< A Fierce Red Star | Sol Invictus Logs | The Souls of His People >

Imrama As the Fable of the Reconstruction crests over the peak of the Labyrinthine Cascade, it cuts an odd angle against the image of the noonday sky, as though the ship's prow where striking deep into the heart of the sun.

Imrama Safely home, Imrama vaults over the aft rail, plunging 250 feet before stopping just before hitting the ground. ::"Cerin,": Imrama thinks loudly but politely, ::"Lucent and I have made some discoveries we believe you will find most interesting."::

Cerin ::I am in my study at present, please, come down: Cerin replies after a moment.

Lucent steps down on a stairway of shining discs made by the coronal, making his way to Cerin's study. Thankfully, he already had enough balance not to fall from... so far up. "Cerin the Wolf! You have no idea HOW much we missed you...!"

Cerin Cerin looked up from his writing desk as Lucent steps through the door, setting down the large Haliime quill he uses for writing his notes with into the inkwell at the top of his desk. The study is much as it has been for some time, although someone who has made note of the contents of the shelves would notice the addition of three containers, all of intricately worked metal. one is a red and gold octagonal case bearing the image of (...)

Cerin 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. Above his desk, attached to the walls with pins is a picture of a complex series of essence flows, vaguely shaped like a woman. It is labeled 'A', "Welcome, Lucent, Imrama. Please, come in."

Imrama "Thank you, Cerin." Imrama takes a seat.

Lucent watches the flower and the box, wondering what they are for... "Thank you." He smiles, walking to the black box and wondering about its spears... "We need your help. I... think we discovered something important. But neither of us have much knowledge of Essence flows."

Cerin "Don't touch that Lucent, please." He cautions as he notes Lucent's interest. "Though please, explain more of this important thing you have found."

Lucent "Remember what I told you last time? About Pluto, and the Shadeborn?"

Cerin nods

Lucent grins, then reaches his hand almost to Cerin's face... and then a pendant comes down, in the form of a dark-blue caste mark. "Well, I had been searching for ways to find Pluto, without much success... until Imrama took me to Gem. We gave its dead a decent eulogy... and found this!"

Cerin Cerin's eyes don't widen of course, instead focusing on the pendant. "Ah." Over his shoulder appears Aliza, tilting her head to study the pendant also.

Lucent looks a little disappointed. "This is the mark of a Shadeborn Caste Mark. We found it on the Underworld, just outside of Gem... and miracle of miracles, an altar to Pluto. One who corresponds with the First River in the Underworld's sky... the feature of its Celestial Order that is represented by this Caste."

charlequin The pendant is made of tarnished metal, but clearly crafted by an expert hand. It bears no trace of Essence beyond the slight wisps of necrotic energy that still cling to its surface after long years spent in Netheos.

Cerin nods to indicate that the fact it is a shadeborn castemark is no news. "An altar. That is an interesting prospect." Aliza moves a little further down his arm, coiling through the loops of ribbon.

Lucent "From what I understand, it is one of THE Altars. Apparently, it begins in the south, the river. And this altar... it sends essence to him. It starts the flow. Directional altars connected directly to the god... do you see where this is going?" Lucent appears so... excited! "With you, it's possible that we can... find him! Pluto!"

z stretches a little, and then opens the door into Cerin's study from the bedroom, clad only in a semi-translucent robe of red. "Ah, I thought I heard voices." She surveys Imrama and Lucent for a moment, absently rubbing her left wrist. "I see you have returned from your adventure."

Lucent "Empress!" He smiles bright! "Yes! We laid Gem to rest and found... things!"

Lucent "Is there something wrong with your wrist?"

z smiles slightly, glancing over at Cerin and his current projects, "No, Luc, I'm fine. Do tell me about Gem, though."

Lucent "We got there... and it was terrible, Empress. We were so busy fighting with the Lily that... I could barely *understand* what happenned, then. A whole city... a whole city gone. They were crying out for release, the lost souls, their grief still palpable there. We gave them a proper send-off... I'll take the Kashaen there later. Build a memorial for them..."

z frowns, "Was there a Shadowland?"

Lucent sighs, and focuses on better things. Like the land of ultimate death and suffering "Yes! There was! We went into the Underworld from there and met this old fogey and his dog... and with him, this!" He throws the pendant to Zahara. "A Shadeborn Caste Mark! Someone coming from Gem gave it to him!"

Cerin smiles warmly at Zahara, moving in the chair so she could join him if she wished. "A river of essence ... similar to the dragonlines?" He muses. "I suppose I would have to see."

Lucent "And then... we found an altar to Pluto! To the first river! Which can... take us to him!"

