Pavis

Catch-up time, and severing Santhis


The group have returned to the Rubble camp in early evening, after two very full days and an interrupted night. Fire Season, Fertility Week, Godsday - no wonder the Other Side had seemed particularly close in the last twelve hours. Sleep comes next, safe in the temple, and within defences set up by others. This time, there are no interruptions. The next day will be soon enough for all but the most basic debriefing.

Egil spends much of the next morning with Yodi, going over his quest and making sure that he can use the magic he has learnt now he is back in the mundane.

Vesekor has not returned from the New City - and since his cover remains unblown, and is likely to stay that way until Anerash gets back, the intention is to leave him in place, as a valuable source of information.

Inspired by his meeting with the Demon Rose, Graylor has asked the Jalmari here what they know of magic to combat demons, and has been told that while they know such magic used to exist, they were rather hoping to find that in the lost temple.

Several people have asked to be initiated into Hereward's cult: Yenda is interested in him as the seeker after Truth, Mauvin would like to learn more of the North Wind, young Abul will follow Jamal in joining the herocult of Herw'Ard, and Santhis wants to join a cult that emphasizes leaders who do not betray their followers. First, though, and most urgently, he needs to be separated from his current link to Oilamley - keeping him apart from any Uroxi is starting to get embarrassing.

Graylor had thought, if he had thought about it at all, that severing Santhis from his connection to Oilamley would be a simple matter. After all, hitting something with a sword is a simple solution to most problems. When he'd mentioned to Dori that he planned to do the job himself, though, her reaction had surprised him.

"You can see links well enough to be sure what you're severing, without any help, or ritual, or anything? I don't think even Illig tries that, given the choice." She squints across the camp at where Santhis is helping build the new walls. "I can't see the link at all - even if he was actively using it, I doubt if I'd get more than a vague impression. You must be very good."

"I don't think that I am good. Though when I was with Egil on his quest some of the relationships shone out quite clearly. Maybe that was just the needs of the quest I could see. I don't know. I certainly don't want to risk Santhis because of my ignorance. 'Measure twice and cut once.' definitely applies. Perhaps I should get some advice on this, who do you think is best? Is Illig the best or are there other less important teachers I should consult?"

Graylor pauses a moment and realising what he has just said decides an explanation is in order. "That doesn't mean that I don't want to learn from Illig but rather that I don't want bother him with this if there I can learn from others as easily."

He lapses into an uncomfortable silence. "I hope you know what I mean. I haven't explained myself very well."

"It seemed clear enough to me. Yes, I expect you could see what Egil severed clearly: as you say, you were on the HeroPlane, and that severing was one of the main points of the quest. I gather it looked like a glowing line, in this case? Sometimes it's a symbol, or looks like a physical object. Tattoos, armrings, that sort of thing. But that's on the HeroPlane, where everything's different."

She stops, thinking. "You know, this one's going to be even harder than most. Magic generally shows up more if you use it - but Oilamley's magic is all about hiding and deceit. If it's in use, it'll be harder to spot, not easier. Yes, this is definitely one for Illig, and a full ritual. We can't even do a quest to make what we're severing the object: who would take the role of the opposition?"

So it is that a few hours later, most of the Legion are gathered in the cool darkness of the underground Temple. Some have essential parts in this ritual, others will provide support, and some - many - are also here to learn.

They have only used this temple for a ritual a few times since finding it, and merging the Legion's magic with that of the existing temple defences is still a matter for experiment, as is working as a team with the Jalmari. The last time Graylar had been present was for his own initiation, and then, he had been concentrating too hard on his own role to take much notice of the details. Now, Illig is using this as a teaching opportunity - although presumably Santhis will not be seeing it quite that way. He stands at the centre of the great underground chamber, the rest of the Legion - and the Jalmari - taking their places around the sides. Only Santhis remains in the centre with him.

"I want us all to be clear what we are doing here today." His voice is not loud, but loud enough, in the instant silence as everyone stops to listen. "We have a new temple, a new set of teams working together, and now a new challenge. This is not the time to do as we have always done, because we have always done it, but to examine what we do, and why."

