[Session 53 cont'd]
Alistair, Kit, and Lord Davion (in his extremely fine finest) greet him.
A slender elf, with the features of a first-comer, and a construct of silver filigree carrying a collection of books, step through. “Ah, how good to see you again.” Lord Davion hurries over and they do an air hug in the way of the elves.
“The Liege I now serve… his title does seem contrariwise—His Imperial Majesty the Archduke Alistair of Canberry.”
“Your Majesty, Lord Gregoniy, House of Curini’rim, Sacred Librarian to the Lord of Pain.”
“Thank you, Lord Gregoniy; you honor us with your presence.”
“Well, Davion said that you had a problem that I might help with, and I haven’t been out among humans since the Third Age, and I hadn’t seen Davion since he ran off with the circus.”
“So… in your own words, Your Majesty,” he leans on a silvery staff, heavily enough to suggest some frailties.
Has the rising begun?
Third Book of Dooms.
So they brought in a tetrapod. There has to be a seventh. They come in ones, sevens, and forty-nines. If there were forty-nine, there would already be a helaka. It is what they wish to summon. The Old Ones are shut out of creation; they have been from the beginning. The Creator and our Lord agree on that, and so it has been done. In the Second Age of mankind, they made a breakthrough. Our Master was weak, we were busy, so were our cousins, and we were not paying attention to what was going on that we should have. Five things rose out of the ocean, and they populated them with cultists, mostly humans—humans will worship anything at the drop of the hat. This place, that has risen again, is where a helaka was summoned. Had the Noldar and Eldar continued to ignore it, humanity would have been overthrown on this planet. We lost sixty of our number, mostly first-comers. We would not do that again.
“Are you capable of doing that again?”
“There are enough of us that we could stop one more helaka. Now then… if there’s a flat surface? He thinks at the robot, or golem, or whatever it is, and it lays down its stack of books and opens up one large one, with sparkling illustrations on each page. Ah yes. He passes a hand over it and a 3D image appears. The halasa, which you have been dealing with successfully. They have no form in their native form—pure protoplasm, but they can take any form, and more successfully than dopplegangers. (Doppelgangers were, we believe, created in a laboratory of their cultists, but are inferior.)
Hacka—the mindflayer like priest-warriors. The great hacka are drawn through from another place, but they are few—most are converted willing humans. They fight effectively, but their purpose is not to fight. They are to bring through the Heleka. And when it has killed and destroyed enough, it would bring through the Goddess of the Pale Bone.
The Heleka. It is like the Hacka, but much greater. There has only been one on this plane historically. But when it was brought through in the war of the Goddess of the Pale Bone, the Lord Goldor’im himself volunteered to go through the gate, investigate, and return only as the gate closed. He reported that in the world beyond, there were at least six more—a tetrapod like the hiesa do. We believe that when it came through, it was cut off from the font of power, and when destroyed was destroyed forever. We do not know what the Goddess of the Pale Bone is like.
The Hatta—like a pterodactyl. These also come through whenever there is a major summoning; they were frequently ridden by the cultists. When we assault the island—and someone will need to—we will face them.
Finally, large octopoid creatures underwater. We only faced two, and never gave them a name. Their skin is very resilient, and resists cutting and fire to an extreme degree. They sank some of our men-of-wars.
Also their cultists and warriors.
If you have encountered six of the hiesa in less than a year, they think you the greatest threat possible.
We show him the object—this might be from the seventh.
The leader is always the most powerful. Powerful, but crude. That fits. Distinctly not connected… I suspect that you are correct.
In the sewers—it can transform. Netting, thin string netting everywhere it might go. It must not be allowed to escape.
Sacred Librarian—are you then a high-ranking priest of Morgroth as well?
Then, as Defender of the Light, on behalf of the Church of Glor’diadel as a signatory to a Compact between our faiths, I inform you of the threat from the Old Ones and officially request your assistance and the assistance of the Temple of Morgroth.
Thank you—that will make explaining this to the Mistress of Skulls easier.
We set up the sewer nets. They head out. They fail to take it by surprise, but barely, barely win initiative. Strange gasses burble out of the sewers, and there is an explosion heard through muffled walls.
Five minutes later, <<We have him. It was arrogant, and did not try to flee.>>
As I said, I’ve fought these things before. That’s how my spine got twisted.
