19 Red Twilight Worldwalkers chapter 19
As Milli, and Hetatsubatchi step out of a mushroom shaped shop toting backpacks full of snack food Cinder grabs the side of her head and nearly faints, she falls over backwards sliding down a wall into a crouched stance. Milli rushes to Cinder's side Milli grabs one of Cinders arms "what's going on? Are you OK?"
Cinder is in shock, she shacks her head in vile disbelief, her eyes wide looking past the world in large. Milli looks at Tatsu "something is wrong, Tatsu, open a portal back to the Steel Rose."
"No! No." Cinder shouts.
Hetatsubatchi stands by "Am I opining the portal or not?"
Cinder pulls herself back to the moment "didn't you hear the message?" Tatsu shakes his head "you weren't targeted for some resin." She whispers thinking "the Steel Rose has been lost."
Milli looks unclear about the statement "Lost?"
"somehow, someone has wrestled control of the Steel Rose away from Celverant." Cinder explains
Milli jumps to her feet "what are we waiting for, let's go lend a hand." Milli is fired up and ready to fight.
Cinder forces herself back to her feet "there were no less than 20 Worldwalkers on board when we left most with powers similar to my own and Celverant himself. What are the three of us going to do?"
Milli explains "Wars are a game of numbers. A good commander doesn't keep his favored units hidden in back, and a good commander knows that dividing one's force in to wave limits their firepower. If there is trouble they need backup now."
Cinder lowers her head in shame "it is beyond the point in which that backup would be helpful."
Tatsu cuts to the chase "how do we get back in contact with Charlie and David?"
Cinder turns her eyes to the sky "we don't, Aside from Celverant, Jloose is the only one of us that can track worldwalker."
Tatsu growls "and plan B is?"
"Maybe I can start sending up magic flares and see if anyone takes notice but that is pretty far into the realm of desperate."
Hetatsubatchi nods approvingly "then that is what we will do. Pick a planet, send up a flare and wait to see what happens."
Milli digs around in her pockets pulling out the tablet she had been reading from back at the room her and David had shared "well, this has personnel files on it, maybe this thang can be helpful in some way. I think I also so something about 'worlds on which know contacts can be found' and 'diplomatic connections have been made' or something."
Cinder take the tablet from Milli "you have no idea how valuable this is."
Lances Jacob, Charlie Belmond, Sigh, and Honz walk into the Labyrinth. Charlie removes his coat reveling his tattoos beneath, he ties his coat around his waist. The deep red cuts exposed to light flash from red to blue. Honz at the rear of the group leans over Charlie to whisper, "Sorcery?"
"Witchcraft." Charlie explains briefly.
The lot of them dip and weave around the overgrown walls, this place that the world has forgotten has slowly been reclaimed by nature, even in the arid lands this place exist from the shadows life has begun to emerge. Roots and vines crawl from the walls and floors, moss trickles out of crakes in the walls, flowers speckle corners, cradled in darkness.
The Weeping Star sniffs around his head and hands passing by close several times but somehow, he overlooks them. the group crouches crawling in ever closer. Lances shouts in whisper to Sigh "Hay! Did we have any sort of a plan as to how we were going to get the eyes form this monster?"
Sigh stops crawling to look back at the group, he points to Honz "do you have in Enoch blade?"
Jacob's eyes widen hearing the name "Enoch?" Honz pulls open his earth toned cloak pointing at the short-sword in his set of three blades. Lances looks back at Honz "you have the Enocheon sword? As in the sword of the prophet Enoch?"
Honz shacks his head "No, not the prophet Enoch, his father, the Angelkin sword maker. He was also called Enoch." The voice of the samurai fox becomes light and jubilant "but then again the history of the Enoch family is highly contested, even though their statues as sword smiths has always been excepted by a great many people attributing the construct of such mythic blades as 'Mathew the Bloosletter', 'Mikel the Holy Avinger' and even 'The Avatar Sword' as having been crafted by the Enocheons or by people that studied under them. you see Enoch had been a pioneer in metalcraft, having been one of the first men to knowingly work with compound materials."
Sigh picks up the story as the two of them have both clearly tacking an interest in this mythical hero "It is my feeling that the resion that some many people know the name of Enoch is because Enoch was like me, a Worldwalker, maybe one of the first, and that being what it is he had an exceptionally large family. If not he, his children having been to both my world and yours." Sigh points to Lances.
