God Quest but above ground the stars keep their secrets


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...it was nighttime.

Dusk had fallen and above them the stars shimmered brightly in a sky of darkened periwinkle and deepest violet. The one star that had served as their guide was now joined by a multitude that illuminated the glade in a soft crisp white light. Both Jigano and Amalia would find themselves feeling as though they'd been whirled through the sky, colour in their cheeks, stomachs possibly upset about it all, hair disheveled.

Shimmering as radiantly as her starry motes, Safrin turns her gaze gently upon the two Loreseekers with a radiant smile upon her painted lips. Holding out her palm, the small star that had led them through the underground tunnels raced towards her, hovering there with an affection that was obvious, despite the fact that it was simply a ball of light. "You'll forgive the rather abrupt transportation I hope." She said with a gentle laugh, turning her cosmic gaze upon the two with with an apologetic sparkle in the depths of her eyes. "They are simple creatures, but it wanted to please you both and so it brought you to me when it could not fulfill your request." So saying, she made gentle cooing sounds to the star, then gently tossed it upwards, where it disappeared in a shower of cosmic radiance and the smell of petrichor.

Turning towards Amalia, Safrin smiled warmly. "Hello darling one. I see that you've found the library we spoke of?" Indeed, Jigano and Amalia had with them the two volumes written in another language. "Fear not, Lorekeeper, the remainder of the library has been transferred to the atheneum for you to read at your leisure." She said almost as an afterthought, with a smile in Jigano's direction.

Safrin
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
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#2
Amalia
only lonely hid the morning from the stars
One moment, is under the ground. The next, she is under the sky.

Amalia gasps and reels in surprise as her location changes in a swirl of stardust. It feels as though her stomach was left behind, still beneath the ground and hurrying to catch up- but it is not an altogether experience. Gulping for air, she falls to her knees, the book clutched tightly against her chest  rising and falling as the girl laughs. Her cheeks are rosy; her voice deep and bright; she is bewildered and delighted, nauseated and amazed. It is only when the world stops spinning that she is able to raise her eyes, peering up through tousled gold hair into the face of Safrin.

The bright smile which lights the Loreseeker's face is as genuine as any. Still struggling to catch her breath Amalia scrambles back to her feet, her black eyes wide with childish wonder as she regards the goddess of life. "It was amazing! There were words on the walls, but we could not read them, and the star led us down a path, only the floor gave out but Jigano caught me, but I saw footsteps far below - fresh ones - does someone live there still? When we found the library Jigano and Isuma solved the puzzle and the library was full of books and I grabbed this one and-" Her alto voice dances and skips as the torrent of words unfolds, until finally her brain catches up to her lips and the girl snaps silent, a blush darkening her face.

Stepping back slightly, she glances at Jigano, still smiling, still bashful, still proud and alive with the joy of success. She is a little saddened by the absence of the star: it has been their companion, as surely as Isuma, and though Jigano may have questioned its fealty, Amalia never did. "I could not read this book," she admits apologetically, holding up the tome for Safrin to see, yearning and hoping for reassurance, acceptance, to have pleased, to be good.
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd / Outlander Advisor
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned x Abandoned | Nationality: Outlander
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#3
It was another book in a language he couldn’t read, Jigano had just realized. The familiar thrill of the challenge had just started to course through him when the world went white and he found himself staggering on soft grass. He had been caught in a few spring gusts as a raven, but nothing had prepared him for this, or the sensation of nausea that ripped through him and took long moments to subside while he found all other concerns lost to the beauty of the Goddess that stood before them.

Beautiful didn’t begin to describe her, but even so the Provost of the Loreseekers didn’t begin to relax until he found Amalia with his eyes and reached up to steady a woozy gryphlet who was in danger of stumbling off his shoulder. The book was still held in his hand, but it was momentarily forgotten as Safrin spoke and the bard closed his eyes to savor the music of the spheres that seemed to chime within her voice.

