Events move toward the goal of the God of the Sea as the Earth Woman (with Drago as a reluctant participant) collects the Elements and head for the Evanescents. The Hermetists have a nasty surprise for her, however.
from The Silvergrey Sea
The awakening of what appeared to be only a statue was a frightening and fascinating event. The beast was curled, nose to tail. It looked to be alabaster—a stone that looked so much like translucent flesh. The Earth Woman approached it slowly, muttering too low to hear. She laid a hand on the beast’s flank and stroked it slowly, like one might a belovéd pet. Leaning in close, she appeared to whisper in a pointed ear.
Without any visible sign of change, suddenly it was a living thing under her hand. The perception came upon Drago quite suddenly. He strained to identify what was different. There wasn’t enough time.
The drake opened a glistening all-blue eye and looked right at him. Making no sound, it straightened up and unfurled pale, translucent wings, before settling on its haunches and turning to look at Drago’s companion.
She turned to the Water Man and gestured. Feeling a bit nervous, Drago climbed the back of a dragon next to the Earth Woman. The surface of the animal was warm. It was also subtly textured and gave just enough to reassure him somewhat that his seat was secure. He wished there was something to grab.
A rolling thunder echoed across the roofs for a good twenty seconds as every other dragon awoke and prepared for flight.
With gut-dropping suddenness, the beast launched itself. It spiraled up, wings pumping rapidly, till it was circling the central spire of Aʒure’en. The others, uncounted thousands in all, followed until all were circling over the Mother Lodge like a living storm cloud. The noise gave Drago chills. He was at the head of an army and a war was about to be declared.
Following dragons carrying the pair, the rage spiraled down. Drago thought they would be leaving, but they headed inward. Inside the Mother Lodge seemed to be their destination, but they didn’t go in through any of the entrances. Between the five massive, tower flanked main doors were equally gargantuan, round, cone-shaped structures. Seven levels of stained glass, lit from within, gave a faerie-like air to them.
Leading the rage, they plunged straight to tallest ring of coloured light—and passed right through. Looking back, Drago was fascinated to watch dragons by the dozen seemingly appear right where the panes of the windows were. Most of the rotunda was empty, save for a huge sculpture in the center. As the rage spiralled down, he got a better look at it. It was the figure of a man stretched out on a scaffold or some sort. It looked like he had been tortured to death. Odd.
Now that they were inside, the noise magnified as the snap of wings echoed off walls and fan vaulted ceilings. Drago could feel the noise in his chest. He’d’ve blocked his ears, but feared to remove his hands form the tenuous grip on the drake he rode.
The speed of the beasts seemed to increase drastically as the walls of the Mother Lodge whipped by. He saw more of them ahead and knew that many had entered in other spots. Drago quickly lost track of where he was as the dragons wove, swerved, and dove into smaller and smaller halls; each time splitting into smaller streams.
They seemed to be going at a giddy rate, now. Drago and the Earth Woman’s dragons were two of only five that fit abreast along a windowless corridor. It was much quieter, what with most of the dragons elsewhere. It got louder as their stream joined one that carried many more drakes. A few moments later the larger stream joined and even bigger one.
Just as he was getting used to the increased racket, they broke out into a titanic chamber. It was five-sided and well over a mile across and almost as high. A circular hole almost half the width of the room disgorged a torrent of dragons. They were streaming out of the four other entrances to the space. The floor of the chamber dropped away into an abyss, like a giant trumpet bell. A sudden dread came over the Hyborean hybrid. Too late for second thoughts.
They joined the rage of dragons as it spiraled down into the void; the brilliant blue-white of the Line that plumbed the center of the passage constantly on their left. No sound but that of the wind in is ears, not even the wings of the dragons.
The Line flickered and went out.
Drago realized he couldn’t move. He couldn’t even be sure he had anything to move. All was blackness; that and the sound of wind.
Ahead of him, a dark blue-black swirl got closer, slowly turning.
“Son,” Harry adopted his most cynical visage. This kid was not going to get the better of him.
“You were not expected, yet your presence is fortuitous.”
“You don’t say.” Harry lit a smoke.
“The return of the Templars in inevitable. Why do you not accept it?”
“We’ve had enough of empire. The Aions are too old to survive another.”
“Oh, but you’re wrong. The mistakes of the past will not be repeated.”
“Enough. Do your worst, sonny boy. I will be there to stop you.”
“My worst?” the blue aura faded somewhat. Harry could see his son’s expression, now. “Interesting choice of words.”
The storm outside became louder, much. Harry looked around, noting the hurricane driven clouds in the distance. Something large and dark passed the window in the direction of the storm. It went, window to window, almost too fast to make out. Another, slightly higher did the same. He turned to look behind him. Several somethings were passing rapidly around the church. Harry caught a suggestion of wings. “What’s happening, child of mine?”
