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Monday, 26th April, 2004, 08:09 PM #1
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
The Mésalliance. Part 2. (Updated 11/28)
I thought it was about time to start a new thread. We're only five months behind in updates, so I think I'm doing pretty well (:rolleyes: is better).
At this point, we were playing by e-mail about 50% of the time - which suited me well: after a while it gets hard to sit opposite a bearded guy with a beer-belly and pretend I'm a succubus :\ (still not as good as :rolleyes.
Self-deprecation just isn't the same anymore...
BREY: Sela, what does it mean, to 'Fall?'
TRAMST: To Fall is to reject that which you have experienced to be true, in favour of that which you know, in your heart, to be false.
BREY: And what is truth?
TRAMST: That, unfortunately, is subjective.
BREY: Is it therefore possible for two people who share similar experiences, to have different destinies in this regard? By virtue of their different perspectives, may one Fall, and another not?
TRAMST: That is more common than one may at first think.
BREY: And when two irrefutable truths come into conflict? How does one then decide?
TRAMST: That, Brey, is why we practice Saizhan.
BREY: Hence Saizhan always reveals the correct truth.
TRAMST: No, Brey. Saizhan always determines the correct truth. The distinction is crucial.
BREY: Should one always choose the harder truth?
TRAMST: Often this transpires to be the case, but to adopt it as a premise leads to the Adversarial paradigm, which Saizhan teaches us is incomplete. Evidently, this is so, or the Adversary himself would not have Fallen.
BREY: I understand.
TRAMST: No, Brey, you do not. Which is why I am the master, and you are the student.
The Sprite materialized within the deepest reaches of the Forest of Nizkur, picked an acorn from the ground, and examined it briefly.
Pressing the seed with its thumb into the soft earth, the Sprite waved his hand casually.
A sapling shot forth, and began to grow rapidly. The Sprite watched in satisfaction as a trunk fattened, boughs twisted, and leaflets unfurled from twigs. Bark became pitted, cracked and thick. Mistletoe and ivy appeared around the bole, and moss burgeoned inside of damp recesses. Within twenty seconds, the tree matured. It could have been there for five hundred years. The leaves turned a deep gold, and began to fall, as if in an effort to catch up with the surrounding forest.
The Sprite's legs bent, and he sprang upwards, leaping eighty feet into the air and alighting softly below the crown of the tree. He sat and waited.
Presently, he heard laughter. A nymph capered by, pursued by two lusty wood-gnomes with ruddy noses. Plucking an oak-apple from a nearby branch, the Sprite hurled it with considerable force, striking the nymph soundly on her rump.
She stopped abruptly and glared upwards. "How dare you interrupt my frolicking?" The nymph looked suspiciously at the tree – she didn't remember it being there, the last time she had passed through this part of the forest.
"Hlioth, it is I," the Sprite called down. "I'm back. Come, we need to talk!"
Hlioth, the Green Witch, squealed in delight and abandoned her would-be suitors with looks of disappointment on their faces. She appeared immediately on the branch next to the Sprite and embraced him.
"Back so soon, Fillein? I was expecting a longer absence."
"I am no longer Fillein," the Sprite sighed. "Nor was I last time, if you recall. I barely even remember who Fillein was."
Hlioth shrugged. "No matter. What is your name now?"
"I haven't decided yet."
Hlioth clapped. "Splendid. I will choose one for you."
"Very well," the Sprite seemed amused.
"Will you be a fey now?" Hlioth asked archly.
"What is your genus? I don't recognize it."
"I am unique," the Sprite replied.
"Then your name is Huhip."
"That is somewhat too aspirated for my tastes."
"Then Gudge," Hlioth replied.
"It sounds like an affliction of the bowels," the Sprite observed.
"May I choose or not?" Hlioth grumbled.
"Only if you choose correctly," the Sprite laughed.
"Then your name is Teppu."
"That will do nicely," Teppu nodded.
Hlioth smiled. "I must say, I think you have made an excellent choice with regard to your form – although I admit I may be a little biased. Are you still a wizard?"
"No," Teppu replied. " I have chosen an instinctive, blended form,* in order to avoid the Injunction. Besides, I find wizardry dull."
