Palladium: Reason and Existence

120. Necessary Omissions

The ringing faded from their ears as the light returned. Atop the hillock, Fortune was deathly still and Emalf joined Rashyr as he hurried to the summit where the girl trembled with the effort to remain conscious. Almost casually, Rashyr placed his single steadying hand upon her shoulder before Kyber Mannesh (empty) and Brink Endean reached them.

As Kyber Mannesh (empty) spoke, whether from relief at the words or Rashyr’s healing, the fire in Fortune’s eyes abated to be replaced by a steely analysis of the man and what he said. Using the ring of audience so that all of Dakar would hear her, she reminded the man with the ‘merchant’ loyalties, that Dakar had attacked Godling Wood through Fortune, and that she would have to remain in the city to deter reprisals. By that necessity she would assemble her army in the city-state until such time as it was ready to return to the God Glass and march on Necropolis.

Turning to Brink Endean, she told the enchanter that should he ever use his power on her again, she would send him to the goddess he had been so willing to deal with. Eyeing Emalf and Rashyr to ensure she was not misstepping, she went on to command the man to answer to Pylman Steeder and Lorretta Neb as they managed the army that would gather in the city.

The girl, lacking the experience to imagine the guile of a man like Mannesh, ill-advisedly planned to leave the Dakarian council in tact. Emalf, knowing that Mannesh had been chosen (as Callas had before him) by the Viscera, recognized the danger and suggested that the council should be replaced by people less inclined to side with the after life. All of Dakar listened as Fortune condemned the council’s willingness to deal with Godling Wood and announced that Dakar should elect a new council that might avoid such serious indiscretions.

In their rooms, Emalf allowed Fortune to inspect the book he had taken from the necromancer the previous night. Overcoming the urge to recoil from the abominable tome, Fortune worried at the script on its pages. She said that the God Glass had a similar book, written not just in the same script, but in the same hand. It was called ‘Prophecies for the Empress’ by a being naming itself Ohm (empty) and from what had been translated, it detailed the life of Fortune herself. Fortune said she believed that the book in Emalf’s keeping was a similar record covering the coming of ‘The Will’ of Tolmet. The force prophecised to change deaths prevalence on Palladium forever.

Then beset with despair, she told Emalf that the signet ring that had appeared on the altar of the God Glass on the night of her birth also seemed to bear passages written by Ohm. She questioned how the same being that wrote books more than three thousand years old could have etched words on a ring thought to have been created by divine power only a decade past. From a state of mental crisis she confided that the words that had prompted the God Glass to accompany the group to Hell and take back the hedron there had been written by Ohm. She feared that every time she used the hedron she might be serving Tolmet rather than opposing her.

The girl was consumed with doubt as she related that only Ritual Leader Kormon (empty) had met with any success in reading ‘Prophecies for the Empress’. He and Kreffner (empty) had not shared everything with her and she urged Emalf to show the tome of death to Kormon when he next saw the scholar.

The group left the sick and lonely girl to the compassion of Rashyr and made to join Illynis in her effort to retrieve Landradis’ lost mirrors before negotiating with the woman herself. At the end of the first day of travel, with no knowledge of Illynis’ status, Emalf asked Echo to find a way to communicate with the paladin. Echo had rarely used her magic upon anything other than infernals (whose nature made them vulnerable to command), and without Illynis’ true name, the paladin resisted the summoning, though the psychic attack prompted Illynis to despatch the Crystalline Bird to check on Emalf and the others. Using the bird, Emalf instructed Illynis to establish a large bonfire and await him.

After establishing the imperative to catch up to Illynis, the group consented to the risks of Emalf invoking the pathway of fire for all of them. They materialized in an eruption from the bonfire, all bar Emalf made aware of their mortality by the scalding the flames had inflicted during the journey. They found Illynis having recruited fighting men and a wagon to her cause, keeping an orderly camp as she awaited their arrival.

Together, the group continued north, toward the keep of the Mirrorwitch. With each day they became increasingly aware that the landscape was free of all signs of animal life and the character of the panorama was overwhelmingly ‘wrong’. Echo was the first to find words to describe the phenomena. Pointing it out to her companions, they realized the world itself had grown feint. That the substance of it became more like ‘frosted glass’ with every day of travel north. Moreover, the summoner saw more deeply than any other and was able to discern that the phenomena was strongest to the north west; where the broken city of Phi played host to Peril and untold waves of hellish power.

With apprehension resonating through their being, and Echo’s demonling servant ranging out before them, they witnessed a confused humanoid making its way through the ‘frosted glass’. The being the demonling said was ‘evil’ seemed to look from one world to another whilst having to find its way in both. As the group contemplated what they had learned about Peril, Echo once again turned perception upon a world more eroded when she had first observed it. Through obfuscating magic she did not comprehend, she perceived the point where not just Hell and Palladium came together, but a third dimension she could only relate to what Madgellania had called ‘oblivion’.

As Ilynis led the wagon and her hired help clear, Echo, Natasha and Emalf set out to intercept the figure to assess its nature and ensure it would not bring harm unchecked in the world. Drawing close to the creature, and knowing it would soon be looking into their dimension, the group recognized one of Satan’s viscera. On hailing, it expressed pleasure to have found them and demanded they submit ‘his’ location to it.

