< Akuna Parts | Sol Invictus Logs | Flame/Void >

Cerin ::I shall be there shortly:: "Orem," he turns to face the butterfly. "What did she say to you? Tell me everything." He demands. And then he listens, as he scans the crowd around him for Orobo. ::Aliza, to me.::

alsoquin The tiny butterfly's mind silently fills Cerin in on Zahara's instructions: her location in Halta, the fact that he should remove his collar, and the fact that it is undoubtedly a trap.

Cerin "Thank you Orem." He says, with a curt nod, already turning to walk through the crowd to Orem. "Relovia, you should return to the cascade. Inform the Roseblack that she should start to prepare the armies." And then he's gone in the crowd.

alsoquin Relovia is used to that sort of curtness by now, and simply nods to the empty space where Cerin once stood.

Cerin Cerin appears infront of orobo with a very distinct slience and then an equally distinct sound of two feet placed very deliberately. "Orobo, inform your chieftain, Thirteen Blooming Flowers when he emerges from his meditation that the dreambreaker has been captured, that she is in Halta and that he should remove his collar." And then just as suddenly, there is the silence and he is gone. He appears by birds next to the gate.

Cerin ::Thirteen will not be coming with us, it seems.::

alsoquin Birds nods forthrightly and follows Cerin!

Cerin keys in the co-ordinates for home. As he clears the gate he telepathically addresses Ahina ::Ahina, ready yourself and your squad, we are leaving in under an hour:: then he snaps off the telepathic line, hurrying through the jungle towards the cascade. "We will be leaving shortly Birds." ::Ensure that you are not wearing the collars Zahara supplied you with.:: When he reaches the cascade, he travels down through various doors until he reaches his rooms, where he selects certain things from shelves and boxes, storing them in his Cache Egg and his pockets. A glance into his pocket through the thick red fabric confirms the ring is still there. Then he shuts up his room and ascends into the sunlight once more.

alsoquin Ahina and her squad of ninjas are fully prepared, waiting for him outside. "We are ready, Cerin. Where do we go?"

Cerin "Good. We travel to Halta. Zahara has been kidnapped." He starts to stalk at a fast pace towards the airship. ::Birds?:: He demands as he powers the ship up.

alsoquin ::Yes?::

Cerin ::Are you not coming?::

alsoquin There is a burst of static, then no response.

Cerin ::Birds?:: Cerin demands once more and then snarls audiably and banks the ship up and off the ground, laying in a course for Halta, fast and low.

alsoquin The Rathess airship, its windshield carefully restored by Zahara after the mishap with the Shadowed Unlife Equation, zooms over the treetops towards the mentioned location.

alsoquin The location mentioned by Orem is in a small town, near the southern border of Halta. As Cerin navigates towards it, he has opportunity to see two unusual sights:

alsoquin First, the massive fires that burn through much of the Haltan forests, still, putting out great jets of black smoke;

alsoquin and second, the fact that the ominous clouds of black and red, shot through with Essence, that hang over the Blessed Isle have grown enough to be easily seen even this far east.

alsoquin The town comes into view, its portion of the forest entirely untouched by the conflagrations.

Cerin eyes the cloud with deep suspicion, though he doesn't let it distract him from the task at hand, deciding he is close enough to the town, braking and banking suddenly, landing in a clearing near a waterfall, mostly hidden from the sky. "Stay here, hide the ship, disperse yourselves into the forest around here and kill anyone who discovers you or the ship. I will be back with Zahara." And then he vanishes into the forest, heading towards the patrol whose presence he had noted from the air.

alsoquin A group of Linowan God-Exalts, their brilliant green hair standing out clearly from the darker leaves around them, carry spears of a glinting green metal and patrol the area for invaders. They, of course, see no sign of Cerin's approach....

Cerin falls from a higher branched behind them, bow raining lazy motes of golden essence that kill over half the squad, arrows through the back of their necks before they even realise they are under attack. The remaining four turn just time to sea another pair of golden motes fly towards them, striking right through the heart. One turns to run and is cut down before his companion as fully readied his spear and then another two bolts fly, pinning him to the tree with essence that burns. Cerin appears before him, red ribbons flapping in the breeze, helmet unreadable. "Tell me. Everything."

alsoquin Grimacing with the pain of the brilliant arrow, the Exalt spits and mutters, "May Hell take you"... but Cerin hears what he wishes to nonetheless.

alsoquin The regional command is in a building particularly high in this small city, a rather vast Manse complex that begins perhaps one hundred feet from the earth and rises another 200 from there, stretching out many times that long in width. The Exalt's thoughts identify both the room where the prisoner HAS been kept, and the most likely location for her to have been moved to (deep within the complex.)

alsoquin Perhaps 500 God-Exalts are stationed in this area, most who are active are organized into patrolling 5-man bands, with several strike forces of 25 more powerful Exalts ready to act quickly at the slightest sign of trouble. The group operating in Halta also recently made a deal with remnants of the Infernal cult of Laerad that the Solars defeated some months back, so some remaining Ygdommu and Wood Aspects are also operating within the area, though without preset routines.

alsoquin The Exalt in question hasn't been present during anything being done to Zahara, though it is common knowledge that the prisoner is powerless and has been tortured.