Hlioth laughed. "I came to a similar conclusion some time ago. Can you show me?"
Teppu smiled, and quickly clapped his hands three times. A supernova of magic exploded outwards from him. It seemed as though, suddenly, sapience was everywhere.
Hlioth laughed and cried in happiness. "That is beautiful. How many did you awaken?"
"Oh, I don't know. Hundreds. Thousands, maybe."
"You are Green, Teppu."
"I am Green," he nodded.
"Do you still dream?"
"Of course I still dream, Hlioth."
A look of concern crossed her face briefly. "And the web of motes? Will you seek its return?"
"Why, Hlioth? Who cares about the future?"
She kissed him fondly on the forehead. The trees around him regarded him with warmth.
Eadric stood on the roof of the Steeple, wrapped in a thick fur, and stared blankly northwards towards the gathering clouds of winter. The cloak was superfluous – he no longer felt the cold – and he wondered whether wearing it would remain an affectation on days when the wind blew from Tomur, down from the mountains.
He brooded upon Nhura. When would she be ready? For every day which passed in Faerie, a week dragged by in the World of Men: the delay was becoming unbearable, sapping his focus and resolve. He remembered the long period of uncertainty before he had marched on Morne, and this seemed a thousand times worse – a bleakness and desperation which he had never before experienced surrounded this venture. And constantly, he forced his thoughts away from dwelling upon his dream: the black ecstasy which Soneillon had forced upon him, and a foretaste of what could be if he so chose it. She had dominated him utterly, and to a large extent he felt the blame was his: he had all but insisted that she reveal her most malign and brutal face to him. So she had demonstrated. But he had dreamed it, and he didn't know how real it had really been.
Five more nights had passed since then, and, although his sleep was troubled, the Ahma had received no visitation – either from Soneillon or the Sprite. Now he was mind blanked – Mostin said that, henceforth, they must always be mind blanked, to prevent covert observation from afar by Graz'zt. The Alienist had also warned that it might not be an effective defense, but it was the best that he could do.
Mostin had closeted himself within his study, and begun to work half-heartedly on yet another spell in the absence of news from Faerie: Eadric had seen little of him, and the interaction between them had been tense and uncomfortable.
The Alienist was preoccupied with his own troubles and his strained friendship with Mulissu – he had issued a number of sendings to the Elementalist, none of which received a reply. His insistence that she was safer near him – where she could be warded – had fallen of deaf ears. And Mostin was vexed by another dilemma: he could not enter the extradimensional portion of his retreat and summon anything there for fear of direct assault from Graz'zt; nor could he conjure anything outside of it, without violating the Injunction. The loophole outside of the Claviger's domain had been effectively closed to him, because the Celestial Interdict did not apply there either. In the times when his head was not full of esoteric formulae, Mostin ruminated upon the Horror, and whether to make another translation to the Far Realm or not. Or complained about his house-guests: both Ortwin and Koilimilou were lodged with the Alienist. Eadric received the distinct impression that the Satyr was avoiding him.
Nonetheless, at precisely eight o'clock every evening, Mostin would arrive and renew the ward upon Eadric. And for that, the Ahma was thankful. He groaned. He desperately wanted to confide in Nwm.
He descended from the tower and into the courtyard where a trio of supplicants waited – pilgrims from Trempa who sought his blessing. One suffered from a blight which had caused her skin to crack with sores and pustules, and a rheum had settled upon her eyes. Eadric performed a brief, perfunctory rite, did his best to smile, entered the keep, and bolted the door behind him. Within, it seemed cold and unwelcoming.
He furrowed his brow, strode into the Great Hall – which seemed particularly damp – and picked up a wooden mallet. He began striking a large, iron bell, and did not desist until all eleven of his servants stood before him.**
He turned to his clerk. "Bocere, bring me the ledgers."
Bocere, who managed the finances of three estates – Deorham, Hernath and Droming – on a day-to-day basis, and seldom left his small office, looked sceptical. "Are you sure, Ahma? It will take several weeks to go over them. It has been a long time, after all…"
Eadric grunted. "Then bring me a summary. The rest of you – except Hawi – open every shutter and every window, light every fire. Remove dust, dirt and debris – including from the library. This place is beginning to depress me."