He nods towards the two great statues at the back of the hall. "The existing temple defences are in the hands of Kargan and Jalmar: how they work together is not obvious to any of us as yet, but it is clear that they do. Some of you here may have tried to join your magic with others before, and if so, you will have learnt that joning is easiest when the partners are as alike as possible. Disparate views on intention, knowing different versions of the quest, even personal dislikes, all make the team work less efficiently, even more so in magic than in mundane warfare. So, we will have one of our number acting as an interface to each of the gods present here, and we choose them in part for their ability to work smoothly with others."

Vur moves to stand in front of the statue of Jalmar, and at a nod from Illig, Uljar Breaknose, Standard Bearer of the Legion, goes to the Kargan side. There is some slight commotion from where Aelf was last seen, quickly hushed at a slightly raised eyebrow from Illig.

"Now, the defences. You may perhaps have realised that we have a paradox here: we wish to see, and then sever, a relationship with a magical enemy, and to do that, that relationship must be active. Yet the temple defences are intended to stop just that. If we were to carry out a directed quest, a story-line that led to this encounter, then it would be controlled: but we are not, for no such plot is known to us. What we will do is to open up our defences: but only to this enemy, and to no other. This will take very precise control, and careful coordination between our own magic and that of the temple."

"Sort of like the Summons of Evil?" That's one of the older legionaries, a Sartarite originally.

Illig smiles grimly. "Rather more controlled than that, I hope. Simply inviting our worst enemy in, and hoping that what turns up as a result is something we can deal with, may be something the Orlanthi find of value, but we are not that desperate yet. The point is a good one, however: we cannot be entirely sure what will enter, but we can be certain that it will be hostile. Graylor, I believe you have gifts in dealing with vampiric magic, and have encountered this particular variety before. Concentrate on guarding against surprises, please. Since I gather the other animosity this "Oilamley" holds is against Yelmalio we choose the rest of our team with that in mind."

The "defence" group it seems, will be led by Seledd, and also includes Landros (another ex-Yelmalian Rigsdali) and Dori.

Graylor was intrigued by that grouping, Dori was outspoken against Seledd, but disciplined enough for that friction to not be allowed to interfere. "Illig put me in an independent group, I wonder why?" Graylor was now aware of his independent streak that he had refused to acknowledge until joining the Legion. "Perhaps that is why, this independence would weaken the strength of the Jalmari, but would be useful to keep separate tabs on the whole situation. OK I can live with that."

He smiles inwardly at the perception of Illig and his ability to use people to their best. Seeing the other preparations around him Graylor faces his followers and accepts their support. His meditaions prepare the way for the merging required for the ceremony. First the familiar Irnar the supreme detector, Elgan the magical powerhouse of the group, then less familiar Yenda adds a layer of sophistication and analysis, and himself a bit of each of the others as overall commander. Swords drawn and reinforced with various magics. Prepared for anything the quest would throw at them.

Egil makes his way over to his Ten, "If we're worrying about surprise attacks then I guess we'd better have a scout in the group eh? Perhaps not the best you'll get but better than nothing and hiding behind walls doesn't help with this." He flourishes Barzaad's Tooth and then settles to wait for the opponents to arrive.

Siggyr simply grunts: he's concentrating on coordinating the group that will act as the magical powerhouse for the entire ritual, taking it onto the Other Side. Little escapes Illig's notice, however. A thoughtful glance at Egil, and then: "Perhaps, after all, we should start this explanation a little further back: it seems that some of us need it. What we are concerned with here is the magical plane, not the mundane. Any physical attack is unlikely, and will be met by our allies, and the natural defences of this location. We need to think of the magical first, the physical second, once the minimum requirements have been met."

Minimum requirements, indeed: enough light is supplied by the Legion's wyter for the few non-Humakti here, such as Jamal and Abul, to see, and hard stone benches are available around the sides of the hall for those who will not need to move as part of the ritual. No more than is needed: no distractions.

"So, if those we need are seated - let us begin."

