridge of golden light, where they begin to carve the name in brutal broad strokes. Each slice hurts somewhere deep within Cerin, a pain that goes far beyond any he has ever felt before.
Cerin doesn't scream, as her name is carved at the core of his being. The effort it takes is incrediable, but somehow it seems like it would be easier if he did
alsoquin The pain is so intense that it seems to last forever, but then it is over; and a sixth tendril of shadow slides up and wraps around the bridge, until the shining gold is covered entirely in inky blackness. As the last tiny mote of light disappears from view, Cerin feels himself... change.
Cerinfernal knows its pointless to fight, so he doesn't. Just watches the gold disappear. Watches ... waits ... changes.
alsoquin Where once stood a proud soldier of the Unconquered Sun, now is a dark warrior in the service of Nyx, the Ebon Dragon.
alsoquin The voices speak a final time. "Go now, knowing that you are mine." Then the blackness shatters like glass and the pieces of it fall away one by one, until Cerin is simply standing in the darkness of the Haltan complex once again. (...)
alsoquin Markuran still stares grinning at him, but where once he saw the Solar with the eyes of a devil, now he sees the twisted, reality-defying warps and folds of Siram's cruel visage, and at his chest, a cage of filth which a tiny golden bear wages a futile battle to escape from. When he sees the change come over Cerin, he grins wider and speaks: "Come. We have an appointment."