Episode Forty Seven - The Machine, The Tree, and the Sacrifice
Episode Forty Seven – The Machine, The Tree, and the Sacrifice (Level 16)
*A tense confrontation takes place on-board the ship, en-route to battle the eitharmos.
*As the Harlequin sails into yet another battle, the heroes are caught up in an argument that threatens to ruin their hard-won fellowship. Darius is furious about the door in his mind. He accuses Tobias of carelessly viewing them as objects, personal property to be treated as he sees fit, without regard for their wishes. Is he manipulating all of them, with varying levels of control? Are any of their feelings for him real, or all products of mind control Tobias learned from Mathis? All those who love you the most are the ones you’ve let into their minds the most! He points out Catzin, exhausted and near death, who came running and nearly got killed again at Tobias’ command. He points out Vash, blinded and shaking, begging Tobias to forgive him, when Tobias is the one who put a door in Vash’s mind. He points to Carmenith, who became so frightened of Tobias after they first met, and how she was nearly fatally wounded in the soul when Mathis forced her to slaughter those guards in Forteth, along with her would-be-rescuer. He’s been in and out of her mind so often, he has made her forget her fear and love him. He made her into a weapon just like Mathis did, and he uses her as a tool, without remorse or regard for her safety. He talks about what Tobias did to the kindly guard Tannonlath, making him slaughter the men under his command. How Darius tried but failed to keep that poor man from killing himself. King Enarran Amraseth, who went mad after Tobias was in his mind with Vash. He mentions all the people Tobias has killed with his “blanket” spells, not all of whom deserved death, like the people in the cathedral, varied angry mobs, or the elves in Niruin. Finally, he turns to Lyda, begging her to look deeply at her own emotions. Does she really love Tobias? Or did he make her love him? Lyda slaps him. Darius is hurt, but he presses on. He turns to Tobias, saying I trusted you. I let you into my mind with the express promise that you would not do anything there. And you betrayed me, By letting Mathis make me into a weapon, you betrayed us all. Look what he made me do to Vash! (He points at the wounds Lyda is healing on Vash’s body.)
*Many of these accusations are very close to Tobias’s innermost and worst fears, and he’s shaken, but he masks it well. Tobias argues that he was completely justified to leave a door in Darius’ mind, a door he never once used, and hoped never to. He points out that he only put one in Vash’s mind to protect them from the murderous Revikoth. Darius proved deceptive from the start, joining them suddenly, stealing the drinking blade to impress them, stealing Tobias’ mirror, taking on any shape and manipulating everyone around him with the practiced ease of a borderline sociopath. He lied about his true reasons for joining, being infected with the Nemelethe. He seemed both to want their friendship and approval, but not to know what to do with it. He had a flair for making enemies and showed a disturbing enjoyment in their pain and final moments. He seemed willing to murder for convenience, or take the shape of whomever he pleased to seduce whomever he pleased. He stole the dreamshard and the pact stone from Always Falling Temple, and endangered them all with both. They saw what happened when the half-breed changelings came onto the ship, taking on forms and making it seem like Darius had tried to seduce Catzin and rape Carmenith. He was proven innocent, but it showed how possible such a scenario could be. Then, when they went into his mind and saw the shattered childhood, the trauma of what happened to his family, his obsession with a dead girl who looked just like Lyda, it seemed entirely possible that Darius could crack and murder them all in their sleep. Who could blame him for putting a door in the mind of one so unbalanced, one who so often dances on the edge of evil?
*Darius brings up what he just saw Tobias doing with the kho-magesh, and asks how Tobias can say that he flirts with evil. The argument rages on, Ichtaca jumping in, very disturbed by what he saw with the kho-magesh. He’s had time to think about the talk in teh palace about Zabir’s death, and he asks Tobias openly if he was involved. That whole sordid story comes to light, and it is difficult for Ichtaca to forgive the murder of a visiting religious dignitary by a member of his “Ixa’hal” with his fate as emperor in the balance. The man deserved death, but no one deserves that death. He thought that Tobias’ manipulations of his friends’ minds were over after the incident with Pashi, and he is shaken to find that these doors exist, remembering something Vash said about it back in Arrochule, after the Pashi incident. Didn’t Vash ask you to remove this door? He asks? Which Tobias reluctantly admits, defending his decision with the threat of Revikoth. What of Mathis? Ichtaca asks. Did he not threaten to dominate you time and time again? Yet we trusted you to defend your own mind. Vash is trying to make piece. He thinks Tobias made a mistake in leaving the door in his mind, but sees it as a well-intentioned and forgivable one. He’s still reeling with emotional conflict,and keeps tripping on things and falling over as he tries to move between his friends, begging them not to fight. Carmenith, upset to see them all fighting, also tries to make peace. Lyda stands with Tobias quietly, and frankly says they don’t have time for this right now.
