Summary:Spring intercepts Thorn of Night in the underworld's Nexus.



< Tales of Darkest Night | Sol Invictus Logs | To Ashes >

In less than an hour, the flow of moment to moment -- time itself -- will halt across Netheos, and darkness and destruction reign.

But in readiness against it, a few scattered lights stand firm.

Behind enemy lines, in disguise, two Solars ready themselves for a grand undertaking; in the lands below, another prepares to engage a fallen friend; and beyond the edge of the Blessed Isle, one more stands at the head of an army, ready to step for the first time into deadly combat.

At this moment, they stop to check that their fellows are ready: that their plan can begin.

Spring ::Well?::

zahara ::I'm warming up for a nice Magma Kraken.:: She cracks her knuckles. Her face and skin are once again covered, but this time in dirty-looking bandages, and her dress and shawl are artfully bedraggled so as to be more inconspicuous, in the shadowland.

Varanim ::Don't bother me, I'm drinking.:: Varanim is in fact sitting on a rock in the Shadowland, humming off-key and flickering her fingers as if spinning a coin along them.

Imrama Nestled within one of the many ominous black clouds the patrol the Juche shadowland, Imrama sits on the rail of his ship, dangling his legs over and watching his compatriots far, far below. ::In position, General.::

Lucent Standing atop the infinite-winged wasp on the edge of the Roseblack's Realm, Lucent gestures for Crow to stop her forces. ::Close enough. Just say the word.::

Spring ::You may begin. Be careful, my friends.: Spring shakes his head slightly, looking around him at the tangles of plasma and rubble that make up the shadowed remains of Hollow, then bends, spreading out a colorful cloth, and begins to set up his stall, waiting for the woman he knows will arrive shortly.

There is a wait, but Spring does know indeed, and after some time, he sees the first sign emerge, between the bone-bleached stalls and ramshackle carts at the other end of the Underworld's black market: the briefest glimpse of long, black hair.

There is movement, ducking and whirling, and then out into the middle, where they can be seen clearly, emerge the dark parody that Spring knew must lie behind the shadowy tales Harel spun for him:

At their lead, Thorn of Night, her piercing brown eyes showing no hint of compassion or humanity, her black hair framing the black sunburst that spreads viciously across her forehead like a cancerous crown, the beautiful blue and gold hilt of the Eventide standing in sharp contrast to the vicious and ugly handle of the Daybreaker at her other hip.

Behind her, a great bipedal beast -- a sihaj, unknown to Creation of today -- stands, its vicious claws and razor teeth glinting silver in the wan light, its dusky-grey fur seeming to shift in every breeze -- and spread across its entire body, tattoos of ancient sigils --

all of them now in jet black, except a single, unmistakeable and unmissable one: a brilliant gold character reading "human," displayed directly across the heart.

To the other side, a thin, wispy figure, each bit of its form flickering in and out between darkness and light, a sound like unhappy laughter echoing from each of the spirit's light steps;

and behind, two figures more: a thin man, his hair, eyebrows and beard flickering with the dull red light of embers, and a short red blade held firmly in his hand; and a Dragon-King, a raptok, lithe and young, but with a blackness spread between his scales, and two dark, empty pits where his eyes ought to be shining with brilliant light.

Each of them wear the same sigil: a black blade, on a dark green background, and edged in dark grey, and they follow Thorn of Night with purpose as she strides over to Spring's booth and begins to look him over, from head to toe.

Spring smiles lightly, and gestures casually towards the cloth before him, on which several small objects are laid: a mandolin, an antique porcelain teacup, a thin book with Birds's chop on it, a finely traced red-gold leaf, a bolt of reddish cloth, the jacket from a Realm formal naval uniform, and a banana.

Spring "Hello, Kai. Do you see anything you like?"

Thorn of Night looks up and down Spring once more. "That depends on why you are here," she says, the young girl's voice somehow far more intimidating than it should be simply with the addition of a harsh tone.

Spring "I am afraid it is business as usual." Spring nods politely to Serenal.

Her eyes trail across the objects on the counter, stopping with an odd, furrowed expression as she notes the banana.

Spring "It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to get a monkey on short notice," Spring explains with a slightly apologetic tone.

She raises an eyebrow skeptically, then looks up to stare directly into Spring's inhuman eyeballs -- conspicuously enough that he might note the effort she places into avoiding another glance down at the familiar objects on the table.

"Don't you get it?" she says, and Serenal-the-beast mumbles an incomprehensible assent.

Spring "I suspect that question is rhetorical."

"There's more darkness coming."

Spring "There always is."

"And eventually there'll be nothing but night."

Spring "What comes after the night, Kai?"

"Nothing." She picks up the mandolin, plays two brief, mournful bars on it, and then, with a distant, almost sad expression, snaps its neck like a wounded animal.

Spring "What makes you so sure?"

"I've learned a lot," she says. "About the world. About... darkness."

Spring "Then how do we stop it, Kai?"

