Was it already morning? Ahmad grunted as he felt a familiar furry paw bat at his nose and chin while he attempted to catch a few extra moments of sleep. Trying to prevent the genocide of your people with a simple letter was tiring work. The laptop was still open on his nightstand, the lightning elemental that inhabited it visible on the corner of the screen, asleep on top of the redundant battery indicator. He looked over the first few paragraphs from his reclined position, to see if he needed to make any revisions.
To the esteemed leadership of the Horizon Initiative-
First, We of the Broken One hope you are having a pleasant holiday season. We ourselves are preparing to celebrate the winter solstice. Now, we know how busy things can be at this time of year, but, on behalf of the people of my faith, I wish to bring some matters of concern to your immediate and full attention… . Also, I would like to apologize for any alarm or inconvenience we may have caused by delivering this missive to every Church, Mosque, and Temple in this land's current capital city. I did not know who was loyal to your cause.
The puffercat began to protest his procrastination even more vocally, now that it knew Ahmad was awake. He gently scratched behind the cat's ears. "You can wait ten minutes, Rudolf."
The sharp, quick pain in his chest seconds later told him that it was breakfast time, damn it, and there was to be no argument. After extracting the furry grump from its resting place by his chest, he slipped into the small, wood-paneled washroom across from his bed. There he cleansed himself and got dressed slowly, gingerly putting on his formal robes and combing the tangles from his hair and beard.
Ahmad shivered at the cold draft coming under the door of his hut, causing his robes to billow up slightly. This fresh burst of air brought into his hut the scent of old books and fresh food, bringing a smile to his face. Curiously, the greasy fruit smell that the Docents' lamps produced was also faintly discernible. The fact that the Library's presence could be felt from this far into the small city that had developed in the Reading Room was fascinating to him.
Ahmad's messenger falcon, Jasmine, slept in the corner, still tired from the previous day's hunt. Remembering the last time he had unexpected guests in his home here, he felt it was a good thing. Many unfamiliar faces would be coming in and out throughout the day, and he really didn't want a repeat of the Fifthist incident. The ambassador had been in an uproar over the perceived slight (which, considering the man's temperament, seemed fairly common for him), but Ahmad had convinced the Stargazer to relax and have a bit of a chat over coffee, once he got the bleeding stopped. They met one day a month now to play chess and discuss their respective worldviews.
His eyes fell upon the memorial shrine in the corner, holding pictures of his wife and all those who were lost in the Horizon assault. The old priest sighed.
So much death, so much destruction. Why were so many bent on ensuring his people's annihilation? And, by the oil of the Broken One, why must it always be the most peaceful of their people who were slain? It all started with The Betrayer, the God-Breaker Ab-Leshal. Then came the Daevite invasion, the fall of Constantinople, the goddamn Inquisition. The Brass Crusades. The Crusades better known to the public… and the Salem Witch Trials. His people always got caught in the middle of a conflict from their own arrogance and aggressiveness, and it was always the peaceful members who paid the final price. He had long preached that the Church's reliance on fear and cultural and theological posturing would be their downfall, as it was for many others, and now, part of their god had died because of their anger and self-righteousness.
It was time to rectify this behavior before any more lives were lost.
It was time to complete his mission in the Library.
It was time for The Broken One to become Whole.
But first, he needed coffee. This was going to be a difficult day.
Ahmad was about a minute away from the door of his home before he noticed that the door was hanging open, and he heard the protestations of Jasmine, his messenger falcon. He rushed through the door, nearly dropping the coffee and cream he had brought back, and saw that his room had been torn apart and searched. A quick scan of the room after he set the two items in his hand on a counter showed that nothing was missing, but the air felt… heavier. It was then that he noticed that his laptop was open and the lightning elemental that powered it was cowering behind the task bar on the bottom of the screen. Something or someone powerful had been here, and had broken into his computer to see his current "project." He looked over the letter to make sure there were no changes made to it.
He paused in his review to drink his coffee, and began to clean up some of the room, attempting to hurry, since the visiting artists were going to be there within the hour. Eventually, his age caught up to him in the mad dash to make the room presentable, and he was forced to rest. Ahmad decided to continue re-reading his letter, so that he wasn't sitting idly. He skipped ahead slightly.
… Now, why this attack was executed on a peaceful colony, we can only venture to guess, though we have a feeling it is because of the extreme views and actions of our foreign cousins. We knew that their foolhardy actions would bring a disaster like this upon our heads, but we had hoped to be able to curb their extremism in time to prevent your group, as well as the Holders of the Heart and the Cog-breakers, from wishing to take action against us. Sadly, it was not to be so.
