20 Red Twilight Worldwalkers chapter 20
Days have passed since Seeker attacked the Steel Rose. Many are lost, Jessica the Weaver has taken it upon herself to act as a surrogate. Jessica the Weaver is a humanitarian know across dozens of worlds, she is a gentle soul offering food, medicine and a place to hide to many in need of refuge. But of all the lost travelers she has cared for looking after Worldwalkers is not something she would ever have thought she would need to do.
In her home under a hill Jessica has all the charm of a dark age hovel decorated in pre-modern first kingdom Victorian artier, walls of books, low ceiling, decretive wood moldings and black iron tools, and alchemical set and a fire pit as the centerpiece of it all.
Jessica is accoustume to housing company but today is an uncommon sort of day as she has taken in more injured bodies then most. Her den converted into a makeshift hospital, the beds currently holding; David Jazzmen, Keyor, Suahoon, and Xia Li.
Krain lowers her head walking in from the outside. Jessica looks up form mixing a potion "did you find anything?"
Krain falls into a sitting position "No. well, Dash Prismknight and Mike Murphy but not a condition that they are likely to recover from anyway."
"What has Seeker done to them?" Jessica turns to face the Zzuragg.
"fabricated some form of a metal skin over them and hallowed out their skulls and filled them full of some sort of black slime." Krain waves her arms about trying to explain what she has seen.
"what of Jloose, Cinder, Syphon, or any of Celverant's inner sanctum?"
"Jloose and Cinder are still M.I.A . Same with Arwen Bloodsage, and Syphon but they have been missing since before the attack, Sorin Hunt was K.I.A. Fiona Vesstle has gone rouge, same with Harm son of Akasha. Jessica, as far as the sanctum goes you are the last. If Celverant had any plan as for what to do if the Rose ever fell I hope he told you."
Jessica lower her head her ears dropping to her sides "Celverant felt that the Rose was his grates monument. It was perfect. How did he lose control?"
Krain rolls her hands together. "I can slip in and out of the Rose under the radar, but far as I can tell there is no way to disarm the guns or take the helm."
"Do you have any recommendations?" Jessica looks up her eyes wide.
"Give up?" Krain shrugs "act like we are back in the Wild Age, find some planet at the edge of the lightzone and prop ourselves up as petty gods."
Keyor, who had been slipping in and out of alertness, sits up "We find the Belmond and let him know that we are still on his side."
Jessica looks to Keyor "I don't believe that I know anything of the Belmond or his quest."
Keyor forces herself to stand "have you ever seen what happens to a world that has fallen to the Void? Because I have. 100 years ago the last light on my world was snuffed out and Cravixs clammed us. We were unprotected by the light and so there was no one that could face his will. I will take you where my world was, show you what is left. Belmond want to fight the Void on its own home ground. I will happily fallow him on this fool errand."
Soahoon shacks her head "count me out, I'm not going to walk willingly into the arms of death."
Jessica clasp her hands in a silent prayer "if anyone was fit to square off against such power it would be us, wouldn't it?"
Krain nods "the seeds of Chaos." With a forced smile Krain stands up "if death is all that Cravixs can threaten us with, why not. To die doesn't sound so bad."
Jessica looks over to Keyor, "I want to see this place you speak of. We will wait for Xia to awaken then we shall be off."
It takes several days for the Worldwalkers to have healed sufficiently for safe travel. It is early in the evening when the group has gathered, a stiff rain is falling. Jazzmen, now back in top shape fallows Keyor, Jessica, Xia, and Krain.
Keyor opens the way to her home-world. When they arrive they find themselves standing atop water so tightly compressed as to have grown a skin easily cappible of being walked on. The sky is maggntized, lighting paints webs into the clouds of earth metal and clay trapped in the atmosphere, nebulous rolling cascades of gas float though air and water alike in prism pallets of color.
There is no land, there is no overgrowth, if not for the aura of protection Chaose grants the wordwalkers this place would never be able to hold life it seems. Krain takes in her saroundings "what is going on here?"
Jessica digs around in her pockets pulling out a polished copper coin. She throws it out into the water outside their sphere of protection. The coin hits the water and is electrified and stretched into infinity as it brakes the surface of the water. Jessica yelps and covers her noise with both hand in primal fear.
