8/14/2022 at 23:49
The Second War of Night, Part XV: Memonaransa
In an age long past, one considered by many to be the halcyon days of the Pantheon, when the Gods were both more powerful and more closely aligned with one another, matters of import were often solved by rite of Memonaransa, the Court of the Gods. As time wound on and the original members of Varian's Pantheon shifted, either through death, reinvention, artifice, or some other transformation, the Gods Court was forgotten, the mountain colonnade which formed its host lost to mortal memory.
In Chakros of the Year 504, following months of turmoil amidst the Second War of Night, Bamathis, the Warlord, resurrected the ancient tradition, informing all of Sapience of His intent to convene the Court of the Gods in an emergency session to discuss the ongoing calamity. Issuing an invitation to all of Varian's children, and to mortals who wished to bear witness, the summit was to take place at the end of Chakros, and all were expected to attend.
The month rolled towards its end, and, largely quiet since the ignominy of his defeat at Kald, the voice of Murgraxis called out again, promising that his forces would find and destroy this 'Memonaransa'. Deploying yet more of their seemingly endless legions into the Tarea Mountains, scouts too were sent forth alongside another monstrous host of darkspawn, tasked with locating the magically concealed mountain. Warleader Bulrok quickly mobilised the Empire's enhanced soldiers as well as his officers and made haste to the front, confident in success after their prior decisive victories and the advancements in military techniques their troops had made.
Others flocked to Kald as a rallying point, meaning to repel the shadowspawn in melee combat. Exarch Aban joined them and, while armies clashed in the north and former slaves-turned-soldiers culled hundreds of shadowbound legionnaires, the adventurers on the front did likewise, the clanging of bells ringing out amidst the carnage of war. Though countless died on all sides, the adventurers rose with fresh resolve and battled on, and Ohlsana's legions replenished themselves without ceasing.
While the battle raged, many of Hubride's citizens fled, seeking refuge in one of the city states. Others, unwilling to flee their homes and wishing to go out on their own terms, took their lives in the throes of despair, miners and villagers and local guardsmen laying dead on the streets. Murgraxis persisted, committing far more to the advance than in prior engagements, and, despite the strategic acumen of Warleader Bulrok and his deputy Rijetta, both ably supported by Bloodloch as a whole, the Empire's line began to break, owing, at least in part, to Primus Dourif who was either distracted or asleep at his post. Murgraxis, bellowing invectives about the failure of Bloodloch, and the inevitable dominion of Olsana (as written in the tongue of Czjetija), pressed his legions forward.
The earth shook, and the entire Tarean range rumbled ominously, mighty quakes protesting the Shadow's claim. As dozens still fought on the Kald front, the hissing and jeering of the advancing troops found itself drowned out by the wrathful roar of the earth, the very mountains splitting asunder to swallow thousands in their craggy jaws. Momentary silence was soon replaced with screams of anguish echoing from deep within the Tarea's heart: hordes of shadowspawn devoured to feed Azvosh's unending hunger by Ivoln's gravelly command. No retort came from Murgraxis, only an eerie, foreboding calm, and the Empire hastened to redouble their efforts in preparation for the next inevitable clash.
~ ~ ~
A short while later, the piping notes of a herald rose from the Tarean Mountains to signal the presence of Bamathis, the Warlord. Declaring that Memonaransa would soon commence, He invited His Siblings to join Him, and extended the same invitation to any mortal with the fortitude to conquer the mountain's ascent. By the will of He Who Is Strife, the cloak of divinely-wrought magic shrouding Mount Memonaransa fell away, revealing a mighty peak that extended beyond even the clouds, a rumble in the Southern Tundra signalling the opening of a concealed pathway to the summit.
Some sixty adventurers flocked to the foot of the mountain and commenced their ascent, battling through rain, hail, snow, lightning, and treacherous cliffs. Dozens fell in the attempt, but it was Valorie Aresti who first conquered the mountain, followed swiftly by Valeria. However, whether through eagerness to prove their mettle in a second attempt or through negligence as to its purpose, the two quickly entered a silver gateway and found themselves returned to the bottom. Once all had gathered, Bamathis paced restlessly about the colonnade, a sprawling amphitheatre at the mount's peak outfitted with majestic, opulent thrones for each of the original Sapient Gods.
Dhar was the first to arrive and take His throne, followed soon after by the Earthen Lord, the two estranged Gods sharing a momentary look. Slyphe appeared next in a haze of salt and spray, and Damariel joined Them, both taking Their seats. Two Chiav flanked Malevolence, Whose gait lacked the usual macabre flair owing to the gaping hole in Her chest. While Iosyne skittered toward Her own throne, a pillar of fire announced Ethne's presence; exhausted from work at the forge, She slumped into Tukuti's seat, grateful for the opportunity to rest. Perfumed scents presaged Corruption's coalescion, a look of sultry curiosity on Her face while She sat. Time stilled and Lexadhra made Herself known, glibly sinking into the throne marked 'Aryon' with amusement. Last to appear was the Manipulator, and Severn simply stepped out of the shadows without pomp or ceremony, taking His throne opposite His Twin.
