Pharamne's Urn (updated 4/25/12) - Page 136




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    ψ Ignore Sepulchrave II
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    Pharamne's Urn (updated 4/25/12)

    In this thread I complain in a self-indulgent manner about my lot, and seek words of sympathy and advice from fellow ENWorlders.

    Many thanks for kind words.

    So I've decided to take some of your collective advice (the parts I like best, obviously) and pick up the keyboard again. I'm shooting for smaller, more frequent updates; I'm starting at a place in the campaign where I want to write, and the rest will follow - either as backstory, or as an update to The Mesalliance at some vague, unspecified future date.

    Bear with me on this one.

    *************************************************


    VIRIDITY AND SAIZHAN



    Mostin the Metagnostic walked slowly through the hallway, the sound of his passage muted by a thick, crimson carpet which possessed a texture akin to fine velvet. He was not alone: his arcane sight revealed several unseen servants as they went about their chores, and a spined devil – one of a dozen compacted by the mansion's former mistress years before – flapped silently past. Its contract with Mostin had been renewed for a further three decades, and it was cautious to avoid irritating the Alienist.

    He entered a study, the curious furnishings of which – upon his explicit instruction – had remained unaltered since the Alienist had taken possession of the place. Closing the door behind him, he walked to a ornate cabinet, opened its door, and removed a crystal decanter. Carefully, he poured himself a large goblet of kschiff. Taking a single sip – and briefly savouring its potency – Mostin sank into a large leather chair and introspected for an hour.

    Thoughts of Shomei, the simulacra and Vhorzhe preoccupied him.

    Finally, he stirred himself, removed a small stone from his robe, and issued a sending to his apprentice, Orolde: No change, I assume?.

    None.

    Mostin sighed. After so long, he would have expected at least some kind of revelation to be forthcoming. Some kind of reaction. A threat. An assault. Anything.

    Set a fire. I am coming.

    Mostin stood, exited the study by another door, and passed through several reception chambers into an echoing corridor carved in intricate relief. Traversing its length, he reached a small wooden portal bound with polished brass. The door opened smoothly, and Mostin entered a huge library by way of an opening concealed behind heavy purple drapes. Purposefully, he retrieved an ancient tome from a pile of books stacked neatly upon a small desk, muttered, and teleported into the parlour of a rustic manse several hundred miles to the south.

    In the hills of Scir Cellod on the borders of Wyre, twenty yards outside of the limit circumscribed by the Claviger – an entity of deific power which curbed the excesses of Wyrish arcanists through an Enforcer of terrible power – Mostin had erected his comfortable retreat. His choice of locale – a wooded dell, through which an icy stream chattered noisily – had been inspired primarily by its proximity to the intangible border, although it also offered a certain secluded charm which was not entirely lost on the Wizard.

    Mostin wordlessly handed his cloak to Orolde – a maimed sprite who served the Alienist with eccentric devotion – sighed, and descended into his cellar. The area was replete with potent wards, the continual renewal of which occupied a not inconsiderable portion of Mostin's time and resources. A dim green light – testament to a dimensional lock – suffused the place.

    "Greetings gentlemen. I trust you are all well?"

    From thaumatugic diagrams etched in precious metals upon the floor of the summoning room, three devils gazed impassively upon the Wizard: Titivilus, Murmuur and Furcas – Infernal magnates of high bearing, wielding wide dominion. None answered him. Malice flowed from them all.

    "Are any of you feeling talkative?" The Alienist asked.

    None replied. A great irony, Mostin thought to himself: both Furcus and Titivilus were renowned for their loquacity.

    "Let me know when you are," Mostin said smoothly.

    Silence penetrated the summoning room.

    Mostin repaired to his study, and issued a number of sendings.


    **


    The Sidhe leaned upon a balcony of Irknaan's Fortress in self-reflection. She considered her fortune with emotional detachment and cold, sharp precision. She could not rationalize her change: in previous transmigrations she had been bawdy; licentious almost without limit. Now, she was frigid, and possessed of an eerie clarity which was so inherently magickal that reality itself had shifted, and become a dream in which she was the calm protagonist. Everything had become fey.

