OPEN ARE THE DOUBLE-DOORS OF THE HORIZON…
Every entrance had been covered with Parabola-Linen, every wall in Viric fabric. A matrix of mirrors occupies most of the room, expanding the single mourning-candle’s fire into an irrefutable radiance. You stand at the center of it all, and your associates at the corners.
The Arbiter of Alterations looks deep into a moon-pearl, white as falling snow, white as sclera, white as bone, and dramatically whispers, "It is time."
Answers the Confessor in his usual monotone. Nobody dares breathe.
His fingers flip to the right page, and the ritual begins.
"Who cometh to the Gate in summer shall be met with a sword of ice.
And who cometh to the Gate in winter shall be met with a sword of fire.
None shall enter save those that sip honey.
None shall leave save those that devour.
Yet shall we dwell therein forever."
The mirrors begin unfolding, like the petals of a refractive rose. A wild wind blows from nowhere to nowhere. The candle’s wick dances to its rhythm. Everybody but yourself is covered in shadow, unrecognizable. The Arbiter’s voice demands, "Proceed."
The Confessor of Brightness coughs, and then begins with a troubling baritone.
"When we leave the light, we encounter the darkness."
You snuff out the candle. The room plunges into complete blackness. If one were to wrap Thirsty Bombazine around their eyes, they would see more than you see now.
"When we leave the darkness, we do not always encounter light."
An unexpected splendour blinds you. The mirrors emit a metallic whistling as they ripple and rupture, split and envelop, unfold each into a door, or a river.
A silence hangs.
"Y-yes, of course." You exhale, inhale, exhale again. With your voice back in your throat, you begin to intone.
"When I die, yet shall I not die. The hour of my death shall be chosen, yet no man shall choose it. I am eternal, and yet my reign is circumscrib’d by law and Fate. I will feast at my funeral, and my child shall be my cup-bearer."
The river-doors creak open. The Arbiter of Alterations passes beside one, carrying in its hands a shard of a mirror. The Oneiric Key. Without the bandages, the Arbiter is as transparent as a ghost. The shard, more than that.
"I believe you have experience with these, so you should know what needs to be done. Don the crown."
You take the key, and slide it in between your ribs. Something within you opens. When you next open your eyes, the crown is upon you, in all its gore and glory.
The Boatman is quite worried by this new development.
Take me to the horizon.
The Boatman’s teeth clatter against each other. Laughter, or fear? He consults his little black book. "You should be here. You’re all of you mine in the end."
You are quite mistaken, old soul.
The Brass Embassy has taken their soul.
The Great Gate has taken their skin.
The Fingerkings have taken their sinew.
The Riddlefishers have taken their bones.
The Gallblighters have taken their sight.
The Frost-Moth has taken their life.
And now I don what remains.
"And? You are still here."
I am just as dead as I am alive. Not at all.
"You make unwise choices. Do me the courtesy of never coming back here."
The Arbiter of Alterations and the Confessor of Brightness are arguing over a corpse.
"We had done everything right, it must work."
"We had not.
Your newest horrid voice might have been enough to disturb their transformation."
"Why, yes. The Arbiter of Alterations, a viper who had spent all its life changing people, would go ahead and sabotage the most important rite it had ever conducted. How reasonable of you, Confessor."
"I know my voice is as clear as it needs to be.
I had only said what the two of you told me to."
"And I had told the two of you everything you would have needed to do to execute the rite correctly. We need only wait."
The corpse begins to stir, a hole erupts upon its naked chest. Out peers a frost-moth of impressive size, and bright green-and-gold wings, viric and cosmogone.
The Moulting Eidolon emerges alongside it. Freed from the Is, they are greater than they ever were. More complex, sharper, more vivid. They have donned a misshapen crown and robes of light and shadow. Their face is missing, as if broken off, revealing the Eidolon’s hollow insides.
"Ah, see. I told you it was a success!"
"That it was.
I hoped the taste of failure would dissuade you from ever contacting me again."
"You attitude has done an admirable job in that regard, Confessor."
"I am very glad to hear that.
Arbiter of Alterations."
If nobody needs me, I shall proceed upstream to my rightful kingdom.
"Ah, wait. Wait. I cannot let you go alone. To govern alone! That would be quite a disaster, you understand. You’ll need my assistance, Dearest."
The moth is coming with us too, then.
The frost-moth in question had already managed to settle the Eidolon’s left shoulder, and whispered something unclear into their ear.
"I trust the Confessor is quite done with this project, yes?"
"You are regrettably correct.
I hope to never meet again."
The possessed urchin stumbles at the lack of a name to refer to his reborn acquaintance with.
"You do have a title in mind, don’t you, Dearest?"
The Pontifex of Metamorphoses.
“Good choice. But you aren’t hoping to begin a faith, are you? London’s bad ground for religion, old or new. You might consider entertaining Paris, though. How does Paris sound?”
Splendid. Amets had been there once, or imagined they had.
The two went into one of the many gate-channels leading dreamwards, talking of the Pontifex’s near future.