The first of several expected knocks on Ahmad's door that day rang in his ears, interrupting his observation of the destruction in his room and review of the letter. He opened it to find three men standing there. One was tall and thin enough to cause the old priest to be concerned for the boy's health, and wearing a rather ridiculous outfit composed of various animal furs and what looked to him like black tarpaulin, held together with a length of rope, and crowned off with a pair of those ridiculous shutter shades that seemed to be all the rage among American children and teens these days. He had a very aloof air about him, and refused to meet Ahmad's gaze, instead staring at the pile of Ahmad's belongings on the floor. The second was dressed marginally more normally and looked slightly healthier, though with exceptionally tight pants, an utter lack of any color coordination, and a shaggy mane of lime-green hair. This one stared at the mechanical prosthesis that composed Ahmad's left arm briefly, before cocking his head and staring into the older man's eyes with a bemused look on his face, searching for… something. Ahmad couldn't read the man's emotions as easily as he could most other people. His body language was almost robotic, an observation which amused the old priest.
Finally, Ahmad came to the one he had hoped to see there that day. He was of average height, though a bit skinny, and had close-cropped hair and a face framed by thick glasses, large holes in his ears where Ahmad presumed earrings rested whenever he wasn't engaged in his work for the Broken One. Ahmad noted the intricate animated tattoos of gears and other machinery covering his arms from the elbows down, and a form-fitting brown robe and pants covering the rest of his body. Jahongir 'Jon' Ahnkori, a Machinist-initiate who was skilled in the Craft… He was almost exactly what this situation called for. Ahmad supposed that he chose to wear his uniform out of respect, though the current setting didn't demand it. Jon stared at the older man's feet, and twisted his arms in the proper show of deference for his superiors before bowing.
The man in the shutter-shades spoke first, sliding into the doorway around Ahmad. He shook debris off of a chair only to slouch into it and lean against the wall. "Damn, Preach. Looks like you pissed someone off, huh? You sure this place is as safe as you told us it would be?"
"Oh, this? I suppose someone decided to remodel my home without informing me first. Nothing appears to be missing, at any rate. I wouldn't mind a bit of assistance cleaning it up, though." He smiled and stepped aside, allowing Jon and the green-haired man entry.
Unsurprisingly, Jon was the first to move to fill his request, straightening out the furniture and repairing the damage done to the Valley Memorial altar in the corner with a brief touch and a surge of energy. After about a minute of awkwardly standing in a corner of the room, the green-haired man joined him, and with a flourish of his arms, telekinetically lifted all of Ahmad's clothing off of the ground, and placed them back in the drawers and closet, muttering something that to Ahmad's ears sounded like "Bibbity boppity boo."
American mages and their strange customs baffled the elder priest of the Broken God.
Jon and Shutter-shades looked slightly weakened from the green-haired man's effort, with Shutter-shades visibly angry at him. "Goddamnit, James, why the hell did you do that? You know we didn't work up enough energy in…" He paused and briefly flicked his eyes to Ahmad before continuing. It was obvious he was attempting to hide the source of their talents. "… To do shit like that. Jon fixing a broken cabinet is one thing, that's just fucking wasteful."
'James' as the man wearing the fur and tarp called him, brushed the verdant locks of hair out of his eyes, "Well, Frankie, if you'd gotten off of your ass to help, I might not have needed to do it." The man looked at Ahmad, and then, in a stage whisper, he added, jerking a thumb in the old priest's direction, "Besides, aren't we on the clock for this guy? If we show off, we might get a bonus."
Frankie stood up, heaving his breath. "Fiiiine. Jesus. I just know I got asked to come here to meet a priest and see if I wanted to accept a contract, not play maid. Should I go get a skirt and apron on? Maybe some sexy heels?"
Ahmad let out a booming laugh, and shook his head, drawing all the men's attention. "No, no, I think your…" He looked at the tarp-and-fur ensemble, trying to find an appropriate word. "Clothes… are fine as they are for the task at hand. Would you gentlemen like coffee while we work?"
A chorus of agreement met his ears, so he dug into the cabinet for a few cups and his sugar jar, all of which were thankfully unbroken by the mystery invader. He poured coffee for the four of them, and then left the cream and sugar for each to add individually.
Jon approached his elder, and spoke softly in the Broken tongue, keeping his eyes averted. "Thank you, Machinist. I apologize for my friends' ignorance and attitude."
Ahmad smiled, observing the tattoos on Jon's arms whirring and spinning. "It isn't your fault they're obnoxious. Besides, you warned me that these two bickered like they were married in the reply you sent. Ah! Finally, I get a grin out of you!" The old priest paused to sip from his coffee and smiled, clapping the younger man on the shoulder, noticing him flinching as his hand met Jon's arm. "You shouldn't be so serious with me, child. I am not like the others in the Council."
"That much was apparent in your letter. I just… don't wish to disrespect you, sir, even accidentally."
