From Sol Invictus

Book03: Following a Flower Home

< Dueling Rovash | Sol Invictus Logs | Markuran Corrected >

Summary: Cerin tails Herons back to the Chrysanthemum, and gets sidetracked to Bi'allah.


Herons, Isles of Glass, Chrysanthemum, Pins of Office, First Age Flashbacks, Seals of the Deliberative, Starmetal Ring, Ikara, Bi'allah, Path of Stars, Starlit, Ymir, Night Caste Seal, Evening's Vengeful Blade, Rintoko, Flowers

Seven Herons Leaping is well beyond the boundaries of Solaria when Cerin begins to slowly follow his path.

This doesnt especially bother Cerin, who is simply following the trail of disturbed essence he left, the subtle ripples that everyone left in the world. Of course the trails Herons left were especially faint for ..some reason, but that just made things interesting as he followed the man west.

Herons' trail leads off west, towards the gate at which the Solars first met him.

Eventually, hanging motionlessly from a nearby treetop, Cerin watches Herons enter the glade and walk up to the stone ring of the gateway. With a deftness born of long years of practice, Herons defly enters the Essence key sequence to activate the gateway, and it roars to life.

Herons enters a series of characters that Cerin recognizes as activating the heavenly plane for access, then enters a three character sequence and steps through the active gate.

Cerin gazes through the portal into a strange and unusual world. A golden-red sky glows overhead a tremendous, upward-spiralling city of golden cupolas. Streets of opalescent cobbles run through the middle of the air, up and downwards, while gardens of brilliant chrysanthemums bearing unearthly colors seem to be planted upon the thin air itself. The streets seem reasonably populous, with a large quantity of what appear to be mundane humans walking up and down the various streets and pathways. Intermixed are other beings -- a few Dragon-Kings, one or two small gods, and a few others of varieties Cerin has never before seen. The city has a strangely organic feel to it, despite its unusual construction -- the perfection of the onion domes' roundness surpasses that of any mortal construction. The numerous fires burning in tiny braziers that hang at the corners of doorways or intersections seem to shed a pleasant light upon the city's activities. Herons walks through the crowds, heading towards what seems likely to be the central, largest dome.

Cerin draws closer, noting the large building ahead of him that Herons moves towards. After several minutes of taking slightly indirect routes through the oddly winding streets, Herons finally reaches the front door, a golden archway with a single vertical gate amongst it. He places one hand on a small crystal set beside the door, and the gate rises quite quickly -- he steps through and it instantly shuts once more.

Gazing carefully at the crystal and thinking over Herons' action, it becomes distressingly clear that the seal seems to be responding directly to Herons' Essence signature -- the Sidereal made no visible signals or other movements that might have served as a key.

The building itself is merely a giant dome from the outside, featureless except for the door through which Herons recently entered. No other Sidereals are visible within the nearby area.

The gate stands unmoving for a moment, and Cerin begins to worry. Then, just as he prepares to remove his hand, it slides open.

Within the gate, Cerin finds himself in a richly appointed hallway -- brilliant red carpeting running down a long hallway, with doors branching off in various side directions. Odd paintings and objects decorate the walls; small braziers of flame light the hallway. Herons' trail seems to lead about halfway down before ducking off to one side.

The hallways bend off in a circular pattern from the central hall, leading this way and that. Stairwells lead upwards to higher levels of the building; Herons' path leads up several of these and through several other hallways before... suddenly stopping cold.

No trace of an obfuscation Charm or technique remains in the spot where the trail concludes. It is as if Herons suddenly ceases existence at this location in the hallway.

No obvious evidence exists that Herons encountered anyone else at this stage, or otherwise suffered any strange fate that would eliminate his traces.The path seems to conclude mysteriously at this point in the hallway. However, there does appear to be something unusual about the nearest section of the wall.

A quick examination reveals a hairline crack separating a person-sized section of the wall from the rest, and a small portion of the wall's elaborate decoration which has some give to the touch.

