Summary:The Solars go to liberate Thorns, and discover two unusual impediments.

XP:C4, I4, L4, S4, V4, Z4


< Destiny Is For Suckers | Sol Invictus Logs | An Inauspicious Request >

Imrama Night hangs over the city of Thorns like a bladed pendulum. In the creeping ooze of darkness, the great coastal metropolis of the South East groans under the yoke of oppression.

Imrama And then, all at once, it is day. A day as no Shadowland has ever seen before, brighter than dawn at the pinnacle of Mt. Meru, on a clear day in summer. At first, the world simply seems full of undifferentiated light, and it is impossible to tell with an unassisted eye what the source of the radiance is. Once the viewer becomes accustomed however, the strange vision overhead comes into...

Imrama ...focus. Even the unbeating hearts that hold sway in Thorns jump abruptly in rotting and spectral chests, for the air over the city is filled with a vast fleet of airships, each of them made of purest sunlight, and each of them bent on the liberation of the people below.

The pointed roofs and and wide, sloping streets of the city of Thorns glow brilliantly with the light cast by a fleet whose like has not been seen in Creation for two ages, and at its head, upon the deck of the Fable, the ship of ships, stand those liberators who have come to free the city below.

Spring "Are we there yet?"

Cerin emerges from one of the cabins with Zahara. "It appears so."

Spring glances down, and waves.

Unlike Lookshy, the streets of Thorns have been long abandoned by those who still live; the Mask's thanatocracy has held a firm grip on the city for five long years. And so when those who dwell within step out to meet the liberators, it is not living feet that fall upon the cobbles, but bones and wisps.

As the Fable flies down towards the city, hundreds -- thousands -- of the dead march out of homes, barracks, offices, temples, and walk into the streets -- but they bring up no arms, launch no attacks. Instead, they line themselves up neatly in two lines, facing one another, that stretch out from the front gates to a place deep within the city.

zahara "Well, that's interesting."

Imrama High above, the Five Fables of the Reconstruction wait silently, their perfectly identical support fleets of eleven ships each hanging all about them in a dazzling haze of armor and ordinance. On the Fable where his circle accompanies one of his selves, Imrama watches the motion below, his jade hair crackling with electricity.

Spring "Perhaps someone ought to say a few words."

Cerin "It appears we are expected."

zahara "Where'd Luc go? He loves speeches."

Varanim "Maybe they don't want to be liberated quite as hard as the last place."

zahara Maybe they want you to be their queen, 'Nim

Spring "We can liberate them lightly."

Varanim "They're shit out of luck, then. I like being a peasant."

Spring just shakes his head.

zahara sighs and steps to the bow. "People, ghosts, spectres, abominations and other assorted denizens of Thorns! As I'm sure you've noticed, your master no longer has possession of his throne."

Though their bodies stay rapt, solidly facing one another, the heads of the undead throng turn -- somewhat unnaturally -- to stare up at Zahara, as they listen closely to her words

zahara ascends the air to stand above the deck, letting her anima flare for added dramatic effect. "By the time the Sun next rises, this land will be freed from the last of his grip. It is up to you how you want your future - or lack thereof - to be."

The undead at the front of the line turn, breaking their symmetry with those further back, and glance far upwards at the hovering Zahara before dropping into a heavy, fully prostrate position.

zahara "We can offer you peace, absolution, or annihilation. Though this land will no longer be a Shadowland, we have no wish to destroy your lives. Who speaks for you?"

There is some shuffling and movement amongst the undead, until finally the Solars see someone -- a ghost of rather impressive power, for the remnant of a mortal -- emerge and stand at the middle of the vast pathway defined by the ghosts and skeletons, waiting to speak with the Solars.

zahara ACTION descends, making sure to use the essence and wind currents to best effect, making her elaborate black dress with the golden sunburst symbol of the Sunlands tastefully embroidered in shimmering sunlight and subtle threads of light through the darkness, flow gracefully. She comes to rest several inches off the ground, and plants the tip of her gnarled staff in the soil. She inclines her head lightly in greeting. "What is your

zahara "What is your name?"

