Summary:The Solars investigate the God-Exalt plague further, and discover the nature of the disease: a vector to allow the Ija to reproduce themselves.

XP:I4, L4, S4, V4, Z4

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`Colapso "So the problem is that we still have no idea what the thing IS. But we know it wants to be something."

`Colapso "Else."

`Colapso "I propose we let it do just that."

`Imrama "Won't that lead to horrible, agonizing death for...whoever we choose as a test case?"

`Lucent "If we choose a living test case. We need to find a way to make it grow without harming someone living. Or, at least, thinking."

`Lucent "Golden points if it grows up stunted. Then we can study what it would be without having to contend with whatever abomination it is supposed to be."

`Lucent "A fake soul. A fake bonsai body. A fake, weak Exaltation. Can we make this?"

`zahara "An interesting idea, although if you do wish a human subject, I have a couple of criminals you could borrow."

`Lucent "That might cause undue suffering. I would hate to see actual PEOPLE dying for this..."

`zahara "Ok, I guess I'll just kill them the normal way." She shrugs.

`Varanim "Focus on the question, Zahara. It'd be like a baby, except you would build it straight from parts with much less fuss for everyone."

`Lucent "And you would build it to explode."

`Lucent "Which, as I have gathered, is what you would prefer babies to do?"

`Varanim "If you think that's not how they already work, I can only assume you had servants to change their underclothes."

`zahara "If I must deal with them at all." She grimaces. "This one will not have a mouth."

`charlequin ~~~~~~~~~~

`Imrama In the City of Chiaroscuro, there is a particular adamant tower. Like several of that city's ancient edifices, the tower has gone uninhabited by humans for centuries, but unlike most others, it remains in pristine condition, at least on the outside.

`Imrama All five basements, and the first four floors were haunted, until quite recently. The next two levels were rendered impassible long ago by the emergency use of the Sapphire Circle Spell Excessive Cascade of Iron and Salt. The remaining floors are still infested with Yozi-tainted automata spawned by Obredeth, the terrible thing which Ligier forged

`Imrama from the pieces of Chals-inix, one of the Malakim Atomnos lost in the War.

`Imrama But the penthouse remains intact, and perched on the uppermost floor, sits a labratory that has not seen use since the height of the first age. It is here that Imrama brings his circlemates, to meet with Lucent, already hard at work.

`zahara "I need a lab like this."

`Lucent Frantic and melodious, music comes from within the laboratory, as Lucent works the keynotes for the biological synthetizer!

`Lucent ::Full of horrible doom, you mean?::

`charlequin The glass windows shake rather precariously from the booming of the music within.

`zahara ::Is that the title of your piece?::

`Varanim ::The bright colors weren't annoying enough for you, I see--loud music, that's a good way to complete the environment.::

`Imrama "I do so hope we can avoid any dooms which are particularly horrible, Lucent. It would be bad manners to bring terrible judgement down on Kivir and our other hosts.

`Lucent ::You think of anything more appropriate?::

`Lucent stops the song as Imrama enters, "Well, I sure hope Obredeth's spawn do not decide to climb up..."

`zahara "Well there's no way they can NOT know we're here NOW."

`Imrama "The seals have held for over a thousand years. That is not to say we should be somehow surprised if they manage to fail only now that we have arrived, but such is the fate of the Chosen. The times are made more interesting, simply by our being in them."

`Varanim "Or: Nice city you have there, be a shame if we had to visit."

`Lucent "We can always point out they got off easier than Gem."

`Imrama "Providing that nothing worse than having your city erased from the map of Creation befalls them on our watch."

`zahara "This place is already half a Shadowland."

`Varanim "If I add a 'nothing that bad could happen with so many powerful Exalts here to keep things safe,' can we call it a complete set and move on to business?"

`Imrama "If we really want to test all of the genre conventions for bringing doom upon ourselves, at least two of us will have to make out." Imrama shares a slightly lascivious look with each of his compatriots in turn. "But you're right, Varanim. On to business!"

`zahara snickers

`Lucent "Sure. So, how do we intend to play it? I was getting used to the synthetizer, I think I got how to use it to mix the substances. I suppose then Zahara can use her knowledge of anatomy, and Varanim, her knowledge of ghostly fleshcrafting - and both of your understanding of Essence, which dwarfs mine by quite a bit - to make it have a working, Essence-efficient human form?

`Varanim "I had a sketch made up of a model soul, but then someone did my laundry and I lost it. Don't worry, I can wing it."

`Lucent "That's what you get when you write important notes on napkins."

`zahara "Alright, well, go ahead and start mixing."

`Lucent starts the song again, letting the music lead the various ingredients in the mixes in front of him, simple things such as red earth, fire, wind, salt, water, the petals of Sextes Jylis' flower, joining together, to a crescendo that gives it a spark of life! All boiling, joining, all spiral of liquids and music, formless "Think of it like a jam session, right?"

