2021-04-14: Gere Curam Mei Finis

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  • Log: Gere Curam Mei Finis
  • Cast: Zera Innocentius, Neriah Parringer, Isiris Shango'Ra
  • Where: Saint Heim Papal State - Grand Cathedral of Granas
  • Date: April 14, 2021
  • Summary: As the holy city falls under attack, Pope Innocentius reckons with his own battle.

<Pose Tracker> Zera Innocentius has posed.

    BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h38zN_vF_dQ

    There is terror in Saint Heim this day.

    It's uncertain from when the clergy first learned of what had been happening, or if it was simply the psychic pressure of what was underway, but the priesthood -- those who were not of the Ethos order and summarily in peril -- had gone to ground as it were. There are no penitents in Saint Heim today. No chanting or singing fills the cathedrals' halls.

    Today there is only silence as they all wait, uneasily, for the next shoe to drop. Will it only be the Ethos who are purged?


    No one even dares to flee the city, now. Not a one.

    Only one of their number walks the halls of the grand cathedral now, his footsteps ringing too loud in the stillness.
    Once he had been here for a moment of silent contemplation, a rarity for a man of his stature. Now the silence is unwanted. There is entirely too much of it.

    Even a man like Zera Innocentius can be made to feel fear, whatever it is that pulses in his soul. Would they dare? Today, of all days?


    His voice is hoarse, as he calls out for the one person who he knows to be his truest ally. But she is not here, either.

    Nor are her loyal knights. It's as if he's been abandoned even by her and this thought is the worst of them all.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Ah, ah, yes, your Holiness, I'm here~"

It isn't Selene. The voice echoes through the hall of the cathedral, a note of mirth clinging to it that escalates almost predictably to the next thing spoken. Well, emoted.


The laugh is joined by the traceries of shadowlight through the air, etching out a set of lips, delicate fingers splayed near them, raven curls and flowing curves and ermine-trimmed gown as the Impetus of Valmar rapidly draws herself into being in the centre of that chamber. There is a sharp click as Neriah's heels hit the carpet.

The laugh fades to an arch smile as she bats her lashes down the corridor at the alarmed Zera Innocentius. "Matters with Solaris seem to have been rather more consequential than you anticipated, Zera," she observes, her mannerisms almost catlike as she takes a few slow steps forward. One fingertip drums against her cheek to accent that sly smile of hers, that twinkle of intent behind her eyes. "I think you'll find Selene a little preoccupied, as with most of the priests who follow you. The ones still alive, that is. And here you are alone, aren't you?"

Neriah dips her lashes. It lends her smile an air of something far more menacing.

"You had a lot of people dancing to your tune, you know. But you overlooked something.

"I don't like to be led."

<Pose Tracker> Isiris Shango'Ra has posed.

     You can feel it.
     The movement, the pulse in the world, the stomach of the earth sick and churning.

     In truth, they all could, the lost, the weary, the wild. The world tilts, the cathedral tilts, the world rotates on an unseen axis, shifting something so simple as 'reason' and 'geometry' into rueful ideas, causing men to retch in the halls as they try to make sense of where they're going. At first, it's simple. 'Protect.' Then it becomes more. 'Find help.' At the end of it all, it becomes the most abstract of all. 'Why?'

     Why should it hurt so?
     Abominable eyes open, seeing.
     It doesn't, at least, not for long.

     Tendrils of dark thread through the rich stone and tapestries, hands crawling along the walls in the spaces that the eyes do not see and cannot rest, the saccade of the eye betraying them only in the vaguest glimpses. The force and strength of 'madness' bleeds through the halls, crawling in every fold, every mind. It whispers in every ear, and reflects in the gunmetal of every revolver. Crows chatter incessantly, and rap on stained glass that doesn't exist, in rooms without windows. It's the kind of sensation that crawls into bed with you, the sort that locks the door behind it.

     If there was ever a door to begin with.
     Men have strangled their kin to save them from less.

     The fingers crawl through the cracks of the room, opening latches and undoing seams that were never there. He arrives in a single long sigh of malaise, the apparition of something else, a man distracted, looking off into the middle distance, as if you yourself don't exist. His eyes do not fall on any 'space' that is real, a young man in a long grey coat, standing for all the world like he has simply always been there.

<Pose Tracker> Zera Innocentius has posed.

    It isn't Selene's voice that calls out to him now in this hall.

    Zera Innocentius turns sharply towards the sound of a familiar voice, his brow beetling as he squints into the shadows there. "Neriah? Child, is that you?"

    Before his expression undergoes a sea change, confusion parting for a grim understanding.

    There is little about her demeanor that can be missed, after all.

