An Imperfect Circle

A Vision Of Things To Come

An ebon-skinned woman spins, dancing in the embers of a dying fire. Cloaked figures surround her, their ritual finished, watching her naked form reflect the glowing embers about her feat. One of them will likely die. Her rhythm is perfect, one spin for each drumbeat that reverberates around her. Her hair, the red of hot iron, whirls about her as if beneath the water, out of sync with the predatory motions of her dance. Bells woven into the long braids jangle as if in time with the beating of a heart. The drum comes to a crescendo and her spinning stops. She laughs, a harsh sound, the shadows waver, as the Things That Dwell in the Corners quiver in excitement. She steps from the embers, purposeful, and clashes the long, sickle-shaped blades she cares together. The first of her standard bearers arises, bearing a hollow tube atop a long pole. The wind picks up, the beginning of a storm, and the tube emits a keening wail. The hunt begins and drums continue…

*

V'neef Lohlyn stepped of the river boat onto the thronging docks of the Nexus. Her brother, V'neef Sylus, followed, carefully avoiding the refuse littering the dock. He wrinkled his nose at the smell. "Are you sure this is where you want to be sis?" "Come on Sy," she replied. "You've heard the same rumors I have. Even if he isn't here, I'm sure we'll find something that'll put us on the right trail." Sylus sighed, "I suppose you're right, and it is for the good of the house. I just wish in weren't so… malodorous." Their heavily armed and armored body guard laughed. "It's been a long time since the last time I was here, but if memory servers, the docks have the strongest smell. We'll get accommodations in Bastion in Cinnabar that I'm sure we'll be up to even your standards." As they passed through the crowded streets, the call of a steed peddler hocking his wares caught Lohlyn's ear. "…and it's sign of prestige in The Lap." That sounds promising, she thought…

*

The mountain of corpse-flesh cast a grim shadow over the dying remains of the once proud city where the dead now outnumbered the living. The living, half-starved and hollow-eyed sheltered in the shattered remains of elegant palaces. Smiling statues of their masked ghost-king graces the squares and crossroads. And temples once dedicated to the Immaculate Order directed mandatory worship to the dead who now ruled in Thorns. The Deathknight looked out, hand resting on the railing that adorned the palace atop the putrid mountain, and smiled. He had helped bring this to pass. In fact, he had enjoyed himself as the Dragonblooded who claimed to protect the city had bleed before him, and then died. He turned and walked into the fortress to kneel before his Deathlord's throne. The skull-masked figure, not smiling in person, gestured regally and spoke. "Rise with my favor go forth, for it is now time…"

*

The dark-skinned woman passed unnoticed through the streets of Nexus toward Firewander. Were her identity know, she would have faced dozens of petitioners seeking her favor, but she wore an unfamiliar face, one that slid quickly from memory as she passed. She entered an unassuming building, the spirits guarding it allowing her entry, and went through the hidden gateway therein. She was met by Jade Lions, guarding the other side of the gateway. They bowed in deference and she continued to the silver stream that would take her to the Bureau and the Loom. Hours later, she stood before it. Millions of threads wove in an impossibly complex pattern, starmetal spiders crawled about it, pulling, smoothing, and trimming efficiently as they moved. The weave was frayed and tangled in places, and more threads than before seemed to move of their own will, gleaming brilliantly. Her mouth tightened, things were moving faster than she had hoped. A hand alighted gently on her should and the woman behind her spoke. "Do not fear daughter, they will be ready before the end…"

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