Song of the Earth

It’s very late into the evening when the Avengers who went to the Starlight Passage return. When they do, Daniel is carrying Jianyu in his arms, and they are accompanied not just by Aaron, but Jessica, Matt, and Fríða.

Their mission was successful, but at a price: Jianyu’s mind was locked away, and neither Jessica, nor Fríða, nor Matt has been able to reach him—Matt tried, despite the Masters’ warning that he needed a Master of Mind.

The party arrives through a Shallowing Jessica creates, emerging on the street by the Chantrymobile. Ohio is cold—no colder than Iowa, but much colder than the golden path they walked through the spirit world.

Aaron’s had some time to walk and talk with Sonia. His face still lights up to see Will, though it falls a little at Will’s reaction. Sonia and Will may feel like they’re seeing an old friend, but that’s all. Moreover, he has aged while they have stayed in place. He’s not 17 anymore. He’s not going to kiss Sonia, or hug Will.

Maybe a normal cabal would get to rest now, but with Kal‘s 24-hour warning—less than 24 hours—they don’t have time for that. The groups share what each other has learned.

During this time, Alex‘s Avatar has been extremely excitable. His mother admonishes him for letting Johann get away, although the admonishment is half-hearted. It takes the form of Alex’s father. “Balance each thought against its opposite!” He advises Alex. “For the Marriage of these is the Annihilation of Illusion.”

It takes the form of Nadira. “You chose to change your nature, and you must now embrace that. Don’t use luck to shoot him, you jhor-addled fool. Use lightning. Watch the flesh crackle on his bones. His skin burn and scar. Use the winds to hurl your enemy into the wall, to send debris ripping through him. Strike him down with hail and rain.” If Alex was unsure whether jhor affected Avatars, he has his answer. Listening to her lurid descriptions isn’t doing anything to bring him out of his Quiet, either.

“Remember, equilibrium is the basis of your Work,” She adds, sounding more like his father. “If you don’t have a sure foundation, where will you stand to direct the forces of nature?”

No one else can hear the half-philosophical, half-graphic ramblings of his Avatar, but there’s plenty of conversation to be had. Alethia, who was drained of her blood in the confrontation with Kate, has gone out to replenish whatever America did not give her, and rest. Linda is okay, but laying down after Johann’s psychic attack. That still leaves the Avengers—Daniel, America, Will, Sonia, Alex—Matt, Xifeng, Fríða, Jessica, Sapphira, Dylan, Ava, Aaron and Karasi.

“Will,” Aaron begins once they are settled in the chantry, and once he collects himself. “Your mother is alive.”

That stops the conversation. “In the last loop, I gained access to memories of another loop—the one where I knew you,” He says, looking to Daniel. “I figured out what Kal was doing, and he came to confront me. I guess him doing that made ”/characters/gabrielle-harrison" class=“wiki-content-link”>Gabrielle figure it out. She came to confront him, but he was ready for her. He turned her into salt before he did it to me. But… I don’t know where she is."

“I do.” Jessica answers. “It’s the information I nearly lost my life for. Gabrielle is trapped in the Shade Realm of Time, in Saturn.”

“Well let’s go.” Sonia is the first to speak. Jessica clucks her tongue. “Child, you don’t simply go to Saturn. Think about what you’re asking. You need a Master of Spirit to cross the Horizon—that’s me. Assuming we don’t meet any Marauders or Cosmic Nephandi along the way, Saturn is the most dangerous Shade Realm.”

“What is a Shade Realm?” Sapphira asks. It’s frustrating, even as a mage, to have people talking about things you don’t understand. Especially as a Mage.

Jessica turns both her palms up. “Shard Realms and Shade Realms. Shard Realms are the literal planets you learned about in school. You can reach them through space if you’re a Technocrat, or the Umbra. Shade Realms are… basically the shadow those realms cast on the Horizon. When you look into the sky and see a planet, you’re seeing the Shade Realm on the surface of the sky. At least, you’re seeing an entrance. A Shade Realm is like an entire Universe where that Sphere rules supreme. Mercury, for example, is Correspondence, and Venus is Life…”

“Alex!” Sonia begins. “We went there. When you found me in the Umbra. But neither of us is a Master?”

