Summary:The Solars travel to Yu-Shan to treat the Sun's illness -- by force if necessary.

XP:I4, S4, V4, Z4

< Across Trackless Sands | Sol Invictus Logs | Take Two and Call Me In The Morning >

`Imrama Through a copious amount of trial and error over the past year, Imrama has reached the conclusion that there are certain hard limits that apply to the journey to Yu-Shan. Despite the apparent finitude of heaven's adamant walls, in practice they possess three rather frustrating qualities:

`Imrama They are at once, so high you can't get over them, so low you can't get under them, and so wide you can't get around them. And all that leaves is the door. So it is that Imrama and the Fable now wait in dock at one of Yu-Shan's many gates, the Isles of Glass floating quietly in the distance behind them.

`charlequin After what seems like a relative eternity, the nearby gate opens, the vast crystalline wall coiling back to form an opening large enough for four to walk astride, and a familiar face -- now somewhat haggard and worn since last the Solars saw it -- pokes out to greet them: Selonis, the Celestial Lion the Solars befriended on their first visit to Yu-Shan, two years previous.

`Imrama "Admiral Long-Whiskers (the First)!" Imrama exclaims at the sight of his childhood friend.

`Selonis grins at Imrama's greeting, though his overall demeanor remains tired and rough. "Welcome back to the Heavenly City," he says, with clear happiness in his voice.

`Imrama steps into the crystal corridor. "It is good to see you, old friend. But you look unwell."

`Selonis "It has been a... difficult year," he says, sadly.

`Imrama "May the next be a better one." Imrama says, seriously.

`Selonis The lion moves aside, clearing space in the doorway for any of the Solars to step from Imrama's vessel into the glittering topaz arrival chamber beyond.

`Imrama "What, in particular, has been troubling Heaven?"

`Varanim shuffles after, looking as bright and alert as usual.

`Selonis "I hope so," he says. "As last Calibration set the tone for this year.... I hope the coming days will set a new, brighter one." He shakes his head, and his mane flops humorously around his giant head. In regards to Imrama's question, he hesitates for a moment, and then says: "Perhaps it would be best if you saw for yourself."

`Selonis After all of Imrama's companions have disembarked, Selonis steps forward and presses his nose gently against the far wall, closing the entryway behind them and causing that wall to open up into the heavenly city itself.

`Selonis The infinite majesty and radiance of the city itself is, as always, breathtaking, and no condition could possibly render it otherwise: the infinitude of buildings in their infinitude of shapes, the streets that spin and curve out in every direction far further than even the Essence-enhanced eye can see, the canals of glittering silver water, the glorious curve of the Jade Pleasure Dome: all are still here.

`Selonis But the condition of the city has deteriorated even from their last visit many months ago, when Spring had gathered a sample from the Sun's arm: the sky's dome above has faded to a grayish pall that does little to illuminate the spectacular sights below, and those few gods who walk the streets do so only with armed escort from amongst the Celestial deities: celestial lions and light-daggers, the tinier understudies of the Swords of Truth.

`Selonis Smoke and soot seem to fill the air, and even though the Carnival of Meeting would traditionally begin in just a few days, there are no signs that any preparations re being made for its arrival.

`Spring "How dreary."

`Selonis nods. "It is."

`Varanim "But it's not very particular, which is what Imrama asked," points out Varanim, who is never too hung over to be helpful.

`Spring kneels and scoops some of the water from the canal, sipping it thoughtfully.

`Selonis looks over at Varanim, with whom he has no previous experience, and tilts his head funnily to one side. "After the Gods were trapped in heaven and the Incarna intervened to end the fighting, things here became tense and unpleasant. After that problem was resolved, I thought things might begin to return to normal, but..."

`Selonis He looks out over the city. "Yu-Shan's tone is set by what happens in the Jade Pleasure Dome. Our very day and night are the winnings of the Sun and Moon at the Games of Divinity. Increasingly, the sky above has been filled only with gray, and it's made the city... less hospitable. More cruel."

`Selonis " There are things happening in the back-alleys of Heaven that never happened before, and the Gods travel with escorts for protection from these unknown fears, as much as to keep them from renewing their battles with one another."

`Spring "Hm."

`Spring "Does that mean someone new is winning at the Games?"

`Varanim Varanim, who is sympathetic to those who have languished for years in ignorance without disliking her, wiggles her shoulder at Selonis in what would probably be a wave if the arm was still there.

`Imrama "Or perhaps that some state other than the temporary victory of one player is now possible?"