Seledd starts the ritual, with the familar Starwatch setting up of posts and wards, linking the temple defences to what is otherwise an entirely Rigsdali or Yelmalian team. Including Dori, Graylor realises - she's Sun County born, with the same pale blonde hair and brown eyes as the rest of them. Graylor has only seen this a few times, Egil many. When they have seen this ritual done before, the results have been purely magical, and as such, invisible unless you made a special effort to see them. This time, the beams of light from each participant are visible, woven from one to the other. A wall of light surrounds them, clear for all to see. The mundane walls of stone have faded away into darkness, nothingness - still there, in the mundane, but irrelevant.

"And now you see," Illig comments, "why we want to go as far from the mundane as possible. We want to see what we sever. Being in the temple puts us on a weak spot between the worlds, and we make use of that."

Dori joins the group last, in the North position, and what she brings to it is not Light but Wind. The Truewind whispers around their defences, seeking what it might find, ready to cut any enemy. The wall of light ripples with it, like flames - a wall of fire. Once she has fully integrated with the group, she reaches out to Graylor, both magically and physically, and they see a previously almost unnoticed channel between them flare into life. His combined detection abilities join hers, seeking their enemy.

Graylor is now coordinating three subordinates, the magic from his swords, plus the link to Dorinda, and is rapidly becoming aware that the difficulty increases with the numbers involved. Seledd is coordinating eight, Siggyr even more: now he looks, he can see the lines that join them to others. He doesn't remember that being so clear in previous ceremonies he's been in, and wonders whether this is some ability of Illig's to make teaching easier, or an effect of being on the magical plane without a specific quest that hid identities behind roles.

To Egil, this is normal, if rather more intense than previous times: but he's never taken much notice of it before. This time, unfortunately, Illig seems to be expecting him to think.

Abul sees no precise lines, but he does see the glowing defensive wall around them.

Abul was fully impressed by the stern austerity of the humakti ceremony. In his early childhood he had participated to some city festival and felt the happy blessings of Bentus on him. During his exile with Jamal, they have gone sometime to some gatherings, mostly in Sacred Times, where general celebrations were conducted, but never he had been so near to the core of a magical practice. Feeling and supposing more than seeing the magcial forces all around, Abul felt proud to be old enough to be there and wondered if one day he will be part of the inner circle of priests... Joining the Hum'akt was so... definitive..

He could feel the cold waves of alien power. Fear of the unknown. Source of Darkness.

Instinctively, he put an hand of his chest and felt under his shirt his medallion. Feeling its reassuring presence, he didn't even thought to his power, just felt relaxed. The Hum'akt was terrible but such was the task to sever Ganesatarus' deeds from Idovanius' creation.

As Graylor puzzles over the unexpected clarity of vision he wonders if he should ask about it or wait till the end of the ceremony. He decides since Illig is in a teaching mood he may forgive a dumb question. He looks questioningly at Illig, who sensitive to every participant in the ceremony immediately asks.

"Graylor what is it you want to know?"

"Why do I see the connections so much clearer in this ceremony than I have before in other ceremonies? I understand that part of it will be because that is exactly what we want to see, but that effect would be centred on Santhis. I can see all our magical connections. "

"And have done since a critical point of your initiation into the secrets of Hereward, perhaps? It usually takes a year or so to notice the difference - you learn fast."

"See how much of this you can follow, then. We will examine all the relationships Santhis has, to be sure that what we sever is the correct one. Let us start with the most immediate. Santhis, you owe Graylor your life, and you swore him an oath. Concentrate on that oath - and Graylor, you concentrate on it, too."

He reflects on the first meeting with the snivelling wretch scared of everything but eventually choosing the right path.. Leading them to the vampire and fighting as hard as any against it's minions.. The now proud young man having endured the enmity of the Legions warriors and then by dedication to duty and hard discipline winning them around. From vampire fodder to free man, well free once the severing was complete.

Another of those glowing lines appears, weak at first, then strengthening to a clear white light.

"Good. Would we all recognise that if we saw it again?"

A line of light is a line of light, and there are many doubtful looks. "Perhaps when we have a standard of comparison, then. Santhis, think about your parents, your family."

The first line fades as concentration is dropped, a second appears, though much fainter and with no local goal. This is not the clear cold white of the first, but the warm gold of barley, and Illig nods, satisfied. "You see the difference? Now, I wonder - Santhis, you were an initiate of Yelmalio, once. Can you still call on his magic?"