Charlie's gaze flies between the two foxes "are you two really going to nerd out on us right now?"
Lances reaches into a pocket of his coat to pull out the Book of Prayers put their conversation is cut short when the shadow of the power falls onto them. the head of the tower glares down on the group. The moth of the beast opens drooling burning hot liquid mercury.
Sigh jumps at Honz and Lances grabbing them and shifting into a phantom form to pull the par out of harms' way. Charlie pulls his arms together summoning his forcefield with a suppressed yelp.
The burning metal slashes off the forcefield spilling between the walls in waves. When the flames part to reveal Charlie turtling under his barrier the giant's eyes widen in anger. It brings down a hand to try to crush Charlie under its indomitable size.
A few dozen yards ahead Jacob calls back to his partner "Charlie!"
Belmond waves Lances on "Go on…" the shield wavers under the taxing force of the colossus. The monster in bewildered rage brings both hands overhead clasping them together in a hammer to try to punch past the shield again.
Sigh grabs Lances to lead him away "to help him we must reach the foot of the giant."
Honz draws his long and short swords "you go, I fight." Honz awaits the monster to take another swing at Charlie the runs in to face the beast in head on combat. Honz jumps onto its clasped fist the starts to run up the monster's arms.
The black tower takes notice of the fox on its arm. It pulls back a hand to clap Honz like a mosquito. Charlie drops his shield and calls on the angel soul he has absorbed to jump up the walls, Charlie runs ahead to try to help Honz.
Sigh watches the two warriors rush ahead to battle. " Quite exceptional for a human."
This time it is Lances that take the lead. Lances grabs Sigh by the arm as he proceeds to run through the maze. "Come on, we need to go."
"what is your plan?" Sigh ask as he is being drug by the wrist
"don't have one yet. Any suggestions?" the rugged priest ask.
Sigh start thinking as he is being lead through the maze. " Lances, are you a grate wizard?"
Lances grunts "I'm not a wizard at all."
"Yet you cast spells. What are the limitations of your spellcraft?"
"I don't know what you mean."
Sigh tries to explain "my discipline is necromancy, more specifically white-necromancy…"
Lances cuts him off "ask a question already. My patents are running short."
Sigh jumps to a conclusion "Can you call on storms?"
"Maybe." Lances calms down waiting to hear Sighs plan.
Honz sees the hands falling upon him, Honz dives sideways off the monster then demonstrates his supernatural skill. Honz can freeze time momentarily and move a hand full of meters in any direction, the limitation is he must remain facing the same direction, and doing so leaves him winded, he must catch his breath after every jump. Honz after jumping off the monster's arm teleports on top it's apposing hand.
Belmond leaps from the tall wall onto the Weeping Angels chest. Charlie pulls the knife from the sling on his arm to use as a climbing spike. The giant is distracted by Honze and seems to take no offence to being stabbed in the side.
As Charlie pulls himself up the living mountain Honz finds his way onto the head of the beast. With all his might the samurai fox falls atop the beast driving his sword into its skull. The monster lets out in angry howl lashings itself side to side.
One hand of the dark tower wraps around Honz, the monster thrust its hand outward flinging Honz into the maze, Honz loosing his sword in the monsters head in the prosses. Sigh shifts from fox to ghost shape as he flies off to catch his brother.
With surprising strength Charlie runs up the side of the beast tacking Honz sword, Charlie drops down onto the monster's noise and flips about the sword taking a backhanded stab into one eye. The monster's hands come up to clasp over its face. Charlie falls back off the beast.
Lances standing under the monster pulls the book of prayers form his brest pocket and start chanting in angel speak, gale-force winds around the monster, the force of the wind potent enough to nearly lift Lances off his feet. Charlie at nearly 100lbs less the Lances is slowed in his fall almost to the point of the wind levitating him.
Sigh flies Honz back atop the monster dropping him onto the beast head, Charlie swims through the air grabbing the monster by the chest. Charlie takes another stab at the monster then yells up "Honz!" he throws the angel sword back to the fox mystic swordsmen. Honz dances across the monster's shoulders taking a hand full of slashes.
Charlie jumps up the body of the tower. The monster turns its head and tries to slap Honz from its body, Honz yells to Charlie as he passes the sword off again "Belmond." Honz teleports out of reach. Charlie grabs the tower by an ear and stabs at the side of its neck a dozen times.