`Spring "Selonis, this is Varanim the Last. She is a friend of ours, who is assisting us in saving the world, as one does."

`Selonis raises a paw in greeting to Varanim. "Any friend of those assembled here is one worthy of the greatest accolades," he says, quietly.

`Spring "I cannot but agree."

`Selonis "I am not certain, but I lean towards the latter," he says, referring to Imrama's theorization. "I do not know of this state occurring in the past."

`Spring "Perhaps we ought to investigate."

`Spring "Shall we?"

`Selonis nods.

`Selonis The lion walks them down the streets to the Jade Pleasure Dome -- still a truly spectacular and unassailably vast structure, and still guarded -- now even more heavily -- at every turn by the imperceptibly perfect Swords of Truth, their cutout wings spread wide and their swords crossed -- now well before anyone arrives -- to bar entrance to the Dome.

`Spring walks forward and knocks politely on the nearest sword.

`Selonis Two nearby Swords immediately and with little apparent effort move their blades to form a scissors immediately in front of Spring's neck, and though they have no faces, the slight shift in incline of their heads makes it seem likely that they have turned to face him.

`Spring "Hello."

`Spring "If I could see, it would presumably be nice to see you again."

`Spring "We have come to save the Unconquered Sun from the terrible disease that is slowly consuming him and dooming us all to a miserable and wretched death."

`Spring "May we come in?"

`Selonis The Swords do not move. After a long moment, much as on their last visit, a small person-shaped cloud of spinning plates emerges from the dome, although this one is reddish-orange in color. "You are not authorized," it singsongily states from a distance some twenty feet behind where the Swords bar Spring's passage.

`Spring "May we be authorized?"

`Selonis "It doesn't seem likely," the melodious voice continues. "The Incarna do not take visitors."

`Spring "The Exalted frequently do unlikely things."

`Spring "May we speak to someone who can authorize us?"

`Selonis "Yes," it says, but none of the assembled spirits otherwise moves in any way.

`Spring "Who would that be?"

`Selonis "Me," it says, in a voice as beautiful as the finest singers of the Realm.

`Varanim While more important negotiations are taking place, Varanim casts a curious glance at the Swords and their not-exactly-host, wondering what they're most likely to die of.

`Spring "May we talk to somebody who can authorize us and is also more helpful than you?"

`Imrama walks a bit closer to Spring, standing just on the other side of the blade to the right of his neck. He takes a bite of an apple, folds his arms and asks, "Do you need any help with this?"

`Spring "If you do not mind."

`Selonis "No," it says to Spring's question, in a voice even more melodious than the last.

`Spring "It is astonishing how little interest the Sun's gods display in His continued existence."

`Imrama tosses the rest of his apple towards Spring, assuming that he will eat it. (But who knows, maybe he won't!) He steps up into the air to speak with the spinning plate person face-to-vaguely-face-shaped cloud.

`Spring eats the apple, obviously.

Qu "Yeeees?"

`Imrama "Most Illustrious Majordomo Qu: some time ago, my friend and compatriot Long-Awaited Spring was granted admission to the Jade Pleasure Dome in order to attend to the medical concerns of your lord and mine, the Unconquered Sun. He has returned today to complete the Implacable Master of Arms' course of treatment."


`Imrama "Now, of course, you are free to employ your own best judgement as to who should, and who should not, cross the Threshold of Perfection. But I know, and I suspect you do as well, that the health of the Sun King and the wellbeing of both heaven and earth are inextricably linked. So, I humbly ask on behalf of my company: may we come inside...

`Imrama in the interest of our collective continued existence?"

Qu considers Imrama carefully, and skeptically.

Qu From somewhere behind the Solars, Selonis bares his teeth at the Majordomo in a huge, gleaming cat smile.

Qu continues to inspect Imrama, then Spring, then Selonis, then Spring again, and finally seems to make a determination. He waves and makes a strange xylophoneish noise at the nearby Swords, who -- with great reticence -- finally pull their blades away from Spring's neck.

`Spring "I did not think that would work."

`Imrama "My dear friend Spring: I consistently put faith in your capabilities within your own areas of expertise: military tactics, the medical sciences, non-lethal martial arts, being unnecessarily rude to almost everyone and putting almost everything in your mouth. I would hope that you would extend to me the same consideration in my own areas of experience."

`Spring "A fair point, and I apologize."

`Spring "Thank you for your help."

Qu makes a fuss for a few moments and then, relatively unceremoniously and with a slight petulant tone to its beautiful singing voice, gestures at the set of jade double-doors that lead into the Dome. "You.... may proceed."