"Of course not - Cavos stopped that, cut me off...." but there's the beginning of hope in his voice. "You think I might?"

Illig shows only slight amusement. "I doubt if Cavos was capable of a competent severing. Why not try it, and find out? Something simple - call the light."

Santhis fingers a scar on his wrist where a tattooed focus might once have been. He frowns in concentration, struggling, and a weak, thin, line reaches out, searching for a target, though all present know that Yelmalio's magic cannot be used in Humakt's halls without His permission. It reaches towards Dori for a moment, then past her to the glowing wall, and is absorbed into it, brightening it slightly where it joins.
His smile of incredulous delight meets Illig's more restrained satisfaction.

"That would appear to have been a success, and perhaps worth further investigation later, if that is a path you choose to renew. Now, though, for the final test. You have the chaotic magic of Oilamley, Santhis. Use it."

The fear is back, now. "What... Which spell?"

"It does not matter enormously, though that dedicated to hiding itself would not be the most useful. Whatever was your greatest strength."
"I was never very good at... The best I did was the one that... That stopped Humakti magic?"

He licks his lips, nervously, but Illig just smiles. "You would appear to have a wide choice of targets, then. Go ahead."

This time, Santhis shivers in slight revulsion as he calls on the power. A line appears, but it's not the clear light of the others - it looks greasy, oily, soiled. It, too, reaches outwards, struggling for a goal, and Illg nods to Seledd. "Let it through."

This was it. Graylor steps up his mental efforts. He motions Yenda to concentrate on Santhis' link the most likely direction of attack. Not knowing if Seledd's "letting it through" would be only a small hole in the defences or a general leakiness; he silently reminds the others that they must not forget other points of attack.

The dark tendril is already pushing weakly at the wall, though obviously with no chance of success. Whatever changes Seledd makes must be purely mental, but a neat, precise hole appears in the wall of fire - circular, like a Light rune. Only darkness can be seen beyond it, or it might have been thought of as a window in a more mundane wall.

(Abul, who has seen ships in Nochet harbour big enough to have portholes, might find that a better mental comparison).

The tendril strengthens, straightens, starts to push against the sides of the hole, and Santhis hesitates again. Illig nods in encouragement. "There is no danger of accidental success here. Pull as much power as you can - the harder you cleave to your old ways, the easier it will be to cleave them from you. If you wish to cut a rope, you hold it taut."

Watching the "rope" with all his senses, Graylor feels no hint of anything happening that is not initiated by Santhis - yet.

"Now, we wish to sever this link, and have many possible ways of doing it. There will be a recoil, which will feel a little unpleasant, but not harmful. We could simply close the opening, we could use Ashar, we could use any of the other Swords here. How should we choose? Dorinda I know prefers the scalpel approach - the smallest possible force, applied with precision. What thoughts do others have?"

Graylor looks round and seeing many non Jalmari and wonders how he should phrase his response. Then, remembering where he is and that Illig had already named Jalmar, decides to be straight forward. "The Jalmari way would be to do it stealthily, one strand at a time giving no clue as to how or by whom the severing was done."

"One swift cut should do it. Then stealth matters little. One blow the link is severed before they are even aware its happening." Egil looks a little sheepish having found himself speaking up where he meant to keep his thoughts in his head.

Abul says nothing, impressed by his visions and the power of the Humakti cult. he remembers his lessons on the Carmanian pantheon, how Karmanos revealed to the world the truth on Ganesatarus's mischief and how since the begin of the modern Creation, Idovanus used Humakt to sort the right from the wrong.The fearful power of Death is such an impressive tool, only the purest ones could be its wielders.
Abul feels crushed by his own lacks, ignorance and inexperience, thinking that most probably being here, one step behind his adoptive father will be the greatest exploit he would never achieve...

"If you want closing the wall to sever him, it'll need some changes made. I set this up to do one job well, not two jobs badly."

