Tales of Wyre

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 12-28-2011

Obsession – Part 2 (Inversion)


“A ludja,” Hlioth explained, “acts – or does not – according to its nature. Around each of its saplings it creates a circuit in which its own concerns are afforded precedence, but it is not willful – with the exception of the Hazel, of course: willfulness is its nature. There is nothing stopping Shomei from entering the ambit of the Blackthorn at Deorham: it will not assault her. Or, at least, it will not single her out for assault; its concerns are with all of the processes of decay. The warp which emanates from it – the corruption, if you prefer, although I am reluctant to characterize any natural process in those terms – is an unfortunate side effect. Things rot quickly there: matter, mind and space. Shomei possesses magic enough to prevent its general effects.”

“And if Shomei – or I, for that matter – were to take an axe to the scion?” Ortwine inquired.

“You would perish,” Hlioth said simply. “The manner of your passing would likely be ugly. A scion will preserve itself through reflex, and in the unlikely event that a scion is actually threatened, the ludja itself will react to protect its sapling. In the case of the Blackthorn, it might simply squash you. Or you might instantly decompose. Or it might deploy many chthonics, who roost in its branches – when they are not scuttling hither and thither in Dream. The Blackthorn can transfigure them – as it has Soneillon. They are most potent, and would flay you.”

“And Carasch is one such?”

“Carasch is Carasch,” Hlioth replied opaquely. “Cheshne looks out for him.”

Ortwine pondered. “And if, somehow, one were to destroy a scion – before it could react, so to speak. What then?”

“Another would grow in its place,” Hlioth chuckled.

“And if one were to assault the ludja directly? To destroy it at the root?”

“Another. Would grow. In its place. The Great Ludja is the root of all. And it is Reality.”

Ortwine sighed. “Is there no manner in which these things can be curtailed? Restricted? Contained? Manipulated?”

“Certainly,” Hlioth replied unexpectedly. “To assert the higher paradigm. That capacity which Nehael possesses, but will only demonstrate in compassion; which Hummaz enjoys, but has no interest in using – except to gratify his immediate urges. Which Kaalaanala cannot realize; toward which Shomei strives; which has not been revealed by the Ahma.”

“And Soneillon?”

“My eyes cannot penetrate the Void,” Hlioth smiled.

“And the Oak and the Elm – here at Galda?” Ortwine was dubious.

“They are a potent combination; they embody physical characteristics – physicality itself – or two thirds of it. The hardness and temper of the Ash is absent. But strength, resilience, pliability, resistance to decay – yes. Kaalaanala’s sight cannot penetrate the compass set by the ludjas around the scions, and they are vibrant; things which are dead will have a difficult time here, as will things which are predicated on non-Ens – which is obviously to our advantage.”

“I was denied their protection when I made an appeal. Despite Nehael’s intercession. I am less than confident in their benevolence.”

The Green Witch shook her head. “You are ascribing a quality – or a lack of it – which is inappropriate to these ludjas.”

“Then what was the obstacle to their action?”

“You are the Hazel’s bitch, Ortwine,” Hlioth sighed. “I am not privy to the internal politics of the Trees. Either way, Shomei will not forget that fact.”

“And this impenetrability to sight around the scions? It is selective. What motivates it? Deorham is invisible to me. Morne is not. Nor is here at Galda. But Jashat is. There are also other areas which are…opaque.”

“To you, maybe,” Hlioth shrugged. “But not, any longer, to the Eleos. There is no veil through which she cannot now see, except those of Cheshne herself. And you ascribe motivation to all Trees, which implies will – your perspective is too corylian. Although that is to be expected.”

“Yet the Hazel itself does not shroud the Academy?”

“It has not been so implored – or directed. Yet.” Hlioth said with narrowed eyes. “It might be construed as an overt act of aggression on the part of Shomei. The Enforcer would be less than pleased.”

“And Nehael’s perception extends to Jashat? The Temple of Cheshne?”

“The Fires of Death and all of her avatars are transparent to the Eleos, Ortwine. To Compassion. Something which Kaalaanala is likely to resent.”

“Does this make sense to you?” The sidhe asked Nwm.

“Of course,” the Preceptor replied. “What is unclear?”

“Never mind,” Ortwine sighed. “What are we now waiting to do?”

“Eadric has been gone for three days, and is unresponsive to any efforts at communication. We will make a reconnaissance,” Nwm said in a matter-of fact way. “Of Deorham and its environs. I, for one, am curious to see what transpires beneath a Blackthorn’s pall.”

“Is everybody mad?” Ortwine groaned. “Why can’t we just ask Nehael?”

“Her concerns have become more global,” Nwm replied.

“In which case,” Ortwine said drily. “She is even less use than previously.”

“You may be surprised on that count,” Nwm smiled.


**


[Daunton]: You should probably come to the Academy.

[Mostin]: Why?

[Daunton]: Just come, Mostin.

*

“As you can see,” Daunton observed, “things are rather out of hand.”

A long queue of chattering wizards had formed before a desk, behind which a scholarly devil sat. The fiend was haggling with an enchantress over the precise conditions for access to a number of obscure dweomers.

Mostin barged his way to the front of the line, over the objections of many who stood there, and shoved the wizard aside. Daunton followed uncertainly.

“Please take your place in an orderly fashion,” the devil looked up towards him.

Mostin twitched.

“I am conducting legitimate business on the part of Shomei the Infernal, as her broker,” Ugales sighed. “Her rights are protected.” He pointed – not to the Articles, but to the Academy’s own protocol guidelines.

“Bah!” Mostin turned to walk away.

“But I am also instructed to inform you that access is unrestricted in your case,” Ugales smiled.

Many voices were raised in protestation, including Daunton.

Mostin swiveled on the spot, licked his lips, and looked through the portal.

“Mostin,” Daunton tugged on his sleeve. “Mostin!”

“Oh very well. This is irregular,” Mostin nodded. “Some our punctilio with regard to brokerage may need revisiting. You should convoke the Collegium. A course of action must be decided.”

“As Chancellor of the Academy,” Ugales added, “and President of the Collegium, Daunton the Diviner is also allowed unrestricted access.”

“Oh? Really?” Daunton asked, gazing through the doorway. “Come Mostin, we must inspect these forbidden tomes, to determine if they represent a threat to our work here.”

“Quite,” Mostin agreed, as he followed him through.


**


Teppu grinned, bundling his few magical oddments – each of which was quirky, and of particular interest only to himself – into a cloak, which he tied to a gnarled oak staff.

Nehael – the Eleos – stood nearby and watched. Her expression was one of sadness.

“I will miss you,” she said. “Yet not, of course. I will miss your presence. It is comforting to me.”

He bowed smoothly.

“When you see Nehael again, she will remember you, but she will not be the same,” she looked at him. “Try to remember that. It is a relationship you will have to forge anew.”

“I have experienced something similar many times myself,” he laughed. “I’m sure she will be perfectly delightful.”

“Perhaps. But not in the way you expect; her method of ending suffering – her compassion – is particular.”

“A paradigm can absorb many paradoxes,” he shrugged.

“I’ll see you if you die.” She kissed him on the forehead. “Try not to,” she added.

The Eleos took three paces backward toward the Great Tree-ludja and smiled. “Assume an active stance, and do not compromise your truth. Give her your wisdom freely; she will need it. And do not concern yourself too much with the Aeon; it will take care of itself. Always find the Middle Way. And remember that you are much loved.”

She – and the Tree – vanished to perception. The Womb of Qinthei was closed.

Teppu sighed. All things must end.

Moments later, Nehael appeared: an avatar, emanated by the Eleos. The Image of Uedii, her eyes remained green within green, but her garb was scarlet.

“Teppu?” She asked.

“Red?” He asked, and bowed again.

“I will need a horse and a sword,” she remarked. “Where can I find these?”


**


At dusk, a shadow slid furtively through the grounds of the Academy; potent magic cloaked it from the dark exemplars which whirled beyond perception in the skies above. It crept from stock to bole to trunk, seeking to move forward, but always, somehow, vexed in its efforts. Once or twice it espied what it thought might be a light but, upon skulking toward it, seemed to lose its bearings, or become snagged in some briar.

Shomei the Infernal watched the figure silently. From its movements, it was a Naztharune, but she knew that surely Temenun was not foolish enough to send it against her: what could he hope to achieve? Its purpose must, therefore, be otherwise.

In an inkling, without word or gesture, she dispelled its wards, dominated it and drew it toward her with telekinesis. Their eyes suddenly alerted to the presence of the tigress, devas with cobalt skin and flaming swords were instantly all about her.

Shomei wrenched its thoughts from its mind and prepared to unleash a ruthless barrage of flensing upon it. She analyzed meaning and intention, paused, and instead turned it upon its head; it hovered five feet above the ground. Shomei approached so that the Naztharune’s eyes were inches away.

She held out her hand.

It reached within its vestment with backward palms, withdrew a bunch of tumid cherries – deep scarlet in color – and placed them in her grasp.

“Tell your master that I will give his offer due consideration,” she smiled. “But that, at present, I have no nuts for him.”

She righted it and released it. It slunk away into the night.

Your concern is appreciated, she spoke drily into the minds of the fallen celestials. But really, I can look after myself. You may return to your stations.

Shomei withdrew to her cottage and pondered, her mind quickly dissecting new data. Temenun’s ritual pool was not insignificant, and if he was in the process of co-opting Soneillon’s former succubi in Throile as well, then he would emerge as a major player.

She poured herself a glass of kschiff, threw off her cloak, removed her slippers, and relaxed by the fire. Shomei examined the cherries and sighed, placing them on a silver platter. The marriage of Will and Desire was the last thing that she needed; really, that was where it had all gone wrong last time.

Hours passed in contemplative reverie; finally, she roused herself and stood. With a thought, she translated to Galda, appearing before the Tabernacle.

Sercion’s hand moved to his weapon, but she presented an open palm.

“I wish to speak with the Sela,” she said.

“Come in, Shomei,” a voice said warmly from within. “You know you’re always welcome.”

She exhaled slowly, and drew the heavy curtain aside. The Sela sat in meditative posture within.

“I am not here for moral instruction,” Shomei said tersely.

“Then you are fortunate that I do not offer it,” the Sela smiled. “Shall we begin where we left off?”

Shomei nodded.


*
 
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Cheiromancer

Explorer
By its etymology, one could gloss the word "corylian" as "adopted by Hazel". That distinctively hazel-like qualities are present in the one adopted may be deduced. This word is new to me.

----

The conversation the Sela alludes to was posted by Sepulchrave II on 07/14/2003. If anyone wishes to refresh their memory, it is contained in post 76 of this thread.

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 12-31-2011

Obsession – Part 3



“Your friends have arrived,” Soneillon raised an eyebrow. “In the village. They are warded against perception – poorly. Are we entertaining, tonight? Should I send Carasch to greet them?”

“You sense of humor is singular,” Eadric smiled, but his face was etched with pain, as one who has experienced great anguish. “Who is here?”

“The Uediian and the sidhe – and also Hlioth. I have killed her once already; perhaps she liked it and is returning for more. Mostin is not with them; I suspect he is avoiding me: he still owes me Graz’zt.”

“Why did they not simply issue a sending?”

Soneillon gesticulated vaguely. “I confess that a number of signals have been deflected.”

“How many?” Eadric squinted.

“I did not count. Besides, it’s better that you have company on your return to Galda. Your horse is ready; Mazikreen has taken care of him. She has become rather attached.”

“He seems to have that effect. You are a curious creature, Soneillon.”

“Yes?” She fastened a garland of black lotuses around his wrist.

“What will you do now?”

“I will brood and pine desperately, Eadric. Or perhaps I should instead fortify my position against the coming storm – which may blow from any number of directions, or from all at once. Shomei musters her devils; the Fourth Effluxion is moving – I do not relish that meeting. Dhatri’s host is marching. Desire – the Cherry – is active. And your first girlfriend has a new persona; we’ll see how that plays out. Let’s hope that you don’t like her more than me.”

“Of what do you speak?” He asked suspiciously.

“I would hate to spoil the surprise,” she replied drily.

“Shomei may still be open to dialogue,” Eadric suggested. “I have not given up on her.”

“Maybe. Or she may simply dominate you at your next encounter; she is the assertive type. Although, perhaps you’d like that too.”

“You are impossible.”

“Thank-you,” she gave a small nod. “I try not to take things too seriously.”

“You need not remain here.”

“I am not tied to this place, Eadric; I come and go as I please. But prudence demands that I strengthen a bulwark, and this one is better than most. And it would appear that Nehael – your Eleos – has been of some use after all; she has struck a delicate balance, which compromises neither my solidity here, nor your attachment to this particular plot of earth. I should ask you to thank her for me when you next pray to her, but I won’t; it would be an inauthentic request.”

“Do you care to explain?” He asked.

“You will discover when you leave. Don’t you ever like surprises, Eadric?”

“Generally, no,” he said grimly. “It would appear that the lacuna has passed. If another should arise, I will return.”

“Of course you will, Ahma.” She smiled darkly. Her eyes were fathomless voids. “And things need not always be so harrowing; your courtesy and forbearance have earned my gratitude. But I have known you in death: you are now mine. And I don’t share well.”

She pressed a scarf of black samite into his hand, and curled his fingers tightly around it.

*

Fresh snow had fallen, blanketing the courtyard; the winter sun was wan. Eadric looked upon the Blackthorn cautiously, as if his gaze alone might invoke malignancy from it, but it seemed subdued, as though its song had changed in some way. He closed the door to the keep behind him, and turned to pull a handful of dead ivy away from the wall, but green leaves had begun to shoot. He paused, confused, and lowered his hand.

Eleos, he knew, and understood Soneillon’s words.

The Ahma made his way to the gatehouse, and slowed to regard the Steeple where Carasch roosted; the demon seemed not to have moved a hair’s breadth. A shadow of darkness passed across his mind; again, the same feeling of dread and foreboding oppressed him, as he felt the chthonic’s eyes follow him. He shook it off with effort, and trudged forward.

“Nice horse,” Mazikreen handed him the reins to Narh. “Come again.”

Eadric climbed into the saddle, rode through the gate, across the bridge, and straight for Deorham. He did not look back to the Burh.

Within, Soneillon brooded.


**


“You knew,” Ortwine glared at Nwm. “And so did you.” She glared at Hlioth.

“Yes,” Nwm laughed. Beer-foam clung to his beard; the Twelve Elms was thronging with activity.

“I did not. This irks me,” Ortwine continued.

“You are attuned to darker currents, Ortwine,” Hlioth sighed. “And none of us can see everything.”

“These benches are still filthy. And why is there a hole in the ceiling?”

“Should we go to the Burh, I wonder?” Nwm mused.

“We wait,” Hlioth replied. “He will come here, or will not. She can see us.”

A short time passed, and Eadric entered.

Hlioth quickly spoke a spell, masking the Ahma from the inevitable attention – and subsequent religious hysteria – which his presence was likely to provoke.

He nodded in gratitude, and sat.

“Gods, you look terrible,” Ortwine observed. “I’d offer a quip, but even that seems inappropriate. Nice bracelet, by the way.”

Eadric shook his head.

“Did you encounter the rot? How was it?”

“Ugly.” Eadric scowled.

Ortwine sniffed her wine disapprovingly, and placed it on the table. “Nehael seems to have reversed it. But the cordon set by the ludja is still in place. We are inscrutable; although apparently not to Soneillon. Did Nehael communicate with you regarding her intervention here?”

He shook his head. “At Galda, I invoked the Eleos; I prayed for the safeguarding of Deorham – of all within the Blackthorn’s range. I must assume that she listened; or she chose to act thus anyway.”

“A goddess who listens sets a worrying precedent,” Ortwine remarked. “And if Shomei comes here now?”

“I may have to forbid it outright,” Eadric replied.

Forbid?” Nwm asked sceptically. “One does not forbid Shomei the Infernal anything. If you set yourself up as Law; she will be forced to confront you.”

“She will not attack me. I am the Ahma.”

“Are you sure?” Nwm inquired.

“No,” Eadric admitted.

“Is there an alternative?”

“I would prefer to avoid conflict here. Attempting another dialogue with Shomei is the first step. But I will not have Soneillon assailed for no reason…”

Ortwine groaned. “You are blind, Eadric. This girl has you mixed up.”

“…other than the fact that she possesses something which Shomei wants. Yes, Ortwine? You are about to present some solid, ethical case? A sound reason why I should allow half of Trempa to perish in smoking ruins, whilst demons and devils run amok and Carasch slugs it out with a half-dozen fallen seraphim? I am sorry, but because Shomei wants is not a compelling argument to me.”

Carasch?” Ortwine asked.

“I was coming to that. He is at the Burh. Climb up the ridge above the North Road; you will see him perched on the Steeple.”

“And he will see you,” Hlioth said. “I advise against it.”

“And Soneillon is the innocent party, here?” Ortwine spoke contemptuously. “There is no greater demon than this one, Ahma.” The religious appellative was pronounced with some derision.

“I know it well!” Eadric snapped. “He has haunted my imaginings for longer than you know; since first I heard his name. And now he is at the Burh? Do not worry, Ortwine; the irony is not lost on me. And trust me: in person he is worse than in your darkest nightmares. I do not doubt that he could extinguish all life within a hundred miles – but, as of yet, no rampage has ensued.”

“And you are confident that your psychotic inamorata is trustworthy?” Ortwine exuded pure acid. “Or even capable of containing this monster? This is where I question your judgment, Eadric.”

“Soneillon asked me one question – and one only – to which I have attached value throughout this: If not by my action, then how will you judge me?. For one who advocates repeatedly and in varied guises for Shomei’s case – and I suggest you question your own motivation in that regard – the notion of agency and its implications should strike a particular resonance.”

The sidhe smiled coldly. “Let us hope that your suspense of judgment – and your action – is vindicated.”

Nwm coughed. “You said yourself that Cheshne was awakening, Ortwine. That Soneillon is not who she was.”

“And at no point did I suggest that I trusted her,” Ortwine groaned.

“There is something else,” Hlioth spoke through gritted teeth. “Shomei seeks to woo the ritual pool offered by the Academy, and bribe leading members of the Collegium. Mostin has committed himself to protect the Articles – and curiously enough, I believed him, because he believed himself – but until the Articles are actually threatened, he will not act. Gihaahia will prompt him; she is leaning on him – and Daunton. In the meantime, he may try to reason with Shomei – he may be the only one who can slow the meteor. Or she may attempt to sway him; and she is the superior rhetorician.”

Nwm nodded. “She is smarter than Mostin. Shomei presses hard against every barrier. She tests her exemption to the limit. For what it’s worth, I don’t think she’ll strike here until Dhatri reaches the envelope of the scions at Galda. I suspect that she will force you to choose, Eadric, or split your force. And perhaps I should keep my mouth closed in future, and learn from the Ahma’s mistakes: if the wizards do find a goddess in Gihaahia, then a reign of dark magic is imminent.”

“Her parentage is mixed,” Hlioth said archly. “She is the daughter of Astaroth and the Void; it might behoove us to remember this fact – it is apt enough. Forces other than the Claviger may be seeking to manifest through her.”

“We are a muddled and incestuous pantheon,” Ortwine sighed.


**


:: Mostin ::

Begone, Vhorzhe. I have nothing to say to you.

:: Soneillon has abandoned us, Mostin ::

I don’t blame her. Now, begone!.

*

Roses of life?” Daunton grinned broadly, brandishing a scroll. The two wizards were closeted in an obscure nook of Hell’s library. Mostin wondered if they might need a spell to find their way out again.

“I am beginning to understand Shomei’s strategy,” Mostin sighed. “We will spend the next thousand years searching for and transcribing exotic dweomers, whilst she suborns the Academy and uses it for whatever she wants. And we shall be perfectly happy. How long have we been here, anyway?

“I have no idea,” Daunton mumbled. He brushed dust off a green tome entitled The Fortification of the Skin. “It’s a shame Rimilin is gone. He’d like this one.”

“Why are we even here?” Mostin asked. “We don’t need any of this.”

“No, you don’t.” Shomei had appeared from nowhere behind them. Daunton started. She seemed inordinately calm and focused. “And you have been here for nine hours. But there are transvalents; some were struck by the Adversary. Would you care to see them?”

Mostin twitched. His heart pounded. “And you have not committed them to your armamentarium?”

“There are more than a few. Most are beyond my ability – or yours – to cast,” she smiled. She did not need to add the word yet.

“Proceed,” Daunton said enthusiastically.

“Your library persona is an agreeable one,” Mostin observed.

“This is my passion, Mostin. You know this. I am most me here; I would not have you think that a quest for raw power has blinded me to what is important for my I – which is, and remains, the pursuit of knowledge. Now, follow me.”

She led them through winding corridors, past dens and studies, between stacks of books and down flights of steep stairs. They skirted repositories and scriptoria; passed through secret panels and hidden doors. All was silent, and musty. Finally, she produced a small key and opened an iron postern at the rear of a room crammed with scrolls. They descended yet more stairs, until they reached an open space. Ahead was an area of dead magic. Shomei gestured for them to proceed; the Alienist paused uncertainly.

“I would not cut the claws from the cat and then leave him at home with the fox,” Mostin said through narrowed eyes.

“Mostin…”

He assumed his pseudonatural shape.

“Then you will have me at a disadvantage,” she sighed. “Because the cat just became a wolf.”

The hall beyond was cavernous, a hundred fathoms tall, and stretched as far as Mostin’s many eyes could see ahead of him. Their footsteps – and his slitherings – echoed within. In the vaulted ceilings, great ruddy lights glowed at intervals, illuminating the contents: countless slabs - of adamant, marble, alabaster, steel, jade and obsidian - attached by clamps to soaring cables. A vast infernal apparatus controlled the assembly above; pulleys, derricks and sheaves arranged with impossible intricacy.

They followed as Shomei made her way to a booth which contained an array of levers and switches. She initiated a complex operation; wheels span, gears ground, and a single slab – a hundred yards distant – slowly swung out into the chamber and towards them.

When it reached them, she lowered it into a waiting channel: it was a plaque of diabolic steel, three feet wide and six high. As she released its clamp, another, like a vice, contracted to grip it. It stood upright before them. Daunton gaped. Mostin reached out, and ran a pseudopod over the embossed glyphs and sigils. It was a thing of beauty.

The Irrefutable Argument, it read. It was a spell which had been in effect when the Nameless Fiend had precipitated the Fall; when unnumbered billion celestials had been seduced to his cause.

“This is Knowledge, Mostin. This is my legacy; I am the librarian of Hell.”

“Yes,” he quivered. Shomei read it as a nod.

“I am making an appeal to you.”

“I understand,” he hissed. Shomei heard it as a sigh.

*

Daunton sat within her study; Shomei poured kschiff. Mostin stood, looking at the Accord which hung above the mantlepiece.

“Temenun has offered an alliance.” She nodded toward the cherries which still rested on their plate. “He suggests that I marry the remaining Hazel scion to a Cherry which grows in Nivorn. I am reluctant to conflate Will and Desire for obvious reasons. But with his Anantam and the succubi in Throile – who bear no great love for their former mistress – I am looking at the twelve-hundredth order. I can do a lot with that.”

“But you would prefer to use the Wyrish Academy,” Mostin finished for her. “Because they are known, safer, more passive – but they also represent the body which Gihaahia is mandated to uphold.”

“Touché,” Shomei raised her glass. “I find it hard to believe that the Enforcer will censure a majority, if it comes to infraction.”

“I don’t,” Daunton grumbled. “She is a tyrant, not an elected representative.”

“I have tried the more wholesome route,” Shomei sighed. “I cannot make headway. The Ahma is stubborn and irrational, and refuses to engage with his own potential. Those who practice saizhan are difficult to inspire – except the Irrenites, who are a small minority and whom I have yet to approach. I do not feel compassion – and I am not one wont to make empty gestures. I went to see the Sela yesterday.”

Mostin groaned. “You are certainly exhausting all avenues. What is it with you and Oronthon, anyway?”

“I cannot explain. I was confused, angry and depressed. His perspective is beyond all others. There is no judgment in him.”

“And he offered a solution? Or absolution?”

“Actually, neither. He offered tea. And a mirror to look in.”

“And what did you see?” Mostin asked cynically. “Note that I do not afford much credence to his mystical posturing.”

“That my I is relational, and does not exist in a vacuum,” she shrugged.

“That is all?” Mostin scoffed. “I might have told you that.”

“But you didn’t, Mostin. That’s the point. Regardless, I need help – not compactees and servants and indentured mages, but willing partners. To retrieve the Urn. To master Hummaz. To correct the Morphic and end the Claviger-Enforcer’s tyranny. To propagate knowledge. Is this goal not worthy?”

“And you would have me play Belial to your Adversary,” Mostin said acidly. “Did the Sela also whisper in the ear of the Nameless Fiend before the Fall?”

“Actually, I think you would know my answer to that.”

“It is no surprise, then, the spell which you chose to show us,” the Alienist remarked.

“There is a certain symmetry; it is hard to deny.”

“And you would then elect yourself as the new arcane factum?” Mostin inquired drily.

“I am a librarian, Mostin. It is only natural.”


**
 
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Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-04-2011

Obsession – Part 4


Turel and Rumyal – two infernal seraphim – and Irel, Who Smites, passed swiftly through the skies above the frozen River Nund; three flights of dark exemplars accompanied them. Warded and augmented by Shomei, all were inscrutable to any but the most probing eyes. They flew east, and skirted the compass of the Blackthorn near Droming. Irel gyred and broke away. The mighty deva cast his gaze – unrivalled amongst celestial princes, fallen or otherwise – toward Deorham and Kyrtill’s Burh, one of Wyre’s holiest sites: the birthplace and earthly dwelling of the Ahma. It was impenetrable; his sight could not pierce the shroud which Soneillon had set about the place.

Twelve miles distant, the demoness herself stood upon the Steeple beneath the shadow of Carasch – a smoldering void which had yet to erupt to blistering rage – and stretched lazily. The great chthonic had seen them . Was Shomei baiting her, or testing the limit of her perception? Or was this a simple reconnaissance? Soneillon considered: to act would be to disclose; to ignore, to dissemble.

She chose to act.

Carasch turned his thought on them, casually smashing their protections.

Soneillon materialized within the main flight and spoke a soundless syllable, unleashing oblivion. Turel and Rumyal, Great Antagonists who had previously offered counsel to the Adversary himself, were instantly extinguished along with eighteen devas.

She disappeared.

Irel alone remained.

Soneillon reappeared, and her speed was blinding. Tendrils of void lashed the fallen prince, stripping away ens like vapor, and flinging his mace from his hands. She hissed, and drove him into the ground in a tempest, claws sinking through his throat and chest and pinning him. Ichor steamed as it poured from his massive frame, staining the snow black; his strength ebbed from him.

She paused, and smiled.

“My, but you are the pretty one,” Her eyes widened and her wings curled. “And you are unbound; without compact: I believe she likes you – how delicious! It is so tempting to steal you. Alas! My heart belongs to another. But now I am feeling tender; she may keep you. Invoke your mistress by name.”

