Imrama Soaring over the frosted plains, the Fable of the Reconstruction approaches the Hermitage of Vanileth at mid-morning. The sun over his shoulder, and the cold wind of the North on his face, Imrama steers his ship towards the narrow ice-valley of his father's home, bringing his friends to his boyhood home.
Lucent "Ah, Valineth's home." Lucent whistles. "Birthplace of such legends..."
Imrama As Lucent speaks the Shogun's name, his palace comes into view for the first time. A tower of crystal, rising up above the glacial floor between the two great mountains 'Wing-Breaker' and 'Earth-Binder', the hermitage seems obscured, as if surrounded by fog. As the ship hurdles closer, however, it becomes clear that the spire is surrounded not by mist, but by a staggerlingly large flock of...
Imrama ...the birds of Vanileth, the crystal and clockwork avians that are the harbingers and servants of the lord of Artificial Flight.
Imrama All about the lonely tower, winds fresh from the Elemental Pole of Air howl well beyond gale-force. Yet, as his adoptive son's ship begins its approach, the air seems to still, and the birds with their razor-sharp beaks and talons of copper make way for honored craft.
Lucent "It is beautiful, Imrama. More so than all legends made it to be."
Spring examines the motions of the birds with interest.
Imrama "I cannot see it through the eyes of legend and story, Lucent. This is the one place in all the world that I know only as home." Imrama brings the Fable into dock and gives the order to cast out the mooring lines.
From somewhere deep inside the Hermitage -- a building designed such that every current of air can flow freely, brushing across the hundreds of tiny wind-wheels and blowing ribbons that fill the manse with Essence -- the Solars hear the faint buzzing of an infinitude of clockwork birds --
and from somewhere deeper within, the metallic, yet soft rustling sound that Imrama recognizes immediately as signifying his father's location.
Lucent "Interesting, that." He replies Imrama, then looks into it. "Birds of Valineth. I owned one, once."
Imrama Imrama steps into the Hermitage, and gestures to his friends to follow after him. Once inside, he addresses Vanileth in a soft voice, knowing well that the mystic air-currents of the spire will carry any voice to his father's ear. "Father, I am home. And I have brought two friends to visit."
The rustling almost immediately changes in tone, and is joined by a faint, medium-high tone -- Imrama knows then that Vanileth is journeying up to meet them.
The room in which they enter the palace is quite representative of the whole: a grand chamber, nearly fifty feet tall, with cold, dark blue slate tiling the floors and sharp-cornered furniture of ivory and platinum set in places, each far apart from the others.
Strange, rusting mechanical contraptions hang from the ceiling in a disspiriting fashion, as if ready to come crashing to earth again at any moment, like even this thin illusion of flight is too great a burden for these failed devices to bear.
Spring looks rather uncomfortable, and does not stand underneath them.
Imrama During the lengthy time of waiting, Imrama resists the urge to light his pipe, knowing how his father disapproves. He also considers offering seats to his friends, but thinks better of it - to do so with such chairs would be more an act of aggression than of hospitality.
After a long, long wait, the Shogun of Artificial Flight finally arrives.
Through the open doorway rustles a loud, yet soft, sound of rustling and flapping, and then, it enters: the vast cloud of rapidly shifting, constantly spinning wings of every description, from birds to insects to strange mechanical gliders -- but every one, regardless of its shape, is the same precise shade of bone white.
The sight itself is glorious, but also somewhat sad -- for in the motion of those wings, there is a chaos, an uncertainty, that even the untrained eye can detect.
Two of Vanileth's frequent retainers follow him in to the chamber: an unspeakably elegant mechanical dragonfly of polished blue steel and sapphire, known as Qing, and a rather awkward and rotund wooden... thing, flying by means of no fewer than three asymmetric rotors attached to its body, which Imrama grew up knowing as "Oakey."
