The sun sets in the West as the Solars return to the Labyrinthine Cascade, the shattered window of the skyship tinkling tiny pieces of glass upon the ground as it hovers towards their home.
The familiar sound of the cascading water greets the Solars as the ship settles within the manse.
The sunlight glinting off the water which flows in through one side of the hangar's open roof is notably beautiful today.
<Zahara> "The question is, whether I fix it NOW, or AFTER the wars."
<Cerin> "It is a useful ship to have. Perhaps we could fly it down to Rathess, and ask Ssithumi and her people to work on it while we concentrate on other things?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "That seems like a good idea. Perhaps they can make windows with that vegetal crystal of theirs."
<Zahara> "If so, you may have to look for the Toolkit without me.. You know what I need.. a workshop where time doesn't flow. That would be nice."
<Zahara> "Cerin? Where are you going?"
<Kai> "Should we go after him?"
<Cerin> "Something passed this way. It channeled essence, but it is not one of the blooded."
The trail leads Cerin down the hallway, through a winding series of hallways, to one of the areas filled with small chambers used entirely for storage. One door, perhaps 50 yards away, is perhaps half an inch ajar.
Cerin hears the faint sound of metal rustling against the ground, interspersed with what sounds like particularly vigorous chewing. Cerin and Zahara both notice the wisps of unshaped Essence which flow out of the small crack in the door.
Cerin sees nothing at first -- then he looks down. Sitting upon the floor of the small storage closet, Cerin spots what appears to be a tiny aalorai -- no more than 8 inches in height. It sits cross-legged, its numerous wings hanging limply behind it, its six arms grabbing tiny scraps of metal and bringing them to its mouth to be eaten. Its tiny red eyes glow in the dark.
A moment after it sees Cerin, it lets out a pitiful yelp and dives behind an empty chest.
<Zahara> "Oh, it's cute...and it's EATING MY SUPPLIES!"
<Kai> "What is it?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Oh my goodness."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We need more of these."
It has been munching on what appear to be the remnants of misforged swords and other scrap iron.
<Cerin> "It's only been eating your scra-.." he has a sudden thought. Beside him appears a 2ft sphere of jade and orichalcum. He touches it and it opens to reveal a multitude of things, including a red metal dagger and a ten inch sphere. "We have another one."
<Zahara> "How about.. Reaver? That's a cute name."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "You have a funny definition of cute."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Good thing it likes you."
<Kai> "What's that, Cerin?"
<Cerin> "The second egg we took."
<Markuran> "Isnt that going to grow into a monster bent on destroying humanity?"
<Zahara> "It'll be MY monster."
<Markuran> "You already have a monster. And what if this thing eats more then we have to spare?"
<Zahara> "Well we'll have to kill it then. But until then, it's mine."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Tanty ism't a monster."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "He's more of a...funny-looking dog."
<Kai> "Uhm. How are we defining 'monster' here?"
<Zahara> "Tanty is my friend."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "You know, the usual way. Does it eat children, would it scare my mother, etc."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "So, it occurs to me that these critters are rather less cute when they are eight feet tall and all of those hands have swords."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "What plans do we have for that eventuality?"
<Markuran> "I would so assume."
<Cerin> "That is true. They are even less cute when they are on the warpath."
<Zahara> "Yes, and when such a creature is on our side, we will be more fearsome as well."
<Markuran> "Smashing of its cute little skull."
<Kai> "Are they... intelligent? Or more like animals?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Kai, are you familiar with the Dragon Kings?"
<Kai> "A little."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "This creature is an aalorai...they are somewhat kin."
<Zahara> "Its parents would sooner tear us to shreds, than look at us, however."
<Cerin> "The fully grown ones are more intelligent that the average person, and they are natural essence channelers like the dragon kings."
<Cerin> "We, the Solars that is, warred with them in the First Age."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Their culture tells them that humanity is a race of slaves."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Shall we continue this somewhere more comfortable? It is not a short story."
<Cerin> "I will just go to the library. I think the crystal will help explain the Aalorai more. I will see you in the red room."
<Zahara> "Ah, good idea, Love. I will see if I can get it to communicate a little easier." She smiles delightedly at her companions, who haven't seen her this happy since the chastity belt went 'click' for the first time. Or for Kai, never.