The deva was silent.

She raised an eyebrow. “Presently, I am keeping you from dying, Irel, and it would be sad to lose one as beautiful as you. Do you trust that your spirit will fly to the winds; or will it go to the Tree-Bitch for reallocation – perhaps, as a wood-gnome or troll? Heaven is lost to you, and there is no time to show you the Void. She may save you – if she cares for you. Speak.”

“Shomei,” he choked. Ichor welled in his mouth.

She brought her face close, and her grip relaxed. She moved over him.

“Good…” She breathed softly in his ear. She lifted her head and smiled at Shomei, whose infernal perception had been drawn there.

Soneillon gently withdrew her talons, and vanished.


**


Shomei tapped her fingers. She picked up a bottle of kschiff and hurled it against a bookcase. Hellfire crawled over her.

Mostin smiled unsympathetically. “You’re in way over your head; she has fifteen billion years on you, and she enjoys this. Perhaps you are beginning to appreciate the magnitude of this task?”

“How did she see them?”

“I could not say,” Mostin replied. “Probably a transvalent. She may have allies.”

“I spent a third of my reservoir repairing Irel’s wounds. They just wouldn’t heal. His cohesion was…wrong.”

“You are fortunate she simply obliterated the others,” Mostin observed drily.

“If you were to send your Ús…”

Mostin became irritable. “Shomei, you may be exempt from the Injunction – and I say may be, because much has yet to be tested – but one thing is certain: I am not. You asked me here for advice, and I will give it to you: let this go. You are simply unprepared for this endeavor; if you do actually attack her and she survives and escapes do you really think that she will calmly forgive? Do you think Eadric – I’m sorry, the Ahma – will? Now, I am going to offer you some perspective again, because it is apparent to me that at this point that she has acted with the utmost restraint with regard to you…”

“I don’t need this, Mostin...”

“…by not already annihilating you. And if you don’t think she could have accomplished this, had she set her mind to it, then you are stupid. Perhaps Eadric has restrained her; perhaps her perspective is other than we can guess. And she let you keep your favorite toy; although what you see in those hideous, feathery monsters is beyond me.”

Shomei glared at him. “She drew first blood, Mostin, not I.”

“And I think she might cite provocation as a reasonable defense; frankly, I would be inclined to agree with her. You are the lawyer; what do you think? Perhaps we should ask Gihaahia to mediate – although Soneillon’s exemption with regard to the Injunction is not in question. Do not give her a casus belli.

“I cannot slow now, Mostin.”

“You must!” He was exasperated.

“No; I cannot. It is what I am.

“Then you should repair to your library,” he said grimly. “Or stay safely within the compass of the Hazel, because if you begin this and then step beyond its bounds – and are not prepared to finish what you’ve started – then she will find you and extinguish you. You will make a prison for yourself, Shomei; and that is symmetry.”

“Will you aid me?”

“I am disinclined,” he replied.

“If you were to speak to the Ahma; find out what transpired at Deorham. He has returned to Galda…”

“I will not spy for you Shomei. If you have questions for Eadric, ask them yourself.”

“Mostin. Please. Then use the Web of Motes. At least let me know what I’m dealing with that I haven’t foreseen.”

He stood and sighed. “I will contact you in one hour. Do not ask me for anything else. Here.”

He took off his hat – his favorite ochre felt, with its wide brim somewhat charred – and placed it on her head.

*

Exactly one hour later, Shomei received a sending which contained only one word: Carasch.

She sat and tapped her fingers. Time elapsed.

She translated to Galda for the final time.


**


“I see you bear your rod,” Eadric said dubiously. “Are you here to coerce me this time?”

“It is a preventative measure,” Shomei explained. “May I sit?”

He gestured toward a chair. “I am not about to assail you, Shomei. I’m glad you came. I have been considering how to approach you.”

Ahma, I lost twenty of my best devils earlier today in an unprovoked attack by your lover.”

“Unprovoked?” He asked sceptically. “Would you like kasshiv? It’s all I have left – Nwm and Ortwine drank everything else.”

“Yes.” She raised an eyebrow at his pronunciation. “My servants were reconnoitering over Trempa; they were beyond the compass of the Blackthorn.”

“I did not realize a formal exclusion zone had been established,” he said drily, pouring a goblet for her. “Shomei, I have been pondering how to deal with this situation and I’m at a loss. I cannot seem to appeal to you; I cannot risk forbidding you for fear of provoking the Antinomos in you to an immediate response: I do not wish to come to blows with you. But you are flouting every law conceivable: Wyrish, magickal, ethical and religious. What would you have me do?”

“Enkindle your potential, Ahma. But you do not seem interested in assuming this responsibility.”

“That is a larger question which we may return to,” Eadric sighed. “In the meantime I must consider the wellbeing of those whom I am charged to protect; I am Earl Marshal of Wyre, Shomei: I must defend it, regardless.”

“You know that Carasch is aiding her, of course?”

“He is her watchdog. I have encountered him. He is terrifying. It is not germane to this discussion.”

“I lost two seraphs in her ambush, Ahma.”

“They ceased being seraphim at the beginning of the last Aeon, Shomei.”

“Yet the Ahma would place himself as a shield before this chthonic abomination?” She asked.

“No,” he groaned. “But he would place himself as a shield before the inhabitants of Trempa. There are limits on the number of devils which even you can conjure and compel, Shomei. If you send them in waves, will she be able to kill them quicker than you can call more? Or perhaps you will muster a large force, and she will entrench further: and the longer the buildup, the worse for everyone.”

Shomei looked hard at him. “Not all devils need to be compelled, Ahma. Only a key few – and then, only persuaded. I could end this all very quickly.”

His eyes flickered nervously. “I do not follow.”

“Azazel still bears the standard; two hundred legions accompany him. There is no longer a Celestial Interdict.”

A look of horror crossed his face. “You would do this? Raise that banner over Wyre?”

“I would prefer not to, but I must have the Urn, Ahma.”

“By invoking the eschaton? And you dub Soneillon psychotic?”

“She is,” Shomei smiled thinly. “I am merely determined. And the eschaton has been and gone, Ahma. We are what’s left.”

“And if I were to demand of you – command you – how would you respond?”

Shomei shook her head. “Please do not force me to make that choice, Ahma. It would not sit well with me.”

“Indeed? For one who asserts the Ahma as central to their paradigm I am sure it would cause you some discomfort.”

“I simply wish you would embrace the larger reality.”

“Then perhaps we should force the issue.” He stood grimly and drew Lukarn, gripping it below the quillons and presenting it in censure. It illuminated the interior of the tent. “By the authority…”

“Please, Ahma...”

“…vested in me as Ahma; the Breath of God manifest in the world…”

Ahma…”

“…I hereby command…”

“Eadric. Do not…”

“…that Shomei…”

Her Flame ignited. She brought the full force of her will to bear through her rod; it was colossal, and should have overpowered him. Instead, there was a resonance, and a reflection, which Shomei experienced as a great gale blasting over her. His pavillion and its contents were gone, blown to the four winds. Both Shomei’s eyes and those of the Ahma became wide in astonishment; a cluster of lotuses in the garland which he wore on his wrist had turned to dust: Soneillon had warded him, and he hadn’t even known it.

Devas and archons appeared all around him, summoned by his thought, but her presence paralyzed them; they would not strike her, only worship her. He smote her repeatedly, but her exemption protected her. Her will recommenced, unleashing a cyclone of hellfire focused on herself which could not touch him, but which slowly burned the garland to ash.

He spoke a holy word; again, exemption sustained her.

The firestorm increased in intensity; still the lotuses burned away. The devas were incinerated.

Nwm – alerted and now present – struck her with a sonic of tremendous power, which echoed for miles. She weathered it, and her focus did not falter; she hurled the Preceptor aside with telekinesis.

The last blossom turned to soot. Finally, she gripped Eadric’s mind, and dominated him.

“I’m sorry, Ahma. It’s a preventative measure.” She wept.

Abruptly, both Shomei the Infernal and the Ahma vanished.


**
**


The goddess strode ahead impatiently.

Teppu followed, anxiously. “What should I call you?”

“It does not matter – call me what you wish.” Her manner was disconcertingly brusque.

“You were Nehael before,” he suggested.

“Then call me Nehael.”

“But you are no longer the same.”

“Then call me something different,” she sighed.

“May I choose a name?” He suggested.

“Why not?”

“Names are important.” He explained.

“Are they?” She asked.

“Yes! Stop!”

She stopped, and smiled at him. “Do you have one for me?”

“You are not so different,” Teppu laughed. “Where are you going?”

“This way,” she said.

“What is this way?”

“What I need.”

“What…”

”Good,” she said. A horse stood waiting; a varnish roan mare. Strapped to the saddle was an arming sword. A bow – with flowers tied around its limbs – was fixed around its cantle, and a quiver of red-fletched arrows hung from its skirt.

Teppu raised an eyebrow. “That bow is…”

“Yew.”

“And the arrows…”

Hazel.

“And the sword…”

She drew it, and it rang; runes were etched into its blade: Trúa.

“Compassion?” He asked.

She shook her head. “Pity, Teppu. One cannot slay with compassion.”

“Where are you going now?” He asked.

“South,” she smiled.

“Why…”

“The dead are there Teppu. Are you coming?”

“Certainly,” he replied uncertainly.

She climbed into the saddle, picked him up, and deposited him behind her.

Moments later, they were at Cirone. Ahead, the Pall of Dhatri loomed.



**
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-08-2012


Obsession – Final Part



She hung, naked and motionless in the void, gazing at the world. Behind her and beyond her, an infinite expanse of emptiness stretched.

Wyre was blanketed in snow, a heavy veil which pressed upon its wide provinces and muffled the verdancies which pulsed beneath. It ranged from gold through deep crimson, west to east, as dusk stole across the frozen landscape below.

Further south, greens prevailed; and then a great fume of corruption, surrounding a perfect circle of blackness: the Pall of Dhatri. A red dart was moving within it, like a surgeon’s knife attempting to excise some cancer, the roots of which ran too deep. Nehael, yet not. Suuratamanyu?* she considered; an obscure and ill-defined bhiti – if such it was – or merely another manifestation of Aliikaghana?

She did not care.

She turned her eyes to the Sun and observed it impassively; she understood its radiance: no longer feared it. It regarded her with disinterest, as a parent who has surrendered a child and watched it grow separate, but from a great distance. It did not offer anything, and all she had gained had been apart from it. But neither did it condemn: its judgment was suspended, as though in regret of previous choices it had made. An admission, perhaps, of its own fallibility.

It began to sink over the Western Ocean, and an intense display of color ensued; the atmosphere split the light into its component parts like some deific prism: every element of the spectrum was revealed. For the briefest moment, the rumor of an Idea: a vast wyrm – serene, yet energized; a perfect, infinite potential – coiled around the world. Then, just as suddenly, it was gone. The luminary vanished. Beyond – now free from its glare and glamour – the ruddy Eye of Cheshne pulsed.

She descended through aurorae, plunging rapidly through the thermosphere. Meteors flashed to incandescence around her; she outpaced them, dropped through noctilucent clouds and felt their crystals caress and cool her. Her plummet came to rest at an altitude of twenty miles. She cast her glance downwards.

Lights were kindling in a city: an unfolding sevenfold symmetry, spontaneous yet inevitable. Her eyes followed a thin line which ran south and west into rolling hills, apprehending an involuted knot in a deep hollow.

Then she remembered that she was a demoness, and that she was angry.

*

[Soneillon]: You have one hour to evacuate the Academy.

[Many Wizards]: !

Sendings buzzed across Wyre. Twenty minutes elapsed.

(Far to the north and west, in an obscure corner of Nizkur).

[Mostin]: This demonstration is unnecessary, Soneillon. Shomei has marginalized herself by her own actions.

[Soneillon]: Oh, there you are.

Soneillon appeared within his study, a writhing mass which pinned Mostin, spreadeagled, above the fireplace.

“Don’t try and wriggle, Mostin,” a childlike face materialized, and then a body. “Or I’ll have to hurt you. You may have more tentacles than I, but mine are far nastier.”

A tendril reached inside his robe, flipping open pouches in his belt of many pockets, and searching until it retrieved a sphere of adamant, ten inches in diameter. She shook it vigorously, until Graz’zt’s countenance appeared.

“Well, look who it is,” she smiled. An expression of horror crossed the face of the demon prince.

Her form became fully humanoid – that of a small child, which she had chosen in previous dealings with the Alienist – as she secreted the globe on her person. Mostin dropped unceremoniously onto the floor.

“Now that that’s settled,” she hopped into a chair, and dangled her legs, “you have around forty minutes to convince me not to level the estate. I will not name her, and would advise the same of you: it would draw her attention here – funny how that comes around. But she has my boyfriend, and I want him back.

*

Mostin sighed. “Destroying her former abode would achieve nothing, Soneillon – except, perhaps, to irritate her.”

“That would seem as good a place to start as any. You are fuelling my argument, Mostin, not dissuading me. You need to think more like a demon.”

“She may also invoke the Hazel,” Mostin continued. “In which case, no effort on your part will penetrate its cordon. And do you really want an Academy unified in defense under her leadership? She has been seeking to co-opt the ritual pool; this would hand it to her on a plate. And in defense she would even receive the sanction of the Enforcer.”

“That is far more persuasive,” the demoness conceded. She issued another sending.

[Soneillon]: I’ve changed my mind.

Three hundred miles away, scores of wizards breathed a collective sigh of relief.

“Less than a minute. Not bad, Mostin.”

Mostin groaned. “You had no intention of destroying the Academy, did you?”

She shook her head.

“You tracked my sending to its source. Circumvented my obfuscations. You are a devious one.”

She hopped down, and ran over to him. Her form changed, and she threw a dozen tiny tentacles around his knees. She looked up with multiple huge, doe eyes welling with tears.

“Will you help me get Eadric back, Mostin? Please?”

“You are insufferable,” the Alienist replied.

“You are not an erotic creature, Mostin; I must adjust my tack accordingly.”

“I am no more paternal than I am erotic,” Mostin observed.

She sighed, and once again became a succubus. “Will you help me or not?”

Mostin shook his head. “She is within Hell’s library, Soneillon; it is separate – part of the prior infinity. Eadric is also there. There are two doors, and both lie within the Hazel’s ambit. You cannot touch her while she remains there. I have been inside, with her approval: she may come and go as she pleases. There is a tight net around the ‘front door’ – a cottage very close to the Hazel scion itself – the area where she performs her conjurations. The ‘back door’ – so to speak – is within the library of the Academy. Only Ugales has permission to enter and leave; he retrieves obscure spells and tomes for ambitious mages in return for outrageous pledges. The back door is currently closed anyway.”

Soneillon gave a suspicious look. “How do you know that Eadric is in the library, Mostin? Presumably your divinations cannot penetrate it.”

“A wizard does not reveal all of his means.”

“And how did you anticipate certain events in Afqithan?” She persisted.

Mostin sighed.

“Do you have a thing which helps you?”

“Yes,” he grudgingly admitted.

“Can I see it?” Soneillon smiled.

“Well…”

Soneillon raised an eyebrow, and slowly revealed Pharamne’s Urn. Mostin’s eyes rotated in his skull.

“Mostin. You have to show. No wonder you don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Very well,” he produced it. “It is called the Web of Motes. Although I think every wizard in Wyre knows I have it – I’m surprised that you didn’t hear already.”

She shrugged. “I tend not to mix with wizards, Mostin. They are usually dull – present company excepted, of course. And you will help me. With this mote-thing of yours, you can determine whether or not she is in her library, am I correct?”

“Yes, but it makes no difference. How difficult is this to explain…”

“Because you can help me,” she smiled. “In fact, I believe you are the only one who can.”

“You are not listening, Soneillon.”

“Yes, I am, but you’re not. She is a devil. I cannot conjure devils, Mostin. But you can.”

“She is magnified, Soneillon. Binding such an entity is a different proposition altogether.”

“My reservoir is deep, Mostin. It is yours.”

He considered; Shomei had gone too far, there was no denying it. His mind rapidly processed transvalent algorithms, finding various solutions.

“You will not annihilate her,” the Alienist exhorted.

“Mostin, be reasonable…”

“I mean it, Soneillon. She is a colleague, and a fellow intellect. Let me handle her.”

“Oh, very well,” Soneillon sighed.

“I will need a week to devise the formula.”

“A week? Wyrish wizards are so slow.”

“And I will need the Urn,” Mostin smiled madly.

Soneillon’s eyes narrowed. “No you don’t, Mostin. We both know that.”


**


“Do you purpose to keep me here indefinitely?” Eadric raised his eyebrows. He sat easily in the posture of saizhan within a forcecage in Shomei’s study. A fire – of cut hazel logs – burned slowly and steadily in the hearth.

“Only until I have the Urn, Ahma,” Shomei was curled nearby in a comfortable chair, reading. She did not meet his eyes.

“And you still address me by the religious appellative. You are an unlikely abductress,” Eadric observed. “And an even more unlikely Adversary.”

That moniker is defunct,” she sighed.

“Your actions would indicate otherwise. Should I officially brand you as such? I do determine doctrine, after all.”

She shifted her position, and took a sip of kschiff.

“If it would be easier for you, I will be silent. Or perhaps you could dominate me again.”

“I take no pleasure in depriving you of your will, Ahma.” She raised her head and looked at him. “Of all things, that, at least should be clear about me.”

“But you did, Shomei,” he replied.

“I must judge necessity, Ahma; for my Self, no other can.”

“And, in hindsight, was your judgment correct?”

She placed the book down, open, on the table beside her. “If you are asking whether I have experienced remorse, then the answer is yes: I am not beyond that. But what is done is done. The question of what to do next preoccupies me now. Such is my nature.”

“You would seem to be missing a moral compass, Shomei.”

She gave a small smile. “I do not need one, Ahma. My lack of kindness is perfectly balanced by my lack of malice. My temper needs some work.”

“And if jealousy and hatred come to rule you? What then?”

“Then you and I will have both failed, Ahma, but for different reasons.”

“Yet jealousy and obsession have characterized many of your actions of late.”

She stood, approached the forcecage, and knelt, drawing close. Her presence was intense, focused and calm. “Are you speaking of my reaction to your liaison with Soneillon, or to my efforts to gain the Urn?”

“You do not take well to being thwarted, Shomei. And the union of opposites is something which you yourself once gave me advice regarding.”

Ahma, there are many hieroi gamoi. Some are fleeting; some enduring. Some take place within a paradigm; others – such as that of the Reconciliation – span infinities; others beyond infinities even into the ineffable. I do not deny your experience of Soneillon; it is, in fact, an articulation of truth far beyond Magnitude as the Urgics would understand it. But it is not ultimate in the sense that nothing is ultimate, and whether it is even enduring remains to be seen. I am pragmatic, and could only offer you a paradigm, Ahma; to shape the reality which we inhabit. To make it better.”

Eadric laughed bitterly. “Something which Azazel and his two hundred legions can help you achieve, I presume? Your argument is beginning to sound more than a little deluded, Shomei.”

“Do not interpret the transparency of my thought to you as an articulation of intent; there are other avenues which I would prefer to exhaust first. Understand that I began with the most moral from your perspective: an alliance with you. I do not practice saizhan, Ahma. My method is otherwise. It is for me, and me alone. It can be neither learned, nor taught. I must invent it myself as it evolves; at critical junctures, I have looked to others – including both you and the Sela – for help, but the solution must always be mine.”

Eadric shook his head. “Your reaction to my anathematization of you – to engulf me in hellfire and coerce me – would suggest to me that this relationship is far from clear to you. My word is Law; but you accept none but your own.”

“It is a paradox I grapple with. I do not wish to be branded your Adversary, Ahma. To become what you most hate. I strive only to realize my potential.”

“And you somehow insist that I am capable of a similar feat; this awakening of my potential to which you refer. Yet it demands embracing some harsh and violent truth for you; a willing sacrifice of your own humanity. Something which I am unprepared to make.”

“I am a fiend, Ahma,” Shomei smiled.

“But you were not always so.”

“Nor were any others. Deep down, I have always wanted to be a devil, Ahma. I think you know this. And no such sacrifice is necessary from you: you are the Ahma. One reason why seeing you confined thus saddens me.”

“Then you might release me.”

She sighed. “If you were to affirm that you would make no efforts to assail me or escape, then I might grant you exit from that box. But I would prefer not to dominate you again.”

“I will so vow. Although I am unsure if my assent is tantamount to my endorsing your actions.”

“Life is full of paradoxes, Ahma.” The forcecage vanished.

“A little freedom is a precious thing,” he stood and glanced around.

She gestured. “The library is that way, Ahma. All the devils are gone; I’m the only one left. Call me if you get lost. I will hear you.”

“I cannot help but like you, Shomei.”

“I know. It makes it difficult.”

She returned to her book.







*Wrathful Mercy


**
 
Last edited:

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-12-2012

Day 1 – Antiphon


Nwm and Ortwine stood waiting before the fortified gates at Galda, and watched as the rider approached from the south. She, her horse and her harness were caked in blood, ichor and entrails so thick that the muck might need to be scraped clear with a trowel rather than washed away; her visage was altogether terrifying.

As she approached, the Preceptor noticed that she carried another with her: a diminutive figure who clung desperately to her waist, barely able to remain upright in the saddle. She reined in, reached behind her, and lowered him gently to the ground. Her small companion shivered and stood unsteadily.

“Hello, Nwm,” Nehael said, “Ortwine. Teppu is tired, and I think he’d like a bath. Where is Eadric?”

Ortwine looked at Nwm and raised an eyebrow.

*

“Eadric is very popular with the ladies, these days, Nehael.” Ortwine gave a caustic smile. “And I must say, red rather suits you; I can see that it is also a practical color.”

They sat around a campfire: one of hundreds which burned in the encampment. The goddess had acquiesced to a cantrip to clean her of the foul-smelling gore which had clung to her, but which had seemed not to perturb her in any way; it was, in fact, for Ortwine’s benefit that she had agreed. Teppu was wrapped in a blanket, asleep.

“I had hoped to speak with him; to discuss the reconquest,” she threw off her boots.

Ortwine cast a sidelong glance at Nwm, who shrugged.

“Might I assume that you lack the prescience of your previous sister-avatar; now, your mother-deity?” Nwm inquired. “I am unaccustomed to explaining anything to Nehael; usually the information flows in the other direction.”

“I slay, Nwm,” she said simply. “This is the persona that you get: I make no apology for it. It is necessary. I don’t have time for magic or plots or webs. I am the counterpoint which Uedii must chant to contain the corruption; her image reflected through the Eleos: the enlightened, engaged, dynamic face of compassion. I am unsentimental, and occasionally ugly on the surface. Nor am I as Tree-ish as my former self; actually, I prefer horses.”

She lay down on her back in the wet earth and looked upwards. The Follower was soaring in the east, flickering through the smoke in the air. Some time passed before Nwm spoke again.

“You are aware that Eadric is currently being held by Shomei the Infernal?” The Preceptor queried.

“Well, I imagine I might have been, had I thought about it.” She thought about it. “I see. I suppose I could go and talk to her.”

Could?” Ortwine gave a quizzical look.

Nehael raised her head, leant on an elbow, and smiled. “Eadric is confused, Ortwine. It is his defining feature. He gets himself into these situations; I’m not really convinced that my becoming involved at this stage would help. He should have followed my advice, and simply exercised compassion.”

“In which specific instance?” Nwm asked.

“He shouldn’t have censured Shomei, Nwm. It didn’t help. Really, he just lost his temper and became offended and pious. It’s always been an issue with him.”

“Mostin is working on a solution.”

“Yes. Mostin may aggravate the problem further,” Nehael remarked.

“And this assumes that Soneillon does not become unhinged in the interim,” Nwm added.

“Ahh, Soneillon,” she lay back down. “Another situation.”

Ortwine stared hard at her. “For an avatar of compassion, you seem very free in your criticism of those absent.”

“I would say the same to him – or her – were either here, Ortwine. As you have rightly implied, malicious gossip is incompatible with my nature. And frankly, the march of Dhatri’s host and the Embassy are of more concern to me at present than Eadric’s convoluted emotional life. I put an arrow in the latter earlier today; she knows I’m here well enough.”

“Then that is some good news.” Nwm grunted approvingly.

“She will not make the same mistake again.”

“By the Embassy, I assume you are referring to Kaalaanala’s final effluxion,” Ortwine sighed. “And each time I say that name I am nervous; in case I draw her perception to me.”

“The Trees protect you from that faculty here, Ortwine.”

The sidhe gave a stony look. “Had the Trees here been more comprehensive in their protection – and not allowed dreaming demonesses and exempt devils to penetrate their cordon - then this entire fracas might have been avoided. I think we may have placed too much faith in their effectiveness in protecting the Ahma’s moral fibre.”

“On the last count, I am inclined to agree.”

“So will you speak to Shomei?” Nwm inquired.

“Well. Are you asking for my intercession in this?”

“I don’t know,” Nwm admitted. “Should I?”

“Probably not,” Nehael replied.

“Then I suppose I won’t,” Nwm sighed. “But if I had, what would you have done?”

“Nothing,” Nehael smiled. “Which is the best that can be done at the moment. Ask me in a few days – things will probably unravel even more before they come together again. ”

“A prescience?” Nwm asked archly.

“Call it what you like,” Nehael shrugged. “I experience it as a vague notion. And today was too much for this one; he is too gentle.”

The goddess stood and removed her cloak. She folded it and placed it under Teppu’s head.


**


Eadric did not see Shomei – who had exited the cottage in order to perform conjurations, and sealed it behind her – for the entirety of the next day. After quickly becoming bored, he ventured forth to wander alone in obscure and musty corridors within the limitless repository which was Hell’s library. Ruddy candles burned with infinite slowness in deep sconces, barely illuminating the interior. It was eerily silent and – except for the occasional tome which itself exhibited some sign of sapience in addition to its malignancy – there was no question within the mind of the Ahma that he was alone.

Eadric was not a scholar; or rather, he had never had the time to pursue his scholarly interests: the art of war had demanded most of his attention throughout his life. The weight of infernal knowledge oppressed him, but more by virtue of its sheer volume than by its evil content. He considered the magnitude of Shomei’s commitment to the task of knowing the library; surely she must have read only the minutest fraction of the books contained within it. It seemed an impossible undertaking to master even its geography; to familiarize oneself with its contents would take a life’s age of the universe, or more.

It did not take him long to become lost, despite – what he had been sure – were his own meticulous precautions to the contrary regarding his bearing and distance from Shomei’s study. After a brief period of anxiety – during which he considered that his aimless wandering might, in fact, be his eternal lot – the Ahma determined that he would climb – the notion of ascent being comfortable and familiar to his inner aesthetic. Whenever a staircase – whether a narrow spiral, steep ladder, or wide companionway with sweeping balustrades – presented itself to him, he would eagerly scale it. At times, he would backtrack in frustration: his path would lead to a hidden nook, a suite of chambers or dark, diabolic cloisters with no other exit, and he would search out some new way. He entertained no notion of destination in his efforts, except up. Yet the light became no brighter; the atmosphere no less oppressive. There was no relief to be had, except in the act of ascent itself; a metaphor which struck him as particularly apt, given the nature of his hostess – or gaoler.