*Tensions are high, but there is a crisis at hand. Carmenith takes Vash aside, and then the two of them step forward, outlining a bold plan to save the Kithari. Then, Vash asks his friends to try to help him get a prayer to Lord Rhuyem, through the worldfire. With the oncoming conjunction of stars thinning the worlfire, and with the party’s meteor bracers, Vash gets through, asking the god of shadows for power for Vash and for protection for his friends. (Especially Carmenith, for whom this is a deadly risk.)
*Then Tobias lifts Vash and Carmenithup telekinetically, heading back to save the Kithari captives while the others sail on to Maricualatan, to save the city. Ichtaca prays as well, calling on his ancestor Xoco, who appears to him, glowing and spectral. Through her, he conveys a message to the spirit armies gathered around Emperor Icarasla’s tomb. This time, he recruits 5,000 ghost-warriors, who move into position around the Nassa and the disembarking eitharmos troops. Darius tries to patch things up with Lyda, who is furious over what he said about Tobias having forced her to love him. He heads to the front of the ship and begins his painful transformation into a monster.
*Tobias is once again making Vash into the Herald of the Eyes, taking Vash’s fey illusion cantrip and refining it with psionic magic, creating an illusion that seems physically real to the senses, yet resonates in the mind as truthful. He creates the perfect illusion, blending together the energies while Vash shapes the aesthetics, making himself into a beautiful and glorious damon exarch with six great black wings and compelling eyes that seize the attention of mortal men. Tobias and Carmenith appear as lesser daemon heralds, floating in dark glory to either side and below Vash. Vash is flooded with shadow magic from Rhuyem, and adds that of Ulmhasa as well, as Revikoth is not here to possess him at the moment. He channels all of this energy to Tobias. As they approach Cuapetezco hill, Tobias draws on Carmenith’s power as well, the great tree in her soul flooding him with godlike energy, but too much passing through her at once. She’s unconscious, burning within a pillar of light, and there’s no time to stop and help her. Tobias draws Vash’s shadow magic into that light, his illusion making it seem to be a darkness so intense it sears the mind.
*At Cuapetezco hill, Chorrom Viln, Archdeacon Banesal, and Pashmordan of the Illiantri confer, apparently awaiting the arrival of a new Ouleithe and the return of Dythan Mathis. The trio of Daemothite leaders are surrounded by 300 Yaloin priests and 400 Eitharmos, all that remain of Zabir’s 1,000 men. The Kithari are still trapped here, in their barrels. The Herald of the Eyes appears over the hill, compelling adulation with his stunning dark glory. Vash sends rays of “divine fire” down to strike several places on the hill, exploding rocks and trees in a dramatic display of power. Tobias speaks to the men on the hill in a telepathic voice like thunder, needing every ounce of the massive power being fed into him to keep up the illusion and add this new one, and to make both convincing enough to fool a Grandmaster of the Iliantri. It works. The Yaloin and the eitharmos drop to their knees, and the three leaders treat the herald of the eyes with worshipful reverence, as due one of Daemoth’s most powerful exarchs. Using the last of Professor Jennish’s sending stones, Tobias opens a portal atop the hill, using illusion to make it appear a portal into the abyssal throne itself. He demands that the Kithari be sent through, “a fitting gift” for one of his standing with the Winter King. No one else is to pass except the sacrificial prisoners. The terrified Kithari are pushed through in their barrels, appearing in the kitchen of the Callixoco, where a startled Professor Jennish is producing vials of the cure for the Nemelethe. (They later learn that he sent the Kithari all through the sinks and down to the lake.) When the Kithari are all saved, the voice of Daemoth speaks to Banesal and Pashmordan, dismissing them back to the work of their respective orders, and bidding them give due respect and homage to Chorrom Caral Viln, Daemoth’s chosen mouthpiece in Vinramar. To Viln, Daemoth gives a special task. Even now, a new Ouleithe of the Eitharmos arises from the earth beneath Maricualatan. This man does not recognise Viln as Daemoth’s chosen mouthpiece, is disobeying a direct order from Wroth to come to the hill, by delayting to destroy an insignifigant city along the way. An example must be made. He is to bring Mathis’s Yaloin, and the remainder of Zabir’s eithalim, which Daemoth now binds to him as his sworn vassals, and they will make an example of this unbeliever. They will wipe out his thousand men, and send Percellan Ouliethe back to Rhuminos with a message from their god; Chorrom Caral Viln is the chosen of Daemoth.
*Viln, esctatic and beaming with pride, is lifted up to fly under the Herald of the Eyes and his attendant dark angels, with an army of 500 Yaloin and Eithalim trailing behind him in the air, unit by unit. They head for Maricualatan, to join the battle.
