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Aisling didn’t like this. Didn’t like this at all – the lava… fire and brimstone, it all made her feel horribly exposed outside the Forest. Such harsh and uninviting things they were, promising painful death with minimal subtlety. The Forest could be a harsh place – but only if you refused to stop and listen to the whisper of the woods or the babbling of the water ways. Here though, here Destruction reigned and it intimated the dainty Aoide.

Stumbling on a dead root as she approached, her fingers wrapped more rigidly around the necklace that Natasha had given her. The bite of metal into her skin served as a reminder as to why she was here – to resurrect her Lord and Master, Glyph. She still wondered though, if the other had been mistaken in her conclusion; had the gem really reacted to the presence of a possible host? It had yet to even show any sign of stirring…. let alone tug enough to notice.

Hooves clicked against the ground as she entered the Pantheon, echoing hollowly in the shop.

Find Phaedra and you find the Host

Easier said then done.

She couldn’t remember when the last time she had been in the Pantheon was any idea of where to look for the promised Host eluded her – where to start? … How to interact? Aisling didn’t like lying… had agonized over that request for several days and now it was the ending of the week of War, with Plague lurking just around the corner. She had to find the Host soon, before he was taken by illness.

Her wandering eventually brought her by the Throne Room and she paused long enough to look in and see the source of all the suffering. Without having to ask, she knew beyond a doubt what the pod was. Harmodius. Fear and grief warred within her, forcing her to look away. Their Lord, laid low by some unknown force – it felt akin to losing a parent. Backing up, she fled the Throne Room with a chill down her spine, understanding the need to hurry.

In the meantime, Malh’reth had come down from Phaedra’s apartments fresh from their ‘conversation’ and possessed a ruddy glow about his cheeks. Sure, there was a bit of a limp and he was sore in several places but he was satisfied, at least for now.

Phaedra had bid him find information and report back – an easy enough task but it required being out of her presence. Everyone he had met had been willing to speak even if it was just for a few moments so how hard would it be to find an update on the Manacles? Perhaps even find this Gaia person or a belated offering for Phaedra – true treasures and not the trash that sat in her rooms.

A tug….

A TUG!

Aisling paused, having missed Malh’reth’s approach and departure and blinked at the gem, stirring and straining in the mage’s direction. There was no physical movement… but she could still feel the hope of life emanating strongly from Glyph’s gem. “Could it…” Glancing up, she scanned the hall just in time to catch Malh’reth’s robes sweeping through the Pantheon doors. Why outside? Her brow furrowed as she followed after him – not too fast so he would notice but how… how was she to get in front of him so that they would meet rather then her catching him? Panic gripped her, froze her as she watched him disappear down the steps and nearly out of sight.

Argh!

“Excuse me!” Shouting, the Aoide winced at the foolhardiness of her actions. She’d likely botched this now…

Something had pulled him, whispered across his consciousness, speeding his step. Was the pod stirring? Calling out for victims? He shivered and hurried on, confidence deflating back to humility as he descended the steps. I am a servant, remember? Arrogance will get me killed. Where but a few short moments before there had been a quiet, confident smile now rested a dutiful look. Gather information and report back. If that lead to other things… then well, they lead to other things. And if not, such was life.

Rounding the corner that would take him to his sweep of the grounds, a female voice called out. Soft, musical… gentle. And again that sourceless tug. Frowning, Malh’reth leaned back so he could see around a statue and peered in the direction of the voice then blinked, another Aoide? What could she want? Definitely seemed like she was in a rush… “Hello?”

Relief flooded her system and she stepped quickly towards him, “I’m sorry. But I’m a little lost… Could you help me?” She smiled, canted her head to the side and tried to keep the look of surprise from her eyes as the gem tugged harder, clearly reacting.

“Help… you? You’re an Aoide. Why are you lost?” Confusion laced his words as he stepped back fully and turned to face her, arms crossed.

“I…” She fumbled for the right words, trying to find something that would hook the mage. What had Natasha said…? Offer him knowledge? Knowledge! Coughing, she smiled apologetically, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been here in some time… but I come bearing gifts and hopefully something that will help – knowledge.”

Odd… lavender eyes narrowed slightly at her pause, “I was under the impression Aoide knew the pantheon. Why not take the knowledge to the one you serve?”

“The one I serve?” She shifted uncomfortably, dropping her gaze with a sad smile, “The one I serve has not returned… So I must bring this to the others instead. Greed was recently on the Throne, I felt, and thought that perhaps speaking to her would be appropriate.”

“Phaedra?” How interesting! “How did you know she sat upon the Throne?”

“I may not have visited the Pantheon in some time but I do speak with my brethren.” She sighed, “Sometimes they come to me when I would rather be alone.” Natasha really could be pushy sometimes…. Especially over the past few weeks.

Malh’reth chuckled, “I see. You dwell far from here? You are a week too late….?” Prompting for her name.

“Aisling. I know I am late, but there is no one in the Throne Room for War and I would avoid Plague.” Aisling shrugged her dainty shoulders, offerings jingling in her bags – gems she had guarded for Forest.

“Agreed.” This was most fortuitous. He hadn’t really even left the building yet and an opportunity had presented itself. “I am Malh’reth. I serve Phaedra, I can take you to her, if you wish.”

“Oh! You are?” That confirmation was just what she needed – she had the Host. No acting was required in either the relief at finding who he was or the hesitation that soon followed, “Take me to Greed? That’s quite alright. I can give you the offerings and the knowledge if you like… She intimidates me.” A sheepish smile turned the corners of her lips up as she shifted once more.

“What were you going to do if you could not meet with her then?” He frowned, wondering why she had picked Greed if she could not meet her – it seemed a foolish thing to him. Phaedra was an interesting creature.

“I was going to give it to her servants… once I found her room.”

“Ah. Well, I can take it for you. She will enjoy your offerings and make use of the knowledge. What is it you know?” He stepped forward, holding his hands out to take her bags from her.

“Not what I know, but rather an artifact of great power. Within it lies answers.” She spoke softly as she handed him her bags, filling his arms up before producing the necklace, “This pendant contains ancient knowledge that should help restore Him. Here, it’s important so I’ll put it around your neck alright?”

Almost there…. So close. She stepped forward then pause as he pulled away slightly. Couldn’t he feel the draw? The gem was aching, hungering for renewal.

“Just put it on top of the pile… “ He trailed off however, as he did feel the tug but caution, as always, overrode his curiosity.

“What? No. It’s important. Wear it so it doesn’t get lost.” She took another step, raising the necklace as though to put it over his head, “I wouldn’t want to face Greed’s fury if I lost it after all.”

Very true. And it was such a pretty thing as well… His eyes began to track it, watched it sway and glimmer in the rosy light for several moments before nodding and bowing his head, “You have a point.”

Her eyes lit up as his horn came down and it wasn’t without a great deal of will power that she kept her hands steady as she carefully put it over his head, brought the chain down to rest on his neck and the pendant on the pile. “There…

Straightening back up, he smiled at her, “Are you sure this is an artifact? It’s just a neckla-“ He cut himself off as the open back of the pendant brushed against his skin, making every hair on his body stand on end. A brief touch as the pendant settled…

Then the weight rested fully against the base of his neck, just above the meeting of the two collar bones and stuck. Malh’reth couldn’t see, could only feel with a shot of dread through his spine as the gem sank into his flesh, sliding through the holder to push against his throat. He resisted, eyes going wide as he dropped the baubles in his hands, some shattering upon the stone.

It felt so weird.

It felt so good.

“No….” Gasping, he stepped back to try to claw the stone from his body but it would not budge, remained there stubbornly as his eyes lifted to meet Ailing’s tearful ones. “You…”

She shook her head, both infinitely happy and utterly disgusted with herself. He was the Host… but he did not want it. The anger and betrayal that shone in his eyes stung more then she thought it would. “I… I….” She didn’t know? That was a blatant lie…

“You….”

Fear, panic, hatred… a deep need for violence rose then and he stepped forward.

Only to stop.


Soothing sounds… quiet and peaceful ones echoed in his mind. The whispers of leaves, the burble of a brook… they rose then, drawing his attention inward.

Something had settled, embraced him and curled at his very core.

There was no cataloging.
No forceful explosion of will.


Just the quiet sense........

........................Of a single leaf

.......................................................Falling, dancing

..............On an unknown wind

To settle on the surface of his mind..............................

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He stood like that, soothed and quieted lavender eyes distant as he reached for that gentle presence and found it elusive.

Not yet…

The words were faint, mere echoes of a stronger voice.

But he obeyed.

Blinked and found himself in need of air.


Inhaled deeply and relaxed.

Aisling stood before him, more then a little anxious. “Malh’reth…? Are… you alright?” She stepped forward cautiously, reaching out to him.

His first instinct was to slap that hand away and run her off but again, the somehow familiar embrace of the mind inside his heart washed away that violent intent, more forceful this time.

It left him feeling… neutral.

“I… am fine.” Absently, he pulled the chain from around his neck though his fingers lingered on the gem that now resided where the pendant fell. Shaking his head, the mage let his hands drop and he looked down at the mess at his feet… shattered crystal, cracked glass… tragedy. Guilt tore through him and he dropped to his knees to gather up the portion that was still whole, “I’m very sorry. Your gifts…”

She shook her head, a weary smile playing across her face as she rested a hand on his shoulder, “It’s alright. Take them to Phaedra for me?”

“Yes. I should do that.” He seemed to refuse to think on the subject of the necklace, the so-called knowledgeable artifact.

Rising, he turned and started back towards the Pantheon, “I will tell her these are belated offerings to her glory.”

“Thank-you.” Aisling nodded but remained where she was as she watched the mage disappear back into the Pantheon.

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Alone in Phaedra’s rooms, the Aurion meandered over to where the piles of offerings lay and arranged the treasures along the fringe of the collection. Floating, detached, he operated on auto-pilot… lost in a fog, moving from place to place acutely aware of the emptiness around him for it seemed a glaring contrast for the fullness within. Something was there, quiet and curled but there… sourced from the gem that still throbbed in his throat.

He would cease to exist.

That fact pulled at him, making it hard to think or decide. His life would end, eaten away by a god. It left him numb and unsure as he sank to the gound before the windows that overlooked the lava pools. Without asking, he knew the thing that had taken up residence within his soul was a god. A parasite…

Hey now… I am no parasite

The sensation of shifting branches and whispering leaves made him stop, ears twitching. That voice… it had spoken earlier, faint then but a little louder now.

He reached, groping for that voice inside his mind. “Who are you?” Though he spoke audibly, his attention was turned inward.

Another impression of general shifting followed as invisible hands reached out to meet him, caressing the core of his being, trying to soothe the tempest that swirled there.

You will find out. I have overheard your thoughts, Malh’reth, and I would have you know I would not conquer you.

Blinking, the turned his head to the side brought a hand to the gem as he stared into his reflection in the window, “What?”

I am not like some of my brethren, dear one.

“Heh. You’re still going to kill me to be reborn – just like every other god.”

A sigh echoed in his mind as the god drew nearer the surface, I would rather make peace with you then break your spirit, Malh’reth. You may not trust me now but you will come to.

“Doubt it.” He crossed his arms, “You haven’t answered my question god and you expect me to trust you? Ha.”

If my name is that important I will tell you. An exasperated tone laced his words as he unfolded and reached out, permeating every limb and tissue, sending pleasant tingling sensations up and down the mage’s body. They were parallel, inside of each other and it made the Aurion gasp. Though the god had only reached with his consciousness and invited Malh’reth in, the mage felt both dwarfed and secure, lost in the heart of an ancient forest.

I am Glyph, Silvim Illusterre, God of Forests and I thank you.

Malh’reth’s eyes were saucers as he fell into Glyph’s embrace, reaching out to touch the window before him, fingers splayed across the smooth surface. In his reflection he could almost see the face of another, it was faint and indistinct but there, both scaring and fascinating the mage.

“G-glyph?” He questioned as the god receded, still too weak to exert too much influence over anything.

My time to influence will be long, and I would not deprive my host of his freedom too soon. We gods did not choose this method of rebirth, but some have embraced it with more enthusiasm than others.

Umbra’s words rose to the surface then, drawn forward by Glyph’s gentle introduction. Shadow was living proof that Hosts could get along with the god… Could it be true for him as well?

Yes? Sensing Malh’reth’s uncertainty, he unfolded a little again and let the mage touch him, knowing from his subtle explorations of the Aurion’s memories that the contact would settle his heart at least a little.

“Don’t kill me yet… I am a mortal but my soul is mine – I want to choose.” The words of others echoed in his mind as he spoke – time, cooperation, a specific host to each god… it all seemed like a host was destined for a god, that fate had a hand in it all and he wondered if he’d had a choice at all.

A startled blink answered Malh’reth as Glyph smiled sadly, I told you you would not be conquered. The time to let me in will be chosen by you. I will share your body until you are ready.

That wasn’t exactly what Malh’reth had meant but it soothed him… gave him time and a chance to adjust.

“Thank-you…”

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A few days had passed since Malh’reth impromptu joining with Glyph and it hadn’t exactly gone smoothly. As soon as he’d realized that he was stuck with Glyph, he’d fled Phaedra’s apartments under the pretense he was continuing to do his job for her. Unfortunately, that left him without a place to stay… and no mundane supplies to speak of.

Noon had come and gone, leaving the mage famished and hungry, knowing that the weeks had changed once more to favour famine. Odd, how what was once plentiful had been struck down by illness or left to rot and now was in short supply. The people who milled about outside the Pantheon’s walls looked haggard, warn and bloody… more then one piled of refuse had grown in size, bolstered by the fallen. They were a sad sight.

I would help them, if I could… Glyph sounded depressed, pangs of guilt shared by host and god alike as they walked among the mortals.

“You can’t do anything? But you are a god.” Malh’reth replied, finally wandering back towards the pantheon. Outside was not a welcoming place anymore… the downfall of life was too blatantly apparent. The children especially, their ever hopeful eyes so big a beautiful were now shadowed and dark, giving way to despair. The mage hated it, hate being so useless… the only thing he could do was summon food to fill their stomachs but it was an illusion… a sumptuous feast held zero nutritional value. It was deadlier then the bite of hunger for you still starved despite being full.

A god yes, but bound still. I am powerless while we share this body – I can only look on through borrowed eyes and advise you until such a time you step aside. A mental finger was held up as he felt the current of thoughts swell, forming a response, Ah! We agreed that I would share your body.

“That’s not what I was going to say, Glyph.” Malh’reth retorted flatly, “What I was thinking was that we can do something… aren’t forests supposed to be bountiful? Surely you have an idea of how to help so stop moaning and do something.”

Glyph gave the impression of arching a brow, Do what? Take over your body and listen to you grumble for hours afterward?

“No.” Mal rolled his eyes, sure that Glyph was only faking this mild-mannered nature to gain points. “Ideas. I can summon water… but that’s it.”

Water would be a start, at least, Malh’reth. Glyph replied with a tone of approval.

Together, they set about attempting to relieve the troubles of the mortals – god and host both taking solace in doing something. For Forest, he was providing sustenance as his nature demanded and for Malh’reth, it was a chance to reignite the flame of hope within the remaining children.

~-~-~-~


Aisling had come back bearing the good news – Glyph had returned but her guilt at having tricked Malh’reth into accepting the gem and sealing his fate nagged at her. She wanted nothing more then to serve her Lord but… did it really have to come at the cost of an innocent mortal’s life? She’s spent ages watching over Glyph’s beloved forest, carrying out the things she knew would please him – sheltering the needy regardless of their reasons and chasing off those who sought to exploit the grandeur of the forest.

… Were they even getting along? Natasha had said that the mage was grumpy and irritable… had she, in her ignorance, played in role in bonding together two beings who would only war with each other? Aisling’s expression was flat, revealing nothing of the storm within, like when Natasha had first returned to her – disconnected, lost in fractured thoughts.

Thoughts, like shards of glass, that fell in a riot of rainbow reflections when disturbed.

“Aisling?” Natasha prodded her sister once more, “Aisling!? Helloooooo? Anybody there?” She waved her hand before the other’s blank expression and sighed, “You zone out too much.”

Though her glass orb continued to be turned and passed between hands like a treasure, Aisling did not respond for several long moments. When she finally did, light sparkled in her eyes once more and she turned to look blankly at Natasha, “What did you say?”

“That you zone out too much.” Natasha repeated, rolling her eyes, “We’ve been traveling for a few days now to get back and we’re almost there, see?” She pointed to the gates that would lead them back to the Pantheon proper. “I want to make sure that our Lord is truly back. You did see the gem join, right?” Leaning over to look at her smaller companion, she frowned slightly.

Aisling blinked in surprise, pained that Natasha would question her service, “I did! I saw it with my own eyes. He took the gem and then wandered off…. Carried some of his baubles up to Greed I think. Poor man was numb so I didn’t follow him.”

“Numb? He didn’t take it very well at all huh?” The crimson demoness crossed her arms as they walked, pondering. The gem had reacted with the mage… didn’t that mean Forest saw or sensed something with the other that he liked? Either way, it was the God that mattered, really, the mortal was a sacrifice – one that would be treasured but a sacrifice nonetheless.

“I don’t know… he just sort of wandered back into the Pantheon. I didn’t want to bother him any more, especially after he looked like he was going to attack me.” Aisling sighed and shook her head, “I hope I did the right thing. He didn’t seem like a bad person….”

“You did, stop worrying. Remember who you serve.” Natasha broke in, voice firm and confident.

Aisling merely nodded as they went through the gates and entered the Pantheon proper. All around there were refugees, some worn but alright but most were haggard and frayed about the edges. It was a sight that pained both the Aoide and they hurried forward, intending to split up and look for Malh’reth and Glyph inside.

The surprised murmur of refugees drew their attention, however, the laughter and smiles easy to pick out among the otherwise dour groups. What was going on? Taking Aisling’s hand and leading the demoness over to the group, she simply stopped and watched, blinking. Aisling didn’t stop, though, a smile playing over her face as the mage puttered about, filling glass after bucket after canister with water. He looked tired but there was a quiet sort of peace about him, especially when he offered a basin up to a group of children who proceeded to laugh and play in the now scarce resource. All around, weary parents looked on with a sparkle in their eyes – they knew this was a brief reprieve, sensed that this one would not stay long, and yet would not turn the good deed down. Some were more greedy then others at first, pushing and shoving until Malh’reth had summoned a torrent and dropped it on their heads with a firm ‘there is enough for everyone’.

Many had laughed at that and it had broken the desperation in the air – everyone would and did receive a good serving of water, even if it did mean that Malh’reth looked about ready to drop. “Lord…. Lord….” Aisling crooned, her voice soft and sweet as she approached the mage.

He looked up only to narrow his eyes and shoo the children away, frowning deeply for a moment only to have a look of confliction darken his face. It seemed he was distracted, looking – or perhaps listening – beyond what they could sense. The people around had assumed it was his affliction from the various waves that had crashed over them but Aisling knew better, stepped back and waited patiently

Do not hold grudges against her, Malh’reth, she is one of my servants and one of my most loyal. Likewise with Natasha. They are here to help… I’ve chosen you and they could sense that. Glyph piped up as he felt the wave of anger, guilt, and revenge crash over the mortal, They live to serve and do so well.

“Maybe for you. I don’t want them.” Malh’reth replied curtly, bowing to those around him and departing. He’d left enough for everyone to enjoy for a day or two at least, that had to have made a difference, right?

Aisling blinked and clasped her hands before her chest as she watched her master walk away from them, those words stinging. Glancing down, she shook her head and wondered once more whether or not she’d done the right thing – the mage was bitter, it seemed. A hand on her shoulder made her jump as Natasha came up beside the meeker demoness, a deep frown on her face, “C’mon, Glyph wants us even if the host doesn’t.” Aisling nodded silently and stepped forward with Natasha.

Why? Because they fascilitated our meeting? If you want to blame anyone, blame me, Malh’reth. They are not gods. Do not bear them ill will for things that are beyond their control. Glyph sighed and gave the impression of shaking his head then the mental equivalent of a hand on his shoulder.

Which Malh’reth shrugged off, “Exactly that. And no, it’s not a meeting, it’s my death… oblivion… whatever it is that they fascilitated while ensuring you come back to life. I know you said you wouldn’t do anything until I was ready…. But…. I’m afraid.”

Glyph smiled, I do not fault you your feelings, but do try to understand. Just speak with them… or let me speak with them – a brief meeting if nothing else?

Malh’reth didn’t answer for a long time, paced up and down the area before the Pantheon’s main doors, glared at the pair of Aoide with each turn at the end of a dozen or so steps; Glyph did not interrupt or pry, left the mage to his thoughts and waited. Glyph knew he had a long way to go before he could befriend the creature that would eventually fuel his reascension, wanted very much to have that come on friendly terms rather then the rocky beginning they’d started with.

“Fine. Talk to them but they serve you. Not me.” Malh’reth replied suddenly, cutting into Glyph’s thoughts and making the god pause.

Alright. Thank-you very much Malh’reth. Glyph smiled broadly as his conciousnesses shifted forward and the mage’s back, the expression translating into flesh. The mage straightened, relaxed as the tension eased from his shoulders and lifted his head to play a warm, welcoming gaze over Natasha and Aisling, “Thank-you, you two.” He moved towards them and they him, Aisling’s expression bright and cheerful as she hugged her master, Natasha more reserved but equally jubilant as Aisling.

“It is good to serve you again, m’Lord.” She bowed, smiling triumphantly.

In the back his mind, Malh’reth muttered about embracing them but did not move forward, watched without really paying attention – or at least pretended not to.

“Indeed,” he answered graciously, moving to embrace Natasha briefly as well before stepping back, “You will walk with me once more?”

“Of course!” Aisling replied, her mood having lifted considerably once she’d recognized Glyph in Malh’reth. Natasha nodded her agreement.

“Thank-you.” Turning, he gestured at the Pantheon as though encouraging them to enter it, “There is much to speak of, would you fill me in on the goings on the past…. While?”

“As you wish, master!~” Aisling replied immediately, leading the way into the Pantheon with a bounce in her step.
This better not take forever… Malh’reth replied as Glyph followed after his servants.

“It won’t trust me.”

…. Alright. He didn’t put up a huge amount of fight, wanting to hear news of the world as well, something he’d been short on for some time – it was hard to find someone who knew what was going on in this choas.

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Week of Plague

This time she was preapared. The goddess of numbers thought to herself as she wandered back up to the Pantheon. She had a bag of supplies, the knife that Lien had carried and spare clothes. Still it was with trepidation that she stepped up those cold stone steps and into the entrance hall of the building that was the source of all the evil in the world.

She breathed deeply and chewed on her lip a bit. Nothing much had changed. The lobby was still a mess. There were people, some she recognised and some she did not, waiting ... but for what?

Something tickled the back of her throat and prompted her to cough, the sound echoing up into the eves and joining the hum of hushed conversation. More people seemed to be within the throne room. She did not move closer to that place, it felt wrong and she was frightened of what she might find.

As Cosine glanced around the hall of people she half wished she had managed to rack Ankou down that morning, or brought Infinity in. Anything to have a little bit of familiarity and support. She was a little more than nervous about getting people together and rather embarassed about the next phase of her plan.

"Excuse me." She said, her voice small and slightly hoarse. A couple of people turned her way, gave her a half glance and then returned to their conversations.
The goddess stepped forwards a little. "Excuse me." This time the voice was louder, more confident. Ankou was right, she had to do this. Pointless backing out and knowing you could have done something.

"Um, can I have everyone's attention. I've found some information, a cult maybe, to Origin. I um, i was thinking, if it is Creation we are at the moment, maybe ... maybe they can help us. Maybe they know something that we have forgotten. I am ... I am going to try and find them. I would like some company, strength in numbers. Is anyone willing to join me?"

She had been walking to the Pantheon alone every few days trying to get information on the things being done to right what was wrong. Sinestra had taken to walking with her part of the time and so had Meroe or Arlecchino. The aoide had merely show up and started helping and teasing Yeti. This particular day it was Sinestra and Meroe who came with her, the woman carrying a bag of things that she had advised the goddess to take with her each day.

Many people were there and so many were confused. Humans, gods, and a mix of other races some of which she was uncertain what they were. But when she heard the voice asking for help, she hesitated but then as she thought about it, she grit her teeth. Was this not what she was wanting to do? The last time she vaguely remembered parties at the end. Painful parties of the worst aspect of her.

"We are going, Sinestra."
she stated, then turned to Meroe. "Tell Joe I will be back when I can. He should move everyone here if worse comes to worse."

The ghost blinked, but nodded and moved out through the wall. Soon he was drifting along the steps and to the street. He would deliver the message though he was quite certain the man would be unhappy about it.

Stepping towards the girl speaking, Lisana smiled, the bubbles rising round her. "I'll go along and Sinestra will come with me. I'm Lisana or Laughter to some."

Cosine watched as people spoke to each other, whispered but none came forward. This was a stupid idea, she told herself as she prepared to slink off into obscurity. A female voice however made her stop in her actions.
"You will?" She asked, trying not to sound too surprised as she took in the happy looking goddess. Laughter, the world could certainly use more of that. "I am Cosine, Numbers." She smiled and held her hand out.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't such a bad idea, all she needed was some patience.

There was the noise of hooves picking across the floor, somewhat rhythmically accompanied by the clack of a wooden stick, but they were drowned out by the milling and mumbling of the crowds until the two responsible for the sounds drew closer to the two goddesses. David had returned to the Pantheon, looking in a worse mood than usual, flanked by a minty Aoide who seemed to really want to help the host walk a bit more easily but was stopped by her desire to give him space. The god that now resided within him had done the same, withdrawing a bit from within their shared mind after explaining his fate to him. It was somewhat admirable that the mortal was still willing to go seek out more gods for him to get information from.

When Cosine and Lisana came into view, however, Glaucon was compulsed to give his host a gentle mental prod. There are two Others over there, to the left...

"Oh... that's Cosine," he said, a bit surprised to see her again. "She's the goddess of Numbers." No need to comment on how strange that was, he could feel the god's reaction to that well enough to know he was just as curious.

And the other?

David shook his head slowly and squinted a bit... bubbles, huh. "I don't know her, but she looks like she should be in a Coke commercial."

Glaucon didn't bother with references to pop culture he didn't understand, instead sticking to business. That does not matter. It's more important that they might know things that could be of use, he replied. Let us go see what information they possess.

With a long sigh, David approached the two goddesses, the Aoide close behind. He was a bit reluctant to face Cosine again. It was pretty obvious he wasn't the type to stick a gem in his forehead for decorative purposes, especially now that he was barefoot and was still wearing the same clothes he had had on when they first met.

She took her hand squeezing it gently for a moment. A smile on her face, she said, "I can't imagine bad jokes to be too handy, but I'll do the best I can to help."

She glanced over at those approaching with a smile. A bit of anxiety slipped into her for the entire situation but she let little of it show on her face. The way her teeth tugged her lip absently was the only indication that she was as worried as the others. Where they were going, she was not entirely certain, but at this point, it didn't matter. Lisana wanted to help and she would this time.

Sinestra had stepped back slightly to let the two goddesses speak. It was perhaps a good thing that she had insisted upon bringing the pack with them. They would be traveling to another world. That could be interesting at the very least. And perhaps a solution.

"Bad jokes are just as good as good ones." Cosine said with a slight smirk as she shook Lisana's hand. So, that was one person aboard though they would need more, she thought. Just a couple more. She glanced around and blinked as she saw a familiar face.
"Davi..." The goddess trailed off as she saw the jewel that seemed to be firmly imbeded into his forehead. She should have known mortals did not manage to stay mortals for long around the Pantheon. "You're a host?" She could not stop the blunt comment as it escaped from her lips.


"Yeah," David flatly and wearily replied, the answer every bit as blunt as Cosine's unavoidable question was. It wasn't as if there was any hiding it, and there was no will or way to gingerly work around it what with how the evidence of his new fate stared obviously out at all who gave him even a passing glance. He avoided eye contact with the goddess he felt he could refer to as a friend, wishing he could make some sort of lighthearted wisecrack about it but knowing he wouldn't be able to. Maybe Bubbles would do it for him; he thought he had heard her saying something about crappy jokes.

They will want to know who you carry, David.

Sigh. "His name is Glaucon," he begrudgingly continued. There was another mental prod, and his glowering expression increased in intensity. "He's the god of Judgement," was the result of that, in an exasperatedly raised voice that was meant for the god, a way of conveying his desire for him to shut up and leave him alone. "And he wants to know who your friend is and if you have any idea what's been going on lately besides Harmy-whatever's heart attack screwing everything up."

His sudden outpour of abrasiveness startled the turquoise satyress a bit, and she shuffled to the side to give him a little more space.

She watched him a moment. Judgement. Interesting. But necessary during these days. With a smile, she tilted her head in slight amusement. There was a chance he would appreciate it. "I'm Lisana or Laughter. I'm pleased to meet both you and Glaucon." She held her hand out to him. "I'll send one of my court jesters right over for you then. Or perhaps Meroe. He's always amusing. A ghost who loses his head or more often is found juggling it." Her lips twitched upwards as she watched David.

Turning to Cosine, she asked, "Who exactly are these people you want to find? And how do we get there? Bubbles might push me, but they will not fly." A giggle broke free as she watched those with her. A person could tell alot about their companions during a bad joke.

Cosine raised an eyebrow at the mention of judgement. That was interesting, she could not really picture David becoming what sounded like such a sober influence ... then again she was hardly one to criticise hosts.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Glaucon." she said with a polite nod of her head. David's next words caused her to snort with mirthless laughter. We'd be here all day if we started to explain what was going on around here. There is not the time. I will insist for now we concentrate at the task in hand." She gave an efficiant nod and smiled to Lisana as she laughed.
"Come with me, I'll show you."

The goddess led the way to a low table and started to rummage in her bag for the infomation she had managed to gather.
"These people, they are worshippers of Origin. They have been for a very long time. I thought they may know some information that has been forgotton with the fading. Or maybe have items of note?" She shrugged a little and handed Lisana the book with the passage on the city. "As for getting there, I have a friend, a god reborn. He told me he knows how to get to these worlds through doors right here in the Pantheon."