Seledd is careful not to show any irritation towards Illig, and Illig is equally careful not to notice any. He nods. "As I asked you to do. Do the rest of you understand the theoretical possibility there, had we arranged things differently? "

[If anyone else wants to say things here, I'll cut Dori's dialogue for you]

Dori looks doubtful. "I could have made the wind component cut, not listen, or the Fire aspect could burn - could it?" Seledd nods, but does not interrupt. "But surely you'd need Death to do a proper severing, not either of those?"

"You would. And, at the moment, there is no Death in there." All those tied to the Death rune can feel that, now it is pointed out.

"So, Dorinda, suppose you were doing your mundane surgery, and wanted to amputate a limb. What tool would you choose for the purpose?"

"The biggest, sharpest axe I could get, and one quick clean strike. Not so big you can't control it, and it's got to be sharp, you need to cut the bone, not splinter it. I wouldn't let any random Uroxi loose on the job, but Kristen's done it before. Do it fast enough, they barely feel it." She looks across at Graylor. "I'm not sure the parallel applies here, though: severing doesn't really hurt, and a leg you're trying to amputate isn't something you need to sneak up on. Maybe Graylor's method would be better, if you can see individual strands to cut, or if it's complicated, woven in with other things. This looks like just one simple link to me, and I'd go for Egil's method if I was doing it."

This careful explanation and examination of options is taking longer than any cautious person might prefer, and Graylor, ever-watchful, realises that the link they are discussing is growing stronger.

Fascinated Graylor studies the link a moment longer. He observes that the link is not just a single dark tendril as it first appeared. The whole thing is difficult to study properly, it keeps on changing. Then Graylor remembers the deception aspect of the Oilamley cult. Fortunately his own anti-chaos magic is active and penetrates the illusions to see the next layer, more darkness, but unpleasantly so, this must be the anti-death aspect then where was the dark light aspect? As he studies the growing connection he sees a pale sickly yellow tinge in places, just like the way scraped paint shows the surface beneath. Where the deception and anti-death layers are thin the light is able to weakly shine through.

Finally Graylor finds his voice again. "Illig, the connection is strengthening. It is also becoming more complex. You can see the layers of deception wrapped round death which covers a core of light. Though the last two are their perverted forms of those powers."

As he speaks he realises something new. The link is pulsating not constant like all the others, this has nothing to do with the power Santhis is using to generate the magic. This is like something is passing through. Revolted he realises that something is drawing Santhis' essence through the link. Indeed Santhis is looking a little shocked.

"Illig the link is being used from the other end. We need to end this quickly for Santhis." Quickly he checks that his companions are still alert for dangers elsewhere he continues to study the link to gain any clue as to what might happen next.

From away, Abul observes the situation becoming more tense... in his mind, there is no surprise. 'Ganesatarus will not let this done without trying to fight back. The Deceiver knows that the Hum'akt is a dangerous tool for him. Something will happen... soon!' he thinks.

Observing Jamal's reactions, Abul stays immovable, but mentally he is assessing the situation, hand on his new sword, trying to be ready to support his adoptive father.

Seeing the link pulsating and growing screams "Danger!" in Egil's mind. He ponders Siggyr's anger for a moment but then pushes it aside, if it takes that to save them all then so be it. Not waiting while his betters procrastinate he raises Barzaad's Tooth high, even as he sweeps it down at the link he hears Illig yell "No!"

Egil has hit things with a sword before. Sometimes they barely resist at all, sometimes he can feel the sword bite in, sometimes it comes to a stunning halt, as if he'd hit stone with any other sword than this. What he's never felt before is a target that apparently attempts to suck his sword into itself. The dark, pulsing tentacle of nothingness pulls at him, as if trying to pull the sword away from his hands, then expands up it, hiding the blade in oily blackness. He tries to pull away, and finds it already covering his hands, racing up his arm, the icy touch numbing his muscles as it spreads. It's pulling... not on his arm, but on something much deeper. Tendrils reach into his chest, sucking his breath away. It's hard to move, hard to think. He can't remember why he was trying to hit it... there's a huge, fuzzy concept there that he can't grasp, though he knows it was clear in his mind a moment ago, as clear and sharp as, as... as what? Something to
do with grey?

It's part of him, and he's part of it, it's easier to just lean forward and merge into the greyness and cold, to stop moving...

