The hot breath of the jungle mingled with the hot breath of the marilith on his neck. The steam swirled around them, rising from the ground, and vaporizing from the dripping trees in the hellish heat of their intertwined bodies. Lust felt the seed within him throbbing in time with his own pulse at the nearness of this fellow destroyer.
"Lillianth! Beautiful one!" Lust panted, as their serpentine bodies writhed around each other. "We have done it. The god of the humans is slain and this world will soon come to an end. You must be part of the end, for that is the purpose for which my family called you, but, would you also be part of the new beginning? The new world is mine to create, just as this one is my mother's to destroy. I want you by my side..."
Lillianth's arms are outstretched, and her hands take on strange and unfamiliar positions of the Bodhisattva: fingers curled into ritual positions of serenity and blessing. Her head, thrown back and eyes rolling, glow with light transcended. Her coils tighten and twist into a holy sign: a circle with a half-twist, infinity in a mortal frame.
"As you have called, Lord of Light, so I answer." She is transcended, freedom incarnate and evil redeemed. "What will you have of Sorrow, Love's eternal companion?"
"Sorrow." Love smiles as he mirrors her gestures. "You claim that you wish to avoid the coming meeting, but I assume that our old allies of the scaled sect will have some task for you? I do not know how this meeting will come to pass, but when it is done I would like you to speak with our old friends of the Boxes and Flowers. Tell them they are close to our heart and we would like to see their kind continue into the next world. The old alliance between my family and theirs was born of Betrayal but should end with Love. It seems fitting, that you, Sorrow, should govern that transition."
Lillianth's eyebrows arch. "As you wish, Lord of Light. Yet I feel I may not be entirely welcome." She coughs delicately. "I was the Sixth Sorrow, the Harrower of Targos, after all, and may not be accepted as emissary to the High Masters."
Love looks Sorrow up and down, and nods. "You make a good point, I suppose. It has been so long since I lived that life, I forget that others retain their memories more readily through the ages than my kind choose to. Perhaps it would be of benefit for me to pay more attention to my life before the Walking Tombs." He takes a deep breath, taking in the smell of her, then draws away. "I believe you are correct, the High Masters would perhaps take it amiss if you were my herald. Do you have any ideas who we might use to this effect? It has been too long since I engaged in these old alliances...."
"I also bear a message, from a stranger -- his name was Eosphoros. He spoke with me at the Acadamae in Speranza, and asked me to make an introduction. In truth, Lord, I was hesitant. I can smell the Lords of Fate on him. I felt I should mention it nevertheless."
Love coils up nearby. "Thank you for the introduction, if you recall, I too had the smell of the Lords of Fate when we last met. I will consider meeting this, Dawn Bearer. Will you meet me in Speranza after this affair? It seems the population of that fair city is ripe for our message of hope..."
The succubi were out in force, the streets filled with them, for word spread quickly, heralded on the black winds, the Lord of Lust was returning to Speranza. The winged demons thronged the streets to see the Great Tempter, the master of their trade, as he returned in as much state as a master of whores could, clad only in his own magnificent black feathers and alabaster skin, the Harrower of Targos hanging on his arm.
Lust was never the subtle one, and word of his arrival spread like hellfire through the city, reaching many ears...
Love looked at his companion, drinking in the scent of the chaotic hordes, heedless of any hostile undercurrents. "So, my Lady Sorrow, where do we look for this 'Bearer of Light?'"
The Danse Macabre -- the enormous spiral market at the center of ash-choked Speranza -- is packed with throngs of the damned, sybarites and suicides both. Everyone wears a mask, some of the faces of someone else. Sorrow holds a glittering jester's tragicomic mask to her face with one arm, her other arms serving as her only claim to modesty here. The Fallen whisper and circle the massive black spiked fist monument in the center of the Danse, silently settling and rising like a flock of nervous pigeons as rumours of the Lord's return pass among them telepathically.
"We must move quickly, Milord. Our entrance has been .... noted, it appears, and the Speranzan Senate is no friend of yours." She draws Lust into her coils, and with the hiss of a great serpent and the smell of sulfur, they are *elsewhere*.
