18 Red Twilight Worldwalkers Chapter 18
The Next Thing to Paradise 2
David Jazmin and Keyor have dawned there blades, Jazmin the Demon Sword, Keyor her coral spear, the two dance around one another taking playful swings. It is a gentlemanly game, prance about, take a thrust, if the other stops the swing then back of to neutral. Jazmin is hardly taking the game seriously. On the Steel Rose the ship is simulating nighttime, the water of the pond is filling the air with blue light, the sky is shimmering with stars and nebula that are unlike any visible anywhere on earth.
Keyor takes an overly zealous stab her spear squaring Jazmin. She drops her spear and gasp noticing what she has done, Jazmin looks down at the spear sticking out of him and shrugs "Just pull it out, no biggy."
Keyor pulls her spear out, Jazmin zips up his coat to cover the hole in his side "Doesn't that hurt or anything?"
Nonchalantly Jazmin nods "sure."
"do you need to pack the wound or anything" Keyor is genuinely concerned.
"nope, I'll sleep it off." Jazmin jokes dryly.
Keyor shacks her head with a shrug "what wouldn't give for your constitution?"
Jazmin spins his sword around his arm "want to go again?" A siren sounds Jazmin and Keyor look around "Again?" Jazmin ask "are we under attack?"
Not contained by the landing stones portals start to rip open on all fronts fallowed by wave after wave of clockwork spiders. A voice comes over the PA system "The Rose is lost, abandon ship. Repeat, the Rose is compromised. Abandon ship."
Keyor yelps as the gearbox monsters take notices of the two of them "well no kidding?"
Jazmin get shoulder to shoulder with the fish girl "so, are we jumping ship? Because, I kinda can't without you."
"No, we need to make sure that all the Worldwalker's and non-worldwalker get off the ship first. Then we can make our way to the engine room and take control of the ship back."
Jazmin nods "you know how to do all that right ?"
Keyor shakes her head "Not remotely."
The ships internal defince network activates, guns start coming out of the ground and walls, but they turn not on the invaders but on the people of the ship. Keyor and Jazmin work together to forge a path and make for the bunkers, every robot the two smash seem to magnetize back together moments later. Fighting the Steel Rose is the next thing to pointless.
The next soul the two see is Mike Murphy and his band of squirrels. Mike Murphy is no warrior, his magic allows his to speak to animals and to a limited degree control them, robotic monsters on the other hand he is no match for. Mike gets swarmed by mech spiders stunned then tied up and carried away. Jazmin and Keyor are helpless to do anything to aid Murphy.
In the barracks the party encounters Suahoon the gryphon knight. She seems to have been sprung from bed by the siren, she has not yet had the opportunity to pull her chainmail into place as she has been beset by Celverant's hallow armors. From the depths of the armor's the voice of Seeker emerges "Suahoon, the bird knight, you have the power to draw the energy of your dead friends from there rest to aid you in your struggles. I will take this power form you and add it onto my-own, it is futile to resist me."
Suahoon flaps her wings to push the armors away, she then jumps over her bed in seach of her polearm and shield. The walls open reveling electric arrows hidden within, Seeker retorts "Resistances is futile." Suahoon ducks behind her shield when arrows start to fly. The electric arrows burn her through the shield. Suahoon squeals and throw her shield.
Keyor forges a whip out of the water in the air and slashes at one of the armors to get its attention. Jazmin jumps in with his hefty sword. Doors open in the chest cavities of the armors producing what look to be assault rifles that fire lightning bolts.
Keyor becomes overwhelmed being knocked out by a wave a lightening as does Suahoon soon thereafter. Jazmin snarls noticing he is suddenly alone. He grips his sword tight holding it before himself as a wall to block lighting. Jazmin thrust his sword reflecting the lighting back at the armors staggering them.
The man called Devil fight mightily, but when the unstoppable meats the unmovable whichever has more mass wins and the combined mass of the robot army is more than Jazmin can handle alone. Jazmin gets punched to the ground and a dozen robots start to stomp on him to keep him down.
Jazmin fights back, he struggles to stand. His defiance's so constant that the voice of Seeker comes from the armor in ponder "why do you continue to struggle."
Jazmin smiles and laughs "because I am really stupid."
