The Binding of the Lady of the Lagoons

The only ingredient that Li-varili still needed for Her Curse was a broken song. She summoned to Her side Her loyal nereids Oinone, Iaira, and Klaia, who had all helped Her Bloodtide Coven perform this ritual, then coldly asked for Her mortals to determine which nereid should be sacrificed to complete the curse. Each nereid panicked, begging and imploring to be spared, but Li-varili spared no emotion for their plight. They each possessed part of the Lady Drocilla’s song, and any one of them would do for Her curse.

It was Uzriel d’Vanecu who announced Iaira should perish, justifying that the nereid had spoken against his wife, Sapphira, and ought to be punished. What he did not say was that he knew well Iaira had helped Li-varili betray Drocilla and thus sealed her fate in his eyes. The other nereids were quick to agree, expressing how powerful Iaira was as a sorceress, and would likely be a boon to the ritual. Proud Iaira pled her case – that her considerable power would be better used in life, that she had so much more still to offer – but it was no use. The Coven was decided. They all watched as the nereid perished in the cauldron, the last notes of her song fading in the air, and then it happened.

A plume of smoke arose as Li-varili’s maddened cackling rang throughout all of Lusternia, and one by one, the Elders who wronged Her were snuffed out, only able to cry out that one ingredient was still left to gather to counter the Curse — Something about the unfortunate? — before disappearing in the unending abyss of the Lady of the Lagoons’ vengeful anger. Even Her supposed ally, the Enchantress, was trapped in the undertow of Li-varili’s rage.

The entirety of the Basin of Life was cursed, and mired in the abyss of the Sunken Heart.

Perhaps it would not have come to pass had Li-varili wielded Her own magic only, but, alerted by the Bloodtide Coven of the Elders’ efforts, She reached for the Seal of Justice to augment Her power and to be able to cast Her curse before the Elders thwarted Her. Victorious, She turned to restore that which She loved the most – Keltari, the Sea-Bringer. “May the waters give Me back the life that was stolen from Me! Arise! Arise!” She demanded as She began to weave a facsimile of what a living being ought to be.

All seemed lost for those who sought to oppose Li-varili, for the Lady of the Lagoons had gained at last what She desired most: revenge on those who had dared take Her child, the Sea Spirit, away from Her. The mirror of distorted visions within Carakhan’s Fulcrux now reflected a haunting scene for any who gazed within it: that of the returned Elder Gods of Lusternia embroiled in a bitter conflict with the Lady Li-varili, each trapped in Their own personal torment as They drowned in the abyss of Her sunken heart.

Even so, Li-varili’s rage was not limited to the Elder Gods. Her curse, too, mired the mortals of the Basin of Life in the throes of Her anger, Her grief, and Her madness, filling their minds with fog and slowing their actions with doubt and uncertainty.

It had become more and more evident that the Lady of the Lagoons had lost touch with reality as She shouted Her taunts and cries, lovingly caring for the version of Keltari that She poured all Her essence and the raw power of the Seal of Justice into, speaking to the lifeless husk as if it was the Sea-Bringer Themself. Surely even mortals could witness how futile such an action was, but it did not stop Li-varili in Her pursuit, blindly following Her will to return the impossible back to Herself.

Undaunted, however, those left behind by their Elders sought to make sense of Their parting words. One ingredient had remained, but what? And then as the Unjustly Dead manifested in answer to the Lady of the Lagoons’ maddened desire to return Keltari, the shambling corpses of the drowned proved to be not so much an intrusion as a salvation. For was it not the “Unfortunate” that Terentia tried to speak of before the curse took hold?

Determined bands of mortals defeated the various drowned souls that had perished in the unfortunate floods of the Sea Spirits rampage and in other cruel storms, dispatching them swiftly from the cities and communes as well as the realms of the gods that had become infested with the undead. One by one they were brought to the mirror within Carakhan’s Fulcrux, and as it surged with power, at last the efforts of the Elder Gods were completed, and the curse of the Sunken Heart broken.