“As I said,” Jessica explains patiently. “They are entire universes. The easiest way to get there is the surface of the Horizon, and you don’t need a Master to get there. But the part we need to go, we need to go to the Shard Realm—to Saturn. That’s where he put her. And therein lies the problem. In the realm of Time, every dimension is time. If you move, you are time-traveling. If you stand still, you are time traveling, in either direction. Your body will age too. You could take three steps in and leave, and come back 6000 years in the past, 30 years older than when you left. I could take the same three steps and end up 27,000 years in the future, but now I’m younger than I was when I went in. Even Masters of Time can’t control this process. It’s a suicide mission for almost everyone who goes.”

“But,” She continues. “Someone needs to go. As long as whoever travels there has some knowledge of Time, they can probably avoid taking steps that will instantly kill them. He didn’t leave her too far inside—it was dangerous even to him. If we can reach her, we can revive her—the spell uses Grief.”

“Tears,” Aaron says immediately. “Genuine tears. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who can’t produce them.”

“But… Gabrielle died. She left a body.” Matt says slowly. He’s seen the body. He killed Eleanor for it.

“She didn’t travel holistically. He put her there astrally,” Jessica explains, which draws a slow nod from Aaron. “That’s the other problem. When Gabrielle is revived, she will immediately awaken in her body. If this had happened within weeks… She will need someone to restore the damage of her body so her first memories aren’t awakening in a corpse.”

Matt nods. This part, he understands. “The deep ”/wikis/chakravanti" class=“wiki-page-link”> Euthanatos magick." He looks between Xifeng and Sonia. “We can do it.”

“Can you?” Jessica asks. She’s not challenging him, but they need to know before they try it. “”/characters/c-cile-beauchene" class=“wiki-content-link”>Cécile could. She was the Master of Entropy and Matter, of Life. Do you know how?"

“I know what to do,” Matt repeats. “I have enough Matter and Life to restore her body. If she doesn’t like it she can correct it herself.” He says sourly.

“Wait,” Sonia asks. “Should we be raising the dead like this? This seems a bit like necromancy.”

“She’s not dead,” Jessica replies. “She’s trapped. Eventually, Shade Realm of Time will push her to the edges, or she’ll be found and disturbed by the creatures who live there. There are Marauders or Nephandi there who might have a use for a frozen Archmage. Or eventually, even Kal’s spell will unravel under paradox. How much more jarring if it happens a thousand years from now when she’s just bones? It was never meant to kill her.”

“We’ll do it.” Dylan says gravely. Ava places her hand on his shoulder.

Karasi looks at Alex and Will. Each of them has the same thought, that they know the others share. They cannot go on a suicide mission unless one of them is fixing the weather. “Our first duty is to restore this planet. If we die, or we run out of time…”

“We don’t all have to go,” Ava retorts. “There are what, 14 of us here? Plus Linda, and the vampires, and the Technocrats. Maybe I want to see Saturn before Kal offs me.”

“There’s definitely enough work for more than two teams.” Fríða says evenly. “And most of us can’t get into the Net now. We have a plan for the weather. Do we have a plan to fight Kal? Especially if this one fails?”

“It’s a good time for it. Do you realize tomorrow is the Equinox?” Sapphira asks. She’s looking at Alex. “At 8:41 in the morning. The time when light and dark are in perfect balance, when power shifts from winter and darkness to spring and light. It’s the perfect juncture for change—to change the weather, to change the balance of power between us and Kal.”

Will is visibly startled when he meets Aaron, which might explain the Ecstatic’s reaction. Though his own understanding of Time has grown, his perception is still rather linear; he’s never befriended Aaron, and yet he knows that he has. His welcome is muted as he tries to sort through his own feelings. Sonia, on the other hand, gets a quick, relieved hug, though he’s quick to return to maintaining his own personal space again.

He shares all the details he can remember of the Net and their interaction with Johann, but he falls silent at Aaron’s announcement, and he remains that way as the others discuss it. Will is an initiate of Time. He could go to Saturn and maybe survive, and there is nothing he wants to do more right now than rescue his mother. But he can feel the pressure of the Net’s geas more strongly than ever, now that they know they have less than 24 hours to figure this out, and especially now that there is somewhere else he’d rather be.