    "So you would choose 'now' to attempt this, daughter of Valmar... I ought to have assured your obedience." He takes a breath, exhales sharply, and closes his eyes. "Enough of your games. I already know for what you have come, inheritor of Arius' Will..."

    And the until-now almost genial patriach's demeanor shifts. His lips part in a widened smile.

    "So be it. Even if it must be here and now, daughter of Valmar! I will claim what is of our god and return it so that it may be reborn!"

    The pressure in the room drops as but a small portion of the patriarch's power is loosed; darkness begins to birth itself here.
    But it is far from the only piece of the dark to make itself known here.

    Or for that matter, the only thing that makes the cathedral seemingly tilt anticlockwise to the world's axis.
    There are birds here, now. The city is full of them. The cathedral is covered with them. ...Right?

    Things whisper in the shadows, hiss in the darkness. If one turns about, nothing is there anymore.

    Even someone with a piece of a dead god's will cannot idly brush away the touch of such a presence. Zera's eyes, glittering with rage, narrow. "What is that? A trick you have brought to me, child?"

    He takes one step forward.

    There is someone who wasn't here before.

    "Who are you?" asks Zera Innocentius, of the young man who just seems like he has always been standing right there.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Amidst the madness, there is a single island of sanity and stability. Neriah's smile never breaks. The delusions that turn the world itself on its axis are entirely expected to her.

The arrival is expected. Casually, Neriah raises a hand, brushing the backs of her fingers over the cheek of the man in the long grey coat before tilting her head to briefly touch her lips to his cheek. "You're having fun, aren't you," she murmurs.

Tossing her hair back with a snap of her head, Neriah holds her hand out towards Zera. Pale flesh melts away to give shape to something more sinister and talonious. The flutter of crows around her gives her more than the comfort she needs, even in the face of the unveiling of even a small portion of the Mind of Valmar. The darkness and madness are counterbalanced by the unshackling of another will.

The power of the Claw - but a power bolstered and enhanced by the will of the Impetus. Valmar was shattered into seven pieces. Arius never was - and though he may have been no god, Neriah's will drives her inheritance to the forefront. Dark fire ripples between the talons as she begins to advance, her smile small and thin.

"I see you've met Mr. Handsome. I'd invite you to get to know him, but. Y'know."

There's a sudden flare of power - a spark of cold white energy springing to life at the centre of Neriah's palm.

It shoots forth as a single whisper-thin RAY of force - narrow, but with enough power compressed into it to blow out the back wall of the cathedral should it not intercept Zera. Her eyes spark as she unleashes with intent.

"You're no different than the Fangs, are you?" Neriah tsks. "You stumbled into a piece of Valmar and it put the fear in you. But behind your stupid hat and your station, you're a small, frightened man trying to make sense of something bigger than him."

The Impetus takes another step forward, her eyes growing wide with a familiar hunger. "You're too small a man to become a god, Zera."

<Pose Tracker> Isiris Shango'Ra has posed.

     He never turns to face them.

     The shivering comes in pulses, a saccade shuffle of threads in reality, as strands of the grand grey dream weave themselves into the tapestry. Each pulse is itself a hammering of a slate blue glass spike into the road, each perfectly timed to the heartbeat of something that is almost assuredly not you. Even looking at him is enough to cue a sharp buzzing sound that gets higher and sharper the longer one looks, fomenting a disaster that augurs into the back of the skull until the fingers can pry into the crevices--

     She touches him. It is enough, the blue cast of his eyes falling on her skin as a single droplet of his attention is brought into the world that 'is.' His attention becomes here, becomes now. And it is not well unto the world.

     The dueling powers of the great beast Valmar bloom in a cathedral that suddenly feel as if it is two sizes too small for them, the threads of dark unspooling on the loom as his eyes slowly drift across the floor. It contracts before him, as a maiden before the leering eye, though his is no more than the mildest glance, the simplest murmur, the gentlest whisper. He was asked a question, not a moment ago.

     "Somewhere, he puts his gun to the temple of another man. He pulls the trigger, and hopes the chamber is empty," he finally tells the once great man. "Somewhere, my angels sob as they drag him to the dirt, pouring a mercy of water down his throat that he will never taste." The young man looks down, as the power of darkness bathes over him, the 'strength' of the Ethos. "Somewhere, she opens one door after another, only to find the same men, only to find the same fate. Only to find that she must do the same thing. Over and again, over and over." He nods once, as if realizing the danger that fills the room with some mild satisfaction. "You can run on for a length, but the reason of the world that 'is' will never catch the world that was..."

