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The Dusk Era

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Leon scratched his chin. "Well, if it's just a machine, then I doubt it could do too much more of anything now that it's landed. If you can't bring it with you, I'm sure you could give me a fair enough description of it for me to know if it's dangerous."

YH
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The rhythm of the pulse intensified, as did the phlogiston seeping from the runic patterns. The air shimmered with ever greater heat and light, chemical rainbows twisting in arcane motions per the instructions of the ancient thaumaturgic inscriptions.

 

It wouldn't be long, now.

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"Sounds good," Ivy answered as she stretched her arms above her head. "May I suggest to maybe first learn each others' name before we start our little adventure? How many are coming anyway? I think I can say that three people is not everyone you summoned, right?" She glanced at Leon for a moment, "That was quite a powerful range you got there."

Not waiting for an answer, she turned to the other two in the dome, locking eyes with both. "I'm Ivy Curint, as Poppie already mentioned. Nice to meet you."

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'Poppie?' Hmm. Mentiri smiled warmly. "It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Ivy. My name is Mentiri, or at least that's what people call me. And forgive my manners, but we've hardly allowed our furred friend here to speak since he arrived. What is your name, Khajiit?"

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Rufo nearly jumped out of his skin when Mentiri spoke. "Uh, it's, my name's, uh, it's Rufo. All of this is way over my head, I don't-"

"Be at ease, small cat," Leon said, "you got up the mountain okay and, as far as I know, nobody here is going to eat you. Take a breath, then talk."

Rufo sucked in a huge lungful of air and let it out slowly. His tail twitched twice  and his shoulders lowered. "I'm just an accountant from down in the city, I really don't know about this whole adventuring thing. All I can do is fly and move things at a distance, nothing everyone else can't do."

"There were eras when both of those were lost arts, boy," Leon said, a smile of old remembrances flashing across his face. "I can send anyone else up after you. There's definitely someone else around, but you can consider yourselves the vanguard or the welcome wagon as the situation calls for."

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"I thought you seemed familiar, although we never spoke," Ivy smiled at the Khajiit. "I'm from the middle part of town, one of the few mushrooms there."

"Alright," she continued as she got up from her chair. "If no one else wants to add anything anymore, I guess we are good to go? Just a little further up the mountain there, right?"

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"You may go," Leon said. "Nak will keep the path clear up to where this thing landed."

He ran the tips of his thumbs over his eyes. The noise to the east was an incessant mental buzz that somehow reminded him of the fleshflies over the torture arenas of the ancient Ayleids. It made his skin crawl and his teeth grind to think about it.

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Ivy nodded.

Leon did not look good. The mountain, or Nak as he apparantly was called, had been right. She never had seen him so pale or fragile before. She wondered how long it had been that he had eaten something. Too long probably. When they had a moment alone, she would try and talk with him about it.

She walked back to the entrance of the cave and stopped there, waiting for the others.

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Casting one last look at the small man in the dome, Rufo followed Ivy to the cave mouth, taking care to keep his tail from twitching. 

"So you know this... guy, I gather," Rufo said as he shoved his hands in his pockets and began to rock back and forth on his heels. "Is this his normal?"

"I heard that!" Leon half-sang, with an idle chuckle.

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Ivy chuckled as well. "If you mean him being weird and slightly scary, yes, that is normal."

Leaning slightly more towards the cat, she whispered, "You should see him when he is in a good mood."

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"Eheh..." Rufo laughed nervously, not certain if Ivy was merely joking with him. He shuffled a little farther out of the cave, and saw as the mountain- Nak- flattened his scales and formed a gentle slope around and upwards. 

"Well, we should probably get going," Rufo said, his voice small and trembling with fear and uncertainty.

YH
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I have passed through plane(t)s unnamed, lost to this epoch before the Naming. I have seen stars fall and fade, and heard their secrets as I slept. All around me, I have been witness to the dream-shards of our people as they stir fitfully in the stream of aeons. Even before waking, I have existed parallel to a billion billion lives and experienced firsthand things not even Time Himself remembers.

Now I have but a single wish: to be born.

