Imrama unable to overpower the grasping, unliving hands, makes his only available bid to save the life of his newly made friend: closing his eyes, he thinks of where Creation's deep need meets his own deep hope, and suddenly, there is one more Imrama Stormfound than ever there was before.
Imrama "You Abyssals should consider cultivating some likeable quirks; as it stands, it is far too easy for even me to despise you," says the fresh and unfettered Imrama, pouring fire from both barrels.
alsoquin Taken entirely by surprise, the pallid necromancer takes the full brunt of Imrama's strikes and is propelled violently backward -- giving Revan the opportunity to slip his bonds and bring his wings to bear, preventing the other Abyssal from slaying him utterly.
Imrama Having obtained "the drop" on his adversaries through the use of obscure methods of self-duplication, Imrama presses his opening, blazing out trails of scorching light in the dim corridors of this blasphemous city.
Imrama And while his latest simulacrum incinerates That Which Lies Beyond, the still restrained original Imrama continues to do what he can to save the world: he makes yet another Imrama.
alsoquin Imrama's bolts strike the undead Exalt's battered skeletal form, and every bone seems to suddenly glow with an intense, fiery sunlight. There is a brief, sibilant scream, and when it fades, nothing remains of him.
alsoquin Demise of Treasured Dreams struggles to stab Revan, but his wings present a serious obstacle; the two struggle for a moment, neither getting an immediate advantage over the other.
alsoquin Alabaster Mourning's eyes seem to bug out for a moment, clearly shocked at the turn of events, and rapidly begins chanting the beginnings of a new spell.
alsoquin Tremor of Coming Night turns on one Imrama, and begins an elaborate series of feints and brutal strikes with his twin hook-swords.
Imrama As a fourth Imrama joins the fray, two others execute a meticulously choreographed twin flying leap, whipping their guns in staccato rhythm and raining hell down on the remaining Abyssals. As they pass each other, back to back in mid air, their anima banners become entwined, the birds from each spinning about each other in spiraling fractal patterns.
alsoquin As the two great birds expand to fill the entire hall in their radiant fractal glory, the hail of brilliant gunfire tears through the Abyssals like stones through wet paper -- both drop to the ground, smoking and visibly un-alive.
alsoquin Demise turns -- for just a moment -- to see what has happened, and Revan takes advantage of the distraction to make one dramatic show of strength, twisting her hands apart and giving his wings the chance to swivel around and slice brutally across her neck, letting free a vast geyser of crimson blood.
Imrama As one, three Imramas holster their guns and begin freeing the fourth, original Solar from his necromantic shackles. "Well done, Revan - let us hope that these poor brainwashed fools represented the strong point of the Bodhisattva's forces."
Revan stands up and makes a vague effort at brushing himself off, though he is soaked in enough blood that the effort is largely wasted. "Yes. We should head to the center of the Omen as quickly as possible."
Imrama Four Imramas nod, and together they are off further down the spiral.
Revan The Solars wind their way through the hallways of the city, its glorious and beautiful architecture cast thick in the brutal metal of the Underworld. Revan indicates a few turns, and the group finds itself heading deep into the bowels of the city... and from somewhere below, the sound of tormented groans begin to filter up through the halls.
Imrama The lead Imrama pulls his officer's coat more tightly about his neck, hoping to ward off the chill of the grave. At the end of the group, the last Imrama walks in reverse, watching for what dangers may come from the rear.
Revan After a while, the groans grow louder, and the hallways wend into the guts of the Black Omen's cruel machine: the cavernous room they step into is filled with thousands of ghosts, each moaning and wailing in its own pained tone as it cranks and turns one of the innumerable inscrutable cranks, knobs, and dials that fill the room. (...)
Revan Soulsteel shackles that shimmer with the heat hold each of the departed spirits in place as they perform their macabre work.
Revan "We are almost at the center," Revan says, a grimace upon his face.
Imrama Imramas stare at the macabre spectacle. "What...what will become of these long-suffering souls when we send this foul machine to the bottom of the sea?"
Revan moves on towards the far door, a vast, intricately-carved gate that stands as tall as five men. "I do not know. Hopefully they will be laid to rest."
