charlequin With time moving rapidly forwards, the Solars prepare to execute the next stage of Thirteen's elaborate plan, with the floating city of Crystal now thoroughly in their control.
Thirteen "Please prepare yourselves. Once we begin unleashing pure ruination upon Gem, the occupying forces may attempt to respond."
Birds contemplates this.
Birds "Didn't Brilliant Child say, in his Paintings of Wars, that the enemy is most dangerous when there is no way out?"
Zahara "I don't suppose I could convince you to let me take the Treasury home with us?"
Zahara "I imagine the gems lose their value when they are vaporized."
Thirteen "Take heart, Zahara. The destruction of the world's jewel supply will make your stockpiles inherently more valuable. Looting will not be necessary."
Birds "Maybe we can reconstitute them, like rock candy..."
Cerin considers the control board, as he works out how best to bring ruination on the city. Perhaps using Earth essence to contrain the Fire until it had reached a most fractious and belligerent state and then letting it pour down on the city...
Zahara "Well yes, but I was going to use them for an artifact or three."
Thirteen "You are no doubt correct, Birds-of-Trinity. This is why you will need to be ready for their frantic assault."
Birds mentally sketches out a system of crystal seeds attached to long stems, trailing from the undersurface of the city.
Birds "A daring stratagem."
Thirteen walks over and calmly places his hand atop the weapons control panel. With a quick gesture, he locks in as the target the latent Fire essence beneath Gem. He then presses first softly then harder upon the board, infusing the essence in question with infernal power, stopping just short of the power limitations of the device.
Birds arms herself, and gently nudges her demons into wakefulness
Zahara "I'm going to be up on top. I'd like to get a good view.
Zahara departs the control room, and ascends to the peak of the city, using the air as a staircase.
Kai waits quietly, carefully not touching anything.
charlequin Zahara, standing atop the floating city of Crystal, gazes upon the city of Gem, utterly earthbound and far, far below. (...)
charlequin Nestled in the shadow of a volcano, the city still makes for quite a sight. The ruins of the First Age city that once stood here are quite visible. Vast, brilliant red towers of faceted gemstone rise up from the ground in places, though few remain intact today. The newer buildings, of adobe and orange sandstone, sit in their rounded-square shapes between the great ruins. (...)
charlequin As with the Northern base, the operations of the group are not tremendously visible from above, but the city streets seem quieter than might normally be expected -- though in this case, that might simply be to protect the citizens from the immense heat. The ground around the city is almost not ground -- massive brushfires burn uncontrolledly, and the thick heat haze gives the land the appearance of an impressionistic pai
Birds flies up to look down at the city beside Zahara for just a moment, and sharply turns away, shedding a single tear in mourning. This is the last time anyone will ever see Gem like this.
Birds Then she returns to her impromptu roost and studies the edge of her solar sabre. It is adequately sharp.
Zahara notes Birds' distress, and pats her arm gently, though her eyes never leave the city below. She can feel the vibration of the city beneath them alive with essence, and power. Great power. It exhilarates her.
Cerin subtly manipulates the controls, creating a column of air that bears him up and next to Zahara before expiring leaving him with an arm around her waist, looking down on the city with her.
Zahara smiles at him. "Clever." she says admiringly, giving him a kiss.
charlequin Anyone attuned to Essence can witness the massive flow of energy that departs Crystal and flows into the geomantic energy stores within the earth, though to mundane sight the only sign is a path cleared of the haze. (...)
Thirteen waits inside, although he does open a viewport, the better to hear the desolation of the south commence.
charlequin After some amount of energy has begun to pump in, however, the changes in the landscape begin to grow manifestly visible. The great chaotic fires begin to grow somehow more ordered and magnificent, their edges growing harsh black lines and their colors becoming amplified, almost like a woodcut. (...)
Cerin kisses her back with a smile, before studying the massive flows of essence the device is generating.
