Tales of Wyre


Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 03-14-2004

More Than You Can Chew - Part 2

The bar-lgura pounced on him and attacked.

Mostin considered his options. Quickly. Although his very nature – infused with the essence of transcendental insanity – rendered him a degree of protection from their teeth and claws, he knew that they would still swiftly overpower him.* He cowered, avoiding their blows as best he could, mumbled, and gestured.

The battle froze around him, as he invoked a time stop. He muttered a brief incantation, and flew upwards amid the eerie silence, glancing around. Some distance away, the Void which was Soneillon was the focus of hundreds of demons, poised eagerly to join the mob which was already around her. Near her, the withered husks of those who had basked too long in her aura of nullity lay strewn around in heaps. In the airs above her, two succubi floated. From one, a streak of powerful negative energy issued, captured at the moment of discharge. The second was in the process of evoking a spell – although it was impossible to tell which one. Two of her three remaining loyal handmaids, no doubt. Mostin wondered where the third was.

Closer, Nwm and Eadric were captured in a dynamic pose – the Druid, in draconic form, had snatched Eadric from next to the steaming remains of one of the ultroloths. Nycadaemons were attempting to claw the hellfire wyrm. In the sky above him, Shomei – now transformed into a gigantic silver wyrm – hung motionless in the air, with daemons all about her.

Mostin sighed, and took rapid mental note of the positions of various entities within eyesight. In the stillness, he located two more ultroloths – one inside of the Paling and one beyond it – and, eighty yards outside of the aperture, an exceedingly vicious looking marilith surrounded by twenty hulking glabrezu. She was flanked by attendants – including an arcanaloth and a grossly obese shator.

Knowing that his reservoir was low, the Alienist grunted. He had little time to act, yet he must act. Because Ainhorr is coming, he reminded himself.

He swallowed, vacillated for a fraction of a second, emptied himself, and opened a gate – his last – next to the marilith Janiq, speaking a terrible name in syllables which caused his mouth to twist and his stomach to heave.

Tendrils of something, issuing from somewhere – and some when – crept through the dimensional interface to Uzzhin, to outside.

It had Vhorzhe's face – and many others besides. Malice seeped from it like a cloying fog. It smiled sweetly at him. Mostin screamed, and giggled hysterically.

[Symbol] = Payment

Mostin panicked. How would he bargain with it? What did it want? What currency did it recognize? No time to answer these questions. No time.

"Mirror," Mostin said, instantly regretting it.

[Symbol] = More.

Gods, it's greedy. That's the most valuable thing I have.

[Symbol] = Faces.

Mostin cackled. "What kind of faces?"

[Symbol] = Faces like you.

Mostin was beginning to hyperventilate. What did it mean? How would he provide it with faces? Would he have to bring a line of people for it to devour, so it could assume their likeness? Did it mean something else? No time. No time. Sh*t.

"Mirror," Mostin said again. "No faces."

It communicated nothing more. The Horror slid back silently through the gate to the Far Realm.

Sh*t. Sh*t. Sh*t. What a waste. A string of expletives and profanities left Mostin's lips. Still, he had to do something. Anything.

He flew upwards and quickly invoked a prismatic sphere. Hovering outside of it, he readied another spell. Time resumed its normal flow.

Mostin pulled a ring from his finger, and blew gently through it.


Shomei was beginning to regret her decision to shapechange into the form of a silver wyrm.

She simply presented too much body for the nycadaemons to attack. There were at least twenty of them in the air about her now: raking, slashing, finding gaps in her foot-thick armour. Many were blinded, but they pressed on regardless. Bright blood was dripping from her scales. Poison was creeping through her veins.

She shapechanged again, this time into a pit fiend – offering a smaller target to her attackers, whilst preventing the venom from taking hold. Diabolic protections would render her virtual immunity to their claws. And her taloned hand now bore her rod.

As she flew towards the ground through a gauntlet of daemonic attacks, the Infernalist scanned the aperture and tried to locate Mostin, but he had vanished from his previous location. She spied an ultroloth – the one who had struck her with a potent dispelling – and brought her will, focussed and augmented through her rod, to bear upon it.


She smashed into its mind with her own, and the yugoloth's immense, ancient ego crumpled under the force of her compulsion.


Eadric and Nwm tumbled sixty feet, headlong into a snarling pack of leaping demons. They immediately pounced upon the duo who, shaken by the fall, could do nothing but ward off their attacks and clumsily stagger to their feet. Holy auras flashed again, but the assault was determined. Nwm – unarmoured, unarmed and less skilled in combat – was quickly rent and bruised.

Fearing for the Druid's life, Eadric stayed his attack and clutched Nwm's shoulder. Light and heat poured into him, revitalizing him.

Nwm swore. He needed breathing space. In a circle around them, bar-lgura flew skywards as he reversed gravity.

"Watch my back," he snapped at Eadric. "And heal yourself. You're going to need it. And don't move unless you want to fall upwards."

But even as he spoke, behind them a powerful wind had started to blow, sucking demons from the aperture in the Paling. Outside, a great rift – over two hundred feet wide – had opened in space, generating a cyclone around it.

Mostin – now retreated into his prismatic sphere – had invoked a reality maelstrom. Hundreds of bar-lgura and were being pulled through it, screaming, to be deposited in another dimension – although, which one, even Mostin didn't know. The Alienist – hidden within a scintillating globe of power – was not witness to the spectacle, but he would have been deeply satisfied to know that one of the ultrodaemons had also been dragged away.

The tempest was centered on Janiq, but the marilith weathered the spell and, together with three glabrezu, teleported to a position fifty feet from Eadric. Her succubi attendants, the shator, seventeen glabrezu and the arcanadaemon Xehez had all been drawn into the maelstrom.**

Janiq was livid. Most of her bodyguard had vanished. Demons were bobbing in the air nearby, teleporting to the ground, and falling upwards again. Those that attempted to pounce upon the two mortals were likewise rocketing skywards.

