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Shattered Mirror


The Ritual

Towards late morning the Heroes are pulled to their feet by their guards and shepherded to the centre of the temple. This temple appears almost ruined, merely a collection of white stone columns surrounding a large, round altar. The altar's upper surface is a perfectly circular mirror, burnished bright, that dazzles and sparkles from the light of the sun that is nearly overhead. The Humakti warriors are arranged in a rough semicircle around one half of the temple. Although they are now untied, all around them are soldiers wearing white hoods, and the regalia of the false Yelmalio. These soldiers bear spears and the serious expressions of men about to embark on serious deeds. They mostly ignore their captives.

Dorinda is feeling a terrible sense of deja-vu. Although the others appear to be mostly recovered from the after-effects - at least they are no longer describing their hallucinations - she is feeling little better. The terrible dreams of last night have continued all morning, and Dorinda has often felt unable to tell waking life from the dream world. Her last vision reminded her of her current predicament - in that dream there were men dressed similar to these false Yelmalians. Something dreadful was about to happen... With a start she realises she is drooling, and makes a determined effort to pull herself together.

There is movement to her left where a number of impressively bedecked men are arriving. Their robes and insignia are resplendent in the morning sun, and there is even some light banter between them as they accept the salutes of their followers gathered around the altar. Two of the men, obviously respected by the others, turn to inspect the captives.

"This is an unexpected bounty. The ritual calls for one Humakti only - how much power shall we unleash now!" exclaims the first man, whose powerful build is apparent even underneath his robes. Only a wisp of his beard can be seen poking beyond the protection of his hood.

"Indeed my lord, the Unconquered Sun has blessed us. Soon we shall be able to move decisively to eradicate the heretics. Mighty is Oilamley," affirms the second. He is smaller, but carries an icy cold aura of strength. He turns to his followers: "stand the other captives in the second and fourth quarters as the rite dictates."

These men bring forward a number of bound foreigners, these are stood in the fourth quarter. Unrecognisable to the others without their regimental dress, Jamal recognises them as natives of Rinliddi by their bird-motif tattoos. The group placed in the first quarter includes Antarius Venistix and the rest of his militia file, all of whom bear the marks of hard beatings. Venistix exchanges glances with Malan and shrugs eloquently. It is the gesture of a warrior who has faced death many times, and knows one can only put faith in the Gods.

The third quarter remains empty.

The first man turns to the second and says with approval, "indeed Govan, you have always brought in the finest harvests."

Jamal feels woosy and unsteady. He casts his eyes around the assembly that surround him. The legion he reognises, Venistix he recognises, to his shock he even recognises the hawk people of the Rinliddi.

But there is one thing that he did recognise, that he was drugged, captured and betrayed. Here he was at the mercy of some foe he did not know, but from their regalia were solars.

His pride was battered, and one thing was certain, someone was going to pay.

Jamal start reciting in Carmanian, under his breath at first, but slowly the volume of his voice growing louder, the name and glorious death of each of his ancestors.

As he works himself into a righteous frenzy he feels the spirit of the enraged bull enter him, the mist falls and he gives himself to it...

The sight of the Carmanian's building fury unnerves the closest spearmen, and they take an involuntary step backwards.

Jamal's voice rouses Kristen to an awareness of what is going on, and she stops supporting Dori to move protectively in front of the healers. "You want to kill men, and warriors, that's your problem," she says harshly. "But these ain't Humakti. You leave the women alone!"

Govan laughs at Kristen's unspoken threat. "Do you think your Goddess has power over us, Earth Woman? This is the land where the Sun never died, and His rules apply here. We come to sacrifice, as we have since the Third Darkness began, and false gods will offer you no protection."

Govan pauses to address the men behind him. "Prepare the women for the fourth quarter." They nod, and move towards Elendala, Janeera, Brenna, and the other non-warrior womenfolk of the captive group. The women are manhandled roughly, clothes torn, as they are forced towards the far side of the circle.

Jamal feels his ire rise, he casts around for an object on which to unleash his fury. He fixes on the leaders, the one called Govan and the other in his finery.

Jamal hurles himself at the despised Solar, swatting away his startled attempts at a defence and knocking him sprawling to the ground. Jamal stands over the prostrate Govan, bellowing his defiance.

