00:12 <@Carreau> The black centipede ring appears near Silent Leaf, a crumpled note hastily stuffed through it. The handwriting is messy and quickly scribbled; "Good to hear, come as soon as possible. Unknown attack on Lathe yesterday, big fire in the Haunches, explosion in Whitecrest, unknown ship seen off the shore. Immaculates contained a swarm of living dead from the Lily Pits. Everything under control now, but >

00:12 <@Carreau> > everyone is on edge. -A"

00:16 <TDS> After reading the message, Leaf decides to inform the others. Going on deck where they spend most of their time watching the sea. "Everyone, I just got a message from the Factor. Lathe was attacked while we were away, apparently there was a fire, an explosion, sightings of unknown ships and an outbreak of the living dead. He says everything is under control for now, but people are on edge."

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00:21 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira puts her hands to her cheeks, having been busy feeding Copper with some fish she'd caught.  She turns to face Leaf, and shouts out, "Ohhh noooo!  My shooooop!"

00:23 <TDS> Leaf puts a hand on Alira's shoulder. "Calm down, please. We don't know if your shop was affected or not and my promise of helping you rebuild your shop is still valid. I'm sure we'll think of something."

00:24 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira bops herself on the forehead.  "Oh, that's right, it was already destroyed."

00:24 <TDS> "So maybe it's double-destroyed, that practically cancels itself out and un-destroys it, right?"

00:26 <Alira_Whitefeather> "Nope.  Anyway, I didn't think zombies could survive down here.  They gotta stay cold, don't they?"

00:26 <TDS> "Uh, I don't think zombies can survive anything, since they're dead."

00:27 <Alira_Whitefeather> "Nah, but, like, we get 'em all over the place in the north, so I just thought maybe it'd be too hot down here.  Y'know, like, won't they melt?"

00:28 <TDS> "Melt? They're just human bodies moving around, humans don't melt. Or do people in the north melt if they get too hot?"

00:30 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira looks down at her own arm.  "Sometimes it feels that way..."

00:31 <@Carreau> At the news, the Whistlers move onto Jora's Surf from The Raging Maiden and inform that they're going to go ahead and patrol the waters West of Lathe a little in case they find this mystery ship. They leave Platinum, Little Spume, Radiant, Alira, Nyumetsu and Roderick's sailors onto the Raging Maiden.

00:32 <@Carreau> Nyumetsu, after a little consideration, decides to switch ships - feeling a bit too tense to stay on board with Little Spume and Radiant.

00:35 <TDS> "Oh, please. It's just a little heat, it won't kill you, just make you sweaty. At least it's not so cold you turn to ice like in the north."

00:37 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira chuckles, but then rubs the back of her head nervously, looking around then speaking in a low voice.  Copper leans in to try and hear.  "So uh, did you see the, uh... the lightshow?"

00:38 <@Carreau> The sun starts setting in the horizon, the Lathe archipelago drawing close. Jora's Surf disappears behind some of the islands after a while.

00:39 <TDS> Leaf leans closer and whispers back. "Yes, I did. I'm not sure what to do about it, to be honest. He kind of saved all of us when he killed the lintha anathema."

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00:42 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira shakes her head wildly.  "Two demons fightin' ain't good for anybody, even if one dies!  The monks are gonna be all over this.  Did ya see where it escaped to?"

00:45 <TDS> "It didn't escape, Alira. He's on this ship, right now. It's Platinum, he's the Anathema. We had noodles with him, remember?"

00:48 <Mad> As if on cue, Platinum walked above decks. He was shirtless, as if to advertise the bandages his torso was covered in. He takes a nice, long stretch, and yawns. "Oh, fresh air feels so good!"

00:48 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira crosses her arms over her chest, nodding sagely as she receives this information.  "I see, I see.  Yeah, that makes sense."  Even as she says this, she's climbing aboard Copper, readying his flight goggles.  "I hear Nexus is just lovely this time of year."

00:50 <TDS> "So you're abandoning your shop? What sort of coward abandons her destroyed shop just because a demon-god is on the same ship. I mean, he hasn't murdered us yet, right?"

00:51 <Mad> "Murder? Huh? Who's killing what now?" Noticing the conversation, he wanders on over.

00:52 <Alira_Whitefeather> "What shop?  You blew it up!  And it ain't cowardly to distance yourself from a demon!"

00:53 <TDS> "it's partially intact and we're going to rebuild it!"

00:53 <Alira_Whitefeather> "If the monks don't strangle me first!"

00:54 <Mad> Rather annoyed at being ignored, Platinum raises is voice. "Uh guys, I'm right here."

00:54 <@Carreau> The sun sets, the heat of the South-West relenting as the Daystar dips from view. The wind blowing from Lathe's direction carries a surprisingly cold breeze.

00:55 <TDS> "They're not going to strangle you, you didn't know. If anything they will strangle him" She points at Platinum standing next to them.

00:56 <Mad> "I'd rather not get strangled. I'm rather attached to my neck."

00:57 <Alira_Whitefeather> "They'l strangle him, then they'll say, 'Ah, look, that incredibly cute and business-savvy adventurer who has no doubt done really well for herself was with him!  Get her!'  and that'll be the end of the Whitefeather clan."

00:57 <TDS> "They maybe you shouldn't have given off that lightshow so that everyone knows you're an Anathema. Someone from the crew is going to talk, and that's going to bring in the Immaculates. If you value your neck, I'd suggest you skip town."

00:58 <Mad> "I'm sorry, if I hadn't given off that lightshow I'd be dead and you'd all be dead."

01:00 <TDS> "Calm down Alira, they're not going to hurt you just because you were together. Well, as long as you don't make yourself suspicious by running away." She turns to Platinum. "I'm sorry, you're right. But you realise that this is a problem, right? The Immaculates will hear of this. What do you plan to do?"

01:00 <Alira_Whitefeather> "How come yer not, like... tryin' ta kill us?  You're the fighty demon, right?  Shouldn't you be bleedin' from your eyes and screamin 'BLOOD!  BLOOD FOR MY THRONE!'  or somethin'?"  Alira uses her hands to great effect for this line of questioning.

01:03 <Mad> "Um, because you're not my enemy? I don't have a reason to fight you." He turns back to Leaf. "Well, I might be able to work something out since I killed that Linthan Anathema for them"

01:05 <TDS> "That's your plan? Try to work something out? Just approach the Immaculates and try to work something out? I thought you said you valued your neck?"

01:07 <Mad> "I'm not going to 'walk up to the immaculates'. And if they're intent on seeing me dead, I can always flee"

01:08 <TDS> "If you want to flee now, I'd be willing to lend you my Agata, since you did save our lives. But once we reach lathe, I can't do anything for you."

01:10 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira nods at Platinum's words, but still keeps a respectful distance from him.

01:11 <@Carreau> The sails suddenly get blown concave by a gust of wind powerful enough to topple barrels and loose items on deck and forcing the three to hold onto the railing not to topple over. The wind is accompanied by a sickening stench of decaying flesh and roses. The horizon has disappeared, obscured by an eerie, pallid bank of fog at least five miles long in diameter.

01:13 <TDS> "Crap. You may get to use your demonic strength again."

01:13 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira dives for cover!  "Wahh!  I knew it!  Don't eat my souuuul!"

01:14 <TDS> "It's not him, Alira. This is an undead attack, just notice the smell. I thought you said you had undead in the north?"

01:15 <@Carreau> The wind has died down completely all the sudden, the sails now hanging loose. The Raging Maiden slowly grinds into a halt. The fog rolls over the ship, so dense it is impossible to see the ship's bow from its rear.

01:15 <Mad> Platinum focuses for a second, mentally diving through the boat to his sword, and grabs it. Point of Light appears in his empty hand, ready to fight.

01:16 <TDS> Leaf steps away from the edge of the ship, wary of something coming out of the fog and surprising her.

01:16 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira stands up and brushes herself off, drawing her sword from where it's sheathed at Copper's side, then strapping on her shield.  "Which way are they coming from...?"