He tossed a purse to the stablehand. Hawi caught it, opened it and gawked – it contained more gold than he would earn in five years.
"Go into Deorham," Eadric instructed, "and find some more help. Start at the Twelve Elms. Do not return until you have secured the services of another maid, two lackeys, two linkboys and a minstrel – not a juggler. Offer them twice what they ask for, and give them a month's advance."
The boy nodded enthusiastically.
"Try to find a good minstrel, Hawi," Eadric sighed. Although he didn't hold much hope, the village of Deorham was on the route from Morne to Trempa, and Hawi might get lucky. "You have two days. You may stay at the inn. Eat well, but do not consume too much ale – every penny should be accounted for."
"Why, Ahma, I…"
Eadric raised his hand. "You will also post a notice that I am seeking permanent retainers of quality. Including a castellan."
The announcement was greeted by a stunned silence.
"I realize this may be upsetting," Eadric said, although he felt unusually unsympathetic, "but it may be that presently I will leave for some time. In the event that I do not return – which is entirely possible – I would like my affairs set in order. Be assured that I will appoint someone of gentle birth and fair mind to guard your interests in the meanwhile." He knew that, as soon the news of his intentions became known, the younger brothers and second sons of dozens of nobles would clamour for the position. Gossip spread like wildfire amongst Trempa's aristocracy.
He turned again to Bocere. "How much of the endowment to the Temple remains to be paid?***"
Bocere coughed. "One hundred and thirty-thousand crowns."
"I will sign over the deeds to Hernath."
Eadric raised an eyebrow.
The red haze was upon her again, and she swung the spear Rengh around her head like a flail, whilst guiding Drût effortlessly with her knees. Her copper hair blazed in the wan sunlight, and her bloodstained form rippled with power and restless purpose. The stallion's hooves – bright with white fire – flashed to momentary incandescence as it reared and hammered down upon the creatures which assailed her. As usual, she was alone: seeking alone, stalking alone, slaying alone. And in her madness, none of those who considered her an ally could approach her in any event: her anger was elemental, and best avoided by those who purposed to live.
The demons recoiled.
The goddess pressed forwards, and slew. And slew. And slew. And when she had slain them all, and their grizzled, muscled forms lay in stinking, steaming heaps around her, the frenzy finally passed.
She spat, and cursed them. The ground shuddered, ripped open briefly, and swallowed their already festering remains.
Ninit whispered to Drût, and they rode north across the plains to find more. The hairy ones which jumped were easy prey – although not as easy as the fat, squat ones which drooled. The toad-like ones, and the ones with four arms were trickier – although they seemed comparatively rare. The ones with the hooks on their heads were sly and vicious, and she hated them most of all: they always seemed to slip away at the last minute. But however many she killed, there always seemed to be more. She squinted.
Somewhat later, from the corner of her eye, she spied a bird winging towards her at great speed: a kestrel or falcon, although at a distance of more than a mile it was hard for the goddess to be sure. She wheeled Drût about, and waited for it to reach her: she saw that it was a peregrine. Which meant that it was Lai.
Ninit groaned, and swore. The goddess of magic assumed her natural shape nearby.
"What do you want?" Ninit grunted.
"Rhul has departed for the place called Wyre."
"What do I care?"
"He seeks allies, Ninit."
"Where are you riding?" Lai asked.
"North," Ninit said through narrowed eyes.
"May I join you?"
"If you must," Ninit sighed. "But stay out of my way, Lai."
"If you were to return to Mulhuk…" Lai began.
"And shut up," Ninit said.
He was becoming impatient – he had been kept for five days in an antechamber of black steel high in the north face of the Iron Tower. A single aperture, three feet square, offered a restricted view of the endless city of Dis two miles below – in the rare moments when the infernal haze and acrid fog lifted sufficiently to permit it. Thousands of erinyes constantly patrolled the airs outside – their vectors changing on every pass which they made.
When his summons finally came, a mixture of relief and foreboding replaced a feeling of paranoia and anxiety, and he followed a silent, scarred pit fiend through a tortuous maze of interconnecting chambers and corridors into a reception room of unfathomable height.
A conclave of powerful devils, arrayed in awful forms, awaited him. They sat grimly on carved iron sieges around an iron table etched with scenes which portrayed the Great Revolt.