Imrama "Let us hope, Reva. Let us hope." The Imramas follow Revan's lead.
Revan walks over towards the gate, and raises one foot as if to kick it in, before glancing at the pack of Imramas. "Shall we?"
Imrama All four Imramas smile and nod in unison. "Let's shall."
Revan As one, the five Eclipses kick the door open.
Revan The chamber it opens upon was once a place of worship and reflection, but the black taint that covers it now gives it the feeling of gross mockery. (...)
Revan At its heart is a sunken, circular dais, and chained to its railings is a horrible beast. What sort of form it wore while alive is almost impossible to make out -- now, just the ghostly form of rotten feathers and wings, limbs and eyestalks, and many others pulse in a horrifying sight. (...) Revan Standing in front of it, a soulsteel spear with a red-hot tip in his hands, is Ash of Nightfall. Long black hair falls back from his handsome but ashen face, lined in a thin beard; his elaborate military regalia forms a cruel counterpart to Imrama's own.
Revan Seeing the Solars arrive, he turns, a cruel grin on his face, to meet them.
Imrama The four Imramas begin spreading out around the dais and the Abyssal, moving into a circle. Their animas flare and spin together as they speak as a chorus with a single, other-worldly voice. Lightning strikes each of them through the soulsteel roof; thunder crashes on their every word. "Ash of Nightfall, you have forgotten what you are. Hidden away in the a festering pit, surrounded by a...
Imrama ...screaming cage, hanging beneath a lightless sky, even here, you cannot escape the dawn. Your brothers have come to reclaim their own. You may take one fateful step back into the light, or you may remain in your ignorance, and perish."
Ash Of Nightfall laughs, a rich, hearty laugh. "Do not mock me so, lackey of the heavens." He presses his spear to the necrotic ghost-flesh of the beast at the city's heart, and it screams in twenty animalistic voices at once. "The Black Omen reveals the doom of all men, whether touched by a 'God' or not."
Ash Of Nightfall Turning around completely, he gestures very slightly with one hand, and several of the shackles holding the beast in place clatter loudly to the ground. "In your case, the thing once known as Swift Hunter of Seven Prey will see to that end." And the creature begins to surge its incoherent form outwards in anger.
Imrama "We serve not 'God', but Life. We have purpose born of a love for freedom and for all that would be free. Your master keeps your soul in chains - it seems now that all I can do for you it cut it loose. Perhaps your next incarnation will prove wiser."
Imrama The Imramas draw arms, and fall with silent grace upward, coming to a smooth landing on the ceiling, still drawing a rough circle around the room's perimeter.
Ash Of Nightfall merely gestures upwards with his glowing spearpoint, and the creature, newly unbound, stretches like some vast, evil amoeba towards the ceiling to strike at the Imramas.
Imrama The four Imramas strafe the room, chasing each other in a circular, clockwise pattern and carving away at that which was once Swift Hunter of Seven Prey, and paying no head to its thrashing tentacles.
alsoquin The Hekatoncheire howls inhumanly in pain as Imrama's bolts of light penetrate its flesh, and it seems to wither and deflate; collapsing back to whence it came, it huddles in an undistinguished mass near the place of its imprisonment and does not rise up again.
alsoquin Bitter smoke rises up from the deep wounds in its necroplasmic form.
Ash Of Nightfall looks upon the quick work made of his pet monstrosity with a grimace. "Hrrrrrr."
Imrama The dead beast cowed, Imramas stair down at Ash of Nightfall from the ceiling. "Will you yield, sir?"
Ash Of Nightfall lowers his hands and places his spear in a crook in the central dais railing. "Come down, that we might speak."
Imrama One Imrama inverts himself and descends, while the other three remain on the ceiling, covering their duplicate. "Whatever cruel perversion of love you have been trained to feel for the Bodhisattva, for the Neverborn, for the Void, I suspect that there still remains in you a deeper loyalty."
Imrama "For you, unlike so much else that claims to serve the emptiness of death without purpose, you, my name-stolen brother, still breath."