If you could obtain the Heart…
This is an artifact, a mechanical artifact called the Heart. You see that it’s made principally of this glowing red crystal—that’s psionically active, and surrounds an orb of psionically active liquid. It is the key to closing the gate permanently. It was made by seven Eldron smiths, who resisted the division at the Kinslaying. They wrought the Heart, with the intention of sealing away the Other forever. But unfortunately, one of the cults that served She of the Pale Bone became aware of it before it could be deployed. Through seduction, they coopted certain members of the human community that served the Eldron and they stole the Heart and gave it to the cultists. The cultists determined that destroying the Heart was impossible. We of the Noldar are powerful; the Eldar are powerful; the Eldron were more powerful, for their power was undivided. So they hid it, or placed it in some distant place, and then slew themselves. The Heart has never been seen since. We know that it is somewhere on the planet; we suspect it was somewhere on this continent. But we can’t trace it further. I don’t know. For all I know, there are clues, but I don’t know where to begin looking.
Would it affect the area around it passively?
Given its power, probably, even if it were encased in lead to prevent detection. But I do not know what effects. The seven Eldron went to the West as a unit, so distraught were they about the betrayal. There are perhaps another dozen Eldron, caught up in their research, but I do not know who they are, or where they might be. They might be able to provide information about its effects. Probably domain effects, but very subtle; likely not effects of chaos, but could be either of law or of powerful neutrality, if that is even possible.
1. How can we find the seventh? He’s gone to ground; but the spices continue to move forward. We split them up among a half-dozen unsuspecting merchants. She is hidden in the first village inside the border of the Duchy proper coming from the Southeast.
2. Time table? We are to distract and destroy you, to prevent both actions that must take place.
3. What are both actions that must take place? The summoning of the Heleka and the destruction of the seal in Seachen.
4. Who set this plan directly in motion? The ranking Hacka in service of She Who Will Come, created this plan 70 years ago and has guided it in all its permutations 70 years ago.
5. Other plans he was involved in besides infiltration of the palace and the poisoning? If it were possible, I was to replace a member of the Archduke’s Council, but one had abilities I could not replicate, the other had emotions I could not fraudulently imitate.
6. What is a list of all the people he’s sent to infiltrate positions of power in Canberry? All of those in the palace have been found and destroyed, unless there are some from our demonic allies I have not known about, but we still have the Grandmaster of Swords in the school in the Duchy of Furrows. We also still have… still have… still have… (real struggle) the Chancellor of the Cathedral. That has not been easy, but we maintained it. And the chief dispatcher for the primary service for nursing staff for the capital.
7. Why us? Why are we the target? There are four powers on this continent besides the Forest of Singing Leaves that could impede the great work; Canberry, Hanal, Masque, and the Confederacy of the South Kingdoms. We destroyed the South Kingdoms before hand. Hanal is neutralized by our agent within it. Masque struggles to survive. Canberry is the last that could impede it. Prophecy says that the great work may fail if Canberry remains strong; therefore, Canberry must not remain strong.
8. Who are their allies or minions among the royal and high noble houses of Drucien, specifically including the Imperial House of Hanal? The Crown Princess of Hanal, one of the Tangian Patriarchs (one of the Ones of Tang), the name of one of the remaining ranking nobles mentioned by Queen Caitlyn (who is here in Canberry). Also every single one of the defecting field army commanders of the defecting armies of Debonai.
9. What’s the nature of their alliance with the Abomination? He has considerable resources, and he is near unto the Seal. We will give him anything he desires. What he wants is godhood, and we hardly care because such things will be irrelevant when the lady arrives.
10. Are there other active tetrapods? Not yet. There are two other singles, that seek clues to find their way to the Heart that it may be further removed from prying hands.
11. Where are the other four places of power, and are they rising as well? The Islands of Terror, to the East of the continent, are rising. The other locations are not on this continent, and there is no power for them now.
12. Who are the half-dozen unsuspecting merchants? Names spew out and images form in the air next to Lord Greganiy
13. What can we do to stop the Heleka from being summoned? Either prevent enough of the pre-sacrifices, or storm the ceremony.
14. Is that what they intend to summon on the equinox? Of course; without its touch upon the world, she cannot enter. Since the one you call the Creator and Eiru created this place and the Arch of Time and all that is within it, we were. Before thought and beginning, we were. Before plants, and elves, and humans, we were. And then those two who split the power of this place between them decided to cast us out. But this world can be ours as it was before.
15. Tell us more about this seal in the Seachen lands. The Seachen—benighted race of women. When last we rose, they were. And though of their men we corrupted many, their women we could not touch. And their wives rose against them and created what you know as the Matriarchy of Seachen. The Matriarch of Seachen, beneath her throne, keeps that great seal of stability. Until that seal is broken, She cannot return. Their whole structure is designed to protect it. Have you seen their intaking rituals? They continuously cut that we cannot infiltrate. It is a weak nothing, compared to the Heart, but it is enough as long as it is intact. A clay disk three feet across, inscribed in Elven, etched and filled with liquid silver and with crystals of power. But we will have it, and it will fall.