Two of the ultroloths – now close by – were targeting Nwm and Eadric with powerful spells. The Druid barely survived an invoked destruction. Demons all around him tumbled to the ground as the reverse gravity – together with his mind blank and Eadric's holy aura fell to a greater dispel magic. He cursed, knowing that time was running out.***

Glancing at Eadric, Nwm held his orb of storms in his hand.

"This is going to hurt," he said to himself.

In an instant, the orb shattered, fuelling a spell. His consciousness reached out to the Green, three hundred worlds away, and seemed to draw on every storm that had ever echoed within her confines. Nwm's voice began as a low roar, which rapidly crescendoed into an ultasonic scream. His skull shook and his mind twisted as he sought to thrust the energy away from Eadric and himself, and direct it towards his enemies. The Druid's body reeled under the backlash. His skin, lacerated by channeling the power, peeled away in strips.

As Nwm turned his head, they seemed to burn away in front of him and around him, the sonic reducing them to atoms. Janiq, the glabrezu, the daemons and dozens of bar-lgura were vaporized under the force of the sound. The ground shook, and the Paling oscillated along its twenty-mile circumference in sympathetic vibration. For a millisecond, it was as though the entire battle had ceased.

The Druid barely retained lucidity, and he grinned inanely. He wondered where Mostin was, hoping that the Alienist had witnessed it.

But none of it mattered. The reality maelstrom quickly dissipated, eliminated by more abjurations. Thousands more demons – the reserve force called by Janiq – were beginning to manifest. Inside of the aperture, the vast, armoured form of Ainhorr – flanked by a dozen enormous nalfeshnees – had arrived through a gate.

Shomei, still in the form of a pit fiend and harangued by nycadaemons, flew towards Eadric and Nwm and threw the remaining dominated ultroloth desperately at Ainhorr. Outside of the magical barrier, she spied the prismatic sphere, and hoped that it was Mostin, and that he was sufficiently protected. She opened a gate next to the Druid and the Ahma.

"Flee," she yelled at Eadric. "We cannot win this. This battle is lost."

Soneillon, he thought. And then, Mostin.

As Nwm pulled him through the portal, Eadric turned his head back, gazing across the demon-infested wasteland. Time seemed to freeze. His eyes did not rest on Ainhorr, but looked past the Balor, and through the other gate, to what stood beyond.



Shomei resumed her normal form in the courtyard at Kyrtill's Burh. The late evening sun was pale, and little warmth remained in the day.

Nwm and Eadric, exhausted, looked at her.

"Mostin…" Eadric began.

"If he has his wits about him, he will have opened a gate or plane shifted. If he doesn't arrive here soon, we should assume the latter. I will attempt to scry him presently. He had invoked a prismatic sphere."

Nwm relaxed.

"Do not be complacent," Shomei snapped. "If Adyell could disjoin a section of the Paling, then she could do the same to Mostin's defense."

"She wasn't present at the battle?"

"I didn't see her," the Infernalist sighed. "Perhaps she was avoiding Soneillon," she added wrily.

Eadric groaned. "How is it that, after millennia of stalemate between Graz'zt and Soneillon, as soon as I become involved, a decisive victory is scored? By the wrong side."

Shomei laughed. "Do you think that this is the first time that her citadel has fallen in that war?"

"I don't know."

"No. Nor do I. But holding any kind of Abyssal real estate is tricky, to say the least. Soneillon will retreat, if she has any sense at all – and I suspect that she does. Graz'zt will need to garrison Throile. Ainhorr will be faced with the decision of appointing a deputy – he, himself must return to Afqithan. The loss of Janiq will be a grievous blow, in any case."

"There are other mariliths."

"True – but there was only one Janiq," Shomei smiled. "She knew Throile and its subtleties better than any other of Graz'zt's generals. And when the Eye of Cheshne reaches its nadir at Khu – less than two hours away – Soneillon will wax to her full power again.**** She is a demon queen, Eadric. Never forget it."

Unlikely, he thought. He exhaled slowly. "I saw him, you know. Through the other gate."

Shomei nodded.


Two minutes later, Nwm noticed a sensor in the air nearby. Mostin's head appeared, seeming to float six feet above the ground in a disconcerting manner.

"Where are you?" The Druid asked.

"I don't know, but it's damn cold here," the Alienist replied.

Mostin had, in fact, plane shifted. And appeared upon the side of an unnamed mountain, overlooking the plateau of Tun Hartha, at an elevation of twelve thousand feet.


"You called the pseudonatural?" Shomei was agog. "Where was it? Why didn't I see it?"

"I was time stopped," Mostin replied. "And it declined my offer."

"Which was?"

"The Looking-glass of Urm-Nahat. Although, in retrospect, I should have offered it something else."

"Did it understand what the Mirror was?" Shomei asked.

"I don't know. I think so. But it wanted faces. I don't know what it meant. When I've rested, I will go to Uzzhin…"

"Mostin," Shomei groaned. "That will be the third time. Don't you think that's tempting fate just a little?"

"I don't subscribe to the theory of Fate," Mostin said drily. "Any more than you do." The jibe was precise and calculated. Mostin didn't know what the exchange between the Infernalist and the Ahma – before they had commenced battle – had signified, but he guessed that they shared some kind of prescience.

"Did the web of motes reveal nothing regarding this?" Nwm asked.

"Not to my recollection," Mostin answered.

"And what will happen now, in Throile?"

"I do not know," Mostin said irritably. "Events in Throile were not first on my list of priorities when I examined the nodality. Ainhorr will return to Afqithan, certainly. And Kostchtchie will move to aid him when Nhura returns and Rhyxali unleashes her legions. Other future memories will doubtless reveal themselves to me at apposite moments. Nothing is certain – it remains only a matrix of possibilities."