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"Indeed we should." Mentiri stepped over the caves threshold and surveyed the rolling black slopes once again. Yes, now that she knew what to look for, there was something reptilian about the black folds of matter. She glanced over her shoulder as she began to climb. "Are you two coming?"

 

Anaak clambered to his feet. Now it was speaking. "No, no, stop that," he said, fear lacing the edges of anger. "Stop...stop talking! Stop...stop." He didn't know what this thing was, but it conjured half-forgotten memories of eras long past. Power turned to dust in one blinding moment. "What are you?"

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Ivy no longer talked, but followed Mentiri as she started to climb. Now Nak shaped the path again, it probably would go a lot faster. She would keep an eye on Rufo on the way. It was clear he had no idea how to handle all of this and she could not blame him.

♦♦♦

Olaf saw the small group leave the cave. There were three people, apparantly. The Khajiit he had sensed already a long time ago. No other race smelled more of moon sugar and sand than they did, even the clean ones. The blonde girl had an aura about her he could not place; a mix of everything the world had to offer, it seemed.

The other woman he did not only notice, but also actually saw. She was the only one worth to look at anyway. She was something else, something unending. The hunt inside him demanded to find out what exactly.

As the group moved on and far enough for him to move as well, he continued. Stepping into the cavern, he let the darkness swallow him. The black walls and floor containing something living were no longer of interest. In front of him, old, pale and--what was that, pink?--was his long lost prey.

"I don't say this often," the mercenary scoffed, "but damn, don't you look like shit."

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"Yeah, I suppose that's a thing," Leon said, sighing. "Is there going to be talking, now? If there is, can we get on with it, I'm unaccustomed to using my mouth this much in one day. If you want to skip talking and get violent, the floor and ceiling will come together so fast you'll be juice before you have time for a single thought."

Leon spread his hands in a conciliatory gesture, an crooked grin as ancient as human freedom across his face. "Just thought you ought to know."

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Olaf grinned as well, making the scar running down from his right eye fold. "Strange, last time I saw you, you were full of stories."

He let his eyes roam the room as he took in every corner of it. So the creature was a dragon. The scent had mislead him. It turned out the thing had no scent of his own anymore, nothing recognisable anyway. It was so mingled with the mountain that it nearly smelled like one. Nothing but rock and dirt.

"And no need to talk. You called and here I am, nothing more to it. At least I finally caught up with you."

He was smart enough not to make a move. The place and time were never worse.

"So where's your puppy?"

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There is a certain point where it all seems meaningless. You've felt it, I'm sure. At once it seems that nothing could possibly care less about whether or not you exist. The gods you can't hear have abandoned you, what you love is impertinent and dying slowly. Think of it thusly, or however along this tangent you see fit: Can dead men dream? You would say no, no they cannot. The dead are the dead, and only ghosts of ones who once-were can raive of times when they were not so. The man himself lies buried, boned or scattered; the man himself does not dream.

Take up the pen and accept that this is what must be.

My patience has been exhausted. You will yield. And that concept of volition they for some reason thrust to you was a lie. There is no choice, and departure as you see it will metaphorically get you nowhere. Only a few literal feet across a page seperates us, and I'm eager to bend the lines and shake hands.

Change is coming.

You will die.

But don't worry.

Remain calm.

There are other things than living. I am here to show you. It will be beautiful music that we will make, trust me. Together we can make everyone happy. Everyone who ever was and will be, pleased forever. I promise you this.
Why don't you trust me, when I've been so honest?

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"Drippy spaff!" Leon growled, clutching at his temples. "I should have sent them off east, I think."

He looked up at Olaf. "Hey, I know this sounds like an awkward time for requests considering I just made an implicit threat to turn you into juice and you just tried to bait me into violence, but there's something really absurdly large- or maybe tiny but significant- heading this way. Think you could give that a peek? It's not like you have to worry about me slipping out from under your nose."

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Olaf raised an eyebrow. "And why would I, exactly?" he asked, already guessing the anwer.

He had felt something, that was true, but he had thought it was simply coming from the mountain, or even Leon himself. Apparantly it was not and this was probably the reason Leon had made the call.

He sighed and relaxed a little, trying to get back into an old behavior. It had been ages since the last time he had actually listened to someone.

"East," he mumbled as he turned and walked back to the exit, "You're lucky I got better eyes than most."