Titivilus bowed suavely, whilst taking in their number, political allegiances, and relative dispositions in an instant. The fact that Neabaz, the Herald of Baalzebul, was present caused the convoluted mind of Titivilus to twist in a hundred new ways.
"Sit," Dispater smiled.
"Our objectives have changed," Dispater said calmly.
Titivilus nodded. His mind raced. What objectives? By 'our' does he mean 'our' or 'my?' Or maybe 'his?'
"The Chief Protagonist of our Cause has ordered that the status quo must be maintained," Dispater said opaquely.
"Sire?" Titivilus asked. Evidently, he meant 'his.'
"The force currently under Murmuur's command will move to support Graz'zt in Afqithan," Dispater explained. "Shomei's petition to Bathym was quashed."
Titivilus resisted the urge to allow a look of amazement to cross his face.
"You will bring seals to Azzagrat, and then return to Afqithan," Dispater continued. "Take a group as suits your needs. When you do return to the demiplane, you will find that your precedence has been diminished. I advise that you do not attempt to undermine or subvert those who have been appointed to the task: you will find them less lenient than I."
"Who has been given this responsibility, Sire?" Titivilus inquired.
"Azazel," Dispater smiled. "He will have three Akesoli with him."
The Nuncio's eyes flickered.
Dispater gave an inquisitive look. "Never before have I seen you evince genuine surprise, Titivilus."
"Nor I, Sire," Titivilus agreed.
"That is all."
The Nuncio of Dis stood, bowed, and made to depart. But as he reached the doors to the chamber, his master spoke again.
He turned around.
"Your mandate for the temptation of Eadric of Deorham is hereby revoked."
He bowed again, but showed no sign of his irritation. Inwardly he was livid.
"May I inquire why?" He asked.
"No," Dispater smiled.
Titivilus departed in a calm fury.
A light dusting of snow – the first of that winter – lay upon the ground when Soneillon visited Eadric again: he sat alone in his library, reading by the light of an oil-lamp. It was late in the evening, and her appearance was foreshadowed by a feeling of darker anxiety which played across the Ahma's already troubled thoughts. Her façade was, as always, entirely convincing: the demoness tilted her head, and began scanning the spines of books upon the shelves. She walked slowly, her footfall quieter than a cat.
He scowled. "Is there some purpose to your presence here, or are you merely making a social visit?"
"Does everything have to have a purpose?" She asked in response.
"Yes," he answered.
"In that case," Soneillon smiled, "I am merely making a social visit. You have an impressive library. How many tomes do you possess?"
Eadric sighed. "Are you attempting to engage me in small-talk, Soneillon?"
"I thought you might appreciate some company, as your friends are otherwise occupied." She walked towards him, and sat lightly upon the arm of his chair.
"And the Queen of Throile has no better way to spend her time?"
"Than seducing the Breath of God?" Soneillon laughed. "I think not. Some of the more interesting volumes in your collection are charred. Why?"
"Certain members of the Inquisition were over-zealous in their hunt for heretical books and manuscripts."
"Ahh. Before the notion of heresy was itself deemed heretical. What were you reading, before I interrupted you?"
He silently handed her the book. Its cover, of heavy leather, was cracked and worn; the vellum pages, soft and well-thumbed:
Estates and Minor Houses of Trempa
"How dreary," Soneillon sighed. "Do you occupy yourself with mundane affairs such as these, to avoid brooding on your experience of me?"
"In part. It is not a memory which I enjoy to recall." He stood up.
She held out a soft hand. Her talons were conspicuously absent. "Come, Eadric. Dream with me. I will show you something sweeter. Gentle. Tender."
"You are foul," he said bitterly.
She raised an eyebrow. "I think perhaps you need lessons in the art of courtship."
"When will you desist from this charade?" He hissed. "How can I speak more plainly? You are repellant. You disgust me. Everything that you are is antithetical to all that I value and hold true. You are an ally of circumstance: there is no commonality in our purpose, save by unhappy chance. You are base, vile, obscene. You are nothing but a manifestation of corruption."
"No," she said softly. "I am Soneillon. And you cannot see past a dogma which is outmoded in the philosophy which you purport to espouse. You do Saizhan a disservice."
