Pharamne's Urn (updated 4/25/12) - Page 55





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  1. #541
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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



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    ψ Ignore Joshua Randall
    Start here --> http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?t=58227

    It's out of date, but should keep you plenty entertained for a long time.
    Still excited about 4th edition!

    'If there steady paycheck in it, Krusk rage against anything you say.' - this post

 

  • #542
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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



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    ψ Ignore Sepulchrave II



    ***

    Mostin stood within the summoning room in his cellar at dusk, and considered his peculiar circumstances. He was an unlikely Enochian: driven by necessity, rather than any philosophical sympathy with the celestial agenda, which he viewed just as suspiciously as the fiendish one.

    Prior to the endeavour, he had made a brief journey to the cave of the Claviger in the hills of Mord, just to be sure that he had overlooked no detail regarding the Injunction. And to ensure that the Enforcer had not, in some perverse fit of humour, extended the proscribed area to encompass the locale of his manse. The chamber had seemed unchanged, except that – perhaps – the aura emanating from the tablets was somehow subdued.

    As he had prepared to leave, She had appeared to him, and smiled wickedly.

    "Be careful, Mostin. If one of your new friends places even a feathered toe within Wyre, I will take you. And there is no hiding from me."

    Despite his terror – because now Gihaahia was suffused with godlike power – Mostin had clung tight to his own will, and forced himself to remain calm.

    "Would you follow me Outside, even? Somehow, I doubt that." It had been an empty but necessary act of braggadocio; he knew that she would likely know of any violation before it happened, and certainly before he could react.

    "Place your trust in the Claviger," Gihaahia had said unexpectedly. "I/She cares for you."

    Mostin had departed feeling sick. Apparently, the infernal had now thoroughly conflated her own identity with that of the entity she served.


    Now he stood with Sho, who wished to witness the conjuration despite her own inclinations; and Orolde, the maimed sprite; and Mei, still devoid of true sapience. He sighed. My esteemed cabal, he thought ironically. He stared at Shomei's lesser analogues; news of their creator's infernal assumption could wait. He suspected that neither would care anyway; Sho was rapidly individuating, and Mei was dead to any feelings.

    Mostin turned, and inspected a mildewed tome which rested on a carved lectern, flicking through its pages with his appendage. Taruz, the captain of the Host with whom Mostin had struck his deal, had indicated that celestials of a stature greater than that of a deva or an archon were not suitable candidates for his conjurations, and had required that he not use planar bindings in order to secure aid from the Empyrean realms. Mostin had grumbled inwardly; opening a number of gates would be a massive drain on his psychic resources, even if no subsequent fee were involved. And for devas?

    The Alienist had brooded on the situation, and finally decided that he would pressure the host to renegotiate the terms of the deal. He would conjure Oraios, an exalted movanic; one of the Twelve Princes of the Eighth Choir. Technically a deva, yes. The fact that Oraios packed as much punch as a half-dozen solars was neither here nor there. But Mostin was nervous; spirit and letter were very different things, and he was dealing with celestials here, not devils. And few had dared to invoke an episeme before.

    Orolde coughed.

    "Well?" Sho asked. "Are we to stand here all day? I had hoped to use the summoning room later."

    "Very well," Mostin steeled himself. Stay focussed on the face. Do not look at the wings. And then: Screw the Host. It's my reservoir, and I damn well expect my money's worth.

    *

    In wheeling mansions of light, high in the Seraphic Sphere, a gate opened. After pausing for a moment's thought, during which he communed with the Marshal of the Host, Oraios passed through.

    *

    Beneath a tree on the southern marches of Wyre, the Sela sat cross-legged, surrounded by saints and talions, delivering a lesson to a wide circle of armored knights and templars. He paused briefly and smiled enigmatically, shaking his head at the wizard's audacity, before continuing.

    *

    In Nizkur, Nehael glanced at Teppu in the twilight. "Look what Mostin just did," she said, presenting him with a mental image.

    The sprite sat on a tump, inspecting the petals of a flower. "Jovol would have half-approved," he said archly. "His relations with the Host were always good."