Shomei remained conspicuously silent.

"You and I need to talk," Mostin said.

"There is nothing else to say," she replied. She was weary.

"Humour me," Mostin said acidly.

*I have ruled that the transcended Alienist (like the Monk) has DR 10/magic, and that bar-lgura have DR 5/good (with chaotic-aligned and evil-aligned natural attacks). This was good for Mostin. It seemed reasonable to me that their initial attack would be to deliver lethal damage – demons like rending stuff, after all – but upon realizing the inefficacy of this tact, they would switch to grappling. And if they grappled him, he had no chance. Dan realized this too.

**Man, this spell is broken.

***Being a kind-hearted DM (ahem), I left the room and had a beer at this juncture. This gave Dave (Nwm's player) and Dan (Mostin's player) time to thrash out an epic spell quickly. Dan's fingerprints are all over it because a) it's a sonic and; b) Dave isn't as good at squeezing the epic system for all it's worth. I don't mind, though – it's reasonable to assume that Nwm is good at squeezing the system. Dan was still pissed at me about the Horror, despite the fact that he knew they didn't follow the normal 'rules' for gated entities – we were playing 3.5 gate by now, and it was 1000xp that Mostin would never see again.

****This cryptic reference is, in fact, correct. Soneillon's power is not strictly dependent upon any astronomical cycle or any geographical area but, like any other spellcaster, she may only cast a certain number of spells per day. Soneillon's 'day' is reckoned by demonologists to begin with the anticulmination of the star which we would call Antares or Cor Scorpionis at Khu. In Shûth, this star is linked with the Goddess Cheshne and the process of annihilation. Other demons and devils (and celestials) have cycles for which the rising, culmination, setting or anticulmination of various astronomical bodies can be used as indicators.
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Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 04-18-2004


Dream and Demon - Part 1

It had been determined that Rhul – ever a patron of messengers and travellers – would undertake the journey. He was hardy, quick-witted, and wise in the ways of many worlds. The decision to send him had been unanimous.

His people were the Nireem, and, besides Rhul, only three of their chiefs remained: Lai, the goddess of magic; Ninit, who watched over horses; and a god of the forge called Jaliere. A tribal pantheon, they were aided by ancestral spirits and nature genii tied to significant locations. Predictably, the goddess of death, Saes, had aligned herself with Graz'zt: in a world in which the apocalypse had already come and gone, her power alone was waxing. The Nireem no longer counted her amongst their number.

Their people and worshippers – a clan known as the Werud, who had been finally eliminated by Graz'zt's armies some decades before – were the last tribe to walk upon the doomed earth. Once the inheritors of a proud legacy, they had been condemned at the end to cower in holes as the creatures – black-skinned monsters with great hooks upon their skulls – had sought them out and butchered them.

Ninit had ridden out and hunted down their enemies, and the hooves of her horse – the stallion called Drût – had kindled the grasslands to fire as she passed over them. She was an ancient goddess, who had joined the others a thousand years before: assimilated by the Werud from a conquered culture whose name Ninit no longer cared to remember. She was fickle and untamed – an atavism who bowed to neither law nor code. Before the world had turned dark, she had caused others amongst the Nireem great consternation by her actions. But now, since the death of Hodh, she was their greatest champion. And unlike the other godlings who gathered within their stone hall deep within the mountain called Mulhuk, Graz'zt feared her.

Lai the Implacable had foreseen the demise of her brother, and many others who had perished beneath the relentless press of demons. The end was upon them, and there seemed to be no escaping it. So Lai had dreamed a dream, and passing by roads which only she could take, she had made her way through a region of great turbulence, until she had found herself beside a still pool surrounded by many birch trees. A spirit of unfamiliar type had been waiting for her.

"Have you come to pronounce a final doom?" Lai had asked wrily.

The spirit had smiled easily. "You are not without allies."

"And are you one of them?"

"There are other worlds, Lai. Sisperi is one small corner in an infinity of infinities."

"That may be so," Lai had said through narrowed eyes. "But it is my corner."

"May I show you something?"

"That, I suspect, is why I am here," Lai had replied laconically.

The Spirit had gestured briefly, and a vision had appeared before the Goddess. A thick forest of strange trees which bore poisoned fruit, around which vines and creepers wrapped themselves, and through which creatures of evil demeanour stalked and slew, reveling in pain and death. A terrible haze of heat lay over the place.

"Is this a prophecy?" Lai had asked uneasily. "If so, I think I would prefer to remain ignorant of the future."

"It is the abode of one of your allies," the Spirit said mysteriously.

"I choose my friends carefully," the Goddess had smiled. "Who would live in such a place?"

"A demoness," the Spirit had replied. "But an enemy of the one who currently assails you."

"Can she be trusted?" Lai had asked.

"No," the Spirit had admitted.

"I draw little comfort from the possibility of such an alliance."

"If you wish to survive long enough to see your world free again," the Spirit had said stonily, "then you must look beyond what is comfortable and familiar. The place that you are looking at is called Throile. It is a battleground, and one of several keys to defeating your enemy. Do you wish to see more?"

"I concede that I am intrigued."

Another scene had appeared before Lai – again, a forest. It was an eerie place, full of deep shadows. A ruddy gloam hung over it.

"This is Afqithan," the Spirit had said, in answer to her unvoiced question. "It has become a fulcrum around which many interests turn."

"It is scarcely less depressing than the last vista which you showed me."

"Nonetheless, it is pivotal. Its natives are a race of evil spirits over whom Graz'zt exercises control. He has powerful vassals here. Would you like to see another?"

Lai had laughed. "No doubt it, too, is a dismal realm filled with haunted trees."

The Spirit had smiled and nodded. Another forest had appeared – darker and yet more sinister than those previously seen.

The Goddess had sighed. "I spoke in jest."

