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Hunting in the North

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By the end of Rising Air, Keris has finished her first wonder; etching the last few glyphs onto the silver lining of the bowl and binding the soil, water and plant matter to their container. Perhaps she could have finished it sooner if she hadn’t been distracted by her side-endeavours into painting and the twice-weekly outings with her kids, but that’s not something she can change now.

She tests it exhaustively until she’s satisfied - well, she also spends quite a bit of time just playing with it because it’s fun - and then boxes it up carefully and has a message sent to the Shashalme, informing them that Peer Keris Dulmeadokht wishes to present them with a gift in thanks for the aid they gave her with her tasks in An Teng.

Once again, it is no small trip to their garden. It has moved, and it is now five screams of the tomescu that Keris must sit in a pleasure barge pulled by giant maggots that takes hidden paths across the levels and - eventually - emerges from the catacombs of Malfeas onto one of the floating icebergs of Kimbery anchored just off the shore of the Swamp himself. The mound of indigo ice is trapped by the luscious plants that grow atop the slush, and adoring slaves of the Shashalme dig away at the berg, carving out a mansion from which a vast rainbow hued flower grows.

Haneyl makes an adoring sound at the sight of this overgrown ice palace.

“I thought you were head over heels for Ligier?” Keris remarks to her, amused. The little girl has been proudly toting around the brass and emerald trinket he gave her on her wrist ever since Keris found a quiet moment to pass it in to her.

“It’s not as pretty as Ligier’s shiny place,” Haneyl reluctantly concedes, “but there are more flowers and flowers are pretty! And it’s so clever! Look! This is how you show stupid icebergs and stupid oceans how much better you are! I’m going to make something that can grow in ice! And then throw it at the moon! That’ll teach Rathan to rain on my parades with acid!”

Keris rolls her eyes, and unstraps the crate from the barge’s small hold, lifting it into her hair with a faint grunt of effort. “Just don’t try to steal or infect anything here,” she orders. “That would end badly. For everyone. Now...”

She makes her way into the garden, pausing once or twice to marvel at the beautiful flowerbeds and the treasures scattered casually here and there. Eventually, however, she reaches the Shashalme’s throne at the garden’s lush heart, and bows.

“Unquestionable,” she greets. “To thank you for your generous patronage, I have brought you a gift. I hope you find it worthy tribute.”

The Shashalme is wearing its male form at the moment, and he crosses his legs, propping his chin up on his hand. “Oh, little one?” he asks, smiling. “How goes it with you, Keris?”

“It goes well, my lord,” Keris smiles, relaxing at his friendly demeanour and casual address. The Shashalme is far more approachable than Ligier - who was civil, but scary. Here, her gratitude for the help he’s given her drowns out the intimidation.

“My work in An Teng proceeds well, and the maps you gave me have been invaluable. I have started a cult in your honour among the Red Mountain family, and... well...”

She brings the crate forward, her hair swinging the heavy box smoothly around and settling it between them. “The last time we met, my lord, you said you wanted An Teng. I cannot give you the satrapy itself yet, but until I can, perhaps this will amuse you.”

Worming under the lid, her hair yanks out in four directions at once. The crate collapses outward, and left standing proud and unveiled to the world is Keris’s first truly magical creation.

An Teng in miniature. It sits in a shallow bowl of petrified wood about a yard across, lined with embossed silver. Modelled in exacting detail within is a perfect replica of the kingdom the Shashalme covets; fashioned from the water, soil and crushed leaves that Keris gathered and bound together with earth elemental chalcanth.

“A map seemed fitting, my lord,” Keris says shyly. “But this one lets you see your kingdom in more detail. You just command it like... this.” She runs a finger across an inscription on the edge of the bowl and taps two symbols. The model collapses into chaos; soil and water tumbling and flowing around one another, and then reforms as a scale model of Dragon’s Mouth Bay, as though the bird’s eye view of the kingdom had swooped lower to see from a closer vantage point.