*Meanwhile, the invisible Harlequin reaches the warehouse district, over the Nassa and a thousand Eithalim soldiers, moving in organized efficiency, and experienced in the deadly art of destroying a city, down to the last inhabitant. The last troops are forming up, and the first teams are gathered at each street around the great hole in the earth, ready to strike. Ichtaca calls up a great pearl dragon from the lake, leaping onto its back and cracking the whip of Imbakao, with Snowball right beside him. Lyda opens fire with the cannons, and the dragon takes Darius up in her claws, dropping him down from above. He finishes his transformation in the air, taking on the pain-maddened, bestial form of a sixty-foot tall mimmessarch of all mimmessarchs. Ghosts pour in from all around the Eithalim, engaging the ground troops before they can disperse into the city. Master Jenmai and his students Casimir and Mozral leap down through the windows of a warehouse, landing in the midst of Percellan Ouleithe’s men and wreaking havoc with martial arts and psionics. Five Nassa have climbed their way up out of the pit, great bony dragon-demons with hundreds of scything razor-limbs meant to rip apart sacred cities. Darius ploughs into one, skewering himself on it and then tearing it apart with his bare hands. Ichtaca and Snowball leap down from their dragon, Snowball leaping into the throng of startled soldiers, and Ichtaca dodging between the deadly limbs of another Nassa and striking hard with his whip. Each cut slices spirit as well as bone, and he carves the huge creature into pieces. The pearl dragon grapples with another Nassa, taking grievous wounds but searing its demonic foe with radiant breath, and tearing at it with tooth and claw. The cannons bombard from above, and Snowball is inspiring even more terror than the ghosts are among the foe, tearing a line of destruction through group after group.
*Darius rips the body of his Nassa apart, using each half as a weapon, battering aside entire units of men. Then he fixes his multiple eyes on another Nassa, and pounds over the earth to take it up in a crushing embrace, once again pierced through by a dozen spines. He rolls around with it, crushing solders underneath the two leviathons, but bleeding out as well, and coming dangerously close to death. Lyda’s healing magic reaches him from the ship, and he can feel her in his mind. She may be furious with him, but that doesn’t mean she wants him to die. She does care. Ichtaca turns to take on the final Nassa, and the eitharmos army on the ground tries to rally against the threats of the wrestling giants, the ancestor ghosts of the people of this city, the great cat, and the trio of monks.
*Then the Herald of the Eyes appears in glory from above. Tobias and Vash make it look as if the exarch is merely here to witness Viln’s triumph, as the Chorrom seems to flash-burn groups of men with sacred fire (Vash directing great rays of combined energy), and his words “convert” other groups, who turn on their own allies, chanting that Viln is the chosen of Daemoth (Tobias using psionics to strike their minds.) 500 soldiers of the Yaloin and the Eitharmos, now loyal to Viln, land and join the fray, striking at the eitharmos who do not believe in Viln’s sacred calling. Ichtaca’s dragon takes him up again on it’s back, where the newly crowned emperor of the Norlythe can finish off the last Nassa in proper style. The last of the invading ground troops fall under the combined onslaught of so many terrible enemies. Only Percellan Ouleithe is left alive, every man under his charge taken from him as the price for his failure to beleive. He is converted. As Viln makes a spectacular landing and strides over to lecture Percellan, Darius shrieks as his body collapses, contracting down into his true form, then back into his habitual one. He’s come very near death, but he’s alive. The ghosts retreat into the spirit-realm, and the great pearl dragon leaves Ichtaca on the ground and flies back into the lake. The Herald of the Eyes makes one final prophetic announcement to all present in the voice of Daemoth, regarding how they should all heed his chosen mouthpiece Viln until the time of his return. He tells Viln privately that he has done well, that he will not hear from him again until there is true need, and that he should work hard to lead the sects and perhaps improve his Zhoroch before he meets his god in the flesh. He waves his hand, and the bodies of the fallen eitharmos and Nassa roll into the pit in the earth, and the earth fills it up. (More impressive but dangerous use of the two massive energy sources, shadow and psionic.) Then the Herald and his two angels disappear into the invisibility field of the harlequin. Vash, blind, shaking with worry over Carmenith, catches her up in his arms, and clutches her to him while Tobias dives into her mind and soul with Lyda, pulling Carmenith back from the brink of death for the second time in a day. She cannot be awakened, her body is too weak, and will be for days, but her spirit is no longer on fire, and her mind is peacefully wandering a lucid dream Tobias has made for her, at the lake in lost Karfallun. Lyda tries and fails to restore Vash’s eyes.
