4 Calibration, RY 769.
Darkness hangs, still, over Creation, as the last day of Calibration draws near. Here, in the Sunlands, it is relatively peaceful -- but at the heart of the Blessed Isle, reality twists and turns as the cruel Primordial Nyx forces his way bodily into Creation, and the dark Empress he created gazes out over the ruins of the Imperial City.
Tomorrow, it will be time for action, but now, the rulers of the Sunlands gather to plot their next move.
Thirteen "I think, perhaps, some of those rolls with smaller rolls inside."
zahara sits at her usual place but does not seem inclined to do anything that might possibly be taken as leadership.
Imrama paces the floor just behind his chair, turning back and forth in short strides. He scowls and glares about the room in a manner quite unfamiliar to his compatriots.
Thirteen "And for desert, perhaps that ice cream with small rolls inside."
Thirteen "Containing small rolls might well be the theme of the meal, in fact."
Cerin sits beside her, relaxed and contemplative. "Small rolls of what?" He enquires
Thirteen waves a hand. "I am not concerned with such details."
Phoenix looks at Imrama. "Honey, you're making us all very nervous. What's wrong?"
Imrama , despite his oppressive air of frustration, turns politely to Phoenix and answers, "A horror we are sworn in our natures to destroy or restrain at all costs has closed its jaws around the throat of the world. And while heroes less mighty die in the streets, our company lingers here, discussing the benefits of stuffing foods with other rolled up foods. I am at my wits end, Phoenix of Ashes....
Imrama ...There is a fight that needs fighting, and I aim to fight it."
zahara "Do you have a plan?"
Phoenix "The end of wits is the beginning of recklessness!"
Phoenix nearly gets up out of her chair in her excitement. "That's the place I like best."
Imrama "I have a ship, two guns, and the will to remake the world in a finer form. That is supposed to be sufficient."
Thirteen "Supposed by whom?"
Thirteen "I assure you, it is not an assertion I accept."
Lucent just stands there, to the side, a bit silent. "Actually, that is mostly the stuff of romances. We were always damn good, but also damn sure we were prepared, had backup, and even the best of us sometimes didn't return." He nods, "... and that was when dealing with things less dire than Nyx's Chosen who are right now inhabiting the center of Creation."
zahara "What of the... what was once the Scarlet Empress? I have not yet discovered how to sever her Essence from the others."
Imrama "Supposed, General, by me, in my understanding of the arrangement within our cohort. I've done my utmost to execute your plans, and depended on you to provide them in a timely and effective manner."
Phoenix "They have the world's heart but we have our hands in the jewel-box of the ancient war machines, right? I'm sure we can arrange SOMETHING."
zahara "We may perhaps be able to distract Nyx's Chosen long enough to put him back in his prison."
Thirteen shrugs and leans forward, eating some nearby inappropriate object. "I have had but little time to consider, with the Roseblack's forces still locked in combat with the undead, and the political necessities of the moment."
Thirteen "It is apparent that our greatest weapon is the five Grids that we now lay claim to. However, we must have access to the Palace in order to use them."
Thirteen "How, then, may we distract the Ebon Dragon long enough to steal into his sanctuary? What does he want? What does he fear? I do not have the answers to these questions. Cerin might."
Cerin "I ..." he grimaces, even as he takes on a thoughtful expression. " ... do ... have ... some ideas on those subjects yes."
zahara slides her fingers over his hand and squeezes it.
Cerin "What he wants is freedom. From his fears." He speaks slowly, as though it hurts to consider this. "That is why he wishes the Empress to rule all Creation. It is something else to protect him."
zahara "What does he fear?" she asks softly.
Cerin "What he fears is death." He closes his eyes. "Nonexistence. The fundamental unmaking." His eyes open again. "He fears the things that can kill him. Erevel, The Empty King and the Chime of Ages."
Cerin "Which gives me a thought on how we might defeat the Empress, though it is not without risk."
zahara "A certain amount of risk is acceptable."
Lucent "... and he has a certain modicum of control of his Infernals, right? Therefore if we could appear in a place with the chime, he would likely make them go there, likely, allowing them to be outflanked/some of us to sneak into the auric palace?"
Phoenix "Risk isn't something we have the luxury to avoid. Spill."
Cerin "We allow him to escape. And then we end his existence. It is the simplest way I can think of to remove the protective entwining of celestial and infernal essences that will reforge the Empress and her protectors ever new. Then we will merely be facing Solar heroes of old bolstered with mastery of the elements and their ancient weapons."
Phoenix coughs a little into her wineglass.
zahara "Well, that should be exciting."
Phoenix "When you said 'risk' I confess I was envisioning something more...safe. Like stealing the gates of Heaven, or plucking hairs out of the Kukla's nose."
Imrama "Phoenix, you forget, the Kukla's nose has been trimmed on at least three separate occasions; once for the thaumaturgical value of the hairs, once on a drunken bet, and once as part of an over-elaborate wedding ritual. Cerin's plan is far more unique, and therefore, far more likely to apply to the unique crisis we find ourselves in."
Thirteen "How straightforwardly can the Chime destroy the Dragon?"
Lucent "... and far more likely to get us all killed if we can't use the Chime before he steps on us."
Cerin "I believe it merely needs to chime."
Cerin "Perhaps you can enlighten us, my love?"
