Summary:The execution of the Mask of Winters.

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


< An Inauspicious Request | Sol Invictus Logs | Dream Conspiracies >

The once-proud city of Lookshy has not recovered from the terrors of its occupation.

Within the outermost wall of the cliffside city, buildings lay in ruins, their stones scattered uselessly upon the ground; smears of ectoplasm and grass bled white by necrotic energy give an unholy pallor to patternless locales spread across Lookshy's circumference.

Though the bodies that once lie stacked in piles throughout the city are gone now, the ashmarks from where they were burnt still linger, and where once great activity would have rung out through the city streets, now an uncomfortable quiet still hangs, even as some brave souls have begun to return to the place they once called home.

On a makeshift wooden platform within the (still largely intact) walls of the Third Ring stand the Solars, several large objects hidden under black drapery on the stage behind them, a massive crowd of wounded, tired, dirty -- yet for the first time in many months, hopeful -- citizens pushing up in front, while the burnt remnants of what was once a beautiful acre-sized circle of greenery lie fallow behind them.

Spring watches the crowd gather until it has reached a reasonable mass. After conferring mentally with his colleagues on the judge's platform, he walks to the center of the dais and rips the black drapery off of the central object -- revealing the quiet, restrained form of the Mask of Winters.

Lucent "Heaven has spoken." Lucent's voice washes over the crowd. "Justice will be served this day."

The Mask sits quietly, solemnly, in a meditative position -- his spectral arms bound by five-metal shackles, his neck held in the grip of an orichalcum and soulsteel collar the likes of whose working has not been seen in Creation for many a century, his featureless mask still gripped proudly to his hidden, ghostly face.

The crowd roars in anger and enthusiasm at Lucent's words.

Imrama Watching from the dais, Imrama raises his eyes to where the Fable floats high above the city. Peering keenly through the Occuli of the Radiant Ban, he checks that Mr. Iggles-Lux is still giving the all-clear sign.

Far above, the glowing aalorai helmsman makes a circular finger-thumb gesture with three of its arms -- no opposing forces or secretive attackers appear to be visible anywhere on the broad horizon.

zahara stands beside The Mask, looking down at him. "It will be a shame to lose such a worthy foe as yourself."

The Mask, as of yet, does not respond in any way to Zahara's jibe.

Lucent "Larquen Quen the Mask of Winters, former Solar Exalt, Herald of Glimpse of Night." Lucent makes the Coronal, as the symbols of each Incarna orbit him in a slow, reverential cadence. His anima appears behind him as a badge of office. "What have you to say? For those you harmed, for the Deliberative, for Heaven?"

Varanim is slouched somewhere out of the way making helpful margin notes in some priceless treatise on psychopomps, while Algorab circles high above in Netheos.

MaskOfWinters sits still for a long moment, unmoving and unspeaking. But just before anyone might conclude that he had no intent to speak, he rises from his meditative posture to a standing position, and although still bound by Zahara's immaculate chains, begins to speak and gesture at Lucent's prompt.

Spring ::Perhaps we could have made the chains tighter.::

Cerin is standing on the dias, watching all of lookshy. At once.

Lucent ::That would make it look as if we were afraid of him.::

Lucent What would be, of course, true

zahara ::It should not be necessary. He can do little more than shuffle his feet and move his arms a foot or so, depending on if he stands straight.::

MaskOfWinters "Those who stand before us today call but one place their home," he says, in the practiced tone of one who is used to delivering finely-tuned speeches as if invented extemporaneously.

MaskOfWinters "Meru. The world of the living," he says, and spreads his arms wide. "A place that I, too, once called my home." He pauses. "A world of suffering, in which all things sputter to life, so briefly... only to perish once more."

MaskOfWinters "Have my actions brought more suffering into this world? Perhaps. But what is a mere drop from one's finger when it falls into an ocean of blood?" He turns his back on the (now quite agitated) crowd.