Their senses return in a cool pillared stoa, in the Glass Sea tradition, that looks out over the Lacrimosa -- an ash-churned sea hissing with the constant burning fall of the Lacrimae meteors. Standing before them, about three feet away, is a man of above-average height, sharp features, and full, black-feathered wings. He looks up as they arrive in the precise center of an intricate lapis-lazuli mosaic, around which has been carefully laid a circle of silver interspersed with burning white candles. A strong smell of sulfur and apples fills the air. Lust notes with some interest that he is separated from the man by a barrier of spiritual strength -- a magic circle -- which even the most powerful of supernatural beings must honor.
Sorrow wraps herself around Lust as a raiment fitting her Lord, as the man speaks.
"By your seven names I have called you, and you have come. Please take no offense at these precautions, and instead understand them as a profound gesture of respect. I am Eosphoros."
Love looks around at the circle enclosing him and smiles wanly. "I understand your precautions, Star of the Morning, though I assure you they are needless. It is not in the nature of Love to seek harm for others, even his enemies. For it is written:
The children of Arva are limbs of one body
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others
You are not worthy to be called by the name of "man."
Looking away from the wards, he focuses his attention on the man, looking at him with eyes that always see truth. "So, Son of Dawn, why is it you wish to meet me?"
The gallery was empty. The people being out in the streets to watch the return of one of the Seven Spires to Speranza. The two women sat beside each other at their easel, ignoring the caterwauling outside, carefully working their brushes across their shared canvas. Both women worked slowly and deliberately, each on a single figure of what would be a much larger portrait. One on the face of a dwarf, taking great pains with the details of the scarred hole where his nose would otherwise be. The other worked with long brush-strokes, working out the form of a slender elf male, sitting, clad in dark, form-fitting robes, half opened to reveal a seductively arched leg.
At a particularly bawdy shout from a demon standing right outside, Merisiel paused slightly in her work, not looking up, but speaking to her companion. "Are you not going to go speak to him, Disszonál?"
The elven woman at her side set down her brush. "No. We have waited this long, I will bide my time. The Harrower will recognize me. I must find a way to separate Paráznaság from his warden first."
Merisiel nodded, noting an ugly notch at the side of the hole in her lover's face. "Ah, quel beau laid. Be careful about meddling in politics. It can lead to unaesthetic complications. Remember: Beauty is truth. And since there is no truth, there can be no beauty. Only simplicity. 'That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know,'" she quoted, straight-faced.
Disszonál glanced out into the streets briefly, noting some commotion in the Danse Macabre. "It appears that the Harrower and her charge have vanished." Rising, she carefully closed up the tubes of paint, stowed her brushes, and checked her weaponry. "I'll take that as my cue. And don't worry Ris, I won't meddle any more than I ever have." With a wink she rushed out the door and disappeared into the crowd, her mind feeling for the astral residues of the marilith's teleportation.
Crouching behind a pillar, Disszonál eyed her quarry. Lust had once again placed himself conveniently, while he appeared trapped he was also protected by the magical circle inscribed in the floor. Moving deeper into the shadow of the portico, she climbed to the top of the pillar, bracing her back against the corner of the archway and hooking her feet under the capital. Resting as comfortably as she could without resorting to an all-too-revealing display of magic, she waited, listening to the unfolding conversation and adding it to her mental dossier on this being who once had called her sister.
Disszonál watched as the Lord of Lust and the leader of the Fallen made their pact, and smiled as they left to join the other Spires in battle. It seemed, she thought, that Lust's honeyed words were just as effective now as they'd ever been, though he seemed to rely more on others for magic that would have once been simple for him. She drew an apple out of the pouch at her waist as she dropped back to the floor of the stoa, in two thousand years, the brilliant red fruit had neither faded in color nor lost its fragrance. While Lust clearly was following the gist of their plan, Disszonál knew he could not hope to counter their mother's treachery without full knowledge of that life which came before his long sleep...and, besides, she thought, she had seen the madness that followed such awakenings in others, and it would be pleasing to watch such the dissension it would sew in the ranks of the Spires.