01:18 <Mad> On high alert, Platinum quickly scans the entire area around the ship, looking for foes.

01:19 <@Carreau> Platinum is the first to notice it; a massive, imposing silhouette is drawn in black in the mist some hundred yards away, approaching rapidly. A bow adorned with a once-alive figurehead in the shape of an upside-down crucified corpse with soggy red hair, skin and flesh rotten.

01:21 <Mad> "There's a ship approaching fast from the bow! It looks like they're trying to ram! Everyone, get ready to be attacked!"

01:23 <@Carreau> And that is not all; a second silhouette, matching the incoming dread vessel in size, casts its shadow on the bow. Two massive wings attached to a serpentine body, the flash of gleaming ivory claws visible against the sky - the sky that now is black, hopeless and devoid of any visible stars.

01:25 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira does just that!  She faces the wrong way, and Copper does as well, sword at the ready.  She's a little shaky, though -- this was pretty damn ominous.

01:26 <@Carreau> The draconic figure circles the Raging Maiden twice, before letting out a deafening roar - lightning spilling out of its maw in a burst last seen when an Anathema lost its life in the Caldera. Thump. The deckplanks give in as a sudden weight crashes onto it. A human figure in a rich yellow hooded cloak - hands and feet clad in steelen armor, face obscured.

01:27 <TDS> "Who are you? Identify yourself!" Leaf demands of the figure.

01:28 <Mad> Platinum says nothing, and kicks off his casual slippers. They'll get in the way of the inevitable fight.

01:28 <Alira_Whitefeather> "They taste better!"

01:32 <@Carreau> Standing 5'8" or so, the figure strides to the front of the Raging Maiden, hopping up to stand on the rigging, armored glove clasping around a rope to keep it steady. Then, it lifts its other hand up, two fingers spread, and starts tracing a symbol in the air. A circle; glowing soft yellow and amber, illuminated by essence. Horns over the circle on both sides. And finally, as if to match the inverse >

01:32 <@Carreau> > crucifixion of the incoming dread ship, a cross at its bottom. The symbol of Mercury floats in the air, casting its gentle, soft light all over the ship and dragging the shadows long.

01:36 <@Carreau> The yellow light seems to push away the mists, the wisps curling away to reveal pitchblack water. This is when Silent Leaf suddenly recognizes from the configuration of the night sky and the color of the sea that the Raging Maiden is no longer in Creation, but rather in the land of the dead - the Underworld.

01:38 <TDS> "We're no longer in Creation, we just entered the Underworld." She whispers to her companions, then she asks the figure louder. "What do you want? Speak!"

01:41 <@Carreau> The figure bows its head a little, before an androgynous voice answers; "To pull this ship back to Lathe. Get below decks. Do not look o--" The figure gets cut off as the black ship - gigantic in size and carried by invisible currents that the Raging Maiden is not subject to - slowly slides alongside the ship of the heroes. On its deck opens the gruesome sight of rotten, drowned sailors reanimated by dar

01:41 <@Carreau> k >

01:41 <@Carreau> > sorceries working the rigging. At the helm of the ship stands a tall man, eyeless, skin like porcelain, wearing the ornate navy jacket of deep scarlet reminiscent of the legendary rulers of Azure.

01:41 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira's eyes widen as she looks around, lowering her sword just slightly.  "The Underworld...?  How are we supposed to...?"

01:44 <TDS> "Are you sure? We could help you fight them."

01:45 <Mad> Raising his arm to stop Leaf, Platinum speaks quickly. "He seems true in his intentions to help us. We should follow his instructions, I think"

01:47 <TDS> "Fine, we'll trust him for now. Let's go below deck."

01:48 <@Carreau> Two new figures walk up to the deck from within the ship. One of them tall, a man. His build is compact, slender even, with a mane of black hair partially covering his right eye. His skin is pale, features handsome and sharp, dressed in what appears to be a mockery of an imperial high medic's attire; a black gi and loose black hakama, straps over his shoulders to keep his sleeves up. On his hip glistens 

01:48 <@Carreau> a >

01:48 <@Carreau> >  warped hatchet of a dark metal that seems to emanate a sense of despair. The second a small girl, a little scared, clutching the man's hand.

01:48 <@Carreau> Silent Leaf recognizes the girl instantly, for she has lived with the child for quite the long time. Cassandra looks scared, but seeks comfort in the presence of the tall man.

01:50 <@Carreau> To offer it, the man turns to look at the child and offers a faint smile, before his eyes focus onto the blonde girl on the deck of the opposing ship. He tilts his head to the side and lifts his hand a little in recognition to Alira, offering her the same, familiar smile he once did in Whitewall.

01:51 <@Carreau> Platinum heads below decks and is instantly pulled to help out a sailor who seems to be having hard time breathing. Alira and Leaf, however, tarry...

01:53 <TDS> "Cassandra! We can't leave her behind, we have to save her! Platinum, come back up!"

01:55 <@Carreau> Cassandra points over at the other ship, looking up to the man, before her small voice carries over the gap between the boats in the perfect stillness. "Look, it's Leaf." She runs up to the edge of the ship and starts waving. "Leaf! Leaf! I'm going to go see my real father!" She seems excited. The man in the healer's uniform steps closer and hands a hand onto her shoulder, a friendly smile on his lips.

01:55 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira's eyes widen, and she sheathes her sword to wave back at the one waving to her!  She's quite excited, and hops up onto Copper, fully intent to head on over to the ship and say hello!  Her strider spreads its wings at her command, though it seems a lot more uneasy than her.  "Finally, a familiar face!"

01:56 <@Carreau> "No!" Shouts the figure in the front of the ship, maintaining the wavering glyph with some effort. "If you go overboard, you will be stuck in the Underworld forever! It's a trick! Don't!"

01:56 <TDS> "Cassandra, if you do that you'll never see Nyumetsu again. Don't you want to come back with us instead?"

01:58 <TDS> Leaf turns to the figure. "There are other ways out of the Underworld. She's very important to a friend of me, I can't just leave her behind! Unless you can go get her, I'm going to save her." She states.

02:02 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira spurs Copper into the air, not terribly interested in following the demands of some random glowy person making demands of her when the thing she's been hunting across Creation for is -right there-.  After only a moment's hesitation, being in the underworld after all, she'll start approaching the other boat.

02:03 <TDS> "Alira, stop. He's working with undead and kidnapping children, is this man really worth chasing? You were so scared of Platinum but will follow someone working with the living dead?"

02:04 <@Carreau> As Alira launches off with Copper, the man climbs up to stand at the edge of the dark ship, watching her come and spreading his hands - one of them which now holds the curved soulsteel hatchet.

02:05 <Alira_Whitefeather> There we go.  That's enough to give her pause, and she reaches around for her bow, but seems to be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, as she calls out first.  "Aleksei?  What are you doing...?  You recognize me, don't you?!"

02:07 <TDS> "Cassandra, listen! Your biological father is dead, he's just a ghost. Going to him won't do you any good. And Nyu raised you, he cared for you. You may be the child of your biological father, but Nyumetsu is more your father than anyone else. And there's no need to hurry, either. You're young, you have such a long live ahead of you. You will go see your biological father later, once you die, but you have so much to live for. What happened to 

02:07 <TDS> becoming a doctor? Don't you want to do that?"

02:07 <@Carreau> "Of course, Alira. It is good to see you." The man answers calmly, still friendly, holding out the hatchet. "Come over and we'll talk more. Catch up."

02:09 <@Carreau> "I'm going to become a great doctor! Aleksei will teach me. Nyumetsu is the reason why my mother is dead! He doesn't care about anyone!" Cassandra shouts back defiantly, now upset, before moving to hold onto Aleksei's ankle.

02:10 <Alira_Whitefeather> That's enough again!  Alira nods, giving a bright and happy smile, and continues her flight towards the boat.  "It's okay, Leaf!  It's my Aleksei!  He wouldn't hurt a fly!"

02:10 <TDS> "Alira, think for a moment. Isn't this suspicious as hell? Why would he be on an undead ship? Why does he have a soulsteel hatchet?"