Beauty could be dangerous, however, and soft smiles could hide sharp minds. It was never wise to be at less than his best when dealing with the divine – or less than respectful. He sank to his knees beside Amalia, feeling his roiled stomach beginning to settle as he let his friend speak – with an animation and joy he’d witnessed in her only once before. A pale brow rose briefly in surprise, but a smile touched his lips at her genuine gladness. He rose as she stepped back, a calm and solid presence at her side as he bowed deeply to the goddess. ”My thanks to you, great Lady,” he said solemnly – then winced as Isuma Reep!ed excitedly in his ear and demanded down to chase the sparkles that fell from the rising star as it returned to the heavens. ”I have another book we cannot read,” he offered as well, glad he still gripped it – and gladder still that the rest of the books wouldn’t require retracing their starlit run through the Underground. Hopefully Seiji and the girl were alright…

”But Amalia followed your servant, brave and true and holding unshaken faith in you,” he said with a smile for his friend and fellow Loreseeker. ”The credit is hers, and the glory as well.” For he had no doubt the bright young woman would have solved the puzzle in her own time, once she saw it. Chance alone had the bard reaching the wall first, and Isuma’s curiosity revealing the key.


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Safrin laughs brightly, her hands clasped together in an admission of pure delight to see just how pleased Amalia is. She is the first to show any real interest in their histories or that which came before, and it warms whatever heart stand-in Safrin possesses to see her so elated. "Slow down!" She encourages with a grin, nodding with bemusement. "The writing is hardly anything to worry about. The chamber beneath however...I am surprised it is still open at all, though if the ground gave way I suppose that makes sense. I am glad you were unharmed. " She adds with a playful wink.

Glancing towards Jigano, the deity nods, a fresh shower of stars falling around Isuma and then delicately bouncing away for the small chick-cat to give chase should she choose.

"Credit? Glory?" Safrin scrunches her features and shakes her head with a pleasant laugh. "I don't need need to peer into your mind to know that you are not from here." She adds with another silvery-laugh.

"Well! Books is it? Well shall we see what they have to say?"

Safrin
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
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#5
Amalia
only lonely hid the morning from the stars
Amalia flushes and bows her head at Safrin's gentle admonishment, though the vibrant smile does not leave her face. "What was in there?" She asks of the chamber again, endless curiosity immediately piqued. Another blush colors her face at Jigano's gentle praise, though she shakes her head in agreement with the goddess. There is no glory she seeks, nor credit- only to learn, to improve, and to serve.

Ah, but her thoughts are not to remain here for long. Eagely she nods her readiness for knowledge, prepared to see the writing on the text change before her eyes. What happens instead is infinitely more terrifying, exhilarating, and wonderful: knowledge like a river pours into her brain, flooding her mind with a million words, an ocean - there are oceans! of information she never knew she never knew.

How long does she process? Moments? Hours? Amalia cannot be sure - she is lost in a flood of images and shapes, memories that are not hers, maps and stories and gods. At last her mind begins to settle, to calm, though a storm of questions still rages below.

Looking at Safrin with tears in her eyes, Amalia gasps the only one that matters most: "Vi?"
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd / Outlander Advisor
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned x Abandoned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 - Strg: 30 - Dext: 33 - Endr: 39 - Luck: 35
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#6
Safrin’s smile at Amalia’s enthusiasm eased much of the tension that Jigano still carried, wary even in the face of such divine loveliness. That she could be supportive, kind, encouraging, all left the bard feeling reassured. She was outwardly like the art in Bastien’s ‘church’ and yet so much more than the shallow priest had painted her… and Isuma liked her, which did much to satisfy his caution. Setting the gryphlet down to chase the sparkling stars, he rose again to give praise where it was properly due: to Amalia and her faith. Both women chided him gently and his smile turned crooked as he bowed silent apology for overstepping.

It was Amalia who took the lead, and asked about the collapsed segment of floor and the mystery of the footprints, and Jigano gave his friend a glance both fond and proud of her boundless curiosity. But before the answer to that there was the question of what lay before them: books, unreadable and fascinating and filled with lore. He hadn’t known what to expect – a cipher, that Safrin’s will would make the letters twist into something they could both read, or perhaps the knowledge of the language imprinted directly into their minds, as Ludo had given him the soul-calling melody?

Instead the contents of the books flowed into his mind, starlight and moonsong and the first flowers of spring opening their faces to the sun. He basked in it, drank it in deeply, and felt transformed by the experience as the waves of knowledge lapped at the shore of his understanding and sank deep to water his thoughts. Head tilted back, he let the new information settle, clicking into place with what others had told him or what he had read, and he sighed in something close to rapture.