Xia questioningly expresses "well it's not nothing."
Keyor looks to Xia "this is the beginning of time. Cravixs takes all things into himself then defecates this." She waves out at the alien landscape. "All things brake down to their simplest shape and becomes this."
Krain shakes herself off trying to understand what she is experiencing "why is there something instead of nothing here?"
Jazzmen thinks aloud "Nothing is unstable, nothing cannot proliferate in the absences of something. In order for the balances of reality to remain in balance one pound of nothing must stand opposed of one pound of anything."
Xia squints at Jazzman "are you saying shadows have weight?"
"Maybe. Or maybe there is mater and unmater, creation is destruction is creation."
Jessica blinks a few times doing the math on that statement "then if we are alien to the universe then Cravixs is an antibody. Keyor I have seen enough. I will follow your lead. Is there anything you need?"
Keyor nods "DO you have any friends that might be sympathetic of our mission."
"only one, the Zodiac Shaday" Jessica looks back.
Cinder, Tatsu fallow Milli's computer to a realm called Neopan, an endless sandy blight with a lonely cityscape floating atop it on mammoth sized quod fans, the city a thousand miles across with buildings hundreds of stories tall. The people of this world are human enough, but their physical development makes distinguishing children from adults a taxing task.
Milli reads from her tablet as they look around "Neopan is well known amongst Worldwalkers as a Utilitarian paradise. The people of this world are scrappers and inventors by nature. At some time in this worlds history all resources had been harvested from the planet and incorporated into the biosphere of the City. There is a noteworthy device on this world called the 'xx5REALMxx' or 'Realms' for short. This is a digital space that people can retreat into in order to live out a lives in a past 'world' wealth obtained within Realms can be spent as collateral in the real world and so everyone that is legally eligible to do so is fitted with a plugin worn on the arm. any that cannot be 'plugged in' may trade bodily fluids for capital. Please take note that do to untreatable fungal infections the government of the City has made the act of physical reproduction illegal in favor of replication by healthy eligible adults. This law does not apply to those plugged into Realms as no skin to skin contact is made and therefor the transmition of the fungus from one to the other is impossible."
Milli takes a deep breath to continue "Neopan has two supercomputers on it that I, Celevant, have been able to detect, one located within the E.E.C. complex the other attacked to the underside of the helipad at district zero. These to supercomputers allow for a fundamentally 'hands off' governing of the life sustaining networks of the planet. Even though there are remote terminals that allow for the observation of the 'Network' there is no detectible wireless connection that would allow one to tamper with the systems attached thereto making it improbable that an attack would be made against these targets that would threaten life on the planet."
"all recorded conflicts in the last 175 generations have been handled as 'Guild War' and fought with a point system within Realms. This is not to say there is no crime on Neopan but it is not customary for bloodshed to accrue. The overwhelming majority of crimes to the best of my observation are of a white-caller nature. I must say that I, Celverant, am impressed by the sophistication of these people. On my last visitation I have even chosen to buy stock on the planet including a digital 'network free' version of Realms as to examine the code itself for potential other applications. The price payed for this privilege was 2.7 tons of mineral enriched water." Milli gasp "boy that was a healthy overview of the economics of this place."
Tatsu looks about taking in the sights "that was all very interesting but what are we here for?"
Cinder reminds Hetatsubatchi "Jloose has a documented relationship on this planet. We are looking for his mistress, a member of the Parchment Handlers Guild, her name is 'YT' I assume that is pronounced 'Whitey'. With a little luck, she well take us to Jloose and Jloose to the other Worldwalkers."
Locomotion seems to take 3 forms on Neopan, first and most abundant walking, next there are floating pods that pepper the sky as personal transport devices, but most strange of them all are hookshoters, people equipped with harness vest and two or more crossbow like tools that fire magnates attached to wires that will latch on to most any surface in the city then pull them in. this is some form of sport that is somewhere between 'hitching', parkour, and base hopping.
Hetatsubatchi growls lightly "and any idea how to find YT?"
Milli nods "Celverant left what looks like a phone number for her."