`Varanim "Let's not." Varanim extracts from her pocket a few small mirrors which look suspiciously like well-polished scavengings from outside. She places them at several points around the room, in one or two cases fixing them in place with some questionable dark resin pulled from deeper in the same pocket.

`Varanim In the middle of that confluence of junkyard precision, with her hand she outlines a space, about half human size, where Essence will temporarily but notably begin to accrue.

`zahara dips her hands into the mass of formless life-stuff and delicately begins the reverse-process of flaying a very small someone to the bone. To the skin? Regardless. Beginning with the marrow, forming bones that grow less brittle around it at her touch, and then laying down each fiber of musculature and tendon, vessel and fat. The organs take on the complex notion of the possibility

`zahara of life, and then she overlays the translucent skin -- the better to see her work. Oh, and eyes.

`Imrama reaches into his coat. From his right breast pocket, he produces his trusty pipe. From his left, he pulls a wriggling, squiggling piece of chaos. It squirms and spits in his fingers, waving its phalangia and squealing obscenities at him in a comically high pitch. He stuffs the brightly colored and glowing thing into his pipe, lights it quickly and inhales

`Imrama After a stern moment spent chewing the smoke, he exhales a many-colored breath into the body Zahara made.

`charlequin With a mechanical, detached cough, the body the group have assembled here comes to "life." Any examination of the Essence structures at play makes it clear that it is an almost cartoonishly simple construct, something unlikely to be sustained for even a moment outside this small laboratory space -- but it ought to be enough.

`Lucent "Well, then."

`Lucent "Bertie! You can come out of the Fable now!"

`zahara pokes the construct

`Bertrand emerges from the Fable, looking a little worse for the wear overall, clad in simple white robes (for medical purposes) which split briefly at his sternum to allow Sextes Jylis' flower, still aggressively blooming and still very much embedded in his sternum, out into the light.

`Bertrand The homunculus seems vaguely alive -- it's warm to the touch and it seems to be doing something vaguely resembling respiring -- but it does not otherwise respond to zahara's prompts.

`zahara "Hmmm... should've put more nerves in," she says regretfully.

`Lucent "I wonder if the result will have a mind of its own." Lucent considers. "So! Bertie! Do you know what we will do now?"

`Bertrand "" Bertrand looks discomfited.

`Varanim In the background, Varanim quietly rubs one temple at the news Lucent is just now wondering this.

`Lucent "Well, see, we made it with leaves of the same flower that is in you. Which means you two are connected. So I believe we can pass your disease on to it harmlessly. Can you stand a little close to it, please?"

`Lucent ::What?::

`Varanim ::Did I say anything?::

`Bertrand shuffles skeptically over to the strange little creature.

`Lucent ::I saw that!::

`Varanim ::Look at it this way: could you really relax if I stopped rolling my eyes at everything around me?::

`Lucent touches the flower and makes it close like a bulb, a hand touching Bertrand's forehead, then his heart, then the cage of his Essence, where his souls meet and his Exaltation shines. Touching the energies there, pulling to the bulb, preparing to make it bloom into his hand... "Well, then... it is about to pop out. You... know how to hold Essence, right? Souls?"

`Bertrand "Errr...." Bertrand looks a little uncertain about what he's supposed to do.

`Lucent "Bertie. Can you feel the Essence I just pooled from your head, your heart, down to the flower? Can you feel it winding down like a breath?"

`Bertrand "Err... I... think so?" He still looks uncertain, but slightly more determinedly so.

`Lucent "Good. Now, what can you do with your Essence, Bertrand? Can you release blasts of raw Forest Essence? Leaves of Death? Creeping Blacksheath from your fingertips?"

`Bertrand "Um...." He blinks for a moment. "I can make ivy tendrils or roots or leaf arrows, I guess."

`Lucent "Well, then, focus on that energy. As though it was your Radiant Essence, separate from your personal, lightless Essence, something else. Now, try to create a leaf arrow, using the flower's petals. Out of you, with that Essence. Spend it."

`Bertrand squinches his eyes tightly closed and opens his hands unnecessarily wide. After a few moments of what looks like significant effort, a small green leaf with a blackened edge emerges out of the flower on his chest.

`Lucent turns the coronal into shining thorn-like scalpels, cutting the blackened edge - and the infection - out, cutting Bertrand's pain, extracting the flower, and holding the blackened presence in his hands. "That which kills the Chosen."

`zahara attempts to resist poking Bertrand.

`Lucent "How do you feel now, Bertie?"

`Bertrand blinks repeatedly. "....a little light-heade--" he says, and then faints.

`Lucent "Um."

`zahara catches him, as she had just been about to poke him and was therefore close.