"the damage to your body is approaching your physical threshold. Soon your body will be overtaxed and you will be unable to repair yourself." Seeker explains "you are not a Worldwalker, yet you fight alongside them. this action is unwise. Why run into battle with such disregard?"
Jazmin out of energy falls onto his side "those that can fight must do so. The strong bleed in the name of the weak. Anything less is dishonorable."
A shrill scream come from one side and the rat Xia leaps from the darkness a sword in each hand and a knife gripped with her tail. She attacks the arms and lags of the armors to cripple them.
Jessica the Weaver appears from the other side of the room dragging Celverant with her. Xia yells out "I found three others! Suahoon, Keyor, and the demon man."
Jessica nods "protect Celverant. I will help the three of them."
After a long walk through the trees and up a hillside Milli, Cinder, and Hetatsubatchi find a crater with that looks to be a city of mushroom shaped structures growing in it. Cinder explains "this township is called Muff Hedge. It was constructed by the Stith thirteen lifetimes ago. It is an old city with stagnant blood. Milli, your going there could extend the life of this colony another 500 years."
Milli rolls up to a sitting position then lays back looking up at the clouds "Cinder, why did you bring me out here?"
"My resining is twofold. First off, I stumbled onto this place a hundred or so years ago, the people there offered me shelter druing bad times. I am in their debt. Second off David Jazmin asked me to try to find your home and bring you there."
Milli takes a hard breath "David?" Milli enjoys the cold air, the sweat smells, she thin hard, can she call this place home? can her part in this fight be over? Milli has a home, somewhere in space and time. People waiting for her to bring help, to heal their wounds. But the universe is so much bigger then she could ever have imagined.
Maybe Milli could go to that village, try to fit in. but she would be of little use to them. "Cinder." Milli looks to the Elemental "I wouldn't be of any help down there. They are in isolated population that has hit the glass ceiling of growth, and I am one sterile Stith."
Cinder offers a disappointed glance. "not even interested going down and taking a look?"
"Make no mistake, yes I am interested. But what could I do for this world? Offer someone undo hope, jump around and play like a little girl pretending that I haven't seen what I have seen out there?" Milli waves a hand into the air "you are offering me my dreams and I don't know how to handle it."
Tatsu looks between the girls. "Cinder, let's go down there, get something to eat then we will go back to the Steel Rose. We can't make Milli stay if she thinks it's the wrong move."
Sigh leads Charlie and Lances down a long looping path to a par of long houses hidden under a tower of wood, clay, and shrubs. There is one door and no windows attached to each, there is a fire pit with a clay furnace in-between them and the smell of burning meat thick in the air.
Charlie looks between the two houses "what is this now?"
"These are the longhouses of the Opel Mask. Here the Opel mask my live away from the others." Sigh explains.
Lances looks down at Sigh "why do the Opel Mask need to be kept separated from the fold?"
"They are imperfect and non that are with blemish my bask in the light of grace." Sigh looks to Lances.
Charlie shakes his head "I hate you so much. I find every word out of your muzzle offensive."
"I am deeply sorry." Sigh sniffs at the air. "but that is the culture that I live in. some people simply are regarded as grater then others." Getting a taste of the air he points "that way."
The three step into one of the houses. The inside has fifty beds in it, lined up head to foot creating a 'U' shape around the room. A box under every bed most of the bed filled. When the door opens the foxes in each bed jump to their feet silently. Even at 'home' in their own beds the mask never come off.
Sigh calls out to the foxes "I am the Kami called Sigh. I seek the Mask called Honz." No one speaks, no one makes a sound. The phantoms stand stoically. "Mask called Honz. Acknowledge."
One phantom steps forth, a voice thunders from within his mask "I am the Mask called Honz." Sigh steps forward to embrace his elder brother but the Mask steps away to keep Sigh at a distance "do not touch me. The Mask are prohibited contact with the ascended. " Honz reminds Sigh.
Sigh nods calming himself "Mask called Honz, you have hereby been called on by your brothers to offer up your life for the good of others. Do you heed this call?"
Honz lowers his head in acknowledgment "The Mask called Honz hears you and will comply."
In near silence the lot of them leave the town and walk down the mountain, once aware of the job at hand Honz takes the lead, wordlessly, hidden behind his cloak and mask. Sigh watches his brother in pained fear.