<Zahara> "Which crystal is that?" she has gotten Reaver to perch on her shoulder, by coaxing with tasty metals. He is now trying to decide if her hair tastes good.
<Cerin> "The one that shows the Aalorai on the warpath."
<Zahara> "Ah.. maybe we shouldn't show that one to Reaver."
<Cerin> "I didn't intend to show it to Reaver. Kai shoud see it though." he moves over to sit by Kai. "Touch the stone..it might be a little disorienting at first, but just watch." Then he turns it on.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I don't think so."
<Cerin> "Watch then." The video plays.
The lifelike image fills the room and the Solars observe the terrible viciousness of the aalorai as they slay the army that opposes them.
<Cerin> "And that is what Reaver will grow up to be. The island he comes from is far to the west, however."
<Zahara> "Reaver, someday we'll make a movie-crystal together."
<Cerin> "And now you see the reason for my caution on that island, Birds."
<Zahara> "Look, he can clap!"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "It seems that in all the old stories the Hundredfold have the strengths of numbers and unity of purpose."
<Kai> "Do you think it's safe to keep one here?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Why do you suppose they were using diamond arrows?"
<Cerin> "To pentrate the hide."
<Zahara> "We have some diamond arrows ourselves, although we never got to use them. They are stronger and sharper than simple metal. Plus they sparkle when you loose one."
<Cerin> "It is possible they were essence feedback weapons. Ours are."
<Zahara> "Reaver likes me. He won't be any trouble." she reflects for a moment, "Well, not if I train him properly."
<Cerin> "Anyway, the aalorai are not a pressing threat to the best of our knowledge. We need to find the items on the list we recieved from the Xi-Mi-Taxi." he looks around "The Xi-Mi-Taxi are another race, similar to the Aalorai, though less hostile." he adds, for Kai's benefit.
<Zahara> "Do not anger the Xi-Mi-Taxi either, though, or they will cause you to explode."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I have never exploded."
<Zahara> "You haven't angered them yet."
<Cerin> "Anyway, we need the contents of that list."
<Zahara> "Yes, yes indeed." She frowns for a minute, "I could attempt to summon one of Ligier's souls for his tears, but I can't do that until four hours before midnight."
<Markuran> "They probably mean Ligier himself, you know."
<Markuran> "But, while you work on the list, I have my own tasks to attend to."
<Zahara> "I'm sure his souls can gather his tears."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Oh, you know, I think I owe Iallu some odes."
<Cerin> "I think this might be the time to visit Rovak Hart-Runner, bertrand's god."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Perhaps our divine patrons can see fit to assist with the Peach."
<Markuran> "I have some Celestial-Peach Flavored frozen balls that I kept from Calibration..."
<Zahara> "Hmm I doubt Rovak will actually be willing to *help*" she eyes Cerin, "And if we kill him, Betrand will die." she pauses, then adds, "Not that I'd cry too many tears over him."
<Cerin> "Perhaps. We also need to find some where for them to stay."
<Cerin> "Then I will not eat his soul."
<Cerin> "Perhaps he can be persauded to side with us."
<Cerin> "Any you can keep him to an oath of loyalty."
<Zahara> "This is a possibility. One I doubt he will accept without one of your arrows at his throat, but a possibility nonetheless."
<Zahara> "Oh, maybe Bertrand can give us his soul. That would be nice."
<Cerin> "Well, he may still have part of the toolkit, and that will save us time."
<Markuran> "Cerin could just steal some Peaches.."
<Cerin> "That I will do if we cannot find them in the care of one of the gods facing us."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Marku, can you hand me that notebook over there, please?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Kai," she says, Essence swirling up from her fingertips, "this book holds a condensed version of our story: what the Xi-Mi-Taxi and their relations are, what we have done, what we know."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "You should read it first. The rest of you! As you learn new things, please consult the book so that your knowledge can be deposited there."
<Kai> "You see... I'm not especially good at... Uhm... reading."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Oh. I see. Worry not! The book contains many helpful illustrations, and we all have ample opportunity to improve our reading skills."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I'm not so good at it myself."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "As for you, Cerin, my quill is at your service."
<Kai> "Oh. All right." She peers tentatively at the book.
<Markuran> "When there is time, Kai, I will teach you to read."
<Kai> "Thank you, Markuran. I... I appreciate it."
<Cerin> "Thank you, Birds. Now, I think we need to make preperations to return to Listran."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "What is our plan for when we arrive?"
