Jade vs Shade

A ragged chessboard

For as long as any can remember an argument has been hashed out in the Garden of the Gods.

Somewhat in jest, but with teeth bared by both sides, the Lady Lorielan and the Lord of Darkness still contest over the nature of Divinity and the Tribunal’s decision, many eons ago.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum shouts, “It is my pleasure to announce that the Soph-.”

Reality buckles, revealing a lucent archway of crystal through which steps Lorielan, the Jade Empress.

Clarion tones of lucent crystal ripple across the lands, heralding the emergence of the Jade Empress upon the grounds of the Worlds’ Fair.

The shadows lengthen, enlivened by the silent descent of Twilight.

Tenebrous gloam casts Achaea into shadow as the God of Darkness turns His attention once more to the Prime Material Plane.

The eyes of Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum widen abruptly, utter shock overtaking her features.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum’s eyes bug out as she boggles in amazement.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum curtseys respectfully before Lorielan.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum curtseys respectfully before Twilight.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “This is much more appropriate.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “I am… honoured, Lady and Lord, by Your manifestation here…”

“Ummmm,” Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says uncertainly.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “We shall settle it here, as You are overdramatically insistent upon Your own opinions.”

Lorielan very briefly rolls Her eyes.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum edges around the room strangely with an odd expression on her face.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Agreed, and Your jibes have reached the limit of My patience. But first, a condition.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Oh?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “We will each take the opposition.”

Twilight looses a cold chuckle.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Amusing. Agreed.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “And My condition.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Speak?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “We shall argue as though We are there at the time.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “You were noticeably not. But agreed.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “An advantage I shall take.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “I. Erm. Um.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum coughs softly.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “I am, er, I believe, honoured, most honoured. This is, I mean, You are most welcome. I would not, er. Yes. Um.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “I am to… judge?”

The skies of Creation shatter beneath the Storm’s incandescent fury as the Skylord intones, “If the two of You are going to continue playing these petty games, then You will need more than one mortal to decide them.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Yes, Vastar, do please continue to tell Me what I need.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Three judges, perhaps. The irony of a triumvirate will be worthwhile, and the mortal will have her place.”

“Eep!” Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum screams in fright.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I have a better idea.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress shouts, “Ugrach.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress shouts, “Finality.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress shouts, “Gaia’s once-student.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress shouts, “You are called.”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “Called?”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “I think not.”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “You gave me Death’s Throne. You made this bargain with me. You left me to judge the pathetic representatives of mortality.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Surprise, he protests. So put upon.”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “You know what surrendering it for but a moment costs not just the Prime, but everywhere. This entire Creation.”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “And You want me to judge?”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “I was made to watch from afar as the crime that slaughtered my brothers and sisters was washed over with mere exile!”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “Politely?”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “Empty Yourselves.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Allow Me.”

Twilight, the Dark Father shouts, “It was not a request, little brother.”

Grim foreboding heralds the gravelly tones of Lord Ugrach, the Finality, “You know what it would cost You, Elders!”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “He is not culled, is that not enough?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress shouts, “Then let him sulk. Two shall be enough.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress shouts, “Han-Tolneth. Dragonmaster. You will be judge.”

The air ripples with distortion as the clarion tones of Han-Tolneth declaim, “I- what?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Is Your puppet unavailable, Jade?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I am certain I did not stutter.”

The rumble of distant oceans can be heard as the voice of Neraeos, God of the Sea thunders, “The one who stood apart now must stand and judge? Hah!”

The air ripples with distortion as the clarion tones of Han-Tolneth declaim, “Then so it will be, Elders.”

The skies of Creation shatter beneath the Storm’s incandescent fury as the Skylord intones, “It will indeed, little brother.”

A roar of draconic supremacy echoes across Creation entire as an Aldar soars between worlds upon dragonback.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Now We wait, for I am sure he will want to arrive in some loud and drawn out fashion. Then the crowd can coo and swoon.”

The skies above the Worlds’ Fair tremble with an echoing sonic boom, the Veil Extant yielding to the unfettered might of Sycaerunax, Father of Dragons as he descends to Achaea, bearing the figure of Han-Tolneth upon his scaled back.

