Summary:Phoenix and Tia encounter the natives of Arcontan -- and an unexpected friend.



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Phoenix` concludes her sketch of the decline and fall of the Scarlet Empire and the current state of politics on the Blessed Isle. "So, that's how things stand now. Tell me much do you know about the West?"

Phoenix` "We're flying toward Arcontan, which is a place I've never been before, you see."

Tia scrutinizes Phoenix's map with great interest. "This is... a lot bigger than the map I know," she says. "And... I don't know much about the West even then. We attend the Firemeet, and we send our Dragon's Eyes off to the south, but beyond that we... don't really speak much to the rest of the world."

Phoenix` nods. "Then this will be an exciting experience for the both of us." She nudges the wasp to fly faster.

Tia Far below, the tiny ice-coated islands that form the archipelago of Arcontan glimmer in the sunlight, amidst the raging black waves.

Tia From far up, the traditional signs of civilization are entirely absent, but instead there are what look to be shifting, moving structures of ice: a hill here, rolling slowly to one side; a cliff there, flowing like a waterfall trapped in ultra-slow motion; a set of spines below, each growing up slowly into the sky before expanding into hexagonal structures that intertwine with its neighbors.

Tia The specific spot marked on Phoenix's map is a little unclear, but the larger island enveloped within it seems to be the locus of a particularly large amount of attention at the moment: a harsh wind blows across its face, sending snowdust everywhere, and its odd structures are expanding and shifting with enough rapidity to render large portions of its surface entirely obscured from the air.

Phoenix` "Oo, neat." They land somewhere relatively stationary.

Tia All around the landing spot, ice structures like abstract, time-dilated fountains open from the rime beneath their feet and spiral up into the sky, even as the wind whips through them, forming pure, musical tones as it blows across their surfaces -- and snow, shed from the crystals as they shift, blows out with it.

Tia takes it all in with amazement. "They don't have anything like this where I live."

Phoenix` "Nor I. It's...strange and beautiful!"

Phoenix` "Do you see anyone around?" Phoenix immediately starts poking into crevices and examining hidden grottoes in search of...anyone.

Tia reaches out to grab a small, spindle-shaped crystal from the air. "No, I don't see any--"

Tia She's interrupted by something, off some distance in precisely the direction she's looking: a brilliant flash of yellowish-red light that bends and bounces into infinite chiaroscuric shapes as it cuts through the refractory structures of ice, and then fades to a steady and dull orange glow.

Phoenix` blinks. "Let's go. You on the wasp. I'll run."

Phoenix` dashes toward the light.

Tia hops onto !Hu with a look of dismay, even as Phoenix darts between the icicles and geometric structures.

Tia The light begins to flash and burst -- first brighter, then dimmer; first reddish, then brilliant white -- and then it begins to be intercut with other light: blue, cast out in sharp, edged patterns that reflect even through the ice fountains.

Tia As she grows closer to the source, Phoenix hears the crashing and clinking of delicate ice structures being torn apart in conflict, and as she draws near the edge of the island on which she's currently landed, the field of icy vegetation opens up enough for her to see what is going on:

Tia five creatures -- Hundredfold, almost certainly -- their bodies built of intricate and entwined slivers of ice, shaped into the form of ten-legged bodies from which arise thin angular torsos, elaborately-jointed arms, and narrow, pinched heads; etched lines upon their surface tinted in black and purple and blue...

Tia and at their center, wreathed in the brilliant light of the sun, two glowing fists held high even as thin rivers of blood trickle down and splatter on the white ice below, shockingly enough a familiar face: that of Arathi Rugado, clad in thick winter garments and quite visibly outnumbered.

Phoenix` gives !Hu a significant look before diving into the thick of battle, her hands trailing plum-and-gold fire winding itself into two curved Essence blades.

Phoenix` "Arathi, what's going on?"

Tia !Hu "nods" (in the gestural speech of the Beauteous Wasps, at least) and launches itself sharply upwards, Tia's shout of confusion and surprise rapidly vanishing from Phoenix's hearing.

Tia Even as the icy creatures turn to note the second Solar's new arrival, Arathi's eyes grow briefly wide. "...Phoenix?" Then one of the creatures kicks up a cloud of vicious and sharp ice needles on a trajectory directly towards him, and he finds himself suddenly occupied in directedly striking each one out of the air.

Phoenix` "That's me! What's going on?" She pushes toward Arathi, carefully deflecting ice-blades and other, stranger attacks.

Arathi "We" -- punch -- "were following" -- kick -- "the trail of" -- block -- "the other Solars" -- whack -- "as requested" -- and a sudden, unexpected strike from one of the rime beasts upsides his head and temporarily disrupts his speech, even as three others wheel on to Phoenix.

