It was already raining by the time things had started. Solice didn't bother with explanations. L. Druid had brought him the last two Xidani, there were five people here to serve as shell, the ceremony would commence. No point in pussyfooting about the job. He did feel a bit of a twinge of regret for the child though. She had volunteered just like everybody else, but it didn't take millenia of wisdom to tell she were terrified. So much life left, and so little time. But millenia of wisdom tend to win out over minutes of regret and Solice sighed and moved on.
It had taken them a few hours to find a suitable location for the platform, but now everything was ready. The storm was growing a little and Solice shouted the chants so that everybody would know what was going on. They stood there, solemn, in a pentagon, wishing the thing would either end or never begin: Ley next to the green Xidani, pried from its amulet, Sage next to the red stone, Aerlin next to the blue, Kiara next to the white, and the black lay, ripped from the hilt of Shadow's sword, in front of Solice's own feet, not trusting anybody else with it. He was not a man to take chances.
Aerlin quivered a little. People were always parading the virtues of martyrdom, self-sacrifice. And she knew she'd die anyway, if they didn't do this. The world had to be reset. Solice had made it all seem so right an hour ago, but now...the few words she remembered brought little comfort. It was this dreadful waiting. It was too...conscious. She would prefer to be rended to a bloody death by some wild thing from the dark, than this. That way, it would be more instinctual; she wouldn't have to deal with it mentally. It'd be like death in her sleep. This was...horrid.
Solice was chanting full force now, though the wind seemed to rise to the challenge. The Ancient Shaharazadian toungue rolled out naturally, like the whole earth was speaking, and it was both beautiful and ominous at once.
A shrill, piercing screech sounded overhead though the five were too entranced to look up to the source. Then a deranged cry sounded from the circle, and everyone opened their eyes. Solice lay prone, slit keenly through the neck and his blood was creeping slowly towards them.
Ahh friend, thank you; you are no longer needed. Another body, crumpled to the ground. It had been a man once, but was really quite dead. The force that had been animating it had simply ceased. Cylthyn was finally, wholly dead, and Aerlin saw a cloaked figure, The Druid she thought though things were becoming hazy, holding a sixth stone. Fatestop.
Then there was an insane frenzy of action. Kiara lept screaming onto The Druid, aiming to knock Fatestop from his hands at an unstoppable, magical velocity. But she stopped. He held the palm of his free hand outwards and inhaled deeply, then opened his eyes and smiled at Kiara, stopped cold. He took another breath and then Aerlin saw an expression break through the hold on Kiara, Torture. Small cuts appeared across her skin, and it slafed off like orange peel. There was nothing there but a bloody red mass that seemed to disentegrate slowly towards its core and then Kiara was no more and he let his hand go limp.
This was all Aerlin saw, because at that point Sage Advisor barreled into her, knocking her behind some bushes from where he used a few of the tricks he still knew to bring her safely away, but more happened that she did not see. The Conversation.
Shadow! Not possible. Level is still stasis-sealed in my office.
Come now, old friend, don't be so shallow. I've been here all the time, fullfilling prophecies and all sorts of other...nifty...little things. Take some credit, I couldn't have done it without you.
What in blazes are you talking about?! I've read all of those prophecies and followed their advices to the letter. You had to come back in possession of a body, and I don't care how powerful you are, you couldn't have broken the Xidani seal on Level even if you did conquer his mind. Not without all of the other Xidani, and those were never near the poor boy.
My, you surely are pretentious for someone who hasn't figured it out yet. I DID come back in somebody else's body, and now I have plenty of power to control it. You're right, I did need the Xidani, and you've kindly delivered me to them. I had Fatestop under my power, but I didn't know where the other stones were, until now. And now I hold all the cards.
But...oh. You sick bastard. I'll destroy this body and both of us with it before I let you go loose on this world. In all the years we've known eachother, I've never understood why you yearn for this ridiculous power.
Oh, I always had the power, and we haven't really known eachother all these years, because this world, this prison, has been preventing it. You know they locked us in here? Too dangerous. Fools. And I'm afraid you don't quite have the power to destroy this body. Now then, be quiet my dear friend.
And there was utter silence and Shadow gathered the stones and walked away into the mouth of the storm that was engulging the plane to show them a power that would make nature itself tremble in fear.