Episode Forty Six - Starlight Showdowns
Episode Forty Six – Starlight Showdowns (Level 16)
*Darius splits off from Ichtaca (see previous email), taking on the Starborn in the hidden cave. He’s passed through a runic transport and arrived on Cuapetezco hill, where he is surrounded and seized by starborn. He terrifies the remaining three of this “hand” of half-breed changelings, and they scramble to finish their ritual in response. A searing green column of light lances up to strike the bulge in the worldfire, and Anducaid Ylcuroth begins to descend down it, naked, veiny skin pulsing, and blazing with stolen spirit magic converted in to arcane runefire. Darius tries something he’s never done before; combining the dna of many creatures at once (mimmessarchs from Always Falling or from the Yaloin) and turning into a monster. He swells to the size of a giant, his body aberrant and hideous, his claws, wings, beaks, spines, mouths, teeth and tentacles deadly. He turns on his starborn captors, a lethal rampage of brute fury unleashed on the 350 starborn gathered to be taken up to the Unspeakable.
*Ichtaca stealthily approaches the cliff-side switch-backs leading up to Icarasla’s tomb, hiding in the forest with his small task force of 15 men, plus King Halden, King Tolebesh, and Prince Choler. There are more than 300 soldiers here, and they are sorely outnumbered. Sneaking through the trees to a place where the veil between the worlds is thin, Ichtaca summons his spirit magic, passing into the high realm alone. The spirits of his ancestors are being caught up in sticky, weblike strands of green magic, and hauled into the tomb to be destroyed; energy to feed the starborn spell Darius told him about. He’s furious. He sees warrior-spirits under the command of great military leaders, including his grandmother, Empress Xoco. Her men are herding civilians away from the area, or trying to counter the starborn spell (unsuccessfully) with primal magic. Their spells only feed into the energy-hungry ritual. Icthaca tries to rally an army of spirits to come with him, but fails to impress most of the warlords present that his task is more urgent than theirs. Empress Xoco speaks to them on his behalf, hand picking a few units and convincing them that he ritual must be stopped from the mortal side. When Ichtaca steps back through the veil into the material realm, his legendary grandparents, Xoco and Icarasla, along with a hundred other spirit warriors, step through with him.
*Ichtaca’s strike team moves fast up the switchbacks, striking the Duke’s men hard, with spirits streaming around them and aiding with spirit-magic and ghostly attacks. The superstitious men have been here for weeks, growingly spooked by the whispering voices of the spirits many of them have been hearing. Lately, for reasons the Trentsmunders here don’t understand, those voices have been screaming. Seeing the furious barbarian charge up the path with the King they are betraying, the King of Chayrshellech, and a small army of ghosts, many of the soldiers panic and try to run, but the path is narrow, with a deadly fall on one side. There’s no where to run, so most turn and fight like cornered animals. They’re spread out along the switch-backs, and they can’t withstand Icthaca’s hand-picked team in melee. A disciplined few units line up along the higher ridges of the path, picking the oncoming heroes off with sniper fire, and the ghosts fly up to meet that threat. Most of the mortal heroes are injured, and seven of Ictaca’s norlythin Ixa’hal fall before the group reaches the mouth of the cave, and Icarasla’s tomb. They encounter a tied-up pair of norlythin spirit elders on the way, being held to witness the desecration of sacred things. Ichtaca manages it so King Halden Thandemar is the one who looks the hero in saving those men, then, after Halden apologizes personally to them Ichtaca personally asks them, as their emperor, not to spread tales that will lead to war.
*Ichtaca’s mortal and immortal team spread out through the caves of the tomb-museum, wiping out the last of Duke Bergeth’s band of loyalists. The duke is cornered in the room of carved history, which his men have sacrilegiously converted into a meat locker. There, Ichtaca confronts him about the ritual going on, harvesting the souls of the dead, and feeding off of the life energy of the Trentsmunder interlopers. The duke fears and loathes magic, and has no idea what Ichtaca is talking about. He attacks the newly-crowned emperor, and Ichtaca takes off his head with one effortless swing of his axe. It’s an ignominious death. Spirit energy is whispering into this room and through the wall, and Snowball is sitting by that spot, expectantly waiting her human to open the secret door. Ichtaca orders his men to secure the area and recover the artifacts, and young King Halden offers to personally help carry back every precious historical and religious relic into the caves, an act of penance on behalf of his countrymen that impresses the two spirit-elders greatly. The spirits return their realm, and Ichtaca easily finds the right animal carving to press to open the secret door.
