Summary:Cerin visits Netheos-Varang's clockwork machines, and encounters the Green Lady there.



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Cerin After his encounter with the Hekaton on the edge of the desert, Cerin found himself momentarily without anything to do except return home. Which seemed like a terrible waste of the hour which was about to occur. On the other hand, Varang was on the way home, and that supposedly had something of great interest Nethos. I'll go to Varang, then. And thus it was that Cerin found himself just on the edge of that great underworld

Cerin metropolis as the second did not chime.

The underworld of Varang, even more so than most other locales in Creation, holds vast, remarkable differences from its equivalent in the world above.

Much of the nation's space is empty, vast savannas sparsely populated only by wild plasmics and ghostly grasses and trees, and none of the traditional memory-structures from the living world seem to invade.

But occasionally -- as is true now, as Cerin stands, five minutes before the appointed hour, in front of what ancient maps would mark as the city of Old Laekadi -- this emptiness is interrupted by vast, exquisite structures, the likes of which are not to be seen elsewhere in the world of the living or the dead.

Rising up before him is a vast city, its border taking the shape of two perfectly-measured overlaid heptagons, stamped down directly into the grass that climbs up to its edge. Walls of interwoven metals, spinning glass lenses and innumerable crystalline pneumatic tubes climb up precisely twenty-seven feet before being topped in a regular

(but intricate, and only perceptible to the mathematically inclined) pattern by vast globes of darkened crystal. Within, the city itself rises up, all of a singular piece to the walls -- precisely 729 buildings of different heights, rising up in a similarly intricate arrangement, all surrounding three central pillars that tower over everything else (but themselves each have a different height...)

Throughout the innumerable constructions that geometrically bend at one-third angles, the clockwork machinery and diamond tubery is intricately woven, and the entirety of the city seems to be churning at a set pace, a pulse set by some unseen hand -- as glass globes, winching arms, ticking gears, and other such devices tick on with grim steadiness -- just as they did at the Calendar of Setesh.

And amidst it all, hundreds of human ghosts -- the remnants of those Varangians whose star-read destinies extended even after their deaths -- work strange and incomprehensible controls, each doing their own part to ensure that the systems retain their proper function with each passing moment.

Cerin spends more than one of those minutes simply gazing on the city in all its insane and glorious splendour. Then, with deliberation, he starts to move towards the center, wrapping his stealth magics tighter about himself as he goes. He slows a little, once one of the buildings comes within the boundaries of his Unparalleled Perception.

The interiors of the buildings are much in keeping with their exteriors, though they also speak to their actual purpose as buildings. In a nearby, low-slung building, far more intricate clockworks fill much of the available space. Yet more ghosts labor on inside, even as others lie in repose or sit calmly inside great chambers that themselves slowly move through the building's interior on automated rails.

Cerin What a remarkable place, Cerin thinks as he moves deeper into the complex.

A few moments pass, and Cerin feels the energy of Netheos shift as the Calendar of Setesh freezes in place -- and all flow of time with it. All around him he can see the ghosts freeze in place, their motions arrested by the lack of motive time -- but more interestingly, the motions of the city itself continue unabated.

Cerin Truely remarkable, Cerin thinks as he makes haste to the middle of the city, still remaining hidden, incase there are things other than ghosts active deeper in the clockwork city ...

As he approaches the center of the great structure, clockwork devices still churning under his feet, Cerin notices emanations -- strange Essence leaking out from somewhere in the center of the city.

Cerin follows his natural instincts when faced with a strange and potentially dangerous emenation of essence. He tries to track it to its source.

A little quick examination suggests that it originates somewhere near the top of the second-highest tower.

Cerin starts to ascend the highest tower, looking across to the tower of interest.

In the depths of the towers, Cerin sees the clockwork mechanisms grow grander and more significant, with great pendulums and hammers far larger than a man swinging and striking away within their innards. In each, a narrow passageway wends between the dangerous mechanisms, making room for those within to climb up to the apex.

In the second tower, Cerin sees the evidence of someone's passing -- scuffed pathways, individual elements oddly out of place -- but despite the continued emanations of energy from within, a superficial look does not actually reveal the perpetrator.

Cerin makes his way over to the edge of the tower, slipping between two cracks in the wall as the cogs part. They snick shut just behind Cerin as he balances on the very fine detail on the outside of the tower. He doesn't stop moving though, leaping the space between the towers easily and then circling up the outside as he tries to locate an openning. When he does, he ducks inside and tries to pick up on the trail of the intruder.

There is a faint trail of Essence leading yet further upwards, though its aspect seems muffled and uncertain.

Cerin moves back outside the tower at the earliest opertunity, cyling up the designs etched onto the surface, the better to avoid making any disturbances in the tower himself. As he climbs, his Perception flickers out ahead of him, spearing the tower with shafts of transparency as he tries to locate a likely target, or an object moving just as he is watching ...

Looking from his current vantage point, at first Cerin doesn't see anything, even has he moves progressively up the outside of the tower towards its peak. As he's crossing over from one turning gear to a back-and-forth double-pendulum and then hopping up onto an eave some distance above,

he very briefly notices a minor occlusion in the space atop the tower, where the sight of two churning pistons is temporarily not as it ought to be.

Cerin His prey located, Cerin reaches out with his armour, crossing the remaining space in an instant, landing on the edge of the tower and smoothly starting to circle it as he studies the construction at the top of the tower, trying to divine its purpose, even as he looks for more evidence of the interloper.

This spot appears to be one of the more focused Essence channels in the whole structure, churning and pumping away at an intense rate even as all time is frozen in Netheos everywhere else. As Cerin gazes at it, calculating out the level of Essence resistance present and working through the structural potentials thereof,

his circumocular vision catches the tiniest hint of movement behind him, like a nigh-invisible form moving from his roof towards the next-highest.