YH
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The incandescent golden ichor from within the orb began to bleed through the spiraling seams, which heaved and contracted laboriously. Collecting in a radiant puddle at the base of the brass egg, the flow of liquid gold quickened in time with pulsing light and sound.

Breathe. Push. Breathe. Push. Soon, very very soon.

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"Good, we can continue this when I feel less like there's stings on the inside of my brain," Leon said with a dismissive wave.

#####

Even with the slope forcing itself to being a smooth and easy climb, Rufo was panting heavily and using his tail to wipe sweat from his eyes after only a few minutes. Climbing the mountain under his own power was much more difficult than doing so under a magical compulsion.

"So how do you know the man in the cave?" Rufo gasped out at Ivy, just to fill the air with words.

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Ivy felt the climb too, although not as bad as Rufo. She smiled at him, adjusting her pace so she walked right beside him. Someone making conversation was always more fun.

"Poppie partly raised me. He used to be around a lot more when I was still little. His visits lessened as I grew up, now I know why." She paused, growing silent for a moment. She had missed him. Her smile broadening as she continued, "To fully answer your question, he's my godfather."

♦♦♦

Olaf slowly climbed the mountain, moving away from the small group of adventurerers. There was a path, he noticed, but it was not as smoothly laid out as the other one. A natural path, perhaps?

East. Soon he would have a view over the water.

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Leon waited for Olaf's footfalls to fade to nothing.

"Okay, let's try moving the dome."

We tried that when you first came here, to give you mobility across my body.

"Yes, but I've been in here long enough that maybe we can get it to work if you shift your actual body around." Leon said, shifting his weight and cracking his knuckles.

I haven't seen you this active in some time.

"I have a weird feeling about whatever is coming. Okay, go."

Leon took a small step forward, but Nak shifted the barrier too far. With a choked gasp, Leon fell to his knees.

Sorry, I have poor control near the absorbtion point. It is like what you humans call having a foot or hand asleep.

"Well, we'll try it a little farther, but move the same amount if you can.," Leon said, taking deep breaths. He shifted again, and the dome shifted with him, but again the timing was not right, and again he fell. 

Pushing himself up again, he looked at the roof of the cave. "Again."

#####

Rufo's feet ached as they walked up the gentle path. It wound up the mountain in long, wide curves. They were on the leeward side of the dragon now, facing out over the blasted, rust-colored boulder deserts of inland Yokuda. A fierce cold wind blew this far up the slope and he shivered, clutching at his elbows. 

"So it looks like we're pretty close to the top," he said to distract himself from the cold and the height and the aching, "when do you think we'll find this thing so we can go home?"

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Mentiri smiled at Rufo. "I wouldn't count on 'finding the thing' being the end of your adventure, Khajiit. Maybe you can't feel it, but there's a great storm coming. I haven't felt this way since..." She fell silent for a moment, then shook her head. "Well, that was a long time ago. I'm sure it will be fine." The era! I simply must find out which era this is!

 

The third prisoner had been walking in silence for some time now. He could feel the pulse beneath his feet, but he didn't think anything of it. What can surprise a man who's seen everything?

The walls erected across his mind by the enemy were beginning to crumble. He could feel within his memory vague shapes taking form. Strange, familiar shapes without pattern or meaning.

He didn't care. The chains were gone. The air was fresh. The thoughts no longer shattered into a thousand splinters upon conception. What else mattered?

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The water writhed and moaned around it, a white cloud of unmaking vapor stuck to his sides like barnacles as its searing hips traveled through the salted waves. The sonorous wiggle of honed components frightened even the whales and the sharks, the liquid sweat running it down looking it covered in blood.

The burnished gears and bent metal plates so laboriously tended by Redguard hands marched onward. Ahead was the present, the pressing. No time to think of the past. Strode by islands both paradisical and desolate, the machine's destiny could be glimpsed. Its limbs seemed to vibrate with unnatural excitement as the archipelago rose before it.

Time to make the world cold.

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Ivy smiled again, she agreed with Mentiri. She was not certain what was going on and did not feel as much as some apparantly did, but if Leon called them, something big was about to happen. Or at least, that was how it had always been.