     "Somewhere, they realize this," he says.
     The whispers in the corners turn to words. Words of steel.
     With that hiss of a blade, he produces the "Eclipse" sword from nowhere at all.
     This, he slams into the ground, burying the point inches into the stone.

     And then, slowly his attention turns to the long shadow it casts on the ground, as if watching a sundial. His focus is preternatural, perfect, and limitless. He is in the presence of natal gods, and he could not be any less exacting. He watches it, as if it obeyed some law or rule that no one else knew but him. He was asked a question, not a moment ago. He was. What was it.. Who was he?

     "They were born for one purpose alone, those in the shadows of God," he explains.
     "I am there for them."

<Pose Tracker> Zera Innocentius has posed.

    Valmar was split into seven pieces.

    Seven plus Will, enduring even after his demise and flush with the promise of one day being reborn. Thus there are two pieces right here, in the space of this cathedral.
    One plus one, alongside eight. A strange calculus to make.

    And all the stranger for the other now presence in this space.

    "What are you doing, Neriah?" asks Zera, calling her again by her name. "Who is this?"

    The young man never does face them, after all. The pope does not think he's seen him at all before in the slightest--

    Even if a part of him just might
    just a little
    feel the pulse of the world slow
    and stop.

    When his 'attention' falls upon her. When he speaks and it is a tale of recursion.

    No. The world didn't stop. The last bit of it rings out, echoing in on itself endlessly. This way lies madness. This way lies--

    "Enough! Cease your chatter, child of Valmar. I shall claim what I had ought nights ago!"

    Malice pours off of the patriarch, flush suddenly with all the dark force that the Will provides him. He bares his teeth, a riot of shadow flaring at his feet. Somewhere old priceless stained glass windows shatter in rains of colorful glass.
    Or there would be color, if the 'Will' were not conjured so from within him now. The world is grey, grey-black--

    And white. It's but a thin line of it when it comes, when it slams into him. It takes a good deal of his power to keep it 'merely' at bay: he is forced back a distance, slowly, slowly--
    But inexorably, as the power flowing from Neriah does not soon cease.

    The cathedral is painted as a sort of chiaroscuro as the two continue their struggle: light and shadow, without color.

    "The... Fangs?" Zera hisses, darkness pluming from him as he mines the power of the Will. "What is it of which you speak? I-- no! You shall not best me in this, daughter of Arius!"

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah's learned a few tricks in keeping Isiris focused on this reality. Not for the first time, she's profoundly glad they still work.

"You might say that he's a dear, dear friend of mine," she 'explains' with a thin, meaningful smile. "He was the first to truly understand the world I want to write into the essence of Filgaia. Not a world defined by small fears.

"I'm sure I'll come up with a lovely way to thank him." Her eyes dart to Isiris, smile growing momentarily sweet.

"You're a dear, joining me while we finish this old man. Won't you show him more?"

As Zera gathers his malice, Neriah brings her own to bear. The sheer violence behind that ray blasts raw force out from around her. Light and shadow clash in a blank palette. More stained glass panes fracture and splinter, cobwebbing cracks beginning to dance through ancient masonry as Neriah taps the powers at her disposal to keep the pressure on the old priest.

There's a hunger in Neriah's eyes - one she didn't understand until she met Riley and Xander, but one that's all too clear now. "There are more than seven," she hisses. "You didn't know that, did you? You were so blinded by your own terror that you stopped looking outside your own universe."

Neriah snaps her other hand forward - and for just a moment, the power of the Claw weaves through the threads of madness that have been sewn into the world by the mysterious man in the grey coat. Crows swoop through the room, metamorphing into fiery birds and circling Zera in an endless flock, diving in erratically to unleash blasts of power. They come from directions that seem impossible, tricking the eye, flickering in and out of the field of vision along routes that seem impossible.

"That's right. I am the daughter of Arius." Neriah raises her chin, her hair and cloak billowing around her. "The man Valmar left behind to bring the Day of Darkness to its climax - his trusted vicar. The future of this world, Zera --"

Her voice rises dramatically as power bursts out of her, shadow and light amplifying the Nth-dimensional Hellburner into something all the more raw and powerful. Tapestries and curtains disintegrate and burn under the force as she lets fly. "--That future is mine to deliver!" she proclaims, voice ringing. "The one to become a god will be ME!"

<Pose Tracker> Isiris Shango'Ra has posed.

     "Is he," the young man wonders quietly.
     "Scared, that is."