The ghostly figure is old -- was old? has the appearance of being old? -- and wrapped in glimmering, luminous robes of plasmic fabric, though the knotty staff he leans on is made of good old real wood. His face is somehow familiar to Zahara, though she doesn't know him. He takes a moment shuffling over towards where she's standing.

Imrama hears five identical voices in her head at once. ::His name is Tulu Kesh Zhan, Empress.::

zahara raises a brow, realizing why he looks so familiar. "Tulu Kesh Zhan."

TuluKeshZhan nods and bows with a (small) amount of respect. "Empress."

TuluKeshZhan The familiar brand of the "Ne" character that Zahara encountered on other long-lost relatives is nowhere to be seen on this particular ghost.

zahara "How fascinating to meet you at this time." She returns his slight bow. "You speak for the people of Thorns. What say you to joining the Sunlands as an Underworld nation?"

TuluKeshZhan shakes his head softly.

zahara "Ah, then what do you propose?"

TuluKeshZhan "Those who dwell within Thorns now are the yet-incomplete citizens of the thanatocracy," he says. "We ask that you return our leader to us and return to the accord of mutual non-aggression that once stood between our two nations."

zahara "I'm afraid we cannot return the Mask to you."

TuluKeshZhan shakes his head again. "I had hoped that the bond of blood we share might shape your response," he says.

TuluKeshZhan "Those who dwell within Thorns do not wish it 'cleansed,' to use the euphemism you might offer up here, and do not wish to depart. But we cannot raise the arms to stop you."

zahara "Your proposed alternative has little to recommend it to the rest of the world," she notes. "The Mask, and this shadowland, are a threat to the lives of many." ::Hmmm interesting.::

Varanim ::I'd just like to get in before the Spring rush and say 'called it'.::

TuluKeshZhan "Lives are immaterial."

zahara "Only to those who have already lost them."

zahara ::Thank you for your timely input, Varanim. Does anyone else have an opinion to voice?::

Varanim Sloshing a half-empty bottle thoughtfully in her hand, Varanim casts her eyes over the Essence structures on the other side of the Shroud, inspecting how such a large and well-populated Shadowland has interacted with the surrounding landscape since its creation.

Spring ::I also called it.::

TuluKeshZhan shrugs. "Others may choose to continue existence after corporeal dissolution if their soul-path so dictates it. We see no reason to consider the likelihood of such relevant compared to our own interests."

TuluKeshZhan Varanim notes with interest the elaborate structures here. She's examined many old Shadowlands before, but only natural ones. Here, the shadowland effects have been carefully extended outwards consciously, through purposeful sacrifice of specifically-chosen beings, rendered in geomantically powerful spots that would cause extensions of precisely the correct sizes and shapes.

zahara forcibly does not roll her eyes

TuluKeshZhan A long, panoramic sweep suggests that the entire shadowland is indeed built in an infinitely-reductive fractal shape attuned to the local geomancy in order to create an effect similar to that of a manse -- focusing the energy produced by the interaction of Creation and Netheos into a central locus.

Spring ::Coming to terms with people who do not share our fundamental values as regards life, happiness and human worth must be the cornerstone of the Deliberative's foreign policy. Can we find detente?::

zahara "As my gift to you, honored ancestor, those who choose to continue their post-life existence, may proceed to the true Underworld. We will be sealing the rift between the Underworld and Creation. Those who wish to move on to lethe may stay, and be cleansed."

Cerin ::That seems like a good idea, my love::

Varanim Leaning over the rail more precipitously as her interest sharpens, she first matches the structures she sees against the previously-researched personality of the Mask--was this work planned and carried out by another person, or by his creepy yet comfortingly familiar intellect?

zahara "You may return to your homes afterwards."

Spring :If they intend to stay in Thorns, why are they concerned about it remaining a Shadowland? Surely once it is cleansed it will be identical to its current condition, except with less chance of daylight.::

zahara ::How's that for detente?::

TuluKeshZhan pauses for a long moment, looking at his distant relative of indeterminate positioning for almost thirty seconds before responding. "So be it," he says, and raises his hands, as if to beckon other ghosts to follow him as he begins to trudge back to whence he came.

zahara "Ah, one more thing, Honored Ancestor."