The tower smacks itself on the neck to get rid of the 'bug' crawling up its body, Charlie elects to let go and ride the wind Lances has called down or them. Charlie yells out "Sigh!" as he sees the fox floating nearby.
Sigh catches the sword thrown at him and looks at it confused yelling back "I can't!"
Honz jumps from arm to arm taking the blade from his brother mid jump "I can." Honz leaps from arm to shoulder then leaps up to the monster's noise, he calls on his teleportation power to fly at one eye thrusting the blade into it at light speed it would seem. The sword shatters against it monsters stone eyes. Honz yells down "Jacob!" he points at the metal fragments in the monster's skin.
Lances holds the Book of Prayers overhead; the sky trembles the ground shakes, a monsoon of light rips the heavens asunder, crashes of lightning level the maze then the squall of indignation turns its wrath on the titan. The tower slouches over backwards then melts into the earth becoming nothing more than a pile of broken stone, near fully indiscipt next to the burnt stones around it.
Honz digs around in the rubble pulling out two white glass stones barley 20 karats in size. Lances looks at the insignificant looking jewels "tell me that is not what we came here for."
Honz closes his fist around the stones after showing them off. "oftentimes valuable things are easy to overlook."
Sigh moves one hand to his head and gasp a pained breath, his head lowers and his eyes squeeze shut so tight as to force them to water, his fangs bare then he turns his back on the group. "Mask called Honz, take these two back to the Kami called Nine at once. Finish whatever work it is you must do then be on your way!" Sigh throws a hand in the air calling on his portal. Sigh without offering another glance to his friends or brother leaps into the gate vanishing into the mist.
Lances looks dumfounded "what on earth was that?"
Honz turns to face Godshand "whatever it is our mission is unchanged." He leads them back.
Charlie chats with his traveling compony as they walk "That was something! You two are the best." Charlie reaches around Lances and Honz offering both a slap on the shoulder.
Honz turns to face the two of them, his voice back to its deep disconnected tone. "Tell me brothers. Are all beast equal in the eyes of whichever powers oversee the universe?"
Jacob nobs in reply "presumably: We are all born naked, covered in filth, screaming."
Honz lowers his head then rigidly snaps up "that is my feeling as well. Now tell me, if the universe sees us all with the same indifferences is it not the responsibility of each of us to care for our brothers?"
Charlie looks between them considering the statement "that is just about the core of humanitarianism."
Honz offers Charlie a glance "I fear I do not know that word but your inflection tells me that you understand what I am saying." Honz reaches down grading each man by the hand "then there is but one more thing I must know wall we are still in the safety of the wilderness. If the universe is impartial why then should those with wealth and beauty be afforded so much and the scarred and unwashed given so little?"
Lances rears back unready to face such a question, Charlie is much more brazen "don't trust the universe to act fair, fairness isn't what the universe does. If you want equality trust in min standing alongside you. Fear the governances that fears your sword."
Joy overtakes Honz mannerism "than at last I am not alone! Jacob, Belmond, I need you, need your power, with you alongside the Opal Mask we can make the Kami a better people! Stand with me and all those hidden by mask shell shed your chains and In one voice cry out, We will not be slaves! We will not be denied; the warmth of the sun, the warmth of skin, we will show are teeth and our faces! We will walk openly and not be ashamed or in fear of our brother and our sisters…"
Jacob cuts in "Slow down there. Lets talk this out. You are going to need to tell us the rest of this story before we can land a hand. After all we are talking about armed revolution hands down."
Honz clenches his fist "but of course! Violence is the only solution to violence."
Charlie whispers to himself "…Idealism is the only thing I know of that would convince a man to trade his life for a philosophy, most everyone I have encountered on most every world will sooner sacrifice a great deal of money and suffer a fair amount of poverty over the prospect of trading lives."
"Liberty must be refreshed by the blood of martyrs and fouls." Honz voice is filled with quite ire. "what I ask you for is not small or simplistic. I will be waiting for you after you finish with my sister."
The rest of the walk is uneasy. Charlie and Lances trade a few whispered words about the ethics of interfering in the politics of alien worlds, no real headway being mead for or against the idea. The lot of them stopping for a rest part way. After arriving back at Godshand Honz vanishes into a group of other Masks walking the walls in silence.