“Well, it sounds like Matt and I need to get to… Davenport? Wherever Gabrielle was buried,” Xifeng pipes up. “Sonia too, or is she needed elsewhere?” If her mentor says they can do this, she will put her faith in him. “And if Kal means to remove everyone who’s helped us from the Tellurian, then all of these other factions should have a vested interest in falling in line with whatever we plan, or they’ll be written out as well.”

Will softly clears his throat. “We still haven’t refilled the Net. It’s locked, but we need to fuel it to fix the weather, and to seal Kal away. I have to be focused on that. I have shitloads of people who are trying to help us, all over the world,” he adds, waving his handheld. “Maybe now that Alex has reprogrammed it, it’ll be easier to fill it up. And we’ve got our master of Prime back,” he adds with a little nod to Fríða.

It /has/ been a lot to take in. America Anders sighs after the initial return, her armour retracting back into itself, leaving only her gauntlets as bracers. She offers Alethia as much of her blood as she can without incapacitating herself. Then, she rests on the couch while the discussion takes place.

“We have a hot tub,” she says softly from her position of laze, a damp facecloth on her forehead, covering her eyes. “Could we redirect the location from Hollow Earth to Saturn?” she asks after the silence in the room suggests nobody understands the correlation between relaxing bath experiences and any of the calamity that threatens their next 24 hours.

She stirs as Will discusses the plan to trap Kal. They’ve still so much to do and so little time within which to accomplish their tasks. “A squad to reclaim time Mom, another to supercharge the Net, and two more-” she goes on, pausing to lick her lips and sigh. “Well we’ve got Kal’s attention, but we need a team to lure him to the Muon trap and another to focus on inverting his arcane on himself so everything in the fucking universe forgets he ever existed.”

Then she lays there, having no idea how many people are standing around and what their expressions are.

Alex is visibly distracted as his avatar shifts from person to person, instruction to criticism. As Nadira encourages him to jump off the edge he simply shakes his head mumbling to himself, “no more killing. Too much jhor.”

He chimes in as the work plan starts taking form. “Will, I think helping Gabrielle is in line with our purpose. If Kal can erase us, she would be the only one with a chance to undo that. I will go to my chantry and coordinate the weather from there. It may be safer for the three of us to not be in the same locale.” He nods slightly to Will and Karasi at the last part.

Alex then looks directly at Xifeng. “The vision Gabrielle shared with me was of Kal killing me at Davenport, but I think if she had shared this with you it would have been you with your back broken. In Davenport we will find only death.”. He looks around the room, lingering on Will and Linda. “Why would anyone go to Gabrielle’s grave? Just bring her here. Now.”

In the initial aftermath of everyone coming back together, Daniel did not move from Jianyu’s side. He made sure the Dreamspeaker was settled somewhere comfortable and watched diligently even when Matt tried to help him. He’s stayed with him while everyone else got settled in and came downstairs just in time to find a spot of wall to lean against as the big planning meeting begun.

He’s silent, processing what is being tossed around and chewing on a calloused finger. “It would be smarter. I’m sure he’s going to be watching Davenport like a hawk now. Or Kate will.” He agrees with Alex. Who’s he to talk, though? “I think we all need to play our strengths here, though, definitely. I will go with the group to Saturn.”

“Will, you should go get your mother. Alex is the best one to do the ritual.” She hesitates. She has a grasp of Time too. “I will stay on Earth in case I am needed.”

Matt snorts. “Do you really think the location is that important, Alex? He’s going to try to stop us no matter where we are.”

“If we move the bod—sorry,” Sapphira fumbles, “Gabrielle here, he can attack the chantry just as easily. It’s a matter of choosing /where/ we want to fight him.”

“And it means we will need protectors. Meat shields, for us to go through. I guess we have a job for the Technocrats. Let Kal viciously murder a few of them to keep Sonia, Xifeng and I safe.” Sonia gives Matt a weird look, but Matt is staring at Alex. She follows his gaze to the Hermetic.