"That word has no place in your vocabulary. You degrade it by speaking it."
She laughed. "You are a sanctimonious fool. Your moralism merely reveals your ignorance of the Truth. Tell me, Eadric, what does it really mean – Demogorgon? What use is Saizhan if it cannot reconcile Oronthon with that truth?"
Reality seemed to momentarily darken as she invoked the name of the Ancient – its power, when spoken by her, was profound.
"Get out," he said through gritted teeth.
"You close your eyes and ears, Eadric. You shrink in fear from the Real as much as you crave it."
He cursed her. Power coursed through him, as he spoke a holy word.
She smiled, and pressed a finger to his lips.
Groping, Eadric drew Lukarn from where it hung in its scabbard on the back of the chair. Reality and memory collapsed to a single point in time, and he recalled another demoness standing in a similar position. Paradox and déjà vu almost overwhelmed him.
"Your desire for me has unbalanced you," Soneillon scoffed. "You are wracked with guilt and confusion."
"I will strike you down if you persist in this."
"I am your kius, Eadric: your enlightenment lies in me." She did not relent. "I am that which you are not. The Void shines, and you will not accept it: for do I not bring you closer to your God, Ahma?"
He smote her three times with all of his strength. Lukarn bit deep into her neck and shoulders, opening wounds which smoked and caused space to contort. Agony gripped her visage as the blade burned through her. Ichor poured from her, evaporating into nothingness as it struck the wooden floor of the library. She seemed to stagger uncertainly.
She did not beg, or cajole or threaten. She did not flee, and spoke no spell, although Eadric knew that she could have extinguished him with a thought. Instead, she assumed her most malevolent aspect – winged, naked, dark and terrible. Taint issued from her in potent waves.
"Remain ignorant then, Eadric. Finish me. I'll make it easy for you," her smile was that of a creature which exulted in evil and destruction.
"You are a coward," she screamed, spitting black blood. "Slay me or bed me, Eadric: you will need to choose sooner or later, in any case. Do so now. Do I consume your every waking thought, or no? Do I remind you of her, Ahma, or did she maybe presage me? Which do you think it is? Can you even recollect her face?" Her words were cruel and barbed.
Barely, he thought. He felt nauseous: grief and remorse briefly threatened to overcome him. He swallowed, breathed, lowered his sword, and held out his hand to her.
"Come," he said shakily. "You cannot mend those wounds."
"Compassion is wasted on me, Ahma." Her manner was ironic.
"I know. It is for my benefit, not yours."
"You have quite a temper, Eadric. Perhaps you should meditate more often."
The Demoness drew close, and he placed his hands on her neck. She hissed in pain and pleasure as his fingers probed the trauma.
"Do you never cease?" He sighed.
"I am what I am."
He gingerly released a little of his power, uncertain of the effect that it might have, before flooding her with light and warmth. She seemed infinitely passive.
"The scars will remain," Eadric said.
"I will bear them as a token of your high esteem," she said drily.
"We have a very unhealthy relationship, Soneillon."
"Do we? I can't say that I've noticed. May I stay?"
*The basic, mechanical premise for Fillein-Jovol-Teppu was one of a self-incarnating entity with only one restriction: the ECL of its new incarnation could be no higher than the ECL of its previous incarnation at death. All other variables are chosen by the incarnating entity as befits its new role and purpose.
**At this point in time, Eadric employed only eleven servants in Kyrtill's Burh: two cooks, three maids, a stablehand, a butler, a mason/carpenter, a gatekeeper, a clerk, and a valet. Although there was no shortage of potential employees seeking work at the Burh, Eadric was conscious of the fact that – between Inquisitorial burnings and demonic incursions – working for the Ahma entailed a certain risk.
***Eadric had made a commitment to pay a 200,000 gp donation to the Temple coffers in order to cover the debts incurred after the war.
Last edited by Sepulchrave II; Sunday, 28th November, 2004 at 05:49 PM.
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Monday, 26th April, 2004, 08:50 PM #2
Did you ever know that you're my hero?