*He and Snowball race up the hidden stairwell, and find the pillar of green light, rising up to the sky through a natural skylight in the limestone. Arcane glyphs and constellations spiral around the room in interlocking, counter-spinning circles of runefire. Ichtaca can see the spirits of the dead being reeled in and hungrily devoured by the spell. He erupts in spirit-magic, great energy-vines rising up all around him to seize flying runes and stars, disrupting the warlock’s spell. As he smashes the pedestal-altar and tears the runefire constructs apart, he sees that only this side of the ritual will be destroyed, the green column of light leads up into the sky, to a sister location also part of the evil magic. He and Snowball leap into the pillar of light, and are both transformed into runefire characters of green-blue light. The part of the ritual behind them unravels as they ride the last wave of it’s magic, arriving on Cuapetezco hill, right in the middle of the three starborn half-breed changelings, and below the descending Anducaid Ylcuroth. Anducaid is soaking up stolen spirit life-magic, and converting into arcane spellfire, shooting green rays of light as he descends. His pact stone is now embedded into his chest, and the “W” pupil of the Unspeakable blinks there, the size of an infant. The three chanting warlocks struggle to keep up the spell, but Ichtaca rips into their magic here as well, able to completely destroy the spell from this end, with spirit vines snatching characters and constellations of light from the air, tearing apart the spinning rune-circles, while he and Snowball cut down the spellcasters with axe and claw.
*Darius is still sixty feet tall, a gruesome juggernaut made up of mutated elements of several dozen Yáloin mimmessarchs. He’s descended into a feral, almost animalistic intelligence, his mind full of pain and fuyr, and no longer capable of speech or rational thought; only destruction. Once his slaughter on the hill is done, he turns to see Ichtaca and Snowball striking down the hand. He still knows friend from foe, and runs to help, but Ichtaca sees only a horrific monster pounding over the rocky ground to devour him. Ichtaca and Snowball leave the last warlock to Darius and make a run for it, Darius crushes the last spellcaster and chases after them, closing ground fast and snatching the struggling pair up in his huge, twisted hands. While he futilely tries to speak to Ichtaca, Anducaid’s energising light elevator dissipates with the death of his last minion. He’s two-thirds of the way down from the worldfire, still far up in the sky. He releases a wave of stolen spirit-energy, and the Unspeakable Eye covering his chest crackles with mad star-magic. Three stars fall, blazing with light, crashing down around the hill. Anducaid siphons them as he plummets, becoming like a blazing meteor himself, cushioning his impact with the hill with layer after layer of arcane and primal magic. He hits the forest with a shockwave that fells trees, making a large impact crater near where Darius is trying to communicate.
*A huge, revolting, gore-spattered monster holds Ichtaca and Snowball near his face, staring at the Norlythin Emperor with too many misshapen eyes, trying to speak with clacking and keening, or grating, harsh cries. When he took on this form, his meteor bracers did not grow with him, and Ichtaca can feel their soft directional tug, telling him that Darius is alive, but somewhere deep within this creature’s loathesome body. He demands the return of his friend, and Darius struggles to keep his mind focused, finally communicating who he is before Ichtaca tries to cut the monster open to retrieve his friend.
*Anducaid, meanwhile, rises up from the crater, his body naked and glowing, his veins swollen, his body covered in partially healed wounds from his ordeal with Wroth, but not seeming weakened at all by his months of torture. He is infused with all the magic of the starborn spell, and with the essences of thousands of destroyed spirits. He approaches the heroes, and Darius sets Ichtaca and Snowball down, crying out in agony as he forces his body to contract and regress back to his true form. He changes again, into his Trentsmunder body, Lord Darius Kang, Baronet, the spitting image of his adoptive father, and confronts Anducaid.
*Anducaid is exhultant to be freed, and gleeful to finally have his chance to avenge himself on Darius for giving him to Wroth. He freely confesses that he is the “purfyer”, the right hand man to Omechroth Tessamach, who fell from the stars. It is a neccessary task, as every fifteen years or so, a cell of starborn either go mad or worse, develop delusions of grandeur and seek to overthrow their mysterious leader. He shrugs. It’s a risk of communing with and drawing power from the Unspeakable, a godlike outsider too magnificently aberrant for mortal minds to truly grasp. He claims that Omechroth knew of all his dealings with the “hands” of changelings, and that turning groups against each other is all part of the way Omechroth controls the Starborn organization as a whole. He refuses to reveal any useful information about Omechroth himself, and says not even he knows where the Otherworlder is. Only the Unspeakable Knows that.
