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alsoquin The Solars have left their audience with the ruler of Ovesh, armed with the location of the "enemy" nation of Grazim and instructions to sabotage their war effort; beyond that, they are under their own recognizance.

alsoquin Reaching Grazim involves leaving the Enclave of Ovesh and crossing the qlippan -- a difficult prospect for the Atomnosi, at least. It is not difficult to find access to another deserted region and slip in; an egress to the outside of the Enclave lies merely on the far side of the neighborhood.

Zahara "So," she asks the others once they are out of earshot, "What do you think?"

alsoquin The abandoned qlippan zone is ominously quiet. The damage to the buildings (and the bloodstains) from the qlippan creatures is visible on nearly every building the Solars pass as they walk.

Lucent "I think there is not much harm in the agreement." ::It weakens the Church for us to take them over when this is done, after all. I do not think we are simply walking away from this... it seems too useful, does it not?::

alsoquin This area has been abandoned longer than the one through which the Solars entered the plane, which is visible in the amount of rubble lining the streets.

pigeon ""I think that there is little reason to indulge such a charlatan."

Lucent ::Also, when we take them over: Urban Renewal.::

pigeon "He cannot help us. Fortunately, we do not need him. I question then why we are assisting him."

Zahara "I think it will benefit us both, in the end. Once we have done our part, he is bound to assist us. ::Possibly as cannon fodder in the war.::

alsoquin A few more blocks pass and the Solars arrive at the breach -- a massive hole torn in the rock walls that border the city, as if by a massive set of steel claws, and leading downward into a tunnel through the thick rock.

Thirteen "I suppose his assistance cannot markedly hurt us."

alsoquin Those with Essnee sense can already pick up an increased level exuding from beyond the tunnel.

Lucent ::Exactly. Also, they got those pretty things. And it seems so... undignified, to pick them and run.:: "How difficult can this be, compared to the Lily? Will be a breather from fighting those Knives and Bricks..."

Thirteen "I would not be concerned. It is clear that this is one of the less impressive planes."

alsoquin The next few steps do make a compelling case against Thirteen's statement. (...)

Lucent "But you gotta admit the glass art is pretty... oh, yeah." Lucent makes a gesture to his own eyes, and leaves it at that.

alsoquin Stepping through the hewn tunnel and onto the small balcony beyond, the Solars gaze out on a vast panorama. They look out from an enormous rock the size of a continent. It floats freely in a sea of quicksilver that churns and waves with an unexpected violence below. Veins of pale luminescence and harsh, black oil cut through the sea in alternating swathes. (...)

alsoquin Enormous creatures, like manyfold snakes built of horrifically jagged steel lattices hundreds of miles long arc through the water, kicking up violent tidal waves in their path. (...)

alsoquin Above, in the sky, swirl the Sky-Fires -- vast meteors of deepest red that whirl and burn through the air with an uncanny speed. The ultimate dome of the cavern cannot be made out from here, though its apex -- the vast, dull eye of Atomnos burns with a fire so deep that to look into it is to lose all sight of the world beyond.

Zahara "Interesting."

alsoquin The harsh, inhuman whizzing of the Fires mixes with the splashes and horrific screeches of metal on metal to provide a teeth-setting symphony to accompany the unearthly visuals.

Thirteen "Ah, the Sky-Fires."

alsoquin One, perhaps six feet across whizzes by within four feet of Thirteen, as if to punctuate that statement. The wash of intense heat would be dangerous, perhaps, to lesser creatures.

Thirteen "As you can see, the Atomnosians remain inside purely for reasons of self-preservation."

Lucent is... breathless. "Interesting? This is... magnificent..."

Cerin "It is quite impressive, yes." Cerin looks around with eyes that see everything, before he looks straight up at the sun.

alsoquin The water itself is charged with varying sorts of Essence, Cerin notes as he glances upwards, but nothing compared to the harsh, raw Essence that pours out of the eye.

Zahara "I want one of those." she points at the snakes.

Thirteen "They are annoying to feed."

Lucent "They wouldn't fit around the Manse..."

Zahara "What do they eat?"

Thirteen "Quicksilver. Rock. Small buildings."

Zahara "Oh, I have plenty of that. Do they like small armies?"

Thirteen "There is really only one way to find out."

alsoquin This is a good time for the Solars to note that no bridge, path, or other contrivance of travel connects the vast continents, only an open expanse of deadly ocean.