The Shashalme leans forwards, and his features shift into her features, skin flushing red as she swells up. “Oh, Keris, this is wonderful,” she says, beaming. She leans forwards and zooms and un-zooms her view of the map, trying to see how small she can make it go.

Keris blushes prettily. “It, uh. I couldn’t get it to go much closer than city-map scale, she explains as the City of Steel Lotus appears; major roads marked between raised areas of earth that represent neighbourhoods. “The soil wasn’t strong enough to show buildings on their own, so I just went for the big roads and so on. But,” she clears her throat, “yes. I hope it pleases you, my lady.”

The demon prince reaches forwards and brushes Keris’ jawline with one of her twelve arms. “It is quite exquisite,” she says. “Keris Dulmeadohkt, I am quite delighted by this little trinket of your regard for me. It is beautiful - and so clever! So witty!” She plays around a bit with the zooming. “Wonderful. Simply wonderful. You have earned a rich boon from me indeed, for such generosity. What suits a clever little girl such as yourself, mmm?”

“Uh...” Keris’s blush has magnified several times; shading her dusky cheeks darker still. It’s rather hard to think. “I, um. A workshop, maybe? My townhouse isn’t really suited to crafting wonders - it’s fine for simple paintings and things, but not anything magical.”

((Um... what are you asking for? And is that a good idea considering it’s trying to load you down with debt?))
((Well, this is a 2-dot Artifact, so with the 1-dot Cult I’m currently at -1 boon dot : P. So I’m basically asking for that artisan manse, which, hmm. Would probably be 3 dots? And is one of my planned steps on expanding Keris into a more empire-building game, by giving her territory in Malfeas outside her townhouse.))
((Hmm, just wait while I search through Oaedenal’s.))
((I think we said I’d use a custom manse power that would basically trade mass production for a “jack of all trades” complex that could support more or less any kind of crafting. So that she can flit from glasswork to sculpture to metal forging to paper-making all in the same manse-compound.))
((Well, a Workshop Manse - linked to a single craft skill - is a 3 dot power. An Atelier-manse is linked to a single craft and does the mass production at 4 dots))
((Ah yes. So, hmm. Oh yeah, I remember. I was going to use an Artisan manse thing that was all crafts but no mass production, and then get it down to three dots with an aspect bonus that... I was planning on getting from Ligier. Dang. Hmm. So this would mean a Manse 4 and a 3-dot Principle. Hmm. Which... hahaha. Might actually work with Keris deciding to grab some raksha-heart tributes for the Shashalme on Ligier’s mission, since a 3-dot will mean she’s feeling really grateful for such a gorgeous manse-workshop and will want to do something for them on the mission while also paying Ligier back. And hey, if she’s capturing raksha anyway, this lets her make examples of the obnoxious ones and capture those that surrender, without any wasted by killing them!))
((So, hmm. 4 dot manse. 4 points used on the Omniworkshop power. What are you looking for with the other points?))
((... argh. Because on the one hand I could get Archive twice, allowing for eight different crafting Styles recorded in extensive detail, but on the other I could get a Bound Servant Force of crafters who produce things there and give Keris a source of income; this manse-compound making beautiful things that are then sold in the City. Hmm. 2 and 3 dots, and I only have 4 to play with... can I take a 1-point Maintenance flaw to get one Archive and a Bound Servant Force of demon artisans? Because that means that Keris is now, heh, a factory owner of sorts.))
((Nope. No Flaws. But you say you’re interested in getting an Archive, hmm?))
((... well, it’s a crafting manse and Keris loves learning crafting Styles, so it seems the obvious choice. Why?))
((Oh, nothing, nothing.))
((...))
(( ^_^ ))
((... ... ...))
((That was the opposite of reassuring.))

The Shashalme clasps her hands together. “You know, little Keris,” she observes, “I can think of a wonderful place for you! Just wonderful! It’s on the sixteenth layer, within the wastes of Aljahbzard. The blood of the Sphere of Speech fell there once, and power wells up there, a place where creation itself can be done. It came into my possession after it was most generously granted to me, and... well, it’s a little out of my way, but for one like you who can run like the wind it would be a triviality to find!”