“Mm. The hot tub?” Jessica asks. “I can take a look. I’m not sure moving the portal will be easier or faster than traveling there. But I will look. Anything that saves us time might be worth the effort.”

“I’m ”/wikis/cult-of-ecstasy" class=“wiki-page-link”> Esctatic, I’ll go to Saturn," Aaron says. “Me, too,” Dylan says quietly. Jessica looks at him. “No. I’m not taking anyone who doesn’t have a sense of Time. You’ll be defenseless.”

“I am GOING to Saturn.”

“It’s the Shade Realm of Time. You are Unawakened, defenseless. You need—”

“I am going to Saturn.” Dylan repeats tonelessly. Jessica glances at Will, but whatever sympathy she was expecting to find she doesn’t see it. She sighs. “Fine. Let it be on your head.”

“Alex, your jhor is worse than when Sonia first reported it. You need to be careful.” Xifeng didn’t know about Alex’s jhor, but Matt warned her about it when they found Cécile. What jhor was, and her concerns about him falling into it, though he believes her and Sonia give him purpose enough to keep him out of it. Now that Cécile is gone, it’s up to Xifeng to monitor him for jhor. He even let her feel the resonance pass through her body, as unpleasant as that was. But she’s never seen it naturally in action.

“Is it safe for him to do a ritual like this?” Fríða asks. Trust the Master of Prime to be concerned about resonances. “Do we have time to find someone more qualified?” Matt retorts. “As long as he can go 24 hours without murdering anyone it shouldn’t matter. He’s not going to get jhor fixing the weather.” What could possibly go wrong?

“Okay,” Fríða begins. “If we’re using the Net to refuel the weather and catch Kal, do we need to… reprogram it to do the latter?”

“Then I’ll go to Saturn,” Will says without any further hesitation. That’s where he wants to be, and his compulsion to work with the Net subsides as Alex and Karasi confirm that they have it covered. “I can forward my contacts to Linda, and she can help the two of you use them.”

Xifeng’s brow tics as Matt refers to her former colleagues as meat shields. When he calls Alex out, she glances across the room at him, testing the hum of resonance in the air to detect the jhor herself. Matt’s been away doing who even knows what; she looks back to him too, studying him for a moment. “It was probably what he tried to do to ”/characters/victor-o-hannigan" class=“wiki-content-link”>Victor. And that’s a bit optimistic, don’t you think? Can we send someone with him to monitor him? Storms kill people all the time."

Will has basically tuned out of that conversation at this point, though he could likely provide some personal insight into how much of a shithead Matt can be when someone’s lousy with jhor. “I- I guess I can move her,” he says slowly, though he certainly never imagined using Correspondence to dig up his mother’s grave. “Anywhere we want. Or I can send you to her. But the vampires and Technocrats we’ve been working with are here in Cincinnati, so it’ll be a lot easier to give you a fortified place to work here…”

He trails off, looking at his father. He’s shaking his head in agreement with Jessica when the Dreamspeaker looks at him. To Will’s credit, his response is more measured than it might have been a year ago, when his father first found out he was a mage and they found themselves in a constant power struggle between father and son. “Dad, I get it, but if it’s that dangerous it might not be a good idea. One of us will need to look after you, which means we won’t just be focused on what’s happening around us. I can do it,” he adds quickly, “but if we don’t save mom and we lose you there, too…” That’s both of his parents, lost to the same place.

Alex shakes his head in frustration. “Yes, of course he can attack us anywhere. The distinction is that we know he will attack us in Davenport. We know he will effectively kill one or all of us who go there. That degree of certainty does not exist elsewhere. Can we not lace the teleportation and healing effects with a glamour to mislead Kal and his cronies? Especially when while we divide his attention with other teams?”

He completely checks out of the hot tub conversation. He’s never had issues getting to the Umbra, but most people probably wouldn’t like his method. At the mention of his jhor, he simply shrugs. “I did try to sufficate Victor with his own effect.”