If David had even caught the little pun Lisana had greeted him with, he didn't seem to acknowledge it, taking the offered handshake with the hand that wasn't gripping his shoddily-carved wooden cane. "Laughter, huh. Bet you're a hit at parties."

It is an equal pleasure to meet you both, Lisana and Cosine, Glaucon added.

The host realized with a huff of a sigh that he'd be expected to relay everything the god had to say from here until... well, for now. Slightly annoyed at the prospect, he said, "Glaucon says hi."

That is not what I said.

"It's close enough for them to get the idea," he replied snarkily, furrowing his brow and turning his gaze briefly upward, in the direction of the gem sitting above the bridge of his nose. "Oh right, and that's Eudocia." He gestured with a wobbling hand towards the goat girl, who shyly smiled and gave a little wave towards everyone present as they followed Cosine to the table for the promised information.

David could feel Glaucon's mind working as the number goddess revealed her knowledge, seeming more than mildly interested at what was being revealed to them. The host, on the other hand, squinted in confusion, not quite seeing how this separate world would be able to help them. "Uhhh, waaaait a second," he requested, looking back up at the two he was with. "Who's Origin?"

Glaucon sighed.

It is busy today… Do they believe the pantheon will shelter them from the forces that ravage the land? The god sighed, watching the crowds with Malh’reth as they navigated about the sick and desolate. It was a shame such little shelter was to be offered here.

Still, it was a good place to come, to catch up on the world with a more informed mind to help guide the questions. Aisling hadn’t been lying… not strictly speaking, but her words and her manipulation still rankled the Aurion. And they were servants! Malh’reth’s lips pressed into a thin frown as he thought about Glyph’s reunion with his treasured goat girls.


Don’t be sore… we spoke to Aisling and Natasha about their actions. They apologized for being elusive, Malh’reth.

“Of course, you don’t feel bad about that because they brought you back, Glyph.” Mal retorted, rolling his eyes. The situation had been resolved but he’d refused to allow them to attend him at all unless he asked for their help… he wasn’t Glyph, wasn’t their master and didn’t want the fawning attentions.

Touching his stone as he spotted three auras that differed from the rest, he paused and adjusted the collar of his shirt, hoping to hide the gem under the fabric, instantly self conscious. It was one thing to know he was a host, another entirely to be blatantly obvious about it. Still, his efforts were in vain as the fabric shifted and let the gem peek out from the base of the V in his collar.


Why do you fuss? They will know you carry a god without seeing my gem… It is nothing to be ashamed of. Glyph mentally patted the Aurion on the back, smiling softly. There was nothing to hide now.

“I’m not ashamed. Just… why my throat?” He grumbled and ran fingers over the lump in his flesh and sighed, “I guess I should go talk to them? You wanted to know more.”


If you would. You’ve acquired a great deal of knowledge on your own… but more cannot hurt. My brethren will be most helpful in filling in the gaps in our knowledge.

“I guess.” He laughed softly, “Perhaps I’ll be useful through you, then, Glyph.”

People around him were beginning to give him strange looks, eyes narrowed and posture defensive as though they thought he joined the growing number of insane, broken by wave after wave of tragedy. He only met their gaze boldly and moved on – there were more important things to do then question his sanity.

As he drew near, he blinked as he recognized the form of David and stopped, “David? What…?” Though he’d only met the cripple briefly and traveled only a short time with the man, he hadn’t thought the other would be one to plot with others… seemed far too grouchy for it. And yet, there he was, hovering around a table with two others whom he didn’t recognize.


A friend of yours? Glyph asked, perking slightly as he ruffled through the other’s memories, looking for David’s face.

“Stop that. Yes. Er, no. I know him. Met him when I first came here.” Moving forward some, he took up a position on the edge of the group and leaned forward, “If I might ask, what are you doing?”


Lisana glanced over at Malh'reth, smiling warmly and welcomely. "I'm Lisana. Cosine has found something most interesting out. There's a city that we are going to go visit. They may have some answers we need."

She was so pleased to be doing something this time. Visiting an ancient place that she may have once known existed did not sound exciting, but to her it was. If everything came to an end this time, she would know she had tried to prevent it. If there was a chance, then they needed to take it and not sit around and wait. She had done that last time and it was not within her to do the same now.

Passing the book off to David, she asked, "Are you interested in coming along also? More help cannot hurt."


"Origin is Creation." Cosine said with a smile to David. "He's the balance to destruction and a force we are greatly lacking at the moment." She glanced up as they were joined by another, a host her spider senses told her.
"Welcome Malh'reth." she said with a smile, spreading all the maps on the table so that everyone could see. "This is the planet and here, here is a map of the city. it is old it seems but maybe of some use."

Lisana's words made her smile more.
"Yes, you are all welcome, no, encouraged to join us, if you would like. I do not know how long we will be gone nor how dangerous this journey may be."


"Lisana...? Cosine?" He blinked, understanding failing to dawn as they spoke. Gods, obviously, but of what? He'd never met them before.

I have been gone too long... I cannot associate their names with domains. Ask, please.

Malh'reth nodded, "Pardon, but goddesses of what? Glyph can't remember." Leaning forward, he looked the map over, grateful that his question had been answered. They were leaving to seek answers but what did Origin have to do with anything? "What's related to Origin there? Do you know?"

"Oh!" and then she giggled at herself for forgetting her manners. She had been so interested in what Cosine had found that she had assumed they would know. If they met, it was long ago and not a memory either of them appeared to have at this moment.

"I'm Laughter. Cosine is Numbers, and David is host to Glaucon who is Judgment." She shook her head frowning slightly. "I can't say I remember you either. It has been so long and some names must be different now, though some are the same. Mine is. As for what is there, we don't know."

She shrugged glancing at Cosine. Numbers seemed as unsure as she was, but if there was something to stop all this and help return the world to what it should be, then they needed to take the chance. Didn't they?


A spark of recognition of another god flew through Glaucon's mind, mixed with David's spark of recognition of Malh'reth's voice. He momentarily turned to look at him, appearing equally surprised to see such a person in such a place - and as a host no less, as the deity residing in his forehead was quick to inform him. He didn't get a chance to speak, his attention turning back to Lisana and Cosine, but was able to acknowledge the Aurion with somber look and an arched eyebrow that clearly said 'You too, huh?'

A similar look of surprise and uncertainty overtook him when Lisana asked if he would join them in a potential journey - and Cosine agreed with her. "Me? Go to... wherever that is? I..." The crippled host faltered, not sure how to tactfully state the obvious. David wasn't exactly built for travel... or danger. He was doubtful about how useful he could be.

You are useful enough to assist in a god's rebirth, Glaucon offered. David replied with a huff of air through his teeth, and stood idly to let the introductions get themselves out of the way before speaking up again. Glyph (or his weird-looking host) would let people know of his domain soon enough, since nobody here knew what his was.

Cosine listened to them all and nodded.
"At this point anything is worth a try." She said as she started to roll up the maps and stuff everything back in her bag. "This report tells of some enchanted weapons. They may come in useful even if it is just to keep people protected." She shrugged and glanced around the hall they stood in. "I need to go and hunt Ankou down. He will help us get through the gateway. He will be around here somewhere."

She stood and ran her fingers through her hair as she tried to think about all they needed to do.
"So um, if you wish to come I suggest you get some things together. It's a desert so appropriate clothes, supplies. Fresh water would probably be most useful and food that will not perish easily. I do not know how close to the city we will emerge."


Malh'reth nodded to pass along Glyph's understand, "Greetings." Together, god and host listened to what had to be said, mulled it over and the mage blinked as they asked if David would go with them. Surely... if David could do it, so could he? He'd been hoping, searching, for an opportunity to help like this and now, maybe, it would be his turn to at least help influence the tide of events.

So can we, you mean. I will assist as I can.

He nodded begrudgingly, returning David's look with one that said he hadn't asked for this. "Can.. I come too? I can be useful... I'm a summoner, draw things into existence. Like a tent or a sleigh." As he'd been speaking however, Cosine described the conditions and Glyph groaned loudly, "The desert might be - is - not something I would normally travel in but Forest would join you."

Malh'reth blinked as he found his voice was not his own, the cadence had changed was softer, smoother and railed against it, pushing forward to regain control of his body once more, Glyph!! You promised you wouldn't do that! He highly disliked being a spectator and prodded at the god's mind until Glyph receded with a faint smirk.

My apologies, Malh'reth. I do not like deserts... not enough life.

"Yeah? That's too bad. I'm the one that will be walking in the heat, not you." Shaking his head, he lifted it to regard the others once more, "I want to help, and so does Glyph. May we accompany you?"

"I would think the more help we have the better. We are all in this together. I just needed to do something this time. Parties just aren't enough." She frowned slightly, then shrugged.

"I vaguely remember strange parties at the end last time. I refuse to go so easily this time." Her voice was soft, overshadowed by what had been but after a moment, she shrugged. "No time to dwell on what coulda, woulda, shoulda been. All we have is now. Sinestra and I will see if we can find some extra water to take along. I have a bag of things with me."

"Where shall we meet, Cosine?" she asked, smiling once more. They all needed to do this and push the past aside except to remember that they needed to try harder now.


David carefully down on a part of the table they were having their improptu meeting at. He listened to the decisions of the others in the group, not quite sure if he'd be willing to throw a yes in the pile. When his thoughts turned to the morbid reality that he was going to die in some shape or form soon enough - whether it was from the End of All, his god absorbing his soul, or the now mundane-seeming disease that he had thought would be be the cause before all this happened - he gave a long, quiet sigh, and his voice was tinged with a resigned bitterness when he made his decision. "Fine. We'll go, too."

It would be difficult to find supplies when they didn't technically live anywhere or own anything... but they'd hopefully figure something out. From the corner of their shared eye, both David and Glaucon could see Eudocia's tail twitching at the knowledge she would be of service soon.

Seriously, though, a desert? And these were all the people that Cosine was able to recruit for the cause? She must have just been standing around in the middle of the crowd hoping people would notice she had something to say...

It would be a good thing if this sort of information could be more easily seen by everyone, Glaucon mused.

Sounding quite annoyed that the god was listening in on his thoughts again, David replied with "What, you mean make some kind of Apocalypse Corkboard?" A bit of air huffed through his lips at the thought. He could only imagine the ads that would show up on that kind of thing.

"Excellent." The number goddess grinned, ignoring David's less than enthusiastic tone. He was joining them that was enough. "We'll meet back here in say ... two hours. That should give us plenty of time to gather supplies." A small nod and her eyes move back to David who had just spoken.
"And an Apocy what?" She asked, wondering where that random argument spoken aloud had come from. She closed the book and shoved it back in her bag with all the other things.


Malh'reth just sort of blinked. That was... it? That's all the planning they were doing? "How are we getting there? Just two hours...?" He turned to look at David, "What's a corkboard?" The mage scratched his head, rather lost. This was beginning to seem like a random encounter... then anything thought-out and the Aurion fidgeted.

You might as well tell them your abilities, so that you can lighten their loads, Malh'reth. Desert travel is not for the faint of heart.

"I know, but... they seem so ready already." Struck by a wave of nervousness, the mage glanced from Numbers to David to Laughter and sighed.

You want to be helpful, yes? Then just speak.

Grumbling, the mage stepped forward and held out a hand to slow Cosine's seeming bustle, "You don't have to pack too much, miss. I can summon the supplies needed for camp... tent, blankets, fans, pots... even water to some extent. I can't make food though, it has no nutritional value." He fished his sketchbook from his sleeves and presented his travel sketches to those assembled, "See? I can make these things and they all fit in a little book like this." Gingerly, he ran long fingers over the charcoal drawings and smiled. They had often been of use to the mage, enabling him to travel light regardless of the length of the trip.

He looked understandably surprised that the goddess and the horned whateverhewas didn't know what he was talking about... and as things went, he couldn't resist the urge to explain. "You know, a bulletin board? You tack it up wherever there's a lot of people hanging around and they can pin notes and s**t to it."

So... pertinent information could be put in a place that's easy to access, instead of needing to find the few who possess it?

David nodded at the voice in his head. "Yeah. People would use it to sell cars, or, like... start clubs, and have contact info. Stuff like that. Why, you want to make one?"

To be honest, I'm surprised one hasn't been made before now.

Was Glaucon... impressed? In the host's opinion, Malh'reth's ability to make drawings come to life seemed a great deal more impressive than a corkboard.

"Bulletin board. Hm... my host had something like that." Lisana frowned thoughtfully, "but she had notes all over the place. Refridgerator... "

God-killer...

"I also remember something about an appliance God-killer. Strange..." she snickered faintly shrugging. "I think there was a mop and a bucket helmet involved also. The board could be a good thing to let others know what we are doing and going. "

Realizing her attention had wandered, she turned back to Mal. "I'll still grab a little water. We can use it just in case you can't conjure any up."

Sinestra simply waited, listening as the plans were made. She'd make sure they did not forget what they needed to take along.


"Noticeboard." Cosine mused, raising an eyebrow and smirking a little. Oh she liked this, the organisation, yes that appealed. The chance to give information freely. That also appealed as it would save people a lot of wasted time.
"Great idea. Mal, could you magic one of those up?" She asked with a smile. "we could set it up on the sofas over there."

She looked to Lisana as she spoke and nodded. Not entirely sure what godkiller meant and a little afraid to ask.
"I agree, we should be prepared properly so at least bring some supplies. I know it is a city we are going to but we do not know what state it might be in."


Malh'reth frowned as David made his explanation, "What's a car?" There was little time to dwell on the fact as both host and god's attention was drawn to Lisana. "Appliance god-killer....?" Looking inward for answers he was met an equally confused Glyph who simply shrugged.

I haven't the faintest idea. Perhaps a joke of hers? She is Laughter after all.

"True..." He nodded, "Go ahead. Casting too much magic wears me out..." Another blink as Cosine asked him the make one and fussed. "I can make one but it will last 3 days at most, Cosine. I don't conjure... I summon. The only think I can bring into existence is water because it's a simple thing... the rest is temporary. It fades after a while." Embarassment flooded his features then for he knew if he'd stayed with his people, he'd be able to just as she asked but as it was, he'd left before he'd learned how to make a summoned illusion permanent. "I'm sorry."

David, may I speak for a moment?

"What? Fine," the mortal responded, and there was a small shift in his features until they smoothed and calmed to make way for the god, whose voice was almost jarringly somber and analytical compared to how bitter and irritable David sounded.

"That may not pose as much of a problem as you appear to think," he started, directing his words to the mage. "One could always leave a note explaining its nature and asking for it to be replaced before it can fade. It's probable enough that someone would follow through with that request in time."

Cosine listened to the conversation and smiled as the voice of judgement spoke through David.
"Hah, yes, good idea, very good idea." She said with a smile, looking back to the mage. "We'll do that then, and if it vanishes, well, at least the notices will still be there."


He blinked as David's voice changed, pausing to digest the words Glaucon spoke, mulling them over before nodding slowly. "I could do that..." Ruffling through the notebook in his hand, he found a blank page and fished a stick of charcoal out. It wasn't long before he'd drawn a fair sized notice board and was casting his magic, placing fingers on the page and shifting them, drawing the smudges with the motion of his hand. Then, pulling his hand from the page, he gestured upward like he was tossing a ball in the air and smiled as the dark, charcoal-coloured cloud spun up then coalesced into a board of appropriate size and materials. Catching it as it fell back to earth, he then set it down to let it lean against his side, "Is this what you want?"

In the back of his mind, Glyph stirred, intrigued by Malh'reth show of talent and smiled, silent applauding.
How very intriguing. Do you have a size limit to what you can cast?

"Mmn? Oh. Not really... the larger it is, the shorter amount of time it exists... I have a picture of Zhijian in one of my books. He's the largest thing I have drawn at the moment." He tilted the board, and smiled as he scribbled out a note that read:

This notice board is temporary, lasting no more then three days.
Please build another to replace it before it is gone.

Put your notes here.


"Is that alright?" He waggled the torn page at the others, hoping this wasn't just an exercise in futility.


There was a spark of surprise from David's mind as he saw the mage do his work - it was an awe-inspiring thing as well as causing the man to really wish that things could go back to being boring again. Glaucon shared at least the first half of that sentiment, as it would be a very useful skill to have in their arsenal where they were going...

The god voiced his approval at Malh'reth, and then provided a reply. "It should have a set of guidelines to abide by, so people will know its use and how to use it properly." He began to list a few rules for the board, making sure to adjust the pace of his speech with the Aurion's writing speed so this step could happen seamlessly.

"Wonderful!" Lisana approved of the board. Then she began to laugh. "That could be a quite useful skill to play jokes on others at parties, Malh'reth." Her eyes twinkled merrily at the thought of what she could do with someone who had that particular ability.

"We will return shortly then. Sinestra and I will go get some water and extra food just in case we need it. We will meet you back here in two hours. Sinestra, keep track of the time please." she said, bowing to Cosine, Malh'reth, and David.

"As you say, my Lady." the woman nodded, bowing slightly. Who knew what would come of this trip into the unknown world, but something needed to be done.


Cosine watched with equal wonder as the board was produced and laughed with Lisana. It would be a fun trick indeed.

"Excellent." She gave an efficient nod of approval and took out her notebook and pencil. "We should leave a note of our journey and then hopefully others will get the picture."


Glaucon didn't seem to have one opinion or another on the use of summoned illusions to play jokes, but David gave a small snicker from behind the god's thoughts, and he was fed some mental images from the mortal that could best be described as 'immature'.

"Yes, and hopefully that will encourage people to use it more," Glaucon said in reply to Cosine. He attempted to shift over in order to help the number goddess put together a note, but it only resulted in a weak fluttering of the muscles. It was hard to ignore some snickering from his host in the background.

For a god of Judgment, yours sure is shitty, he quipped.

"Eudocia will also collect some supplies," the god continued, and with a wispy utterance of "Yes, my lord," the satyress had dashed away to complete her assigned task. "I'll be more useful with this stubborn body rested."

And with that, he allowed his host to rise back to the surface, the analytical face turned pessimistic again.

As Glaucon spoke, Malh'reth hurriedly scribbled out the guidelines in the air before him, the shapes and symbols bobbing slightly with the air currents. When Judgement finished, the mage tore out a page from his book and copied the notes down, each rule fading as he got it down on paper. "There."

As Lisana laughed, Mal glanced up with a small smile, "I an entertainer by profession... though I do not Jest."


If you are done now... we should go pack and inform the girls. We will be gone long, most likely.

Quietly, subtlely, Glyph turned the mage's body and edged him away. Malh'reth didn't fight it... didn't mind quite so much when the god was gentle and simple like this. It was the forceful explosion of control that he feared.

"We don't need to inform the girls but we do need to pack a few supplies." Glyph eased control back to the mage and the two walked a few paces away, "We shall be back."


We...?
The god sounded pleased and amused at the use of that pronoun, settled more comfortably in the back of Malh'reth's mind. It was the first, and the the second, time that the mage had referred to them as we instead of I or Glyph. Perhaps Malh'reth was beginning to accept him....

"I!" Malh'reth half shouted, mostly to Glyph, "I meant I. I'll be back." Grumbling, he wandered off, intent on packing and returning within the allotted two hours.


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“No.”

”Why not?”

“Because I said so.”

“That’s not good enough.”

”How about this then: You are not coming with me because I do not need you.”

“If you’d just let me do my job, you would.”

“What job? Harass me as I try to pack some food into a bag? How is that helping?”

“I’m not harassing you, you’re being overly stubborn. Just let me carry it for you.”

“Stop it you two, this isn’t supposed to take hours, we’re leaving soon.”

“Ah… can I come too?”

NO! And what is that? I'm not eating that! Take that out!

“Will you stop arguing if Natasha comes but Aisling stays?”

“Yeah! Told you I could be useful Malh’reth!”

I want my body back Glyph. Stop sneaking control away from me. And no, Natasha cannot come, neither can Aisling.

“But… what am I supposed to do then….?”

“You’ll get your body back if you stop being stubborn. Natasha comes, Aisling stays.” The god continued to put small foodstuffs into the bag as the mage had been doing a moment before and surveyed the collection of adventure supplies his ever helpful aoide had somehow procured. Most would be useless… but that pile of baubles might be useful in trade should it be needed. Scooping them up and depositing them into a separate bag, he glanced at Aisling, smiling softly, “You can stay here and keep up with what’s going on alright? Keep safe and try to help as you can.”

“Alright.” Aisling nodded and smiled, moved to pack away the things the god had left behind after picking what he wanted.

Body Glyph. Malh’reth broke in impatiently, shifting restlessly in his mind space. Rubbing arms and making a face as he stepped into his skin once more, he regarded Natasha with a frown. “Fine. You can come, you stay, and neither of you bug me. Especially you Natasha. I don’t need to be coddled, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank-you.”

"We're going to be crossing a desert from the sounds of it, are you sure you know what to bring?" Natasha queried, frowning slightly as she hovered just behind the Aurion.

"Yes, thanks. I'm very sure. I've travelled across a desert before and I know what mistakes not to make this time around. Don't worry, your god will be fine." Malh'reth grumbled darkly, eyes forward as he picked through the strange foods that Glyph had just put in - something black and dry and smell, wrapped in cloth was definitely not going to be on his menu, vegetable or not.

"Don't be such a sour person, mage." The red demoness quirked a brow, "I want you to be comfortable."

"Yeah, so Glyph is comfortable. I don't mean anything to you or her." He nodded at Aisling as he peered at the various baubles the god and dumped into the bag, picked at a few and admired others.

Hey. They wouldn't be offering if they didn't want to help you two, Malh'reth. They'd just sit and wait for my return if they had such negative intentions and I were like that. What's bothering you?
Glyph spoke up, firm and confident as he swept over the mage's mind almost as though reading like a book. Then he chuckled, tone teasing and good-natured as he mentally poked the mage, Just because you're nervous does not mean you should be angry with someone, you know that.

Malh'reth tried to keep the flush from his face and the flash of annoyance out of his eyes but failed miserably, choosing instead to cast his glance aside, "I'm not nervous." He knew though, that he was grumpy because the idea of travelling to another world on some other plane in the company of gods was daunting. Add onto that that it was an exploratory mission to help solve this giant fiasco of a situation and he couldn't help but be anxious. He wanted to help, yes, but would he truly be of any use?

A shrug. If you say so.

Both Natasha and Aisling exhanged smiles before turning to wander off, and while their backs were turned he could tell they were amused. Mr. I Want to Help finally gets a chance to do so and he's actually like a child going to his first dance. "Argh. Just let me pack! Go make fun of me elsewhere!" He waved the bundle of food at the two and waited for them to disappear out of sight before returning to the task at hand.

Thankfully, Glyph was silent, though Malh'reth could guess the god was just as amused as the girls were.

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= Onward ever striding onward =


Cosine had made it back to the notice board without having found Ankou or anyone that could possibly point her in the direction of his rooms. She supposed that she could go around knocking but was sure that most gods would not appreciate the disturbance. Especially not now of all times.

Sighing she looked at the notice board and realised that it had been replaced already and filled with information.
"Well that was quick." she said with approval for efficiency and leaned closer so that she could take on some of the information that was written on the posts.


Thankfully, it seemed that there would be no need to do so - as Ankou came down from the stairs, followed by two similar, yet different, aoidei.

And, this time at least, he wasn't half-naked.

He had glanced sideways to see if there was anything new on the noticeboard, but saw Cosine instead. A small, impish smile crossed his features, and he deviated from his trajectory to go toward her, careful to keep his steps as soft as possible. Jinx had to bite her lip so that she did not giggle, and Anima shook her head. How childish...

Unlike Nergal, he did not move soundlessly - however, with the goddess reading, it had been easy to wind up standing behind her without the counting crow to seemingly have noticed a thing.

"Interesting read ?"


The goddess was indeed completely absorbed by the information that was on the board. Her academic mind enjoying the work out from digesting it all. His voice, coming as a complete surprise made her jump.
"You are quite the source of information." She said, placing her hand at the base of her throat to calm the pulse she felt there from her shock. "And just the person I was looking for. I've managed to get some people together and I've found the name of the city."


I seem to have served as quite the convinent answer machine." The god grinned, turning to allow her her space back, now that he had gotten the effect he had wanted. "Which, more often then not, netted me pieces of information in return. Link all those pieces together and... well. At least this is better than doing nothing, I presume."

"That would indeed make things much easier." He nodded. "And that name would be ?"


"Baadris." She said, glancing to the board and pointing to the notice she had placed there. "I have maps and things, which should make things easier and a few people to help." The goddess shrugged and glanced around, she was not entirely sure if two hours had passed. "They should be here soon. Are you joining us?"

Baadris, uh....

"That ought to work nicely." He answered. "And... that would depend - how many have you found ? Too big of a traveling party will only draw more attention... attention which, at this point, will probably be the bad kind." The spirit guide paused for a moment. Yes... he ought to warn her.

"Mortals are dying in steady waves now, due to the influence of the weeks. War, then Sickness, then Starvation - the culling of the worlds. Those who are left would probably do anything to survive."

He stopped on his rather grim explanation. "Also, who have you found ? Gods ? Hosts ? Mortals ?"


"I know." She said, her eyes full of concern and helplessness for the numbers of dead she could see in her mind. "Um, as for those I've found ... another goddess, like myself. Two hosts and their Aoide." Her eyes turned downwards to the floor once more. It didn't sound like such a great party once you thought about it. "Nothing fancy but ... well, I think we will all bring our strengths to the mission."

'Nothing fancy' was painfully right, if the two approaching Cosine and the spirit guide was any indication. Besides the red gem on his forehead that marked him as a host and a wooden cane that marked him as a cripple, David was as un-fancy as anyone could manage to be in a place such as the Pantheon. At least now he had some shoes - neither he nor Glaucon were comfortable with the possibility of wandering barefoot through the desert. Their toothpaste-colored servant followed close behind, having managed to salvage some food from the area around the Pantheon and some frayed cloth to wrap it in.

"Ready for our little desert adventure?" the mortal asked as he drew closer, but his expression and voice were devoid of the playful wit that such a greeting should have come with. He turned his gaze towards the god that was with Cosine, giving him a little nod.

That must be Ankou. Cosine spoke of him being able to show us through the Gateway to the city, Judgment observed, recalling mention of the Spirit Guide from the meeting a couple of hours ago.

To that, David gave a small smirk and said, "If you're Ankou, Glaucon says hi."

I did not.

"Well, it wouldn't kill you to be a little more friendly..."

Strange might have been the word to describe the pair that approached behind David for if Malh'reth had not been sporting the gem at the base of his neck it may have been difficult to tell Aoide from host. Both sported horns of some fashion and both possessed a pair of furry ears, though the mage's were canted in an expression of annoyance.

The blood coloured Aoide came bearing a few parcels as well - some food wrapped in cloth, strung over her back like a rucksack and a side bag that hid several glass and crystal ornaments to barter with in necessary.

As they moved, Glyph stepped back into control and offered a smile to Cosine and her companion,
"Greetings. Have the arrangements been made...?" Lavender gaze flicked to Ankou as he picked up the Spirit Guide's name from David, "You will guide us through the gate?"


That's what Cosine said before... Malh'reth chirruped, smirking, Give me back my body already.

Glyph nodded to that inner voice and took a mental step back as Malh'reth moved forward, "She insisted on coming along, I hope that's alright." He gestured to Natasha, who merely stood straighter, proud to be of service to her Lord even if the host disliked her.


Lisana and Sinestra had made it all the way back to the loft. Several bottles of water, a bag of dried fruits, and a second bag of jerky went into their packs before they quickly returned to the Pantheon.

"It looks like we made it in time." she laughed walking up to the gouping. Watching Ankou a moment, she smiled brightly. "I'm Lisana. Are you going also?" Her clothing and Sinestra's were made for ease. Loose tops and pants that would comfortable in hot weather. Her short suede boots were as soft and easy on the feet but would keep the sand out.

Sinestra bowed, even with the stuffed backpack on her back. She said nothing, but smiled at the grouping. They would all do the best they could.


"Indeed it would." The nature of the group was something he needed to keep in mind - and something that would affect his eventual decision on that matter. He wanted to go, but he refused to endanger them.

And right now, it looked safer, much safer as far as the group was concerned for him to stay behind, open the door, and more importantly hold it open for them. The hosts would not be able to forge their own path in between worlds and keep the door open. The aoidei where disputable gray areas - Jinx and Anima could, but it was entirely possible that he had trained them to do such.

The hand that was in his pocket had started to fiddle with something inside, in his thoughts. One eyebrow rose, and he recognized the object inside - wooden beads in form of sun charms with crow feathers hooked to it in an ornamental fashion. He remembered now - Jinx had brought him these things to keep him occupied in the span of time where he had basically been on bed rest after the transformation - in order to actually keep him in it. The thought made him smirk. It had worked well enough - the catgirl was ever so good at reading him - and back in what had been left of Greed's influence, he had fully intended to keep it. Now, however ?

The smirk faded, the amused look replaced by a thoughtful one. Yes... she should have it. He pulled the ornament out of his pocket with care and moved forward, reaching to twirl one large lock of streaked hair on the side of her head, looping to secure it in place. "You stay careful..."

He was interrupted in whatever else he had wanted to say by the sudden arrival of the rest of the group, unable to keep the sudden blush of embarrassment on his face completely in check. He hadn't expected them in so soon, but this was a good thing. Less time wasted.

Glaucon... The name seemed oddly familiar, but now was not the time for such things.

He turned to face them and stand at Cosine's side, his trenchcoat barely brushing on the floor in the smooth motion. "It is a pleasure to meet you all, through... I wish it could be in better times." He shook his head. "I can open the gate, yes. However, I will probably be staying behind - it will be easier for me to hold it open from here. I fear the constant shift in all that is may disturb things, otherwise." It would all be for nothing if they ended up stranded in a desert world with no mean of return, and it was no use getting them stuck in a time flux, just like he expected the other world-travelers to be stuck into. He had no idea if he had enough power to go fetch them, wherever they may be lost.


Cosine nodded and allowed the short silence to fall between them. She glanced around to see if any of her companions were around and then back to Ankou as she caught the movement of his hand.

She watched, saying nothing as he looped the charm through her hair and felt a warm blush creep up her neck and over her cheeks. So embarassing. About to say something in reply she was interrupted by the arrival of the others that only made her pale skin redder.