02:10 <Alira_Whitefeather> "What's soulsteel?"

02:11 <TDS> "It's metal forged from tortured souls, trapping them in eternal agony. It's also what his weapon is made of, in case you didn't notice."

02:13 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira turns back to Aleksei, brow furrowed.  "It's an awfully fancy hatchet.  What're you doin' down here, Aleksei?"

02:15 <TDS> "That's not true, Cassandra! The people Nyu cares about the most in the world are you and your mother. I know he doesn't show his emotions very well, but he does care. You're the reason for almost everything he does. Think about how he would react if he heard this. He would be devastated."

02:15 <@Carreau> Suddenly a rope flies down from the crow's nest, followed by a pale figure riding down it. Her ample curves constrained in a very giving corset, a collar and bracelets of black leather accenting a skirt of velvet that barely covers her rear and long legs wrapped in laced, thigh-high boots. She descends onto the edge of the boat, her long hair of deep red cascading down to her back. Latching onto Aleksei,

02:15 <@Carreau>  >

02:15 <@Carreau> > wrapping her arms around his neck, she then leans to kiss his ear. She then turns to look at Alira, and pouts. "Aleksei, Aleksei, Aleksei. Our lord gave you a -real- name, did he not?" Aleksei turns to look at the woman and offers the same, friendly smile. "Indeed." Aleksei then looks to Cassandra, who seems to be struggling with Silent Leaf's words.

02:18 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira goes back to stringing her bow, nocking a white-feathered arrow pretty much immediately upon seeing this.  Actually, make that two.  She nocks two.  "Welp, that answers that.  I'll try to miss your dingle."

02:18 <@Carreau> The woman coos and slides her hand inside Aleksei's gi, caressing his chest and nipping at his neck. "Can I make her my pet, my beloved Chirurgeon of Twisted Sinew...?" The woman eyes Alira, even as she starts nocking the arrows.

02:20 <@Carreau> The figure at the front of the Raging Maiden kneels down, pulling a long paper strip inscribed with strange calligraphy. Wrapping it around its bicep, it then exhales deep and forces itself standing with great effort.

02:21 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira takes a moment to watch this, tilting her head to the side, then looks down at the others to speak what is possibly her last line before a gruesome death.  "Hey, Miss Leaf, please don't kill him.  There's a special punishment in Whitewall for guys who cheat."  And at that, she gets Copper to broadside the ship, so she can draw back her arrows and take aim, with full intent to fire.

02:26 <Mad> Belowdecks, Platinum tends to the man who pulled him away, helping him breathe. He can tell by the damage that the man was poisoned, and its source was the air he breathed.

02:27 <@Carreau> The woman calmly pushes Aleksei down from the edge of the boat to stand down next to Cassandra. Cassandra looks up to Aleksei with a confused expression. "Nyumetsu..." She almost asks, as if pleading. "If he loved you, would he have left you alone? We'll never leave you alone, Cassandra. We'll always be with you."

02:28 <TDS> "Nyumets went away to fight, so Lathe and you could be safe. Everything he does, he does for you."

02:30 <@Carreau> "This is all so -very- touching." The woman feigns a yawn, before lifting her hand up. "Navarch Carmine, please take us home. I'm bored." The boat starts turning, the gap between the two ships spreading, with Alira on Copper floating in the darkness of the mists.

02:33 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira takes in a deep breath, drawing her arrow back -- she looks down the shaft, aiming straight at the woman, not too worried about Aleksei for the time being -- at least, not worried about shooting him.  After that moment passes, she looses the arrow, sending a white streak towards the woman's back.

02:35 <Mad> While he wasn't able to cure the man, he wasn't struggling to breathe anymore. They were all likely in danger, especially those abovedecks. He runs to warn them, and hopefully isn't too late.

02:39 <@Carreau> The white-fletched arrow flies true, striking through the woman's chest with lethal accuracy. There is no blood, though - simply a small nod forward as the woman turns around, the arrow sticking from above her compressed bosom. She looks down at the arrow, then at the woman, as if unsure as to what just happened. Then, her expression grows grim, visage twisting into terrifying proportions as an >

02:39 <@Carreau> > eight-pointed star of pitch black appears to her forehead. "You... Fucking..." Her shoulders start smoking, a black anima of liquid despair starting to form about her.

02:41 <@Carreau> Aleksei looks to Alira with passing interest and then completely ignores her, crouching next to Cassandra. "A family is one that stays with you and raises you to be the best possible person you could be. Nyumetsu took care of you out of guilt, not love. Everything is going to be fine, Cassandra."

02:43 <@Carreau> And with that, the yellow-cloaked figure in the bow of the Raging Maiden lifts its hand up, cloak falling down to reveal a full head of auburn hair. The prayer strip affixed to its shoulder flashes yellow, and a shock wave of light erupts from it to a dozen yards on all sides of the ship. "Get back in here!" The figure shouts to Alira, as the pitchblack water underneath starts regaining color.

02:44 <@Carreau> At this point, Leaf and Alira start feeling increasingly queasy. The stench of rotting flesh is too much, too nauseating, sickening to the core.

02:46 <TDS> "Ugh, I think it's more than just a stench. It's poison." Leaf shouts and starts coughing.

02:48 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira draws another arrow, about to fire again, but when she urges Copper onward, he turns back.  Blood is leaking from her mouth, and it's taking every ounce of willpower she has not to start vomiting, and somehow, her pet senses this.  He drags her unwillingly back towards the ship, and although she looses another arrow, it ineffectually strikes the boat instead of any flesh.

02:54 <@Carreau> The woman screams, even with the arrow through her chest, lungs working through the power of black essence. Her anima flows into her hands, which she starts molding into a condensed sphere of corrosive, entropic energy. Copper struggles to take her toward the ship as best as it can, but it is unable to clear out of the range in time. The Abyssal's heel crushes the railing under her, as she unleashes a >

02:54 <@Carreau> > ball lightning of crackling, destructive corpse-element energies toward Alira.

02:58 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira watches the ball charge, watches it coming, and for the briefest of moments, she honestly considers just letting it hit her.  This much is evident on her face, as her usual fervor and good-natured happiness fade in the face of the champion of the underworld's mighty attack.  She imagines it striking her, and her falling to hit the water below, sinking to a watery grave -- or maybe...

02:58 <Alira_Whitefeather> ...she'd be dead on impact.  Either way, she wouldn't have to face the fact that Aleksei was abandoning her.  Rather than let it hit her, though, she simply falls backwards, allowing herself to slide around to the underside of Copper, so that the lightning will (hopefully) sail overhead.  It takes the last vestiges of her willpower, but she refuses to believe that he's just too far gone to...

02:58 <Alira_Whitefeather> ...retrieve -- true love conquers all, after all.  She'd come this far.

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03:06 <@Carreau> The ball lightning flashes over Copper, zinging the tips of its feathers but missing its intended target as the woman is now clinging to the underside of her mount. The Abyssal screams in rage and frustration, arms extended, the arrow still sticking out of her chest. "YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE!"

03:10 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira continues her spin on Copper -- she's no stranger to riding him in mid-air, and so as she comes back around to settle herself on the saddle, she stands, shakily making it to her feet as she draws another arrow.  With a deft spin of the white-feathered shaft between her fingers, she nocks and instantly fires it, not bothering to aim this time, her hair standing on end from the necrotic...

03:10 <Alira_Whitefeather> ...energies, nearly white in the grim Underworld lighting.  The inherent magic of the white-feathered shaft carries it easily across the distance, as the arrow knows that it could go so much further even from Alira's tiny bow.  This time, she aims straight for the woman's heart, hoping to repay her for the damage she'd caused to Alira.  "I'm not the one escapin'!"

03:15 <Alira_Whitefeather> And as Alira fires, the gray and lifeless skies of the Underworld are broken by the faintest shaft of light, vanishing as quickly as it appeared.  The area around her is suddenly filled with vibrant, life-giving light, and a perfect, shining mirror of the Abyssal's caste mark appears on her own forehead.  The arrow she fires shines a brilliant gold, save for the white feather fletching, and...

