Cerin Travelling high above Meru, Cerin guided the airship from Rathess north, heading for the sky-city of Varex. It had been a long trip from the Sunlands but now the city was visible as a shining star on the horizon, caught in the morning sun. As he travelled closer, the point of light resolved itself into a thousand towers extending out over the edge of the island, each one a construct of crystal glass and gracefully arcing metal. (...)
Cerin Bridges linked the towers, some just wide enough for a single person to walk along, others evidently the thoroughfares of the city. In some of the larger gaps there hung gardens filled with low shrubs, the flowers frozen by a winter they were not expecting. Beyond the city, the island stretched out in the sky, other settlements visible in the distance.
Cerin "Go and wake Ahina, if you would." He thought at the coldfire serpent coiled sleepily on his shoulder, smiling as Aliza flew off through the air and into the back of the airship.
Ahina steps out, clearly still a little sleep-groggy but nonetheless alert for danger.
Cerin "We will be arriving at Varex shortly. I have little idea of the state of the city, beyond that the gross structure is fine at least. I am also not precisely sure when it faded into the wyld." This was more or less all the briefing he could give as he scanned the city for a suitable place to land. Or, indeed, signs of life.
Ahina nods. "It seems to be... relatively well preserved."
Cerin "It does. That gives me some hope the information I seek will be here, in one form or another."
Cerin decides to make a pass over the city, looking for people, human or otherwise as he does.
Ahina Though fantastically preserved, the city appears to be utterly empty; nothing moves, except for tiny bits of fabric and flora that sway with the breeze.
Cerin settles for a large open square to land the airship, setting it down in between the statues to heroes now long gone. "Well, it appears that we are alone here." He says as he powers the airship down, standing and walking out of the vessel, wrapping himself in protective magic as he goes. "Let's go and explore."
Ahina The air is chill as he walks out into the city, though the constant breeze has prevented any staleness from setting in.
Cerin heads for the centre of the city where he images in the administrative areas of the city were, senses extended half a kilometer around him as he walks, studying the ancient architecture in the strange multi-hued metal.
Ahina The city seems to be in surprisingly good shape. Even the interiors of the buildings seem largely undamaged and unmussed -- there is no evidence either of mass murder or evacuation.
Ahina As he glances about, one room in particular draws Cerin's attention: the one he remembers from his vision, where he watched the Lunar through the window.
Cerin "Hmmm." He considers, and then starts to thread his way towards that building. As he walks over there, he makes conversation with Ahina about the state of the shadows resplendent and her efforts in finding suitable recruits.
Ahina "We've located... three, so far." She pauses. "I am being very discriminating." Without missing a beat, she begins hiking her way directly up the side of the building, heading towards the tenth-story window in question.
Cerin "That is good." Cerin comments as he hops up the series of minute ledges the architecture leaves up the side of the building. "Tell me about the least promising one?"
Ahina "Young, small. Seventh child of a wealthy family who otherwise perished from plague. Able to move quietly as best as could be hoped for, but as yet unable to restrain herself properly in matters of discourse."
Cerin "Ah. It appears that you are being discriminating enough." He nods in approval and then jumps in through the open window of the room next to the one that had caught his attention. He walks through the empty, but full, living space, before doubling back into the room he sought.
Ahina The room he enters is much as he remembers it: a pleasantly, but minimally, appointed office, with a simple desk, a spot for an inkwell, and several storage compartments.
Cerin walks over to the window, looking out over the city and then down into the garden.
Ahina The garden he remembers in his vision lies below, but... frozen over, its once glorious greenery trapped in icy death.
Cerin sighs inwardly and then turns back into the room, opening each of the storage compartments in turn. "This state of emptiness does bother me slightly."
Ahina "Indeed." Ahina looks around the room for a moment. "This would not have been Ymir's work; I doubt she would have given away as much information as 'I have cleaned out my office.'"
Cerin "Just so. Not that this office was ever exacly overflowing with things that I recall." He opens another draw. "Though it was also a comment on the wider city. People do not, in general, disappear."