After what must have been many hours – all sense of time having long since left him – Eadric stumbled upon an archway within which a grate of adamant bars had been set. Dire runes were carved in warning above the threshold; symbols which, although they posed no threat to him, would have slain any devil of lesser stature who might have approached them. He looked at the bars: no keyhole or aperture of any kind was present. Peering through the grate, only darkness was present beyond. Eadric ran his fingers around the archway, searching for some secret mechanism. Nothing.

He illuminated the space beyond with daylight. A narrow tunnel, extending ahead as far as he might see.

Mustering all of his strength, he gripped the grate and tore it away from the archway, placing it ruefully against the adjacent wall, conscious that he had committed some gross act of vandalism against the integrity of the place – then berating himself for entertaining any notion of guilt in the context of his current predicament. Lighting the passageway at intervals, he proceeded for a hundred yards until he came upon another archway – this time unblocked by gate or door. A sound threatened to overwhelm, until he recognized it. Some trap had been triggered; a holy word of great power. Eadric gave an ironic half-smile; fiendish interlopers – not the Ahma – had been on the mind of whoever had set the device: a barely-visible glyph which throbbed in the keystone above.

He entered into a low chamber perhaps ten feet on a side, and illuminated it. On shelves or chained to the walls were books with tarnished covers; they had been neglected and forgotten for many epochs. Ancient books. Forbidden books. Books whispering secrets best left untold. He opened one, and thumbed its metalline pages – Meditations on Radiance; and then another – Divining the Light; and then another – The World of Men to Come. He tilted his head.

They were celestial books, penned by great devils – then seraphs and other episemes – before the Fall.

He sat, and began to read.


**


Soneillon hovered high in the skies above the Academy, beyond the compass of the Hazel-ludja, and gazed at the shifting patterns around the scion. She was hidden – more effectively, she knew, than the fallen celestials who had come to spy upon her at Deorham – but was, herself, unable to penetrate the layers around the Tree below. A nest of hemi-demiplanes, through which a tortuous path wound to Shomei’s cottage: invulnerable to her magic and sight. The concursion which was the library’s ‘front door.’

There were many devils in the skies below her; of that, there could be no doubt. But they remained invisible; their numbers and type unknown. Six more days must elapse before Mostin could complete his arcane equations; a formula which would incorporate only herself, Mulissu and Nwm: the Alienist had indicated that he trusted no other – including Ortwine, whose duty to the Hazel was suspect – to be part of it.

She scowled, and retreated to Deorham; she considered that, were she to abandon it and Shomei to locate her beyond the stronghold , that some force brought against her might overwhelm her and deprive her of the Urn. Extinction was of no particular concern to her, but being bound – by Shomei – remained a possibility, however remote. The Infernalist would need a sizeable ritual pool in order to guarantee success, and would need time herself to devise a suitable rite – and some safe location in another world, from which it could be conducted.

Mostin had elected Sisperi as his venue. But Mostin might fail, whatever his mote-thing told him.

Soneillon considered the time she had before the test came. She allowed her anger to subside, and gave thought to entrenchment: should it become necessary, it would be as well to be prepared.

The demoness began in earnest to fortify both herself and Kyrtill’s Burh with powerful spells.


**


Shomei sat by the fire, reading, when Eadric entered. His route to her study was not something he could accurately recall; there was no doubt in his mind that she had guided him back by some art.

She raised her head as he entered. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

His eyes narrowed. “I found; although I was not looking for it.”

“That is often best,” she nodded.

There was a brief silence.

“I may have caused some…structural damage,” Eadric confessed.

“Don’t worry, Ahma. I’ve already repaired it.”

She returned to her book.


*
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-14-2012

Day 2 – Down


“You are very small, Shomei,” Eadric observed.

“Yes, Ahma.”

“Is this an hereditary trait?”

“My flesh is infernal, Ahma.”

“But your prior incarnation – upon which your present body is based – was…slight. At least, the first one was…or… What I mean to say is that I know nothing of your ancestry. Is your lineage magical?”

She gave a quizzical look. “It was; yes, Ahma. Sorcerous, actually – although several generations removed. And aristocratic. With a dash of fey – which is never a bad thing for an arcanist, and may account for my small-ness.”

“And your parents?”

“Were devout and faithful,” Shomei said drily.

“And what became of them?”

“Devils killed them, Ahma.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“I conjured the devils, Ahma,” Shomei explained.

“Oh.” A look of horror crossed his face.

“I was young,” Shomei was nonplussed. “It was an act committed without principle.”

“How young?” Eadric asked.

“Five, Ahma.”

His eyes widened. “Five? Your parents had angered you in some way?”

“They took my books away, Ahma. I wanted them back.”

“Oh,” Eadric nodded uncertainly. “Perhaps they thought your books were dangerous?”

“They were, Ahma.”

“Apparently so,” Eadric raised an eyebrow. “And after you had…well…”

“Murdered my parents?” She asked.

“Yes…”

“I got my books back, Ahma.”

“But in terms of your upbringing, Shomei.”

“My servants looked after me.”

“No other relatives? No guardian?” Eadric asked, aghast.

“I did not need them. My servants were devils, Ahma.”

*

“Yesterday, you went up; will you go down today?” Shomei inquired.

“Exactly how closely have you been monitoring my movements, Shomei? And did I stumble upon the celestial repository, or was I directed to it?”

“I did not manipulate you toward it, if that is what you are asking,” she replied. Her answer seemed genuine. “I knew of it, but have not had the leisure to investigate it. But the library has a habit of presenting certain books or collections; if you were directed, then it was not by me. As to monitoring – not in the way you might think. I am aware of where you are and where you have been, if I call you to mind. I can encourage you to take certain paths – as I did in your inbound journey yesterday when I perceived that you wanted to return – but in your explorations, you were following your own impulses. I was busy with my conjurations.”

“Would you suggest going down?”

“I make no recommendation,” Shomei answered. “You could go straight, or left, or right, or backwards; or some combination of any of these – including up and down – but these are harder to track. Only going down is an easier route to focus upon; you are new to the geography.”

“I suspect that the willful act of descent would be harder for me,” Eadric remarked.

Shomei shrugged. She exited the cottage, and sealed it.

Eadric sighed.


**


“They seethe and swell like a great, purposeful ocean of malice,” Nehael explained. “They are without number. There is nothing left for them to consume except each other; hence they must move. The greatest – Idyam and Dhatri herself, together with the Embassy – remain near to the centre. Rishih, Naatha and Prahar are closer to the periphery of the mob. They are only forty miles away – would you like to see?”

Nwm nodded grimly.

Ortwine looked sceptical. “How?”

“I can show you; Nwm knows what I mean. The experience will not be pleasant.”

“Very well.” The sidhe gave a resigned sigh.

Perception expanded to embrace reality within sixty miles. To the south, a festering tide of corruption of such magnitude that it seemed as though the World could not sustain its weight. Nwm reeled. Ortwine staggered and vomited.

“And you experience this all of the time?” Ortwine groaned. She vomited again.

Nehael smiled.

“How did you get close enough to shoot?” Ortwine asked her, regaining her breath. “Was she not alerted?”

“Yes,” Nehael nodded in a matter-of-fact way. “But she did not withdraw. She struck me with fire. Coming within a league was difficult. The press of corpses was thick; it was hard to aim…”

“Wait. You can shoot from three miles?”

“I can shoot from six, Ortwine; as long as I have a clear aim – I didn’t.”

The sidhe wiped her mouth and raised an eyebrow. “This, I have to see. I assume that your missile struck its target unerringly?”

“I shot eighteen arrows at her before she could react,” Nehael replied. “Only one found its mark.”

Ortwine looked at Nwm. “I think we’re seriously out of our depth.”

Nwm stared at Nehael. “And Teppu…how did he fare? I mean, I have never seen him so weak.”

“He died five times. It was difficult for him. And each time I brought him back as himself again – it is hard for a self-incarnate such as he.”

“Why was he even there? Could he meaningfully affect the outcome?”

“A little, perhaps. But each of us can only do a little. I do not enjoy what I do, Nwm; really, he was there for me. So I didn’t have to be alone. He is kind.” She smiled.

“And today?” Nwm asked. “You will both ride out again?”

Nehael shook her head. “I would spare him the experience.”

“If you require a consociate,” Nwm said, “I will gladly offer myself.”

“I think you should also remain,” Nehael suggested. “Teppu is here; Hlioth is nearby; Mesikammi is on her way. The Temple is all but spent of power, and the Ahma is missing. You should give thought to the defense here; a quarter of the Cheshnite host will be here within a few days.”

“Only a quarter?” Ortwine asked.

“It is more than enough to contain Galda,” Nehael explained. “The rest will bypass it altogether, and head north, straight for Wyre. And I have a companion in mind.”

The sidhe heard a soft hoof-fall, felt hot breath on her neck, and turned. Narh had approached, and was nuzzling her eagerly.

“Me?” Ortwine inquired. “Undead are not my specialty.”

“If you are willing, I could use the company.” Nehael smiled. “Besides, you said that you wanted to see me shoot.”

“Two against a million would seem to be a rather uneven match.” Ortwine observed drily.

“If it were only a million, our impact might be more significant,” Nehael replied.

“If I die, take note that I am perfectly content with this form; I do not wish to be a buckawn or a sylph.”

“Duly noted,” Nehael nodded. “Unless Hummaz snatches you first.”

Ortwine raised an eyebrow. “A joke?”

“No,” Nehael strapped her sword across her back. “It is unlikely, but it is as well to be prepared. Stay close to me; you will encounter every conceivable type of undead, and some you have never imagined. You are goddess: the deathshriekers cannot touch you, but beware the crawling heads and famine spirits; many can abide my aura, and they may bite your head off.”

“Eadric, you moron,” Ortwine muttered under her breath, and mounted the stallion.


**


Eadric descended rapidly; he leaped down staircases, over banisters and through shafts which gave to lower floors. His heart pounded, and he wondered if there was a bottom to be found; no top had been revealed to him on the previous day, but he was also certain, in his own mind, that the library was finite. It did not appear to bend – inasmuch as he did not come back to some place which he had previously visited – and it seemed sensible to him that the entrance from Shomei’s cottage should be closer to the bottom than the top, and that the bottom must, therefore, be more accessible.

But he found no root; no foundation to the library: only a dismal, perpetual declivity into measureless depths filled with books. Again, all sense of time eluded him, but he knew that his plunging into the library’s bowels had consumed him for many hours; he had descended for miles.

Eadric paused to consider his predicament: ascent might take him days; he would need Shomei’s help, this time. But to ask her for anything…the notion sat uncomfortably with him. Had she returned? Or would his whispered entreaty to her interrupt her work? And why should the notion of distracting Shomei from her purpose – to overrun Wyre with devils for the object of her own self-aggrandizement – cause him conflict, in any case?

He sat upon a stone bench within a niche in a damp wall, and cleared his mind. From his pocket, he withdrew the scarf of heavy black silk which Soneillon had bestowed on him and pondered. The magics which the demoness had placed on the garland of flowers had eluded Shomei’s perception; he wondered if the samite might hide some similar secret. He needed a dream, perhaps, and she might manifest through it; but there were no dreams here. The prior infinity in which he found himself was cut off; isolated.

Eadric replaced the scarf and stood. He would wait a little while longer. He removed a hellish candle from its pricket and willed light upon it, illuminating his surroundings with a more substantial brightness; the radiance was at odds with the general character of the place. He walked a little way, rounded a corner, and found himself looking over a balcony into a wide amphitheatre. Some kind of devilish lecture-hall or auditorium; Eadric wondered what kind of lessons might have been expounded within its circuit. After searching for some time, he found his way down and made his way to the lectern – a morbid pulpit, wrought of steel and bone – upon which a book lay open. Its language – being an archaic dialect of Infernal – was unfamiliar to him.

He thumbed its hide pages and looked at dense text interspersed with curious pictograms and symbols, wary that he might inadvertently hex himself or invoke some latent malevolence. Still, the book somehow seemed less wicked than its surroundings. Recalling Shomei’s words regarding the library’s tendency to present certain tomes, the Ahma closed the book, removed it from the lectern, and tucked it beneath his arm. He ascended several levels, found a quiet cloister and scanned its pages for some clue as to its meaning, but could determine none. Finally – and again, time seemed to have drifted by without measure or meaning – he sighed.

Shomei,” he spoke in a clear voice.

She appeared presently, and raised an eyebrow. “You have been gone a long time, and come very deep indeed, Ahma. These collections are hardly known to me.”

Eadric held out the book.

Shomei took it, and scanned its cover. She flipped its pages; her eyes widened in incredulity.

“I felt this tome was significant,” the Ahma explained. “It was on a rostrum in a hall not too far from here.”

Shomei stared at him suspiciously. “It might be deemed an heretical codex, from a conventional diabolic perspective. Here.”

She ran a hand over the book, and returned it to him.

The Reattainment of Luminance, it read.

“There is no author,” Eadric remarked.

“No. The author had no name, Ahma.”

Eadric handed it back to her, and smiled. “Then I believe it is for you. The Sela once said to me that for you to surrender yourself to bliss would be the ultimate antinomian act. Perhaps the prior I entertained similar notions?”

She gave him a dubious look. “I will read it. But entertaining a notion and acting on it are two very different things. I confess I am weary, Ahma; if you wish to return…”

He nodded, and the scene changed abruptly: they were back in her study. As always, the fire burned; the scent of cinnamon hung in the air. It seemed familiar, comfortable, safe. Shomei placed the book on a table, threw off her robe and uncorked a flask. Eadric knew that she was exhausted; that she had emptied herself that day. He wondered if he might overwhelm her.

“Would you like kschiff?” She asked.

“No. But thank-you.” Eadric removed his shoes, sat, and entered saizhan.

When he arose, he saw that she was curled, asleep in a chair; the flask of liquor was empty and barely a dram remained in her glass. The Reattainment of Luminance was open on its last page; she had already finished it. He took it from her hand. The pages were still wet from her tears.

Eadric sighed, covered her with the robe of meteors, and returned to his meditations.


*
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Nehael

[sblock]Nehael as the Red Antiphon, using a Paragon Inherent Divine Array modified by succubus racial adjustments. A spell-less ranger variant is used for extra feats. Gear value is for a 75th-level PC; actual CR is probably somewhere in the CR75-80 range. The “red” manifestation is only possible after Nehael’s ascent to Sovereignty, prompted by the actions of the Ahma with regard to Soneillon; at this point the DvR12 Eleos-Nehael can emanate a variety of avatars in the DvR6 range – including both the “red” and the original “green” Nehael.

Some distinction needs to made between “green” and Green: all of Nehael’s avatars are Green, in the sense that all stem from the Uedii-complex, but it is the first (after her migration) which is “green” in terms of her garb and appearance, and her pacifistic tendencies. The Eleos-Nehael – the DvR12 manifestation – retains this green garb and appearance but, as a paradigmatic entity, can transcend normal categorical paradoxes.

Nehael’s “red” manifestation holds a number of antithetical elements in tension. She retains the Lust portfolio, an aspect of the “green” manifestation which is only barely alluded to, but which is intensified and more explicit in the “red” second iteration. The Healing, Good and Life portfolio elements are more in accord with Nehael’s symbolism in general; the War portfolio element and domain are “appropriated” from the vanquished Visuit – the demise of the Cheshnite war-goddess might also be seen as a precondition for the appearance of the “red” avatar.

“Red” Nehael might be best understood as a “fierce compassion” – directed specifically toward ending the suffering of undead creatures (and demons, representing ignorance) – and returning chthonics to their natural state of Nonbeing, in which they are “happiest.” Notions of spontaneity, eroticism and enlightened action are emphasised.

Nehael’s total symbolism can probably be best understood in the context of the “goddess” Kuan Yin – the Chinese iteration of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compasssion and mercy – and the Tara complex of compassionate tantric deities within Vajrayana Buddhism. Red Tara symbolism is convoluted because it also draws heavily on pre-Buddhistic components: Artemis/Diana and Aphrodite/Venus elements – in terms of Western mythology – are also incorporated into her meaning.

Anyhoo…


Nehael
The Red Antiphon. Image of Uedii.

Lesser Goddess
Symbol: The Sword
Home Plane: The Primordial Tree
Alignment: Neutral Good
Portfolio: Compassion, Good, Healing, Lust, Life, War
Worshippers: Any
Domains: Good, Healing, Lust, War

Fighter 20 / Ranger 20
Medium Outsider (Good, Green, Native)
Divine Rank: 6

Hit Dice: 20d8+560 plus 20d8+560 plus 20d10+560 plus 720 (2920 hp)
Initiative: Supreme Initiative (+37)
Speed: 180ft.
Armor Class: 162 (+15 armor, +33 Dex, +25 deflection, +6 divine, +12 insight, +12 luck, +19 natural, +30 sacred), touch 128, flat-footed 129
Base Attack/Grapple: +40/+95
Attack: +120 (1d8+64/15-20, Pity) or +120 (1d8+64/19-20x3, Yew Bow)
vs. evil undead +126 (1d8+80+9d6/15-20, Pity) or +126 (1d8+80+9d6/19-20x3, Yew Bow)
Full Attack: +120/+120/+115/+110/+105, Pity or +120/+120/+120/+115/+110/+105, Yew Bow with Improved Rapid Shot
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Spell-like abilities, Salient Divine Abilities, Favored Enemy
Special Qualities: Camouflage, divine aura (60 ft., save DC 84), divine immunities, DR 25/ epic and evil, evasion, fast healing 20, hide in plain sight, immortal, remote communication, salient divine abilities, SR 200, understand, speak and read all languages, speak directly to all beings within 6 miles, swift tracker, interplanar transport via plants, universal energy immunity, wild empathy, woodland stride.
Saves: Fort +130, Ref +135, Will +127
Abilities: Str 58, Dex 77, Con 66, Int 50, Wis 49, Cha 60
Skills: Balance +123, Bluff +109, Climb +108, Diplomacy +127, Escape Artist +117, Gather Information +109, Handle Animal +109, Heal +103, Hide +117, Intimidate +115, Jump +114, Knowledge (arcana) +104, Knowledge (geography) +104, Knowledge (nature) +110, Knowledge (nobility) +104, Knowledge (the planes) +104, Knowledge (religion) +104, Listen +103, Move Silently +117, Ride +123, Sense Motive +103, Spot +103, Survival +103, Swim +108, Tumble +123

Feats: Bounding Assault, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Endurance, Far Shot, Greater Weapon Focus (longbow), Greater Weapon Focus (longsword), Greater Weapon Specialization (longbow), Greater Weapon Specialization (longsword), Improved Critical (longbow), Improved Critical (longsword), Improved Disarm, Improved Initiative, Improved Precise Shot, Manyshot, Melee Weapon Mastery (slashing), Mobility, Mounted Archery, Mounted Combat, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Ranged Weapon Mastery (piercing), Rapid Blitz, Rapid Shot, Ride-By Attack, Slashing Flurry, Spirited Charge, Spring Attack, Track, Trample, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (longbow), Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization (longbow), Weapon Specialization (longsword)

Epic Feats: Bane of Enemies, Death of Enemies, Dire Charge, Distant Shot, Epic Fortitude, Epic Reflexes, Epic Weapon Focus (longbow), Epic Weapon Focus (longsword), Epic Weapon Specialization (longbow), Epic Weapon Specialization (longsword), Epic Will, Improved Manyshot

Divine Immunities: Ability damage, ability drain, acid, banishment, cold, death-effects, disease, disintegration, electricity, energy drain, imprisonment, mind-affecting effects, paralysis, poison, sleep, stunning, transmutation, turning and rebuking.

Salient Divine Abilities: Alter Reality, Divine Dodge, Extra Domain (War), Gift of Life, Image of Uedii, Rebuttal of Death, Supreme Initiative, Viridescent Mind

Spell-Like Abilities: Nehael uses these abilities at will as an 81st-level caster. The save DCs are 56+ spell level where appropriate: aid, blade barrier, charm person, clairaudience/clairvoyance, dispel evil, divine power, flame strike, heal, holy aura, holy smite, holy word, invisibility, lesser planar ally, magic circle against evil, magic vestment, magic weapon, mass heal, power word (any), protection from evil, refuge, regenerate, scrying, spiritual weapon, summon monster IX (good), symbol of persuasion, sympathy, trap the soul

Interplanar Transport via Plants (Su): Nehael may use this ability at will. Caster Level 81st.


Other Divine Powers

As a lesser goddess, Nehael treats a 1 on an attack roll or a saving throw normally and not as an automatic failure. She is immortal.

Senses: Nehael can see, hear, touch and smell at a distance of 6 miles. As a standard action she can perceive anything within 6 miles of her worshippers, holy sites, objects or any location where her name was spoken in the last hour. She can extend her senses to up to five locations at once. She can block the sensing power of deities of her rank or lower at up to two remote locations at once for 6 hours.

Portfolio Sense: Nehael instantly detects any event which involves five hundred or more people and is related to her portfolio.

Automatic Actions: Nehael can use any skill related to her portfolio – even those she has no ranks in – as a free action, provided that the DC is 20 or less. She can perform up to five such free actions in a round.

Create Magic Items: Nehael can create magic items related to her portfolio without the requisite item creation feat provided she meets all other prerequisites for the item, and the item's market price does not exceed 30,000gp.

Divine Aura: As a free action on her turn, Nehael may choose to emanate or suppress an aura of daze, fright or resolve with a radius of 600ft. A Will saving throw (DC84) negates the effect.


Special Attacks and Qualities

Green Subtype (Ex): Nehael is always considered a native of the Prime Material plane, Faerie, Primordial Tree and the Planes of Spirit for the purposes of effects which target outsiders.

Alter Reality (SDA): Nehael can replicate any spell effect of 9th-level or lower (caster level 81st, where appropriate). Use of this ability costs 5000xp, and is drawn against a weekly cushion of 30000xp.

Image of Uedii (Unique SDA) (Ex): Animals, plant creatures, feys, magical beasts, vermin, elementals and spirits with a connection to the natural world cannot harm or be compelled to harm Nehael in any way, and the initial attitude of such creatures towards her is always one of fanatic loyalty (ELH, p.40).

Rebuttal of Death (SDA): Undead within 60ft. with 30HD or less are automatically turned by Nehael; those with 20HD or less are automatically destroyed. Undead creatures are subject to critical hits from both ranged and melee attacks by Nehael.

Viridescent Mind (Unique SDA): Nehael enjoys an effect similar to a continual commune with nature. The range of the Viridescent Mind is 60 miles (10 miles per divine rank), except Nehael's perception also extends into Faerie, and coterminous Spirit planes. She may share her perception with any number of other willing creatures within range.

Favored Enemies: Nehael gains a +10 favored enemy bonus against the Undead subtype, and a +2 bonus against Aberrations, Evil Outsiders, Chaotic Outsiders and Dragons. If she scores a critical hit against any of these types, the target must make a Fort save (DC 78) or die.


Equipment
All of Nehael’s items are major artifacts; in any case where a caster level equivalent is necessary, treat the CL of the item as 60th.

Breastplate (25M)
Nehael wears a light vest of armor, equivalent to a +10 heavy fortification universal energy immunity ironbark breastplate which grants a +10 enhancement bonus to Strength, Dexterity and Constitution and a +20 resistance bonus to Saving Throws. It incurs no armor check penalty and has no associated maximum Dexterity bonus.

Leaf Pendant (43M)
This pendant appears as a small leaf in a simple setting, attached to a thong of woven bark from the Great Tree-ludja. It conveys a +30 sacred bonus to saving throws, a +30 sacred bonus to armor class and grants Spell Resistance 200. Profane, unholy or divine damage is treated as normal energy damage for the wearer of the Leaf Pendant unless its source has 13 or more divine ranks.

Sword (30M)
Nehael’s sword, Pity, is an intelligent neutral good finessable +10 cold iron, everdancing, keen, speed, undead dread, holy power longsword. It has Int 18, Wis 40, Cha 40 and an Ego of 73. Its special purpose is to slay undead; its special purpose power is undeath to death (improved heightened to 30th level) – the Save DC to resist this ability is adjusted by the wielder’s Charisma score and divine rank: in Nehael’s case, the DC is 71

Yew Bow (22M)
Nehael carries a bow carved from a limb of the Yew-ludja, a +10 holy power, speed, undead dread, unerring accuracy composite longbow.

Quiver of Hazel Arrows (35M)
Nehael carries a quiver which contains an inexhaustible supply of arrows from the Hazel-ludja. These are greater slaying arrows; the target type is determined by Nehael at the moment the arrow is loosed. Arrows may be imbued with additional effects as Nehael sees fit; when nocking an arrow, as a move action she may also determine a specific additional effect which it will have:

  • Earthshudder: No attack roll is necessary if this arrow is shot. An area within range is subject to an earthquake effect (improved heightened to 30th level), except the DC to resist specific effects is 71.
  • Negate Magic: A target struck by this arrow is also subject to a superb dispelling effect (caster level 81)
  • Pierce Will: If struck, a target’s Wisdom score is reduced to 1. This effect is equivalent to a bestow greater curse (improved heightened to 30th level); the target is entitled to a Will saving throw (DC 71) to resist the effect but spell resistance does not apply. This effect is permanent; it can be removed by a deity with 6 or more divine ranks.
  • Ravage: This arrow acts as poison upon chaotic and evil outsiders, even if they are normally immune to such effects. Targets must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC71) or sustain 6d6 points of Dexterity damage; one round later, they must make a second save or sustain 6d6 points of Constitution damage.
  • Verdigris: No attack roll is necessary if this arrow is shot. The arrow creates a sphere of verdigris with a radius of 100ft. Creatures must make a Reflex saving throw (DC71) or sustain 10d6 points of damage from the sudden plant growth and become entangled. Buildings and other structures likewise sustain 10d6 points of damage.
[/sblock]
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-19-2012

Day 3 – Rest


[Mulissu]: You should be working.

[Mostin]: I am taking a break; my head is full of iterated functions and I cannot concentrate.

[Mulissu]: You are looking at motes, Mostin. That hardly qualifies as relaxation.

[Mostin]: It is for me. Look [here] and [here] and [here].

[Mulissu]: You will need to decipher for me. My Motish is rusty.

[Mostin]: There are two sets of exclusory paradoxes relating to Eadric.

[Mulissu]: This [here] is Shomei?

[Mostin]: Yes. Notice that all sixteen remaining infernal seraphs are now bound to her mote; sixty other once-episemes; almost a thousand exemplars. No force of this power has ever before been assembled by a mage; nor yet a cabal. Nor one of this concentration even deployed since the Fall – if then.

[Mulissu] (Impressed): How?

[Mostin]: I should mention that this is three days hence, not now. Regardless, her valent capacity for conjurations is prodigious.

