Summary:The Solars journey to Therembold, to confront Remembrance and end the Strangling Ivy threat once and for all.

XP:I4, L4, S4, V4, Z4


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Imrama The Fable of the Reconstruction streaks like a comet across the night sky. Imrama stands at her prow, watching the horizon with a passionate intensity. It is almost as though he believes that if he peers deeply enough at that distant point, he may match eyes with the fallen love whom he and his fellows have set out to meet.

Spring stands at a reasonable distance, listening to the slightly accelerated beat of Imrama's heart with thoughtful concern.

zahara stands at the stern of the ship, watching the clouds roil in their wake.

zahara "I really wish Varanim was right about past lives," she mutters to herself.

Imrama addresses his friend without turning around. "I am relying on you, Long-Awaited Spring. As my trust in myself falters, I find I must trust in my friends even more. If my will should fail, and if Zahara's restraints should break," he reaches a finger inside the tall collar of his captain's jacket, and fingers the jewelry there. "If it should come to that, I will look to you to do what is...

Imrama ...necessary."

Lucent "It is not." Lucent shakes his head. "I will not let it come to that. I promise."

Lucent The air about him ripples, heaven taking note of his promise.

Spring "Have no fear, Imrama. I will do what must be done."

The Fable's path takes them over vast stretches of strange and unusual landscape as it arcs through the sky above the restored lands of long-slumbering outer Creation, but even from a great distance, the once-great city of Therembold already catches the eye the moment it passes the horizon.

Varanim "How do you people expect to save the world like this?" Varanim mutters semi-rhetorically, leaning against the rail with a mildly pensive look on her face.

A network of manses once drove the city's expansion in another age of humanity, and now they hum again with a newfound purpose: emerald green light pours out of the outer manses, and paints the sky behind the city a brilliant viridian shade, while one central building glows a deep, ominous yellow.

Spring "Slowly, and precisely."

Lucent "The same way we always do. Trusting our lives to Heaven. And to our Circle."

The ship needn't draw much nearer than that before the other unusual aspect of the city is visible: for every surface, every half-ruined building and Essence-scarred hillock, every half-destroyed First Age vehicle and tiny human skeleton, is covered, totally and entirely, with choking, writhing ivy.

Spring "Laerad."

Imrama nods in acknowledgment. In what may be his last moments aboard the Fable, Imrama takes a moment to himself. Adopting a ritual posture that went out of style with the first Deliberative, he raises his right hand, extending three fingers upwards and folding down the outside two. "I, Imrama Stormfound, do solemnly swear that I will not betray my Circle, nor my Fathers, nor the peoples of...

Imrama ...Harborhead or of the Sunlands."

Imrama The air about him glows with oath-light.

The strange, alien hum of the elemental manses is cut for a moment by the pure, distilled light of the sun -- a warm, and hopeful, light.

Imrama Anchoring high above the yellow building, and just to the North, Imrama takes a long look at the Fable. His full crew appears on deck in parade dress to salute him. Returning the motion, he turns to face his friends for the first time since they began their journey. "Alright. Let us descend."

Varanim Interested now, Varanim slouches a little further over the rail to scan the local Essence flows for anything besides the obvious configuration.

zahara fingers the golden-leaved collar around her own neck as she moves to join the others. "I'm sure everything will go perfectly. What could go wrong?"

Looking at the sights below through Essence-enabled sight, the interlocked grid pattern -- described in such detail Spring's book -- stands out to Varanim with complete clarity. Looking at it, it's clear that every one of these manses was in very bad shape until quite recently,

Lucent sighs. "Zahara..."

Spring seems thoughtful for a few moments as the ship begins landing, then spits up a handful of Wasirran seeds. Looking down, he scatters them across the field of ivy.

as each one's Essence visibly shifts in tiny ways in response to the portions of new construction. Furthermore, she can see that the green manses are all actively channeling the Essence of Wood, focusing the immense potential of the entire manse network on growing the ivy -- but the true motive power lies within the yellow manse, where something uncanny --

perhaps... demonic -- is, with quite a bit of force behind it, turbocharging the Essence flows into the network.

Spring glances at Varanim as she hangs over the edge. "What do you see?"