*Anducaid taunts Darius with the gruesome, intimate details of how he murdered his family and lover all those years ago in Trentsmund, bragging about how perfectly executed the ritual was, and how their souls flew straight through the worldfire to the Unspeakable itself. A blissfully undeserved happy ending for a group of traitors and their households, is it not? He doesn’t know how he missed Darius in the excitement, complimenting the changeling on how cleverly he hid himself. Finding a true child of the fall would have been quite a prize; Omechroth has been seeking one like him, perhaps Darius specifically, for nearly a century. Anducaid offers to take him to his father now, if he will set aside the past and join him. Darius refuses, demanding to know how Anducaid knows so much about him and his friends, how he learned of him in the first place, and how, if the mighty warlock-assassin missed his existence on that murderous night, does he now know the details of how Darius hid himself?
*Anducaid laughs at that. When Darius stole the starborn pact-stone from Always Falling temple’s storeroom, he stole a spying device, literally made from one of the eyes of an otherworldy godling, like the much larger one blinking at them now from Anducaid’s chest. The unspeakable had a prime view of Darius’ activities, his thoughts, and even his dreams during that time, every private moment, until the pact stone was finally destroyed in Morvugol months later. An echo of the Unspeakable was with them in Darius’ mind. It was there in the plane of memories. Darius spoke to it, tapping into its power when he helped them escape Volgothyde’s dreaming mind, then breaking his deal with it, a debt yet to be collected. That scrying echo came with them into Morvugol even as Catzin brought their bodies and possessions (including the physical pact stone) to meet them at the temple behind vampire lines, and died defending them. It contributed to the body-switch, angry at being used and betrayed. It saw the confrontation with the vampires there. It saw Darius revive Catzin. It saw them fight and flee the vampires, and meet with Olumarsilein, and then the pact stone was destroyed, and the Unspeakable no longer sent visions to his faithful servant, Anducaid, held prisoner by its enemy, Mezeliar Wroth. Anducaid laughs at how fate has brought them together again. He was working with his friend Professor Jennish, helping build the ship, all part of his convenient alter ego as a brilliant professor in Chayrshellech. When Darius took up the pact stone, Anducaid was already about to meet him. He set one of his loyal hands of changelings against Darius and his friends to test their skills. Then Darius gave him to Wroth, and he had to rely on the Unspeakable’s visions to sustain him.
*With the lesser fell conjunction of stars just beginning to be visible overhead; that fate-drenched starlight nearly done burning a tunnel through the worldfire, the hill is flooded in eerie light as well as blood, even in the waning daylight. Anducaid phases through time as he talks and paces around the trio, blinking out and reappearing, letting off great lances of deadening green light, apparently just to intimidate them with how impossible it will be to defeat him. When Darius defies him, he writes “fool” on Darius’ arm during one of these blink-outs, the words appearing as if by magic. He could kill them at any moment, and they know it, but they draw him out in conversation, trying to discover a weakness, any weakness they can use against a man with such a godlike power. They can hear the Unspeakable’s aberrant, wrenching whispering in the backs of their minds.
*Then, Ichtaca, with his spirit-sight, notices something Anducaid has not. Mezeliar Wroth, a lover of games within games, and games with rules, if only so he can twist them. He has allowed his enemy to “win” by escaping, but he has sent his hair tendrils with him. Anducaid’s body is filled with ultra-fine, hair-like fibers, packed into him so tightly that his body is little more than a shell full to bursting. He and the Unspeakable seem numb to the effect, and ignorant to the likely fact that Wroth was delighted to see him escape. Wroth’s chance to sacrifice Anducaid dramatically just to give the Unspeakable an annoying, minor wound is lost, but now he gets to watch as Anducaid struts around and demonstrates his superiority over three far lesser mortals. Three lesser mortals who now know his weakness. Anducaid is showily displaying his godlike magic. When he gathers in great draughts of starlight and mixes it with stolen spirit magic, it resonates in the tendrils crammed inside him. If they can strike him with magical weapons, right before he unleashes a spell, he will split like a rotten fruit. Darius and Ichtaca both have weaponry enchanted by their friend Jennish. Darius’ fury is rising with Anducaid’s every tormenting, arrogant word, but he listens as Ichtaca tells him their new plan (telepathically, through the bracers.)