Stooping to pick up Govans abandoned spear, he turns to face the knot of false-Yelmanions who are herding the healers into place. His visage a mask of fury and rage.....

They're going to sacrifice women? Healers, even? Kristen can feel her rage rising at the thought, and at the sight of the people under her protection being man-handled, and she tries to control it for just long enough to pick a suitable target. Usually Dori's emotions give her a clue at a time like this, even when she's showing nothing on the surface for others to read, but now she's so confused herself...

no, there is something. That man Jamal's knocked down. Dori felt something about him, but she can't sort out what. Recognition - hatred? fear? Whatever it is, it's very strong, and normally would have her diving for his throat without a second's pause, but Jamal's already done that... and if she goes for the men actually holding the women, she's likely to hurt them as well as soon as the black mist takes over... right, the one in charge. Usually a good answer. Lots of finery, and still on his feet. And male. Time to alter that. Bare hands can be even more satisfying than an axe. Shame there's no weapons around, but the edge of that mirror thing looks nice and hard. Smash him into that and carry on from there.

Kristen hurls herself towards Govan's superior, screaming a challenge as she leaps. The man is surprised, but manages to raise his spear and drop into a competent defensive posture. This doesn't help him much, for Kristen springs nimbly around his weapon's point and atop his shield, her weight bearing him to the ground and knocking him back several yards.
Despite the speed of her attack, several of the Temple Warriors are already moving to their leaders' defense by the time she tumbles to the ground and regains her feet.

The False Sun worshippers cautiously approach, spears raised and wary. Antarius Venistix and his men appear to be struggling against their bonds, and there is commotion also from the captured Rinliddi. It seems that all sense the opportunity for a bid for freedom!
The Temple Warriors do not lose their composure. One of them glances quickly at the Sun, muttering, "Any moment now."
Immediately there is a flash of light from the altar. The sun has reached its zenith, and, directly below, the mirror is beginning to splash its rays over the First and Second Quarters of the temple. Where these sunbeams strike the captives they feel a sudden chill, a fatigued, as though the strength is being sucked from their marrows. At first these rays scatter lightly over a small area, but swiftly the Sun is moving overhead, and will soon dominate the whole temple ground...

Sunbeams that chill? Sun that drains energy instead of giving it? That's wrong. That's just not true. Nonetheless, where the rays lick her body she feels its chill touch. Hereward's protection saves her from feeling the full force of the cold, but pain wracks her. There is a startled cry as Valens, hurls himself in front of Dorinda, and absorbs the false magic himself.

Jamal feels the sucking draining light of this false sun. This surely must be some spawn of the deceiver, a corruption of Idovanus's, may his name be blessed, great life giving ersoon. Jamal draws on the strength of his Lord Bisos to resist this corruption, and feels the False Sun's chill pull on his soul weaken.

Vastyr grits his teeth, determined in preparing his own attack he steels himself against the evil magic, concentrating only on the moment when he will strike.

Suddenly an idea comes to Vastyr, "They're using the mirror to attack us!" Then, like Grim Hu in the Time-without-Time, he gathers his will to strike Death at the heart of the Sun. He knows and accepts that sometimes 'to fight' means the same as 'to bleed.' If he didn't realise that he might as well worship some wuss god... like these sunbounties. So... with full knowledge that it will hurt, he makes a short chopping motion and a piece of Death hurtles towards the mirror on the altar...
But the mirror seemingly reflects more than light, for Death also rebounds from its mystic surface, hurtling back towards its caster. The False Sun obviously has its own tricks when facing Humakt's magic: the Death magic springs back out into the rapidly developing melee, striking Morg Bisonfoot in the in the temple and knocking him down.

Jamal branishes Govans spear and eyes the false-Solars who are so ignominiously herding the defenceless to be sacrificed to their deciever's spawn of a god. Here is a righteous cause for which to spill blood, to smite the forces of deception, to protect the innocent.

Jamal charges to the attack, fired by berserk fury, and full of white hot Idovanian zeal, and the Temple warriors who had started to form up scatter before him. Her way clear, Kristen follows up her attack on the robed leader. As he tries to stagger to his feet, s he lifts him off them entirely, and hurls him at the Mirror. Either he will damage it, or it will damage him, she hopes. But, though clearly shaken, he slides off the polished metal surface and on to the ground. For a few seconds the withering light had been blocked by his body, but now it shines clear again, the metal of the mirror not even scratched, the tendrils reaching out to everyone present.