Ten Gods had answered the Warlord's call, and, after some minutes of awkward silence, it seemed no more would be in attendance. Continuing His restless pacing, the Warlord came to rest behind the throne of Varyan, asking Severn with annoyance about the presence of the Dragon. Shrugging, He casually reminded Bamathis that His invitation was to Varian's children, and that Tanixalthas was not one of them. "Neither is She," interjected Ivoln with a look of disdain towards Lexadhra, who reacted only with a sharp intake of breath. Corruption enquired after Omei, expressing surprise that She would forego a chance to show off, and the Indelible informed the Gods that She was preparing the Astral Realm to sustain life in the event of total loss of the Prime.
Irritation flashed in Strife's eyes, but before He could speak further, the incisive voice of Damariel cut Him off, insisting He speak. Memonaransa had not been invoked for millennia, Truth reminded Them, and He made known His lack of desire to suffer Strife's presence any longer than absolutely necessary, a sentiment supported by a grunt of assent from the tired Ethne. Raising His voice so it carried across the mountain, the Warlord addressed Damariel in formal tones, invoking all of His honorifics as He declared that the Unbound Lord was called upon.
Incensed, Damariel responded with harsh severity, outraged at the notion that He was to be put in trial in the Gods' Court. While Slyphe inwardly bubbled with excitement at what They termed a 'twist', Severn cut off His Twin's attempt to stand in protest with a coolly uttered assurance that He was not called for trial, and a plea to hear Them out. Mollified for the moment, Damariel sat and demanded that Bamathis speak quickly. While Ethne mused on the merit of talk and longed to return to Her forge, Bamathis raised His voice further. The threat of Shadow's General was nigh, He began, and reiterated their primary target with a jabbed finger in Damariel's direction. If Truth fell, He said, then the Shadow would have what they need to free Ohlsana. Pounding His fist on the back of Varyan's throne for emphasis, He gravely stated what all knew to be true: They could not allow that to happen.
Iosyne quipped that it was a shame Damariel had spent so much of His strength to protect, what She termed, one little village, but Dhar immediately cut Her off with His icy rasp. Reminding Malevolence that she was once the Virtue of Inspiration and the Goddess of Strategy, the Underking retorted with scorn that She was now killing Herself to save a single Keep of sinners and thieves. The Goddess was entirely unfazed, coolly replying that the Shadow Keep is close to the heart of the enemy's power, and would be a fine staging point for Their own forces. Irritated by the petty disagreements, Ethne insisted that Bamathis get to the point.
The Warlord ignored the quarrel and pressed on, stressing the point that when all eleven Generals had assembled, they could and /would/ come for Damariel, and that the Gods would not be able to protect Him from them all. At this, Slyphe's face took on a toothy grin, asking if the Gods were scared in a shanty-like lilt while questioning the notion that the Generals could be as strong as Murgraxis and Ati. Ivoln, unimpressed and not sharing the Maelstrom's cavalier attempt at humour, rejected the idea that He was afraid, insisting that the opposition would be brought to heel and that the strong, and the earth, would prevail. Only Irgech was comparable, so said Severn, ruefully informing Them that the one known by the dubious moniker "Angelbane", was stronger than both Murgraxis /and/ Ati, suggesting They should be thankful Ozeroth, by far the strongest and most threatening, had been chosen to hold the Shadow's frontline against Spirit.
"The others would still give most of You trouble," so said the Warlord, confirming the Manipulator's assertion with a remark about unfavourable odds. Demanding He get to the point, Damariel asked what was being asked of Him, and the response was simple: the Unbound Lord would retreat to the Spirit Plane when the Generals arrived, and beseech the Angelic Triad for refuge. Laughter followed from Chakrasul, unctuous and malicious as She declared such a suggestion, such a submission to fear, as delightfully fitting. Iosyne thought the plan foolish, vestiges of Strategy surfacing as She suggested the Generals would simply return to Spirit and assault Him there, asking with disbelief whether Bamathis intended to wage a war of cat and mouse with Damariel as bait until the rot devoured the whole world.
At this, Lexadhra interjected, informing Them of a secondary objective. This key, as She called it, would unlock Ohlsana's prison without requiring the death of Damariel. Severn assured Iosyne that the Generals would not withdraw to Spirit due to the logistical concerns, and Damariel, quiet in the immediate aftermath of Strife's suggestion, now made known His vigorous disagreement with the idea. "I refuse," He stated in tones of anger and rejection, citing Ethne's exhaustion from Her work at the forge and Enorian's need for more than Slyphe alone to defend it as reasons for His denial. He cast a sidelong glance at Haern's empty throne, adding that uncertainty and enemies were now everywhere, while Ethne made an effort to hide the extent of Her fatigue even while grunting in reluctant agreement with Damariel. "I am not weak," thought Slyphe as They watched the exchange, invoking a swift rebuttal from the mind of the Earthen Lord: "Yes You are."
