The air Sayis's relay within was crisp and cool, a faint breeze blowing over the floor.A series of squares, formed of lines of orichalcum, took up the entire far wall, casting flickering shadows over the simple steel floor. As the four Solars entered, the doors hissed shut behind them, and the squares reorganized themselves on the wall, shifting in color and light to form a vague, rectangual face. It rippled with sound, a low, barely-concealed hostility within his voice. â€œGreetings, Exalts of the Sun. I recognize you.â€
â€œThank you, Master Sayis.â€ Fokuf bowed deeply, glancing to the others again. They returned expressions of confusion. What had they managed to do to offend him already? â€œYour realm is most impressive, and...â€
â€œYou may dispense with the pleasantries, Solar.â€ The relay spoke with clipped precision, each word echoing a moment into the beginning of the next. â€œI have no interest in flowery words of deceit. Tell me, what dire need compels you forth, that you would lower yourself to seeking the Maker's aid?â€
â€œUh.â€ Fokuf opened his mouth, and then closed it. For a moment, all of his words fled him. â€œI wouldn't say that it's a lowering...â€
â€œNo?â€ The voice rose. â€œYou think, in your arrogance, that we would have anything more to do with you, after you bound us here to rot in the darkness? I was not alive for the exodus, Solar, but I have access to Autochthon's files!â€ Lightning crackled at the edges of the chamber. â€œI have watched the memories of the Maker, seen as you chased him to the very edge of Oblivion! And now you dare to come here to beg his help?!â€
Fokuf opened his mouth again, and then closed it. Very weakly, he said. â€œI think there may have been some misunderstanding here. I know that there were... issues... between Autocthon and some of the Solars, but our incarnations were on his side. How else could we have gotten through the seal?â€
â€œWith more Solar trickery!â€ Sayis roared the words, and the Exalts winced in pain from the echoes. Gritting his teeth, Tenrek stepped forwards.
â€œThat is enough!â€ His face set in a scowl. â€œWe have come here on the behest of the Primordial Gaia, to reaffirm the ties of family that bind her to her brother! The lands of Autochthon and Creation alike are about to be swarmed by the Yozi, and you won't even listen -â€
â€œAh, so there it is!â€ Sayis's voice was smugly triumphant. â€œYou need help.â€
â€œUh -â€ Tenrek's rage abruptly deflated. â€œIt's not like that.â€
â€œOf course not. You acted merely from concern for an old ally. Five thousand years later.â€ The words crackled across the room, and Tenrek flinched, his face deflating further under the verbal assault.
â€œThe Solars were sealed away for centuries. We couldn't respond to the threats that faced Autochthon until now -â€ Fokuf started up, only to be overridden by another blast of noise.
â€œI am not interested in your excuses! As far as I am concerned, you are enemies of the Maker, and I will not allow you to finish the job that -â€
â€œSayis. That is quite sufficient.â€ The words were purely mechanical, every syllable perfectly efficient. From the side of the room a body shimmered into being. It was clad head to toe in simple gray, edged in a faded gold that was tattered and frayed. Its face was machine, set in an expression of disapproval, and it leaned heavily on a worn iron staff as it stepped forwards, a staff that still flickered with a hint of lightning. As it swept the room, pupil-less eyes staring into each Exalt in turn, they all felt the urge to bow their heads. Fokuf and Nia did so, respectfully. After a moment, Kieran followed, and Tenrek inclined his head slightly towards the newcomer.
