< The Mind of a Killer | Sol Invictus Logs | Kingdom of Spores, Kingdom of Petals >

alsoquin Lai Misuna stands at the door of the Misuna family farmhouse.

Lai Misuna hesitates just briefly at the door, and then he pushes it inwards and steps into his house and looks around. "... Grav?" He calls out, half-hoping that had just been a day-dream, half knowing it was not.

alsoquin The house is silent; no answer comes from within. The house is well-kept, as always, though unusually no remnants of a breakfast are visible today.

Lai Misuna frowns. That was not correct. He sets out to search the house, heading first up to his room. Then Grav's. Then the rest. Looking for any sign that he has lived here.

alsoquin Grav was always a good housekeeper, but the house is spotless today to an unusual degree. Grav's bed doesn't look like it's been slept in for weeks. Many of the corners where dust balls would build up are utterly clean. Even the secret room, with its piles of unusual detritus, has been tidied.

Lai Misuna gingerly feels his ribs. They were sore but not broken. "Hmmm." He considers. What had happend to hm, to Grav, to the thing? What had happened to several weeks it seemed?

Lai Misuna He considers, and then reaches a descision. After selecting two of the smaller and more interesting looking items from the secret room he locked it. A few more minutes sufficed to pack several changes of clothing into a bag. A few more to find some lunch if he could, then locking the door behind him, Lai set out towards the nearest town. Perhaps they would at least know what time it was.

alsoquin It's the work of a couple long hours to reach Iban, the nearby village. Sections of the village seem to have been damaged -- buildings smashed or ripped -- though the repairs seem to already be well underway. The tent of a travelling astrologer, the sign of five stars shown in gaudy cloth upon it, sits undamaged at one edge of the town.

Lai Misuna Lai narrows his eyes at the sight of the astrologers tent and strides towards it. He could find people afterwards. He ducks into the tent.

alsoquin Peeling back the flap, Lai is struck by a powerful blast of strong incense... the inside of the tent is thick with smoke. Strange talismans and elaborate mobiles that spin with tiny cork planets hang from the beams of the tent, and a brazier to one side casts a low, reddish light over everything.

alsoquin Behind a wooden table sits what looks to be an elderly man, somewhat hunched over and wrapped tightly in a cloak of dark green, fringed with silver. He pushes tiny metal cutouts in the shape of stars around in what appears to be a random fashion on the table, while a weathervane -- enchanted, it seems, to work indoors -- suddenly shifts from North to West.

Creepy Astrologer "Welcome, traveller," says the gravelly voice.

Lai Misuna coughs as the wash of incense rolls over him, blinking around the room, taking in the purpose of the devices and talismans on display. "Greetings, astrologer." He steps deeper into the room. "I was wondering if I might have my fortune read?" He sets his pack down and takes a seat, letting his ringed hand sit on the table.

Creepy Astrologer nods. "Place your hand on the ascendancy of the Gull, here..." he says, and guides Lai's hand to one of the metal shapes.

Lai Misuna allows the astrologer to do so, running his fingers lightly over the edges of the metal.

Creepy Astrologer Lai feels the slightest... something, as he touches the star, and the man begins to chant under his breath in an incomprehensible language as he moves the other stars about.

Creepy Astrologer The process takes just slightly longer than seems absolutely necessary, but before Lai can raise an objection the man speaks up: "Ah!"

Lai Misuna "Ah?" His voice, though controlled, holds a wealth of questions.

Creepy Astrologer He rapidly begins to arrange the stars upon the table. "The conjunction that hangs over your head... I have never seen it before. The three constellations hang together, crossed through your fate like a knife: the Banner, the Sorcerer, and the Rising Smoke."

Lai Misuna waits for more explanation to be forthcoming.

Creepy Astrologer inhales deeply of the thick smoke. "You have a weighty but glorious fate, traveller. Vast... the world stands beneath you. The glory that you seek is sure to come to you."

Creepy Astrologer moves about the stars once again, stopping in another seemingly random arrangement.

Creepy Astrologer "Your life stands behind you as a series of events.... linked, each of them, to your ultimate destiny."

Lai Misuna The world stands beneath me? He frowns with the recollection that brings. "My ultimate destiny?"

Creepy Astrologer pauses, and speaks in a low tone. "To bring about a new era. One of prosperity and joy. A beneficent Third Age of Mankind." He reaches over and throws a patch of new herbs upon the fire, thickening the smoke even further and adding to the sickly-sweet smell.