Spring "Surely you must have learned that by now."

ThornOfNight stares at Spring with an ambiguous expression.

Spring "Why did you choose this path, Kai?"

ThornOfNight "I came to a crossroads," she says, further considering the objects on the table.

ThornOfNight She picks the book up and begins leafing through it absentmindedly. "I looked at what the Solars did, and what they could do," she says. After a long pause, she continues: "It wasn't pretty."

Spring "We are sadly imperfect."

ThornOfNight The Dragon-King flexes its fingers in an impatient fashion as the sihaj and the god both lean in towards Spring in what is intended to be an unpleasant fashion.

ThornOfNight "Yes," Thorn of Night says. "We are. It sucks."

Spring "But we do try. We have not given up."

Spring calmly ignores the bodyguards.

ThornOfNight "Why do you not think that I'm trying?" she says quietly.

Spring "What, exactly, are you trying to do?"

ThornOfNight "Start over from first principles," she says, putting down the book.

Spring "Ah. This is a sensible approach and one which I have myself attempted recently."

Spring "Here is a principle."

Spring "Life is worth living."

ThornOfNight "Sure," she says, "but why any of the life that's here right now?" The sihaj nods slowly. "Everyone's a collection of Essence, an ephemeral pattern. It already doesn't last. We already gather it up and rebuild it." She shakes her head. "But not very well."

Spring picks up the book and idly glances through it.

Spring "I confess myself confused."

Spring "I had thought your goal was the annihilation of all that exists."

Spring "Surely this does not leave room for creating new life."

ThornOfNight "The big bosses want something in particular," she says. "After that, I don't think they'll be around to care." She runs her hand over the leaf

Spring "Hm."

Spring "If they wanted to cease existing, they could have asked. I have several friends who have been working very hard to accomplish that as it is."

ThornOfNight "They are welcome to keep trying," the Dragon-Blood suddenly sneers from behind Thorn.

Spring "You are very kind."

ThornOfNight A breeze picks up, and rustles Thorn's cloak. "It's almost time," she says. "You know that, right?"

Spring smiles, as though the question is too obvious to answer, and stands up, brushing off his knees.

Spring "What are you hoping to accomplish, in the lost hour?"

ThornOfNight "Top secret. Why do you ask?" she says, as she moves her hands steadily down to her belt.

Spring "Idle curiosity."

Spring "Come and walk with me," Spring says, and makes it impossible for her to leave.

ThornOfNight begins to follow Spring, her hands still hovering at her belt, and her retinue does likewise.

Spring casually heads towards the Shadowlands connecting Hollow with Nexus.

ThornOfNight Spring walks through the streets of the Underworld's trading city, underneath the spider webs and over the rubble, for a minute or two, until he feels another breeze, stronger than the first one. "Here it is," Thorn says. "I'll have to ask you to stop walking now."

Spring "You may ask."

ThornOfNight The wind, having grown quite strong, suddenly and sharply stops, and from somewhere far, far away is a sound like ten million taverns exploding, all at once.

ThornOfNight In the blink of an eye, Thorn of Night has drawn both swords and leapt across the intervening space, her cape floating oddly in the absolutely still air her lithe form cuts through. Her blades ready, she swings them in a vicious scissor motion directly at Spring's midsection.

Spring walks determinedly into one of the oncoming blows, only a slight motion of his hand redirecting it at the last second over and past him. He casually guides the wayward weapon into the path of the other attack, deflecting it away and forcing Thorn's elbows against each other, before releasing her.

Spring continues unhurriedly towards his destination, smiling politely at Kai's cohort as he leaves them behind.

ThornOfNight bares her teeth, pointing with the outstretched Daybreaker even as she finds herself drawn to continue pursuit of Spring. Serenal and Shining both slip just past Spring, and the former throws a small mass of silver from one hand, which unfolds into an elaborate and tightly-woven moonsilver spider web, blocking the street down which Spring is moving.

Spring sighs and walks up to the web, poking it thoughtfully.

ThornOfNight It's sticky. Spring's hand does not want to detach from where he's stuck it.

Spring "Hm."

Spring "Something went wrong."

ThornOfNight does not wait for a superior opening; she swings in with a renewed fury, hoping to catch Spring at an opportune moment while he's distracted with the web.

Spring puffs away abruptly, a few faltering shafts of twilight piercing the gloom, and appears again on the other side of the web. He beckons politely to the others.

ThornOfNight cuts through the web with little effort and steps through after him. "People probably don't tell you this, Spring, but this behavior is kind of annoying!" She steps through, and Ahoram and V'neef Akessla flank her, running forward to make their own assaults on Spring, one with a blast of fire and one with a quickly-thrown set of darts.

Spring "Actually, people tell me that all the time."

Spring blows out of the corner of his mouth, sending the remainder of the web sailing into the oncoming attacks, and thence away.

Spring "I had hoped, Kai, when I came to see you, that you could be saved. Perhaps that you had only become Abyssal with the intention of returning to us."