03:15 <Alira_Whitefeather> ...wherever it strikes, it remains, no matter what kind of force is applied to it -- a shining golden reminder of the love that carried the arrow to its target.

03:25 <@Carreau> The Abyssal manages a single syllable of malicious laughter, before she is halted by the surprise of a meteoric blast of solar destruction coming her way. She has no time to react beyond lifting her hands to try and protect herself. It is to no avail. The searing blaze of the Sun launched from Alira's bow burn her to the very core, skin peeling back, black flesh incinerated, bone turning to ash within th

03:25 <@Carreau> e >

03:25 <@Carreau> > span of an eyeblink. The man formerly known as Aleksei moves to pull Cassandra against his chest, turning to stare at his former lover in abject terror.

03:28 <@Carreau> Then, the two worlds come apart. The mists are pulled into the distance, perspective bends into infinity, and the night sky of Creation unfolds above them. The figured in the yellow cloak has disappeared. On top of a winged claw strider, above the ship, floats a blazing, woman-shaped beacon of forgotten glory and prowess, her anima ablaze.

03:32 <Mad> Coughing as he comes up from the inside of the ship, Platinum sees the second sun in the sky, and smiles.

03:33 <TDS> Leaf stares for several seconds, trying to comprehend what just happened and trying to decide what to do. Then, she makes her choice. This is an opportunity, to make a new and powerful friend and help her come to terms with her new powers. 

03:40 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira looks out over the sea where the ship was, her fingers still burning, but her heart not.  In fact, as Copper descends confusedly towards the deck, Alira starts to shed tears, as the intense love she'd used to fire that arrow leaves her, and the face of the man she'd chased across Creation no longer sets her heart aflutter.  "... so they're gone, then."

03:41 <TDS> Leaf walks over and gives her a hug, patting her back. "Shhh, It's okay."

03:52 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira shrugs, dropping her bow and leaning into Leaf.  After taking in a shaky breath, she asks quietly, "Does this mean I have to eat the souls of my friends and family now?"

03:53 <TDS> "No. Don't worry. You've been given a gift, Alira. You now have power, what you do with it is what really counts. The Immaculates are lying."

03:54 <Mad> Laughing at her comment, Platinum comes over. "Only if you want to. And I doubt you want to eat the souls of your friends and family"

03:55 <Alira_Whitefeather> She wipes away some of the tears, and shakes her head.  "Maybe Cousin Vera.  When does the... glowing... stop?  We can't go home like this."

03:56 <TDS> "It will go down with time, don't worry. It will come back slowly if you use too much of your power. If you want, we can stay behind with our flying mounts and let the ship go ahead."

03:57 <Mad> "Mmh, probably about an hour. I've experience with this, you see." He sticks out his tongue with the comment.

03:58 <TDS> "Nobody else has seen you glow yet, if we leave now before the crew comes back up, we can keep it a secret. Why don't we take Copper and fly a little?"

03:59 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira nods, climbing back onto her raptor and offering a weak smile to Platinum.  "Sorry, for, uh... hey, what's that over there?"  She points, and then Copper takes off.

04:00 <TDS> Leaf climbs on her Agata and follows Alira, trying to fly next to her so they can talk.

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04:06 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira gives a wave to Platinum, and takes off into the air, trying to, I dunno, get around the corner of a cliff or something, or get some distance between herself and the ship.  Preferably somewhere Copper can land, since he probably can't fly forever.

04:22 <TDS> After landing, Leaf walks over to Alira and starts explaining. "You are now a Solar, a Chosen of the Unconquered Sun. What the Immaculates say about you are lies. You have been blessed with power, what you do with it is alone for you to decide. But you will require training and practise to master your new skills. That's what I'm offering you, an opportunity to practise your new power, companionship, a place to stay and a tiny bit of adventure 

04:22 <TDS> if you want." Because we're more similar than you might think. Leaf's castemark begins shining for several seconds. 

04:32 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira plops down near Copper, not really feeling like standing, but she listens to Leaf's explanation with a heavy heart.  Eventually, when Leaf's castemark begins to shine, Alira starts to speak up.  "Are ya still gonna pay for my shop?"

04:34 <TDS> Leaf sits down next to Alira. "Of course I am going to pay for your shop. If you want, I'll pay you enough to open a series of shops."

04:44 <Mad> Back on the ship, Platinum checks each sailor for signs of the poison, treating those in need, and giving words of encouragement when needed.

04:58 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira shakes her head, finally cracking a smile.  "Nah, I was just ribbin' you.  It'd be nice to have, I guess, stuff to do... but I've got bigger things to worry about now, don't I?  Somethin' tells me I can't just do odd jobs for the rest of my life, now."

05:01 <TDS> "Well, you can still keep doing those odd jobs if you want. Part of being a Solar is being able to do what you want." Leaf sits next to Alira and puts an arm around her shoulders. "But us Anathema have to stick together, right?"

05:09 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira sighs, but she seems to come around.  "Yeah, I guess so.  I was gonna be your friend, anyway.  Platinum's, too."

05:09 <Alira_Whitefeather> She'll then look up, trying to catch sight of her own bonfire.  "It really is bright, huh?"

05:10 <TDS> "Yep, it is. You're a chosen of the sun, the sun's bright, so you're bright too."

05:12 <Mad> As he's treating some men, Platinum feels something like a stab through his lungs, and coughs up blood. "O-*cough* shit." Turning to the sailor he was treating, he gives a weak smile. "Don't die on me, ok?". With that, he heads to the main deck, and seats himself back to the mast. He takes a deep breath, deep as the sea they're on, and holds it as long as he can. When the air runs out, he pushes it - and the poison - out of his lungs in an 

05:12 <Mad> explosion of air.

05:13 <TDS> "I think it's calmed down enough, let's fly back to lathe. We'll go to the Factor, he'll be very interested in hearing about this, too. He's a trustworthy man and he knows about me."

05:14 <Alira_Whitefeather> Alira nods, and hops up onto Copper, stroking his crest-feathers idly.  "... how long have you been, uh... y'know?"

05:15 <TDS> Leaf hops onto her Agata. "A bit over a year. So don't worry, I'm not that much more experienced than you."

05:21 <Alira_Whitefeather> And then they fly back to Lathe!

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08:32 <Pluck> The fire through the haunches; the mass of dead that left scores more slain; the panic and rumors flying around Lathe mean no shortage of work for the Whistlers. Even so, there are rituals that cannot be spurned; traditions that must be kept. The fallen must be remembered.

08:32 <Pluck> The brothers and sisters that make up the Whistlers are arrayed in the mustering ground. Almost a hundred and eighty in number, with less to them now in the wake of their recent losses. Even the loss of a few sisters is a substantial blow to their strength, for the training process that produces such sure and disciplined archers is the work of a lifetime. Replenishment is never quick, and 

08:32 <Pluck> there is also the matter of the wounded to consider- some will recover, but others will have to find new roles.

08:32 <Pluck> Captain Pluck stands before them, with new burns to her face but undaunted in spirit. Ugliness is not something that bothers her; she knows the illusions of vanity are not those mortal soldiers can afford. There are others out there whose role in life is to shine brightly and inspire people to fight for what is good. Her voice is firm and mellow in turns as she leads the Whistlers through 

08:32 <Pluck> their private service.

08:32 <Pluck> "Today we mourn our fallen," she says, collecting her palms in front of her staring straight on at the company. "Eight of your siblings-by-arms were forever taken from us today by Lintha sorcery and Lintha arrows. Their lives were lost, as lives are forever lost in our wars; we do not shirk from such things or shed tears. But we will remember, and we will pay our respects. They paid the price 

08:32 <Pluck> so that the family lives on. I shall tell you of them, for our family is vast indeed and some faces may not be easily recalled."

08:32 <Pluck> "Kati. I introduced her myself to the company, ten years ago. She will be remembered for her arrows. She will be remembered for her skill with quill and ink. I have asked for her poems to be compiled, so that all can read them. Her soul may have left us, but her wit remains.