She listened to the introductions with her eyes on the floor and nodded to herself as she commited words and information to memory.
"Right, I suppose we should get moving then? As we're all here and ready."


All of the blushing and hoping the newcomers didn't see that little act of affection... wouldn't stop the newcomers from seeing it. David made an uncomfortable little mental twinge at the unsubtle display, and not being able to help himself, broke into a strained, sly grin and said "Hah, didn't know you had a boyfriend." before pausing to take a quick glance at the new information on the noticeboard. He couldn't make heads or tails of it, but it distracted Glaucon enough that it stopped him from commenting on how tactless his host had just been.

After Cosine acknowledged the other three in her group, Judgment perked back into awareness and responded, If there are no objections, it would be good to begin our journey as quickly as possible.

"Glaucon says he's good to go," David translated, giving a short thumbs-up with a nervous grin.

Malh'reth and Glyph listened with interest as Ankou spoke, though Glyph laughed softly in the back of the mage's mind, bemused by the show of affection between Cosine and Ankou. "How does it work? I've never seen long-distance transport before... What is the name of the city we're going to? I think we missed it..."

This will be interesting trip, so soon after you've offered me rebirth, Malh'reth. I would like to set out soon. His sentiments echoed Glaucon's as Forest steeled himself for the trip into hot sands.

Malh'reth chuckled and nodded to David, "He's not the only one who wants to get started. Glyph's anxious to go... and I'd like to see this portal."


I am not anxious.
Glyph huffed, giving the impression of pursed lips and crossed arms.

Lisana listened carefully to what was said. She'd noted the gesture but remained silent, though she smiled. "I think the sooner the better. Sinestra, are you ready? We aren't forgetting anything." There was definitely a bit of excitement in the air.

"I don't think so, my Lady. If we have, we will do without it." The woman shrugged faintly as she shifted her pack slightly.

"I suppose we will. " Lisana laughed softly. "I'm sure we will find what we need."


Ankou simply rose an eyebrow at David's comment, as if he did not quite grasp exactly what the man was going on about. Thankfully enough, Malh'reth's question took over his attention and probably prevented something quite stupid from happening.

"It works with the flow of mana and the connections in between worlds, as well as-" He stopped, quite abruptly, when he belatedly recognized that he was probably speaking greek to the aurion. "...Well, you will see. It isn't exactly a portal, per-se - it is a door. If everyone is ready now..." He went on ahead of the rest, making his way back upstairs, past a still-giggling catgirl who was being prodded by a satyr in a faint hope to get her to be serious for once.


Cosine shot David a death glare and turned to the rest of the party. Okay, maybe it would be nice if the world did swallow her whole, save her some of this embarassment.

She looked between gods and Aoide and realised she had none to help her. Even Infinity had chosen to stay beind in the world she knew.
"And, to get back we would just return to the place we arrive?" She asked, shifting her bag on her shoulder and giving the laughing Aoide a frosty glance.


The cripple's grin only brightened in response to the death glare, clearly amused that he had gotten a rise out of her. What with a possible apocalypse looming over their heads, even the god sharing a body with him could understand his need to squeeze every drop of joy he could out of this situation. It might end up the last laugh he would have.

His mood quickly dampened again, however, when Ankou led them to a flight of stairs - a thing that he and his weakened body clearly disagreed with. After a long, raspy sigh he stepped aside and allowed the others to start their ascend first before carefully picking his way up the steps himself.

Mana..? He paused, not recognizing the word.

Glyph stirred and offered the answer, benefiting from the few memories and little knowledge he'd awoken with,
Mana is essentially the energy you draw on for your magic. The mage nodded eagerly, thanking Glyph.

While the god might think the Aurion did not understand, Malh'reth himself was quite intrigued, hurrying forward to walk beside the god as they ascended the stairs, "The worlds are connected by lines of power, yes? That's what you're going to use?" His curiosity was piqued - he'd left his people before he'd learned the most advanced of the disciplines and stashed that information away hungrily, "As well as what? I am not a foreigner to the workings of magic, sir."


Lisana climbed the stairs behind the others. She was excited, but wondered where they would appear and how much desert they would actually have to go through to get there. Hopefully they'd not end up baking in the desert too long.

She glanced around quickly, but then smiled. The last time she was here was when Byrne was trying to decide what to do with his door and room. Then she blinked in surprise. Not her, but Eftemie. A sigh slipped free. Maybe he'd be around when they returned from Baadris.


"Indeed. You will come out from another physical door - to the mortals from that world nothing will be odd, but it will allow you to travel back and forth as long as I hold it open from this side."

When Malh'reth rushed back at his side, he rose an eyebrow in his own streak of curiosity. "Yes, that would be close to it. Mana... magic, if you prefer, pretty much hold everything together. Worlds are linked, but not exactly in a straightforward way - the door are catalysts that create an actual link. Any god can do it, actually... But I figure not while trapped in jewel. There is too little of their mana to spare... But with times like these, I do not exactly have the time to teach everyone anew. And I do believe it is easier for me to find the exact locations than it would be for anyone else, ence more saved time."

...But now he was babbling, to a mortal none-the-less, which was rather odd of him, but he rarely got people genuinely curious about the inner workings of this. Yet another thing where memory and personality collided to leave him confused.

He passed the string of doors with detail on them, and then the one with flaring runes. He checked on it every time he passed - paranoid that it might close, but it seemed like it was holding well, in spite of everything. Too bad he couldn't leap in and go check on the traveling party for himself...

But those where useless thoughts. He stopped in front of an unmarked door a few steps away from the runed one, staring at it for a moment.

.....It's been awhile, hasn't this ? I must remember how to do this.

I must


Both hands went up to touch the smooth surface, gold-yellow eyes closing.


"Okay, that makes things easier." She said softly, nodding to herself as was her habit and glancing around the hall of doors. All these lead to different worlds. That was one hell of a thought. So many worlds, so different and all connected by the same core, the same fate.

The open door did not go unnoticed and knowing to whom it lead she sent prayers. She truely hoped that their quest was going well.
The silence continued as they reached their door. She felt nervous and the little voice inside her head was telling her this was not such a good idea after all.


Malh'reth nodded, infinitely glad to know that the cords of power and energy that twisted off in seemingly random directions were just things of mystery but the binds that connected and held the worlds together. "I see those links... not the doors but the links... The first wave of Gehenna altered my vision." He spoke quietly, hoping to sound as though he were not boasting. To Ankou's gentle refusal to teach he merely nodded, "I'll watch and learn, then."

Glyph had been listening with interest as well, intrigued that he might open doors to the unknown. Hoped, perhaps, to unlock some of his memories and feel less infantile, less constricted.
I would like to remember this. Maybe there's a door that links to my grotto that need only be found.

The mage blinked, turned his attention inward, "Your grotto?" He paused, however at the door with the glowing runes and stared, transfixed by what he saw. It wasn't just a door for the mage, it was alive with energy... ribbons of mana curling about the edges and disappearing into the unknown inside.

As Glyph shared Malh'reth's vision, he too was spellbound. It was one thing to feel the fabric of reality, another thing entirely to see it.
I am glad to be reborn through you, Malh'reth, there is much you have to offer.

He started, snapped out of his trance by the god's words and hurried to catch up with the others, "What? Where'd that come from?"

Your vision, among other things, intrigues and impresses this one.

"Oh..." He fell quiet, unsure of how to respond to that. His accident at the beginning of this whole mess seemed more like a curse then something special enough to impress a god.

Glyph simple smiled fondly as he felt Malh'reth's thoughts flutter about haphazardly.


Ankou's lecture on the technicalities of how the Doors worked reached David's ears only as formless, blurred half-words as he made careful work of the stairs - it was all complicated magic crap to him, in any case. He and Glaucon were more concerned with what would happen after they passed through them. Would the city even still be standing? What would be the nature of the survivors there? The host wasn't so sure they'd be very friendly, and the god was busy muttering to himself with some potential plan of action or another.

Their shared body rippled with nervousness as they waited for the unmarked Door to open.

Lisana listened carefully at the explanation given. All she really cared about was that they would be able to go and return. It would not do to get stuck on another world and be unable to tell what they found that might help. But learning to understand this way of travel could be of benefit later, so Lisana forced herself to remain focused upon what Ankou was saying about opening them.

Sinestra on the other hand was intrigued by the doors and watched carefully. Before she had always been limited to those here, but now she had so many more options and choices that could be made to suit her own needs. New vistas appeared before her as she watched with interest.

Oblivious as to what was going on around him, Ankou focused on the task at hand, spirit easily disconnecting from his body so survey what was unfolding in front of him. Here, unseen by anyone else, he felt free, unlimited - as I should be - as he followed the thin, brilliant stands of mana that linked all that be together. They seemed... to be weakening. That was not a good observation, but he forced himself to ignore it for the time being.

He had been right. There where a few ancient keypoints he could use as bearings, but other than that, almost everything had shifted, rendering what little he could remember mostly useless. At least, he knew now that restoring those memories would be useless... if he ever did have the power to remember completely.

At least, he knew what he was looking for. Baadris. A planet's name would have been much more useful, but it did keep him from having to check out every world one by one. As did one other, small detail.

Desert world.

That discarded quite a few planets, worlds, and places - thankfully. This would probably have taken me years otherwise... He looked for quite a long time, sending his consciousness spiraling among the celestial bodies, checking the planets closer to suns and those with warmer climate, going with the more logical choices first in attempt to narrow down the search.

It worked, and, finally, he saw a city. A city lost in the sand, the architecture completely different from this world he had been reborn in.

Two statues, standing tall, easily seen by all, hands interlocking.

Found you.




What had seemed to be only a few instants for him had been quite a few minutes for the gathering standing beside him. All this time, he had remained completely motionless, unresponsive to what was going on around him, as if he was quite literally gone.

A sudden smirk on what had been a blank face seconds ago and him backing away from the door was the first hint that something was about to happen. One by one, runes similar to those adorning the previous door, yet different, flickered into existence, and it all ended with an audible click.

"There." He shook his head, mostly to try to chase the dizziness away. It had affected him more than he had let on. "It is ready. Do not worry about the door, I will hold it - be careful."


Cosine watched nervously as Ankou went through the processes to open the gate. It seemed to take a long time, which made her nervous. What if it did not work, they would have to resort to space travel which would take days.

Finally, slowly it opened and she felt a rush of heat come through the door. This was it. They were truely going.

The number goddess took a deep breath and glanced to the others before stepping forwards.
"Thank you Ankou." She said with a smile, placing a hand on his arm. "You be careful too. Hopefully this will not take us too long."
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[Onwards Continued]


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The city of Baadris had endured wave after successive wave of Destruction's influences just as every world in every plane had, and yet it still managed to stand as a functioning mortal stronghold where nearly everything else around it had been torn apart by War or left as festering ghost towns by Plague. Those people who still had the energy for it were managing to mill about as townspeople should; noblewomen with sugarspun feathers bobbing over pearly tiaras, and men in regalia that seemed far too magnificent to be worn in such a troubling time. Towering above it all was the pristine form of Origin rendered as a massive statue, still as flawless as the day it was built, as the centerpiece of a Byzantine palace that seemed to still be standing out of a stubborn will to be near the wonder it was built around until the End.

It didn't make the people wonder much about the nature of the statue, except what ancient methods had been used to build it to keep it immune to the erosion that had been eating at the rest of the city. Many were aware that they were doomed to fall to ruin like the society that had built it, but none dared to mention it. Any sign of weakness would mean a great loss of power, especially now.

They never assumed any divine power to the caryatid. It was mostly regarded as a mystery of a long-dead culture that meant a constant influx of tourism, a figure of glory among novelties that had shaped their image of beauty since their own ancestors had settled there.

It would only take a brief moment for all of that to change.





A couple stressed beyond their young years was the first to notice. Both of them were certain they were seeing things at first - a few drops of luminescent liquid pearl flickering down from the statue's outstretched arm. They spoke to each other in hushed whispers about it, drawing the attention of a recent widow and her son, who were pointed towards the phenomenon and were equally surprised that they were seeing it themselves. A small crowd drew as they began to silently watch it, how the liquid-jewel-glow spread itself into a towering arc. It wove itself down into a faint prismatic tapestry that all-too-quickly reached the ground, draped across the entire space between the perfect novelty and the serpentine terror it had always been joined with, hand-in-claw.

The slowly waltzing threads suddenly brightened, almost enough to drown out the majesty of the ageless figure they adored, and several figures stepped out of it, directly into the Sultan's prized gardens. Their appearances were distinct and easily remembered: a few with horns and furred ears - the male had one like a unicorn, while the females' were more reminiscent of a ram - a short woman with crow's wings that possessed a bright green aura of perfectly repeating geometric patterns, a man with a cane and a mark of enlightenment on his forehead, and another female whose back foamed with large bubbles, seemingly attended by an older woman.

None of the modern technology and magic they possessed could explain such a thing, and no events like this had ever occurred in their history.

Some wondered if they had just witnessed a miracle.

Unfortunately, some of the guards seemed to disagree. There would only be a brief moment for the newcomers to admire the garden before they'd get the same treatment any old intruder would.


Light had flooded the gardens surrounding the statue of Origin in an ethereal glow that made every living thing within it pause in awe. The flowers, the vines and waterways… the very air seemed alive with magic and mystery. Something was unfolding, everyone could sense it. Startled harem women broke the stunned silence first, their whispers cutting through the air as they rose and rushed away from the invasion. Guards came rushing back just as quickly only to watch in stunned disbelief as a handful of people stepped out from that light, right into the middle of the Sultan’s gardens.

They had not been invited nor had they committed any crime… and bloodshed was forbidden here. Wary, if awestruck, the harem guards stayed at a distance, too well trained to burst upon the scene and ruin the element of surprise should it be required. One man, a senior officer by the number of scars that marred his face and upper torso, issued a command to inform the Sultan though he doubted their emperor needed any notice.

When the younger guard reached the room the Sultan was currently occupying, he burst through the doors and fell into a bow before the man that had kept the city from ripping itself apart. The youth had forsaken many a formality in his rush and the Sultan rose abruptly, brows drawing down in a disapproving look that forecast great difficulties for the foolish boy upon the floor.

“Your Majesty, a thousand apologies for the intrusion! There are a handful of strangers in your garden c-“ His words came out in a rush and were cut off just as quickly as the Sultan spoke over him, voice calm and controlled.

“I saw the light. How many?” The gears of his mind were already turning, working through the repercussions of such an audacious intrusion upon the inner sanctum of the palace. Who would dare such a thing?

“Several, not more then a dozen, your Highness. What would you have your Guard do?” He kept his gaze down, a hint of uncertainty in his voice.

A quick decision maker, Jherrem Iben Vathassae V turned to regard his advisor though he addressed the man on the floor, “Surround and question them, take them out of the gardens. Put them under heavy guard and wait, I will see those who are so brazen to attempt this.” Such an event might be useful… though he wasn’t fool enough to walk into what could possibly be a clever trap by one of the other Houses.

“As you wish, your Majesty!” Saluting, the guard backed out and turned to run to his commander, delivering the news.

In the meantime, the Sultan's face remained carefully controlled as his attendants were summoned and the preparations set into motion for the impromptu visit.


Whe she stepped through, Lisana stared in awe. "How incredibly beautiful!" Even the women who had scattered when they appeared were dressed in silks and what she assumed was the height of fashion here. Noting one dress in particular, she smiled, studying the jade green. Perhaps she'd have to look at the markets if there were a few moments.

"Sinestra, remind me to look for a dress like that girl is wearing. Perhaps in blue or white or even violet. I like it." The goddess smiled as she turned in full circle to look at the plants. "I think this is a place that should be visited frequently. Their culture seems thriving."

Sinestra nodded, bowing. "As you say, Lady Lisana. I will remember to look for such." She glanced upwards as her goddess did to stare at the statues. The hands reaching out to each other and the creation itself amazed her. Perhaps they could find an answer here.

"The beginning," Lisana murmurred softly as she glanced over at the others. "The beginning of it all perhaps." The hands reaching out to each other and the creation itself amazed her. Perhaps they could find an answer here.Then she added, "I do not think the guards look too pleased to see us here.


Cosine glanced around in wonder at the Oasis they had stepped out into. After the barren wastelands of the Pantheon it was as though she had stepped into paradise. Beautiful, though she could not help but see it all as guilding. Destruction's decline reigned over all of them afterall.
"I wonder how many slaves and public wells they drained to keep it like this." She muttered cynically.

The people around them kept their distance and she really couldn't blame them. She knew Lien would have some quip for a moment such as this ... 'we come in peace,' 'take us to your leader'. The goddess of numbers remained silent for a moment.

"Well, I suppose the maps were a waste of space." She smirked, looking up at the sprawling palace with its glass shining in the sun, only vaguely aware of the guards waiting for their orders.


When he stepped through the door with eyes shut and felt a wave of coolness rather then searing heat break upon his face, the mage blinked and opened his eyes. Both god and host stopped for a moment to take in the gardens... the hanging baskets, the waterways and the perfect tranquility of the place. Malh'reth's eyes were large, impressed by the beauty of what he saw - dazzling auras that danced and played with the flow of water, chords of power that weaved throughout the gardens, collected above the lotuses and then spiraled up towards the statue that stood like a proud titan above them. Only when he turned did he realize that the gardens were circular, lotuses clustered around the base of Origin's statue that gave way to fragrant greenery bordered by ponds... It was breath taking.

And for Glyph it was a breath of fresh air. He had yet to see the world proper, to see and feel and smell the greenery that he so loved. There were even little birds and bugs to accentuate the beauty, little things he felt an intense desire to experience. Before Malh'reth could do anything, Forest and stepped into control and moved them towards a nearby basket where a few colourful and exotic birds currently roosted.


"So far from home, little ones... Are you content?" The smile upon the mage's face was soft and gentle, reverent of the life that stood before him. Forest knew that these had been transported from some exotic rainforest on this planet, a pocket oasis perhaps, but a forest nonetheless. The birds peered at the intruder for a brief moment before flitting off, much to Glyph's sadness. He was not strong enough to influence the world yet.

Can I have my body back now? Malh'reth asked quietly, not really trying to struggle against the god's control - Glyph clearly preferred the vibrancy of a garden to the ash and brimstone of the pantheon and he wasn't so insensitive as to argue the point.

Glyph blinked and laughed sheepishly as he nodded,
"My apologies."There was a subtle shift in posture as Malh'reth came back into control and rolled his shoulders, "Thought this was a desert world..." He looked up once more to admire the towering statue and the glittering glass domes of the palace.

"It is." Natasha replied as she pointed to the sky and then gestured at their welcome party, indicating the garb."They wouldn't be showing so much skin if it were a temperate location, ne?" She smiled as she came up even with Malh'reth and frowned, "I wonder why they're just standing there...." Charcoal eyes scanned the area and noted the forms hidden behind bushes, their presence felt even if it was difficult to actually spot them amongst the foliage.

"Holy s**t, dude..."

David reflected the entire groups surprise upon stepping into a tiny paradise when so much of the rest of the universe had long since descended into a living hell. After so many weeks of seeing only the dull colors that dust, rot, decay and destruction painted everything with, the lush greens and pristine glass were enough to hurt his eyes. It made his thoughts flutter briefly back to his skepticism about the influence of True Gods on the world, until his gaze caught a streak of sun-hazed sky threatening to fall apart at the seams above the towers of the crystalline city. That was enough to snap him back into reality.

It is almost as if they're in denial, thinking their prosperity will allow them to live on past the End, Glaucon noted darkly, though he couldn't help but appreciate and wonder how this society could appear so functional when the influence of Gehenna had undoubtedly torn countless more apart.

The guards continued their wary approach of the intruders, even as it became obvious to them and the garden's patrons exactly what they were doing.

After asking David to borrow his voice, Judgment spoke to the group while keeping a careful eye on Eudocia, who seemed infatuated by the red lotuses growing at the base of the statue. "They're 'just standing there' because they are uncertain how to approach us," he quietly theorized, getting as good a look at their faces and stances as he could manage. "We arrived here in a very unusual way, and as such we're most likely not mere tourists in their eyes. Think about the assumptions that could lead to... I recommend we remain peaceful so they don't become poor ones."

"It's incredibly beautiful. The detail and work that went into all this..." her voice dropped off as she moved towards one of the baskets. "I wonder who takes care of if. There must be someone who makes these plants flourish like this. And I wonder what else they have here."

She glanced over at Cosine. "This was most definitely a good idea, Cosine. They may know something about them. I can't imagine that anyone but He created these statues. They've stood for too long and there are still here. I mean wouldn't there have been some sort of change to them unless it was something Harmodius did?" Her eyes went back for the towering statues. Perhaps they knew of something here. A bit more excitement slipped over her and she smiled again at the goddess beside her. Lisana was definitely ready to go exploring.

Sinestra watched the guards warily for a moment but then smiled at the joy and excitement in her goddess's voice. It had been a good idea to come along though she had been a little uncertain.


The guards were indeed uncertain what to do with such intriguing strangers. The other clans were resorting to desperate measures these days if they were bringing foreigners in to try and bring the emperor down.

On the words of their commander they moved forwards, their uncertain fear seemingly gone and weapons at the ready.

Cosine glanced around the party and then back to the guards. This was about to get interesting.
"So um, we let them arrest us?" She asked the god that resided within David. She wasn't fancying taking her chance with the glass scimitars they carried.


Glaucon replied to the Counting Crow with a confident nod. "Yes. I doubt they've been given any orders to kill us, as such a thing would leave a great deal of questions unanswered." His host's arms were too stubborn to allow themselves to be raised over his head, but he managed to spread them out and turn up his free palm in a universal gesture that meant he wasn't about to reach for a weapon. "Cooperating with them could very well lead to answers for us as well."

While the Head Guardsman knew not how the other clans had spirited such... creatures into the inner portions of the palace and would have rather taken them out to dispatch quickly, orders were orders and coming directly from the Sultan himself made them irrefutable. Clearing his voice, he stepped forward through the foliage, back straight and head canted at a proud angle, "Who dares tread on His Majesty's Gardens?" Voice rich and robust, it filled the area around him with an air of command leaving no doubt as to his position. Smoothly, he gestured for the other guards to surround the intruders and nodded as a ring of glittering, enchanted glass was formed around the gods.

Glaucon's authorative tones and Cosine's subordinate-like actions made the Captain turn and address the cripple. Though his lip turned down in a frown at the obvious imperfection of David's body, a leader was a leader and a powerful one at that to have staged this flashy intrusion, "Move. Outsiders are not meant to be here. We shall talk." Short and crisp, he moved forward and the ring of gem-like swords moved with him, pressuring the group to move without a single drop of blood being spilled.


Glyph remembered to ask before taking control this time and nodded in agree with Lisana, "That these gardens flourish at the base of His statue should be testament enough of His influence." Moving up beside Laughter, Forest turned as the guards made their presence more then obvious, shifting back away from the flimsy-appearing swords they bore. "There is no ill will here..." He offered a smile even though Natasha stepped abruptly between her Lord and the guards that threatened his safety.

"Calm, Natasha. Do not cause trouble." Resting a hand on her shoulder, he shook his head and the Aoide backed down though she still kept slightly in front of Glyph. To Cosine, he sent another nod of agreement, "I would agree with you... we did not come to fight."

Lisana giggled suddenly. "Boy, are they going to be upset when they understand they are throwing gods out of their gardens when they should be showering us with gifts. I guess they need work on their people skills." She broke into full laughter, a musical sound that echoed lightly through the area. "I suppose we will have to teach them better."

Sinestra's lips twitched upwards, though she said softly. "Goddess, I think that we should remain serious for a few moments."

"I am serious, Sinestra. I can tell they all need to laugh more already." she smirked. "Someone wants to talk to us. That's plain to see or they would have attacked already." His Majesty? Hmm... probably who we should be speaking to.


Glaucon lifted David's eyebrow at the demanding voice that rang out outside of the quickly tightening circle of guards. Lisana was right, this was turning out to be rather unusual, with gods being treated so callously by ignorant mortals. They would have to choose their words carefully if they wanted a good shot at making these people realize that they were being visited by divine beings.

He quietly allowed the circle of guards to lead him outside, the analytical expression on his host's face giving him an air of confidence that almost seemed to exist separately from their crippled body. If the commander wanted to talk... well, Judgment would be more than willing to oblige. It would also be worth it to earn an audience with 'His Majesty' - he was sure that his companions were probably thinking the same thing.

Eudocia followed close behind her master, unable to resist the urge to nervously fumble with the wrappings one on of her packages of food.

The group was ushered through hallways lined with rich tapestries and complex, glittering glass and crystal ornaments in the alcoves recessed into the walls. Some were empty and if one looked closely enough, dust and sand had collected about the bases of several display tables, subtle but there. It seemed at odds with the otherwise immaculate palace but was, perhaps, one of the less obvious signs that the city was indeed feeling the effects of Gehenna. A palace so grand as this would surely employ enough servants to keep it spotless.

As it was, the few they did pass glanced in surprise, expressions ranging from shock to distrust but all held some semblance of wonder. Who were these people surrounded by the finest guard coming from the Gardens? Why was that one bubbling...? And the other with the hypnotic patterns? Beast people and a man who sported a mark of enlightenment... they all inspired curiosity in the mortals they passed, broke up the monotony of pretending that all was well.

When they arrived at a pair of frosted crystal doors with images of the statues that dominated the city molded into the surface, the guards stopped. A few opened the door and the group was shepherded into a mostly empty room but for pillows, a few low-lying and whispy-looking tables and a bank of massive windows that overlooked the city. Behind that glass was a precipice that no mortal would survive should they break through. The Captain smiled. It was a wonderful room for questioning... open and yet secure - the entrance enchanted to withstand most everything their world, and many others, had to throw at it.

"Sit..." He gestured for them to find their seats as his guards lined the room, six to either side, and the doors closed behind him with a definite click. Making a show of sheathing his weapon, the Captain crossed his arms to properly regard those inside.

Question them. The orders were simple enough... "You are intruders, coming unannounced into the Palace. Your efforts have caught our attention, and I assume that was your goal." Pacing to stand before the table, the man scanned those assembled before letting his gaze fall back to Glaucon, "Who are you and what do you want? These are difficult times, do not expect charity from us." More then once, peoples from all over had snuck in in the attempt to gain an audience with the Sultan and make a case... and every time he'd had to throw them out, usually before they even managed to beg for the Sultan's attention. His Majesty had it clear that charitable acts were his and his decision alone.

In the meantime, while the Captain had been escorting their 'guests', the Sultan had arrived and settled in a room hidden behind one of the walls where Cosine and her group were being held. Mirrors and crystal had been inlaid into the woods and stone, creating a beautiful lighting effect but also allowed for cunning one-way viewing portals that conducted both sound and images to those in the secret room. One could watch without fear of being seen in return.

It was here that the Sultan sat sipping a spicy traditional tea and listening to the intruders. An interesting lot, at the very least... His gaze traveled not to David but the two Goddesses, so obviously different from the others. What were they...? While not a particularly pleasant man, the Sultan was not impatient. They would speak, sooner or later and he would have his answers.


Malh'reth frowned as the guards ushered them like so many sheep and kept close to the center of the group, wary and nervous. He had not expected such a display of.... what? It wasn't agression and in these times he couldn't really blame them for being cautious...

Calm down, Malh'reth. If they had wanted to attack us, they would have by now.

The mage nodded but continued to frown as he settled onto a pillow and pulled one into his lap. Beside him, Natasha chose to stand, ever watchful and loyal. If the guards chose to attack, they must go through her. She wasn't much of a fighter but a few good kicks with her strong legs would injure at least a few. To emphasize this, she tapped her hooves against the ground.

When the guard spoke, he blinked and turned to regard the man. Who was he addressing...? David? The mage blinked again but nodded, the man did have an air of authority about him at the moment. Probably more from the god who resided in that gem then from David himself, though. Clearing his throat, he wondered if he should answer the question... Lisana and Cosine were deities while the guard had chosen David as their leader, leaving him somewhere in the middle.


Remember our purpose. You are an entertainer, you will illustrate our plans. Glyph's words were gentle, calming him with the god's steady confidence. "Right." Nodding, he settled and waited for his turn in their plan sure that he would be of use somewhere.

Lisana sighed, but followed as did the rest of the grouping. She wanted to look around at the glass, the gardens, and the rest of the city. The wave had hit here also as had the weeks of unrest in one form or another. The dust and lack of care spoke of less servants.

She glanced out the window entirely unafraid but appreciating the view as she moved to take a seat. "Beautiful. Cosine, do you suppose we could fly across that? Well, you would fly. I suppose I would just bubble along merrily to the bottom." A giggle slipped free as she took her seat, now watching the Captain of the guards in amusement. "Bad jokes are what I'm best at or making mortals laugh whether they want to or not."

Sinestra moved around to stand behind Lisana. She glanced at the mirrors and glass around them for an instant as if something were bothering her. Something nagged and her eyes narrowed for an instant causing a frown. But shrugging it off when nothing came to her, she turned around again. There was the oddest sensation of being watched though she could not quite figure it out. Too bad she could not pull her cards out and look at them. Perhaps she'd have been able to see something. But the fortune-teller was quite certain that any movement into their things might be misconstrued as a possible attack. The last thing they needed.


Cosine followed silently, her eyes also taking in the details of dust and the worry behind the eyes of the guards that led them. The numbers in the palace were depleted. A skeleton staff.

She did not sit in the room they were brought to and looked up at the captain of the guards as he spoke. So sad. She thought to herself, pretending that they still had power left to throw around.
"We are unarmed." She said calmly, nodding to Lisana and following her gaze. She was not so sure that she could fly. The math didn't add up, too small to support her weight. Or were they.

Again her eyes returned to the captain of the guards.
"We do not come to overthrow you or to beg for your charity." She glanced to David and then to Lisana. This was going to sound rediculous to the men before them. "We come to offer help, not beg for it. You cannot keep the evils from paradise forever."


Glaucon observed every inch of his surroundings he could manage as they were led to the interrogation chamber, being particularly drawn to the tapestries hanging from the wall. Some of them depicted what looked like historical events and war triumphs, with crystalline spacecraft triumphantly rising from seas of debris. Others seemed a bit more spiritual in nature - one series appeared to be a creation myth of sorts, with what he assumed might be the Sun and Moon trying to court a River by gifting her with warm mantles of light and necklaces of stars. It progressed to her running away to escape from their advances, droplets of herself falling on grains of sand that grew into plants. Her sparkle from the Moon's gifts then drew groups of desert nomads to her dwelling place... and then they were in the door, sitting down, hearing the demanding voice of the commander.