"This place has no name," the Spirit had said darkly. "Whatever moves there does so in silence, and in secret. Those who enter it seldom return unmarred. When its mistress acts, she does so with deadly precision and ruthless conviction. She is preparing to act now – against Graz'zt."

"And what intelligence dwells here? A demoness, or an evil shade?"

"A demoness, Lai. A very powerful demoness – a peer of the one who caused the death of your people. She is now beginning to exert her Will."

"You disturb me, Spirit. What can we do in the face of monsters such as these?"

"Let me show you one more," the Spirit had suggested.

"Your revelations are disturbing. But I suppose one cannot hide one's head in the sand."

"No, indeed," the Spirit had grinned. He gestured again, and another vision manifested: a fortress of stone with a tall tower, perched upon a sheer-sided outcrop of rock. Lai had never seen anything like it before. Atop the tower, a blue-and-silver pennant fluttered in the wind.

"Another ally?"

The Spirit had nodded.

"It looks less foreboding than the previous. Does a god dwell here, or a demon?"

"Neither," the Spirit had answered. "A mortal. Of sorts. His name is Eadric."

"And he wars with Graz'zt also?"

"Oh, yes. His obsession is rather single-minded."

"And his world is threatened?" Lai had asked.

"His world has been stolen from him."

"It seems peaceful enough," Lai had observed.

"It is a long story," the Spirit had replied. "He is embroiled in the politics of the previous realms that I have shown you. The details are complicated."

"And he can be trusted?"


"Then – assuming I can trust you – I suppose we should begin there. Rhul might undertake the journey – although his absence will weaken us considerably. He will convince…"

"Do not make the mistake of assuming that this mortal can be either coerced or persuaded against his better judgment," the Spirit had warned. "He should be treated as an equal – even your brother would have been hard pressed to match him in battle."

Lai had raised an eyebrow. "A mortal?"

"Sisperi is small, Lai."

A look of anguish had crossed her face. "Even if we prevail – what hope is there for the Nireem? Our people are dead. We are diminished. We will fade, and disappear."

"Perhaps," the Spirit had nodded. "But if you survive, then look to another mortal: not Eadric, but one of his allies. His name is Nwm. Remember it."

Nwm, Lai had thought.


"I seem to recall your cautioning me against entering these woods," Mostin said to Shomei. The two Wizards walked among the looming, twisted trees on Shomei's thousand-acre estate outside of Morne. "Have you dismissed the spirits that dwell in them?"

"Certainly not," the Infernalist replied. "As far as I know, the Second Injunction is not retroactive. I still maintain a staff of spined devils as well."

"How old are you, Shomei?" Mostin asked.

"That is an odd question. Does it matter?"

"I am merely curious," Mostin replied. "Are you older than me?"

"No," Shomei answered.

"Are we of a comparable age?"

"I am twenty-five, Mostin," she sighed. "Are you about to dispense some paternal advice?"

The Alienist gaped. "Twenty-five? I knew that you were a prodigy, but…Amon…"

"I was eleven."


"Fifteen. I compacted him when I was seventeen. I have three children, all cambions – none were sired by Titivilus, incidentally. Devils are notoriously fertile, so I count myself fortunate in that regard. I left the bastards outside of the Abbey just south of here, before you ask. I have no idea what happened to them subsequently."

"I am forty-two," Mostin groaned.

"I know. Evidently you have only sixty percent of my talent," Shomei said drily.

"Why do you think that you are going to die, Shomei?"

She smiled thinly. It hadn't taken him long to figure it out. "I know that I am going to die, Mostin. That doesn't concern me. It is the fact that, apparently, I will show no desire to return when Nwm attempts to reincarnate me that has me worried."

"That is paradoxical," Mostin scratched his head. "Given the fact that – presently, at least – you do not seem particularly enthused by the prospect of remaining dead."

"Tramst…" She began.

"Pah!" Mostin interjected. "He is merely a demigod, Shomei."

"He is also an intrinsic part of my paradigm, Mostin – I would prefer not to embarrass you in a philosophical debate on this point."

The Alienist was about to offer a retort, but thought better of it, and closed his mouth.

"I assume that the exact moment of your death is not known to you?" He asked instead.

"That is correct," Shomei nodded. "The web of motes was suitably vague as to the details."

"At least Nwm is safe," Mostin pointed out. "Or he would not be able to attempt to reincarnate you."

"That is some small comfort," she nodded. "I am rather fond of Nwm. The revelation has not been conducive to my good humour, however – as you can probably appreciate. Given the fact that I am inclined towards depression and nihilism in any case, news of my impending, final death has been rather a strain on my psyche."

Mostin didn't know what to say. Every argument – defy fate, Shomei or assert your Will, choose to remain or do not let this become a self-fulfilling prophecy or even change your paradigm, Shomei seemed trite and contrived. She was his intellectual peer – and a superior rhetorician. She would strike down any case that he could make in seconds.

"Ngaahh!" He threw up his hands in frustration at the logical impasse in his mind. "Listen to me, Shomei: you do not exist in a vacuum. Frankly, I don't give a f*ck whether you give into this or not. I will not. My ego is more important than anything else, and I will not let this happen. It is not my paradigm."

"Thus we come to the Dialectic," Shomei said wrily.

"F*ck the Dialectic," Mostin said. "Saizhan is a viewpoint, like any other."

She sighed.

"And f*ck Tramst and his mystical posturing. I'm tempted to blast him for his interference."

"I think the Claviger might have something to say about that."

"Mmm. Good point." Mostin suddenly grinned and his eyes bulged. He knew he was right. "Anyway. It doesn't matter. My infinity is bigger than yours."

She shook her head in amazement at his words. And wondered whether he was right.


Ortwin reclined into a leather chair within the study of Mostin's comfortable retreat, and swigged upon a decanter of expensive firewine, eliciting a look of mild distaste from the Alienist. Orolde, as always, doted on the Satyr.