I love it. Soneillon is quite a fascinating woman. It is refreshing to see an evil character in a story that has a deeper insight into morality than the hero does. Eadric would do well to embrace Saizhan, and Soneillon . To have done so sooner, when he did not fully comprehend the depth of her evil, would have been a sign of weakness and a surrender to physical seduction. But to make a conscious choice to do so now will only serve to elevate him. Wisdom can only come by acknowledging reality.
And I miss :rolleyes: too, not that I'd ever use it in a post in your SH.
Last edited by Serpenteye; Monday, 26th April, 2004 at 09:34 PM.
Monday, 26th April, 2004, 09:24 PM #3
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
For Love of the Demon
Beautiful, beautiful update.
The delicate balance between Eadric and the Queen of Throile in this update is awesome.
The fact that you can create such a relationship between a succubus and a PALADIN is incredible.
If you don't mind my asking... was Titvillius rejected as Eadric's tempter because the Queen is a much better match for him? She definitely seems to push him deeper into darkness, danger, and temptation than the old schemer ever had a chance to do. Though temptation of mortals really isn't a job for demons anyway...
"On a long enough time line, everyone eventually rolls a 1."
Monday, 26th April, 2004, 11:45 PM #4
Novice (Lvl 1)
Sep your is the Gold standard to which Other threads aspire. We all hope that your endeavors extend into perpetuity.
Warrior Of Moradin
Monday, 26th April, 2004, 11:58 PM #5
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Pure greatness in this update!
I think Eadric may be loosing his battle to keep his cool. Not that it is so surprising considering the circumstances. I think he needs to speak to Tramst again to gain more perspective on what is happening.
Tuesday, 27th April, 2004, 03:25 AM #6
Novice (Lvl 1)
Amazing update Sep!Originally Posted by Roman
I don't know is Tramst would really be that helpful though he certainly is not going to make anything easier for Eadric or offer any answers other than those that make the situation more complicated (albeit in a very compassionate way). He is there to embody saizhan.
I think what Eadric needs is some down to earth Nwm-ness.
Last edited by Arken; Tuesday, 27th April, 2004 at 03:26 AM.
Tuesday, 27th April, 2004, 03:59 AM #7
Novice (Lvl 1)
Nicely done as always.
Tuesday, 27th April, 2004, 04:44 AM #8
Gallant (Lvl 3)
True, but NWM is currently not available, while Tramst is still there to provide enlightment. Even the enigmatic answers that Tramst gives are helpful.Originally Posted by Arken
Tuesday, 27th April, 2004, 04:56 AM #9
Novice (Lvl 1)
Eadric should just bed the wench and get it over with. Ye gods, paladins are sooo uptight.
"One who knows nothing can understand nothing."
-Ansem, Kingdom Hearts
"The Heart may be weak. And sometimes, it may even give in. But I've learned that deep down there's a light that never goes out."
-Sora, Kingdom Hearts
"We reap a reward merely in the act of helping others. We never know how, or if, that reward will come back to us. Helping is the reward; none other is needed nor better."
-Zedd, The Sword of Truth series
"Enemies are the price of Honor."
-Zedd, The Sword of Truth series
Tuesday, 27th April, 2004, 05:05 AM #10
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Ok, I think I need some help.Originally Posted by Sepulchrave II
This one might be purposefully opaque, but what does this refer too?"The Chief Protagonist of our Cause has ordered that the status quo must be maintained," Dispater said opaquely.
So I looked up Bathym in Sep's old infernal heirarchy rtf that he posted. He's a duke under Belial (remember that Sep's Hell isn't the same as the standard DnD hell). What could Shomei be petitioning about? Hmmm... Murmuur isn't mentioned in the document, so I don't know what position he holds."The force currently under Murmuur's command will move to support Graz'zt in Afqithan," Dispater explained. "Shomei's petition to Bathym was quashed."
Azazel is Hell's Standard Bearer, a servant of Asmodeus. The Akesoli, or Pain-bringers, are servants of Amaimon, king of the 4th quarter of Avernus, the 1st layer of Hell."Azazel," Dispater smiled. "He will have three Akesoli with him."
So what in the Hells is going on here? Do you think that Tivilus gets to tell Eadric? What exactly are the implications, other than a support of Dispater for Graz'zt?
My head hurts...
Olive speaks delicious words of truth. - Tewligan