Creepy Astrologer "You must take up your sword and seek this fortune with all your being...." He coughs, a little, from the smoke, and the weathervane shifts again, pointing southwest.

Lai Misuna pauses. Part of him wants very much to disregard this man as hogwash. Part of him feels the words resonant somewhere inside of him. "I see." He considers. "And what can you tell me of my brother?"

Creepy Astrologer falters a little. He reaches for a star and begins to move it -- but he pulls a little too hard, and it falls from the table, landing on the ground with a little clatter. "You... he..." he pauses again.

Creepy Astrologer "I can see no such fate in the sky."

Lai Misuna "That is not right." He states, as a fact.

Creepy Astrologer He coughs again, a deeper, hacking cough. "You must go." His cough grows stronger and stronger. "You must go!"

Creepy Astrologer starts scrabbling, shoving the metal stars on his desk into a woolen sack that he has produced from... somewhere. "Go!"

Lai Misuna stands, concerned. "Are you alright?"

Creepy Astrologer peers up at him and waves one hand, a little angrily but with a visible tremor. "You must leave me. Remember what I have told you, but do not come back. I can speak no more to you, while the stars still hang in the night sky." He coughs again, holding his hand up this time as if to catch the results.

Lai Misuna pauses just briefly, then nods. He picks up his bag and strides from the tent. I will find you at Calibration then, perhaps He moves to track down the nearest person and discover what day it is, and to enquire if they have seen his brother.

Creepy Astrologer Walking into the street, it takes only a moment for someone -- Hefen, a leatherworker he knows, though not well -- to recognize him. "Lai! Lai!" he comes running over.

Lai Misuna "Hefen, good day to you!" He puts aside his worry for the moment, and holds up a hand in greeting.

Hefen runs up to see him, and claps him on the arms -- rather painfully. "Are you alright? We've all heard of what you did! It's amazing, truly amazing!"

Lai Misuna gasps. "I could perhaps stand to hear it one more time." He says, thinking quickly.

Hefen "You... you single-handedly slew the creature that tore through the village! After fifteen men had died to it here. You are a hero."

Hefen looks at Lai with an appreciation that is clearly quite new.

Lai Misuna He smiles at the young man. "How long has the astrologer been here?" He asks. "And have you seen Grav?"

Hefen thinks, a little unsure. "Um... two weeks, perhaps. And no. No I haven't. Grav... left." He looks a little confused. "Yes. He's not here."

Lai Misuna "Ah. He would have arrived a little after the beast, yes?"

Hefen "A... little. A few days? I... don't remember very well." Definitely very confused.

Hefen As he thinks for a moment, a shadow passes over his face. "I... Lai, did you... did anyone tell you, about Gela?" His eyes water a little. "I... know you were not long yet in your courtship, but..."

Lai Misuna nods, as though the answer was informative, though within he is deeply concerned. "I think I had best go and find my bro- ... Gela! What has happened to her? Has she..." he trails off.

Hefen hangs his head. "I am sorry, Lai."

Lai Misuna hangs his own head. "I think I will be leaving, yes." He says softly. "Take care, Hefen. I am not sure when I return."

Hefen nods, slowly. "...take care, Lai." As Lai walks away, he speaks up again. "We will remember your name here!"

Lai Misuna Will you now? He asks, silently. And then he sets off for the south-west, after taking an hour to sit by a small alcove in the village mausoleum, burning some freshly picked flowers.

Istenda stands waiting just outside the village, a sharp-featured man with reddish skin and black hair that shines with a hint of purple in the light. He wears a hooded cloak that is currently pulled back over an rather ordinary set of clothing. "Lai Misuna, yes?" he asks in a soft voice.

Lai Misuna nods, once. He tries, and fails, to conceal a look of great curiousity. "And you are?"

Istenda "I am known as Istenda. I have a message for you."

Lai Misuna "Very well." He gestures that he should speak.

Istenda smiles a little, "I know you're wondering what happened to your brother. I have a way to find the answers."

Lai Misuna "How do you know about Grav?" He demands, swiftly.

Istenda raises his hands placatingly. "All will become clear. In Estoc."

Lai Misuna "Estoc?" He tries the strange name.

Istenda holds out a closed hand to Lai. "Estoc. Will you come with me?"

Lai Misuna "Where is Estoc?" He asks

Istenda "Southwest of here, on a small island."

