Spring "Shall we?"
Imrama "Let's shall!" Imrama exclaims, as the Fable begins picking up steam, barreling towards that invisible point in the sky high above the Auric Temple where the Wyld-route between Meru and Yu-Shan opens.
The trip itself is relatively uneventful, and after a brief period of travel, the Fable arrives, in a sizeable enclave, clearly designed for the transport of vessels from other planes to the heavens:
A jade bowl of azure water, large enough to hold a grand vessel, sits directly beneath them, while white and blue jade columns climb up to a far-distant ceiling overhead. On the far end of the room stands one of the austere red and silver doors that mark entrance to the Heavenly City itself, shut as usual. No welcoming committee awaits the Solars here.
Spring "All right. The hard part is over." Spring wraps carefully around himself the cloak he has brought for the day, pure neutral white with an emblazon on the back of a golden cadeuceus, and jumps to the ground, walking on water for a few steps when the bowl turns out to be bigger than it appears.
Imrama "Yu-Shan; home of the Celestial Bureaucracy and the Jade Pleasure Dome. Highest of the planar heights. All ashore that's going ashore." Imrama walks casually on air to follow Spring.
Cerin takes Zahara's arm as Imrama and Spring leave the Fable
Zahara alights from the vessel with Cerin, and a critical eye towards the doors. "Ever the optimist," she shakes her head and glances about. "I am disappointed that Selonis is not here to greet us."
Cerin "We hardly announced our visit ahead of time," Cerin observes.
Imrama ::I am under the impression that Selonis has problems of his own to deal with, unfortunately.::
Spring ::Something else we may be able to remedy.::
Zahara proceeds up to the Gate, looking for guardians or a method of signaling such.
The door stands -- huge, solid, unmarked, unguarded, and without a handle.
Cerin touches the door.
A crack of brilliant yellow light instantaneously splits the vast block of red jade in twain, and the two halves slide gently open of their own accord -- and behind it lies the glorious city of Yu-Shan.
The view from the doorway is, as always, spectacular: thousands of perfect crystalline buildings jutting up into the sky, each reflecting in its entirety the whole of the horizon; the thin minarets that surround the unimaginably huge Jade Pleasure Dome in the city's very heart; the vast plazas, quicksilver canals, and the unimaginably busy night sky, filled by a glorious and capricious moon...
But something about the streets themselves is... off.
Business has resumed in heaven since the resolution of the exiled-gods crisis, but the attitude is... muted, subdued, as if the entire pantheon of thousands of deities who make their home here have all, as one, begun to walk on eggshells.
Spring begins walking towards the Dome confidently.
Imrama steps out into the ever-changing light of Luna and surveys the divine metropolis. "Ah, Yu-Shan. So majestic, and yet, so wicked awesome."
Cerin grins. "Just so."
The doorway from the Solars' parking place enters close to the center of the heavenly city, and so the Dome does not stand tremendously far away. Though much of the walk remains, it is only a few blocks and the turn of a corner before the Solars can see the doorways to the dome -- and their guardians.
Zahara walks past the muted pantheon, in a decidedly non-muted way. She glimmers with the stardust woven into her hair and dusting her tattooed skin and the whisper of her dress as it cascades around her carries the echo of a song, a battle hymn. "It is a shame that it is a city of fear now."
To those who have never seen them before, the Swords of Truth are striking: their information density so great, the fundamental realness of their existence so palpable and terrifying,
that all that can be seen is the perfected realization of their form: the chiseled outline of a perfect human body, the four feathery wings, the great angular sword -- all looking through into a plane of pure, white light.
Lucent looks in awe and wonder at everything around him. Everything he knew from very specific minutiae in textbooks and writings and yet never had cause to see. "As beautiful as I dreamed..."
Zahara gazes at the Swords of Truth thoughtfully, perhaps with a hint of wistfulness. Someday she will create something that perfect. Then she speaks, a voice of authority. "Good day to you, Swords of Truth. We have come to call upon Sol Invictus."
SwordsOfTruth look -- Zahara thinks, it's difficult to tell on beings without real faces -- over to the gathered Exalts, stopping at the sight of Cerin and almost nodding imperceptibly at the thereby-proven legitimacy of the visit to Yu-Shan as a whole.
SwordsOfTruth But then they consider the words that Zahara has spoken, and the two nearest lower their swords to cross one another in a great X, clearly demonstrating their intent to block entry.
Lucent wipes the tears from his eyes to better compose himself. "He is sick. His children have come to his aid."
Spring walks forward, placing his hand on the swords. "I appreciate the need for security, but I assure you that this is an emergency. The Sun's very life is endangered. As a doctor, it is my duty to tend to him."
Cerin "I shall not be visiting the Sun today," he announces to the Swords of Truth.
SwordsOfTruth The powerful beings seem to be conferring amongst themselves, though the only evidence is a slight dip of their heads and then a momentary lack of further motion.