*The battle is won, the city saved. In the course of two days, the heroes have defended Maricualatan from invading vampire hordes and now, from an eitharmos strike from within. They’ve set an idiot in power over the loose alliance of Daemothite sects, and held him there, which they hope will slow the work of resurrecting Daemoth. They’ve thwarted Mezeliar Wroth’s escape attempt, to his amusement. Darius has killed the murderer of his parents, Anducaid Ylcuroth, though he still has to track down Omechroth Tessamach, whom Anducaid served. Dythan Mathis is dead, his spirit trapped in the Kho-Magesh along with the slain Jodram Zabir Ouleithe. Ichtaca has been crowned emperor of the Norlythe, and in the first few hours of his reign, has averted war with Trentsmund, made staunch allies of Trentsmund’s King Halden Thandemar and Chayrshellech’s King Tolebesh Buthe, slain Duke-Regent Alben Bergeth, and banished his traitorous brother. Vash may be blind, but he’s free of Revikoth Kavan, at least for now. The cure for the Nemelethe is in full production, and the Kithari are saved. It’s a triumphant moment for the group, and most of them find themselves forgiving each other, notably Ichtaca forgiving Tobias. Darius is still burning with anger over the door in his mind, but for now, the party sets aside contention to heal their wounds and rest. They have twelve hours until midnight, when the lesser conjunction of stars will open a starlight passage through the worldfire and light up the contested stone of Cuaptezco hill. Senfaer is coming for the tree in Carmenith’s soul.
*Twelve hours pass. Ichtaca goes to spend a few hours with his new bride Izel, who still wants to be courted and to fall in love before they try for an heir. Then he finds his other new bride Lali, who is already very much in love with him and ready to start their honeymoon. He happily obliges her, even catching a few hours of sleep before it’s time to go. Tobias and Lyda tend to Carmenith, helping poor battered Vash to get to sleep next to her. Then Tobias links those two in a lucid dream, while Lyda heals both of them as best as she can. Tobias and Lyda then share a romantic moment, then go off together to his room on the Harlequin, arms around each other, not to be seen again for 12 hours. Darius visits Carmenith, kisses her forehead, worried for her, wanting to talk to someone, but unable to wake her. He visits Catzin, who is still recovering from her return from death. He again insists that she drink his blood, and again things are awkward between them; a growing, unspoken tension between them that Darius is emotionally unable to recognise, much less face. He’s still fixated on Lyda and obsessed with what he sees as his inability to feel certain emotions. Catzin has been hurt in the past, and sees herself as a monster unworthy of love. She makes no slightest hint of a move this time, hiding the pain of it. She offers to travel with Darius, to help him find his father. He gently refuses, saying he has to do this alone, and then leaves. Darius goes to speak with Lyda, but finds her busy with Tobias. He doesn’t interrupt, just paces a while in the hall, then goes off alone to grapple with his issues. Eventually, he is able to sleep. Jennish and Chama are still working on the cure, and the city is quiet and somber. The promised celebration will come soon enough. For now, they bury their dead, treat their wounded, finish burning the hordes of vampire bodies, and mourn their lost Emperor.
*Ichtaca, Snowball, Tobias, Darius, Catzin, and Lyda arrive on the hill at midnight. Vash stands with them, blind and stubbornly determined to protect the still unconscious Carmenith in his arms, even if it means defying a god. Master Jenmai and his two apprentices have come as well, hoping to help, and hoping to see their god. Tobias has brought Kazhma, the obsidian woman still dazed and vacant-eyed, but clinging to him to “give him the love.”. Wroth’s throne-room bulge is still visible nearby, but drifting away in the currents of the wordfire. The starlight of the fateful constellations grows, burning a shaft through the worldfire, and a spill of fate-twisting light spotlights the hilltop. Senfaer arrives, accompanied by several other divine personages. The Traveler, Captain Sadhai Thibault and his wife, the Goddess Iala, greet the heroes warmly, Iala embracing and kissing them one by one. Their two children, Idrys and Inaya, psionic exarchs of Senfaer, are engaged in battle just above the shaft of starlight, they inform the heroes. Aberrant monsters are swarming there, trying to ride the starlight down into Vinramar. Ruethas follows Senfaer down, bringing with him a huge, complicated machine. It’s a complex construction of moving parts, with fluid bubbling and pumping through delicate alchemical equipment, gears moving in tandem or against each other in confusing clockwork design, pistons sliding up and down, steam bursting out of varied apertures, and arcane symbols glowing and fading along metal plates, or spiraling along parts of the machine.
*Master Jenmai and the others of the Silver hand confer with Senfaer while Ruethas works on fine-tuning his machine, giving the mortal heroes some time to converse with Iala and The Traveler while they wait to find out how Senfaer intends to remove Carmenith’s tree.