Pressing in on the decoration produces an audible click, and the section of the wall swings inward, revealing a hallway with brilliant blue jade walls, latticed with a thin web of gold. It heads down perhaps one hundred and fifty yards, then bends to the right.

The gold trim does prove to be in fact Orichalcum. No Essence flows through any part of the walls, however, and no patterns are visible that might indicate a triggered Essence activator.

After the bend, it proceeds perhaps another one hundred fifty yards before turning right again.

After the second bend, the hallway advances only five or so feet, then opens up into a room, perhaps 15 by 20 feet. The walls bear the same decor as the hallway. The room seems mostly empty, except for the extremely elegant opaline table in the center, with two matching chairs. In the one facing the door, a smug-looking Herons sits, swirling a glass of wine.

<Herons?> "Cerin? So soon."

<Herons?> Cerin suddenly realizes that something very surprising will occur in precisely ten seconds.

<Cerin?> "I did try to keep as close to you as I could. Your lock was an interesting test though."

As the ninth second passes, Cerin sees Essence flood the orichalcum veins crossing the walls, growing extremely bright, racing quickly. A second later, Cerin feels his control of Essence slip away, the evasion stance he has just enacted dropping away from his consciousness as if it never existed.

<Cerin?> "Ah."

<Herons?> "I think you'd have found that it took you at least thirteen seconds to reach the door."

<Cerin?> "I think it would have taken closer to nine."

<Cerin?> "Certainly." he takes a seat across from Herons.

<Cerin?> "Thank you." He samples the wine "This is rather good."

<Herons?> "So. What motivated you to follow me today?"

<Cerin?> "Curiousity."

<Cerin?> "And the small badge on your robes."

It is a small pin, much like the one Herons wears. However, this pin's tiny golden flower sits upon a brilliant sunburst design.

<Herons?> "Do you recognize it?"

<Cerin?> "I recognise the basic design...I don't recall seeing the sunburst."

As soon as the words leave Cerin's mouth, there's a flash -- and he sees himself, affixing the pin to his own robes, below two others -- a hollow circle bisected by a sword, and an elaborate eight-pointed sunburst design.Session Close: Wed Dec 22 00:00:00 2004

<Cerin?> "Thank you." he takes a drink of the wine. "Do you have anything else that belonged to me?" He asks without the expectation of there being anything.

<Herons?> "Actually, yes."

<Cerin?> "What?" the word snaps out of his mouth "Sorry, please forgive my rudeness."

<Herons?> "You left a few things with us, when you died. Perhaps you had wondered why your tomb was so sparse?"

<Cerin?> "I did."

<Cerin?> "I was expecting ...something more than I found."

<Cerin?> "What happened?" If you will tell me.

<Herons?> "You weren't particularly popular, after the incident. You fully expected to be executed. We seemed to be the safest people to leave your important possessions with."

<Cerin?> "Ah." he takes a deep breath. "I see."

<Herons?> "Of course. I am a reasonable man, Cerin. Clearly trying to wrestle service from you would be a foolish pursuit."

<Herons?> "Ideally, I would prefer to forge a closer working relationship with you and your Circle, Cerin. I believe we pursue many of the same ends."

<Cerin?> "We do seem too, that is true."

<Herons?> "What I ask of you today is fairly straightforward, but time sensitive. You will need to depart immediately. You won't be returning for twelve days."

<Herons?> Pointing to the circle numbered eleven, he says merely "Here."

<Cerin?> "And what will I be doing there?"

<Herons?> "Retrieving the object you brought with you when you went there to die."

<Cerin?> "...and what was that?"

<Herons?> "One of the five seals of the Solar Deliberative."

<Cerin?> "...Ah."

<Herons?> "We don't anticipate any resistance in this endeavor; we've made several exploratory journeys recently. But you warded the seal before you died so that only you could retrieve it."

<Cerin?> "Why, if I might ask, do you need it so soon? Why do you need it even?"