Varanim "Just the obvious, really. All Wood aspect in the green stuff, with a delicious demon-flavored center." With a disappointed sigh, she follows after the others.

zahara "I suppose, at least, the corrupt pole is gone."

zahara "Unless they've made another one," she adds fatalistically

Spring "Surely you left behind some form of warding to advise you if they attempted such a thing again."

zahara "I thought we had destroyed the root of the problem, at the time."

Spring "Mm."

The building itself is a fine example of Kigish Lan-style First Age geomantic architecture -- all winding and curling braces, local stone cut into 30 degree angles, and indented pathways between raised surfaces. The yellow light pours out from above, as well as from each of the six doors set into the bottom floor's outer walls.

Spring "The roots, apparently, run rather deep."

Imrama produces a flask, takes a short swig from it, tosses it over his shoulder to Varanim, and jumps over the rail.

Spring drops over the side as well.

Nearing the doors gives Spring no sense of impending surprise -- whatever waits inside, it does not appear to be an imminent ambush.

Spring "Let us be good houseguests and let them know that we have come to visit before we enter." Spring carefully taps a few specific points in the geometry of the manse and nods to the others, then opens a hand and steps back.

zahara slips her fingers through a line of Essence as she descends from the ship, comparing the feeling to that of the corrupt pole

The feeling of the whole city, writhing ivy and all, is very similar, though... the focused intensity that Zahara felt in the far east, is... oddly absent.

zahara "Hmm. Odd."

Spring, meanwhile, notes carefully a few key pressure points on the outside walls of the third, fourth, and eighth floors of the manse.

Spring "Property damage, Zahara?" Spring indicates the appropriate points.

zahara follows Spring's gestures without comprehending for a moment, then she laughs. She starts with the 8th floor on her way down, driving her fingers into the wall and twisting slightly to send cracks spidering out from the point along with a small shower of rocks.

zahara She repeats this maneuver on the other indicated points. With each twist, the structure of the whole becomes more fragile until at last she sets foot on the ground. "Imrama, would you care to do the honors?"

Imrama "Thank you, Empress." Imrama draws Pentecost and fires at the final weak point. A torrent pours from the gun, not of fire but of stone, like an avalanche, crashing down.

The flow of stone no more than grazes the point Zahara had indicated before its results are already visible: a spiderweb lattice of cracks and breaks spreads out from the point of impact, all running at the same perfect angles that make up the Manse's structure, and by the time the full strength of Imrama's weapon has struck, the damage is irreversible:

new stonework separates from old as almost a third of the manse's upper stories shear off and collapse outward in a cacaphonous crash of dust and fury.

There is a moment -- just a moment -- where the contents of the top remaining floor are hidden, still, behind the dust -- but then a gust of wind blows by, and they are revealed for all to see:

a great central table, the image of the city as it once was executed upon it in gold and brass, emerald and sapphire, and glowing at each point where a manse chugs defiantly away at corrupting the world;

Varanim Tucking Imrama's flask away after a discerning sniff, Varanim briskly drips some blood in her eye to check how the other side of the Shroud reflects the city's situation.

and standing at it, three figures: a tall, white-skinned man, sand leaking from his rock-edged mouth, water dripping from the turquoise scales that cover his back, the faint marks of a serpent's slithering form moving across his skin in viridian ink -- the demon Hamza-Hathmet;

a tall creature, like a tree -- and yet also, like a person -- whose very shape seems to shift and twist with each brush of the wind, whose black foliage forms the stark and disturbing outline of a face, whose white bark seems to curl and bend into sinuous and hypnotic sigils with each passing moment: La'arh, of the Ascendant Estarus Hundredfold;

and at the center, beautiful beyond all reason, but her face shrouded in shadow; her long, deep reddish-brown hair flowing out behind her as if she stares down the wind itself; her garb a simple traveller's outfit, trimmed in yellow, and the Emblem of Strangling Ivy at her neck: Remembrance of Seven Tears, Chosen of Journeys, and member of the Five Who Have Fallen.

The vines that cover the city stretch out from their feet, and even, Varanim sees, straight through the micro-Shadowlands that dot many parts of the city, to choke off the opposite side of the Shroud as well.