    Ahead, to the horizon, there stretched a bubble of Otherworld: pure, uncontaminated, as fresh as when the first flower had bloomed, and the first sprite had sprung into being. Beyond, for uncounted miles, lay a Shadow which was slowly receding. But behind, hidden by the towering mass of the castle, in the space once occupied by Jetheeg's range, potent magic had attached the bubble of Afqithan to Faerie proper. Many of the realm's inhabitants were either stirring again, or – in the case of those whom the taint had overwhelmed – fleeing to safer, darker places. Others, entirely new to the former demiplane, had migrated in small numbers to what was – for them – an undiscovered corner of the world. It was a phenomenon that had occurred before: such intrusions were not uncommon in the scheme of things, and Faerie continually spawned bastard demiplanes, or silently absorbed them. Troops of fauns, sprites and pucks of various persuasions – but with shared curiosity – found places beneath the great banyans. Afqithan was a mezzanine between two worlds, and the Sidhe's stronghold – although it had proven not unassailable – was a powerful bastion which straddled realities.

    She had styled herself Queen of Afqithan like many before her had, and, no doubt, many after her would. She entertained great heroes, and ancient spirits, and minor gods of various kinds. She brooded on the deaths of past lovers, but wondered how she could have actually felt what she had once felt. At other times, musical invention obsessed her, and she would spend an hour composing a symphony, or a day contemplating a single cadence. Time froze, and raced past at breakneck speed.

    Her subjects were, for the most part, accepting of her rule. To many, she had appeared in person, simply announcing "I am the Queen, now." Those who had found this a difficult prospect – and there had been a few – she had roundly bested, either in combat, or magic, or in some artistic contest. Some had become enamoured of her, others had been duped by her promises and intimations. But most had simply acquiesced to her claim: it was obvious that no other could rival her, and what would Afqithan be without a tyrant? In the event, she transpired to be less than despotic, and made no particular demand from her subjects at all, other than to be called your majesty.

    She stood, and adjusted her harness: a soft leather coat with heavy studs, and a belt which bore a delicately curved blade. She wore a travel-stained cloak and boots – vestiges of her former self – and bore a light diadem cut from a gemstone. Her sudden self-awareness erupted as a cascade of chords seeking to escape from her mind and into her harp. She grimaced, and began to play. It was bitter, brutal, and poignant; full of anger and loathing, tinged with a wry self-mockery which embraced the absurd. The irresistable fate of the fey: a timeless childhood, or a perpetual decline; the knowledge that what was is always better than what is to come.

    Her music became dark and ominous. Below the throne room, in a deep chamber etched with powerful runes, a gate to Azzagrat slumbered. It had been sealed at both ends: by Graz'zt himself, as he sabotaged a hundred portals into the Argent Palace from planes where he perceived a possible threat; and by Mostin the Metagnostic in the aftermath of the Great Confrontation. Its very presence troubled her: she seldom enjoyed a peace of mind. Most of the Castle's inhabitants – sprites of low stature – were oblivious to its existence, although a few were not: gnomes and goblins who had eavesdropped on their former masters' conversations; or quickling spies, lulled into obedience by the new Queen's glamoury.

    The tune ceased. She turned, and entered the cavernous throne-room from the balcony. Great crystal lamps illuminated the hall, and hundreds of feys danced, sang and capered about. Gifts and curses were freely exchanged. Her mood lightened somewhat: association with her own kind, she observed, was reassuring and gave her a sense of identity. And, as always, she was the focus of all attention. She ascended a dais of carved onyx, and relaxed into a small siege cast from precious metal and adorned with opals.

    As she sat upon her throne, a feeling of deep satiation and langour overcame her.

    It's good to be Queen, she thought.

    She greeted the sending from the wizard with an expression of mild annoyance.

    Not now, she thought. You are interrupting a pavanne.

    I need you to pull the wool over my Dukes' eyes. Are you up to it?

    Her interest was piqued, much to her annoyance, but her manner remained insouciant.

    Let me think on it, she thought.

    I think I may eliminate Murmuur in front of the other two. They might be more apt to talk.

    Don't be a fool. I'll come in the morning.

    Pay close heed to time. A year might pass before you realize it.

    Enough! I will come. Now go.