Spring "Oceans are made from raindrops."

MaskOfWinters "Like a thousand tyrants and a hundred thousand 'wise' and 'just' rulers before me, I have killed... and killed many. But unlike those who came before me, all those I have slain are welcome in the open arms of the dead kingdoms. Every body sacrificed is rather a soul freed; every peasant laid down to die, the ghost of a king ready to rise up once more."

Spring "Denied Lethe."

Lucent "To live in torture forever or fall into eternal nothingness? Nonexistence is not a prize. Being a wraith is not a life."

Lucent "Residents of Lookshy! Do you envy your tormentors? Do you envy their ghostly existence, their stilted passions?"

MaskOfWinters The crowd turns to look at Lucent, his words flowing over them, calling to mind images sure to drive away fancies of death from their minds.

MaskOfWinters But the Mask does go on. "If I must be denied the comforts even of death as once I, too, was ripped violently from the suffering of life for my 'crime,' then so be it," he says. "But it shall be remembered by all who stand here today, by all who look upon me in chains." He turns around quickly and looks back into the crowd, his eyes blazing.

MaskOfWinters "And someday, all of you," he says, pointing out to the crowd, "each one, will die. Think, then, of whose arms your soul will find solace with, what wise caretaker will await you at the end of that long road and guide you towards the future. And remember, then, what you do to me this day." He turns his back again.

Imrama steps forward. "The Mask of Winters is right."

Spring ::Imrama, you did get the list of talking points, did you not?::

MaskOfWinters That takes the crowd a bit by surprise.

Lucent ::what::

Cerin ::Imrama, please do continue. I am curious.::

Imrama "Today is a day to be remembered, to be carried by each of its witnesses until the end of their days. For today is the day when the people of Lookshy step fully free from the murderous yoke of this Necrotic Despot. Today, the path of their existence is once more their own to choose. The promise of eternal injustice has been replaced by the possibility of growth and change - of all that life...

Lucent ::what::

Imrama This day, good people of Lookshy, you are free."

MaskOfWinters There is a long pause, and then a loud, prolonged cheer bursts up from the crowd.

Lucent "ALL of you." Lucent rises his fist and one of the shrouded objects is revealed as an arrangement of bodies. Bodies that had been cleaned as well as they could have been, but still showed the signs of having been desecrated, split apart to be used in war machines of the dead. Lucent closes his eyes and lets his anima wash over them...

Varanim ::The short version was funnier.:: Varanim's mental voice is a little sulky.

Lucent ... and they disappear in a pyre of white flame, their souls going to heaven before their neighbors, their families, their loved ones, the dozens of souls ascending as beautific proto-gods with a few last, illuminated glances to the living. Smiling as they ascend to heaven, and one of the sisters places a cup on Lucent's hand. "All of you are free, free from unlife, to life, forever, and ever, and ever."

Lucent As he says this the visages of the Mask's cronies, shackled in soulsteel were conjured about him

Lucent rises his chalice "To the triumphant dead!"

MaskOfWinters A slow murmur spreads through the assembled citizenry as Lucent speaks and the pyrotechnic show of ascending souls crests in the air above him, building to a triumphant toast in response to Lucent's own.

zahara slips her fingers beneath the edge of his mask and tugs, to see if it will come free.

MaskOfWinters It appears to be firmly "fastened."

zahara ::Cerin would you see if you can unlock whatever's holding this mask on?::

Lucent "We will guide then. And I hope we can guide you to Heaven, to return again. We could be friends again." Lucent says in softer words. "Solars of the Deliberative, before us is an Emissary of Creation's Twilight whose crimes are too long to name. Who has crushed bastions of light, killed Exalted champions and murdered countless Mortals. Today justice can be served. What must we do with him? What say you?"

Lucent ::You know the deal. This needs your statements. If we are going to start tradition, it needs proper protocol.::

zahara "Mask of Winters, for your crimes, I sentence you to death."