08:32 <Pluck> "Marona. She was the third-eldest of our family. She tended to the front garden and acted as an advisor of ceremonies. She will be remembered for her arrows. She will be remembered for knowing the wisdom in ritual, and how she brought stability and calm to many. 

08:32 <Pluck> "Alex. He was new; this was his first battle. Although he passed the test, he would not join the Whistlers without ensuring his family-by-blood's ascension from the Lily Pits. He went without pay and without the benefits of his station in trade for that boon- now he has made the ultimate sacrifice. In doing so he served both his families well. He will be remembered for his arrows. He will be 

08:32 <Pluck> remembered for his loyalty."

08:32 <Pluck> "Jamor. He was the slave of a Dynast, but won his freedom by passing the test. The Whistlers purchased him and set him free. He came from a distant land of which we know little, where they say the sea dreams and dread sorceries of a hundred forgotten fathers walk the earth. He will be remembered for his arrows. He will be remembered for his skill at mixing herbs, medicinal and recreational."

08:32 <Pluck> "Claudia. She fled from a home in Jade Soma for reasons I know not. She would have died in the Haunches, but she passed the test and changed her name. She was witty and graceful, and added a touch of refinement to our brotherhood. She will be remembered for her arrows. She will be remembered for her skill at dance, and the proud performances she displayed to liven our evenings."

08:32 <Pluck> "Zhao Shi Xan. After losing everything to the verdict of a magistrate, he came to work in the Lily Pits to make ends meet. He was unusually old to be recruited when he was, but as he passed the test blindfolded there was no choice but to accept him. He will be remembered for his arrows. He will be remembered for knowing the tongue of each direction; our ambassador when foreign entities came 

08:46 <Alvuea> There is an elegance, a beauty to the ceremony, the remembrance for their arrows, repeated after each one.  It is, however, at the end, a deeply mournful dirge.  A time of remembrance and loss.  Radiant feels a bit out of place in the ceremony full of Whistlers, it being rather their moment of togetherness after the messy trip to sea.  She met so few of

08:46 <Alvuea> them... none of them had been her guardians... so she had little opportunity to speak with them.

08:51 <Pluck> The Whistlers share a collective drink, raising small ceramic cups of wine to their lips before taking a moment of silence to remember their fallen. And then it is over. Pluck orders half of the company to rest, whilst the other half is dispatched back into the Haunches to maintain order and assist with repair and rescue. Captain Pluck herself walks towards Radiant. The woman doesn't look as 

08:51 <Pluck> though she's slept, but there is still a purpose to her stride that was lacking in the first days when Radiant met her. "My lady, would you take tea with me?" she offers, gesturing to the austere barracks behind her. "I have a special blend of leaves from the Blessed Isle, mixed with spices from the far east."

08:55 <Alvuea> Radiant nods, "Certainly.  I would love to take tea with you." she answers.  "How are you... holding up with all of this?" she asks, a strong note of concern as she walks with the woman into the barracks, interested to see just what sort of place the whistlers stay.

09:05 <Pluck> "My lady may think me callous, but the truth is that I have more joy than grief at present, for our losses were much less than they could have been," replies Pluck. The two of them pass a great mess hall, dominated by rows of wooden tables and a faint odour of mint. Pluck ascends a flight of stairs two levels, passing by a pair of large dormitories that must be for the rank and file. They 

09:05 <Pluck> are perfectly in order; bunks of two by two are cleaned and organized to perfection. The last level of the complex must be for the officers, and Pluck guides Radiant to her own room.

09:05 <Pluck> Pluck puts a kettle on in a small hearth towards the back of the room, and makes a great show to Radiant of mixing the herbs and preparing the tea. "How is Commander Nellens?" she asks, as she pours two fragrant, steaming cups.

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09:40 <Alvuea> Radiant considers that initial statement, "That does seem perhaps a little strange at the moment." Radiant comments, "But I do understand what you mean.  It was quite the substantial danger they all just endured. It is impressive how many of your Whistlers made it back." Radiant nods, understanding the relief that Pluck must feel, even if att the moment it

09:40 <Alvuea> is a bit odd.  She looks across the dormitories, and watches Pluck's little ritual of making tea, taking a long slow smell of the cup before answering, "She is... much better than she was.  I think she has come to terms with things, though she's still... well, she still hasn't properly finished recovering from the battle with the Raksha."

09:47 <Pluck> "It is a triumph of discipline, and Captain Sugar's, too," acknowledges Pluck. "And that is good to hear. Lathe needs women like her more than ever." She shakes her head. "What is the city coming to? If it isn't the Lintha, it is the Raksha. And if it is not the Raksha, it is a horde of walking dead coming out of nowhere. To save the Haunches from the walking dead, the Dragon-Blooded quarantine 

09:47 <Pluck> the Lily Pits and burn half the haunches to the ground. And we are up to how many distinct cases of Anathema, now? Around half a dozen?"

09:57 <Alvuea> "It is.  Is amazing, and it seems so... sudden, everything seems to have struck all at once, does it not?"  She sighs, "I don't know what is going on with... any of it.  And... yes, we do seem to be simply littered with people who can't help but show off their glowing foreheads, don't we?" Radiant laughs, and takes a sip of tea, "Oh!  This is quite good, you

09:57 <Alvuea> have excellent taste, dear Pluck."

09:59 <Pluck> "Thank you. Tea is worth being meticulous about," replies Pluck, sounding chuffed. She pauses, and shrugs. "How do you see them, Lady Radiant? The Anathema," she asks, cautiously.

10:02 <Alvuea> "Did you know... that once, a long time ago, they weren't called that?  They were called... um, lawgivers?  Isn't that a funny name?  Or Solars.  Which does make rather more sense.  All that bright light, they do make their own little suns."  She laughs, and takes another sip of tea.  "I think they could use to be a bit more careful.  The Immaculate Order

10:02 <Alvuea> thinks rather more negatively about them."

10:04 <Pluck> Pluck clucks her tongue. "I think that they are very powerful, and Lathe is in dire need of that sort of strength. I also think they are tremendously dangerous, and that Master Platinum, at least, must have some agenda beyond simply killing the Lintha. If not, he must be some exception to them, perhaps some sort of traitor. The Lunar Anathema he killed certainly showed that the stories the 

10:04 <Pluck> Immaculates tell are justified."

10:47 <Alvuea> Radiant nods, "That is certainly a possibility.  I do not know.  I spoke with Platinum, I was attempting to convince him that perhaps he should have some sort of plan for our return.  I am not certain he is capable of crafting a plot with a devious agenda.  He may be precisely as he seems because he knows not how to be else."  She laughs, "I suppose, but was

10:47 <Alvuea> turning into a strange monster really... that much wilder than sending a ship underwater for a mile?  I do not think they are so different.  The Immaculate Order seems to have... ideas that mostly are in place to keep things as they are."

10:56 <Pluck> "I can agree with that. After all, look at Jagamaru. What kind of nobility of spirit does he embody? He burns what he likes, kills whom he pleases. We are supposed to tolerate it. According to Immaculate doctrine, his offenses are regrettable but must be forgiven because of his divine blood. Nonsense, of course. A crime is a crime and he ought to be punished, but his religion protects him."

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11:06 <Alvuea> Radiant seems serious, a little angry, as she thinks about Jagamaru, which is rather a bit out of character for her.  "Precisely what I am talking about.  He is nothing but destruction... burning everything around him, consuming." she shakes her head, "But... no.  I do not believe in it.  His blood grants him power, certainly.  However, what people do with

11:06 <Alvuea> power varies greatly." She decides that looking at the bottom of the teacup sounds like a good plan, as she drinks of it for a few moments.

11:11 <Pluck> "Quite. When one thinks about it, force is neutral. It is the direction and the goal that give it purpose; it never exists just for its own sake. We Whistlers must take note of that. We're at a crossroads, you see." She pauses. "We have power too, now, and not just in our arms. The Factor Adhyasa is to award us a tremendous amount of money, for services rendered. Enough money that it would 

11:11 <Pluck> only take one or two more jobs to have us all retire, and never see action again. I don't want to see my brethren die for no reason, so in the absence of a greater purpose, retirement is indeed what we ought to seek."