It was definitely an effective place to question your average mortal... while Lisana and Cosine might have a chance of escaping, he was fairly sure he wouldn't be able to, confined in David's less-than-impressive body.

Hey, I heard that!

The god decided not to respond to David, instead focusing on the interrogating commander. Nodding at Cosine's words, he said, "We arrived from the house of the Gods in search of a means to stop the End," sparing no seriousness from his voice. He figured it would sound ridiculous to any mortal at first, but supplemented with their unintentionally grand arrival... hopefully they would be able to recognize the truth in time.


One of the guards along the walls couldn't help but chuckle at Lisana's remark, having overheard her comment and was now imagining the goddess bubbling down and out of sight - a rather amusing image, all told. A sharp look from his superior cut the chuckle off and he shifted, straightening his back and returning his gaze to directly forward.

This was not a time for jokes.

However when Cosine spoke, the Captain had to choke down a scoff. "Help? And is it you bring that could aid us?" He cast an appraising look over those assembled and frowned. What indeed.

The Sultan's expression never changed as he listened to their sentiments, only leaned forward slightly in his chair. How curious. The House of Gods... and the End? Supposed messengers from their holy spirits? Sitting back in his chair, he shook his head and decided these were likely misinformed people, driven mad like so many others.

Still, it would not hurt to be entertained for a few minutes more and so he halted the servant who had moved to receive the orders that would either kill or dismiss the four. "Not just yet." He spoke evenly, without looking over.

"House of Gods?" The Captain really did scoff now and shook his head, "We are a port city, we see many... unique peoples come and go every day. We are not short on faith, I'm afraid." He had come to the same conclusion as the Sultan, it seemed, and turned, "If you wish to to make a case, you will need to speak to the Sultan. I can do nothing for you."


Glyph spoke up then, "Your world has been touched by the End... would you so easily deny an opportunity for help? As my comrade said, we come unarmed with no ill intent. We would speak to this Sultan if we cannot speak to you." He crossed his arms and gazed at the guard, deliberately leaving their status a mystery - that was a card to be played later on.

The Sultan tilted his head to the side, bemused by this grand farce. If they wanted an audience, they would have to earn one - just like every other person who fell to their knees before his great throne. Silently, he raised his hand and gestured for the servant to deliver the orders. "Remove them from the palace, watch them for a few days - if they do not cause trouble, leave them be. If they do... dispose of them."

A sharp nod from the servant and he darted away to pass along the orders. Lucky intruders, they were, to not be thrown in the dungeons. Their flare and their high hopes had likely saved them that fate.


Lisana caught the chuckle and amusement turning her head to watch the guard for a moment. One with a sense of humor. Perhaps he would be one to take home with her. If they found what they needed here, then he might be one to guard her own temple. Her servants needed such amusement within them. Afterall, what would Laughter do without the laughter of her own?

Such disbelief to be found here. Perhaps all this trouble was the very thing needed to stir not only the hearts of the mortals, but also the hearts of all the gods. Including her own. She and Eftemie were one now. The girl was gone except for the memories and feelings she possessed for the things that had touched her. This man would have amused the girl and she'd have befriended him instantly.

She watched him another moment, laughing suddenly emboldened by the thought the Captain would disapprove. A smile on her lips, she stated, "Well, at least one has a sense of humor at the state we find ourselves in. I approve. Everyone should laugh at least three.. no four.. make it five times a day. Even better than an apple for what ails one."


Cosine listened to them carefully, a slight smirk spreading across her lips. For beings that could create such wonder with imagination and faith mortals truely were stupid sometimes. It was rather depressing that as a goddess she had to rely on them for existance.

The guards words made her angry, if there was one thing she could not stand ... it was those who could not see beyond their nose.
"You seem so sure of your position, of your future." She looked out at the window, a city that was only a shadow of its former viberance. "Will your Sultan grant us an audience?" Probably not, she thought. He would be so arrogant to think his position and power might spare him a one way ticket to the End. "Surely he can do the math?"


"You would disregard one group of foreigners based on a generalization of all of them?" Glaucon challenged the Commander, locking eyes with him. "Even with how rare visitors must be these days, during a time where 'strange foreigners' have more important concerns than attempting an audience with a ruler who would most likely deny their presence, let alone assist them in the world's time of need?" There was an earnest disapproval in his voice, of how arrogant these people were able to remain when their sparkling glass city was as doomed to shatter as the rest of All That Is.


Before more could be said, however, the Sultan's servant discreetly entered the room, and whispered his given orders to the Commander.

The guard Lisana had spoken about shifted and smiled, eyes flicking to her for but a moment before returning his gaze to the other wall with a slight nod. Another time, perhaps, and he might have searched her out for a conversation - something about Laughter drew the guard.

The Captain noted the guard's mannerisms and frowned slightly, shaking his head but did not speak out again. It was difficult finding things to laugh about now... to find merriment and the guard had not broken form as he had earlier so he left the man to his amusements. One never knew how long it might last.

To Cosine, Glyph, and Glaucon, he replied sharply, eyes narrowing, "The Sultan has kept this city together when every other one around has fallen into chaos. That he has lead our people so far only gives me further faith that he will lead us out. You speak of our denying help but is it so wise to offer assistance before you even know of our land? To be granted an audience, you must apply and catch his eye. The-" He broke off, narrowed eyes remaining locked on Glau's a silent answer to the other's challenge. He had not attained his position by backing down.

Leaning over to hear the other's whispers, he nodded once and wiped his hands, a look of relief flashing briefly across his features. He would not have to debate with these strangers any more. "My company will escort you out of the palace. Do not attempt to break in again." He signaled the guards and as one, they clinked their feet against the ground and turned to form the wall around the group once more, "If you'll please come along, nothing unpleasant will tarnish this day." Almost graciously, the Captain gestured to the now open doors.

The Sultan had been watching the entire time with a feeling of satisfaction at his Captain's words. Years of work, expressed so simply. The Sultan had the militia's complete loyalty, and many others', and could orchestrate the city in any way he chose - so long as he kept an eye on the other influential families. Loyalty only went so far when the ruler was 'elected' by strength.

His entourage was up and ready to leave but he remained, wanting to witness the interrogation until the very end.


Malh'reth spoke up, then, pushing past Glyph to voice his opinion, "Then how do we apply? Do we need proof of our claims? We have that in abundance." Glyph nodded, agreeing with the mage's sentiments and settled to watch the Captain as his gaze shifted to meet Mal's.

"You apply like any other being. Any proof you have is to be shown to him should he deign to see you." His tone wasn't particularly accommodating as he shrugged, believing the likelihood of their audience was next to nil - and just as well, it meant less headache for him.

Lisana sighed getting to her feet. They might as well look about the city. She had no doubts that they would find a way to see the Sultan. At some point he'd recognize what they were and he would have to speak and ask for their help.

Sinestra followed just behind her, patiently. She had said nothing but shook her head at the treatment the gods were being given. But she was certain there were those here that would accept them. Perhaps the guard her goddess had picked out already.

When they exited the building, Lisana turned deliberately around. A wide smile on her face, she moved towards the guard that had laughed earlier. "In my temple you would not be just a guard. True laughter is a rare gift. May I know your name?"


"Well that was productive." Cosine muttered as they were escorted out of the building and into the heat of the desert sun. She looked to the guards, to Lisana who seemed to be doing her bit for recruitment and then out to the city that spread before them.
"What now?" She asked, turning back to the party. "We try and petition? Or just find another way to get in and beat the Sultan into submission?"


The moment the final doors had closed behind them, there was a haggard sigh. "Gaaaaaawd, what a douche!"

Glaucon had let his control over his host slip away as soon as they were out of the palace, partially because David had an easier time controlling his body than the god did. The first thing he did upon readjusting his footing was reach his free hand up as far as he could, giving the crystalline palace door the middle-finger salute and an icy scowl. "Bunch of elitist faggots with sticks up their asses." He obviously didn't care whether the few straying guards had heard him, but they seemed to start at his sudden and absolute change in demeanor. Was he as crazy as the Commander made the group out to be... or some kind of spirit channeler, what with that stone inset in his forehead?

"Dude. Cosine." He turned to the number goddess, his annoyance not planning to waver anytime soon. "Petitioning that guy isn't going to do s**t. It never does, especially if His Majesty is half the a*****e that guard was." A loose and shaky thumb gestured towards the door in emphasis. "I learned that in college."

Then what do you propose we do? We know almost nothing of this city, besides the nature of its leadership...

"Hell if I know. Go sightseeing, maybe?" he suggested to the voice in his head with a painful amount of sarcasm

The guard whom Lisana had taken an interest in, lingered to catch a longer glimpse and hear a little bit more of this intriguing group. They offered help... and he felt drawn to the one who bubbled and laughed easily. When she addressed him so suddenly, he blinked and for a moment words eluded the mortal as he looked at her dumbfounded. "Wh-what?" He frowned slightly when words finally came to him, and bowed slightly at the compliment, "Temple...? My name is Hasheem Karez, Royal Guard." He stopped there, at a loss of what else to say and then was called away by his comrades. With an apologetic look, he smiled at Lisana and offered a half wave before he hurried into the palace with the rest of the guards.

Malh'reth and Glyph both had no idea what a douche was but both agreed with the tone in which is was spoken, "I agree, petitioning that monarch will get us nothing. If anything, we'd likely end up dealing with that biggot of a guardsman once more." The mage frowned and crossed his arms as he looked up into the sky and blinked at the streaks of light that were the incoming space ships and pointed, "What are those!?"

Glyph had shrunk back a little, disliking the dry heat that his host felt and did not answer. He was only recently returned the world and ages of being confined to a gem did not let one update one's knowledge of the current peoples.

As Cosine spoke of beating the Sultan into submission, he laughed and shook his head, "Somehow I doubt that would work, Cosine.... but they did insinuate our flashy entrance was what saved us.... I think we should find another way to get in - force the sultan to meet us. There must be some clues around here that'll help us with that..." He turned to eye the sky once more, obviously wanting to investigate those ships as he'd never seen something of their like before.


Cosine gave both men a look and then turned her eyes back to the city.
"And you both seem so full of wonderful ideas." She said dryly, shifting her weight and folding her arms. There must be something they could do.
"At least we are agreed that we need to get in there and force the Sultan to listen. Which might involve some research. I vote we split up. See what we can find out about the city, its people. Anything and meet back here ... say, sundown?" She suggested, her green eyes flitting back to the party. "That will give us the cover of darkness."


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As gorgeous and sparkling as the buildings were, the mage’s attention was not on them this hour. He’d spent the stretch of time wandering in the hopes of finding the source of those mysterious ships he’d spotted when their group had been kicked out, alternating control with Glyph who would inevitably wander over to the shaded areas and peer at what few plants remained in the gardens of the homes they passed. The god was uncomfortable here, where the heat scorched the land and made it next to impossible for forests to rise up.

Now though, the god had retreated once more to simply watch. They’d stumbled across one of the public ports and had promptly gotten lost in among the great corridors and loading platforms. Scripts curled across great screens, directing only the air to their destinations. It was next to empty, some halls completely closed off with empty guardhouses watching over the area. It was eerie.

Shivering he stepped to turn and bumped into Natasha who reached out to support him as he tripped, “Be careful!”

Malh’reth, however, had paused to watch a congregation of worn-looking citizens wind their way through a ramp that lead to a larger gathering of people. Straightening himself up, he pointed off in that direction, “What do you think that is?”

I do not know…. But a group like that may be useful in trying to figure out a way into the palace. Glyph observed, urging the mage to start forward even as Natasha echoed his sentiments.

Coming up on the fringe of the groups, he stood on tip-toe and watched as one by one, the people were turned away by a big man in some sort of armor and bearing a weapon. His words could be heard echoing out over the square, “Don’t even bother! These supplies will be handed out as the Sultan decrees! There is enough if you just stop pushing!” He waved at them and moved them away, barking orders to the other officers who came into view as mage and the aoide drew closer.

When it came Malh’reth turn to be shoved off, he shook his head and stepped closer to the Warden, “What’s this about? Aren’t supplies supposed to be given out?” Curious and unassuming, he smiled at the man.

“They will be – later. You’ll get your water when we set-up properly.” He motioned for Malh’reth to leave once more as he met the Aurion’s gaze.

Defiantly, he shook his head, “Why not here?”

“Because we’d get swamped if you haven’t noticed. Now move along!” The burly man lifted his weapon, “If you don’t move on, I will be forced to move you myself. You wouldn’t want that.”

Blinking, the mage sighed and left to meander through the crowds once more. It was water they were giving out? The city must be running terribly short if they were rationing it to this degree.

They live on a desert planet, Malh’reth, it makes sense that with the taint of Destruction and now the End that their few resources would be withering away.

“I know. But look. See them? These people need the water…” He scanned the crowd, so full of haggard looking people, many with dull eyes that bespoke of their hardships more then anything else. “They need hope.”

Agreed. Have faith that we will gain the Sultan’s help. Their city’s centerpiece is an effigy of the Twin Crown… Cosine spoke of this place as a source of answers. There must be something here that will help revive Him.

“But the Pantheon… We don’t have years to spend on this, each day brings us closer to the End. You really think that salvation is here? I thought you gods were more powerful then relying on the resources of mortals.” Malh’reth sighed as he fell into step behind a family with three very parched children.

How do you know it is not? We are powerful, Mal, but we are young yet – the Court is only starting to be rebuilt. Ages have passed and knowledge lost that must be recovered. That those statues still stand despite the weeks is a sure sign that a shred of what we are searching for is here.


“Young gods? What will make you able to regain your former glory? What could be here that stops the End?” He shook his head as he played his fingers across the jewel embedded into the base of his neck, “You speak of knowledge but I’m only mortal… I haven’t been much help at all – beyond paying Host to you.” At that he shot a look at Natasha who pretended not notice.

Glyph sighed and curled around Malh’reth’s spirit, hoping to get the man to understand. It wasn’t so simple as to be reborn in a flash. Your mortality does not matter. It is your belief that strengthens us. For you, my mage, your belief and your soul will allow me to ascend once more – a sacrifice I will treasure and carry with me for the Ages to come. Every god and goddess gains power from believers… that power will help restore our memories and restore our influence upon All That Is. Forest trailed off thoughtfully, something nagging at him.

“That wasn’t an honour I asked for… though.” He replied, casting his gaze down. The mage was still having difficulty coming to terms with his inevitable ceasing to exist. He would be consumed and used as fuel for the return of the God of Forests… would that sacrifice be truly appreciated? Was it worth it?

While God and Host had been conversing, they’d drawn the attention of a rickety old man who hobbled closer with each word they had uttered. Interest was plain upon his aged face and eyes twinkled with curiosity. Some might have labeled him insane but he preferred to be called visionary. In a wobbly voice, he called out to the pair, “Heeey, young fella! What’re you going on about? Better save that voice o’ yours for when you need it – water’s rare here, visitor!” A gap-toothed grin met the Aurion’s startled gaze as he looked up.

“Wha-what? Pardon me?” Confusion darkened his features, “I don’t need the water, thanks. You can have my share if you want….?”

“Oh so nice! It’s good to see a youth who knows to respect his elders. How old are you? Twenty cycles? Thirty? Wise for being so young!” Laughing, he tapped his walking stick against the mage’s shoulder.

Malh’reth couldn’t help but chuckle at the other’s assumption. “I suppose you could say tha-“ He broke off as the old man stopped and coughed, his whole body heaving with the motion as he wheezed and whistled.

Once he’d recovered, the stranger waved off Malh’reth’s concern and shook his head, “Just a little parched. I survived the plagues, I’ll weather this storm too.”

Stubborn old man. Glyph quipped, bemused by the mortal.

Mal nodded in agreement, “Do you want some water…? I have some.” He reached over to Natasha who was carrying their supplies and smiled his thanks as she handed him the corked canteen. It was a mistake though, to speak so boldy of a resource so few saw any more and a dozen heads perked, every single gaze focusing on the mage. He shifted uncomfortably and refused to meet the hopeful gazes, “I’m trying to get an audience with the Sultan… I’ve come with a group to offer help. The True Gods have returned… but it’s hard to convince a leader you can’t meet… do you know any way we could gain an audience?”

The old man eyed Malh’reth for a moment before shrugging, “Give me the water and I’ll tell you what I know?” When the mage eagerly offered the water vessel, the senior downed half before belching and rubbing his mouth, “Sweet stuff, boy. What I know is this: nothing. But! You speak of True Gods… tell me what you mean. It sure as hell seems like our gods have abandoned us – maybe your news will carry some weight.”

A few people had gathered round the three, pretending to converse with one another but flicking longing gazes at the water bottle that Malh’reth took back and screwed tight, his expression having flared to anger and then curiosity. Would they listen…? Did they want to believe….?

Tell them. It wouldn’t hurt.


Malh’reth nodded and his lips turned up into a broad smile as he bowed to the old man and then turned to address the crowd at large. “I have water for everyone if you listen to my tale. It is a tale of tragedy and hope in these dark times, a path that all may follow. A story of the True Gods and their plight… their bid for survival. They suffer as you do, my friends! I have come from their dwelling place in search of answers… answers that will be your, mine, and their salvation. Will you hear me?” He mage had been sketching as he spoke, drawing out the flowing current of a stream all about him and cast it out, forming a glowing ring of lines over the people gathered.

“Mama! Look!” One child called out, pointing to the lines with awe in her face.

“I see, Mari, I see.” Her mother nodded but did not move her gaze from Malh’reth, “Do not tease us, stranger, it is cruel and unkind. You have a story no one wants to hear, our gods have not deserted us – our city would not be standing unless we were still in their favour.” A chorus of agreement rang out.

Is this how far they’ve fallen? You offer them water… the truth and they still deny it? Glyph sighed and gave the impression of shaking his head.

Malh’reth turned to face the mother and bowed, “I assure you, m’lady I am not teasing you. Your gods are my gods… the deities of All that Is. They rule the heavens and the lands… watch over emotion and thought. Your gods are mine and I bring their story with me – a story that must be told to your Sultan for your glorious city may hold answers to stopping the End we have all felt.” As he finished, he summoned the water and watched with satisfaction as it poured down onto those below, soaking them. Startled cries rang out as some scrambled to catch that precious resource.

The old man merely smiled and gestured for Malh’reth to go on. Had he sensed the truth of the mage’s words from the get go? The mage could not be certain. “Will you hear me?” He sketched out another image – one of a large basin of water and let it float above his head, “That is all I ask.”

Glyph was watching, thoughtful, knowing he was missing something important…. Something vital. The mother Malh’reth had addressed was stunned, unmoving as she was jostled around by the chaos that was beginning to take hold of the group and the mage squared his shoulders as Glyph pushed the for, “STOP!” The god’s voice, different from Malh’reth’s, rang out into the air, “Before you harm yourselves, stop and listen. You will have water – do not scramble like savages, noble people. Stand and listen, that is all I ask.”

It snapped into place as he watched the seeds of belief being scattered as the people stopped abruptly in their futile quest for water. Belief! It was belief that empowered the gods! And what was the Twin Crown if not the most powerful, most revered… the center of All. He was the King of Gods… would be influenced by mortal will? Surely… surely he would. Destruction had reign and now Destruction was metamorphosing into Gehenna. They needed Origin… Creation.

Make them believe in Harmodius. In Creation and Origin… that statue, it must be of Harmodius. Get them to believe in Origin… we draw our power from their worship, would then, the worship of Origin not strengthen Creation? Glyph was eager, pushing at the mage’s mind with enthusiasm.

The basin materialized, followed by several cups as Malh’reth listened to Glyph’s sentiments. The people descended on the water, listening to his requests for order in case this mysterious benefactor caused the water to disappear. Quietly, the mage responded to Glyph, “Make them believe…? How am I supposed to do that? I’ve never even seen Harmodius, Glyph.”

That doesn’t matter. Use their images of Origin and their belief in their gods… Just tell them our story.

And so the mage did. He painted the god’s story in the air… calling upon his knowledge and his experiences in the Pantheon. Drew their attention to the Gate and recalled with them his party’s arrival. Malh’reth was in his element, spinning tales of greatness of the place he’d come from… the troubles they were in and their quest for the answers.

Throughout it all, he stood with Origin at his back, knowing that any who watched him would also be watching the gate. Their gods were his, embodiments of Everything… insinuating that belief in the King of Gods – Creation, Origin, would help bring them up from the depths of darkness.

When his story drew to a close, the mage sagged, his energy spent. “We came in search of answers. Answers that likely reside within this city and I hope, for all our sakes, that we find them. Thank-you for listening to my tale.” He bowed and coughed, voice hoarse from the length of time he’d spent recounting the Pantheon.

“What is your name, boy?” The same old man from earlier pushed through the departing people, his voice cutting through the low murmur.

Malh’reth coughed once more, blinking as the man came forward. His first instinct was to speak his own name but… something inside gave him pause. It was not Glyph, though the god watched with interest and then admiration as the mage gave his answer, “Call me Glyph, Silvim Illusterre.”

The old man nodded and hobbled away with a departing wave.

Malh’reth… Glyph was stunned but spoke no more as the mage made his way back towards the palace, curling up contentedly in his corner of Malh’reth’s mind.

The mage yawned and pretended not to hear the other as he glanced up at the evening sky. “Cosine said to meet back around now…”

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As the light began to fade on the desert city it caused a spectacular show. The colours of the sky reflected in the glass that decorated many of the buildings and reflected to cause an amazing light show.
"Beautiful." Cosine said with a smile to her companion.


Isra. She was a judge from a group of space nomads forced to the city because of harsh times. Their ships were broken and their trade routes had been destroyed. Cosine had run into the tall woman and her young son in the market. They had been accompanied by two more familiar faces. Twin Aoide, lost in the fading and adopted by the tribe.


"You think so?" The woman asked, brushing her dark hair out of her blue eyes and shifting with a jangle of glass bracelets. "I often wonder how intelligent it is to build a city of glass." She smiled and glanced down at the woman she now believed to be a goddess. "Your friends, you know the Sultan is a foolish and difficult man?"

Cosine nodded.
"We have a good idea. That's where you come in. If you can get us inside the palace then we can do the rest. That's all we need, just a chance."


The taller woman nodded.
"I can get you that much. Though we will need to work on your attire. Members of the tribal council do not tend to have wings. Even false ones. we leave those to the pampered courtesans and rich wives."


The reflection of the dimming sunlight on the buildings was particularly nice on this night, especially with the shine of the active Gate playing soft pastels over the glass roofs of Baadris, making the city almost look as if it were floating in the air instead of glued to the dusty ground. It was certainly more than enough to give people reason to overlook the influence of Decay slowly eating away at the pristine buildings, promising to make them look less magnificent with each passing day.

Cosine and her new friend were soon joined by Glaucon and Eudocia, who were sure to leave early so David's slow body wouldn't make them late. The look on Judgment's face was analytical as always, but there was a tinge of excitement with having so much useful information to share. Noora the seamstress had been quite the font of knowledge - he was hopeful that his companions had learned other things so they could all compare notes

Decay indeed. It was seen in the riff raff that hung around the buildings, lean from famine or wounded from plague and war... the city was beginning to truly show the signs of the End. Light filtered down through the sky and played across crystal shutters, scattering rainbows over the street like a fine vaneer that would hide the spiderweb cracks in them.

Wearily, Glyph approached the group once more squinting and yawning hugely every few moments. He was tired from his story telling, having put in a great deal of energy to make it as real as possible for his audience. Mal only hoped he'd done enough to plant the seed of belief that Glyph had suggested.

Coming up behind David, Malh'reth gave way to Glyph as he yawned once more, knowing the god would do a better job of communicating his epiphany to the others.
"Greetings. I have much to discuss... and it seems you do as well, Cosine. Glaucon...?" Forest titled his head, catching that slight look of excitement. It seemed their forays had been informative!

Natasha stepped closer as Glyph was unable to suppress yet another yawn.
"Malh'reth has expended much energy in our little trip around the city... but I have a few intriguing ideas to share."

Lisana and Sinestra walked back to the meeting place. Those few people still out and about moved aside letting them pass even as they watched them. There was so much that was beautiful about this city but there was so much more that it could be.

The silks and clothing were intricately made with glass beads and a finesse to them that was incomparable. But there was an ugliness to the place despite its beautiful glass. It was that which was going to change perhaps. The talk of assassination and .

She smiled seeing them all there. "I found out some information." Bowing faintly to the woman she did not know, Lisana smiled then added, "From a friendly guard who likes to laugh." A faint smirk was seen on her face at the thought of Hasheem. "He may be joining us. I made him an offer I do not think he can refuse."

"Oh! The oddest thing happened. Two demons appeared in the marketplace without summoners. I wonder if that is something that occurs frequently here." She frowned slightly at the thought. "They are dead, but still it was most unexpected."


Cosine smiled as her companions returned, she was excited to hear what they had managed to discover and also to share her news. Her exploration of the market place had prooved very fruitful indeed.

Isra looked around the group and smiled, returning Lisana's bow. The woman was clearly a goddess as well. He words however troubled her.
"Not in the city, no. The desert sometimes if you wander too far." She looked to the others and then back to Cosine.


The green eyed goddess smiled.
"This is Isra. She is from a nomadic caravan. Part of a group of ancient tribes, they believe in us." This was clearly exciting news, Cosine flapped her wings a little and looked to her new friend. "She is a judge, on a tribal council and might be able to get us inside the palace. Her people are going to help rally support to return with us."


The reunion was very timely; both Glaucon's mood and his opinion of his companions lifted considerably when they came not only at around the same time, but with news to share as well. He frowned briefly at the mention of demons... he hadn't noticed any himself. It was a mystery that would have to be pushed aside to another day, however; right now they had more important dangers to worry about than an attack from a handful of small monsters.

He gave a nod to Isra, saying, "It is a pleasure to meet anyone willing to help another in times like these." The fact that her tribe believed in the True Gods provided more hope, especially if they had the influence to help them back into the gardens.

"I was able to meet with a seamstress who hears a lot about the inner workings of the city from her customers," he added to the list of the people they had seen. "She gave us an idea or two that might help cement our chances." At 'us', he gave a side glance to Eudocia, who dipped her head bashfully at the attention. Her hands were carefully gripping one of the bits of cloth used to wrap her food, now loosely around a distinctly different shape from anything she was carrying earlier.

David had become increasingly silent since they had started this journey... but that would also have to be a mystery to explore in safer times.

Glaucon looked between the goddesses, Isra and Forest's host, eager to hear the information they each had. "What of you and your host's 'intriguing ideas', Glyph? And assistance from a guard of the Palace would be very useful."

Glyph caught Eudocia's uncomfortable shuffling and arched a brow, lifting his gaze to meet Glaucon's as the god spoke, "This place is parched and drying up, and many believe their gods have abandoned them. Or else the city stands because the gods smile upon them." Forest couldn't help the slightly sardonic smile that played across his features, pausing only long enough to ensure that the others were not about to recount their encounters as well.

"While we were investigating the city, the ports in particular, it came to our attention that water is being rationed rather fiercely. Malh'reth and I ended up discussing we True Gods and several people over heard. The mage then took that opportunity to quench their thirst and tell our story." At this, he crossed his arms and smiled at the group, "Which made me realize - we draw our power in part from the worship mortals offer us so why not Harmodius as well? In particular Creation... Could we not, then, strengthen what remains of Our Lord by bending the will of the people to worship," He pointed up at the Gate, "Origin? Origin, the beginning of everything... a symbol of perfection and mystery among the mortals here. They worship us though they do not know it. Spreading knowledge and belief in that which stands above them, could we not call Him back, in part, by empowering his Creative incarnation?"

He sighed and shrugged, "Or at the very least, buffer him against the Void that must rage within that Pod."

Isra's eyes also drifted towards Eudocia, falling on the bundle that she carried. A leaf poked out, and a petal. A dark eyebrow raised and a smirk crossed the exotic woman's lips.
"You stole a lotus. You know there is a penalty of death for that." She teased. "They used to be for all once. We would use them as offerings to our alters, they symbolised the begining of everything. Life. Rebirth." A smirk, her eyes glanced towards the palace. "Can't have everyone holding the gift of life in their hands. Just like the Statue at who's feet they grow. he keeps them for himself."


Lisana listened then said, "Hasheem said that this place runs on what can be done without getting caught via cunning and money. It's an honor or some such even to the point of assassination. It looks like we already got away with that. Can we not use it in some way to force his hand?"

"And if we can find those who still have faith or are at least searching, then it's a beginning of what we need. An old woman in the marketplace believes too. She said as much when she hugged me." Lisana stated thoughtfully. "I intend for her to come with us and I've already asked Hasheem. Would a large enough group force others to move in our favor here? And help our Lord as well?"


Glaucon listened carefully, his calm exterior belying the whirling of hope and inspiration that was quickly brewing inside his mind. Forest and his host... it was so simple, and yet so brilliant... and Isra's talk of the lotuses... his mouth would have been spilling with words before his brain could properly form them, were he not the level and analytical god of Judgment he was. Things were starting to turn out so well, it was almost as if Fate had been reborn and given them their blessing.

He waited for Lisana to say her piece and then continued with his own information with a practiced deliberation in his voice. First he nodded to the goddess of Laughter in agreement with her words. "Yes, I heard as much from the seamstress. Reentering the Gardens in the correct way is imperative to our success here." About gathering a larger group... yes, converting the masses of the city while verbal chess is being played with the Sultan... "Leaders in any society have a way of losing their power if their people disagree with them," he agreed. "And if mortal will is as important to the Twin Crown as it is to us, then the citizens of Baadris will be the first to fuel the spark of Creation trapped in that Chrysalis."

And yes, the importance of belief - such a simple, obvious thing that they had overlooked before, and now it would be shaping the rest of their journey. His gaze shifted to Glyph and his host, the heightened levels of respect for them clear on his face. "If we want to inspire more belief, then I believe our return to the Sultan must be impressive... so much that it can be thought of as an act of the Gods... seen as divine intervention."

