Summary:Cerin follows a strange storm brewing to the south, where he tangles with spectres.



< All That Matters Is What You Do | Sol Invictus Logs | A Blackened Rose >

Cerin In one of the higher gardens of the Cascade, Cerin carefully considered the bush in front of him, before pulling out his golden knife and carefully removing several wilted blooms, before he moves onto the next bush, carefully pruning each one in turn.

The wind kicks up. It's cold -- unusually so, for the season, and the sky is darkening at a surprisingly quick rate.

Cerin frowns slightly at the sky, trying to determine if the weather that is building is natural or no, as he takes another few blooms from the trees.

There's something wrong with the storm, definitely: a whiff of death on it, the hint of malformed Essence...

Cerin sighs a little, and plucks one last bloom from the trees, setting it down on the small square of fabric and then gathering that up, depositing it on the compost heap.

Cerin then scales the side of the Cascade, until he's perched upon the top of it, looking towards the gathering storm.

This wind blows in from the south, on a strong, insistent breeze, and it's bearing down on Solaria with a pretty significant push.

Cerin activates the Unsurpassed Vision Prana, casting his vision southwards, looking for the origin of the storm.

CrowDevoursFlame Wherever this source is coming from, it's well beyond the borders of the Sunlands.

Cerin ::There is a strange storm brewing, I'm going to investigate. I'll be back shortly.:: Cerin announces, entering the cascade and mounting one of the agatae, getting the Creature to open a portal far to the South.

CrowDevoursFlame It is but a few short jumps later -- checking the direction of the wind with each one -- that Cerin finds himself standing in the midst of a vast desert, above which whirls and reels an immense, powerful storm, fueled at its core by powerful necrotic Essence.

Cerin slips off the wasp and commands it to stay here, before he wraps himself in concealing essence and heads towards the center of the storm.

CrowDevoursFlame Well before Cerin gets to the center, he can see already what awaits him there: the ghosts, dead and abyss-tainted, who dance and spiral around a black fire, in the midst of a tiny Shadowland.

Cerin ::Varanim, it appears the source of the storm is a small shadowland. I'm going to investigate:: And then he does so, pressing forward, keeping his senses fully extended for anything more dangerous than ghosts.

CrowDevoursFlame The storm itself seems to be the first visible sign of a summoning, a bringing into being some horrific thing from beyond the grave.

Cerin ::Some kind of summoning,:: Cerin ammends, as he moves in closer, casting his vision through the ghosts and about, fairly sure that they wouldn't be here alone.

CrowDevoursFlame After a moment, Cerin sees the secret force directing the ghosts' actions: not an Exalt at all, but one of the Ija spectres, almost exploding with intense necrotic power, bedecked in plasmic robes and weighed down with black metallic jewelry of every description, and holding a long white jade staff in the shape of a long, blind serpent, with ruby eyes and soulsteel teeth.

Cerin advances forward to the very heart of the ritual, crossing over the shadowlands border and into the underworld.

CrowDevoursFlame The ecstatic ghosts continue their dance and motion, even as he approaches -- and as he draws closer, the crazed rictus grins on their faces grow even more clear.

Cerin After observing the ritual from its heart, crossing through the center of it in a series of long arcs, careful to keep his stealth magics up Cerin then withdraws to a range more suitable for archery, sending a trio of brilliant sunbursts arcing through the air ... each one seeking the black and terrible heart of the Ija Spectre.

The spectre, deep in its reverie, nonetheless notices bolts of brilliant, searing sunlight arcing through the clouds of darkness towards it. It raises its staff, moving it in a rapid arc gesture across its body -- and as if in tune with its motion, three of the observing ghosts are flung up from the earth, gaunt limbs sent flailing, directly into the paths of the arrows.

In less than an instant, each is vaporized entirely, and the Ija lowers its staff once more, though the chanting ghosts quickly shift in aspect, moving instead to look about them for the source of the assault.

Cerin Ah Cerin nods to himself. So, that is their purpose here. Cerin considers, briefly. The bands of the armour wrap around him, and suddenly he is behind a second dune. From there, he starts to fire once more. This time, he isn't targetting the Ija, but all those ghosts which surround it, pouring down sunfire on them in a hail of brilliant sparks.

A hail of golden missiles falls down from the sky, brilliant golden light slicing through the black clouds and then through the ghosts' twisted corpora, leaving the dunes soaked in dripping black ectoplasm and the Ija standing by itself, laughing slowly in a low, creaky voice, gripping the Staff of Auna firmly in both hands.