11:17 <Alvuea> "I do not trust the Factor.  He has a great deal of money, of power.  He has acquired this by always ensuring he gets the best deal.  If he is offering a tremendous amount of money for the services of the Whistlers, he expects to need them.  You should ask for much more."  She says, "Or negotiate otherwise for a better deal.  He is certainly not a man for

11:17 <Alvuea> simple generosity."  She laughs, "I think you try very hard to ensure a great purpose for your people... that their arrows fly in defense of Lathe.  And you find your people... from the great many of those who have nothing here, and let them be something.  You are an amazing woman, Pluck.  Lathe needs more any bit like you."

11:24 <Pluck> Pluck looks down at her tea. Radiant's comments clearly please her to no end, and she struggles to retain a humble demeanour without quite getting there. "Lady Radiant is far more amazing. Many mutter about the dynasts whilst praising them to their faces, and I know the rich have many unkind things to say about the poor. Some of them are even justified. But Lady Radiant is loved by every 

11:24 <Pluck> level of the city. I have never heard so much as an ill word."

11:33 <Alvuea> Despite their dour dress, Radiant is enjoying this little conversation with Pluck.  "Perhaps.  But I do not think the city needs but one of me.  While the city desperately needs more people who will help those poor souls in the Lily Pits to become more."  She smiles, reflecting again, enjoying praise... it is terribly difficult not to.  "I think there will

11:33 <Alvuea> be a great deal, still, for your Whistlers to do, sweet Pluck.  Wild changes seem to be all around... and Lathe is, unfortunately, not ready for them.  And they are not the changes I had... hoped for."  She sighs, "But you will be more than up to it.  And if you do need anything, don't hesitate to ask, mmm?"

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11:41 <Iri>  Pluck nods, slowly. "Not just the Whistlers," she says. "It was... recently, at another funeral. I heard a rather fiery young woman say that it is time for the people of Lathe to rise up. That the people of Lathe are strong. I do not believe that a rebellion will be altogether productive, nor do I do believe people are naturally strong. But people can be taught to be strong, and in being 

11:41 <Iri> strong others must then pay heed to their wishes." She rises from the table; the tea is just about done. "The time is ripe for the lowest of us to drag themselves up. With an arbitrary death being the alternative, what is there for them to lose, truly? At least they will be prepared to meet it on their own terms."

11:45 <Alvuea> Radiant considers, "I must admit, I have... attempted to prepare people for precisely such a thing.  I was not, however, expecting Lathe to be awash in Raksha and the Lintha to become significantly worse... Do you think it is going to happen now?" She inquires, at the moment, actually seeming a bit off-balance as she considers it herself.  "I had thought...

11:45 <Alvuea> it still a distant thing.  That Lathe is... far from prepared."

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11:55 <Iri> Pluck shakes her head. "Now? No. What I mean is..." Pluck furrows her brow. "Look around. People in the Haunches have lost everything. Many must be feeling helpless, caught up in the flow of events. Who knows from whence the next attack will come? If they are not given something to do, they will wallow in despair- perhaps lash out, or overindulge in narcotics. It is an excellent time to 

11:55 <Iri> recruit. It will give those people something to do, and just as importantly it will make them ready to react against the next danger that comes our way. And perhaps it will enable us to act, instead- to cut off the next threat before it reaches our shores." 

11:55 <Iri> She pauses. "I am merely proposing to form a militia out of our native citizens, using the Whistlers as the core elites around which other units can rally. Building an army is hardly a new idea, but Lathe has not needed to do so on its own right. Notionally, the Realm handles our defence. Since they are clearly not, ah, up to the job, we must take matters into our own hands." She snorts. 

11:55 <Iri> "Basically, I plan to become a warlord in my own right, not the leader of a small mercenary band. That is what I think is needed to defend Lathe. Against any threat. Inside or out. Whoever it is." By the time she finishes talking, Pluck is radiating confidence and her words come utterly without doubt.

12:00 <Alvuea> Radiant smiles, "Excellent.  I agree.  If... Platinum manages to survive the coming days, perhaps... his students will become a like force.  Or... another area for you to expand."  She smiles, and says, "This is something I can help you with.  I am... somewhat adept at guiding large groups of people to certain things.  When are you going to begin your

12:00 <Alvuea> recruitment?  Where?" She asks, with her own bit of excitement.

12:12 <Iri> "I shall offer a talent of silver to the winner. Mark my words, it will be some vainglorious dynastic upstart," she adds, dourly. "In any case, many talented men and women will attend, if there are any in this city. We'll consider hiring those who show great promise. At the tournament- yes, I'll announce that I we are looking to recruit sailors, oarsmen, and marines as well." Pluck muses over 

12:12 <Iri> this. "We number a little under two-hundred now... I would aim to grow our total personel by perhaps twice that, at this stage. It's important to take things incrementally, I feel. The plant must be given time to grow." That last aphorism sounds silly, now that Pluck things about it, and her earlier candor is tinged with embarassment. What is she, a monk?

12:12 <Iri> *ex that

12:12 <Iri> "We always recruit after a battle to replenish our numbers. Usually, we administer spot tests to vagrants and scrapers," explains Pluck. "Occasionally people come to our door. This time we will invite a great multitude to an archery tournament, to be held within a week. I was thinking of having Alira carry word of it to our outlying villages as well- I consider them to be under Lathe's 

12:12 <Iri> protection, after all.

12:12 <Iri> "I shall offer a talent of silver to the winner. Mark my words, it will be some vainglorious dynastic upstart," she adds, dourly. "In any case, many talented men and women will attend, if there are any in this city. We'll consider hiring those who show great promise. At the tournament- yes, I'll announce that I we are looking to recruit sailors, oarsmen, and marines as well." Pluck muses over 

12:12 <Iri> this. "We number a little under two-hundred now... I would aim to grow our total personel by perhaps twice that, at this stage. It's important to take things incrementally, I feel."

12:18 <Alvuea> Radiant nods, "That sounds like quite a plan, dear Pluck.  Though don't neglect your normal methods.  You will find glory-seekers in your tournament, and they will not be the sort of people you are used to.  They will view things differently.  Do remember to be careful.  And it sounds... with such a prize pool, you will not need me to help as crier."

12:24 <Iri> Pluck smiles. "I will find eight more talented children from the pits. Our sorority will endure. If I were to abandon it completely, I would lose my position as Captain within heartbeats." She lowers her eyes. "As for glory-hounded and the insincere, it is not as if the Whistlers have never faced deserters and traitors before. We deal with them as any army would, my lady. Perhaps we take more 

12:24 <Iri> sorrow in it than others. Who would enjoy punishing their own blood?" She shakes her head. "There is a way you can help us," she continues. "My actions will draw notice, and some of it will not be good for it will be seen as an aggressive act. If My Lady hears the murmurings of such people, I would be glad to know of them."

12:30 <Alvuea> Radiant smiles and says, "Let us meet again soon, then, my dear Pluck.  I would be happy to let you know of the murmurs I hear.  There are always words travelling everywhere.  And I look forward to seeing what sort of strong force you can produce... and the good it can do for the people of Lathe."

15:03 <@Carreau> --

15:03 <@Carreau> An ornate letter is delivered to Lady Radiant's quarters, bearing the serpentine symbol of Whitecrest and the Hall of Aruspicy. "Beloved Lady Radiant, most favored flower-tongued songbird of Lathe, you are cordially invited to come visit the esteemed Hall of Aruspicy in the Whitecrest district of the city of Lathe for a tour of the premises that concludes in a moment of tea and discussion with High >

15:03 <@Carreau> > Aruspex Nellens Juuka. Please let your availability be known to any of the Augurs patrolling our fair city."