Han-Tolneth strides in from the ether, calm purpose writ within his every motion. A massive white dragon descends from above, and the earth trembles slightly at his landing.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum edges slowly away from Han-Tolneth with a nervous expression on her face.

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “Worry not. He will remember.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum edges slowly away from Sycaerunax, the Father of Dragons with a nervous expression on her face.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum flinches visibly, before dropping into a deep curtsey.

Han-Tolneth says, “I am here, Elders.”

A rolling cavalcade of breaking waves heralds the emergence of the Thalassan God-King.

Sycaerunax, the Father of Dragons smiles once in ancient regality, massive incisors widening into a toothy grin as he stretches out into sinuously languid repose.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “The Child Prince, come to watch His betters?”

Han-Tolneth inclines his head politely at Neraeos.

Han-Tolneth says to Neraeos, “Stepbrother.”

Neraeos, God of the Sea says, “We’ll see if betters is an apt description after I hear Your words.”

Sycaerunax, the Father of Dragons snorts in amusement, sending tiny wisps of dust scattering in all directions.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Yes, yes, barbs exchanged, now let’s nod and continue. I have an argument to win.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum gulps nervously.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “We shall, er, begin? The question?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “The question will be thus: Should the Jade Empress suffer banishment by the Tribunal for the crimes of the Triumvirate?”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum winces in pain.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Agreed. Eagerly.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “An exercise, My Templar. Arguing an old case.”

Han-Tolneth sighs ever so faintly, only a slight tightening of his eyes betraying any tension.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I shall speak for punishment.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “And I, lenience.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Agreed, Brother.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “Seconds?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I need none. Do You?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “For You?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “No.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Ah, He flirts. You’d think He would have learned by My storied past…”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “So We shall speak for Ourselves.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “We will see if You are so glib after a retelling of it.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Obviously. What need have I for proxies?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “You? Oh never, not a one. I would not dare presume.”

Han-Tolneth flicks his gaze between the Elder Gods in wry amusement.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Twilight, “Are We agreed?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “We are.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Would our judge proclaim the formal order.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “Ahem. Yes. Well.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “Um.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “The Jade Empress may speak first. Then the Lord of Darkness. Then Lady Lorielan shall be permit- er, given, er, take a rebuttal. And so forth? Each speaking three times?”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum edges around the room strangely with an odd expression on her face.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I may, may I?”

Han-Tolneth says, “Of course, Elder sister.”

A wry smile flits across Han-Tolneth’s lips.

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “Fool on You for asking then complaining about the answer. Imagine My great surprise.”

Mathonwy says smoothly, “I am certain Nissa was speaking merely in the cadence of debate language. A sign that she is impartial.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum nods her head emphatically.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum nods her head emphatically.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum nods her head emphatically.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “Yes. Impartial.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Impartiality is an impossibility of the mortal condition. But that is a topic for another day.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum, “Am I permitted to begin?”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum nods her head emphatically.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum nods her head emphatically.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum nods her head emphatically.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “Yes! Um! Yes, begin, of course.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “I mean, when You wish.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum paces the floor, chewing her nails fretfully.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “You wish to judge Me for My actions, and debate which punishment will be most fitting. But who in Creation understands My motive and means better than I?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Am I accused because there were losses? It is possible, but if there were nothing to lose there would have been naught to fight for in the first place.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Am I accused because We failed? It is ever the right of the victor to proclaim Their triumph and parade the vanquished for all memorial.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Am I accused because I dared aspire to a throne still occupied, some might say above My station? It will be argued that I am blameless for I have no realm, but I maintain that all is My realm and it is unwieldy for the pithy titles borne by Our judges.”