"Dam dessent of him." Tatsu's ears lift in momentary joy of the simplicity of it all.
In a statement that is almost a joke Cinder snickers "I hope this planet has payphones."
Milli adds on "I hope it has 1-800-collect."
Tatsu joins in on the fun "I'm not accustomed to selling my blood, piss, and tears."
With some looking the three of them come to what must be a public park. A small garden tucked in the middle of eight tall buildings with spotlights shinning down on it. Then with some asking around they convince what they assume to be an older man to call PHG and have YT come and find them.
As the three of them sit around waiting they take some time to talk about the oddity of the three of them being able to walk the streets and draw no attention in spite of their abnormal appearances.
After some time the group spots a young looking girl approach, she has short hair, longer in front then in back, orange with a touch of red in the tips, she has a messenger bag, white tank top, and what resembles jean bottoms with net leggings, she has on knee high black boots polished to a high shine with some form of reversible magnetic grips as well as knee and elbow pads allowing for her to wall cling and wall jump at will and limited levitation like ability, and a utility belt and vest not so different from that which was worn by paratroopers in WWII.
Milli looks down to Hetatsubatchi with a goofy grin "do you think they make that in my size?"
The wall walking, sky diving Neopan shoots a magnet at a near by hoverpod and uses that for momentum to swing and jump from the street to the park, once landing she shoulder-rolls up to her feet to keep running and hurdles a bench to reach her mark. The girl stops before the group and tacks a breath to calm herself looking them over. "a ten foot tall Kangaroo, a walking tree, and a quadruped standing in the park together. You must be who called me. YT's (pronounced as Yet) the name, handling your packages is my game, what do you have and where does in need to go."
Hetatsubatchi looks up at Cinder "she looks scrumptious, can I eat her?"
Milli shushes him before Cinder steps in to greet YT. "I am Cinder daughter of Vishnu, I am here looking for an acquaintance of mine Jloose is his name. I understand you know him. Have you seen him in the last four or so days"
Milli whispers "I hope so, the list of contacts is starting to get short."
YT rolls her eyes about thinking "Information like that is a commodity that comes at a price."
Cinder nod "She knows him." Jloose has himself a reputation as an information peddler and talking about the value of secrets is something Cinder has had the pleasure of hearing out before. Tatsu shows his fangs, his interest in bargaining being little. Cinder produces form her duster a block of uncut ruby the size of a golf ball. "is this enough to buy that information?"
YT picks up the stone, she rolls it around in her hand "Yeah, this will cover it. I talked to Jloose less than an hour ago. He got into a scrap and was looking for a place to patch himself up. I gave him the keys to my room at Downblock."
Cinder bows in gratitude "can you take us to Downblock?"
"That will cost something extra."
YT smiles thinking about it "What do you have an ya?"
Fire bleeds from Cinders eyes, smoke bellows from her lips "I am not accustomed to being swindled. Name your price and I will tell you if I think it sounds fair. Now I hope you name a fair price."
YT backs off a step "That first stone you gave me looked about right. Do you have another one like it?"
Cidner smiles calming down as quick as she angered "I have a hand full more like it. How about a blue one this time" she pulls another stone form her duster.
YT picks up the stone, she throws it in the air then catches it taking a closer look at the glowing rock. "ya, this should do nicely." YT waves off to one side "Can the lot of you fly?"
Cinder looks to her travling companions "I can."
Tatsu nods "yep."
Milli looks to her friends "I hate all of you."
Cinder looks back at YT with a taunting grin as she starts to levitate "Can you fly?"
YT looks embarrassed realizing the colloquialism she used and the idea that her compony was being much more literal "not without a Wing Suit. But I can do the next best thing. Fallow me." YT turns away and starts to run demonstrating once more her nearly superhuman agility, running out of town, wall running up a fence, leapfrogging between two buildings.
Hetatsubatchi is easily able to shadow her movements, in practicality if not identically. Milli Malagaurd is more so trained in tracking and trailing but her lands speed is adequate to keep up. For Cinder the task is trivial.