15:09 <Alvuea> Radiant is a bit surprised to find such a letter delivered to her home.  It is a delight, of course, to come across such a thing, as she has hardly been to the Whitecrest district.  She considers that perhaps the High Aruspex will want to talk about Tomo... though perhaps not.  In any case, Radiant decides that she shall pay a visit the selfsame afternoon. 

15:09 <Alvuea> After all, her show isn't until terribly late that evening.  A little song whispered, and the cloud she's had drift about high above slowly rolls its way down as she finishes putting up her hair, and then slipping outside, considering who among her guard should come with her.

15:13 <Iri> As it would happen, a shift change is occuring shortly, enabling Radiant her choice of lieutenant; the rather silent and efficient Kato, or the sardonic-yet-bubbly in turns Elmyra (whom she is reasonable certain carries a pouch of behemoth dust, just in case). Or, perhaps, she could forward a message and invite the captain herself to accompany her. No doubt a power-hungry warlord would have 

15:13 <Iri> an interest in hobnobbing with sorcerers.

15:17 <@Carreau> Regardless who is picked, a familiar lanky man with shaggy brown hair and dull blue eyes meets them in the Heartworks, sitting on a bench by the artificial lake of the park. He's dressed in the black and purple of the Augurs, a white porcelain mask casually slid to the side of his head. He looks a little more pale and emancipated than before, lifting two fingers as a casual greeting as he gets up slowly 

15:17 <@Carreau> >

15:17 <@Carreau> > from the bench. "Lady Radiant, 's been a while. Am hopin' things've been less troublesum than the last time we met?" He speaks with a commoner's accent, looking over the bodyguard for a moment before focusing back on the singer."

15:17 <Alvuea> Radiant smiles to Kato, "Would you mind seeing if your Lady Pluck is free shortly?  I would like to invite her to pay a visit with me to Whitecrest.  If she has the time, of course.  It is of no great concern if she does not."  She then smiles to Elmyra, and says, "And would you please let me know when that fluffy little cloud manages to make its way down

15:17 <Alvuea> here?"

15:18 <Iri> Always ready to make herself available, Pluck finds her opinion of the augurs rapidly sinking at the sight of this shaggy-looking man. 

15:20 <Alvuea> Radiant smiles to the lanky man, "I think things have been more than sufficiently troublesome, no matter who you ask, around here." she says with a slightly whistful sigh, "But I do suppose that has not managed to so terribly affect me.  Have you been... well?"

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15:25 <@Carreau> "Things've been a'ight. Lil' sad at times, lil' confusin' the others. But, uh, seems like ya got yaself a ride as is." He motions over to the cloud hovering near Radiant. "Le's no' keep m'lady Juuka waitin', she has quite the temper, real punctual-like too. Oh, right. Am call'd Gale, by the by. Iffin you need sumthin' in the future, Lady Radiant." The man then takes a step forward, brings his hands to >

15:25 <@Carreau> > over his lap, wrists crossed, inhales deep and when he exhales a serpentine violet mist is expelled from his nostrils and mouth, forming a similar cloud about his feet. He takes a step, and the cloud seems to support his weight. He then starts ascending, pointing at an opening in the ceiling of the Heartworks, near where the behemoth's petrified spine leads. "Tha's where we're goin'. Ta Whitecrest."

15:28 <Iri> Pluck looks at the height, and then looks at the cloud by Lady Radiant. Swallowing, she waits for Radiant to board before stepping upon it herself, whereupon she pointedly tried to look anywhere at the ground for a moment before deciding, apparently, that closing her eyes is the best solution.

15:28 <Alvuea> Radiant gives the man a smile, "It's a pleasure to meet you under somewhat less adverse conditions, Gale.  And thank you very much for that offer.  I might just need to take you up on it."  She steps carefully onto her cloud, and then smiles to Pluck, as she says, "Step right on here." she guides, offering a hand to help her aboard.

15:34 <@Carreau> Where the Heartworks are a place of sunlight, white marble, verdant gardens and open spaces, the Whitecrest district feels like a claustrophobic labyrinth. There are a black basalt towers and massive brass telescopes everywhere, the hole they travel through a giant well in the center of an atrium, an inner courtyard surrounded by a three-story building built from ebon wood. A few black-robed sorcerers an

15:34 <@Carreau> d >

15:34 <@Carreau> > thaumaturges move about their business, carrying scroll cases and jars of alchemical ingredients, one lugging a black jade daiklave of monstrous proportions with the help of a cart. Above, two clouds similar to theirs flit above, two sorcerers discussing something rather heatedly with the help of wildly flailing hands. Seems like one is talking about explosions or eruptions of some sort, where the othe

15:34 <@Carreau> r >

15:34 <@Carreau> > makes motions resembling an archer. Gale steps from his cloud and with a quick sharp inhale sucks in the cloud back to his nostrils, touching his stomach reflexively as if he had just eaten it. "Welcome to the Hall of Aruspicy, Lady Radiant." He starts leading them through a promenade with multiple bridges crossing over it from building to building. The walk's sides are decorated with large black stone

15:34 <@Carreau>  >

15:34 <@Carreau> > statues depicting strange creatures and humans alike, as well as flower pots of similar hue that sprout colorful mushrooms from glittering white qwartz gravel.

15:37 <Iri> Pluck has never seen anything like this before. The captain's eyes survey the district with a rarely-tapped sense of wonder. Nothing here is remotely familiar to her- except, of course, a man posing as an archer. He is doing it all wrong, but she supposes this is not the right time to point it out. "Is everyone here a sorcerer?" she finds herself asking.

15:37 <Alvuea> Radiant has hardly been up into Whitecrest... Heartworks and Jade Soma keeping her busy most of the time, and the general lack of welcoming atmosphere in the place is not entirely her favorite.  She decides not to tease Pluck about how difficult it would be to guard with her eyes closed, but it it is a difficult thing.  She looks about and then whispers

15:37 <Alvuea> gently to Pluck, "We're here, you can step off the cloud, if you'd like." before she does so herself, and coos gently at it to find a nice spot in the ceiling, before turning back to Gale, "Thank you.  It is always interesting to visit up here."

15:40 <@Carreau> "Not erryone. We've got 'em thaumaturges, 'em servants, 'em strange creatures o' Malfeas and the 'mental Courts bound into all sorts o' servitude." Paper panel doors are often covered in extensive lengths of purple silk that seems to shift in hues based on the angle due to how it has been dyed, some of the doors open and revealing black-robed men and women with their masks lifted over their heads or set 

15:40 <@Carreau> >

15:40 <@Carreau> > aside, doing everything from enjoying tea to slicing their palms in an inscribed ritual circle, drops of blood hitting a chalice that spews out sickly green flames. Gale seems unphased by all this, leading them toward a cathedral-esque building in the center of the district, its five towers thicker and more imposing than the others.

15:41 <Iri> "What do you know? The very bottom and the very top of Lathe have something in common."

15:45 <Alvuea> Radiant is curiously looking about, interested in each of those things, although Pluck's comment causes her to look back, and laugh slightly at her comment, then look still back to the large cathedral-esque building, eyeing the impressive architecture, and commenting, "I am not certain I have ever actually heard the reason for the masks.  It has simply

15:45 <Alvuea> seemed to be... what is done in Lathe.  Is there a story to them?"

15:49 <@Carreau> "The masks, well, sum join the Hall to cast aside their past life. It's a tradition. Also keeps us safe from them poison mists many o' us like to use." As they reach the large archway that leads inside the building, the three come face-to-face with what can only be described as a golem; a humanoid statue of black basalt ten feet tall that moves on its own, a white hearthstone glowing in its forehead. It 

15:49 <@Carreau> >

15:49 <@Carreau> > is feminine in shape, but decked in sculpted-on armor and a helmet that lacks a slit for eyes. Each of its steps shakes the ground, as it is pulling a cart behind him by two chains over its shoulders. Gale stops and lifts his hand to halt the three. "Careful. That be the Black Lady, somewha' o' a mascot o' Whitecrest. Wonder what she's carryin'?" Gale moves up to peek into the cart, lifting his brows. 