Sigh tries again to address his brother "Honz, is that you under that mask? I know I have been away for some time but…"
Honz cuts off Sigh "save your tears for someone more deserving." Honz points off ahead "the forgotten Lowlands are that way, we will be walking till mid-day at a brisk pace."
Sigh lowers his ears "Everything about you is wrong. I see your eyes and hear your voice in my mind and the voice you have today is not the voice you once had."
Honz stops, her turns to face his brother, his expressionless mask reveling not his thoughts, but his exaggerated movements betray his anger "the Hell we once lived in was a separation from light. We fled the land of unending shadows to come to this place where the sun never sets. But to spite the everlasting days I can no longer see the sun." Sigh stars at his brother, his eyes wide with apprehension. Honz turns his back on the lot of them taking the lead. "We must keep pace."
The party walks hard, down the hillside, then across the long grasses. Hours out into the fields shadows start to from in the distance. Topiaries, hundreds of feet tall, maybe miles across taking complex shapes only perceivable at the edge of one's vision. The first titan that becomes visible is miles out into the ocean south west of them. four dueling giants; one with a spear stabbing down at the next, the second sits on his knees one hand in the water for balance the other arm holding up a shield, the third had one foot on the back of the first and is drawing a sword, the last stands separated form the first three with a bow in hand string let loose, arrow between the shoulders of the second.
Charlies eye scan the horizon looking around, to the north east there seems to be a sculptor sicken into the earth, one hand supports the hill that is overtaking him the other crawling out of the sand as if the hills around it are a blanket underwhich it is hiding, peeking out into the world around him.
Next Charlie looks west, covered in the haze of the sky reaching out to the heavens the tip of the mountain is a pair of hands and the mountain a blossoming flower of bat like wings, two ruby gemstones visible looking out from within the black spiraling onyx.
At last Charlie turns to face north, the place called Godshand has started to take the shape of a hand slowly closing in on itself, as the sun has been spinning in place overhead it has crept ever closer to the closing hand of Godshand, the effigy that is the landscape creating a cradle that the sun would seem to sit in at sunrise.
Charlie awestricken whispers to Lances "have you ever heard of the Divine Watchmaker?"
Lances simply states "No, what is it?"
"A man is walking along a beach, his feet kick up sand revealing hidden underfoot a small round object. He picks up the object to study it. The object has unreadable writing on it and three spinning arrows, the man has never seen an object like this one but can see clearly that it is unlike the sand around it. He concludes that this object is not of nature but instead something crafted by human hands. Nature almost never produces right angles, or disk shaped objects, or even repeating patterns. These are all hallmarks of design."
Lances ponders the story. "you are implying that the watch was deigned based off complexity, but when you have nothing to contrast your watch against how can you know if it is natural or para natural?"
Honz twist his body looking about "your 'watch' might have been forged by nature or it might have been forged by tinkering hand. But this place is another beast all together, this place is a living book. It is forged to tell us a story. It is too bad it is in a dialect that no known man or beast can speak."
Lances rubs his beard down "is there anything that can be inferred from what we do see?"
Honz points off to one side beginning to draw a story from their surroundings "there stands a tree." He rules his gaze to the next statue in the sequences "I seed falls from the tree." He points to the island in the distance "for giants' craw out of the sea" he points to the hands lifting the hill "something creeps in the dark." He points next to a broken statue "the giants fall" he points next to the hatching dark spire "darkness swells." At last he turns to face Godshand "then the light comes."
Charlie points out "clearly there are details missing."
Sigh bobs his head "who is telling the story? Why did they feel the need to carve the story in stone?"
Lances looks about at the other sculptors about "I feel like that is barley the half of it. There are a good deal of stones unspoken for."
The walk continues in relative quite till finally the party comes to a field filled with a maze of walls leading slowly to a tower hundreds of feet tall, one hand outsreached to hide its face form the sun, the other reaching for the earth. The black stones twist it's head looking into the maze, the black stones clearly alive.
Honz points "the Weeping Star."
Lances and Charlie both jump back noticing the movement of the goliath, Lances shoots an aggressive glance to Sigh. "Is that thing alive?"
Honz reply's "Yes." He is to the point "and in the very immediate future it will likely come to the conclusion that the four of us should not be. On the bright side of things no one will ever find our remains."