‘Tell your master he is only half what Andrakasis is’, Echo answered condemningly, and as the group hesitated, the subverted man revealed demonic teeth and lunged at them. As Emalf and Echo struck and withdrew, the creature came within reach of ‘The Blade’ of Panath, a woman whose art was death held ground that might otherwise be given.

Finally, struck to the ground, the viscera writhed against grievous wounds for the vengeance its master craved. Anger burning through him, Emalf took the once man’s head in his hands and roared in its face, ‘I hope you’re seeing this Satan. You will NEVER win!’ Each syllable grew more alien, until the last was uttered with the primality of the elemental fire that possessed the warlock. The Viscera’s life went out and rage filled fire replaced it as skin ruptured and ignited.

Having never seen the transformation before, Echo and Natasha did not realize Emalf’s self control had broken. They suspected nothing when the man shaped flame rose from the newly made corpse and detonated. Both women were raked by the outflowing flames and ran for their lives. A flight that thankfully lasted only seconds before the Master of Flame was himself again.

Rejoining Illynis, the shaken trio identified the figure to Illynis. The group avoided the many other beings they detected mid way between worlds and reached the MirrorWitch’s keep in short order. There they found walls, not quite opaque battered by the enemies that had trod them. They found the fortified entry way sundered and the way into the Mirrorwitch’s home unguarded.

As Echo and Emalf commenced searching the keep, Illynis grew protective when the enigmatic Natasha approached the men she had hired as an internship before their aspired roles as Dawn Enforcers. The resulting confrontation unfolded with few words as the contemplative ‘soldier’ surveyed Illynis and her underlings as though life and death depended not on anything the three might do, but wholly on what the ‘soldier’ might do. Then deciding death was not sanctioned by the god, Natasha simply turned and walked away, leaving Illynis ignorant of the divine will that had averted battle.

Echo and Emalf searched a keep that seemed more dreamed than real from the living quarters at its top to the stables at its bottom until they found the entrance to the witch’s cellar. Secreted behind shelves heavy with books, they found seven full length mirrors preserved by virtue of their storage place. Of these magnificent frames, clearly valued by the one that had packed them between the wall and the shelf, only four gave up the captured semblance to persistant scrutiny. The perceived reflections included a Dawn Healer of the yellow belt, General Arn of the Western Empire, Logica, and Illynis herself.

As Echo attempted to transform Logica’s mirror from its substantial self into a tattoo for easy, secure transport, Emalf stood guard over the reflection of his paladin companion. Failing the first time, as the summoner initiated her second attempt, Natasha was followed by the hostile Illynis into the cellar. The already aggravated paladin reacted to the scene with harsh words, challenging Echo’s presumption to user her power on any of the mirrors when a wagon awaited above ground. When the tirade turned to Emalf’s ready trust, he defended Echo for her words in support of Andrakasis to the Viscera they had faced earlier that day. Those words began the slippery slope that ended in Natasha being identified as Panath’s ‘Blade’ to Illynis. The paladin was aghast that the high priest of a god that had proven itself their enemy should be allowed to travel with the group, seemingly until the time when ‘The Blade’ decided to finish what Indel Kyura had started.

When Echo spoke, her words were ridden with familiarity and annoyance. She lamented how the paladin never changed. When Illynis turned condemning eyes upon the summoner she implied the summoner should not be given the chance to know her nearly well enough to truthfully say any such thing. Echo unperturbed, said that the elven Paladin was the only one of the group she had known ‘forever’ and insisted that Illynis would know Echo too. Absorbing the words, the silent gathering looked uneasily at the woman that implied a place from the future.

As they considered the many incidents supporting the deduction, the time traveler tried to validate the groups need of her and ‘The Blade’. She reminded the group that she had forced Natasha’s identity into the open because the groups cause needed them to know. She said that the future she came from was hazy and incomplete in her memory and that she had pursued the freeing of Logica and gaining audience with the Mirrorwitch because she believed those memories might be accessed with their assistance.

As the debate escalated, Echo told the group that just as Illynis had failed to save the Crown of Forever, the group and all other hopes would fail to save the future from the Old One loose in the world unless they changed their course. She described where she had come from as ‘desolate’, that it had been ‘consumed’ by Peril’s curse, and that the group had to understand that the time she was speaking of was being written by their current choices.

As Emalf took the side of the paladin, the pair were united in the assertion that Natasha and Echo had joined the group under false pretenses and had yet to inspire the trust to justify vouching for them to such allies as the Mirrorwitch. The frustrated summoner simply repeated that unless they learned from the future, the group were destined for cataclysmic failure. She said that time before the great war was alarmingly short, and that ‘The Blade’ was as much about the future as the time traveler that had seen it.

Also in this adventure Broadpaw related the chaos that Fortune’s use of the weapon against Godling Wood had brought. He said that nature had cried out in alarm and Pad Pad himself had never been close to flight. Within Dakar, the working horses and military stallions had railed in fear, and more than one resident of the city had been killed.

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