<Herons?> "We need it so soon because the gates in Bi'allah have all been rendered nonfunctional and the alignment that allows us to reach it through other means is going to end in seven days. We need at all because we want you to have it."

<Cerin?> "I see."

<Cerin?> "Very well, I will retrive this seal for you."

<Herons?> "Excellent." Herons stands up. "You'll have to leave right away. You'll find that this bag contains the possessions you left with us." He hands Cerin a small cloth bag, which looks to have seen better days.

Within, he sees: a ring, of dark metal; a small golden dagger; a small black box with a silver latch on one side; and a small sheaf of papers, all written upon in a familiar hand.

Another Sidereal arrives at the door, and Herons suddenly exclaims "Ah, you had best hurry. You must leave immediately!"

<Cerin?> "Now, I suppose I should be going."

The young Sidereal woman nods to Cerin, and gestures for him to follow her. As she turns to walk away, Cerin feels the Essence-dampening effect of the room lift.

<Cerin?> "Excuse me, could you please hold just a second." when it abates, he calls the egg, and transfers the bag to it before banishing it again. Then he briefly attains the penumbra stance, before following her out.

Six days later.

Cerin and his Sidereal guide Ikara have arrived in Bi'allah, having spent the past six days walking the Path of Stars. The vista that greets them is quite startling -- a sky of deepest blue-purple shines over a barren, rocky plain of blue dust. In the sky, stars as large as grapefruits shine green and gold. Mountains jut into the sky in all directions; some break off and float, unanchored, through the sky. Streams of red and orange fluid flow through the dark rock in places, cutting through the otherwise cold atmosphere of the place. Strange crystalline growths jut from the ground in many locations, glinting with light from no visible source.

<Cerin?> "...What is this place?" he asks, wonder in his voice.

<Cerin?> "Solitude for who?"

<Ikara?> "Those who require it. To think. Or to die." She begins to walk forward, following the path of one river in particular. "We should hurry. The Starlit may be about."

Strange, faint swirls of Essence move through the sky with an organic twirl, though Cerin can gain no better grasp of what their nature is.

Within a short time, the two reach the cave -- a small opening, just large enough for the Exalts to squeeze in on the sides of the river. It begins to drop sharply, and all light fades almost as quickly. Ikara makes no move to light the passage.

The tunnel descends for a long time, deep into the... earth? Ikara seems to know the way, constantly bending and turning to follow what presumably is the correct path, speaking little. After a long, silent journey, Ikara says suddenly: "We are here." Before them, a passage of the cave appears to be sealed off with some sort of crystalline barrier.

It appears to be a barrier of pure Essence, held in place by something within. It is constantly seeking a complementary pattern of Essence -- one that is very familiar to Cerin....

The crystal retracts instantly, coiling back and allowing Cerin access to the room.

The small cave within is surprisingly bare. Against one wall lies what Cerin can only imagine are the remains of Ymir -- an ancient skeleton, the clothes it wore long decayed. In one hand, it grips a golden disc, the symbol of the Night emblazoned across one side. (...)

On the ground, in the characters of Old Realm, is written the following message:

"When you have read this, erase it immediately. Do not allow your guide to know you have read it. You must know three things: the key is in the evening's vengeful blade. The enemy still slumbers, dreaming deep below the earth in Rinkoto. And the flowers cannot be trusted."

Nothing else disturbs the cave's natural state.

<Ikara?> "Have you retrieved the seal?"

<Ikara?> "Cerin!"

<Cerin?> "Yes?"

<Ikara?> "Have you retrieved the seal? We must hurry!"

<Cerin?> "I have the seal." He looks back down to the corpse. "Sleep well Ymir."

<Ikara?> The corpse has no reply.

Outside the cave, Ikara looks impatient. "We must return quickly, or we will be trapped here for years. I do not suppose you would find that pleasant."

<Cerin?> "It would be rather inconvient, yes."

With that, the two Exalts begin to depart from the cave and return to the Path that will bear them back to Creation.

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