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A day in the life of planars

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sciborg2's picture
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Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: A day in the life of planars

The Politics of Apocalypse

Stepping from Her domain in Elysium, Gerrun entered the Odeon of Pelion on the back of a sun bright cow with no little trepidation. Riding bareback upon the Positive-touched bovine the goddess of the farmland nervously chewed Her lip, doe brown eyes darting at the arriving gods, completely unaware that Her wheat-woven crown was askew. The pantheon, She knew, were going to discuss an inevitability that would leave Her with little to no domain in the world.

As She thought of the pain to come Ujuer's avatar emerged from one of the portals astride his rune carved nightmare Erozsh. The calligraphy that blazed silver on the fiendish stallion covered the war god's flesh as well, the divine language of violence uniting rider and ridden until the dawn of the Gods Death. Though the god was destined to be eaten by His steed He seemed as bound to Erozsh as the blood-lovers of His sister Leajan.

Gerrun gave Him an evil look, wrinkling Her nose at the god's Abyssal stench, but saved the better part of Her hate for whenever Leajan would deem to leave Her Winter Mazes in Pandemonium and grace the pantheon with Her presence. The goddess of Death and Cold held Herself above most gods whose portfolios she regarded as trifling or banal. Gerrun especially was seen as a deity to be bullied by the surprise attack of winter, the onset of which bit the lands of Her mortal wards with frost and frozen soil.

At times the blood-lovers would come, wedded pairs of husband and wife arriving off the coasts to raid what better mortals had tended and grown. Gerrun always took pleasure when Her clerics would kill one, then capture the weeping other.

A crack of thunderous applause on the other side of a portal marks Zezi, god of theatrics and music, arriving from His great auditorium in the Outlands. Gerrun glanced at the deity quizzically, then dismounted to take her seat even as she shook her head. Her mount, like Erozsh, turned back to leave through the portals from which they came.

Her seat was next to Yaneeshia, the Lioness of Summer and Glory. The goddess of "righteous war" was armored, as always, in plate that outshone the cow Gerrun had arrived on. The feline headed matriarch took up Her hands in Her own paws, assuring the wheat-crowned goddess that the Lioness would seek to preserve as much of civilization as possible. This was met by a snort from the seats above them, where Their glances found Ahwr the Plague Bearer seated.

"It's not a chastisement this time. This is a Cataclysm to punish the world entire for sins of the Northern Magi. Whoever survives the wars and natural disasters will be nothing more than My toys for a decade at least.

Not to mention My blights will see to Your farms and orchards before then. We'll probably send those off as omens."

It was sickening to watch Ahwr, for He was masked by maggots that had made a breeding ground of his skinless face and arms. The rest of Him was hidden under a stained woolen shift. The smell of rotten flesh warred against the scent of summer roses though neither could truly challenge the earthy scent of Gerrun's soil. For now I am stronger. For a little while more. The Lady of Harvest stared sullen daggers at the plague god, but the Lioness proved true to Her name.

"If there are survivors they will be blessed with crops to eat, and soon enough - as We measure things - there will be farms and orchards once more. Your days never last, Ahwr, and will cease to be in the Gods Death."

The deity of agriculture found the Lioness words less that assuring, as the Gods Death was far and the Apocalypse was now, but at least it was something. There were likely few others in the pantheon who were giving much thought to the consequences their actions would have on Gerrun's domain.

Perhaps I should have turned more of my attention to the raising of mushrooms in the Underdark.

They were coming quickly now, those members of the pantheon that wished to have a say in the matter of the imminent Doom. Many who came Gerrun expected - the elemental gods, the gods who presided over the works wrought by mortals soon to be razed and thrown down, the gods of the wild places that would burn...

And many who came Gerrun felt should have remained in Their realms. Zezi, yes, but also Mianini the Princess of Vampires, Kithinai the General of Vermin, and all the other lesser gods who had come to support Their patrons in council. Of course, this did mean that Hiaree the Lady of Perfumes and Jerax the Baker would prove useful to Her and the other major lords and ladies overseeing civilization. For that She was grateful, doubtful as it was that the damage to be wrought would be greatly mitigated by Their aid.

"Let us begin with the charges." At that, several deities groaned.

It was to be expected that Josunth wanted to begin with the charges. As the deity of Law and Justice He would see the letter of the law carried out, adhering to formality to better mollify His conscience once He was back in his Arcadian realm. That Gerrun was forced to come and plead for the gods to spare Their own worshipers meant there would be little justice found in this Ending of Days.

Unperturbed, the Hammer of Justice continued. A shining scroll appeared in his hands, its soft starlight accentuating the mother of pearl that had been set over every piece of the Most High Justicar's plate.

"The Magi of Valgard have continued work on their Cants of Apotheosis, despite the signs We sent as warning."

Gerrun winced at that. Stillborn calves, locusts, plague-spoiled wells. Her fellows and family always punished Her when They punished the mortals - the rusted armories and first born dead always came after Their attack on the farmlands.

"In the time of the First Reckoning , when the Riolor sought to climb to the heavens by turning their empire into an abattoir, the pantheon came together and birthed dragons to remake the world in fire and lightning."

Again, Gerrun remembered the flights of red and bronze dragons ravaging the world just as She remembered the gods who'd aided the Riolor in their madness.

"When the Chosen returned from the Underdark to bear witness to a world cloaked in ash, it was then that We sent Life in the form of rain, and a Covenant was made so that man and god should forever know their places."

The Lioness and Gerrun looked to each other, each ushering the other to silence. Yes, They had both loved Ina like a sister, and both had sought to bar the path of the others when She was executed for daring to love a mortal. This act of loyalty was one of the reasons Gerrun would find so few allies to assuage the wrath of the gods.

This wasn't the time to reopen those wounds, though despite Their keeping quiet the pair of Them felt the divine attention of the pantheon upon Them.

"The Covenant is broken once more, yet the dragons are now one with the world in both virtue and sin. Truth be told, their blood runs in the veins of the North as does the allegiance of many great wyrms.

Lords of the world and its peoples, what form will Our sentence now take?"

These words released competing clamors - calls from the darker gods to tear rifts between the world and their realms on the Lower Planes, calls for rains of fire and great rents in the earth, calls for all the nations of the world to strike out against the hubris of Valgard.

The gods of stone craft and forge called for plague and vermin, in order to leave the greater part of their domains intact (Depopulation would be far better than ruins.) but They were swiftly rebuffed. If mortals could easily regain the tracks of their civilizations, would they truly have learned?

While there would be war, this too was seen as dangerous gambit. All too easily the gods could see other mortals taking up where the Northern magi had left off, completing the spell and warring with the pantheon for the heavens.

The challenge of the gods was the difficulty in influencing the world. They could only touch the world where Their domains were strongest, and even then without quorum there was little any one god could do directly to alter anything on the Prime Material Plane. For the most part, it was Their clerics who were Their eyes and ears and hands. In the North, where druidism held sway over civilization, the gods had little power. This was how the magi had progressed so far, that and the betrayal of those dragons who wished to share in their apotheosis.

The elemental gods fell into argument with each other as the Lioness and Ujuer continually called out for war - one seeking glory and the other seeking slaughter. Gerrun and the other gods of civilization tried to turn the direction to preserving the most faithful of the cities and villages, but in a place of competing gods what One saw has faith oftentimes Another would see as blasphemy.

Gerrun of course was more than comfortable with the rising cacophony, for if the majority of gathered gods could not reach agreement it might still be poss-

"Before the world burned, now it must drown in ice."

Leajan had arrived, wrapped in a cloak of snow over Her frostbitten skin. She looked like some village maiden barely passed her teens, bound and left to die in a blizzard. She takes the form of the very sacrifice She demands.

Gerrun frowned at that, and behind Her She felt Ahwr bristle. A world submerged in glacial expanses would benefit neither farmland nor plague.

At the Death Goddess's words, Zezi projected His disagreement over the crowd of divinities, but He was largely ignored. Gerrun knew the god of bards had hoped to raise up a new Order of wandering troupes that would bring the lessons of the gods to the Cataclysm's survivors. The glaciers now made His bid for power impossible.

But many of the other gods of civilization were quick to lend Leajan their support, realizing that glaciers would preserve at least some of the works of Their followers. Arcana could be used to keep a few cities alive. Likely They had been waiting for Leajan, likely They had come to Her before. They abandoned Me before I even arrived here.

The gods of Water and Air also supported the notion, likely hoping the ensuing vortices into Ice would give Their elemental planes an advantage.

Ujuer glared at His sister, sitting back sullenly as the gods of Order began to lend cautious support to a goddess who resided in Pandemonium. Death by cold was preferably to the anarchy of the last Apocalypse. It would also keep the dragons from overrunning the broken world, and kill off many of their kind as well. They had shared in the sin, and now they must share in the punishment.

Gerrun cared little if the draconians went extinct. Dragons, after all, did not farm.

Ahwr began calling for plagues to be sent as omens, final warnings given to the North. He realizes the quorum would favor the glaciers, and now seeks to eek out what He can before the Ice kills off many of His diseases.

Josunth reminded the Plague Lord that the time for omens had passed, to which Ahwr called for mercy, for a final chance to encourage the magi to redemption. The gentler gods of the Upper Planes found themselves siding with the Maggot Keeper, but too many of Their brethren had little desire to see the suffering Ahwr's outbreaks would cause. A death wrapped in Ice seemed far more merciful.

Gerrun sought some way to preserve something of Herself in the world. Some stores of food might survive, through the work of stalwart clerics and magi. She knew the other gods would not allow arcana to easily preserve much beyond gardens, otherwise the lesson would not be learned...still...

She looked to the Lioness, then spoke.

"Let the blood of the Northmen warm the soil of the world."

At those words many of the gods turned. The Lioness was quick to lend Her support, was was Ujuer - both saw the opportunity for war. The gods of cities and craft began to murmur agreements, as agriculture was the foundation of all that They were. Even Ahwr agreed, for where there were crops there lay the possibility for blight.

Gods of earth and fire saw They might preserve more of Themselves than Leajan had allowed for, and Josunth found a thread of justice in Her proposal, a justice Zezi now claimed as poetic...The gods of undeath knew They needed Their chattel...

For Her part, Gerrun let Them agree and argue. In Her mind She could see the pogroms, the blood spilled to turn tundra to arable soil. Valgard had spread its people across the world, its bloodlines intermingled into nations and peoples far from the North.

Throats of children would be cut for the hope of a meager harvest.

I have saved more than any of Them, brought some justice to this farce.

Suddenly Gerrun dreaded the end of this meeting, dreaded Her return to Her realm in the Upper Plane of Elysium.

__________________

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sciborg2's picture
Offline
Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: A day in the life of planars

Antipathy, Sympathy, and Trying to Get Through the Work Day

The mercane were experts at making the best out of a bad situation, so of course they set out their spies to record citizens become test subjects in the wake of the enchanters releasing their spell-bombs:

=-=-=

Subject One: Bezalus, Guardsmen at Union District 7

"You want chicken right?" The young man smiled at Bezalus, the smile of someone who simultaneously had a romantic interest in you while being old enough to know they were too young to act on said interest.

Bezalus, normally willing to give a polite smile to respectfully acknowledge and simultaneously deflect the boy's affection, instead continued to stare at the pan in which the legs and wings of poultry rested in a buttery red sauce dusted with chopped coriander.

"Chicken, sir?" The boy asked again, worried in the self obsessed way of teenagers that the harmless flirting in his smile had finally offended the guardsman. The boy knew Bezalus had a husband after all.

This was not the case. At all.

While Bezalus's fidelity was unassailable, the strength of his marriage was at the moment a distant thought far, far behind the rumble in his belly and the spit pooling in his mouth. It was the boy's question echoing in his mind.

Chicken? Yeah, right now I want It more than anything.

An exaggeration, to be sure, but one that shone truth on the guardsman's despondency. It had, after all, been three weeks since he had chicken or anything cooked in its broth or fat. Three weeks since he'd been caught in the blast.

Now he found it, not revolting...but not something he could bring himself to eat either. It gave him no joy, its meat seemed to dull the flavor of its accompaniment as Hades leeched color into shades of grey. Eating chalk would be preferable.

It was only upon the denial that he understood the depth of his now departed enjoyment. How the pulling off of skin was a daily treat to be eaten as the last thing on the dinner plate, how the cracking of boiled bones with his teeth vented his occupational frustrations. Chicken had been the one meat his mother had eaten and thus the one he was raised on, and the plentiful nature of the bird on his home world had ensured its place as everything from garnish to pan-grease to main course.

When he'd first come to Union, it was chicken that had soothed him, that had made him realize the commonality tying together such far flung infinities...

With a sigh, he asks for a piece of charred pork.

=-=-=

Subject Two: Calidrani the Vampire Winer.

She didn't even live in Union, barely ever visited to check on her mercantile holdings. It galled her that Fate, who until the day of the prank (attack!) had proven a faithful servant, would decide to force her to play victim to such a ridiculous crime.

Magic charged to bursting, a wild magic surge of enchanter's arcana.

And now here she was, wandering through her life with a constant desperation she could barely keep sated. Her blood lust had become a refined beast beneath her sweatless chocolate skin, a discerning animal that refused all attempts at domestication.

Calidrani could only drink the blood of those she held some level of admiration and affection for. She could sate herself on others, of course, taking sips from her larder, but this brought on a nausea that quickly led to splatters of red vomit on the tiles of her home.

Seeing that the red splatters had yet to accentuate those mosaics of elven courtly life, Calidrani was forced to take precious time from her nights - nights she'd used to manage her accounts and contracts - to travel on bat's wings to the city. She dare not feed too close to her home, and had found little to inspire her heart amongst her cadre of human chattel.

The vampiress had first gone to the docks and the tributaries of streets that led to the sea, knowing the deaths of foreigners - especially likely pirates - would do little to spark a fire of investigative vigilance in the city guard. Sadly, while she could admire the cut throat nature of the merchants and sailors she found little to quicken her heart with any hints of affection.

A few sailors who were at least loyal to their captains or captains who were genuinely kind to their crews, but these were few and far between and took too much effort to find. She did, after all, have a business to run and a city watch to avoid.

So she was quick to move on to kindhearted whores. And from there to protective older siblings in the slums, which led to teenage mothers whose spiraling descents had been inverted by the birth of their children.

She knew she was exhausting the virtuous in the slums with her visits, and during the day she dreamed she was some fat stupid fish, a carp or a koi, devouring the the very stars that lit her own way through the void.

After a few months of this dream, Lady Calidrani finally began to hire some of her Chosen to work on her lands and tend to her vineyards. Some were struck with surprise at their fortune, but others more aware touched their hands to paired pinpricks on their skin and smiled knowingly.

=-=-=

Subjects Three and Four: The Dwarven Cousins

Honum and Irgar sat in a Union Tavern, trying to talk about what had happened in the roundabout way that politeness to kin had always demanded.

"Remember that time we had to fight our way past the crystal packs? All for that jaundiced bit of topaz Lady --"

"Whitehawk." Irgar offered.

"Whitehawk! More like White Ostrich - wasn't she a weird looking one eh? A dwarf woman's promise below the waist, but then all spindly by the the time you get to the neck!"

