Description: The Scarlet Dahlia has a number of reasons for bringing Zach Glenn back to life. Some of them may even be shared...
Twelve trail behind the Scarlet Dahlia on her long strides up to the Warrior Shrine, but the power contained within the honeyed yellow gemstone along her hip brings the presence of nearly a dozen more. The gemstone, styled in the pattern of an Ainu whorl symbol, seems to be spinning in place -- though there are those who may be able to sense the radiating waves of psychic energy. The spirits are almost too much for the gem to contain -- and it cannot hold for much longer.
The Dahlia's face is one of perfect, rigid control. Her jaw remains set. Her eyes are narrowed, the skin of her face pulled taut with control. There may be those who would seek conversation with her -- and they would be rebuffed without a single word, just a glare of her stormy blue eyes.
The Dahlia and her entourage march past the kneeling figures which serve as torchbearers. She does not cast her eyes upon them -- only the granite facades of fallen warriors she passes by.
She stops by one: The Paladin. There is no doubt in her mind as to who the petrified figure represents.
The Ainu tusukur turns to the statue, squaring her shoulders. A willow branch, with trails of willow leaves dangling from the top, is held towards the statue in both hands. She lowers herself to the ground, grimacing with the effort -- aided only by a faint rose-hued glow suffusing her damaged legs.
"Six of you," she calls out, making a circle gesture with her inau, "Make a circle. Ten feet away from me. One of you, light a torch and place it at the statue's feet. The rest, fan out and ensure we are not disturbed."
The Dahlia bows her head solemnly upon the marble floor. There are better places for her to kneel -- especially with her knees still struggling to recover from debilitating injuries. Arcane healing abilities and soul-charged strengthening techniques may have helped, but both of those powers will be channeled elsewhere in the coming moments.
As her mercenaries move into their respective positions, she makes a few silent preparations.
Those near her may see her clasp her hands together.
In another, more metaphysical sense, her astral form is clasping the hand of the Paladin in question.
The torch lights.
The Dahlia draws in her breath, looking not into the eyes of the Paladin, but into the heart of the flame.
In the tribal language of the Ainu of Kussharo, she speaks.
"<< To those in service of the Elder Kamui, and to Apehuchi of the Hearth, I beseech you. There is one who walked among us, one whose power I feel will be essential to our survival in this most trying of times. He stands beside me, a soul flying freely. He stands before me, a shattered husk. I ask of you -- what trials may I embark upon to unite the two? What sacrifice may I offer to please the Kamui, in forgiveness for past transgressions? >> "
The torch is lit, and immediately flickers as if stirred by a breeze that is not there. Purple light slides up along the statue of the Paladin, even as a halo of golden light blossoms into existence framing the statues head even as the face is cast into shadow.
"Hey," says that familiar yet strange voice. A swirl of violet and amber swirls together standing just behind the staute on its left side, positioned as if subordinate to the statue. It's the shorter of the two Zachs, not the one recently slain. "I know I know, maybe not exactly who you were expecting, but there you go."
Glen looks around at the shrine, and his form ripples slightly, almost as if the man was shuddering. He then looks Honoka over, appraisingly. There's nothing coming off of the guardian shade, emotionally speaking, as he does so. "Looks like you have everything you're going to need, but as to any kind of penance or trial?" The spirit shrugs. "All I've got for you are questions."
Psychic energy continues to swirl out of the yellow gemstone at her right hip -- the product of souls who have been in close proximity to the Scarlet Dahlia for a good time already. At one point, they were sovereign souls, free to act independently of their own accord, but due to the fel manner in which they have been bound to the Ainu tusukur, they often act as extensions of herself. Their souls bear some distinctiveness, but if souls were to be ascribed to a frequency, the presence of the Dahlia's song is unmistakable.
The Dahlia exhales. Her hands extend outward, and the honey-hued flow from her soul stones begins swirling upwards, like congealing mist. Even as the shorter Glen begins communicating with her mind, the mist begins adopting the form of a disc-shaped cloud.
The Dahlia's nostrils flare as she breathes in the acrid smoke from the flame. She stares at the flickering, as if she hadn't heard the words.
And then she nods, once.
She speaks with the spirit in the medium of its choice -- a mental wavelength.
// Questions? For me? //
Flickering flames reflect in the Dahlia's eyes.
// I do not know how long I can maintain this connection... //
Glen looks at the oddly shaped cloud, then at the souls around Honoka. He looks at the statue, his face a simple expression of distaste. "For you," he confirms. "That's going to take you a moment to firm it up anyway."
Glen turns to face Honoka squarely, his stance one of someone bracing up someone else. He knows that he has no power to compel an answer, no way to force his will on Honoka. But he's willing to do what he can.
Questions, questions. The Dahlia stares into the fire. She could turn to look at the other Glen -- but with her awareness of his presence, she may as well be saying that she doesn't need to. That she'd rather not.
Her response will be a few moments in coming. The honeyed mists continue to swirl overhead. In some places, the mist condenses into droplets -- raw and purple. The shimmering liquid is held aloft as the Dahlia focuses the bulk of her concentration upon it.