It was then that Ahmad noticed the oil burns on the younger man's chest and neck. His eyes softened, and he removed his hand from Jon's shoulder. "You don't have to worry about that with me, Jahongir. To be quite frank, I am nothing like that bastard you've been training under." Jon's eyes widened at his statement, clearly put off by Ahmad's furious tone and manner of speaking. The older priest put the coffee cup down, and began quietly sweeping everything in the room into a pile to be sorted out. No one spoke for several minutes. Eventually, the room was back into a reasonably presentable shape. Frankie spoke up again as the work came to a close, brushing some dust off the fur on his shoulders.
“So, gramps, what, exactly, did you call us here for?”
Ahmad smiled as he stroked the chest of his falcon, and then turned to the three artists.
“Boys, I asked you here to do something that no one else of this age will ever be able to say that they have done.”
They looked at him inquisitively as he sipped from his coffee cup, intentionally building suspense. Ahmad knew he needed to play to their egos and flair for the dramatic for them to cooperate. The priest pressed a button hidden on the perch inside his falcon's cage. The rear wall of the room opened. A tangled snarl of gears, metal, and chains lay approximately twenty feet from them, deep within a hidden alcove, lit by a few overhead spotlights.
“You’re going to be repairing and rebuilding a god.”
Ahmad briefly showed them around the room, pointing out the hidden exits, supplies, tool room, their quarters, and the prayer and spell books that he had collected from the Library over the last decade, just for an occasion like this. Frankie spoke first, taking off his unusual glasses, displaying the kaleidoscopic eyes underneath them. "Thank god I'm wearing these reclaimed plastic pants, Preach."
The Machinist looked at the young man. "And why's that?"
"I think I just came a little." The man traced his fingers over the pile of books as Ahmad gagged on his coffee, and stared at the tapestry. "Holy fuck, man… If you'd said this in that letter, I would have been here by the time I finished reading. This is just perfect to show up that little punk-ass Jamal back home." He began pantomiming an imagined conversation between himself and this 'Jamal'. "'Oh look at me, I made an invisible shark, and got those crazy MIB fuckers after my ass' 'Yeah? Well Fuck. You. Jamal. I've made a GOD, bitch!'" The man settled into a chair and muttered to himself "Man, I'm gonna get so much pussy thrown at me for this. 'Why yes, ladies, I did build a god. Wanna see what other heavenly work I can do?' "
As soon as Ahmad could find his voice, he turned to James. "What about you… James, was it?"
James ran his fingers through his hair, stretching his back. "I don't know about all this 'Broken God' shit, considering I'm a follower of Neo-Paganist Methodic Confucianism, but Frankie's right. This is too interesting a project to pass up. I'm gonna get started reading." He immediately set himself to it, pulling a book off the top of the pile with a flick of his wrist.
"Of course. Take today to get yourselves acquainted with the books and your role to play, and get used to Jahongir leading your rituals."
"What? Why is he taking the lead on this?" James looked insulted. Ahmad returned his gaze, before turning away and observing the tapestry showing the Lord in his completed glory.
"Because I know he is and will be more dedicated to seeing this through, no matter the cost, and I trust him. Do you disagree with my assessment?" A strange, abrupt thud caused him to turn around. "Jahongir, what do you… oh."
The young priest had fainted. Ahmad's face was somewhere between amusement and concern.
"Well, I'm glad to see that someone understands the gravity of the task at hand."
Ahmad grabbed some smelling salts from his room and brought the young man back to consciousness.
"Once you've composed yourself, I expect you to get to work as well…" He paused and stood, walking out of the room. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I must prepare my room for a visit from an old friend in the Office of Reclamation back in my wife's homeland."
The priest left the three artists behind to prepare their work. As the wall shut, he shouted across the hallway.
"Good luck, gentlemen!"
After this, Ahmad sat at his laptop and continued to work on his letter while he waited for the Reclamations Officer to arrive. That man was always running behind schedule, so the priest knew he would have time.
With that, I come to the main point of this letter. The 1500 lives who were taken from Oolzhak Le’an, or as you refer to Him, The Broken God. By murdering these people through your men, you have forever denied their choice to accept the Blessing of our Lord and thus, one day, be united with Him. As you can imagine, this is a rather large point of contention between myself and the other priests of the Broken as far as what the appropriate response would be here. Some of us have been preparing, since we learned of the attack, to mobilize against your organization. This is in fact the favored action of He-Who-Is-Most-Whole.
Others, myself included, think that this is a very foolish decision, considering the damage that less than a fraction of a percent of your membership caused in a single afternoon.
In short, gentlemen of the Horizon Tribunal, though I know you would probably consider it a weight off your shoulders if we were all gone, I need your help to prevent my people's suicide. I have a proposal that you may find interesting and, certainly, mutually beneficial if you read on…