[Mulissu]: Her mote is in tight resonance with Eadric.

[Mostin]: Their dance is subtle, and many layered; there are elements which are antagonistic, amative, paternal, mutually didactic, dominating, religious and companionable. The relationship is complex.

[Mulissu]: All relationship is complex, Mostin; that is why sensible wizards avoid it. I assume that this dark, brooding bomb-beneath-a-blanket is Soneillon? There is a field of blackness behind her.

[Mostin]: That is the Shadow of Cheshne. And this hungry node of void is Carasch.

[Mulissu]: Demonstrate your paradoxes.

Mostin stabilized the resonance between Shomei and the Ahma, and progressed the Web of Motes accordingly; the numerous devil-motes in her vicinity began to flicker and slowly fade.

[Mulissu]: That would seem to be…

[Mostin]: Wait.

The darkness behind Soneillon’s mote seemed to crystallize through it; hundreds of motes began to vanish. A tide which swept through the Web extinguishing everything. Only one mote – that of Nehael – remained.

[Mulissu]: That future would be best avoided.

[Mostin]: Here is another.

Shomei’s mote was transfixed. The darkness receded, but the devil-motes began to disperse and recombine, forming new resonances and extending outwards in a net which permeated the entire Web. Tension increased, until motes began to crash into one another.

[Mostin]: That was a hypothetical war, fought between Yeqon and his devilish saizhan-advocates, and the Antagonist Armaros; both of these infernal seraphim are currently beneath Shomei’s thumb. If I bind her, they will factionalize and attempt to assert themselves as soon as their compacts come to term.

[Mulissu]: Reverse the Web. Do not allow the compacts to expire, and assume only a brief binding of Shomei.

He did. Shomei’s mote erupted, and drove toward Soneillon; those of the fallen episemes detonated spectacularly around her. Futures began to bifurcate rapidly; Mostin held Shomei to a tight course, and Soneillon’s mote vanished, and then reappeared. Shomei acquired new intensity and plunged immediately toward an energetic mote of deep jade, impacting it and shattering it.

[Mostin]: This is a typical catenary. If she can gain the Urn, her mastery of Hummaz is all but guaranteed, and she knows it. Her Fire is only half-actualized at present; if she can further unlock the Antinomos, Shomei will be unstoppable.

[Mulissu]: Before or after Hummaz?

[Mostin]: Before, with the help of the Urn.

[Mulissu]: And what is [this?]

[Mostin]: It is an anomalous catenary.

[Mulissu]: Progress it.

[Mostin]: [Here]. It does not lead anywhere. It is inert.

[Mulissu]: Progress it further.

Resolution. Shomei’s mote pulsed, and expanded. It shone steadily: an isolated monad, around which a bright corona formed. It regarded those in her vicinity benignly.

[Mulissu]: What is it?

[Mostin]: Perfection. A complete integration of her Flame.

It did not move, but the significator for Hummaz – seemingly magnetized – migrated and was drawn into orbit around Shomei’s lambency; its revolutions slowly deteriorated until it was silently absorbed.

Motes exploded in a million directions as thought and color surged toward Mostin, shattering his inner vision and challenging the foundation of his prescience. A vibration of utter, draconic, profundity.

[Mulissu]: Mostin?



[Mulissu]: Mostin…?

[Mostin] (Wrily): That was the Aeon. It just reminded me that it knows I am looking.


**


Ortwine collapsed onto the ground. She was covered in blood and guts. Nwm looked at her approvingly.

“You have done good work, Ortwine,” the Preceptor nodded. “How many times did you die?”

“Only twice,” Ortwine grunted. “I feel I did well; my instinct for self-preservation must be better honed than that of Teppu. Narh died nine times; he doesn’t seem to care: he just keeps going. Nehael turns animals into suicidal fanatics, although I think that he may be like that normally.”

“And you?”

Ortwine nodded. “Her presence is exhilarating; it cannot be denied.”

“If the fear of death is removed, it is remarkable what can be accomplished.”

“Empty words, Nwm,” Ortwine shook her head. “The fear of pain remains. And Nwm, for pity’s sake: I am a queen and a goddess. Can we have no better accommodations than this wet earth?”

“If you wish for something more comfortable, you will need to find a wizard.”

“It does not have to be lavish, Nwm. Just something.”

Nwm gestured, and wood flew together to form a small, crude hut, open on one side which faced the fire.

“Bed?” Ortwine asked.

Nwm shook his head.

“Moss?” Ortwine asked.

Nwm nodded. A cradle of soft moss grew within the shelter.

“Adequate,” Ortwine crawled into it. “And where are the wizards? Where is Mostin? And I thought the Academy were supposed to be more invested in events now?”

“Shomei’s actions have them in a fluster,” Nwm replied. “They are fragmented and nervous. Mostin is preoccupied with his work.”

“What work?”

“I believe a conjuration of some kind,” Nwm smiled.

“Another terrible beast?”

“Doubtless,” Nwm nodded.

“And your own preparations for defense?” Ortwine asked. “Have you accomplished anything worthy?”

“That remains to be tested,” Nwm sighed. “We are stacking spells as fast as we can – which is slowly – but, frankly, everyone is empty. And if the Fourth Effluxion can bring all of the remaining Cheshnite ritual power to bear, she will likely smash the net like so many eggshells.”

“If?” Ortwine inquired.

“She may not be predisposed toward ritual magic. One of the other immortals may need to take the lead in directing the cabals against our countermagicks; this would work in our favor. If she can focus them through herself, her assault will be powerful.”

“You cannot determine which?”

Nwm shook his head. “Her obfuscations are difficult to pierce; she seems opaque to most divinations, and only so much energy can be directed to trying to penetrate them.”

Ortwine groaned. “My suspicions are not good, Nwm. Still, I suppose a spell which counters a spell, is one less spell which burns a swathe of people.”

“That is my philosophy also,” Nwm nodded.

“She burns very hot, Nwm.”

“You encountered her then?”

“Twice,” Ortwine nodded. She fell asleep.


**


Shomei struggled with difficulty to regain consciousness, and stared across the room from beneath her robe. Narcoma still clung to her.

“Thank-you for not snapping my neck, Ahma,” she remarked sleepily. “I was not sure if your word was binding, if offered to fiends.”

“It is not,” Eadric was laconic. He approached her and regarded her.

She seemed tiny. He knew that she was still vulnerable: her reservoir was depleted; almost all of her valences unoccupied. She had allowed her most potent wards to expire, for the purpose of more conjurations. He wondered how many superior planar bindings she was capable of in the course of a day, now that her Fire had ignited.

“Technically, one hundred and thirty-three,” she replied lazily and unexpectedly to the unasked question. “Although even I am not so dedicated. And I did not realize that my valent condition was so apparent to you.”

“Your thoughts are undisciplined when you drink too much kasshiv,” he observed. “And your mind makes connection without your volition.”

She briefly lifted her head. “I do believe that your pronunciation of that word is an affectation, Ahma. Speaking of; do you mind…?” She pointed at the cabinet where the kschiff was kept.

“I merely emphasize its proper ritual purpose.” He retrieved another flask and filled her glass to the brim. “Which you might remember, from time to time.”

Shomei drank deeply, smiled, replaced her glass, and shifted her position. “There are no dreams here, Ahma. Its effects are purely soporific. We all need a little oblivion, now and then; something I’m sure you can appreciate.”

“How was your book?” He asked.

“Complicated.” She furrowed her brow.

“It seemed to evoke an emotional response,” Eadric remarked.

“Yes, Ahma; I am capable of them.”

“Can you readily communicate its contents? Even in the broadest terms?”

“It would be difficult,” she sighed, closing her eyes again. “It would require that you are familiar with a sevenfold hermeneutic; unfortunately, the Infernal Septiga takes some time to master.”

“I feel you are being evasive, Shomei.”

“Yes, Ahma,” she yawned.

“Should I assume that some personal article was touched?”

“I don’t know, Ahma.” She raised an eyebrow with effort. “Would you care to talk about the totality of your experience with Soneillon?”

“I am not sure that that would be appropriate.”

“Because it is deeply intimate, or because you feel it would leave you open to subsequent manipulation?” She asked drowsily.

“Point taken,” he replied.

“Perhaps I will speak again later; when my guard is not so low, and I have had time to consider.”

“That seems only reasonable,” he conceded.

“And then, so can you,” she mumbled and smiled.

“Unfortunately, that seems equally reasonable.”

“I am sorry for your confinement, Ahma. And I have been rude; given no thought to your need for space. I will do something…” Her cogency was beginning to leave her.

“Don’t mention it,” he replied drily

“And thank-you again for not killing me, Ahma,” she muttered.

“I thought about it,” Eadric sighed.

“I know.” She reached up, fumbled, and patted his hand.

Shomei returned to sleep.

Eadric shook his head and opened the cabinet where his host-cum-gaoler kept a plentiful supply of kschiff and other beverages. He sniffed a number of them – some seemed even more dubious than Shomei’s drink of preference – before settling upon a bottle of Bedeshi brandy.

He put his feet up and sat for a long while by the fire, considering his circumstances. Shomei’s choice to allow herself to be vulnerable – because there was little doubt that every action committed by Shomei was one of willful choice – spoke of complexities which compromised him, and with which he felt ill-equipped to engage. He did not suspect any calculated program of seduction, although there was an inevitable sympathy which arose through knowledge and revelation of the other; she had made herself transparent to him, and trusted him. Her I, to him, had become a Thou. He felt warmth – even gratitude – despite her actions, and an odd feeling of protectiveness; as though she were something altogether precious: he knew that she should be cherished.

Really, I have always preferred fiends, he thought. They were just more interesting.

His mind drifted; he was oblivious to events in the world outside, and wondered what transpired at Deorham, in Morne, at Galda. He pondered, at length, about Soneillon: only days had passed since he had left her; it felt like months. Her reaction to his predicament concerned him.

Eventually – having consumed half of the bottle – a deep, dreamless sleep claimed him.

*

When he awoke, Shomei was already gone. Eadric stood and looked at the wall: a heavy timber door had appeared, where none had been before. He narrowed his eyes in suspicion: what lay beyond was, no doubt, for him – Shomei had indicated as much, and apparently, she recalled vague commitments made in even the most inebriated state. He slowly opened the door, expecting some vast, opulent suite of rooms bedecked with furs and exotic fabrics.

Instead, he found four small, modestly-furnished but well-lit stone chambers – not too austere, he noted – and a space which might be a shrine or meditation room, were he to make it so.

Still, a prison was a prison. He sighed.

A book sat upon a table. He read its pristine cover – embossed in contemporary Wyrish – and laughed despite himself:

Infernal Hermeneutics – An Introduction


*
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-20-2012

Day 4 – Intercession?


“Although I am incarcerated, I still feel as though I should thank you for providing me with chambers,” Eadric said.

“Then you certainly should, Ahma.” Shomei sat with a look of intense concentration on her face. She was carving a block of Hazel-wood with a slender knife; chips and shavings gathered at the floor beneath her feet. Her hands were a blur, moving with uncanny speed and precision.

“You seem to have none of your own,” Eadric observed. “Yet you have a reputation for ostentation.”

“In quieter days, I have more time for relaxation,” she nodded.

“Then there is some place in the library set aside for you?”

“I make rooms here as I feel the need, Ahma. It is no great matter. A parlor, a drawing room, a hall or bedchamber.” The wood had begun to assume the form of a human-shaped figurine.

“You also sleep more in quieter days?”

“Yes. But I sleep by the fire, Ahma.”

“Ah,” he nodded. “Chambers for entertaining your devilish lovers, then.”

“Yes, Ahma.” She regarded him with amusement. “Do I detect a note of judgment in your voice?”

“I am hardly one to judge,” Eadric replied.

“Indeed, Ahma.” The wood in Shomei’s hand had become a recognizable female shape, with slender limbs.

“And mortals?” He inquired. “They hold no interest for you?”

She paused and raised an eyebrow. “This line of questioning is becoming personal, Ahma.”

“I apologize. I did not mean to embarrass you.”

“You will not. Mortals are frail, and lack stamina, Ahma.

“Then devils are…adequate to your needs? You have not sought to look beyond the Infernal?”

“Only once, Ahma.” Shomei blew hard upon the carving, and dust flew from it. She wiped it in her robe, and smiled. “I was declined, if you recall. But adequate? – yes; devils might surprise you with their tenderness, and are subtle and inventive in all matters.”

She presented a statuette to him. It was exquisite: a work far surpassing genius; its line and proportion were perfect. An Eleos with her left hand raised aloft, bearing a star; a clod of earth, from which flowers sprang, was in her right.

“This is extraordinary,” he gaped. “Although, I admit, your choice of subject matter is perplexing. Why do you need an idol?”

She shrugged. “Art is art, Ahma. And it is for you, not me. I do not require an external focus, but should you feel the need for an object of veneration, then you have one.”

He felt it; it made his hands tingle. “It is enchanted?”

“Of course, Ahma. It was carved by Shomei the Infernal from the wood of a Hazel scion. How could it not be?”

“Thank-you,” he nodded. He placed it gently upon the table.

“I should be about…”

“…your conjurations.” Eadric sighed. “Yes, I know. Shomei, is there nothing which I can say or do to dissuade you from this course of action?”

“I do not believe so, Ahma.”

“I cannot beg, cajole, threaten or otherwise impress my frustration and unhappiness regarding your choices upon you?”

“No, Ahma.”

“Then my words have no meaning to you?”

“In this, they cannot,” she shook her head, and stood.

“Why not? I am the Ahma in this matter no less than any other.”

“We have had this conversation already, Ahma.”

“Perhaps we should have it again.”

“Things were going well,” Shomei groaned. “Why do you bring me back here?”

“Because you need to be here, Shomei. The Reattainment of Luminance? What was it to you? What did you read?”

“Another time, Ahma.” She was becoming irritable; angry. Hellfire slowly began to crawl over her hands.

“No. Now. I want to hear it.” He held her wrist. His flesh burned; he ignored it.

Ahma, do not force me to…”

“There is no external force acting on you, Shomei. Only your own choice.”

“Please let go of my wrist, Eadric. You will hurt yourself.”

He nodded. “Now we’re getting somewhere…”

There was a knock at the door.

Her fire died abruptly; she extricated her hand. Eadric gave a puzzled look. “Were you expecting someone?”

Shomei sighed. “No. But there is only one person who can treat the Hazel’s cordon with impunity, Ahma.” She walked to the door and opened it.

Nehael – or rather a Nehael – stood there, her hands held behind her back. It was not a Nehael with whom the Ahma was altogether familiar.

*

“Am I interrupting?” Nehael asked.

“Yes,” Shomei answered. “We were having an argument.”

“May I come in?”

Yes,” Eadric interjected before Shomei could speak.

“Hello, Eadric,” Nehael smiled. “Thank-you, but that choice is not yours to make.”

“Where are your weapons?” Shomei inquired. “Shouldn’t you be shooting ghouls or something?”

Weapons? Eadric had the distinct notion that he was behind the times.

“I should still like to come in,” Nehael insisted.

“Shomei?” Eadric looked at her.

“Very well,” Shomei sighed, waving her in.

Nehael entered, and regarded the figurine of the Eleos. “You are no mean talent, Shomei.”

“You have something behind your back?” Eadric asked.

“This?” Nehael produced a sprig of Holly. Eadric’s hackles rose. “Yes; I found it nearby. It’s been growing there for a little while. Didn’t you know?”

“No.” Shomei scowled.

“It may be connected with the seven hundred fallen exemplars who are nearby,” Nehael suggested.

Seven hundred?” Eadric asked in horror.

“Shomei works fast, Eadric.”

The Infernalist gave a nonchalant shrug.

“The Holly scion is not yet awake,” Nehael added. “But there again, Azazel is not here yet, either. I am surprised that you invoked me at this late stage.”

“I was not aware that I did,” Eadric sighed.

“Not you, Eadric.” Nehael picked up the statuette of the Eleos and handed it to Shomei. “Devotional art made from a Hazel by the Antinomos for the Ahma is likely to gain my attention.”

“You are not the Eleos,” Shomei observed.

“I was the nearest available avatar,” Nehael smiled.

Shomei replaced the figurine on the table. “If you believe that a red dress and a bad attitude are likely to impress me, you can think again. You will divert me from my purpose no more effectively than the Ahma.”

“No, Shomei,” Nehael sighed. “That I will not. The choice is yours. It always is. May I speak briefly with Eadric?”

“Yes. He is right here.”

“Alone, Shomei?”

“But of course,” Shomei replied acidly, gesturing toward the timber door. “He has his own cell, now.”

“Thank-you.”

Eadric sat in stunned silence.

Shomei ushered them away, and poured kschiff.


**


“It is good to see you,” Nehael smiled. She had declined a chair, and sat on the floor in effortless saizhan. There was a dynamic quality about her that Eadric had not before encountered; she seemed entirely grounded and embodied. He recalled Soneillon’s words, and understood that, although spoken lightly, they had not been altogether in jest.

“I am bewildered, Nehael.” Eadric confessed.

“I have come to expect it,” Nehael nodded.

“You sit in saizhan…”

“I am a syncretic deity, Eadric.”

“Your posture is better than mine,” he added.

“Things are moving rapidly, Ahma. You need to resolve this situation as quickly as possible and return to Galda.”

“I have been trying.”

“Where are you in your dialogue with Shomei?”

Eadric sighed. “I do not know. I cannot fathom her. She is complex.”

Nehael nodded. “She is a devil, Ahma, and an I. Prior to that, she was the most gifted mage of her generation – perhaps of any generation. Complex does not even begin to cover her.”

Eadric sighed. “She chose to trust me: she left herself completely vulnerable to me; I might have slain her, and spared us all from what will likely ensue.”

“But you did not.”

“No.” Eadric said. “It would have been an act of violation against Truth. She is utterly authentic.”

“Nor yet did you marry her,” Nehael smiled wrily.

“I did not know her as I have come to.”

“Then you regret your decision?” Nehael asked with raised eyebrows.

“No. I regret that not all opportunity can be realized. But I made a choice. I stand by it.”

“I am sure Soneillon will be pleased,” Nehael spoke in a droll voice. “Or at least, not wrathful and vindictive.”

“Self-preservation also informs my perspective,” Eadric admitted.

“And Nehael?” She inquired. “Where do you stand with regard to her? To me?”

“That relationship is different.”

“Why?” She asked. “Am I not desirable?”

Eadric looked at her and groaned. “Yes.”

“You somehow believe me less lustful?”

“Well…”

“Would you deem me less unattainable than previously?”

His head reeled. “Yes?”

“Do not worry, Eadric.” She laughed. “I am not pressing a claim upon the highly-coveted Ahma.”

“That is a relief,” he sighed.

“But then again, I wouldn’t, would I?”

“No…?” He said unsurely.

“I am Compassion, Ahma. Possessiveness is not in my nature. Saizha?

*

“Are you quite finished?” Shomei asked irritably.

[Nehael]: This is what we exchanged [information].

Eadric stared at Nehael in disbelief. Shomei raised an eyebrow and analyzed.

“You need not look betrayed, Eadric,” Nehael sighed. “I do not hide anything for the purpose of manipulation, and neither should you. And it was Shomei who invoked me, not you. I will see myself out.”

Nehael departed.

“Perhaps celibacy is best,” Eadric sat wearily.

Shomei handed him a glass of kschiff. “You would not be the first mystic to come to this conclusion, Ahma.”

“What next?” He asked.

“Well,” Shomei smiled. “First, I will have a drink. And then I will return…”

“…to your conjurations. Yes. I suppose I should know the drill by now. Shomei, as I didn’t kill you, I feel that you might indulge me. I should like some diabolic company in your absence.”

Shomei looked sceptical. “Very well, Ahma. But I should warn you that devilish courtesans can be difficult. Lagusuf might serve; her skin is…”

Intellectual company, Shomei.”

“Very good, Ahma.” She considered briefly.

A gate opened, and a tall, strikingly beautiful female devil with violet eyes emerged. She was clad in white; her hair was arranged in an elaborate coiffure.

“Shomei…”

“This is Nercamay, Ahma. An infernal muse. You need not be distracted by her full lips and rapid, shallow breath. Nor her heady perfume and natural tactility. She is both intellectual and company: she is a scholar of some renown; her mind is exquisitely perverse and convoluted.”

“As is yours,” Eadric said.

“Thank-you, Ahma. Nercamay, you may attend to the Ahma’s needs: perhaps it might be best if you made no attempt to seduce him; it may cause him undue distress. Did you have some topic in mind to discuss?”

“Actually, yes,” Eadric reached for the The Reattainment of Luminance. “You will give me lessons in diabolic heresies, won’t you Nercamay?”

Shomei sighed. The Ahma was nothing, if not persistent. She exited the cottage.

*

Nercamay smiled gently, sat next to Eadric, and opened the book in her lap. She smelled of jasmine and orchids.

“How familiar are you with the sevenfold hermeneutic?” She asked in a soft voice. Her hand immediately began to wander. Eadric replaced it.

“Very little,” Eadric admitted.

“It’s very warm in here, Ahma…”

“You are a devil; I am sure you will cope.”

“Are your chambers cooler?”

“Just read,” Eadric said through gritted teeth.


**
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-26-2012

Day 5 – Seeing



Nercamay knelt. Eadric drew her knees apart – whilst carefully avoiding her gaze – held her breast-bone, and pressed in the hollow of her back, straightening it.

“Good,” he exhaled. He stood, poured himself kschiff, and sat in a chair.

“I am not sure what this posture is designed to achieve, Ahma,” the devil looked at him. “It does not seem very practical for the purpose of pleasure. I know many others, which would serve better. Unless you simply require…”

Eadric held up his hand. “It will help you concentrate. And you being over there, and me being over here will help me concentrate. Look ahead, Nercamay, and slightly down. Not at me.”

She did so.

“Place your fingertips together, thus,” he demonstrated.

“I cannot see. I may now look at you?”

“You may glance.”

She sighed and followed his instructions.

“You need to slow your breathing, Nercamay.”

“I do not need to breathe at all, Ahma.”

“Do so anyway,” Eadric instructed.

She complied.

“Are you comfortable?”

“Not entirely,” Nercamay admitted.

“Excellent,” Eadric smiled. “A little tension is good. Let us review what we have learned to date. First, that it is hard for me to remain focused if you drape yourself over me. Second, that time is limited for me, in terms of what I need to understand. Third, that distinguishing between the points of the Septiga is very difficult for me, as the fields seem to overlap so much: the poetic and the functional I can grasp easily enough; the enigmatic I can see in theory, if not in practice as I have no experience of Hellish mysteries; but discerning the subtleties between the inflammatory, mephitic, vitiating, debasing and perfidious may be beyond me.”

“That would make eight. The mephitic is synonymous with the debasing, Ahma.”

“Precisely my point,” Eadric nodded.

“Although they are unidentical in the Noniga,” Nercamay added.

“One thing at a time, Nercamay. Now, you may continue your explication.”

“The text of The Reattainment of Luminance is very abstruse, Ahma. I am not sure where to recommence.”

“Might it help if I were to make specific inquiries?” Eadric asked.

“I think it may be the only way to proceed,” Nercamay replied.

“Let us concentrate on the functional at present; Shomei has asserted on numerous occasions that her inclination is more practical than mystical.”

“I am not sure that function and praxis can be conflated in that way, Ahma,” Nercamay opined.

“You are probably right,” Eadric nodded. “It is, however, where we will look.”

“And your purpose in this is the redemption of Shomei the Infernal?” Nercamay asked dubiously.

Eadric shook his head. “No. Shomei charts her own course. And devils do not need to be redeemed, Nercamay. They are already perfect, but are trapped in false perceptions. They simply need to see.

Time slowed to a crawl. Eadric experienced a sensation; neither entirely a flash, nor a vibration, nor an understanding; but something of each, and a certitude.

“I…” Nercamay stopped speaking; her expression relaxed, with a hint of mild puzzlement. Her breath became slow, purposeful, rhythmic. She cast her gaze around, and her eyes came to rest on him. She was serene; impassive. Eadric sat, and waited until he judged it had passed in her.

She began to shake. He stood, walked over to her, and knelt before her.

“That was saizhan,” he spoke gently.

She was bewildered. “You also…?”

“No.” Eadric smiled. “But you experienced that you and I are not different; so in a sense, yes.”

“Then this is not your natural mode of perception?”

“Arguably, it is the natural mode of perception. But remaining there is…difficult,” Eadric said wrily, and shook his head. “The Sela always abides in perfect saizhan; perhaps Nehael – I do not know. Memory of this experience may evoke powerful emotions in you. If you wish to reflect, we may end this discourse for a while. My chambers are available if you wish for privacy.”

“Would you like to…”

“No.” He said firmly. “And that temptation is now so much crueller, yet so much easier to resist.”

“I do not understand,” she sighed.

He smiled ironically. “Our relationship has changed, Nercamay. From this point, I have a duty toward you, and a responsibility for your well-being.”

“I feel no less wicked, Ahma. Your sudden concern for me is vexing.”

He sighed. “Prior modes of perception do not vanish instantly, Nercamay. Consider whether this experience was of value to you; I would contend that it was, and that it is worth seeking to repeat it. Unless there is something more pressing, you should relax for a while.”

Nercamay considered. “The Reattainment of Luminance is many things, Ahma. An argument and counter-argument; a technique or method; an entreaty; a prophecy; a solution.”

“Concerning what?” Eadric inquired.

“I believe that the book is about Shomei. About devils. About saizhan. About you.”

He swallowed.

“Do you like fiends, Ahma?” Nercamay asked.

“Far too much,” Eadric sighed.

“You understand that I have done as Shomei bid me and have not, actually, attempted to seduce you?” She asked. “That my flirtations are meant in good humor?”

“Of course,” Eadric nodded. “I play the game well enough. I mean no disrespect Nercamay, but I have met some who would put you to shame. And consider why you feel a sudden impulse to communicate the truth to me in such comprehensible terms, Nercamay; you may find that it is not unconnected with your insight.”


**


The wind was bitter; Soneillon stood on the Steeple and scowled. Carasch had alerted her to another interloper; this time, a solitary figure north of the town of Deorham, wearing a bright yellow cloak. Its form was in the region of fey; its gender, indeterminate; its progress, circuitous and unhurried.

Tozinak, she knew. The wizard seemed completely unwarded, and apparently oblivious to the danger he was in. The demoness surmised that he must be under the Cherry’s spell, although what, exactly, that entailed was unknown to her.

She invoked a potent protection, and appeared close to his location. He was crossing a bridge over a frozen stream, plodding knee-deep through the snow which had drifted there. Upon spying her, he smiled and waved, and hurried toward her position.

Soneillon held up a hand. “Wait right there. What are you doing here, Tozinak? You’ve just decided to deliver the spell to me? Color me suspicious, but I smell cherries.”

Tozinak nodded enthusiastically. He held up a bunch of ripe, luscious fruit.

“Is there no artifice to you at all?” Soneillon asked in an exasperated voice. “You desperately need lessons in deceit and guile.”