Finally -- her expression one of concentration. Irritation: not so much.
// I am not in a 'why' state of mind right now, I am in a 'do it or lose everything I've fought for' state of mind. Do you -want- me to rip him to shreds by accident? //
Three of the shades from the soulstone at her hip become more opaque, more tangible. They have faces -- aged and wizened veterans of years past. But Zach Glen will find that he knows none of the shades that are standing before him.
// Questions will have to wait. If you need a safe place -- an anchor -- I can provide it. //
One hand silently moves to rest around the frame of the soulstone at her hip.
// Later. //
Glen waves a negligent hand at the offer for a place to anchor. "I'm fine," he says easily, "So are the two of you." He grins a bit, in that way that suggests he knew a dodge was coming. He hops down from the pedestal, landing with ethereal lightness.
"I mean, you say he's essential and all," he continues easily. "But there are stronger fighters running around here. Athena's still kicking, and the World Warrior himself is in this tournament. If you want someone a little more willing to make a 'hard choice'," he says with a glower, "Freaking /Vega's/ on the island."
He jerks his chin back up towards the Paladin, "But you are here, at considerable risk to the both of you I might add, for him. Why? The answer is important."
The disc of mist and droplets of condensed purple energy continue spinning high above, but at Zach Glen's insistent words, it ceases growing any stronger. The Dahlia's forehead creases in irritation. Molars grind against one another, as her eyelids pinch shut.
The word falls still, the only word the Dahlia has spoken since sitting down.
The mercenaries positioned around her look over, confused by the outburst. But, there will be no explanation; just a forcibly calm release of breath.
// Is this the kind of confusion you're filling -his- head with? Doubt? Insecurity? No wonder he can't do anything by himself -- he keeps looking to you for the answers, wondering if maybe your body of experience might have solved the problem for him. //
She pauses, planting her hands together. The attitude -- the -smugness- of the spirit seems to be shaking her to the core.
Her eyes open, slowly. Flames dance about, reflecting in her lenses. And she answers.
// I don't know why. Half of me is screaming for me to stop. The rest of me... the rest of me wants to hold onto him again. The rest of me doesn't want to face this madness alone. //
She stares into the flames, eyes glistening with moisture, forehead beading with perspiration from the flames.
// You sound like you're trying to talk me out of it. Are you? //
Glen looks at the statue, remorse evident in his expression. "Call it an unintended consquence. Already told you, if I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn't have let it happen," he says. "He's... he's got more information than he really needs to have when the truth is that I never really had the answers either. It slows one down." He is silent for a moment, regarding the disc once more. "But it's too late for regrets on that score. I've hurt him far more than anyone realizes. It's hard, but he needs to remember we're not the same people. Different strengths, different weaknesses, different capabilities. Different motivations, in some ways."
The spirit regards Honoka gravely. "I'm not trying to talk you out of it. I'm trying to help you figure out what it is you're after with all of this," he finally says. "It sounds to me like you want, or need, someone you can trust in all of this. I mean, it's the thing you are speaking on, after all."
He looks to the statue, then the disc, then to Honoka again. "So what /is/ your plan, anyway?"
The Dahlia's response is quick, unfettered by the need to keep doing two things at once.
// Isn't it obvious? I want him back. I'm -bringing him back-. //
She stares into the fire for a good long while before adding to that. She knows that answer won't suffice.
// We save the world. Then we go back home. And we do the things that my people wouldn't do -- couldn't do. So that everyone has a chance to live the life they deserve. //
"Sure," Glen agrees amicably as the flows of power start to firm up. A low rumble starts to emminate from the statue of the Paladin. "How, though? You know, or at least suspect. You're up against the next best things to gods in this tournament. Unwholesomely powerful beings that would give Vega a run for his money."
The rumble intensifies. "This is a tournament, sure, but brute strength is only going to get you so far. So what's the plan? Look, I'm trying to help as best as I can here, but I need something to work with."
The reply is horrible. Part of her regrets saying them -- the part that wants Zach standing beside her again even as contradictory as it may be to the goals of the Dahlia. The part of her that is powerless to stop the words from spilling out.
// You had your chance to make a difference. How'd that work out for you? //
It is not an answer. It is not a question. Just a statement that she is either unable, or unwilling, to answer.
The Dahlia closes her eyes, with the influx of more power from the statue of the Paladin. The liquid above trembles as the Ainu tusukur renews her focus, throwing herself fully into the task once more. More of the golden mist pierces the threshold between life and death, between the space of the Warrior Shrine and a realm far beyond it. The liquid seethes, bubbles -- and gaps begin to form.
Visible through the gaps is a realm that seems to be made of sheer fire. Pillars of obsidian and bone stretch upwards from the yawning flames. A fel roar echoes throughout the room -- waves of hot air, like an oven door being held open.
The spirits at her side rush upwards, positioning themselves at the mouth of the yawning portal to the Netherrealm, fringed by the purple fluid.