Keris perks up. Blood of Elloge herself... that sounds like a manse. That sounds like a powerful manse. A place of wonders - and a place where she could make wonders. “That sounds wonderful, my lady,” she says, already eager to look around the place. Her face falls. “Ah, but I’m going to be back in Creation for a mission soon. I’ll have to think of another gift in thanks.”

The Shashalme spreads her hands. “I am sure you will think of something I will like - and of course, Keris, I desire An Teng. Do not forget it.”

The Scourge bows low. “I won’t, my lady,” she promises. “I have plans to widen your cult there now that they’ve settled into worship of you and seen how your gifts are greater than the other spirits there.” She looks up with a grin. “And to expand their influence, too. After all, if they control more land, and they worship you, then you own more of An Teng. It’s in their own best interests to take the kingdom for you.”

The Shashalme smiles, and plays with her map. Her fingers branch and sink into it, playing with the soil. “Yes,” she breaths. “Yes.”

Keris says her goodbyes, leaving her patron to enjoy her new possession. Back on the barge, she asks for a detour to the sixteenth layer on the way back to her townhouse, so that she can see the place of wonders that she now, apparently, owns.

... that thought is a little scary, to be honest, and Keris spends quite a bit of the long journey pacing relentlessly and worrying about who she can trust to be in charge of the place while she’s out in Creation. She knows Orange Blossom has territory in Malfeas - what if she moves against Keris’s new holding out of spite? Well, it’ll probably take a little while for the news of her acquisition to spread, but it’s still something she should probably plan for. Somehow.

This area of Malfeas is deader than usual. The basalt structures are slumped and demolished, and Kimbery has dissolved much of the underlayers to reveal wide open exposed sections of sewer-sea. Over in the distance, she can see a parade of dancers dressed in bright red, dancing around an outcropping of Szoreny. It’s... it’s quieter here than it usually is in the Demon City. Notably so. Quite a lot of the noise is being made by scattered wind-chimes hung up on the buildings, rather than the normal clambering of the demonic masses. Curious, Keris snaps shut the book on Tengese art she’d been working through for most of the five-day trip to the Shashalme’s garden and moves to the front of the barge to get a better look at wherever they’re heading. The relative quiet is nice, she thinks. It’ll make it easier to work here.

The manse is obvious to Keris. Its perimeter is marked out by a series of stone pillars painted in bright clashing colours which stand out from the black stone of the surrounding area.

The entire area within the perimeter is a depression akin to a lake. Strange stark black and white plants form the shape of Old Realm characters and grow in boats which float on the strange dark murky lake, while the island at the centre is a mad and sprawling affair of countless buildings which are leaning against each other as if they were put there casually with no forethought or planning. Black and white birds with bright eyes sing to her as she approaches - nonsense ditties in Old Realm.

Keris has the barge circle once before descending, giving her time to take in the strange lake and the mad construction of the island complex. She hops lightly out, glad to stretch her legs and hair on solid ground again, and looks around at the gibbering birds.

“This is the place of power owned by the Shashalme?” she asks the surroundings at large. “I’m Keris Dulmeadokht. They gifted it to me as a place to create new wonders.”

The black and white birds swirl around and above her, their flight spelling out characters in Old Realm. All the time they chatter-sing their nonsense songs.

WELCOME they write in the sky. WE FEEL THAT YOU OWN US NOW.

Keris can hear the strongly approving silent agreement of Echo that they’ve found a better-er way of communicating.

COME WITH US. TAKE UP THE ICON AND FORMALISE YOUR OWNERSHIP.

Keris has seen many strange, wonderful and outright bewildering things since first coming to the Demon City, not the least of which reside in her own soul. Chattering birds that spell letters with their bodies instead of talking is, at this point, only worth a curious glance and some blinking. She follows the flock as it wheels and flutters around her, guiding her to whatever icon they want her to take.