There's a silent, deafening, crash, and he's released. The cold is gone, the pull is gone. His breath comes back in a gasp as he remembers to breathe - remembers that he needs to breathe. The air fills his lungs - or doesn't. There's a space there that he can't fill. Something's missing, and he can't remember what, only that it was important. A child bereft of something vital but beyond his comprehension, he stops, bewildered, not knowing what to do with his new freedom.

Others see the tentacle race up Egil's sword and arm, and into him, trying to link to him as much as it already has to Santhis, sucking at him.

They also see Illig's great sword blaze with black light, and swing at the link just beyond where it divides into two, cleaving it as if it had been no more than a hair. The oily darkness vanishes - possibly it draws back beyond the wall, but if so, it's too fast to see. The opening closes. The temple is light again: lit only by the clean light from the Sword that all are now familiar with. Illig studies Santhis for a moment, then nods, and releases him. "Graylor, check him: he should be clean."

Then, without sheathing his sword, he turns to Egil. This time the sword is not lowered: it's pointed directly between Egil's eyes. He's known before, and realises again now, that this foreshorted view of any sword is an intimidating experience. When it's this Sword, and he knows that a touch means death, "intimidating" is an understatement, especially when combined with the coldness in Illig's expression and voice. His question is simple, and to the point, and Egil knows that a wrong answer will produce an equally simple, and literally to-the-point reaction.

"Why?"

Egil flounders, a moment ago all was certainty and now everything seems hazy. Before the sword strike he could feel Hu completely, His power filling him but now something is gone the link is not whole anymore and as with the link he feels bereft.

Slowly coming to his senses he sees the Sword and its point and realises his existence may very well be in the balance. If he answers truthfully at least that will smooth the path to hell. "Something was coming through, it didn't seem as though anyone else was paying it any attention so I did what I thought best to protect us all." He falls to his knees and drops his head "I'm sorry, sir. Do I have to leave the Legion? I know there's only one exit."

"If I must leave could we wait a while, I can't see all of Him at the moment. I don't know where he went, maybe it's my punishment from Him. Could we wait until He's back before I go?"

Graylor cautions his team to keep on the lookout then crosses to Santhis. Already his magical senses are testing Santhis. No hint of chaos remains, nor is there any sign that the shock of the severing has caused an inadvertent illumination. Breathing a sigh of relief Graylor puts an arm round Santhis and asks. "How do you feel now?"

Santhis looks almost as confused as Egil. "Feel cleaner and clearer headed than I have done for a long time." His face darkens with concentration, then breaks out into a huge smile. "There is no trace of any of it! I can even feel my old magic again." Sure enough the feeble line of light that Yemaio's magic raised before is much stronger. His smile fades as he sees the scene between Egil and Illig. They turn to watch and find out Egil's fate.

Abul looks at the scene not surprised but astonished.
Naturally, Ganesatarus has striken, but the sharp reaction of Illig was so perfect... that the young Abul stays in awe for a while.

Illig is fearsome and had been always so for Abul since he joined Hereward's Legion. As long as he can remember, Abul feared him as he never feared any other living person, but the self-mastery of Illig is amazing... So much control ! Abul wonders and wishes to achieve one day at least half of Illig's capacity to react so swiftly and efficiently.

"The Hum'akt is the greastest of all Idovanus' tools against Ganetaserus", thinks the young man. "Praise Illig his mortal incarnation!"
"To my next lessons on the Carmanian Pantheon, I need to ask Lady Jakkanna about the Hum'akt", he promises to himself, noticing that his adoptive father Jamal begins to worry about Egil's destiny...

The tip of Illig's sword follows Egil down as he kneels, but does not advance any more than that. Looking at the ground as he is, he can only see Illig's feet, but the icy cold in his voice has melted a little. "No-one paying it any attention? Egil, it is true that Hereward's Way is to examine one's leaders honour at all times, but how much more attention did you want it to be paid?" The Sword draws back - it seems that execution will be delayed, at least. "If your perception is so poor that you can fail to notice a ceremony of this size in which you are supposedly taking part, then more immediate supervision would seem to be called for. And if you cannot even see our Lord, in a temple - " He breaks off. Egil can almost feel the black eyes boring into him, through his soul: and then he hears the sound of the Sword being sheathed.