Hefen Holbar has journeyed a long distance to arrive where he is, but the sight is all the more impressive for it. In the ruins of the ancient city of Estoc, the unfamiliar salt breeze from the sea blows across his nostrils. He stands on the open cobbled streets, as turquoise-lined canals run all about him and the elegantly curved buildings rise up to the gull-filled sky above.

Hefen The city at first seems to be utterly empty, but as he walks within its empty streets he spots someone, across the way -- a woman, darkly clothed.

Holbar gazes at the woman with a wild look in his eyes, lightly clenching and unclenching his fists.

Hefen Shikaya, too, has journeyed a long way to be here, though only the warmth of the sea breeze here is unusual to her.

Hefen She easily notices Holbar, from across the broad courtyard -- he cuts a very visible figure.

Shikaya turns to the man, her eyes betraying no surprise at all, the rest of her face hidden behind the veils, her body behind the scarves. "So I am not alone here, after all." She speaks, not to him, not to anyone else in particular

Holbar "Who the fuck are you, and what are you doing here?"

Shikaya "I am Shikaya. Did Jugartha send you here as well?"

Holbar "No. Nobody sent me here."

Shikaya "Ah. I am to find what I seek here."

Shikaya looks Holbar up and down

Holbar looks around at the ruins of the city.

Shikaya "It is certainly not you."

Holbar snaps his gaze back to Shikaya. "You're not exactly the answer to my prayers either, bitch."

Holbar "Enough of this."

Holbar stalks deeper into the city, staring around with a certain desperation.

Shikaya watches Holbar with some amusement... pehaps the first emotion she deigned to show since Holbar had seen her. She walks behind Holbar a few paces anyway... she could go anywhere, that was as good as any. "Lose something?"

Hefen Fresh water flows through the canals around Holbar, and gulls cry out their evil cries overhead, but besides Shikaya no other people seem to be nearby.

Holbar "I..." he pauses, and looks back. "Yeah. You could say that."

Shikaya "And what leads you to think what you lost is here, where only starved gulls dwell?"

Shikaya watches his reaction... there was something of.. pity, there? Or something else. As if she found his reactions strange... or tried to remember what they are even like.

Holbar "I'm not looking for what I lost."

Shikaya "Then why are you running around like a bride who lost her azure veil on wedding day?"

Holbar shakes his head. "You wouldn't understand."

Shikaya "No." She says matter-of-factly, looking over the ruins. "I suppose I really wouldn't."

Holbar blinks a little, then shrugs and nods. "So you never answered my question. What are you doing here?"

Shikaya "I did. You were just too busy scurrying to and fro to realise. I will find what I seek here."

Shikaya shakes her head, muttering something about brides and attention spans

Holbar "Yes, lady, I heard you say that."

Holbar "What the hell are you seeking?"

Shikaya "I will know when I find it."

Hefen It is some time later that Lai and Istenda arrive in the abandoned city of Estoc.

Istenda gestures to the building in the center of town. "There, that building is the meeting hall. That is where you will find what you seek."

Lai Misuna eyes the man, who he had grown to trust in the long travel to Estoc and then he nods and steps into the hall, looking around him with deep curiousity.

Istenda crouches down outside the door, leaning against the wall, waiting.

Hefen The room is perhaps fifty yards wide, and not tremendously high. Smooth, comfortable-looking marble benches surround a central pool of standing water; other smaller pools occur further out from the center. A gentle breeze blows through, and thin rays of light are allowed in by the ceiling.

Hefen Dust has gathered everywhere -- this room has not been used in centuries.

Lai Misuna makes his way slowly towards the pool in the centre, looking about him as he travels.

Holbar wanders up to the the entrance to the dusty building, fixing Istenda with an appraising glare.

Istenda nods to him as he walks past.

Hefen The water, though it has sat there for centuries, seems clear and clean... aquamarine and well-lit by the skylight above.

Holbar stands and looks at Istenda for a few more moments, then, getting no reaction, steps into the building, cracking his knuckles, and gazing about him. When he sees the pool, his eyes widen a bit, and he walks quickly towards it.

Istenda seems completely unperturbed by the staring, merely keeping to himself.

Lai Misuna "Greetings, traveller." says the man in red as he emerges from behind a pillar.

Holbar glances wildly at Lai, then ignores him, going to his knees and dipping a handful of water, bringing it to his lips.

Hefen The water is warm but delicious, as refreshing as only one who has nearly died of thirst in the desert can truly know.