As per his slowly developed procedure for greeting human guests, Vanileth has had his retainers bring food and drink -- and although the stack of cakes appears to be ready to eat and the snifter of wine corretly prepared, Imrama notices immediately that the bowl of fruit is rotten and most of the goblets cracked or broken.
Imrama winces just a bit, but proceeds. "Hello Father! Good morning, Oakey, Qing. I wish to preset two of my Circlemates to you: Long-Awaited Spring, who until recently was Thirteen Blooming Flowers, and Lucent Copper Haze, who was known long ago as Helios Redsands."
The flapping cloud of wings pulsates and shifts with sparkles of faint light and gusts of cool breeze as the god speaks. "Oh, welcome home, son.... I'm so... glad you came," followed by a long pause, as if he is having trouble selecting his words. "You... brought friends."
Spring bows politely.
Spring eats some fruit and cakes without seeming to notice.
Lucent greets Valineth in polite First Age etiquette. "It is an honor to finally make your acquaintance."
Vanileth 's cloud of wings bobs up and down unsteadily at Lucent's introduction, as if vaguely nodding.
Imrama responds patiently to his father's observation. "Yes, father, I did. My friends and I would like to talk with you about something, if that's alright."
Vanileth looks around the room uncertainly. "I... suppose... we could stop to talk, yes..." He turns and floats out of the room, with his two assistants sharing a look of confusion followed by long-suffering resignation and follow him out.
Imrama follows, giving a somewhat apologetic look to his friends.
Vanileth Vanileth floats dreamily down angular halls and awkwardly-bending staircases, keeping just a bit ahead of Imrama as he moves towards some vaguely determined destination deeper within the sanctum.
Spring is politely unfazed.
Imrama Still following, Imrama calls ahead to Vanileth. "Say dad, where are we going?"
Vanileth begins to hum softly to himself as he floats, but does not answer the question.
Spring "Indeed," Spring smoothly comments. "Under the guidance of your adopted son, the Deliberative has begun implementing the use of artificial flight once again. Powered ships currently serve the Auric Temple and the Canal of Worlds."
Spring "Naturally, we felt we should meet the god responsible for this boon."
Spring casually pats Imrama on the shoulder during this speech.
Vanileth glides through a set of small curtained alcoves, then up a staircase that takes him back to a floor he'd just descended from a minute ago. "Oh... is that so?" He pauses for a moment to look over at Imrama. "That's... my boy," he says, then resumes his wandering.
Spring "Perhaps we might sit down?"
Vanileth "In... just a moment," he says. And lo: in just a (rather long) moment, he settles on a room: one much like the room they began this long journey in, but with a number of smaller tables, a small fountain, and a particularly large and elegant black and red flying device, streamlined and smooth from top to bottom, hanging from the ceiling.
Spring admires the device. "A beautiful object. What is it?"
Vanileth "Aaaaah," he says, and his white wings seem to lighten for a moment in appreciation. "The Queensblade. Only ever successfully been flown... just once," he says.
Spring "What happened?"
Lucent admires it. "Interesting..."
Imrama Inside the minds of Spring and Lucent, Imrama's ring-voice recites the entire story of the First and Final Flight of the Queensblade, keeping perfect pace with his father, word for word.
Vanileth "It all began in the forty-seventh year of the Auspicious Silver Dragon period..." he intones, and moves through the many twists and turns of the story with a practiced flourish.
Spring smiles a little at this display, but continues to focus unobtrusively on Vanileth's rendition, watching the old god in his moment of ease to glean what he can about his current state.
Lucent ::How many tims did you have to listen to THAT, Imrama?::
Lucent Outwardly, Lucent is nodding with the utmost respect and attention, of course!
Spring "A fascinating tale."
Spring "You must know hours of stories of the golden days of flight."
Imrama ::10,987. The current record for most times in one day is 143.::
Vanileth goes on and on, until finally he's exhausted his story. "Oh... yes, yes, I... I suppose I might, at that," he says, in response to Spring's query.
Lucent ::You poor soul, Imrama.:: Through the air Imrama feels a pat on his back. Lucent eyes Spring, curious about where he is going with that question...