    "And you?" She inquired.

    "I defer to your authority," Teppu replied. "How do you feel about it?"

    "I suppose I must tolerate it," she sighed. "Enitharmon is treading carefully; perhaps he doesn't wish to anger me. That much I appreciate, at least."

    "I doubt he fully understands," Teppu grinned. "Celestials will never comprehend Saizhan: they are relics of a previous era of consciousness."

    "Potent relics, nonetheless," Nehael smiled. "And atavisms have a habit of resurfacing after a millennium or two."

    "Are you worried?"

    "I will weep for those who suffer," Nehael replied. "But worry for myself and my charge? No. Nizkur is grounded in the Tree-ludja. I am unconquerable. This is a reassuring fact."

    "Unless the Nameless Fiend comes," the sprite observed.

    "I fear no Hellfire," Nehael laughed.

    "And his rhetoric?"

    "That has yet to be tested," Nehael conceded.

    **

    Mostin quailed. Its feathers were terrible, and its radiance was almost as bad. Mogus crooned eerily.

    "No wrath, then?" Mostin inquired gingerly. The Alienist had amplified his own powers to the point where he believed he had a good chance if it came to blows, but would rather it not prove necessary.

    "You abide by the contract," Oraios replied stonily, looking down at the Alienist.

    Mostin scowled. Exalted celestials acted according to their special remit – whatever that was. They were beyond normal hierarchic status. This celestial specimen appeared particularly warlike.

    "Then I may deploy you in a manner consonant with the will of the Ahma or the Sela. I also imagine that you regard yourself as better informed as to what that might be, and thus feel in no way, in actuality, beholden to me."

    "That would a wise interpretation," Oraios affirmed.

    "I think that it is contestable," Mostin said coolly. "I would also like you to consider this: my capacity to open gates is limited by my reservoir; my ability to use planar bindings is not. I…"

    The celestial gave Mostin an unreadable look. "You may use planar bindings. I abide by the rules at this point. I will remain for one month.

    Mostin frowned. He hadn't expected the monster to submit as quickly. "You must not tresspass within Wyre's boundaries."

    "I am fully conversant with the Injunction," Oraios said drily. "I try to stay abreast of current events."

    Mostin scowled. This celestial had a sense of humour?

    "I should like to make an observation," the deva said unexpectedly, purposefully emphasizing the last word.

    Mostin fidgeted nervously. This was highly irregular. "Go on."

    "If you were to continue gating my peers, you would find them no less accommodating than I."

    Mostin tilted his head and fixed his unblinking eyes on Oraios. "That information is duly noted. You may now be about your business."

    The celestial looked at Mostin as it discorporated. "Thank-you, Mostin."

    Mostin shivered. Its light still clung to him; the promise of something true and wholesome. It made the Alienist feel dirty.

    "What now?" Orolde asked.

    Mostin thought silently for a few minutes, before raising his head. "Tomorrow, we shall conjure the deva Irel, who has the quaint title 'he who smites.'"

    "Don't pull your punches, Mostin," Sho remarked.

    "And also the archon Hemah, and the deva Shokad." Mostin added. "And a dozen or so minor devas."

    Sho raised an eyebrow. "You will gain a reputation as Oronthon's bitch."

    "I don't see arch-devils coming this cheap," Mostin replied.

    "I don't see you in control here, either."

    "You forget that I am a personal friend of the Breath of God," Mostin smiled. "That carries special benefits, and relieves me of certain concerns."

    "And imposes certain others."

    Mostin shrugged. He was interested in the broad canvas, not the details. And a penny saved here and there could help toward that pot of very purple paint, which he could then throw all over it.

    He observed Sho. Her urge to overcome any limits was as pronounced as her creator's. Following her endowment by Nwm, she had quicky compacted several erinyes and – after procuring a scroll from an unrevealed source – a cornugon in the service of Seere, a disgraced infernal count who dwelt in Avernus. Now she courted pit fiends in Seere's bodyguard. Her rise had been predictably meteoric; in it, the cloak lent to her by Mostin, and the Mirror of Urm-Nahat had been instumental. Mostin envied her: to have those tools with which to begin one's career.