Holbar gulps his fill, then sits back on his haunches, sighing, and looks back at Lai challengingly.

Holbar "Hi. Who the fuck are you?"

Shikaya walks into the hall, without hurry... taking on the sights. She looks at Lai and Istenda curiously.

Lai Misuna "I am Lai Misuna." He says, ignoring the cursing. "And you?"

Istenda nods to Shikaya as she passes him on the way in

Shikaya nods to Istenda, watching the other two boys go about their bravado

Lai Misuna turns aside from the man, nodding to the new arrival.

Istenda bides his time, listening through the door and watching the sky.

Holbar "My name is Holbar."

Holbar "What are you doing here?"

Lai Misuna "Looking for someone."

Holbar rolls his eyes. "So, basically, none of us have any fucking idea why we're here, huh."

Shikaya "Apparently." She estures towards the door. "Unless he does."

Lai Misuna "I know why I am here, though I am curious about what I will find here. Greetings, newcomer." He says to Shikaya

Lai Misuna "Perhaps he does, though I have not coaxed the answer from him in several days."

Shikaya "Greetings, Lai Mitsuna. And we are all here for something, no? To find what we seek."

Holbar "Well, forgive me if I think you're full of shit, okay?" Holbar takes another few handfuls of water and splashes his face and chest, rinsing the grime and dirt from his body, wincing as runnels drip down his vicious scar.

Lai Misuna "Those are not pleasant looking scars." He remarks, concern in his voice.

Holbar "It wasn't a pleasant wound."

Shikaya "So, leave. But you cannot, because you have something to find, just like us. But not just like. There is a great difference." She nods sagely. "You are desperate."

Holbar "No. The difference is that I'm honest."

Holbar stands up, dripping, and makes for the door.

Lai Misuna "I did not catch your name." He asks of the woman. "If you have travelled as far as I think you have, and from your dress I think I am correct, surely you can stay at least a few more minutes...

Hefen It is as Holbar rises to leave that those gathered suddenly notice something -- a fourth person who seems as if they have been here the entire time. Wrapped in a black cloak that casts an impenetrable shadow over his face, he sits behind a stout oak desk that also seems to have been there the entire time.

Shikaya "Shikaya. And you are right, Lai Mitsuna. I come from the nort..."

Shikaya is cut off by the figure, turning around to look at it. "Hello."

Holbar opens his mouth to retort, then cocks an eye at the man in the black cloak.

Hefen The man in the black cloak sits quietly.

Lai Misuna "Greetings." He eyes the desk with some suspicion.

Black Cloaked Man After a moment, he speaks up, in a low, calm voice. "Welcome, Shikaya, Lai, Holbar."

Holbar "Hi, mysterious asshole."

Istenda hears the voice, and nods to himself quietly. He takes out a knife and patiently whittles a stick into ...a smaller stick.

Shikaya bows, her white sashes nearly touching the ground

Holbar "So why are you here? No -- don't tell me -- you're LOOKING for something." He wiggles his fingers sarcastically.

Black Cloaked Man "Oh, no, Holbar." He pauses dramatically. "I have already found something."

Black Cloaked Man 's head moves back and forth, as if looking over the group, though his eyes of course cannot be seen.

Black Cloaked Man "I am certain that all three of you have something in common. You did not journey so far and so long for nothing, yes?"

Holbar remains still, glaring at the man in the cloak.

Lai Misuna inclines his head.

Shikaya "No, we came to find something. I believe that must be you."

Black Cloaked Man nods.

Black Cloaked Man "You have each had something taken from you. Your life. Your purpose. You have each looked up at the sky as it laughed at you, mocking your efforts."

Black Cloaked Man reaches into his cloak and draws out three small, ornate glass vials, each filled with a faintly glowing, yellow-orange liquid.

Black Cloaked Man "That will no longer be true."

Holbar An odd smile tugs at one side of Holbar's mouth.

Lai Misuna "Oh?"

Shikaya Something shines in her eyes, and her lips curl under the veil "Do continue."

Black Cloaked Man carefully places the vials on the desk, one by one. "Oh yes." He gestures expressively towards them. "I know a great deal about your situation. Your... involvement in the war to the north, Shikaya. Your encounter with the slavers, Holbar. Your... brother, Lai." He pauses.

Black Cloaked Man "And I know that each of you were powerless to act. A cosmic tragedy. A farce."

Black Cloaked Man places both hands on the desk. "I wish to remedy that."