Honum sputtered, expecting this might be a good time for both of them to roar with laughter, but Irgar merely smiled politely as if his cousin was a king who'd gifted a foreign dignitary with a fart joke.

Honum was forced to continue.

"You fought well that day." Twenty-five years isn't as long to a dwarf as it is to a human, but the hours in the day don't change for them. It was a long time to finally admit something like that. Twenty-five years ago Irgar might have beamed at the compliment, but now he only dipped his head a fraction - Hornum figured this was better than the younger man recalling that Hornum had berated his cousin for getting stabbed in the leg and becoming "dead weight".

Irgar had in truth admirably covered the retreat of their company. Hornum had proven adequate in combat, it was the aftermath in which he'd shone.

"You fetched us a better price for the risks she'd failed to mention." Irgar said quietly. Hornum wasn't necessarily one for figures and ledgers, but he knew how to ingratiate himself with clients and how to bully them into coughing up funds that were owed. Sadly he'd been arguing in Union when the spell bomb went off and caught both of them in the blast.

Sadly? No, sad wasn't really what it was.

The elder dwarf grunted, unused to the amicable quiet in which Irgar thrived. Hornum was used to the boisterous fellows of his company, a company in which he'd taken Irgar on as a favor to his mother...though now, when he thought about it, he'd perhaps overused the word "favor" to drive down the lad's wages. But why feel so guilty about it after so many years?

Had to be the enchanters and their attack. What did they want anyway?

Ah well, at least it made the cousins realize the importance of family...

=-=-=

Subject Five: The Mercane Murelo

Abjurations, Dispelings, Disjunctions and in case of emergency Wishes. Murelo might have acted on any of his options immediately, but instead he allowed his fellows and their assistants to lay copper wiring under his smooth cerulean skin. He even endured their probing with a brown stained smile, and a predatory one at that. Despite being born with a general disinclination toward violence - or rather violence done by one's own hands - the mercane were in fact lions in the jungles of commerce, spiders laying out webs for the economically unwary. It was clear enchantment based spell bombs secreted around Union were bad for business, and doubly so when mercane were caught in the blast. Likely the attackers sought to send some sort of ethical message, clearly not realizing that the ideals behind their explosions were destined to fall on deaf ears.

The Mercane did not see combatants with a moral ideology. Rather, they saw instead competitors seeking their own profit to be paid in a different currency, a satisfaction made from the forced alteration of Union's business practices via their spell bombs.

Murelo, sitting at one of his favorite cafes, had fallen victim to one such explosion of arcana. While the Sentinels teleported in to deal with the lesser victims, Murelo had approached the owner and requested a plate of chocolate.

The Sentinels had returned for him eighteen hours later. By then he'd eaten twice his own weight in sweets while pondering the military application of gastronomical fetishes in lowering the moral of the besieged.

=-=-=

Subject Six: The Pitfiend of Stygia

Mortals, angels, even lesser devils often made the mistake of using the form of the pitfiend to ascertain some generalization about the collective pinnacle of Hellish non-nobility. They something brutal, driven by hate, forever seeking to rend and burn and chain and dominate.

These desires were there, truly, but oftentimes it was thought that the pitfiend was ever climaxing toward frenzy and violence, that all its subterfuge and intrigue were not just foreplay but pretext to the "final encounter" - usually some minor off-Baator assignment - with wayward adventurers.

To a pitfiend, violence and hatred were tools - enjoyable tools that carried their own baroque flavor. Tools that the pitfiend could wield over much of creation, for across the Multiverse there were few who did not fear the species of devil. Yet the palette of the greater baatezu was refined in the Pit of Flame, and thus sought after other tastes as well - a pitfiend could spend centuries scheming and researching without laying either hand or spell on anyone else.

All that mattered was the ordered accomplishment of the Work - for the means were in truth ends in themselves, actions once taken contributing to the spread of Evil and Law.

If only H'arzma had not spent so many centuries establishing a business in slavery before being caught by the enchanters' attack. If only he had been given a penchant for some delicacy, or concluded that the feel of green steel in his hand made him nauseous.

Instead as innocent bystander seeking to augment his wears had been rendered squeamish, a pitfiend no longer able to stomach the industry that had won him a great deal of reknown.

He'd just entered one of the open air markets, accompanied by two bearded devils and an amnizu accountant. He hadn't even glanced at the day's catch when his world become a roaring torrent of nacre light. A slave had sought to flee in as chaos ensued, and the devil had of coursed raised the lash...

What he felt now was not compassion. He did not feel pity for his shackled charges, his heart remained locked in his callousness and did not dare to go out to them. He found himself, instead, in a worse position than being forced to endure such...angelic temptations.

He simply could not bear the proximity of violence. He was like the gourmand who gorged himself daily on a mountain of meats but could not bear to see to the slaughter of livestock. The first day had been a curiosity, a trial to be endured. He'd been surprised to number himself among the afflicted, and it made him wonder exactly who these arcane wielding terrorists were.

Then his dispelling had failed. A wish might have worked, but H'arzma had used this annual gift to work out the death of a rival. He'd been forced to try and free his underlings from the new found predilections. An abishai who loved sausages, another who now despised amethysts. An amnizu with a new taste for fine wine. None of them had dared to ask him how he had been affected - there was no need.

They'd all seen him cringe, dropping the mask for an instant, when he tore open the back of that slave.

And now the spies in his entourage were certainly reporting their suspicions to his rivals! This galled him, infuriated him, burned him until his mind was calling out for violence while simultaneously whimpering at the thought of seeing blood.

=-=-=

Subject Seven: The Sympathizer

"Still no kissing? I feel like the client of a whore!" There was still humor in the words, but soon that'd be overrun by the edge in his voice. Which in itself was also funny-with-an-edge since as far as she was concerned the fault lay with him and his principles. A year ago, she'd not been one for causes, righteous or otherwise.

She looked away from his lips, even speaking they disturbed her. She hadn't looked at a mirror for days, lest she be forced to face the fat pink maggots under her nose. Even her tongue had been trained through triggered dry heaving, it now kept itself dutifully behind the corral of her teeth, refusing to grant those now horrid appendages a taste of its moisture.

She wondered why it had mattered to her, the romantic egalitarian notions of this Anarchist. Well, that wasn't it exactly was it? What I really want to know is why I had to pay the price.

Of course the reports coming in told her she'd gotten off easy, and even if she were hungrily scarfing down shit right now it'd be better than what the mercane would be doing to her if she'd have been caught.

Really, the fact that she wasn't in a torture chamber explained everything about her relationship to this guy still in bed wanting his kiss.

You hear the word Faction in the Hinterlands, and at first it seems like joke. Groups of opinionated fools, including angels tied to devils no less, by philosophies and ideas. You see how they pop up in places, wide spread missionaries with a bone to pick with how everyone else is living their lives. You shake your head, throw their pamphlets into rubbish heaps and trash fires.

Then you hear whispers. Planar real estate shifting over, great proxies converted. You hear of dreaded things rising or being put to the sword. And in these stories, like a backdrop and setting, you hear the name of a faction or two.

Are there really so many? Do their fingers dip into so many pies?

And one day the man you are seeing, a pleasant enough chap for the slim pickings of Union, tells you that he is an Anarchist. Capital A no less. His ideas had merit as theories - the burden of the laborers known to waitresses like her, the noose of addiction that drags down the prostitutes in our midst, the fate of the slaves in the open air market...

Now he presents himself as solution. Lovemaking takes a new turn, to know your body is pressed against that of a hero. And then one day, spooned by his slender musculature, he asks you to help.

At first you say no, talking of risks but really thinking Me I'm too small -

He laughs, assuring you its only a bit of smuggling. Barely merits a fine if you're caught. His truth of his favor comes as relief but a part of you rankles. I could do more.

It's a wonder, getting away with even the little breaks in the Law. Anarchists - a Faction. A force strong enough to walk unnoticed under the eyes of the mercane. More than that, there's a warmth in your heart born of these continued infractions - you're helping someone, you're risking your neck, if only the town you ran away from could see you now -

There was a heady rush when he asked her to plant the bomb. It seemed more a prank at the time. And even now someone on the outside looking in would laugh at that inopportune twist of the ankle, the flood of mother-of-pearl light soaking her soul and her insides until she thought she might burst.

He got me out. To an apartment in the Hive, but he got me out. At least the mercane can't come into Sigil.

It should trouble her more, this being on the run. The long reach of those sentinels of Union. But she can't think of the big things, not really, not while she has to get drunk to even speak, drunk enough to forget that talking makes her feel like the slugs over her chin are scurrying over her face.

__________________

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sciborg2's picture
Offline
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Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: A day in the life of planars

One Day You'll Save a Whole Kingdom

"By the intervention of your hand, the weighted crown will not break." This the oracle of our tribe once told me, and thus I was sent by horseback from the grasslands with arrows and bow in my hands.

From twilight I move into unceasing day. Lionesses roar at my passing, beseeching my aid as vultures circle above. Is it so simple, so close, this place of lions besieged in the Happy Hunting Ground?

My heart tells me no, and so I keep walking but I am a kin to those ladies so half my antelope-prey is left as a tribute - a donation to their efforts in war.

My bare feet tread through white desert, sinking through snow to land on the sand. Mummies scribe frantically, remnant-dead pillaging their memories in search of lost glory. These wrapped up philosopher-kings have no need of my bow.

Nine times I die, nine times I rise. My arrows win me much glory because I stand against the other side's charge. But these wars are their own purpose, and when I pass into the bark-Ocean my hoof print tattoo-scars are faint if not gone.

My ocean of wood is a river in a stream, branches tributaries to branches. In time I come to living ground dying, green fading to orange and red. There are ants here fighting, driven by two warlord queens scheming. One I take in the eye and the next through the gate of her jaws, and then I leave the survivors to pour kindness into the lines of succession.

Hate churns like bile, stacked high so the bottom eludes me. Here lords are higher than princes, and much of that royalty squats on the Plain of Infinite Portals. I am hosted while scouted, once I introduce myself through my arrows. For a moment I am tempted, but remembering myself I quickly move on...though I will think back on horizonless empires and invitations declined.

If Home rested on a sphere this could be it. If my home had a night, I might have been born here. I look up at stars studded into curving black crystal. With every step I take I make music, scattering and clattering the bones of the dead. If this had been the kingdom...No - it was dead before the oracle spoke. Viners and bunyan trees have nearly swallowed the stone striving of men.

From that dead world I pass into silver, and in the Seas of the Mind I see that corpses do dream. My feet are tried and tested on a rough carpet of god flesh. I glance up and see a Jackal in Shadow, I look down and see memories pressing up from the ground. I look back and see footprints painted in blood.

I sail through a sky without ending, a pirate casting her fate on winds and djinn. There are genasi who bow before the whims of a child, cursing the fate of the mother taken too soon. This child makes war on his betters, what is now our people lost to folly and pride.

Populations are starving, but forced to fight on with no cause. Our scholars are slaughtered and great teachers are burned, all because wisdom is bane to his whims. Where we win we bring fire, so even in victory there is neither honor nor glory. Orphans are now common as runaways because demanding soldiers quarter in their homes.

We hate him, they tell me, but oaths in our bloodline still bind us all.

They take me over ruins where even banyans would not grow. There is no soil only ash for their roots. I see the schools emptied and even in temples nuns can be fished out for the harems of the Prince and his favored. The broken idols of gentler deities now litter the streets.

With the whispers of mummies on my lips every wood-river arrow finds a path through armor and bone. I run with light breath, my feet blessed for having trod on the skin of a god. Though the hoof prints are gone their horses - they know me, because I have been trod upon by Saved dead of their own. They throw off their riders and scatter through streets, and I am already ascending - I cross over seven or ten steps with each leap and each bound.

The prince he is waiting without fear, dancing on his throne. Nothing more than a child. The rebels their muscles cramp when they see him, chained by ancestral oaths to the crown now soured into ill-fitting vows.

The boy smiled even laughed as courtiers were cut down, my skin light but not white yet still easily missed. I think of a world of bones murdered by war - this memory notches an arrow but it is the Prince inside me that lets go. The first time. Yes the first time, the one through the mouth to stopper laughter, that is Abyssal, but second is mercy through the eye and that arrow is fired by Home.

Soon around the child killer these wind people they are kneeling, and I think of ants perhaps abandoned to anarchy when I take up the crown.

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sciborg2's picture
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Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: A day in the life of planars

Snippets from the Athar Picnic Luncheon

Living in the city to Everywhere, a Cage that keeps out the powers of creation, one cannot help but develop a...conflicted attitude towards the gods. Yes, there are proxies one catches glimpses of, and one cannot argue with the something each of them carries inside. There are also clerics in the street, proclaiming that in the end - whenever and whatever that means - their god will prove to the be right "one". There are temples with money and wealth and power...

But set against it all is the cutting shadow of our Lady. Her hand rests on the balance of faith. Not that of the clerics and proxies, and not that of the habitual churchgoers...but others notice, and whisper, if only to their own minds and hearts. And then there are those who've taken the offer of the Shattered Temple, who have actually seen dead gods floating in the Astral...

It is into the city that the Athar cast their nets, seeking to recruit new unbelievers through nightlife parties and all age gatherings in what passes for parks.

=-=-=

"Oh - I'm not Lost! - I just came here with a friend actually...For laughs." Miranda practically stammers without humor, suddenly thinking the man's too blue beautiful eyes might be the mark of a proxy. Of course They'd send their own, see who was straying - Dammit why did I believe Ezel when she said this'd relax me?

An Athar hosted pinic - what was I thinking? Thank the Lady we're in her ward in the daytime.

"So, what, you're part of a flock?" The man asks, clearly taken aback. Or maybe he's just an aasimar or water genasi - why must it be so hard to meet people in this city?!

"I don't see an Athar badge on you either -"

"I'm an Indep - I'm Athar and then some." He says with something between a smile and a sneer, and suddenly those irises seem somewhat faded.

Miranda struggles to keep from rolling her own eyes, and says something about finding her friend.

=-=-=

Ezel sits beside another young mother, both of them observing their children at play. She sees the human mother watching her tiefling child with a doe's eyes, and somehow manages to keep her tongue focused on trivialities about gods and religion.

"Guessing we're both guests here." the human says without turning her worried gaze from her child. Ezel understands the woman's anxiety - fiend-blooded adults in Sigil can walk about confident and unmolested. Children are much easier targets for those (self) righteous in the Light.

After all, no one Ezel knows has been mazed for bullying.

"Is it that obvious?" she says with a laugh, one hand swatting away a mosquito hovering next to a long pointed ear.

"The Athar caregivers wouldn't sit in silence as long as you have. They'll start talking about the weather, work, husbands or wives, recipes, teething and-or potty training - but it always comes back to the gods." The human tenses as an older boy walks passed her daughter, but her muscles slacken when the Lost child goes by with a wave and a smile.

"Potty training to gods - you think they'd be more subtle." Ezel sees her fellow guest smirk at that.

"You worship?" Though the human isn't Athar, her tone still makes it sound like a test. Ezel nods even though her fellow has eyes only for her daughter.

