Legacy-Dreams-TheCliffs

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Alabaster Mountain (Book One, Chapter One)

You stand at the top of the cliffs, and peer down them. Far, far below you, the ruined fields lie fallow, their grain ignored, given over to weeds and growing out of control. No hand has tended them in months now. One of the harvests has passed, and the riverboats came by and stopped, but found only the wild fields and quickly left after issuing a warning.

It’s funny how the absence of a little grain is what it takes to get their attention.

You’ve done your best. Your rhetoric and fiery speeches are some of the best in the Deliberative, certainly, but they all have their own ideas. It’s unfortunate so many of them are wrong.

“When you think of yourselves as priest-kings,” you’ve told your fellow Zeniths, in a crowd that included the Hierophant of the Unconquered Sun himself. “You put too much emphasis on the ‘king’ and not enough on the ‘priest’.” They didn’t like that.

There was so much petty bickering and stupid bureaucracy among them. How would they listen? But that’s okay. They were all headstrong, and fools besides. Fortunately, they weren’t the people your words were meant for. Not really.

No, no. That honor was reserved for the mortals who came to you.

For miles around, they came. They even came from the lands administrated by other Solars, following words of the Zenith who spoke of the Unconquered Sun’s plan for mortals. Who else did this? To all of Creation, the Solars claimed that the Unconquered Sun was concerned only with his Chosen, leaving mortal concerns for his Exalts to deal with.

But not the Deacon of Stone.

You told them that the Unconquered Sun was their god first, and that he loved them best. So great was his love, he would provide everything they needed to live their lives happily basking in his glory if they would simply give up everything and spend all of their days in prayer to the Unconquered Sun.

Oh, their fervor! Such simple folk, who realized that the needs of mankind were simple as well, and cast off the foolishness of civilization to live sparsely in the wild, among the white stones of the cliffs that overlooked the Yellow River.

Who was so faithful as the one who gave up everything just to be closer to his god?

You look up from the bottom of the cliffs so far down to see the airships darkening the sky. They are coming from the west, from the Blessed Isle where the Solar Exalted rule from the city of Meru, to find out what has happened to their grain.

You look to your left at the people kneeling, praying, under the light of the Unconquered Sun. To your right, are many more. Thousands of them, to either side of you, as you stand at the top of the cliff. The first of the airships touches down, and an Eclipse Caste you vaguely recognize from the Deliberative disembarks, with her lurking, sinister Lunar mate at her back for protection.

The Eclipse looked at the people as she approached, and they shrunk away from her. They continued to pray, their skin flushed in the sun, parched lips speaking his glories.

“Deacon of Stone?” she asked. She looked at you curiously and you realized that she wasn’t used to seeing you like this, clothed in your faith. Your robes were tattered and dusty, and you’d long ago given up your orichalcum gew-gaws. In response to her question, you flared your Caste mark.

“Why have you come here?” you asked her as she glanced back at the Lunar with the hawk’s talons.

“We have come to investigate, Deacon,” she said, her voice firm and filled with scolding. “Or rather, we have investigated. I’m here to summon you back to the Deliberative.”

“I won’t go,” you say, smiling, turning your back on her to gaze out over the cliff’s edge once more.

“Deacon,” she says, irritation creeping into her voice. “Be reasonable. You’ve coopted workers from agricultural production centers for miles around; they’re from other administrative zones that don’t belong to you.”

“They are human, and do not belong to those Solars,” you say simply, as though to a child.

“Maybe not, but they have responsibilities. To the Realm.” She looked up and down the line, where people continued to ignore her, praying harder than ever. “And look at them! They’re malnourished, Deacon. They’re sunburned, and weakened from exposure. I respect your ascetic nature, but these people are not Exalts. They can’t survive out here like this.”

“We have done nothing wrong. We give ourselves to the Unconquered Sun as we are moved.”

“No,” she said firmly. “You don’t have the right to uproot these people to serve your own ideas of the Unconquered Sun. Some of them are calling you a prophet, but others here are worshipping you directly, calling you the Unconquered Sun. That’s base heresy, Deacon, and forbidden by the Deliberative. You have to come with me. These other ships will see to getting these people to medical treatment, shelter and their homes.”

You stare at her with deep pity in your eyes.

“We have only one home,” you say, looking up at the sun above you. Then, you flash your anima, which burns bright in the midday sky.

“The time is at hand!” Your voice is like thunder, and they have all awaited this moment, when the Unconquered Sun himself will take them into his hands.

As one, thousands of your followers cast themselves off of the cliffs, screaming prayers as they plummet.

The look of horror on the faces of the Deliberative’s agents almost gives you pause, but your faith sustains you. How can they understand? Truly?

The moment you cast yourself from the cliff, however, is not to be. The hawk-totemed Lunar changes in midair and snatches you out of your plummet. As he returns you to the top of the cliff, the two of you can only watch as, all around you, thousands of your followers fall to their deaths, with prayers you taught them on their lips.

When the Lunar sets you down on your feet, the Eclipse caste turns from the edge of the precipice slowly to look on you, her face a mask of horror. You note for a moment that tears stream down her face.

“What…what have you done?” she asks, her voice heavy with anguish.

“You cannot understand,” you assure her. Somewhere in your mind, you think that you should perhaps be weeping, but you cannot — you do not feel sadness. You can only envy them.

“They are the fortunates, to have died with such strong faith and pure intent. We who are left behind will be submitted to the powers and the laws of the Deliberative until our faith and souls are broken and tarnished to suit the Lords of Creation. We are the ones for whom tears should be shed.”

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