A brilliant white light cleared the storm clouds from the firmament as Li-varili’s hold on the imprisoned Star Gods evaporated like smoke, the curse’s hold on the mortals of the Basin likewise releasing like a hand that no longer seized their heart and soul.

Now choking Her in the penumbral hold of Her own curse, Li-varili screamed as She drew even more strength from the Seal of Justice, the bromeliads linking Her to the Seal pulsing a bloody crimson hue as they died on the stem: their essence devoured as swiftly as it blossomed forth. The manifestation of Keltari She had so laboured upon flickered and faded, becoming naught but a mirage of salt and sea on the wind.

A horrifying scream ripped from Li-varili’s throat as She broke through the vine-woven cloak She had made for Herself, this time reaching for the Seal of Justice directly. She clutched it like a drowning woman might reach for the splintered remains of her ship, or how a lover might reach for their dying beloved’s hand one last time, so desperate and maddened was Her gaze.

“If you will not come back to Me, then I will destroy everything!” Li-varili screamed. “If I cannot have you, if I will be denied everything, then I shall deny the world of its own salvation! This is My Justice!”

And with a wicked grin, madness in Her wild eyes, Li-varili took the Seal of Justice in Her hands and broke it, causing a ripple of power to stretch across the entirety of Lusternia in the artifact’s senseless destruction. It was like watching Creation itself unravel, so surreal was the impact — for unlike the Eye’s shattering, it was instead like watching the first of several proud mountains fall, each Seal beginning to fade in answer as their protective hold on the Basin of Life began to waver visibly.

A terrible primal fear gripped all present as the Goddess laughed with delight at the inevitable end of Her actions, seeming to welcome the apocalypse in the absence of Her victory. “Nothing matters anymore,” the Lady of the Lagoons shouted, turning Her wild eyes on the other Seals in Her desperation. “Let Us just see it end. Why not. Everything else has been taken from Me. Why not this, too?”

It was none other than the voice of the Enchantress that reached for Li-varili, crooning, “Dear Li, sweet Li, what pain You have endured… Come, allow Me to take some of it from You…” And perhaps it was this moment of weakness, this despair at having lost all else, that caused for the Keeper of Song’s melody to lull Li-varili for but a moment, causing Her anger to shift to confusion.

And as the Seal fell from Her hands, the onslaught began in an instant.

The clash of Terentia’s twin blades pressed Li-varili to the ground, while the shadows of the Silent Lord bound Her in place within their dark grip. The bindings shimmered with new power as the prismatic essence of the Bloom of Serenity interwove itself with the healing light of the Empyreal Goddess, bound together with the sugar-spun energies of the Epicurean Lord to strengthen them anew. In a burst of water, Carakhan revealed pearlescent manacles that snapped onto the captured Goddess’s wrists, locking Her in place as Mysrai chanted a spellbinding ritual over them that caused the chains to glitter with strange, cosmic power. As Li-varili writhed and screamed, the song of the Enchantress continued to sedate Her, finally resulting in the maddened Awakener falling, reluctantly, to sleep.

No longer would Li-varili’s actions be borne in silence. She had broken the Eye of Dynara in Her awakening of the Sea Spirit, and with it, flooded all of Lusternia in violent storms. She had upon Her return cursed the Elders to suffer Her vengeance, left to drown for a thousand years of torment in answer for Her time in the Morokeche Seat. She had cursed all mortals with the mired abyss of Her Sunken Heart. Perhaps most unforgivable of all, She had deliberately destroyed the Seal to risk bringing forth Kethuru once more.

“We have suffered much from this month’s trials,” Terentia said among the Elders. “Let Us recover, for She will not awaken for some time. Drocilla’s music is potent, and the manacles that Carakhan have shaped will not waver. Li-varili will be neutralized until it is time for Her judgment.” For now, Ascension was nigh, and Avechna called forth to announce the time of trials. All judgment would have to wait until then.

The Lady of the Lagoons had been neutralized, but even now, much chaos has been left in Her wake. May the mortals who have survived Her rage be more than equal to it, and a new Ascendant arise once more to defeat the evils unleashed in Her fury.