2019-03-25: Terminal Arc

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  • Cutscene: Terminal Arc
  • Cast: Neriah Parringer
  • Where: Cathedral of Arius
  • Date: March 25, 2019
  • Summary: Left behind on Filgaia by some turn of fortune, Valmar's Child seeks to grasp an opportunity.

Like the radiant crest of some barely-explicable tsunami, the wave of light swept through the world, out from its locus in a part of Elru wiped off the map years before. It sought out those in need of being sent.

The wave rushed against the walls of the former monastery, a mile up a sheer cliff face - and sloughed around it. Luminosity flowed past like water dividing around a rock in the middle of a stream, melding together on the other side of the mountain, before the surge finally sloughed on by. Either the man behind the wave could not or would not do to her what was done to the others, whether unaware of her existence, blind to the danger she could pose, or simply assuming that she was too weak and inconsequential for Odessa to trifle with - or else intending to deal with her by main force of arms.

Watching through a partially-veiled window, the dark-haired woman closed her eyes and let her breath out with momentary relief. The true purpose of the magic eluded her - she could hardly see Drifters vanishing from a world away - but the words were a little more worrying than the spell. No gods and no masters - an army baring its fangs at kings and gods alike. The breadth of his intentions bothered her more than a little.

"Whatever your plans are, you've made the mistake of your life, Pops," Neriah muttered to the open air, as if she could beam a glower to the man who declared war on the entire world. She brought her kiseru to her lips for a moment and puffed out petulant little plume of smoke.

For a moment, she debated letting it slide if he'd send Erzebet back. Things were getting a little lonely without her.

A sigh slipped from her. She turned from the window and navigated the maze of corridors with the ease she'd come to expect after living here for months. The ruined monastery had come a long way, changed over almost without her having to do more than will it (and coax a few of her followers into proving their mettle through hard work). Worn stone walls had long since been darkened and accented with elegant tiles and red and gold drapes and carpets.

The sigil on them was, of course, awfully familiar. How could it not be?

The group of them waited for them in the sanctum - the room which once had been given over to a frozen flame, but now served as the heart of her New Church. A dozen hooded figures gathered around a circular table, various objects strewn across it - or perhaps less strewn than arranged in symbolically important orders, laid out at the focal points of various symbolic runes drawn both on the pedestal and across the floor. They pulsed with a simple light of pale readiness.

"My lady." A sharp-faced old man in a darker robe nodded to her. "The preparations are ready, if you are sure you would like to do it this way."

"What choice is there, Yvain? I would really rather not have that army marching up to my front door," Neriah sighed, lifting her cigarette holder again.

Her seneschal raised a delicate finger. "We are a kilometre above the ground and have the literal God of Evil on our side."

Waving a hand, Neriah brought her heel down with the kind of sharp, knife-like click that brought the gathered magicians to attention. "Don't be overly confident!" she dismissed the thoughts. "For one thing, people have been here before, and they know where the stairs are. For another, we don't have the God of Evil on our side at all. As you might recall, I as the rightful High Priestess may be his effective agent on this disgusting shitball of a world, but he is presently indisposed. And by that I mean some asshole julienned him and it's our job to put him back together."

As the cultists stared at her, Neriah paused, then lifted her cigarette holder again. "...Actually, do I have to be High Priestess?" she murmured. "I like Pope. Papess? --On second thought, no, I don't like Papess anymore. Forget it."

Yvain stared at her the way he always did when Neriah reminded him she wasn't yet 20. "My lady--"

Neriah puffed a ring of smoke into the air, cutting him off with the suddenness of it. Keeping them all off-balance suited her, at least sometimes. Yvain was hardy a bad minion, but letting him know what to expect all the time could only work to her disadvantage.

"What we have here is an opportunity," she noted once the surprise had passed. Her tone lowered, growing more serious as the ideas once again took shape in her mind, sharp and keenly focused. "If what I think happened happened, it's likely that the most dangerous people on Filgaia right now are Odessa, and their attention probably won't be on us first and foremost. After all, our god is sealed away, isn't he? Rhadamanthus may believe there are no gods and no masters, but I doubt he has much time on his agenda for us as we are now. Meanwhile, the rest of the world's attention will be on Vinsfeld Rhadamanthus, and not on Neriah Parringer. That means someone out there will keep this army of Vinsfeld's busy for awhile. And what do you suppose that means?"

The raven-eyed man frowned, letting surprise give way to quiet consideration. "Then you intend to use this opportunity."

Curving her lips into a little smile, Neriah moved past the table, her heels striking the marble floor tiles with decisive clicks as she made her way up the dais at the room's rear, up to the huge seat waiting for her. She sunk into the comfortable cushions and leaned back, crooking her legs over one of the chair's arms, then taking another draw, blowing a few little puffs of smoke into the air.

"Start the ritual, please," she urged, waving the kiseru indolently. "If you do a really good job, we'll all go out for ice cream."

Sass or no sass, the robed figures gathered around the symbol table begin to chant. One by one, the symbols began to brighten. The light gradually suffused down from the table, dancing through the symbols drawn across the floor tiles, across each door, across the walls and floors in strategic places throughout the place she had dubbed the Cathedral of Arius. The glow of it filled her eyes and bathed her in a shimmering warmth, casting deep shadows in all directions.

Neriah closed her eyes for a moment and smiled thinly. Her earlier petulance had given way to a more smug realization of how neatly events had slid into her own plans. In a way, she wanted to find Vinsfeld and thank him for making his threats so ecumenical. Nothing else could have given her nearly so free a hand.

"Bend the arc of the universe all you like," she murmured as the light swelled to take them. "I already know where it ends."