He had not realized his hand had found Amalia’s at some point, fingers closing lightly about hers in shared incredulity and joy. Hot on the heels of her question came his own, his bard’s soul singing at the epic romance the one book had related and delight in his voice. ”And Mort! Ah, the stuff of songs and dreams…” Part of him was already beginning to compose the ballad their love inspired, and he looked up at Safrin with shining eyes.

Letting her answer Amalia first, it gave the bard time to recover a bit of his wits and to take a slow breath as he looked first to his friend and then back to the goddess. ”But, Lady Safrin… we have heard something of why the Old Gods may have raised the barrier in the first place. I apologize if I overstep, but what I don’t understand is why the ancestors of those who are not Ascended were also trapped in this cage… and why you and the other two shepherds were given care of this wayward flock?”


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#7


"Long ago there was a group who lives in endless tunnels that ran below the Sanctuary and out towards the Ruins. They were hoarders of everything, knowledge, stolen wares, even time—or so they thought." Gently the goddess shrugs.

The world dissolves into pale whites flecked with prismatic colour as the information is given.

Though Safrin is generous, there is a section which is held back...a section she will not translate.

Opening her eyes as the transfer was completed, there are tears in the depth of her gaze as well as she nods. Perhaps she has added a bit of her own knowledge and memories to the section on Vi...how could she not? To imprint his face into the mind of Amalia and Jigano seems appropriate in this moment, and her heart sings to carry on the legacy of her mentor once again.

Looking towards Jigano now, the diety sighs, her hands restlessly intertwining. "I cannot pretend to know their minds .. but I do know that it was meant to be a kindness. They were our children, once a upon a time. And though parents do sometimes disagree what to do when children rebel, their love does not diminish. Mort is ..." For a moment her lips twist into a bemused and adoring smile as she laughs to herself. "...Mort's love is without end. As for us...well. Where there is life, so you shall find the need for us." She says, the ambiguity and dismay she reveals hidden deep in her galactic core.

Safrin
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
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#8
Amalia
only lonely hid the morning from the stars
"What happened to them?" the girl asks, remembering, again, the footprints. Another mystery to explore- and she glances at Jigano, wondering if he shares her curiosity, her settled determination to return.

Safrin's love of Vi is palpable, and the young baker feels it like a heartbeat, a pulling tune of eons adored. "Thank you," she whispers, the tears in her eyes reflecting Safrin's own.

The knowledge imparted is vast, expansive, and Amalia is grateful for Jigano's voice as she continues to unravel it. She nods as the goddess speaks of Mort's love, though the answer does not quite satisfy. "Are there no Ascendeds without?" It seems strange, that such a race should be isolated to this space, when the world without remains so vast.

When the world without, which continues to live as they stagnate.

Drawing a breath, the girl looks at Safrin, a question burning on her lips. "What would happen if the barrier fell?" To the Ascendeds, to the Gods, to the world they have been quarantined away from to protect. Now, more than ever, she wishes for freedom- and now more than ever, she fears what it might mean.
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd / Outlander Advisor
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned x Abandoned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 - Strg: 30 - Dext: 33 - Endr: 39 - Luck: 35
ISUMA - Mythical - Gryphon (venomous)
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#9
Amalia's glance was caught and held, Jigano's lips twitching into a faint grin and he gave a slight nod of his head in rapport for their mutual thought. Back down again, to seek, to find, to know what was there, and who, and why. He hadn't gotten a chance to see the footprints himself, but he trusted Amalia and knew that they would be returning sooner or later to seek out another mystery in the Underground.

Knowledge begat more questions, spinning through their minds in a dazzling array of answers to questions they hadn't asked yet - hadn't known to ask. Some things were left vague or blank, but others were laid out in such detail that it took the bard's breath away and left his soul singing in joy.

The face of a god, stern and radiant in power, was not something Jigano had expected to learn today, or to see in his mind's eye. Colored as it was by Safrin's own love for Vi, the bard couldn't help but feel the prickle of tears in his own eyes. He felt no shame at them, but he did take a moment to breathe deeply and let the more mundane beauty of the Glade settle some of the chiming notes in his heart down to something more bearable for a mortal.

