Summary:The circle journey into the heart of Stygia -- and discover the ghost of Brigid, the source of the curse.

XP:C4, I4, S4, V4, Z4

< Relatives | Sol Invictus Logs | A Dip in the Void >

The streets of Stygia are thick with ancient dust, the empty footsteps of the dead unable to disturb it.

As the Solars round the corner of an ancient building, its chalky-white exterior filling the shape of a blazingly colorful building that must have stood on Meru thousands of years ago, they draw in towards the very centermost region of the vast necropolis, the area that surrounds the very mouth of the Void.

Here lies the Empty Ring, the hundred-foot-wide black-paved street that runs around the vast central pit, almost a mile across in total. Outside, the vast palisades and elaborate manors that occupy the innermost real-estate of the dead city -- the most desirable locations in all of Stygia. And within lie the Teeth of the Void -- the tiny huts and symbolic structures that dot the edge line a fence.

Off, just to one side, amidst those teeth, is the Eternal Ossuary, a truly enormous and magnificent structure: an immense cathedral in the shape of a vast, six-spoked cross, towers rising up from each corner and a larger one at the center -- the entire structure made entirely of bones cemented together in perfect, airtight fits.

Here, mastodon ribs fill out expansive and sweeping structures beside finger bones and teeth set together in the tiniest filigree. At the center of the tallest tower, a vast circular window of jet-black glass sits, the same six-barred cross lying over it in leg bones too huge to have come from any human.

The humongous double-door is perhaps the only detail that isn't rendered from the death-remains of a living creature, being made instead of a fire-blackened underworld ash.

`zahara "It has a certain sort of style to it, doesn't it." Zahara observes. "Very deathy. And sixy."

`Imrama "Should we...knock?"

`zahara "I doubt they missed our entrance... we may as well."

`zahara contemplates what the building would look like with sevenfold symmetry

`Varanim "By the way, there's this hilarious thing where no violence is allowed in the central passageway. I've always wanted to take advantage of that," says Varanim, bringing up the rear and hanging on determinedly to a particularly far-gone cigar.

`Imrama "Well, good then." Imrama walks up and knocks three times.

The doors glide slowly but soundlessly open.

`zahara "Allowed by whom?"

Hundreds of feet above, a single orb hangs in the air, completely unsupported, and glows with a bright greyish-white light that perfectly illuminates the center walkway: a thousand-foot-long cathedral aisle that ultimately passes underneath a massive bone altar and then out through another set of doors.

Beyond that aisle, darkness grips the remainder of the vast chamber: the four-wide rows of pews, the seven levels of balconies and hundreds of tiny alcoves, and the passageways leading down into the even darker depths below....

`zahara looks around. "I like the seven levels of balconies, but I'm disappointed by the four pews."

`Imrama "Well, at least its good to know that the architects weren't overly loyal to the numerology of six. Now, where do you suppose they are hiding your relation?"

`zahara seeks out the telltale sign left behind from her magic

`zahara "Either in some place of honor, or in some deep dank dungeon."

`Cerin "Either of those seems about as likely, yes," Cerin says.

The signs are unmistakable: her relative is held somewhere far below.

`Imrama "This being the Underworld, the two could be one and the same."

The underground passageways in this cathedral are elaborate and intertwining; any of the doors leading down into them seems as if it would function just as well as any other.

`zahara "Well, let's head downwards then. Ooh or we could get arrested."

`zahara prods a door open with her toe

As Zahara steps out into the darkness, there are sounds heard from below -- chittering, howling noises, unlike anything any living being would ever make. It would seem that their presence is known.

The pathways that lead below draw a clear line between the Ossuary itself and the labyrinth corridors beneath it -- for the latter have thin bonework running along their black-stone walls to mark their connection to the temple, but no more.

The passageway leads downwards into an intersection where eight other tunnels all come together, and from there, the tunnels lead down even further, each curving and looping, sometimes quickly on thin carven stairs, sometimes slowly on unevenly-ramped floors, but always, as Zahara follows the path her relatives built for her.... down.

Cerin notes as they walk that the passageways and chambers down below here are filled with ghosts -- free-floating huns, spectres, powerful Ija, and strange plasmic beasts -- though down further below is a singular ghost of intense power.

`Varanim "I guess it's one of those ironies of life that the more really horrible things you know how to do to everyday ghosts, the less you need to," she notes on their current lack of company.