“None. I love you, Soneillon.”

Soneillon sighed.

“Here,” Tozinak withdrew a thin plaque from within his robe, and placed it upon the snow. He set the cherries upon it.

She swallowed; there must be some hidden trap. “Would you mind withdrawing a little way, Tozinak. I am feeling shy.”

“Of course, my love.” He moved back ten yards.

She approached cautiously and inspected the plate, but touched neither it nor the cherries which sat upon it. The symbolism seemed apt; the references Urgic. But all was unrealized and unfulfilled; as though some profound absence were to be invoked.

She regarded him suspiciously. “Is this the spell which Jovol bequeathed to you?”

“My transcription may contain some creative license,” Tozinak admitted. “Or even interpretative errors. But the elegance is undeniable; I am sure you will agree. I love you, Soneillon. Will you marry me?”

“I will need time to consider, Tozinak,” she raised an eyebrow. “Currently, the Ahma is my paramour. He may not take kindly to a rival.”

Tozinak seemed mortified.

“But he I am sure he will be willing to release me,” Soneillon quickly added. “Given our particular circumstances.”

Tozinak breathed a sigh of relief.

Gingerly, Soneillon touched the plaque; a profound sense of nonentity was immediately conveyed to her.

“Thank-you, Tozinak,” she said. She lifted the tablet, and allowed the cherries to slide off, into the snow. “Have you given thought to the boon which I promised you?”

He smiled hopefully.

“I will get back to you,” she nodded. How very odd, she thought. The spell had been modified; of that she had no doubt. She would examine it upon her return to the Burh, but without question it invoked an Apparition, and not a Aeon. And it was given freely; impressed upon her, in fact.

Briefly, she wondered how? No matter. More pressing events concerned her.

*

[Soneillon]: Are you done, yet?

[Mostin]: Do not interrupt me! Now I have lost it. Almost; I am finishing the aesthetics of the auditory display.

[Soneillon]: Mostin. Time is of the essence. Such details may be omitted.

[Mostin]: They may not.

[Soneillon]: Do you foresee any problems?

[Mostin]: No. Well, perhaps Nwm. He seems unsure of his commitment. Nehael’s latest avatar may be leaning on him. He has been forced to conceal certain things from Ortwine, which also does not sit well with him.

[Soneillon]: Can we find another?

[Mostin]: I trust no other, Soneillon. Shomei has offered substantial bribes to most of the Collegium. I surmise this because many are conveniently indisposed.

[Soneillon]: Can she use their power offensively against me? Would the Enforcer intervene?

[Mostin]: I believe that she would prefer not to put it to the test quite yet. But she will draw on them to augment herself and her devils. And her dragon. Heavily.

[Soneillon]: How long do I have, Mostin?

[Mostin]: That is rather difficult to predict. Futures are becoming unstable. Eadric’s interaction with Shomei is generating new catenaries.

[Soneillon]: I see.

[Mostin]: Tomorrow is the earliest that we can attempt the rite. I have selected a suitable site in an unpopulated area of Soan, in Sisperi. I have tried to keep it brief – ten minutes or so. But we will be vulnerable during that window. Punching through her wards will take tremendous focus and power. There will be a lot of backlash; and a lot of pain.

[Soneillon]: Thank-you, Mostin. That’s very sweet of you.


**
**


Shomei set her rod upon its stand, threw off the robe of meteors, and uncorked a flask of kschiff. She sank into a chair by the fire. Eadric was on a couch, absorbed in Infernal Hermeneutics.

“Where is Nercamay?” She asked.

“She is resting,” Eadric nodded toward his chambers.

Shomei raised an eyebrow, and filled a glass. “How is Infernal Hermeneutics?”

Eadric lifted his head. “For a subject so dense, convoluted and impenetrable, it is a remarkably clear and concise exposition; it touches on frameworks with which I am familiar. I might almost believe that it was written for me.”

“Good,” Shomei nodded.

“You wrote this book.”

“Yes,” Shomei acknowledged.

“How long did it take you?”

“Not too long, Ahma. I wrote it in my head while I was putting my boots on.”

“Yet there are some dialogues in which you will not engage,” Eadric observed.

“Sometimes, the written word is easier, Ahma. And sometimes, it is necessary to begin at the beginning.”

“You believe that I should read The Reattainment of Luminance myself, then?”

“Of course,” Shomei replied. “Your experience of it will differ from mine.”

Eadric groaned. “And how do you suggest I approach this most subtle of diabolic texts, given my total ignorance in matters of infernal scripture?”

“Without prejudice, Ahma. Because the enigma may speak to you, if nothing else does.”

“Do I really have time for devilish enigmas, Shomei? How long – in your reckoning – before I need to be at Galda?”

She was silent.

Eadric nodded appreciatively. “Well this is something new. Shomei the Infernal is at a complete loss for words. She will not even dissemble.”

“I resent your implication. I do not employ deceit in my dealings with you, Ahma.”

“Very well,” Eadric said. “But let us continue this line of investigation. Given the fact that you are now making military choices for the Wyrish Crown and the Temple – and I am assuming that Prince Tagur will be appointed to command in my absence – how long before Galda is invested?”

“Two days hence. If you have not returned, Nehael can lead them in your absence.”

Can she?” Eadric asked sourly. “Whatever her individual martial prowess is in battle, Shomei – and I’m sure it is considerable – it is not the same as coordinating fifty thousand Templars, footsoldiers, bickering aristocrats, and Ardanese hooligans. Something which I’m rather good at, even if I do say so myself. I would suggest I’m already late. In my absence, I would appoint Tagur. Perhaps you would be so kind as to communicate this to the Small Council for me?”

“I have no wish to become embroiled in politics, Ahma. My goal is the Urn.”

“Yes, Shomei. That is abundantly clear. And such arbitrary lines you draw with regard to politics, when it suits you.”

“Why are you purposely seeking to anger me, Ahma?” Shomei asked irritably.

Eadric smiled. “Well, our discourse does seem to be most productive in that climate; I need to rile you to certain point, in order to stimulate moral conflict in you. I wouldn’t be a very good Ahma otherwise, would I?”

Shomei looked at him and sighed. She picked up the kschiff and two glasses, and moved onto the couch.

“Drink,” she said, pouring.

Kasshiv is not the answer to everything, Shomei.”

“It helps,” she said. “And your consumption has not exactly diminished. What did you do to Nercamay?”

“She experienced saizhan,” Eadric replied. “She is integrating.”

Shomei shook her head. “You are an insidious influence, Ahma. You have begun corrupting my devils.”

“We touched a little on The Reattainment of Luminance afterwards,” he added.

“I’m sure she has her own perspective,” Shomei sighed, leaned back, and closed her eyes.

Eadric observed her reaction and continued. “The notion of perfection seems to be alluded to frequently; it may also have been my choice of the word perfect in the context of her particular understanding at that moment which impelled Nercamay to saizhan.”

“Such synchronies occur.”

“Although, she understood perfected primarily in terms of Urgic dignity. The Sublime Essence of the Flame.”

Shomei remained silent.

“Will you speak to me, Shomei?”

“I would prefer not to,” she smiled.

“Perhaps I should continue speculating, then? As your eyelids are closed, I will gauge your facial expressions; as you pointed out, you do lie poorly for a devil.”

She opened her eyes and glared at him. “You are relentless. That road is closed to me, Ahma. There can be no perfection, and I had not even considered my potential in those terms until I read that accursed book; sometimes my Will drives me without my full cogniscance: I am an imperfect I.

“What is the obstacle?” He asked.

“Would you like the poetic or the functional?”

“Whichever suits you.”

“A little of each,” she said drily. “Ansus anamik ahman nihabaída. Into me, God would not breathe.”

“I see.”

“You have made your choices, Ahma; do not repudiate mine.”

“It seems I cannot,” he sighed. “Shomei, what I feel…”

Don’t, Ahma. What you feel is merely what you feel; what you do is what you do: and that’s the point. Here.” She handed him a goblet. “Drink.”

“You are very wise, Shomei.”

“Yes, Ahma.”

They drank.

*

“I cannot readily see a solution to this problem,” Eadric sighed.

“You have certainly made things very difficult for yourself, Ahma.” Shomei nodded. “Although, I admit, on some level I am sympathetic to your efforts. You are trying to hold three truths in balance; this is no trivial task.” With a flourish, three balls appeared within Shomei’s hand: one black, one green, and one deep indigo.

She span them with a conjurer’s finesse and handed them to him one by one “You need to find a new perspective in order to resolve your trilemma, Ahma. Then you will be able to juggle.”

He squinted. “A clever analogy, Shomei, but I foresee problems. This one,” he held up the black ball, “will stick to my palm. This one,” he showed the green, “is difficult to catch. And this one,” he presented the indigo, “is apt to pursue its own trajectory, regardless of where I throw it.”

“Then you will have to concentrate very hard, Ahma.”

He looked at her. “Are you suggesting that some kind of accommodation is possible?”

“The black ball may be less kindly disposed to view things in those terms, but yes, Ahma; Nehael’s philosophy in this regard has merit,” she shrugged.

“I am incapable of such a feat,” he shook his head.

“Your frame of reference needs to change before you can make such an accommodation, Ahma.”

“And how do you suggest that I might achieve this?” He asked.

Sovereignty would be my solution, Ahma, with Regency as an intermediate step. If you deify yourself, you will no longer be bound by conventional mores.”

“A route which you make sound so simple, Shomei.”

“I imply nothing of the sort,” she said through narrowed eyes. “But nor can I see how you can challenge Kaalaanala without it. And think, Ahma, your romantic problems will be solved: each of your women can have an avatar, and there will be no squabbling.”

He shook his head.

“Of course, Soneillon is greedy, and will probably want three Ahmas.”

“Shomei…”

“Which, at least, might fill her needs and shut her up.” She smiled and raised her glass.

He sighed. “You can be a very wicked devil, Shomei.”

“Thank-you, Ahma.” She gestured, and a door appeared in the wall beside the fireplace.

“A new chamber?” he asked.

“Yes, Ahma.” Shomei stood and picked up the kschiff.

“May I see?” He inquired.

She raised an eyebrow. “That was the general idea, Ahma.”

“Ah,” he nodded. “Shomei, I am still your prisoner.”

“Yes, Ahma. But you are drunk on kschiff; I am taking advantage of you.”

“Why now?” He asked.

“Tomorrow, I must fight, Ahma; as you said, you will need to be at Galda. It would be unprincipled for me to detain you much longer.”

“Shomei, I…”

Don’t, Eadric. Yes or no?” She offered her hand.

He took it. The rest followed. Her tenderness astonished him.


*
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 02-02-2012

Day 6 – Confrontation


When Eadric awoke, Shomei was gone. His stomach turned, and a sense of foreboding gripped him. He leapt up and hurriedly entered the study.

The air was cold. The door to the cottage was open, the fire had guttered and gone out; morning sunlight streamed in. Eadric ran outside into the snow; a long, narrow area, hemmed in on all sides by a dense thicket of Hazel. There was no sign of her, but a large patch nearby was bare of frost and had been scorched with such heat that the earth had vitrified; Qematiel must have alighted there, he knew. He heard footsteps behind him, and turned to see Nercamay; she carried a heavy robe. She drew it about him to cover his modesty.

Nercamay smiled gently. “She asked me to tell you that the fence will be passable by noon, and you will be able to leave; that she will try her best to keep damage at Deorham to a minimum. And in the event that you don’t see her again and she does not have the opportunity to harangue you, to look first and foremost to your own enkindlement: that you should gaze upon the Sun, because Isthu Sa.*”

“How long has she been gone?”

“Less than an hour, Ahma.”

“Did she reveal her specific intention to you?” He asked.

“She was meeting with a clique of a dozen wizards which included Jalael, Muthollo and Daunton; thence to Deorham.”

Shomei!” He called, the force of his will behind her name. He knew that she could hear him. She ignored him.

He invoked the Eleos. Nehael. Goddess. Oronthon – last.

Nercamay shook her head. “She is her own Self, Ahma; she will brook no intervention on her behalf on the part of another.”

“I refuse to accept this circumstance,” he sighed.

“I do not see that you have much choice, Ahma.”

“Can you leave here, Nercamay?’ He asked.

She shook her head. “The area is locked.”

“Unsurprising,” Eadric smiled grimly. “Can you issue a sending?”

“No, Ahma.”

“Is there no way for you to reach anyone?” He asked, exasperated.

“I am a muse, Ahma; I appear in dreams.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Then that will have to do. What time is it Nercamay?”

“Dawn was two hours ago, Ahma.”

He cursed, and made his way back inside into his chambers. Eadric retrieved the figurine of the Eleos, and then rummaged through drawers in the study until he found the knife with which Shomei had carved it. He exited the cottage again, and sat upon a rude stool; all the while, Nercamay watched uncertainly.

“I need you to communicate with someone who sleeps at this late hour; Ortwine is a likely target. She prefers to rise just before noon.”

Nercamay entered a brief trance, and shook her head. “Ortwine does not sleep Ahma.”

Eadric sighed, and wracked his brains. “Try the goddess Lai.”

Again, a brief pause. Nercamay nodded. “I touched her; she seemed confused that no message was forthcoming.”

“Good,” Eadric nodded. “Dream again. Tell her to wake up, to contact Nwm and to instruct him that the Ahma will require immediate reembodiment.”

Ahma, I…”

Do so, Nercamay.”

She complied.

He touched the statuette of the Eleos, invoking her for protection, and handed Nercamay the blade. “I cannot kill myself, Nercamay. It is antithetical to my nature. If you…”

“I know where to put a knife, Ahma,” she said drily. “I am a devil.”

There was a brief, white-hot pain. Blood stained the snow.

Nercamay sighed, sat by the body of the Ahma, and entered saizhan.


**


Mostin had chosen an abandoned croft in a heavily wooded range of hills in Soan. None had gone there since the infestation of Graz’zt’s demons had scoured Sisperi; some few – mostly babau and leaping demons – remained, but had been quickly slain or driven off by Nwm. The binding site was an overgrown stone silo which lay half below ground, into which a steep set of moss-covered steps gave; the interior was damp and cool. Mostin had prepared an area ten feet in diameter, and drawn a diagram of baffling complexity with celestial silver and salts; items which were becoming increasingly difficult to procure with the removal of the Empyrean from reality as currently described.

Little of the remaining symbolism was traditional in nature. Shomei’s exempt status – together with her magnification – made unconventional adjuncts and trappings a requirement. Gone were the blasting rods, holy water and other typical Goetic tools; Mostin had based the rite off of the Articles of the Wyrish Injunction, and would invoke the Claviger in testimony to Shomei’s confinement. It meant working with oneiric ideograms describing various substrates of Dream; conditions to which Shomei might be vulnerable, but of which he, himself, had little experience. He fretted and paced and muttered.

Nwm – still conflicted in his feelings, but grimly conscious that the binding was probably necessary – watched dispassionately. The choice to keep Ortwine in the dark – because of her connection to the Hazel – also left him with a sour feeling in his mouth. But Hlioth’s words – that Shomei would leverage that relationship – could not be ignored. However mad, the crone’s insights were almost unerring in matters Tree-ish.

Mulissu descended through a large hole in the domed ceiling and sighed. “Will this take much longer, Mostin?”

“Trust me when I say that it would be best to get it right the first time,” the Alienist replied acidly.


**


No viridescent devas waited for him. There was no Yew; no mountain; no fresh, resin-scented air. Only a frigid void. He was distinct from it, and illuminated its merest fraction; its vastness humbled him. He gazed across an immeasurable distance at the World; it seemed tiny and insignificant. He waited. His knew that his own light and heat might sustain him for an eternity. He hoped they would not have to: he was utterly alone.

A familiar voice called to him. He sighed, and leapt toward it, intent upon descent into the Green and the body which he knew awaited him. Something – a claw made of color – rushed at him and seemed to snatch him, drawing him aside. A visage made of potential, dynamic and shifting, and wise beyond all conception, held him and observed him without emotion.

Do not forget that you are still frail, it said to him.

It hurled the Ahma downwards like a meteor; briefly, his essence fragmented into a quintillion parts and streamed into the World, which gathered them together again.

He awoke with a start, not to Nwm’s face, but to Nehael’s.

*

Eadric stood at once. His surroundings were familiar: the interior of the tabernacle. The Sela sat nearby in meditation, but did not regard him.

“That was a riskier strategy than you might imagine,” Nehael sighed.

“The stakes are high. Where is Nwm?” He asked.

“He and I are in unspoken disagreement,” Nehael smiled, handing him clothing, which he hastily began to don. “He believes that neutralizing Shomei is necessary. He has travelled to Sisperi with Mostin and Mulissu in order to bind her. Soneillon will act as a sink for Mostin’s spell. He would have waited until after this was accomplished before reincarnating you – probably as a mule. Fortunately, I knew that you were dead; I suppose if you invoke every deity you can conceive of, someone is bound to hear.”

“Why do you believe this to be an error on Nwm’s part?”

“First, because Shomei’s survival hinges on the word of Soneillon given to Mostin – and I suspect that she views it as somewhat less binding than when given to the Ahma, for whom she has a rather intense and possessive love. She knows, Eadric – how can she not, after what you have shared? Your recent actions may have led her to now view Shomei as a substantive threat to your affection.”

“And the second reason?” He groaned.

“The second reason is that the first reason does not matter, Eadric,” she handed him Lukarn. “Because Shomei will throw her full weight at Deorham before Mostin even has a chance to begin his spell; you can be assured that Soneillon will remain there until the last possible minute for her own safety. Even if she subsequently made her way to Sisperi, Shomei would follow her with Qematiel and her devils and attack before the rite could be completed. She might hound Soneillon through a dozen worlds and wreck them in her passing. Of course, Shomei wouldn’t be attacking today at all if it weren’t ...”

“…for my recent actions.” He sighed. “I feel as though I’ve made a terrible mess of things.”

“Well, then at least we’ve made some progress,” Nehael nodded.

“How long do I have?”

“Fifteen minutes,” Nehael smiled.

“What if the rite were to proceed without Soneillon’s involvement?” Eadric asked. “With me acting as guarantor of Shomei’s safety?”

“You would need to find a very selfless, willing caster of some magnitude with an untapped reservoir to act as the sink,” Nehael replied.

“Can you…”

“Do not look at me, Eadric. I am red; magic is not my forte.”

“Is there any…”

Teppu coughed gently and entered the tent. Eadric gave a hopeful look.

Nehael sighed. “Yes, Eadric. Teppu is capable.”

“Then I must go now…”

“One moment,” Nehael interrupted. “Teppu’s reservoir was reserved against the imminent danger of the Cheshnite horde and the Fourth Effluxion, which looks like [this].”

Eadric staggered as the magnitude of the threat was revealed to him.

Nehael nodded. “So please bear that in mind when you choose to spend it elsewhere.”

“Why must I always be the one to choose?”

“Because you are the Ahma, Eadric,” Teppu smiled jovially. “A job which no-one else wants.”

The Sela stirred. “Do not forget that you are still frail.”

Sela, I…

Tramst held up his hand. “Remind Shomei that the Flame needs nothing and is always Perfect, Eadric. It cannot Fall.

He nodded.

“And Ahma,” the Sela continued. “I don’t think you’ve done too badly, given the circumstances.”

Nehael raised an eyebrow. “The Sela is much kinder than I; I am merely compassionate.”

“Will you come?” Eadric asked Nehael.

“No, Eadric.” She smiled. “I am going to go and shoot ghouls; which is, to say, my job. But I’m sure Ortwine will accompany you; she has a bone to pick with Nwm.”

“Nehael,” he began. “Concerning Soneillon…”

“At this point, Eadric, my practical advice would be to grovel.”

“Noted,” he said.


**


[Mostin]: We are ready.

[Soneillon]: You are too late, Mostin.

*

Qematiel gyred in the skies above Trempa. Shomei considered.

Between them, Soneillon and Carasch might have a total of seven transvalents of up to the four-hundredth order available. Shomei herself had two remaining, and of only the two-hundredth, but her most powerful infernal minions had a large array of superb dispellings which, if intelligently managed, might open a gap in Soneillon’s defenses and reveal a line of attack. Shomei could then use time stops and bring a barrage of hellfire acid storms to bear against Soneillon before she could react; hopefully enough to end it. Shomei knew that careful deployment of her devils was vital. There was no doubt that the chthonic balor had seen the first wave which Shomei had dispatched; the six-winged Aristaqis and fifty exemplars would test the potent wards which shrouded Kyrtill’s Burh, and attempt to goad Soneillon into precipitous action.

Shomei could not afford to be indiscriminate in her attack; any volley or assault which happened to catch the Blackthorn in its area would result in the certain and immediate extinction of the devils responsible, as the reflex of the scion – or worse yet, the ludja itself – snuffed them out.

Her mind was linked to that of Aristaqis and followed his thoughts, although no direct sight could be conveyed to her within the suppressive ambit of the scion. The eight flights which preceded him described an arc a quarter-mile across; their positions and velocities understood by Shomei as an abstraction of constantly changing coordinates and vectors.

As though to demonstrate to Shomei both her own, sheer physical prowess and her willingness to engage immediately and without intermediaries, Soneillon appeared directly within the flight path of Aristaqis and deep within the ranks of the exemplars who accompanied him. The demoness set about the infernal seraph instantly, eschewing magic for a more direct attack. He dwarfed her with his mass, but Void struck as a storm of tendrils which lashed at him. Before he had even the chance to swing his weapon, he had been reduced to nothing; all trace of ens had been removed. His blade – a nine-foot flaming sword etched with infernal runes – plunged from the skies and sank into a bank of snow.

Shomei cursed. She hadn’t expected Soneillon to act that impulsively. The remaining devas hurled themselves at the demoness, but Soneillon shrugged them off; she preferred no further engagement at that time, and vanished. Shomei ordered the devils to reform and press on.

Shortly after, they encountered the outermost of the defenses around the keep; an impenetrable barrier of force.

*

Soneillon had learned many tricks, and had drawn freely upon the power of the Urn to entrench and fortify her position. Nested magics surrounded the stronghold, each more complex than the last.

The outermost ward was a paling not unlike that which she had erected in Throile, albeit of more modest scope: a force encountered as a solid barrier with a diameter of a mile at the center of which Kyrtill’s Burh – the stones of which had been reinforced to the point of magical adamant – was situated.

The entire area was a dimensional cordon of such power that no magic within Shomei’s grasp – or so Soneillon judged – might break it; within, a veiled discontinuity was hidden, large enough for the demoness to facilitate the summoning of her minions, and for her to flee if it became necessary. Six invisible nets, debilitating screens which would afflict those who attempted to press close, further surrounded the bastion; each was protected by a metaward designed to stave off aggressive dispellings which were focused upon it. Two inner screens – wrought of blasphemy and keyed to the annihilation of devils – provided the tightest defense. Symbols adorned the flags of the courtyard; scribed on walls and doors were glyphs describing ruin and insanity.

Within the chapel – her gap within the dimensional lock – Soneillon began to summon her lesser kin in an unending torrent; chthonic succubi who seemed as dark reflections of herself, some degrees removed in power but formidable nonetheless.

[Mazikreen]: The Paling is down.

Soneillon ignored her; the demonesses began to take flight. They harried the devas who were now moving forward in determined waves.

Powerful dispellings began to target her defenses.

Shomei deployed the main strength of her devils, striking from east, south and west with a focus upon negating the transvalent screens. An erosion of the wards began, but the dimensional lock remained intact, impervious to the superb dispellings which struck it. Fallen exemplars and episemes pressed forward relentlessly.

The Infernalist stopped time, teleported to a distance of a mile from the keep, and struck it with a yet more potent dispelling, shattering the tight inner cordon. Still, the lock endured. Shomei swore, retreated beyond range, and waited.

Time recommenced. Devils surged toward Kyrtill’s Burh.

*

Realizing what had happened, Soneillon opened the mouth to an adjacent demiplane; a confined space where several hundred demons – including Abyssal nobility whom she had suborned – had been kept locked in close proximity to one another for far too long. They erupted with a fury which was utterly indiscriminate; an explosion of malice and spite which poured out into the world, intent on doing violence to whatever was nearest. Soneillon augmented them with a powerful spell.

Within the courtyard, the black axe of Carasch now moved in great arcs, cutting through swathes of the dark celestials who flung themselves at him as though they were butter. His annihilating fire – a shroud of unbeing kindled by magic to greater intensity – burned those of lesser stature away before they even came close to him. None could withstand him.

He uttered a syllable; three Antagonists perished, along with a dozen other episemes: ash and smoke, borne away on a mordant wind. And another; a storm of blasphemous void scoured the keep and the countryside beyond of devils of less than once-exalted status. And a third; Armaros, Shomei’s captain – reckoned greatest of the Thirteen – perished beneath it.

Hellfire engulfed him; he weathered it.

*

At the last, Shomei had thrown the wyrm at the engagement. She circled above the keep, breathing great gouts of fire, carefully avoiding the scion. Demons disintegrated in droves; more than a few devils were caught in her discharges. Ahazu and Dhenu, once great Abyssal magnates, burned away within a line of destructive breath. Carasch prepared to engage her; Soneillon bade him otherwise.

The merlons on the Steeple melted as Qematiel unleashed ancient hellfire upon it, obliterating demons who jostled in the air above it. The dragon screamed; Soneillon had set about her neck, and Void pierced her scales. Qematiel powered vertically upwards, twisted her head, unleashed breath which should annihilate, groped with her claws. She thrashed wildly in the skies.

Soneillon clung tenaciously, enduring the heat, and drank of Qematiel’s being: the quiddity of the wyrm began to falter; she was slowly unmade. Her ascent arrested; she began an erratic plummet, her head and tail spinning over, end to end. As they fell, the demoness moved over her and came to rest on her muzzle between her eyes; the world reeled around them both as she transfixed the wyrm with her gaze.

[Soneillon]: We are not so different, you and I. But your time has passed; you no longer belong. This is the Void [thus]. It is peace. It is your right. Do you wish it?

[Qematiel]: I cannot remember it.

[Soneillon]: Choose to trust me, or not. I will slay you either way.

[Qematiel]: I will take it.

“You were something glorious,” Soneillon smiled gently, stroked the wyrm’s great snout, and kissed her.

Qematiel – first, last and greatest of the hellfire wyrms, and the paragon of her kind – vanished in a dark fire into oblivion.

Soneillon returned to the melee.

*

[Yeqon]: Almost…

Shomei turned to Irel, Who Smites – the only episeme whom she had not deployed into the combat, and raised an eyebrow.

“Stay here,” she instructed.

A superb dispelling of incredible power struck Soneillon.

[Yeqon]: Now. Go [here]

Shomei sensed her moment and stopped time, teleporting into the doorway of the chapel amid the chaotic fight which was underway. She paused momentarily to gain her bearings; Soneillon was in the process of slaying another seraph – the Prosecutor Pineme – and demons and fallen celestials clawed or hewed at one another nearby.