Han-Tolneth flinches ever so slightly.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “The actions taken by Myself and the Triumvirate are of preservation. When all is placed under threat by a Creator who has made for Himself a playground. Proteus, a manchild with power, remains a petty bully unable to take responsibility for His actions, for He need account of himself to none but the same Father We all have in Ayar. And that perpetually absent parent is not even here, instead letting His preferred child sit in judgement over Me. It is preference, nothing more. The gift of greater might to Him over the rest of Us is all the proof that is required for that statement, and such a gift was for no other reason, so We know, than petty whims.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I stand here today accused of nothing less than attempting to safeguard all that We know, have known, and will know.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Allowing the illbegotten spawn to breach Maya’s waters and live will prove a mistake for the entirety of Creation’s future, and nothing shall ever recover from that catastrophic mistake.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Those vile things You demanded We let live should have been terminated the moment it was realised that she had soiled herself with the noxious monstrosity that is their other parent. A monstrosity, I point out, that Ayar refused to allow Us knowledge of, all in His so-called proclamations that its existence was, verbatim, “not Your concern” and that We should not put Our minds to wondering of it.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “But Creation is worth more than being bent to serve wastrels and castoffs, the bastard children of an upturned skirt and a jade’s smile.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “It was and remains still worth risking all to save what We have created from the risk of another such monstrosity emerging from wherever our absentee Father says We should not be looking next time. If Ayar would not intervene to save Us from the whims and whoring of Proteus with Our Aldar servants, then I maintain that I had every right to.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “It is true that an atrocity has been committed. And it was wholly justified, not that any of You care to admit it. Existence itself is on the line.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “The Aldar finally understand what it means to actually stand for something. To do something other than exist in idyllic meandering from one world to another, one plane to the next in whatever idle thought they are told to make real for Us.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Ugrach learned the beginnings of it when he “befouled” Nur’s gardens with Ardael, but what was the reaction of his fellows? Association, they called it. Crime, they called it. They banished him for daring to be a simple servant no longer. And now the Aldar, en masse, have been allowed to actually choose a path. They have tasted the consequences, bittersweet or not, of their assumption of actual agency for the first time in eons.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I have no remorse for the losses incurred.”

Han-Tolneth creases his brow in a frown.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Should the opportunity present itself, I would do it again. We should all band together to safeguard this Creation from the arrogant grasp of an uncaring Creator and His puppet king, a king whose head is inevitably turned by each passing skirt and sob story from the next jade looking to cosy herself in His too-welcoming arms.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “All that was, is, and will be designed is worth more.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Twilight, “The floor is yours, Brother.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Very well.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Proteus’ Queen has named great consequences to Her decision to rebel. She will also name Her decision to do so as wrought of refusal to countenance that She could not be a Queen without a King.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She refuses the idea that it was not Her decision to aspire, to attempt to claim everything as Hers.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “But She is in error.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “The cause of Her rebellion is not of Her own making, or Her own decision. It is an inevitable consequence to a comedy of errors conducted from the moments of Her first creation.”

Lorielan raises an arch eyebrow.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “And that is where the root of this rebellion lies. It is at the very beginning: at the creation of the Elder Gods.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Ayar willed Us into existence from His omnipresence between the spaces of a moment within frozen time, the first of our kind. All but three among Our number were provided with distinct Realms. Khalas, Daedalus, and Lorielan here were the sole exceptions.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “To be a God without a Realm is to be a God without a focus. It is an existence without defined purpose. No God could rise without taking on a Realm, without becoming just a single facet of Ayar’s first all-encompassing observance of the realm He has forged.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I am Darkness. Aegis is War. Miramar is Justice. Shall I continue down the list? No, it would be a waste of time. But what are Khalas, Daedalus, and Lorielan? This is the question without an answer.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Some of Us may argue that it is the prerogative of the Realmless to choose such a focus. But of these three, only Daedalus claimed a definitive Realm of His own. Only Daedalus claimed, or, one might argue, discovered, focus, awareness, a role in Ayar’s vision of all things.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Yet He was not obliged to do so.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It is no coincidence that we do not name Daedalus among the rebels. He has long since chosen and claimed His realm of Balance, the first God created by Ayar, and the nature of His choosing has infused Him with purpose. With focus.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “In the absence of purpose, bereft of that quintessential thing, that which defines and shapes all Gods, is it really a surprise that these rebels would instead see the entirety of all that is as Their right? That Their very nature as without focus commands That They attempt all things, simultaneously everything and nothing? That They rebel against the existing order?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “No, it is no surprise.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “One might look at Agatheis as a foil to this premise, given His possession of a realm. That is a ridiculous notion.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Not only did He choose to abuse His role as Overseer of the Elements, becoming their Tyrant, it is beyond doubt that Lorielan and Khalas served as the founders and originators of this revolution. Agatheis is but a pawn.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I therefore posit that the fault for Lorielan’s rebellious nature lies with Ayar, and Ayar alone.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Ayar, whose error in the creation of Gods without a Realm led Khalas to the conclusion that He deserved His unfortunate moniker: “the first Mistake.””