<Zahara> "We could approach them diplomatically, or we could try to reason with them once they're a bit pulpy."
<Cerin> "Them? There is but one god in the sungrove now."
<Zahara> "Well, the god and its various hangers on."
<Zahara> "I'm assuming he will have exalted some peasants or some such by now, or else he's no use to us."
<Cerin> "She. But yes, I hope she will have new followers."
A short time later, the Solars return to the Sungrove, sight of an earlier victory. The site is not as it once was -- the birches are shedding their bark and the light that glints off the leaves is splotchy and unsettling.
<Zahara> "Creation is a wide and wonderful place."
<Cerin> "I will have to show you the drawings of Bi`Allah some day." he starts to walk into the clearing, ribbons swirling around him.
Within the grove itself, the silver grass has wilted. To one side of the grove, the Solars can see a woman of silver light, lying on the ground under a blanket of dew.
<Zahara> "Ah, what a sad thing this place has come to. It was so beautiful, before." Zahara says as they enter the clearing.
As the Solars approach, the goddess stirs. "What is i... NO!" She suddenly begins to scream as she sees who approaches.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Please do not be alarmed."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We are not here to kill you."
<Markuran> "You mean your belly did. Do you have to go about eating all the gods we defeat?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I think? Cerin?"
<Zahara> "We came to offer you a choice, really." She smiles pleasantly.
<Cerin> "I currently have no intention of harming her. It is up to her, though."
<Zahara> "It's quite simple, really." Another smile.
<Zahara> "You have five minutes to decide. Oh, and don't try to run, it won't work."
<Cerin> "We wish to know how to make Exalts. We wish for all the parts of the toolkit that you still possess. And we wish for your essence to make more gods."
<Zahara> "We wish for you to forswear your efforts to join the other Gods in a war against Creation, and in doing so, swear to aid us with the tools necessary to Exalt mortals, the Exalts you have already created, and your help as well as an ally. We could have come to this agreement much sooner if you hadn't been so unreasonable the last time we met."
<Zahara> "We will prove successful, you know. It has always been the task of Solars to make sure the Gods stay in their rightful places."
<Zahara> "But we will return to you your place above mortals. You deserve the worship that has been denied you by the Dynasts." she says that as if it is a dirty word.
<BirdsOfTrinity> "We have learned much in the meanwhile."
<Zahara> "This is a new era. The Unconquered Sun deserves the most high worship, but you Gods who do your jobs well deserve it as well."
<Shining?> "Very well. I have no items in any such toolkit, though I can tell you what I know of the process itself. I can lend my Exalts to your cause, and make more if you acquire the means to do so."
<Zahara> "How did you Exalt yours, with no toolkit?"
<Cerin> "Did he mention where they would be going next?"
<Zahara> "How is Lai, by the way?" She leans against a convenient tree trunk
<BirdsOfTrinity> "That scumbladdering corpse-rag..."
<Kai> (quietly, to herself) "'Scumbladdering'?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I am getting a mite tired of our good -friend- Lai."
<Zahara> "Ah, what will you tell him if he returns again, now?"
<Zahara> "That will do."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Oh! We can make it into a garden. Smoking Mirror just loves trees. Yes."
<Zahara> "Then we seal this alliance, here and now, in your grove, which will shine again." She reels off her 'new ally' oath, having practiced it many times by now, binding Shining to the Sunlands.
<Markuran> "If it would make everyone happier, I'd be willing to assist Shining in returning to her proper station."
<Zahara> "That would help indeed. But first I would prefer we discuss what that station is. In private." She smiles benignly
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Perhaps some other time, dear. But today, we have much to do!" She springs to her feet and points at the sky. "Onwards!"
<BirdsOfTrinity> She accepts the flower and sticks it in her hair.
<Kai> "Does that happen a lot?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Those two?"
<Kai> "And awkwardness to avoid..."
<Kai> "So, what was that a god of?"
<BirdsOfTrinity> "I think she is...the light through the tree's leaves striking the earth..."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Something complicated like that."
<Kai> "She didn't seem so bad..."
<BirdsOfTrinity> "Her servants do not make such pleasant company, unfortunately."
Tags: (:tags Reaver, Aalorai, Xi-Mi-Taxi, Bertrand, The Three Lights, Lai Misuna, Shining :)