*Anducaid builds up to his final arrogant taunt. He knows Darius can’t remember his lost love’s name, and asks him if he wants to know it; if he wants to know what her last words were, in the torment he gave her as he took her life, just like he did to his mother and sisters. Darius demands the name, and Anducaid challenges him to take it from him by force. The two launch at each other, sheer animosity and the mutual desire for revenge turning each of their faces into masks of fury.
*It’s a terrible fight. Darius strikes hard, and Ichtaca and Snowball move to flank Anducaid, but he blinks in and out of the field of battle denying them any palpable strikes while he sears them with super-charged hex-fire, and cuts them toyingly with his dagger while they seem “frozen” to him and his time-magic. Finally, they begin to catch him with their weapons, and things get very deadly, very fast. All three come very close to death, while Anducaid seems ready to go on forever. Then, Darius finally manages to land the final blow, striking Anducaid’s throat just at the right moment of building magic. He stares in shock at Darius as the changeling taunts him with his own words, “who would fear such a little prick?”, then Anducaid bursts open in a pillar of green light and decompressing glassy strands. Ichtaca and Darius can hear Wroth’s laughter as the hair-tendrils withdraw into the worldfire. They may be nearly dead, but they’ve given Wroth a fine show.
*Meanwhile, in a cave somewhere, Mathis has Tobias and Vash trapped, Tobias strapped to an altar and Vash chained in a pit of red-sludge, all part of a psionically modified vampire blood ritual. The ritual is used by bloodline vampire lords to bind unruly lesser bloodline vampires to them in full, permanent domination. It destroys the mind of the victim, leaving behind only the will of the master. This modified version will permanently cripple and imprison Tobias’ consciousness, stripping it of connection with his powers, mind and body, and allowing Mathis to take on his body, finally clothed in “his vessel”, as he has worked so hard to do, since long before Tobias’ contrived-with birth. It will be a final, irrevocable domination, not the death of everything Tobias is, but rather an endless, inescapable hell.
*Eitharmos and etholchan priests pass by in the hallway outside, working on some other ritual, deeper in the cave system; likely the Daemothite leader’s efforts to free Wroth froom his worldfire prison. Revikoth was also here, but has left, in his own mimmessarch body, connected to Vash only by an umbilical of shadow-energy now, linking their two halves of a shared spirit, soul, and pool of shadow-magic. Mathis freely admits to Tobas that he plans not to keep his bargain with Revikoth. Revikoth wants Vash alive, presented to him in Iltallach, delivered through the mirrorscape. Mathis is going to kill him instead, along with all of Tobias’ other friends, one by one, the moment he’s clothed in Tobias’s body. Except Lyda, of course, he promises. Lyda he will take, not because he desires her, but because giving her a lifetime of agony with Tobias a helpless participant will make his victory over them all the sweeter.
*The former Chorrom loves to hear the sound of his own voice, and it’s not hard to get him talking as he directs his minions in the steps of the ritual. When the Harlequin passed over Mathis’ underwater palace north of Dulunum, he penetrated the defenses of several minds before Tobias cast him out. Now Tobias learns the prized piece of information Dythan Mathis was gloating over, why he radiated such a sense of delight and confidence. Whatever else he learned, (and he surely did learn other things) he was most thrilled to find that Tobias had placed a psionic door in both Vash’s and Darius’ mind. A door, no matter how secure, no matter how well guarded, is a point of entry, and a weaker point than a blank wall. He slowly, delicately, stealthily examined the doors over nearly three months, doing nothing to either to reveal his presence, nothing except learning their every psionic particle, preparing exactly the magic needed to kick them open at a moment’s notice. The moment has now come. Vash is unable to struggle or even speak, caught in Wroth’s complete thrall. Tobias is unable to use any magic, his psionic energy being fed into the spell and amplified along the vial-receptors, to be fed back into him along with Mathis’ intruding mind.