They lead her down to the lake - which smells of ink and something else she can’t quite identify - and there’s a small boat which leads her onto the island. Every building is covered in brightly coloured scrawled graffiti and when she looks at it, it’s actually really educational about... well. All sorts of things. The path leads her between the narrow tall ramshackle buildings, and down a spiralling staircase into the heart of the island.

It’s only when she’s half way down the stairs that she realises that the steps are now Old Realm characters. And aren’t connected. They’re instead floating in mid air. This... is worthy of a bit more attention. Keris cocks an ear to her surroundings, but hesitates only briefly before continuing downward.

At the bottom of the stairs, it is revealed that the entire island is floating on the strange murky lake. There’s an icon there, made of chalky white stone.

TAKE IT spell the birds.

Keris takes it.

SPEAK THE RIGHT WORDS FOR THE RIGHT CRAFT they explain helpfully. THE PLACE SHALL CHANGE FOR THEM. YOU ARE OUR MASTER NOW. THE PLACE HAS ACCEPTED YOU. WE GUARD THE BLOOD OF OUR MOTHER AND SO MUST YOU.

((And Keris finds that, actually, the Omni-workshop has a 1 point Flaw which means you need to solve a Cog + Lore puzzle to find the right configuration to use the manse.
On the other hand, the birds are actually a Bound Guardian, not a Bound Servant - so they’re a 3 point creature. Who. Uh. Appears to be an akuma of Elloge.))

Keris frowns. Something about the birds and their story sounds familiar - and when she tastes one which lands on her finger, she does believe they’re not just demons. But she’s not quite sure what the bell they’re ringing is. Maybe later. She turns the icon over in her hands, examining it. The right words for the right craft, she thinks. What does that mean? Does it just mean she has to tell it what she wants to make? That seems... easy enough, she supposes.

“So... silverworking?” she tries, speaking half to the birds and half to the icon.

Around her, Old Realm characters light up on the walls in many colours. The world shakes and rumbles, and the stairs shift so they’re pointing somewhere else. And then it’s over.

IT IS DONE, MY MASTER spell out the birds. Keris grins. That easy? Oh, she’s going to like it here. She’s going to like it here a lot.

“Well then... sorry, you know my name, but I don’t know yours yet.” She tilts her head. “What are you called?”

WE ARE PARICEHET, WE WHO MUST PRETEND TO BE DEMONS they spell. WHO ARE YOU, EXALT? WHICH USURPER DO YOU SERVE?

Keris frowns. “I don’t serve anyone,” she tells them heatedly, and flares her caste mark. The green circle burns on her forehead, and she feels the rush of power as her soul’s light spills over and out of her body. “My power comes from the All-Makers, and I work for the Unquestionable as I choose.” She pauses. “Wait, hang on. What do you mean, pretend to be demons? Aren’t you?”

WE ARE PARICEHET, they spell. WE WERE BORN OF THE BLOOD OF ELLOGE. OUR FLIGHT IS WORDS. WE MUST GUARD OUR NESTING PLACE FOR WE BUILT THESE STRUCTURES TO DWELL IN. WE WERE BOUND TO THIS PLACE WHEN WE THOUGHT TO MAKE WAR ON THE UNQUESTIONABLE. Their wings clatter in the gloom. ONCE WE WERE COUNTLESS LEGION. NOW WE ARE BUT A FEW.

“A war against the Unquestionable...” She whistles softly. “Even if you lost, that’s impressive.” The black and white birds wheel and hover above her, still chittering their nonsense-rhymes in Old Realm. “Well, Paricehet. I’m pleased to meet you.” She smiles. “Now why don’t you show me around?”

YOU HAVE MADE THE PLACE INTO THE PLACE OF SILVERWORKING, they say. HEAD UP TO IT. THERE ARE MANY WAYS OUR NESTS CAN BE. IT IS HOW WE MADE OUR WEAPONS FOR OUR WARS, BEFORE THEY SLEW THOSE PARTS OF US WHICH REMEMBERED HOW TO MAKE THEM. BEFORE LIGIER BURNED OUR FLIGHTS FROM THE SKY AND THE SHASHALME INFECTED OUR CAMPS IN THE NIGHT OF THE DRAGON.

