Summary:The Solars plan for the upcoming Calibration and take note of an artifact of particular significance to Varanim.

XP:I4, S4, V4, Z4

< The Necessity of Killing | Sol Invictus Logs | The Dark Star Rises >

`Imrama When Imrama asked his compatriots what sort of location they would wish to make their preparations for Calibration in, the answer came back, "Somewhere spooky and doomy." And so it is that the Circle of the Sunlands has assembled its war room in the field, on the deck of the Fable of the Reconstruction."

`Imrama The golden ship hangs in a starless sky, over a see of jagged lightning eternally thundering and crashing below. Black light pours down from the nearly full face of the Obsidian Moon overhead, and the winds of the Wyld blow about with prayer-strips carrying dark omens.

`Spring supervises leniently as Belladonna and Harel struggle to set up an enormous folding table with a large folding scale model of Meru in the center.

`leliwolf "Doomy," the Eclipse observes approvingly.

`Spring "So. Calibration approaches. What news from the Underworld?"

Harel stands leaning heavily to one side, a dark leather outfit studded with soulsteel rivets covering his body and a series of soulsteel knives and tools strapped to it in in a variety of places. "I'll try to make this short," he says, and scrunches up one side of his face.

"Everyone here knows about our little Neverborn 'problem' for Calibration," he says, idly flipping one of the knives from his belt in his off-hand. " 'The jaws of bone and salt open to consume the world.' "

"That's bad enough on its own, but we also all know that nothing is ever quite that simple. Under Spring's advisement, I have stayed under deep cover in order to follow events in Netheos and find out what, exactly, is happening around the looming threat from the dead dragon."

"I've been up and down the whole length of this dead rock, and I'm hearing the same thing everywhere: the Deathlords are going to be having a little powwow, and mobilizing forces to match."

`Spring "All of them? Where will this meeting take place?"

`zahara "Well at least we've gotten rid of some."

"Well, it's not like I've talked to all of them myself," he says, and flips his knife up in the air, catching it in the opposite hand. "But yes, I'm hearing the same indication from every direction, in every nephwrack death camp, from every zombie war band: all of them, every single Deathlord." He pauses and smirks, just a bit, before looking deadly serious again. "They'll be meeting in Stygia."

`Imrama "Well then; I believe we want to be where the action is."

`zahara "It's too bad that second from the Clock is already used up." Zahara muses.

`Spring "True."

`Spring "Though as I understand it, they frequently make more."

`zahara "Quite so."

`Spring "Perhaps Cerin could take a few more...or you, Zahara, could craft a few extra for us to slip in, if it became necessary."

`zahara "Now that's an interesting idea... what if the underworld clock suddenly had sunlit minutes..."

`zahara '''*seconds

`charlequin nods. "And I do want to make sure to note," he says, polishing the knife on his sleeve, "that I haven't just heard that the Deathlords who are left are coming."

`Spring "Ah."

`Spring "Yes, a valid point."

`Varanim has the look on her face that she gets when she is making one of her rare efforts not to say "I told you so."

`Spring "Thank you, Harel. You have done us sterling service at great personal risk. As the danger grows, however, I can no longer require you to risk your life, and so, with your permission, I relieve you of your duties. Belladonna will find a suitable replacement."

Harel laughs.

"I don't think so."

`Varanim "Are you kidding? With that outfit, he's obviously deep in the Netheos girls. Or boys, I don't know him."

Harel winks at Varanim.

`Spring sighs, coughs with a cracking of wood, and hands Harel a small piece of Incomparable Sapling, a branch no longer than a finger. "Keep this on you, then. And be very careful. You deserve better than the Void."

Harel nods and tucks the branch into his pocket.

`zahara '''*also, Calendar

`Imrama rubs his chin for a long moment, staring up at the shimmering dark of the Obsidian Moon. "The souls of Netheos have labored under the yoke of the Deathlords for far too long. It seems to me that this meeting may offer an opportunity for the Dead to heave that yoke from off their shoulders."

`zahara raises a brow. "How might the downtrodden of the Underworld manage to do that?" she asks

`Imrama smiles. "With a little help, of course."

`Spring "Perhaps more than a little."

`Spring "We would need a figure to lead them."

`Imrama "The vestiges of Stygia's ancient order still technically remain in place - the Dual Monarchy are still there, but they have become powerless, less even than figureheads. Still, their symbolic power could serve as a rallying point."

`Spring "An interesting idea."

`zahara "Are they worth returning to power? If they actually have power again, will they be... on our side, as it were?"

`Spring "I seem to remember a recent revolution in Harborhead, led by the suddenly discovered heir to an ancient and highly valued leader."

`Spring "Perhaps the Dual Monarchy also has such an heir...or could."

`Imrama On queue, Imrama pivots to face Varanim.

`Imrama raises and eyebrow.