"We have idols in our home, of course, but I come from a world of spirits. We know not to make too much of them. But we also know we have to show them respect." she says as her child digs a hole in dirt with delightful intensity.

The human turns slightly towards her , studying Ezel's sun-elven features. The woman looks remarkably young for a mother but there is age in her glance - something old leaks out of her pupils onto her eyes.

"Kind of like tyrants then, aren't they?" The doe narrows her eyes. "Or judging fathers."

Ezel says nothing to those too personal words, instead looking over at the meat cooking on the transportable grills.

=-=-=

Kelah looks back to her mother, sensing her anger, but once their gazes meet mother's face slackens then smiles. Kelah smiles back, because father has told her it is better if mother is fooled into thinking she can protect her daughter. It is one of the things father says is so beautiful about Mom.

"You don't look like your mommy." Kelah looks at the post-toddler digging his purposeless hole. Yes, his mother and him share blond hair and green eyes.

"Your mom has different ears." Kelah says without rancor. The boy laughs with only a hint of mockery.

"That's cause she's an elf!"

"She's very pretty." Kelah says, and thankfully this homage deflects what she knows the boy was going to say. Her mother's skin is pale but hers is burgundy. Her mother smells of lavender and she smells like overripe wine - well probably the boy probably doesn't know about wine. But I have her eyes, the amethysts that Father loves in his two special ladies.

While Kelah thinks about the strange looks she gets from beautiful angels the boy returns to the attention demanding excavation. Father says the angels are blind, that they only see beauty where it's easy and safe.

"Are you and your mom Lost?" she asks, and at this boy stops for a moment's reflection and then vigorously shakes his head.

"We just come for the food. What about you and your mommy? Are you guys Lost?"

"No. But we don't worship at our house." The boy pauses, suddenly solemn, unsure if that matters. He decides religion pales in import compared to his quest.

"Do you want to help me? I'm making a portal but I need a key for my hole."

"You should make it boogers." Kelah says, a mischievous glint in the corner of her eye.

The boy laughs heartily, a laugh that belies any further talk about silly things like gods.

=-=-=

"I can't believe I let you talk me into this. Tiamat's hide - a Lost picnic!" Miranda moans quietly on their way back. Teilue is asleep in her arms and Ezel is pushing an empty stroller. Light is fading from the air as the light boys come out. Thankfully their neighborhood does the sensible thing and takes up a collection - also good that these Hive urchins have jobs they can make a future out of.

(Neither woman could tell you the second rung on that particular career ladder.)

"What about that guy - the blue eyed one?" Ezel asks with genuine interest. It would be nice if Miranda found somebody, then Ezel and her husband Kelliath would have someone to go on double dates with.

"He was an Indep who couldn't take a hint - and no, they're not all bad but this guy - well he was gunning for Factol and didn't see the irony." Ezel snorted in supportive disgust.

"And now, still single as ever, I have to spend an extra few hours at temple." Miranda adds peevishly. Ezel finds her friend's miserly attitude toward faith somewhat amusing. She'll go on about Bahamut but hates every service.

"Do you pray for a husband?" Ezel asks while knowing the answer - her friend's unintended blasphemies are very amusing.

"I don't think Bahamut will appreciate what I want a man for. Suffice to say - not a husand."

Ezel never quite understood this part, where the gods made rules while at the same time asking for worship. To the elf that was like your banker or bricklayer getting to say what went on in your love life. The spirits take what is given and give in return. Even fasting and meats are just part of the deal - the rest of our lives are to do with as we please.

"Do you think it works? These social events the Lost put on?" Miranda sounds doubtful and fearful all at once, as if apostasy might be contagious.

Ezel thinks of the mother and her tiefling, out in the open among those who wouldn't judge.

"Yes. I think so. For some people the Athar must have a certain appeal."

This time it is Miranda who snorts in disgust, thinks to provide a description of that kind of people - but then she clamps her mouth shut when Ezel gives her a look.

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sciborg2's picture
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Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: A day in the life of planars

I realize there are great conversations to overhear in the Athar Pinic Luncheon, but I wasn't up to writing them in that little story. The more philosophical, funny, or what-have-you among us can do better I'm sure.

Definitely feel free to add some.

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sciborg2's picture
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Factol
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Re: A day in the life of planars

How Many Angels Could Fit In A Soup Kitchen?

Two things that always ensure raised voices and what-passes-for-people getting thrown out of bars are the topics of celestial population and occupation. How many are there? and What are they doing with their time? are subjects actually forbidden to be broached in certain establishments.

These are questions that invite sides to be taken, even in as unlikely a place as an Athar picnic luncheon. Before you read further, please remember I am a neutral purveyor of argument, that none of the positions given below have won anything from me but a passing affiliation. Even then rest assured those past infatuations have long since surrendered to my journalistic integrity. And now, as you cutters have taken up my bar tab for the night, allow me to lead you through the posts marking the possibly over-treaded trails:

1. There are infinite angels competing with infinite fiends.

The idea here is that while there are celestials aplenty to help you with your myriad life problems the sad state of affairs is that there are equal number of innumerable fiends that have to be countered at every moment lest Evil triumph and turn creation into an unending nightmare.

Go down this road and what you'll find is that once we're talking about infinities we're bound for some headaches of the skull splitting kind. I mean, do the two infinities cancel each other out? If you have an infinite number of any group dedicated to any single task, should they not achieve it if the task is at all possible?

Even if you divide fiends and celestials by type, you still end up with infinite groups working counter to other infinite groups. (Though maybe some groups are finite, in which case should they automatically lose?)

But perhaps, for example, the infinite guardinals and infinite yugoloths are not cohesive groups but separated by infinite distances of Elysium and the Lower Planes of Conflict respectively. So while most of us think of these exemplars as coordinating their actions on their respective home planes, what is actually happening is you have cells of varying sizes working toward common goals but unwilling and/or unable to work together to achieve these respective triumphs of Good and Evil.

This one isn't going to be settled without some Mathematicians around, and as it does the head in before the onset of intoxication I'd like to move on...

2. Clueless lives are a bulwark against the fiends.

This idea puts the burden of the Alignment War's outcome on the Clueless of the Prime Material planes. Yes, there are mortals (and their derivatives who've found some measure of immortality) with homes on the Upper Planes, and some are cared for by a parenting celestial being, but these guys are the lucky exceptions to the stark nature of reality - whoever wins the world of the Prime Material Plane wins the Cosmic Game.

This is one of those ideas that sends the average uppity planar into fits of pique. Some will point out that the Primes are actually a burden on the heavenly hosts, because it is their ignorance that makes them susceptible fodder for the fiends. The Prime's importance is a problem, one that might conceivably be countered by the primal Clueless getting their hands on the educational materials given to planar grade-schoolers.

Others will say that the Primes only seem to be more important because of the reporting bias that results from the current (meaning millennial) ratings garnered by Prime-based alignment conflicts. For some reason, despite the seeming disdain many planars have for primal Clueless (as opposed to the backwater planars that apparently have a rustic charm) the majority of planar gossip and journalism deemed entertaining is centered about various planets on the Prime Material Planes.

However, let us for a moment humor this hypothesis - that the choices of beings on the Primes carry more weight and so the angels focus more time there than anywhere else. One could see the logic that because these beings are so divorced from the planes, and thus do not see reality shift so directly from their choices of alignment, that their choices are thus more...puissant. Yet then one might wonder why the alignment choices of elementals does not seem to worry the angels as much, though one could argue that we simply aren't aware as to the extent of exemplar operations in any of these planes...

While no decisive conclusion can be reached, one has to wonder about the importance both Good and Evil have placed on those little Prime worlds whose continents are less than a drop in the Elemental Plane of Water...

3. A mass immigration of mortals to Paradise would taint the Upper Planes.

Instead of angels going out and bringing a little shine and spit polish to the rest of existence, why not let everyone join the party in Paradise? Looking out the window, seeing the begging urchins of Sigil, one has to wonder why the angels can't at least take the children...

Of course the question then becomes how many children? Actually, the question before that is why children? If a child commits an evil act, is that act somehow not thrown upon the scales of the balance? In the War of Alignments, is not a sin a sin no matter the inherited cruelty or brain scouring conditioning that led to its commission? And if it is not so, then at what age does Evil have its due?

The planes, especially the Outer Planes, do not have the dichotomy between setting and character, between place and person, that the Inner and especially Prime Material planes possess. The inhabitants of an area in the Outer Planes determine its location - gather enough evil in one corner of Heaven and that corner is no longer Paradise but someplace else entirely. Perhaps it is swallowed up by the Seven Houses of Evil, perhaps it is taken by Chaos or Law or Neutrality.

But regardless of its destination, what happens is that the Idea of Good is done violence. Yes, some can be saved by the celestials, but never enough to counter the Evil mortals do with or without the helpful guidance of the fiendish races.

4. There is a greater order to the Multiverse, and Paradise must be earned.

This is one favored by some lawful types, who explain that not everyone can simply go to Paradise because it is a gift for those who lived good lives. This is kind of hard to swallow, given the caprice of circumstance that leads to Evil. A child raised on a Prime world ruled by Abyssal princes is less likely to be good than one raised in a peaceful elven forest ruled by an eladrin blooded nobility.

Now one might convince me that a petitioner who arrives from a place not on the Upper Planes has more value or power than one who lived and died in Paradise but that is a whole different thing than "earn"...

5. Angels are Good beings serving the Good, but are not Goodness elementals.

Angels fall. We all know this, yet for some reason there are a lot of smart folks that think celestials are synonymous with Good, that they can't be anything other than slaves to their alignment. There's a whole nature vs. nurture argument to be had here, but for now let us take the incontrovertible fact that angels fall and note that this seems to indicate that angels are subject to temptation. Which means that they have free will, which means regardless of the cultural norms of Paradise angels are choosing, via this free will, to take up the sword (some Primes say "go to bat") for a bunch of whiny, ungrateful, forgetful, selfish, almost incorrigible mortal souls.

This must get tiring. I mean, sure, there are the soldiers who fight for civilization's light, teachers who bend over backwards to see children educated, politicians who risk their lives against corruption...well, actually, okay, there are lots of inspiring points of Light amongst mortals, but there's a whole lot of rotten apples overwhelming the sweet ones!

So, yes, this must get tiring. Which means that angels need to have their own personal lives, their own past times and relationships if they are going to fight the good fight. They need something to hold on to, and that thing is Paradise itself. They live in the goal, and because the foundation of this goal are those aforementioned points of Light, they can rise again and again to work toward our salvation.

6. Angels are not your bitch.

This follows from some of the stuff I've already said, but with a bit of a twist - see, angels are people too. They just happen to be people who live in Paradise. So if they decide to take up underwater basket weaving rather than solve the political woes of a bunch of Primes too stupid to avoid raising the latest evil mastermind into a position of power...well...too bad.

Because, again, angels are not your bitch. Some of them obviously enjoy helping mortals, some of them feel obligated to, and some of them might not give a cranium-rat's ass about diving into every screw up mortals manage to squeeze themselves into despite the myriad warning signs FROM THEIR OWN HISTORIES!

Some angels might really just like aerial ballet, or wood carving, or studying poetry written when the ruins of Pelion were not ruins but the architecture of High Civilization. And before we judge them, we should ask ourselves why we can't be bothered to take up some more effort into solving our own problems? Do they owe us because they lucked out in the where-are-you-born lottery? Because the petitioners that rose to the Upper Planes ended up choosing to lead good lives, regardless of the circumstances of their birth?

Is it so unjust that angels get to enjoy Paradise that this very enjoyment must implode in the fact of others' suffering?

Honestly?

I don't know...though I suppose I could have stopped at the fifth mug of ale and donated some of this fine currency to an orphanage...if only philosophizing wasn't such thirst-inducing work...

Well that's just great. I went and killed my own buzz...

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sciborg2's picture
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Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: A day in the life of planars

For point #6, I got that from Gaiman's great line "GRRM is not your bitch" : http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html

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sciborg2's picture
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Factol
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Re: A day in the life of planars

~The Selection of an Afterlife~

"It seems to me that we were, all of us, never meant to live a life decided by the fears and habits of others.

If we know our destination is Hell...then our job is not to think of sin and salvation. It's to shine as bright as we may, with skin like salmon.

So people will look up each moonlit night...and remember we were here."
-Secret Six #34

He looks down at his chest, wheezing impatiently as his flesh and armor go about their reknitting, remarking jovially to his companions about the advantages of the cheerfully damned.

They, in turn, stare in horror at the devil-pledged dwarf. In the indent of his imploded ribcage there is a wounded horned beetle pumping out ichor in place of a heart, an insect whose six legs have been traded for branching tentacles giving life to muscle and tissue apparently denuded of veins.

The paladin of Lathander is retching, the cleric of Mishikal has gone deathly white in prelude to fainting. The elven druid kneels to the level of his fallen companion, studying the devils' handiwork with amicable distaste.

"Hope...hope the others caught the bastard." This reference to the eldritch knight ogre responsible for the dwarf's caved in chest comes through as gargled out words, the oily brown substance that has replaced his blood bubbling out of his still healing lungs.

"You...you should probably stop talking." The druid isn't sure what to say, or what to think about this.

The dwarf seems to regard the reconstitution of the beetle's iridescent carapace for a moment, like a tinker examining the innards of a clock, then dismisses his companion's concern with a friendly enough wave of a gauntlet encased hand.

"Be fine...wound's deep, fatal enough back in the old days....before..." The druid takes this as an inroad toward sating his own curiosity. Words tumble out, as if racing each other across the track of his throat.

"Why did you do...who...how could...allow...what happened exactly?" The paladin, their fainted cleric's head in her lap, looks up at the druid's question. It'll do her well to listen. Already the judging fist of her conscience is rising - she knows she needs to justify traveling with someone so clearly and completely tied to the Evil of Hell.

The undying dwarf sputters a laugh, as though about to launch into a comedic story fit for a late night in a tavern, then drawing as much breath as possible begins to wheeze out the story of his deal with the devils.

=-=-=

I come from a world of clustered islands, the largest perhaps twice the size of the Cage. Between these tight-knit highrise plateaus is a deep indigo sea blanketed with frosted sheets of ice. At night you can sometimes make out yellow eyes peering back up at you, though its hard to say between how many creatures those ocular lamps are divided.

There are bridges of petrified wood, aboreomantic devices grown and calcified by the engineer druids who derived the invention from some lost Heirophant's attempt at empire. Most of these bark-stone pathways connect the links of the island chains, but some actually stretch across the inky waters to other disparate parts of the globe. Only the most powerful dirigibles do not rely on these fossilized arches, but then all seven of those of aerial vehicles are the property the archmagi, floating city-states better left to their own devices...or at least the witch-captains should have been left to themselves...

"Still, it's hard to stay mad at the young, and only a liar would say he didn't understand the roots of their foolishness. Better a child who falls outta the tree and breaks his neck than the one who's too much of a coward to climb, right?"

These orchards of roads, together, span most of my world in a web woven of tree-craft converted to stone. Each of them, in turn, has had sections claimed, sections hollowed out, and even sections repaired and sections still shattered. Scaffolding can stay up for years after a war, 'cause only the druids' defossilization alchemicals can enliven the wood enough to regenerate.