The lot of them are taken to what must be the bad side of the city, several structures have dominoed onto each-other and new building erected around and atop the fallen ones, the fallen buildings hallowed out and new structures assembled inside of them. one building has a missing wall and a wall of blankets have been hammered into place as a replacement. The party slows down to walk the street more civilly
The clouds overhead part to reveal hidden overhead the Steel Rose, the cosmic compound of flowering magnificence and its multitude of moons. Cinder looks up her eyes wide. She whispers to herself "there is no reality in which that can be a good thing." Cinder hastens herself stepping alongside YT. "we should move faster."
The group climbs into a tipped over compound and swiftly make their way to the center of the structure. In a modest room set up for efficiency living with simplistic furnishing and with olny to conservative rooms Jloose waits form the group. He is dressed in his blue cape and hood, leather pants and matching decretive vest. The wealthy mindbinder in stark contrast to the rest of the simplistity and monocolors of the room around him.
YT runs up to Jloose, she wraps her arms around him and he returns the favor. Jloose kneels before his lover offering a kiss and whispering something with her before turning his attention to the others "Cinder, of all the Worldwalkers I expected to come looking for me you were not in the top five."
Cinder walks across the room approaching Jloose but before she can speak a ray of light cracks the room and a dark shadow reaches from the light "what about me?" The voice of Seeker emerges from the light as it dies stealing YT from Jloose grasp.
Cinder holds one hand out drawing on her mysic arts ready to fight, Jloose holds his arms out to eather side to try to stave off a fight "Seeker, why are you here, what do you want?"
"I want to take away that which makes you unique and add it onto myself, to take away your biological and spiritual identity and replicate it. You Jloose where Celverant's most trusted friend. Foolish as it is to trust a thief." Seeker explains.
"put down YT and we can talk this over." Jloose pleads
"she has nothing of value, I will not harm her unless you refuse to comply." Seekers fishhook like fingertips brush down the sides of YT's face, one hand ensnaring her torso. YT struggles agenst the monster holding her but YT to spite her above average strengths can't hope to bend the steel like body of the creature called Seeker "Tell me Jloose, will you comply?"
Jloose calls out "YT gets to walk free."
Seeker almost anode nods "we have established that much already."
Cinder one hand still raised lighting rolling around her body shouts to Jloose "Don't trust her Jloose, she is a killer."
This time it is Jloose turn to be frustrated "You think I don't know that?"
Seeker looks at Cinder, her eyes momentarily softened "Inquest. What makes you think I am a killer? The most recognized definition of 'Killer' is a man that has both knowingly and willingly ended the life of another man. Seeing that I am not a man predation or predator would be a better term would it not? My killing any of you would be much more akin to Hetatsubatchi killing a rabbit than anything else would it not?"
Jloose reaches out with his thoughts sending Milli a message 'I have read your thoughts. I know why the lot of you came here. Now I can't speak to Cinder's mind because she has shielded herself from me, and Hetatsubatchi's mind is to wild for me to make a solid link. So, I need to talk to you. We are link right now so I can feel your thoughts but I don't want you to react to me. Do you understand so far?'
Milli tries to stay focused on the danger ahead as she rolls her eyes between Seeker and Jloose. 'I fallow.'
'Good, in a valley where the Green King painted the sky twelve stars where born. There is a cliff that cast a shadow in the shape of she to who the wolves howl. Search there for a zodiac on whom work is worn on my back. Cinder will understand. If she doesn't ask the Architect to explain it to you.'
'thank you Jloose' Milli thinks
Cinder takes a step forward "you betrayed and murdered Celeverant."
"You will stop moving Cinder or I will start collecting heads." Seeker threatens YT gripping her chin with a rake like hand. Jloose waves Cinder to stop. "As for Celverant he is very much alive, I would be willing to say more so alive know then he had been before. You see, I have absorbed him. Everything he was is now inside me. You wouldn't believe what I learned from him. With his help I am now growing not at a geometric rate but a cosmic rate."
Jloose brings his hands overhead in surrender "I will comply."
Seeker looks to Cinder "In fact I think you would envy one of the latest things Celverant has allowed me to learn. We have discovered a new metaphysical art tenitivly called 'Fracturing' it turns out that a body can be broken into many smaller percentages and still maintain most of its original manaforce. Magic Mike was very interested in being first in line to sample this power" Seeker's back detaches and what looks like an oversized eyeball with a squid growing out of the back of it exists her body "Cinder, I also need you to come with me."