Zahara steps out into the open air, and looks back. "It is a shame we cannot harness one of those beasts"

Thirteen proffers the butt end of his spear to Birds.

Birds takes a seat. "Thank you."

Birds "On second thought... Hold on tight." She thrusts the spear through her belt to make a makeshift towrope.

Thirteen pauses, but is saved from having to respond by Birds's reassessment.

Zahara summons her floating weapons, and conforms them into a floating platform

alsoquin It is some miles across the quicksilver sea to the isle of Grazim, and the Sky-Fires do make the trek a little challenging, though by no means impossible for one such as Zahara.

alsoquin Perhaps halfway through the trip, the Solars get their first glimpse, between two other vast rocky islands, of the Pentarch capital of Avixos --

alsoquin where the other Enclaves are vast, unadorned rocks, Avixos stands as a tall, narrow palace hewn from a hexagonal crystal, cutting an elegant and elaborately carved figure and jutting into six rapidly narrowing diagonal spines at its peak. The deep purple stone glows from within with a white radiance.

Zahara contemplates

alsoquin It is without too much further difficulty that the Solars arrive at the distant Enclave of Grazim. Locating an entrance is rather more difficult -- this nation seems to have had far fewer attacks by the qlippan beasts, but eventually a small crack leading into what seems to be an abandoned region of secret rock tunnels is found near the waterline on one side.

Thirteen ::So. If I recall correctly, our agreed task, on the completion of which the king is oathbound to aid us, is to prevent the impending attack by Grazim on his territory?::

Zahara ::This is correct.::

Thirteen ::Our first task must then be to ascertain whether they plan any attack at all.::

Zahara ::An excellent point, Thirteen!"

Thirteen ::This will require reconnaissance. I believe this is Cerin's forte?::

Thirteen ::If they plan no attack, then our work is done.::

Zahara laughs

Cerin ::I suppose the simplest way would be to enter the twin's high citadel and ask their generals.::

Thirteen ::Shall we, then?::

Birds ::Ha! That will be an adventure. Let's do.::

Lucent ::Why not? More of the sights here can never hurt, and maybe they more reasonable...::

alsoquin Slipping from the network of secret passages into the capital region of Grazim, the differences -- though reasonably subtle -- are made clear. Grazim seems to have suffered far fewer qlippan attacks, and visibly benefits from the lack of sealed-off regions. The architecture differs -- more flowing in nature, with blues and greens as accent colors, though it remains oppresive and dark.

alsoquin In this city, far more seem to work out of doors -- great geometric areas of earth are filled with pulsating fungi and algae that are pruned and cared for by armies of dully-outfitted Atomnoi, while others hammer at vast stones for the riches within.

alsoquin The three-pronged capital palace is easily visible, even from the city's borders.

Thirteen "Shall we?" He proceeds with dispatch towards the palace.

Cerin walks by Zahara's side toward the palace

Lucent walks with them, wondering if they would have different glass things

alsoquin The Solars stride down the streets (only a little conspicuously), eventually arriving at Third Inflection of Perfect Halves, the ancestral palace of Grazim. The doors stand open, as they traditionally do during times of peace, though four guards are conspicuously placed at them.

Thirteen sails on through the doors.

alsoquin The central receiving hall of the palace is decked out for a ceremonial reception. Important nobility -- some clearly Majeure in descent -- mingle amongst vast platters of food, much of it clearly drawn from unusual sources, while servants bring decanters of wine and reedy vocal music wafts in from a bordering alcove.

Thirteen "Cerin, whom here do you suppose is an important general?"

Cerin considers this as he looks around

alsoquin Cerin scans the room, having little difficulty identifying partygoers -- former priest, Minister of Agriculture, lazy son of a powerful Noble house, sycophant prostitute.... someone who appears to command a significant battery of armed forces, a grizzled and angry man, stands by a table of meats, alone.

Cerin discretely indicates the man. "By the food."

Birds swoops on the man and indulges her urge to be a mad, self-absorbed aesthete.

Birds "You! Will you stand very still, just so, hold up that piece of meat there! A little left...yes! I must paint you."

Thirteen sidles up on his other side and picks up some meat himself.

alsoquin The general does not strike anyone present as a person with a great deal of patience, and it takes only a moment of confused stuttering before he drops his meat, coughs deeply, and forcibly excuses himself.

Birds "Wait, I can't capture the spirit of a stranger...tell me about your family! My mother was once lost in the woods for seven years..."

Thirteen catches his sleeve as he attempts to walk away.

Thirteen "Excuse me."