Lucent "... yes! In a way. It is more like the sky, a line of clouds-that-are-not-clouds in the Underworld's sky. It envelops the stars... it flows the path of death and life on its celestial order..."

z catches the pendant on her way to drape herself decorously over Cerin's lap, one arm around his neck. "Why would someone from Gem have something like this?" She inspects the pendant in her free hand, "Take us to him, you say? I thought he was dead?"

Lucent "Maybe! Maybe he isn't. I have no idea. Maybe it can't take us to him, but to remains of the Shadeborn. Maybe he's dead and gone... maybe he's shattered, maybe he's just 'dead' like the Neverborn... maybe he's just sleeping. But that altar was there, just outside of Gem, and surely..."

Lucent "... damn it. Just outside of Gem... I... wonder if we are the first people to have this idea."

Cerin rests the arm currently unoccupied by coldflame serpent lightly on Zahara. "Then we will have to be better than them," he shrugs. "It changes little."

Lucent sighs. How could he never be SURPRISED? Or Urgent? Or at least act like it?

Imrama "It may serve as a map to a treasure of tremendous worth the restoration of a lost Incarna, and perhaps a new equilibrium between the living and the dead."

z "Perhaps it is the reason for Gem lying where it is. Was."

Lucent "Wait, you mean Ata'la is not the only thing imprisioned within it? That when we broke Ata'la off his prision... we may have broken other things as well?" Lucent strokes his chin. That was worrying. Did he remember any tales of things locked under the earth in that region...?

z "Perhaps Ata'la was a guardian of sorts."

Cerin "Well, how long would a journey there take?"

Imrama "Between a minute and an hour, depending on the Winds of Change coming off the Desert of Impossibility," Imrama offers.

pigeon left the room (quit Ping timeout).

Cerin nods, "Considerably faster than my own jaunt, then." he remarks, Aliza yawning and settling down to sleep now that no-one is talking of Ata'la any more.

z makes out with cerin along the way.

Imrama The Wyld detests Netheos. It is the nature of the Wyld to touch every plane in the existence, but with Netheos, the Wyld only touches it tentatively, with transparent distaste. Nonetheless, the contact is there, and it is enough to carry the Fable into the Underworld, to the lost altar of Pluto.

charlequin The altar, with its flat patio and cracked white stone, lies much as they left it, amidst the great black-sand dunes.

Cerin is standing towards the bow of the Fable, one arm around Zahara.

charlequin The castemark of the Eridanos, cast in that white stone, towers up above the patio in stark remembrance.

Lucent runs to the altar, touching it... "And it is here! The altar to Eridanos... the first river. Remembering." Lucent points to the sky, then, where it could be seen amidst the stars, flowing... right?

charlequin The greenish path of Eridanos cuts across the sky, flowing inexorably towards the pulsating red mass of the sun Abbadon.

Cerin walks over at a more sedate pace, the better to study the flows of essence as he closes the distance, occasionally glancing up at the river of essence.

z stands close, arm wrapped around Cerin in return, and leaning in to whisper "This may actually be an improvement over Gem," wryly in his ear, before stepping down off the boat, and inspecting the altar more closely.

charlequin The presence of a distinct Essence pattern flowing through the sky-river is obvious, but the specifics of what else it might do, beyond flow in that fashion, seems relatively obscure.

charlequin To get any more of an idea, the Solars will probably need a new vantage point./

z mutters, "The fluctuations from Gem's destruction have not calmed enough for me to be able to read the delicate flows. We need to perhaps follow the river and find a better place to study it."

Lucent "How would we calm it down? Maybe I did not lay them to rest well enough..."

Imrama brings the Fable in to land on the black-sand adjacent to the altar.

z mutters, "The fluctuations from Gem's destruction have not calmed enough for me to be able to read the delicate flows. We need to perhaps follow the river and find a better place to study it."

Lucent "How would we calm it down? Maybe I did not lay them to rest well enough..."

zahara "Your cleansing of this place - while it was the proper thing to do - has changed the Essence flows again, but we should be able to work around them."

Cerin "It may well have been your laying to re-... yes, as Zahara says."

zahara smiles at Cerin and squeezes his hand.

zahara indicates a possible direction to go in and checks to see if Cerin agrees!

Lucent begins walking that way

Cerin squeezes her hand back and then nods, walking over to the slight dip between two hills, naturally sheltered by the Solar Essence's tendency to rise above. Hopefully from down there, the view of the river would be clearer.

zahara walks the periphery of the hills three times, marking runes in the ground to bind the essence, and redirect the few stray flows around their location and out of the way

Cerin Cerin watches Zahara beginning to lay down the runes, drawing from a pocket a small flower, a white chrysanthemum for clarity, with which he apparently distracts himself with for a few moments, slicing it carefully with Ymir's golden knife, before letting the petals fall from his hand, looking up past the essence to the river.