Cerin Even through the mask, the Exalt can surely sense the sudden chill which now radiates from Cerin. "Who leads you here?" He demands.

alsoquin The thought comes through: The Lunar Exalt Akuna Ravdash.

Cerin "Then he will die." And then Cerin shoots him through the throat with a broad slice of essence, and eats his souls as they unravel into the air around him. And then he is gone towards the town.

alsoquin The complex hangs in the trees, foreboding, while the smaller, more normal in appearance buildings suround it in all six directions throughout the tightly-packed trees.

Cerin Cerin looks around him for 500 yards.

alsoquin The houses in the nearby area all seem to be occupied by support -- the non-coms who are needed to run any large military establishment. Two patrols are currently moving anywhere within Cerin's massive range of vision, though neither is particularly close, to him or to one another.

Cerin Cerin decides to heard towards the nearest patrol, one that will send him on a spiral path inwards and around the command post. When he finds them, he attacks.

alsoquin The patrol reacts as swiftly as they can, but the greatest Solar hunter is faster -- three die instantly at the tips of Cerin's golden arrows, while two more live just long enough to allow their fellow soldier's deaths to be seared into their retinas as the last things they ever see.

alsoquin Cerin drinks in the pure Essence of their souls and continues past them.

Cerin Cerin doesn't stop, spirialling slowly inwards towards the manse, killing any that are not too great a diversion from his current path, always focusing inwards towards the command post, until eventually after much stalking and many deaths, his perception can see within it.

alsoquin As the edge of Cerin's gaze passes through the walls of the manse, an irritating sight greets him -- pure blackness. A sorcerous enchantment of the Celestial Circle fills the entire manse with a black mist that renders all vision, even his ability to glance through objects, unusable.

Cerin Cerin continues his inward, downward spiral, several more patrols meeting their ultimate end in bursts of golden light, snapped off with a cold, heartless precision until eventually, he jumps down lightly onto the roof of the manse.

alsoquin The manse sits below Cerin's feet, dark to all sight. In a few places, towers rise up a story or two from the flat roof, presenting windows of glass that look upon pure blackness within; otherwise, there is no other motion.

alsoquin As Zahara hangs in her prison cell, something unexpected happens -- the lights suddenly go out completely, and she is overwhelmed by complete and utter darkness.

alsoquin Zee now hangs by chains in place of the flimsy ropes that bound her before.

Zahara{EM} sighs and closes her eyes slowly. The darkness seems less complete from behind her eyelids somehow. "Cerin," she whispers. She reflexively sends love and support through the Unity along with a desperate desire to see... and growls when she remembers. Angry now, for the first time, she strains against the chains that bind her, heedless of the metal biting into her skin.

alsoquin Perhaps ten minutes pass, and nothing, not even sound, betrays any activity outside Zahara's chamber.

alsoquin Then, the door audibly slams open, and loud footsteps begin to move towards Zee's location.

Zahara{EM} feels the rage recede slowly, and takes a deep breath as she recognizes the futility of her actions. She laughs, a short, sharp noise, and raises her head. She looks upwards imagining her vision piercing the darkness, the walls, the manse and the sky. "Sol Invictus," she says in a measured voice. "Sol Invictus, I call on you, damn you! Don't you dare let Him die, or I will destroy you. I don't care how long it takes, how many

Zahara{EM} "Sol Invictus, I call on you, damn you! Don't you dare let Him die, or I will destroy you. I don't care how long it takes, how many lives I must lead. Do Not Forsake Us." she decides against adding another 'you bastard' to the end of her prayer. Then she waits for the footsteps to finish their approach.

alsoquin Zee feels a charge of energy run down her spine... or is it just an illusion? A moment later, she feels burly hands snap the chains that hold her as if they were twigs, and then she is forcefully thrown over a shoulder. The familiar voice says "I do not think he will be aiding you today, Zahara."

Zahara{EM} groans as she folds over his shoulder, bruises meeting rock hard muscles. "But will YOU?" she asks after she catches her breath. "Because that may be enough."

alsoquin Zahara feels a sudden hard thwack upon her head, and her thoughts join her eyes in darkness.

Zahara{EM} makes a strangled noise and falls still.