TuluKeshZhan stops and turns back around. "Yes?" he says, wearily.

zahara "I wish to change our non-aggression pact to something more... positive."

TuluKeshZhan raises a very skeptical eyebrow. "Tell me."

Lucent A wyld-wind washes over Thorns and decorations appear on its lampoles and doorsteps, on the walls and flags: The Eye of Lethe, the Cleansing Sunlight, the growth of Sextes Jylis' flowers upon corpses, rebirth, renewal! "People of Thorns! WE BRING YOU CLEANS --" He stops. Looks at Zahara... talking. "... wait, why are we not fighting? Is that pre-fight banter?"

zahara looks up at Luc's display and chuckles. "No, Lucent. We are making peace." She turns back to him, "And that is what I wish. A peaceful accord between our nations."

TuluKeshZhan takes another long moment. "I shall speak to you again when seven times seven days have gone past," he says. "If you still wish an accord then, we might discuss it in light of all that has occurred between."

Spring ::Perhaps he might clarify that.::

zahara "And what do you expect to occur, Tulu Kesh Zhan?"

Lucent ::... are we making deals with evil dead again after last ti -- he's Zahara's father?!?::

Lucent ::That is EVEN WORSE!::

zahara ::No, he is older than that. I think.::

Imrama 's five voices speak to Lucent as one. ::Zahara is definitely not going to let me carpet bomb the dead back into the Underworld, is she?::

Lucent ::Oh. Good. Distant relatives are far less evil::

zahara ::I could always tell them I was kidding and you could annihilate them::

TuluKeshZhan "The eye of the dragon will open, and the world will pass through it," he says. "So it is marked on the Calendar of Setesh."

Lucent ::That would be dishonorable if you already started a truce. Peace is good! Just... dead people!::

Spring ::Is that bad? That sounds bad.::

TuluKeshZhan Around this point, Varanim's rather in-depth investigation of the Shadowland's geomantic placement comes to its inexorable conclusion. The shape of the Shadowland does not just fit perfectly with the Mask's twisted personality, but also his face -- for its borders align perfectly in their own great scale with those of the mask that she herself carries.

zahara "Would you be willing to meet with me and my allies to discuss this further?"

TuluKeshZhan And so, by tracing the sunlines, so familiar to her from the process of construction, she can quickly identify exactly which building would inevitably hold the locus of these great energies.

Varanim Mid-drink, Varanim chokes and has to spend a few seconds coughing to clear her throat of her predecessor's ego. ::Mostly things marked on the Calendar of Setesh aren't what you'd call 'good', no.::

Cerin ::This would, I think, when the The jaws of bone and salt open to consume the world.::

Varanim ::Also, if you want to keep invading sovereign territory, I bet I know where they're keeping the good silver in this joint.::

Spring ::That is rapidly becoming my least favorite prophecy.::

Lucent ::Auna. She loves to leave bad omens around, it seems.::

Cerin ::The cold wind of death will blow across every doorstep, and for a moment, no new life can be born. It does not get better when given in full.::

Cerin ::It is among the less favourable ones, to be sure.::

TuluKeshZhan shakes his head. "I have nothing more to offer on that matter," he says. "Consult the necrosages if you must, or read from the calendar yourselves."

zahara "Hmmm, perhaps I will. I will see about sending an...advisor of sorts, for the meantime."

TuluKeshZhan nods. "Very well," he says, and then returns to walking away.

Lucent ::Varanim, can you talk to Piercing Ivory? He seemed like the right sort to oversee these thi... people.::

zahara nods and makes sure the wooden staff - the ancient taproot - is planted firmly in the ground, and then shifts to pacing out the line of the circle in preparation for casting the Benediction.

Spring ::Where is the metaphorical silver, Varanim?::

Varanim ::It's right where the hearthstone spot would be if I were cool enough to have a giant Shadowland shaped like my face-I-mean-mask.::

Varanim appears to be ignoring the other question directed at her, though it's not obvious to a casual observer whether she's specifically annoyed at his phrasing or just in one of her "ignoring Lucent" periods.