ThornOfNight "You're all so obsessed with saving," she says. "It's not really good enough." She ducks around a corner in pursuit of Spring, and her twinned blades whistle through the air -- Daybreaker swung high, Eventide swung low, aiming to criss-cross repeatedly before coming together in the center of where Spring currently stands.

Spring steps into the center of her arms, standing nose to nose with Kai as her strikes are blunted by his back. "It is all we have."

ThornOfNight smiles shyly, for a moment still girlish at Spring's unexpected advance. Then she lunges forward unexpectedly, bodily grabbing Spring in a full-body embrace and kissing him like he's never been kissed before.

Spring seems slightly surprised for a moment, but obviously that isn't possible. Then he steps forward with one leg, putting his hip past hers, ever so gently puts his teeth into her bottom lip, and with one elegant wriggle, flips Thorn over and sends her, unharmed, to bounce off the ground in front of him.

ThornOfNight skids to a halt on her toes and fingertips, wiping her suddenly oddly-black lips off roughly with a single sleeve and charging off in pursuit of Spring again.

ThornOfNight As she does, Spring spots the last alleyway he needs to turn into to reach his destination -- ''almost there.../

Spring furrows his brow and smacks his lips thoughtfully as he slightly quickens his pace, heading towards the alley.

ThornOfNight The alleyway cuts narrowly through between two heavy stone buildings -- a small mercenary company and an unused storehouse, on the living side of the Cinnabar district, but here the nests of plasmic spiders and other, worse horrors. The door Spring is aiming for is on the left.

ThornOfNight rounds the corner behind spring, blades drawn and a sudden fire in her eyes, while a rapidly-shifting Serenal skitters across the side of the building to drop down in front of Spring, shifting into a darkly tattooed and silver-clawed bear in order to block his passage.

pigeon walks directly and unconcernedly towards Serenal.

ThornOfNight Serenal grins malevolently, and a torrent of fleshy tendrils erupt outwards to ensnare Spring.

Spring moves one hand, palm forward, in a circle, allowing each tentacle to grasp it in turn, then draws it down and extricates it with a quick sploshing sound, leaving them hopelessly entangled. He steps onto this fleshy mass and over Serenal's head.

ThornOfNight With one motion, Spring moves past the Lunar and through the door, emerging into the dank storehouse, decaying boxes scattered about, the sizeable red bloodstain from the shocking murder that transformed it into a tiny Shadowland still quite visible on the rough stone floor. On the other side of the room stands the opposite alleyway door --

ThornOfNight the way to the living world -- and between it and Spring is one sizeable Shadow Recluse, a ghostly spider with a venom-dripping maw, amidst its shadowy web.

Spring rolls his eyes.

Spring spits up a badger and throws it at the spider.

ThornOfNight Badger, spider and web crash into one side of the room, clearing Spring's path to book through the door, and emerge, on the other side, to the awful, unpleasant smell of life.

Spring whistles for the badger as he walks towards the door, sniffing in some confusion.

Spring takes up a stance just before the door and, removing his hat, grandly gestures for Kai and her cronies to enter Meru.

Spring "Ladies first."

ThornOfNight As Spring ponders the nature of the odious odors that have greeted him in Nexus proper -- human waste plus three-day-old Wavecrestian cuisine, he decides after a moment -- Thorn of Night, followed closely behind by her dark Sabres, bursts out of the door and into the Nexus alleyway.

ThornOfNight But even now, returned to the land of the living, Spring, as he faces down his pursuers, begins to find himself... shaky: his limbs growing heavy, his hearing growing dim, his brain getting swimmy....

Spring grumbles, and spits, atempting to focus and drop into a kata.

ThornOfNight It's a pretty wobbly kata.

ThornOfNight walks up towards Spring, both swords still drawn but a more victorious, frightening look on her face now. "It's hard to go against the tide of history," she says, and extends the Daybreaker -- not to stab Spring with it, but only to push him over with the flat of the blade.

Spring "Sink, or swim," Spring murmurs, and falls onto the cobblestones.



Spring wakes up, no fewer than twelve hours later, in a black stone cell in what the familiar stone tells him is certainly a building somewhere in the South of Netheos.

There is a small, uncomfortable bed -- upon which he is laid out, a small table with a jug of water on it, two chairs, and a thoroughly locked soulsteel door.

As expected, Spring notices the heavy weight of a collar placed around his neck, though there is no other attempt to restrict his movement.

None of this, however, concerns him.

With a single motion, Spring once again doffs the hat that remained carefully affixed to his head the entire time, looks down into it, and removes the orange he had picked up from the alleyway. Slowly, he begins to peel it, until finally the exterior is all discarded on the floor, revealing the contents within: an extremely tiny Innocence.

Spring nods carefully at her. "Everything appears to be going according to plan."

< Tales of Darkest Night | Sol Invictus Logs | To Ashes >

Page last modified on November 29, 2009, at 12:32 AM