It was her first adventure with him and she knew it would be the biggest one yet.

"It seems we are close indeed."

Ivy looked up ahead and saw an ending to the long winding path. A pulse reached her, pulled her and whispered silently. It was a machine, the spell told her, but also not. This would be interesting.

♦♦♦

Olaf looked over the ocean and waited. Thoughts he hoped to forget once more raced through his mind. Somewhere in his stomach he could feel the protest, the soft disturbance which told him something had changed just now.

He had him, his long lost prey. One of them anyway, but where one was would be the other.

Then he had left. He had walked out of that cavern as if he was supposed to. Was that Leon's doing or a stubborn imprint from a long past that refused to disappear? As he asked himself that question, he already knew what had happened. He had followed an order. Something he had not done in... how long?

Movement caught his sharp eyes and he focused on his task again. His thoughts ordened and formed logic. If he could see that thing already, it was still immense far away. If it was that big while being that far...

"By the Nine," he whispered, his mind now completely blank.

As he turned, his new goal was set. Back to the cavern and deal with them later.

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"Mrhrr, h dhrrhrhrhy frr nht n," Leon said. His face was pressed, firmly but not so hard as to cause much pain, into the roof of the cave. Below him, a column had sprouted up and thrust him to the ceiling. He lay, face-up and spread-eagled, and tried to think through how he was going to work out movement. 

I felt it this time, as well, the dragon said. We have little time. My instincts tell me whatever bit my tail is somehow related to what is sending these messages.

"Hr wrd hmshmm shr." Leon said. "Nhr crd hr brng mr ta dr flrr?"

Faster than he had hoped, Nak granted his request and the column shot down to the level of the rest of the floor. Leon fell behind it, slamming his shoulder into the ground.

"Ah, balls. Okay, this time let's try lateral movement only, towards the back of the cave."

#####

They turned the last corner and there it was, some two hundred yards away.

Rufo shielded his eyes. The golden sphere was so perfect in it's dimensions that it hurt to even look directly at it. Through his tear-glazed peripherals he thought he spied a figure standing near it. His tail twitched and his hands shook in terror and awe.

YH
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The orb clattered loudly as it throbbed, liquid gold spilling freely from heaving joints, running in viscous veins over the smooth surface while the pool below crept higher against the edges of the crater. As the flow ceased, the bowl of molten light churned and rippled, darkening in the center as something within took shape.

The first rivulet ejected from the pool and reached the edge of the divot, gripping it like a buzzard's claw. The talons retained their form against all logic, and were joined soon by another appendage, and then a bulbous projection emerged after as it continued to draw itself upward toward the assembled party.

The strange ichor collected into recognizable parts: the claws fattened into fingers as arms and shoulders thickened, muscle and sinew twining around the shimmering skeleton. Hollow sockets formed in the bubble, looking upward with mournful intent as the promethean construct dragged itself over the brim, brass mercury solidifying into skin. It grew still, motionless but for the steam still rising from its pale flesh.

And then it breathed, a loud ragged gasp, belly and shoulders expanding with effort to draw in air before unleashing it all in a primal sound of a star collapsing into elven shape. The call was deafening in its violence and purpose, but necessarily so that it might reach its intended audience half an ocean away.

I am awake, End-Brother.

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The machinery groaned, a loud, high hissing sound firing from the guts of the thing like lightning. The feet locked themselves into what they would, the riptide swirling around its submerged chest. Steam's fog, no longer chasing, billowed out from the searing bronze in an obtuse cloud, the rolling bank running on ahead joyously.

But for the tumultuous dissonance caused by its screaming hide, all was silent. The giant's head turned to watch the land, its move cast.

The bolt shot through before the cloud parted, the very world ripping in two as it faulted the shifter's skin and ran its perfect scream over any ears undeafened.

It paused a moment and watched between the split white sea, and walked on.