*Iala heals Vash’s eyes, and Carmenith as well, so that the Jhareth woman wakes, and can stand on her own. The issue of the tree remains, however. Iala secretly gives Vash a seed, telling him he must convince Carmenith to swallow it. That it will do two things. First it will “contaminate” the energy of Carmenith’s soul, and a bit of the psionic “tree” all around it, with divine magic. Senfaer’s spell will automatically shut down when it reaches this “contamination”, saving her soul from being drawn up and destroyed, a risk of Senfaer’s spell. Secondly, if the spell kills her, it will resurrect her. Iala can’t give it to her directly, as the goddess of innocent purity, she’s no good at lying. It must be a secret because Carmenith’s mind will be open to Senfaer and the machine during the ritual, and this corruption will annoy him. Of course he’ll find out, but Iala winks and assures Vash she can handle Senfaer. Better to ask forgiveness than permission. Vash takes Carmenith aside and they share a tender moment. She swallows the seed thinking it’s a pill for the pain the machine may cause.
*Darius speaks with Iala about his fledgeling spirit, a graft from Catzin. Iala examines him, and is pleased with how well it’s “taken.” She’s surprised with how completely his otherworldly nature is integrating with a spirit made of material from her creation, and tells him that apparently his soul is as mutable as his body. By focusing on and strengthening his strange link with Catzin, he’s helping make the new spirit blend with his soul, so he should keep it up. She tells him she hasn’t found his memories yet, or those of Vash’s mother, but she’s still looking, whenever there’s a lull in the war over Morvugol. Then the model of all earthly female beauty gives him an affectionately innocent kiss on the cheek, and only the glare of her husband keeps this particularly opportunistic admirer of female beauty from catching it on the mouth instead.
*Catzin speaks with Sadhai, about Hathas and the shadows, who wish to remain with her and Vash. She also wishes to remain, though duty might require her to come with him back to Morvugol. Sadhai kindly agrees to take her report on Vash to Olumarsilein and Rhuyem in their place, and to pass on a message that he’s asked her (and they) to keep an eye on things here in Vinramar for now, and to gather useful information for when the worldfire someday is “solved”, as Ichtaca puts it.
*Ichtaca reminisces with Sadhai about their shared battle in Forteth, and tells him of his rise to the throne of the Norlythe. Sadhai tells him this is his homeland, and charges him to take good care of it. Ichtaca also briefly speaks with Iala, thanking her again for her help, and telling her briefly of their dealings with her people, the Kithari. She blesses his Kithari amulet anew, and kisses each of the companions on the forehead anew as well, renewing their divine boons of favor and protection from her, and granting it to the other mortals here as well.
*Lyda chats with Iala, who is terribly impressed with Lyda’s healing skills, and has some new advice for her on how to help with Tobias’ degenerative condition. The two draw Carmenith into their conversation, and it’s obvious that Iala has still been watching them all as she can, feeling quite affectionate towards the group of mortal heroes she has blessed.
*Finally, Tobias confers with Iala and Sadhai about Kazhma. If she goes with Iala, the compassionate goddess can give her the best chance of working out her issues in an environment where she won’t accidentally kill innocents. Away from Daemoth’s influence, as the god’s followers are trying to resurrect him here, in Vinramar, below the worldfire. Sadhai can help her work out her aggression on aberrant life in the battlefield, and Rhuyem has the means to destroy her if she falls to evil. It’s difficult for Tobias to do this; he’s come to love his “daughter,” and wants her to be happy. Iala promises to take care of her. Kazhma is introduced to her, and immediately tries to kill her, but is conflicted and sorry at once. Sadhai intervenes without hurting Kazhma, and Iala calmly heals the hand-hole through her abdomen, not blaming the embodied sword. Then Tobias bids Kazhma a tearful farewell, explaining where she must go and why. Kazhma obediently says farewell to each of her companions, but screams and weeps and calls out pitifully to her father when Iala takes her up the shaft of starlight, away from Tobias for what may be longer than his mortal life. The worldfire separates them now.
*It’s time to start the ritual. Ruethas explains that he as built this machine as a “spell engine”, a device designed to cast rituals, with his specific goals in mind, as the god of memory. He’s spent much of his immortal life trying to understand the plane of memory. He’s constructed a ritual that can scan the spirits of all life on Vinramar, then try to track the way the plane of memories records their memories as they die. His machine needs a huge power source, and Carmenith’s tree will do nicely for now. His machine can cast two other consecutive rituals at the same time, Senfaer’s, and one Ruethas has designed at Iala’s request, to aid the heros. Senfaer explains that using Carmenith as the power source for the spell will “light up” the great tree, clearly defining it, allowing his spell to better do what it is designed to do; cut it out surgically from Carmenith’s soul. Of course, there is a chance that this will kill Carmenith, but the risk must be taken. Senfaer needs his investment of power back. With it, he thinks he can stop the stars from falling, and reinforce the line a ways back from the current battlefield in Morvugol. The third spell, Ruethas explains, will wipe the memories of various people or groups around Vinramar, specifically speaking, the memories of this particular group of mortal adventurers. They will still remember events, but their minds will sort of skip over the heroes who made enemies of them. The Daemothite sects, for example, all but a few of the most strongly-willed of them. The heroes reluctantly agree, worried for Carmenith, but Ruethas assures them that the additional spell makes no difference to her risk level. Once running Senfaer’s spell, the other two run without putting extra strain on the machine’s “power source”. It’s Senfaer’s spell that might kill her.