15:49 <@Carreau> >

15:49 <@Carreau> > "Neeevermind, ya dun wanna know. Les' get going." He then guides the two inside with the help of his hands, leading them into a massive hall. Pillars and statues abound, the center of the room has an ornamental rose compass of orichalcum and blue jade. "We're 'ere. Just step on dat and ya'll be taken to our 'igh 'ruspex."

15:49 <@Carreau> *behind him -> *behind itself

15:51 <@Carreau> Gale lifts a hand as a goodbye, before remembering something. "Oh. Dun look 'er in the eyes. They be ensorcell'd with potent magics. She won't take offens' if ya keep ya head bow'd."

15:53 <Iri> Pluck seems increasingly dubious. "Is that another reason for the masks?"

15:54 <Alvuea> Radiant considers this one of the few times in life where she wishes she were a bit taller, the large cart  walls not a thing she can look into without hopping or something, and that would simply be far too unseemly.  So, instead, she smiles, "That deems like... quite the mascot.  Is she not... under someone's control?" she asks at a soft sort of whisper. 

15:54 <Alvuea> She smiles, "Thank you for being such an excellent guide, Gale." she says softly, and answers, "I'll try to be careful about that." she answers, though... not looking the woman in the eyes seems like a rather unfortunate way to communicate.  However, over to step upon the compass rose she goes, curious what it shall do.

15:56 <@Carreau> "Oh no, The Black Lady does what she wants, all am aware." He grins to Radiant and then looks to Pluck. "The masks do nothin' 'gainst 'er gaze." He smiles politely and bows his head. "Dun hesitate to call on me iffin ya need somethin'." The compass rose, when stepped on, seems to pull on your very core. World shifts, left becomes right, up becomes down, and then once again to realign you. When done, you 

15:56 <@Carreau> >

15:56 <@Carreau> > are elsewhere; in a small and rather humble study, several rows of bookcases blocking any obvious exists. In the center sits a woman, enjoying her tea.

15:56 <Iri> With a shrug, Pluck quickly steps after Radiant to join her there. She isn't quite sure how she can possibly guard Radiant here- avenge, maybe, but guard? Against sorcery that can be pushed onto them with a glance?

15:58 <@Carreau> High Aruspex Nellens Juuka's chiseled features are as expressive as granite, her purple-and-black hair that reaches her jawline combed over to the left of her face. She is dressed in a sleeveless black cherry blossom-patterned cheongsam with a high collar, seven thin purple sashes wrapped around her waist with their tails descending down from her chair. On her shoulders she bears a mantle of grey and >

15:58 <@Carreau> > mauve feathers, two additional sashes sliding from underneath it down to her shoulderblades. Her exposed arms are covered in cryptic tattoos, winding glyphs of black and purple that seem to move on their own when the light hits them right, delicate hands decked in multiple white and black jade rings and bracelets. She gives the approaching women the smallest sideway glance, and it is as if the world >

15:58 <@Carreau> > about the two drains of color when her eyes - if they can be called such, more reminescent of infinite pools of spiritual absence made flesh - are cast their way. Trying to make eye contact feels like someone is trying to tear at your very nature, an infinite and bottomless hunger that twists the world into concave, curvilinear perspective. This is why Gale probably warned you.

15:58 <@Carreau> "Lady Radiant. And oh, mm." She snaps her lithe fingers absently. "Pluck. Yes, that was it. Welcome. Please, be seated."

16:01 <Iri> "An honor, High Aruspex," replies Pluck, commendably avoiding a stammer and briefly raising a hand to shield her eyes. She manages to guide herself to the seat in due course.

16:01 <Alvuea> "High Aruspex" Radiant calls gently, by way of greeting, as she provides a deep bow.  Of course, she cannot help but attmept a moment of eye contact, though the way that it feels like tearing away at her is rather convincing at getting her to look, instead, down, besides... the winding, cryptic tattoos and glyphs are beyond fascinating.  "It is our pleasure

16:01 <Alvuea> to have this opportunity to visit."  She finds her way over to take a seat.  Although she spent a few moments out of sorts after that initial glance, she soon recomposes herself to move elegantly across the room and claim that seat.

16:09 <@Carreau> An ornate porcelain teapot flies on its own from behind one of the bookshelves, followed by three cups that place themselves on the table. The pot the tilts and pours tea into all of the cups, before landing gently on the table. "I've heard many good things about you, from both my fellow Augurs and my niece, Tomo." The woman lifts the cup to her lips and takes a sip, before setting it down. "You have a >

16:09 <@Carreau> > particular gift, I've heard, that I was unaware of before. The gift of sorcery." She sets her hands on her lap. "I would like to offer you the services of the Hall of Aruspicy if you wish to delve deeper into the mysteries of the occult. Your presence has been most beneficial as of late, and having someone of your repute attend to the functions of the Hall would also help lift the mood in these..." She

16:09 <@Carreau>  >

16:09 <@Carreau> > considers her words for a moment. "... Troubling times."

16:19 <Alvuea> "Thank you, High Aruspex" comes Radiant's answer to that initial compliment, as she is never unhappy to hear others say positive things about her.  Meanwhile, her eyes dance across the moving teapot, and the cups, a she claims hers, and takes a gentle sip, and... seems to spent a bit of time examining it.  That was not an offer she had expected to hear.  She

16:19 <Alvuea> lets the High Aruspex's words hang in the air for quite a number of seconds before she answers, "Thank you very much, High Aruspex.  I would be interested in looking further into such things.  I do not hear nearly the sort of songs I would expect to hear, for such a study... but I suppose there may simply be many ways to reach a destination." she pauses, and

16:19 <Alvuea> taking another sip, "I thought the Halls were rather isolated from much of the troubles below?"

16:28 <@Carreau> "Mm. 'Isolated' is a strange word. We -are- Lathe, keeping this city alive through our prowess. If it was not for us, the Haunches would be crushed, the people of the Lily Pits would choke without air, the tunnels of the volcano would collapse and the Caldera would be a boiling cauldron. We watch over its people, just as we watch the stars. Two days ago, however, we were attacked. Someone tried to breach

16:28 <@Carreau>  >

16:28 <@Carreau> > the sanctity of our Observatory, but was unsuccessful. The wards placed managed to repel the attack. Two of our own died." She doesn't show any sort of an emotional reaction to that. "But that aside, I wanted to ask you about Tomo. How is she, really? I met her and she was like a different person altogether."

16:36 <Alvuea> Radiant nods, listening, curious at the woman's words.  It makes her realize that there are ever so many things she doesn't know about how Lathe works, what makes everything flow.  "I did not realize quite how precarious Lathe is.  Not... that I mean that it isn't in the most capable hands."  She shivers, and then... here is what she expected.  The other

16:36 <Alvuea> topic of conversation, "She has been changed, certainly.  However, I think... I may finally be able to say that she is now well.  Her trip out to fight the Raksha... The Wyld, and the loss of her normal command... it did unfortunate things to her." She shivers, remembering that terrible song, the things flying out of her friend, "And... the difficulties on

16:36 <Alvuea> the fight with the Lintha, well... they made things all the worse.  But... she seems to have settled now.  To be better, even if she still has some recovery to complete."

16:46 <@Carreau> "If you say so. It simply seems like her faith has been shaken. She used to be a devout follower of the Immaculate way, but she outright refused to attend the sermon when she returned. It is most peculiar. In a dire time like this, she would reject rather than embrace the only comfort she has known. I simply wonder if she has found... an another comfort." The woman then looks over to Radiant, and color >

16:46 <@Carreau> > seeps from the world about her. "I wonder if she has found someone."

16:53 <Alvuea> Radiant looks back at the tea, the color seeping from her world... not a thing she enjoys, as it makes her shiver.  That gaze is quite the strange thing to experience.   Moments on the ship replay through her mind, though, the way Tomo seemed so lost, and then... what she said shortly after recovery... 'beloved.' She sighs, and says gently, "That seems to be

16:53 <Alvuea> a question best directed to Tomo."  She considers rushing to talk to her now, but... no.  She has this profoundly uncomfortable tea to finish.