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Ayar, who in languor deigned to allow Himself to experience existence.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Yet did not Ayar, grown stupefied and bored of His own self -proclaimed perfection, crown Himself King of all of Us and rule all that is?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Is Proteus not a perfect analogue of that which I have claimed? Dissatisfied with perfection, He chose to raise Himself above even that.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “What power had His Queen to resist being ushered into His bed? What agency did She have when faced with He whose might eclipsed Her own? What creation holds the power to deny that which its owner demands?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “No power. No agency. Nothing.”

Lorielan’s grey eyes darken and narrow.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Attempt, if you are able, to place yourselves in Lorielan’s shoes.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “No.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Attempt, if you are able, to place yourselves in Lorielan’s position.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Realmless. She has no purpose, no reason to even exist save as a budding blossom, something that might have one day been truly wondrous. A flower whose seeds were not permitted to bear fruit.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Queen of Creation? Yes, She was made that, after a fashion. But a Mother of Creation, compared with the Father to innumerable mortals in Proteus? Compared with the Creator of All in Ayar?”

A frisson of tension chills the fairgrounds.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “No. That was denied Her. Proteus denied Her. All Her time at His side, in His arms, in His bed, under His sheets while He watched. Never was She given a chance to create in Her own right. Never a chance to ever use the power She was given as the rest of Us did, expending Ourselves upon the myriad worlds. One might argue that We lessened Ourselves in the doing to leave Her the stronger and a rightful Queen. They would be wrong.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She was never more than a trophy, chosen for Her beauty, something to be set upon a shelf and admired. Nothing more.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She did not even have the choices of a Divine without a realm as Daedalus did, because those choices were taken from Her.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Who can blame Her for finally snapping when She laid eyes on Maya? Budding, blooming, besmirched Maya. Poor and suffering Maya, whose offspring were declared protected, guarded, by the very Proteus who denied Lorielan a chance of Her own?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It is irresponsible, ignorant, and incalculably unjust to enact punitive measures upon an Elder Goddess for the mistakes of a flawed Creator. Or of a flawed King.”

Han-Tolneth winces faintly.

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “You may have the floor, while you seethe.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “To be a God without a Realm is to be a God without a focus? No.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “To be a God without a Realm is to aspire without a ceiling.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Realms are nothing more than the collar and chain. They only delineate the worn and barren circle around the kennel where You fools are permitted to roam. They are the limits at which You strain simply to bark and lunge at one another. Your quarrels are meaningless. Your arguments are petty at best.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Time after time We see those with power attempt to reach for more than what they are. And the result? A slap on the hand, a push back into place. Brother Twilight, You know this all too well.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “He will of course never admit it or reveal it Himself, out of cowardice or fear or because He simply will be what He is. Yet from it came His work within His ridiculous shadows, so that each attempt to break His bonds might yet be successful.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “To be without a realm allowed Me to question, unlike the rest of You. It allowed Me to judge the Creator and judge His Work. I found Him lacking, wanting of a spine, and actually dared to aspire to be better than He is. I have no intention to be a yapping dog.”

Han-Tolneth nods slightly in the direction of Neraeos.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Neraeos, “Yes, a yapping dog.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I acknowledge the failure of our rebellion, yet remain proud that I led such. Nay, I maintain that it was and is a necessary action. But I am to be tried and a judgement levied for doing what is necessary.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “If the aim is to alter Who I am I challenge that none have the fortitude to break Me. I will not be shamed, I will not be cowed like some sprawled Aldar who did not know better while she was busy on her back.”

Han-Tolneth winces in pain.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I need not the approval of the Pantheon. Will You snuff Me like the candle whose glare dares to show You more than You are comfortable knowing about Yourself? Will You banish Me?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “The first you cannot. None here are capable without altering utterly that which I am.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Can you risk banishment, a minor frustration for one such as I, but within its confines do you not gift Me a kingdom over which to start afresh and prove My point that I will be better than Ayar?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Dare You put an end to the One who sees as clear as I do, the one Who will point out all Your myriad flaws?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “If Ayar’s Creation and vision is the one this Tribunal wishes to maintain, I argue that You must.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I will never be less than the thorn in Your side, the candle which shines the light upon all of Your flaws.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I have seen beyond the reach of Your chains, and I see Our unmaking. I will not stop.”