Cerin Now it's your turn, Cerin thinks, as he once more rellocates in a cloud of dust and essence, sending another glowing trio toward the Ija now stripped of his immediate protectors. Merely leaving him as one of the most ancient and twisted evils Cerin has fought. The arrows are seeking his heart...

Even as the black fire belches out more smoke, the Ija swings the staff wildly, cackling all the while. It strikes one arrow off, sending it flying into the dunes; slices across another and sending it off into the sky -- but the movement is a bit slow on the last, which it merely deflects enough to have it clip its shoulder instead.

The spectre seethes, uttering a strange inhuman sound in pain as the arrow clips through its shoulder in a brilliant golden flash, but a moment later it's back to laughing, perhaps now in an even more unsettling fashion.

From the ground around its feet, and slowly moving further and further away, jets of black begin to burst out of the sand like tiny geysers, each spewing caustic and Essence-rich smoke.

Cerin That sound is really beginning to get irritating Cerin thinks, as the spectre keeps on laughing. He's once more wrapped in the bands of his black armour as he relocates himself to a place where the black smoke doesn't obscure his view. This time, his bow flares six times as he sends a torrent of motes through the air, slicing towards the Spectre with deadly precision.

The arrows cut through the air, shredding the spectre's ethereal body into tiny ghostly bits, scattering his soulsteel jewels across the sands, the Staff of Auna still standing in its position planted into the ground. Then, just a moment later, Cerin notices that his body is starting to feel a bit... heavy.

Cerin smiles to himself as he scatters the spectre to the winds. He's about to draw back another arrow, this one charged with the essence that devours all spirits, when he notices the heaviness in the air around him. He focuses himself, fighting back the sensation, looking around for the source of the effect. He fires the arrow and then focuses further. I can't pass out now. Even if I have killed all the witnesses.

Cerin feels the deathly Essence of the black smoke pulling at him, reaching across the Shroud to pull at his very soul; the effect is a feeling like intense tiredness, one of late quite unfamiliar to Cerin -- the kind where your very limbs seem unwilling to obey any command besides one to lie down and go to sleep.

Cerin concentrated, aware of how hard even just thoughts were becoming. The ribbons on his armour fluttered, and then he was at the staff. It was only with effort that he managed not to fall over when he arrived. Then, swaying slightly, he started to study it.

Even away from its master, the staff itself is quite an object. Carved, Cerin can tell, from a single gigantic bone, and its eyesockets filled with gems after they were used to drain its marrow and replace it with soulsteel.

Now, as the black fire continues to belch smoke into the sky above and the tiny geysers continue to do so along the ground, Cerin sees that an elaborate Essence pattern is wound like a spiral around the Staff's core -- a final sorcery worked into it by the Ija who held it a moment ago.

Looking at it, Cerin sees that the Essence wound around the staff seems to encode the Essence of a powerful hekaton -- not a dead behemoth, but the soul of a Neverborn; once a Malakim, now consigned to the shadows -- and bind it into the staff.

Cerin Well, that's just marvelous Cerin thinks to himself, pushing his eyes back open with an effort of will. Fighting against the oncoming lethargy, Cerin grasps the staff in both hands, lifting it out of the blackened sands. This should not be so hard.

He grasps it in both hands, and the red eyes, rheumy with inflections, suddenly glow brilliant red. From somewhere inside the staff, a voice -- or something like a voice -- reverberates. Wolllllllllllllfffffff, it rasps, vibrating the very air around Cerin even as it fills with yet more black smoke.

Cerin "It appears that you have the advantage over me," Cerin says, pushing each of the words out, but calmly. "What is your name, Soul of Auna? And how do you know mine?"

The voice edges out like it's drawn over an infinite stretch of jagged rock. I wassssss once othhhher, but now I ammmm... thhhhhhe Tongue of the Ssssssserpent, it says, and I have waaaatched you... for ssssso long.

Cerin "Watching me? Why?" he questions

You... are tied... to usssss, the voice says. To... usssssss thhhhhhree. The smoke grows thicker and thicker, as the sky darkens further.

Cerin I am not entirely sure I wanted to hear that, Cerin thought, as he became aware of the darkening sky. "To Auna, Everel and to Nyx? How? Something Ymir did, or something before that?"