*There is a platform on the machine for Carmenith to stand on, holding onto handles that connect her soul to the machine, and a seat one for Tobias, whom Ruethas calls “her creator”, to sit in. The ritual will require use of his mind, and he can help guide it smoothly. Senfaer says that each of the heroes who gave Carmenith a piece of their soul in the transfusion can help, by holding her up and concentrating on the piece of soul they gave her, helping her keep her soul separate from the tree. Lyda can help too, Senfaer tells her, effectively giving Carmenith a soul transfusion here and now. Ruethas interrupts to say that Vash is the exception. His soul was marked as tainted when he was cast out of the fey heavens and sent to Morvugol to wander before his rebirth as a drow. To complcate things, he’s still connected to Revikoth, but they are somehow two separate spirits now, sharing one soul and pool of shadow power. Fascinating as this is to Ruethas, it boils down to this; Vash cannot touch Carmenith or the machine at all once the ritual starts. Senfaer’s spell is geared to protect the purity of the psionic tree, and the machine is currently geared to use Carmenith’s soul as a power source. The spell would sense the taint, and try to shut down the machine prematurely, cutting off Senfaer’s ritual too soon, and possibly breaking the machine in the process. The machine, meanwhile, would mis-read Vash’s double soul as a more desirable power source, and would latch onto it instead, drawing Revikoth in as well, destroying them both, every element of being, and leaving Vash’s body an empty shell, beyond any hope of resurrection. The message; don’t touch the machine or the girl, or you’ll ruin the spells, break the machine, and be utterly, irrevocably destroyed.
*Tobias and Carmenith get into place, and once the rituals begin on the machine, neither can disengage without someone else’s help. Carmenith’s silver tree begins to form in the air, humming with energy, shining and beautiful in the starlight. Senfaer and Ruethas are supervising, but fates are aligning with the conjunction of stars, and things don’t always go according to plan in starlight cast by such a manifestation of fate. Sadhai looks up in alarm, then leaves, sayiing that the aberrant attacks above are intensifying, and he is needed to defend the top of the starlight tunnel. Senfaer is called up as well, and then Ruethas. The heathfolk god hurriedly tells the mortals not to worry, that the machine and the tree will pass safely to him through the worldfire and the dreamscape, drawn up by a rune of passage he has just attached to either, and safe from the dangerous minds in the dreamscape because neither is a sentient being. He warns them that Carmenith and Tobias must get off the machine within one minute of it shutting off, or they will be carried away as well, and suffocate in the upper atmosphere before they even reach the worldfire, or the dreamscape. Then Ruethas leaves to join the defense, and the spell-engine, mostly on automatic, is left to Tobias, unable to disconnect his mind or body from it until the three spells end. Vash paces as the other friends take turns supporting Carmenith. Then all hell begins to break loose.
*The starlight from above blazes as the final star of fate slides into optimal position. The starborn are not here to be lifted up and consumed in the rapture of the Unspeakable, but that fate-soaked starlight affects the heroes and the machine. Any pieces left on the board will move, and the first is Quotal Bolaq.
*Quotal, exiled and furious, attacks with an army of about 300 loyalists, and a spirit-elder lion priest, all who support his desperate coup attempt. They race up the switch-backs. At the same moment, from the starlight tunnel through the worldfire, a glassy, jellyfish like aberration drifts down to attack the heroes, having slipped through the defenses of what is surely a desperate and ill-fated battle up above. The machine malfunctions, a bottle cracking and leaking glowing fluid, two pistons cranking out of sinc, and a gear flying off. Tobias is forced to bring all his concentration to bear to “manually” keep the spell engine on target, executing the three rituals. Lyda and Catzin take turns supporting Carmenith and firing into the battle, while Vash faces off with the aberration, Ichtaca faces off with his brother Quotal, Snowball guarding his flank from Quotal’s men, and Darius, Jenmai, Casimir, Mozral keep Quotal’s forces off the machine.