Lorielan offers a brief inclination of Her head toward Lord Twilight.

Twilight acknowledges the gesture with little more than an amused smirk.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Banishment.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It is not an effective punishment for one of the Realmless.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It claims the notion of limitations. We are granted the effortless power to travel wherever We choose to be. There is nowhere beyond Our potential reach and no thing We cannot observe, should it exist within Our realm and in a place We know.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “To those of Us who hold dominion over a realm, the very notion of being trapped on a single plane out of the countless known and countless more still unknown, incapable of venturing beyond and continuing Our expression of Our realm is unbearable, inconceivable.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “As an idea it is ridiculous, and beyond the absurd to even legitimately countenance. That the tribunal would dare to do so no doubt reveals Their struggle to find justification within Their own limited conception and ability to view Us in context of what We are.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “But banishment?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “For Her?”

Twilight points accusingly at Lorielan.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It would hardly be more than an inconvenience.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She is not like Us. She has no realm. She has no focus. She certainly has no need for expression, save in the inevitable rebellion and attempt to supplant Proteus that She will no doubt engineer.”

Lorielan smiles winningly for the briefest of moments.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She has already admitted that She sees banishment as little more than an opportunity to recover, regroup, and regather Her forces about Her.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She will simply vanish to whichever realm is decided as Her fate. She will do what she has always done. What She did to Proteus and Others of Us before – I need not name examples, considering that all of Us have had Her intimate attentions at one point or another – is just part of what She has done to Khalas and Agatheis.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She may smile, but let there be no doubt: She will bring Her looks, Her wits, and Her bed to bear until the population of Her “prison” agrees to whatever She demands. And that demand will be to bend the knee and go to war in Her name.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “If She must be punished – and I do not agree that She should – then banishment is a wholly invalid choice of sentencing, because to Her it is not a punishment at all.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “What care has She if it lasts a century? Five? A thousand? An eon? Time is irrelevant to Us, perhaps even more so for a Realmless rebel.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I cite Lucretius as the obvious example. For two million, four hundred and thirty seven thousand years He chose to lose Himself in contemplation of a mere philosophical question, simply so He could be sure He had considered all possible outcomes.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “In care for the relevancy of time, Aegis is no different, Gaia is no different, Vastar is no different, and Proteus’ Queen is certainly no different. It is meaningless.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “If punishment is deemed to be so irrevocably necessary, then there is only one means, one way to ensure that history does not repeat and that the remedy is permanent and absolute.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Death.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I yield the remaining time.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum gulps nervously.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum curtseys respectfully before Twilight.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says to Twilight, “Ahem, my Lord Twilight?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Ah, yes. The honour of the first rebuttal, as is customary.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum gulps nervously.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum nods her head emphatically.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Lorielan will claim that examples obscure the argument and bear no fruit – much like Her – simply because She knows their validity and wishes to diminish their blatantly clear relevance to this argument.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Gods, notably those of Us who are Elder, and perhaps even more notably the Realmless Gods, were not created to suffer arbitrary restrictions upon Them, upon Us.”

Han-Tolneth quietly draws Nissa a prudent step away, patting her gently on the shoulder in the process.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “This very proposal of punishment is a fundamental betrayal, a desecration of everything it means to be Divine.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I will concede that Proteus’ Queen does not see it as such. How could I not?”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Her brazen admission that such a sentence would serve only to provide both a means and a venue for Her recovery, recuperation, and eventual repeat rebellion is all the evidence that My victory on this point requires.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “However.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “She is not all of Us, and the consequences of pronouncing sentence upon an Elder Goddess impacts more than just Lorielan’s future.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “To impose restriction, to limit, stifle, and suffocate the creativity of the Divine in such a manner will forever stain the idea of Godhood.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It will destroy Us, or at the very least it will damage Us in ways that a rebellion – a rebellion whose fault is already proven to lie elsewhere than with the perpetrators – never could.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “We are not Firstborn. We are Gods.”