    He regarded her approvingly, regretting only that she did not have another eye, or a maw.

    ***

    Nwm alighted upon a wide platform of rock, thirty feet above the mere. He deposited Ortwine, Eadric and Rhul, and resumed his natural shape in a slick instant.

    "No demons?" Nwm inquired.

    "I suspect that this is only the beginning of the vestibule," Rhul pointed through an opening into another, massive cavern. "We have a long descent to make; the Underworld is deep, you know." He sounded wry.

    "Forty-eight hours, Ortwine," Eadric scowled at the sidhe. He turned to Nwm, "Should we wind-walk?."

    "We must trudge," Rhul observed. "Those are the rules."

    *

    As they trod, Eadric handed Nwm a scarf of black silk.

    Nwm looked dubious. "What is its significance?"

    "It is Soneillon's; she gave it to me in a dream." Eadric proceeded to explain his dilemma regarding the demoness; he could revive her, or Yeshe would find her first.

    "Ah," Nwm said.

    "Do you have a solution?" Eadric asked.

    "Not really."

    "I had considered imprisoning her…"

    "Confinement would preclude her conjuration," Nwm was hesitant. "But I would be reluctant to condemn any location, anywhere, to such a fate."

    "Could you do it?"

    "Could?. I suppose so." Nwm acknowledged. "But not alone."

    "She need not be confined within the World of Men," the Ahma ventured. "If some forsaken Limbo could be found…"

    "One man's Limbo is another's Paradise," Nwm observed drily. "Still. Some locations would be less offensive than others."

    "There is a place," Eadric spoke carefully. "It seems apt. The lake. It would resonate. It would require Ortwine's permission, at the very least. She owns that stretch of Faerie. Or at least has a better claim on it than any other. That wouldn't be so hard to obtain. She owes me."

    "I think you underestimate the degree of control that Ortwine prefers to exert over her hegemony. She was livid when I revealed that I had opened portals to Afqithan. That said, despite the protestations of the sidhe, I think the very notion of ownership is absurd when speaking of Faerie."

    "If I asked you, would you do it?"

    "Perhaps," Nwm answered after a brief pause.

    "Somehow, I had expected a flat no."

    "Often, one must look at the bigger picture. And how best to protect. I remember her: I know how dangerous she is. But understand this, Ed: If I were to would lay a compulsion upon her, I'd drain every drop from your psyche to do it. And mine. And probably Ortwine's – which I think she'd be less than enthusiastic about. It would need to be robust. And it sits uncomfortably with me. It would be an act of hypocrisy; a violation of something I am sworn to protect."

    "How long would such a confinement last?" Eadric inquired.

    Nwm grimaced. "Until one more powerful than I came and broke it. Which might be tomorrow, or might be never. Goetia is hardly my speciality, Eadric. I can accomplish a great deal, but my power is raw; I lack the finesse of a wizard. Mostin would be a better choice."

    "Mostin is under Empyreal contract. He's not really an option at this point."

    Nwm stared at the Ahma. "You need to think hard about this, Eadric. You are compromised in more ways than you know; I'm not just talking about your romantic attachment to this particular fiend. You need to question every possible motive that you might have before acting. And an investment of my power in this would mean that it is not deployed elsewhere – and that concerns me as much as anything."

    "Demons such as her don't die, Nwm. They have already been unmade. They merely arise from Nothingness into Being, and return to oblivion a while. Nothing Becomes."

    "That is a perversion of Saizhan, and you know it. I can't believe I'm telling you this, of all people."

    "It's the other side of the coin," Eadric shrugged. "Perhaps it's also an act of symbolic necessity; the Ahma must re-embody the Void; the Preceptor must confine its essence within The Green. It is a point of commonality."

    "You suddenly seem well informed regarding my religious duties," Nwm said acidly. "You also posit a Hierarchy of Truths that I'm not altogether comfortable with."

    Eadric stopped walking. "You were the one who was passionate about my taking a stance. About a reconciliation of ideals. Don't get upset at me if my interpretation is one you find you don't like; something which makes you uncomfortable because of what it might actually materially entail. I do not shirk my duty, thus? Remember? You're going to need to give a little, here."