Cerin Hmmm, they finished here then, Cerin considers. He studies the mechanism with more detail, looking for items which appear out of place, dissecting the mechanisms a layer at a time with his vision.

Staring into the innards of the elaborate system, Cerin slowly spreads his senses out through the various interlocking pieces of the nearby device.

Upon even superficial examination, it seems clear that it has not actually been altered or sabotaged in any way, though the evidence makes it clear that it has been examined closely.

As he watches it, Cerin notes the semicyclic pattern of Essence releases from these pistons -- two different cycles of five and seven pulses in length, respectively, such that they overlap again every thirty-five cycles;

they seem to communicate the continued general and correct functioning of the city and, upon examination from nearby, broadcast out this information in three precise directions only, which was clearly information the observer was interested in learning.

Cerin makes a mental note of the directions, even as he tries to guess at what the destinations might be. Then he blinks again, landing on the higher tower and once more circling as he looks for evidence of the near invisible other.

The near-invisible spot starts to break for the left just as Cerin begins to circle towards the left; it hesitates, starts to break towards the right, sees that it's out of luck there too, and finally stops, standing stock-still in the center of the roof.

Cerin Now that the target is still, and he knows where it is exactly, Cerin starts to feel, to ... smell, for the faintest traces of essence involved in the magic which was keeping them invisible. Trying to gauge what manner of being he had been tracking.

Cerin sniffs about, even as the figure stays stock-still in the center of the roof, finally unearthing the very slightest, distinctive tang of the stars in the absolutely miniscule leakage of Essence from within the figure's concealing magics.

Cerin Hmm, who of the starchosen might this be? Cerin thought. Then he reached into a pocket, drawing forth a five petalled and bell shaped flower in red, Abuliton--for peace--which dropped, releasing it from his concealing magic.

With that gesture, the other figure sees no reason for further subterfuge, and a circle quickly waved in the air by a scarf-holding hand reveals Cerin's quarry:

delicate fingers tipped with green-painted nails, emerald and black robes tacked close to the body (as if prepared for an athletic sojourn), long blonde hair pulled back tightly with seven sticks and woven underneath a black net that swoops down to also form a black veil, with two brilliant green eyes looking out overtop it.

Cerin allows his own concealing magics to fade, leaving the Green Lady looking at a featureless black facemask, and ribbons which flutter in a breeze which cannot be there.

Zinnobia "Here we are," she says.

Cerin "Just so. Greetings, Zinnobia."

Zinnobia The figure nods, tiny black and green gems hanging from her veil tinkling ever so faintly against one another as she does. "We seem both to have come here at the same time. A judicious coincidence, perhaps." Her stance is wary, although only in a prudent fashion.

Cerin "Perhaps. Of course, there are many places one might travel in this instant."

Zinnobia "There are," she says. "And yet we both find ourselves here." She steps back once, pauses, then back once more, confidently and without any indication that she's about to suddenly turn tail. "The jilarang, they are quite impressive, even more at this moment than any other," she says, resting one hand on a pulsating pipe that juts up from the tower beneath.

zahar[a] is now known as zahara

Cerin "The Jilarang?" He enquires, a certain amount of focus on the hand, watching for the interactions. He didn't particularly like admitting he didn't know the name, but what could you do? "Though, yes, their scale and precision does have a certain amount to do with why I am here."

Zinnobia "They didn't build them, you know," she says, the slight flick of her eyes indicating the Varangian ghosts frozen solid far below where they stand. "These have been here for much longer.

Cerin "I had assumed so, yes," he says. "Were they originally built here or were they 'killed'?"

Zinnobia Her eyes flicker in a mirror to Cerin's irritation at an uncomfortable admission a moment ago. "In human annals, there is no record of when they were not here," she says. "They have endured much, and for a very long time."

Cerin "Old indeed then," he says. "I take it the hundredfold have been recalcitrant in revealing their history too?"

Zinnobia "It has not been a topic much discussed," she says. "But their time is coming soon," she says. "Of that I have no doubt." Her eyes narrow. "Many important times are coming soon..."

Cerin "That does appear to be the case," he is forced to agree. As he speaks, he tries to work out where the singles from the ... jilarang ... might be being sent to. That he might divine some indication of their purpose

Zinnobia Cerin adjusts for medium-specific factors in the diffusion of Essence in the underworld atmosphere and files away information regarding the broadcasts for later examination, probably with a map.

Zinnobia "It's not too late to be on the right side," she says, "when the Setting Sun is ascendant."

Cerin "The Setting Sun?" he asks, not sure which of the many possibilities that could be.

Zinnobia "The one who will rule over all Creation," she says, "who will exult you or ground you under their boot." Then she checks over her shoulder briefly, runs her hand across another jutting-up piece of machinery from the city below, and speaks again: "I think I'll be going now," she says, and brings one arm up into the air, slightly above her head.

Cerin "Lady Zinnobia, I can think of half a dozen entities who would like that to apply. I was there at the death of more than one of them." And I'm deeply in love with a third.

Zinnobia "So can I," she says as a flick of her wrist wipes her presence out of awareness, then existence, in the nearby area once again. "We shall see which one rises to the challenge." And with that she is gone.

Cerin nods to the patch of existance she had occupied. So, what does she want with these pillars? he muses, as he studies the ones she had touched.

Zinnobia Beyond the clear fact that she, too, was taking a close look at the top of these towers, just as he is doing now, the Essence traces the Green Lady left behind seem to give away little in the way of clues as to the reason behind her actions.

Cerin makes a mental note of the features of the precise bits she had touched, and then he muses on where to go with what remains of the hour.

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Page last modified on November 29, 2009, at 02:20 AM