In Ainu, she begins to speak: "<< O spirits -- the body awaits its time to shatter its cold stone shell and emerge anew. Guide the way, that the soul and the body can be reunited once again... >>"
"We're here having this conversation," Glen says without irony as the statue starts to visibly shudder. "My friend and I, we fought something like the folks you are up against. A being who claimed to be 'One Who Controls Time,' whose plan was to unmake everything." The spirit folds his arms across his chest. "And while we were too late to save my world, the damage was too great, yours is still here. So I would contend it worked out in a way."
He watches, as the statue starts to crack, gold and violet light erupting from the seams.
As her stinging comment is met with an unironic tone, the Dahlia winces. But that slight twitch of her eyebrow is all the sign of acknowledgement, as she devotes the entirety of her focus towards her task.
What was once a small tear in the fabric between realities has pulled apart into a rift just larger than the statue's shoulders. The shadowed souls at the Dahlia's beck and call pull at the boundary, tugging it open further and further, as the superheated air rushes outward. A bright essence, bearing some violet tint but heated to near white-hot intensity, rushes out from the Netherrealm.
And hits the statue point-blank. One might expect an impact, but the essence continues surging onwards -- its ethereal essence flooding into the stone statue as if it were an empty vessel being filled with water.
As the statue shudders, the Scarlet Dahlia lifts her eyes from the flames -- lifts her palms up towards the statue's shoulders, as her beleaguered knees begin to quake from their extended duty upon the hard floor.
Her eyes shimmer with reflected light, as her souls struggle to maintain the opening just a little longer -- just long enough to allow the essence to continue flooding through it.
// I have chosen my allies in this battle. As long as you stand beside us... we shall succeed. //
Glen nods once, sharply, a fierce grin on his face. Honoka might recognize it from Zach's face; it speaks to total confidence. The statue shudders one last time, before crumbling to dust.
Meanwhile, in a small town near Cleveland, Ohio, a family had gathered around a closed casket next to an open grave. Two things adorn the casket: an American flag and a wooden claymore. A mother weeps as she leans against her husband. A young woman with a spill of red hair running down to the middle of her back leans towards the couple, her arms wrapped around them as if to keep them in place by sheer force of will.
The sword shudders and cracks, golden light spilling forth before emitting a thunderous crack. A claymore, gleaming silver and white lays on the casket for a moment before evaporating into motes of more golden light. The people at the funeral look around, confused.
The statue of the Paladin is no more, as Zach Glenn staggers forth and all but collapses towards Honoka.
The Scarlet Dahlia was trying not to look at the figure standing beside the statue. But it is difficult to keep from stealing a glance at that beguiling grin.
Still, though -- she must focus. Even as the statue trembles, she holds her hands upwards. Perspiration makes her hair stick to her scalp, wicks her thin ao dai to her skin. And yet, she holds true to her stance.
As do the men she has entrusted with their solemn duty. She has trained them to obey orders -- on this lawless island, the mercenary force is a foundation that mortals can rely upon, build upon. Her plan for standing against the forces of Outworld should be evident -- allegiances, as she said.
When the statue shatters, her brow furrows. Her knees still do not want to obey. And yet, the souls she has relied upon are busy holding the portal open.
She draws in her breath sharply. And with a burst of psionic energy, blasts herself to her feet.
Arms wrap around the waist of the collapsing Paladin. She turns her head, pressing it against his falling chest.
The unexpected sensation of fabric against her cheek, against her fingertips and wrists, comes as something of a surprise. As her stance softens -- and she finds herself bracing against Zach Glenn as a lean-to -- her concentration falters. The shades release their hold on the portal -- and without her immense outpouring of energy, the purple-fringed void pulls itself shut out of sheer surface tension alone.
The honeyed mist loses consistency, shattering into a cloud of dusty motes, which lose their opacity in a mere moment. The shades are all that remain -- the shades that hover above the six uniformed mercenaries in silent judgment of the reunion.
The Dahlia opens her mouth -- her throat raspy and dry from the arid heatwave.
She touches the mind first.
// I'm so sorry, Zach -- I... I want this to be right, but there's so many things I can't... I can't explain them all... //
Her fingers link behind his back. Words won't do, right now. Her men expect answers, and right now -- after an intense questioning -- she has none to give.
Just a cryptic, almost whispered reply.
"... Welcome back..."
Zach is limp for a moment, but the words in his mind followed by the words to his ears are enough to cause him to stir. His eyes snap open, wide and wild as he takes in his surroundings. He opens his mouth as if to scream, only there is no sound aside from the air leaving his lungs.
Glen winces, shrinking away from the taller psion. He regards Zach carefully, then looks to Honoka. "Everyone handles this differently," he finally says. "I'll see what I can do." And just like that, he is gone.
Zach, meanwhile, has calmed down. He opens his mouth to speak, but again, there is no sound. The words, however, drift across the link the two share.
//Iyayiraykere. I'm back.//
Log created on 10:05:36 10/10/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 09:20:10 10/13/2016.