Thirteen ::What is the name of that kingdom we were sent by again?::

alsoquin The general tries to push as far away from Birds as is humanly possible.

Birds puts on a look of mild disappointment, and then looks over the meat table for something recognizeable. ::Um..I don't remember.::

Thirteen ::Try the gray chops, with the bones.::

Thirteen *scaly

Thirteen ::Ah, yes, I remember.:: "Are you planning an assault on Ovesh?"

Birds looks around until she finds them. She turns to a random guest beside her and murmurs, with the strain of someone trying not to crow with glee, "This is terribly exciting. It is my first banquet at the palace. Do you know what this meat is?"

Zahara listens in, idly, to determine his motives

alsoquin A supple entertainer tells Birds of the various cuts of Erdoq on display as the general turns with a suspicious and even angrier face to Thirteen. "Who in the darkest pits are you?"

Thirteen "I am Thirteen Blooming Flowers, and that does not answer my question."

alsoquin "I do not intend to answer your question!" He starts to walk towards a side exit.

Thirteen "Hm."

Cerin ::That was ...intersting:: Cerin says while looking past the party and deeper into the palace ::I shall be back shortly.:: And then he is at the party no more.

Lucent picks some of the meat, watching Birds' antics with a amused smile as much as he is paying attention to the talk with the General... until Cerin leaves. ::Nights...::

Zahara sighs a bit

Thirteen "I am sorry, general, but I must insist." He blocks the door.

Birds idly leads Lucent over to stand just behind the general, engaging him in mild, dull conversation. Something about crop rotations or saucepans.

alsoquin The general is agape, his mouth lolling open at the sheer affront. He draws out a small but clearly quite sharp knife. "I do not speak of state affairs with rubbish!"

Zahara sweeps over, and bows to the general, "I'm sorry, is he giving you trouble?" She smiles sweetly. "He can be overeager when he is dealing with the things of war."

Thirteen 's fingers twitch on his spear, but he calmly listens to Zahara's excuses.

Lucent nods profusely, unable to focus on either of them, picking only pieces of the General's talk and only enough of Birds' talk to giggle

Zahara "I assure you, however, that his question is of utmost importance. Perhaps we could retire to a less public place to discuss it?" She radiates good grace and impeccable manners.

alsoquin The general turns to partially face Zahara, making it clear to her as well that he has a weapon drawn which he is not necessarily afraid to use.

Zahara does not seem at all concerned by the presence of inimitably sharp glass

alsoquin "I do not know what scheme you play at here, but I will have no part of it!" He makes a more threatening gesture.

Zahara lofts a brow, "I may have to disagree, however it is a simple yes or no question, and I beg you to answer, lest Bad Things happen."

alsoquin Zahara's truly imposing visage convinces the general to slide off into a side room with the Solars.

Zahara "So." she smiles, clearly veiled steel behind her velvet voice. "I would like to discuss your relationship with Ovesh, if you have a few moments" it is also crystal clear that he HAS a few moments.

alsoquin The intimidated general nods.

Birds amuses herself examining the walls.

Zahara "So, please, go ahead," she gestures politely. "and tell us everything."

alsoquin He swallows. "Did they send you, to help calculate our response? I have said we should respond to their treachery, but it is in the Majeure's hands. Let your master see that his actions do not go unheeded."

Thirteen "Treachery?"

Zahara chuckles, "He is not our master."

Birds ::Hey, when did honesty become the best policy?::

Birds "Let us say, perhaps, business partner."

Zahara ::I thought I'd try it out on a lark.::

Zahara ::Besides, we may be able to play them off eachother. I WOULD like to end up with trade and allies in this realm. It is better to leave behind friends than enemies, when one is already in a war.::

Birds ::Fair enough. You wear the funny hat.::

alsoquin The general chuckles. "No, I see through you. Ovesh thinks that they can steal away our resources and we will not strike back?"

Zahara "What resources have they taken?" her eyes pierce his, reading what lies beneath

alsoquin "Which have they not?"

Zahara "I can see why this would be a problem. Why is it that you have not simply traded with them instead of resorting to hostility?"

alsoquin The unnamed general is very confused at the apparent stupidity of his questioners.

Thirteen "Hm."

alsoquin "We have been robbed! Plundered! Our precious wealth stolen, our people's blood spilled upon the ground!"

Zahara "Of course you have. That was not the question."

Tags: (:tags Atomnos, Ovesh, Grazim, Qlippan, Avixos, Majeures :)

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