7/31/2022 at 0:33
The Second War of Night, Part VIII: The Crossroads
In strangely appropriate form, so it was that in the month of the Shadowed God's namesake, his fate would be decided. The silence broke with the throes of fierce debate erupting in the Garden of Dawn where thousands of Djinn and Akkari soldiers held their vigil without comment. The Exarchs offered little save Saebi's reassurance that this was the Primals' choice to make alone, and Berrad inwardly wishing death and damnation on the captive God.
While most seemed to lean towards mercy, among them Rasani, Kalena, and Sryaen who cited Severn's usefulness against Ohlsana and the importance of the greater threat, dissent among the ranks was rife. Docent Eliadon and Xavin, supported by Iesid of Duiran, were the loudest voices of opposition, recanting the Manipulator's seemingly endless crimes and calling for His head once and for all.
On went the debate, the two sides equally confident in their opinions. Suggestions to hold a trial for Severn by Rasani were shot down swiftly, first by the contemptuous expressions of the Manipulator Himself, silenced by the cage of spirit though He was, and secondly by the Exarchs, reminding those gathered that Severn had already been tried, and that only judgement now remained. Indefatigable, the Godsmith instead made a plea to Severn to forsake His fealty to Bamathis and serve instead under Damariel, which only deepened the Artificer's scorn.
Tension hung in the air with the scarcely restrained tautness of a nocked bowstring, threatening to spill over at any moment. Those demanding mercy were as zealous and resolute as those insisting Severn deserved none, and as the back and forth continued to rage with more and more voices joining the already considerable number, Vanguard Sryaen raised his voice and made the final call: the Manipulator was to be set free.
Enraged by the decision and fully aware of his Lady Indelible's feelings on the matter, Xavin Taziyah brought his blade up, attempting to visit justice on the Manipulator himself by cleaving Him in twain. Though Severn's laughter failed to penetrate the bindings holding Him, despite the peculiar ability of a winged bat carrying an athame on behalf of Maeve Visara to do so, the derision was plain in His face. Sryaen's decision lit the spark on yet another round of furious debate, and the arguments resumed in force while Holy War between Hunter and Earth still raged across the land and the flames of chaos were stoked to ever greater fervour as Iesid attempted to clear the Garden with a Song of Oblivion and, presumably in so doing, leave a clear path to the Manipulator's execution.
It was then that Haern, the Hunter joined them, appearing in the midst of a fiery green conflagration. "Cowards!" He bellowed at those opting for mercy, the fathomless rage of a betrayed God evinced in His every word, His every quivering, trembling, violent motion. Few can claim - whether God or mortal - to have felt Severn's touch of betrayal more keenly than the Hunter, and He came insisting, nay, demanding, the justice He had so long deserved.
With nothing but scorn for what He deemed weak sheep willingly leading themselves to slaughter, He drew His knife, meaning to pass sentence of His own. As He lunged toward the cage, the click-click-click of a starmetal leg announced Damariel's arrival on the scene, His jaw set in grim stillness as His eyes quickly took in the events around Him. Exhaustion in His face, He laid a hand against Haern's arm in an attempt at kindness, attempting to defuse the situation with a reminder that He Himself had fought to give the mortals free will, and that this was a necessary consequence.
Utterly inconsolable, the Hunter's fury continue to roil, spitting at Damariel as He tore Himself free of the elder brother's grasp. Ignoring Truth's insistence that without Severn, the suffering Ohlsana would visit upon Sapience would be even greater, Haern named Enorian a pretender city, instructing Iesid to follow His lead as He readied Himself to act.
As Damariel ordered the Exarchs to lower Severn's shield, the web of spirit faded with their assent, upholding their mission from the Triad to put judgement in the Primals' hands. Visibly outraged by the order, Berrad assented as Saebi tried to soothe him, the Manipulator soon stepping free of His bonds to embrace Damariel, whispering something into His Twin's ear that none other could hear.
Haern lunged then, uncoiling like a snake with blade in hand as He roared, knife ready to strike. With speed defying His apparent age and fatigue, Damariel positioned Himself between the two Gods, manifesting an aegis of brilliant light to protect both Himself and His Twin from harm. With little sympathy to spare for Severn, the Unbound God told Him to get out of His city, His tone one of bleak, uncharacteristically cold finality.