Kai "This is... kind of creepy."
charlequin Simultaneously, the red crystal towers that form the broken skeleton of ur-Gem begin to glow with a soft but intense internal light, that -- quite visibly -- seems to be bleaching the newer buildings of the city as it shines upon them.
Thirteen "Hm. That is interesitng."
Lucent rushes outside, nearly stumbling over himself... "Sorry, sorry, am I too late?"
charlequin As the heavenly energy pours more and more into the ground, the towers' glow becomes increasingly brighter, somehow becoming simultaneously lighter while remaining distinctly red. The buildings of the city do not appear to be putting up a great deal of resistance -- where first the light merely bleached them, now abodes begin to crumble under the assault. (...)
charlequin It is at this point that Cerin notices something unusual -- there seems to be some sort of unusual Essence feedback loop between the celestial essence being put INTO the system, and that being taken OUT and converted (to power the weapon).
Birds nudges Smoking Mirror. "Dearest, what is that?"
charlequin Smoking Mirror leans over to the ear of her master and whispers, "Ata'la, Bringer of Dawns."
Thirteen tenses up as he hears the tritonal ring of the feedback loop, but continues to power the weapon, prepared to deactivate it at any moment.
Cerin frowns down at the loops from his place next to Zahara. "Those are ... interesting structures that should not be there. Or, rather, are going to cause us difficulties by their presence. I do believe the city beneath us is powering up."
charlequin The sentence is conveniently punctuated by a sound and sight almost too difficult to witness, as a great red form tears the volcano asunder, sending stones and magma flying out into the air.
Zahara "Hmmm Then I hope Thirteen is draining it."
Thirteen "There will be plenty of time to drain it once we have seen what it is." Thirteen's voice, echoing through an air current blowing to the top of Crystal, has an uncharacteristic tinge of childish excitement.
charlequin Whatever once stood in the now-destroyed mountain is too hidden by dust and debris for most of the Solars to make out, but everyone can easily see as the ground splits open on a straight line from the ruins of the mountain and directly through the heart of the city. A great tail, hundreds or even thousands of feet wide, tears itself loose from the structures built atop it, and it becomes clear that the "towers" were just
charlequin Cerin has little trouble gazing through the obscuration, and can make out the true form of the beast -- like a vast draconic turtle, with the head of a bull. It swivels its head around to look at the flying city, almost casually dragging its tail across the ground and obliterating another third of Gem.
Lucent "A Behemoth..." Luc says, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. "All that... all those people..."
Birds "Do you suppose the arhat of the Lap can be made to stand?"
Birds has a wild look in her eye.
Birds "Iallu is going to have a long talk with Birds-of-Trinity, I think."
Zahara "It would be rather amusing if every major city had its own creature. Although Crystal isn't quite a creature...it does remind me quite a bit of the Xi Mi taxi though, so perhaps it is alive after all.
charlequin As the dust begins to blow away on the hot breeze, the other Solars can make out the creature's form -- its great red scales, glinting brighter than the finest diamonds; its eyes of fire, each bigger than a small town; it's horns, intricately scrimshawed in an alien tongue.
charlequin The strange heavenly fires on the ground begin to grow greater and greater, and begin to spread out further from the ruins of the city.
Thirteen removes the heavenly impetus from the fires spreading across the desert, but does not yet cease transmitting power into the huge bull-turtle.
Thirteen observes for a few moments more, then shuts down the heavenly essence cannon entirely.
charlequin With the weapon powered down, the spread of the unearthly fire stops; only that within the direct heat radius of the creature still maintains any stability. The amount already injected into Ata'la seems to have been enough for it to awaken, however; though its current motions are still sluggish, it does not respond by growing dormant again.
Zahara "I wonder if it can talk." she muses.
Birds "So Mirror, you know Ata'la? Get together for tea on occasions?"
Kai leans over to Thirteen. "I'm, uhm, I'm not going to go fight that. I hope that's okay."