16. What is the source of power that is enabling the Islands of Terror to rise? Worship and sacrifices, lad. Only the elven sacrifices will enable the summoning of the heleka, but any sacrifice will give strength to the island. That is why we kill anything we can in service of the goddess.
17. Where are the two singles that seek the Heart active, and how can they be found? They answer only to the High Hacka; they are not of my Tetrapod, and I do not know their movements. They first went to the lands of Tang, but whether to search there or to get help from our agent there, I do not know.
18. Are there any other poisons besides the tri-polar poison that you are distributing or causing to be distributed? Yes; we’ve been distributing a liquid poison for some years, with the intention of clouding the minds of psionics in your service, with the intention of making it more difficult for them to develop their psionic powers. We distribute it through the water system.
19. How does that poison get in the water? We add it to the filtration system through cultists who are members of our cells. It was not difficult. Most of the city uses wells, and the filtration system is only guarded against destruction. Perhaps we should have followed our first impulse and put deadly poison in it.
20. Is there any way to identify the human cultists? Somewhere in their possessions, they will always have a small, polished bone. Nothing else is universal.
About that time the creature in the vat bubbles massively, and the entirety of the material suddenly becomes milky white.
Lord Curini’rim says, “It is dead. And I must ask for a glass of wine.”
That was the vilest mind I have touched since last I fought these creatures. They do not change, they do not improve.
I must inform the Princess on my way back. She must be informed. The Princess of my House is in her summer tower in Enclaves; she has a number of battle barges and troops, and she will offer them should you decide that invasion is necessary. Mind you, her commander is an idiot, but her troops are excellent.
Why does she employ him?
His blood demands as much. If you can convince the man to listen to his sergeants, the battle will go better. He is from the chief cadet house of the drow.
Davion found the Twin Cities of Death and the City of Pain boring; he never liked torture much, and found the rest of it rather boring, building large buildings that would never be used and then tearing them down. A circus was passing north of the Twin Cities of Death, from the Iron Cities to a port city, Bleurian, that has long since been buried. He was particularly taken with the fire eater. So he put on ear rounders and rouge—we are slightly pale, you may have noticed—so he went and joined the circus. Ten years later, when his parents noticed he was missing, they … asked us to go after him. Who could turn down a distraught mother, especially when she’s throwing around 5000 pound boulders with her telekinesis. I followed his trail… the trail of enormously well built up inns paid for with his hoard coins. I found him in the Magocracy of Perdun, now also sadly no more. I travelled with him for a few years to prove that I was a good sport. We ran into some troubles with those damn pirates; who knew that human mages could be so powerful just because they dipped into a color pool once upon a time? He went home, explained that he wasn’t coming home, and then ran his own circus for a couple of centuries.
Don’t confuse me with my brother.
Brionna: What did your brother do, run off to join a zoo?
He became a beast shaper, putting creatures from beneath the conflict of the Kinslaying in enormous pain. The two of them sought each other for several hundred years, and avoided each other successfully at the same time.
Davion, I must go, to inform the Princess, and then to the Council. I will inform your mother you are well; she still asks after you every 50 or 60 years.
I am of the second-comers; my mother was one of the first-comers; my father was dead before I was born in the Kinslaying. I do not understand my twin; I do not hate him anymore. I do not think he is happy.
My uncle has worked for thousands of years, he has maintained every book in the Sacred Library at one time or another. Should he fail, he would fall from favor as fast as I drop a gold coin.
He left the picture book, to be copied; for me to return in a decade or so when it is finished.
He also brought this, one of the five copies of the Book of Grand Strategy, by the Bleeding Lady. In translation, grants 5 points to leadership and 1 level in the combat class.
I have a suspicion that there is at least one Eldron in the Lormenon Hills watching over the gnomes and hobbits near the south coast of Khamista. Something struck down the invading troops en masse; something more powerful than me, more powerful than my uncle Greganiy, we know where the Bleeding Lady was and it was not her, and it wasn’t a dragon.
The different Eldron had different interests; some were cold-forgers, yes, but some were hot-forgers, and others. There might be one near the Crystal City. It always struck me as elven work, but there are no elves there. Most beautiful city on the continent. Perhaps an Eldron? Given that there are only a half-dozen at best, the only place on Drucien I can think there might be.
It was an Eldron that wrote the equation, that showed that the elven race was doomed. It moved both elven races into their present models.
[End Session 53]