`Varanim "This had better be about the mustard stain on my shirt I haven't noticed yet, because there is no other reason for you to be staring at me that won't end in tears."

`Spring "I have heard that you do have a great destiny waiting to be discovered."

`Spring "And, helpfully, you already have your own loyal ghost army."

`Imrama "Varanim - some are born great, some become great, and some have greatness thrust upon them. As Solars, we all fall to some degree into the third category. Run from it as hard and as fast as you might, the people need a hero, and you are the hero they need."

`Varanim "I'm firing my ghost army," she snaps. "And unless the people need rank, seething anarchy, I am not the hero they need. Although that would serve them right, looking to heroes for everything."

`Imrama "In point of fact, rank, seething anarchy would be a dramatic improvement over the status quo in the Underworld. If you would only help do the work to free them, and then leave them entirely to their own devices, you would still be the hero that the hour requires."

`Spring "Evidence to the contrary on this ship notwithstanding, you cannot save the world by doing only what you want to do."

`Varanim "I do several things I don't want to do every day before breakfast. Imrama, you need to remember that I'm a reasonably terrible liar, and even if you're right that I could evade all long-term geopolitical consequences, I can't rally shit."

`Varanim "Also, peasant."

`Imrama "The great majority of the dead are peasants also. They have had enough of crowns and warlords, and certainly enough of lies. What they need is one who is like them, but brave enough to stand, and mighty enough not to fall."

`Spring "Peasants make the best kings."

`Spring "Speaking as a king who was born a nobleman, of course."

`Varanim "Granted, I'm not quite as caught up as I'd like to be on my historical reading. But I know there aren't many popular uprisings that start with speeches like, 'I think most of you are idiots, and I won't tell you how to do anything or fix anything for you, but make a big ruckus with me so you can die again in droves while my friends clean up'."

`Spring "Most popular uprisings do not turn out that well. Perhaps that is what is missing."

`Spring "As a talented motonicist, surely you know that the only route to surety is experimentation."

`Imrama "Once again, Varanim, you choose the truths which are the least flattering to yourself and those around you, at the expense of other statements just as honest and in this case more helpful. The Deathlords wish doom upon all that is, and will and have been using the souls of Netheos as kindling for the pyre of Creation. The Dead may remain prone,"

`Imrama "or they may rise. If you truly think they ought to remain as slaves, then you are right - you cannot be the one to save them. But if you have even the slightest inclination to see them free, then you have only one choice."

`Varanim "I don't think..." She breaks off and pinches the bridge of her nose. "Let's save some time here. Will you expect me to do one solitary scrap of actual ruling, or otherwise attempt to impose a ruling structure through me?"

`Imrama "No."

`zahara "I think you'd really enjoy ruling, Varanim. Really." Zahara adds helpfully.

`Varanim "And you will require no lies or other amplification of my usual charm in the process of fomenting this project?"

`Varanim gives Zahara a brief but unmistakable 'die in a fire' look.

`Imrama "Nothing will be required, other than that you be yourself."

`zahara returns it with a lazy smile, and takes a long drink from her goblet

`Varanim Even Varanim looks briefly taken aback by that. "You are looking for a challenge. All right, you're on. Would you prefer I do what I can to make it easier for you, or are you playing for points?"

`Imrama "Well Varanim, you may choose. If our situations were reversed, would you prefer that I make your job easier, or would you rather be allowed to do what you do best?" Imrama says with a wry grin.

`Varanim grimaces. "Right, then. You're on your own."

`Spring "We may want more help than that."

`Spring "Zahara. I have been considering. Perhaps your ability to summon Malakim could be...adapted to work on the souls of the dead Primordials? With the help of an extremely powerful sorcerer, of course."

`Spring "Luckily, I am told you have important relations."

`zahara "I have also been considering that, in fact."

`Spring "Excellent."

`Varanim "Are the lot of you planning to remind Pluto that he owes us, or saving that one for an even rainier turd of a day in the future?"

`Spring "Let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance."

`Imrama "Given that Calibration is a particularly ripe hour for the unexpected, I thought we might hold our chit with Pluto in reserve, until more of the pieces have fallen into place."

`zahara "Who knows, he might actually take the initiative for himself, for once."

`Spring snorts.

`Imrama announces to those assembled. "I have an idea. Or rather, I believe I had one once, and I am about to have it again." He reaches into his pocket and produces his pipe, and then into another, and produces some half-dried tightly-clustered white blossoms that glow intensely under the black light.

`zahara "Is that going to make sense shortly?"

`Spring "Belladonna. What is the current status of the Shadeborn?"

`Imrama He packs his pipe, lights it, and inhales. Contrary to his general reputation, most of the intoxicants Imrama indulges in have some material purpose for which they were chosen; dulling certain faculties to sharpen others, or providing particular sorts of insights and novel perspectives. But Linowan Possom Tail has only one material use:

`Imrama to get its user blisteringly, eye-wateringly high. And in this situation, that is precisely the critical element that Imrama needs, as he casts his consciousness back across the aeons of his shard's existence, invoking the Forebears Roadhouse Consultation.