Seen from griffin-back an arch is an amazing sight. There are cities attenuated across their length, spires rising up to accommodate rising populations and batches of undead tree fungus creating their own approximations of forests. History moves on but remnants of the past are scattered on the ice below - skeletons of battlefields and the ruins of razed populations. Both the stonebark- and island-folk say that though Time grinds and grinds, neither the Ice nor the Dwarves allow the world to forget.

I could bore you with anecdotes from my childhood shepherding dire-termites on the stonebark, or years of misspent youth as a pseudo-shaman chasing fungal relevations, but the story of my hell-bond pretty much begins right after the end of the first global Bridge War. Even the guardian trolls got involved, the ascetics emerging from the monastic igloos they'd built under the arches.

"I know it won't mean as much to you all given the low quality stock you see on the Wheel, but try to imagine trolls as the most wise and egalitarian of the druid bred giants, and then imagine the one race they actually got right getting dragged into the territorial foolishness of shorter-lived races."

By the end of the war I'd given up on the fungus saving us from ourselves, seeing as I'd ingested certain species myself for the berzerker advantages they conferred on the battlefield. And the blood of the enemy, slain in honorable combat...there were scriptures to be read in his innards that no hallucinogenic could deliver or even hope to decipher. It was a good decision, taking blood lust as the new alternative state, my new way to get high. A more dwarven way.

Honorable war is still war, and even when family is honorably slain it doesn't cancel the blood debt. Mine were killed with flamestrikes mercifully delivered from griffin-back, my old village turned to ash stuck in the grooves of the stonebark. When we'd healed up enough to start thinking about repayment whole lot of us came to find we'd missed out on the sweep of political changes, came to find dwarven blood-debts are disagreeable to the entreaties of peace our rulers were eagerly exchanging.

Even dwarves were getting all soft, making much talk about the next generation inheriting nothing but violence if we kept to the old ways. "Violence always sounds bad when taken out of context." Hard to believe some of these had been far from the home front, dwarven veterans impossibly broken by the supposed horrors of war. "I would never use the term cowards...better to say they were tired, understandably tired even if they were wrong."

And the veterans were being coddled and propped up by the peaceniks. This movement was the folly of youth, generations born in the Bridge War's last century. We were off fighting when ideally we should have been raising out children, and so we'd ending up breeding a weak-hearted crop that believed in peace without honor, that didn't understand the harsh necessity of justice. Cultures got mixed up in refugee camps, racial ideals were unfortunately diluted.

The dwarves, as seems to usually happen, got the worst of it.

"Don't get me wrong, everyone's got a part to play - but when a dwarf starts thinking like an elf or a human no good's going to come of it. I mean, even the dwarves that were druids fought for their clans -and thus against each other- until the Heirophant slammed down her Censure."

Humans get old and like to complain about changing times, but they can't really see the epochal shifts in their culture like dwarves and elves. Most times, humans who complain just didn't have a good account of their own cultural history - the supposedly sudden change had been happening for years if not decades.

For us dwarves, needless to say, it was very different and far more painful. It was hard to swallow, but if that first world war had shown us anything is was that dwarves were nothing if not adaptable - we'd been the backbone of various ground units and ridden griffins over enemy skies. Some of us even took the fight to the trolls. We knew how to shift with the tides of war. That we might see the end of blood loyalty in a matter of centuries was, in truth, a larger cause than the claiming of the owed debts themselves. I found myself standing on common ground with those who wanted to kill me, and those I wanted to kill.

Sadly, it wouldn't be a large patch of ground if you were inclined to find one to hold all our numbers. A shard of a plateau if we counted our non-veteran sympathizers. We were warriors, not assassins, and caught in an era with an Heirophant strong enough to engineer a good long lasting peace. "Get a human to live long enough and apparently all the mistakes of the first ninety years are a good learning experience. At least that's the way it seemed to work with the female the druids elected as their undying leader."

Our clumsy plans to start some new wars were easily infiltrated, given our eagerness to trust any youngsters we viscerally needed to believe were upstanding traditionalists. We were caught at national borders, or turned in by children and grandchildren after being repeatedly warned not to go around corrupting the youth. Found myself sharing a cell block with a dwarf I'd sworn to kill for burning up a nice percentage of immediate family. After the first year in lockup I found myself reminiscing about the good old days with him before I'd catch myself and recall what he'd done to me and my kin. Thought about killing him often enough, but like I said there were so few of us now. And he was an honorable enemy - he deserved better than getting shanked in the showers.

Figured we could wait until the next war. Even Heirophants got greedy - for what else but imperial conquest were those ocean spanning bridges made for? When we were released back to the care of our ungrateful spawn my blood-enemy and I swore to keep in touch. He must have known, by the end, what he meant to me but I like to think we both hoped it would settled one way or another on an actual battlefield.

Prison actually formalized and forged our conspiracy, but the Heirophant was unassailable in her quest for a less violent world. We kept in touch with each other, but all we had to talk about was how peaceful things were.

As we got older we got antsier - we seemed to have entered into a halcyon age that would never be broken. When we saw our blood-enemies at weddings - well that was the worst. A nightmare, the prohibition on kin-killing assuring us blood-debts would now never be paid. Got it into our heads to start publicly taking some life-binding oaths, the kind that hold to this life even past death.

To die without at least one blood debt unpaid was to not die at all.

My world saw a rise in dwarven banshees but no end to the Pax ín Tellús. Instead of being seen as heralds they were yesterday's war wound, addled undead veterans trotted out to show the new "thank the gods you were born after we fixed the world for you" generation the folly of hatred and the unending nightmare awaiting those who harbored notions of blood debt.

I saw one of these traveling peace ministries when it came to my town, found myself relieved the banshee wasn't the veteran from our shared incarceration. Hadn't heard from him in years and of course you can't help but wonder, can't help but feel a noose tighten every time one of us falls and then rises.

The banshee was a hero, a martyr who died into unlife for the sins of her child. Her son had already married into a clan that owed blood to his mother, but she'd went and sworn the oath anyway despite the futility. I tried to thank her for her racial patriotism through the warded glass but she just stared at me with a blank sort of hate, looking for all the world like one of those aquatic mysteries that watch us from the other side of the ice.

My own great-nieces swore that while they believed in the new peace they'd never go and dishonor my years in the war. I wish I could believe them, but I knew their loyalty was born out of youth and convenience - I'd lived and been stationed in such distant spans they'd have to cross the world to mate with one of my blood enemies. My nephew and his wife tried to broach the subject of my own impending banshee-hood, my nephew even offering to try and hire assassins ("God, what a wood-skull! What would a bark-miner know about contacting assassins? And what kind of dwarf would make use of 'em?!").

I went far down the fossilized curvature that night, saddling over the fences and their warnings, and looked down at the lamp eyed ocean dwellers. Did they have families and traditions all their own? Were they locked beneath the ice because they were demons, or did they seal the ocean to get away from land dweller wars? Were they near mindless things, and if so was the banshee I saw that afternoon sharing the same mental state?

"They can't see it, your relatives. They can't understand why you have to kill me." I turned, though I can't say I was overly startled - not by the presence anyway. Part of me had wanted to get alone in the hopes that one of my own would come find me. The voice, now that was a punch in the gut. I'd thought it'd be one of mine, someone who needed to clear the ledger of one precious line. I'd been thinking the same after today, but it seemed sad to hunt down my fellows when I knew their children would weep but never come calling. That either me or the other would die knowing the chain was broken, and that the other might rise up as a banshee because of it.

"It's good of you to help me pay one of mine - but don't you got debts of your own?" I still hadn't turned around. For some reason I was squinting, trying to make out what our oceanic witnesses were making of this meeting. They seemed to be moving away from us with some haste.

The man who'd made ashes of my wife and child laughed and in truth for all he'd done that was the first and only time I actually hated him.

"Not here for that. Not here for dying at all actually." I turned. He was covered in black metal that made a tight fitting carapace over his skin. The flesh of his face, the only part of him uncovered, seemed to grow out of this armor. He smiled and it looked like he had blood on his teeth. But it wasn't blood. It was light welling up from depths of his throat.

Seemed to me there were things worse than a banshee. "Course I wasn't looking properly then. Wasn't aware of the gift being offered."

"What are you here for then? You're scaring away all the fish." I gestured to the unknown entities swimming under ice miles below.

"I'm here to make you killing me matter."

=-=-=

If you told me one of the witch-captains was once a dwarf I wouldn't have believed it. Even now, seeing as all I saw were his bones, it's hard to be sure. But then dwarves were nothing if not adaptable - we'd strike out from a hundred directions, never giving up until our enemy lay dead at our feet or we'd accomplished our goal.

The dirigible came down at night, alighting down on an actual island. "Feeling stone under my feet - real stone - made the weight of the lich's proposal all the more real." The fish - or whatever they were - gave the island a wide berth, the ring of their eyes growing wider with every foot of the witch-captain's descent. The script running along the ruins here seemed to quiver in anticipation.

On the way here my family's killer explained that the culture war was as good as done, that the banshee "stunt" had been the last charge of a failed resistance. The very concept of clan was vanishing, thanks to the progress brought on by the druids' bioengineering. Travel was getting easier, more bark roads were being created. There was even talk of descending onto the ice. People were moving away from their family homelands, taking up new jobs created by the development of all kinds of arcana. The Heirophant wanted civilization to be a world-spanning organism, one that would never think to make war on itself lest it injured its limbs.

"It was a sick joke that there was room for crime families in her future but the blood of honorable dwarves would now never be paid in kind."

The witch-captain, a skeletal man clad in silks from bygone millennia, had watched these developments with resignation and consternation - loyalty to the blood of the clan had been a venerated tradition before he'd died his first death. "It was a strange thing to think I had more kinship with this undead horror oozing ethereal pus than with my nieces and nephews."

The lich stood before us like a once interred priest dug up and reanimated for the quality of his sermons. Ringed by his banshee attendants, he explained to us the way it was going to be, the way we could save the past from the future. The politicians and diplomats who'd started the war had somehow marched History past us before we were even quit of those now healed-over trenches we'd carved into the petrified wood.

We could fight to the death here before him, trying to settle as much as debt as we could. We could fight in gladiatorial arenas or we could hunt each other down like gecko-stags in the fungal forests. Regardless, no matter, it would all come to nothing. There'd be funerals, and weeping, and then the world would quickly move on, traveling new roads as they grew to better leave us behind. The future would sigh in relief at our passing.

The debts would never be taken up, and thus our deaths would be nothing but darkly humorous jokes. Of those who fell many would be condemned to spend eternity as banshees until released by an act of guilt-laden mercy. Then their souls would have no choice but to slink toward the Mountain of Moradin. How could we face our god knowing that our world had failed to uphold the tenets of his divine revelation?

The alternative, damnation, was the only way to squeeze meaning from generational stones. We would be hammers shattering hearts made of barkstone, immortal crustaceans forever bearing witness just under the ice. We would raise the stakes in a way that would give answer to the miscegenations born from the intermingling of blood feuding clans.

This is what the lich promised us, the devil-bound oaths that he would spend his immortality guaranteeing. He did not foresee betrayal, telling us the devils were too proud to cheat at this challenge.

The witch-captain uttered the Diamond Oath pledged to Keeper of Secrets Under the Mountain, its potency assured by the veteran chaplains among us. The bargain was struck on this side of Hell, all that was left was to clasp hands with the infernal Other. If we were still here three nights from now there would be no turning back.

As the undead dwarf walked back to his airship with a cheetah's casual grace I called out a question - "What binds your banshees to you? What oath did they fail to uphold?"

The lich turned, its pinpoint green eyes boring into my soul. At last I noticed his teeth were all black-silver agates.

"They thought to stop what they believed to be a descent toward undead corruption, but by taking action against the Chief Necromancer they betrayed their oaths to their king."

To our credit, all of us were there three days later. The world had gone mad, but us dwarves were nothing if not adaptable.

=-=-=

The kocrachons draw out my surgery, and never once do they offer me anesthetics.

=-=-=

I come from a world of clustered islands, the largest perhaps twice the size of the Cage. Between these tight knit high rise plateaus is a deep indigo sea blanketed with frosted sheets of ice. At night you can sometimes make out yellow eyes peering back up at you, though its hard to say between how many creatures those ocular lamps are divided.

Every dwarf has an ancestor now tied to Hell. Some of them still wander the planes, undying warriors aiding adventurers and angels in the fight against Evil. They are not easily injured and definitely not easily killed, their iron armor grafted onto them by the powers of Dis. If one of them should encounter any others of their kind, the first respite from their respective causes requires a duel to the death. Following death, the spirit of the dwarf is claimed by the Infernal Father.

The dwarves of my world worship these Hell bound veterans, making temples to them to honor their valor and their loyalty to traditional war. Every dwarf can claim at least one such damned ancestor, and thus every dwarf is touched by the history of their originating clans. Every dwarf feels the ache of the past, the honor of the warrior that overshadows their steps as a goal to live up to. This shared pain, the touch of Hell that leaks out from every ancestral shrine, is the heart of their racial pride, the blood debt that binds every dwarf to every one of his brothers and sisters.

The shrines are what hold together the united dwarven race. These foundation stones of their past are the corner stone of their future.

=-=-=

One year after this story, our narrator was finally, seven centuries after taking the Hell bound oath, killed by a rabid gorristo. The tanar'ri in turn was killed by another of the dwarven Hell bound - the two were supposed to duel after they'd completed their defense of a Hinterland orphanage. That is the site of their burial, their final rites overseen by an elven druid, a cleric of Mishikal and a paladin sworn to Lathander.

Their descendants pray that the pair find their way to Dispater's back alley of godlings, that once there their courage, loyalty, and honor will someday poison Hell from within.

"It wouldn't hurt to light a candle for Jona - We are, all of us, feeling for the worlds that move between the cracks in our senses. Light a candle for your friend. Good hearts push through many boundaries. Have faith, Christoff.

Have faith in something."
-JM McDermott, Never Knew Another

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Jem
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Re: A day in the life of planars

(I like the world he describes here. You should add it to Log X!)

sciborg2's picture
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Re: A day in the life of planars

Definitely! Will have to bring the world up to that awesome thread's standards, throw some ideas and coherence in.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

had a lot of errors (more so than usual heh) - apologies.

the influences are likely clear from the quotes (well I thought of the latter quote after I'd figured out the plot....which hopefully makes some sense), I should also note one more -> the Avowed from the Malazan Empire books.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

The Medallion of Time and Place I

The Medallion of Time and Place weighs heavy on my neck, forever showing me shadows of myself that branch out from possible pasts to possible futures. I am a watchdog (get it?) set over Sigil in all its myriad forms.

Wait. You didn't think there was only one in existence? You think one city could visit all the Great Wheels?

Oh wow. You only know the Multiverse of your birth. Platonic Ideas and Forms, you're a tour group of Meta-Clueless!

Well that's great. Just great.

I thought anyone wielding a Subtle Knife would have a better grasp on the reality of fractal realities. You lot are a bunch of those got-lucky-in-a-mysterious-pawn-shop type blokes aren't you?