Milli thinks at Jloose 'your file describes you as a mindbender, can't you force Seeker to drop YT and run away.'
'nope, she has no mind for me to attack.'
Cinder crackles with power "I will not comply."
"Complyens is not a requirement from you." Seeker explains.
The floating eye locks its gaze on Hetatsubatchi, Tatsu's eyes fade to gray as a new voice forces its way into his mind. The animist Mike Murphy is alive inside the floating eye his spirtcraft capable of overwriting Hetatsubatchi's will and his will being dominated by Seeker. Under the control of Magic Mike, Hetatsubatchi leaps at Cinder from behind pushing her down to her hands and knees.
Tatsu instinctual grabs Cinder by the back of the neck to try to crush her, Cinder's wooden skin protects her from his first strike. Cinder reaches one hand over her shoulder and grabs Tatsu by the noise filling his body with lighting.
Jloose thrust his hands out casting a polymorph transforming YT to mist. Seeker reverts to a liquid state, in a semisolid form the metallic nightmare snakes around Jloose, one of her hands becomes a spear that she draws back threateningly. Jloose crosses his hands constructing a shield of ice to try to interrupt Seekers lunge.
Magic Mike waves his tentacles in the air calling on the 'Tall Tails' his six squirrels materialize in the shapes of bronze globes. Milli Jumps out to grapple with Hetatsubatchi, Hetatsubatchi turns his head to bite Milli's arm, Milli lowers her head biting back.
Cinder finds her feet, she draws her arms into her body to throw out a wave of lighting, the Tall Tails buzz like monster bees as they orbit her to delay casting, the Tall Tails grow metal fangs try to clamp down on the elemental like vice grips.
Seeker and jloose lock shield to spear, Seeker coils like a serpent subversively snaking around Jloose. Jloose Yells to Cinder "It is time for you to fly!" he breaks off his guard to throw out a forced teleportation spell. Milli, Tatsu, and Cinder get warped out of harm's way. Seeker scores a crippling stab, one of her spear like arms smashing through the ball of his shoulder.
Jloose hunches over Seeker uses her other arm to braces Jloose laying him back as she softly pulls the blade form his body. "I have inflicted sensory overload on your brain. You will recover." Seeker cradles Jloose like a child.
As shock is setting in Jloose whispers "I have a question." Jloose struggles to keep air in his body long enough to finish his though "what is the endgame you had in mind?"
"That is the question I suspected you would ask. There is something hidden in the breast of each of our kind. A puzzle peace. I want to assemble the puzzle."
"Because I need to know."
The forced teleport drops Cinder, Milli and Tatsu miles off into the deadlands outside the city of Neopan. Now outside the reach of Mike Murphy Tatsu looks back at Milli, how still has her teeth snuck into the back if his neck. "would you kindly put me down?"
Milli lets go of Tatsu "Sorry."
Cinder pulls her hat down before her eyes and cradles the oozing pulsing cracks in her armored skin "Jloose, how can you be so foolish?"
"I don't know that he was foolish at all. That might have been a plan of attack." Milli explains.
"we are still no closer to regrouping with the others." Tatsu sits down licking his wounds.
"sure, we are. Jloose said 'In a valley where the Green King painted the sky twelve stars where born. There is a cliff that cast a shadow in the shape of she to who the wolves howl. Search there for a zodiac on whom work is worn on my back.'." Milli informs her friends.
Cinder turns her eyes upwards "Green king… twelves stars? Was he talking about 'Landend'?"
Milli joins Cinder in looking out into space "He said you would understand."
Tatsu growls "what about the other part of the riddle? What is a zodiac and what about that back part?"
Cinder looks down "the first line was telling us where to look, the second who we are looking for." For a good hard moment, Cinder stars at her feet "Jloose was wearing a cloak… are we looking for a tailor, seamstress?"
Milli pulls out her computer and starts skimming pages before she looks over, "A weaver?"
Cinder's eyes snap up in revelation "He wants us to go to Jessica the Weaver."