    Nwm scowled. "Point," he finally said. "Although if you're going to start establishing dogma, you'd better damn well make sure this time that it's clear that this is not an act to be emulated. News would get out; it always does. You would need to consider the ramifications of knowledge of the event amongst the 'faithful,' or whatever they are these days. And you need to decide if it's the Adversary who's driving your agenda."

    Eadric glared. "You just had to get that one in, didn't you."

    Nwm sighed. "It is a consideration."

    "The alternative is that you reincarnate her into a more benign form."

    "Absolutely not," Nwm replied. "I have no jurisdiction over immortal abominations. Or celestials, for that matter. Nor do I wish any."

    "I do. And I recall that once you were less reluctant to step outside of your remit regarding another succubus."

    "Hardly comparable," Nwm snapped. "Accepting an act of submission by one repentant individual – for the sake of expedience – is not the same as purposely incarnating a manifestation of evil. You would have me unleash this thing in the world? You have no idea what you're suggesting."

    "Then enlighten me, Nwm," Eadric said grimly. "I am merely exploring possibilities. Could you bring her back Green?"

    "No."

    "Why not?" Eadric asked. "Ortwine. Mulissu. Teppu. Nehael. If I've learned anything, it's that the Viridity can absorb anything. You awakened a simulacrum, Nwm."

    "She would bring a blackness with her. A corruption."

    "The Viridity arises in response to the ontological paradox. It grounds the abstract in the present. Notions of ens and non-ens are abandoned in the face of the Now. Your words, Nwm."

    "Nehael's words," Nwm corrected him.

    "So ask the Goddess," Eadric replied.

    "I beg your pardon?"

    "Ask Nehael if either solution is acceptable: imprisonment or incarnation. Or neither. We will abide by her decision."

    Nwm squinted and cocked his head. "Very well."

    "In any event, it will require Soneillon's consent."

    Nwm stood stock still. "What?"

    "I will not lie to her, Nwm," Eadric said simply. "I owe her that much, at least."

    Nwm sighed.

    Ahead, Ortwine stopped. They had entered a tall cavern. Great bronze doors lay beyond.

    "Demons," she calmly observed.

    *

    The sidhe had been walking with Rhul, apparently in casual conversation, but in fact probing him for information, and wooing the godling toward her camp. Her interrogation was too skillful for Rhul to discern, and the subtlety of her intellectual seduction – which targeted his aesthetic sensibilities with deadly precision – was more than Rhul was equipped to deal with, despite his own sophistication.

    Ortwine had the uncanny knack of presenting ideas to a subject of her willful manipulation as exactly as I would have thought in the mind of the listener. Her sexuality was a razor which she wielded with cool detachment, and could accommodate allusions to either coyness or abandon, but in innuendos so ethereal that they merely left a vague feeling of discomfort in those whom she targeted.

    All must adore me, she knew. In that, her purpose was unchanged. Thus, can I brood better.

    Rhul himself had admitted that the exact method of Ortwine's apotheosis was still in doubt, but the sidhe had developed a number of theories – or rather entertained a variety of notions – as to how it might be best effected. Outside of Mulhuk, the Nireem were diminished in stature, although that had not always been the case; in their heydey, when Sisperi had flourished, they had enjoyed the worship which that world's natives had lavished upon them.

    Central to Ortwine's plans were the series of massive reincarnations – planned by Nwm and Lai – each of which would facilitate the simultaneous transmigration of thousands of disembodied spirits into new forms. For Nwm, this would be an act of metaphysical audacity which he had barely even begun to address; the ethical responsibility involved was truly staggering. Ortwine's view was more pragmatic; she needed a base of worshippers upon whom to draw to fuel her divinity, and who would venerate her based on her chosen role.

    But the sidhe herself was not entirely without scruples. She understood the reciprocity demanded by the agreement and, at present at least, recognized her obligation. She would remain fey, of course, and that presented her with a good deal of leeway; Afqithan was already bound to Mulhuk through Nwm's conduits. Sisperi itself would become infused with Faerie – the Enchantment – as Ortwine had come to regard it in her mind. Not in some mundane wizardly fashion, but in a deep, abiding occult manner which she was beginning to understand.