    The Queen sat briefly, but found further enjoyment of the revel impossible. She stood in irritation, cursed, and exited abruptly.


    **


    The Sela was clad in the armour once worn by Lord Rede of Dramore, a martial paragon from a previous era, when war had been the business of the Temple. At his waist, he bore a six-flanged mace, forged by the same celestial smiths who had hammered Enitharmon's sword from a shard of thought. He was, at once, a perfect, unified consciousness, an awareness of everything that was, or is, or could be; but frail, mortal, imperfect. There was no 'he;' no observer, and nothing observed. There was a moving stillness. The potentiality of infinite bifurcation. An Adversary taunting him with a Green Void.

    He sighed.

    He knew little of the arts of war. Even when he had served the Temple, rather than been it, his role had been mainly oracular. The peculiar blending of the conventional and the Absolute – which Tramst embodied – did not seem to preclude gaps in his knowledge of mundane things. Strategy in war – amongst other things, such as royal tax protocols and the latest fashion in headwear – was one of those gaps.

    For his captains he had picked Brey and Sercion – toward whom, since his ascension, he had payed particular notice. Neither were ready for the task that he had appointed them: their training was far from complete, and each still expected and presumed more than either would admit, even to themselves. Expectation and presumption were qualities which the Sela had striven to eliminate from those who had accepted him as their teacher. Nonetheless, Tramst was satisfied that their role was what it must be: he observed all action with calm understanding. Fatalism and free will were, to him, an empty duality, the refutation of which was amply testified by his very existence – at least for those who saw the truth.

    The Sela observed ideas and emotions move through his mind: an unending torrent of desire, fear, concern, humour, regret and hope. He placed the tortuous ramblings of conventional thought to one side – whilst still honouring them – and embraced his ground of being; and saw once again, that they were no different. Insight and compassion welled up within him. But, even there, his Adversary was with him: tempting him in that moment to mould reality, to shuck off his mortality, and with a passing thought reorder things as he knew they should be. Any limitation which the Sela possessed was self-imposed.

    Consciously, he hung his mace upon a weapon stand and began to cast off his armour. Tramst struck a light, the dull glow of an oil-lamp suffused his tent, and he turned to observe a slender young man with olive skin sitting on his pallet. He had a tangled mass of hair, a face which rested with an impudent expression, and held a tray of candied chestnuts in his hand. He offered one to the Sela with a boyish grin.

    "Want one?" He asked. "They're from Bedesh. They're good."

    The Sela sat next to the youth, took one of the sweets, and chewed thoughtfully.

    "Another?"

    "No, thank-you," the Sela smiled. "One is enough. I'm glad you came: I miss you."

    The youth shrugged. "One has to make one's own way. I don't regret anything, you know."

    "I know," the Sela laughed, "and I know that you aren't here for the reason that I wish you were. You are merely curious. You wanted to see, rather than See."

    The youth nodded, and popped another chestnut into his mouth.

    "You are feeling insecure?" Tramst asked.

    "Somewhat," the youth smiled.

    "Your place in the scheme of things is assured. Do not be concerned. Although why I flatter your ego so is beyond me: it hardly needs inflating."

    "I seem to have caught you in a happy mood," the youth grinned. "Which is all to the good. I was wondering if you might tell me..?"

    "Ahh," the Sela said drily. "Your name. Unfortunately, that information is still confidential. It can be bought, but I fear that the price might be too high for you."

    "I guessed as much, although I had to ask."

    "Of course you did, dear boy."

    The youth stood, and bowed rakishly. "I will take my leave, then. I look forward to events with great anticipation."

    "As do I," Tramst smiled. "Remember that I love you."

    "I will try my hardest to forget," the youth sighed. He vanished.

    *

    When the Ahma entered the tent an hour later, the taint was still so profound that it threatened to overwhelm him. His head reeled. Fear and concern possessed him.

    "What happened here?" Eadric asked.

    "I wavered for a moment," Tramst smiled. "There can be no truth without doubt."

    Eadric scowled.

    "You have my permission to go. Return within a fortnight."

    The Ahma cocked his head. "I don't…"

    Then he received the sending from Mostin.
    Last edited by Sepulchrave II; Thursday, 26th April, 2012 at 05:40 AM.

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