Well, at least it was the nicest prison they’d ever been thrown into. The walls were paneled in indestructible White Jade set in with arches and inlays. Instead of the usual insane scratches of previous tenants, the walls were inlaid with a copy of Celestial Law sections 456-478 neatly printed in Old Realm. On the ceiling in High Holy Speech were grandiose letters declaring things like “ONLY THE JUST CAN PASS THROUGH THE GATES OF TRUTH”. The text looked like it served double duty as a prayer strip and a magic ward.
A stone grated open on the wall that approximated an entrance. An apathetic and wheedling voice came through the hole. “The Judge will be ready to see you once he has heard all the cases before you. You will receive regular checkups so the Celestial Bureaucracy encourages you not to give up hope. Rest assured that if you die of old age before your court hearing, you will be exonerated of all charges less severe than a level 4 offense.”
“Well, this is miles better than paradox…” Caiden said out loud to himself before turning to the rest of the prisoners. “I’m sorry your return to Yu-Shan had to be like this. Now at least you see firsthand just how corrupt it is.
“The Gold Faction is no doubt aware of this, and I’m sure it will all be resolved here shortly. The one time Luna did find out about one of her chosen being wrongly imprisoned, the offending Sidereal was gifted with paperwork that took her 183 years to complete. Though I’m not counting on such luck this time, given how intense the Games have become lately…”
He pulled a prayer strip out and began tracing the Scripture of the Chosen Path.
“I realize things are must different than what you may remember of the First Age. The Incarnae have all but passed complete authority of Yu Shan to the Bureau of Heaven and the Bureau of Destiny – gods and Sidereals alike. Much of the Gold Faction legislation to allow the Solars’ return to Yu Shan has been met with fierce opposition by the Bronze Faction and their allies. At best, it will be another decade before any progress is made, especially without an Eclipse to represent the voice of Solars.”
Caiden paused, realizing that this wasn’t the most exciting topic to be listening to. “The good news is, even though charms can’t reach past this prison, prayers still can.”
He smirked, letting his now finished prayer strip rise just above standing height before it vanished in the fading sign of Mercury.
“Oh, good. I was just going to ask that…” Zaela stood up and went to the front of their chamber.
“As I understand it, as a Chosen of Sol Invictus at Zenith, I am considered a priestess of all Gods.” She pulled open her pack and withdrew a crystal and a set of incense sticks – the Lions had investigated her bag but left it with her when they saw it contained nothing but her clothes, jewelry, and a few personal items. “And as such, my prayers will be heard by any such I address. I suppose now would be a good time to test that.”
She set the pack down and touched the crystal to the tips of the incense stick, setting them smoldering and filling the air with their sweet haze. Zaela began tracing the elegant glyphs of High Holy Speech in the air before and around her, and her caste mark blazed as she began speaking.
“My Lord and My King, Most Holy Unconquered Sun. And all the Gods and Incarnae in Heaven. I am Zaela Tokari, Sun Chosen at Zenith, servant of truth. I beg you hear my pleas.
I and my companions came to Heaven today on our way to Mount Meru, to gain aid against our enemies and Creation’s Enemies No sooner had we stepped foot in Heaven than one of the Chosen of the Maidens placed us under arrest and will not tell us the charges! We have committed no crime against your people, done you no wrong, and seek only to protect our peoples from those who would hurt them. This is not justice, to hold without cause, without redress.
Please, o Most Righteous, Most Just, Most Noble of Beings: help us save our people, and release us from this unjust imprisonment. Sol Invictus, I beg of you, come to the aid of the one whom you personally Chose so I may aid others in Your Name.”
Zaela pinched away the smoldering tips of the incense and sunk to a kneel, waiting patiently.
The first sign was a voice speaking outside muffled by the thick White Jade walls. The voice was shortly joined by a second and a third. Then a loud shout, almost discernible, was followed by a crowd of voices of all tenors. This went on for over half an hour. The circle was only able to listen to the murmurs and wait.
The outside wall of the prison rumbled and split cleanly then began to sink into the floor. The sinking wall revealed the silhouette of a massive blocky figure while sun beams filled the room. The figure stepped into the jail. He had the overall appearance of a golem or a mountain that had risen up. Standing nine feet tall and half as wide, he was intimidating but held an aura of dignity made friendly by a wide smile on his face.
“Hail friends. My name is Mondul the Reliable, god of White Jade, and I am here to rescue you. Lucky for you the whole prison is made out of my domain. Come now, you’ve been summoned by a fellow friend.” His massive bulk turned and let in more sun light.
As the once-prisoners stepped forward into the light their eyes took a moment to adjust. A chorus of voices began to cheer. Mondul gestured forward at the long corridor of gods of all sizes and colors stretching into the horizon. “You’re not the only one who still remembers the old ways.” Mondul’s voice rumbled happily. “Gods have long memories and those like me don’t change easily.” The Chosen of the Sun strode down the procession lined with cheering gods calling for the return of the Unconquered Sun.
The long road pointed straight into the heart of Yu-Shan and the mountainous building at its center shining with the full light of the Sun. Mondul leaned over Zaela as if to share a joke with a close friend over the roar of the crowd. “You’ve been summoned to the Jade Pleasure Dome.”
Zaela smiled and nodded to Mondul, putting on her “Court” face and trying not to falter in the face of so many people staring at her in her travel leathers and overall grubbiness. Even the brilliant Zenith caste-mark on her brow couldn’t make her feel appropriate to this place.
She cast a look over at Caiden, imploringly, and whispered. “…what’s the Jade Pleasure Dome?”
Caiden’s brow furrowed more in anger than in thought. “The Jade Pleasure Dome. It lies at the heart of Yu Shan, mirroring the location of the Imperial Mountain in Creation – and it is nearly as vast. Within it is perhaps the most complex machinations to exist in our time: The Games of Divinity.” He looked around, noting that several nearby gods had perked up at that last part.
“Suffice it to say, it is a highly engaging game that the Primordials used to play when they resided here. There are hundreds of chambers and offices within that the Incarnae frequently hold meetings in, but the bulk of what you see ahead is taken up by the Games.” He lowered his voice as much as he could, “I can speak no further of it here – I would urge you to avoid any contact with it at all costs.”
They crested one hill and began to make progress towards another, noting something in their path.
Five Maidens that bastard is persistent. Severin stood in the middle of the path, flanked by Amantythae and Kasimodente – two of the Hidden Judges of the Secret Flame. Behind him stood a dozen rows of Celestial Lions, occupying the full width of the road ahead. This can’t be good.
The sound of great fire rushing from behind him made Caiden think Severin had some ambush from behind as well. After an instinctive duck, the flames passed overhead and landed in the form of a great chariot in front of them, pulled by two majestic white-flame stallions. A tall and imposing goddess held the reins, her armor as radiant as the sun upon morning waters.
“By order of the Incarnae, I am here to deliver these Celestial Exalts to the Jade Pleasure Dome, under my authority as Nysela, Charioteer of the Sun.” She produced a prayer strip inscribed with the Scripture of the Golden Path, and signed personally by Mercury. It took the form of a shining sphere that shot down the path, doubling its width and dislocating all that stood before them. “All that interfere with this journey will be delivered directly to the Incarnae to explain why they did so.”
The Exalts boarded Nysela’s chariot at her beckon, and the vehicle bolted down the path at incredible speed. Caiden took special notice of Sevrin’s top hat that was trampled on the newly made path.