    The leaders of the Nireem – Lai, Rhul and Jaliere – had sworn solemn oaths regarding Ortwine's ascension. Ninit, who preferred to remain marginal to the dealings of Mulhuk, had expressed no opinion other than her usual disdain. Ortwine had decided that some rite must exist where each godling could invest her with a portion of their own strength, and that such might be a possibility. At the last, the death of Saes at her own hands might be an option, although Ortwine was nervous that such an act would mean that she herself would inherit Ruk, and its dismal responsibilities.

    Ortwine drew Heedless and felt the blade's malign power course through her.

    *

    They had once been demons but – by through instillation of morbid power by Saes in her delerium – had assumed a darker status. Blood fiends which fed on each other, and disgorged shadows of themselves in an unending cycle of consumption and regurgitation. They descended upon the party like a rabid pack, their thin screams echoing in the tall chambers of the vestibule.

    Nwm swallowed. There were too many to count. He unleashed a sonic which ripped a swathe through them; the acoustic resonance shattered diamonds in the walls of the cavern. Lukarn flared; brilliant sunlight exploded. Their numbers seemed barely diminished.

    Nwm invoked potent wards. "Keep them at bay for a moment. Then we cut our way forward," he said. It was their only option: they had to trudge. He shot two parallel walls of green fire across the chamber, a narrow path between them. The blistering heat caused the undead to recoil for an instant, before they hurled themselves oblivious through the burning curtains, immolating themselves in a frenzy in order to attack the group.

    "After you," Nwm said to Eadric.

    The Ahma began to hew his way through the monsters. The others followed him.

    **

    Graz'zt stood within the Gate Room, a labyrinth of hallways containing many thousands of portals, all of which were sealed. The Prince had assumed the size and shape of a human of dark aspect, and was outfitted as a gentleman prepared for travel; an extra digit on each gloved hand remained to indicate his true nature, a vanity which Graz'zt always indulged.

    He was accompanied by a dozen other demons of note, including Chepez the Vicious – a succubus whose animal nature Graz'zt trusted – and Hejiel, whose grasp of planar geography was unrivalled. Megual, a kelvezu assassin renowned for his subtlety, rode upon the Prince's right. The marilith Hirmis, a loyal general who in the past had delivered numerous victories to Graz'zt in his wars against Yeenoghu, had also joined him. Twenty metamorphosed cauchemars served as steeds, or as armor and baggage carriers for the troupe; their possessions included all of Zelatar's most portable wealth, stowed in a variety of extradimensional bags. Their faηade might have been a squad of mercenary knights and their squires.

    Above them, the hooves of nightmares bearing the undead cavalry of Orcus thundered through the halls of the Argent Palace. Ten hours before, their chiefs had come; every minute detail of the palace defenses had been known to them, and Graz'zt's walls had been disjoined in three different places at once. To the astonishment of those closest to him, the Prince had at once calmly opted to abandon his stronghold, but at a leisurely pace which allowed him to collect his thoughts and make arrangements first. The bulk of his court, he had dispatched to the Ice Waste of Kostchchie; were he to arrive in person, Graz'zt could assume control of that miserable, backward layer at any time. Others had been sent to the few remaining proxies which remained loyal to Azzagrat during tumultuous times.

    A select group, he had kept to himself; the Prince had taken a fancy to the idea of a-wanderin', perhaps with the notion of wreaking a little havoc. Distraction in destruction was what he needed now. Ilistet could wait – he would rend her body and spirit for the secrets she must have divulged. Compacted by now, no doubt; eyewitnesses had reported his herald's abrupt disappearance through a gate. Inscrutable to his divinations, the Prince suspected Rimilin of the Skin, and information sold to Thanatos. He cursed them all.

    With a gesture, Graz'zt dispelled the wards which held the portals closed, and hundreds of vistas – mostly terrible – opened up before them. A few other doorways remained blank and closed; gates sealed from the other side.