As Cerin examines the river's essence more closely, he begins to pick out the more subtle movements of the motes within it. He sees that the motes seem to begin at a low-density area of existence, presumably near the borders of Netheos, and flow in an irregular but constant fashion (much like a real river) (...)

towards an area of higher-density existence at the core of the plane. Fundamentally, the structure of the river is very similar in many ways to celestial structures in Meru -- as with the souls of Exalts, the manifest Essence of a deity flavors and shapes the Essence of Creation, uniquely coloring the nature of the sky.

Unlike Creation's bodies, however, that Essence is unguided, diffuse -- it flows langorously through the sky, rather than enacting a purposeful and specific journey.

The motes hold the orientation which corresponds to the Zenith caste.

In addition, Cerin notices that there does seem to be some sort of slight backwash of Essence from upriver, implying a meeting of the river with other powerful sources further along.

Cerin "It appears that the river is joined by several sources further along it's course. We should travel up there, since they all appear to be flowing towards a point."

zahara heads towards it!

Cerin "I think we would be better returning to the Fable. The other sources join it many leagues distant"

Lucent "Yes, walking over the entire Underworld on feet would be... bad."

Imrama The cold, unfeeling stars of the Underworld burn with their grave-lantern glow as the Fable streaks across the sky of Netheos. Below, on the ashen plains, the died husks of long-forgotten lives move about in the mimicry of bygone ages. Not even the radiance and splendor of the Fable of the Reconstruction seems sufficient to breath life into this place of death.

Above, the green meanders of the river Eridanos roam across the sky, growing broader as it rises ever further into the sky. The Fable follows it silently into the dark yonder, across endless miles of mock landscape, until finally it banks over the ocean of the damned and bends sharply into the sky above the isle of Stygia. (...)

This sight is not one that the dead have enjoyed for millennia, as the dark Essence of the Neverborn crept into the sky to obscure it -- but up this high, on the deck of the Fable, the Solars can gaze upon it in all its glory. (...)

Three other rivers flow from the cardinal directions towards the same place that Eridanos goes, and Imrama names them Acheron, the Sufferer; Cocytus, the Obscurer; Phlegethon, the Unmaker. They bend upwards, (...)

until finally they merge and mingle, join together into one river that flows in an eternal circle around the red sun Abbadon while spiralling upwards, beyond the very limits of this world and into the next Lethe, the Transcender, the last of the five rivers. (...)

Cerin senses a great deal of Essence at the heart of that red sun, which pulses with an unsteady and ominous light that casts the ground, ever so far below, in an eerie relief.

zahara "Hmmmm."

zahara "They flow into the red sun."

Lucent "I wonder what is there. Some grand sanctum, pehaps?"

A familiar voice, like paper crumbling in the sun, brushes across the back of Luc's mind, as the light that shines on the Fable is temporarily darkened and a chill breeze cuts across its bow. "Within," is all it says.

Cerin "Lucent, what just happened?" Cerin asks.

Lucent Lucent finally opens his eyes, thick mists coming out of his lips as he talks... "Inside. It is inside the Sun... within its heart. He told me that is where it is."

zahara frowns a little

zahara "Your Malfaen?"

Lucent "My Malfean." He nods. "He wants us to go there."

Lucent "... which is good. Really. He's nice. Undead, but nice."

zahara "He must have an interest in Pluto. Perhaps he thinks Pluto will let him die."

Lucent "Likely! Or just make him rest... Pluto was good at soothing things! Netheos was... like a museum, with him around."

zahara "Well, shall we then? Imrama, take us to Abbadon."

Imrama "Mr. Iggles-Lux, you heard the Empress."

The ship flies in close to the massive body that hangs over the Underworld, the grand red sphere whose size dwarfs the tiny vessel beside it. As they fly near, the vast dark clouds, like pockmarks upon its face, become clearly visible as they whip across its dull-burning surface. (...)

In a position near Abbadon, the light it casts, though dull, is actually painful to the touch, granting a feeling almost like that experienced when an arm is rubbed raw by an ill-fitting shirt. The Essence of the sun itself is clearly godly in origin, but necrotic as well, and twisted -- unlike the rivers, which maintain a certain purity to them.

zahara holds her hand out, feeling the light scour itself against her hardened skin. "Fascinating"

Lucent "Terrible. Can you feel it? Even I can... it is... taint."

Lucent "But the rivers are still pure. Even if the center is not... How can that be?"

zahara "The rivers are flowing towards him, are they not?"