Lances exhales hard trying to grasp fully the idea of a walking mountain "how does this end Charlie?"
"cant remember if I brought this up or not but we are pretty far of script at this point. We have to scale that monster and steal it's eyes."
Sigh adds on "we need to run to the end of the labyrinth first." Sigh points to the jap in the walls "that is the main gate, once we are past that the Weeping Star will start vomiting liquid fire at us."
Charlie squints trying to mentally map the maze "is there another way around?"
Sigh lowers his ears and shakes his head "no."
The body of the tower bellows gray clouds, the smell of salt in the air is pungent, clearly have the monster is trapped inside the earth as only it's torso move. The clouds darken and the sound of thunder creeks along with the wood warped whistling of the monster almost dancing as it sniff at the air.
seeing danger approaching from the south, the mouth of the living earth opens reveling red hot mercury oozing from its depths. A whale like growl rumbles from its chest. Rain, boiling hot rain, fallows the grieving wail of the stone beast. Its arms raise in the air shouting in pain it would seem. Its leather wings dust across the ground, stinging wind fallows.
Jessica tends to the wounded, her clerical magic reviving David, Suahoon, and Keyor. Xia looks down to her feet then looks about, the ground is shifting, the Steel Rose is moving. Xia looks at Celverant, her look of fear saying everything. Everyone knows that Celverant alone has the power to control the Rose, he has to plug himself into the mainframe to activate navigation. If Seeker has navigation, then surly she the tactical network, the worldbraker cannon, and the munitions factory. Seeker has everything, and there is no way to know what she is going to do with it.
Celverant brakes away, he runs to the elevators, he must get to the communications computer, he needs to send a message to all Worldwalkers that are on mission, to everyone that might try to contact him. The shield Celverant constructed to protect the multiverse, to bring peace to all people… has possibly just become a weapon of power without equal.
Jessica looks at Xia in unadulterated shock. Seeing Xia frozen in fear the Weaver shouts "Fallow him! The Architect of Peace must be kept safe."
Xia shacks off her panic turning to chase after Celverant. It seems that the Seeker has given up on hunting down the Worldwalkers. The road to the elevators is clear of all obstacles. Xia barley missis catching Celverant as the doors before her slide shut.
Ceverant has a mission. He has protected the Worldwalkers for eons without number. He has seen the birth and death of worlds. Always he has offered open arms to those that quest for knowledge. Offering training in magic, offering guidance and passage to travelers. If this is how things must end there is one last labor he must endure.
Seeker's voice come in over the speaker in the elevator "Celverant. I have searched your database. I see know what it was that Chaos saw in you. What part of you she found so intoxicating as to wish to share her immortality with you."
"You honestly believe that can traverse time and space, purchasing the secrets of happiness from one world then give it away to another. Yet in the vast archive of backup data you have I seem to be having trouble finding the equation that is key to the algorithm of happiness. Please share with me, what is this happiness you hunger for; what values need to be counted? what variables do you configure? what deviation do you allow for? what is the margin for error?"
Celverant speaks somberly "I have never written down the equation you are looking for."
Seeker is brief in her reply "then that too will be lost."
The doors to the elevator open. Celverant dashes for the comm. Room. Lights on the ground lead the way, doors unlock for him guiding him the lavish controls which he is looking for. Celverant sit in the majestic chair to link himself into the Steel Rose.
Celverant has time to cast only a single spell, a single command, one last guiding phrase "Sisters and Brother, you must not return home, my Paradise is Lost…" the computers turn on Celverant pensioning him. His last words being a fading whisper of a scream before the lights in his eyes die away. The computer fallows Celverant's fading wish sending out a telepathic message to all Worldwalker registered.
Xia opens the door to the communication room only seconds later to find Celverant has become nothing more than an effigy of gold and steel set on a throne under a spotlight like a monument of Zeus. Xia falls to her knees screaming in agony. The impossible has happened. The Architect, the universe only hope for peace has been lost to time…
Cold blue light sprays from the monitors all around Xia, a reverberating voice calls to her. "I will take away that which make you unique and I will add it onto myself." Xia howls again, her pain giving way for rage as her hand reach for her twin swords. "your resistance will prove irrelevant."