Zahara raises her voice, addressing the creature in Old Realm, "Welcome, Ata'la!" she says, watching remaining people below scurrying away like ants on fire.
charlequin Smoking Mirror answers calmly. "As Reborn Ecstatic Plume is to you, so Ata'la is to Hesiesh."
Thirteen emerges hurriedly onto the top deck, Roseblack in tow.
charlequin The Dragon-Blood is a little unused to this particular _size_ of creature, and looks rather stunned.
Birds stifles a gasp. Gasping doesn't do.
Lucent lets his gasps come unimpeded
Thirteen 's voice echoes across the ruined desert. "Well met, Hesiesh. Our apologies if we have disturbed you unduly."
Thirteen ::Birds, you did not tell me your bird was a repository of forgotten lore.::
Birds ::He didn't see fit to tell ME this either. I will speak to him sharply when the opportunity affords it.::
Cerin studies the giant beast, one hand gently stroking Aliza's head as he does.
charlequin Smoking Mirror thinks it odd that the Solars should be so curious as to his knowledge of his own detailed genealogical information, but says nothing.
Birds decides that now is the time for action. She gathers up her skirts and her bird and flies toward the behemoth, activating Unbroken Twig Step in the process.
Kai follows Thirteen up onto the deck, blades drawn, but step cautious.
Zahara has, of course, come prepared, and her weapons float around her as they always do.
charlequin Though the process of turning is slow and laborious, Ata'la has at this point turned to completely face the city. Its head -- by itself larger than Crystal -- stares with a powerful gaze at the Solars' fortress. In tones so deep it is a wonder they can be heard, and in slow meter, it moves its great mouth to speak...
charlequin "The Flame-Giver still slumbers... why have I been awakened?"
Thirteen "We have need of your aid, Bringer of Dawns. War rages even in the celestial halls of Heaven."
Zahara "Many of the gods have gone rogue, as Thirteen Blooming Flowers said, and are in need of a proper Censure."
charlequin "And what creatures are you to call upon me?"
Lucent "They have consorted with the primordials, both living and dead, and created false Exalted."
charlequin The great dragon is slowly, steadily, walking nearer to the city of Crystal.
Zahara "We are the Chosen of the Sun, rightful rulers of all Creation."
Lucent "We are Solars, Ata'la. The children of the Unconquered Sun. We call on you to enforce the mandate of heaven."
Zahara "You felt the essence that awoke you, did you not?"
Birds "Were you sleeping before we were made?"
Lucent "It is your duty. And ours'"
Birds "As Hesiesh is to you, so is the Sun to us. We are his sword."
charlequin "I have slept for epochs. I warred once, but now I have been rewarded with long slumber. Now I awaken in a world where the five Lords are yet asleep."
Zahara "I believe it is time for them to awaken, and reassume their duties."
Birds "The Lords are sleeping their rewards as well, then?"
Birds "I wonder what we could offer them in exchange for what time remains."
Birds "Perhaps...a world to wake up to?"
Thirteen "Despite our great need, we would not have disturbed you, were it not for our enemies pitching a camp above your sleeping head. Inevitably they would have visited upon you a ruder awakening yet."
Birds nods to Thirteen's point and finds a seat at the edge of Crystal.
charlequin At this point the creature's head has moved closely enough that the Solars are staring directly into the enormous maelstrom that is one of its vast eyes, spinning with an unbelievable speed.
charlequin "I cannot be awakened for the petty wars of mortals. I bestrode this world when it was made anew! Perhaps this conflict can be best ended with both sides beneath my feet."
Zahara faces the monster with no sign of fear.
Thirteen "It is fitting, then, that you awaken now, when the world is about to be remade again."
Lucent Lucent closes his eyes. He can feel the thing, and that is enough. "'Mortals'? The Primordials are our enemy. And we ceased being mortals when we became the thing that once stopped them."