"Dorinda." The cold anger is back now, redoubled, but not aimed at anyone in this room. "I want to know everything you can find out about this Oilamley. His origins, his myths, the location of his worshippers. Everything. In particular, I want to know how to destroy him."

"How to....?" Dori hasn't quite kept up with this. "You mean his priests...? We've already dealt with all his worshippers here."

"No, I mean him. Whether he be a renegade hero of Vivamort, as you suggested, or a god in his own right. He stole Death from one of mine, and he will die."

"Ah. Yes. Right." She's recovered enough to start thinking again. "That information was given by a vampire who was also a pathological liar - I can't regard it as reliable. Our better sources of information here are dead, or newly severed from him. There may be a few initiates left hiding in the Rubble, and Cavos had a house that hasn't been fully searched yet. Aelf mentioned some knowledge of him in the Far Place... How fast do you need this information, sir?"

Abul observes the scene with awe : killing a god... No normal sane person could even conceive such an idea, but Illig is no normal sane person, he is a living Sword of Humakt, the bearer of GodCleaver, a Hero in his own right.

"Lady Jakkanna can tell what she wants", thinks Abul, "the Legion is leaded by a power beyond human comprehension and the southern beliefs may be different from the right ways of the Carmanian Pantheon, they are not without great effects. Ganesatarus' scheme was stopped on the spot by Illig today. Egil is just a victim, abused by the Deceiver."

For a short moment, Abul feels attracted by the idea to offer his service directly to Illig, but something like a primal fear of the bearer of Unbreakable Sword of Legend, subtile repulsion coming from lady Jakkanna's warnings and a strong fidelity to the carmanian customs, inculcated since years by his adoptive father Jamal, retain him. Abul feels then quite lost: one day, Ganesatarus will come to confront him directly, the young man knows that from ever. Will he be wise and strong enough not to succumb, abused or seduced ?
Lady Jakkanna has spoken about a swordman at Count Raus' court able to speak about the right Sword : the Hum'akt. How could an exile gather the power of someone like Illig? With all the admiration Abul nourrishes for Jamal, Abul knows exactly what means being in exile... always on the run, without real friend or relative or even simple support, permanently looking for means to survive. At least this swordman could understand his desire to stay close on Idovanius' side... the truth's side, far away from the terrifying darkness.


"Humakt's balls, he wants to do what?" is the only coherent thought that blazes across Graylor's brain as Illig announces that he is off to kill a god! "We'll all be killed trying to support such a crazy idea." Then the calm manner of Illig's demeanour registers in Graylor's mind. "He is really confident that he can do this... In which case... I want to be there when it happens."

Just then Gralyor catches a glimpse of General Vur across the room, his jaw open with amazement at what Illig has proposed. Seeing his face makes a connection in Graylor's mind. He now can remember where he knows God Cleaver from. Boldy he advances to Illig and beckons over Vur and his Lieutenant Randel.

"Illig, sir, before we leave this ceremony could you draw God Cleaver again. I think I have something that will join Herewardi and Jalmari closer together."

A raised eyebrow from Illig is the sole indicator of his curiosity. However he does draw the awesome sword. Being this close to God Cleaver Graylor feels the desire to kneel before it, and he doesn't have it pointing at him. Gathering himself together quickly he begins the chant that starts the ritual of the Sword of Truth. Now it is Vur's turn to be perplexed. At the culmination of the ritual Graylor reaches over his shoulder and draws forth a large sword, burning with a white flame. This time, because they are on the heroplane everyone can see the Sword of Truth. Graylor dims the flames and holds it next to God Cleaver and everyone can see that the two swords are identical. The handful of people closest can see that it is true on all levels. The slight imperfections left from sharpening and polishing are the same, the twists of the leather binding are identical, a scratch on the pommel is present on both.

"We are drawing from the same power you and I brother." Graylor speaks quietly and in a voice that is not quite his own. He lays a hand on Illig's shoulder. "You are lucky to have the actuality whilst I have only the image, still it serves it's purpose. We are two sides of the same coin, Hereward and Jalmar. Our friendship shall be re-forged over the body of a god and though these loyal men and women."

