Corpse Scented With Jasmine strode calmly through the depths of the Labyrinth. Around her, the walls pressed inwards, held back only by a simple spell and the force of her purpose. As she walked, bones scattered about the ground pressed back and clattered aside rather than bar her passage, and the dank, still air flowed around her.
At her belt, Jasmine carried two black sais. The soulsteel faces within Compassion mocked her doubt, reminding her of her own failures and sins, while those within Restraint solemnly and silently derided her for her own unseemly hope. She could hear, faintly, the whispers of the Neverborn in her ears, different than usual. Always, they were filled with fear and hatred, but today the fear was paramount. Their plans had been unravelled in an orgy of destruction over the last four days, and they had not had time to unravel the dangers. They whispered of pain, of death, of the end of all things, and there was a manic edge that suited her own moods perfectly.
Jasmine stopped as the passage she was travelling ended abruptly, the ground falling away into a dark abyss. She glanced down into its depths, and nodded once. Reaching down to her belt, she pulled the sais forth, pausing to turn them over in her hands. Their faces studied her in return, swimming in and out of existance within the dark metal. "I recovered these from the ocean floor. I thought that, even now, you might want them with you." Slowly, she held them out, and then let go. She watched, unblinking, as the sais fell into the darkness.
A few moments later, the darkness rippled.
Jasmine prudently stepped back as a monstrous worm burst upwards out of the silent depths, roaring in fury, the walls of the vast open space shuddering with the sound of its rage and despair. Clinging to its back, made tiny by comparison, a ghostly figure stabbed a sai into the creature again and again. With one last roar, it faltered, and as it fell, the ghost flipped backwards off its skin. The ground shook again as the worm crashed into a wall, and as the ghost landed easily on the precarious ledge, the behemoth fell back into the depths.
"My sais!" Twice-Forged Steel's grin was almost wide enough to take off the top half of his head. He caressed the weapons fondly, hugging them close to his skin. "I thought I'd lost them!" He turned his attention back to Jasmine, who smiled faintly under her wrapping. "You are the best. Friend. EVER!"
Finally, her composure cracked. A low chuckle emerged from the wrapping, and Jasmine inclined her head. Steel, still grinning like a maniac, quickly sheathed his sais, and cracked his back. Jasmine glanced around. "Still training, I see?"
"I've got a lot to do." Sighing, he glanced down at his ectoplasmic form. With his old armor and cloak destroyed by Dukantha's blow, he had been forced to don one of the old armours salvaged from a dead deathknight the year before. It was serviceable and plain, but Steel acutely missed the dashing figure that his cloak had made of him. "In the old days, that worm would have been mincemeat even before you dropped these off." Steel flopped down on the ground, leaning back to within an inch of the razor-sharp wall, which seemed almost to tense in anticipation, before sagging back to its usual state of despair upon realizing he wasn't going to come closer. "No Excellencies, no Fluttering Moth, no Glorious Carnage Typhoon... I miss my Typhoon the most, I think."
Jasmine rolled her eyes, sitting across from him. "You'll endure."
"Probably. So - what's the good word? Are our Whispered rumours true?"
"They appear to be. Nine of the thirteen Deathlords have been destroyed forever, their places lost to the stars of the Underworld. It is certain that the Mask of Winters and the Lover Clad In The Rainment of Tears have died, and that the First and Forsaken Lion yet lives. Beyond that..." She shrugged. "It is difficult to see which nine; something is obscuring the information."
"One of the survivors, I'll bet. Playing at something." Steel grinned. "Got to say, I didn't think old Mokie had it in him to pull off something like this. And the Dual Monarchy?"
"Stepped down, as the Lover once predicted. The election for their replacements will occur tommorow, in Stygia." Jasmine watched Steel carefully, a suspicion growing in her.
"Brilliant. Let's get moving." Steel grinned again. "If we take the right byways, we can reach the Underworld Palace by tommorow. It'll take a few months of travel, but that's okay. Give me a chance to really get a feel for my new powers." He patted his sais. "I may be a ghost, but I'm a ghost with soulsteel. And Celestial martial arts."
"Steel, I am developing a very uncomfortable feeling." Steel tried his best innocent look, but Jasmine just stared at him levelly. "What exactly are you planning?"
"Not planning. Enacting a plan." Steel stood and stretched. "The Lover's plan, to be precise. I figure with her gone, we're the only two who know it." He paused at the complete lack of reaction from Jasmine. "Okay, so we'll be the ghosts and the infiltrators, but we always knew that might happen. I mean, it's why she taught us both the Restless Revenant Spirit to begin with, and made sure that we'd have advantages as ghosts - my Laughing Wounds and your necromancy." He grinned. "Come on, it'll be fun. Slip into Stygia unseen. No one will be expecting it. The only people who could stop us would be the Deathlords, and they're going to be very distracted for a little while."
Jasmine sighed faintly. "Steel, the election of the Dual Monarchs is the single most sacred ritual in all of the Underworld. Are you seriously proposing that we interfere with the Dual Monarchs?"
Steel waved a hand langoriously. "Interfere with is such an ugly phrase." He paused, and grinned again. "I prefer - usurp." He gave Jasmine another one of his puppy-dog looks. "There need to be two monarchs, Jaz. I can't do this alone. Are you with me?"
There was a long pause. Then, with a sigh, Jasmine rose. The Whispers warned her how foolish this plan was, that it would only doom them both. That it had no chance of success without the Lover's active involvement, which was now impossible.
She spoke. "We should start moving. It's a long walk to Stygia."
Twice-Forged Steel and Corpse Scented With Jasmine will return in 'Age of Blood And Bone'
Next up on the list, the thrilling conclusion of The Dynasty's Shadowed Light!