Cerin ::I'm not sure it has a lock.::

MaskOfWinters The Mask looks up at Zahara with the -- as usual -- completely blank expression still showing on his Mask. "I... am already dead."

zahara chuckles. "Indeed. We shall have to try harder."

Imrama nods and clarifies. "A death from death, to which there is no hedge or coda. A pure death."

Spring "Mr. Winters, your animosity towards all life makes it necessary to restrict you, by whatever means, from endangering it further. I am very sorry."

Cerin "Mask of Winters, as a member of the Solar Deliberative and as Archon of the Terrestrial Bureaucracy, I sentance you to death."

Spring idly taps the Mask's...mask.

MaskOfWinters It makes a faint, hollow ringing sound.

Lucent ::Varanim? You are part of this, right? If you wish the past not to trouble you... there it is.::

Varanim ::Don't wait on my account, I don't do foreign policy.::

Lucent ::It has to be unanimous. You are part of this Circle, Varanim... and do you want the Necromancer to be one to abstain?::

Varanim shrugs, straightens, and steps forward briefly, ignoring the greater crowd to meet the Mask of Winters' gaze with calm eyes. "My business with you is unaffected by these proceedings. I abstain."

MaskOfWinters The Mask looks straight into Varanim's eyes, a powerful and almost indescribable look still eminently visible to Varanim behind the featureless mask, and then nods solemnly. After another pause: "Of course."

Spring ::Good talk.::

Lucent can hide his feelings behind a wealth of masks. Which explains the lack of shouting at Varanim. "Very well. Larquen Quen the Mask of Winters, Former Solar Exalted, Herald of Glimpse of Night, Murderer, Defiler, Traitor to Existence and Exaltation, Blasphemer, Deceiver. You are now sentenced to death by a judge of your peers. May you find Lethe, and may Heaven have mercy on your soul."

Lucent ::Creation will not.::

Spring "Are there any other members of the Exalted Deliberative who wish to speak?"

MaskOfWinters From somewhere in the back of the crowd, a voice calls out. "I do."

zahara "Please approach the podium, Karal Linwei"

KaralLinwei From the back, the crowd parts, and through it walks a beaten-down -- but not beaten -- soldier, a woman whose face is now lined with the hard edges of brutal experience and the scars of battle, a proud figure in a simple set of clothes, distinguished only by the unmistakeable mon that decorates her cloak...

KaralLinwei Karal Linwei, Chumyo of the Seventh Legion.

KaralLinwei She steps up to the dais and stands in front of the Mask of Winters, gazing up and down his seated form for a long moment, her expression inscrutable and her pose tense.

KaralLinwei Then, finally, she begins to speak. "You struck down our walls, destroyer. You razed our buildings. You burned our fields. You defiled our bodies." She turns around to the crowd. "But the Seventh Legion... fights on."

KaralLinwei "One such as you deserves no words beyond that," she says, and grows silent, though she holds her defiant position at the front of the dais.

Spring "Are there any others?"

zahara makes a sign of respect to Linwei

KaralLinwei The crowd roars and churns, but no other Exalted voice rises up to speak.

Spring "Do you have any suggestions as to how we might control you without killing you, Mr. Winters? It might save your life."

KaralLinwei "By definition, anything I could offer would be something you could not trust," he says in response to Spring's question, softly.

Spring "But not something we could not investigate."

zahara ::It is a little LATE for this, Spring.::

KaralLinwei "As long as this form is animate," he says, "your house-playing and vain attempts at creating order will be for naught." Then he returns to a meditative posture.

Spring "Thank you for that."

Lucent smiles at Linwei, gestures reverence to her cause... and turns to Zahara. "Dreambreaker. Please end this Nightmare."

zahara applies Essence-assisted force to remove the Mask. "I want to see your true face when you die, Larquen Quen."