*Tobias is strapped to an altar surrounded by sludge-filled pits, one intended for each of his friends. On pillars by each pit are two vials, one containing that friend’s blood, and the other containing that of a blood relation to that friend. Arcane and psionic magic passes from one vial, through the pit, and back into the other vial, gaining strength exponentially with each revolution. Vash’s vials are gaining power much more quickly now that Mathis has him in the pit. Every spell he tries to cast, fey or shadow, only feeds the vials. Mathis’s spell begins to kick into high gear, sending out invisible lines of energy to connect with Ichtaca, Vash, Lyda, Athelsheth, Catzin, and Carmenith, wherever they are. Mathis needed the blood relations dead, because with them dead, their blood samples would become powerful arcane relics, allowing him to fully dominate each of Tobias’ friends, and march them right in here to chain themselves into the pit. With the blood relations dead, the magic tethers are much weakened. The targets feel growingly painful cramping in their abdomens, and are drawn inexplicably towards the cave. They will come, but Mathis cannot truly dominate them until they each arrive, and it is an annoying delay. Carmenith’s vial holds a liquid piece of her soul instead of blood, and is being amplified with blood from the great altar on high-realm Atwall island, when Karfallun fell. Her parents were sacrificed there with many others, and the blood is mingled, but having a bit of her soul makes up for that. He has no vial for Darius, who has no kidnappable blood relative to amplify the spell with, but this doesn’t matter now. He has something far better; a door into Darius’ mind. On top of Cuapetezco hill, as Ichtaca and Darius battle the starborn and Anducaid, Ichtaca feels a cramping, a pull to go down, to search around the hill for something. Darius feels a similar urge. The others will be feeling it too, and converging here.
*While Tobias figures all of this out, he’s keeping Mathis talking, trying to give Catzin a chance to duck in and out between the busy priests, cutting Tobias’s bond along one side and securing them only with the same pins the priests are pushing into Vash and Tobias. She’s almost done, but she’s terribly weak, and on the verge of collapse. Adrenaline alone keeps her going, dodging between preists to cut the final bond and start picking the wrist manacles. Tobias is almost free when Mathis unexpectedly has his minion cut out Vash’s eyes, some unfathomable directive from Wroth, who thinks it poetic. It’s not unfathomable to Tobias and Vash. Vash used Wroth’s scrying windows without permission, and this is Wroth’s price. The same mutilation he and Tobias subjected Zabir Ouleithe to not long ago. His tongue will be next.
*Tobias screams out, trying desperately to lash out at Mathis with the shreds of magic left in him, and failing, but cursing and insulting him, railing against him, and thus succeeding at his true intention; to get Mathis over to him, attention so fixed on Tobias that Catzin can get to Vash, and that hopefully, Mathis will relax his control of Vash. It works. Mathis strides over to Tobias, drawing out Vash’s agony just to taunt “his vessel” another time with how hopeless it all is. While Mathis is leaning over Tobias and sneering with his swirling silver-and black spirit-body, Catzin makes it to Vash and the Yaloin waiting for the command to take his tongue. She picks the locks on Vash’s bonds, then collapses against the wall, just as Mathis floods Tobias’s body with tormenting psionic torture. Vash has a moment to break free of the domination, and he rolls out of the pit, naked and shaking. The second his body leaves the draining sludge, he opens the floodgates on his shadow magic, both his and Revikoth’s shared pool, ice and shadow power from Ulmhasa that he could never tap into before without giving Revikoth a chance to take over his mind. Revikoth’s mind is in the mirrorscape now, unable to do a thing about it. Vash is blind, shaking in the grips of his phobic fear of the dark, but channeling magic made of the essence of darkness itself. He floods the room with shadow, muffling all sound and yanking the Yaloin to the ground by their shadows, crystallizing ice shards in their blood, and ripping at their shadows with lethal intent.
*Tobias lurches up from the altar, the knife Catzin placed under his arm is the kno-magesh, and he stabs it into Mathis’ spirit-body, finding that under this particular blade, even the ghostly Chorrom feels like a solid target. The paralysis takes Mathis, rendering him unable to speak, but still able to lock wills psionically with Tobias, trying to dominate him and force him to release him. Tobias resists, chanting the Chorrom’s crimes, and watching as they appear in zoroch letters of red fire along Mathis’ body, as if being carved there. His life energy is being drawn into the blade.