"The lotus will be returned to him as an act of kindness and grace," Glaucon finished, facing Isra now. "And perhaps they can be seen on altars yet again someday, if we are successful."

Glyph stepped forward as that lotus winked into view and then out again, holding long-fingered hands up to Eudocia, "May I see...?" He nodded as Isra's words, "Symbols of life and rebirth, hrm? Why were they taken away?" The God of Forests quirked a brow as dots began to connect themselves in his mind, "Are they revered still, as more then some pretty ornament in a Sultan's garden? They should be shared if they bring hope to the people... do they connect at all to that Statue?" Speaking thoughts aloud, the god stepped away from Eudocia.

"Bold and flashy, tied to the spiritual..." He smiled at Glaucon, nodding to acknowledge his words and turned to do likewise with Lisana, "Why not appear in their gardens once more? If these lotuses are important, we should make use of them - symbols of perfection that they are, they could be tied to Origin through our actions. Malh'reth has his images... and the Fangbridle reigns alongside Greed as his favourite portait. A dragon resplendent would be useful, do you not agree? A fellow God, the mount to Harmodius himself, to draw attention."

Returning his gaze to Isra he pursed his lips,
"With such a distraction, do you think you could help us through? You and Lisana's Hasheem?" Glyph tilted his head to look at Laughter questioningly - would her new follower be willing to help them? They stood a chance only if they could gain access to the palace and force the Sultan into working with them - caught between divine intervention and a city being converted to the True Gods, it seemed like the perfect pressures to ease a leader into a suitable position, better if they converted him as well.

Hasheem thought about what he had seen. And the words the goddess had given him. She obviously had power to stop demons. Even if it was laughter, it had held them allowing their destruction. In their time of need, she had not hesitated to act pulling the attention to herself for their protection. Was this really a chance for him to leave this place and find more? He wanted more than just standing guard over the Sultan expected to give his life for him.

Laughter was more than the Sultan ever would be. But did he take this chance. He was drawn to her more than he had ever been drawn to his job or anything else. Heading towards his parent's home he stopped just outside for a long moment. Then he turned around and went the other direction. He would take a chance. His family could kill him later for it, but only if it did not work out. For now, he knew what he had to do.

She had said they were meeting back at the outer doors of the palace. He needed to tell the Captain he was quitting and pick up his gear from the barracks, but he would tell her that he wanted to help however he could. Whatever the consequences it was time. Now he had a true chance to do something that would perhaps better his own life, his family's, and save what he could. The world was in a very strange place right now and gods were there to help. At least he believed so now.


She nodded. "I believe he would. And perhaps some of his friends. He approached me in the marketplace asking questions but I got the impression that his information in return was something he should not say, but did." She frowned thought fully for a moment. "I wonder if we can find him by asking one of the guards here. Surely they would know him."

Sinestra listened quietly as she glanced at the flower. The goddess was right. He had been drawn just like others were to the group, but more to her than any.


Isra listened to the strange creature as he spoke of the lotuses and asked questions.
"The Sultan is greedy, he likes to keep beauty for himself. You know, only the beautiful are allowed within his inner chambers." She smirked and shook her head a little, her earrings making a light tinkling noise as she did so. "As for the statue, the people here, they see it as a kind of icon. A symbol of wonder and power. If you can convince them that it represents something true I think they will be ... more easily converted."


Cosine nodded in agreement with everyone.
"So, maybe some of us need to go to the gardens. We can investigate these Lotuses and the statue more. I remember, there were people there, families. We could speak with them." Her eyes travelled up to the darkened palace, glowing light emmiting from the windows. "The general population are one thing, but converting the Sultan's supporters."


"I agree," Glaucon said in response to Cosine's suggestion of splitting up. "You and Laughter would most likely have an easy time converting these people, as you have already begun your ascent and can demonstrate your influences. If they can be swayed, then it would make the Sultan easier to convince as his power over them begins to wane." He waited a moment before speaking again, looking across the group to see if there were any objections so far.

In that time the breeze in the cooling air was cut through by footsteps being made by a familiar face. The guard that Lisana had quite an easy time converting, no doubt. He must have been desperate for a shred of hope in the despair that was draped over all planes; despite how much this city wanted to ignore it, there were definitely some people in Baadris who weren't so blind. Judgment gave Hasheem a quick nod before turning back to Cosine and her new friend.

"Isra, I trust that you and Hasheem will be able to assist in our re-entry. The displeasure of the Gods played out by Malh'reth's summoned dragon should be more than enough of a distraction."

A tingle in the back of his mind suggested he would normally be disapproving of such criminal acts... but that's the way this society worked, and they would have to use it to their advantage if they were to stand a chance.

After their initial meeting, they retired to a place of safety and spent the next few days in proper planning. Isra had been of great help, outfitting them all in appropriately noble attire while offering advice and tips – someone to remember if their plans succeeded. The break in would have to be as flashy and divine as possible while striving for the gardens once more. This city’s society allowed for cunning and daring for those bright enough to use such skills to their advantage and the rag tag group meant to take full advantage of that little loop hole. None would see them enter if all went according to plan.

Thus, a few hours after dusk had fallen once more on the city of Baadris, they approached one of the many servant’s entrances to the palace – gateways only the staff and guards knew about. With the palace being so severely understaffed, these entryways were patrolled and no longer actively guarded, perfect for their secret entry.

Lurking in the shadows, out of sight and away from any prying eyes, the group waited for the guard to pass by, peer out into the night then close and lock the door once more. Several more long minutes saw the gods waiting in silence before Malh’reth pulled his book and set about summoning a copy of Zhijian. A nearly perfect duplicate, he pulled the drawing from the page and took his time in building the necessary energy to cast the dragon into reality.

Shimmering and translucent, impossible to tell the origin of, the illusion grew in size until the appropriate size and then it stepped into reality, the 2D lines and forms literally ballooning out into muscles and bones and fur as the dragon opened its maw and roared. Floating above the palace as it was, that roar was more then enough to draw attention. Lights and torches flared into life, focusing on the dragon that circled above their homes as shouts and orders rang out into the night. There was a look of intense concentration on the mage’s face as he guided the dragon, moving it into elegant flight patterns, wavering like a benevolent specter with its serene smile and glistening coils.

It worked like a charm.

As a group they moved in while the dragon drew attention away from the walls. The locked door was quickly picked and the way inside opened. Hasheem lead them through the winding corridors and broad halls, ever closer to the sacred gardens. There was a sense of urgency now, this stop and go pacing that had them on their toes at all times. Servants bustled now, taking to the public halls for the servant’s pathways were longer and more convoluted. Weapons, lights, spell components, messages… it was all to be carried and delivered in mere moments, a difficult task for a weary people. More then once, a sleepy eyed servant tripped on the plush rugs.

Deeper and deeper they went, stopping for a long while as soldiers marched through, miraculously keeping to protocol in the chaos. Hasheem, of course, had to hide as well – his sudden departure from the ranks had stripped him of his titles and his privileges, he was just another citizen now. When they passed, the group darted forward once more and within moments arrived in the gardens.

They were abandoned in favour of watching the mysterious creature. Dragons were symbols of nobility, freedom, and divine will, spiritual creatures rarely spotted and thus given over to the pages of mythology like so many other things. But now… to see such a thing in their time of need… it was miraculous.

There, at last, they were free to collapse and relax until such a time they were discovered nonchalantly lounging once more in the gardens.

~~~~~


Only a few people saw the dragon at first, taking no thought in the creature and dismissing it as a dream or another symptom of the times. As it began to dance and weave in the sky, curled around towers and looked on with a gentle smile, the people began to pause and whisper, look up with large eyes.

”A dragon…”

“Weren’t they a myth?”

”Why was it gracing the palace?”

“Did that matter? There was a dragon”

“It must be a sign.”

It must be a sign.


The sentiment rippled through the people gathered in the streets, washed up on sleepy neighbours and drew them into the masses. It was a sign. Something was here, hope where it had seemed like nothing would help. Would they be spared? Would life regain its former glory?

They looked on, some caught in heated discussions while others offered up quiet prayers the to gods and yet all fell silent as the dragon let go of its perch and flew off, making its way to the statues that dominated the city. Silently, it curled about Origin’s body as though embracing it and laid its head down upon the statue’s shoulder. Perched like a pet, it settled contentedly and peered about for a few brief moments before it began to glow and then burst into millions of luminescent orbs. Those orbs floated slowly down the statue’s length, bathing it in golden light before sweeping up to the joining of hands between the two statues and flaring, spent.

~~~~~~


Malh’reth sagged when his illusion burst and sighed, knowing his drawing was broken. He would have to find Zhijian once more and paint him another portrait to restore that image to his pages. Disappointing that, as he rather liked that piece. Still, it wouldn’t likely be too much trouble to find the dragon once more. Quietly, he sank into a sitting position and leaned against a massive pot full of flowers, “Now we wait.”

"We made it in. That's all that matters." Lisana glanced over at Hasheem. "In no small part to you and Isra, Hasheem." She smiled, but bowed to him as she sat down next to a plant that had beautiful bluish violet flowers on it.

"I only did what I had to do, Lady. I will speak to the ones I know again. I'm certain after seeing the dragon they will be thinking more our way." the man replied, standing against the wall nearby. They would come through him before anyone got to the gods. "I am quite certain that they will want to leave with us. I also sent word to my parents and sister to spread the word when something happened that the gods had returned. They were supposed to send messages to others for me."

"Then all we can do is wait for now." Sinestra replied, sitting down just behind Lisana. It would be known soon enough what would happen.

Cosine watched the drama unfold with amusement and followed them into the palace. The spectacle was impressive and she had to admit very, very realistic. If she had not known better she too would be there, looking up in wonder and fear.

With Isra leading the way and Hasheem, she followed along with the rest of the party, trying hard not to be distracted by the ornate glasswork and beautiful surroundings.

When they stopped, Cosine paused too, though she did not drop her guard. There were things that neede to be done and she was a bit miffed that they were hanging around waiting. Across the gardens a crowd had gathered, still staring at the sky as if they thought that the dragon, or something more horrifying might appear again.

She looked to Lisana and gave her a soft nudge.
"Over there." She said, pointing to them. "We should go and talk with them, whilst the spectacle is still fresh in their minds, make ourselves look goddesslike."


Glaucon stayed focused, not allowing himself even a split second of distraction by the image of the Fangbridle twining through the air and catching the attention of every mortal who cast a chance glance up at the sky. There were more important things on his mind than seeing Malh'reth's magic firsthand - among them, following Hasheem's careful directions through the corridors of the palace so they would safely get through. The guard definitely had the experience to make this part of the mission successful, as the few people they skirted past were out of earshot or were merely too distracted by the flight of the dragon to pay attention to anything that was happening on the ground.

His host's body was shaking and wobbling from the fatigue, more than ready to collapse at the base of a small fountain once they had the breathing room for it. It seemed like far too short a time span, however, before he was forced to return to his increasingly unreliable feet yet again as Cosine pointed out a slowly growing mass of people nearby.

Among that group was a mortal who looked as if he was trying desperately to force his skepticism back onto his features and in his mind. That battleground of a face was painfully familiar - it was that damned Captain again, and a glance in their direction led to him walking towards them in order to deal with the intruders once again.

Before that demanding look on his face could be formed into a question or command, Glaucon stepped forward to re-challenge him, using every ounce of willpower he had to stop his cane from wobbling under his hand. "Commander," he started, with a cooly authoritative voice, "go wake your Sultan. Tell him that he has visitors from the House of the Gods who wish to speak with him."

The Commander blinked and drew himself up to his fullest height at that demand, frowning. How daring... Still, glancing up at the idol that towered over them and then back at these persistent four - now grown in numbers, it seemed - and shook his head. "You're a determined group, aren't you? I cannot fetch the Sultan, he will see you if he chooses to but I wouldn't get my hopes up." Without another word, he turned and left with a purposeful stride, secure in his belief that the Sultan would not see them at such an early hour. With him went many of those who had gathered in the Gardens - soldiers, mostly, but the concubines and others disappeared into the attached rooms as they were ushered away by their gallant guards.

The Sultan was found in his bed chambers, standing on the grand balcony overlooking the gardens and staring up into the sky at the statue. He'd missed the arrival of the group but the commotion at his door made him inwardly groan. Now what? Was he doomed to continual interruptions? Turning, he swept his mantle out of the way and watched one of his servants approach, head bowed and deferential. "Yes? What's the problem now?"

"Your Highness... Those people from before..." The servant gulped, nervous for he knew what it might look like to both the Sultan and the Heads of Houses once they found out, "They are in the gardens once more. Nobody saw them enter... th-the-"

"Enough!" The Sultan's voice slashed across the servant's and his eyes narrowed. "Back? Again? How dare they. Did they have any messages?"

A nod, "'He has visitors from the House of the Gods who wish to speak with him.' That's what they told the Commander."

"Mmhmm..." Turning away, he waved his hand at the servant, voice cold and decisive. They had either just intrigued the man or royally insulted him - likely both, "Take them to my audience chambers immediately. They are to be held under heavy guard at all times and confined to the west guest wing. Alert the soldiers and find the leader of these impudent upstarts, I will speak with him."

Again, the servant nodded and then skittered away, glad to be away from that chilling gaze. The Sultan was not a man to toy with.

The Commander returned a few moments later, looking weary and worn. The Sultan was going to meet them!? It was unheard of... and yet, he didn't envy these people their impromptu audience. In fact, he was rather curious how this would turn out and how the Sultan would deal with them - once and for all, he hoped.

Again, a ring of soldiers surrounded them and the Commander stepped forward, "Who among you is to speak to the Sultan? The rest will wait in prepared guest rooms in the west wing."


Lisana glanced over at the Commander, a sigh slipping free. "Hasheem and Sinestra will remain with me. He serves me now, but we will go to your guest quarters. For now." Her voice indicated that she would accept nothing less than that for the man other than staying beside her. He was now hers to protect having given up the Sultan.

She stared at him, daring him to disagree, but before he could, Lisana turned glancing at the other guards. She might be in a cage, but it could be used to their advantage. The guards were afterall the core of the Sultan's protection. What better place to be than where she and Cosine could speak to them and others. And she was quite certain that others would find a way once they understood that the gods were there amongst them. This place thrived on bribes and cunning. A few guards and she was certain that others would be found to meet them.

Laughter winked at Cosine as she stated turning a stare to the guards. Let their commander lead the others to the Sultan. "Well, show us the way to these rooms. Come along, Hasheem. Sinestra."

The two guards in front of her blinked in surprise, but glanced at their captain. Then one moved towards the hallway leading off. They stopped opening the doors for her and indicated that these were the rooms for them.

Lisana winked at each one, leaving them nonplussed as she stepped inside. Hasheem coughed to hide his amusement. "I hope he does not expect me to sing like a nightingale from its golden perch. I croon more like a frog in a pond."

Hasheem lost it entirely breaking into laughter. "My Lady, I suppose there is always bubbling merrily out the window and down to the bottom." A large smile crossed his face as she broke into giggles. He decided she was very well suited to her domain for when she was amused her eyes sparkled.


Moving towards the cushioned couches, Lisana reached out to touch the fabrics of the pillows on the couches before sitting down as a test of the softness. Rich silks and tassels adorned everything in the room. Porcelain pots with lush greenery were placed about the area and even a small garden. She would look at one of the bedrooms later. It was certain to just as luxurious as everything else was. She had to give the Sultan credit for one thing- the palace was beautiful.

"Soooo...." she drawled looking very mischieviously at Cosine. "what trouble shall we cause first? All for a good cause of course." A smirk settled upon her face as she glanced to Hasheem and Sinestra. "Anyone have ideas?"


And there it was... not too long after the flaring emotions that had leapt across the city thanks to the appearance of the Dragon, the Commander's own feelings had cooled and hardened into a thick shell of skepticism yet again. Glaucon could feel his free hand twitching a bit - David had a very powerful desire to give the man some more rude hand gestures, enough that it had pulsed out of his mind and to his fingers through a road of nerves that the god didn't have tendrils of his own power wrapped around.

That contempt for the mortal's bolted-shut mind was easy to see in both expression and voice as he answered, "I will be speaking with His Majesty, as will my companion here." He gestured towards Glyph and his host with a nod to the side. "I am sure he would wish to know the man who summoned the dragon you saw a few moments ago." There was a rare, amused little smile at that, joined by a lifted eyebrow. He was practically daring the Commander to start asking questions about that and waste the Sultan's precious time with what could possibly be another lie from a delusional religious fanatic.

Glaucon gave a nod and another smile at Numbers and Laughter before being led off to what was sure to be an interesting discussion. He was confident that their efforts would do well to erode the foundation of what was already a cracking house of disbelief.

Bugger ..

So there was the slink off plan foiled. Cosine thought as the guards surrounded them. She looked around the small party, judging reactions and movements for how they were to proceed.

No one moved and so she held her ground, watching as Isra turned to her and gave a warm smile. Go with them, do as they wished ... for now.

As they were led off she glance to the other two and breathed deeply. She hoped that this would work. That the Sultan would believe a pair of hosts based on magic and fine words.

------

As they entered the beautiful rooms she gave a small laugh and raised an eyebrow.
"All the perfumes of arabia." She muttered softly, a book, no a play she had read once coming to mind.

At Lisana's words to the guards she gave a low laugh and looked to the goddess.
"Me too I fear, how about you Isra?"


The taller woman returned the smirk and folded her arms, her glass bangles chinking together as she did so.
"I have a fair voice, though if the words of my song reflected how insulted I am they would make even these grown men blush."
She took up residence on one of the cushions, her legs crossed and her hands resting in her lap. Watching the goddess of laughter with a smile.


Cosine followed the both of them and sank down to her kneesher back straight and her chin held high. At the laughter goddess's proposition she could not help but laugh a little.
"Trouble?" She asked, turning her eyes to one of the guards who was watching her intently and giving him a coy smile. "If we take a leaf from my host's books there would be too may routes to choose from." Another smirk crossed her red lips.


The Captain watched as the Goddesses paraded off and shook his head, trouble they were. Turning his gaze back to Glaucon, the registered his remark then eyed the quiet creature beside him. These two... would convince the Sultan that not just any gods but the true gods had come to them? He smirked. This would be interesting.

"As you wish. This way." The Captain left then, escorting the two out and away from the Gardens where they seemingly kept popping up. Even now investigations were being held to figure out how, again, these ones had entered and with such a large group.


Glyph frowned as the Captain looked down upon him, eyes narrowing and chin tilting up. He was a proud god even if he was humble and gentle... this mortal truly was beginning to annoy Forest. "Not everything is at it first seems, Captain. Beware challenging the shadows when you know not what they contain." Crossing arms over chest, he and Natasha waited for Glaucon to begin moving before they started after the stubborn commander.

Glyph....? A sleepy voice echoed out of his mind and the sensation of a waved hand, moved in a dismissive gesture followed, He's only doing his job... I didn't believe at first. It took me weeks of being at the Pantheon and having to fall in with Phaedra before I believed. Give him time.

Glyph smiled at that, canted his head to the side,
"He's annoying and stubborn..."

Like me? He's trying to protect his people. A soft laugh, Save your temper for the Sultan if you need to hm? Wake me if you need me. Malh'reth yawned and faded into the distance once more, resting inside himself.

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.::||{...Audience with the Sultan...}||::.


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Audience with the Sultan

The audience chambers were grand and massive, crystal from top to bottom, backed by the finest white marbles the system had to offer. It overlooked the royal space port and domed up into the sky, unmistakable and glittering even at the dead of night. Truly a space to inspire awe and majesty in those that visited Baadris. Late night courtesans lingered along the edges, summoned or loitering about in the hopes of learning what the fuss had been about. There were rumors of a dragon, and the statue glowing once more… of gods and miracles and hope. It was enough to set the nobility on edge. Dressed in wispy gowns of organza and filmy silks, fine crystalline wings attached to backs like so many precious diamonds, the court glittered as the pair of gods entered.

Quiet descended immediately, all eyes turning to the finely dressed visitors. Some recognized them from descriptions of their underlings and frowned or sniffed in various forms of approval or dismissal. This audience was sure to be short.

At the far end of the room, guarded by stern-looking soldiers in carefully polished armor and crystal swords gleaming, held in the ceremonial position, was the throne. Glass, crystal, and gems… it stood tall and proud, delicate and bold at the same time. It was not gaudy, not by this world’s standards, and it was empty. The Sultan had not yet arrived.

As to be expected. He was the ruler of this land, you waited on him – not the other way around.

As the wait began, the silence of the nobility gave way to small ripples of noise, whispers of the rumors surrounding the two going across the large room and back in gentle waves. It was easy to see the statue of Origin through several of the windows ringing the dome - and with it the pastel shine of the active Gate. A few people here and there could be seen stealing occasional glances back at it, as if still not believing the phenomenon was there or expecting that it might vanish at any moment. Some bitter words crossed the dome about how it would be nice if it did go away, so they could dismiss these visitors as a bunch of lunatics and they could get on with their lives.

Glaucon's eyes cast cooly across the room, taking every detail of his surroundings his eyes would let him. They had an audience every bit as skeptic as the Captain and His Majesty seemed to be, but he still had an air of confidence about him, giving a nod to Glyph as they stepped in. He was Judgment, he had done this sort of thing countless times in the past... even without having even started his ascent yet, he felt like he was in his element. They would convert this city. They had to.

It would be nice if he were given permission to sit, however. David's legs felt like they should have given out on him hours ago and the only things keeping him upright were marionette strings of willpower and determination.

Glyph followed after Glaucon, looking up in amazement at the glittering expanse of ceiling. So very elaborate. The part of him connected to Malh'reth stirred and made him smile. So very shiny as well. The god chuckled to himself, amused that his host's bias towards all things shiny added to the appreciative awe.

Still, the silence crashed in against his senses and drew him back to the task at hand. A hall full of doubters... though by the curious look on a few people's face, some on the edge of casting that doubt off. It was hard to deny Gate and the fires of belief that were working at the city. But Glyph knew that as much as they could stir the people's heart, the city would not move without the agreement of it's puppeteers. These were the people they needed to convince... the nobles... and the Sultan, where ever he might be.

Glancing to his companion, he smiled and nodded. This was not his place... his place was in the wilds with the forests. Glyph had never been a god to enjoy the cities, too many people and not enough nature. He believed, though, that this was where Glaucon would shine. Judgement was a hefty domain and its god well suited to the ruling of it.
"I will follow your lead and assist where I can." He spoke softly, leaning towards the other host so that only Glaucon would hear.

He would not look for Malh'reth until the Sultan appeared.


It was some few minutes before a well-dressed servant, higher up in the hierarchy from his clothing, dashed in and stood before the throne. "His Majesty, Emperor of Four Stars, Sultan of Baadris, Jherrem Iben Vathassae the Fifth. " When he finished, he dipped into a bow and stepped extended his hand as he back away. All around, the nobles echoed that bow to varying degrees, signaling their ranks - the deeper the bow or curtsy the lower the rank in comparison.

A man, dressed in surprisingly simple garb, stepped forth as the echo of his servant's announcement faded. He was a proud man, intelligent and well kept. Upon his tailored outfit, golden symbols depicting the statue of Origin decorated the cuffs and echoing patterns swirled up and away. His gaze, sharp and inquistive, missed little as it swept the room before settling on Glyph and Glaucon. "Are these the two who have disturbed my palace at this late hour?" His voice, will not raise to a shout, held a sort of relaxed power - a subtle confidence one would associate with any politician.

He inclined his head then, as the Captain nodded, bowed, and stepped away, leaving the two to fend for themselves. "What do you call yourselves?" Neutral expression, neutral question... he knew they had a plan, that this was likely linked to that dragon and the reports of... restlessness in the city. Something was changing and he fully intended to ride its crest to completion - his family had weathered storms for twelve generations and he would not succumb now.

The Sultan was... appallingly plain. From the way he strode into the room to how he phrased his words, it was easy to get a general reading of what kind of man he was. Shrewd. Businesslike.

He's a ******** politician, dude. They're all a bunch of self-interested assholes.

Glaucon almost started at the sudden commentary from his host. Not only was it unexpected, but it seemed about right. Their words would have to be chosen with care if they wanted to make the Emperor of Four Stars realize that the fast approach to the End of All was something that he and his people should be concerned with.

He was going to have to be straighforward, no matter how ridiculous he might sound - but that wouldn't pose much of a problem, as Judgment was straightforward by nature. I am Glaucon, the Verdict of Midas, Judgment," he started, "and my companion is Glyph, the Silvim Illustire, Forest."

As the Sultan entered, Forest's head turned to watch as well. The man was so plain! No royal train, no ridiculously gaudy crown... just simple but elegant clothing befitting a king. Which either made him a humble ruler or a very dangerous man who knew the value of first impressions. He hoped the man would not be terribly difficult.

Glyph inclined his head as Glaucon introduced him, gaze flicking to the edges where murmurs errupted in the wings of the hall.


Judgement? So soon!?

What of Forest?

They cannot be gods.


The shuffling of feet quieted when the Sultan nodded once more, "Greetings. Those are grand claims, to be Judgement... and Forest incarnate. Do forgive my disbelief for I have never had the honour of meeting supposed gods before, but I cannot tell your godhood from your appearances." He smiled warmly, expression apologetic and pleasant even though his voice told them he did not believe the claim. And he had expected something... more befitting a god of Judgement. And surely, a spirit of nature such as Forest was, would be... more green? A quiet sigh, "You've gone to such lengths to receive an audience and here I sit. What is it you've come to make a case for?"


Malh'reth.... His attention turned inward, then searching for his host.

Yes? The mage's mind rose to the fore, hovering just behind the god's, Is that the Sultan? Glyph nodded and Malh'reth sighed. This is going to be hard.


Among the mutterings that washed over the room, there was one right next to Forest: an aside from Judgement, in an urgent whisper.

"Glyph. The audience..."

It was hopefully obvious what he meant. They had come here to convince the Sultan, but to have people watch the discussion progress changed the entire nature of their visit. Now, they wouldn't be speaking to one person, but to a group of highly influential individuals. If those nobles could be convinced... then Glaucon imagined that Jherrem would be forced to follow if he wanted to keep the extensive title that he had been introduced with.

"Your skepticism is understandable," he started, putting a little more volume in his voice so the other people would hear him clearly. "It is, however, quite easily solved. If you want to see any evidence of our claims of hailing from the House of the Gods, then you would merely need to step through that Gate we arrived here from." A free hand lifted to his side, making a casual gesture towards the statue of Origin through the dome's windows, and with it the portal that was still illuminating the roofs of the city below. "There are many gods to be found there besides myself, Glyph and our companions."

The hand fell from the air to reach into a pocket, pulling out a large, crimson flower. "As for our reason for being here... first, I wish to return this lotus to you, as a token of goodwill. My attendant mistakenly took it from your gardens, and I hope that you will accept it with my full apology on her behalf."

Glyph nodded at the other's aside, understanding that they were putting on a show not just for the head of state but the ruling body as well.

Obligingly, the Sultan glanced out the windows at the still-open gate, the golden light that had seen to it his gardens were sealed off. They linked directly with his personal bedchambers and those of his wives and concubines... it had to have been cut off. "As tempting an offer as that sounds, I must stay here and watch over my people. These times are hard, I'm sure you've seen, and I am working day and night to maintain the peace and prosperity of these lands. I do understand, however, that gods are important figures and as fellow leaders they oversee a great many things and cannot be called upon at any random time." His tone was conversational as he gestured with a hand and smiled.

Though the smile faltered and his expression darkened, "To take a sacred lotus from my Gardens is a death penalty. Were you not aware of this? They are symbols of perfection, creation, and unity, growing only at the base of that most magnificent statue." The nobles twittered and gossiped at that, wondering at the foolishness of these two. What the one with the cane held was a death sentence...


Glyph met Glaucon's gaze as he stepped forward and took the lotus from the god, holding it up. "At the time, we did not know. However, your symbol of perfection is, by that very nature, a symbol of our Lord, the Twin Crown. Creation... Origin." He gestured up at the statue, "That thing you worship, the glorious statue, is an effigy of the Twin Crown and around it these lotuses grow. We've come simply to try to assist you and avert the End that is drawing nigh. All around you are hints and relics of a time long gone by. That gate leads to the Pantheon where we dwell, that statue is in the image of our King, and these flowers are symbols of that Original power." As he'd spoken, he'd drawn closer to the king and then knelt, head bowed to lay the lotus before him. A shame he wasn't stronger or he would have tried to spruce it up.

Stepping back, he bowed and took up his position beside Glaucon, ears swivelling to catch the whispers throughout the hall.

They had a point... nothing the newcomer had said was being argued... Even the king seemed thoughtful.


"Intriguing words. You say you offer help. Just what, exactly, is it you intend to do? Clearly you want something of me if you stand here - something more then returning a sacred flower." His gaze flicked to Glaucon, "You implied a second reason. Speak it." If nothing else, these two were entertaining. The names they brought forth were just that - names. They had their own gods already and did not need knew ones, believed his court felt the same especially when had yet to produce evidence of their high-reaching claims.

There was a bit of a smirk at how conversational Jherrem was being, giving all manner of excuses for why he would refuse to see the evidence that had been offered him. "If you are so busy with your affairs, why not send a servant? You are an Emperor, I am sure that you have enough at your disposal. If not, then consider the invitation extended to all present here and the citizens of Baadris - the Gate extends outside your palace wall, after all." He went with the casual tone that had been set, but there was a clear message hidden behind it: if he didn't decide to see what was beyond that portal, someone would, whether out of belief or curiosity.

The tension in the air shifted at that knowledge, the whispers of the onlookers showing no sign of stopping even while the supposed gods were speaking.

Glaucon nodded at Glyph's words, feeling that he didn't need to see anything to add to it. Everything he had intended to say in that regard had just been said, and rather eloquently.

He met the Sultan's gaze with equal intensity, and he carefully wove his reply, slowly beginning to walk across the room and speaking with the gentle pace he had used for countless Ages to sway the opinions of mortals and gods alike. It held no divine resonance, but still echoed boldly across the glass and crystal walls, punctuated by the soft thump of a wooden cane against the polished floor.

"We arrived here seeking answers buried in the past, but ended up finding ones that exist in the present. In this city... and your people." His host's blue eyes moved across the room, making contact with each noble who was present at the audience. "The key to the salvation of All That Is lies in your willpower."