"Well?" Eadric asked. "Are you going to share your findings, or just get drunk?"

"I had planned to do both – although the latter concerns me more at present. Has Nhura contacted you yet?"

Eadric shook his head.

"Ytryn is on board – at least as far as I can determine. Am I right, Koi?"

Koilimilou maintained her demeanour of serene malice, and gave no intimation that every time Ortwin used the diminutive, it was stored within her memory as a shallow cut she would inflict upon the Satyr when the opportunity arose.

"I think that Koilimilou would prefer if you used her full name," Eadric said wrily. "Perhaps she dislikes your over familiarity?"

Ortwin shrugged. "There are two kelvezu within Ytryn's court – their names were never revealed to me. But there is also a marilith – Sethee. She pulls the strings."

"The name is unfamiliar," Mostin grunted. "She may have been recently co-opted by Graz'zt. And the hag?"

"Chavrille is dead," Koilimilou said calmly. "She was assassinated shortly after Ainhorr annexed Afqithan. Her absence caused me no lament."

"Naturally, Sethee was intrigued by me," Ortwin said glibly, "despite her attempts to appear unmoved. It is also telling that she ceded to Ytryn's decision that the protocol of parley be enforced – the Loquai are very traditional when it comes to observing diplomatic niceties."

"With the sidhe, at least," Koilimilou said bitterly, glaring at Mostin. She would never forget that the Alienist had violated a similar truce and slain Shupthul and a dozen knights, humiliating her in the process.

"In any case," Ortwin continued quickly, "I promised to Ytryn – in front of the demons – that I would relay my satisfaction to Nhura, whom I described as 'anxious to return to Afqithan, and make amends for any past indiscretions.'"

"You what?" Eadric asked incredulously. "Nhura is currently less than popular, to say the least."

"We needed to get out of there, Ed. And the only way of convincing Sethee to let us go was to promise that a bigger fish was within reach if she did so. Appealing to Sethee's own ambition was the obvious course – Nhura has a high price on her head."

"That is reasonable," Mostin nodded, "although I don't doubt that if Graz'zt turned his mind to it, then he could liquidate Nhura even on Faerie."

Koilimilou sneered. "He wouldn't dare send demons there in numbers. There are far older and far more potent creatures than sidhe who would not tolerate such an intrusion. He would be squashed like a fly for his presumption!"

The Cambion's sudden passion made Ortwin smile inwardly. He had become accustomed to her moods – the way that her languor would abruptly change into aggression, or her impassive gaze could fill with venom or desire in an instant. The fusion of fey and demon made for a heady wine…

"Where is Iua, Ortwin?" Eadric interrupted his reverie.

"She has returned to Fumaril for a while," Ortwin replied. "Which is fine. She was getting boring, in any case."

Eadric raised an eyebrow, but let it pass. "We can talk about this tomorrow. I am in no mood to deal with you when you're drunk. I'm going back to the Burgh."
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Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 04-18-2004


Dream and Demon - Part 2

The Ahma dreamed.

A peculiar lucidity informed him that it was a significant dream. One to which attention should be shown. Either an insight of some kind was about to be revealed, or Soneillon was manipulating his unconscious.

In his dreamscape, Eadric sat upon a rock and smiled wrily, wondering which it was.

He watched as a slender fey – a sprite perhaps four feet tall, and approximately male – approached and sat on a similar rock which had appeared nearby. Eadric spoke first.

"If I asked you who you were, you would, no doubt, give me an oblique paradox in return. Have I met you before?"

"Not precisely, no," the Sprite answered opaquely.

"Do you serve Oronthon?" Eadric asked.

"I serve the Dialectic," the Sprite replied.

"Is there a difference?"

"In my mind, yes," the Sprite answered, "although perhaps not in yours."

"I do not trust you."

"That may be wise," the Sprite nodded. "But you once dreamed of who I was. You trusted him."

"You were Jovol, before…" Eadric realized in a flash.

"You are correct. I have, however, adopted the form of a fey for my current manifestation: the significance of this may be revealed in due course. But you should not confuse Jovol's character with my own – our perceptions are quite different."

"And the Claviger?"

"That particular strand of doubt is now resolved. It no longer interests me."

"It reassures me that you are still active…" Eadric began.

"It shouldn't. I serve the Dialectic, not Oronthon."

"Why are you speaking to me now?" Eadric asked.

"Because complexity must increase," the Sprite answered.

"Suddenly, I mislike your agenda," Eadric scowled.

"That is because you cannot hope to comprehend it."

"Are you benign?" The question was incisive in its naïveté.

"Presently, yes. But I am a fey, and you will find your ethical standards somewhat inadequate to the task of describing me."

"What is your name?" Eadric asked.

"I haven't decided yet."

Eadric woke up and groaned.

After he had brooded for an hour, Eadric returned to sleep. He dreamed again.


He sat upon a lichen-covered stone bench within a shady arbour. A flower garden lay before him, and the blooming rhododendrons within it alerted Eadric to the fact that it was late spring, or early summer. Somewhere in the distance – although from which direction he could not tell – cheers and laughter could be heard: swords struck shields, and hooves galloped to and fro. A tourney, or a joust, most likely. The sound of a lyre drifted over the other noises: the tune was unknown, and, although played in a major key, bore a subtle melancholic undertone.

Eadric watched as a girl in a white dress approached, turned, and sat next to him. Her presence was comforting. Her smell, familiar and intoxicating. She smiled.

"I was unsure of what your reaction would be," Eadric said, "after we fled from Throile."

"Guilt and regret are futile emotions," Soneillon said easily. "Assuming you feel either in any measure. Do you, Eadric?"

Eadric sighed. "You utterly confound me," he said.

"How did the prospect of my demise make you feel?" She asked. "You must have considered the possibility."

He groaned. "Why do you ask such questions? And why did you evoke this particular scenario? I suppose it is somehow for my benefit – I doubt that such gardens grow in the Abyss, or that tournaments are routinely held there."