Spring "Fierce Red Star says hello."

zahara tries very hard not to laugh aloud at that.

Imrama "Hello, Remembrance." Imrama pushes off the ground with what begins as a jump, but becomes a fall as he momentarily adjusts his sense of 'down'. Reaching the correct height to look his predecessor's wife in her shrouded face, he stops and rights himself. "You have gone to tremendous, meticulous and vile lengths to achieve this moment. I am here. What is all this about?"

Lucent bows to her, no smile upon his face as the Coronal flies to life, a life-sized Maiden of Journeys pointing an accusing finger at her. "It has been a long time, Remembrance."

RemembranceOfSevenTears 's eyes lock straight into into Imrama's own, and he sees only then just how empty they are, what little shred of humanity there is behind them. The voice that emerges cuts at Imrama's soul like a knife, for every tone, every sound of it is intimately familiar. "You were gone, esahi," she says, using a long-forgotten term of deepest endearment.

Varanim Keeping only half an ear for the drama that will doubtless be ensuing, Varanim crouches and hooks her fingers through some of the omnipresent ivy, considering the convoluted route it has traced across both sides of the Shroud, and twisting her mind into the abnormal configuration required to see the ivy's part in this little prearranged play.

RemembranceOfSevenTears "But at this moment, I had to have you by my side." And as she speaks, Imrama feels something... a tightening in his chest, and a narrowing in his vision.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Varanim, meanwhile, sees the origins of the vast ivy in a tiny seed, planted at the city's heart by La'arh; sees it grow under Hamza-Hathmet's intense glare, and shift and change as it does, to take on the qualities of the Overgrowing One, The Roots of the World -- Laerad, the Yozi in defiance of whom the Wasirranu first bloomed...

RemembranceOfSevenTears She sees the intent layered into it by its creators: to resonate, more and more strongly, until there could be no telling it apart from the roots of Laerad himself: and then the Demon Realm, and the world of Creation, would be joined.

RemembranceOfSevenTears It seems as if the growth of the ivy is almost complete, but there is still some catalyst, some final step, that must crystallize before the plan can truly succeed.

Imrama "Your plan, your foul and spiteful strategy, reaching across centuries, has been a waste. Nothing more than a catalog of needless suffering. For I am among the many things that I will not allow you to possess."

Varanim With a thoughtful look on her face, Varanim stands and leans on her staff... but her expression quickly drifts into boredom, and her eyes unfocus.

RemembranceOfSevenTears "There is no plan, only inevitability," she says. "All history is cyclical. What once the Creators ruled, they shall rule again. What once was laid low shall rise back up." She looks at Imrama, and he sees a flicker of some kind of humanity, for just a second. "And those who were once apart" -- her voice almost cracks -- "shall be together." And the first signs of ivy edge out into the corners of Imrama's vision.

Spring eyes Hamza-Hathmet, quickly flipping through Wei Dan's notes on demons in the depths of his belly.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Even as Spring begins his research, Remembrance makes the tiniest gesture with one hand, and her Primordial-touched allies charge towards Imrama's compatriots.

Imrama grits his teeth, squinting slightly in an attempt to close the ivy out of his range of vision. "You have no claim over me, Remembrance. You played match-maker with my ancestors, you abandoned me on my father's doorstep. You schemed and murdered your way down the long ages to bring me to this moment. But I owe you nothing for it. I am what my past has made me, but I belong to no one but myself."

zahara looks thoughtful at Imrama's pronoucement, even as she prepares for the onslaught of demons

RemembranceOfSevenTears Hamza-Hathmet leaps forward -- surprisingly lithe for a creature built with muscles that seem as broad as mountains -- and his hands swing about, with the force behind them of a serpent who has burrowed through mountains and devoured continents, even as he dives directly towards Long-Awaited Spring.

Spring "Here we go again."

Spring Spring stands casually, scraping his foot against the ivy below him, and meets Hamza's strike not with the solidity of a mountain but the flow of an ocean; it sinks into him, and he lets the other fist propel him forward, pulling Hamza off balance and stepping up, onto his arm, then his back, still grasping the first hand that with which the demon attacked him.