The Maelstrom spoke up then, Their voice a dangerous undulation as They questioned Damariel on whether He thought Them unworthy of the task. While They clasped Their trident with loving care, Their eyes swivelled to regard Bamathis. "Bamathis might be a pissant," They began, "But in this, He speaks sense." Voicing Their expectation of an apology when Damariel returned from Spirit to find Enorian safe and still standing, the Changing God shifted then to regard Haern's empty throne, voicing a half-serious concern about Haern's attempt to destroy Sapience and expressing Their desire to at least know about the Hunter's plan to do so in advance. Iosyne cut in to ask where the Hunter was while gesturing at His empty seat, Bamathis settled the matter of Haern's absence in two short sentences. First, He reminded His Siblings that Haern's actions were the will of Varian, Their Father, going on to add that He would hear no more words against Him, and that His grievances over the affair with the moon were of a personal nature.
While Ethne and Lexadhra harboured thoughts of irritation, Iosyne rolled her ruined eyes but grudgingly accepted the explanation. If the Generals would not turn back to Spirit to pursue Damariel, She remarked, then the move would serve to only reduce Their numbers on the Prime. Before any could answer, Dhar cut in to ask Lexadhra about the secondary objective She had mentioned, confirming the Underking's suspicion that She referred to the Sword of Truth. Arion had it last, so She said, and that it was anyone's guess where it was now, possibly not even on the continent. This information seemed to lock in Dhar's agreement with the idea of Damariel's retreat as He noted the likelihood of the Generals needing to split up, allowing the Gods to divide, and, with Ivoln finishing His sentence for Him, conquer. The estranged Gods of Death and Earth shared a momentary look, fleeting but laden with a weight beyond the simple word They shared.
Returning to the subject of Damariel, the Unbound Lord looked around at the gathered Gods in search of support, eyes passing over each of Them in turn and receiving only blankness in response. Though the Forge Maiden offered Him a vague look of apology, even She did not voice Her agreement. "So be it." He stated finally, His voice rueful and defeated. Nodding decisively as the matter was settled, Bamathis shifted His focus to Chakrasul, Who still wore Her smirk of malice. Strife asked Her of the Court of Chaos, and whether the Goddess could convince Empress Xa'azamit to fight with Them. Chakrasul replied that the Empress does as she pleases, naming Bamathis "little Strife" with no affection whatsoever. If she was provided sufficient tribute, so said Chakrasul, she may be persuaded to lend some of her time. Seeking assent from the Goddess to place the responsibility for this persuasive task in Her and Bloodloch's hands, Bamathis received only a languid shrug, which He took as approval, reminding them that Xa'azamit was not yet as strong as Golotha, but the Court would be invaluable nonetheless.
"There is another resource We have not discussed." This from Ivoln, His sonorous voice magnified by the echo of the mountains. He looked to Dhar but avoided meeting His eye, asking after the Glade with a suggestion that the Underking had held back its souls for too long, positing now as the time to send them forth. The rebuttal was a cold, Kingly "no". The Glade was His realm, Dhar protested, entrusted to Him by the Celestine. Shaking His head from within His cowl, He stated that He alone would decide the appoined time, and that now was not it.
Bamathis looked then to Ethne, making cautious enquiries about Her work on the bell, enquiries laced with concern that Her work would summon Dejaani with its song. Stirred to anger by a combination of exhaustion and the Warlord's demanding tone, Ethne bluntly reminded Him She did not answer to Him, and nor did Her work require His approval. Strife's hand went to His sword at these words, palpable tension flooding down the mountainside, but Ethne's exhausted sigh stilled Him in mid motion. Tiredly telling Him to temper His tantrum, She assured the Warlord summoning Dejaani was not Her intent. Damariel lent the Forge Maiden a nod of support, as did Slyphe, though the former still bristled with displeasure at His forced absconsion.
Haern was the next topic on the Divine agenda, genuine concern in the Warlord's voice as He asked whether the Hunter would be recovered enough to fight. Dhar informed all the Gods that Haern's attention was focused on connecting the pathways to the fledgling plane, but insisted He would fight. Satisfied with the answer, Bamathis summarised the meeting in short order: Damariel was to retreat to Spirit when the Generals arrive, Chakrasul would work with Bloodloch to obtain support from Chaos, and Ethne would continue with the bell with Slyphe and Enorian's aid. To the remaining Gods He counselled only thus: continue to prepare for war, and prepare Their cities to withstand it.
Severn offered to liaise with Tanixalthas and soothe Her pride, to which the Warlord responded with a question about the Manipulator's own plans for Spinesreach. Answering only that they were in progress, Severn had little else to say, and the Warlord accepted the answer while His fellow deities introspectively pondered Their next moves. Calling for any other business, none came, and Bamathis adjourned the Court and dismissed His kin. One by one, the attending Gods faded from view, chromatic shimmers of colourful mist and animate essence painting the mountain in variegated shades with Their departure.
Penned by my hand on Quensday, the 5th of Khepary, in the year 504 MA.