*Meanwhile, Darius, Ichtaca, and Snowball are atop Cuapetezco hill, with Anducaid dead in a jarring explosion of energy. When their heads clear, they are forced to deal with the growing compulsion to go to the base of the hill and search for a hidden door there. They fight it at first, but Darius can feel Catzin’s heartbeat and breathing deep beneath the hill. She seems taxed and straining, and she could be in danger. They deny the impluse to charge in, bind up their wounds, and sneak down the hill, finding the secret door and passing through it stealthily. They find themselves in a cave complex beneath Cuapetezco, worked stone chambers ancient in nature, expanding natural caves. The hallways are teeming with eitharmos and Yaloin, but Catzin’s hearbeat is coming from farther down. The trio creep past the busy Daemothites, overhearing talk of two rituals. As the three go farther belowground, regiments of Yaloin and Eitharmos charge up past them, leaving the secret caves to launch a surprise attack on the Starborn atop the hill, and seize that prime area for their own ritual. Little do those men know their work is already done for them.
*Darius leads them to the door behind which he can sense Catzin’s labored breathing, and they slip inside just as Vash releases his cloud of shadow. With all the noise out in the hallway, the muffling is no longer needed. They see Tobias and Vash, both nearly naked. Vash stands, blinded, shaking, and pitiful, among a throng of struggling, pinned-down Yaloin, dozens dead, but his hold over the rest of them beginning to falter, group by group. Tobias stands by an altar, eyes intensely locked with the ghostly Mathis’, holding a scrimshaw dagger in Mathis’ gut, and chanting words that appear on his paralyzed foe’s body. It looks very much like what it is; an evil ritual. Ichtaca and Darius don’t have much time to stare; they are promptly overthrown by Mathis’ mind, forced to attack each other and their friends, each shaking free only long enough to stop the other from killing their blinded friend. It devolves to a wrestle on the floor. Mathis wants them to disarm Tobias without harming him, but he wants Vash dead. Vash is also re-possessed, time and again, through the door in his mind. He manages to hold the Yaloin down long enough for Ichtaca and Darius to kill quite a few, leaving Snowball to finish off most of the rest while Darius tackles Vash and is forced to stab his friend repeatedly, and Ichtaca barrels towards Tobias, trying to knock him away from the mind holding Ichtaca’s body in thrall.
*Tobias calls out to Catzin, slumped against the wall with her invisibility fading. She staggers to her feet and draws her daikatana, ignoring Yaloin who wound her, careening straight to a pair of bottles and slicing through them. Ichtaca is no longer an easy domination target. Tobias grapples with Mathis through the magic of the kho-magesh, drawing off the spirit’s attention, and Ichtaca runs to where Vash and Darius are rolling around on the floor, to pull Darius off of Vash before he kills him. Catzin takes out another pair of bottles, and Darius shakes free of Mathis long enough for he, Ichtaca, and Vash to finish the others. Catzin saves only the one with Carmenith’s piece of soul. Mathis’ ritual is ruined, and Tobias’ powers rush back into him, amplified with energy buildup. He strikes hard at his enemy’s mind, overwheming Mathis and finally drawing him into the Kho-magesh. The words curling around the failed Chorrom linger in the air for a time, then slide into the scrimshaw blade, lighting up another of the rubies in the hilt. Mathis may not be dead, but every element of his being is trapped within the Kho-magesh, with Jodram Zabir Ouleithe for company.
*Darius runs to support a barely conscious Catzin, giving her blood, even in his injured state. He then furiously informs them all about the door in his mind, suspicious that it is Tobias, but lacking any proof. Tobias denies any involvement. Ichtaca stares at Tobias, thinking of the news he got this morning, of Zabir’s mysterious death in the Daemothite quarters, that his body had been carved over in Zhoroch runes. He’s drawing some disturbing connections here, but they aren’t fully formulated, and there are enemies outside the door of this room, likely searching for whatever think just killed 350 starborn just before they got there to do the same. Vash, meanwhile, is an emotional wreck, adrenaline rush crashing to leave him trapped in his worst phobia, still guilt-torn over the killing of Zabir (which was just loudly re-enacted on Mathis), battered and wounded, and convinced that Tobias blames him for all of this happening at all. He clings to Ichtaca’s arm, not seeming to hear much of what they are all saying, but insisting that it’s not Tobias’ fault, and begging Tobias to forgive him for something that’s not entirely clear.
*They have to get out of here, so all debate is shelved for now. Tobias takes on the role of Mathis after a successful ritual, clothed in the body of “his vessel”. He finds a metal collar and chain lead apparently there to fool Revikoth into thinking it was meant for Vash, when Mathis delivered the drow to him. Vash puts it on now, calming himself, keeping it together. Ichtaca and Darius cloak themselves with Yaloin robes, hiding their faces, and Darius takes Catzin under his cloak with him, carrying her in such a way that he looks to be a mimmessarch with a hunchback. They lock the door behind them, and in the hallway they meet Pashmordan, the grandmaster of the Illiantros, the worst possible candidate available for them to test out their desperate bluff on.