Spring ::Hm.::

Spring hops off an airship, looking for the relevant building.

zahara ::Did you say this shadowland is shaped like your mask? That's rather ironic, since I'm about to make the sunny version of it.::

Spring thinks about that with a certain sense of unease as he looks around.

TuluKeshZhan The coast appears to be clear.

Varanim ::And boy, do I expect to be teased for it at the next Void Circle tea party and quilting bee.::

TuluKeshZhan Spring locates a rather large building that once would've been a well-appointed mansion but which appears to have been largely hollowed-out in the time since the Mask's ascent to rulership of this city.

TuluKeshZhan Inside, taking up much of the huge empty space within is a single, enormously-huge lattice structure built of the magical materials, fanning out in fivefold radial symmetry and curving gently upwards until it expands out to a circular cage, maybe ten feet across, within which roars a churning, spinning cluster of intense gathered essence fighting to escape once more.

Varanim There is a brief fluttering outside, and a few seconds later Varanim walks in behind Spring.

Spring "Look what I found."

Spring listens to the roar of the Essence.

Varanim generously allows that description to stand, checking it out herself.

TuluKeshZhan The device is drawing in gathered Essence from every inch of the Shadowland's border and channels it together into the central location. Being derived from the border between life and death, it rages and jumps with anger, eager to transform the state of any object in any way, should it be freed from its cage.

TuluKeshZhan Unlike a regular manse stone room, however, this structure seems to be gathering the energy and holding it in stasis, built so that it continues to move and is unable to coalesce into a solid hearthstone form.

Spring tosses a pebble into it.

Spring ::Zahara? I believe we have found a bomb.::

zahara ::How do you think it'll react to the Benediction? Because I'm mid-cast and I don't really want to start over.::

Spring ::Please tell everybody my last words were 'Something went wrong.'::

TuluKeshZhan The pebble bounces around inside and causes the device to emit a single gigantic arc of grey lightning with an extremely unpleasant SCREEEEE though it impacts against (and smashes a smoking hole through) a wall on the far side of the room, putting Spring in no actual danger.

Varanim "Funny to keep it all up in the air like that. It's almost as if it's waiting for some dire conjunction that's coming soon, but that can't be it."

Spring "Where is Verbena?"

Spring closes his eyes, imagines that he was shorter, more female, and not as good as being snippy, and looks at the device again.

TuluKeshZhan It does indeed definitely seem to be waiting around for something -- the device appears to be constructed to switch functionality after it gathers a very precise amount of Essence, a process that seems to occur predictably with the flow of time.

TuluKeshZhan But it's also clear from a brief examination that any spiritual jostle or bump of sufficient density would also be likely to explosively decompress the essence store held within.

TuluKeshZhan He can also estimate that the time does indeed most likely fall within the seven-weeks window.

Spring ::Zahara? Is there any possibility you have not finished the spell by now?::

zahara ::It takes hours.::

Spring ::Perhaps you might come down here and walk carefully around this building before finishing it.::

zahara ::Please elaborate?::

Spring ::We have a problem,:: Spring thinks in an extremely explanatory manner.

zahara ::Well, that's irritating. I don't suppose Cerin could disable it?::

Lucent ::Is it dead people?::

Varanim ::Verbles should be able to redirect the inputs.::

Imrama ::Is it a problem that can be solved with guns?:: Imrama's quintupled voice booms. ::Because I have quite a lot of those at the moment.::

Spring ::Can you shoot an explosion hard enough to prevent it from hurting people?::

Spring ::Actually.::

Spring ::I suppose if you landed your ship on it quickly enough, you might be able to shield the rest of the universe with its invulnerable skin.::

Imrama ::The last time I tried that, my ship was considerably bigger than the thing that was exploding.::

< Destiny Is For Suckers | Sol Invictus Logs | An Inauspicious Request >

Page last modified on May 04, 2010, at 03:56 PM