    Graz'zt ignored them all, and with a small device instead opened a portal to yet another world. With his party, he passed swiftly through into a dreary wasteland named Suluvda, and into exile. The gate flashed closed behind him.

    The death knights never reached the Gate Room. More than a few of the portals had been shut for good reason.

    *

    In his meditations, Temenun knew that many chthonics had erupted into the fourty-fifth abysm, and that the ugra named Angula had vacated his demesne. Void was buoyant, pushing closer to the surface. Temenun bade the other immortals attend him.

    Angula flirts with us. He dares one of us to conjure him. Who will raise his pavillion?

    Choach bowed. "My brother, Draab, has already made pact with him."

    Sibud sneered. "We do not observe outside arrangements."

    Choach gave a ghastly smile. "Neither does Draab."

    "I bring Baramh," Yeshe announced. "His pavillion can be raised in three days. I plan to conjure the Gu Kaama shortly afterwards." Rumours already abounded; the Binder merely confirmed them. It was a goad directed at Prahar, who ignored it and slavered silently.

    Temenun turned his gaze upon Anumid. "What does the Mouthpiece say?"

    "Angula is currently unbalanced. Nonetheless, it will not be I who decides; I am authorized to offer five hundred to begin: you may bid on them as you will."

    A furious haggling began.

    Yeshe smiled. She had the advantage: she was wealthier than anybody else.

    **

    Eadric, Ortwine, Nwm and Rhul finally gained the gates: massive bronze valves, twenty feet high, replete with ornate scenes depicting the passage of souls through various spiritual ordeals. The press of fiends around them was unrelenting.

    Eadric brandished Lukarn and invoked another sunburst. Nwm sealed the area immediately before the portals with a wall of stone. For a brief moment, an eery silence descended upon the group, before a hideous scraping – the sound of hundreds of claws and maws upon granite – filled the encysted space.

    "What now?" Eadric asked.

    Ortwine pushed lightly upon the doors. They opened noiselessly.

    "We trudge," the sidhe said drily.

    Wearily, they continued their descent.

    **

    "I must do it now!" Yeshe hissed.

    "The bids are not yet closed, Lady," Anumid replied calmly.

    "I need the first and third cabals of the Anantam," Yeshe pressed on regardless.

    "Then you need to up your tender," Anumid smiled.

    "You owe me much, Anumid," Yeshe turned her scorn on the Mouthpiece. "I will offer you two analahs and a dozen gomukhs for one month. It is a royal price.*"

    "It is a fair price," Anumid answered. "And must be split any number of ways."

    "I need three hundred by nightfall. I must build fast."

    "And I would remind you that you will have an advantage in future negotiations if your circle is made."

    "The cabals may retain ownership of the circle," Yeshe immediately conceded. "Anumid, we need to act. Many enemies will soon come. We are losing the initiative. We must be prepared."

    Anumid's eyes narrowed. "I will advocate for you. But at three analahs and thirty gomukhs."

    Yeshe's face contorted into a snarl.

    "And I will get you your three hundred. But know that the Anantam are dubious of angering the Wyrish Enforcer."

    "Gihaahia will not come here. She cannot overcome us on this ground, and she knows it. You may vouchsafe for me. I swear it on my name."

    Anumid nodded, and departed.

    *

    An hour passed, and Anumid returned. "They accept."

    *

    Three hours later, the demon prince Pazuzu and six armored balors stood within the confines of the inner precinct.

    Yeshe knelt before them, but her supplication was ceremonial. They were already enslaved to her.

    **

    The cavern was vast and approximately conical; its apex, a swirling vortex without colour, which – Ortwine knew instinctively – led out of there. They entered warily, upon a solid surface which reflected like still water, but within the depths of which, a maelstrom of tormented souls raged.

    It was not what they had expected.

    On an island of rock in the dead centre was slouched the figure of a slender woman on a throne of bone and bronze, apparently insensible. She was possessed of great beauty, but her eyes were glazed and vacant.