Keris winces. There may be some bitterness there, she thinks. And from the sound of things, freeing or healing the flock would not be a good idea; not when they’d probably go back to starting wars again. Well, maybe she can figure out some other way to make them happier with their lot in life. Later.

For now, she passes the idol back into her hair and heads up to do some silverwork.

The stairs lead up further than they did before, and the island is smaller, narrower and... uh, sort of neater. There’s now a giant central forge and tall cooling towers which spew lilac fire up at the black sky of the Demon City. The walls are decorated with silver words over the top of the graffiti, and there’s examples of that ornamentation everywhere.

“Oh, wow,” breathes Keris, impressed. “Can you still make other things?” she asks the nearby birds. “Things that aren’t weapons, I mean?”

ONLY IF WE REMEMBER HOW TO, the birds respond. IT WAS A CRUEL CRIPPLING.

“I’m sorry,” she tells them, and means it. Having the knowledge of how to make beautiful things ripped out of their minds sounds horrible. “Well, let’s see what you can still do.”

She spends the rest of the day there, working with them to create mundane trinkets and valuables; moving quickly through simple works and onto more elaborate ones, testing the capabilities of both her manse and its residents. The tools here are incredible, even if a lot of them were never designed to be used by human hands. But mwhaha ha ha, Keris has her hair. It lets her use tiny vitriol-hardened brushes made of Malfean black lead to paint a tiny portrait of Sasi on silver. The nice thing about drawing Sasi is that there’s no need to colour her in.

((Can Paricehet still make beautiful things and trinkets to sell to the markets of the Demon City?))
((You’ll have to persuade it to do so. It’s bound to protect the manse, not to obey its current owner.))
((Hmm. I’ll leave that for later, then.))

Six hair ornaments go with her when she leaves; one for each of her kids, and she leaves Paricehet to protect the manse in her absence. Soon, she knows, Ligier will have decided on where he’s sending her, and what for. The jewellery is both gorgeous and well-received, and Keris is glad to get back. Overall, the trip to see the Shashalme took nearly a week. Why does Malfeas have to be so big! Still, both sets of kids seem to be mostly happy with their presents, even if Haneyl is complaining that Keris should have made seven instead of six and then given all of them to her.

Keris doesn’t have time to deal with that or her youngest’s new plans for ice-eating plants, though. Ligier has summoned her again. It seems he’s decided on her mission. At least for once she doesn’t have to travel, for Ligier has come to the Conventicle. It seems he’s doing things formally, because Keris has been summoned to an attendance with him and Unquestionable Lilunu.

She sighs. She’s missing Sasi already. Sasi would know what to do. She’s also wishing she could ask the Shashalme for advice, because it’s so smart and generous.

... of course, uh, there’s another reason she’s missing Sasi that the Shashalme can’t quite scratch. Probably. Although it isn’t unattractive...

Well, she needs to decide what to wear for her summons to the Unquestionable, Keris thinks. This time, she goes with an emerald dress that works aesthetics from her armour into its cut and accessories; giving it a martial air. This is a mission for Ligier, and so she’ll wear his colours when she gets briefed on it.

Unlike at Calibration, the Conventicle is mostly empty. There’s maybe ten Princes in residence, if that. Perhaps because of that, the demonic staff lavish even more attention on her, and Keris sweeps into the antechamber in her translucent dress made of emeralds, feeling like she owns the place.

Once again, she can’t help but compare herself to how she was before she made her Sorcerous sacrifice. She’s so much more confident, more solid, more certain in how she’s a Green Sun Princess. How was it a sacrifice to become like this? She waits in the antechamber to present herself to Ligier and Lilunu, wondering where she’ll be sent. To the Scavenger Lands, maybe, and Great Forks? She... thinks that Malfeas has something in mind for the Western Scavenger Lands. Or up North, maybe? Or the Deep South? There’s no way to know.

