Akkimu is dead. She is…. gone. As gone, I suppose, as a god can be. Do they have souls that come back into Creation? Are they just…. gone… when they die?
We found little resistance when we approached the Bell. Strange, I suppose, when we were expecting a fight long before this, but also not. It was day, darkness had not yet fallen, so the Host could hardly be a force against us in the light. Unless they work much differently than I had surmised, which might be the case given that I had believed that they could not even enter homes before.
The Black quarter was all but deserted when we came to the Bell, but our troops were still cautious. Broken Walls broke ground and then further down past the stone he found beneath into a musty smelling tunnel, thick with death.
Literally, it seems, as Piper cautioned us that the space in the tunnel was crammed with the souls of the dead. How could someone do this to so many lives, not only take them, but break them and twist them to such foul purpose? Seeing the darkness that awaited us, and longing for the comfort of light within those acrid walls, I willed my own light into my gift from Litaka, the stone I wear about my neck.
Warm, bright light bathed us as it shone, and surprise leapt into Piper’s eyes. At first I thought he had forgotten my amulet from when I lit it in Volivat, but he quickly explained that its light was in fact turning away those ghosts pressed into the tunnels. Joy sprang into my breast for a moment, then was softly tempered by the worry that it might be doing them harm. For now, all we could do was press deeper into the pit, and would have to worry about putting these poor creatures to rest later.
The tunnel turned out to be some sort of temple of death, corpses lining the walls…. in many places literally. I, not for the first or last time, felt a wave of nausea at the thought of what it must have taken to have done this to so many innocents… Strange contraptions filled some rooms as we pressed further, instruments whose uses I tried desperately not to think too deeply on. As we found bodies, we sent them up with those behind us, to begin the process of putting their souls to rest.
It was a place of evil. I don’t know that I have ever been in a place that more pressingly felt of torture and decay. As we journeyed further on and found the rooms filled with remnants of bodies, blades in walls… well, the ast bits of doubt in my mind that this… situation.. could no longer continue fled. Even if Akkimu’s Host kept the citizens of Champoor safe from invaders, the price of the unending suffering of these people…. it was never something that anyone should have to unwillingly pay.
Finally, as the rooms seemed to shrink in size as we descended, we came to a room a bit smaller than the common room of the Rising Sun house, furnished only with a large skull sculpture. We must have been nearing the end at that point, as not much else could have fit in a room smaller than the one we were in. Broken Walls bravely took the lead towards the next room, and pulled open what must have been the last door.
A flash of silver and the scrape of steel on steel berrated us as a gigantic snake creature burst into the room, it’s scimitar fangs glancing off of Broken Walls’ deftly raise shield. Between Broken Walls’ defenses and Saiten’s newly armoured fists (aptly given gifts from Mauk), the machine creature was dispatched quite quickly, which was a mercy. We had little room in the cavern, and I think the smell and dust and general unpleasantness of the place were beginning to get to Piper. The steel serpent was dragged to the surface, and we could breath fresher air once more.
There was little time to catch our breath, however. The sun was setting quickly, and we would have little time to counter Akkimu while we were not also fending off the Host outside her temple. For we had found the entrance to her sanctum in between the snake’s jaws, a portal of some kind openned there. Broken Walls and Saiten went in first to ensure we were not in imediate danger when we entered, but once we knew we could at least enter unopposed and unmolested, we brought in all of our little army through the creature’s maw into….
I had thought a bit about what a god’s sanctum must be like. I had imagined a safe place to them, something like a house, or a favorite room, some place where they felt most at home. If Akkimu’s sanctum said anything about her, it was that she was power mad, death obsessed, and insane. We stepped into seemingly endless fields of burial mounds, culminating in a strange pyramidal structure on which several figures stood, and an army of the dead between us and them. Hundreds of thousands of the dead buried here…. how could the others have allowed this to happen for so long?
Akkimu herself…. there is something in her I pity. She was like a feral animal, left too long alone, painted like bones to frighten her enemies, killing her followers to strengthen herself… she must have been so… afraid. So lonely. So driven mad by being so hated. To have gone so far, to have done such awful things… I know there was nothing that could have saved her when we found her, but perhaps if we had only ben there several hundred years before… what would she have been?
Battle is not something I feel very adept at discussing. During is usually a whirl of trying to stay alive and protect those around me, and afterwards, well, I usually just feel sick. I remember Akkimu doing something strange to Saiten, causing him to falter and fall, not like he’d been hit, but like he’d been… turned off, I suppose, for a moment. Mauk had warned us that she had some sort of strange magics, so I assume this was something like that.
All of us burst with our brightest light that evening, And we saw Saiten’s and Piper’s for the first time. Saiten’s seemed an ultimate extension of what he thinks of himself, a blazing, gigantic fist, striking with him towards his opponent. Piper’s was… different. Not just a single symbol, but like a small play, a shower of butterflies shedding themselves to become moths, feeding on Piper’s body until only a strangely beautiful void remained. Piper’s void-self grew wings, but these too were taken by the moths, leaving only bones, until those too were shed.
Both these images are… troubling. Saiten seems to see himself just as a weapon, a weapon wielded in the name of goodness and light, but a weapon none-the-less. He is fun, and sweet, and kind. He is proud, and loyal, full of delight, and joy, and passion. A weapon is none of these things. I wish he could see himself and know that he is strong, but so much more than physically.
Piper’s ultimate light self… well, it feels me with such great sorrow for how Piper must see herself. A moth, wearing the skin of a butterfly? Nothing but her outer selves? Devoid of light without these gifts? Piper is not some creature of darkness pretending at grace and beauty. Piper may not always exude warmth, but Piper cares so very much about other people. Piper is full of light not because he was chosen by the Unconquered Sun, but was chosen by the Unconquered Sun because he already had so much light that could be shone on the rest of the world.
The fight was… swift, though not without casualties. Many on both sides gave their lives for their cause. When the final blow was dealt to Akkimu, her Host faltered, and the priests and fighters began to flee from our forces. They did not last long. Some were kept as prisoners, presumably for some kind of information gathering. From what Chaoxi knew, in order to keep Akkimu from coming back after she was defeated, we would need to destroy this sanctum as well. This seemed like an overwhelming task at first, but it seemed as though it was not as large as it first appeared, and the temple itself took less time to disassemble once Mauk caught up with us and got to work taking it apart. After assuring that the others were patched up, I set to work cleansing as many bodies as I could.
I felt as though I was not there, not really. We had finished a great task, certainly, but in doing so we had destroyed another creature. Many other creatures. Death should never be given lightly. What could we have done differently? What can we do differently next time? We cannot keep destroying the things that plague us. We must understand them, and cause them to change. We cannot become creatures of death. I will not become a a creature of death. I will bring light to this world, not destruction.
If we are to help this place, we need them to trust us. We cannot become only feared things like Akkimu. Even if there are those who fear us, hate us for what we are, we must show them that we are not enemies, we are not evil.
I am not evil.