Oh sorry, you picked the knife off of a demigod's corpse. I don't why you think getting a hyper-real artifact on a lucky draw of the Dungeon Encounter Lottery is cause to put yourselves above the noble profession of kids who visit pawn shops. Some of them turn out to be heroes you know?

Alright, well, let's just worry about the present circumstances shall we? Sigil is a forest here, and the Lady of Pain - yes, OF COURSE she's the same in every Cage! - is attended by the silver walkers - think sculptures roughly woven together from refractions of moonlight. There's a city, of sorts, but it's a somnucropolis under the soil. The tree roots have impaled the Sleepers and drunk from their dreams, that's the whispering you hear from the leaves and rustle of bark.

The silver walkers attend the trees - pruning, watering, plucking the dream fruit whenever each one enters its individual season. Do NOT touch the fruit. Not because anyone will hurt you, but you'll lose a piece of your heart to the dreams and always be lonely. You can't imagine how much more real the Sleepers are than you or even your gods.

We just need to find the right tree, and once we're sitting comfortably we will sink into the soil and enter our next destination - in this Multiverse your knife works as a skeleton key...not very secure when you think about it. Using real people, real identities, that makes more sense...

=-=-=

What's that? Hell looks sort of empty? Right, I should have told you, the elementals run everything here. Got sick of the Alignment War and turned all the exemplars to currency.

Heh, coins out of their bones? They wish. No, they are pretty much what you'd expect from living specimens, save that the elementals blinded them all.

Honestly, I'm not sure why, but I think it was a punishment for upsetting the integrity of this Multiverse. Can't really blame them, not after seeing Sigil-as-Torus shattered around the base of the Spire, its walls squirming as they try to punish, to form ineffectual mazes. The Lady doesn't bother with that failure, left the dabus to dodder around making up nonsensical rebuses...This was in another Wheel mind you. We're still good to go with Forest Sigil, though inter-Sigil travel will put you all in for a bender -

Ah, here we are, an entrance to the Mineral Deposits of Dis. Ladies first.

I insist.

=-=-=

Yeah, every lotta'em has their own way of doing things. The Mineralites aren't much for plucking, they turned the fiends' eyes to jewels. Yeah it is weird to see their eyes frozen in terror, knowing their sight doesn't work anymore...

No, I don't know what I'm going to do with a blind advespa but I'm sure something will come to me.

Wait. Let it out of its soul gem...no. No. Look I'm sorry you feel bad for fiends, but you're going to have to settle for being glad I didn't buy what I needed with angels. And I wasn't about to not get the change I was owed for those two arcanaloths - before you ask, it was Salties, not me that dessicated their eyes until they went blind.

I really think instead of worrying over the natural born rights of the fiendish you should concentrate on the task at hand. The chisels were crafted from the hyper-real Tower of Dis, we're going to use them to fix up some runes in another Wheel's Deep Etheral to seal in their Unseelie Court...

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Figure it'd be good to have some random interludes like that, and the Medallion is my excuse to just spit words out. Subtle Knife is obviously Pullman, the skeleton keys to the planes is from JR King's excellent (my opinion!) Planescape Blood Wars Trilogy.

Was thinking of Lev Grossman's Magicians, which I still need to finish, and was inspired by the UK cover of the next installment: http://levgrossman.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/magician-king-tree2-2.jpg

Also thinking of the surprisingly fun-to-good fanfic, "Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time": http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4068153/1/Harry_Potter_and_the_Wastelands_of...

But I ended up there from what might be the most useful/educational fan-fic of all time, "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality": http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/1/Harry_Potter_and_the_Methods_of_Ra...

Should've also mentioned Lewis's interdimensional forest from Magician's Nephew.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Communion

When you first enter the crystal sphere you think you see canyons and gorges as pockmarks digging deep into the black inner surface likes scars on the inside of skin. Indentations where cities grow like tartar in teeth, gith inhabitants living off the power of the fiery blue megaflora roses that function as this accursed sphere's stars.

Only when you are far past the curves that demarcate the length of the sphere's radii do you see with the clarity offered by distance. The inside of this crystal shell adrift in phlogiston has been carved with the same runes that mark the silver of your step-daughter's amulet, the same runes that you have been told keep the god confined to the world in the center of this particular instance of dark Wild Space.

The god of your dreams, the sleeping god to whom you have come to offer your family's allegiance.

Still, it unnerves you to be confronted by the scale of the deity's incarceration. You'd thought it was trapped on its home plane or perhaps shut away in an artifact only to find an entire crystal shell has been reworked to serve as the prison of a god. These thick clusters of asteroids born from shattered planetary crusts - you know you sail through the remnants of worlds...

The way the shadows the fall on the pocked marked rocks, it almost suggests -

"The faces on the stones look like they're angry." Your stepdaughter's gone quiet, wrapping her one hand around her stomach even as the other goes to the amulet. Someone talks to her through the jewel, and it seems to soothe her.

It is still hard to think of Alysia as connected to something divine, but the acts you've witnessed bar everything now but the willful ignorance of the damned. And how could you dispute her last miracle - the resurrection of your wife, Alysia's mother? No, the girl's connection is proved every night you hold Leera in your arms.

"The faces - who are they?" Your brother Ahmed asks nervously. There is something unsightly in the expression of his faith - a man should bow to the god, not to the girl-child. Ahmed is too impatient, or perhaps too desperate, for Truth - his questions are always colored by the pleading nature of his tone. But he makes a good protector, and he's really only been like this since the burns cost him an arm.

Alysia smiles, relieved and eager to share her latest revelation. "They're harmless Uncle - and don't worry, they aren't like us. They are the angels that didn't believe."

=-=-=

Leera braces herself against your body as she sinks into sleep. You look at her with a husband's compassion while knowing the night brings the same dreams to all of your family.

Dreams only your stepdaughter delights in.

=-=-=

With a final gesture the six intertwined sequoias are swallowed by a column of fire, a golden cyclone that blinds your enemies even as the illuminating pillar cuts darkness from the night as its shining length extends towards the sky.

The false daylight shows you the Mantis Court's numbers extend back to the eastern horizon, waves of thrikeen astride the backs of grasshoppers and wasps. Your fellow were-jaguars will not hold them for long but hopefully it will be long enough.

The burning whirlwind unfurls into and across the sky, the aurum flames devouring the thunderheads the Mantis Court had shepherded over your temples. Freed from the fear of lightning, the lycanthropes below fight with renewed vigor.

That was a side effect of your spell, its true purpose revealed only when the ten summoned dragons spiral around the girth of your mountain to ravage the insects below. Their ruby scales shine in the burning exhalations rushing past the grins of their maws.

The cloying sweet smoke fueled by the burning of chitin and ichor is stinging your eyes. That it reaches you is not a good sign despite the blinking out of stars serving as an auspicious omen. Despite the aid of your dragons the thrikeen's numbers are too many to cull. The wyrms are fighting for the sky with unexpected frustration, their draconic bodies harangued by the Mantis Court's wasps.

The curvature of time-space is riddled with hairline cracks but the thrikeen have ascended so much of the mountain. Never has the faith been so close.

You return your attention to the jade jaguar altars and the still shallow basin they surround. You take up the chanting of the others as your raise up your knife of obsidian and drive its length into another sacrificed martyr. As the sounds of clashing metal and thunderous evocations grow ever closer, you find yourself desperately wondering just how much blood it will take to tear open the way between worlds...

=-=-=

In what passes for morning in the eternal night of Wild Space the usual quiet extends among the crew sharing your blood, forcing those hired onto the family business to similarly reign in the impulse for conversation. (Bringing them here you've already bought their lives from them so it is a little thing to demand their politeness.)

It takes a few hours for the horrors of the dream to break their echoing hold on your minds.

Into this calm comes the voice of your brother Ahmed, always attempting to glean details of the dream from your stepdaughter. He figures knowledge will stave off his revulsion, as if he were an apprentice at an abattoir attempting to deaden his sensitivity to the slaughter of livestock. The one massive fist left in his possession is curled around Alysia's tiny hand, but for all his corded strength it is she who leads him to his tasks of rigging and checking over the sails.

You look away from them while others strain to hear the history of the god delivered in the cheerful, innocent tones of a child.

=-=-=

You whoop in exultation as what is of the Prime gives way to what is Holy - the tracks of Being are flooded, the laws of reality struck down as the mold of the world is recast.

You exit the temple, your tears sliding through human wrinkles into the groove of your smile. The thrikeen and their mounts suffocating at the foot of the temple steps, their corpses piling all the way back to the eastern horizon, heralds a conclusive termination of the Chitinous Age.

And what is this triumph but a dowry? A miracle offered as a promise of the Empire to be delivered as your god writes the scripture of His presence into the phlogiston.

=-=-=

"This god...frigthens me." You whisper, as if that might keep the god from hearing you with Alysia's ears that rest on the other side of the wall. Leera raises her head to her elbow, blankets sliding off the slope of her breasts. Your eyes flicker over them, but your memories of intimacy cannot pierce the grey that has soaked into your soul.

(When was the last time you made love to your wife?)

Her sigh communicates her agreement as well as her impatience. You've been over this so many times. You think she'll ignore you but then a hand reaches out, brushes away one sweaty lock stuck to your forehead.

"Our people...we need a place to be safe. A new home world. This god promises us all this for our service."

These words, these justifications - they are the new prayers nightly repeated. You suspect they will not be replaced by the traditions and rituals of the deity you speed toward.

"The others will come. They will. It won't be like the dreams." she says as she kisses your forehead, as though it is her and not her daughter that has been given leave to speak prophecy. You hold take her in your arms then, your mouth pushing apart her lips...but the dance of your tongues only lasts for a moment. This is the last place to rekindle old passion, surrounded by angels imprisoned in the worlds long ago broken by wrath of your god.

Your wife and you sleep in an enclosure of interlocked limbs, and it occurs to you that perhaps you and Ahmed share the same weaknesses.

=-=-=

The god's disbelief cuts through all the thoughts of your skull, so many irreplaceable memories cleaved by its ire.

The thrikeen population of your world were naught but distraction. You feel Him running Himself along the miles-long wards carved across a vast black sphere - the crystal shell that surrounds your world. A lifetime of acolytes, childhood loves, even the comforts of faith - all gutted as your mind tries to share in your deity's awareness and mounting displeasure.

In moments you are little more than a drooling idiot, what remains of your mind sharing the experience of hammering apart planets and moons. Your eardrums unravel from the sound of the screams alone, the last terrified yells of peoples unimagined inhabiting worlds whose use you limited to the work of astrology.

=-=-=

"The a-asim-aasimon betrayed Him," Alysia proudly gets her mouth around the word even as she speaks it with hateful pronunciation, "The celestials who were supposed to herald His coming helped...someone...carve out the wards. They helped the bugs and shut Him away in His temple."

There are twin suns around the world dragged to the center of the black crystal shell, and in their light you see your stepdaughter's eyes have gone lambent. You accept this change with more resignation than surprise.

Alysia looks at Ahmed with the cat's eyes she's 'earned'.

"But now we're here and what should have been will come to pass."

You know those are words spoken by something much older than the girl standing before you. Your hand clenches your sword, its edge easing out from your scabbard, but there it is again - the persistent touch of your wife's stubby fingers. Slowly your tight fist blooms open, your fingers uncurling away from the hilt of your blade.

=-=-=

You are dead but there is nowhere for your soul to go. Your god is with you in this world, the world you pried open.

Unerringly you place one foot in front of the other, treading on a path to a portal.

Now the long pilgrimage begins.

=-=-=

The angels and their benefactors have sealed this world off from action as well as decay. Your landing is nothing less than a free fall through congealed layers of Time.

Beneath you is a nation-spanning expanse of insects strangled by an elemental alteration of air, the lifeless black compound eyes all staring up at you. It is not the welcome foretold by the old ways written into the translucent stones.

This is the Promised Land. This is where the Diaspora concludes.

Never have you hated your old gods so much, the ones you never prayed to and about whom you know only scattered facts gleaned from surviving shards of the Book. There is a piece of it in the drawer of a desk in your quarters - a fragment of that codex that rose as many hued quartz, birthed out of the womb of a far away world lost long ago.

Because of Them your people were forced to seek succor amongst the stars, because of their failure you have been tossed to this fate. The destruction of the crystal dragon flocks set as guardians, that is the greatest miracle you know of and it belongs to the relentless gods of your race's enemies.

As you catch sight of the temple where He is waiting, the crew gasps as Ahmed's burns heal and his lost arm begins to regrow.

You meet your stepdaughter's dusky amber eyes, and in their black slitted pupils you read your future. It comes as relief to know that soon your brother will take your place as this vessel's captain.

You're confident you can make it out when that happens. You only hope that Leera will come with you, that she loves you more than the daughter she lost months ago.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

A Desperate Night of Selling Myself Short (Part I)

"Hello - Are you the one who bears the appellation of Suunia?"

Suddenly the bar got brighter right around my personal space. Tasting copper in my mouth, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck all simultaneously stand at attention, I turned and suppressed a groan behind a very weak smile.

God Unknown, only my %$#@-ing friends would think it hilarious to set me up on a blind date with a parai!

(Note to self: Stop the daily complaining to everyone about having gone through every potentially compatible man, woman, hermaphrodite and other in the Cage...)

"Yeah...That's me." Part of me wanted to run or shove a fire ball down this gorgeous porcelain creature's throat. A bigger part of me wanted to know when my friends decided this was the best way of telling me I thought too highly of myself.

The thing made to look like an pensive and exceptionally attractive woman bowed her head slightly in greeting. She was a slender thing but her maker had put curves in all the right places.

"I am Exa-Nat." I was surprised at that. Did Parai have names? Wasn't there something in the Planar Naturae about them having a hivemind? Admittedly, like every ill bred male, my mind dallied on the idea of courting an entire race of such beauties. Did they all look alike or would there be some variety - I mean surely the body I was with mattered nothing to them?

Was it true there was nothing beneath their simple robes?

Remember the absorption. Some wiser part of me whispered, the part that had saved me from similar situations involving fiendish temptresses I'd stabbed through the heart. Contract is a contract after all - discipline the corner stone of my earned reputation.

I ran my hand through my lustrous black locks - a habit I've formed when I get nervous. Four out of five eligible Sigilians assure me that it's cute. I stopped. I had to make myself less attractive.

Or I could do the smart thing and say this was a mistake, call the whole thing off. Or would that just mean she - I mean it would just catch me off guard and take me back to Mechanus for the significant contribution I would make to the collective?

Well, balls in Baator! If I'm damned either way, I'll take the one with the pretty lady on my arm thank you very much!

I smiled, careful not to display more than a rough quarter of my perfect teeth. Despite my prodigious muscle control, I fear her aura lent enough light for them to glint in the darkness.

"And which establishment would the lovely Exa-Nat like to grace with her presence this evening?"

The parai smiled, taking my offered arm as my free hand lowered itself, in the way of the descending spider, to the hilt of my sheathed blade.

=-=-=

I had worn my best shirt, opened just enough to give hints of my beautiful pectorals, though now I was quick to button even the collar though it chafed the skin of my neck.