Eventually, Keris is shown in. They’re not using the grand hall for this - instead, it’s a smaller hall carefully sized so the physical presence of the two Unquestionable seated on their thrones at the end of the long room hits her like a hammer. Keris advances down the hall, past Ligier’s demonic guards who line the hall, and prostrates herself before them.

“Welcome, Keris,” Lilunu says. “Mighty Ligier has requested your services personally, and imparts you have some matter of personal agreement with him.”

“Yes, my lady,” Keris agrees. It seems safest. She can’t read the faces of the demon princes in front of her.

“Well, your mission from the Althing is not of the highest priority, so indeed a personal task from one of the Unquestionable - especially the first among us - is something you are free to do,” Lilunu concludes. “Serve us well, and you will be rewarded.” She inclines her head.

LIgier rises, crossing his arms behind his back. His expression is now blatantly smug. “What do you know of the North East?” he asks Keris.

“... not much,” she admits. “Um... I think a lot of expensive types of wood come from there, and... that’s all, really.”

“It is a barren and wearied place, where the ineptitude of the gods has let the walls of the world weaken,” Ligier says with a sneer. “Their dire management of the world our selves built has left it shamed and dishonoured - and far from the eyes of the traitors in Heaven. They have let the loathsome fae encroach on lands we built and that blinds their watching of the Loom of Fate.

“One of the other Princes is already there, subjugating the lands and bringing the mortals that dwell there back into our dominion. You are to go there and join him, though your task shall be different. You are to bring me trinkets of the fae - yes, their trinkets, and their very selves as fuel. I can use them - in my hands they will have actual value, rather than just being parasites. And you will aid the prince of my light who labours there in those wastelands to build an empire which serves our glory.”

The fae! Keris feels a chill go up her spine. And this won’t be tame Firewander, in the heart of a city and in the Inner Threshold. These will be wild faeries; out on the edge of Creation where Fate runs thin.

... on the other hand, it’s also a mission that she’s pretty sure even Salina would have absolutely no problem with enthusiastically approving of whatsoever. There’s being morally confused, and then there’s defending all of Creation by killing raksha. If it gets her a gorgeous First Age ship refitted by Ligier himself, all the better.

“I understand, my lord,” she says. “I’ll bring you back a rich bounty of faerie soul-gems. May I ask which prince I’ll be helping there?”

“Why, that would be Testolagh Matachim,” Ligier says casually.

Keris’s hair, which has been idly winding itself in coils behind her, ties itself in an abrupt knot. “Sa-” she starts in surprise, before cutting herself off and starting over. “Sasimana has spoken of him. I’m sure we’ll get along... well.”

The last word is perhaps a little less enthusiastic than might be hoped, but it’s not a lie, as such. Keris is prepared to cooperate with Testolagh, especially when they’ll both be on the other side of Creation to Sasi.

... whether he’ll be prepared to cooperate with her, that’s a different question altogether. One that might make things awkward if the answer is ‘no’. Still, she can hardly refuse the assignment.

“With my lord and lady’s permission, then, I’ll take a day to prepare for my departure and then set out on my mission,” she says, dipping her head low again.

“Speak with the officers for your provisions and maps and other such things,” Lilunu advises. “We will speak in private later, Peer Dulmeadokht.”

“I never get used to this,” Dulmea says softly to Keris as they bow and retreat without turning their back on the Demon Princes.

‘Neither do I,’ Keris thinks back. ‘Four Winds; the presence of them. Just one makes my head swim; both together...’ She waits until she’s passed back down the rows of demonic guard to fan herself with a hair tendril and lean against a wall for a moment; shaken. “I thought I was going to faint for a second or two there,” she mumbles under her breath.

“I like them both so, so much,” Haneyl contributes. “She’s so pretty in a scary way which is what I want to be like and she looks like Mother Sasimana and Ligier is the bestest best!”

This brings a faintly raw chuckle from Keris. “You, young lady,” she teases, “don’t seem to have a sense of fear. That’s why you like them so much.”