Cerin Cerin pauses for just an instant, ensures the place he is cannot be seen from any other tower, and then he draws a golden knife from a pocket, and cuts into the manse.

alsoquin Cerin lets himself in to a room which, from the sound of it, is fairly empty, though his vision is now closed entirely by darkened essence. All that he senses are the sounds around him -- shuffling and muffled words from below, but nothing from himself -- and a throbbing heat that is slowly growing to perceivable levels from the object in his pocket....

Cerin ignores the heat, and the darkeness, moving towards the nearest wall that is towards the centre of the manse, and slicing it open, stepping through the hole he makes and continuing into the deeper darkness, the faint glimmer of his bow all but swallowed up by the dark. He is looking for Zahara. No one will stand in his way.

alsoquin Cerin steps in, down a crudely carved wooden staircase, moving steadily towards the location he was told Zahara would be at. As he steps into the first floor, he feels something... the Essence of the air around him crystallizes and becomes thick, seeking to deny his use of his Exalted gifts....

Cerin Within his helmet, Cerin smiles and concentrates, weaving essence around him in a complex pattern which defies the efforts of the air to deny him his own Essence. It has not the place, nor the right, nor the skill. As he does, he allows the glow of his bow to attenuate to almost nothing, pausing and listening.

alsoquin Cerin's efforts drive off the Essence-calcifying effects, leaving him in command of his abilities. As he stops to listen, he hears the thrum of the white jade that he is certain lines the walls... from further along, footsteps and more muffled shouts....

Cerin Cerin waits for the moment, taking the time to consider the reaction of the ring in his pocket to the essence dampening field. He is sure there there will be people along to claim their prize soon.

alsoquin The ring continues to throb even more violently, seemingly unimpeded by the Essence dampeners. As he feels this, he hears footsteps running toward the room -- six individuals, by the sound of it.

Cerin waits until they are within the room and then quickly, calmly and efficiently pushes the bow up to full luminance and shoots them all through the throat, the six motes small islands of light in the darkness until they snuff themselves in warm flesh. It was time to move on.

alsoquin The crackle and hiss of the bolts strikes Cerin's ears with a great satisfaction, and when he has struck at them, the sounds grow quieter... it is just the humming, once again.

Cerin leaves the room and the corpses behind him, remembering it's location so as not to bring Zahara through here when they withdraw. He follows the path the footsteps had come from.

alsoquin Cerin continues, so quiet as to be inaudible to all, down the hallway. He has progressed perhaps twenty feet when his insistent surprise alarm goes off....

Cerin is alert but does not particularly stop or slow down.

alsoquin A strange smell... like over-ripe berries, intermingled with sweat and fire -- fills Cerin's nostrils, and his head begins to swim; the certainty of location that the sense of hearing provided him moments ago begins to disappear...

Cerin Cerin spends a few moments to concentrate, focusing on the sounds he remembers as real, vaguely aware of the worst excesses of the poison's effects as the fivefold sensory aegis did its work. He slows fractionally, concentrating for a breif moment to activate charms that brought everything to be a little sharper, taking off his helmet to allow him to navigate also by the feel of the air on his face. Then he presses on, seeking Zahara.

alsoquin Cerin pushes on through the halls, walls crumbling like paper under the golden dagger as he carves away all obstructions. He has just cut through another one when his surprise detection goes off once more.

Cerin steps smoothly back and away from the hole he just carved, readying an arrow.

alsoquin A voice, simultaneously familiar and yet utterly alien, calls out down the hallway that Cerin has just cut into. "At last you are here, Wolf." The sensory distortion effects of the poison gas give the voice, if anything, more force and ominousness as it rattles about in Cerin's brain.

alsoquin The ring in his pocket seems to pulse in time with the words.

Cerin "Greetings, Markuran The Bear and Siram Once Slain. I have come for Zahara." He concentrates on the words, knows the words, makes sure that they, at least, are free of the distortions in the sound. The words are cold anyway, and there is not so much to distort. "Where is she?"

alsoquin The voice, from down the hallway, calls out again. "I have her. If you fire at me, you will strike her instead." There is a pause. "Step out into the hallway. She will receive no harm from me yet."

Zahara{EM} dangles.

Cerin Cerins arm tenses, and there is a momentary shiver that passes over him, his face turning darker. And then he steps out into the hallway, trying further to locate markuran through the distortion.

alsoquin It is difficult to make out anything, but he can tell that Marku stands perhaps fifty feet to his right.

alsoquin "You should realize, Cerin, that I do not wish to harm Zahara." The voice shifts as he says this... for a moment, it sounds pure, clean of the alien taint of Siram. "And I will not, if you listen to me."

Zahara{EM} drools a little. It's cute.

Cerin "You can be assured that you have almost my full attention and that I am listening as best as your venom has left me able." He does not add, in the same emotionless voice, that the venom has still left him very able.

alsoquin "I have a simple offer for you. Do as I ask, and Zahara will leave here freely. I will awaken her and swear to it; she will suffer no more harm from me or my associates."