I also walked with a limp, lest the parai catch on to my athleticism. I did my best to belie my own physique, however it is not easy to hide the swaggered grace of a master warrior.

Normally I'd light our way with clever illusions and spectral escorts, but again to divulge my knowledge of the arcane arts would only serve to endanger my life.

As such, a hobbled gait bereft of fanfare characterized our journey from the Clerk's Ward wherein lay the tavern Sword Swallower's Haven to the House of Ind in the Lady's Ward.

Unfortunately for my present, self enforced predicament I had quite the reputation among the young, successful and attractive in the wealthier districts of the Cage. This forced me to murmur excuses to inquisitive friends as well as former lovers on what I presumed to be temporary hiatus from my arms.

I could only hope my companion bought my act, that she didn't realize just how spry I really was behind this veil of false injury...

=-=-=

At this point you must be wondering why I didn't dive head long into chaos and rank foolishness, accepting a single night of humiliation in exchange for my life. You might think I sought to preserve my reputation amongst the higher echelons of the higher wards.

You would be right, but for all the wrong reasons. My ego is not so fragile as my genuinely boorish arrogance might lead you to believe. Just as the parai's understanding of the situation was not as a woman going on a date but rather a recruiter of a hive mind that had absorbed many canny cutters from across the unending span of the Wheel.

It, or better stated they, knew of my reputation and likely done their research - to act the fool would present me as a willful deceiver. Instead, I had to convince the woman on my arm that my reputation was unearned, that I wasn't nearly as amazing as my friends had truthfully presented me to be in order to arrange this meeting of myself and the hive mind.

My lie had to make her think I was lying about the truth, that I would lower the quality of the collective if I were to be absorbed.

How did I fare? Well I'm telling you this story so that should give you some clue berk, but sadly I must be off to complete another job for a new employer...

~to be continued~

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sciborg2's picture
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Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: A day in the life of planars

Accidentally put Ring of Welcome here - thanks Jem for the catch!

Instead I'll put a quote here:

‎"I remember asking a wise man, once, 'Why do Men fear the dark?'

'Because darkness' he told me, 'is ignorance made visible.'

'And do Men despise ignorance?' I asked.

'No,' he said, 'they prize it above all things--all things!--but only so long as it remains invisible."

-RS Bakker

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Jem
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Re: A day in the life of planars

Wrong thread?

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Damn - thanks haha!

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Re: A day in the life of planars

I guess I've read about half of this thread so far and just noticed that in two of my favorites (The Day After All Others' Tomorrow and Lichocracy) there are references to magic as 'seed craft' - is there any chance that these stories are part of something larger?

Crossing my fingers for more hyper-magical bloodbaths to come, in any case.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Heh, seed craft refers to magic from the Epic Level Handbook. But that doesn't stop anyone from adding connections to those places where it is practiced!

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Re: A day in the life of planars

All His World Was A Fist

"What'd he do?" I ask, and immediately I am met with glares from my fellows. Our guide shakes his head, whispers 'clueless sod' loud enough for me to hear, and then proceeds to answer me but not my question.

"It's Carceri berk. Likely he's done nothing, been born the wrong way." The others give me looks that tell me to drop it and move on. I fall into step, knowing we have our own problems, but I can't help but glance at the young man - boy, really - dangling from the gallows. His eyes have been taken by ravens, and before that his last tears were likely taken by flies. The light's soft here, perhaps due to the wetness of the soil, and so the shadows of his toes dance on his once taut, now corpse bloated stomach.

Why was he killed? Did he steal something? Or commit some other crime? Fall in with the wrong crowd, or try to save someone else from that crowd?

I look to the citizens here, wondering how many slipped over from the last incarnation of Curst. There's elvish blood here, dwarven too, might be some of them remember the slide. Yeah, these are the kind of people that'd string up a boy. Why though?

Because of who he loved? Because of skin color, which seemed a shade of tan gold no one else here seemed to share. We were too far way, I should have looked for a holy symbol on the kid, but likely that'd been stolen and pawned before the body was cold.

I bite my tongue as we make arrangements to some demodand ruin. I know we need to find this Emerald of Ulganor, that it will helps us defeat the cultists plaguing the dark underground of Ysgard...but the face of that boy still troubles me. Caught in grief, in fear, all this so clear even without his eyes.

I am left to pray before we set out, and I do so with new found fervor.

Who was he? Who was he to deserve such a fate?

Pelor suffuses my body with his spells, but my god gives no answers to the questions I ask...

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Reinterpretations of Self Part I

This was a mistake, what I did. I want to talk to the enriynes councilor, but I'm afraid to say anything. I'm not so replaceable that I have to be free of doubt, but this I think is too much, though suffice it to say I don't know the rules as well as someone in my station probably should. Still, I'm confident my violation would warrant something more than a long soak in the liquid cold lakes of Cainia.

The worst part is I don't even know if it was worth it. I don't even know if I'm me. So this looming worse-than-death sentence over my head might just be me compromised by someone else's memory core.

What can I say? It felt real, and I decided to take a risk, just like I took a risk seducing my cornugon commander when I was a hamatula and when I backstabbed the well placed, popular seductress of Hell's nobility who thought to usurp the Hag Countess...

I shouldn't have told you that. It's the old me, or whoever this is, infecting me with his bad habits.

I have to keep myself - my new as-far-as-I-know real self - at the forefront.

This isn't going to be easy.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Reinterpretations of Self Part II

I can't help but laugh, though I'm thinking I probably shouldn't. It's the maybe-old-me asserting itself.

The baatezu bought me off a night hag, one of the untold billions of larvae in the wastes of Hades. Must have seen my potential, and given my rank in Hell, it could be said they were on to something.

But the problem is that if they chose me for the sense of order they sensed in me, boy were they mistaken. OCD with a smattering of mathematical skill does not a Lord of Order make.

It's amazing how many promotions you can get from the battlefield, never mind the wanton violence you engage in. Throw in some instinctual pattern recognition, and a healthy awareness of who *really* doesn't like you in the workplace, and you can get past the lesser baatezu ranks with remarkable ease.

Cornugon is an admittedly grueling stage, but it's one I even miss at times. It is amazing how loyal these guys are too each other. We drew lots after fragging our commander on Carceri, and yours truly was reported most fit for the promotion. I think this one I deserved, given my skill in turning coworkers against mid-level superiors.

Amnizu and gelugon, well those are all about getting in good with your buddies, and always keep the osyluths happy as you climb the ladder. Really, Amnizu was an easy one, you just bitch about the pitfiends and keep the demons from sailing in via the Styx. A healthy sense of paranoia might result in a few false alarms, but you just shrug those off as the price of vigilance. Next thing you know, you're guarding the one portal from Cainia to Nessus, a pretty cushy position where promotions are long in the waiting but almost inevitable.

And that's how I, a (possibly) former accountant with a huge gambling problem, became a pitfiend in service to Asmo-

Sorry, I mean to the Anonymous Dark Lord of Nessus.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Best diabolic autobiography ever.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Heh, thanks Jem!

It kinda struck me that for the supposed EEEEVVVIIILLLL of Baator's endless burning tyranny, someone who had navigated the corporate structure around us (though the narrator isn't necessarily from our world) would have a distinct advantage in rising faster than others who might be more lawful but only exposed to feudalistic societies or ancient bureaucracies.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

plan on getting back to the pitfiend accountant, but the story isn't coming to me at the moment and this was sent into my brain by the Muse-transceiver last night.

Chosen

"One day you'll know. Big change always starts small."
- Joe the Barbarian

The stranger entered the down, stifling a groan as she dismounted from her horse. She'd drawn enough attention to herself just being who she was:

As to be expected, given the quality of her armor, the townfolk regarded her with something between awe and suspicion.

Folk like her don't come to places like Cinder, never mind she grew up in a town just a few hundred miles down the coast. But then most folk in places like Cinder don't usually travel a few hundred miles anywhere.

And, truth be told, she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the boy. Still, in spite of the hard ride, she smiled even as two men came over, hats in hand, to ask if she needed help leading her horse to the only public stable, located in the only public inn.

To be sure, there was condescension in this, given that she'd obviously ridden for miles, but again she had grown up a few hundred miles from here. Even this misguided politeness, one not being extended to her male assistant, made her arrival feel akin to a homecoming.

Then she remembered the boy, and this time it was a sigh, not a groan, that she corralled in the fence of her teeth.

=-=-=

She makes her way to the stable, assistant in tow, the men folk overly impressed by her handling of a horse but the sound of their accents is still soothing.

There is a girl at the entrance to the inn, sweeping. The young woman's eyes meet her own, and the what she finds in the gaze of the innkeeper's daughter recalls her own youth:

All the challenges against authority, the endless tests and questions of competence, all the resentment of the boys and the chiding of the fish wives. Her father's deep concern of what the other men would think, that she bore with ease, but her mother's look, that voiceless exhausted pleading....

Thoughts of the boy thankfully pull her away from this homecoming in memory. Once the horses are seen to, they are given a table at the inn and immediately they (she) find themselves the focus of all eyes and ears.

Sitting in armor is uncomfortable, but it keeps her from becoming, in their eyes...whatever it is they see when they look at the inn keeper's daughter.

Her assistant - a squire with a gift for channeling their god - eyes the girl a in different way, and gets a warm smile of interest in return. It was the boy's irises - even she had to admit they were striking, watching the world through the curtain of his sandy blond bangs.

They'd make a good match actually.

A kick under the table reminds the young man of his clerical duties. The last thing she needed was an angry father or a heartbroken daughter. They needed to win the locals over if they were going to find the boy.

So they sit, quietly, her quick glares keeping him from starting up conversation.

Eventually, someone asks them what they're doing here, and finally her lips part in a perfect, gentle smile whose warmth was, save for a hint of nostalgia, totally false. It was, after all, in a town much like Cinder that she'd first learned to lie with her face and her eyes.

=-=-=

The next day her unkissed assistant is sullen, and it is only after an hour of riding that his need for constant conversation drives him to finally speak.

"They're going to be pretty disappointed the Faith isn't planning to build a new temple here."

She glances back at him, then turns forward once more, her smile at his frustration unseen.

"They'll be thankful when the Cacophony is finally silent."

Naming the Enemy snatches the smirk from her lips. Even her assistant quiets, if but for a moment. For them, the Cacophony is both more real and more banal, for they are among those set to guard against its rebirth.

The boy is part of this story. Part of the Key.

A wolf howls boldly in the daylight hours.

We just need to get to him first.

The child was born to the couple who owned the approaching farm, they'd learn last night. The thought of the town being honored by the Faith with a new temple had been the first softening blow. Following that, she'd let her assistant regale the folk in the inn with tales of his far off land, where blond hair and blue eyes were almost as common as the young man's fair skin. He'd followed her instructions to the letter, bringing up varied religious practices (some fictional) that resembled some of the spirit-work the people of Cinder should have abandoned after taking the Faith.

As they'd eyed each other nervously, she'd brought up those very practices as things she'd grown up with. First killed chicken of the season left for the spriggans. Jugs of rice milk left near rivers for the nymphs. Virgins' menstrual blood staining pine needles to honor the unicorns. Afterbirths buried near the hills of the Sidhe.

Realizing she was one of them, and not one of the "fanatics", they were more than happy to point out the troubles one of their more remote brethren was having with wolves and the like.

If only they knew how much of a fanatic she really was.

=-=-=

Their arrival is greeted with a substandard approximation of surprise. Obviously word had been given to them to prepare for her and her assistant, likely delivered by one of the town crier's doves. It wasn't something she really minded though, seeing as the family had had time to prepare richer fare in greater amounts. There was even a nice sized pie, not to mention fresh cider and an extra sprinkling of spices on the vegetables and meat.

Her assistant ate heartily, and even she ate her fill though more of her attention was focused on the boy.

The pudgy son of a squat human male and a half-elf with long ears and a wan face, he wasn't much too look at. His tangled knots of jet hair were dull, his black eyes were beady, his face was overly long.

Was the boy possessed with even an inkling about his destiny? It seemed at first glance that he was most certainly unaware of it, given the way his attention was consumed by the promise of second and third helpings. The talk of elders around him, concerning the beasts that had gathered around his parents' land, seemed not to concern him at all beyond the fear in his eyes when the howls of the wolves could be heard.

The wife squinted out the window with concern, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pack. The husband looked over to the axe kept near the entrance to the house.

She and her assistant exchanged glances. Despite numerous delays accosting them through the course of their journey, they seemed to have gotten here just ahead of the Enemy.

Such improbable fortune would be nothing less than a miracle.

=-=-=

Her door opens in the night, and she notes its previous creaking is gone. But that is only one of Night's stolen sounds - the chirping crickets, the rustled leaves, even the howls of the pack have been silenced.

The Enemy, when it speaks, does so with thought rather than voice.

Waiting until nightfall? My your kind has grown quite arrogant.

She turns her head away from the window, towards the boy destined to serve as part of the Cacophony's Key. The boy is still a boy, but the night holds less light around his skin. His stocky, prepubescent body possesses an illogical confidence.

She doesn't speak, doesn't bother with niceties or questions. She is rolling out of bed, swinging her sword, seeking to cleave him in two.

The boy shifts, dances away with relative ease. Damn she is getting old.

They showed me the life I would have if I stayed here, and the one I would have if I joined them.

He's jumping back, leaping away, kicking off walls. No one can hear her swinging. She wonders why he has cast this pall of silence, and is answered by the swipe of iron fingernails. One set of claws bangs against her breast plate, but the other finds purchase in flesh only guarded by cloth.

The shift she is wearing is torn at the shoulder, and the wound is leaking out blood.

The boy smiles, and his teeth are the color of pitch.

The choice? It was easy.

He comes at her again, cavorting around her thrusts and cuts, gifting her with rake marks across her face and collar bone. The last one is deep, and she knows this child no older than fifteen just attempted to tear out her throat. She stumbles back, surprised how fast this one is despite being newly Awakened.

With his form framed by the window, the branches of trees swaying behind him, it's easier to see the shroud of darkness for which he has traded his innocence.

His eyes are lambent even inside that aura, even with his back to the waxing moon she can see his pupils are now vertical slits. His movements are those of a marionette played by the shadows that cloak him. He retains his predator stance despite the deep slash across the width of his stomach. The shadow maintains the feral smile of his lips.

Yet...there is something strangely hurt in the demon's expression. Despite the deal he has made with the Enemy, despite the stars and omens that led her to this Chosen, he is still just a boy.

You came to our house, ate our food, and even still you wanted to murder me?

She only nods. Once. Suddenly the sounds of the night rush back into the world. His face seems a wretched thing, boyish fear nipping at the edges of the shadow's demonic grin.

"Is it...too late for me?"

She doesn't nod this time. She charges, and both of them go out the window.

=-=-=

Her assistant is waiting for her as she falls from the second floor to the ground. The thing beneath her untangles itself from her, its kicks managing to strike a just broken bone in her arm.

Though it bore the brunt of the fall, the child's body is already healing. It raises its red shining eyes to look on its new opponent. Her assistant is holding his holy symbol high above his head, its silver glow flaring to rival the moon.