`Cerin ::This place is quite crowded with ghosts and spectres, including some of your favourites, Varanim.::

`Varanim ::But are any of them coming, or are they just furiously scribbling nasty things about us in their diaries?::

`Cerin ::They haven't noticed us yet.::

`Cerin ::Oh, and there's something big down there, too::

The building rumbles.

`zahara "I'm sure they are just trying to think of a suitable present to allay your wrath."

`Varanim "Oh, that's all right, then," she brightens.

`zahara ::Also, a question. How is this 'no violence' ban enforced, and does this part still count?::

`Varanim ::Through interesting geomantic trickery, and we're off it right now but technically we'll be on again any time we're right underneath it. You can spot those bits by the gray light... is what I'd say if they ever painted in any other color down here. I'll point at the next one.:: Which she does.

`zahara ::Fascinating.::

`Varanim ::So what's the plan when we find your problem ghost, again?::

The pathway continues downward until Zahara suddenly realizes that, even though the paths continue on even further down, it doesn't matter: they've arrived at the level they're seeking. There's a pathway leading straight forward and another set of black wooden double-doors at the end -- and a powerful Essence beats out from behind it.

`zahara points silently to the door

`Imrama "Should I knock again?"

`zahara "I was thinking of simply going in, but if you wish to knock, go ahead."

`Imrama Imrama knocks three times.

There's no sound behind the door -- but from the other side, from hallways and passages far behind the Solars, figures emerge -- eight nephwracks, warrior-spectres bursting with void energy, cast in soulsteel armor and carrying vicious swords -- a sight that would intimidating, perhaps, to much lesser figures than the Solars gathered here today.

As they gather in an honor formation, from the central passage that the Solars just entered through emerges another ghost: a perfectly preserved, ashen priest of the First Age's sun-worship, his ceremonial robes still accurate down to the finest detail -- but the gold filigree that covers them and the sunburst patterns thereof all turned jet-black in death.

He walks forward slowly, carrying a gnarled Netheosi-oak staff that glows faintly with foxfire, and stops at the head of his honor guard, looking with a blank expression over at the Exalts gathered before the door.

`zahara "Pardon me, I think you have something of mine." Zahara says politely.

`Sark The priest walks forward slowly, with a very slight limp vainly remembered from life, towards where Zahara stands. "Do we?" he says, politely.

`Varanim "Ohh, he sees your ironic courtesy and raises you a passive-aggressive rhetorical question. Your play."

`zahara "Indeed." She grins briefly at Varanim. "Perhaps over some tea?"

`Sark looks at zahara and smiles very slightly -- a smile that was probably comforting in his role as the shepherd of the weak and lost in life, but now is disturbing and malformed.

`Sark "Your arrival is fortuitous," he says, in a soft voice, accented in a way much unlike any modern Creation accent but which somehow nonetheless sounds much like almost anyone would imagine such a figure to sound like. "We are near complete."

`zahara "Oh, perfect. Is there anything I can help with?"

`Sark grins, amplifying the earlier effect. "...perhaps, child."

`zahara "Lovely. Does it involve my horrible death or torture, or any sort of hun or po removal? Because if so I'll need to prepare some final remarks first."

`Sark "Not... quite," he says, and begins walking towards the door on which Imrama has so recently knocked.

`zahara "A bit disappointing, but I can work with it."

`Imrama ::Varanim - do you know much about the parameters of this ban on violence? Is it possible to restrain someone by force, or to do violence to objects rather than persons?::

`zahara checks the geomancy of the room to see if closing the door will shift the essence patterns significantly in a detrimental fashion

`Varanim ::Hmm, hold on.::

`Sark At least on the matter of door-opening specifically, it seems to Zahara that all's clear.

`Varanim kneels and scratches arcane sigils in the unsanctified dirt below her feet, sigils which might by a close observer be recognized as a tiny angry stick figure in a birdcage and a stick figure cat knocking a probably very expensive funeral urn off of a table. Then she fishes in her pockets for a handful of knuckle bones and casts them over the drawings, whistling tunelessly.

`Varanim ::Objects get no protection, restraints are okay but no grabbing. Some cheating is probably possible. Also, I feel like we're talking about Zahara's bedroom habits.::

`zahara ::You have barely touched the surface, my dear.::

`Sark walks up to the doors and holds up his staff, laying it across them. He begins chanting in ancient, guttural syllables, and after a moment, pushes forcefully with both hands, sending the doors flying open.