*Fate continues to align, helping and hindering the battle with random errors and misfires, or staggering coincidences. Stray arrows and the mis-fired spells of the lion priest hit the machine, and Tobias is injured, but keeps going, fighting against malfunctions now made worse. Ichtaca finds himself in a desperate struggle against Quotal, who has a lion priest to bolster him, casting spell after spell to strengthen him and weaken Ichtaca. Darius runs to take out the priest, striking him with the ring of stolen memories and trying to convince him that he is actually on their side. In a magical misfire, the ring affects them both, and Darius and the Lion priest stand in the middle of a raging battle for minutes, staring at each other and debating who they are and why the heck they are here, fighting each other. Ichtaca looks vaguely familiar, and they are standing together near him, so they decide they must be friends here together on Ichtaca’s side, and join back in the fight. Ichtaca, meanwhile, is wounded but battles on, finally slaying his traitorous brother, and brining justice to all the innocent blood on Quotal’s hands. He shouts, reminding Darius of who he is, and then he and Snowball charge off to help Master Jenmai and the apprentice monks. Darius shakes his head, and, seeing that Casimir has been injured, tell the lion priest to to and help the monks, too. Master Jenmai orders Mozral off the field of battle, carrying Casimir with him, which saves both their lives as the battle gets intense around him and Ichtaca. Darius takes on the shape of the great beast again, driving the traitors before his fury, then turning to help Vash take on the huge aberrant monster. One leviathan attacks another, and an ill-timed blast of aberrant magic from the jellyfish strikes the machine.
*There’s a small explosion, and twisted metal drives through Tobias’ body, pinning him to the machine and coming very close to killing him. The battle has spread apart its combatants, and the machine is going haywire. The heroes can see that the broken machine is now killing both Carmenith and Tobias, fueling the three spells by devouring every element of their being. Catzin is struggling to get Carmenith off the machine, and Lyda the same with Tobias, but both are trapped, screaming, arched back in pain, as the triple spells devour them. Sefaer’s spell has reached the “divine corruption” in Carmenith’s soul, but the broken machine won’t let it shut down. Darius is still entangled with the great beast, and Jenmai is reeling from a grave wound. Ichtaca is running for the machine, but is too far away. Only Vash is close enough to get there in time. He knows what to do. If he touches the machine or Carmenith, it will shut down the spell prematurely, break the machine, and devour him instead of Tobias and Carmenith. He tries to help Lyda get Tobias free without touching the machine, but it’s useless, it’s all she can do to keep Tobias alive with all that metal through him. Vash yells back to Ichtaca to help her. He calls out to Tobias through the bracers, asking him to take care of Carmenith for him. Then he faces the machine. “Either one of them is worth ten of me.” He mutters, reaching hte platform. Then he screams out” Want a soul?” He leaps onto the machine. “Take both of mine!” He takes Carmenith in a last embrace and kiss, and lets the machine take him instead.
*Ichtaca, running and screaming a denial of what’s happening, has the clearest view of Vash’s death. His life is sucked out of him, and he screams in agony, arching back, but refusing to release Carmenith, or the handle of the machine he’s grabbed. Carmenith comes out of her haze of agony in time to see the life fade from his eyes, feel the strength leave his body, and then the self proclaimed ‘last beautiful drow’ is dead. She’s reeling, dying herself, and Catzin has to carry her off the machine.
*Ichtaca rips Tobias from the machine barely in time, and Lyda has to explain to him what has just happened while she struggles to repair the awful damage. Catzin pushes Vash’s body off the machine, dragging Carmenith free seconds before both the machine and the tree float up into the air, vanishing before they reach the worldfire. Carmenith dies
*Quotal and the monster are slain, the tree gone, and very few of their enemies still remember they exist. (Chorrom Viln is one, not technically being an enemy, and those sworn to Viln also remember.) But Vash lies dead, Tobias is bleeding out, every element of him damaged, and Carmenith is dying, also damaged in every element by the misfiring ritual, but weaker to begin with. The the tree tore free of her in the end, leaving some pieces behind, but also tearing out a huge chunk of her soul with it. Carmenith touches Lyda as she’s trying to heal Tobias, forcing Lyda to draw on what little remains of the tree. Tobias is made whole, and only just beginning to understand what Vash just did for him. Or Carmenith. Tobias didn’t see it clearly, he was locked in a haze of agony, and Vash’s shouted last words didn’t make sense until now. Darius struggles to return to his normal shape, taking on trentsmunder form in time to hold Carmenith as she dies. Then, Carmenith’s body lurches, and a smaller version of her silver tree grows up out of it, until nothing is left of her but the tree. A heavy bud opens, and Darius runs to catch her as she falls naked from it, shivering, resurrected as per Iala’s promise to Vash, but wailing with grief. She tries to revive Vash, and Darius has to pull her away and hold her, wrapping her in his cloak and keeping her from harming herself in her frenzy. Ichtaca arranges Vash’s body, unable to speak, using his spirit vision to confirm that every element is destroyed.