Holbar moves in a flash, his hands slamming down on the sides of the desk, rattling the vials against each other. "What do you know about that?" he breathes.

Istenda shaves the end into a point.

Lai Misuna Why does he hesistate when he says that? And, did I not triumph? What did happen there

Shikaya "How?"

Black Cloaked Man turns to turn his darkened face to Holbar and speaks up, in a stronger voice. "What do I not know? About the hideous Exalts that came to your tribe and began to slay them? About how you failed to avenge them, or even to die nobly in battle against your captors?" He leans back in his chair. "I know much. Which is why I have chosen each of you today."

Shikaya looks to Holbar, just a tiny bit startled. "Exalts. Chosen." she whispers. Was that it?

Holbar "How do you know? HOW DO YOU KNOW?"

Black Cloaked Man opens one hand and allows a tiny spark of purple light dance around in his palm. "I have methods. And sources. And I have made it my business to watch Creation for those such as you." He nods to Shikaya. "You have had your own dealings with the Chosen, have you not?"

Lai Misuna "I have had no dealings with the chosen." He says, honestly. "Things have been ... odd, though."

Holbar "And what are you going to do about it? Open up that vial and bring my family back to life?"

Shikaya "I did." She whispers Yurgen's name, as a curse.

Shikaya "Holbar."

Shikaya smiles. "I believe he is offering revenge."

Black Cloaked Man "Are you so certain, Lai?" He turns his head to Holbar. "Oh, no. Your family will remain dead. But your vengeance... and the power that is owed you. Those I can give to you."

Holbar 's face contorts, and he turns away, and stumbles to the door, then stops.

Lai Misuna nods. "I do, however, have a destiny to follow."

Black Cloaked Man "Yes. Yes you do. A grand destiny." He gestures to the sword at Lai's side. "One you are well fitted for. And I offer you the tools to achieve that, as well." Having spoken, he turns, and simply looks, waiting for Holbar to look back at him.

Holbar speaks without turning back. "What kind of power do you intend to give me? And what's in it for you?"

Black Cloaked Man laughs softly before answering. "Why should those Chosen by petty, absent Gods cast misery and despair upon you? In these vials, I give you the power to Choose yourselves." He gestures at them once more. "As for what is in it for me? I desire to see the dawn of a new age. That is what the stars say of you, is it not, Lai? That you will bring about such an age?"

Shikaya walks up to the desk, touching one of the vials. "What is the price?"

Istenda smiles to himself, listening to the others' reaction to the deal. He pauses in his whittling for a moment to better hear to their answers.

Lai Misuna "That is what the stars said of me, yes." He nods. And why does that worry me slightly?

Holbar "A new age..." Holbar repeats to himself.

Holbar "All right." He turns. "But we'll need more than that."

Black Cloaked Man laughs, though not in a cruel way, at Shikaya's question. "You are right to ask: there is always a price. Are you prepared to be set upon a terrible destiny, one that cannot be shook off no matter what you do? To have one curse your name for each that exults you to the heavens -- and there will be many of each. "Are you prepared to abandon humanity for a new experience, to forget everything you knew in favor of truths that may destroy you?" He laughs again. "That is the price."

Holbar "If we abandon humanity, we'll just be new monsters."

Shikaya lifts the vial, looking at it. Was there anything else left? No. Was there anything else, period? She smiled.

Shikaya "Yes. I am more than prepared."

Holbar "All right. But we'll need more than that." He turns.

Istenda notches his stick with each agreement.

Holbar "Every human. Every mortal who's had their life destroyed by one of those inhuman freaks."

Lai Misuna deliberates.

Holbar "We'll gather them together. We'll choose them. We'll make a new age. And we'll wipe every trace of those filthy animals from the face of Creation." Backlit by the door, he looks for the first time like someone who could be a leader.

Holbar "It's that, or no deal."

Black Cloaked Man turns to face Holbar. "Your ambition. Your drive. You will bring them to your banner. And when you do, you will have what you need to raise them up. I promise this to you."

Holbar shrugs at the other two. "They have to promise too."

Holbar "I'm not unleashing another couple of beasts on this world if I can stop it."

Black Cloaked Man gestures to Lai. "Indeed. For you are nothing without Lai. You may call them to your banner, Holbar, but it is Lai who will stand astride the world." He picks up the centermost vial.

Black Cloaked Man "Tell me, Lai. What happened to your parents?"