For a moment, the only sound that rose above the muttering was the gentle clack and thump of Glaucon walking, allowing the mortals a moment so that questions could begin blooming in their minds. He nodded to Malh'reth, silently asking him to illustrate his presentation.

"If you have ever doubted the existence of the divine.. or wondered if they have forsaken you... it is because, in an Age long before your city, the mortals forsook the gods. Belief in them dwindled until they were only sparks of curiosity in their hearts and minds, and soon even those dimmed and died out until all that was left of us were abandoned ideas and fragments of prayers." His walking slowed to a stop for a moment so he could gaze out the window at the image of Origin. "As those of you who have lost family members might be able to imagine, the Twin Crown was heartbroken. He remained alone for more years than there are stars in the Universe, gathering those eroded pieces of our essences so that we may return. We are all being reborn and ascending to the power we once had... but we can only regain this power through the recognition and reverence of mortals."

And he began walking again, purposefully towards the Sultan this time, locking eyes with him again. "And now our Emperor, Origin... he has lost his power, turning into the very Thing that has been slowly eroding away at the world. Unless we can stop this, it will devour everything, leaving only Void... you, your people, your kingdom - all violently unmade.

"We are asking you to help us restore Creation - to restore his power. Turn your love for his image in your palace into reverence fit for a god. Gather the flowers from your gardens and place them at His throne as offerings from you, the nobles, the people of your city, and the countless souls of the dead that wander the streets here."


Of course, there was going to be that self-interested question... why should His Majesty care, and why should he do it? Glaucon had an answer to it before it could be asked.

"If you grant us this favor, then you will be in His. The Twin Crown will know of the mortals who were able to remind him what it is to be Creation, and it will immortalize the City of Glass as a place of legend... a kingdom prized by none other than the Emperor of All That Is."

The Sultan observed his attendant's interest in that remark and frowned ever so slightly. The currents were beginning to swirl towards these two strangers... That could not be had and yet he could not simply order their executions - not without losing a great deal of face. Each ounce of respect and fear had been carefully earned or taken and losing that delicate balance meant a fall from grace he would not enjoy.

And then it was story time. A smile played across his face at that, bemused by the words that started the tale out. Words were just that, refutable, limited and changeable.


However, he wasn't counting on the images that suddenly curled up around the supposed god as Malh'reth stepped to the fore and nodded in return, tugging images into the air. Like a movie, scenes scrolled through the air, visible from every angle, of their home wrapped in lava and brimstone... of the people Malh'reth had met and door they'd passed through. Of course, it was elaborate and not quite true to life as the mage had not touched much of what he was illustrating, relying on interpretation to keep him close to the truth.

When Glaucon switched veins and spoke of their rebirth, Glyph supplied images, snippets of memory that Malh'reth wove into freeze frames - gems, rebirth... an expansion of knowledge and power that pushed outward as a seed sprouts. It faded away, replaced by a glittering image of the Origin caryatid, animated now and fashioning pearls and gems... struck down by a force unknown.

However, smaller images appeared... flashes of colour, wisps of wing-like appendages, echoes of the people found in Baadris. Kneeling and lifting lotuses up, their belief swirling about the fallen god and Origin stirring, rising once more. The image swung around and at the head of the people was a stately figure, standing forward and the conduit through which the will and belief flowed. It was the Sultan.

As Glaucon's speech came to an end, so did the swirling smoke-like shapes dissolve and splash down to curl around the edges of the room to touch the feet of everyone present.


Jherrem sat back in his chair, fingers drumming on the armrests. The words had matched the images well and the ideas set forth compelling... and still he would not budge. "You came for flowers?" He asked, almost incredulous. This whole affair was for flowers... and some holy search? The Sultan shook his head. There was nothing there for him... nothing truly for the people either.

At least, he thought so until Glaucon's last comment. It caught his attention. Made him wonder. Flowers were flowers... even if they were important so some kind of powerful god... To gain the favour of such a being, to try when nothing harmful would come of it... It was a powerful proposition. Still, he affected neutrality and tilted his head to the side, "Is that all you desire? That I open my Gardens to you? There is no blood shed there and only beauty is allowed to grace the soils in which the flowers grow. Those are the terms and conditions of entering the Gardens. You propose I throw those ancient traditions out the window? I am a leader of many but such decisions must be made with the knowledge of the heart of the people. This is not a dictatorship, regardless of how much I agree, or disagree, with you."


"You shouldn't be making such attempts to make our journey appear so frivolous, Your Majesty," Glaucon warned. Inwardly, he was lamenting how his words would once cut through lies like the sword of a well-trained assassin and bring mortals to the truth they were trying to hide themselves from... but he would have to make do with the simple voice of his host for now. "The flowers are but a part of this. You know this, as do I and all others present. They would have no purpose or value at all to Origin unless they were presented as offerings, symbols of mortal worship."

At the talk of tradition and old values, he merely shook his head. "If you wish to make that argument, then it means you very well should open the Gardens, seeing as its centerpiece comes from traditions far more ancient than yours. This land belonged to the gods before it belonged to you - the caryatid you selfishly claim as yours is evidence of that..."

This discussion was starting to look like it could go on for a while - the Sultan was clearly not going to budge unless the benefits to his own self-interest became too great to resist.

It was half-relief, half-annoyance that one of the palace's many perpetually nervous servants picked his way to where the Sultan sat, bowing to him with an abundance of energy before presenting a sealed envelope and babbling something about an urgent message from a member of some family or another and how they advised he should read it carefully before he continued his discussion with his guests. After several mentions of a thousand apologies for the intrusion, he had left the floor.

Jherrem shook his head at the gods, though a smile played across his face. They would not be easily swayed and Judgement had some points... points he would rather remain dusty. "I do not claim for your journey to be frivilous, merely hard to swallow. Those gems you spoke of..." He tapped his forehead to indicate David's, "You claim they hold the essence of a god and yet I see and hear no sign of a host... How do I know this isn't a trick played by technologies unknown to us?" Again, he gestured but this time to the space port that was visible through the windows. "Ours is a world familiar with magic and technology alike, I am afraid."

"I am a host. And I am willing. This is beyond parlour tricks and new technologies, your majesty. We wish, truly, for your survival. Besides," Malh'reth replied as he stepped forward and tacked on a few comments to the end of Glaucon's little blurb, "What could it hurt? We are not demanding sacrifices nor are we expecting works of glory in our names. What we do want is for you to consider the truth in our words and perhaps take a step towards it - the End is drawing near, all of your people are aware of that and I certain your Lordship is as well." He flicked his gaze around as he stepped around to the other side of Judgement, "Myself, Glaucon, and the others we've travelled with - if we are wrong, do with us as you wish. If we are right, however.... then you'll have made contact with the ruling bodies of the very universe."

Internally, Glyph pondered the other's words and smiled. This journey was proving to be an opportunity for the mage to adjust to his fate, something the god was infinitely glad for. He would keep his word and continue to be gentle, but it was reassuring to know his host was making progress.

The mage set a hand lightly on David's shoulder, "Judgement's argument is sound, surely one as wi-" He was cut off as the servant entered and the Sultan's attention immediately fixed on a piece of paper that was quickly passed to him. What was that? Curiously, he looked to Glaucon and wondered if perhaps the other knew.


There was a frown upon his face as he processed both the words on the document and the words of the gods. The Sultan could feel the beginnings of a bind trapping him and did not like it. The horned man was right in some respects... and the return for such endeavors great. Shifting on his throne, he nodded, "After some thought I will grant you access to the Gardens. You will be supervised by my guard and any further theft is punishable by death." It seemed a trivial matter in comparison to the thing in his hand now... this aligning of a house.

Had their words carried enough weight to sway the heart of some of the nobles? It was a frightening prospect - he was an elected member, the leader of the strongest house in Baadris and yet... he depended on the alliances and feuds of the other Houses to maintain his position. If they sided with these two, it would strip him of allies and leave him vulnerable to coup.

It must be a fake.

Lifting the document high and turning it to face the hall, he sat forward in his chair, "You seek to pressure me with such things? You've proven you can conjure images... what else is it you can do, I wonder?" Waving his other hand, he spoke aside, hurriedly, "Call a Caucus meeting. This document is to be verified, I want to know where they found the seal of this house." Of course, it would an opportunity to test the waters as well, to find where the nation was heading.

The servant nodded and skittered away, knowing it was important indeed for the Caucus to be held so soon.

Turning back to Malh'reth and Glaucon, he frowned, "Is there anything else you wished to discuss?"


"A god doesn't usually have a shitty crippled body, you stupid p***k."

A fresh wave of whispers and murmurs drifted through the room, leaving Glaucon momentarily confused until he could piece together what had just happened. His host had been content to merely simmer behind his mind for the proceedings so far, but at the Sultan's last remark he had boiled to the surface so easily it had caught Judgment off guard. The nerve disorder this body had gave David a distinct advantage when he wanted to take control - where the god still fumbled to make it move, the mortal knew exactly where to circumvent the damage.

David, please choose your words more carefully...

"No," he reprimanded the voice in his head. "You're all about truth and s**t - well, that's the truth about this guy. He's a stupid p***k. You know it, I know it, everyone here knows it, and I bet they're ******** sick of it." A huff of air escaped from his teeth, causing a lock of inky hair to jump across the orange gem on his forehead. "End of the world, and all this douche cares about is staying the king of town while it happens, and he's treating this whole deal like it's a ******** game. If I had it my way you'd be impeached, a*****e."

One last death glare was shot at the Sultan before it reverted back into the calm gaze of Judgment. Well... if nothing else, that along with Malh'reth following with his piece gave some evidence of their mortal hosts. As for David's effect on the exchange... well... for some reason, Glaucon found himself less disapproving of the intervention than he thought he would be. There was a valid point in that small cluster of insults. Not everyone in this city was so approving of the Sultan, and they had yet to see how far that discontent extended.

The calling of a Caucus meeting meant that line of thinking was going to be explored very soon...

"I have nothing else to discuss with you," Glaucon replied. "Please, go ahead with your meeting so you can come to a decision as soon as possible - I am not sure how much time we have before the End, and I would like it to be used wisely."

"If someone could send word to Lisana of Laughter and Cosine of Numbers that the Gardens have been opened, they would have our gratitude for it," he added as an afterthought to any servants who might be listening.

Glyph and Glaucon alike simply stared at David, mouth hanging open in an ‘o’ of surprise. Here they were, trying to tip toe around a ruler of some caliber and the crotchety cripple had just cussed out the Sultan. It was hard to keep a straight face as the whispers broke out among the nobles – it was almost funny. The other’s blunt insults carried the sort of message that was hard to digest otherwise and from the look on the Sultan’s face, it had gotten through loud and clear.

“David…” Malh’reth just shook his head and hoped the red in the king’s face was not the bloom of vengeful anger.


The Sultan remained in his seat, brow arching higher and higher upon his forehead as the eloquent words gave way to the ramblings of an uneducated git. a*****e? p***k? Though he was not familiar with these particular terms, the connotations were crystal clear. How dare he! Coming to his feet, Jherrem glared down upon the ones who claimed they were gods and felt his face turn red.

Had the chance not been there… had the End not been so obvious…. If only events proposed a different path, he would have called their execution then and there. As it was, an idea had been planted and though the Sultan ignored it for now, it was growing – fed by the evidence and news being presented to him. Such a change in personality, their arrival, their goals… it was beginning to add up much to his charign.

And now this letter was further proof that their words may carry some scrap of truth. His rivals were no fools and while they likely wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to oust him and his family… they would not ally themselves with an obviously incapable group. Growling to himself, hands fisted, he nodded and brought the session to a close with a voice that shook from the effort it took to remain civil in his words, “You are dismissed. Cause any further trouble within the city limits and you will be detained. Contact will be made should it be deemed neccesary to continue these discussions.” Don’t expect a call his tone said as he swept from the chamber, leaving further whispers and gossip in his wake.

Word of this Audience was sure to spread within the day it would take to gather the nobles and conduct the Caucus.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


In the hours that followed the initial Audience, the nobles gathered with much grumbling and complaining of such hurry. What could possibly be so pressing to call on all the major houses? Granted, they all held quarters in the palace and had representatives within the city but there was business to attend to outside the Sultan’s home. Imports were barely trickling in, ships had fallen into disrepair, water was growing more and more scarce… it was becoming a giant chessgame of sabotage and intrigue to spirit away what you could not lock into agreements. Everyone wanted to survive.

When the meeting was finally called into order and the various groups gathered, arranged, and briefed, it was not long before they fell into heated discussions. At the heart of it all, the Sultan sat, amazed at the swiftness with which the council was changing. Many had heard of the newcomers already, had come with ready-formed opinions – both for and against – but the general tone was receptive.

Some questioned his morals, others questioned the drawbacks of such a scheme and still others tried to turn his decisions into something that would reveal his back to them. Why not try it? Everyone already knew the world was decaying… dying and not just their world either. There had even been a few reports of demons inside the city, an unheard of occurrence. Had some of his own guard not already abandoned their posts? If it was truly the Sultan’s aim to maintain peace, he would investigate this more thoroughly.

While he held veto power over the council as the Sultan, he was being shunted into a passage that was restricting his movement. Ignore the Caucus and face the wrath of the families combined when he’d orchestrated the very interhouse feuds that kept them alienated just enough from one another or follow their suggestions and become naught more then a puppet, losing face and respect alike.

After he’d presented the letter, verified it despite much grumbling, a few of the other families had thrown their lots in with the first – citing similar reasons and making the great man sweat. Selfish as some may have seemed, it was apparent that at the heart of these people, something had taken hold and offered an out. A glorious, memorable, powerful out laying in wait for any who chose to strive for it.

It had not gone well.


And so, on the second day after Malh’reth, Glyph, Glaucon, David, and their companions had spoken to the king, a servant found their rooms – near the ones the goddesses had been given and delivered an ornate envelope. It was written in an ornate but regal script, a formal invite with the Sultan’s personal seal on both the back of the envelope and the bottom of the letter, just below a signature. The paper was not normal, but enchanted glass – made to fold and flex like paper with jet black script across it’s surface, scrolling like an e-book.

It seemed the Sultan had thought over their audience at some length and desired a second meeting – one to properly hash out their plans. He understood the need for a speedy agreement and wanted to explore the situation some more. All in all, it seemed the Sultan – while still defiant – was at least willing to consider them seriously now.


The letter was slipped quietly under the door, which could have gone unnoticed for another few hours were it not for another servant coming in just a few minutes later to deliver some bread and fruit for the supposedly divine guests within the room.

It was with a great deal of reluctance that David pulled himself into a sitting position on the plush couch he had been sleeping on, squinting blearily in front of him and rubbing his face. Normally he would have slept as soundly as the dead with his body having been as overexerted as it was... but some idiots right next door were having a party, of all things. Throughout half of that night he had to deal with the bickering and laughing of what sounded like a third of the city's population, and he had only been able to doze off just as the sunlight was beginning to throw prisms through the crystal windows.

He opened the envelope and looked over it with the air of someone trying to get something interesting out of their junk mail, his free hand picking at a cluster of small fruits that could be best described as pearly, chalky grapes.

"Hey, Mal?" he called to the mage rooming with him. "King Douche wants to talk to us again. We shouldn't keep him waiting."

Malh’reth grumbled something about leaving him alone and being tired, rolled over on the couch and smacked his lips. He’d had a similarly rough night and was exhausted. He’d cast a great deal of magic and by the time they’d gotten back to their apartments, his knees were weak and his vision kept fading in and out of complete black – a strange thing for someone who saw the world in auras.

Glyph stirred within the mage, having caught the words even if his host hadn’t and mentally poked the Aurion.
Malh’reth… he said the Sultan wants to speak to us again.

He shifted uncomfortably, face screwing up as though a headache had settled in and lifted his head a touch, “What…? Sultan wants- what!? Really?” Hope mingled with surprise as the mage sat up properly, peering in David’s direction.

"Yeeee-up," the cripple answered, waving the letter at level with his shoulder so the mage could see it. He considered tossing it to him for a split second, but quickly decided against it, knowing it probably wouldn't make it far enough and not wanting to discover whether it would shatter like the glass it was made of if it ended up hitting the floor. Instead he set it on the table so Malh'reth (or Glyph) could pick it up and read it for himself. "That's probably our pass into the room, too. When you're ready we can just bug a guard into taking us back up there."

He shook his head, rather relieved to find that something had gone in their favour. A few days ago it had seemed like the Sultan had made his decision... but now. What could it mean? Was he more open to their pleas?

"We are ready. Are you?" Glyph's voice filled the air with it's slightly different tones. Rising, the god took the tablet and read it over, bemused and enthused. This must be a good sign. Brushing off trousers and sleeves, he picked at Mal's clothing for a few minutes before stepping forward to properly present himself. "You're probably correct, this is likely a pass. I will carry it."

Glyph... Malh'reth replied, sounding displeased.

"Yes?" The god's attention turned inwards as he mused.

Give me my body back? You'll have it eventually, anyway. The mage's tone was dry and humorless as he watched from behind the god's conciousness.


"Oh? Ah. Apologies..."
He faded off as Malh'reth stepped forward and grumbled slightly. "You could ask, you know." The mage felt an apologetic shrug within his mind and smiled as the god fell quiet, sitting back to watch for now. "Are you ready?"

Turning his gaze to David, he rubbed his hands together and tilted his head towards the door.


"Yeah, alright," David replied, his eyes briefly following Mal's head-tilt towards the door. The time it took for him to get up probably would have been enough for the mage to handle it himself, what with having to carefully reach down to the floor for his cane and then pulling himself up to a standing position - but at least this way the guard they were going to summon wouldn't have to be kept waiting with it. After scarfing down a tuft of bread turn off from the loaf on the table, he made his way towards the door.

Perhaps I should handle thi--

"I got it," the cripple said with an irritable rise in his voice, smoothing out the ripples Glaucon made in his head. "We don't need an hour of fancy talk to get the attention of a ******** guard, dude."

He passed by a mirror, and slowed down a split second to make a displeased face at how ridiculous he looked in the fancy garb Cosine's friend had hooked them up with. After another moment he was at the door, peering through the elegantly glass-barred window that adorned it until he caught sight of a guard leaning against the opposite wall, arms crossed in what was probably boredom.

Thumping the door with a fist to catch the guard's attention, he called out, "Hey! We got a pass from the Sultan, so let us out."



The guard sighed and rolled his eyes before pointing them at the man behind the door. He already knew about the Sultan's summons, why else would he be standing there waiting for them to wake up so he could drag their lazy behinds over to His Royal Incompetence? Some words he had overheard from the nobles who visited for the caucuses suggested that he might not be royalty any longer... now that would be a blessing from the supposed gods who were waiting for him in that room. It was with little enthusiasm and less finesse that he unlocked the door and waved them out, ready to lead them back to the audience chamber.

Oh, if only he could stay there to watch this discussion unfold... but no, he had to go stand watch over a lifeless hallway lined with empty rooms in case one of the rival families had left an assassin behind in a pillowcase.

He wasn't a chatty sort, only huffing a sigh occasionally until the two gods and their hosts were led back to the dome they were at before. The illumination of the place was much softer than it had been that previous night, giving it a kinder atmosphere - but that Gate was still in plain view, playing soft pastels over the floor.


Malh'reth sympathized with David's sentiments as he followed the other out, knowing what it was like to have someone keep trying to take the reigns from you.

I am not doing that. Glyph intoned, obviously frowning from the mental tone, I take control only when I need to.

"And that's why you ousted me a few minutes ago?" Malh'reth replied absently, not really upset. He'd found he hadn't minded giving over control but the key word there was giving - he rather despised when Glyph took over his body without asking.

When they arrived at the domed room they'd been in before, he paused before the door and gathered his thoughts, oriented himself, and looked to David. He didn't say anything, but his expression was easy enough to read 'now or never'. Whatever had bought them this opportunity was something they weren't going to waste.


The Sultan was waiting for them, resplendant in clothing more befitting a king of his station. Golds, whites, and reds in a variety of heavy, rich fabrics hung over his frame and served to make him look both robust and strong. Hair was nicely arranged and he was fairly posed on that throne, watching the entrance with impassive expression. Should one be close enough, they might notice the interested look to his eye and the occasional drumming of fingers upon his throne as he waited. He'd expected them to arrive sooner....

When they did arrive, however, he simply shifted in place and smiled a welcome as he inclined his head to both. The Caucus had been... difficult at best and he'd spent the last few hours thinking the whole scenario over again. As much as he was loathe to admit it... the ruling houses were right. There were no real drawbacks to this, they'd all already lost a great deal and what was left was the same thread to which the whole city clung. Every single person at that meeting had known that, noble and servant alike. The city was dying, more and more lives being claimed and these people were offering a reprieve that held some weight.

Why not?

"Good morning. I trust you slept well?" He greeted formally, gesturing for them to draw nearer the throne, "I have much to discuss with you."


Glaucon stirred into activity into the back of David's mind once again as they drew near the throne, but it was still the mortal that glowered at him as they took in the new splendor to the Sultan's appearance. He was almost ridiculously overdressed compared to how he had looked the night they had spoken with them, and they could both agree that this was probably a move he made to appear more confident... more kingly. If he hoped that looking the part of royalty would change the opinion of Judgment or his host, he was terribly wrong.

When the Sultan asked them how they had slept, the cripple bluntly responded with "What do you care?" before he allowed the god to take control again, his smoldering gaze becoming as icy as the color of his eyes.

"I doubt you would summon us back here to discuss the weather, Your Majesty," Glaucon said, allowing the slightest bit of impatience to slip through his voice, hinting that being as warm as he suddenly was wasn't going to earn him any favor. "Was the Caucus able to help you reach a decision, or do you have more questions for us?"

His eyes narrowed and his posture hardened slightly at the gruff greeting and for a moment, he pondered simply dismissing the rude intruders. "The Caucus was most enlightening." He replied, keeping the fact that more then one house had agreed to support them to himself, "As for decisions, it was most helpful in providing new questions... questions I hope you are willing to answer." Leaning forward, he nodded at a few servants waiting in the wings, and stood, gesturing off to the side as a door was opened, "As for why I would care.... I care because you are my guests, outsiders or no. My hospitality should not be spat upon so easily. Join me in my map room? I wish for this discussion to be less... formal, if you will."

In one fell swoop, he'd cut off the many curious onlookers that were milling around and elevated the two to a status that could be trusted to be 'alone' with the Sultan. Murmurs sprang up at that and he smiled, gesturing again for the pair to follow after him. What they were to speak of, he'd rather not spread prematurely.


Malh'reth's brow arched high on his forehead as he found the Sultan not only waiting for them but resplendent in formal wear. It seemed a 360 from their first meeting and the tone of the room was entirely different... it was more relaxed, more receptive. When Jherrem invited them into a more personal chamber, he wondered at what was going on... though his words had been diplomatic, it was obvious from the rumbling of their audience, he'd taken steps to take the negotiations behind closed doors and away from the nobles.

Interesting. Glyph intoned quietly as he stepped into control and moved to follow the Sultan.
"You have pondered our suggestions then? I am curious to see where your thoughts have lead you. Glaucon and I are quite willing to answer any questions you may have and further our discussion."

Any pondering that may have been seen on the Sultan's face was bound to stay just that - simple little thoughts, and nothing that would evolve into actions. Waving the visitors away from the chambers now would equate to relinquishing his throne, and the plucking of a thread that would cause the entire city to rapidly unravel. It was the sort of thing on many minds, and, Glaucon suspected, one of the reasons they were being invited into a private room instead of continuing in this larger, more public chamber - even the smallest errant word that slipped through his teeth could mean the end of his reign if there were observers around to hear it. The tension in the crowd was overwhelmingly obvious.

"Ah, but we were not exactly 'guests' a while ago, were we? I seem to recall that the word used most often to describe us was 'intruder'," Judgement said rhetorically. His gaze was not cast at the Sultan when he said it, however, and it made it clear that those words were meant for the gossipers around them, not him.

He followed Jherrem without complaint, as there was a clear advantage to speaking with him in a private room. If there were any difficult points in this discussion, it would be two - no... four people against one, and no nobles in the background to bolster his confidence.
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[Audience Continued]


The Sultan shook his head slightly, "It is obvious you are new to our lands. With time understanding will come." And that was all he said in response to the other as they were lead into a modest, stately room with leather chairs and a massive table dominating the center of the room. On it was spread a map of the city and a general sketch of the palace, set up as requested. Gesturing for the two to take a seat if they wished, he nodded to the three guards that stepped in silently and closed the doors after them. Their uniforms were slightly different from the others and it was obvious from their stance they may be the 'elite' group of warriors, meant for the Sultan's protection alone. Sombre-faced and stiff, they took up positions around the room and affected disinterest.

"Now then..." The Sultan's gaze played over the maps that were laid out, "I have indeed thought your pleas over, at length. You have stirred quite a bit of dust in my kingdom, as I am sure you are aware, and have developed quite the following. My position is one I must consider when I make any decisions, regardless of what I feel personally. The safety of my people and my kingdom comes first and foremost. We have suffered greatly from the destruction that was begun eating away at our lives.

What makes you so sure the belief of our people will be useful? We have our own gods... we do not need any more." He stopped midway down the table and stood beside it, at home in personal negotiations. Establish a sympathetic link and move from there, play on their emotions. "And my lotuses, I have opened the gardens as you desired, but again I wonder at the effectiveness of that. You claim to be gods, can you not pool your powers and stop the End as you call it? Even if our lotuses are symbols of Origin... will they truly help?"


With the Sultan's final words, Glyph very nearly grinned from ear to ear. As tentative as that admission was, it still meant that they had swayed even the Sultan's heart. Whatever seeds of belief they'd planted need only be encouraged now. Shooting a triumphant look Glaucon's way, he nodded,
"Your gods are facets of the True Gods... names and aspects seen across the span of time and space. Your worship of your gods strengthens us, those that are connected to those domains. We are not trying to surplant your gods but rekindle the fire of belief that once burned so strongly."

The offer of a chair was taken all too gratefully by Glaucon, who did not want to put more strain on his host's body than he had been already. If they were successful in converting this city, then they would be constantly in motion for quite a while guiding the people of Baadris to the Pantheon and the Throne, and they needed as much rest as they could possibly get before that part of their journey began.

He nodded in confirmation to Glyph's words, and quickly picked up where he left off. "The Gate we arrived through is more than just a simple portal - it is a door to an entirely different plane of existence from this one," he started. "The domains of the True Gods span throughout every plane, and, as you might surmise, the gods you know of in this one are but a small glimpse of the many names and faces that they have at their full power."

There was a small sigh at the Sultan's next question. It was a shame it couldn't be that simple... "Could a god of Wind and a goddess of Animals combine their strength in order to stop an earthquake?" he asked first, with an earnest moment of eye contact.

"Mortals often make the mistake that we are omnipotent beings... and we are, but only within our own domains," he explained. "I am the god of Judgment, and that is where my domain lies - I would not be able to make trees spring forth from barren ground in the way Glyph might be able to, even as a fully ascended deity. In much the same way, we cannot control Creation and Destruction to the extent that would be needed to stop the End. Only the Twin Crown can, and He is the one in need of your help."

The Sultan listened, nodding every so often as they spoke. When Glaucon was done, he sighed heavily and shook his head, "If even the gods cannot stop what is to come, how can mere mortals hope to address the problem? What, besides the obvious, can we hope to gain? I doubt this endeavor would be without casualties. Only a fool rushes in with proper knowledge of the task at hand." Crossing arms over his chest, he glanced down at the maps once more, "I would help you, but you must understand I speak not only for myself."

Leaning back, he regarded the pair before him, "What is it, exactly, you need? You have turned the hearts of many already, and I am receiving reports of interest in the lotuses thanks to your display a few days ago... It seems you have bypassed me entirely. I lead my people, sirs, and am not a puppet to play with." Of course, that didn't mean he couldn't try to wheedle something out of them, some confirmation of the proposal they'd put forth. Would he truly gain renown for leading his people to the lands of the gods and laying lotuses before their king?


"Creation and Destruction are the core of All that Is... nothing surpasses it. Life and Death, beginning and end, the Twin Crown embodies the Origin of everything and the End of it all." He held few memories of their king and chose to avoid specifics, "Removing this pillar doesn't just destroy everything you know, it makes it as though it never was."

He stiffened and drew up higher, eyes narrowing,
"You can rest assured we are not using you, Your Majesty. This is for the benefit of all, I'm sure you see that." Just when he'd thought the Sultan might be honestly interested in helping, he twisted their actions like this... What was it he was after?

"Because mortals are capable of one feat that gods are not, and that is granting power to the gods," Glaucon answered, his tone turning more bold and determined by the second. "It was our downfall in the distant past, and it is needed now more than it will ever be. Without the reverence of mortals, we are nothing - without hearts and minds devoted to Origin, all is nothing. The salvation of the Gods would be the salvation of All That Is, because the threat is a god unmaking Himself." It was frustrating to him that he had to repeat this, after the energy they had expended explaining this before. "We have no power to rebalance the Crown. You do."

As if his posture weren't already rigid enough, it lifted with Glyph's as he supplemented his response. "If we had arrived here, claiming to be gods, with the intent of using you and your people, we would have demanded worship, offerings and followers for ourselves. Instead, we came trying to appeal to you as if you were the gods, in the hopes that you would grant us the assistance we ask for." His cool composure was starting to crack and simmer, and his words steamed out of his host's throat as if they wanted to fill the Sultan's mind and suffocate all of his doubts.

The Sultan leaned forward, fingers spreading out on the table before him as the guards shifted, drawing a little nearer when both Glaucon and Glyph stiffened. "You want my help? Fine. We mortals can empower you but what's in it for me...? For my city? We will expect to benefit from such a venture." His eyes narrowed as well, the tone of his voice growing serious.

Glyph glanced at Glaucon, noticing the change in composure, and then back at the Sultan. "Are you so blind? We have said it before, your Majesty. In helping us, you help the multiverse... it stands to reason that Baadris will be marked not only in the pages of other worlds but the eternal records of the gods. You will have earned a Pantheon's respect." He shook his head, amazed at the man before them. He was going to help, had just said so, and was negotiating the profit.

Was the destruction outside his windows not enough?