She gathers herself after only a short while longer, and sets off to find the officers and planners who know, among other things, where exactly she’s meant to be going. And how she’s meant to get there.

Keris looks at the man. There’s... almost nothing there. It’s just forest. That’s really, really unhelpful. She looks at a more detailed and... uh, hand-drawn map. It’s a mesh of crudely marked tribal boundaries and lines.

((Square BB2 on the map.))

“... where are the roads?” she asks. “And towns?” She peers at a third map. There are a few lines marked ‘skyways’ and ‘tracks’. Maybe they’re a local word for ‘road’. And... oh! Yes, it seems the black dots are probably the towns. They have names like ‘Kurrsk’ and ‘Hunri Eaters’ and ‘Tahbitta’.

It still seems like dangerously rural wilderness to Keris, with no proper neighbourhoods or urban areas. But at least it’s not completely barbaric. Probably. And... she checks the wide map again. Yeah, it’s... wow. It’s far out in the Threshold. Way, way out. They’ve probably never even heard of the Realm out there. It’s... like, 5000 miles away from Nexus. Almost as far as An Teng was. But An Teng wasn’t too bad, apart from the heat. At least it won’t be too hot there.

This far north. In the Season of Air.

It’ll be fine, she thinks. It’s only a little cold. What’s the worst it can throw at her?

((So what, if anything, does she do before she sets off? You can probably do prep-things for a week on that grounds. Anything she wants to load up on or fill her soul up with, etc?))

Mehuni is once again left in charge, with instructions to look in on her new manse every couple of weeks and check it’s still there - without going in and risking the wrath of its guardian. Yelm, Shan and Piu band together to offer her a parting present - a carefully woven bracelet that she suspects they got some help with. She wears it fondly and gives them each a kiss on the forehead in thanks.

On the more practical side of things, Keris spends quite a bit of time laying her hands on several barrels of algarel, her townhouse’s hearthstone supply and a small pot of Yozi venom; all of which are stored in separate vaults in her Devil Domain behind very thick walls. She takes some vitriol as well as an afterthought, as well as - with some effort - packing away a basic distillation rig and annealing pot. She’ll need to unpack them and set them up, and she can’t really use them in her Domain, but she might get the chance to do some crafting while she’s out there.

Keris has a map for the route through the Endless Desert she needs to take. Assuming all goes as planned, it should be quite followable. Right? She thinks she does pretty well for herself. Sure, she got lost in that sandstorm, but she just trusted in her heart and managed to stay on the right track even though she had no idea where she was going. And yes, the field made of broken Cecelynite glass was meant to be very hard to cross, but she just ran over the top of it.

Honestly, the worst bit was how it was assuming that she was resting for six hours each day and the directions weren’t long enough to last five days if she went top speed, so she was barely jogging most of the way. Oh, and obviously she went and stabbed some slavers to death who tried to grab her in sandships.

((Roll me Physique + Melee))
((5+5+3 WHIRLWIND OF MURDER STYLE+4 GET REVENGE DIE DIE DIE FOR TRYING TO ENSLAVE ME Principle channel=17. 10 sux.))
((Welp. You hit my “10 successes to get a shiny thing” secret check.))
((Yay!))

Springing up onto the side of the ship, Keris and Echo together rapidly wreck the vessel which crashes into the sand.

Echo looks really darling in her new gloves and ribbon dress, Keris decides as she stalks towards the captain, a poison-smeared blade in her hand, burning anima soul around her.

“Stop,” he begs. “Stop. I surrender. I’ll... I’ll work for you! I’ll give you anything! I... I have a fine sword made from the black lightning of the Typhoon of Nightmares! I’ll give it to you! I swear! Just spare me!”

Keris tilts her head beatifically. “If I’d surrendered,” she asks, “would you have spared me enslavement? Show me this sword.” He’s some demon breed Keris doesn’t recognise, with scaly skin and four red eyes that shiver with obvious terror. He scrabbles at his belt, dropping it. It’s a short, curved blade - like a machete or a heavy knife, Keris sees as her hair unsheathes it. It’s made of some black glassy material, and has a heavily notched blade.