Amalia's question about Ascendeds was a good one, and one he eagerly awaited the answer to. The next one, about the barrier, even more so.

"And what will she seek to do, if she is freed again," he asked quietly on the heels of his friend's questions. The Voice who had been locked away for three hundred years, asleep in the barrier until meddling Outlanders had accidentally freed her... Was it really so simple as an Ascended mortal being rejected from joining the ranks of the Old Gods? He suspected there was more to it than that, but straight answers to that were as hard to find as elves inside the barrier.


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#10


"Hubris. And Time." Safrin replies, looking at Amalia with a mixture of fondness and sympathy given their current topic. "They were a tricky and deeply distrustful lot. If you do seek out the remainder of their hoarded empire, do be careful. There are sure to be traps." The goddess warns, plucking the thought easily from Amalia's mind and her not so subtle glance towards the bard.

"I do not know." Safrin replies with a gentle shrug. In another context revealing her own ignorance might be something that she would take offence to, but here and now, she merely frowns. "I have been within for as long as the barrier has stood." She adds delicately, though there is a small bite in her words as well.

Their combined question does not come as a surprise, and yet the deity hesitates. For a moment her eyes flick upwards and to the right as she softly ponders. "I do not know." She repeats again, though as her galactic gaze lowers there is flint and steel in it. "I can only speculate, so do recognize that such is all this is. I do not believe the fall of the barrier will simply be the end. Vi and Mort and Rae would not have created the barrier without having a way of knowing its status. I believe they will be alerted, and either they will prevent the fall from within, or they will take measures from without. It may well fall only to reveal a second barrier." She muses with a wry grin. "Whatever happens, the fall is not the end. As for her—" Here she glances to Jigano, considering the bard carefully and thoughtfully for a moment, her lips twisting upwards into a slow smile. "She will do as she has always done. Ravage. Manipulate. Build her army, continue to be short sighted and closed off to the sirens of her own destruction."

Safrin
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
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#11
Amalia
only lonely hid the morning from the stars
Safrin's speculation about the barrier's fall leaves a slight frown on the baker's face. That the gods would go through so much to keep it present... it defies the idea that her deities are all-powerful, though she supposes the need for it is evidence enough of cracks in the Old God's strength. If Caido was still invested, she wonders, would any of this have happened...?

But Safrin is right: the important thing is the risk the Voice may pose to the world. Amalia chews gently on her lip, the troubled expression deepening on her angled face as Safrin continues to speak. The goddess's smile puts her somewhat at ease, but Amalia cannot help feel a deep concern, fear of the change which she can sense quick approaching. She glances at Jigano, wondering what the bard thinks of all this, before returning her attention to the starlit being. "Then we mustn't let the barrier fall?" Half a statement, half a question, the girl's voice is rich with insecurity, wavering somewhere between resolution and a plea.

There is one deity with an untold tale, one not mentioned in Safrin's books, not familiar to the librarian's research. Yet Amalia has come in contact with her before, and now it seems the being of static and light may be responsible for their entrapment, entombment, inside this place. "How did The Voice come to be?"
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd / Outlander Advisor
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned x Abandoned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 - Strg: 30 - Dext: 33 - Endr: 39 - Luck: 35
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#12
Warnings of traps and trouble brought a quirk to the corner of the bard's mouth, and he offered Safrin a half-bow in thanks for the information. But the glance he shared with Amalia still held brightness in his eyes and a flicker of his old fire - lost years ago, he'd thought - for exploring lost ruins and the lairs of those who didn't much care for intruders, even posthumously. They would be making that downward delve again, and in the not-too-distant future, he thought.

He took notice of the goddess's gentle reminder of her own captivity with a slight widening of his eyes before he controlled his expression again, bowing his head in acknowledgment of her own loss of freedom. Was that why the gods sought to help them now? Three centuries of being locked away might begin to test even immortal patience.

He listened even more intently to what would happen if the barrier fell, his lips twitching into a frown of concern that he didn't try to hide. "A godwar," he said softly. "And us caught in the middle. But surely they would understand... Vi and Rae's children, and Mort's beloved souls... that those within the barrier would try to find a way to survive? The very spark they were imbued with - we are imbued with - compels that urge to live. Whatever the sins of their ancestors, those alive today had no part in the past conflicts. Unless..." He caught Amalia's gaze and his own grew dark with an old, personal pain.