Shikaya watches Holbar. That would be touching, if it could be. But it was not. She did not care about them, those she would trample underfoot. She cared about the Exalted, still. To humble and destroy. "They will feel the pain we felt, Holbar. Cold and unforgiving as the north."

Lai Misuna picks up the vial and claims his destiny. "I will work with you, Holbar. We will bring humanity with us, we will not leave it by the wayside."

Holbar glances at his erstwhile compatriots, then at the man, smiling again.

Holbar "Let me see your face."

Black Cloaked Man "My face, Holbar?" He sits back in his chair. "In due time. But not here."

Holbar "Why? Will I turn into a frog or die or something?" He picks up his vial, not waiting for his answer.

Holbar "And how come this prick is in charge? I bet I could take him."

Istenda carves the last notch in his stick, and turns it over, driving it into the soil.

Lai Misuna looks up at him, his face darkening. "They died, when I was young. Why do you ask?"

Black Cloaked Man "Let us say that I will be... indisposed if I do." He gently wipes the desk where the vials stood. "And you will find Lai a more than capable leader, I am quite certain."

Black Cloaked Man turns to Lai. "And your brother? Was he with them, when they passed away?"

Shikaya opens the vial, and drinks its contents. Let them talk about leadership and saving others. Let them talk about warmth and life. She wants power. Revenge. Direction.

Lai Misuna "Yes, he was in the cart with them ..."

Black Cloaked Man "And yet he survived."

Holbar holds his vial, listening to the two talk.

Lai Misuna "Yes, he was hurt though. It was a miracle he survived."

Black Cloaked Man Shikaya feels something wash over her... a feeling of energy, power... though still incomplete, some tiny fragment of something lodges itself in her sternum and gives her a feeling of... warmth, unlike any she has ever felt.

Black Cloaked Man "It does seem that way, yes? A miracle. How could anyone have survived such a horrible accident?"

Lai Misuna "I do not know ... he recovered though. Until the beast attacked ... and then ... no one even remembered him..."

Shikaya lets the vial fall and crack upon the ground, lifting her face to the sky and feeling the shivers... the warmth... holding herself

Istenda chuckles to himself.

Lai Misuna "Who WAS he?"

Black Cloaked Man looks right at Lai. "He is known as Seven Leaping Herons, and he was once my friend. Once."

Lai Misuna "Then he will have to die." He states, quite calmly. "I am glad he is no longer your friend, it would be a poor way to repay your gift."

Black Cloaked Man nods. "I am glad that we agree in this."

Holbar "You're going to kill your brother?"

Holbar "I'm not sure I want to work with you after all."

Shikaya "His brother is dead, Holbar. When he was young. A chosen took his place. Led him around. Fooled him and toyed with his feelings." She shakes his head. "I knew they were horrible, but not so.. manipulative."

Lai Misuna "He killed, or caused the death of my parents. He killed, or caused the death of my love. He may even, as Shikaya said, have killed my own brother and have taken his place. Why should I not have revenge, when you were screaming for it before?"

Shikaya walks up to Lai... "We were victims. But he played you for a fool, didn't he?" She asks, touching his hand, looking into his eyes. "We will have our revenge, Lai Mitsuna. We will dance to their screams, and we will warm ourselves with their blood. We will show we are not puppets to be used."

Holbar eyes the other two critically.

Holbar "Somebody's going to have to keep an eye on you two."

Holbar "Here's mud in your eye." He hefts the vial and drinks it down in one quick swig, then flips it into the corner of the room to shatter, and burps.

Lai Misuna "Then that had best be you." He nods. "Though it appears we all have a fresh choice to make."

Black Cloaked Man The same warm feeling, like a tiny mote of light, fills Holbar's body from head to toe.

Holbar "Oh?"

Shikaya "And that is...?"

Lai Misuna "We need to choose a God. One who will Exalt us through the power within these vials, and then we can start to save the rest of the world too."

Lai Misuna drinks the vial.

Black Cloaked Man The sun that streams through the air, and the light that wells up within Lai's heart, are almost one and the same.

Shikaya admires it

Black Cloaked Man speaks up. "I believe my associate is waiting for you outside. There is somewhere that you should... visit. He knows the way."

Istenda stands, dusting the coils of wood off himself and waits for the others to exit.

Lai Misuna "Shall we?" He gestures to his new companions.

Holbar shrugs. "In for a penny."

Holbar "Lead on, boss." He is mostly sarcastic, but only mostly.

Shikaya "Of course." She smiles beneath the veil, waiting for him. "Lead us, Lai."