Kristen is the closest, and she screams as the grey tendrils seem to suck the life from her. Not just heat, as before, but the heat of her anger was being drawn away. And the reason for that anger. She had been trying to fight - someone? Because they had been hurting... who was it? There had been things called names, once, when she was a child, after the fight at the big white city, no, before, when they were on that big boat, like Mother took her on... who? Dazed and weak, she stumbles to her knees.

As Kristen falls, the Light floods on past her, reaching out to the rest. Valens, too, gasps and clutches at his chest as he feels his soul pulled from him, stumbling away from where he'd been shielding Dori. She had only felt a passing touch before, now the light shines on her in full force, pulling at her. And it feels familiar... a memory of sick terror and helplessness, of being tied, of betrayal..?

Others, watching, see her, too, go ashen - but then the light changes. Fails to grip. The tendril thickens, pulses. Colours appear in it, travelling back to the altar and the mirror. The pulsing speeds up, the mirror vibrating, and Dorinda stumbles towards it blindly, falling against one of the broken pillars that surround the area. And the pillar - changes. Something comes out of it. Something green. Small, then getting larger, as if they were seeing it running towards them from a great distance, but it's only a few yards away. Running towards them, yelling - and a dragon-newt bursts into the circle. The sibilant words are hard to understand, but the urgency is obvious as it ignores all the prisoners but one, addressing the robed False Sun worshippers.

"Not twyssss! Not the sssssame! You will ussse thisss one before, do nottt! Fooolsss! do not crossss, will reverssse the Mobiussss!"

It tugs at Dori, apparently trying to get her out of range of the Light, but the waves of colour throbbing up and down the link between her and the altar are now almost blinding. The mirror is starting to buckle.

The leader staggers to his feet, free of Kristen but still too late to act or even to understand. "Minarius? What do you mean, twice? We did what you said. How do we stop it?"

But there is no time for more, as Jamal charges at the assembled mass of the false Yelmalions, the force of his fury intimidating them for a second, which is just the hesitation that Jamal needs to be amongst them. Scattering them like so many pins. Seeking only death and mayhem, Jamal breaks skin, crushes bone and spills blood with abandon and seeming glee, uncaring of just whose skin, bone, and blood his borrowed spear bites into, mindless of the desparate False Sun attempts to use the human women as human shields. Truly the pure light must be balanced with the purest of dark.

Just as he seems to have won at least a respite for those who were to be sacrificed, the mirror clears and the tendrils of the dark deceit again surround the righteous berserker. His mind begins to clear, his strength fade, his will and resolve tremble and falter like a reed in a gale....... No this would not be! This would not be the end The House of al'Kathoum would not end at the hands of solar servant of the vile Deceiver.

From the depths of his rage, his shame, his very Carmanian essence Jamal lets out a bellow, a scream of anger that starts to resonate. It ripples and spreads out seeking the source of the deceit, of the the corruption in the place. It follows track of the dark force back to the mirror. As it touches, quietly at first and then louder and higher the mirror starts to sing, its pitch and noise growing higher, louder. Those nearest to in fall to the ground clutching their ears are the sound becomes intense and overwhelming. As the already vibrating mirror is filled by the light of purest truth of Idovanus, it starts to hum in response, then to scream in torment as the metal writhes away from what it can no longer reflect, the noise getting louder and louder until in an almost silent frozen moment it sunders in a myriad of scintillating shards.

And the glaring noon sunlight, gathered by the Mirror, scatters with it. White light blazes forth, uncontrolled now, in a savage release of energy and a noiseless, concussive explosion. Only one channel remains down which the Sun can flow - the pulsing link to Dorinda has not yet broken, and the final blast spears down it in full force, bearing energy now, not sucking it away. But Valens is there, and, loyal to the last, throws himself between his leader and her doom, and the smell of his burning flesh fills the air as Oddus, dazzled as he is by the full light of the Sun at this range, pulls her away.

And that is the last anyone sees, as fire blasts them, and the magical shock overwhelms the last of their scattered memories and senses.

Fade to black... or possibly some hallucinoratory mix of shades of black, purple, red, and UV....
and cut to scene 1, before continuing.
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