Zahara "This is not a war between mortals, nor simply exalts such as we. This is a war about the Gods overstepping their bounds, ceasing to do their duties, and plotting to take over Creation."
charlequin "Such a thing is unimaginable."
Zahara "It is indeed. Which is why we must not allow it to happen."
Thirteen "...any more than it already has, of course."
Cerin "I must apologise Ata'la. This arrow is not for you. " He whispers and then leaps unconcernedly leaps above Zahara's head before firing down a single droplet of sunlight, to the tiny, tiny figure he can make out so very far below. As it falls, the arrow gains speed with an impossible pace, plunging into the back of the figure climbing far below.
Birds "It seems that gods have expansive imaginations."
Zahara brings Bertrand out, placing the trembling man to the fore. "As you can see, the lesser Gods have been attempting to make their own Exalts in order to overthrow Creation."
charlequin Bertrand makes every reasonable effort to hide behind himself.
charlequin As Cerin fires, he focuses his eyes to get a closer look -- it is a stout, bald man, swathed in brown clothes.
charlequin Cerin's arrow is perhaps half a foot from the man's back when it impacts into a suddenly visible field of Essence, in the vague shape of a great mammalian beast, and shatters into tiny motes of sunlight. The man climbs on.
Thirteen ::Who is that, Cerin?::
Cerin ::That is Holbar. I believe he is fused with Ten Beasts Rising::
Zahara "You see, another climbs upon you that claims the power of a Lesser God."
charlequin Ata'la seems to be considering the matter.
Birds decides to get back to the control chamber, after handing Smoking Mirror to Kai. "Hold this."
charlequin At this point, Holbar has crested the ridge of scales keeping him from the topmost part of Ata'la's head, and drawn out from one fold of his cloak a purplish crystal that, without hesitation, he plunges downwards into the creature's skull.
Kai absently takes the strange bird, keepeing her eyes on Holbar. "Okay."
Thirteen ::Birds. Go now and drive him forth.:;
Birds catches Thirteen's meaning. ::Yes, you're right.:: She launches herself from a tower.
charlequin As the crystal strikes, Ata'la's head jerks violently upward -- nearly striking Crystal in the process -- and the beast lets out a truly astoundingly loud noise of pain.
Zahara taps her bell, and it rings deeply, tuning slowly to match the resonance of the crystal in Holbar's hand, and his internal organs along the way. Then a sharp peal at that tone rings out clearly. The sound of death.
Thirteen taps the machinery he stands with the butt of his spear, and panels slide back to reveal a slightly smaller and more rudimentary version of the weaponry control panel.
Birds flies, trailing smoke and fire. Once in range she begins to launch arcs of radiance at Holbar, looking for all the world like an Imperial dragon cannon.
Cerin lets more sunlit drops rain down on Holbar from on high, always pushing at his defences, testing them.
Thirteen kneels quickly and pours heavenly essence into Ata'la again, keeping an ear cocked for some idea of how he seems to be reacting.
charlequin Thirteen quickly gets the impression that the heavenly Essence is warring against some sort of taint pouring out from the crystal wielded by Holbar. He pushes at the energy to flow more freely.
charlequin Bolts of light and arrows pepper Holbar from above, and open fairly sizeable wounds in his shoulders and back, but though his blood flows freely, he continues to push downward with the crystal, which is now firmly embedded in the being's skin.
charlequin He collapses to one knee, with one arm hanging loose at his side, but he is stubborn to the end, continuing to push down the crystal with the other.
Zahara witnesses Holbar and his crystal not explode into a fine mist, and thus peals the bell once more, the sound reverberating, echoing off the crevasses of the behemoth's body
Birds nearly flies by Holbar and narrowly manages to stop herself by grabbing at his hair. "I DO NOT LIKE being INTERRUPTED!" She carves his fingers off one by one.