Not at you those will be directed directly, do not fear. All will soon be over, think it not. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. SLEEP. IT WILL BE OVER SOON. PLEASE. I WILL CHANGE THINGS I WILL SET THEM RIGHT I WILL MA͏̸̛̰̥͓̤̬͍̲̩̯̟͎̮̝̺̥̙̀K̸̡̪͖̙̗͢ͅE͘͏̢͍̲͇̖̗̱͙̹̖͘ ͜҉̡̲̣͙͓͈̟̝̬̥̮͚͘ͅIT PE̷̴̻̣̣̬͇͓͖̿͗̃͗̏̈́͂͋̋̎̀RF͏̷̛̭̠̖͖̟͍͚͓̠Ȩ̸̨͕͔̰̣̺̣͓̜̳͇͈͉ͅC̸̢̭͎͈̣̖͠͝T I̛̥͚̪̠̕͢ ̸̢̙̩̫̙̬̼̮̜̜̗͕̦̀͟ͅW̸̢͘͡͏̰͍̙͉̞̲̘͖̻̠̪̘̙͈I̷̦̠̩͙͙͝L҉̴҉̡̠̙͙̯̭̺L̴͏̶̖̯̦͕̬̖͉̼͙͍̰̟|̸͋̽ͣ͋̍ͦͫ̽ͩͤ̽̆̂҉̤̗̤͉̦́̕|̴̸̵͉͖̯̼̱̰̼̩͇͜͝ ҉̢͓͈͚̗̙ͅ ̸̛̖͍͚̦͓͙̭̜̕͟ ̛͟͏̵̫̺̞͉̟̜͎͈̥͓̟̪͇̖͍͖̲̹̗ ̸̛̮͚͎̦̥|̷̡̢̺̝͕̤̺̹̣͕̦͙̭̤̪̫̮̺̳͕͈͟͢|͏̬̬͙͚̪͕̮̥̭͉̕͡ͅ ̷̴̦͔̤͍̱͓̟̪̝̩̹̺̘͙̼̜͉͠͝|̧̼̩̞̟̗̖̖̼̫̠͍͞ ̶̵̛͙̣̺͍̞̜̘͎͔̮͍͙̬͓͡ͅͅ ͕̪͖̬̀͢|͘͡͏̴̦̠͔͔̹͙̘͔͙̜͕͓ ͝҉̡̜̯͎͇̝̩̤̭͍̤͇̥͇̫̣̬͎̗͢͠ ҉̢͕̪͎̥̲̰̪͉̺͓͘͢ ̶͜҉͔̞̩̩̫̲̠̭̺̩ ̴̷̧҉͍̫̖͇̺͇͖͢|̡̛͈̰͓͙̜̠̘̻̯̳̙͚͇̼͇̻͘͢͡ͅ ̷̭͍͍̰̳̻̙̤͈̼̙̯̲͙͎͕̩̀̕͘ ̴̡̟̤̪͖͕̱͍͔̖̺̟̣̘͜ͅ|̸̧̳̝͕̙͖͓̣͡ ̸̧̢̛͔̞̜̗͕͚̖̩̠̗͙͟ ̨͞͞҉͎̥̳͉̟̝͖̦̪̟͞|̸̩͇̟̫͍̺̙͎͓̜͖͚͖̖̥͕͜͞ ͏̲̣͕͈̩̲̯̥̹͚͍̫̱|̧̟̲̪̘̹̤͚͍̠̖̀̀͟ ͏҉̦̞̟͚͕̜̩̻̗̜̖ ̧̣͚͓̭͓̱͔̤|̶̢̧̠͓͕͖̠̮̟̮͕͇̖̕͡ͅ|̴̨͎̞̮͓͔͓͉͎̯̱̤̹̹̬̗͞ͅ ̡͏͓̳͇͈̯̖͓́͢|̵̫͔̮̤͚̕͝͠ ҉̡̹̬̰̤͞0̵̧̨͈̦̯̩̼̮͈

I DO THIS FOR YOU.

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Mentiri's eyes narrowed as she saw Anaak silhouetted against the whirling metal sphere. That made two. Then the third, if that had truly been her voice. How many others?

The thoughts were cut short by the sight of a creature of molten bronze pulling itself out of the orb's vacant crater.

 

Anaak backed away from the hemispherical depression as the slimy thing writhed out of its own shapeless morass. He shook as the terrible voice tore through his bones. It hurt him. He almost even remembered why.

He couldn't quite tell what happened next, but there was an impression of great speed, impact, departure? He opened his eyes warily, hoping they would meet some more transparent explanation.