"There are an immeasurable number of delights for those who know where to look," Soneillon replied. "Can you say with certainty that nothing like this could be found there?"

"For a brief while in some place, maybe. Before entropy caused another random scene to appear, and then it too was swallowed by baseness and depravity."

"You cling to transience in the hope that it will be eternal," she shrugged. "I admit to the inevitability of change, and embrace it. Which of us is more authentic?"

He shook his head. "Your rhetoric does not move me."

"That is because you are secure in the knowledge that you are right, irrespective of any ideas offered to the contrary. If you were truly interested in results, rather than abstract ethical concerns, then you would embrace me and what I have to offer you. I could show you the secret path, Eadric. I believe you have integrity enough to withstand the void. To overcome unbeing..."

A look of horror crossed his face as the magnitude of what she was suggesting sank into his consciousness. "I am sure that if I were to fall in the process of defeating Graz'zt, then few things would make you happier."

"Unlike Titivilus, I have no desire to see you fall, Eadric," Soneillon replied with surprising earnestness. "Nor would I push you. But if you were to seize your potential with both hands – if you were to jump – then I would say that you had done the right thing."

"No doubt you would find me more tractable in such circumstances."

"Far less so, in fact. You have no concept of the power and dominion that you could wield."

"Power holds no attraction for me."

"That is because you have never truly exercised it," Soneillon whispered.

"If it came at the price of eternal madness and self-loathing, then I think that I would do better without it."

Soneillon reached out to touch his face, and he recoiled. She sighed. "If I evinced these qualities, then I would admit that your argument is valid. The offer remains open, Eadric, if at any stage you should change your mind – not that I expect you to."

"You are very, very dangerous."

"You are afraid."

"Of an eternity shackled to you in a pit of despair?" Eadric laughed. "I think that is a reasonable fear."

"There are no shackles. I offer only self-determination, and an end to anguish."

"No doubt," he said wrily, "you think that I would come willingly to you after this 'liberation.'"

"I think you would," Soneillon half-smiled. "And I know nothing of 'eternity' – which is your construction, not mine. A millennium, maybe. Or an epoch. Or an aeon."

"Put the possibility from your mind, Soneillon."

"As you wish, Ahma." The religious epithet was not lost on Eadric, although he was unsure of why she chose to use it now. But it would be a good aeon.

He smiled and shook his head. She just couldn't resist.

Soneillon stretched, and her manner became more practical. "Shall we stroll? The sun is warm, and we can watch the joust while we iron out the details of how to proceed. We have much to discuss."

He nodded. "At least I can tolerate this scene – you could have chosen a far darker one."

"This is your dreamscape, Eadric, not mine. I am an interloper – although I think perhaps I should maintain this dream's cohesion, to appease your misplaced sense of continuity."


They sat in a small booth. Eadric winced as he watched a knight fall to the ground, expertly unhorsed by a cavalier who wore armour enamelled with intricate motifs in gold and green. Every detail was so precise that it was impossible to label the experience as anything other than completely real.

A pixie appeared and poured him a large glass of iced tea. Eadric raised an eyebrow.

"Forgive the inconsistency," Soneillon apologized. "I stole the fey from Ortwin's dream. He won't miss it."

Eadric said nothing of the sprite who had visited him previously.

"Abyssal politics are complex, Eadric," the Demoness sighed. "And the more power one possesses, the more complex they become – with a few notable exceptions, such as Carasch, of whom I believe Nufrut already informed you."

As the knight in gold and green trotted in a slow circuit, Soneillon languidly raised a silk scarf.

"Graz'zt," she continued, "being very powerful, is enmeshed in a web of interlocking interests of enormous subtlety. In order to hold Throile, he needs to divert resources from other areas – such as his war with Orcus – or risk losing it back to me in short order."

The knight rode up and lowered his lance, and Soneillon pinned the scarf to it. She tossed a garland of black lotuses towards him.

"Thus, conquering Throile is one thing, but holding it is entirely another. There is no defense that he can erect which I cannot overcome – unless he comes there personally. Even then, given sufficient time and preparation, I can probably circumvent it. Moreover, the Paling is my construction: it responds to my commands – not his. And there are interconnected wrinkles within the fabric of the plane which his servants cannot penetrate."

"Wrinkles?" Eadric asked.

"Nondimensional spaces. Demiplanes. Pockets of time and space which abut Throile itself."

"And Adyell? How close was she in your confidence? How many of your secrets does she know?"

"Less than she would like to think. Nonetheless, I have underestimated her ability. The disjunctions that she used to bring down the defense were something of a surprise – I thought I had siphoned her power more effectively.* She must have hidden a little from me."

"Where is she now?"

"In Azzagrat," the Demoness replied. "No doubt she is petitioning Graz'zt for suzerainty of Throile, and using every wile within her means to persuade him."

Soneillon clapped politely as her chosen knight unhorsed another rival.

"Your forces have been overwhelmed, Soneillon. I wonder if you are really this unperturbed, or whether this demonstration of calm indifference is for my benefit?"

"Scattered is not overwhelmed," she replied smoothly, "although it's true that my goristroi and my jariliths have been all but eliminated, and that is a sore loss. Or maybe not: I am no longer fighting a defensive action."

"Mostin had hoped that you would deploy them in Afqithan – if he carries off his dimensional lock, then they would have proven useful. He fears Kostchtchie's giants."

"Mostin exhibits an unusual degree of prescience," Soneillon smiled, turning to Eadric. "It is enough to cause me to wonder where he gets his information. I have myself only recently heard news that Kostchtchie is mobilizing for certain."

"Mostin is..."

"You are a terrible liar, Eadric, so I will not press the point: I suspect that it would make you uncomfortable. As to Afqithan, I will still commit what I can when Nhura has gathered her rabble together. I feel somewhat responsible – after all, it was I who made her queen in the first place."