"Unless they have sacrificed the few to save the many," he said quietly, blue eyes seeking out Safrin's starry gaze in confirmation. "And guilt or innocence... matters not at all?"

What else could he think, when Safrin used words like 'ravage' and 'armies?' They were specifically evocative of chaos and war, but still the bard hesitated, unwilling to take everything at face value when there were still so many unanswered questions. He nodded at Amalia's question, though he already knew some of the story: that the Acquired had meddled in powers and knowledge they should not have and become Ascended, and that the Voice was merely 'one of' the first... or so 108 has claimed. He waited for Safrin to answer his companion before he spoke again, his words slow and thoughtful. "Can you guess - or at least speculate - why she has not tried to forcefully convert more of those within the barrier?" he asked carefully. "It seems this would be an easy hunting ground for her children, if the Ascended were so inclined to increase their numbers without regard for free will." And there was one more thing... "Or... is she bound?" he asked suddenly, eyes narrowing as he pursued a thought. "I've seen her twice now, but only in the inorganic shrines, and her form is... it looks to be almost part illusion, not flesh as you appear. Do you know what happened to her physical body?"


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#13


Then we mustn't let the barrier fall?

If Ludo was around, he would be laughing at the position that the girl's question forced Safrin into. She was not above outright lies, but she much preferred veiled half-truths instead. It was her way. It always had been. And so she shrugged her shoulders with a gentle sigh. "The fall of the barrier is not what Vi would want." She said softly. Though what she wanted was perhaps another matter...

As Jigano speculated the deity listened with an everglow of galactic patience. As he looked to her to either confirm or deny his suspicions, she merely splayed her hands with a shrug. "I was not a part of the discussions that led to the creation of the barrier ... but certainly that of crude calculus would be the sort of thing Rae would espouse. Life must progress and often that means sacrifices must be made. Certain branches of life must be cut away for the good of the whole."

Glancing towards Amalia, Safrin's lips twist into an unhappy thing line. "She gathered a group of the Acquired. They had grown exceedingly powerful having mastered all the baser magics and had begun to create their own. Soon their experiments begun, the Voice and her companions trying to fuse their magical items into the bodies of others. To try and force magic into the Accepteds and change them, the way that we can change an accepted into an attuned. "

Safrin's lovely face grew stony and cold. She looked almost clamy as the memories washed over her.

"And they succeeded. For a time Rae was pleased, thinking this some minor conquest of their creations that had gone well. Only the Voice did not stop there.

She molded and carved and broke down Rae's designs and made them into something else entirely. It was then they tried to ascend into Caido's home. They defeated the dragons that kept guard, rose to the top of the mountain summit..."
Closing her eyes, Safrin sighs. "It was then the war began. "

Wearily now, she turns to Jigano.

"Because she is clever. She knows that were she to forcefully change those around her she would be rebelled against. I have no doubt that she does exercise some control of those she ascends...but without the appearance of free will her game would be over prematurely. "

As he asks about her physical form, Safrin shrugs. "Yes. Bound is a good word for it. She is without form certainly. I do not know for sure., only that she is not in possession of it."

Safrin
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
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#14
Amalia
only lonely hid the morning from the stars
A million more questions: the punctuate the night like stars, a thoughtful exchange between goddess and acolyte, poet and priest. As they speak the hours feel like minutes, and Amalia relishes the wealth of knowledge that Safrin is willing to impart. Though she cannot answer every query, the starlit being fills Amalia with the warming comfort of information, makes a deeply uncertain girl feel slightly more secure with her place in the world.

In time, however, the questions begin to dwindle: they cannot ask everything in a night, and though she is awed and delighted by the wisdom, Amalia's head has begun to spin. Seated, now, upon the grass, she looks up at the goddess with tired but eager eyes. "There's so much to dwell on... so much I never knew." Inadvertently she yawns, a shy and embarrassed smile crossing her lips. "Can we ask you more when we've read? I want to know it all, but..."

And then, a though- and she rises to her feet, a stroke of panic suddenly in her black eyes. "Seiji and Lily! They're still down there- are they okay? Are they safe?"


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