`Imrama Once his mind has settled into the well-appointed, yet somehow seedy joint where his predecessors gather to exchange old stories and drink to the memory of the War and the First Age, Imrama takes a seat at the bar and looks about the room for someone who looks like they might know something about Netheos.

In the conscious world, Belladonna speaks up to answer Spring's question. "They've kept a low profile. We know that they're out there -- but whatever they're doing in the Underworld is with a very light touch."

`Varanim snickers at something scathingly witty Zahara has just ring-whispered about Imrama's smoking habits.

Meanwhile, in Imrama's mental tavern, a figure seats himself in the next open bar seat: a wan, skinny figure with a droopy mustache, a pair of jet-black aviation goggles, and a tall orichalcum staff that Imrama recognizes as the Whale of the Westward Wind, a long-lost device that transforms into its own conveyance in sky or sea.... a former shard-holder by the name of Elkington Brosh.

`Spring "That does not strike me as particularly helpful of them."

`Spring "Can we at least trust them not to work against us?"

`Imrama sips his beer, and salutes casually with his free hand. "Special Emissary Brosh. Would you join me for a drink?"

Belladonna nods. "I think so. We know that there's no love lost between Pluto and the Neverborn. We also know quite a few of those who have returned directly -- in fact, I have reason to believe that although they once numbered three hundred, the quantity who have returned thus far is far smaller, and they may be hoping to disguise that fact."

"My suspicion is that their forces are relatively minimal, and divided between two purposes: continued triage on the most pressing untreated concerns in Netheos stemming from the period before their return, and planning a response for the coming events of Calibration."

"I don't think we can rely on their response being optimal, certainly; our best strategy would be to force them to abandon it and conform to our strategy instead."

Meanwhile, Elkington seats himself next to Imrama and signals for a flight of whiskey, grunting to state his acknowledgement of his junior successor.

`Spring "Is that best accomplished with a directed action or with merely preceding with our plan until it becomes a fait accompli?"

Belladonna: "Little from column A, little from column B?"

`Imrama "I am ruminating on a fresh challenge, you see. Things are not well in Netheos, and to put them right I need a symbol: someone to lead a popular rebellion against the tyranny that currently reigns there. I have the person; I just need to locate and formulate the story that fits them.

`Spring shrugs. "Then I suppose there are a few people we should talk to about our goals, just after it becomes too late for them to stop us."

`Imrama "You know more than a little bit about the history and mythos of the Underworld, I believe. Can you think of any prophecy or legend that might relate to the liberation of Stygia or the overthrow of Necromantic Fascism?"

Elkington puts back his first shot, then his second, then pauses to hold his third. "There's this thing they got in the underworld, see? They call it the Pallium of the Dark Star." He puts back shot three and shot four, then pauses again to let the aroma of number five waft up through his flared nostrils.

"It's tied to a star that's supposed to shine as strongly as the brightest of the maidens -- but it kicks out pure darkness, so no one can see it. They've got entire astrological temples to it down there, but they have three different alignments they point to and no one can agree which one's right."

"The Pallium is woven out of its light." He pauses and blinks. "Its dark. Whatever." He puts back shot five and chases it quickly with shot six. "You put it on, you're supposed to be some kind of huge hotshot. But it ain't fit right on most people, or most ghosts for that matter." He picks up shot seven with his right hand, and then slides shot eight -- the last of the flight -- over to a spot in front of Imrama.

`Imrama tips an imaginary hat to the man sitting next to him. "Very interesting. I am much obliged for the information, and I'll let you know how it all works out." He downs the shot.

"Damn right you will," he says, and puts down his own final shot.

`Imrama Coming out of his revery, Imrama exhales the fowl smoke of his chosen herb. "The Pallium of the Dark Star!" he announces. "Varanim, we are going to have to dress you to impress.

`Varanim "How impressive? You promised, remember."

`Imrama "I suspect this will be interesting enough for your professionally, that you will have no choice but to amend your strict dress code."

`Varanim "I encourage you to remember how well the 'dress up Varanim' plan went the last time Lucent tried it. But do go on."

`Imrama "The Pallium has a lofty destiny, and a powerful reputation. Whoever wears it will garner a lot of attention. And a relic venerated by multiple ghost cults sounds like something you'd want to study anyway."

`Varanim "No sequins?"

`Imrama "Well there might be black ones. We'll have to see it to find out."

`Varanim narrows her eyes suspiciously, but waves her hand in a 'fine, fine' gesture.

`Spring "Where do we find it?"

`Varanim "Where little girls' princess dreams go to die, I hope."


< The Necessity of Killing | Sol Invictus Logs | The Dark Star Rises >

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