Cerin "What is it that you ask?" He starts to move slowly towards Markuran.

alsoquin "It is simple." Cerin hears the sound of a single footstep, drawing nearer to him. "Take the ring in your pocket and put it on."

Cerin 's arm twitches again, a golden mote shimmering into existance between his fingers before he banishes it once more. He is silent for a very long time, deep in thought as he considers Zahara, Marku and the ring. He could not kill Marku without first killing Zahara. He could not kill Zahara without her leave. He could not leave her here. Neither could he put on the ring, not when it pulsed with such active power. Several times as he thinks, the golden mote appears in his hand once more, before finally, he seems to reach some decision. "Very. well."

Cerin Several times as he thinks, the golden mote appears in his hand once more, before finally, he seems to reach some decision. "Very. well."

alsoquin "Very well indeed." Cerin hears a tiny jingle sound of Essence expenditure, and then the slight motions of Zahara slightly stirring. "Certify an oath, Zahara: I, Markuran the Bear, swear to release Zahara Zhan and that no harm will befall her from myself or any of my associates until she has safely left the borders of Halta, once Cerin has done what I asked a moment ago."

Zahara{EM} blinks woozily, trying to figure out where the hell she is. "What?"


Zahara{EM} twists to try to see Markuran's face, "Once he does what?" she insists, not about to give in now to something she does not understand, not after everything else.

Cerin "No. Zahara leaves first." Cerin states, flatly.

Zahara{EM} "Cerin!" she cries, glad for the darkness obscuring her condition. "What did you agree to?"

alsoquin Markuran laughs. "Fair enough." He snaps his fingers, and a buzzing sound enters the room -- even with his hearing distorted, Cerin recognizes the agata. "I grant Zahara Zhan this wasp, which will obey her every wish, in exchange for Cerin's deed. CERTIFY IT."

Cerin "Something to save your life. CERTIFY it and GO." Beneath the cold of his voice, there is a raw edge to his voice.

Zahara{EM} "NO!" she pushes against the grip of the massive barbarian. "I won't trade your life for mine... That's what it is, isn't it?"

alsoquin "I even promise not to slay Cerin once he has done what I asked," Marku adds, followed by a smaller chuckle.

Cerin "GO, please." He takes several steps closer.

Zahara{EM} shakes her head stubbornly. "Tell me."

Zahara{EM} knows that whatever it is must be worse than death, if it is not simply that.

Cerin reaches out and strokes Zahara's hair "Please, go." He whispers, in a small voice. "I could not bear to kill you, and yet that is the only other thing that will happen here. Acknowledge that oath and GO. Please."

Zahara{EM} flinches at the sudden touch, not used to gentleness any longer. "Then kill me. I will be reborn." she whispers back.

alsoquin Cerin hears a flinching sound. "Do what I asked, Cerin. I will follow my word even without the oath." There is a pause, and when the voice speaks up again it is quieter, broken, and entirely human. "I cannot let Zahara die."

Zahara{EM} "None of us have to die, can't you see?" she replies, her voice catching. "We can leave, together."

Zahara{EM} "Please."

alsoquin "Zahara." The small, human voice goes on. "If you fight it, he'll come back. Take the chance and save yourself while you still can."

Zahara{EM} "I can't. I can't leave you. Neither of you." she sags against the barbarian's strong chest. "I can't face life without you. I won't. Don't you understand? I love you. Both of you."

Cerin "I know." He says softly. "I cannot ask for your forgiveness and I have no place to apologise, but I will. I will not kill you in this life. I will not watch you die again. I promise you, I will not die here today." He looks quilty as he speaks. "Send her home, Markuran."

alsoquin The barbarian gently lifts Zahara off of his shoulder and places her on the wasp. "Goodbye, Zahara." A pause. "I hope to see you again in this life." He snaps his fingers and the wasp portals away.

Zahara{EM} reaches out blindly for the hand that had run through her hair. Her grip is no stronger than that of a sick child. "No, Cerin... Please don't."

Zahara{EM} screams as she feels the chill of Elsewhere, though not from the cold.

Cerin "I love you." He whispers, just before the portal closes.

alsoquin There is a pause. "So, it is just you and me again, Cerin. I have done as you asked. Will you do the same?"

Cerin "I cannot thank you, Markuran. You know that. But, we did have an agreement, yes." He reaches into his pocket and draws out the ring of black and ruby.

Cerin ::Aliza. Go to Ahina, tell her that she is to take the squad home and that they should consider themselves under Thirteen's command. You should leave with them.:: He pauses. ::Thank you for being my companion.::

Cerin considers the ring before him for a moment or two and then he slips it onto his finger.

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