Ahina "Yes." She pauses for a second in thought. "Hrrrrrrm."
Cerin "Well, it is something we can look into before we leave." He continues examining the compartments.
Ahina It's quite faint, but Cerin notices that there are several lines of slightly exaggerated Essence flow through the ceilings, walls, and floors of the room -- almost too subtle to notice.
Cerin turns slowly as he traces them, following them to a focal point. He studies the point for a few moments and then touches the five lines that form this nexus, introducing one mote of each of the five fundamental orientations of essence to them in turn.
Ahina "Cerin, what are you doi--" Ahina's voice is cut off as Cerin's actions slightly shift the Essence of the room around him, and he finds himself standing in a similarly shaped room -- but one where the windows look out into a swirling blackness, and a variety of unusual containers sit upon various platforms, in place of the office goods.
Cerin "Ah. I thought the office was a little empty for Ymir," he remarks, as he tries to work out where he is by studying the flavour of the Essence in the air.
Ahina It appears to be an entire room suspended outside the normal space of Creation; it does not seem like much of anything lies beyond.
Cerin "So, this is what Elsewhere looks like," he considers out loud as he studies the window before walking over to the nearest of the unusual containers and examining it closely, trying to determine if it is wise to open it.
Ahina There are seven containers in total. Four are simply ceramic or wooden containers of various constructions; one was clearly modelled to hold the Night Seal, while the others contain a variety of once-confidential, but largely contextless and procedural, Deliberative documents. (...)
Ahina Of the three remaining, each seems to bear a series of five interlocking Essence fasteners and minor destructive traps, enough at least to disintegrate the containers and everything they contain; in addition, each is blocked from Essence sight peering within. (...)
Ahina The three vessels are each crafted of intricately worked metal; one is a red and gold octagonal case bearing the image of a flower, one a silver, circular container split by a single line, and the third a square black box, decorated by a design of six iron spears.
Cerin idly memorizes the notes, considering that they might have some use, at least in consideration of claims such as those made by the dragonkings. Most of his attention, however, was on the trio of strange boxes. They evidently contained details of some importance, to be so warded and trapped here outside Creation. Although perhaps it was just Ymir's normal paranoia. Since he was fairly certain opening one would provide no clue to t
Ahina The container is a single circular tin of finely burnished silver, perhaps nine inches in diameter. The line that splits it is gently intented, perhaps an eighth of an inch and again as wide, and lined with a dark black metal -- perhaps simply purposely-oxidized silver. (...)
Ahina Its Essence pattern is carefully twisted around itself, as if someone had taken an Essence instrument and delicately crocheted the existing patterns into tightly-wound knots. A singular alarm pattern, and a rune of self-destruction, are carefully tied into that pattern, in a style that is unquestionably Ymir's handiwork,.
Cerin Cerin spends a few moments admiring Ymir's handiwork and then, after summoning his cache egg and retriving his own tools for such manipulations, he begins to undo it. His first act is to set a couple o very fine pins, to hold two of the twisted patterns at just the location they are in now, and then, with the utmost nicety he hooks two of the strands and starts to unravel them, circling the jar in a helical pattern which will (...)
Cerin isolate first the destructive ward and then the alarm ward, letting them subside back into the Essence of box, untriggered.
Ahina Cerin's delicate manipulations do exactly as intended; with a (small -- no need to be showy, after all) flourish, he undoes the last of the locks, and the Essence patterns of the box slip back into place in their standard, unlocked fashion.
Cerin then draws his finger along the dark line, the pressure causing it to open slowly. As he does this, he considers momentarily. ::Ahina?: he sends a questioning thought, not sure if he would recieve an answer.
Ahina There is no immediate response. The box does, however, open willingly at Cerin's touch. Within are a few somewhat strange selections of objects:
Ahina Three moonsilver pendants, each bearing the rune of a single letter (A, V, and L); an Essence sketch labelled "A" at the bottom of what Cerin is quite certain is the Lunar from his vision; the skeletal paw of a wolf; and a series of notes:
Ahina They seem to reflect a process of covert observation, based on a tip regarding a Lunar infernal operating within the Deliberative. She describes observations of four, coded by the same letters (the fourth is "E"), with largely inconclusive results.