Lances and Charlie make their way back to the chapel and seek out the Kami Nine. This time the holy fox is both clothed and sober. Her gown looks like rolling flames her headdress a crown of green blue bird feathers that roll down her back like a waterfall, she carries with her a scepter with a ring-shaped head with nine rings hanging from it.
Lances produces the stone eyes of the weeping angel "we have them."
Elegantly her long, clawed hands reach out to softly lift the stones from Lances' grip "I knew you would... Now, you want to talk to Fate?"
"Yes." Charlie nods energetically
Nine slides past the men, parting her tails to tickle their faces as she walks by, "then you will follow me to the Spring of Fantasia." One of Charlies hand come up to pet the fur down on Nine's tail as she walks past, Lances slaps Charlie's hand down and points at him with a unapproving look.
Nine walks through town collecting a backpack full of knickknacks; herbs and spices, a fist full of colorful pebbles from the ground, a hemp basket filled with Indian rice, a few charms from around the shrine, a knotted rope dipped in red dye…
Nine next stops outside of the house of the Mask and yells in "I need 11 feminine mask, a shield painted silver and a knife dipped in gold dust. Bring them forth!" wordlessly a cluster of Mask line up before Nine ready to fallow orders. One Mask holds up the shield Nine ask for another produces a knife. Nine explains "I take 11, I will return 10. Do you understand?" the Mask all nod.
With one more glance over the group of Masks Nine points to one "grab a bail of firewood, and a pot of animal fat. Then we walk."
The 14 of them leave town walking 2 by 2. The walk takes them down one mountain and up another leading after almost a day to the highest peak of another point of Godshand. If the Kami village were viewed as the thumb then this would be the pinky. At the summit of this peak is a boiling pond surrounded by wild flowers.
It is clear that the Mask have been sent to this hilltop once before as they fan out making a ring around the pond. Nine start scattering the spell ingredients. Ten of the Mask draw swords and mount their blades into the ground the last walks knee deep into water after building a pyre out of the firewood and dumping the animal fat over the top of the pile.
Lances looks on in concern "what in the…" he watches the events unfold.
Nine strips out of her robs then picks up the knife and the shield walking out into the water with the waiting mask. Nine stands before the faceless mask and orders "remove your gloves." The mask removes her gloves and throws them out to land reveling that one of her hands has only three fingers. Nine nods "Remove your mask."
The mask pulls of the opal mask to reveal a fox aged past her years, one eye burned shut, one ear clearly bitten off, half her face black the other side tanned, her fur ragged dry and split. The Mask drops her face covering into the water. Nine orders "Speak your name."
"I am the Mask called Sirabi."
"Sirabi, do you know where we are?"
"do you understand what you are being asked to do?"
"do you except this responsibility openly and willingly?"
Nine set the shield in the water, the shield floats face down between them, Nin then hands over the knife. Sirabi takes then knife in both hands and cradles it between her breast. Nine places one hand on the hip of the black and tanned fox and the other between her shoulders, Nine lowers Sirabi into the water "with the sun, moon, and stars at your back have courage." Nine pulls her out of the water. "now hand me your blade."
Sirabi pulls her sword from her belt and hands it to Nine, Nine take the red rope and ties a bow around the blade. "How is your soul?"
Sirabi's lip curls showing her teeth "Can we move this along I don't want to be here all day?"
Nine nods "May the Morning Lords hasten your step." Nine movies in front of Sirabi "you may begin." She instructs. Sirabi grabs the knife in both hands and mounts it slightly above hipline, she draws the knife across her underbelly tarring fur and skin away, her teeth grit as she bulls the knife away taking it in one hand and tucking it under her right arm. with her left hand Sirabi reaches into the cut and gently removes her stomach and sets it into the flouting shield.
Nine grips Sirabi by one hand and one arm leading her over to the burning fire. Sirabi throws her severed stomach atop the fire, then twist the knife sideways slidding it into her ribcage. Sirabi falls to her knees. Nine unsheathes Sirabi's swords places it to the back of her neck to line up her cut then in a sharp pulling motion peels her head from her body. Nine hallows out Sirabi and throws her innards into the fire then undresses her and packs her body with flowers. Once every cavity is filled with flowers Nine throws Sirabi's hallow husk atop the flames.