Phoenix` weaves and slashes at one of the beasts -- "Good work" -- yanking a bit of sleeve out of its jaws -- "did you" --- kicking at its knee (?) -- "find them?" -- stab...

Arathi puts his hand to his head, where another new rivulet of blood is flowing. "Not here," he says, and ducks.

Phoenix` "Right." Hack, slash!

Arathi One Hundredfold's sharp pincer clips Phoenix's shoulder even as she carefully deflects the others. Arathi drops back, his fists still glowing mightily but his eyes looking a little dazed. "The... trail can't have been wrong, though." He ducks, again.

willows "Get somewhere safe" -- Phoenix drops her blades for a split-second, creating a false opening to lure the Hundredfold attackers toward her -- "rest up and follow it" -- She leads the group toward a formation of low, shifting walls -- "I'll handle these" -- nudging Arathi behind a fold in the ice -- "Go now."

Arathi drops down into the opening that Phoenix opens up for him, slipping back out of the creature's reach even as the Night caste's blades smash two of her foes into pieces and hack three limbs from the third. In a moment, he's ran off across the shallow water, towards the tinier islands and soon, out of sight.

Arathi After a moment more of sparring, the two whole beings realize just how much more outmatched they are by their current foe, and fall back in flight (in approximately the opposite direction to Arathi's departure), leaving Phoenix standing alone, towering above the single wounded and collapsed figure.

willows kneels to bind the creature's wounds and remaining limbs, then drags it to a relatively open space and waves down Tia and !Hu.

willows "Okay, stranger, I believe I have you at my mercy, so maybe you can tell me some things."

Tia descends, slowly, on waspback, still flustered from the experience but watching with great curiosity nonetheless as Phoenix confronts the bizarre creature.

Tia In a voice like overlapping, interweaving bell peals, the creature speaks... slowly: "Kill.... me," it says.

willows "No."

Phoenix` "It is regrettable that your kin lie lifeless on the ice, but I will not compound that with another unnecessary death."

Tia The creature glares up at Phoenix for a long moment. Then: " you come here?"

Phoenix` "Following a secret. Luckily I came when I did, or my dear friend would be in worse shape."

Tia The creature leans back warily. "The bastardized spawn of the servitors are not welcome amongst the Viyear."

Phoenix` "Oh, like I've never heard that before." She picks up one of the severed legs. "Tell me, stranger, do these grow back?"

Tia The creature does not immediately answer, though the degree to which it seems essentially unconcerned about the matter suggests that in likelihood they do.

Phoenix` "Damnable Hundredfold. Look, I'm really not in the mood for a...primary sexual display frill measuring Can we just get past the fact that I'm a...servitor...and you're some sort of crabby ice-bug critter and have a conversation like civilized beings?"

Tia The being looks up at Phoenix with relative disgust. "...your other" -- it looks off in the direction that Arathi ran -- "came here unprovoked."

Phoenix` "Yes, probably."

Phoenix` "Does that excuse your poor manners?"

Tia The creature grumbles -- if "grumbling" can accurately describe a melodious, tuneful sound, at least -- and looks away temporarily.

Tia Meanwhile, Tia has been looking around, examining the various structures and ice sculptures that surround the group, seemingly no longer too afraid of the ice creatures. "That island over there," she says, pointing in more or less the direction that Arathi ran. "The ice is different."

Phoenix` smiles. "Well then, let's go. As for you, stranger, best of luck to you. May the Sun smile on you for the rest of your days!"

Tia As Phoenix begins to move, the ice-being finally deigns to speak. "...wait," it says, sounding a little more unsure of itself.

Phoenix` "Hm?"

Tia "...the Gray," it says, several of its extremities gesturing towards the island. "It will not respond to you, but..." It grunts, breathing (?) heavily (?). "If you go, and see this, and leave, no others will be sent to follow you." It shakes its head. "Rather than yet more fighting."

Phoenix` "...?"

Tia "That is why you have come," it says, as Tia peers down at it with curiosity. "To draw upon our ancestral garden. To speak with the Gray."

Phoenix` "Yes, exactly."

Phoenix` "That is precisely the reason that we have come here."

Phoenix` exchanges a look with Tia."

Phoenix` "So, if we leave after that, no one will follow?"

Phoenix` "That sounds good."

Tia The creature nods in relative defeat.

Tia grins -- a mixture of conspiratorially and incorrigibly -- despite herself.

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Page last modified on July 04, 2009, at 01:17 AM