As Jalmar leaves Graylor, Graylor's legs become weak and he collapses to his knees beside Egil. He raises his head and speaks, once again in his own voice. "If I am permitted I would wish to accompany you when you destroy Oilamley. Egil is my loyal friend and I would like to help in recovering what has taken from him."

Egil, aware that Illig's ire is elsewhere at moment decides that staying where he is and not drawing attention to himself is the best course of action he can take. He remains kneeling until a superior officer tells him otherwise or Illig leaves the temple.

Illig sheathes his sword - and it is Illig again, not Hereward, and not Humakt. The temple solidifies: small mundane matters like aching knees come back into everyone's awareness. The network of glowing lines fades: not disappearing, as such, just becoming less visible. Everyone is aware that the links are still there, after this graphic reminder, but friendship and loyalty are now no easier to see than usual.

He nods to Seledd. "All done, assuming the attack is over."

"Nothing overt. He ran." The barely-visible wall of fire moves as it fades, sinking into the temple walls as they rise back into everyone's conscious awareness. Again, this is a reminder: temple defences exist, whether you can see them or not.

Illig is back to normal again, though no-one can quite forget that this is the man who has just sworn to kill a god. He looks down at the two men at his feet with a mixture of exasperation and concern. "Graylor, your loyalty does you credit, but are you quite sure you know what it is you are asking for? If a place can be found for you in this task that suits your abilities, then it will be yours in any case, but if one cannot - Humakt only asks you for as much as you can deliver, and so do I."
Graylor may remember Dori mentioning this in the past - her rider had been that neither master would ever ask for any less, either.

"Still, in the basic principle, you are correct. Egil may be an impetuous idiot, but he is our impetuous idiot. I have had more than enough of this "Oilamley" harming those under my protection. Time to act: but first, as our Jalmari allies will no doubt remind us, time to learn about our enemy."

General Vur, with time to recover from the shock of recognising the Sword he has followed for so long, is back to his usual self. "Indeed, rushing in without proper intelligence can only lead to disaster. Now, this "Oilamley"" - the distaste in this tone is obvious - " is, clearly, Chaotic in nature, and adept at concealment. Exactly the sort of foe Jalmar bids us find and destroy. Leave it to us - we will find out anything worth knowing for you. Standard procedure, check our cult records, follow up any leads, and so on."

The quick glance Dori exchanges with Illig doesn't include any amusement at all, naturally. "I'm sure your cult records will be invaluable," she replies mildly. "Oilamley's been active here for at least fourteen years, with human sacrifices occuring every year, possibly more often. You've been on the spot, and looking for this sort of thing - no doubt everything we'll need will be in your records. We might as well follow up the other leads we've got, though - direct personal experience, information on Oilamley in other lands, that sort of thing. Just for the sake of completeness, you understand."

Inwardly Graylor sighs, without realising it, Vur has used exactly the right words to upset Dori. So Graylor steps in to forestall any arguments.

"Thank you General, I'm sure that your chapter's records will be invaluable. However, I think looking beyond the standard procedures will be required, we're not just talking about taking out a group of worshipers here. We need to look at this from every possible side." He starts ticking possibilities off on his fingers. "First we have a former Oilamley member, next there are several people from the Legion who have fought against his followers on more than one occasion, then we have the temple records here, if the cult has been in Pavis for that long. Lastly Parus came from Carmenia to get to Cavos and the Oilamley cult, that means that Oilamley must be known there, Jamal and Abul hail from that part of Glorantha. Oh and one final thought Aelf is house-sitting in Cavos' house in Pavis. I think we will all have plenty of work to do before we have enough information for Illig to plan Oilamley's demise."

This proves to be true. The ceremony is closed, and a great deal of effort goes into finding out more about Oilamley over the next few days. Santhis' memory of the basic cult doctrine, notes from Cavos' house, (not that there is much there), what can be remembered of the various ceremonies that Legion members have unwillingly participated in. Some things can be deduced from the fact that the cult is a deliberate mockery and inversion of Yelmalio.

CategoryChronicle
CategoryRitual
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