“The spirits of the Air, Water, and Earth are here. We are almost ready to begin.”
A disturbingly adult-sounding laugh from the infant. “No. The Evanescents is where we must go. Your presence here saves us the trouble of collecting you, first. There is one last thing to do here, then we will go.”
“Suppose I don’t want to go?”
A sigh. “You still think you have a choice.”
Harry couldn’t move. The blue halo, now just a suggestion remained as the child advanced. It had been in a sitting position as it hovered in the air. As it straightened, Harry realized he had misjudged the gender of his offspring. The Fire Child was a girl.
Breaking through the deep indigo cloud into the darkening storm over Praʒski, the Earth Woman spotted the cathedral at the heart of the maelstrom. Behind her, the Water Man, Drago, shouted, “This is Œrth, isn’t it?”
She was on the point of asking how he could know that, but thought better of it. He had been one of the great souls, as had she; likely he had lived here once, as well. She settled for a simple yes. Diving down toward the cathedral below, the Earth Woman led the rage of dragons in a spiral, cocooning the structure in a hurricane of snapping, leathery wings.
“What happens now?”
“We await the coming of the other Elements from inside.”
No sooner said, than revealed. The western doors of the cathedral opened with a boom audible even through the storm. Out came a brilliant blue-white, fuzzy-edged sphere of light. At its center, barely discernible, was the naked figure of the Fire Child. Toward the bottom of the corona floating just above the ground, was the somewhat tattered figure of Harry Tranker. He was slightly hunched over; he might have been unconscious.
They began to rise, moving to the center of the vortex. Once there, the shape of the rage’s flight began to change. It lifted and slowly formed a sphere centered on the pair. Together in formation, the Elements rose until they hovered well above the city.
Booming over the sound of the dragons, the voice of Fire said, “To the Orloj!”
The Praʒski Orloj.
Since its construction, it had been a wonder of the world. Since a shore of the Silvergrey Sea had first touched Œrth long ago, it had become something much, much more. With the tidal retreat of the Sea, the power locked in that mechanism had been lost to all those who hadn’t been able to find the one and only analogue of Œrth where it resided; which is to say—to all.
Now, the purpose for which it had been remade was finally to be fulfilled.
The Elements were now floating over the astronomical clock. A note—as of a crystal chime—sounded. It was pure and so sweet, it brought tears to the Earth Woman’s eyes. In its wake, all other sounds diminished, returning only when its long decay had almost entirely faded.
The Orloj rose, breaking free of its stone prison. Thousands of bright metal parts fountained up into the ball of spiraling flesh. A complex dance shimmied the components of what had been a mere mechanical representation of the local heavens into something of more cosmic import. Someone with an intimate knowledge of the geometry of the Thirty Aions would have recognized the shifting patterns as describing a journey through the multifarious dimensions of Greater Reality toward a particular place.
As the dance continued, bits of the destination began to impose themselves on the space of the air within the dancing cloud. These sections grew and started to merge. Soon, it was almost possible to see the whole of where the Portal (the first of its kind, predating the first fumbling efforts of the Templars) led—a spot in the Silvergrey Sea that included a part of the Evanescents. The Earth Woman noted, with satisfaction, that the mountainous pillar of the First Matter was present and still growing.
Then she saw the Hermetists.
Dozens, it looked to be, rushing away from or actually climbing down the mass of the First Matter.
“Move! Now!” the Earth Woman shouted. Whatever they were doing, it had to be bad news for the Working. They had to be stopped. Too slowly for comfort, the rage began to move through the not-quite-open Portal. The Water Man was among the first through. The Earth Woman intended to follow as quickly as possible.
Just ahead of her, the Fire Child dragging the still unconscious-looking Private Eye was just at the juncture between planes when the ice mountain exploded.
Shards of Primal Matter blasted through the partially open gate like shotgun pellets. Drakes shrieked as their bodies were assaulted. Several dropped from the sky as wings were lace-curtained or ripped entirely off. A dozen closest to the opening were completely shredded. The Fire Child vanished in a fog of bloody flesh.
A concussive wave of followed the explosion, scattering the remaining dragons. The Earth Woman lost all sense of direction and was barely able to hang on to her mount as it was blown, howling, from the source of the disaster.
When the beast finally regained control of its flight, the landscape looked nothing like the ancient city she had arrived at with such hope so short a time ago. Scanning the horizon yielded no clue to her whereabouts.
To the horror of the event just past was added the despairing realization that she was lost on a dead world without the means to find her way home.