    Ortwine cautiously moved closer, drew Heedless and poked Saes lightly in the ribs. The figure was unresponsive. A trickle of divine blood from a tiny cut stained Saes's white robe. Ortwine gazed at it, fascinated. Heedless moved restlessly in her hand.

    She turned to Nwm. "What now?"

    "She needs to be healed," the Preceptor observed. "That is all."

    Eadric raised an eyebrow. "Can you do that? Return sanity to a deity?"

    Nwm shot the Ahma a glance. "Healing is what I do best, Eadric. Ortwine, be prepared to negotiate. Be warned: sane and nice should not be confused."

    The sidhe paused. "Wait a…"

    But Nwm had already touched Saes upon the forehead, flooding the goddess with green light, even as traces of jade fire crawled over him, charring his own flesh and causing him to writhe in pain. He reeled, and coughed blood upon the polished floor.

    The malice which was Saes awoke from its stupor. Black eyes opened and regarded the quartet before her.

    "You presume much," the goddess smiled thinly. Her consciousness rapidly expanded to embrace her domain, dwarfing the psyches of those others present. "You I know," she looked coldly at Rhul. "What are these?"

    Ortwine lowered herself to one knee, and pointedly averted her eyes. "On behalf of your brothers and sisters, we beg for aid," she said simply.

    Inwardly, Eadric relaxed a little. They were in the realm of negotiation. Ortwine could handle it alone from here.

    **

    I need to know. Mostin's voice echoed in Eadric's mind. The wizard was many worlds distant.

    Deploy them. Eadric replied.

    Against whom?

    We should target the cabals. Destroy their power base.

    Good in principle. But assaulting the main precinct would be futile. It would take half a myriad to accomplish.

    Do you have a better suggestion? The Ahma was irritable.

    An army musters outside of Thond's walls.

    Mortal thralls? Many who are innocent will perish.

    It is the doom of mortals to perish. Mostin replied.

    There will be enough blood on my hands. I would rather my opening move be less ignoble.

    You have always lacked the pragmatism necessary to be an effective tyrant. Mostin's voice was scornful. Attack the vulnerable pieces first.

    How many are gathered at Thond? Eadric was grim.

    So far, around eleven thousand. Including bombards, battalions of condottieri, and the flower of Thond's chivalry.

    Their composition was irrelevant. Eadric knew that they would stand no chance, and all would be quickly slain unless the Cheshnite spellcasters stopped to intervene directly.

    And retaliation? Shouldn't I be concerned that a counterstrike will be just as indiscriminate?

    Eadric, if you think that moderating your actions will somehow cause the Hierophants to reconsider theirs…

    In the throne-room of Ruk, the underworld of Sisperi, the Ahma stood quietly and considered.

    Unleash them. He finally commanded. But they must withdraw if Visuit or any other immortal appears in person at Thond.

    *

    Princes, attend me! Mostin issued a mass sending.

    The four exalted celestials, who had assumed the metaphysical stewardship of Wyre's cardinal directions, manifested before the Alienist, bathed in radiance.

    "I have a task consonant with the Will of the Ahma."



    ***


    Graz'zt has vanished. Ur-fiends stalk Zelatar's byways, and Orcus cannot hold the plane. Carasch and his ilk have risen to the fourty-fifth deep.

    Jalael considered the sending which Daunton had issued an hour before. She sat within a booth in the library of the Academy; tomes containing the names and sigils of many demons surrounded her.

    Celestial dignitaries had assumed the ethereal guardianship of Wyre. The Claviger had magnified the Enforcer. Fumaril was inaccessible, isolated by Mulissu's magicks. Something was awakening in Nizkur. Pazuzu had erected a temple south of Jashat: the olive groves were already stained black with the blood and smoke of sacrifice. And now madness and annihilation were spewing forth their effluvia into the middle Abyss.

    Where to throw her lot? She reflected upon her position carefully for an hour, considering the merits of allegiance with the various axes which had formed. She contacted her occasional patron – a Pandemonic Hag named Kreta – whose agenda was opaque at best.

    Jalael brooded long upon the whereabouts of Pharamne's Urn.