Lai Misuna walks out into the sunlight, and Istenda

Istenda "Did you find what you were looking for?"

Lai Misuna "No, but I found something almost as good."

Shikaya "Yes."

Istenda smiles to Lai. "I thought you might." He nods to Shikaya. "Was it more than you expected?"

Holbar rolls his eyes. "Not that I don't enjoy all this ridiculous secretive babbling, as if any of us don't know what just happened, but if we're going somewhere, let's GO there, hmm?"

Istenda chuckles, "As you wish, Holbar." He strides away, expecting them to follow

Shikaya "Much more. I wished for a direction, to take the north from my mind. Now I have revenge, and will come back to splatter gold with crimson." For a moment, a melancholy washes over her. Just a moment. "Yes, that is much more than I expected."

Lai Misuna smiles too, and then he follows the strange man, for the second time.

Shikaya follows after Istenda and Lai

Holbar glances over at Shikaya. "So what's your story?" as they walk.

Istenda "It will be more than you dream of, at this moment."

Shikaya "Have you heard of Yurgen Kaneko?"

Istenda leads them onward confidently. "I have."

Holbar "Sure. Bull of the North. Big man. Killed a lot of people."

Shikaya "He came to my village. He made us believe in his crusade." he made ME believe... "He made us believe so much. And then, used us as pawns, discarded us in the battlefield. I saw we would all die... and when I told him, he struck me. He did not heed me. And it happenned as I had foreseen. They died. They all died."

Shikaya looks at Holbar. "He killed dreams, Holbar. That is much worse."

Istenda "And now that you are no longer a pawn, what will you do?"

Shikaya "I will kill his dreams. I will make him know what it is to see all you hold dear turned to ashes."

Holbar becomes a little more serious. "People are dreams."

Shikaya "But I will warn his first. It would not be right otherwise."

Shikaya "And when he is done... I will see to it that no more like him ever appear again."

Holbar "Well. Good."

Istenda smiles, and slows as they reach a stone circle, set into the ground. "You are worthy of the gift."

Holbar "Good plan."

Shikaya "How did you escape them, Holbar? The man said you had been captured by them."

Istenda deftly touches a series of runes, and the circle springs to life with a flash of essence, which pools in waves in the center. "On the other side of this ring is the Wyld. Are you ready?"

Lai Misuna studies the circle as he listens to the conversation behind him. "...The wyld?"

Istenda "Have I lied to you yet?"

Holbar 's face grows dark. "I didn't escape. They left me for dead."

Shikaya holds Lai's hands. "The wyld is just dreams. And we kill dreams, too."

Holbar gives Shikaya another look, and pats Lai on the shoulder. "Don't worry. I'm with you."

Lai Misuna "No, but I am not entirely sure how one prepares for it." He says simply. "Still, it appears we are together and so we should go."

Holbar "Look at it this way. The worst thing that can happen is, we die. In which case, how much worse off are we than we were yesterday?"

Istenda chuckles. "That is not entirely true."

Istenda "You could become twisted, ruined. Is that not worse than simple death?"

Lai Misuna "The wyld, if you please."

Shikaya smiles at Holbar. Same ideas, different words.

Holbar "Someday, Istenda, you're going to learn when to keep your mouth shut."

Holbar "Maybe I'll teach you." Holbar smiles affably, and jumps into the circle.

Istenda "If you wish to step through without protection, go ahead. If not, I can assist." He does not seem to hear Holbar's threat.

Lai Misuna "It appears that he does." Lai says, and sighs. "Perhaps if you could protect us, and then we had best follow him quickly."

Istenda "Hold out your hand, then." He draws an exceedingly sharp knife.

Lai Misuna pauses, and then extends his hand.

Shikaya draws out her Obsidian knife, ready for Istenda trying anything that's not just protection...

Black Cloaked Man Holbar steps through at the border of the Wyld, on to a patch of pure, green grass... that overlooks a roiling, churning sea of purplish-black air and strange, blinking lights.

Istenda delicately draws Lai's blood with the tip of his knife in the design of his name on his palm, slashes his own palm open in a more vigorous retelling of his own name, then reaches into a pouch, withdrawing white dust, and sprinkling it in both wounds, mixing it thoroughly with the blood (...)

Lai Misuna watches the proceedure with interest.