Lucent "Yes... that means maybe HE is corrupted?" Lucent shivers. "This is... bad."

zahara "One way to find out. Do you see a way in, Cerin?"

As Zahara casts her glance over the sun's surface, she sees what looks to be thinning of the harsh corona of Essence, near the topmost point of the grand sphere.

zahara "I believe if we go to the top of the sun, there, it may be thin enough to break through."

Lucent "Won't it... burn you?" He, of course, could not be burnt.

zahara "I believe I would survive, though we could go below-decks

Imrama "I have not yet discovered the hazard that the Fable's hull cannot endure. Though in all likelihood, such a threat exists...somewhere."

Cerin "Well then, in the spirit of enquiry, perhaps we should find if such a threat exists here without further ado?"

Imrama "Excellent." Imrama steers the ship up to the top of the sun, and back down into it, on the course Zahara suggested.

The Fable steers downwards, plunging towards the red skin of the dead sun.

Imrama hands control to Mr. Iggles-Lux. "May I suggest that we go below decks for our trip into Abbadon?"

zahara heads belowdecks with Cerin... to their cabin.

Lucent steps below decks, ready to step into the fire without a moment's doubt

Just after the Solars step within the deck, the ship plunges into the surface of the sun. The hull of the vessel holds off the intense, burning heat, but the red light seems to leak in around corners and faintly suffuse through the walls nonetheless, and the painful discomfort seems to suffuse the air.

Lucent "Hmmm, what do you know. It did hold!"

The sounds of the sun's tainted Essence roiling and churning outside the hull echo ominously through the vessel, and Imrama can feel that, although the hull is holding, it is indeed feeling the strain....

Then, just as the feeling grows most intense, the pressure on the hull and the painful feeling give way, though the red light remains.

Imrama leans against the wall of the vessel, and disperses more of his Essence, strengthening its sunlight-armor.

Imrama's crew informs him that the vessel has indeed pierced the surface and entered the chamber within.

zahara closes her eyes as the pain crosses her body, clenching her jaw and flexing her hands slowly.

Imrama "We have reached the heart."

Lucent "Can you all survive out there?"

zahara "We shall soon find out." She ascends the ladder to the deck."

Cerin ascends the ladder after Zahara, wrapping himself in the Element-Resisting Prana. "I am sure we can endure."

Lucent *runs*, the Coronal in the shape of little maidens rushing with him!

The Solars step out onto the deck. (...)

The red light that seemed thick inside the vessel is oppressive without, casting the entirety of everything in a monochrome vision of red and black. The place where the vessel hangs motionless is like a vast, intricately knotted cavern of molten lava; (...)

the walls churn through infinitely complex knotwork patterns and criss-crossing shapes, holes opening and closing, chambers merging and dividing again, as words in a dead language flit in letters of fire for fleeting moments across the sun's inner membrane. (...)

It is far, far below, at the heart of the vast sphere, where their quarry lies (...)

Its form taller than a mountain, an island of deep blue and black, the shape of a thousand sticks bent into the crude semblance of a person, by a slapdash and cruel hand; a dark parody of beauty, writing and twitching in constant torment like a man possessed of the deepest catatonic psychosis; (...)

the ghost of Pluto churns at the center of Netheos' red sun, and the Essence of his suffering lights the deadlands below.

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Lucent stares, mouth agape... "Sun save us..."

zahara grips the rail as she looks down at the tormented form beneath them. "Pluto" she says quietly.

Imrama looks aghast. "We must find a way to free him from this torturous state. Cerin, Zahara - you are wiser in these ways than I. Have you any ideas?"

Lucent "Is he... is he even alive, there?" Lucent watches, and tries to remember anything he may have heard in the First Age about shattered Gods, and what may be done to make them whole once again...

zahara finds herself too distracted by his pain to even begin to figure out how to free him from it.

Lucent thinks back to the First Age, through a memory clouded by centuries... He had never heard of such a thing, of course, the empty shell of a dead Incarna, but surely in such a time there must have been something...

Cerin, meanwhile, begins a careful analysis of the being's immense Essence flows. Though the details will probably require further analysis, a quick glance makes it clear that, like the hekatoncheire, Pluto is an empty shell, held together more by existential inertia than any true life.

Lucent can remember, vaguely, tales of efforts to restore things, cast down and ruined in the war.... stories of something called the Shroud.

Cerin's conclusions are a little more practical a dead god is like a hollow shell, a soap bubble, held together by the shape of an ended life. To restore its existence, a rather large quantity of Essence, properly patterned to provide an animating motive force, would need to fill that network, recreate the God's very soul.

< A Fierce Red Star | Sol Invictus Logs | The Souls of His People >