The Infernalist’s left hand began to coil temporality, a slow, purposeful movement which repeated time stops at regular twelve-second intervals. Her right charted a faster counterpoint, building hellfire in a rapid crescendo. There was no margin for error; if Shomei’s concentration faltered or she risked even one of her temporal interruptions to stretch beyond its safe duration, Soneillon, she knew, might finish her in an instant. But Shomei gave reality no opportunity to recommence.

Energy coalesced. From a subjective perspective, Shomei continued her motions for more than two minutes; outside of her bubble, no time had passed. The continuum in her vicinity threatened to snap under the pressure which she applied to it. Sweat poured off of her, as an unrealized maelstrom of power grew to incredible intensity. She emptied herself utterly. All power, all will, focused on a single Moment. That which must be done; that thing which she must have.

She teleported to a distance of twenty miles, beyond the range of the perception of Carasch.

Time began again.

Soneillon extinguished Pineme. A fraction of a second later, there was a detonation and she was engulfed in hellfire of unimaginable heat; an exquisite pain, which burned Void itself and pushed her to the brink of annihilation – where she teetered – but not quite beyond. The strength which she had sapped from her recent conquests had buoyed her to a point where she could withstand it; she sighed. This girl is such a tease, Soneillon thought.

[Shomei]: Well?

[Yeqon]: No. What now?



[Yeqon]: Mistress?




**


Shomei hurled herself at an invisible barrier in a fury; Hellfire surged from her in waves as she raved. Beyond the confining circle stood Mostin, Teppu, Mulissu and Nwm; somewhat removed, Ortwine watched without emotion. Hindmost, the Ahma, who regarded her with concern.

Shomei fumed within the thaumaturgic diagram and glowered at Mostin and Eadric. The Alienist motioned; the others made their way in some relief from the chamber. He waited until her turbulence had subsided to a point where she could communicate.

“Very clever, Mostin,” she finally nodded, looking at the glyphs which contained her.

“Finding the apposite symbolism was difficult,” he agreed. “But I think I did a good job.”

“Will this argument be a presentation from both of you at once or a sequential attempt to change my perspective? How did you get out, Eadric?”

“Nercamay killed me; Nehael resurrected me.”

“Oh?” Mostin inquired. “The muse? What is she like?”

“Quite charming,” Eadric nodded.

“You treat death lightly, Ahma,” Shomei smiled. “I cannot afford to.”

“I do nothing of the sort,” he said stonily. “How much collateral damage did you cause, Shomei?”

“I? – None. All of my actions are intensely focused, Ahma – as you know. I do not thrash wildly about. Soneillon’s demons, on the other hand, are no doubt running riot.”

“The universe does not consist entirely of you, Shomei.”

“Yes, Ahma, it does: that’s precisely my point.”

“And the I as relational?” Mostin asked. “Didn’t your Sela mention something like that to you in one of your more religious moments?”

“You have already been in dialogue?” Eadric was astonished. “You haven’t been communicating very well, Shomei.”

“It’s none of your damn business.” Shomei said.

When will you assume some responsibility, you petulant child?” Eadric thundered.

Mostin raised a hand. “It seems that I must act as arbiter of your passions as well, Eadric; perhaps a little restraint is in order?”

“I…” Eadric began, and then calmed himself. “Yes, Mostin; thank-you. Shomei, the Sela asked me to remind you that the Flame needs nothing. It is always Perfect. It cannot Fall.”

She looked uncertain. “I am not sure what…”

“It is my function as the Ahma with regard to you to impress this point upon you.”

“Your perfection is certainly achievable, Shomei,” Mostin agreed unexpectedly. “The Web of Motes revealed as much. But there is some kind of gap which prevents the catenary from forming. I cannot intuit precisely what the gap is; its order is Aeonic and thus inscrutable to the Web.”

“I do not understand…”

Pharamne’s Urn landed in the dirt near the Alienist. Mostin twitched. Shomei gaped. Eadric turned his head and swallowed.

Soneillon smiled and approached. She had appeared in the guise of the Trempan peasant-girl. “There is your gap, Mostin. Ah…don’t touch it; my gesture was purely for dramatic effect.”

“Soneillon…” Eadric began.

She struck Eadric’s face soundly with her palm, flooring him. Mostin winced. Soneillon sighed, drew close to the thaumaturgic diagram, placed her hands behind her back, and inspected Shomei as though she were an exhibit on display. She arched an eyebrow.

“She is very short, Eadric,” Soneillon remarked, turning to him.

“You are very strong,” the Ahma stood groggily. He realized that she had never, before, committed any act of violence against him.

“I am not sure what you mean by the Urn being the gap,” Mostin licked his lips and looked at the amphora at his feet. “It is merely a source of great power. It is some kind of impediment to her Self-realization? ”

Shomei sat within the diagram and groaned.

“I do believe your short friend just had a little epiphany,” Soneillon smiled at Eadric.

Shomei sighed. “The power is the problem, Mostin. The Urn is external to and greater than myself; it is of the transcendent order, and is not-I. Possession of it – and a focus of myself upon it – and my own perfection – which must necessarily be described in terms of I – might be deemed mutually exclusive. I can choose one route or the other.”

“And you would deem perfection preferable?” Eadric asked.

“Well obviously, yes.”

“This irony should be preserved for all posterity,” Eadric observed drily.

Soneillon approached Eadric. He gave a nervous smile. Her eyes bored into him. “You seem to have lost my token, Eadric.”

“Well, I…”

“No matter. I have another.” She reached within her pocket and withdrew a scarf of black samite which cracked as she unfurled it, causing him to start. “For the time being, you remain mine.” She spoke through gritted teeth and tied it tightly around his wrist, cutting off his circulation. “Let’s see if you can go a week, this time.”

“Soneillon, I…”

“Later, dear.” She smiled sweetly.

The demoness turned back toward Shomei and regarded her with a mixture of scepticism and curiosity; the Infernalist appeared to have regained her focus, and seemed calmly absorbed in herself. Soneillon slowly walked toward the circle and looked intensely at her. She placed her foot within, scraping dirt across the diagram and breaking its confining power.

“Do not…” Mostin gave a horrified look.

Soneillon spoke softly. “Drishhtavanaasi varca avadhya tvamayaa.

Leika kunnan sauili Thiudan, kuntho.” Shomei replied. “Sezho saizhia thatei saizhio. Antharuhthan? Saizhi?

Nitya iisi.

There was a pause. Fear gripped Eadric.

“I do like Irel,” Soneillon remarked. “I didn’t see him.”

“Yes, he’s sweet; I kept him back. He smites, you know.” Shomei stood.

Really? How intriguing. Perhaps I might borrow him?”

“I am sure some arrangement can be made,” Shomei nodded. She gave a sidelong glance toward Eadric. Soneillon caught the exchange.

“But not before midsummer.” The demoness reached down, picked up the Urn, and smiled at Mostin.

Mine,” she said.










*Thou art That
 
Last edited:

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Notes

Soneillon’s Bitch-Slap
[sblock]Soneillon’s famous bitch-slap was made against a flat-footed Eadric and consisted of the equivalent of a surprise action trip attack followed by a full tendril attack routine to subdue. The attack was glossed (or ‘skinned,’ to use modern parlance) as a single slap.

Eadric sustained 780 points of nonlethal damage and was knocked prone.[/sblock]
Shomei Enkindled
[sblock]The Enkindled Shomei in her first stage, with 3 “actualized” divine ranks; they are superimposed upon her unascended form, but the outsider HD are not included. I’ve pegged her CR at 54; the full realization (the Perfection) of the Antinomian Flame involves the addition of 60 outsider HD plus perks – the equivalent of benefits granted by both the exalted and perfect templates possessed by the Flame – at which point Shomei’s CR increases to approximately 95.

Feats are reconfigured in order to accommodate SDAs more effectively, gear value increases to the equivalent of 42Mgp – all of Shomei’s items become legacy major artifacts. The Trammel of Hell is not set against this total. She is assumed to be under the effect of foresight.

Shomei Enkindled (CR54)

Demipower
Symbol: The Rod
Portfolio: Becoming, the Self
Worshippers: None
Domains: Knowledge, Liberation, Magic

Conjurer 35 (Focused Specialist)
Medium Outsider (Augmented, [Evil, Lawful, Exempt], Native)
Divine Rank: 3
HD: 35d4+420 (560hp)
Init: +11
Spd: 80ft.
AC: 122 (+60 Epic Mage Armor, +13 deflection, +11 Dex, +3 Divine, +13 natural, +2 insight, +10 profane; touch 109, flat-footed 111)
Base Atk/Grap: +28/+40
Atk: +51 melee (1d6+15, Hazel rod) or +42 ranged touch
Space/Reach: 5ft./5ft.
SA: Salient divine abilities, spell-like abilites, spells
SQ: Concession to the prior infinity, darkvision 60ft., doubly exempt, DR 15/epic and silver, Hazel's benedicite, infernal bibliosoph, greater plane shift, greater teleport, immune (ability damage, ability drain, acid, cold, death effects, disease, disintegration, electricity, energy drain, fire, mind-effecting effects, paralysis, poison, sleep, stunning, transmutations), immortal, remote communication, salient divine abilities, see in darkness, SR 144*, telepathy 100ft. understand, speak and read all languages, speak directly to all beings within 3 miles,
SV: Fort +48 Ref +49 Will +113*
Abilities: Str 30 Dex 32 Con 34 Int 65 Wis 41 Cha 36
Skills: Bluff +35, Concentration +102, Craft (alchemy) +68, Craft (engraving) +68, Craft (jeweler) +68, Craft (woodworking) +68, Decipher Script +68, Diplomacy +40, Gather Information +36, Intimidate +36, Knowledge (arcana) +118, Knowledge (architecture) +68, Knowledge (geography) +68, Knowledge (history) +68, Knowledge (local) +68, Knowledge (nature) +68, Knowledge (nobility) +68, Knowledge (the Planes) +68, Knowledge (religion) +68, Intimidate +36, Listen +36, Profession (arboriculture) +68, Profession (law) +68, Ride +32, Sense Motive +36, Spellcraft +135 (scrolls +139), Spot +36.
Feats: Augment Summoning, Craft Wondrous Item, Extend Spell, Greater Spell Focus (Conjuration), Greater Spell Penetration, Heighten Spell, Iron Will, Quicken Spell, Skill Focus (Spellcraft), Silent Spell, Spell Focus (Conjuration), Spell Mastery, Scribe Scroll, Spell Penetration, Still Spell
Epic Feats: Epic Skill Focus (Spellcraft), Epic Spellcasting, Epic Spell Focus (Conjuration), Epic Spell Penetration, Epic Will, Improved Heighten Spell, Multispell (x2)
Salient Infernal Abilities: Arcane Mastery, Alter Reality, Divine Spellcasting, Hellfire Mastery

XP Reservoir: 15,000/week

*Shomei has AC 62, SR 64 and a Will saving throw modifier of +63 when epic protections are not in place.

Senses: Shomei can see, hear, touch and smell at a distance of 3 miles. As a standard action she can perceive anything within 3 miles of any location where her name was spoken in the last hour. She can extend her senses to up to two locations at once. She can block the sensing power of deities of her rank or lower at up to two remote locations at once for 3 hours.
Automatic Actions: Shomei can use any skill related to her portfolio – even those she has no ranks in – as a free action, provided that the DC is 15 or less.
Create Magic Items: Shomei can create magic items related to her portfolio without the requisite item creation feat provided she meets all other prerequisites for the item, and the item's market price does not exceed 5,000gp.
Divine Aura: As a free action on her turn, Shomei may choose to emanate or suppress an aura of daze, fright or resolve with a radius of 30ft. A Will saving throw (DC43) negates the effect.

Salient Infernal Abilities
Alter Reality: Shomei may use this ability at will by drawing 5000xp from her reservoir.
Arcane Mastery: Shomei never needs to consult a spellbook when preparing spells.
Divine (Infernal) Spellcasting: Shomei may cast spells of up to 27th level. She is regarded as having the spell focus feat for any spell which she casts.
Hellfire Mastery: Whenever Shomei casts a spell or uses a spell-like ability which deals energy damage, the effect manifests as a fire effect; the damage results directly from infernal power and is not subject to resistances or immunities to fire. Shomei herself is immune to all [Fire] effects and is unaffected by Hellfire effects regardless of their source.

Concession to the Prior Infinity (Su): Shomei may use any planar binding, summon monster, gate spell or any epic conjuration to freely call or summon any devil or other lawful evil outsider.

Doubly Exempt (Ex): Shomei may ignore any alignment-based effects which might adversely affect her due to her subtypes; conversely, she may choose to be affected by any alignment-based effects which would provide her with a benefit. Devils and other lawful evil outsiders automatically recognize Shomei's status and their initial attitude toward her is always friendly; evil feys and suborned devils with the [Green] subtype treat her likewise. Divinations which attempt to discern information pertaining to Shomei's alignment always fail.

Spell-Like Abilities: Shomei can use the following spell-like abilities at will (Caster Level 38): antimagic field, break enchantment, clairaudience/clairvoyance, detect secret doors, detect thoughts, discern location, divination, find the path, foresight, freedom of movement, greater dispel magic, greater plane shift, greater teleport, identify, imbue with spell ability, legend lore, mage’s disjunction, magic aura, mind blank, omen of peril, protection from spells, rage, refuge, spell resistance, spell turning, true seeing, unbinding, undetectable alignment. The Save DC, where appropriate, is 23+ spell level.

Hazel's Benedicite (Su): Shomei may craft any rod, staff or wand (including epic rods and staves) as though she possessed the appropriate item creation feats and the Efficient Item Creation epic feat, provided that she uses wood from a Hazel aspect as the material for her crafting. Shomei pays the normal xp and gp associated with crafting such items.

Infernal Bibliosoph (Ex): As curator of Hell's library, if Shomei Takes 20 on any Knowledge skill check made within its confines she receives a +30 profane bonus to the check.

Ongoing Transvalents: Shomei enjoys a +60 bonus to her Will saving throws and AC and a +80 bonus to her Spell Resistance as a result of ongoing epic spells. These are renewed on a weekly basis and have a caster level of 85 for the purpose of opposed dispel checks.

Spellcasting
Shomei cast spells as a 38th-level focused specialist Conjurer (4/10/10/9/9/9/9/8/8/8/6/6/5/5/5/5/4/4/4/4/3/3/3/3/2/2/2/2 spells per day). She may cast spells of up to 27th level. The Save DC is 41+ spell level, Conjurations 44+ Spell level. She gains a further +4 bonus to the CL and Save DC of any spell which provokes a Will saving throw, and a +6 bonus to penetrate any targets' spell resistance. Shomei may prepare an additional 3 Conjuration spells of every level. Her barred schools are Evocation, Necromancy and Illusion. Shomei has access to any nonepic spell on the sorcerer/wizard spell list. She does not incur attacks of opportunity if spellcasting when threatened. She may cast up to three quickened spells per round.
Shomei may also cast 3 epic spells per day. She gains a +5 bonus to Spellcraft checks when casting spells with a Conjuration base seed, and suffers a –15 penaly to all Spellcraft checks when casting spells which incorporate a Necromancy, Evocation or Illusion seed. She enjoys a –5 mitigating factor when developing spells which reflect her Infernal specialty.

Spell Configuration: If Shomei’s bonus conjurations are dedicated to attack spells, she favors quickened hellfire-substituted acid storms; if dedicated to callings, then superior planar binding.

Magic Items: Headband of Intellect +10, Ring of Protection and Resistance +10, Arcane Bracelet, The Hazel Rod, Crystal Ball of Demands, Robe of Meteors, Trammel of Hell

Soul Trapping Gems: Shomei possesses 10 black sapphires, each of 50,000gp value.

Arcane Bracelet (Major Artifact)
Whilst worn, this silver bracelet grants a +50 competence bonus to all Knowledge (arcana), Concentration and Spellcraft skill checks. Every day, the bracelet’s owner can recall up to 40 levels of spells that she has already cast during that day. Spells raised beyond 9th level by metamagic feats may be recalled, but Epic spells may not. If the spell recalled normally requires an expensive material component and/or an XP cost, the caster must meet these requirements as usual. Caster Level 40.

Crystal Ball of Demands (Major Artifact)
This crystal ball with telepathy and true seeing allows its user to use the demand spell at will (Heightened to 25th level, DC 49). Caster Level 40.

Hazel Rod (Major Artifact)
This rod strikes as a +10 axiomatic unholy light mace and provides a +4 bonus to the Caster Level and Save DC of any spell or spell-like ability used by its wielder which provokes a Will saving throw. As a standard action, the owner of the Hazel Rod may use dominate monster at will; the wielder uses his or her own caster level, ability score modifier and any relevant feats and salient divine abilities to determine the parameters of the effect, modified by the bonus provided by the rod itself. In Shomei's case, Caster Level is 41 and the Save DC is 52.

When used in conjunction with any planar binding spell to bind lawful evil outsiders, the Hazel Rod increases the number of Hit Dice possessed by eligible targets by +8; for example, the rod's wielder could bind a devil of up to 26HD with a greater planar binding spell. The rod confers a +6 circumstance bonus to any opposed Charisma checks involved in the binding process. Caster Level 40.

Robe of Meteors [Major Artifact]
This purplish-black robe displays a field of shooting stars which seem to constantly fall, blaze briefly into incandescence, and then vanish. It provides a +10 profane bonus to Armor Class and saving throws, immunity to bludgeoning and fire attacks, and grants a number of other abiities to its wearer in addition:
•As a full-round action, the wearer can concentrate to increase the density of the meteor field within the robe. On the next round, and for as long as the wearer concentrates upon this effect, he or she benefits from an intensified spell turning effect, and is able to turn up to 40 levels of spells per round. There is no limit to the number of times per day this ability may be used. In order to turn epic level spells, a successful caster level check must be made.
•As a standard action, the wearer may grasp a falling star and hurl it as a meteor swarm (intensified, heightened to 30th-level, DC55). This ability is usable 3 times per day.
•As a swift action, once per day, the wearer may make a meteoric leap, transforming himself or herself into a line up to 1200 feet long and moving instantaneously across the battlefield. The wearer can reappear in any space adjacent to the last space ended by the line with any gear worn or carried. The meteoric leap does 192 points of bludgeoning damage and 284 points of fire damage to all creatures along the line with no saving throw. Upon reaching the destination square, an intensified meteor swarm (heightened to 30th-level) explodes in a 40-ft. radius burst centered on the cloak's wearer. A Reflex saving throw (DC55) halves the damage.
Caster Level 40.

Trammel of Hell [Paradigmatic Artifact]
Crafted by the Adversary for the purpose of restraining the wyrm Qematiel, these shackles are constructed of Hellforged adamant and resize themselves to fit any creature of size diminutive to colossal, with any number of manacles becoming available for binding creatures with multiple limbs. The Trammel of Hell requires an Escape Artist check or Break DC of 100 to escape. Creatures bound with the trammel are subject to a dimensional anchor effect (Caster Level 75).[/sblock]
Exchange Between Soneillon and Shomei
[sblock]This is rendered for the purpose of the story in the Tongue of Shûth (Soneillon) and the ancient Borchian dialect (Shomei); at this point, Eadric knows only that something has been communicated:

Soneillon: “I cannot (bring myself to) harm you because you have seen the Sun as I do.”

Shomei: “If you refer to his potential to realize that Sovereignty, I understand. I saw that you have seen the thing which I have seen. And the other one? She sees?”

Soneillon: “She always has.”[/sblock]

Unemployed Devils

Two unemployed devils of somewhat different magnitude, but both rather focused on social manipulation and interaction, and both advocates of an infernal negotiation with saizhan. Yeqon is typical of a fallen seraph, insofar as those powers which he has clawed back (the Hellish mysteries) are of less magnitude than those previously granted to him at his creation; an unfallen Yeqon would be around CR 50.

Nercamay
[sblock]Nercamay

Size/Type: Medium Outsider (Evil, Extraplanar, Lawful)
Hit Dice: 18d8+96 (177 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: 40ft.
Armor Class: 40 (+12 deflection, +8 Dex, +10 natural), touch 30, flat-footed 32
Base Attack/Grapple: +18/+22
Attack: Melee touch +18 or ranged touch +26
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Spell-like abilities
Special Qualities: Change shape, damage reduction 10/silver and good, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to fire and poison, infernal grace, infernal inspiration, lore, regeneration 5, resistance to acid 10 and cold 10, see in darkness, spell resistance 30, telepathy 100ft.
Saves: Fort +34, Ref +36, Will +33
Abilities: Str 18, Dex 27, Con 23, Int 40, Wis 22, Cha 34
Skills: Appraise +36 (related Craft skills +38), Bluff +43, Concentration +27, Craft (calligraphy) +36, Craft (painting) +39, Craft (sculpture) +36, Diplomacy +54, Gather Inforamtion +43, Hide +29, Knowledge (arcana) +36, Knowledge (architecture) +36, Knowledge (history) +36, Knowledge (nature) +36, Knowledge (nobility) +36, Knowledge (religion) +36, Listen +27, Move Silently +29, Perform (all) +41, Profession (companion) +30, Search +36, Sense Motive +27, Spellcraft +38, Spot +27
Feats: Master Manipulator, Negotiator, Obscure Lore, Skill Focus (Craft: painting), Skill Focus (Diplomacy), Skill Focus (Profession: companion), Versatile Performer
Challenge Rating: 18

Nercamay – known as the Companion – is an infernal muse. She appears as a tall, alluring devil with olive skin and violet eyes, wearing a white peplos and with her hair gathered in ornate arrangement. Only the closest inspection or magic will reveal her devilish nature. Of calm and gentle demeanor, Nercamay is a sophisticated aesthete with a broad range of artistic gifts and intellectual interests; she has inspired numerous works of art and literature. When not tempting mortals, her skills were much sought after; she has acted in the capacity of companion for many infernal magnates.

As one of the Servants of the Four Kings, Nercamay may move through any region where they hold sway; Nercamay was on Dis acting as companion to Count Merodach when the I migrated and Hell retreated, and thus retains her diabolic type. She was subsequently conjured from the prior infinity by Shomei the Infernal.

Change Shape (Sp): Nercamay can assume the shape of any small or medium humanoid.
Infernal Grace (Su): Nercamay gains a deflection bonus to her armor class and a profane bonus to her saving throws equal to her Charisma modifier.
Infernal Inspiration (Su): As a standard action, Nercamay may grant a +4 profane bonus to any willing creature’s next Craft, Knowledge or Perform check.
Lore (Ex): Nercamay may make a bardic knowledge check as though she were an 18th level bard. She makes such checks with a +39 bonus.
Regeneration (Ex): Nercamay takes normal damage from silvered good-aligned weapons and from spells with the good descriptor.
Spell-Like Abilities: At will – bestow curse (DC 26), bolts of bedevilment (DC27), charm person (DC23), combined talent, dream, greater teleport, insight of good fortune, probe thoughts (DC 28), share talents, suggestion (DC 25); 1/day – divine insight, hindsight, solipsism (DC 29). Caster level 18th. The Save DCs are Charisma-based.

Possessions
Fibula: Nercamay’s brooch, in the form of a platinum swallow with gem-set eyes, grants a +5 resistance bonus to saving throws and allows the wearer to use a moment of prescience once per day to gain a +15 insight bonus on any d20 attack roll, skill check, saving throw or opposed ability check (CL15; 85,000gp)
Comb: An amber comb worn by Nercamay confers a +10 circumstance bonus on all Charisma-related skill checks. (CL15; 50,000gp)[/sblock]

Yeqon
[sblock]
Yeqon, the Fifth Prosecutor

Size/Type: Huge Outsider (Evil, Extraplanar, Lawful)
Hit Dice: 44d8+880 (1232 hp)
Initiative: +21
Speed: 100 ft., fly 300 ft. (perfect)
Armor Class: 70 (-2 size, +10 armor, +15 deflection, +13 Dex, +24 natural), touch 39, flat-footed 60
Base Attack/Grapple: +44/+74
Attack: +70 (3d6+28/19-20, +6 hellforged adamantine flaming burst wounding longsword)
Full Attack: +70/+65/+60/+55 (3d6+28/19-20, +6 hellforged adamantine flaming burst wounding longsword)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./15 ft.
Special Attacks: Hellfire, spell-like abilities, spells
Special Qualities: Change shape, damage reduction 20/epic and good, darkvision 60 ft.,devilish aura, frightful presence, immunity to fire and poison, protective aura, regeneration 20, resistance to acid 10 and cold 10, spell resistance 57, telepathy 100ft.
Saves: Fort +49, Ref +42, Will +43
Abilities: Str 54, Dex 37, Con 51, Int 40, Wis 38, Cha 40
Skills: Bluff +68, Concentration +67, Decipher Script +62, Diplomacy +123, Escape Artist +60, Gather Information +66, Hide +52, Intimidate +72, Knowledge (arcana) +62, Knowledge (history) +62, Knowledge (nature) +66, Knowledge (nobility) +62, Knowledge (the planes) +62, Knowledge (religion) +75, Listen +61, Move Silently +60, Perform (oratory) +106, Profession (lawyer) +61, Search +62, Sense Motive +93, Spellcraft +66, Spot +61, Survival +61
Feats: Cleave, Dire Charge, Dodge, Epic Reputation, Epic Skill Focus (Diplomacy), Epic Skill Focus (Knowledge: Religion), Epic Skill Focus (Perform: Oratory), Great Cleave, Improved Initiative, Improved Sunder, Mobility, Negotiator, Persuasive, Power Attack, Skill Focus (Diplomacy), Skill Focus (Knowledge: Religion), Superior Initiative
Challenge Rating: 45

Yeqon, the Fifth Prosecutor, is a fallen seraph who was instrumental in the early stages of the Great Revolt in the prior infinity, and one who remained closest to the Nameless Fiend after the Fall. Although his physical participation in the events on the Blessed Plain was minimal, Yeqon bears a large responsibility for the incitement and corruption of many lesser celestials. As with other episeme solars who retained much of their former dignity – Prosecutors and Antagonists – Yeqon has occupied himself with the strategic and philosophical aspects of the war against the Celestial Host and the advocacy of the antinomian viewpoint. He is a devil of great gravitas.

Yeqon appears a black-winged celestial of unmistakeably infernal demeanor, clad in a dark tunic and bearing a long, slender blade at his waist. He is a massive fiend, standing some fifteen feet tall and weighing around two tons.