The shadow releases the boy from its smile once it sees the young cleric stands at the forefront of the growling wolves.

=-=-=

Just beyond the house's front entrance the boy's parents are held in place by the divine magic of her assistant, but she has him blindfold them and cast his spell of silence to blot out the screams. Just in case he also removes the axe from the hand of the father, and the knife gripped tightly in the mother's fist.

Only then does she have him heal her. His magic is enough for her to stand with his help, and slowly in this manner they stumble away toward their horses. She stifles a groan as he helps her into the saddle.

=-=-=

"Why did he stay here? Why not run out into the forest, where we wouldn't find him?"

She doesn't turn around, keeps her eyes in the direction of the next child that awaits them. They'd come too late to this land. The rest of this journey will trod upon the hoof prints left by the Enemy's steeds.

So many seeds to root out, so many faces to remember.

His eyes were...black? His lips were...thin? I always recall his skin at least. It was the same color as mine.

"He'd never left home before. Whatever the Enemy made him, it didn't stop him from being a child."

She looks back once as they gallop away from Cinder, once she knows that any part of its farms and homes are too far to be seen, and she remembers how her brother would tell tall tales of the fabled Cacophony around a campfire not more than a few hundred miles from this town.

Her eyes then shift over to her assistant, and seeing the despair in his face she forces herself to lie with an encouraging, matronly smile.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

The Uncharmed Life

He wakes in the middle of the night, as he has done so many nights before. His wife is sleeping. He looks at her, and thinks of how much he loves her - no, he reminds himself how much he loves her.

He brushes a strand of strawbery blond away from her tanned face and thinks about how beautiful she is. How kind. How loyal - how she waited for him during his time served in the Blood War, how she raised three boys while he was off parting the heads of demons from their necks.

When he first came back she would wake up in the night, calling for him even as she was clutching him, demanding that he was there lying next to her. Sometimes she wouldn't even be awake, wouldn't be looking at him with tear reamed cornflower blues.

The boys have learned not to ask for war stories, at least not when their mother is around. And he has to be careful himself, to leave out names - no, one name.

It wasn't really an affair, given that the enriynes didn't ask when she bound him to her. It wasn't really suffering either, no matter what his broken heart said concerning the matter of his broken vows.

The not-really-confession has sat on his tongue, buzzed like a bluebottle in his mouth, almost come out like vomit after making love, in the midst of making dinner, or even before the day is set to begin. He's held her in his arms, looked at the warmth of her smile, and stared at the cascade of curls that fall down her back.

It wasn't real, what he had with the enriynes who didn't ask. She was an addiction, a high running through his nerves by virtue only of arcana.

He doesn't want the devil back in his bed.

He just wants to feel what he felt for the devil.

Wants to feel it when he looks at his wife.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Reinterpretations of Self Part III

One thing to note is baatezu are much more willing to obey suicidal orders when not on their plane of origin. You just have to make sure you are ordering them into situation where these temporary deaths will lead to cushy promotions that might help you down the line.

Because becoming a pitfiend does not mean you get to lord it over the other 99% of Hell. It means you get to play in a game where all your past forms were nothing but a warm up.

~pick up here~

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Re: A day in the life of planars

A God Eats with Its Gaze

Upending the soda cup, I drop the mouse into the cage. It tumbles through space but lands on its feet, nose twitching as it attempts to understand the sudden expansion of space and light in it's world.

For a moment it must think it's been returned to some approximation of it's ancestral horizons, a racial memory that uplifts the heart, but after watching this same scene dozens of times now I swear I can pinpoint the moment it realizes its freedom's restricted. That moment right there, when it stops and perks up its ears, that's when Enlightenment comes, when it knows its bounded by the unnatural right angles of glass meeting glass.

And then the next moment, a glance in the direction of the heat lamp and the Revelation of coils, when despite it's predicament the mouse always chooses to live.

Then the world's boundaries are so tight it can't even draw breath. Black eyes of pure pupil bright with the mouse's furious rage. There's a courage in mice that we don't fully appreciate, a mammal's will to live that lab-geeks should try to distill.

About two minutes later my snake begins to swallow, and soon it won't need to eat for another week-and-a-half. It'll lie in its cage, lost in reptilian stupor, untroubled by the loneliness that afflicts warm blooded things.

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The Object of Infinite

The Object of Infinite Mercy

We found him, by which I mean the Object of Infinite Mercy, on a cube in Acheron. Whether the Jade Emperor's former servant was a man or thing by this point I leave it for you to judge:

There is wire caught flesh at the center of this hexagonal hollow, seven layers deep in this great iron die that will never, ever turn in the name of Chance lest the End of Days is sounded.

A web of hot metal thread glows in an incandescent cat's cradle, weaving through organs and bone, each entry and exit wound leaving a circle of black char on the skin. The air wavers, trembling with heat and the weighty scent of pork, while the tiniest flakes of ash fall to the ground beneath the Object and his inscrutable possession of an arachnid's silent stillness.

Our footsteps trod on a carpet of black and grey, and days from now Guvner Mathematicians would confirm the fractal patterns in the skin-snow. Snow that would, for some years hence, contain the impressions of our boots.

Unless, of course, the Emperor found the tracks of our hasty retreat too disorderly to bear.

=-=-=

No mortal can stumble upon the Object. Our encounter with him necessitated nothing less than a miracle.

My crew and I are not ones for pilgrimages of this sort, but the machinations of Estevan allowed our conversion from operatives to commodities. It's a long story in and of itself, but let me say that somehow someway I intend to make the ogre (or whatever he is) pay for delivering us into the services of Sun Chiang.

Without the thief god's involvement, we would never have found our way to the Object. He provisioned us, gave us our destination, and into my flesh his own incarnate hand traced the Compass Rose that left flattened patches of scar tissue where nipples once graced my pectorals.

The rose suckles directions in place of water and sunlight. You see, when thief-turned-god had us sail into Acheron we had a destination but no route and no hope of a map.

We were lost. The prisoner could be anywhere, and our every movement would thus be predicated on nothing but whims and intuition. Chaos, born of the Jade Emperor's hand, the very thing that is anathema to the Celestial Bureaucracy's Lord. That is the impetus of the rose's arcana, taking shears to the very idea of directionless wandering.

As possibilities were cut away before they could metastasize, it was only a matter of months before we found ourselves at the geometries that bound hi- that bound the Object of Infinite Mercy.

=-=-=

Sun Chiang had used the intent of his Emperor as the skeleton key, the addiction to order as impetus to our arriving at the vast iron hexagon. Stolen possibilities, places we might have gone and people we might have bee - met...

All thrumming like desperate blue bottles under my skin where the canvas of my chest and abdomen were traced with the burned in Compass Rose. All sacrificed to the redirection of time and place, in accordance with Acheron and its demand for an economy of exchange.

The Rose blazed with the light of a new setting, painting over the deck of the ship on which we stood until, in the span of three heartbeats, we found ourselves as visitors and witnesses to the man turned to exhibition by Shang T- by the Jade Emperor's hand.

=-=-=

We came with no gifts in hand, no offerings of relief with which to bribe the prisoner. Sung Chiang had assured me that the sight of the Compass Rose, with its eight arrow-petals, would be enough to guarantee the Object's compliance.

"Tell us the story of your sin, how you betrayed Law for the love of Law."

I expected the threaded figure to raise its head, to somehow mouth a story despite what I presumed to be the agonies of his entangled person. Instead when h- when it spoke the voice came from all around us, made us feel the tale like a lover's sighed breath on our skin.

=-=-=

I lived for perfection, a proxy of the Celestial Bureaucracy. I was made to worship it. To demand it in myself and in those beneath me. I worked to ensure those in my service submitted to the Law, that they let Order pith their minds and their hearts.

As for above, there lay both my Sun and my Measure. Shang Ti, the god who made me with slivers of poetry and a breath passed through woodwinds.

I carved myself from the wood of my follies, chiseled myself from the marble of my wayward emotions, in hopes of bringing myself to heel so that I might be as perfect as that god whose Being was a mirror to clockwork majesty of our home.

Even then I knew this to be an impossible striving. Had my name not be struck from the pages of history, preserved only in my Lord's innermost thoughts, it would have engendered itself into an adjective used to describe the punishment of that other who was condemned in an echoing manner, that boulder rolling king who once served the pantheon of Olympus.

Ages passed, and I knew the bliss of the mountaineer who seeks not the peak, the sailor who has no destination in mind. Was this not proof of my very self, my very soul, that there was always sin to slough off, always more fat to be cut from the bone?

Secretly I believed it was the effort that made us more than the modrons around us, that it was our Will to Order that would conquer the Chaos beyond the Mechanusian gears.

I was content to endure my eternal refinement, to struggle forever with my soul as my Purgatory, until I came to find that the grace that could never be won could be given.

Even now I cling to my blasphemy: Salvation as absence in the shape of a woman, porcelain faced and aglow with light...

=-=-=

Many hours passed in the telling of its Fall, and every word of the man's descent into Object was caught on the scar tissue of the Compass Rose. The first days of the Parai at court. How the steel haired women had seduced him with their synchronous motion, how in the darkness of the Emperor's corridors he'd made plans to steal away with them. How he'd actually been allowed to leave, on a supposed reconnaissance mission. How he'd been dragged back to palace, his old form reconstituted, shamed and sentenced before the proxies and gods of the Emperor's court.

An example had to be made, of course, from the one who'd lost a shard of the Most Divine.

It might have gone quicker, had the Object not peppered his speech with self-pitying lamentations and confused rationalizations for exegesis. Eventually our task as pirate-bards was done, and all that was left was the pilgrimage through the labyrinth that lay between us and the ship docked beyond these accursed prison walls.

Yet one thing remained, something our employer had not requested but I believed was the heart of the tale to any thief...or at least, the heart that blossoms like a blister once any of us filchers are caught.

"Is it not agony, to be interwoven with threads of hot metal?" I asked. There was a pause, a near silence broken only by the sound of sizzling meat.

Sometimes. It was clear the Object did not wish to speak on the matter, and had I not endured the transformation of its life story to long winded oratory I might have been content to let it drop in the name of compassionate courtesy. Instead:

"Explain."

Near silence and the sharp whisper of steak held over flame.

"Remember the power of the Eight Petaled Rose."

Invisible - yet definitively impotent - anger curled around my frame. This poor thing couldn't scratch the zits from my face.

My Lord allowed me the power to leave my flesh, and so I did the moment the threads were touched with heat...

Yet once I was on the other side of my skin, I found my soul still clinging to grooves I had spent eons carving into it when I was the Jade Emperor's proxy. All the cues I'd used to measure my adherence to Law were still sought by my spirit, and so I yearned to breathe without lungs, demanded a heartbeat despite the lack of a heart, wished to blink my eyes with all the faithful timing of the metronome....

Madness built inside me, and I knew I must return to my flesh, knowing I would once again break and depart...But it had to be...regular. Both entry and exit, for all Time. Like the meeting of gear-teeth.

"Fair enough. And why do you bear this name? Why are you the Object of Infinite Mercy?"

Justice would have meant throwing me into the Chaos of Limbo, as Chaos is the thing I most abhor. It is the opposite of all that is in me, all that Shang-Ti made me to be and all the Parai refashioned me to despise. Yet to do so would have been a victory for the likes of Ygorl and Ssendam, whereas my crime was the belief that I might decide my own place in the Law.

"And this eternity you endure. This is what the Jade Emperor calls 'Mercy'?"

Did you not hear me? Have I not spoken of the soul's limitless nature? My own soul's dedication to Order, how I am twice born of Law?

"Yes, but --"

Is not sparing me from exposure to an immeasurable anathema by its very nature an act of Infinite Mercy?

It occurred to me then that despite Sun Chiang's reassurances my crew and I were most definitely trespassing in a prison erected by a god whose heart was chiseled perfection; A divinity who had either never felt pity or had excised it from his being long ago.

Sun Chiang had promised a (small) portion of the (vast) rewards Shang Ti would shower on him, once the information in the Rose allowed him to prove to his worth to the Emperor's court as one of the Multiverse's ultimate thieves.

Yet it seemed to me in that moment than any reward would be a finite, and thus paltry thing. It would not do to dally here any longer, and with this in mind me and my crew began our hasty retreat.

Before we are through the maze, we hear the Obj- we hear him screaming. The sound is a raw, staccato thing that marked the quarter notes of an unheard music.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

(Still working on the above, but this one was shorter and more easier birthed)

Messiahs and Prey

I've watched my quarry for some time, enough for the black spirals of her dreadlocks to be threaded with white-silver hairs.

Watched her confront my brethren, speak to them, conversations that last until morning. They come to her willingly, stay by her side as death gilds the world with the coming of dawn.

Watched her gather then bury their ashes.

Is it fear that keeps my thirst from her throat? Perhaps. I want to hear what she says, know what words can draw such surrender from the ultimate predators, exhume regret from the immortal Kings and Queens of the Night. But do I dare to let her words make an attempt on my heart?

That, I think, has caused me to hesitate for all these increasingly long years. America's hegemony was born in an eye blink, but this last decade has taken up half a century. I had a heartbeat the last time I thought moments were something borne on one's back.

I could kill her. Even now, in daylight, I could send forth my slaves. But then I wouldn't hear the sermon, those mere words that should weigh less than nothing against the gift of infinite life.

What she does, it shouldn't be possible.

Tomorrow. I'll decide on this tomorrow. I just need sleep and arterial wine, need one more day and half of a night.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

(I finished Object of Infinite Mercy above)

Resurrectionists of an Alternate Nature

He stands over the corpse, doing his best, but it feels like he is struggling to reroute the tides.

He looks around, at all the noble children who want him to go home, who want him dismissed from the School. He glances down and it seems even the sea ravaged cadaver is impatient for him to be gone.

The face of Professor Joren is a mask, an emotional visage frozen in what might as well be rigor mortis.

(Our hero refuses to look into the eyes of the youngsters with blood as base as his own, all those who are depending on him to pave the way for their own egalitarian dreams.)

A shadow falls over them. Someone is on the balcony. He looks up and into the pale green eyes of Princess Marencia. Only Royalty would be allowed the freedom to intrude upon an examination. They might have barred her still, if a noble were being tested, but what was the point of peasantry if not for show?

(Yet here the keepers of the gilded gates have erred, for Marencia had confessed her love to our hero just two nights past!)

He looks down again, at the corpse, tethering the nercomantic ethers as best as he can. He tugs again, as hard as all his failed attempts, but this time he tugs not with his shame but his heart.

The corpse on the table coughs, and if not for its stench and fished pecked flesh one would believe he'd saved the man from drowning. The peasants cheer and even the noble children give our hero their grudging respect as the dead sailor begins to dance a jig.

(Everyone knew the Headmaster had selected the old corpse against Prof. Joren's wishes - First Years are supposed to be tested on peasant babes whose souls have been freshly disavowed from their flesh due to crib death.)

The princess is already gone, but our hero knows he will see her later. For now he enjoys the accolades of his peers. Already he dreams of children born to Marencia, little ones born too high to be touched by the Smog.

The corpse, settled back onto the slab, is perfectly still now, but the recaptured soul within it is screaming in horror.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

sorry, if you're reading these, i made changes to the end of Object of Infinite Mercy...