Cerin whispers something to Aliza, and then he drops, red ribbons wreathed in cold, blue flames landing on the surface of the great beast next to the soon to disicated and burned body of Holbar, watching the God within as he grasps the crystal firmly in gloved hands and starts to pull, hoisting it from the elemental.
charlequin Birds' strikes lop off Holbar's remaining useful hand, then force him face-down into the burning-hot skin of the beast. Meanwhile, Cerin comes over to pull up the crystal.
charlequin He can see the tendrils of dark, evil energy flowing outward at a surprisingly rapid pace, and presumably hopes that he has arrived swiftly enough.
Zahara "Fight it, Ata'la! Do not let it take you!"
charlequin With a single massive heave, Cerin hefts the crystal out from between the scales. It pulses demonically in his hand.
Zahara "You are better than that, stronger! You are the weapon of Heisiah, and you can not fall."
Zahara ::Lucent, you must cleanse the wound, as you send souls to the Cycle.::
Zahara hurries over to Lucent, and offers her hand, to assist in getting over."
Lucent ::Right at that!:: He calls, watching the tendrils, his anima flaring about him...
Lucent jumps and catches Zahara's hand, "Just take me there. All I need is a touch."
Zahara runs across the intervening air, Lucent safely in her grasp, and deposits him at the wound
Cerin hurls the crystal high up into the air, and then just as swiftly he draws back a bolt of cleansing light that he fires up. The brilliant sunlight burns its way up the crystal annihilating it in solar light.
Zahara "Wai...t... Cerin."
Thirteen lets out a heartfelt, irritated sigh.
Lucent ::Good one, Cerin. There was nothing good to be learned of something like that:: He says as Zahara lets him go, and he takes a step foward... touching the wound made by the crystal on the great being's skin.. closing his eyes...
Zahara ::It is there that you are incorrect, Lucent. Much can be learned from the weapons of the enemy. For instance, how to counteract them.::
Zahara ::And.. I suppose this ghost will be difficult to summon as well.::
charlequin Heavenly essence flows into the creature from below thanks to Thirteen's frantic efforts and from above thanks to Lucent's healing touch. After a few moments, the thrashing and moaning subsides and the darkened energy begins to recede from the wound.
Lucent The anima about him as dry and hot as the southern desert, as pure as the scorching sunlight. It burns the wound closed, almost like an attack, burning and cleasing away the taint... there are no words and no prayer now - it is violent, primal use of his anima as he cauterizes it.
charlequin With Holbar dead and the crystal destroyed, the crisis appears to have been averted.
Zahara "Ata'la, are you well?" she asks from atop the creature's head.
Thirteen relaxes his hand's pressure on the controls, moments before the power plant would overload.
charlequin "I yet live."
Zahara "I apologize, we did not realize his intent before we saw the crystal. Their threat is even more pronounced than I had thought."
charlequin "These are the ones you war against."
Zahara "Yes," she replies simply.
Birds can only nod.
Lucent "Yes. As you see, it is not something you would ignore. It is something that can wound the likes of you, and Creation itself."
charlequin Ata'la nods its tremendous head, which has an effect of moving it hundreds of feet up and down in the air, in a fairly rapid fashion.
Cerin remains standing on the head with perfect poise
Zahara clasps Lucent, and leaps upward a few yards, thus avoiding the pitfalls of standing atop a nodding behemoth.
Lucent "Thank you, Empress."
Zahara "Of course, dear."
Birds "Sorry for making a mess on your head."
Birds glances at Thirteen and Cerin. ::Do we take in the late Holbar for analysis?::
Thirteen ::You might call my intentions that.::
Birds lifts the bulk of the carcass with ease, and flies back toward the city. ::Mirror, my apologies for rushing off without you. Please take the opportunity to meet with your ancestor if you wish.::
Zahara collects the fragments of the crystal after dropping Luc off at the city, muttering a bit.
Tags: (:tags Crystal, Gem, Ata'la, Holbar, Hesiesh, Bertrand, Ten-Beasts-Rising :)