The Sultan smiled at that, straightening slightly. The favour of the gods... That was indeed what they'd said before. It would be most fortuitous to lead his people through that gate and witness such a moment of history. His name would be marked in their histories, his city and his glory. He would surely prosper from it and so would the city. Clasping hands and he stood up fully, he glanced to Glaucon and seemed to ponder that a long moment. "What do you want me to do?"

[******** Christ, does this d**k-for-brains have Alzheimer's or something? David sighed exasperatedly from the back of his mind, giving off the impression that he would have been hunched over and rubbing his face with his hands had he been in control. As it were, he could only shift his consciousness around in annoyance at how much they were having to repeat themselves, muttering strings of obscenities to himself about how the Sultan was a douche and how sick he was of this sparkly acid trip of a city.

Glaucon could sympathize with a few of the things his host was complaining about, but he had to ignore the undercurrent of rambling pessimism so he could reply. "It would be as it was described in our first meeting. You will lead your people to the throne room of our Lord to revere his aspect of Origin, and leave offerings of lotuses at His feet. The other deities present at the Pantheon will be more than willing to grant you their blessings and protection when they recognize what it is you are doing, if there is any concern about entering a foreign plane with minimal preparation."

"Mmn, that's one of my concerns, yes. You want to move a city as soon as possible which means little planning and even less notice - the nobles are already grumbling about the rumors and hints that are spread like wildfire. We are no strangers to far flung travels but at the same time... we are a determined group." The Sultan continued conversationally, gesturing casually as he spoke, "Will the gate remain open for the duration of the travel? Or will it be a one-way trip? Are you preferring soldiers or maidens, or does it matter?" It seemed the ruler before them was already drawing up plans for the departure as he waved at a guard to call on a Scribe to record the list of requirements for such a migration.

Finally.

Glyph sighed in relief as the conversation turned towards progressive actions, glad they would not have to bully this man so completely he could not refuse. As it was, the god suspected that such a turn around in decision had come largely from the reports that streamed in... the caucus and that letter, whatever it had been. Silently, he thanked whomever had the foresight to send the item and glanced over at Glaucon. Had it been someone he'd made acquaintances with? It certainly wasn't him.
"You will be protected by gods, Your Majesty, well defended. Your assistance is greatly appreciated."

"The class or station of a mortal usually does not matter in the eyes of a God, and especially not to those of Origin," Judgment answered first, loosely crossing his arms and tilting his head in a slightly businesslike manner. "As for the Gate... the god who opened it is named Ankou. If he decides to close it, it would merely be a matter of asking him to open it again when you wish to return to Baadris."

It looked as if the Sultan was going to start drawing out some plans - that caused waves of cool relief and warm hope that swiftly washed away that little knot of annoyance in Glaucon's mind. As a result he became a bit less frigid in his demeanor, more than willing to assist the leader of this city in ensuring that this pilgrimage to the Pantheon would be as safe and fruitful as possible.

The Scribe arrived in a timely manner, a calm and competent individual among neurotic servants and fickle guards. With him quickly and efficiently transcribing every word that as said to paper, they were able to not only elaborate on the preparations needed in Baadris, but also piece together a rough layout of the Pantheon and give Jherrem a decent idea of what he and his people should expect upon their arrival.

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.::||{...Vanishing Edge...}||::.


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Vanishing Edge

One moment everything in Baadris was going about its pace normally. The vendors hawked their wares, catching those walking down the aisles as they always did to draw attention. The guards stood at their posts, watching everyone to maintain order. The cooks baked, sliced and diced their creations. Then everything went silent only to be wrenched, twisted, pushed, and shoved as if to make room for more than should be in the space the universe had. It was.

The plane that the mortals, gods, and their worlds existed on was slowly being shoved and merged into the plane outside it. Demons and darker things that existed on the plane called Hell were no less pulled, twisted, and shoved where they did not belong. Many suddenly found themselves staring at the world of mortals in surprise. Others were gazing around, sudden rage in their eyes as they were grabbed and hauled from their own world. Some did not even understand that their world was there. It was simply a part of the reality the gods and others dwelled as their own.

The demons cared little for their own and even less for those not born as they were. They would make this place theirs and show that they should never have been pulled from their existance even as a summoning. And they would teach a lesson none would forget.

People screamed running as they grabbed their children to hide. The guards stared, suddenly trying to defend against the myriad of demons now filling the streets and lashing out. Wings carried some aloft where they dropped onto balconies and in windows destroying everything in their paths.

Some of the smaller demons scurried out of the way but began to torment those they could, clutching at their skirts and shirts trying to hold them for the larger demons. The things in the marketplace was scattered, glass breaking, wood splintering, and people screaming as panic and disbelief ensued. But the markets were not the only places affected. Every street and every building was demon infested as the town came to life with even more activity than normal.

The first sign was a wrenching of the palace as several pieces of glass shattered and an earthquake tremored for several long moments. When it subsided, the guards in the hallways and various rooms stared at the demons milling around. Some were confused but then understood that they had free reign. They attacked quickly and efficiently, taking the lives of those around them without a care but in glee.

Sayd was at the doorway, a group of guards hurrying towards him. "Demons are attacking!" one man yelled as he whirled to stab his spear into one of the creatures. "They are everywhere! Get everyone together and protected." Another grouping began to try to hold off those they could as the families paniced and began to scatter, gathering their things.

Lisana spoke with Rejali as she stood watching the people around the room when the building felt as if it were going to fall on top of them. Reaching out to grab the girl's shoulder, the goddess tried to keep them both on their feet. She glanced over at Cosine as several screams were heard. Then she blinked in surprise to see demons appear on the balcony attacking the guards there. Something was wrong again and this was on a major scale. "Cosine, this is not good! Not good at all! If demons are everywhere, will we be able to return?"

Hasheem moved towards the balcony to try to help those there. The rest had moved together in the center, trying to escape the few demons coming in. The hallways were being defended by more of the sultan's guards, several groups coming down the hallways to help the families of the powerful and gods. They would try to protect them all. "Fashad, we need to get the balconies closed off! That will buy us some time! And the main doors into this portion of the palace shut down for protection until they are driven off!"


He nodded moving towards Sayd and the guards in the hallway. Barking orders out, he directed them to barricade the ends of the hallways with furniture. Whatever they could find and to shut the doors on the balconies up tightly. The families he directed to grab the few things they could and head towards the goddesses. If they were all together, they had more of a chance.


The earth shook and Cosine shifted to keep her balance. The next phase had clearly started. As chaos ensued she glanced around cooly. This is where a methodical mind came in useful. If she lost her head she could help no one. Outside there were screams, the smashing of ornaments, glass. Children began to cry and Cosine turned to face Lisana.
"We should, though ... there is no garuntee that the Pantheon is safe from these things." She looked to all the people, they stared at them hopefully, they expected them to help. Number and Laughter. "Do you think we can hold them off?" She asked, glancing to the doors again. "What about David and Mal. We can't leave without them."


As the planes crushed together and the palace shook, Malh’reth paused then glanced up from his work. Once the Sultan had agreed to assist them it had been nothing but hours of names, lists, and the occasional demand or offering. As a god, it seemed they thought he and David were supposed to okay every preparation in the hopes that Origin would be most pleased. But it hadn’t been that long before word had gotten out and the people had begun to gather, making a trip to the Pantheon with their own offerings even while the gardens were opened. Many lingered there, anxiously eyeing the gate while others explored – watched by guards who found their wide-eyed awe both amusing and suspicious.

The clash and clang of metal in the hall outside the room drew his attention and he wondered just what was happening; prayed that the End had not come so soon. Poking his head out the door, he spotted a gaggle of guards battling a few demons and could not tell who had the upper hand. Swearing, he spun and dashed back into the room, hurrying to collect the documents before him and the translator that stood nearby. “David!” He called, hoping the other was near enough to hear his cry. Neither of them could fight very well and David, crippled as he was, would be easy prey for the things down the hall. “David!? Glaucon!?”


Hell has descended upon us.
Glyph stated matter-of-factly, sighing, We must secure the gate and find David – mortals are next to defenseless against the demons. And we need to find Cosine and Lisana.

“I assumed as much, Glyph.” He muttered, rushing over to the door that connected to the other room and shouldering it open as he tried to keep the pile of items in his arms balanced. “David! We’ve got trouble, c’mon!”

The scribe stood to the side, nervously watching with a look of fear. Sighing, the mage inhaled and then exhaled as Glyph stepped forward in his mind to claim control once more. It was getting easier and easier, with less fuss from Malh’reth and he couldn’t help but wonderful if the mage was drawing near true acceptance,
“Don’t worry, we’ll still follow the plan. I need you to stay with me, alright? Stick close and you shall be safe. I give you my word.” The scribed nodded then and lifted his chin a little, responding to the cool, confident tones of the Silvim Illustirre.

It didn't take too long before Glyph and his host would be able to pinpoint David's location. Among all of the startled cries and barked orders from guards, an abundant and violent river of curses gushed out of one room - then there was a panicked female wail and the sound of something breaking, promptly followed by a cluster of needle-toothed imps the size of toddlers scrabbling through the door with broken porcelain and remnants of flowers speckling their forms.

Baadris was being attacked by gremlins, of all things. Just as the mortal thought things couldn't become any more storybook, the world had exceeded his expectations once again. Great.

Glaucon's satyress servant half-helped, half-dragged his host through the hallway, his cane and feet slipping wildly on the polished floor as he was pulled at a speed that his body was simply incapable of keeping up with. As it were he would just have to deal with the rough treatment Eudocia was giving him; all of them were acutely aware that this was not the time to let his limitations get in the way of a safe pilgrimage. Any amount of sprains and bruises was better than ending up dead.

He was shouting at the top of his lungs at the guards not to try and 'rescue' him from the Aoide, not wanting anyone to mistake the attendant for one of the demons that had crash-landed on Baadris from a separate dimension.

It ended up making his voice rather hoarse by the time he recognized the Aurion's form among the panicked crowds in the hallway, but he still called out for him, attempting to wave his cane in the air to better grab his attention. "Mal, hey!"

"Everyone needs to get their a** to the gardens, now," he said, even as the minty Aoide was dragging him over to close the distance between them. "Is there anything in that magic sketchbook of yours that can talk or something?"

Lisana glanced over at Hasheem and the others. Then her eyes darted back to Cosine. "The garden! David and Mal will head for the doorway. We should get everyone there and then we can simply go back through. You and I and the guards can hold off the demons long enough for the people to get there. Make sure everyone gets a lotus. We must save as many as we can. It might be awhile before we return here."

The demons gleefully went on a rampage through the streets and into the buildings nearby. The towering effigies meant nothing to them. They could do as they liked and this place would be theirs to torment. Those on the balconies, pushed and shoved against the furniture that had been stacked against the doors. Circling around, they looked for other openings into the people now barricaded inside.

There had been a rush at the gates of people hurrying to the Sultan for protection, but the flow was quickly checked by the demons who were drawn there. The guards slammed shut the gates, barring them against the sounds they heard outside. They needed to protect the Sultan and those inside until other orders came.


Hasheem and Fashad began directing the people towards the gardens where the doorway was. The guards looked to them for orders on what to do and how to keep the demons out. His eyes went to Rejali a moment, "Grab what you can and help everyone get to the gardens." A nod from his sister was the only indication that she had heard him as the girl moved towards her parents and the other people nearby.


Cosine breathed deeply as everyone began to panic and nodded to Lisana. Okay, get everyone out, though she could already tell this was going to be a logistical nightmare if everyone was panicing. She moved out of the room and followed the others into the garden, there, she found a bench that had been placed for enjoyment and hitched up her skirts so that she could climb up onto it.

"Everyone!" She shouted with a firm and authorative voice, this time she had no time to be nervous. "Everyone, take a Lotus and try to stay calm." She winced as some glass smashed above them and there was a loud roar. "Help will come soon to guide you. Do not fear!"


Malh'reth's ears flicked but he didn't register David's call, at least not until Natasha yanked his arm and pointed out Judgment's Host being carted through the crowds. "Need to get everyone's attention! David! David!!" She waved at the cripple and then started towards him, none to subtlely elbowing her way through the people that were beginning to herd together in fear and confusion.

The scribe blinked as the Aoide grabbed Malhr'eth and watched as the mage nodded, brushing the demoness' hand off his shoulder and ushered the scribe along. He had his own little herd it seemed. Frowning, he was nearly jostled onto the ground by a large soldier but saved by the scribe.
"Careful, sir!"

"Thanks..." Malh'reth smiled wanly and straightened himself up, glancing around. "We need to get control of these people!"


"Your friend called for something that talks, sir." He nodded towards David as he waved between the various people that surged past them, aptly keeping his place without being swept away - which was something Natasha was certainly failing at. The red and black Aoide was cursing out those who kept shoving her and clacking her feet against the ground.

Glyph seemed as though he were shaking his head and stepped forward, straightened up to call out to his servant,
"Natasha! Stop harassing the mortals! We need you!"

"But!" She cried out in reply and dug her heels in, "Out of my way! The Silvim Illusterre needs me! Get!" A slew of muttered curses followed those words as she pushed back against the herd of people and made her way back over to Malh'reth, "Yes, m'lord?"

"You need to help shepherd these people. They're panicking." Glyph ordered as they made their way towards David once more. The sounds of terrified screams and the clash of metal was growing closer, punctuated by the distinct sound of glass breaking. Whatever was going on down the hall was not going well for their valiant defenders. "Now! Malh'reth... do you have anything that would get their attention? David has a point."

I do... I have a picture of Phaedra I can summon? Well, several actually, but one should be enough? Had he been in control of his body at the moment the mage might have flushed slightly. One would do, yes.

"Excuse me... but..."
The scribe met David's gaze and then Glyph's, "There's a servant's corridor behind that tapestry that'll lead us right to the Gardens....? Will that help any?"

"Yes!" Glyph replied immediately, smiling broadly and reached out to muss the timid fellow's hair affectionately before Malh'reth stepped forward and withdrew his hand as he offered an apologetic smile to the started scribe, "Thanks."

Turning to David, he gestured at the tapestry only to duck and cringe as something brought a chendelier down in a cascade of crystal and glass fragments, sending the crowds scattering once more, "I'll summon Phaedra's image and get everyone to go that way... it's hidden, easy to defend, what do you think?"


"[********], a secret passage?" David replied to the scribe, a determined and impatient look starting to grow on on his face. Then, with a curt nod, he said, "Yeah. Go make sure there's no furniture or whatever in the way, we can't have people tripping over s**t in there." He gestured with a sharp jab of his head towards the tapestry in question, using the motion to try and nudge the scribe in there faster. There was no time to dawdle and ponder in this sudden crisis situation - it made the mortal somewhat glad that Glaucon wasn't awake to interrupt his thoughts right then.

It was his best guess who 'Phaedra' was, but he knew the mage well enough by now to be able to trust whatever choice he made with his unusual brand of summoning. There was another nod, and he replied, "As long as she can grab people's attention and get everyone moving, go for it."

After that exchange was finished, the cripple realized that Eudocia had been tugging nervously at his arm for several moments now, trying to get his attention. With her eyes trailing in the direction of the tapestry every few seconds, she said with a pleading tone, "David... you're going to get yourself killed if we stay here!" Her face and voice were muddled with concern as she spoke, barely audible above the panic ensuing in the corridor. It was obvious that she wanted to get the mortal out to the gardens as soon as possible so they could reach the hopefully safer Pantheon.

And as bad an idea as it was at this point, the mortal still fought with himself for a moment, reluctant to abandon the people here but knowing it would be best for his survival if he did. With a sigh, he decided, "I'm going to head out to the Gardens and see about getting everyone in there through the Gate. Lisana and Cosine might be there already."

Then, slipping back into an attitude that had no room for questions and second-guessing, he and his toothpaste-colored attendant followed the scribe through the servant's quarters. With any luck, one or both of the goddesses would already be there and see him coming through the previously-secret entrance.

Cosine watched from her high point as people started to move, looking around themselves, a little confused but grabbing Lotuses none the less. As more chaos errupted from within the palace Cosine looked towards the gate. Should she start sending people through.

Her eyes flew back to the crowds of people and she noticed a familiar face amongst the crowds.
"David!" She shouted, jumping a little and waving both arms to get his attention. "Over here!"

Realising that it might be easier for her to go to them she hopped down from the bench and fought her way through the crowd.
"Thank god's you're here. This is all going very wrong." She breathed as she managed to reach him.


With David disappearing through the passage with the scribe, Malh’reth flipped open his book as he hid behind Natasha’s intimidating form. All around him, the flow of people created a sort of moving mosaic of colours, textures, and voices… though for him, his altered vision revealed a cacophony of auras punctuated by the occasional brush of contact that lit up with his vision with that strangely knowing touch. It was distracting, this knowing and unknowing, only adding to his frustrated flicking of pages. Where were those drawings? He was sure-

Calm down, Malh’reth. They’re there. Breathe in and out, focus on the book. We can do it. Glyph’s soft voice, supportive and soothing cut through the jumble of sounds and images flashing through his mind. Inhaling deeply, he closed his eyes – they were useless, touch was what he needed now. Holding that breathe, the mage concentrated on tuning out the surge and ebb of noise around him, a sound that was quietly replaced by the impression of wind whispering through leaves, relaxing and subtle.

The page was soon found and in the seconds following, the doppelganger of Phaedra stepped out into the world, his vision of her – beautiful and exotic, powerful. Every inch a goddess. Those near her immediately balked and shied away, startled by the sudden appearance of such a being in their midst. For a moment, she seemed to stand there and take in the chaos before turning to step into the air, a puppet whose strings Malh’reth had. His illusions were weightless even if they seemed solid and he easily manipulated it to stand above the crowd. Her voice rang out, clear and strong to catch the attention of those who hadn’t seen her initial rise into the air, “Follow me. Escape awaits in the gardens! And Salvation in the lotuses! Gather there!”

Short and sweet, the illusion sank to stand on the ground once more and stepped towards the tapestry that had been ripped aside by the scribe. Malh’reth and Natasha followed shortly after the false Goddess and it was but a moment before the crowds surged towards the previously unknown escape. Now that they had direction, hope of escape, the people crushed against one another, jostling and yelling louder then before.

Swearing, the mage spun and pulled water into existence, dousing nearly every person within ten feet of him, grabbing their attention, “STOP! STOP PANICKING!” He hollered as loud as he could, a sentiment echoed by the illusion as she stepped up behind him.

“If you rush, you all will die.” There was no room for interpretation in her words, deadly serious and even as they were. Malh’reth smiled when the crowd forcibly calmed itself and proceeded to and through the passages.

Soon after, the mage appeared in the gardens, preceded by a Phaedra and followed by a flood of jittery people. The soldiers had stayed behind to guard their escape and had been fighting valiantly, some knowing they would not survive this encounter and yet still taking solace in the fact they gave others a chance to survive.
I wish I could have assisted them…. Glyph mourned, sounded depressed.

“Remember them.” Malh’reth replied immediately, “Remember them and be thankful. Now’s not the time to brood, Glyph.” The mage had calmed upon seeing the gardens, David safe, and the figure of Cosine hopping up and down to grab the cripple’s attention. That, and the gates were still open – much to his relief.


I know. Glyph replied quietly.

All around, people began gathering lotuses – copying those that had already been here and nervously milling about, some gawking despite themselves. Malh’reth pushed through the crowds and came up behind David, “You’re alright! I’m so glad.” He offered a weary smile to the two and nodded, “We need to get out of here. Any plans?”


We should go through, with David and Glaucon, ahead of the crowds and direct them on the other side. Neither you nor David can truly fight these demons.
Glyph suggested as he stepped forward to claim control of the mage’s body, “Someone needs to direct the mortals through the portal and help them on the other side. If we flood the pantheon with mortals that are panicked it’s likely more trouble then good will come of it.”

The number goddess was a more than welcome sight, especially so instantly after the host made it out to the gardens. People in here were already collecting what offerings they could carry, and soon a trickle of people from within the palace would be doing the same... but they were still hovering around the gates, most likely filled with uncertainty about the unknown that lay behind it. That was a problem in desperate need of fixing.

"Yeah, I noticed," David grumbled after he reached Cosine, pensively gripping his cane with a hand. "Sucks that the little bastards aren't allergic to sunlight. Is Lisana here, too?"

He jerked in surprise when Glyph's voice unexpectedly joined their reunion, but quickly resettled himself as much as he could in the panic-stricken atmosphere they were in. He was right, everyone here needed directions... the host could remember all-too-easily how confusing it was to be suddenly flung into a world unfamiliar from his own, with the danger of total apocalypse looming over the very fabric of existence. Nobody was wanting to take that first step and lead, because they had no idea what they would be leading everyone else into.

"You're right. Nobody's going to get moving unless we get them moving," he nodded. "I'll go through and... ********. The staircase - get everyone to the bottom floor from there..." It would be a death wish to try and go down that spiraling b*****d before everyone else had; he would end up getting trampled and probably snap his neck somewhere in the process. "And then someone can be right at the Door, and then the bottom of the stairs or something."

There was another, sharper nod, probably more to reassure himself than to finalize the idea with the goddess and other host. With a last one at Eudocia, he was pulled into the crowd - as he all but swam through the swarm of people that was blooming in places with clusters of flowers, the two could be heard shouting at them, trying to get their attention.

"It's safe behind the Gate, get going! Now!"

"Please, we'll show you the way to our Lord!"

A small trail of new followers, loosened petals flying behind them, snaked across the chaos to the massive and still-gleaming caryatid with David and the Aoide. They disappeared, one by one, into the light of the Gate a moment later.

Lisana moved forwards after seeing the others grouped together. Before she could get to them, David was lost in the crowd. But she had heard what he said. "Don't panic." Her voice soft to those around her. "It is the worst thing to do. Go to the doorway and do not be afraid to step through."

"Cosine," she said, when she reached the other goddess's side. "I'm going to try to help the ones there delay the demons as much as possible." She suddenly smirked. "What better way for the creatures to go than to die laughing? I'll send the others towards the doorway and go through last."

Giggling she left the people to Mal and David. They seemed to be knowing what to do and she needed to help Hasheem and the others. Spotting Rejali and Mian, she pointed towards the doorway. "They will lead everyone through. Go quickly but do not panic. There is time still."

Rejali's eyes met Lisana's and she nodded before turning to the others. "Let's go. Help each other." The grouping moved on through trying to calmly help those around them.

Moving onto the front, Lisana glanced over at where Hasheem and Fashad stood directing guards. "We defend slowly backing up. The people are going through the door. I go last. No arguments. I can delay them long enough to step through.

"I understand." Hasheem stated but he would only go through just before she did. All others would go first.

Fashad glanced over at his friend. He knew what he was thinking and his lips twitched before turning attention back to the press of demons. They would do what they could. Turning his attention back to the immediate need, he shouted orders to those in the front.

Focusing Lisana watched them, bubbles rising around her. "Laugh." she whispered. Five demons pushed forwards trying to push past the furniture and guards barricading the hallway. Two suddenly stopped, only to begin laughing uncontrollably. The men stared in confusion as did the other demons at their actions. One demon reached out to swat the other only to have him continue laughing. A growl slipped out as if orders were being given. The two demons continued to laugh.

"Take them down! The lady helps!" Hasheem yelled to them. The men immediately turned on the two first, crippling and then killing them as one guard fell to the others.


Cosine watched as David disappeared off into the crowd and turned to face Lisana. She smiled and glanced up to the darkening sun.
"I will help you." She said softly, spotting Isra and her family. She waved them over and Sevda with them, carrying the urn of oil.
"Sevda, Isra. I want you to go through. You need to get your family to safety and Sevda you can start the ritual. We'll hold off the demons as long as we can."


Isra nodded and winced a little as more sounds of smashing glass came from within the palace.
"I will go, but take these." She reached into her pocket and pulled out some sharp glass weapons in the shape of lotuses. "You throw them ... I'm not sure if they will help but they are all I have."


Cosine smiled and took them from her new friend.
"Thank you." She said softly, taking them and glancing back to Lisana for a moment. This was all rather terrifying.
"Now, go, all of you. Through the gate and to safety. You can trust David and Mal."


Glyph remained where he was just long enough to catch a few of Cosine and David’s words before being drawn back into the crowd. Near him, Phaedra waited, impassive and unresponsive to the soul that was not the one who had summoned her. With a sigh, the god stepped back and gave Malh’reth his body once more. In a blink, Phaedra had joined Eudocia in herding the people through the gates.

They stumbled and faltered at first, not trusting the swirling, magical vortex but with no other option and no desire to remain behind, they soon started to flood through after David. Malh’reth waited for a several moments to ensure that everyone saw that safety waited on the other side when the Sultan and heavily armed guards rushed in, some wounded, others looking grim and their leader haggard and out of breath. It seemed they’d fought their way through demons to deliver their king unscathed (or as much as unscathed as possible – he appeared to have fought as well, with cuts in his clothing and a tied up wound on one shoulder). Immediately all those of lesser station stopped and bowed, drawing an audibly loud curse from the mage, “MOVE!” Waving frantically, Malh’reth pushed at people to get going only to watch as they stumbled a little then settled again.

Oh for spirits’ sake! Malh’reth and Glyph, of same mind, stalked over to the Sultan and took his arm, placed an armful of lotuses in them – much to the surprise of everyone present – and walked him up to the gate, wasting no time. “Go through and lead your people. David is waiting on the other side. Go.” While his frank attitude drew a narrow look from the Politician King, he did step through and was followed shortly thereafter by a few of his guards; the rest joined Cosine and Lisana to aid in the efforts of guarding the retreat.

With the flow of people restored once more, he left the image of Phaedra to shepherd and guide the people in his absence and moved through himself. Natasha was right beside him and somehow, from somewhere, the scribe appeared on his other side and anxious yet excited look upon his narrow features.

Coming out the other side, the mage stumbled and breathed as he felt the flux of power wash over him then recede. Blinking as cold stone and wood met his gaze, the cacophony of confused and frightened voices stunned him until Natasha pulled him aside – near the opposite wall,
“Here, Lord. You’re safe here.”

“Thanks.” Glyph answered without a second thought, blinking as he felt no resistance from Malh’reth, only a silent acknowledgement as the usually vocal mage stepped aside. “Alright! Everyone!” His voice, strong a sure, rang out over the dull roar, “The stairs! Go to the stairs! Stay away from the other doors! Thank-you!” Slowly, they began to move along as well, the corridor quickly filling with the scent of lotuses wafting up from a chaotic jumble of people, fabrics, and flowers.

Rejali glanced at the flowers as the crowd of people began to thin. Most were going calmly through the portal and she glanced around to make sure her parents and Mian were safe. Falling slightly behind them, she stared at the lotuses nearby. Picking up several she placed them carefully inside her bag. One for her, but some for the goddesses to grow as well as give. They were still here fighting and perhaps would not think to take one.

The old man shivered behind one of the pots filled with lotuses. He was carefully placing them into the bags he carried. The blossoms were too precious to lose and he'd not lose them to the demons.


As the people continued through the doorway, Lisana, Hasheem, Fashad, and the rest of the guards there slowly moved back. The demons were still pushing but some were getting hesitant because of the power Lisana held. She could not stop all of them, but many seemed susceptible to her magic. And she did not falter in using it. Though a smile was on her face and sweat on her brow, the goddess protected as she could giving the men the advantage over the creatures.

As they finally neared the doorway, she glanced around for Cosine and anyone else. Then she saw the old man stuffing flowers into his bags. A demon was coming up behind him. Focusing with all her might, she whispered, "Laugh."

The creature stopped, but then began to laugh though it struggled for control. Three others nearby began to laugh also.

"Hasheem, get him!" she asked, her eyes sparkling as she continued to focus on the creatures.

He nodded, moving forwards. It was the gardener trying to protect his flowers. He sighed, indicating that the ones laughing be cut down quickly. "Old man, enough. Let's go."

"But I don't have them all yet! I'm not leaving without..." he growled and tried to pull free of Hasheem's grip.

"Don't make me hit you. Sayd, take care of him. All the way through." the former guard snapped, pulling him forwards and shoving him behind the other guards.

Sayd grabbed his arm, leading him behind, half pulling, half draggin, and to the doorway. Then he simply pushed the old fellow through, pulling him to his feet on the other side. "Just wait here."


"Everyone else through now." Lisana ordered as she watched the demons who stood watching them all and the portal. None moved to attack yet though they watched for an advantage. Hasheem moved to her side, his blade ready as the men continued moving through the doorway. Then he was the last one. "Go," she said softly. "Cosine and I are last."

"Lady..."

"Go!"

Hasheem grit his teeth, then stepped through. He turned back towards the doorway watching for them. He was not moving until they came through.

Lisana smirked. "Nothing like leaving them laughing, Cosine. Hit them hard as you can then through. Ready? Set? Go!" Reaching out with all the power she could muster, she shoved. "Laugh."


Cosine swallowed as the demons broke through the defences and entered the gardens. They were horrifying. She looked to the two guards, the old man and then Lisana. Watching carefully for how they assessed the demons and prepared to attack.

Lisana's wordsa brought her back to the situation at hand and she nodded. A blast of power, she could do that. Lisana used the power of laughter to fill their hate soaked hearts. Cosine knew immediatly what she had to do.
"Two." She muttered to herself, drawing on the joy that she had helped other with and throwing it out to the demons who edged closer still. Combined with Lisana's attack of laughter they stopped, a mix of mirth and wonder filling their eyes.

"Right, ready. Let's go!" She shouted, turning and taking Lisana's hand so they could charge through the door together. She only hoped that it would close once they were out.


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“Master!” The shout was the only notice the weary and dust covered received before the clip clop of hooves against stone sang into the air and a lilac-coloured demoness sprang into his arms. “I’m so glad you’re back! Are you alright? Natasha? You took care of him right?” Pink eyes met Natasha’s bemused grin as Aisling hugged Malh’reth fiercely.

“I did, you needn’t worry.” Came the cool reply as the crimson Aoide stepped forward to embrace her fellow servant. “We come bearing hope, actually. And many many mortals.”

“Mortals? Hope?” Aisling’s eyes widened and she grinned, stepping back to wrap arms about her chest, “What happened?”