The red eyes flash. Lonnnng beforrrre, the voice said. And lonnnng afterrrrrr. The weightiness grows stronger and stronger, even as the staff seems to become more -- animate perhaps, since it quite clear is in no sense alive.

This world will fall to ruin, the voice continues. Already we opennnn our jawsssssss to devour it.

Cerin "We will not let you do that," Cerin says quietly. Long before and long after? I am long after. Ymir was with Erevel. Who came before Ymir? What was their relation to Auna? "This world will not fall to ruin. Not while we watch over it."

The staff stares at Cerin with a brutal intensity. It issssss already happening, it intones. The dead sssssshall rissssse, and the living perisssssh. It beginsssssss today.

Cerin meets it's ... gaze without flinching, if staves have such a thing. "Just because it starts, doesn't mean it will end," he replies. "Where does Auna return?"

The weightiness gets heavier and heavier. Everywhere, the voice says, when the time hassssssss come. The air is almost pitch black with smoke now. When the cycle issssss broken, we sssssshall ssssssslither out.

Cerin Now what would go and break that? "So what was this in aid of?" He gestures to the smoke he can barely see through.

Thingsssss.... are moving.... it rasps out. Thingsssss that... dwell in darknessssss.... That much certainly seems to be accurate. The time of the living.... issssss over.... and our time... hassssss returned.

Cerin "It was never the dead's time and it never will be," Cerin says as he starts to study the staff anew, looking for weaknesses in the design.

Even as the light fades away completely and leaves him standing in utter and complete darkness broken only by two brilliant red eyes, Cerin notes the hairline along the staff's handle at which the bone is thinnest, the soulsteel underneath the closest to the surface.

Cerin "The darkness doesn't bother me, you know," Cerin remarks as he draws the golden knife from a pocket. "Tell me more of the one who came before Ymir."

The Crownlessssss King... it whispers. Although the darkness does not, indeed, bother Cerin, the growing burden of the tiring smoke is indeed gaining ground against his efforts to resist it.

Cerin "The Crownless King?" He enquires, as he raises up the knife, slipping it between bone and soulsteel.

There's a horrible sound as he sinks the blade into the staff's outer surface, and the speech of the hekaton grows more frenzied. The kingdomless wretch, the bladeless soldier, the empty one... It rattles off titles quickly. And you are his heiiiiir -- The speech cuts off.

Cerin files the names away for later. That seems to have quietened him down he thinks as he continues cutting "Are you still with me?"

There is only silence in immediate response.

Cerin studies the glows and swirls of the essence through the staff as he continues to work the knife up the gap between the bone and the metal.

The tightly wound structure of the creature remains in place, though it has shifted around to accomodate the damage done by Cerin's knife.

Cerin continues to work the knife up as he considers more. I should finish this before I pass out.

The bone splits readily at the motion of his knife, and the Essence pattern dodges and bends to accommodate the yawning opening.

Cerin "You don't seem too happy with this," Cerin remarks as he continues to work the knife along the length of the staff, fighting against the weight.

The staff remains silent, though its Essence motions become yet more frenzied.

Cerin starts to slice down the other side of the staff. "What will this do to you anyway?"

The staff is silent for a moment longer, and then, suddenly, the ghost-demon bound inside makes a final, terrified movement. Its coiled structure bends downward towards the bottom of the staff, just momentarily, and then launches itself up towards the head. The eyes explode outward in a shower of red sparks, and a rattling, heaving scream escapes in the process, though the hekaton remains tightly bound within the staff's head.

Cerin looks around himself for any sign of the smoke thinning as he considers the staff head

Thus far it seems to show no such signs.

Cerin attempts to pick the staff up and walk from the middle of the smoke, fighting against the terrible weight.

It is a great effort. By the end, Cerin can no longer walk, and falling to his knees, he crawls the last few yards, before finally, in front of him, the smoke begins to thin.

Cerin waits a few moments to recover and then picks himself up, so that he can walk the last few yards of smoke and emerge on his feet.

Outside the smoke, the world is much as he remembers it, though the vast storm that the smoke is brewing into overhead means it remains overcast and unpleasant even here.

Cerin waits a few more moments, letting his body soak up more of the untainted essence of outside the cloud. So, what now? he wonders.

< All That Matters Is What You Do | Sol Invictus Logs | A Blackened Rose >

Page last modified on November 29, 2009, at 12:09 AM