     He never looks up from the shadow cast by his blade, though it doesn't move at all, even when the energy begins to seethe from the pair, begins to crush his chest, making it feel like the world becomes cramped. His is the study of a boy enamored of a single, all-consuming idea. A complex concept that cannot be easily 'understood,' at least not through the lens of someone as they are in this whileless now. They speak, the father addressing the daughter. The angle, broken only by a few degrees of incidence. Her voice is soothing to him, even as he finds his familiar and objectionable, but he never lifts his eyes from the shadow.

     "Aa," he replies to her, not looking up.

     The power clashing causes the tapestries to burn, his coat to smoulder, as force and Will crash into eachother inexorably becoming the past, as it is, and as it has been for so many times prior. The young man remembers this, or it is more appropriate to say, remembers him. It is enough to say that the power that crushes the room flat is one that he would not have survived were he anyone else. A priest is not enough to withstand this. A man is not enough.

     Slowly, the tongues of flame whip up along the tapestry, eating it whole. The buzz becomes higher pitched, louder, as the young man stares downwards. The flames crawl, light seething along the expensive fibers. Then, the shadow cast by his sword begins to move. And the tongues of flame.... stop.

     Crazed, the shadow cast by Eclipse whirls around the blade as the burning crows lurch over Zera, menacing him. The shadow whirls as if a sun that cannot be seen runs in overdrive around a makeshift sundial, the day passing irrevocably into night into day again. It whirls maniacally, as if some carriage screw had been removed from the clock-case of the world and left the torsion spring to whirl helplessly inside the case, jangled and mad. It is, in fact, the only thing that moves at all in the mad, crazed world. The angle of perception in the world shifts ever slightly, as if one could merely take a step beyond and see the seething hands and fingers crawling out of the seams between tongues, hear the laughter coming from the shadow cast by the woman. But no matter which way the world tilts and sways, it doesn't move for one sick, vertiginous instant.

     But he does.

     The killer slowly removes an co-incidence of the sword from the stone, leaving some shadow of the original there to cast the shadow that ends. "I don't think you are afraid at all," he confides in the man, his elder by some and many years. "Why would they choose you then? A 'signpost' that cannot stand is no signpost at all. Why wouldn't you be brave?" He approaches quietly, in the shadow of fire and flame, the color drained from around the godsman as the Will bleeds every energy around it dry. This too, he may come to realize, is energy. But there is so much of it, bleeding into every stone, every man, every thought, every doubt. He heard the heartbeat.

     And now, the young killer will touch him, just once, on the shoulder, a kindness -
     "Even if you are," the agent tells him, "you shouldn't scream."

     "Let me tell you my name, and of the song that was sang."
     And then he lifts his blade at an awkward angle. A killing angle.

     The world will sag, returning to the speed that it always was, and never truly changed. The agent still stands where he has been this whole time, staring absent-mindedly at his blade bound up in the stone. But in the end, it takes only the slightest distraction, the slightest motion, the slightest realization that the heartbeat of the world has always been your own, that it quickens and shifts and flows in accordance to certain laws, certain rules, certain stimuli, certain corruption. The realization that the corruption, like he, has always been here.

     If that much is true, Zera will have a chance to learn Isiris' born name as his last kindness.
     And then in trade, he will be stabbed in the back by nothing and no one at all.

<Pose Tracker> Zera Innocentius has posed.

    He is many things right now. But is Pope Zera Innocentius scared, as he faces down one of his fellow inheritors in the shell of the grand cathedral, alone?

    That young man wonders about that. Will and Impetus, Will and Claws: they trade off without regard to the space about them, their only intent the destruction and consumption of the other.

    This is a conflict in which only one will walk away victorious, it seems -- unless of course the both of them should happen to strike the other down.

    What is another shifting of the world? What is another tilt from three to four to five? Time and space no longer obey any rational law in this place where the pieces of a dead god do battle with itself.

    Neriah tells Zera then something very important. Something he had missed.

    More than one thing he had missed, in fact.

    "More than seven? That... that is impossible!" the old man spits, shaking his head. "The Will... I know that there are but..." He trails off, the flow of shadow before and about him faltering for a heartbeat's span. His attention -- and Will -- are for a moment tuned elsewhere.

    One of the lenses of his eyeglasses abruptly shatters from the force of it and he stares at Neriah in shock, now.

    "No. ...No!"

    Zera realizes it, after all. In his own way.

    "How had they... how could it have hidden?!"

    The darkness, ever at his command, flares violently, tendril-laden fragments of it lashing out at anything -- anyone? -- that dares to come near.

    "I can see them now...! Do not think they will remain hidden from me, Arius' daughter! Once I have finished with you, I shall have Selene collect them as well!"

    Because as the man muses, he may be many things right now.
    But he is not, in truth, afraid.

