A shadow passed over Kareishanti. A vessel descending from the cold stars. Worshippers clad in red were comfortable tucked away within the humming machinery. Eyes trailed along the ship as it circled the bell spire of the temple. Their solemn fortress above the clouds had been graced by a particularly unpleasant group. One which hadn’t been invited to the branch’s knowledge. Leaping from its post amidst the blue bells, the tower’s steep descent offered no comfort upon landing. Ahterises stirred as a dead pile of mixed metals maneuvered towards an empty slot at the far end of the bridge.
As the branch wandered across the transparent blue stones, Kareishanti was tainted by the presence of Opirea’s creations. The docks stirred beneath its feet, muted protests echoing from the waking vessels. Hesitantly, the branch approached the wheezing machine, retaining its duties at Kareishanti in mind. Judicators emerged from its unhinging maw. A curt nod was all the branch could muster as they stepped forth. Only youngsters within their midst acknowledged its presence openly. The Aveu Gavothe taking point blocked the path to them, as if positioning herself to be their shield. Her flock shifted their weight, eyes trailing along the dormant Ahteris. Their gazes were however, inevitably drawn ahead, where the branch hindered their path.
“Dohmarren Cohrm Credeuz, Nathil Aveu Gavothe” with its thick accent, the greeting evoked scattered gazes and grimaces from the youngsters behind the elder. The hooded woman kept her steely eyes ahead, pinned upon the gate gleaming within the temple entrance. Gazing through the branch as if it was a transparent veil. Their words, their tongue, was no stranger to her ears. As much, was to be expected of someone of her supposed position. Of someone who dared to don the eye of their creator, the seer. Despite its simple vetting process, the branch had never found a shortage of imposters to feed their Ahterises.
“Dohmarren Cohrm Credeuz, Lehin” as the priestess’ gaze returned to the moment, to it, the spiteful tone was dismissed by the branch’s ears. Only nodding to acknowledge the prickly words, the branch forced the corners of its mouth upwards to appease the elder. There was no immediate effect upon her stale features.
“You are most welcome to our home. May I ask why you have graced us with your presence?” its expression didn’t wane, as if carved upon its features. The words flooded forth from its mouth, a speech it had sown into its container. Inexperienced Gavothes shifted their weight side to side, exchanging brief glances to spread their nerves.
“Xamma Valez has requested we evaluate two amongst you before she graces Zyssec herself. Does your colony currently harbor the Kuvne known as Etran, and your Kaeqen Salmak?” Ahteris within earshot, sealed their eyes to the world as the elder confirmed her nature. A low rumble rippled throughout the docks at the mention of their names however, darkening the glass to a night sky. The branch allowed its expression to fade.
“Unfortunately, I cannot answer your inquiry Nathil Gavothe. My purpose here in Kareishanti is to greet travelers and tend to it. If you would like to speak with the waking, I might be able to escort you to the mainland” the priestess’ eyes grew distant once more, as she continued to seek out the gate.
“Then step aside, Akihz” when the branch remained in her path, the priestess acknowledged it as a hindrance. The insult fell on closed ears, causing it no more anger than the countless times the hiss had bitten them.
“Of course, Nathil Aveu Gavothe” it retained a polite tone, although a bitter remark offered itself up. While tempting its lips, it was refused relief. Its source had taught it better.
“I assume Khebezh is awake?” snapping its head in the priestess’ direction, the youngling winced at the sudden movements of its head. The elder craned her head in his direction, a dull fire within her yellow embers.
“Unfortunately, I cannot say Nathil Gavothe. Kareishanti does not allow insight to anything but the current location of the great gate and her fortress” its answer came earnestly, despite itself. Clutching its hands at the base of its spine, the branch took another step away from the young Gavothes.
“It does not matter. We shall wake them if we must” the branch gripped at its arms tightly, but it did nothing to discourage an outburst.
“You cannot!” the flock of red scurried around the Aveu Gavothe, hurrying to the elder’s side. Kareishanti trembled under the seeping mist of negativity echoing throughout.
“Do you intend to stand in our way Akihz?” folding her wrinkled hands together, the elder craned her head at the branch in a slow motion, as if to indicate a sense of curiosity. It could not provide her with a reason to act against it, or their source. Strangling its urges, the branch straightened itself and softened its features at them.
“The slumbering cannot be woken in such a crucial point of their cycle. If Kaeqen Khebezh is amongst them, leave her be” if their intentions were however to wake the slumbering, it wouldn’t matter what blessings were upon them. None of the branches would allow such a thing. Divinity be damned, the branch whispered in its mind.
“We will wake the remaining Kaeqen if we must locate the other half. If you cross our path, atonement lies ahead for you” the elder’s declaration did nothing to discourage its own. Yet, it retained a wide and unwavering smile as their backs were turned, one by one. The Ahteris stirred around it, sensing the metallic beast amongst them.
“Send me away and watch the skies collapse Berhaz. My mistress does not take kindly to her branches burning” it muttered behind the Aveu Gavothe’s back. Without batting an eye, she returned its comment.
“Has she given you a name, Akihz?” its gentle expression faded from its features, setting its sharpened orbs at her.
“I do not offer my name up to the likes of you Berhaz” it did not fear to return the spite of her tone. The branch allowed the remark to flow freely past its lips. Its sweetness lingered upon the corners of its mouth, tugging at them.
“Then I shall ask her myself. I assume the portal has been tended to?” she did not await an answer as she proceeded through the arched opening. Scarlet fabric and hastened clacks followed in a clutter through the passage. As their figures were swallowed by the cerulean lights, the branch turned to draw the dark clouds in.
“Dohmarren Cohrm Credeuz, Gavothes” its parting words were offered to their flickers, as gentle light descended from Kareishanti, into the barren wastes of Zyssec.
“Avukh, forgive me but I must know… Where are you?” its cry to the source was drowned by a thundering roar overhead. Bells shook the ground, drowning its words and its plea. Flickers of black and red dowsed the surface, a bitter plague approaching.
“May they find their answers and leave us be” a returning Ahteris approached, one which Kareishanti couldn’t harbor. As the branch extended itself to the skies, clouds enveloped them gently, ushering them into their midst.