Cerin "Lucent, that was not the risk I was actually refering to. I was rather more concerned about the possibility that it will not work, and the essence arrangement will not be sufficiently disrupted."
zahara runs her fingers along the simple chain, resting them on the amulet. "It is... possible, I believe, when he first enters Creation. He will still be weak then. If I am able to link it to the Grid first, it will be much more likely to succeed."
Lucent "... but that IS a risk. So... and I cannot believe I am saying this..."
Lucent "... we will need to perfect his plan to get out of Malfeas?"
zahara "Nyx did not notice us when we rescued Arathi, until we did him harm. However, the Chosen are likely to be vigilant now."
Thirteen "Oh, I suspect he is perfectly capable of that. We were merely need to seem to resist him while deliberately failing in order to lure him into Creation, possibly by deceiving the Empress and her cronies into believing we cannot use the Chime."
zahara "I'm sure we could get into an argument about you not trusting me with the pieces, in front of them." she says drily.
Phoenix "This will be the crime of an Age." Phoenix looks thrilled. "We'll have to make sure every thing is exactly in place so that when He breaks out, our trap will snap shut around Him before He can even draw Creation's breath."
zahara "Or I could always switch sides!"
Thirteen "I am not sure he will fall for that trick again."
Thirteen "We may have taken that particular pitcher to the well too often."
Cerin "NO!" Cerin says forcefully, then murmurs "Please."
Phoenix "I think we can feign incompetence without needing to lean on that act again."
Phoenix "Maybe someone can go into labor at the inopportune moment. No one suspects a pregnant woman." She doesn't say, 'or man.'
zahara smirks at Thirteen, then turns to Cerin apologetically. ::C: I'm sorry, love. I did not mean to hurt you.
Lucent "Zahara could make an imitation of the chime. And then, we plan a botched operation into the Blessed Isle, with the imitation of one of us ending up dead, and the 'chime' on their hands. Or shattered in front of them."
zahara "Hmmm that... actually sounds workable."
Thirteen "You have preempted my thought process, Lucent."
Imrama "Have we the means to...fake...one of our own deaths?"
Lucent "I believe Cerin does. Zahara can come up with a Spell for it. We can ask one of our godly patrons... wait, is Bir... er, Phoe... er, nevermind. But yeah, we can do it. Somehow."
Phoenix waves a hand and dismisses the question with false bravado. "If a Dragon King could build Suwehra, then I'm sure we do."
Cerin "I believe it could be done, yes. It would have to be done well though."
Phoenix leans back in her chair and taps Luc. In an undertone, "Were you going to ask something?"
zahara "There is always the possibility of creating an Amalgam and disguising it to look like one of us."
Lucent "... nothing, Phoenix, nevermind." He smiles. Odd situations, odd questions.
Thirteen "I understand Bitter Elm is well supplied with spells that allow people to fake their deaths."
zahara "It is my understanding that the death is not faked."
Thirteen "So much the better."
Cerin "I wonder how we could make sometime to pass for the shard..."
Lucent "... it is better if we CAN fake it before we go into willing sacrifices. I am sure Cerin could fake a great death, we could have a fake body built by fleshcrafters... no need to kill someone!"
Cerin "Hmm, yes. It would need a soul too though. Certain things have to be seen to leave the body."
Cerin "Yes Phoenix`?"
Phoenix "Not to be the heartless hero-turned-villain of this little story, but do we actually have to make a decoy FROM SCRATCH?"
Phoenix "We have access to several pre-sharded bodies that only need some cosmetic adjustment."
zahara "I can make something that will look exactly like the shard, so long as the effects do not need to be duplicated
Lucent "Yes, Phoenix, we do. We are the heroes, here!"
Cerin "Oh, that is all that would be needed. It just needs to unravel from the souls and fly off."
Thirteen "I worry that we underestimate the ability of Nyx to perceive our trickery."
zahara "Well Nyx will be busy attempting to break out."
zahara "He can perceive it all he wants once he breaks free."
Cerin "Thirteen raises a good point. Perhaps it would be better if I died."
zahara "The alternative is not trickery. One of us does die." She tilts her head to one side. "I have done it before, it was not so bad."
Lucent "Nobody. Dies!"
zahara "We have a Peach of Immortality remaining. It would not be for long."
Thirteen "I am clearly the best choice."
zahara "I agree!"
Imrama "But the peach would be useless if Cerin was left dead long enough for his shard to escape. And what's more, he would be lost to the world as a savior of it."
Thirteen "I am the one person the enemy will not expect me to be willing to sacrifice."
zahara "Yes, obviously we would never want to see you dead."
Thirteen "I would not want to see it, Zahara, and I am the strategist. Your opinions are your own."
zahara gives him a look of wounded innocence. "Of course."
Cerin "And so after you have died, what then?"
Phoenix "Traditionally one weeps, sprinkles one's head with ashes, and proceed to have sex with or stab their nearest friend."
Thirteen "You will have to bring me back to life, out of sight of the enemies, and proceed to act disorganized and deranged, which hopefully will not be too difficult."
Thirteen "At the critical moment, I will re-emerge."
Lucent "Until then, you will be disguised as a woman somewhere." Lucent nods sagely. "Or maybe a Lunar can shape you as a household pet. It may even help you concoct some new Martial Arts... it is not an unheard of method."