Ahina A seems to be the best-documented; she was apparently a Waning Moon who worked with Talmuda on many of his plans to fight against the Primordials; Ymir had largely cleared her of suspicion when the notes end (...)
Ahina (which Cerin would guess corresponds to Ymir's disappearance beneath the Earth), and afterwards letters in red simply indicate "DECEASED, NO FURTHER INVESTIGATION"
Cerin "Well, it was nice of you clear that one up," he remarks, and studies the pendants in more detail, trying to determine if there is anything special about them, beyond the material used in their construction.
Ahina Each contains within its center a single mote of Essence, aspected with what appears to be the unique flavor of an individual Exalt, suspended and preserved within the moonsilver medium. It seems like each would likely serve as a strongly effective focus for magic that was intended to work on the Exalt in question.
Cerin Cerin replaces the items within the box and then spends some time carefully re-crocheting an almost identical essence pattern back into the material of the box, sealing it once more. Gathering the three interesting boxes into a stack, he then carefully looks around for the same ultra-fine tracery of essence as he found down in Varex, feeding it motes in the opposite orientations and returning to the skycity!
Ahina Cerin almost knocks down Ahina as she quite closely examines the very spot he just used to vanish into the hidden office; she drops into a roll and stands back up, a little startled but at least ready for whatever came out. "Oh, it's you."
Cerin "My apologies. I should perhaps have realised earlier, but this was far too obviously Ymir's office to actually be where she kept things."
Ahina nods. "Aha," she says, noticing the boxes under Cerin's arm.
Ahina looks over the containers for a moment, and then looks back at Cerin. "While I was trying to figure out where you went, by the way, I found this." She holds out a small recording crystal, of the sort Cerin and Zahara had found in Rathess.
Cerin "Ah, have you watched it yet?"
Ahina "Not yet." She places it down on the largely empty desk.
Cerin watches the display with interest.
Ahina The video plays out a scene quite like Cerin remembers of the city: a peaceful, springtime vision out the window, elegantly dressed individuals going about daily business.... (...)
Ahina There are several different shots like this, taken on what appear to be different days (based on the weather out the window), though none seem to display anything particularly notable, at first. (...)
Ahina Eventually, it cuts to a much different scene: four bodies, strewn like ragdolls about the room, as a fifth flies across the view of the device and out the window. Cut. Shortly afterwards, the same bodies there, a bluish mist flows through the room. Cut. (...)
Ahina Someone is sitting in front of the camera: a large man and broad, his skin covered in thick grey-blue fur, while razor-sharp tattoo lines glow with inky blackness from beneath. The bluish mist seems to follow him, and he lifts one of the bodies. "You should have left with your fellows," he says to its empty face.
Ahina He turns back to the camera. "The age of the Sun is over," he says. "The age of the Earth's true masters is returning." He draws out a vicious iron dagger-sword, still wet with blood, and licks it. "Varex shall be our first stronghold, and its highest tower the first renewed temple to Cythe--" Cut.
Ahina The same room, the view out the window almost indescribably complex and painful to look at, with its juxtaposition of colors and sensory input that should not even be possible to see. The same person, looking out the window: "What in all the worlds..." Cut. A blast of perceptory dissonance so strong as to give anyone watching a headache. The video ends.
Cerin "Well. That is where the people went," he remarks as the crystal-vision stops. "Hmmm. Which merely leaves the question of what happened to the Cultists." He mentally pages back through Ymir's notes, wondering if she mentioned a Cytherian cult, brutally quashed.
Ahina No specific mention of such a cult appears, though he does note that Cytherea's name comes up once (speculatively) in the notes from the silver box.
Cerin "Perhaps a question best considered after some futher research," he remarks as much to himself as to Ahina. "I'm not sure we will find much else of immediate interest within Varex, between the evacuation and the cultists and the event, so we shall return home."