*Pashmordan greets Mathis as an old friend, chatting with him amiably through telepathy, about the ritual they are about to complete, and other projects they both have in progress. Tobias keeps his answers short and vague, hard-pressed not to reveal that he has no idea what the Illiantri is talking about, on either side. He does a good job replicating Mathis’s voice, but “Mathis” replies to Pashmordan in Trentsmin, saying he’s too tired to think in the sacred tongue right now. Noting Vash on the chain, Pashmordan chastises Mathis. Surely after the sacred events in Zabir’s chambers the night before, Mathis can treat this man with more respect. He is obviously not the herald of the eyes, but Chorrom Viln believes him to be some person of importance, some sort of judge. It’s time to set aside his resentment for his successor and start treating Viln with reverence and honor that Viln’s favor with Daemoth deserves. He may seem an idiot, but he must then be an idiot savante! Perhaps the mind of a holy idiot was needed, lack of wits making room for the glory of Lord Lachmarum’s prophetic guidance! It sounds as if Pashmordan is only just recently convinced of this, by what happened with Zabir, and that the Illiantri grandmaster has been trying to convince his friend Mathis of it, too. “Mathis” reluctantly agrees, freeing Vash from the chain. Pashmordan politely apologizes to Vash for the “unfortunate, but understandable” behavior of his collegue. He offers to restore Vash’s sight, a procedure that will involve sewing small live animals behind his eyelids. Vash somehow manages to refuse that politely.
*Meanwhile, Lyda contacts Tobias telepathically, telling him that she and Carmenith felt strangely drawn to approach Cuapetezco hill, but now the urge has passed. They are passing over the city now, and Jenmai is down below, with his students Mozral and Casimir, in the warehouse district near the docks, communicating with her psionically. A huge hole is opening up in the earth, and great Nassa are climbing out, with their scything, bony limbs. The troop-transport demons are discharging unit after unit of eithalim hunters, not attacking the city yet, but taking out warehouse workers and other witnesses, putting out street lights, and stealthily preparing for a full assault. Zabir Ouleithe was killed in this city, and the eithalim are going to destroy it in retaliation, setting a clear example. Jenmai and his monk-pupils are moving in and out of the warehouses, eavesdroppign and watching, and prepared to attack. The most of the army are still out in the fields, burning vampire corpses and spreading ashes, and the city guard can’t handle this. The Harlequin can be at Cuapetezco to get them in twenty minutes. They’ve got to save Ichtaca’s city.
*Atop the hill, Tobias sees Archdeacon Naman Banesal and Chorrom Caral Viln preparing for the arrival of a new Ouleithe, one Percellan Ouleithe. Yaloin priests and eithalim soldiers are clearing the hilltop and setting things up for a ritual that will free Wroth from the worldfire. Hundreds of captive Kithari are being hauled up the hill in barrels, ten or more of the liquid-bodied prisoners easily fitting into one. These innocents have no hope of escape unaided. They cannot walk over solid ground, and there is no water nearby.
*Tobias is now in three conversations at once, telepathically speaking. He tells Lyda where to meet them, keeps up his inane replies to Pashmordan, and then speaks into Viln’s mind again, as Daemoth. He demands that the ritual be halted. saying that it is no longer Daemoth’s will that Wroth be freed at this time. Changes have occured that Wroth is unaware of, and for now, the exarch serves his purpose for now where he is. Pressing for the Kithari’s release would be out of character for “Daemoth”, and Tobias can’t manage complex orders or explanations while still continuing to keep Pashmordan unsuspecting of a problem. He orders Viln to send Mathis and some Yaloin to the city to greet the arriving Ouleithe, and to take the “judge” with him. (Vash.) Chorrom Viln orders “Mathis” to do so at once, and the heroes slip away onto the ship, appearing to have been whisked off by psionic magic of soome sort. They are forced to leave them behind, for now. Already, Tobias has informed Lyda of their plight, and his canny fiancee is debating ways to save the Kithari with Carmenith when the rest of the party arrive on-deck.
*Vial containing a piece of Carmenith’s soul
*Mathis is trapped inside the Kho-magesh
No In-Character E-mail this week.