All this talk about jhor has drawn America’s attention. She removes the washcloth from her forehead, placing it on the side table, and sits up. “This is news to me. Hold still,” she says, pulling up her gauntlet and after adjusting dials, a disc spins and lifts up to just below the ceiling. It spins so quickly that when it begins spewing sparkles and colours, they fan out in a wide area, slowly sinking down like gentle snow.

America focuses on the readings displayed on her armguard as the disc returns down to its place on her bracer. Since reaching a greater understanding of Prime, and in particular since her workshop with Fríða and Will, America has been attempting to isolate and map everyone’s resonance to form a radar of sorts. The effort should not only help her identify where specific individuals are, but also detect what sort of resonance they have. She watches as the resonances for all around her pop up on her readings.

“Fine,” Matt rolls his eyes. “Teleport your mother’s corpse to Davenport. But death is more than just the body it leaves behind—I need the grave dirt, the headstone, as much of the place as you and Dylan touched as you can. It won’t be the same, but it’ll be close.”

“Matt,” Dylan says in an undertone. “Watch it. You’re in his house.” To Will, “It’s my decision to go. I can’t just stand by and watch you risk yourself alone. If I don’t make it I want you to have your mother again. Besides, going to Saturn only MIGHT kill me. Staying here on Earth with Kal definitely will.” His eyes flick to Xifeng. “Unless we’re too insignificant to be counted in that threat.” Kate did leave him here when she teleported ‘the people involved’ to her lair. But a future where just he and an ex-Woman in Black he barely likes are alive is not one he cares to come to pass.

Hey,” Xifeng says, almost right on top of Dylan. She’s chiding Matt, though she lets Dylan say his piece first. Will looks about ready to throw something at her Mentor right now. “Matt, are you feeling okay? That was rude even for you.” She’s doing her best to check him for jhor herself, but she’s not as powerful or experienced as America. She suspects, but she isn’t sure.

Will exhales heavily, trying to balance his frustration with Matt against his worry for his father, plus that sparkly thing America is doing is a bit distracting. “Then you have to let us watch out for you, okay? I can patch you into my handheld. Daniel and Jessica are better with Time than me, so they can focus on the bigger picture I guess.” Matt’s little fit apparently doesn’t dignify a response. He’s an Adept of Correspondence. He can teleport it all.

“Kal.” Alex repeats after Xifeng is finished. “We still need to make a prison for me. I refocused the Net while I was inside it, but it had a similar effect on me as well. I don’t know that I can change it again.”

He turns to America. “Are you studying me?”

The Daughter of Ether shrugs and nods, “Sure,” she replies dismissively, hardly interested in getting involved in the snappy remarks being exchanged by the group. She’s more focused on her readouts. With pursed lips, she looks up at Alex narrowing her eyes as she tries to pick up visual clues to corroborate what she’s seeing in his resonance. Then her eyes turn to Matt. “Both of you are suffering some serious degradation of your Etheric concentration,” she explains. “I guess that’s jhor. It is eating both of you, badly. Karasi, less so.”

America looks to Fríða with a smile, hoping to find approval from her prime mom for the application of discoveries from their previous endeavour. “There’s a lot more I need to learn about this. There is something up with you two as well,” she says addressing Will and Sonia, “I can’t tell really. I’ll figure it out with more time. It would be a lot easier if you were doing magic while I get a reading.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Matt retorts. “I haven’t killed anyone with magick in ages.”

“Matt,” Sonia says softly.

“Matt you could probably kill everyone in this chantry with enough planning and motive.” Fríða adds. “We should take it seriously.”

“Believe me, if I wanted to kill them all they’d be dead right now.”

“Matt!” Sonia repeats. “You trained me to take that seriously even if I didn’t want to hear it. I don’t want anything to happen to you,” Her voice softens.

“You and I did kill with magick,” Karasi says to Alex. They seem to be accepting this much better than the Chakravanti is. “So we need… meditation. Calm? A do-not-murder buddy system?” She jests.

“I really don’t think we can worry about this all right now,” Sapphira says. “Matt will do his ritual. Alex will do his. We will keep people close to them who can keep them in check—people they have an emotional connection to.”

Fríða smiles at America. “So how did you work it out?” She asks in an undertone. It’s nice to see young people taking an interest in Prime instead of the flashy spheres like Forces and Matter.