    A fearful man would have never been sought by 'it'. A fearful man would have never taken these steps -- all of these cruel, needful steps -- to ensure that what he must inherit would arrive to him.

    The world about them is mad.
    The world about them... stops.

    It is like moving without moving: Zera Innocentius turns his head and body towards the young man -- towards the shadow and anti-shadow that is cast by his blade -- and finds that while he has moved he has in fact not moved at all. He is frozen, still locked in combat with Neriah as she declares her victory.

    And he can yet turn his head and admire the whole of the frozen tableau about him.

    There are, he realizes in a sense, two swords. He blinks as the man approaches him, and in that blink, the man is no longer there.

    In this moment, Zera Innocentius has the chance to feel fear -- real fear -- for the first time in decades. It blooms like a flower, bright in the desert for the span of a day.

    And then it's gone, replaced by something more dead. Colder. Emptier.
    There is that tap on the shoulder.

    "All... that I wanted... Valmar... this world..." the old man sighs, aware on some level of the doom that is threaded into that pulse, "Was I... wrong?"

    A name is murmured into one ear.

    "Oh... so that is your..."

    Then there is only the final killing stroke.
    Then there is nothing.

    The body that lies on the floor sees nothing, anymore.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

The cathedral itself rumbles under the sheer intensity of the forces being brought to bear. Part against Part. Mind against Claw. Will against Impetus. Sweat beads down Neriah's face as she tenses her body, her breathing growing heavier as she pours more and more magic into the clash. Scorch marks race across marble tile and columns as she scowls down her arm at the beleaguered pontiff.

Her focus on him is so intense that she can't possibly miss that moment of shock. In spite of her strain, she drags her tongue across her lower lip.

"You were convinced you had all the answers," she murmurs. "And you acted on them. Maybe you had more courage than I thought."

The clash between the two aspects of the God of Evil taints the sacred place of Granas with a palette of dread. A balance of terror. Until the world shifts upon its axis, and a man whispers his true name.

Neriah sags visibly as Zera's body hits the floor. The rumbling of the cathedral eases as the powers at play fade and die. "...You weren't wrong," she finally murmurs as she begins to move forward, the click of her high heels on the floor eerily loud in the silence that follows the violence. "But you forgot your place. The one to bring those things to pass..."

Kneeling over Zera, Neriah holds her right hand out. "...It was never going to be you," she whispers as the sigil of Valmar burns from her palm. Her fingers shimmer with cold light as she touches them to Zera's head.

The world had tilted on its axis before. Now, it LURCHES. Unlight floods through the broken windows of the Cathedral of St. Heim as something UNSPEAKABLE bleeds from the dead to the living. Neriah's body is, for a moment, silhouetted in shadow, an effigy of semiliquid dark energy, her arm distending into something talonious before rippling and absorbing something shapeless and hideous - and as she does, the church rumbles one last time, low and ominous.

The cold light fades, slowly. All is still.

Neriah rises slowly, her hand resting at her chest and her eyes closed, head bowed. "...You were invaluable, love," she murmurs, tilting her head towards Isiris and opening her eyes.

They burn with an intensely red shade, brighter than ever.

Her lips curve into a small smile, steady at first. But it soon broadens to a flash of white teeth, then wider. She presses a hand to her forehead and throws her head back in spite of herself.

"Ha! Hahahahaha! This is all so... PERFECT!!"

<Pose Tracker> Isiris Shango'Ra has posed.

     As the world lurches back to normal, a body hits the ground with a odd peace.

     But the world is not normal. It never was, and never will be the same as it was only moments prior. The unreality of the Cathedral takes on a maddening cast as the drumbeat of unspeakable light coruscates wildly through every window, casting strange shadows on the ground in negative exposure in waves, veins of night filling Neriah with the lifeblood of an ancient evil, an evil the young man dimly recognizes.

     His blood stained the spire, enough blood for ten men.

     Mad blue eyes that glow rise slowly in the din of silence that follows the cold light's recession. The man in the grey coat rests on the pommel of the saber that was impossibly in a man's back only a moment prior, as if calming the world. The once-crazed shadow the weapon casts obeys him as he leans his weight on the hilt to break it free, following the suggestion of the natural world instead of the whim of other places entirely. She breathes, her eyes shining red, as bright now as his, though his sedated expression mutes the glare.

     There is always that twinge that tilts the world when he looks up, looks up at once when he returns her her regard. The heat of ancient madness is met with the measured chill of a man who thinks of a thousand things at once and speaks of none of them at all. Slowly, his neutral expression gives way to an ice cold smile beneath the harsh glare of hideously blue eyes.

     "Perfect," he agrees quietly.
     "Become everything... everything that you ever dreamed."