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Re: A day in the life of planars

faith...in any Presence...it's funny, there's a voice that when it
whispers in your ear feels so
Close you could swear what you're hearing is an echo that blossoms
from heart through locked sternum.

and then, you blink. ~ and with that brief curtain call It's gone, and
you never knew how much...space...a cavernous acre of silence...there
was on the other side of your skin. the side no one gets to see.

(it's like you're singing that favorite song but it's not the same
when it's just You ~ no instruments / no beats ~ all off key and
unsure words)

you think, 'that orchard inside is nothing but ash'

- but -

it's just soil that's fallow and some day, month, year, epoch later a
fragile green thing with a little blossom (pregnant promise of fruit)
pushes out for a gasping breath of sun lit air. you blink again,
struck, and a humming bird thought blurts across the Mind:

'when was the world this Colorful'? you ask yourself.

and you Smile at the memory of forgotten Newness.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

I'm looking at something that is both green-fly and squid on the other side of gold-framed soap bubble skin. Nothing in my anatomy should respond to Its horrid form or Its thunderous cicada anthem...my meat is loyal to this world...so it must be my mind that moans with starvation, my soul that drags me to the archway that joins Them and Their prey, my heart that has made the softness between my legs so painfully solid I fear my blood gorged member might burst if not soon relieved of the psyche's boiling desire.

The animal in me wishes to flee until it exhausts all its strength, but knowing this They have seduced and ensnared the higher parts of my mind.

The part that *believes* in things.

I'm not strong enough to resist the call, that buzz-gargle of "obyrith" intelligences. I'm barely strong enough to draw the gun now aimed at my chest.

So weak, the mind that is me. Thank the gods, the zonei who guard Earth's veil woven in space-time, the star watchers to whom we pass messages of lamb and bull through the fire, that I am wise enough to know the measure of my weakness.

Thank the gods, the zonei who use our prayers as mortar in the walls between this world and the Other, that I chose needles over bullets when I selected my gun....

When I wake up, the conjunction of comets and planets is passed, and the gate before me shows nothing more than a pitted mosaic set on an old temple wall.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

My gums are like mosaics with tiles fallen out. My tongue is telling me that while my smile is scragged I might still enjoy chewing with the teeth that remain.

Sad thing is, I told them everything I knew ten days ago.

Funny thing is, I'm the Anarchist that taught this world's slave-caste the concept of decentralized rebellion.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

There's a collection of black birthmarks on my skin, splotches my mind wove as my soul fashioned its new, updated cocoon. Guess the last thing on it were stab wounds.

It's a weird thing, remembering the woman that I was, in a world where sorcery worked. Where words didn't need the medium of silicon and wires to make changes in reality. One could speak murder so long as one had breath enough to shape speech with their tongue.

Is this worse? Not necessarily. There are no dragons here, no vampire royals hunting peasants on the moonless night.

Living without magic seems like a fair trade, to be able make it to seventeen this time around.

And honestly? Between you and me? Having man bits is weirder than not being able to fly.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

1. Loki's was a chaos dependent on the consistency of others. Yet the winds of time and change showed him new futures in bloom offering the scent of nascent possibilities and unforeseen betrayal:

2. They showed his wife leaving, walking away from his bound form, serpent venom free to drip into the caskets of his sockets, burning down to the hollows past the pupil darkness no longer curtained by his eyes, boring into divine gray matter but still he will not die and so must scream and scream for the eons between foretold capture and predetermined release, begging his own Being forcibly calcified into flesh to deliver him from agony to hallucination:

3. Screaming as he, Hero he was always meant to be, all the sniveling of Trickster archetype sloughed off, charging with giants of bathed in auras of Winter or Flame, hammer blows drowned by the howling of Fenris and Garm, meeting his end as Martyr murdered amidst the iridescent shards of a shattered Bifrost -

2. Yet those dreams are few are between, godhood has made him too strong to slip the leash of this hallucinated Present, and so he must scream until, hoarse only when the pitch of his voice has hammered cracks into surrounding stone, he tastes the blood in his throat -

1. He turns from the churning prophecies, and queries his heart, finding a hate that is as inexplicable in its depth as it is inexorable in its targeting of the Aesir. It troubles him that his Chaos is pinned down like a butterfly on velvet even as it soothes him. He is an actor on the Norn Sisters' stage, caught on a current plunging over a cliff. He is and was always bound, and what was his life if not a series of snakebites?

0. "Ragnarok", he whispers, in the way a man speaks on the way to visit a lover long-absent from the embrace of his arms.

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A flash of flush ruby light, as if sunset has been poured through his pupils down into his retina. All senses are swallowed by the intensity of that consuming glare. He is a man struck deaf and dumb by the light.

A moment later redness fades and the snow driven darkness of night reforms, the miniscule flakes of ice settling on previously unexposed swaths of flesh.

The redness remains, and for a moment his addled mind thinks it is blood.

Relief then, to realize it is cloth, the vestments of his station. He stands, gathering his bearings, eyes flicking to the corpses of polar bear lycanthropes.

Ambushed in Elysium, so close to his home? And then awareness risen from stupor brings nightmares, as he watches the bestial figures retract into the lithe, almost childlike corpses of the long indentured Sidhe.

Just as he feared. Traitors amongst the Toymakers.

A red will o' wisp, nuzzling his torn and bleeding arm.

Rudolph. He recalls when the majestic figure before him, the very warrior who cleaved his enemies with a natural weapon of light, was a scrawny fawn rejected by the rest of his herd.

The stag is right. This is no time for woes or worries.

It's the Eve of Yule, and the childhood hopes of a thousand thousand worlds await to be fulfilled.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Enjoy this life, Archenemy of Mine,
as the Norns say the final reckoning approaches,
when you and I will at last meet on a vast plain of wolf's fur,
striding toward battle on a lupine corpse so grand its jaws could swallow the sun...

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Re: A day in the life of planars

Dozens of small creatures shuffle across the Abyssal tundra on stubby but fast-moving legs. Covered in curly brown fur and bearing expressions of happily dazed wonderment, they could be a pack of childrens' playthings but for the sawtooth fangs that fill their gaping jaws. A sudden blizzard sweeps over the landscape, but the pack holds its ground with quiet determination. When the storm subsides, they are no longer alone. Towering over them is a great beast of snow and stringy white fur. It howls a blistering greeting of dominance and landslides erupt on far-away prime worlds.

Dozens of small creatures shuffle across the rolling Arcadian hills on stubby but fast-moving legs. Covered in curly brown fur and with expressions of happily dazed wonderment, they could be a pack of childrens' playthings but for the sawtooth fangs that fill their gaping jaws. The giant unicorn had been following them for some time and the determined little creatures might not have noticed it at all had the gleaming beast not given itself away with a single delighted chuckle.

Across planes and planets, countless identical creatures speak as one.

"You are very large."

On an unremarkable prime world, sleepy priests jump to attention and begin scribbling, feverishly capturing every nuance of content, inflection, and tone coming from a pit where seven of the odd creatures wander in lazy circles.

The great snow beast roars as if caught in a trap in reply, but its snarling jaws betray a grin - these traveling creatures smell nothing of delicious, delicious fear, and would amount to little more than a garnish anyway.

The duruch'i-lin fills the air with musical laughter. "I'm certain you are large of heart, my curious little friends. I am Usajii. Welcome to Abellio. You have been walking for so long. Will your travels permit you a respite for food and fellowship?"

"Hungry Hungry Hungry!" exclaim the creatures.

Priests hand off pages of parchment covered in text and symbols to acolytes, who rush them to sages for analysis.

The Abyssal snow monster's grin widens as it gestures towards a rock face, where the blizzard has revealed a shimmering, hazy portal. Frolicking halflings and pseudodragons are barely visible on the other side.

"Wonderful! Then rest your tired legs while I make us a picnic of the best leaves in the forest," Usajii replies before flying into the treetops.

"Let's eat," announce the creatures.

Acolytes rain fruit and bread down into the pit as the priests add precious new pages to their holy book.

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Re: A day in the life of planars

I like the Domo in the abyss! Are they good tanar'ri that come about due to Chaos? Like the lawful slaad?

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Re: A day in the life of planars

sciborg2 wrote:
I like the Domo in the abyss! Are they good tanar'ri that come about due to Chaos? Like the lawful slaad?

I'm afraid that gobbling up halflings might preclude a spot in the good column, unfortunately. All the backstory that I had when I wrote that was that they were the epitome of "amoral little monsters." Thinking about it now I might posit that it's actually a single creature from a metaphysically distant parallel, possessing such a fundamentally different nature that parsing it out into an army of distinct entities is the only way that the Great Wheel can deal.

I think I just proposed a quantum monster. Yikes.

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Golems made from garbage, wasp swarms resistant to pressure and force, a rain of bacon shards.

These are the messes he leaves me, things to be cleared up with the locals.

Games he plays, to slow down the inevitable passage of my knife through his heart.

The farther from the Center we go, the more ambitious he'll get. Everything's so...malleable out here. It's been awhile since I could see the silver sphere of Order, but now I can't even taste its battery tickle on the surface of my tongue.

I look back and see a the corpses of giant wolf-spiders, their flesh rotting to reveal an internal scaffolding made of something resembling cartilage. I look forward, toward my brother, and see indigo thunderheads stretched across the horizon.

The wind delivers his invitation, carrying the scent of tree sap and wet dog.

=-=-=

My brother has left all glory to me, taking the role of villain for himself. Even before he comes they know him for the Devil, for it is he who tell-warns them in their dreams. He steps through their towns, their cities, their villages, bruising reality before passing on.

Each time, I am the Savior he prophesies. I have saved children I could never have, men and women who I could never love. Each time he gifts me new forms of happiness, new lives to slip into. Harems, hometowns, sacrificial altars and even normal lives where I could act with an invisible hand.

I approximate the pre-damaged physical and metaphysical, best as I can, trying to heal reality before I move on. Children call out my name, begging me to stay. "Come back, come back!" they cry.

One night stands curse me or ignore me or weep into the wind.

This time, I don't even engage. If I take these people out of their hardened syrup prisons, if I heal their exsanguinated sky scraping trees, all of them will die. I don't have energy to waste on resurrections, so I bear witness to my brother's ingenuity and quickly move on.

=-=-=

The Wolf Wave crashes around me, a thousand jaws snapping at me as two thousand baleful yellow eyes bear witness. Fangs break on skin as hard as diamond, flame radiates outward from my sternum, blazing out of every orifice.

I burn and burn and the smoke of singed fur and cooked flesh fills the air but still the Wolf Wave scratches its claws against my now naked skin. Gold thread rags lie at my feet for a moment, then melt into scattering aurum rivulets.

Snarls and howls and whimpers fill my days, I am star blazing under the depths of a lupine ocean.

When its over, all that remains is a single cub, just old enough to walk.

I keep to my path, feet upon a bridge of ice i craft from the falling ink rain. The animal chases after me.

It's full grown paw prints stain the grass on the Other Side of the chasm, while my own steps leave no trace at all. (I am an Ouroboros, I feed on my history.)

I stop and look back, and the animal stops and returns my inquisitive gaze. I take a few steps forward and it mirrors this action. A companion for my quest then.

I keep to my path, and the animal follows, unable to see the smile on my face.

The path of my knife does not veer, but it's nice to know my brother still loves me.

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To be king you must be wise, and strong, and courageous. You must be worthy of all this luxury.

These are the words his mother, The Rose-Handed Queen, had told her eldest son even before he could walk, even before he knew what the words meant. "Courage", "Strength", "Wisdom" - each taught definition brought on recognition, and he could actually remember the weight of learning each one.

Yet sometimes strength is not enough, and wisdom must be forsaken so that others will rally around your strength.

And that is how the Queen's third son ending up taking the throne. Conceived rather late, and from the loins of a concubine no less, the third son of the beloved Rose-Handed Lady of Quall had learned little of wisdom or strength due to being weaned on bitterness and neglect.

Courage was a by-word for force in his mind.

What the rule of Liam would be bring the Empire, the once loquacious street augurs smiled wanly then murmured that the omens were silent and our future was our own to determine.

Of his eldest brother, his body was lost on the contested Northern border. All scrolls with his name were burned, all statues struck down, all paintings too beautiful to destroy were "corrected" to depict the face of Liam where his brother's once was. Of his second brother, who stood up to the third child of the Queen, there was at least some physical remnant.

This remnant was a discoloration upon the white tiles of the throne room, just under the statue of the nation's Rose-Handed Lady, dressed in simple robe of white jade and a scarf of rose quartz. There was a stain where the son had keeled, looking into eyes of his now divine Mother, marking the place where her second son had prayed for his life and his kingdom. And it was the exact colour of her scarf.

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Sparrows squabbled over mates on the rooftop, oblivious to the dying woman on the other side of their roof tile arenas.

The vehemence of the competing males caused this soon-to-be-corpse to raise her eyes to the ceiling, an action that would later be misinterpreted by her attending grand^5-children as their mother making peace with God, a figure who their mother had had her own rather public squabbles with via the Lord's intermediaries more inclined to death and aging themselves.

The truth of the matter was the woman's blurred gaze in truth looked through the lens of memory, piercing through not just the roof but the blue veil of sky and grey shaded shell of the moon.

(Again, keep in mind that she looked into her own past, and thus realize that there is no need to point out - with the snide cleverness so popular among those who think themselves clever - that even had she been in possession of far more powerful eyes her line of sight would have failed to touch that natural satellite which was at the time illuminating the other side of the world.)

It was in the lunar caverns of that rock pinched off from earth by an Artist or perhaps Mere Causality in Earth's fetal era that she'd contracted the disease that was both fatal and life prolonging, the illness that carries its victims through centuries yet invariably kills them. The illness that put paid to the cheeky aphorism that had never rung true to her ears: Death always comes as a stranger.

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Your sigh is lush, dew-drenched grass that I have never walked through.

Your skin, on my skin, is that cool breath of evening I have longed for in twilight.

The taste of these wrists that I'm kissing?

Close kin to honeysuckle, coaxed into bloom by a springtime that I have never known.

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The earth parts literally mountainous thighs, peaks leaning in opposite directions, the valley between them yawning chasm wide.

The heat is too much to draw analogies to the blood warmth of a human mother, and the stark distance between mortal and Gaia is revealed in the plumes of smoke, and the crowning head covered with lava drenched scales.

"This", I say to my son as we watch from the safety of a metal deck floating in the starry void, "is how Cosmic Dragons are born."

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Re: A day in the life of planars

sciborg2 wrote:
Golems made from garbage, wasp swarms resistant to pressure and force, a rain of bacon shards.

Do you hear that sound? It's Charles Dickens sobbing after you stomped him in the Best-First-Line contest.

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Standing with the other slaves, he watches the demons ravage everything on the other side of the palace moat, everything not circumscribed by that sacrosanct lake.

He thinks of how he strangled the man who was Chosen, choked the life out of the Empire's salvation.

His lover is a step ahead of him, allowing him to see the grooves, veritable canyons, askew stripes laid out on the younger man's back.

The elder man is strangely at peace with the decisions he made.

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