Imrama offers his counterargument to Askaru's widow. "By rising against myself and my fellows, by stabbing at the heart of humanity's mightiest empire, you only doom your master. Consider: we have already slain one Yozi in the past year. When servants of another make trouble for us, what are we likely to do to him in retribution?"

zahara Studying the Essence patterns the Third Circle Demon has wrapped around itself, Zahara cracks her knuckles. As it brushes past her to get to Spring, she reaches out and hooks a finger into the Principal of Motion, twisting it as she had the manse.

Lucent ::Spring. Please, speak of your seeds as if they were his doom.::

Lucent ::Put some bravado in it.::

Spring "Now would be an opportune time for you to surrender. When the seeds of the Wasirru I have distributed destroy the strangling ivy that surrounds us, it will be that much more difficult for you to return home."

Lucent ::Just... try to think you are still Thirteen for a moment.::

Spring "I am not sure that killing a creature that is merely an aspect of a larger creature's mental process is not inherently wrong, but as my colleages will tell you, it is a subject I find it necessary to concern myself with."

RemembranceOfSevenTears The demon's charm shreds on the tip of Zahara's carefully-placed finger.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Hamza-Hathmet grunts as Spring speaks to him. "I care not what you concern yourself with."

Spring "You will soon enough."

Lucent smiles. "You hear Imrama, you hear Spring, demon. You feel the touch of the Dreambreaker. It's already shattered, your dream." He points to the demon, his eyes piercing.... and twisting, planting the seed of an idea amidst the sand of his lips. The idea begins to grow, with leaves of planning and flowers of courage. "You have already LOST." He knew what he had to do - to destroy the Exalted seeds, to corrupt them into vines!

Lucent To show the Exalted that none of their power is beyond Laerad!

Spring lets go of the hand, poised on the demon's back, and pityingly flicks a finger in a come-on gesture, although Hamza can't see it.

RemembranceOfSevenTears shuts her eyes, and seems to brace herself, moving suddenly at the moment the last of Imrama's words leaves his mouth, their meaning rolling over her like a fine vessel over ocean waves -- her anima flares with the effort, but where brilliant yellow should be is only the empty outline of light, and where the sign of Mercury should shine is only an empty circle.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Even as Lucent's words bore into his demonic skull, Hamza-Hathmet strikes again with vicious fury at Spring.

Spring With the first strike, Spring puts a finger out of joint. With the second, he seizes that finger and turns the wrist; with the third, he locks the elbow, and the fourth numbs the shoulder, until the entire arm hangs, painlessly and uselessly, by Hamza's side.

RemembranceOfSevenTears La'arh, hearing Lucent's honeyed words, makes his decision: his branches rustle, his bark shakes, and a rain of tens of thousands of razor-sharp leaves fly outwards to envelop Lucent, their vicious edges seeking his every artery and soft, vulnerable place.

Lucent The leaves coil around him... and are just a caress. Lucent smile, shifting the leaves into the banner of Sextes Jylis. "What, haven't you heard?"

Lucent "I'm immortal."

Varanim Many hours ago, Varanim considered the alternatives and decided it was prudent to pack supplies. So she extracted her po, and used its considerable strength to retrieve the flower of death from the quarantine Shadowland--and then used her arm's power to reach across the Shroud, to store it away from Remembrance's eyes in the land of the dead.

Varanim So her po has sat amongst the flower's petals for the whole journey, an idiot bodhisattava on a blighted lotus, until now she returns her will to animate them both. In the shadowy form of her po, she hefts the flower onto her shoulders, reaches out to grasp the soulsteel arm of her physical body, and pulls herself and her burden across to the living side of the Shroud.

Varanim "Look out below," she smirks, and leaps over the rail to plummet toward the center of the seething manse.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Letting the hefty, powerful flower lead the way, Varanim falls. The great, horrific soulsteel device crushes the elegant Therembold map table -- and keeps going.

RemembranceOfSevenTears It bursts through the floor -- and keeps going.