Ash Of Nightfall looks directly at Imrama as he speaks. "I think not. I am here but as a steward for this empty world as it spirals into nothingness."
Imrama "You may assert that you serve the purpose of Oblivion, but you never can be of Oblivion, not while you still possess any of those elements that define you. You exist in contradiction; like a petulant child refusing to solve a simple equation for fear of the result."
Ash Of Nightfall grits his teeth. "I have sworn to yet live while any other still draws the rotten breath of this living world. It is the sacrifice I make to achieve the proper end to all things...."
Imrama "But you cannot live in the purpose of death. Your every heartbeat is an insult to your self-proclaimed deity, each act, each motion, each thought a defiance of the order you fancy yourself the herald of. If you find meaning through living, bitter and spiteful as it may be, then you are as great an enemy to death as any other living thing. Greater, perhaps, for your oath to outlive all other...
Ash Of Nightfall At that moment, the last dregs of undeath possessing the hekatoncheire fade away, and even its deathly existence ends; with a shudder, the Black Omen lists sharply to one side, and then begins to fall from the sky.
Ash Of Nightfall Looking at Imrama, Ash of Nightfall makes a decision. "You may be correct, Sun-chosen." He grins. "Let us die together here, then, and rend a vast crater into the world!"
Imrama "If you would choose this desecration for a tomb, I will honor that wish. But as for Revan and myself, as in all things, we choose life." One of the Imramas on the ceiling closes his eyes for a moment, and silently calls the Fable to him.
Ash Of Nightfall narrows his eyes and reaches for his spear, and deftly executes a quartet of vicious attacks at Imrama. "Then I shall choose for you!," he shrieks.
Imrama Outside the fortress, the Fable of the Reconstruction fires a last volley from its starboard canons as it orbits the underside of the floating city. Turning suddenly, it streaks skyward and directly into a softpoint in the exposed underbelly. Near-invulnerable sunlight hulls shear at the soulsteel streets as the Fable cuts its way to its master, its drive wheel pushing up while the pull of...
Imrama ...Creation pulls the fortress down into the inky depths.
Imrama There is time enough for Ash of Nightfall to strike out for hates sake, but not enough to complete the exchange before the greatest ship in all Creation rips through the wall-become-floor of the room, giving Revan and the Imramas their one opportunity to cling to it as it cuts back out through the other half of the city.
Ash Of Nightfall In the darkness behind the ship, the Black Omen spins downwards through the air, black smoke leaking from the great holes punched in it by Imrama's vessel, before crashing with a vast wave into the dark waters below.
Imrama While one Imrama takes hold of the ship's draglines, another watches mournfully over the aft rail as the dark reflection of a once-proud city sinks out of sight. "Such a loss, Revan. Such a loss."
Revan folds his wings beneath his cloak once more, and nods mournfully. "Fitting that it be swallowed up by the ocean once again."
Imrama "True." A third Imrama calls out from the prow. "On into the horizon, Revan. We must find out how your circlemates have faired."
Revan Imrama flies towards the previously-established meeting point, the sunlight streaming from his vessel matching the sunlight that has just begun to shine from the sun peeking out from behind the eclipse. (...)
Revan Imrama sees the Western Circle's faerie vessel moored at the side of the small island -- but Revan lets out an audible gasp as the not insignificant wounds it clearly suffered in the battle become visible.
Imrama "What horrors has Nereshkitalovaja faced, to suffer such terrible injuries?"
Revan appears concerned. "I know not, but we must go to see, quickly."
Imrama The Fable descends from the brightening sky to set anchor beside the Shui of the Nine Waters.
Revan Bitter Elm is standing on the rock, awaiting the group's arrival.
Imrama One Imrama steps off of the ship and into the air, gesturing to the diminutive sorceress with compassion and concern. "The Black Omen is no more, reclaimed by the sea. What news from you, Bitter Elm?"
Revan hops out of the boat and walks over to Bitter Elm, his face growing more severe as he detects some minute factor in Bitter Elm's expression that is invisible to Imrama. "We... have succeeded, yes?"
Bitter Elm "At great cost. The Lurking Horror is gone, and the Lintha fleet, sunk to the ocean floor."
