Only two more parts in this chapter after this one!
Perfected Tears Upon Alabaster Sorrow looked down at the relic he held, a mix of unreadable emotions upon his face, and then glanced over his shoulder. â€œAre you certain that this is safe?â€
Mnemon chuckled, regarding the Abyssal. â€œAre you worried, deathknight?â€
â€œOf course I am.â€ The statement was delivered without either fear or annoyance. â€œI have intimated to you in the past how I value my continued existence, and this pathway seems fraught with peril.â€
â€œThat is because you, unlike myself, see the world in terms of problems.â€ Mnemon smiled, but all traces of her earlier humour were gone. â€œIf it were left to me, I would do this alone. But fate has denied me that option.â€ Leaning forwards, she tapped the elegant circlet currently adorning Sorrowâ€™s brow. White jade and bronze, with a rim of pure starmetal, it had taken her months to gather the ingredients, and over a year to construct it â€“ it and the circlet of gold and orichalcum that she wore herself, the companion of his. All without knowing if she could ever use it. All in case it ever became necessary to take this last step.
Mentally, she shook herself free of such remembrances. This was a time that demanded absolute concentration. â€œJust perform the summoning ritual, Sorrow. I will handle the rest, never fear.â€
â€œAnd if you do not?â€
â€œThen our gambit will have failed.â€ Mnemon waved away the comment, watching the sun setting outside. Months of preparation had led to this moment. Half a world away, the Roseblack was drawing the Mask of Winters into a final battle, intending to strike him down this very night. Calibration was fast approaching, and she knew that every moment from now was a critical one.
â€œBegin.â€ Sorrow glanced at her once, and then nodded. His attention turned to the summoning circle, and he began his chants. As he stepped around the circle, his left hand traced elaborate circles, the chain hanging down from it swinging in deliberate arcs and gestures, the Thurible at its base leaving tracings of mad green light in its passing. The Emerald Thurible was one of the keys of Mnemonâ€™s power, and it pained her to be parted from it even for this one critical task. Its power over the legions of Malfeas was such that, using it, a Dragon-Blooded might transcend their normal limits and enact the rituals required to summon a demon of the Second Circle. Mnemon had used it for such a purpose many times in the past, cementing her occult mastery over all but her mother. But its true power was restricted to one of the Celestial Exalted, forever barred to Mnemon.
Until now. As Sorrow enacted this most powerful of spells on the first Calibration night, his circlet began to glow, absorbing the energy around it, and Mnemonâ€™s responded in kind. His anima grew, its shadows threatening to quench the lights burning at every corner of circle, matched only by the jagged green of the Thurible, its lines hanging impossibly in the air behind each swing, and the two circlets activating to the task that Mnemon had created them for. Sorrow was a Celestial Exalt, but he was young â€“ weak. If he summoned a creature such as she planned, he would not long survive the experience.
As midnight deepened, Sorrowâ€™s motions ceased. For a few moments, as the Abyssal swayed, the elaborate lines surrounding the summoning circle took on deeper shape and meaning, resonating with each other into a spiral that seemed to draw the floor and ceiling impossibly distant. The wind picked up, howling at the walls, swirling around the two Exalts as they stood alone in the chamber. Now Mnemon stepped forth, as Sorrow took steps backwards before finally half-collapsing against a wall, his anima towering above him as a ghastly jackal, its fur matted and torn to the bone, curling protectively around him. Barely sparing him a glance, Mnemon let her own Essence pour forth, and white and brown light filled the room, momentarily contesting the dominance of the dire greens of Malfeasâ€™ sun. Her voice rang out as she fortified herself, giving every last mote of her power to this ritual. â€œCome forth!â€
The form taking shape in the circle was filled with annoyance. Basalt wings spread outwards, testing the limits of the prison shaped by Sorrowâ€™s summoning and Mnemonâ€™s binding. â€œBy what right do you seek to control me, child of the Dragons? Yours is not the place to be calling forth the likes of me!â€
â€œBy the right of the Emerald Thurible, and the pacts sworn by the Yozi upon their defeat, I do call on you! Demon Prince, Waybringer, I name you! Eighteenth soul, Adorjanâ€™s get! Prince Upon The Tower, Jacint! You will do as I command!â€
For several moments they locked wills, the Demon Prince and the Exalt each struggle to command the other. For a few terrifying instants Mnemon felt her will breaking before the awesome might of the enemy, so great she could scarcely imagine it. But in the end, her magics turned the tide. The green net constricted, binding, holding. And then it was done.
The man standing in the circle could not have been named imposing. Though his wings of stone and his knees, bent in reverse, belied his nature, he might have been any minor deity â€“ a beautiful one, but she had bound far more impressive in her service. Only his eyes revealed the truth â€“ endless chasms of blue and black that suggested he saw far past her and into another world entirely. â€œI kneel to the service that you would have me perform. Master.â€ Annoyance still, not even anger at the admission. â€œBut I warn you, if you keep me long from my home, you will earn yourself a legion of foes.â€
â€œI have no fear of them â€“ nor will it become necessary.â€ Mnemon smiled now, slightly. â€œJacint, I have need of you for one day only. To open whatever pathways I desire, to keep them open for myself and my minions, and to close them behind us as we require. To do nothing else.â€ She paused. â€œWhen this is done, you may return to the Demon City to resume your labours.â€
Jacint raised an eyebrow, his words biting. â€œSuch a simple task. For this, you risked your very existence to summon me? Well, so be it. What will be our first destination, and when will we depart.â€
Mnemonâ€™s smile grew. â€œWe depart at sunrise. Our destination is Juggernaut.â€
She had the satisfaction of seeing a Demon Prince blanch.
When Jacint spoke, much of his arrogance and curtness were vanished. â€œThis I can do. Even the wards of Juggernaut cannot hold me away. But I cannot say the same for the reception we will receive. My powers are vast, but the Mask of Wintersâ€¦â€
â€œRest assured, our reception has been assured.â€ Mnemon did not lose her smile.
Jacint nodded, thoughtfully. â€œVery well, then. I will spend until sunrise preparing myself.â€ He closed his eyes, settling into a lotus position. Sorrow watched him for a moment, then shook his head wonderingly, turning to Mnemon.
â€œAnd what do you see, I wonder?â€
â€œExcuse me?â€ Mnemon, her mind racing with her victory, did not immediately understand Sorrowâ€™s comment.
â€œYou say that I see only problems. When you look at the world, my lady, what do you see?â€
This time, Mnemonâ€™s grin was fierce. â€œOppurtunity.â€