    Finally, in a small refectory, she took counsel with the wizards Troap and Muthollo – together, these three formed an unbalanced triad which nonetheless might yield remarkable results in the future. Jalael's accelerando was already underway. She knew that if she survived the current crisis, she would be a major player in the New Order.

    She cursed Mostin for encumbering her with notions of commitment to posterity.

    "We are fragmenting into triptychs, as Shomei foresaw," Jalael observed. "Ours is the most potent. Are we to take a proactive stance?"

    "I suddenly have a deep appreciation for the magical economy of the Cheshnites," Troap smiled wrily. "It is a model which we might seek to adopt."

    "It has its merits," Jalael agreed. "Loci are forming around Waide, Tullifer and Idro; around Tozinak, Shuk and Poylu; and around Creq, Droom and Gholu. Others remain marginal, although quadruplicities seem popular among the less accomplished. Mostin, Rimilin and Daunton are the unintegrated pinnacle,"

    "Is Daunton transvalent?" Muthollo asked. "He is enigmatic."

    "He is spineless," Jalael replied. "And yes, I believe so. And Tozinak is close. And so is Waide. I suspect Jovol engineered the whole situation."

    "Jovol-who-is-Teppu," Troap hissed. "I vote for the Green camp. I may be biased." He smiled broadly.

    "I am inclined to retain our autonomy at present," Muthollo seemed sceptical. "The goblin has viridescent urges which are clouding his vision."

    "I am pragmatic," Jalael opined. "I say we back Mostin."

    "Because insanity is recently fashionable?" Muthollo inquired.

    "We need to deflate his Enochian bubble. We should offer to help him bind Graz'zt. The Dark Prince is abroad, and lacks the protections of his sanctum."

    Troap inclined his head. "Mostin needs a bigger cabal."

    Jalael shrugged. "He can reconfigure the spell. His use of celestials is becoming indiscriminate, and must be ended."





    Note

    Angula ("Fingers"), Baramh ("Peacock Feathers") and Aja ("The Goat") refer to Graz'zt, Pazuzu and Orcus respectively. Gu-Kaama is Soneillon, "Darkness-Lust."

    "Raising the Pavillion" of a demon lord occurs after it is thoroughly subjugated. After the initial domination expires, a longer-term compulsion kicks in. I've assumed that it is possible to coerce a dominated creature to surrender (voluntarily fail its save / lower its SR) to a subsequently targeted long-term epic compulsion.

    *Service rendered by two balors and twelve babau.
    Last edited by Sepulchrave II; Monday, 4th August, 2008 at 09:39 PM.

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    Man, if I were a mortal in Wyre and I knew what was about to go down, I'd start running like hell and never come back!
    Still excited about 4th edition!

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    ψ Ignore EroGaki
    The only thing that saddens me is that Mostin wasn't the one to "awaken" Sho. I mean, the task of giving the simulacrum's consciousness is supposed to be his magnum opus, according to Shomei.

    I only hope that he gets to work on Mei.

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    more urgent matters aren't missing though...
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    Wow!

    I always forget just how intense this story hour is to read. I'm going to have to read the new update again tomorrow just to get a better understanding of how everything links together.
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    An update!

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  • #549
    That was awesome, Sep! Thank you.


    "We need to deflate his Enochian bubble. We should offer to help him bind Graz'zt. The Dark Prince is abroad, and lacks the protections of his sanctum."

    Troap inclined his head. "Mostin needs a bigger cabal."

    Jalael shrugged. "He can reconfigure the spell. His use of celestials is becoming indiscriminate, and must be ended."
    Anyone want to take a shot at figuring out what this is about?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rary the Traitor View Post
    Anyone want to take a shot at figuring out what this is about?
    I think some of Mostin's colleagues are just concerned that his enochian (that is, celestial-summoning) phase is going to turn him into a tool of the Church. The appearance of the first exalted celestial he summoned seemed to have some psychological effect on him, which would have me worried too. The Church definitely has scruples that may put it at odds with the fairly libertarian approach Wyre's wizards have to their studies.
    The purpose if good rules is to remove the necessity of GM fiat as much as is humanly possible.
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