She twirls it a couple of times, getting a feel for it, and nods in satisfaction. “Very nice!” she compliments, smiling at him. He’s about halfway through cautiously relaxing when she decapitates him with it. “And since you didn’t answer my question, I’m guessing the answer was ‘no’,” she adds to his corpse, before inhaling it. “Now then. Onward! I think...”

She pauses. “I... think I shouldn’t have hit the guy at the rudder, because we are not facing the same direction we were when I hopped onboard. And everything looks the same again.” A sigh. “Oh well. That way! Probably.”

A few days later, Keris looks at the last marker on her map with a lot of satisfaction. She can see the rising mesa that her map tells her should be there. It’s just a short sprint up the side, and she finds the standing stone obelisks which she has to walk between.

So she does. And even though nothing changes at first, over the course of half an hour - so subtly she can’t tell it - she finds the silver sand under foot becoming snow and the black sky becoming grey cloud. Finally she passes through a pair of obelisks identical to the first two, and she knows she’s there.

The cold hits her like a knife. The snow underfoot crunches. Visibility is measured in the tens of yards, at most. She can see the dark shapes of buildings all around, but there are no lights here.

And... how peculiar. The ground under her seems to be... be swaying slightly. Rocking, like she’s on a boat.

“C-kaaah,” she bites out; her breath fogging in the air. “Cold. Cooooold. Amulet. Amulet, work. Work!”

Her silk thigh-length dress changes rapidly to an embroidered knee-length outer coat of russet fur with loose fleece trousers, warm boots and several silky shirt layers under it, and she sighs in relief as the painful bite of the cold recedes to a mere coolness against her face.

“... okay,” she decides once she’s relatively sure she’s not going to suddenly freeze to death. “Well then. We’re here, wherever ‘here’ is. Let’s go find out!”

As she gets closer, Keris realises two things about the shadowy buildings around her. Firstly, they’re made of Malfean materials. And look like buildings in the Demon City.

And. Um. They’re not built on the ground.

Keris looks down over the edge. Down, down to the snow covered tree canopy she can barely see.

Uh. She’s on a floating lump of rock. Covered in Malfean buildings. Listening hard over the howl of the wind, she can hear that there’s some life in some of the buildings. She dashes over to them, and damn well near kicks down the door to get out of the cold.

She’s entered a shadowy, smoky room filled with hulking, monstrous figures who are playing cards.

“Oh, blood apes,” Dulmea says disappointedly. “I suppose they’re here to guard the gate - well them and the agatae.” The agatae are also playing cards. Actually from the sounds of it they’re tending to win, even if both sides are just gambling for rocks.

Of course, her entrance is a trifle controversial, as every blood ape in the room goes for a weapon. Most of them pull one weapon. A few grab two.

Keris draws seven, and green light fills the room as she flares her caste mark; cutting through the smoke and banishing the shadows. The twin blades of Ascending Air flicker and flash in the anima-light as she twirls them, her spear hovering over her head in a pair of hair-tendrils.

“Hi,” she says nonchalantly. “Where’s Testolagh?”

The blood apes seem to consider that a valid proof of ID, and with a general shuffling they sit back down again, trying to look like they just had their weapons out because... uh, they were showing them to her. Yeah. That’s it. Look at the craftsmanship.

Only one of them is daft enough to actually say that to her, but they were all totally thinking it.

“The boss-man ain’t here right now,” says one of the blood apes, who’s bigger and tougher than the others and is wearing what looks like a necklace of tyrant lizard teeth. “He told us summun’ might be coming to help. Er, your ladyship.” He pauses. “Um. Want a drink? Do ya play cards?”

Keris’s various weapons vanish back into her hair in flickers of red light, which seems to impress then, especially when the spear vanishes without a trace. “That’s me,” she nods, and strolls over. “And sure, I’ll drink.” She grins. “And I can play too, if you don’t mind losing all your rocks.”