KaralLinwei zahara leans into it, firmly gripping both sides of the mask with all her fingers even as she channels the most powerful magics of disassembly she has mastered in years of destroying objects great and small. At first, there is intense resistance, like an Essence-magnified effort to remove a particularly pernicious jar lid.

KaralLinwei But then, just as Zahara's reserves of energy seem fully tapped, there's a change, almost a click, as whatever force holds the mask in place seems to give way, and it comes loose quite suddenly, sending Zahara stumbling back with it still grasped tightly in both hands.

KaralLinwei There are many things that might have once been there, lying underneath the Mask of Winters: the memory of a Solar, in his heart still barely more than a child; the harsh visage of a twisted genius; the skeleton mask of a soul given over entirely to the Neverborn.

KaralLinwei But here, today, in Lookshy, all there is... is nothing.

zahara "Fascinating. You truly are nothing."

KaralLinwei A moment passes, with what lies beneath the mask -- a dark, featureless emptiness -- staring out, naked and cold, at the horrified crowd... and then, with a sudden rush, there is an immense outpouring from that fertile void: streams of black miasma, ghostly forms and unholy plasmic entities, twisting and churning and pouring out in every possible direction...

zahara activates the wards that surrounded the Mask's shackled form

Lucent "EMPRESS!" Lucent sends the Coronal to form a barrier between Zahara and the THINGS!

Spring individually grabs the threads of death that escape Zahara's wards and painstakingly ties them together, as quickly as he can.

Varanim broods at the whole display through a small haze of cigar smoke. Seeing that Spring and the wards have cleanup in hand, she casts her senses upward into the crow, checking for broad omens visible from the air.

zahara "Thank you, Lucent, Spring." She twirls the mask between her fingers thoughtfully.

KaralLinwei Besides the ever-ominous smoke rising rapidly up into the sky, the higher places seem to yield no insight at all.

KaralLinwei Cerin waits exactly 5 seconds, carefully observing precisely what is occurring to the Mask's corporeal form at this moment and carefully noting exactly to what degree his companions have the situation under control.

KaralLinwei Then, wordlessly, in a single motion too quick for any eyes but, perhaps, his own to actually see, he summons his bow and fires a single golden bolt straight through the cowl of the Mask of Winters' robe.

KaralLinwei The golden beam of sunlight rockets through -- again, faster than even quite impressive eyes might see -- and the flow of ghostly detritus from the emptiness stops instantly. (...0

KaralLinwei There is a moment where nothing seems to happen -- the form of the Mask of Winters continues to sit upright, meditative and unconcerned...

KaralLinwei And then, suddenly, a death rattle louder than a thousand armies echoes out through the air, and the cloak collapses in on itself, falling flat to the dais below.

zahara watches the proceedings with a small sense of regret, and a large sense of interest in the disposition of his Essence and Soul.

Spring "Nice shot."

Lucent "Godspeed..."

Imrama "Try to be less evil next time."

Varanim snorts noncommittally.

zahara walks over to Varanim. ::I'm sorry::

Varanim blinks, clearing some distant thoughtfulness from her expression. ::For what?::

zahara ::The loss of his knowledge.::

Varanim ::Oh, that. Great thing about knowledge is, people are always making more.:: She smirks, but flips her smoking hand at Zahara in a tiny but perceptible salute.

zahara nods.

zahara steps back to the dais, the center of the city, and begins to chant. The spell starts with a whisper, one that describes what is. Every shattered stone and fallen wall is woven into a new purpose. From the ashes of Lookshy, a new city rises from the foundations as pure light. As Zahara's burning anima spreads its wings over Lookshy, the light grows to brilliant to bear.

zahara The light dies slowly, leaving behind a new city, limned with the characteristic golden shimmer of all things made from Solar Essence. "Karal Linwei, Lookshy is yours once more," she says simply.

< An Inauspicious Request | Sol Invictus Logs | Dream Conspiracies >

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