SwordsOfTruth After a long moment, one of the others, who is not blocking the entrance, takes a single step forward and points to one side, as if suggesting that there is something for the Solars should they follow the curve of the Dome in that direction.
Zahara nods gravely. "I thank you." Then turns to Cerin, "We shall meet again later, for dinner perhaps, my love?"
Cerin "For dinner, certainly," he kisses her, and then he departs.
Spring "Your assistance is invaluable, and I thank you for it."
Spring heads in that direction.
Zahara smiles, and then turns and proceeds in the indicated direction.
Lucent follows their instructions to the letter, lagging behind the others as he takes in the sights!
SwordsOfTruth Spring walks purposefully along the line, past the long lines of haughty Swords, until finally he arrives at a small nook set into the side of the Dome's exterior, between two of the entrances: a small altar, composed entirely of Jade, with thirteen candles of various colors and a small extinguisher.
Varanim stays with the group in body, if not in spirit--after one scowling look around at the city when they arrived, she's been engaged in some inner contemplation.
Spring stares for a moment, then nearly growls. He lights all the candles on fire, picks up the altar and walks back towards the door.
Zahara "Not big on protocol is he."
SwordsOfTruth The Swords glare carefully at Spring as he walks back, but none make a motion to stop him.
Spring "What is this?" he asks, waving the altar at them.
SwordsOfTruth The Swords stand firm, at this point largely uninterested in Spring's actions as long as he does not appear to be at risk of storming the gates.
SwordsOfTruth At first blush, the altar appears to have no other effect: the candles simply burn as they have been instructed to do.
Varanim "It's an abasement device," says Varanim, paying attention again.
Spring "I am not a lackey, to be put off. This is an emergency, and your lack of cooperation is nothing less than treason against the Unconquered Sun, your sworn ruler. If you will not let me in, let me speak to somebody who will." He takes a few steps towards the door.
SwordsOfTruth One of the Swords lowers his weapon just slightly, placing the tip directly in Spring's path.
Spring ducks under it.
SwordsOfTruth The sword lowers itself to match.
Spring places his hand neatly atop it and vaults over.
SwordsOfTruth Spring engages in some manner of strange weapon-motion contest as the Sword constantly moves to meet his actions, yet remains resolutely incapable of predicting the next with enough efficiency to stop him in advance.
SwordsOfTruth Before the Sword simply decides to end the problem permanently, however, there is a slight sound, like a faint glass harmonica, from somewhere inside the Dome, as if something is responding to the disturbance.
SwordsOfTruth What eventually emerges is a small creature assembled of what appear to be a set of rounded crystalline plates, each of a different size and all stacked vertically to form the shifting outline of a round, person-shaped floating object.
SwordsOfTruth In one hand, it carries some manner of black cloth with silver metallic trimming.
Spring "Can you talk?"
Ae "Can you be polite?"
Ae The voice is melodious, pleasant in tone, and clearly sarcastic.
Spring "I was polite until I was referred to an altar."
Ae "Your kind have been barred from Heaven; you are lucky to have an approved associate to legitimize your current presence here," it says, in its incredibly beautiful voice. "What is the purpose of your disruption here?"
Spring "I have reliable information that the Unconquered Sun is currently suffering from an Essence-related disease."
Spring "As the foremost doctor of the universe, and as a devoted follower of the Sun Himself, it is my responsibility to see to his health, and to do what I can to ensure that this disease is dealt with -- even to the extent of defying bureaucrats who claim to represent him."
Spring "I have hurt no-one, nor caused any damage." He notices the altar in his hand, and belatedly adds "I will replace the altar."
Ae nods. "Good, see that you do that." It pauses and looks at Spring with its head partially cocked to one side. "Your devotion to your almighty lord the Unconquered Sun himself is admirable, yet you must understand that, should you be allowed to offer your assistance, it is not the way of the Incarna to engage in matters other than in their own fashion, yes?"
Spring "I am willing to accede to any sensible rules, stated to me by the Unconquered Sun Himself or by a representative of Him such that I can have no reasonable doubt that it is such a representative and that He is acting in full knowledge of my actions, as long so they do not prevent diagnosis or treatment."
Ae holds up the piece of cloth in his hand; upon closer inspection, it is a hood of some kind. "Wear this."
Spring "Will it have any effects on me that would not be obvious to a mortal?"
The god pauses. "Nothing you can't change by taking it off again," it says.
Spring pauses in his turn. "Will I be able to take it off as easily as I put it on?"
"Sure." Ae shrugs.
Spring reaches out for the hood and dons it.
As the hood slips over Thirteen's eyes, his vision fades to blackness; as it slips over his ears, the humming of glass harmonicas and the gentle sounds of Yu-Shan street traffic disappear into nothingness; as it pulls down over his nose, Heaven's pleasant aromas of vanilla and cinnamon and honeydew fall into the Void.
There is a moment of complete sensory deprivation before Spring feels Ae's hand holding, gently, onto his own.
Spring grips it firmly.