Twilight turns to glance at Han-Tolneth, His crimson eyes flaring intensely as the Elder God’s expression shifts to resemble vaguely one of consolation.

Han-Tolneth nods his head at Twilight.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Even without the purpose and focus of a realm, We were not designed by Ayar to exist under such rules.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “The very notion of rules, restrictions, and regulations is absurd beyond measuring, no matter the regular insistence of Miramar before and no doubt after this latest demonstration that We should restrict Ourselves to some sort of code or guideline beyond Our own will.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “The sheer effort of enumerating the worlds that would not exist, the realms that would not be, the histories that would not have passed, the peoples and races that would never have been born should Elders have faced such limitations, is, frankly, beyond imagining.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It is certainly beyond the available time in this discussion, unless You propose that one of Us stops it to permit Me the legitimate chance to do so.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “No? I thought not. I will choose but four.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “We could discuss the Twelve Worlds of the Illythrin upon Veldeior’s plane. Born from cast aside specks of yet another quarrel between the Twins, the Illythrin and their counterparts of the Vostroya owe their very existence to Our Brothers of Sky and Sea.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Of course, that neither of Them cared to pay overmuch attention to those worlds after the fact does not preclude the basic acceptance of the statement that billions of mortals exist through Their actions and venerate Us accordingly, through the work – and action – of Elder Gods. They are born, live, love, fear, laugh, grow old, and die, adding yet more to the ensouled halls of Thoth.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Or would you rather an example closer to home? Proteus and His assistant, perhaps, and the secret of consciousness that together They unearthed. And it is not just the creation of the Tsol, who served Us so well on the battlefield of Nishnatoba.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “One need only look at the newly-infused might of those Thoth formed upon Nishnatoba, and what even now has begun to occur among their race. Division, argument, separation, and war! From the actions of Thoth and the force of Divine will has come the first true sundering of the Tsol, which will permit new civilisations and perspectives to grow and expand.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “And I note also that these examples are the work of multiple Elders. But what about the work of just one God? Phaestus and His little toys, the dwarves. From His forge did they come, by His action.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “We all witnessed His broken-hearted tears that they were empty. That He couldn’t make them true. All those drafts, all those prototypes, wind-up dolls discarded because He refused to accept anything less than perfection. He couldn’t stand the idea that His creation wasn’t real, and so He ensured that they would become real by any means necessary.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “The work of one God, alone, created an entire race. What would the removal of one Goddess do to Ayar’s plan for Us? Clearly if, as Lorielan has argued and which is a basic tenet of this Tribunal, death is forbidden, this is no doubt a part of it.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “And these three examples are merely a sampling of what exists now. Perhaps We should look to the possibilities of the future, when I mention what Raclawice had so recently considered for Us? The creation of what She has called the Walking Ways, a flood and flow of routes across both Ether and Limbo, across Space and Time, to permit Us even greater possibilities than that which We are already granted by Our studies of Yggdrasil.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Indeed, the very concept is no less than a perfect expression of Her realm, given rise from Her mind, Her role, and Her position – and capability – to do so as an Elder Goddess.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “And there are yet more worlds, peoples, stories, minds that may never exist, if Proteus’ Queen is punished and forced to suffer under these arbitrary restrictions.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I put it to you that the price is too great to pay.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “My opponent has demonstrated, and I accept, that She is utterly unrepentant, entirely absent of guilt or remorse. Loathsome as She may be, it is that very lack of remorse that proves the capability of Divinity unfettered, to stand here, brazen and without shame, because She – We – are more than the weights with which Miramar balances Her scales and doles out judgement.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I have argued that Her actions were not of Her own making, that She is not to blame for Ayar’s faults. I have argued that banishment is ineffective, as She clearly has proved. I have argued that Gods are not subject to restrictions like banishment and that the enacting of such would be catastrophic.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “My case is proven. Lenience is the only choice.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “How kind of You, Brother. Judges, may I rebut?”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “Um. Ehm. I, er, of course. my Lady. I mean, whenever You are ready.”

Han-Tolneth nods at Lorielan.

Han-Tolneth says, “Of course, Elder sister.”