Lances and Charlie watch on quivering in repulse. Nine turns to face the two of them sheathing the sword "gods love the smell of burning flesh." With all the spell conponets in places it takes but moments for the sky to gray and phantoms to fill the air. The ghosts are smart they keep their distances from the Mask. But their very appearances harken the approach of the Three-headed Goddess.
A massive serpent body snakes around the mountain fallowed by three draconic heads forcing their way into this world: the first appearing facing southwest, the next southeast the last north. The tree dragons that are one speak in turn
"I am Fate, I oversee every dice role is fair."
"I am Fortune, I am the one that hears your prayers when luck is on your side."
"I am Destany, I command that two odds are always even."
Fate and Fortune find their way to Destany's sides "if it is the power to change your…" each speaks their names again then they speak together "then it is us that you seek."
Nine looks to the hero's "gods are impatient, speak quickly." The head called Fortune lowers and eat the towering fire on which Sirabi was thrown.
Charlie steps forth and calls up "Fate. I am looking for a means by which to defeat Cravixs."
Fate lowers herself to eye level "If anyone had such a power it would be us. We are the sixth oldest thing in all of creation. But when you say Cravixs you are speaking of two different monsters, first you are speaking of the Nothing and the thing that destroys nothing is something for that you need Chaos, next you would be addressing Fillus-Mammon and he is one of the four gardeners of Eden, and a Keeper of Yggdrasil, the Nothing hides inside of Mammon, it wears him as armor and this is its greatest strength against us. Yggdrasil protect the keepers; the keepers protect Yggdrasil as long as there is one there is the other."
"the Tree of Beginnings" Charlie whispers to himself, he then calls up "You are the Holy Lawmaker, you are responsible for writing the code by which the gods must behave, and you have the power to punish them if they should not abide."
It is the head called Destiny that comes in on this point, with a sharp giggle she lowers down to Charlie's opposing side "It seems that you know something of us. When the universe became too large to be easily overlooked by the Gardeners they constructed me to help them with such a task. Gods created lower life forms and became teachers to them, lifting tiny weak creatures like yourself to their level."
Fortune comes around behind Lances and Belmond trapping the two of them in a tringle of heads "Larger universes needed more gods and so more gods were birthed. More gods required more interpersonal relationships, more relationships meant there was now a need for established order and someone who would be granted the authority to pass judgment on those that would judge humanity. When one god interferes with the work of another god we are called to restore order."
Lances boldly steps up "the universe is out of order. It is time for us to restore peace. Do you have power adequate to fight Mammon or not?" the three heads look back and forth between each-other in a wordless conversation. Lances grunt "I should have guessed, you don't have the nards to even try do you?"
Fortune snaps to attention at the challenging tone in Lances voice "Of course I have Nards! My Nards are huge! I will fight Cravixs and anyone else that wants to see my nards!" Charlie chocks on a laugh, he turns away from Fortune and hides his face in Lances coat as he starts cackling uncontrolled.
Fate moves into Fortune to talk with her, Fate tries to ask Fortune if she is confident in this idea but Fortune cuts her off "No! this is not up for conversation, this is snozbarries out! We need to prove we have the nards still."
Destiny interrupts "we will fight, these men will take us to the foot of Yggdrasil, Cravixs will show us his face and we will engage. Only one of us will prevail." Destiny turns her eyes on Lances "you will be the one to call us to arms. When you arrive at the foot of the tree bring friends, we will not be alone, you must slay the tainted ones and force the void-mage into the open. Then…" Destiny stops
Fortune slides up alongside Destiny and shouts "NARDS!" Destiny and Fate back away from their overenthusiastic counterpart. The Three-headed Goddess flies down turning to mist, she flies into Jacob's mouth filling him with herself.
The storm ends, the skies clear. The lot of them start the walk back home Nine having little ease to add. "Gather what you need, you will be given food, a bed, pleasant company if you wish. You will leave us anointed hero before your fight with the Nothing. I will give you sixty Mask if you wish as an escort."
Charlie shacks his head "I don't need an army, I need specialist. After we get back to town I am going to go back to the Steal Rose and get Jazzmen, Hetatsubatchi and Cinder. They are all we will need. Lances can stay with you."
Nine protest "you are not likely to get a second chances if this first strike doesn't deal a deathblow."
"anyone else I bring will be nothing but cannon fodder"