Yeqon’s natural weapons, as well as any weapons he wields, are treated as evil- aligned, lawful-aligned and epic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Exalted and Cast Down (Ex): As a former seraph, Yeqon retains many benefits enjoyed by exalted celestials; others are lost to him in punishment for his actions.
  • Insight Denied: Yeqon loses his insight bonus to armor class and attack rolls
  • Stripped of Divinity: Yeqon loses divine spellcasting power and spell-like abilities which would otherwise be of a level equal to his hit dice. Divine elemental power is also lost. He gains Hellish mysteries in place of these abilities.
  • Elemental Vulnerability: The total elemental invulnerability enjoyed by exalted celestials is replaced by normal diabolic resistances and immunities
  • Grace Withdrawn: Yeqon loses the Charisma bonus to his saves from which episemes normally benefit; his SR is reduced to CR +12; he cannot smite, commune or turn undead.
Hellish Mysteries
Devilish Aura (Su): Yeqon can activate this as a free action. It acts as a double strength magic circle against good (Caster Level 22nd). The aura can be dispelled, but Yeqon can create it again as a free action on his turn.
Frightful Presence (Ex): Yeqon can unsettle foes with his mere presence. Creatures within a radius of 120 feet are subject to the effect if they have fewer HD than Yeqon. A potentially affected creature that succeeds on a Will save (DC 47) remains immune to his presence for 24 hours. On a failure, creatures with 4 or less HD become panicked for 4d6 rounds and those with 5 or more HD become shaken for 4d6 rounds.
Hellfire Wielder (Ex): If Yeqon uses any spell or spell-like ability which delivers fire damage, half of that damage is considered profane damage and is not subject to resistances or immunities
Infernal Spellcasting: Yeqon casts arcane spells as a 22nd-level sorcerer. He may cast spells from the Darkness, Domination and Evil domains as arcane spells
Spell-Like Abilities: At will—animate objects, blasphemy (DC 32), continual flame, dimensional anchor, greater dispel magic, unholy blight (DC 29), imprisonment (DC 34), invisibility (self only), resist energy, speak with dead (DC 28), waves of fatigue; 3/day— earthquake (DC 33), mass charm monster (DC 33); 1/day—power word blind, power word kill, power word stun, wish. Caster level 22nd. The save DCs are Charisma-based.

Change Shape (Su): Yeqon can assume the form of any Small or Medium humanoid.
Fast Healing (Ex): Yeqon has fast healing 20.
Ongoing Effects (Sp): The following abilities are always active on Yeqon’s person, as the spells (caster level 22nd): detect good, detect snares and pits, discern lies (DC 29), see invisibility, true seeing. They can be dispelled, but Yeqon can reactivate them as a free action on his turn.
Planar Travel (Su): Yeqon may move between any two planes. Treat this ability as a plane shift except that Yeqon can only transport himself and his equipment and he never arrives off-destination.
Regeneration (Ex): Yeqon has regeneration 20. Epic good-aligned weapons and good-aligned spells do normal damage to the fallen seraph.
Teleport (Su): Yeqon can use greater teleport at will as the spell. He can transport only himself and his equipment.

Spellcasting
Yeqon casts spells as a 22nd-level sorcerer (6/10/10/10/9/9/9/9/8/8 spells per day; Save DC 25+ spell level). Relevant pells known:
4th – attune form, finger of agony (DC 29), voice of the dragon, wall of fire (DC 29),
5th – fire and brimstone (DC 30), magic jar (DC 30), nightmare (DC 30), permanency
6th – greater fireburst (DC 31), interplanar telepathic bond, make manifest (DC 31)
7th – finger of death (DC 32), reverse gravity (DC 32), vision
8th – discern location, mind blank, unholy aura (DC 33)
9th – monstrous thrall (DC 34), shades (DC 34), soul bind (DC 34)

Equipment: Yeqon’s sword, Voice of Reason, Black Robe of Cocytus

Yeqon’s Sword: This weapon is a lawful evil +6 hellforged adamantine flaming burst wounding longsword
Voice of Reason: The talisman of Yeqon confers a +30 competence bonus to all Diplomacy, Sense Motive and Perform (oratory) skill checks. The wearer can use mass suggestion at will (caster level 20th)
Black Robe of Cocytus: This unadorned robe grants a +10 armor bonus to AC and a +5 resistance bonus to saving throws[/sblock]
 
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Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 04-26-2012

Effluxion – Part 1: Annihilation



[Nehael/Eleos]: Soneillon…

[Soneillon]: …


**


Nehael shot.

Eadric sat upon the rampart of the outer defense at Galda with his back against the parapet and regarded her. She had been standing in the same position for more than nine hours, discharging arrows with an unwavering rhythm which seemed to measure time itself. The goddess had loosed thirty-three thousand and eleven missiles; she had killed thirty-three thousand and eleven ghouls: Nehael herself included the Abyssal type, ghasts and bonedrinkers – as well as several more obscure varieties of undead – in the rather broad category of ghoul. Eadric could not see the ghouls which Nehael had targeted; they were more than five miles away.

“Don’t you get bored?” He asked.

Her pace slowed; she drew a single arrow and released it. At the limit of his hearing, an earthquake rumbled. She resumed her previous rhythm.

“That would seem a more effective strategy,” he observed.

“It is,” she replied. “But I do not wish to create a fault zone.”

“Exactly how many are there, altogether?” Eadric inquired.

“Altogether?” Her measure did not falter. “About fifteen million. Coming this way? Only around four.”

“Fifteen million?”

“That’s just the ghouls,” Nehael continued shooting. “The vampires, spectres, wraiths and other heliophobes remain under the Pall of Dhatri for the time being; as soon as its magic fails and they find safe holes, they will begin to migrate north and operate by night.”

“Safe holes?”

“Villages which have been evacuated and overrun,” Nehael explained.

“But why such enormous numbers?” Eadric asked.

She smiled, but the tempo of her archery remained unchanged. “The Thalassine was a rich and populous region, Eadric; now everyone is dead.” As her bowstring hummed, the last word was spoken with what may have been anger: an emotion which Eadric could not recall Nehael having before evinced.

Ten thousand yards away, a ghoul dropped to the ground, its throat pierced by an arrow.

“Nwm informed me that you believe that some kind of reconquista is possible,” Eadric spoke dubiously.

She nodded. “It is both possible and desirable. It also requires that you grow up.”

“You deem me…unready?”

Nehael nodded. “Your values are childish from my perspective. The world you would seek to build requires a more objective love.”

“Nehael, when we spoke at Shomei’s cottage, you implied that some potential existed between us…”

She shook her head, and continued shooting. “Still, you are fixated on these quaint notions. What you inferred was not what I clearly stated. Whatever lustfulness I might possess, I would not cause suffering to any.”

“You speak of Soneillon?”

“Why not? Soneillon is no less deserving than any other.”

“And your own needs?”

“There is no I, Eadric. That is Shomei’s province.”

He groaned. “I cannot hold these contradictory truths. I wish only to relate simply.”

A look of exasperation crossed her face. She drew an arrow, nocked it, turned, and aimed it toward him.

“You wouldn’t…” He said nervously.

She shot it into his leg. Eadric screamed in agony.

“Are you insane?” He gasped with wide eyes.

“No. You are being selfish, Ahma,” Nehael said calmly. “You need to lose that.”

“For a deity of compassion, you have some pretty strange ideas.” Eadric groaned and shook.

“Well, that would be the wrathful part,” she resumed her previous rhythm, shooting at the southern horizon.

“And as to the causation of suffering? What do you call this?”

“Pain, Ahma.”

“A simple remonstration would have been sufficient,” he spoke through a clenched jaw, and winced as he tried to extract the arrow.

“I am not the Sela, Ahma,” she replied. “I do not have the time or luxury to be kind to you, and algesis may impel you. Leave the dart; I will see to it in due course.”

“Even so…”

She paused, and sighed. “Eadric. You need to put this romantic nonsense behind you; it cannot dictate your thoughts or actions. One may not discriminate as to where to apply compassion, only how, and sentimental notions will interfere with your capacity to demonstrate it most effectively. Concentrate. The pain will help you focus.”

“I…”

“No.”

He entered saizhan. The pain remained, but was only one amongst millions: the living, the dead; birds, animals; faeries, demons, celestials. Their combined magnitude was unguessable, and the totality struck his awareness as a barrage of sensation which screamed torment and misery at his very substance, overwhelming his identity. But the fundamental perspective observed it calmly, and did not falter.

“Much better.” Nehael spoke softly, and knelt beside him. She carefully removed the arrow; no mark of the wound remained. He looked at her, and a kernel of desire for her began to form; immediately, his sense of self reasserted itself. The Moment was gone.

He inhaled sharply, and stared at her in amazement. “You perceive this suffering always?”

“It is always there.” She laughed.

“How do you bear it?” He felt utterly chastened.

“No I could, so it is a non-issue. Do not worry. Midwinter has passed; the days are lengthening. The Sun is returning.” She smiled.

Nehael stood, and shot.


**


Thousands of tents and pavillions comprised the camp at Galda, occupying an area of some eighty acres. It was enclosed by a crenellated stone wall forty feet thick and sixty high which had been erected by the diligent efforts of a hundred flamines and scrollbearers over the course of several months. Walls of stone and indentured elementals summoned by Uediian priests had completed the initial construction; the entire edifice had been augmented and hardened by Nwm, Mesikammi, Teppu and Hlioth to withstand both physical and magical assault. The Preceptor had raised seven enormous bastions around its circuit, two of which flanked the single gate of adamant which gave access to the place. Upon the outer face of the valves were the most potent symbols ever wrought: runes of Tree and Sun which described a swift demise for things which should already be dead.

The camp was removed from the town proper – of comparable dimension – at a closest distance of around a half-mile; an outer earthwork faced with stone and with a circumference of more than a league encompassed both. The walls of Galda town itself had likewise been buttressed; most of its natives had departed some weeks earlier. The two were connected by teleportation circles and tree portals to allow the swift redeployment of troops.

Nwm stood within the centre of the encampment beside a muddy field which had been cleared of tents, soldiers and horses, and sighed. Although it pained him, there was no denying the logic of Mostin’s suggestion; it would save resources, and nothing within the combined power of those present could rival it for effectiveness. The Preceptor gave a resigned look to Hlioth, who returned one of equal sympathy.

[Nwm]: Very well. The space is ready.

In the middle of the camp at Galda, a three-hundred foot tall edifice of infernal adamant appeared, blotting out the sun and immediately drawing the attention of everyone within the circuit of the stronghold. Massive bartizans flanked a central tower, from which machiolated platforms and corbels depended. Wide nozzles of unknown purpose protruded from its walls.

There was a brief silence, and then a tall doorway opened onto a balcony at a height of thirty fathoms. Six creatures with many mouths and appendages slowly floated out, bobbing in the breeze, and blew on clarions: a discordant fanfare of tremendous volume which shook the ground and made all who heard it nauseous. Great purple drapes unfurled; lights of every known hue – and some of wholly unfamiliar color – strobed brilliantly in the sky. Mostin – wearing an ornate puce mitre, three feet high and bedecked with jewels – strode forth onto the platform, and spread his arms wide.

“I have arrived,” he announced to the world.

*

Around thirty wizards – including eight from the ruling body of the Collegium – had accompanied Mostin, on the condition that they might abide within the tower and come and go at their leisure: a stipulation supported by Daunton, who recognized the relative safety of Mostin’s fortress. Mostin had grudgingly assigned suites to Waide, Jalael, Muthollo, Creq, Droom, Troap, Sarpin and Daunton himself. Lesser mages had been forced to share chambers; despite the enormous extradimensional volume of the Infernal Tower, Mostin preferred to keep a large portion out of bounds.

The presence of the wizards was met with mixed emotions; many of the more conservative and influential Templars viewed them with suspicion or disdain. Ortwine received them graciously, and immediately procured a well-furnished pavillion from Troap, with whom she had enjoyed long-standing good relations. Their presence in the camp, the sidhe nodded appreciatively, would inject a much-needed civility into affairs; even with the numerous Wyrish aristocracy, the prevailing religious sobriety was far too austere for Ortwine’s tastes.

Eadric spied a dimimutive figure who walked purposefully through the camp, wearing a cloak of deep blue – Irknaan’s cloak, he knew. His leg still tingling from its recently-experienced trauma, he intercepted her, intent on determining her disposition.

Sho turned to him, and raised an eyebrow. “Yes, Ahma?”

“It has been some time,” Eadric regarded her with curiosity. “I am intrigued: your vehicle – Goetia – would seem to be a path with its end in sight. Your maker has a certain…dispensation in this regard; but other wizards do not have the luxury of calling upon the previous Hell.”

She looked at him that way. It made him feel distinctly uncomfortable.

“There will always be devils, Ahma,” Sho answered. “You should not trouble yourself on that count.”

“I do not mean to offend, Sho, but there is a question which I would like to ask you.”

“My ego is robust, Ahma,” Sho said drily. “You are unlikely to cause me discomfort.”

“Do you have a religious vision, Sho? Some article of faith by which you abide?”

“No. I am a wizard, Ahma; such notions are uncommon amongst my kind.”

“And devils?” He asked. “Their…perspective is one for which you have some special sympathy?”

“Devils are tools, Ahma,” she replied. “But I confess a certain fondness for some of them, especially those who might be deemed high in the Old Order.

“You speak of Azazel and his ilk?”

Sho nodded. “They are of a particular vintage.”

“Hence my comment regarding Goetia as an increasingly obscure vehicle.”

Sho raised an eyebrow. “The world is smaller than it used to be, and two hundred legions is a lot of devils, Ahma.”

“Yes, I suppose it is.” His expression was one of concern. “Do you consider yourself…unique, Sho? Authentic? I ask because there are certain resonances with your progenitor.”

“I am very much my own self, Ahma,” she gave a quizzical look. “Whatever similarities you perceive are entirely superficial.”

“It’s just that your personae are so similar.”

Sho shrugged. “A persona is exactly that, Ahma, and nothing more. Deeper truths are more often concealed.”

“Shomei, I…”

“I am Sho, Ahma,” she smiled.

“Indeed; I apologize. There is a profundity surrounding you,” Eadric sighed. “In any iteration. Do you have a goal, Sho? A purpose?”

“Only to become myself, Ahma,” Sho replied. “Although I have yet to define what that is to my satisfaction. I am on the verge of transvalency; it may provide additional insights.”

He gaped. “Already? You are something extraordinary, Sho.”

“Yes, Ahma. I know. I will not forget it: of that, you can be sure.”

“And Mei? She is here?” He asked.

“She is within the tower,” Sho nodded. “With Orolde.”

“Are you…close? By which, I mean, do you hold her in any special regard?”

“No, Ahma,” Sho shook her head. “Sho is Sho and Mei is Mei. And Shomei is Shomei.”

“I see,” he said. “But both you and your sister – if that term is appropriate – have a particular loyalty to Mostin.”

Sho nodded; her expression was one of mild confusion. “Of course. He has been a source of unconditional support. Mostin is uncommonly generous for a wizard, Ahma. His absurd pomp and egotism are merely a persona. And he will always advocate for that thing which he values most.”

“And what might that be?” Eadric inquired, raising his eyebrows.

“Potential,” Sho smiled. “And the will to realize it.”


**


The Embassy – the Fourth Effluxion of Kaalaanala – sat in her saddle and gazed north, her sight piercing all veils. The hood which framed where her visage might have been was empty: within was a blankness which admitted no light; an impalpable void. Disintegrating fire wreathed her; an aura wherein all trace of being was extinguished. Although the shape of her mount was equine, its nature was also chthonic: a powerful anala bound and confined by her terrible will to serve as the steed for the avatar of the Fire of Death.

Undead surrounded her in numberless droves, driven unsconsciously by her intention into some coherence of purpose. Few amongst her living slaves might even approach her: Rishih and Naatha – feared potentates and great immortals in their own right – cowered in her presence. Anumid lavished praise upon her; an unctuous sycophant regarded with contempt amongst most of the remaining Cheshnite magnates, but still commanding the respect of the remnant of the Convocations. A fourth part of Dhatri’s host accompanied the Embassy. The rest, which moved with the bloated goddess and the entourage of the demilich Idyam had struck out toward the northeast and crawled or lurched toward Wyre: a great swell of hunger which, now beyond the darkness of the Pall, was revealed as a relentless tide of death and putrefaction which consumed everything in its path.

Galda was encompassed entirely; a cordon of rotting flesh at a distance of two leagues, beyond the ambit of the scions which nestled in the vale north of the town. The Embassy was acutely aware of the diminishment which the Oak and Elm would force upon her undead minions, and had prepared magicks to counteract the effects of the Trees on her troops; until she had positioned herself exactly for the assault, her spells were held in reserve. Three great hubs were established – south, northeast and northwest of the Wyrish defenses – which, although beyond the inner purlieu of the scions, still fell within the circuit established by the ludjas. Magical scrutiny by the Cheshnites was denied by quercine power within the area, and reconnaissance was achieved by flights of shadow demons, succubi and palrethees: fiends which, by virtue of their scarcity, were now viewed as a valuable resource by the immortal elite.

Choach – returned again from his concealed phylactery – had entrenched in the westernmost presidio. To Prahar’s chagrin, the Embassy had appointed the lich – despite his own clear seniority in such matters – as her general above him: Prahar’s own instability might make him a liability, and the situation was too precarious to risk a whimsical assault by the great death knight, whatever his own prowess, or that of his troops. The range east and north of Galda was commanded by Naatha, with a bulwark of magi beneath Rishih, together with many of the staunchest remaining demons and those troops whom Temenun had abandonded. The southernmost concentration – the largest by number, if not in native power – Kaalaanala’s avatar had taken to herself directly: a sea of rotten flesh which, when the time came, she would imbue with Void and ferocious hunger.

The Embassy bided her time for a while.

Void moved in deep, imperceptible currents.
 
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messy

Explorer
Soneillon’s Bitch-Slap
[sblock]Soneillon’s famous bitch-slap was made against a flat-footed Eadric and consisted of the equivalent of a surprise action trip attack followed by a full tendril attack routine to subdue. The attack was glossed (or ‘skinned,’ to use modern parlance) as a single slap.

Eadric sustained 780 points of nonlethal damage and was knocked prone.[/sblock]
now that's epic. :lol:
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 04-26-2012

**


Soneillon lounged upon the bed within the main suite at Deorham, studying the glyphs etched into the tablet which Tozinak had bestowed upon her, and considered their import. Some agency was at work, although she could not determine precisely what; it was neither Kaalaanala, nor the Cherry itself – which, being comprised of lust, lacked volition in the conventional sense. Something hitherto unrevealed had prompted the wizard to transpose Jovol’s spell into a minor key; it was no parody, and the artistry in the dweomer was immediately apparent to her. It was also something utterly beyond Tozinak’s capacity to achieve. And Tozinak still had the original spell – A Flame Precedes the Aeon – locked somewhere within his Cherry-addled mind. Vhorzhe? She considered. The entity was capable, no doubt, although whether desirous was a different question entirely.

The Apparition strove to manifest; of that, there could be no doubt. And other chthonic forces were also active; impulses which she could not hope to fully comprehend. Soneillon began to wonder whether another Bhiti – one of an order comparable to the Fires of Death – might be implicated. If so, the medium through which it was operating was obscure; if Delirium or some approximal region of Dream, she should have felt it herself. If it were confined within the Green – as was Kaalaanala – then its presence would have been long known. Kaalaanala had been the reciprocal payment; the price forced by Void to tolerate the Abysmal ludjas. But what if some other balance had been struck?

The demoness rose and exited the chamber onto a small stoop which overlooked the curtilage below. All of the structural damage had been repaired, and Carasch had been dismissed – temporarily, at least. Most of her other minions had been slain or had fled, although a trio of succubi once sworn to Graz’zt – Mazikreen, Ilistet and Chepez the Vicious – still attended her. Around a hundred demons remained loose in western Trempa, making mischief; none were of a mind to submit themselves again to the former Queen of Throile, and eliminating them or driving them away would be necessary to appease the Ahma – whose current mood of contrition regarding her should probably be enjoyed for as long as possible.

Hard beside the chapel, the Blackthorn scion dozed; snow sat upon its barbed limbs, and the textures of its twisted trunk intimated at the very process of dissolution. Soneillon glided down into the courtyard, folded her wings, and approached the Tree: its attitude toward her – if its disposition could be described in such terms – seemed benign; somehow sympathetic. She sighed. This Treeish-ness was difficult to fathom. She pressed her hands against its bark, feeling its energy; an inevitable urge toward the ending of things. But not after the nullificatory fashion of Cheshne’s unmanifest Shadow, the Apparition or Aabhaasa of Shûthite lore. More, a délabrement in a helical stream which did not deny new beginnings. Cheshne was more than Her Shadow; of this, the demoness had no doubt. She – the Void – was awake; no longer slumbering within the bounds of ens as tenuously described by her oneiric form. And Soneillon, in whom all infinities collided, might alone in her psychosis apprehend a great, dark, devouring love.

A sudden urge overcame her.

Soneillon gestured, and the door to the chapel creaked open. Inside, all was again ordered and pristine, though nonetheless still profaned; the guts and ichor which had spilled in from the conflict of the previous day had been scoured clean. She entered and extended tendrils which seemed to caress the floor, feeling the draught which issued from the crypt below.

Carefully, she lifted a three-hundred pound flag of granite and set it aside, revealing steep steps which led down into a narrow space with a low, vaulted ceiling. She descended slowly; a dozen sarcophagi were crowded into the sepulchre, along with smaller caskets and urns: Eadric’s direct forebears, and uncles and cousins removed by degrees. She inspected those which seemed the most recent, brushing away cobwebs, until she found the one she was looking for: directly below the altar, a narrow funerary coffer of marble, unadorned except for its simple brass plaque:


THIOSTRI, Lady Deorham
628-656 TR
Dame of Witnung’s Chase

Daughter of Nân of Jaive
Beloved Wife of Moad Sauil, Baronet
And of Orm and Eadric, Mother​



Soneillon folded her arms. “You would seem to have been a remarkable woman, Thiostri. Your elder son gave lessons to the Mind of Oronthon, and your younger is his Breath; the last prosopopoeia of Radiance. And I do not believe in coincidences.”

She knelt, and lit an offertory taper. It flickered uncertainly as it illuminated the space, wavering in the chill breeze drawn through cracks in the chamber’s walls. The demoness focused and drew her knife, opening a deep cut in her palm. She squeezed her fist, and ichor dripped onto the sarcophagus. Potent magic coursed through her; even a vanished archetype might have responded to its entreaty.

Tyakh, asrij svaam: an offering, my own blood. Were you a mortal woman, or one divine?”

There was no sound; no movement; no shade which spoke. No thing. The taper guttered and went out. Peace, and an utter stillness. The darkness was perfect; unmarred.

Soneillon sat in silence. Pasyaami. Tvam jaane: I see. Thou, I know.

She pondered for a long while before finally cursing, standing and exiting the crypt. Her form altered, and her wings retracted and vanished: no sense in alarming the Oronthonists beyond the necessary. The demoness clad herself in sombre black – a high-collared robe which encased her form with an appropriate propriety – and drew her hair back after the fashion of an Orthodox Sister. Throwing a great, atrament cloak about herself, she dreamed her way to Galda, manifesting discreetly beside the war pavillion of the Ahma – a large affair which had been erected after the previous had been blasted away by Shomei. The daylight was waning; the voices inside the tent were intense, agitated and full of worry.

Soneillon opened a heavy curtain of canvas and entered quietly; Eadric was taking counsel with his captains: Saints, Talions, great magnates of Wyre and the chiefs among the Illuminated. She lowered her hood: her presence was at once both disquieting and magnetic. Her beauty – which familiarity had somehow caused the Ahma to forget – transfixed those who gazed upon her; silence fell within. Eadric squinted; he had not encountered this particular façade before. While her features remained unchanged, the masque of the coquettish peasant-girl was entirely absent, replaced by a solemn focus and composure. If anything, her assumed guise – which suggested modesty and abnegation – made the succubus even more alluring.

Saint Tahl the Incorruptible, who wore an Eye of Palamabron around his neck – the mate of that borne by the Ahma – glanced toward Eadric. Immediately, he had apprehended the truths which clashed within her, and knew who she was. Many others within guessed: Soneillon’s eyes were apertures through which form and Void regarded one another. Around the table, a dozen hands came to rest instinctively upon hilts and pommels, although the likely futility of any such gesture was lost to none, and least of all to Eadric; he knew that she could kill them all with a fleeting thought.

Soneillon said nothing; her face was impassive.

“A brief recess, Ahma?” Tahl inquired diplomatically. Inwardly, he grappled with the multiplicity of forms which he could perceive in her.

Eadric nodded.

When they were alone, Eadric approached her and gave an inquiring look. “Perhaps I should thank you for not appearing naked upon the conference table. Are you here to ensure my fidelity?”

She offered a hand. “Now is not the time for levity, Eadric. Come to Deorham.”

“Soneillon, we have only hours before the assault begins.”

“Come,” she insisted. She was nervous. “There is something you need to see.

He narrowed his eyes; this trepidation was most unlike her. “I assume I should be prepared to be upset?”

“You should just be prepared,” Soneillon advised. “Although, in retrospect, everything makes perfect sense.”

“As you are making little,” Eadric opined.

“You spring from Void, Eadric; the Sun is born in the dark.”

He swallowed; the memory of his own, isolated, second death still haunted him: a monad bereft, surrounded by night. “If this is some effort to distort…”

Soneillon hissed. “Trust me, or do not! The choice is yours; and the via negativa is an artifact of Saizhan: this is your description of truth, not mine.”

“Really?” He asked sceptically. “And how might you characterize that?”

Ni thatuh, jah thata; ni bai, jah nih,” she half-smiled.

“You are most vexatious.”

Waihtai ni, waírthi. The epistemic must become the ontic – or rather the meta-ontic.”

“And now even Soneillon would wax philosophical?” He groaned.*

“Only when all else fails,” she said drily. “How much do you really trust me, Eadric?”

Eadric looked at her, and shifted uneasily. He guessed her purpose. “You are proposing annihilation; that if I strip myself of my self, my Self will kindle? You have offered me this before, although its guise was more sinister at that time; the outcome crueller.”

“Times have changed.” She drew close; her fingers trembled as she reached out and touched his face. “Are both saizhan and extinction not unattainable?** It can be sweet, Eadric; death and climax. But saizhan – if it is the transmetaphysic it purports to be – will sustain you.”

He sighed. “Must everything be couched in terms of death and sex?”

“Eventually. Am I not Soneillon?” She laughed. For a moment, the playfulness returned. “And I already hold you longer than I should.”

He looked at her curiously.

“Consider the Sun, Eadric. What is the Ahma – the manifest Breath of Oronthon in the World – if not that light? That is your legacy. This time between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox should be yours; you will be Nehael’s from spring until midsummer. Properly, I do not get you until autumn.”

He gawked. “And the summer months?”

“That would be your short friend.”

“It might have been nice to have been consulted in this arrangement,” Eadric grumbled. “And if this is the ‘empty quarter,’ so to speak, then why am I still beholden to you?”

She stared at him, her eyes penetrating to his core. “Because I am the jealous one, Eadric. I will always find it hard to let go. Besides, we started late this year. And this is your arrangement – or an arrangement made to accommodate you. Now, will you come to Deorham? Your third passing need not be final, merely complete.”

“And you would then call me back?” He asked. “You suggested before that if I jumped, you might catch me.”

“No,” Soneillon shook her head. “You must bring yourself back; Self-emanate ex nihilo. I can only make a cradle for you; ease your passage into oblivion with soft words and a warm embrace.”