“It’s a long story…” Malh’reth replied now that he was able to breathe again. Shaking his head, the Aurion ran a hand through mane-like hair and smiled at the naïve, often whimsical Aoide. She was not one to fear, he’d come to realize, but Natasha. Aisling was sweet and devote if a little broken whereas the crimson one was very much the cunning demoness – it was a good thing she was just as loyal as the other.

“You’ll have to tell me, Lord. I would like to hear it. But!” She hooked her arm around his and tugged gently, “First you much rest, Malh’reth. You look terribly tired, both of you.”

“Oi! Hey!” It seemed protesting wasn’t much use as Natasha followed along behind the persistent Aisling. “Rest where? I have to speak to Phaedra… make my report of our findings. Aisling!”

“Shush! Just rest for a few moments. Wash and sleep a little. Okay? We don’t want you getting sick.”

“Glyph! Tell her to stop!” Malh’reth really didn’t like being manhandled like this.

Why? We need rest. She is right. You can speak to Phaedra once we’re cleaned up some. The god sounded more amused then anything else, tugging the mage’s lips into a smile and banished the alarmed expression that had been there before.

“Hey! Leave my face alone.”

A soft laugh came from Natasha as she held the door to a private room open, allowing Aisling to ‘escort’ Malh’reth through. When everyone was in, she closed the door and leaned against it, “I feel like a nap, don’t you?”

“No.” He blinked, glancing from one aoide to the other, “Not really. There’s a lot to do still… need to talk to people, and see if Lisana and Cosine got through alright.” He sank down to sit on the edge of the large couch with a frown that turned into a huge yawn.

“You can’t do much of anything if you fall asleep doing it, you realize.” Aisling rested a hand on his shoulder and smiled as she pushed him back, “Just a few hours. We’ll watch over you.”

“We can help you get your tasks done, m’lord, that’s what we’re here for remember?” Natasha grinned as she came up beside Aisling and arched a brow, “You can’t do everything on your own, let us lend a hand.”

Glyph stirred and made an approving sound in the back of Malh’reth’s mind as he projected images of a forest in summer, full of bird song and quietly rustling leaves with warm pools of light to soothe away any worry in the world. The mage shook his head but it was a lost battle, confronted from without and within he soon succumbed to sleep.

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There's Good News and Bad News

Now that Aisling had finished fussing over Glyph and him, the mage had ducked out of the room the demoness had insisted he take a nap in. It was endearing but even Glyph was a little annoyed at the motherly attentions - they had things to do that could not wait. And, as Malh'reth stood before Phaedra's familiar door, he wondered at the wisdom of leaving that comfortable bed. Hello Phaedra! I've got a way to maybe save Harmodius! And by the way, I'm a Host now too~ didn't exactly seem like it would make points and he wasn't sure what else to say; was nervous without really knowing why. It wasn't his fault, really, and Glyph had promised to stay quiet but... he doubted she'd miss the gem that was embedded at the base of his throat.

Still, he'd agreed to serve her and she asked that he make a report should he find out anything... and his pride and upbringing would not allow him to shirk on such duties. It was a promise that he would not let slide. Besides, how else was he to get the information out to general populace of the Pantheon? Besides the notice board, that was. They needed people better informed and better prepared to spread the news then he was.


If you stand here staring at her door, she'll know something is wrong, Malh'reth.
Glyph warned as he gave a mental shrug. He wasn't afraid of his kin even if he could not remember his interactions with them in a past life.

Malh'reth just mumured something and moved to knock on the door, summoning a smile to his face that matched the otherwise respectful expression.


"And they will listen to me?" Phaedra asked Avita, frowning slightly.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. They respect you, which is more than most of the divine can say." The demon-Aoide grinned. "It will be a delightful game."

"Hmmm." Phaedra's eyes narrowed. "For them, or for me? I suppose I'll just have to find out." A predatory smile teased her lips - and then twisted into a frown again as she heard the distant echo of a knock on the door, outside the labyrinth. "That had better not be any of those scrabbling mortals."

"I doubt they would enter," Avita replied, getting to her feet and clopping over to the mirrored peek-hole. "Ah... it is your little prize, your one-horned treasure, your bard."

"Malh'reth?" A whirl of emotions met that statement - irritation that he had left her for so long, pleasure that he had returned, annoyance at his absence when he could have been useful. "Hmm..." Should she make him run the gauntlet for his sins?

-No. Not this time. We will see his explanation, first. She leaned back on her lounge. "Open the door and see him in."


Avita bowed and vanished through the door. The shortcut through the labyrinth took only a moment, and then the outer door opened before her. "Good day, bardling," Avita said, her eyes bright. "Our mistress awaits you within."

The mage stepped back as the doors opened and sighed with relief as he was invited in. He had not yet run the gauntlet of traps within the labyrinth and was grateful to have escaped them once more. "Thank-you Avita." He bobbed a bow as he entered after her and followed the Aoide back to where the shortcut opened into Phaedra's rooms.

When he caught sight of her, he bowed low, a smile playing across his face. He did enjoy seeing Phaedra and found that he had missed her on some level, stepped forward after the bow to draw nearer her. "It has been a long time, M'lady. I have missed you." Formal, as always, he reached to take her hand and kiss its top, "I'm sorry for being away so long, I was following your orders - to collect information on any leads that might be discovered. Now that I've returned, I'd like to make the report to you." The bad news regarding his gem would come after, hopefully, and not before he'd recounted their tale and spoken of their plans.

Glyph merely curled at the back of the mage's mind, watching and listening - intrigued by the inner thoughts that whirled about Malh'reth's mind. Interesting...


"Flatterer," Phaedra growled, though she was still smiling - at least, she was, until Malh'reth lifted her hand to his lips.

The frisson of divine power - of an intruder - was faint, but unmistakable. She jerked her hand away from him and stared, then twisted to grab his wrist, then reached forward with her free hand. Her claws tore away his clothing, and in an instant her fingertips rested on the cool surface of the jewel embedded in his flesh, at the base of his throat, that lovely soft place that had tickled so nicely in their dalliances together.

Mine, Phaedra hissed, but exerted her iron will to keep her ears and tail from betraying her emotions. Only a momentary flash of anger in her peacock eye gave a hint as to her feelings, and it would take a canny observer indeed to mark it. "My, this is a new addition, indeed..." Should she punish him? Rage against the interloper that had taken her bardling, her plaything, her toy from her? It was true that she had taken her own host from another god, but she was Greed. It was expected of her, natural for her to do so.

No. The plan formulated in her mind, lightning-swift. She glanced up at Malh'reth, moving her gaze away from the gem to meet his eyes. "You were gone a very long time, indeed." Her tone was pleasant, betraying none of her anger. "Long enough to make a new friend, I see. Will you introduce me?"


He pulled back as she pawed at him, eyes closing and expected those hands, so soft and warm, to turn to claws that would rend his flesh. He was no fighter, would stand no chance. Glyph, however, surged forward, the expression on Malh'reth's face flickering from fear to injustice then back to fear again as the god settled, missing the small hints of anger that flickered across Phaedra's body language.

Holding his torn robes up so they didn't fall about his shoulders or slide off with one hand, he lifted the other slowly, tentatively to the jewel as well. There was apology, fear, and uncertainty all warring in his features as he dared to glance up once more, "I... I..." At a loss for words, he simply shook his head, unsure of what to say.

In his place Glyph swirled anxiously, hoping all he'd done... all they'd done to grow closer together would not be undone by this goddess. He did not want to steal a life... or ascend on anything but good terms. Grumbling, he seemed to cross his arms and make his presence better known if Phaedra could sense him.

"Stop it..." Malh'reth muttered, his attention turning inward, "Don't."


I have done nothing. Glyph replied coolly, Go on, then, tell her. We are friends. I have helped you and you me.

The mage sighed, "It wasn't my fault... I didn't... didn't want it. But... he promised not to, ah, kill me before I was ready. He... is Forest. Silvim Illustirre..."

"Glyph." Glyph finished, annoyed with Malh'reth's timid tone. What had happened to the bolder Aurion? It seemed that Phaedra had cast quite the spell over him, "I am Glyph, the Silvim Illustirre, granted life anew by this noble man. He wanted to speak to you before anyone else and we are here to deliver his message. One," he paused, smiling knowingly, "even Greed might be interested in."

Glyph! Stop it! Malh'reth pushed against the other's consciousness, something that had grown much stronger over the course of their visit and tried to oust the other, a futile gesture. Glyph!! Give me back my body! You promised!

Looking momentarily distracted, he nodded once and the cool, smiling confidence was replaced by yet another apologetic expression as he dipped into a bow, "My apologies, M'lady! He's not important... I'm sorry... I never wanted this. I..." He scrabbled for something to recover some shred of dignity, disliking very much this being caught between two gods, and held onto his reason for being here, "I have news. Good news. Hope for answer."


Forest, is it. A deceptively powerful domain, if... sadly limited. But Malh'reth was still loyal to her, scraping and begging her forgiveness for being taken.

An interesting proposition, indeed.

"It is not your fault," Phaedra said, sympathetically. "Such times are desperate for all, and we must take what we can." This Glyph would come to rue the day he had dared to take from Greed's possessions, but if Malh'reth remained devoted to her... then that day need not be today. "You are forgiven, fear not."

The shape of the jewel in his flesh reminded her of something, and she smiled. "Silvim Illustirre," she said, rolling the words off her tongue - strange words, but pleasing to say. "The treasures I found at my doorstep were yours, were they not?" The necklace with the now-empty pendant seemed to be the right shape to contain Forest's gem. A familiar ploy. "First offerings, now news, my - though I like Malh'reth very much, you know." She reached out and stroked one finger along his cheek. Calling your host to you - for would he have come here without my summons? - you owe me a debt, Forest, she thought to herself. The pretty things and the news would not be nearly enough, and that thought made her smile. Debts were such useful tools.


He relaxed visibly at those words and nodded, glad to out of her ire. Malh'reth considered himself an ally to Greed, as nonsensical as it may seem, and wanted not to anger her. He had yet to see a terrible side to her and with such rose-coloured glasses on, wished to maintain what he saw as a friendship. Smiling gratefully, he closed his eyes slightly at her touch and stepped closer, ignoring Glyph's grumblings.

That was not my decision but my Aoide's. I do not agree with their method of our joining but I am grateful for the result, Malh'reth. You were not bought. He gave the impression of a sour expression and watched, knowing Malh'reth would want that touch - he was a physical creature and reveled in contact, especially now that his vision depended on it. The god sighed, Serve her if you wish, I will keep my promise.

Malh'reth nodded, tilting his head as he listened to Forest, "The news we found is of a way to... quell Gehenna, m'Lady. I travelled to another world in the company of Laughter and Numbers and the host of Judgement; we found a place called Baadris, where the old gate still stood and was revered. They grow lotuses that were symbols of creation and perfection... symbols we think might remind your Lord of his previous form. And we converted many to the true gods... their belief could help strengthen Creation, the more, the greater the reminder. And some have learned of you of course. I spoke of you and your glory, called your form when we were in need. I've done as I promised."

Glyph frowned. He was going to have to speak to Malh'reth after this and iron out where they stood with one another; the Aurion was a surprisingly loyal follower, a trait he knew was derived from the society in whihch Malh'reth had grown up in.


"Ahhh..." Phaedra breathed, then smiled, pleased. "Yes, of course. The Dragon Kings have read the fate-stones; your journey was foretold." She recalled the words on the humble note left on the noticeboard below. "An excellent plan, one favored by fate. You should look below if you have not already - there is a noticeboard in the hall downstairs with the reading of the stones written on it. It spoke of a journey to a city and lotuses, and also of gods and Aoidei going out into the world and bringing back mortal belief. I have begun my own part in that. But, more than that - I have brought back the Manacles of Binding, with Futs Lung. When you descend, look to the Throne and see the chains around the Chrysalis." She purred, her tail curling slowly. "My doing, our doing. A pity you were not there to see it, but..."

As much as she was irritated at his absence, if he was needed, called by Fate to bring some of the tale of salvation to pass, then she could forgive that transgression.... provided it resulted in her own life being saved as well. "Your power could serve well to summon up belief in the mortals of this plane. As for me, it is good that the desire to survive is so strong." She laughed, the sound deep and husky in her throat. "That is something I know how to use."


He blinked, a movement echoed by Glyph and looked up at her, "Foretold? Hn... I'm glad someone replaced the noticeboard I summoned. I left it here just before we left." Malh'reth had been about to continue when her words gave him pause and he tilted his head to the side, "Manacles of Binding...?" It sounded important but he did not know how or why throwing chains over the End would be helpful; was wise enough not to say as much and imply curiousity in the tone of his voice.

He nodded, "I have tried to be of use and am glad that my efforts have started to bear fruit. Survival's a strong thing, agreed, fuelled by hope, I think." The mage smiled, "I know I hope for a good future... despite." He ran fingers over the gem in his throat and sighed, "Or rather, I hope to be able to leave a worthy legacy."


"Yes, the Manacles. An ancient artifact to bind Gehenna - or, rather, to prevent that Name from coming to fruition. I retrieved them along with Futs Lung, and even now they encase the Chrysalis below. It will not stop Gehenna, but it will slow it. No trumpets have sounded in the Throne Hall for several weeks now." Phaedra smiled, pleased at that. Doubtlessly that would not last forever, but they did have a reprieve. "Time in which to complete our plans. If we do not, then... none of us will have any legacy at all. The Void will not remember us. What will you do now, Malh'reth, you and the god you carry?" She looked at him through half-lidded eye and gem.

"Ooooh." He nodded as understanding dawned and smiled at her, proud for her accomplishment. They had not noticed the lack of changing weeks, must have been warped through time on their return. "Bravo! Though I doubt it was much of a challenge for Lady Greed." Malh'reth chuckled.

What will we do next...? Glyph answered thoughtfully, running over what they had yet to do and then stepped forward to ease into control once more, "Gather our brethren. The mortals alone will not be enough to call our Lord back. A grand ceremony to present the flood of lotuses we've brought and focus the mortal's belief unto the pod. Hopefully it will be enough."

"In the meantime... I do not know what I, or we, are to do. I wanted to make my report to you Phaedra but I have little else planned... Perhaps we should check on the preparations and make offerings of our own?" The mage replied, his mannerism and tone of voice lacking the deceptive confidence of Forest's own cadence, "Did you have something planned, m'lady?"

"A ceremony, hmm? Yes, I do believe the fate-stones spoke of offerings. It seems belief is the cornerstone. Pity, the note was terribly unspecific. 'Various actions', indeed." She'd have to find one of the Dragon Kings and wrest more details from them. "If it seems Creation is the key, then turning mortal minds... hmph. He always did like symbolism." Phaedra moved over to her 'throne' and sat down, drumming her fingers on the armrests. "Everything Creation that you can think of. Spew it all over the place. Force it into mortal minds. Quote pretty poetry in His praise, hah. Inundate the Throne Hall with everything possible. Maybe an orgy before the Chrysalis, Love's blessing." She laughed.

Malh'reth blinked and remained where he stood, slightly confused. Was such a plan not... worth a try? Making an offering to your Lord was not something he thought particularly... whatever Phaedar was implying. "Are... you not going to assist? I had hoped to chronicle that, another gem to add to your collection." The mage sighed, shrugged and cast his gaze down. Regardless of what Greed was going to decide to do, both he and Glyph had long ago decided to see this endeavor through. If Phaedra thought herself above such actions, then so be it but they had things to do.

"The mortals are here, we've shepherded them through. If that is all..." He bowed, taking a step back to signal his desire to leave, "We would like to make our offering and see to the organization of the converts."


Phaedra frowned at him. Had the godling in his throat made his brain soft and dull? "I made no such statement. Does laying out plans for gathering belief equal refusal, now? I had not thought the world had yet become so twisted that 'yes' became 'no'." She arched one brow. "I do not wish to die either, or I would have ended myself already, as I did before." Honestly. Perhaps being talked to from two sides was too much for him to handle? "I will gladly regale you with the details of the steps I have already taken if you'd like to set them down for posterity, but I don't think now is the time for that. Tell me about your pretty sheep, shepherd, so that I might herd mine in with yours. They're not pretty or perfumed like your lotus-bearers, but a mortal's a mortal."

He flushed and glanced away, embarassed at not having been able to tell if she was being sincere or sarcastic, though it seemed she had been both. "I will record your tale then, m'lady, after we see the plan through."

From within Malh'reth Glyph frowned but kept silent, using this as a chance to learn. The memories of the mage were biased and skewed as all views would be and their interaction provided a chance for him to form a solid opinion. It had been a long time since Forest walked the worlds and his memories vague, shifting things that flitted out of reach whenever he tried to cast light on them. Where had his loyalties lay, his enemies and friends, before the Fading? Perhaps clues in the bearing of his awakened brethren would help him remember.

"We settled them in and around the Pantheon in a rush. We were being chased by demons, Laughter and Numbers stayed behind to fend them off and guard our backs as we went through the gate. I am not a fighter, I would have been useless." Pausing as he gathered his thoughts, he ran a hand through his mane-like hair and frowned, "They will be gathered in the Throne Room by now, I think, as they wanted to perform a ritual and pay their respects immediately. I doubt that will do much without your and the other gods' participation but at least it will be a start."


"A start indeed." Phaedra mused, leaning her head on one hand. "The demons come from their assorted Hells, which have all been crashed into the mortal planes. I met a few... Avita, my darling, has demon blood, as it happened." She pointed at the Aoide with her free hand; Avita smiled, toothily, and bowed. "Greed commands some small respect from such things - I have done so very, very much to people their Hells with playthings, after all." That had rankled at the time, so many of her own toys escaped simply by virtue of their deaths, but it had resulted in unexpected coin now. "While we'll find no lifelong followers of Creation among their ranks, some belief might be wrung from them. They are not suicidal beings either, and the higher echelons can be brought to reason."

Malh'reth blinked, tilted his head to the side. Phaedra held command over demons as well...? Greed was a powerful thing indeed then, to have influence over those terrible things that had torn through the city and palace.

It makes sense, though. Want, desire, need spun out of control? I would think those things would be most visible in a demon. Glyph replied, answering Malh'reth's thoughts.

The mage nodded, gaze turned inward as he spoke, "Mm, agreed. But still..." Malh'reth returned his gaze to Phaedra and smiled, "A powerful goddess with far reaching influence. I would not be surprised if you spun the demons into useful things. There is much to prepare for and gods to gather, perhaps I should see to it while you liaise with the demons? What would you have me do?"


"Your powers, Malh'reth, are better than many of the gods' right now." She smiled, amused. "Mortals are more willing to believe what they see than anything else. Bring them the gods as they need to see them, shining ones, golden creatures. Let your illusions draw them in. Paint them pictures of miracles and a world restored. The fate-stones spoke of gods and Aoidei gathering mortals in strength. Do this. I will focus on the demons. A group of mortals has been called by my name to surround this place, though they live in the ruins. If you speak to them in my name they should listen, especially if you back it up with 'miracles'."

He nodded. Malh'reth had done so already in Baadris, gathered people about him and painted an image of hope and salvation. It had worked there... why not here as well? If Phaedra had gathered followers of her own then their hearts should be more easily swayed, especially if he could offer them water. That precious resource had become so very scarce lately, in this parched land, and while some scrounged up food it had become difficult to find water that was not too filthy to drink. "I will do that then. Everyone wants to survive, offering hope will work." He bowed to her before stepping back and moving to turn away, "I will see to that now."

"Protect them if you can... and seek the other gods. We cannot do this alone." It pained her a bit to suggest that, as Phaedra preferred to work alone even if she didn't enjoy being alone - when a plan was at its climax, the only one she could really trust was herself. Relying on others put an uncomfortable wild card element into the mix. "Perhaps Water can help with that particular need. Kaelin... ah, lovely creature, he was." She laughed, pleased at the memories brought up by the name. "And do keep me informed. I hate being out of the loop." Phaedra did emphasize that last bit with an arch of one eyebrow, a little pointed reminder. There were some things he certainly hadn't told her about, like his new little passenger.

The mage paused as she mentioned Water's name and he looked to her once more. He had heard that name before... Kaelin... he had not met that one yet. "And where shall I find this Kaelin if I am to request his aid?" The mage winced though, knowing that comment was not just a request but a barbed reminder.

With a sigh he bowed once more, "I will inform you as I can. Barring this does not require a trek into barren lands and crystal citadels once more, I will be nearby."



I wonder who among our kin has been reborn... From what I've seen, we are young yet. Rising stars still. Speaking to Water, one of the elements, will be helpful. Glyph murmured. Had any as of yet regained their godhood? Or were they still ghosts of themselves? He had not yet had a chance to explore in the chaos that was the world right now.

Malh'reth nodded absently and tucked that information away. He knew nothing of the power plays between domains... knew only that Harmodius was their king and the Dragon Kings a step below. How the other gods linked together he couldn't guess.

Approaching Phaedra's throne once more, he moved to take her hand and kiss her slender fingers before bidding adieu. "I am glad to see you again, Phaedra. I have made my report and will go see to stirring the hearts of my fellows now. I shall be back."


"I last saw him in the ruins of Koiso, a city a few days from here, though that was many months ago, when I was still... as your Glyph is now." She frowned, slightly. She might have been able to find him with her Sight when upon the Throne, but that power was long since gone. "It may be a start."

Phaedra smiled at him and let him take her hand and kiss it - as he did so, she moved her hand so his lips met her palm, then raised her fingers to scritch him lightly under his chin. "Making love before the Chrysalis might still be a viable idea, you know," she added, with a purr. "If the opportunity allows."

Might as well show the god, obliquely, what a hold she had on him.


"Koiso? Alright." Malh'reth nodded though he wondered at the wisdom of setting out for a few days. They had only thought Baadris would be a few days... and it had turned into weeks. The disorientation upon returning had not helped either. At her moment, he blinked but a slow, interested smile blossomed on his features. "Indeed it may well be, m'Lady. It would be worth a try, I agree." Kissing her finger tips, he smiled brightly, memories of their past trysts flitting through his mind. It was most definitely worth a try.

Nodding his head, the Aurion stepped back, "I will be back soon, then, Phaedra. It was a pleasure to see you again." Turning, he strode out of the room.


....I know you have coupled with Greed before, but could you please not do so while you still carry me? I'm not interested in playing voyeur, thank-you. Glyph spoke up as they exited, sounding mildly annoyed, I am well aware of your devotion... and the hold she has over you, but do keep in mind you are not alone anymore.

"She has a valid point, Glyph. It would be selfish to deny that chance - you have eternity before you and can make that difference.... You would begrudge me the opportunity to help, though I will not deny I enjoy the thought? Phaedra is a fine woman, surely you appreciate her charms and intellect as well?" It seemed this was a touchy subject for the mage as he narrowed his eyes in a frown.

I am not so caught up in her as you. She is beautiful but all that glitters in not always gold, Aurion. Be aware.

"And what if it is? Is there anything wrong with that? She spoke to me of it, not me to her."

Glyph sighed and withdrew. Phaedra had this poor man wound around so very tightly around her finger... and all for what? He leafed through the mage's memories as one does when looking for something particular and paused at the memory of her promising protection. He frowned, protection hn? That was so very important to the mage? Why?

Quiet now, the god subtly started to investigate the entirety of his host. While he knew that the mage held within him character traits he admired, he did not know the whole of Malh'reth's history. Perhaps it was time to learn.


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“Glyph are you there…?” Ironic, how over the past few months Malh’reth had become so used to the god’s presence that prolonged silence on his part was making the mage anxious. It had been some time since his brief meeting with Phaedra and Glyph had been distracted, fading from the Aurion’s notice soon thereafter. It worried him, “Glyph?”

Mental groping followed as he tried to find that conciousness that had settled at the back of his mind only to com up with nothing. Worry turned to confusion – he’d always been able to touch Glyph’s mind before this, why not now? What had happened? “Glyph!?”

A sudden start from host and god alike answered as the familiar consciousness separated from the mage’s own. Goosebumps raced along his arms and a shiver arced down his spin at the alien sensation, “Glyph…?”

Mn, yes? What’s wrong?
There was the distinct impression of shifting branches and stretching roots as the god spread out at the back of Malh’reth’s mind once more.

“What…. Were you doing…?” His voice was small, uncertain.

A sigh. I was learning of you. Your infatuation with Phaedra made me realize that I know nothing of your past – only the person you are now. He shifted guiltily but knew it best to be honest with his host. Were he to lie, it would disrupt the bond he’s been trying to forge with the mage in order to ease the transition for them both.

“You what?” He blinked and turned to look out over the lava pools, his only view in the small room within Phaedra’s chambers. Was that what that feeling had been…?

Learning of you. I’d put doing so off so as not to violate your privacy but I truly want to know my host. Would you deny me knowledge of you?

“No… but…” He didn’t really know what to say; Glyph was capable of delving into his thoughts, emotions, and the very core of his being without so much of a whisper of permission but it had never really occurred to him that the god would actually do something like that, “You couldn’t have just asked?” There was a pointed tone to his words as his eyes narrowed.

Would you have told me if I’d asked you? The mage was a story teller, yes, but did he ever tell his own tale? Glyph’s exploration had proved that answer was a negative, which Malh’reth confirmed with his next breath.

“…No…?” The pause was obvious as he mulled the question over, knew better then to lie to himself and the Edelsteine he carried.

See? No harm has been done, I assure you. My approval of you only be strengthened. You are a good man, Malh’reth.
The god seemed to smile, the expression hinted at in the mage’s feature. Over their time together, they’d both noticed a gradual, unintentional loosening of the Aurion’s grip on his body… a smile when the god smiled, a soft laugh when Glyph chuckled… subtle things that suggested Malh’reth was becoming comfortable with Forest’s control.

It gladdened Glyph and confused the one who’s adamantly professed his dislike of the whole thing. Even now, in this moment, that he to be talking to himself did not even register as odd – Glyph was there, a real and powerful presence within him.

“It still seems so odd...” Malh’reth began, glancing up at the sky with it’s dancing colours and streams of light, “I… I’m so used to you now. I…”

Was worried? Another smile, small and bemused, I could tell. My apologies mage, I did not mean to worry you.

“I wasn’t worried!” He replied quickly, suppressing the feeling of knowing he’d just blatantly lied.

Mmhmm, and why are you lying? What prevents you from making peace with that fact…? His tone was gentle but Glyph decided it was time to see if the other truly accepted him – he felt the spark of belief and the stream of power that came from acceptance but he wanted very much to hear Malh’reth was consciously aware of his position.

“I’m not lying Glyph. I wasn’t worried, just curious. I couldn’t feel you… it was odd.” Malh’reth returned to the task at hand – mending a small tear in the long sleeves of his tunic.

I beg to differ. I’m not about to run off and tell anyone. He arched a brow.

“Argh!” The mage shook his head, knowing the other could see through his fib from the tone of the god’s voice. It was annoying, sometimes, to have someone with access to all of your thoughts and emotions but not enjoy a reverse connection.

Glyph caught that though and seemed to open up, his essence flooding the mage’s senses. Taste, sight, hearing, touch, and smell were all overwhelmed by the very being of Forest. He could not think, was caught up in the swirl of being that was Glyph. The smell of wet earth and leaves after rainfall, the feel of wood and bark ghosted across his finger, flashes of light and dark… the faint twitter of a songbird and the fearful silence of a forest that knew a predator was nearby. Then a jarring return to reality as the torrent drew away, leaving the mage breathless and astounded. Dazed, Malh’reth blinked dumbly, not understanding. This is why I do not let you read me… you can recognize and process only a tiny portion of my essence… especially as I grow in strength. And, really, I rather like you sane.

Malh’reth nodded slowly, mouth slightly agape as he rubbed finger tips against his temples and marveled at the fleeting sense of unbiased protection, the acceptance of both life and death as part of a cycle. Glyph wasn’t so much a mystery now… but what had been revealed didn’t really surprise the mage. Deep down, he knew the god he carried was a generally benevolent one, leaning towards neutrality. “I… you… I did learn something though.” He finally managed a quiet remark.

Oh…? He was genuinely interested, curious about what the mortal could have picked up in the deliberate overflow.

“You… you’re a… I don’t know what to call it. Protector? But the passive kind… not the sort to go look for trouble?” Malh’reth frowned and fell silent, feeling very foolish.

However, there was a pleased rumbling from the god, To some extent, yes. Well done, Malh’reth. Now, tell me, why is it you can so easily discern that but it difficult to tell me why you worry about me? Is it pride? Something else…? While Glyph would let the mage wander from their current topic, he would pursue this vein of discussion as well – even though he already knew the answer, simply wanted the mortal to be able to voice it himself.

“I tol-“ Malh’reth broke as he felt that disbelieving shift from the god and sighed in defeat, “Yes… I was worried. I feel like a hypocrite. When I first met Natasha, I proclaimed all gods to be parasites, saw no honour in vanishing for your kind. But now… now, I don’t know.” He laughed softly, “An entertainer without words.”

Moving to settle on his small bed, the Aurion leaned forward to watch the shifting auras of the floor. For a long while he did not speak and neither did Glyph interrupt. “I… well, you aren’t just a parasite. And you aren’t something that would break me for your own purposes; kind and respectful like Umbra was when I ran across him.” Try as he might, he couldn’t quite seem to voice the feelings that stirred within.

But it was enough for Glyph to relax and smile. Even if the mage could not articulate what he felt, the god could easily read the truth of it – acceptance. Without ever intending to, the mage had come to accept the Silvum Illustirre’s presence, and his own fate. All worry and uncertainty evaporated with this new understand for he would not be rejected, he would ascend and claim his place once more. Thank-you Malh’reth. To say anything else, he knew, would be to belittle his host.

“Glyph…” The mage spoke quietly.

Yes?

“Promise me you’ll check on my people…? I can only imagine the horrors visited on them by Gehenna. I know we can’t go now but later, whether I am still here or not, could you please check on them from time to time? I know I left and they won’t acknowledge me but… I had comrades there, family and out version of childhood friends. Help them be safe?” Malh’reth was fussing with a pouch that contained a handful of glass marbles, keepsakes from his home.

Glyph blinked at the sudden request, caught off guards by its scope and yet willing to at least keep an eye on these people, I will, Malh’reth. You have my word I’ll watch over them.

A smile blossomed on his face and he nodded gratefully, “Thank-you.”

Glyph also smiled as he settled into his corner once more to ponder the reasons for Malh’reth’s request, You’re welcome.

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