Eadric refocused. The Demoness's manner was so natural, so effortless, that it was easy to forget who she was. Responsible? Hardly, he thought. "And Throile?"

"Throile can wait," she answered. "It will be there when the current crisis has passed. And Graz'zt expects some kind of counter-offensive there. Helitihai will lead a group of insurgents – which should occupy whoever Graz'zt or Ainhorr appoints as despot. But I will reserve a sizable force for Afqithan."

Eadric sighed. "What of Rhyxali, Soneillon? She remains only a name to me."

Soneillon laughed. "I think that is the way that she prefers it. She is very furtive."

"I still don't understand what her interest in this is."

"Nor am I entirely sure," Soneillon admitted. "I suspect that it goes beyond reclaiming Afqithan – maybe even beyond taking Azzagrat for herself. I am not privy to her wider schemes."

"Is her manner as disarming as yours?"

"I'm sure it could be, if she so chose."

He groaned. "Fiends are so indirect. I often feel that it would be better if I could simply deal with them as they are. You spoke of authenticity before – but I have yet to see you display that quality. You play games, and hide behind masques and personae in order to achieve your ends."

"I am authentic in that regard – that is my nature. And although I understand your grievance, you need to comprehend that, even amongst the Fallen, I am a rarity. I have tasted oblivion Eadric, and it is sweet."

"Still you dissemble."

Her wings unfurled. Suddenly, the malignity in Soneillon seemed palpable. It was so profound that Eadric shook. His head span. Even in Throile, she had never evinced it to him, hiding it behind a veneer of lightness and courtesy. Here was an abomination, with a billion lifetimes of wickedness and hatred to its name.

"Is this what you want?" She asked.

The dreamscape around them melted into a scene of agony and madness. His limbs atrophied, and his mind screamed as her claws sank into him, sapping his strength. She straddled him, and consumed him.

Reeling, Eadric strove to regain consciousness, and a hundred false awakenings dragged him yet further into a mire of despair. Her release was so sudden – and so violent – that he feared he would be annihilated. Her Will – which seemed irresistible – drew him with her.

Like one who has dived too far, he gasped as he broke the surface of the nightmare, only to find himself within the booth again, watching the tourney. Soneillon sat next to him. She seemed unfazed, and poured another glass of iced tea.

"Dreams within dreams," she smiled. "Shall I show you more?"

He turned his face away from her.

She vanished and reappeared in an instant, kneeling on his left side with her face inches from his. Her eyes bored into him.

"It is merely another facet, Eadric. A persona. It is part of me, but I am more complex than that. Nothing becomes – you know this. Jump, Eadric. I will catch you."


The raven watched as the heavy torc dropped from its talons and turned three times in the air, before landing in the still water below with a plop.

Gone. The torc was gone. A feeling of liberation mixed with sadness and loss washed over the bird. In order to do what he had to do, the raven needed to sever his connection with the thing he wanted to be closest to. The irony was not lost on him. Centuries before, worshippers in the nascent cult of Uedii had tossed gold into lakes in supplication, or to appease the dangerous moods of their Goddess. The raven wondered whether they had felt the same wrench that he did now. But if the sacrifice did not diminish the devotee, then how could it be genuine?

In due course, perhaps the nereid who dwelt in the lake would find the torc. Nwm hoped that, if so, she would put its magic to good use.

A spell, he thought to himself. I must make a spell, to reestablish the connection. Some day.

As he winged away northwards, towards the mountains and the encroaching winter snow, Nwm exulted in the feeling of wind on his wings. Perhaps he would stay as a bird for a week or two. The perspective might be good for him.

Over Iald – not too far from Hullu's former abode – he spotted a group of crows and ravens circling above the treetops.

A wolf kill, he knew.

Nwm descended to feed.


"He's just gone?" Eadric groaned. "Why didn't he speak to me about it?"

"Probably because he thought you would talk him out of it," Ortwin said. He handed a letter to the Ahma. Eadric grunted, and read it:

I'm going on retreat for three months or so. Don't disturb me, please. I'll see you when the thaw begins.


"This is inconvenient," Eadric remarked.

"It’s a damned pain in the arse, that's what it is," Mostin grumbled bitterly. "I need Nwm for the quiescence of the spheres. Now I'll need to tweak it, and Koilimilou will have to participate. We've just lost a third of our firepower."

But as he sat later in reflection, Eadric felt numb and listless. His dreams – if they could be called dreams – of the previous night lay heavily upon him. He had spoken to no-one of them. The only person whose perspective he really valued had decided to disappear for a season. And Iua had gone – was she coming back? What was Ortwin doing? Attempting to seduce Koilimilou?

His stomach turned. A pall of corruption seemed to be settling over them – not entirely unexpected, given their allies, but no less unwelcome. He wondered if Nwm was getting out for precisely that reason.


Mulissu exited the extradimensional space – a variation of Mostin's permanent magnificent mansion where she spent much time – and stepped into the courtyard of the small palace in her pocket demiplane.

She was expecting a visit from a djinn called Rauot, a messenger from Magathei who brought Mulissu a stipend every six months: her fifty-pound alimony of gold from the estranged Ulao. Typically – and ironically – Mulissu would fritter the money when she made her occasional secret visits to the marketplaces of Magathei itself.

She flew past screens and archways into a comfortable reception chamber – an open and well-lit conservatory. A variety of exotic foliage bloomed in clay tubs and crept up slender pillars which supported the enamelled ceiling. As she floated – absorbed in aery thought – she became alerted to another presence in the chamber. Suddenly, the world felt dead.

She froze.

"Please sit," a voice said from behind her.

Without word or gesture, in a moment's thought, Mulissu exited the time stream. The Elementalist, although no coward, was no fool either. And more time was always better than less.