RemembranceOfSevenTears And a moment later, Varanim's po finds herself, a little dazed and surrounded by dust, six stories below in the manse's abandoned basement.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Far above, Remembrance seems almost not to notice the commotion that surrounds her on all sides. "Don't you remember?" she says to Imrama. "Our time together?" And memories flash back into Imrama's mind --

RemembranceOfSevenTears visions of the tiny yellow flag, run up the pole on the Love Nest's landing dock, guiding him in; the sounds of clinking glasses, wine shared amidst the stars as they spoke of the flaws in Solar society;

RemembranceOfSevenTears the smell of a hundred shattered perfume bottles in the torn-up manse, the two staring at each other over the remnants of their knock-down, drag-out fight and knowing that any moment now they would forgive one another for their latest indiscretions...

RemembranceOfSevenTears "This has always been our destiny."

Imrama looks away for a moment, bringing his free hand up almost to touch his face. Then he whirls back to the fallen Sidereal, eyes blazing. "These are the names of some of the people you murdered: Velgar, Domshim, Worn Hearth, Cheles, Folon Yim, Obak, Six-Strings-Sour, Bells-in-the-Morning, Jivin Ko, Orange-Fading-Yellow,..." The list goes on extensively.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Meanwhile, Hamza-Hathmet turns his eyes to the all-encompassing vines. His eyes flaring with greenish-blue light, the sand at his mouth flowing forth with renewed vigor. With a single gesture from his still-free hand, he calls the vines to him, sends them scurrying and bending to do his will.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Long, sinuous vines turn to grab Spring's limbs.

Spring smiles sadly at the vines, and they falter as they reach towards him.

zahara figures she might as well whip out the ol' Kraken, as wood and fire famously don't get along. She calls the familiar runes to her lips, and they swirl around her like an old lover's hands, liquid fire delving into the ground beneath.

RemembranceOfSevenTears Imrama focuses, struggles, and the strains of ivy push back from the corners of his vision.

Spring glances at Hamza, and makes a slight adjustment in his stance, and becomes the center of the battlefield.

RemembranceOfSevenTears And as he does, the Hundredfold swings one vast, massive, wooden arm, straight at Spring's head.

Imrama "Whatever trust you claim between yourself and my predecessor, you have betrayed. Whatever love you pretend to, you have corrupted. Whatever shared purpose or ideal you delude yourself with, you have abandoned. You have hollowed yourself out, and sealed yourself alone, a country unto yourself. I could not touch you, even if it would not sicken me. You have destroyed all that once he loved,...

Imrama ...all for the faded glory of your uncaring master."

Spring gives one glance to the Hundredfold, and flicks the end of his saffron wrap around the oncoming blow, winding himself impossibly along the path of the cloth to pass a hairsbreadth away from the attack.

Varanim Down in the belly of the manse, Varanim blinks off the momentary daze. Then she assembles in her mind the past purpose of the flower, its present configuration, and the channels laid by the former which might adjust the latter. Its blooming needs a tremendous price, but she is a world-class expert in the currency of souls.

Varanim She reaches out for strands of ivy, binding among the devouring mouths. Meanwhile the shadow of her left arm writhes and twists among the Essence pathways of the whole thing, making a day's worth of adjustments and realignments in a dance of seconds. And finally, one last echo of souls... she slams down her soulsteel palm in the center of the bloom, and wakes it to feast on ivy.

RemembranceOfSevenTears There is a shudder, and a jolt, and a moment of perfect silence. With shocking suddenness, the writhing ivy that covers the city begins to wither, curl up on itself, and die, its viridian green fading into crinkled ash as the vines break apart and collapse.

RemembranceOfSevenTears And then, with a sound that is sickeningly, terrifying familiar to the Solars, the greenish blast explodes upwards from underneath the manse, its force ripping through the streets, tearing through the once-ruined buildings and powerful Essence collectors, its energies directed out to tear the once-proud city of Therembold --

RemembranceOfSevenTears and whatever remains of the ivy that chokes it -- completely asunder. Only most of the manse in which the Solars stand is left intact -- at least, for a moment, until Zahara's Magma Kraken erupts, its searing tendrils unleashing vast tendrils of smoke as they grasp La'arh and begin to collapse the remaining parts of the building's foundation.

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Page last modified on May 06, 2009, at 06:49 PM