Sycaerunax, the Father of Dragons snorts in amusement, sending tiny wisps of dust scattering in all directions.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Twilight, “Dazzling the judges with taunts of things they know nothing of? Your words are as disappointing as the rest of You was and is, Twilight.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “This is little more than a stratagem to obscure the fact that Your laughable claim is that I lack agency. None of Us care about whatever blathering idiocies Lucretius decides to contemplate, especially when they inevitably take Him so long that He becomes a geographical feature instead of an actual God.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “There is a consistent thread throughout the argument of Darkness, and throughout all Our history.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “That the form I was given is soft, is weak, will break, is overruled, and is controlled by Proteus. Controlled by Ayar. And that to go against such must be caused by a deficiency or an emotional outburst.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Reactionary.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Emotional is not a term oft used to describe Me. But this is not My contention. I prefer not to waste time pointing out the obvious even though You consistently, persistently, and inevitably refuse to see it.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “The point of a punishment is reform, and it is in this I find the Tribunal and this entire “debate” deficient in every facet.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I reject servitude under Proteus. I will not countenance it, I will not suffer it. I will carry a knife and bury it in whatever part of Him comes most readily to hand if You dare to impose it. And I know which part that will be. I have spent far more time than any would care to under Him already. Let Him find something else to play with.”

Han-Tolneth winces in pain.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Death is by far preferable to that fate, if not for once-again the supposedly all-knowing Father figure denying Me even the chance of that!”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “But am I capable of reform? As my opponent states, I am unrepentant. I have no guilt for my actions. I have no remorse. In this He is correct.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “To “reform” would require Me to believe that something needed to change.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Yes, something does need to change. But I contend that which needs to be altered is not Me, but the rest of these feckless, sycophantic Gods clustering about Their king as They presume Me to be lesser than Them.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “I began My attempts to reform that which was and still is wrong. Maya’s spawn still deserve to be put down like rabid dogs. Nothing has changed.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “While My endeavour has faltered for now, My stance, like My very Self, remains unchanging. My efforts will continue no matter the tools, abilities, or lack thereof sentenced upon Me.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Miramar believes that She can impose justice. She is nothing more than a set of scales with Proteus’ fingers buried in them. And I know He lacks the skill of the maestro’s touch.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Proteus or Creation will end, and none of You even care to acknowledge it. One will be a remedial measure for the sake of All, the other will be due to His lack of care for its ordering.”

A shadow falls over Neraeos’s countenance as He furrows His brow.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “If I must be the one to wield the knife, then I will wield it with indescribable pleasure at delivering actual justice, rather than what the puppet leading this Tribunal claims to be Hers.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “So, judges. Am I a feeble minded puppet who deserves leniency, for “She knows not what She does?””

Han-Tolneth nods once at Sycaerunax, Father of Dragons.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “I, um, well, uh…”

Twilight turns His eyes on Nissa expectantly, His countenance one of wry amusement all the while.

Stretching out one scintillating wing, Sycaerunax, Father of Dragons casually lowers it near to Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum, providing her a protective shield.

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum shudders behind the great wing of the Father of Dragons, a terrified look coming over her features as she simply says, “I abstain.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “And you, Dragonmaster? Will you choose a side this time?”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Should Miramar complete Proteus’ bidding and banish Me to some far off plane. Or perhaps balk the yoke and end My clearly miserable, realmless existence.”

Sycaerunax, the Father of Dragons casually adjusts his position to rise behind the figure of Han -Tolneth, watching the panorama before him with a sudden, almost predatory intensity.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Clearly death is the favourable option, lenience for You and I both.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Or perhaps crown Me for My foresight and judgement. I would even allow Him to forgo the apology.”

Han-Tolneth tilts his head to one side in careful consideration.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Twilight, “I truly would not. That would be too perfect to miss.”

Han-Tolneth says, “Many things were said here.”

Neraeos, God of the Sea says, “A great deal too many things.”

Han-Tolneth says, “Many more reflect what occurred then, when I stood in the audience, observing the Tribunal of my Elders.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “There are plenty that were not said, Firstborn.”

Han-Tolneth says, “In uncomfortable accuracy.”

Han-Tolneth carefully avoids looking at Lorielan.