As Severn fled, His escape slowed by the dozens of wounds hindering Him, the Hunter, still enraged by the notion that any would see fit to set the Manipulator free, gave chase. His bestial howl shook the continent as He began His hunt, bellowing condemnations with ire and loathing in His voice. But even Haern's powerfully rumbling voice could not drown out the Dragon.
Taking flight amid a thunderous sonic boom, the ascent of Tanixalthas drowned Spinesreach in shadow beneath the enormity of Her wing span as Severn neared the Citadel with Haern in close pursuit. The firmament shuddered with Sky Dreaming's own roaring proclamation: that Her oath was to the Shadowed One, and none other, and without Him, She would have no reason to show anyone Her benevolent mercies.
The First Dragon's threat hung in the air for barely a moment before Haern's fury once again replaced it, unbridled rage causing Him to shake with the sheer intensity of His furor. Unmoved by the Sun Drinker's words, Haern retorted with a threat of His own, an offer to demonstrate why He alone is named the Hunter. Piping notes momentarily broke the tension, the Warlord now joining the rapidly growing number of Gods.
With Caelestis burning like silver flames in His hands, Bamathis ascended in full battle regalia, ready to make war beside Tanixalthas. Bamathis lent His support to Damariel's earlier words, insisting that Severn's death would doom Them all while castigating Haern for His emotions. Lexadhra rose then in support of the Hunter, Her scorn for Enorian's decision plain in Her call for Severn to be immediately executed, put down once and for all.
Many mortals lifted their voices to join the embattling Gods, Architect Legyn of the Archivium bellowing a vicious invective at Haern in a valiant effort to distract Him long enough for Severn to escape, and Chairman Inkh invoking the vengeful ire of the Indelible with his pleas for peace. Reality itself shivered with the outpouring of divine might, Haern once again declaring His refusal to show Severn mercy as the air crackled with a tension threatening to boil over into open war.
A weary sigh cut through the bubbling powder keg, laden with unfathomable weight. Silent until now following Severn's escape, Damariel's voice, strengthened by His considerable might, boomed out in a reverberating tone thick with manifest authority and commanding gravitas, radiant energy sparking out around Him to silence all and sundry with its magnitude.
Reluctantly taking control of the situation, Damariel yet again condemned the wisdom of infighting and squabbles while the Shadow was - is - at Sapience's door. His grave counsel spared none, His grim voice portending the Shadow's victory should the Gods persist with Their grudges. Though Tanixalthas dismissed His words with a statement that She would only withdraw when Severn was no longer threatened, Bamathis was first to make concord, sheathing His blade in agreement with the Unbound Lord.
Haern's retort came in the form of a blistering condemnation of Enorian and Damariel both, fury still burning in the Hunter's mind. As He turned to depart to Dendara to vent His rage, He declared Damariel to be no brother of His, remarking with disgust that Enorian's light had been swallowed by the Shadow. With the battle apparently curtailed, Lexadhra's seething fury made itself known again as She faded away with a scream of frustration, Tanixalthas returning to the Dragon Spire shortly after.
Having finally arrived at Spinesreach, albeit in many pieces, Severn entered the Spire of Artifice, raw Divine essence spilling from His wounds onto the street below. As He settled into His throne with a weary sigh, Severn's last words were for Murgraxis, and that He would be coming to retrieve His sword. While the Gods mostly fell silent save for the occasional roar from Haern and vindictive barb from Lexadhra, the Exarchs who had, for the most part remained silent during the exchange, looked to Aban for a place to rest. Saebi departed with kindly words to the adventurers while Berrad, disgusted with their decision, left without a sound, Aban close behind.
While political turmoil and holy war continued to play out in the aftermath, Ohlsana's creeping rot has begun to encroach upon the Shadow Keep of Mount Gallows. While the Carnifex desperately dig trenches laced with innumerable conquered souls in an effort to defend their keep, the world remains on the brink of open war. Countless shadowspawn now roam the Tarea Mountains, and the ever-advancing taint will soon find several more precious targets within its reach.
Penned by my hand on Kinsday, the 16th of Severin, in the year 504 MA.