“This would seem a task of more than middling difficulty,” Eadric remarked ironically.

“The Ahma is sempiternal, and will exist for as long as the World endures. I cannot destroy it, although I can deprive it of its physical dwelling. If Saizhan is what you claim it is, you may cross the Abyss with impunity and wake on the other side.”

“Awaken to what?”

“To Regency, Eadric. To your own incandescence.”

“And what does that mean, exactly?” He asked.

“Amongst other things, that I will have cause to fear you,” she said ruefully. “Well?”

He sighed. “Do I need to bring anything?”

“Your self only.” Soneillon gave an ironic smile. A sacrificial robe appeared in each of her hands. “Now. Would you prefer black, or white?”


A mile to the south, Nehael paused briefly; the Ahma had all of the tools he needed: what he did with them was up to him. She drew; her bow sang rhythmically again in the dusk as she continued to loose arrow after arrow into the hordes of ghouls which pressed ever closer.

*

Eadric sat cross-legged upon the sarcophagus and glanced suspiciously at the ichor which stained it: a testament to Soneillon’s previous necromancy. “And here I was, thinking there were no taboos left to break.”

Soneillon said nothing, and lit a black candle of invocation. Its flame burned the color of soot.

“What, exactly, are you invoking?” He inquired.

“I believe you know the answer to that,” the demoness replied. She wore her most malefic aspect now: a shape of terrible darkness; ravenous, clawed and fanged, with pinions which stretched to fill the chamber. Soneillon moved, and tendrils of madness and oblivion writhed about her. She slid forward suddenly, and Void held him in a vice. Kaalakamala, the Lotus of Death; she was delirium, and despair.

Eadric swallowed. “Somehow, I think I like you best like this.”

She regarded him closely. “That is well.”

“Will there be pain?” He asked dubiously.

“If you like.” Her claws, razor-sharp, pricked the skin on his back.

“And if I don’t?”

“Then there won’t.” She relaxed her grip.

“That might be preferable,” he nodded.

She arched an eyebrow. “If you are having second thoughts, Eadric, now would probably be a good time to articulate them. Would you like to reconsider?”

“Yes. No. Proceed.”

As you wish, Ahma.

Talons sank into the granite lintel above his head and wings encased him, cocooning him in unbeing. Around him, form and substance disintegrated; he felt his strength begin to slowly ebb away. Like a heady wine, Soneillon drank ens from him, savoring its potency, until his brilliance had dimmed to the merest flicker, a guttering lamp borne above a yawning chasm without root or essence. The magnitude of the Void was immeasurable; its profundity, unguessable.

Without fear or rancor, the Ahma gazed long and deep into the Abyss; she held him at the brink of annihilation for what seemed an eternity: Aeons wheeled past him as infinities were born, unfolded and died. He would have remained there indefinitely, and the impetus to go further finally arose not from himself, but from her: she urged him on without her, and he blessed her for it. Beyond Nothingness, he beheld the shining emptiness which neither was nor was not: the Fundamental without category.

Seek the Dragon. She is waiting.. Void clenched softly, and snuffed out the last iota of light. Ecstasy and death converged, and in that fraction of a second Eadric understood her absolutely: what drove her, what she represented, what she must give up. He was awestruck; the kius was resolved, complete. His body was instantly consumed; no trace remained, save a scarf of black samite only. Soneillon – drunk with radiance – lay down upon the tomb, her wings draped over its sides, and silently wept.

Finally, reluctantly, she roused herself and stood, once again assuming her human form with its funereal garb. She now had the bitterest task of all. Bile rose in her throat. She clenched her teeth, closed her eyes, and reached out with her mind.

[Soneillon]: It is done. Nwm must conjure his herald in the hour before sunrise. Look to the Blackthorn at Deorham.

[Nehael/Eleos]: (Empathy). Soneillon…

[Soneillon]: Save it.

The demoness mindfully folded the token, placed it within a pocket, and climbed the steps into the chapel. She closed the door behind her and entered the courtyard. The air was cold and the night was moonless; the stars glistened above, whispering expectantly to one another. Soneillon took Pharamne’s Urn and placed it carefully within the bole of the scion; immediately, she was diminished as its power left her. Veiling herself in shadows, she prepared to launch herself skywards: for almost nine months, she would walk on dark paths until the Sun fell within her orbit again.

The slightest breeze alerted her to the sudden presence of another; a statuesque figure who towered above her. She turned and gave an inquiring look.

“It was indicated that you might like some company,” Irel bowed.

“Indeed?” Soneillon gave a small smile. “And yet it is not midsummer. Why has your mistress dismissed you?”

“I was never compacted, if you recall; she merely intimated that I might come. I believe the Sela spoke with her and suggested it. I will leave, if you prefer.”

“I did not say that,” she said wrily. “But it may be that you cannot endure where I am to go. I will wander through nightmares, Irel; into Delirium and beyond; Outside; through the space between the stars and into the Void.”

“Then you must strive hard to keep me safe,” the deva replied with an even humor. “That I might prevent you from straying too far.”

Soneillon looked up at him and sighed. “Thank-you, Irel. I think I should like that very much.”


Eadric was gone, reduced to nihility. But the Ahma abode in saizhan. He would ignite with the dawn.

A dawn which was still six hours away.







*Translational Note:
Ni thatuh, jah thata; ni bai, jah nih: Neither this nor that; neither both nor neither.
Waihtai ni, waírthi.: That which is not, becomes.

**The original kius regarding Eadric’s relationship with Soneillon was framed as Hwa Soneo ith ni bai afhwapnan jah saizhan thau ni maht ist laiston? , i.e. “What is Soneillon, if both saizhan and extinction are not unattainable?”

*
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 04-28-2012

There's a fair bit of linguistic and symbolic hokey-pokey going on on the tomb:

[sblock]Ƿéostru or Ƿéostrig in Old English (Thiustri in Old Saxon) means “dark, darkness, gloominess,” both literally and metaphorically; it is often used to translate Latin tenebrae. Ƿiostri (Thiostri) is a more uncommon spelling.

Nân is “nothing, none;” Mōd is “inner man, spirit, soul”; Sauil is “sun, solar, Sol.” Orm is wyrm, dragon.

28-29 (or so) years is a Saturn cycle or a progressed lunar cycle. 28 is also the number of lunar mansions, and the total number of domains associated with Oronthon.

Proper names aside, in addition to the literal interpretation of the words upon the tomb of Eadric’s mother, the encrypted meaning might be distilled as this:

Darkness
Who abode through a cycle of time
Daughter of Nothingness
Wife of the Sun’s Soul
Mother of Wyrm and Ahma
[/sblock]
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulcrave II on 10-9/2014

Effluxion – Part 2: Small Hours


The night air was motionless, and stifling. The stench of death filled it.

Wyrish troops manned the towers and parapets of Galda town and the nearby camp; elite companies of Templars mustered within the inner perimeter. Nehael – Red Nehael – rode alone along the outer rampart, her gaze turned south. Before her, a sea of undead seethed and roiled. Her mind’s eye, which could glimpse ten times further, encountered the same horror magnified a hundredfold.

Still, she shot; each dart which she loosed now caused the earth to convulse, or grasses and vines to grow in explosive violence. Her enemy perished by the battalion; legions replaced them.

[Hlioth]: Now. Shoot [here]

Nehael shot.

The arrow struck the Earth, which shuddered. Hlioth, Teppu and Mesikammi set forth their power: a jade light began to kindle. First, as a pillar, it then erupted as a curtain of shimmering, emerald fire which tore a course six miles in circumference, describing a circle centered on the Elm scion to the north. Nehael watched impassively as it encompassed Galda and penetrated deep into the undead host, stretching upwards into a dome; her deific perception felt it sink beneath her feet. The Green Witch had encapsulated them, sealing off a great multitude of the enemy within. There was a slow surge; a building vibrancy: Viridity coursed. Every atom was energized.

A million undead within the sphere desiccated: a charnel vapor which swiftly dispersed on a purifying wind. An uncanny green light and a profound silence prevailed – none other amongst the enemy might penetrate the barrier and enter within.

[Hlioth]: We’ll see how long that holds. But I am already weary. And Teppu is empty; Shomei has much to answer for.

[Nehael]: I see the emanation beyond the curtain. And she, I: she is less than a league distant. She is angry.

[Hlioth]: I imagine I would be wasting my time if I advised that you wait till sunrise?

Nehael spurred her horse, Sura over the parapet, and rode toward the Embassy.

Cautious, and as yet unprepared for confrontation, Kaalaanala’s Fourth Effluxion withdrew.


**


The spirit of the Eleos soared above the World. Dimensions – which were no more than perspectives – cycled below her: Wyre, Faerie, Mulhuk, Throile; the Viridescent Heaven of the Ahma. The infarction which was Kaalaanala; and beyond, a great clamor at the Veils, as their Mistresses hurled magicks of awful power. The Tree: enduring; oblivious.

On a mountain, the goddess manifested an avatar – a slender maiden, dressed in white – and sat beneath the Yew-ludja in perfect saizhan. Turning her thought to a prior infinity, she grasped an idea, and Magnitude welled suddenly around her. A tempest of Radiance ensued, the Ansin Leoma or Lambent Presence of Oronthon: it illuminated the heaven with such ferocity that Light alone might be perceived. Its currents surrounded her, suffused her, became her.

Her focus narrowed, and a passageway opened. Enitharmon, Marshal of the Host, stepped through. He abased himself before her.

Faheth,” he breathed. The light receded.

“Yes,” she said unsurely, shook her head, and gestured – she had always been Faheth. The seraph rose smoothly; his frame – of perfect, titanic proportion – dwarfed her. But his countenance remained lowered in obeisance: he would not, or could not, meet her gaze.

She smiled and stood. “You might kneel,” she suggested.

He did so.

“That we might regard one another, not in deference,” she raised an eyebrow. The Eleos reached up and cradled his massive visage within her hands, inviting him to look at her. “Your sword, if you please.”

Mindfully, he drew his weapon – more than twice as tall as she – from its scabbard across his back, and proffered it upon open palms before her .

“Good,” the Eleos touched it gently. “This is no longer required.”

The blade, Shard of Thought, shivered instantly and was broken, its fragments wheeling slowly and eerily through space before dissolving into a fine mist. She stretched up on her toes and kissed his forehead, and the Seal of Truth and Agency which he bore vanished, flaring briefly in her hand before being absorbed.

“The Thought has changed.”

Enitharmon sighed, as a great burden and responsibility left him forever.

“Your tenure is ended; all of your duties, discharged. I am now Sovereign; you may rejoin your peers.”

The greatest of celestials wept as joy overcame him. His spirit soared, engulfed by Magnitude.

The consciousness of the Eleos shifted; the scene changed abruptly: the Ash-ludja towered above her, deep within Nizkur. She was Green again.

*

She reached out with her thought and touched the Enforcer. Presently, a shape appeared before her: a goddess of dark aspect with flaming red hair.

The Eleos scrutinized her. “I have a favor to ask. You succored Nehael once before with regard to this one; will you aid me again?”

Gihaahia scowled. “You are the Eleos; you may mandate whatever you please. Why are you asking?”

“I am appealing to the Claviger: for a broader interpretation of the Wyrish Injunction, so to speak. Is your Law not dynamic?”

“Yes. But I am its executrix, not its architect.”

“The Self begins its reascendance; you may find that you cannot not shirk responsibility for the choice.”

“The Self will be the cause of my demise – one way or another. Even now, the Claviger prepares to cleave to the Aeon. This is precisely to contain the ascendant I. The Morphic must be preserved!”

“Let me mediate that exchange,” the Eleos smiled. “I will lend you a Tree in the meantime. Now, will you help me?”

“Yes,” the Enforcer sighed.


**


It was an hour past midnight; the eerie green light evoked by Hlioth prevailed at Galda. Yeqon, the Fifth Prosecutor, together with the once-seraphs Armen and Tumael and nineteen former episemes, knelt in the posture of saizhan before the Sela: he seemed to be bestowing some kind of benediction.

“This is becoming increasingly surreal,” Ortwine whispered. “What is going on?”

“Shomei has released them,” Nwm explained quietly. “It would appear that these devils are predisposed to adopt the meditational practices of Saizhan with relative ease; Nehael indicated that their mental discipline gives them a certain advantage.”

Mostin snorted. “Shomei has released herself. She has also dismissed Ugales and her other responsibilities. Whatever these guilt-ridden devils subsequently choose to believe is entirely their own determination; at least the burden of their development is no longer hers. She has isolated herself; the library – and the prior infinity – is currently closed. She is entirely focused on her own Perfection.”

“And how long is this gnostic reverie likely to last?” Ortwine inquired.

“Seconds? Millennia? I have no idea.” The Alienist shrugged.

Nwm scowled. “I hope the latter, for all our sakes.”

Unexpectedly, Mostin nodded in agreement.

“Oh?”

Mostin touched his nose with a finger. “Whilst the pursuit of the Urn might preclude Perfection, it does not hold that one who is Perfected cannot successfully pursue the Urn.”

“You believe she will resume her quest for the Urn?” Nwm was aghast.

“Yes. And she will surely succeed,” Mostin replied.

“And then?”

Mostin considered. “She will subsume Hummaz, banish the Claviger and rewrite the Arcane Morphic so that it is more to her liking.”

Nwm raised his eyebrows inquisitively. “Then she will Green-ify?”

“Certainly not…” Mostin hadn’t before considered the possibility. If she absorbed Hummaz what would actually happen?; where the Web of Motes had promised an answer, the Aeon would not permit him to look. “I believe any expression of Hummaz as part of a ‘composite’ entity in defiance of her Will would be deemed a failure by her.”

A vibration.

“She will assert quickly,” Ortwine hissed. “The Hazel stirs.”

Nwm swallowed nervously. “And Nercamay?” He nodded toward the infernal muse; she sat in tranquil reflection some distance from the others.

“Nercamay is eccentric, to say the least,” Mostin observed. “Eadric may have confused her beyond saving.”

Nwm smiled. “Our soteriological notions diverge.”

[Nercamay]: I concur. Actually, I am saved beyond confusion.

[Mostin]: ! Are you eavesdropping, Nercamay?

[Nercamay]: I am merely paying attention.

[Nwm]: Pay no heed to my cynical associates, Nercamay.

“I believe you are rather fond of this fiend, Nwm,” Ortwine raised an eyebrow. There was a time when her nature would have branded her anathema.”

“I have learned to make allowances,” Nwm looked pointedly at Mostin. “Besides, the World is more secure these days.”

Mostin tilted his head and stared. “You stand upon a mote of dirt which bobs in an ocean of pseudoinfinities and I am branded insane because I don’t cling to it?”

[Daunton]: You might want to return to the tower.

[Mostin]: What now?

[Daunton]: The Enforcer…

[Message interrupted]

[Gihaahia]: Make some tea, Mostin. I don’t have all night. And bring the Preceptor.

Mostin swallowed.



**


The Tiger dreamed his way west. Sharing his mind, thirty rebel Anantam and a clique of succubi – former initiates of Soneillon. The Throile Cabal itself had grown to a more than a dozen bickering covens, and included many once subordinate to the exiled queen, as well as evil wyrds, lamias, hags and eccentric once-devils. Loyalty was nonexistent and alliances shifted rapidly, as the Cherry’s transient urges to satiation were manifested through the Cabal. The faction which supported Temenun represented only one of many diverse and conflicting interests; he had no illusion of maintaining its cohesion for long.

Visions sped past: horrors and phantoms which lurked on the edge of nightmares; residual energies from Dhatri’s massive necromancies which still lingered in the dreamscape. Temenun drove through them and skirted a deeper layer: the net of magic woven by the Claviger about Kaalaanala’s Second Effluxion. Its surface seemed absorptive and malleable.

The Cherry – which fed his desire – moved through him. As always, his basest instincts were tempered: his was to contrive a rational program to achieve his object of lust. The goal: to rule unthreatened in idle and despotic languor within a balmy paradise, where his every whim was instantly met. A modest enough ambition in the prior infinity, but one now which might prove less easy to realize. The Embassy, the largest threat to his designs – even Kaalaanala herself – must be diverted: Temenun, in essence, preferred a period of easement to a moment of destruction.

He squeezed around the bubble which isolated the dream larva, perceiving a continual pulse of ultramarine and sapphire which sustained its cage, emanated by the Claviger from the deepest arcane substrate. The Tiger strove to regard the source of the spell, but the Claviger seemed as but a lens for the Dream of Magic itself, and indistinguishable from it. And to a Dream, from beyond the Infinitudes, even the Aeon must bend.

Temenun corporeated. The scene around him was one of madness: a sea of slavering mouths and claws and undead flesh. A hundred yards away, ghouls were turning to dust in swaths before they could approach their target: a goddess in red who bore a slender blade. She had dismissed her steed, and now fought on foot amidst a dense press. Those few who could withstand her presence were quickly dispatched by her steel as she danced serenely amongst them.

Instantly, she apprehended him. She leaped the distance between them, and landed before him, the point of her sword poised at his throat. She read his purpose in a heartbeat.

“Greetings, old cat.” Nehael spoke calmly, and lowered her weapon.

“Goddess,” the Ak’Chazar inclined his head politely, backward palms clasped before him. “If agreeable, you will be my liaison with the Uediian Preceptor and the Wyrish Academy. I should like to meet with them. I will offer nine hundred now, for a return of two thousand split into four parts – the largest no more than seven hundred – within one month. I will also require certain guarantees.”

“Is this an admission of my authority, Temenun?” Nehael asked.

“By no means,” the Tiger smiled, baring many fangs. “Merely a recognition of your power, which is considerable. I have issues with any authority which is not my own.”

Nehael sighed. “You’d better behave yourself. And don’t provoke Mostin; he is anxious to obliterate you. As to my prerogative – when I choose to wear black, be assured that you will be the first to know it.”

“It would suit you very well. Will you guarantee the oaths to which we testify?”

“For my enemy, you assume many favors.”

“Yeshe invoked the Goddess; now she is cocooned within Nizkur. I am cautious.”

“That was a different Nehael, to be sure,” Nehael smiled. “Have no doubt that if you betray me then I will spare you the indignity of incarceration.”

“Your compassion is noted.” Temenun spoke wrily.



**


“Had you even noticed that Oronthon’s Ahma is missing?” The Enforcer inquired. She had manifested as a lean, muscular goddess of early middle age. Nwm looked at her curiously; there was something Green protecting her.

“I had not,” Nwm admitted. “Is he safe?”

“He is dead,” Gihaahia smiled wickedly.

“Again?” Ortwine asked. “I did not realize that he and I were in competition.”

“And I did not realize that I had invited you to this audience.” The Enforcer tilted her head.

“I forgive the oversight,” Ortwine smiled benignly.

“You, of course, realize that you will have more than one effluxion to contend with before morning?”

Ortwine glanced sideways at Mostin.

“That would be unfortunate,” Mostin swallowed.

Gihaahia looked at Mostin as though her were simple. “If Kaalaanala is bending all her thought and will here now, necessarily all of her avatars will converge. This is obvious, yes?”

“Yes,” Mostin looked sceptical. “No, not really. What is your involvement here?”

She sighed. “Consider function, Mostin. The First Effluxion – the phaethon which ravagaed Fumaril – is Kaalaanala’s obdurate ire directed toward – at that time, actually mostly the Ahma and Mulissu. Although I suppose also you, for your Tower and your Ú.

“The Second manifested in resonance with the Claviger’s tuning of the Morphic; this dream larva liberated many chthonics in the process. The Claviger has been forced to suppress its action; the avatar is effectively contained within a nightmare prison of the Claviger’s devising.

“The Third Effluxion is a reflex which embodies Kaalaanala’s frustration with the Law of the Injunction and its agent – namely me. You will notice that two of these emanations already chart courses running directly counter to my interests.”

“And the Fourth?” Mostin inquired. “The Embassy?”

“A much more rational manifestation of hatred,” Gihaahia smiled disturbingly. “The Great Dark Fire has assumed the shape of a human – at least a semblance of one; she deigns to enter the World of Men.”

“If this is leading somewhere specific…”

“A great Bhīti may efflux fivefold,” Gihaahia spoke impassively.

“There will be a Fifth?” Nwm groaned. “Why has it not already shown itself?”

“Its form will be contingent upon the stimuli which provoke Kaalaanala,” the Enforcer stared hard at him.

“She is holding an avatar in reserve,” Mostin sighed. “I can’t say I blame her – although I suspect her choice is visceral, not considered.”

“Do you know the form it will take?” Nwm asked.

“Yes,” Gihaahia nodded. “It will be nuanced.”

“You knew there would be a Fifth?” Nwm looked to the Alienist.

“I had my fingers crossed that there might not,” Mostin waved his hand. He turned to the Enforcer. “You have still to reveal your purpose here.”

“I will be going into a brief stasis,” Gihaahia spoke steadily. “I should warn you that any misdemeanors committed against the Injunction will be prosecuted enthusiastically when I reanimate.”

“But…” Daunton opened his mouth for the first time.

Gihaahia silenced him with a glance. “I have yet to devise a suitable penance for your sedition; involving yourself with Shomei’s mischief. Consider yourself on probation. Perhaps I should appoint a new president on my return?”

Tyrant, Daunton thought.

Her eyes flickered at him. He quailed.

“Why the hibernation?” Mostin asked.

“The Claviger needs that which has been lent to me returned to it – for a short while.”

“And who is supposed to uphold the Injunction in the meantime?”

Gihaahia shrugged. “The Academy must police itself. The Articles are clear enough.”

“We will need lawyers,” Daunton groaned. “How awful. Tyranny might be preferable.”

“I am dispensing some advice before I absent myself,” the Enforcer sighed, staring pointedly at the Alienist. “The Embassy will need transvalents to penetrate your spellwarp, Mostin; you can endure her conventional magic – the same is not true of the rest of you; you will all die if she targets you with spells. On the other hand, Mostin, if you attract her attention …”

“Such as by not dying,” Ortwine interjected drily.

“She will single you out…”

“And kill you, Mostin.” Ortwine finished.

“How do you abide this deity’s presence?” Gihaahia inquired of Mostin, glowering at Ortwine.

“I close my ears,” Mostin nodded sagely.

“My advice, regardless, is give all thought to offense.”

“Oh, I already had,” Mostin nodded.

“There is a spell.”

“There is?”

“It is for Nwm; hence I required his presence here.” [Spell]

Mostin scowled. “This is an Enochia. It is also of the two thousand two hundredth order. We don’t have that kind of juice; every reservoir is empty. We might get a twelve hundred with every caster – of every persuasion – participating.”

“And I will not invoke the celestial host,” Nwm said through gritted teeth.

“You could not if you tried,” Gihaahia smiled. “This is to conjure a sunwyrm. Here is the mitigation.” [Formula]

Mostin looked sceptical. “This equation is illegal. You cannot simply cancel those infinities to balance it. And the backlash is preposterous. And where does this nine hundred come from?”

Gihaahia raised an eyebrow. “I make the rules, Mostin. Temenun will approach you with a deal. Accept it.”

“Are you insane? The Cherry’s agenda… ”

Nwm shook his head and nodded in understanding at the same time, his chin describing a figure-of-eight. “Not exactly an agenda. It will amplify his desire, and the Rakshasa is fundamentally lazy and vain; the Tiger wants to be left alone. Personally, I’ll settle for a cat-who-naps.”

“Until a higher paradigm asserts,” Mostin sighed.

“What is this sunwyrm of which you speak? Its provenance?” Nwm asked.

“Mixed. Oronthon. Or Uedii. Or the Aeon emanates many forms. It is new.”

“A new despot?” Ortwine inquired.

“No. It is a herald; sometimes a rearguard. You must provide it with context.”

“A herald for whom?” Ortwine asked.

“The Ahma,” Gihaahia gave a ghastly grin. “You must invite him back, Nwm. The Sun.”

“Exactly how much backlash are we talking, here?”

[This much]

Nwm’s eyes widened. “Even I cannot burn that hot; I am a mortal: I would not withstand it.”

“Your mortality is not relevant,” Gihaahia said dismissively.

“I am but a man.”

Narh is but a horse,” the Enforcer retorted. “Yet superior to most. Am I a goddess? If so, then heed my advice.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Choose a Tree,” the Infernal’s eyes narrowed. “Take refuge in it. You’ve been hedging your bets. It’s time you assumed a position.”

“I cannot align myself with some limited perspective; my purview must be broad.”

“I am talking of practical measures, Nwm, not philosophical commitments. There must be some quality which would be of benefit.”

“There are many.”

“Then choose. Now is your time. What now?”

Nwm sighed. “If one, then durity; the temper of the Ash.”

“Well, of course,” Gihaahia sighed. Her hand suddenly held a slender staff: it appeared as though hewn from a bough of living ash, with silver-grey bark still upon it. It drew Nwm’s mind in; its knots and whorls were harder than adamant.

The Preceptor held up his hands, and shook his head. “I do not own; I cannot accept such a thing.”

She pressed it into his hand. “This is no thing, Nwm. It is the limb of a ludja. And who said anything about ownership?”

His fingers curled around it, and his awareness exploded.

“You must hold something in reserve,” Gihaahia cautioned him. “These rest, not so much; although keeping enough of them alive might prove a challenge in itself.”

Nwm nodded, and gave a the Enforcer a puzzled glance; he knew that the same ludja – at the behest of Uedii’s reflection – had extended its protection to her.

“The ascetic has a magic staff?” Ortwine inquired archly.

Without warning, Nwm struck her rump soundly with it, causing her to exhale sharply and her eyes to widen in indignation.

“No.” The Preceptor replied. “It’s just a stick.”

And so it was. The power was in him now.

“And when you return?” Mostin asked the Enforcer.

“I will resume my former duties. But the Claviger is binding itself to the Aeon; to Pharamne. The Morphic will be Transcendental and will not be overturned. Shomei cannot challenge it.”

“Shomei will find a way.”

“No, Mostin,” Gihaahia sighed. “She will not need to. She remains exempt.”

“And how long is this absence of yours likely to last?”

“As long as it lasts, Mostin.” Abruptly, Gihaahia vanished.

[Nehael]: Daunton. Mostin. Nwm. Temenun wishes to parley. He offers nine hundred – with certain stipulations, naturally.
 
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I was feeling nostalgic for this most excellent story hour and thought I'd give it a bump to give new members a chance to discover it.
 

zootie

Visitor
Just wanted to say Thank You for continuing this story! The Tales of Wyre have become an unintentional epic which I will read to its end or mine, whichever comes first :) The fact that it started from and reflected a D&D game throughout most (all?) of the story makes it a unique and uniquely engaging form of storytelling. The fact that it's spawned an entire philosophical theology (philisophology?) still has my brain reeling at the very idea of such a thing. Nice job on all fronts, and I'll keep an eye out for the movie sextology :D
 

Gwarok

Visitor
Welcome back!

I had almost given up on the dream of seeing an update on the best piece of DND Story Hour of all time. Thanks for coming back Sep! Here's hoping we don't have to wait as long for the next one, but no pressure :)
 

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