*The friends grieve together on the hill, all past animositiy between them set aside for now, in this moment of loss and misery. When they return to the ship, Ichtaca finds that Vash has left another of his notes for him, a joke that Vash repeated often, finding Ichtaca’s reactions priceless. This time, it’s a will. Vash also left a note that indicated he had a feeling things might go badly on that hill. That he would not permit Senfaer to harm Carmenith, even if it cost his life to defy the god. He distributed his items amongst the party, and left a few words for Ichtaca to “read” to each of them. He left his money to Carmenith, and a ridiculously bad love poem for Lyda. He also left instructions for his young shadows to go with Hathas and to obey Catzin, she would guide them.
*Sorrowing, Ichtaca finishes his coronation, and the week of mourning and celebration stretches into two, and then three. He names Cuapetezco hill after Vash, lets the monks of the silver hand build a shrine around the silver tree there, and a temple in the caves below it.
*Losoran and Inalenderil greive over Vash, staying for the three weeks of mourning and celebration before they leave with Master Jenmai and his apprentices to take care of King Enarran Amraseth, Tuoch’s goodbye is characteristically disturbing and uncaring of that fact, but he’s grateful to Tobias for the second chance he’s enjoying, and deeply saddened by the loss of Vash, to whom he feels a special bond.
*Lyda helps baby Farrendur to painlessly make his first transition as a changeling, which normally would occur in puberty, and be terribly painful. Instead, as an infant, he is painlessly assisted into a shape matching the eladrin half of his body, and resembling the body Darius wore when he conceived the child. Both Vash’s brother Lumithan and Darius’s son Farrendur go with Inalenderil as her wards, taking on her maiden name as their surname; Gahnalende.
*Darius briefly bids farewell to each of his companions, staying only long enough for Vash’s funeral and the rest of Ichtaca’s coronation. Then he leaves, claiming no desire to see Tobias and Lyda’s marry.
*In Athelshoth, a few weeks later, Tobias and Lyda are married, with most of their friends there to celebrate with them. Even Darius is there, despite what he said, in disguised and watching sorrowfully as Lyda marries another man.
*Gallister’s dreamshard went with Iala, and Jennish makes muffling shrouds for Tobias to wrap the kho-magesh and winter cup each separately in, then a sheilded safe to lock them inside. Tobias keeps Wroth’s “bill” there separately, an ever-shifting tally of what is owed, counted in Kithari souls. Kazhma’s starscape, he sets up in the university, constructing a special sphere for it, with a platform in the center for viewers to interact with the magic item, under his close supervision.
*The Harlequin and crew begin a world tour to distribute the cure for the Nemelethe, aided financially by Emperor Ichtaca and Losoran Anelathem, who marries Queen Inalenderil after Enarran Amraseth is “retired” and legally dead. Chamanaltia sails with the ship, or lives in a “cure garden” in Maricualatan, and often visits Professor Jennish.
Carmenith goes to live near Tobias and Lyda, quiet and unable to accept the attentions of any new suitors. She discovers that the goddess Iala’s seed left her with divine powers, mingled with the psionic remnants of the tree. She begins to study healing at the university, as Tobias’ protegee, but with Jennish and Lyda aiding in figuring out how her magic works.
*Catzin visits Athelshoth often to see those settled there, but is also often in Maricualatan, taking jobs for Ichtaca, many of which involve obstructing the Daemothite sects. She takes jobs farther and farther from the area however, as no one hears from Darius. Carmenith suspects that Catzin believes the Starborn have killed him, and that she is searching for him, or his killer.
*At the next conference of Scholars, all of the surviving heroes are invited to speak, as well as many of the people they met along their epic journey to cure the Nemelethe.
*Ichtaca and Tobias have both settled down, each starting families and having children with the love (or loves) of their respective lives. Darius travels the world, going deeper and deeper undercover, tracking through the disconnected Starborn cells, trying to find his father. He keeps tabs on his old friends, sometimes visiting to check in on them, but from afar; he never reveals himself or contacts them. He rarely wears the meteor bracer. Telling himself he’s only following up on the goddess Iala’s council on how to care for his spirit, he often tracks down Catzin and follows Catzin her on missions, keeping her safe, but never letting her know he is there.
*The worldfire closes tight over Vinramar, cutting off the gods from their followers here, but greatly reducing the aberrant attacks in mountainous regions. All magical gates leading off of Vinramar, including the shadow-crossings and the feywild gates, cease to function, although the ones leading to different places in and dimension of of Vinramar still work. No more stars fall, presumably because Senfaer took the tree and was able to stop the starfalls. Aberrant attacks at sea and along the shoreline increase slowly, but the next ten years are a time of relative peace.
*Vash’s worldly goods
*Tree on Cuapetezco hill
*Carmenith gains divine / psionic healing powers of an entirely new power class no one really understands yet.
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