`Sark Behind them is a room, much larger than any they've passed until now, perhaps 80 feet across, an almost perfect half-sphere. Along the rounded walls lurk no fewer than thirteen distinct ghosts, a massive soulsteel suit of plate armor that houses what seems likely to be an Abyssal Exalt, seven plasmic arachnoxi (tethered to the walls by no fewer than four legs each), and a single Dragon-King whose scales have gone blackish from some manner of Essence condition.

`Sark Down the center of the room cuts the non-violence pathway, straight on through to the back of the room, and right at its end lies Zahara's quarry, the thing that dragged them all here:

`Sark Hung from the wall by an elaborate, spiderlike soulsteel contraption and radiating an immense power is a ghost, the soul of what was once a human being, but now changed far beyond that origin.

`Sark The shape is the same: two arms, two legs, a head... but each is twisted, reshaped, remoliated at a thousand points, each bursting with energy like a tiny flower -- each, an analytic type like Cerin might note, corresponding perfectly to a single departed Zhan.

`Sark The long, shaggy hair hangs down from the emaciated head to pool on the ground, where black, shadowy spiders have made nests in it.

`Sark But even with all this, Zahara looks into that thin, distorted face, and recognizes it instantly.

`zahara "Good morning, Brygeta." She says, giving the twisted ghost a curtsey of more respect than she has shown most living people. "It is a pleasure to meet you again."

`Sark The woman -- thing -- on the wall gives no response.

`Varanim purses her lips in a silent whistle, taking in the ghost's state of modification with her usual vaguely inappropriate professional curiosity. She flickers her soulsteel fingers briefly, feeling for the invisible threads on the air that connect to the ghost's fetters.

`Imrama bows routinely, and normally with great respect - out of real depth of feeling, often, and out of a careful tactical diplomacy at other times. But now his friends see something far rarer, as he stoops low enough to touch one knee to the ground.

`Imrama "Lady of the Sword and Cape, First Wonder Worker, Heroine of Far Duress; I am so sorry to find you in such a state." With eyes momentarily closed, Imrama sheds a single tear.

`zahara eyes the soulsteel contraption with an eye towards removing it from the room

`Sark The things binding the fragile remnants of the mother of sorcery into this world come to the tip of Varanim's mind: the Salinian Working, her (increasingly less) expansive family of descendants, the Obon Principle, a few tattered scraps of cloth from what was once a powerful red cloak, a single small hill in eastern Swiftwater, and sheer stubborn will.

`Sark The soulsteel device on which Zahara's long-dead matriarch hangs is, unfortunately, very much incorporated into the structure itself.

`zahara turns her thoughts to how much of the structure she'd need to remove in order to take it in that case.

`Varanim ::Zahara, did your ancestor spend much time getting in arguments about necromancy?::

`zahara ::As far as I know, she concentrated on Sorcery not Necromancy. Why?::

`Varanim While asking that, she takes a step forward, enough to have a good view of the ghost and her rigging. She closes her eyes briefly, and in the reconstruction of the scene in her mind she scrutinizes elaborately each twist of soulsteel and flesh, mind racing down the convoluted roads necessary to understand the person who could do such a thing.

`Varanim ::Because for some reason she's really attached to this borderline heretical idea that nobody but necromantic dorks cares about, about how all of unlife is defined by this one set of Essence patterns that's constantly bleeding fuel from the living world. That's the Obon Principle, if you ever need to chat up someone at a party with it.::

`Varanim ::Anyway, kind of a funny thing for a nice proper sorcery girl to obsess about.::

`zahara ::Hmm interesting. I wonder if it's something she learned after death...::

`zahara ::Listen, are you doing anything after this? Maybe you could teach me some about this Obon Principle.::

`Varanim ::Is it even possible for you to make an invitation like that without sounding predatory?::

`Sark Varanim sorts through the evidence at hand, the root causes that brought the once-proud figure of Brygeta Zhan to be bound in chains of agony here, far below the world, but when she tries to put it together she receives back a torrent of Essential effluvia, a malevolent mixture of motives and motifs that seems almost impossible to sort through:

`zahara ::I did stop short of offering you candy, didn't I?::

`Sark Screaming. Stubbornness in the face of a looming, ominous threat. The sound of fingerbones splintering. Plots that span centuries. Icewine, sipped from a golden goblet. Uncertainty and doubt. More screaming. Lipstick.

`Varanim ::...yeah. Sure. Let's talk more about it later.:: She opens her eyes and steps back, shrugging vaguely at the other two.


< Relatives | Sol Invictus Logs | A Dip in the Void >

Page last modified on October 29, 2010, at 01:27 PM