Imrama "Then we are victorious, as is all of Creation," announces one of the shipboard Imramas, raising a fist in celebration. But the airborn Imrama grows even more concerned. "Each word grows heavier as I anticipate the tragedy. Please, Bitter Elm: what cost have we paid for this?"
Bitter Elm merely turns and walks onto the Wyldborn vessel, stepping down into the first chamber within. Her sightless eyes pass emptily over the sight that greets Imrama and Revan as they follow her -- the form of Vashu, doubled over the body of Saraya, spread out on the floor... and leaning against the back wall, Saraj, ashen-faced, his shirt bloodied and a great knot of cloth covering... something upon his heart.
Imrama Imrama takes in the sorrowful scene. "O captain, my captain!" Imrama addresses Saraj. The task you assigned to Revan and I is done."
Saraj Bitter Elm merely stands adjacent to the cruel scene; Revan walks over and places a hand on her shoulder, but says nothing. After a moment, she reaches up to meet it.
Saraj steps forward unsteadily to meet Imrama, and as he does, the Eclipse can see just how ill he has taken -- his eyes are dull, and his lips cracked. "Then you have... done well, Imrama Stormfound," he says, and laughs -- and though Imrama can tell it is painful for him to do so, the laugh is no less true for it.
Imrama Imrama gives a look of empathy, but does not join in the forced laughter. "You look as one determined to meet death with a brave face. What woeful illness has befallen you?"
Saraj 's smile shifts a little, to let on the grimness in the Captain's heart. "In the last, as we faced down the Horror, we came upon its cruel heart... koff the knot of dark essence without which it could not survive." (...)
Saraj looks at Imrama, flicking his gaze over to Revan and Bitter Elm for just a moment. "Someone had to take it upon themselves to ensure our victory, and, well... koff I am the Captain."
Imrama "So you have taken its foulness...into you?"
Saraj nods. "Where the touch of the Sun within me cut it free from the beast's ponderous berth, and let its multitudinous koff victims rest once again in peace."
Imrama Imrama gives a false smile and claps Saraj on the shoulder. "My friends are the stuff of legends." Leaning in closer, he whispers: "In the time you have remaining - what can we do for you?"
Saraj looks at Imrama for a moment. "Two things."
Imrama "Name them."
Saraj pulls a small silver box from one pocket and hands it to Imrama. "Before...." A misty look washes over his eyes, and he stops for a moment, coughing. He resumes, unsteadily, mid-sentence:
Saraj "....Saraya told me to... to tell you 'sorry,' and give you this.... Something about an... orrery?"
Imrama Surprise leaps onto Imrama's face, and he stifles the urge to spin round to where Saraya's body lies. Tears forming in his eyes, he asks, "And the second?"
Saraj "We.... we found the way." He speaks the words firmly. "To the tenth Sea. The Spirit Ocean." Somehow, he manages to beam despite the pain.
Saraj "We just need someone to koff hold the door open for us." He looks directly into Imrama's eyes. "Hell, if it's everything it's said to be.... maybe you and I will even share drinks again someday."
Imrama "I will count on it, Captain. Now, show me the gate and I will hold it with my life."
Saraj nods. "Look to the West from here koff and see the spot of white upon the horizon.... You need but to... koff keep the sun's light upon it, until we pass through."
Imrama "Then so shall I do." Imrama's anima flares, but its flock of clockwork birds appear uncharacteristically sedate. They hang in mid-air, moving in unison to mimic Imrama's motions as he bows to Saraj and his crew. "Go with speed and strength, my worthy friends. I expect to hear the tales of your great adventures upon your safe return."
Saraj claps Imrama -- gently, for him -- on the shoulder, and Revan, though he says nothing, nods slowly. "We shall, sky-sailer," Saraj says. "We shall."
Imrama Imrama takes one final survey of the Western Circle, looking each in the eye with a slightly different meaning. Sympathy for Vashu's grief, respectful distance for Bitter Elm, kinship with Revan and a sad goodbye to Saraj. With that, he takes to the sky, returning to his ship to shine down as the sun on that far scrap of white in the distance.