“I mean. You killed me,” Xifeng says mildly. “Then the world entered into nuclear winter and your mentor died. Don’t get defensive, it’s not going to help.” Of course, all Matt really told her to do in this case is get an adult, and the only other Euthanatos of particular skill she knows is already in the room, sooo… “Sonia and I will keep an eye on him, even though it sounds like raising the dead is the last thing he should be doing right now.”

Will just blinks at America. “I guess we can figure that out in a few days,” he says with an optimism he doesn’t quite feel. “Who can help Alex and Karasi with the cage for Kal? And the Arcane thing sounds like a Prime trick, maybe. America, even if you don’t go with them maybe you can get the vampires moving, and we can tell ”/characters/ursula" class=“wiki-content-link”>Ursula what we need from the Technocrats before we go anywhere. We need to pick a place for this ritual for my mom so I can… move.. everything. That’s where we need to send the backup. Is there a particularly good kind of place to do this?" he asks, finally deigning to ask Matt something directly. “Would it help if it’s in the same kind of place? Another graveyard?”

“Yes,” Matt says quickly, actually seeming grateful to Will for changing the subject. The last thing he wants to do is sit under his student and ex-student’s gaze knowing they know he’s corrupted. “Preferably by a crossroads. We need to get started before dawn but I’m not sure that actually matters anymore.” It’s going to take time for Will to find a place and move everything, but he needs to prepare too.

“I can help make the trap,” Fríða says. “We’ll need some others to guard the ritual.”

“So,” Jessica begins. “With me will be Will and Dylan, Daniel and Aaron, Ava. I will ask Ursula to come. Fríða will be working with Alex and Karasi. The Chakravanti will perform their necromancy, and that leaves America, Sapphira, the vampires and the Technocrats to guard them while they do. Does that about sum it up?”

“Wonderfully.” Alex replies to Jessica, slightly dismissively. “As for the trap. Can we use Kal’s apparent aversion to dynamic resonance to create a natural boundary for him within my Net? A prison of static inside chaos?”

“Wait…so we’re going to send almost every Time Adept left to Saturn? Shouldn’t we leave more than one behind?” Daniel finally pipes in from the sidelines.

“I have to go. Fríða is staying here.” Jessica answers. “Ursula will do what Ursula will do. That’s all we have left. Though maybe ”/characters/kouam-bekoe" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kouamé would still come." He can interpret Time senses better than Dylan can.

“The Net has to absorb all kinds of resonance because it takes them from all kinds of people,” Karasi observes. “Before it all becomes neutral. We can separate some of the Static and Entropic Resonance as it comes in. They’ll be more of the latter right now anyway.”

“I’ll find you a place,” Will says to Matt. His attention shifts to his handheld. He’s already looking for a spot that matches the parameters. Listening as the conversation flows back to Kal’s imminent prison, he nods along. “Maybe that’s something you can communicate to /my/ network,” he says absently. “The sleepers can only do so much, but the mages who’ve been helping us might be able to temper what they contribute to fuel it.”

America returns Fríða’s smile with a wink and a smile of her own. With all that is being discussed, she figures they can swap notes on Prime soon. “Fríða and I should try to work out how to amplify and use Kal’s arcane against him, now then. Once Alethia is back I’ll leave with her to get the vampire cavalry on board.”

Daniel frowns, but nods his head anyway. “Fair point.” He replies to Jessica. “It just feels a little…eggs all in one basket if this is going to be a potential suicide mission, as you said.” He crosses his arms over his chest and looks at the fourteen people currently in the room. “Though I guess we’re in do or die territory now.” He continues to stay out of the conversation about Quiet and the Net. "Should we time our departure to the equinox?

“We’re going to leave as soon as I am prepared, but definitely before Matt gets started,” Jessica says. “The timing matters less to me than getting far away from Kal.”

“Okay. Anything else, or can we split up and get started? Everyone needs to stay in touch, as much as we can.” Will… isn’t the least bit positive that the Saturn group will be able to remain in contact with everyone else, but at least the groups not headed into the Umbra can remain coordinated, right?

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