She turned to observe a demon sitting comfortably in one of her large wicker chairs. Beautiful was a woefully inadequate description of him: his skin was a deep, bluish-black; his musculature, perfect. He possessed features which were somehow both bestial and refined, as though infinite barbarity and utter sophistication had been distilled into a single face. The force of his presence was staggering, and even within the stasis of the spell, his stillness seemed impossible or unreal: here was an entity of utter dynamism. Mulissu – no expert in demonology – was immediately aware of his identity. The fact that Graz'zt had made no effort to disguise himself was also significant, although Mulissu wrily observed that there were any number of possible reasons for his apparent lack of subterfuge.

Mulissu attempted to make a passage of lightning**: her destination was Morne in Wyre. The translation failed, and she realized that Graz'zt had already placed some kind of ward which prevented the use of the spell. And, no doubt, teleport, gate and any number of other transportation spells.

She could not flee, nor could she realistically assault her uninvited guest. She stood small chance of penetrating his defenses with anything other than an electrical evocation – which might tickle him at best.

She invoked a limited wish in order to issue a sending to Mostin. It failed.

Calling upon the power in the sapphire which hung around her neck, Mulissu tried to erect a prismatic sphere around herself. Somehow, the force of her amulet was subdued, and the defensive spell did not manifest.

In fact, nothing which was not a transvalent spell would work, it seemed.

She fled away at breakneck speed. The restricted area could not be big – even for Graz'zt, such an act would surely require a monumental effort. She would retreat back into the magnificent mansion.

As she approached the portal to the extradimensional space, a breeze stirred from a bound elemental, alerting Mulissu to the fact that time had resumed its normal flow. To the Elementalist's utter confusion, a gate was already open within her courtyard. The scene through the new portal was of another courtyard, in which Mostin stood, beckoning to her.

Guessing correctly that the Alienist had had some presentiment regarding her straits, Mulissu sped through the gate into the bailey of Kyrtill's Burh.


Mostin had been walking from the Steeple to the library in the main building of the keep when the prolepsis had overwhelmed him: the sum total of events within Mulissu's demiplane revealed to him in an instant, together with several dozen possible outcomes. He had also known that he only had around six seconds to act – an uncomfortably brief period.

He had invoked a time stop, plane shifted and passed through into the courtyard of Mulissu's palace with a quickened dimension door. He had swallowed as he saw her, suspended in the air next to a fountain, the flow of which was frozen in time and space. Behind her, half-manifested from a teleportation, Graz'zt was an insubstantial haze. Mostin knew that the demon had dismissed whatever ward he had set upon the place in order to intercept the fleeing Elementalist. He knew that Mulissu was incapable of invoking another transportation spell. And he also knew that she must not enter her own extradimensional retreat: it was not safe. He had quickly interposed a wall of force between Mulissu and Graz'zt, blocking the demon's line of effect – opened a gate and retreated back to Wyre.


Mulissu appeared next to Mostin.

"You have the web of motes, am I correct?" Mostin asked. He knew that she did, but he still sought a verbal confirmation.

Mulissu nodded dumbly. She turned and looked back through the gate. Graz'zt disintegrated the wall of force and walked calmly towards the portal.

"Dammit Mostin, shut that thing down. Stop screwing around." Like the Alienist, Mulissu knew that the Demon could not pass through – the gate was not for him, and the Interdict forbade his entry. It was, nonetheless, a disquieting scene.

Mostin ignored her. He was taking the chance to study his enemy – knowing that such an opportunity was unlikely to arise again. The membrane which separated the two realities seemed uncomfortably thin.

"Mostin!" Mulissu screamed.

He closed the gate abruptly.


Eadric was confused. "You said that he would not leave Azzagrat."

"Technically, he didn't," Mostin replied, smiling. "He corporeated a body from the Astral Plane. He was projecting."

"Does that make any difference?" Ortwin asked.

"In practical terms, no," Mostin admitted. "Except that this is a tactic which he will start to employ against us routinely, and we are in trouble. Even if we kill him, it won't kill him – if you know what I mean."

"Why didn't he simply eliminate Mulissu?"

"The most likely explanation is that he wished to interrogate her – I foresaw that she might be taken to Azzagrat and subjected to scrutiny within his sanctum."

Mulissu looked horrified. "This is your fault, Mostin. Gods, I should blast you for involving me in this. My work. My books. I must retrieve my scrolls…"

"You most certainly will not," Mostin snapped. "Forget your pocket paradise, Mulissu – it will never be safe again. Nor will the extradimensional space. And be thankful that he underestimated your power – you're lucky that he didn't anticipate that you might have a transvalent temporal escape plan."

"And your retreat, Mostin?" Eadric asked. "Is it safe?"

"No," Mostin replied sadly. "I suppose not."

"Was it ever?" Eadric grumbled. "What has changed, which makes it vulnerable now?"

"He is bending his mind upon us now, Eadric. In earnest. He glimpses possibilities which disturb him. He is laying intricate plans. I suspect that things will start to get very messy. Very soon. Mulissu, we could use you – will you…"

"Where is Iua?" She hissed.

"Fumaril," Ortwin said.

"Scry her, and take me there now, Mostin."

The Alienist nodded.

"And Mostin, after you have done that, I never want to see you again. Are we clear on that?"

"Yes, Mulissu. Quite clear." Mostin exhaled sharply, unsure of whether she really meant it this time.

* In game terms, Soneillon ensures that her chief servants (who are sorceresses) never advance beyond a certain level (17th) by drawing on their xp reserves to fuel her own epic spells.
**A kind of plane shift – teleport combo.
Last edited:


Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 04-26-2004




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.

"Yes, Hlioth."

"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.

"Yes, Ahma."


Ninit charged.

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."

Ninit shrugged.

"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.


Titivilus waited.

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.

Titivilus sat.

"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.

"And Titivilus?"

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.

He wavered.

"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?"

He nodded.

*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.
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