Spring "Perhaps you might grace us with a few of them. Imrama tells us often that his memories are filled with your tales."
Imrama opens his mouth, and it hangs agape for several seconds. "...indeed."
Vanileth bobs in the air for a moment. "Oh... well... I suppose there is..." He begins to rattle off a list of such stories, and then plows into one without waiting for approval...
Spring ::What do you think, Lucent?::
Lucent ::His long-term memory seems to be working well enough. The problem seems to be with his attention span and his short-term memory. Pehaps with anything relating to after the Contagion.::
Lucent waits until the end of the story, "And what about the flying machines built by the mortals known as the Hanslans? What do you think of them, oh most august shogun of artificial flight?"
Spring ::Not surprising, since that was the source of his downfall.::
Lucent ::It is heartening to see that the core of his memories remain there; this seems to be like a fog covering that golden core. It seems like he incurred no permanent damage to his former self's Essence pattern.::
Vanileth "The... the..." He pauses for a moment, and his wings seem droopy for a moment. "I'm... sorry, could you repeat the question?"
Lucent ::Imrama, Spring, you know the Second Age better than I do... were there any airships of power and the reputation to match built by either Lookshy or the Realm during those long gray centuries?::
Spring ::I am not sure there is damage, the way that an organ might be damaged. The Second Age holds nothing for him. Perhaps he simply prefers not to consider it.:: This is to Lucent alone, of course.
Spring ::Unfortunately, the core of the problem is that there were not.::
Spring ::Perhaps Lookshy's fleet, taken as a whole, may hold some interest for him.::
Lucent ::As a god, he would be able to feel the increase of his domain, would he not?::
Imrama After a period of silence, Imrama attempts to explain to Vanileth in a slightly unnecessarily loud voice, "He's talking about the gliders and dirigibles used by the Haslanti, dad. You remember, I spent a few seasons working on one of them? I sent you all those postcards?"
Spring ::You would presume so.::
Vanileth "Ohh..." he says. "The postcards. Yes. The..." He pauses to consider for a long moment. "Yes. Like this," he says, and conjures a wavering image of such a vehicle in the air for a moment. "They're trying very hard..." he says, and trails off.
Lucent "Yes, they are. Even as mortals, they are taking the skies with artifice!" He proclaims, proud of that even though he has not met those men and women. "And what of the Lookshy fleet, have you cast your gaze their way?"
Vanileth "Look...shy? Lookshy... " He seems confused again.
Lucent ::Hmmm, yes. Nothing in the Second Age.::
Spring "Lookshy is indeed a great power. I had great concern about their technology until we seized Crystal during the war."
Spring "Perhaps you remember Crystal?"
Vanileth "Crystal... That sounds... more familiar." It's hard to say how, exactly, but the wings make a motion as if asking for that last bit of info to prompt his memory.
Imrama "That's what they call Air Fortress Atzeret now, dad."
Spring frowns to himself at having missed that.
Vanileth "Ohhhh!" He visibly brightens. "Yes, yes, of course, Atzeret! Everything's got a silly name these days," he says. "A beautiful piece of work, truly."
Spring "Yes. We have made it, in fact, the centerpiece of our government."
Lucent "It flies again, as the throne of the Exalted Deliberative."
Spring "Perhaps..." he leans forward a bit, subtly intent, "perhaps you might come and see what we have done with it."
Spring "I am sure there are untold histories of Atzeret that we would be lucky to learn."
Vanileth "Oh!" He nods (nods?) approvingly. "That would be wonderful, yes!"
Imrama smiles. "It's a beautiful sky city, father. I think you'll really like what we've done with the place."
Spring "When would you be free?"
Vanileth looks around. "I... I'm... I wouldn't want to impose, but..." He looks over at Imrama. "I'm... not really busy...."
Spring "We can go right now, if you like."
Spring "For the father of Imrama Stormfound, I always have time."