Sayis, for his part, was flustered into silence for several moments, the squares portraying his face collapsing into static before reforming with an expression of concern. â€œMaster Mog. You should not exert yourself for this inconvenience.â€
â€œYour memories are accurate, Sayis, but incomplete. Although many Solars plotted to destroy the Maker, one Circle stood by his side and aided him in his escape. Four of them stand before us now. The fifth has become a thing of corruption, a dark echo of our fallen siblings.â€ Mog spoke simply, a small hiss underlying his words, before turning to the Solars. â€œI apologize for your reception. I was not able to respond as immediately as I had planned. I am Mog, Divine Minister of Authority and one of the Eight Divinities of Autochthon. Welcome to our realm, faded though it might be.â€
â€œThank you, Master Mog.â€ Fokuf bowed again. â€œI must confess, I am glad that someone remembers us. I was afraid that we might not find such outside of Autochthon's core itself.â€
Sayis made a strangled noise, which Mog ignored. â€œIndeed, we have been on watch for you. What message do you bear from our sister?â€
â€œGaia has put together a network of power that can revive Autochthon, but he needs to open the seals binding himself away from Creation first. We can pass here, but we can't bring anyone or anything else with us.â€
â€œAh.â€ Mog nodded slowly. â€œThen we are in grave danger indeed, for we can no longer open the Seal of Eight Divinities.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Kieran stepped forwards. â€œHow is that possible?â€
â€œAutochthon is comatose, his body dying from within. The Divine Ministers weaken with him. What you see before you is the extent of my power in these dark days.â€ Mog stared deep into Kieran's eyes. â€œWorse, the Core is the heart of Autochthon's sickness. No Alchemical Exalt or custodian spirit could enter without falling prey to his malady and succumbing, and no mere mortal could survive within for long enough to disable the Seal. I fear that your mission has already failed.â€
The room was silent for a moment, as Mog lowered his head. Kieran spoke slowly. â€œWould we be able to do it?â€
â€œEnter the Maker's heart?!â€ Sayis started to roar the words, only to cut off at a sharp glance from Mog. The Minister considered, then nodded slowly.
â€œPotentially. It would be very dangerous, and there would be no guarantee of success. But if you could be taught the processes, it might be possible.â€ Mog sighed. â€œIt would require understanding everything that forms them, however. Even for a Solar Exalt, it could take months.â€
â€œI'm a very fast study. Let me try.â€ Kieran smiled encouragingly. After a moment, Mog nodded.
â€œI will confer with the other Ministers, but we may have no other choice. For now, Watchful Cerulean Aegis will lead you to sleeping quarters. You will be honoured guests of our city while we attempt the training. If it is completed to our satisfaction, we will make the attempt.â€
â€œThank you, Minister Mog. I won't let you down.â€ Kieran's smile grew even wider.
â€œI hope not.â€ With those words, the doors behind the Exalts hissed open, and Aegis leaned her head in inquiringly. When she saw Mog, her eyes widened and she quickly bowed low. The Minister spoke solemnly. â€œPlease escort our guests to quarters that befit their status as honoured ambassadors, Aegis. You will be their liason to the city at this time.â€
â€œYes, Minister! I will be honoured!â€ Aegis gestured to the four, and they filed out, glancing backwards. Kieran whispered to her.
â€œShould we say anything else to him?â€
â€œNot if he doesn't first. The Minister values efficiency.â€
Anything further in the conversation was cut off as the doors hissed shut once again. The relay's face rippled with consternation. â€œMinister, I must protest. You have revealed your weakness to the Solars, something that all but the highest-ranking members of the Sodalities are unaware of! Would you really allow them access to the Maker?â€
â€œIt seems we have no choice.â€ Mog turned to step back into the shadows, but Sayis was not done.
â€œWhat if they kill the Maker?â€
â€œThen we will all die a few decades earlier than expected.â€ The words were flat, and Mog began to fade as Sayis formed a reply.
â€œMinister Mog... my memories are not faulty. There was no Solar Circle that aided us.â€
â€œI am aware of that.â€ Mog paused, semi-intangible, and looked back to the relay. â€œBut they are not. See to it that they remain unaware. Without them, the Maker will die.â€
With that, he finished fading, and the relay crackled off as well. Within the heart of his city, Sayis pondered the Minister's words, wishing that they were not true. It seemed that, for all his hatred of the traitorous Solars, he would have to tolerate their presence for some time yet.