`Bertrand falls gently into zahara's arms

`Lucent "Is he alive? Is he well?"

`Lucent wants to know, but wouldn't dare to let go of the terrible illness on his hands. "Varanim, help me attach this...?"

`Varanim reaches into the eddies of concentrated Essence still swirling about the construct, and with four precise brushes of one more mirror-shard, sweeps out a small cavity in the Essence structure of the construct's chest. "There."

`zahara pokes hiim

`zahara "He's alive."

`Lucent gathers the essence, making it like another Exaltation, like the precise form it uses to drip into the Essence-Cages of the Exalted... and makes it like unto an orb of the Coronal, throwing it with impossible precision exactly where it should be. And where it should remain. "May the Sun forgive us. Grow."

`Bertrand The tiny faux-exaltation Luc propels through the air cements itself in the central cavity of the tiny, breathing meat-box that the Solars have crafted for this purpose, and within instants it begins to spread its tendrils out through the homunculus' form -- connecting the false life's essence flows into its own, growing and strengthening, filtering each mote into a higher level of excitation as it settles into being.

`Bertrand Within moments, the disease -- held back artificially in Bertrand's body but now given free reign to act -- spreads out, its blackness snuffing out the light that just moments ago was glowing with newfound ferocity at the heart of the homunculus' tiny frame, its black ichor dripping out to fill the false creature's veins, its tendrils wrapping around every essence structure in the tiny body with an inescapable deathgrip.

`zahara "Ooooo."

`Bertrand The corruption and darkness spread and expand themselves until the very skin of the tiny creature puff outwards at the fullness of darkness within, and there's a sound that those with particularly attuned hearing will eventually recognize as the muffled sound of tiny vocal chords screaming as loudly as possible in the depths of a tiny body with no mouth --

`Bertrand and then the homunculus explodes in a puff of acrid black smoke and a shower of singed meaty bits.

`Bertrand All that's left on the spot where it stood a moment ago is a dark soot mark and, at its center, a tiny ectoplasmic slug that Varanim recognizes instantly as unquestionably being the ghostly equivalent of a larval Ija.

`Varanim "Huh."

`Lucent "Ew."

`zahara deflects a mock-baby chunk with her Ahlat fork. (She keeps it around for special occasions)

`Varanim "The good news is, pretty soon no one will have to go far to study Ija."

`Lucent "The Hundredfold who kidnapped you? THOSE Ija?"

`Imrama "The Ija have developed a scheme for breading more of their dead kin? Even for a day like today, that news seems exceptionally non-non-heinous."

`Varanim "I'd say less kidnapped and more scooped off the floor of the Labyrinth like last week's dog turd, but sure."

`Lucent "Which means this is Auna's doing."

`Varanim stares at the little slug of a death-form with terribly calm, intent eyes. Her empty shoulder moves slightly; in her mind, the missing original arm reaches out to touch the Ija-bit, exactly where a spectre once grasped her hand and gave her the Creeping Black Sun. Through the touch of will to abomination, she commands knowledge of the connection between that disease and this.

`Bertrand The connection, though somewhat indirect, comes to Varanim fully-formed, some deeper instinct connected to her now long-lost arm bubbling up through her subconscious to inform each tiny connection, each individual leap of logic, as her mind races from one disease to the other.

`Bertrand Finally, the whole map constructed in one piece, she can step back and look at the shape of what she's uncovered.

`Bertrand It is now clear to Varanim much of what is at stake here. The Ija, in their fallen state, are innately infectious -- their fluid existence in life transforming to a cruel inability to hold in their own twisted state of undeath even through great conscious effort, such that their very touch brings disease and death upon the living.

`Bertrand So, too, are the Neverborn themselves -- beings so broken and shattered in their fall from life that their very existence is toxic to the living -- and so thus, even beyond their connection to their Primordial creators, did the Ija's descent to spectredom become inevitable.

`Bertrand The Dragon of Salt and Bone -- that once known as Auna -- intends to rise up and swallow the living world in her vast unliving jaws, and a great sacrifice is needed: the Reading of Lights speaks of "one in ten" being "marked for death," and Varanim sees now how that could happen: the Ija unleashed in the darkness of Calibration as a plague vector, infecting so many of the living that Auna might rise from her grave.

`Bertrand And with this plague, Varanim understands the end result of the Ija's testing on the living -- that she, once, had been the subject of, and that the Solars had rescued other victims later on -- for they took the opportunity of Auna's plan to achieve an end of their own, and craft a disease that would not only kill the living, but transform the remnants of their souls into their own kind, that they might preserve their existence even now, in death.

`Bertrand even now, in death.

`Varanim "Ah," she says, very softly. Then: "That's unfortunate."


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Page last modified on April 25, 2011, at 08:14 PM