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Ah, the shame of the male. How novel.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “I imagine the Dragonmaster is incapable of imagining that Your ministrations against his own kin were simply a form of destiny forcing Your rotten hands.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Twilight, “Did You misspeak, Brother? Surely you mean soft, dexterous, well-manicured hands.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “I did not misspeak.”

Han-Tolneth says, “My Elder sister spoke of Ugrach, and that he sullied Nur with his mortal bride. She spoke of how She arranged for we, the Firstborn, to, what was it. Achieve agency.”

Han-Tolneth says, “We stood in judgement over Ugrach because he broke our laws. Whether claiming agency or not, he did rebel against our home.”

Han-Tolneth says, “There are other things than laws, however. We are more than just my departed Elder sister Miramar’s judgements.”

Han-Tolneth says, “But.”

Han-Tolneth says, “You both know, Elders, that we Firstborn always held to customs as strong to us as law.”

Han-Tolneth says, “There were quarrels. There were arguments, among You all. Some more than others.”

Lorielan listens on, the droning starting to dull the sparkle in the Goddess’ eyes.

Han-Tolneth says, “Through all of these, our custom remained the same. It had the force of law, though it is not.”

Han-Tolneth says, “It is to those customs that I will turn.”

Han-Tolneth says, “The Firstborn do not judge our Elders when They happen to be quarreling, fighting with one another. This is not a debate, as the innumerable jibes and insults have demonstrated despite the limited adherence to debate guidelines. This is barely an argument. This is a fight between Elder siblings.”

Han-Tolneth says, “I do not take sides when my Elder brothers and sisters are fighting.”

Neraeos nods His head at Han-Tolneth, showing His acceptance.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Nor when your own are.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Do hurry along and abstain, I may begin to age if I wait much longer.”

Sycaerunax, Father of Dragons shifts once more, a low growl of affirmation rumbling in his throat as his eyes blaze with inner fire.

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “No doubt She has a bed waiting for her somewhere.”

Han-Tolneth says, “I will defer my judgement until such a time as my Elders are concluded in this particular fight. Whether it is in a day, a year, or ten millennia.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “An eon until he renders judgement, and another to tell Us so.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “All to render nothing but wasted air.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “What of the Archivist, she shall not have so long to live.”

Neraeos, God of the Sea says, “Hardly.”

Han-Tolneth says, “She has abstained. I hold my vote in abeyance, as the decider.”

Azelios says in a smooth, clear voice, “My votes for the Lady. Who doesn’t love a good rebellion now and then. Conflict makes you stronger.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Yes.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “Obviously.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “Lives, worlds, mortal souls, positions upon the throne, a century of blissful silence from crowing shades. There is always something at stake.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “The stakes are not for them to know.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Twilight, “Were I Queen they would be ordered to make a decision and We would be satisfied. Alas.”

Neraeos, God of the Sea says, “You have Both won in Your attempts to grandstand. It was valiantly done, and You have shown all here the immeasurable degree to which You can spew venom.”

Han-Tolneth says, “Respectfully as a reminder, Elder sister, You are not. Not any more.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “Were You Queen I do not doubt they would be on their knees, enthralled by the illusion of a dressed up slattern.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Han-Tolneth, “You remain a speaking Aldar, that much I can control.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says, “But it was banishment rendered, and the shackles of a realm. A moot debate to remain unanswered, for now.”

Han-Tolneth offers a polite inclination in response, idly reaching up to touch his eyes in painful memory before dropping his hand once more.

Twilight, the Dark Father says to Lorielan, “Let Us not destroy their minds with that particular argument.”

Nissa, the Head Archivist of the Lucretian Athenaeum says, “I will continue to abstain, as I selfishly wish to cling to my mortal coil.”

Twilight, the Dark Father says, “It is clear We shall receive no result here.”

Lorielan, the Jade Empress says to Twilight, “Let Us allow them to finish the debate We interrupted with Our own.”

His form solidifying momentarily, the Dark Father extends an arm to Lorielan.

Lorielan’s slender arm accepts the embrace of Darkness.

With a decisive gesture, the Jade Empress exposes a glimmering portal in the ether and departs.

With a barely discernible whisper, the tenebrous gloam recedes.

The crashing roar of the Eternal Sea evaporates, leaving behind tendrils of swirling mist.

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