`Spring "Thank you. You have unwillingly been very slightly helpful."

`Spring walks directly through the cloud and towards whatever lies inside the Dome.

`Imrama gives Qu a full, un-ironic salute, and follows Spring.

Qu As they walk in, Varanim is given to puzzling over "the fall of Heaven" is likely to be a good or a bad thing to be "most likely to die from."

Qu Spring walks forward and effortlessly parts the two doors. The very first step into the room beyond, he feels almost like he's walked into a wall and kept moving -- the level of raw power that suffuses the entire building is so great as to be immediately tactile, giving a strange excitation and odd heaviness to even the air beyond those front doors.

Qu Beyond the doors lies a small antechamber of green and black jade, a room so perfectly assembled that its very architecture seems designed to send feelings of inadequacy into all those who stand within it -- and this is just the first receiving chamber for mortals.

Qu It leads out into a hallway, seemingly miles and miles long, in which the black highlights in the jade form arcing curves, breaking and bouncing in patterns first simple, then exceedingly complex, the space between one black border and the next growing smaller and smaller as the hallway carries on, the entire effect mesmerizing and perplexing to mortal eyes.

Qu (Of course, Spring, having none of those, continues merrily on along his way.)

Qu Selonis follows far behind the Solars, his ears back and his head held low in the manner of a cat that knows it shouldn't be doing what it's doing but which it nonetheless plans to continue doing anyway.

Qu ^ follows not far

`Imrama "Trippy," Imrama mutters.

Qu The walk is long... oh so long. But finally, Spring reaches the end, and he steps out into the central hallway of the Jade Pleasure Dome.

Qu This is, clearly, a building built for beings far off the scale of human beings: for the doorway that Spring exits out of is barely a mousehole in the immense, curving hall that he enters into, and the ceiling reaches up miles into the sky.

Qu From Cerin's description of the Dome's interior, Spring knows some of what he's looking at: the black, white, and grey doors on the outside curve of the hallway lead to the Ten Auspicious Chambers, while the infinitely colorful and intricate doors on the inner hallway lead into the innermost portion of the Dome, the Seraglio of the Gods.

Qu All of those doors that Spring can hear and sense as he takes his first step into this massive hallway are shut tight... except the door to Auspicious Chamber Number Two.

`Spring walks sensibly towards the door that isn't closed.

Qu Beyond the door is a chamber that is, perhaps, half as large as the entire Labyrinthine Cascade, rising up far above the tiny Solars who enter it and curving gently at its edges to take the shape of an immense cylinder. On the walls of the chamber are patterns, perfectly symmetric inset tesselate tiles of black and white and grey, each tile massive and yet simultaneously tiny -- each reflecting in its infinitely intricate shape the totality of the whole, from macro to micro...

Qu the totality of the whole, from macro to micro...

Qu On shelves placed randomly at many locations around the room sit enormous candles, fifty in all; each an entirely distinct color, some lit, some not, others both unlit and covered in thin gauze nettings...

Qu At three equally distributed points in the room stand three immense statues in the form of identical dragons, executed in purest marble of black, white, and grey... and at the center of the room is a vast chair, carved simply of plain stone blocks as massive as mountains... and in it sits their quarry.

Qu None of those present (except Selonis) have ever laid eyes on the Sun before, and the first thing any of them might notice about him is his immense splendor and majesty: the infinitely-radiant panoply in which he is clad; the golden helm that disguises his face while glowing with the purest sunlight such that to even look upon it is to sear one's eyes,

Qu the unimaginably powerful panoply of divine sword, shield, horn, and laurel branch that rest propped up at positions a moment's notice away from the grand seat....

Qu But the second thing any might notice is that which is not infinitely radiant: the immense exhaustion that rests on the Sun's shoulders, the haggard agedness that matches in kind that of the tiny kitty the Solars entered the chamber with...

Qu And then there are his arms: two, on his left, muscular and powerful, the very image of immaculate perfection -- and two on the right, blackened, shrunken, sickly, wrapped in heavenly bandages woven of finest starweave by the Maidens themselves... but still covered in black blotches where tainted ichor seeps up from the sickly limbs they cover, and wrapped tightly to hold those godly arms in place, that their illness might not progress yet faster.

Qu that their illness might not progress yet faster.

`Spring "Hm."

`Spring "Good morning, Your Unconqueredness."

`Spring "And how have you been feeling?"


< Across Trackless Sands | Sol Invictus Logs | Take Two and Call Me In The Morning >

Page last modified on April 25, 2011, at 08:15 PM