Istenda then proceeds to use Lai's blood to paint runes of stability and protection across Lai's skin at the chakra points, and his own with his, all the while chanting in a sibilant tongue. He wipes the blade of the knife off and turns to Shikaya. "And you?"

Holbar turns around and yells back through the gate, "Guys, you're missing it!"

Shikaya Her knife disappears once again, and Shikaya steps foward, holding out her hand

Shikaya "I am ready."

Shikaya "Hope the buffoon has not become a goat yet. He is far too amusing for that."

Lai Misuna steps through, to join Holbar. "When Istenda comes through, you might wish to ask him for protection against the wyld. I would not like to see a companion twisted to chaos so soon."

Lai Misuna ** - so soon. I am not that crazy.

Holbar "I'll do that."

Istenda grins, "I'm sure...he will look the same." He efficiently performs the ritual on Shikaya, then bows graciously. "After you, my dear."

Holbar "Guess he's smarter than he looks."

Shikaya steps through, watching the blinking lights... "Beautiful."

Istenda steps through after them, and allows the gate to close.

Lai Misuna "It is quite a view, yes."

Istenda "Dreams, and nightmares." He gestures, then cocks his head at Holbar. "And you will go through alone?"

Holbar "I've already got some decoration." He taps the scar on his chest. "But if you want to paint me up, feel free."

Istenda "I will, of course, need your hand, then." He draws his knife once more.

Istenda performs the ritual on Holbar, though his touch is perhaps not as deft as it was on the first three. Must be losing his touch.

Holbar smirks as he lets Istenda cut him up.

Lai Misuna "And onward now, to where?"

Istenda "Follow me." He sets off into the twisting chaos, purportedly knowing where he is going

Lai Misuna follows after him, walking with the other two.

Black Cloaked Man The waves of thick chaos part -- just slightly -- for Istenda as he steps into the emptiness, seemingly walking on the very air. But chaos parts only for truth, not illusion -- and the human form he hides behind dissolves and wisps off of his true draconic form and deep crimson scales.

Istenda casts a grin back over his shoulder and continues on.

Lai Misuna "Hrm."

Holbar raises an eyebrow. "I thought I smelled lizard."

Black Cloaked Man The journey is long and difficult, though Istenda's magic protects the group from the warping, twisting effects of the Wyld. Finally, without warning, Istenda breaks through a particularly thick patch of the twisting purple air and disappears.

Holbar "Man, that reminds me. Is there going to be food where we're going?"

Holbar "Cause I could eat."

Lai Misuna "It appears we are about to find out."

Shikaya "Hmmm, we just lost our guide. How rude."

Lai Misuna He steps through the thick purple air."

Lai Misuna -"

Black Cloaked Man Lai steps through, and gazes upon a sight, one utterly unexpected... the city of Era'vina.

Istenda stands, waiting to make sure all three come through behind him

Holbar follows him, glancing around, brow furrowed.

Shikaya "Oh." She shrugs, and steps through after him...

Istenda smiles at Shikaya, "Ah, good. You have made it. Did you enjoy the journey?"

Lai Misuna "It was interesting, yes. What is this place?"

Shikaya "I have had better." She glances upon the city... "That is ours'?"

Black Cloaked Man Five great mushrooms, hundreds of feet high and growing from a central stalk like a living staircase, rise up into the air, and each glows with its own soft luminescence, blue or green or gold. From them, tinier fungi sprout, in every direction.

Istenda "You will grow more used to it, in time. Welcome, then, to Era'vina."

Black Cloaked Man Beams of flourescent light glint from the giant spores that float lazily through the air between the buildings... and on the cobbled streets, creatures of every description -- except human -- mill about, seemingly unaware of the splendor that surrounds them.

Black Cloaked Man And all around the grand city, the walls of chaos, purple and black and brilliant white, roil and swirl without cease.

Holbar "Huh."

Shikaya "That IS ours'." Her voice seems to say 'good, then we will not have to go through the trouble of conquering it.' "What are those things? Fair ones?"

Istenda cocks his head to one side again, and it looks more natural in his draconic form. "They are Hundredfold. The original races of Creation."

Lai Misuna "Oh."

Holbar "What happened to them?"

Istenda looks upon them, and bows his head slightly. "They were driven into exile by the slave-race created to serve them."

Shikaya "That was... us?"

Istenda "Indeed."

Holbar looks a bit crestfallen.

Shikaya "We may not be the old chosen, but why would they not hate us with the same intensity?"

Shikaya "We are human, like them."

Istenda "You will help them take the world back."

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