Leg Post 110 sees Mantle and Imhoptah arrive on the Fayrie owned planet of Zeebat Eight, however it has been conquered by the Greyarchy. The two are accosted by a Greyarchy soldier, but Mantle manipulates the threads of fate to convince the soldier to allow them to go. They find a house where Mantle detects the threads of people, but are interrogated by a woman named Mietta when they approach. They explain that they're not spies but offworlders and they are allowed inside where they meet the fayries and the old man named Nerifian. Mietta explains that she is a Henry that travelled to find the power of a nexus, much like the Greyarchy, and feels empowered by the aether of Zeebat Eight. The fayries are here after they split from The Imperium, leaving their original homes on Neptune and Uranus, so that they could seek to recover their ability to procreate. They had lost the ability to innovate or act for themselves due to the convenience of Monde, the super computer, as found in Pan Post ??. Now they have begun to innovate again, but still no children. With the recreation of an ultranexus on Earth, in Pan Post ??, Nerifan has begun to gain vigour and youth. Imhoptah thinks that Mantle may be able to help the fayries, but Nerifan believes they need to deal with the Greyarchy before considering such a large action.
Last of Their Kind
Stepping through the doorway, Mantle looks in awe around him. Cobblestone streets wend their way between buildings made out of something that looks like well-polished bronze, though it's hard to see very far, as blue fog shrouds everything. Threads are everywhere, vibrant and strange and new, twisting and writhing within the fog.
Mantle: "Hmm, place smells like one of Uncle Eq's farts after a night-long liquor bender."
Mantle glances at the doorway through which they just emerged. No longer connecting to another world, it looks like the entrance to a small shop. Looking back around, he starts to note some oddities. Several cobblestones are torn up, and there look to be scorch marks. The exteriors of the buildings look damaged in some cases, as though by battle.
And that is exactly what the threads tell him, that the buildings have been wounded, collateral damage in a fight.
Imhoptah: "Hmm, wasn't like this last time I was here."
Greyarchy Patrolman: "You there! What are you doing? It's past curfew! I need to see your permits."
Mantle turns to see a diminutive Grey, clad in bulky armor save for his bald gray head. He is wielding a chainaxe, and a heavy pistol is holstered on his hip. His threads are a strange combination of bored and ruthless; this is a man who uses violence at the drop of a hat, due to some kind of alien military training, but one who doesn't think much of it, seeing it only as his job, and his religious duty.
Mantle: "Sorry, sir. We just stepped out for a bit of a fresh air. We'll go back inside."
He gestures to the small shop whose doorway they just left.
Greyarchy Patrolman: "Hmph. Open your windows next time. You're not a native, and you still like this confounded air? Barmy, the lot of you. I'm tempted to just put a laser through your skulls and be done with it."
Imhoptah: "What, and have a lot of paperwork to fill out?"
Greyarchy Patrolman: "Paperwork? What are you talking about? This is the Greyarchy! Putting holes in a couple of local troublemakers' heads is nothing!"
Mantle mentally reaches out and tugs on one of the Grey's threads.
Greyarchy Patrolman: "Bah, you two aren't worth even the minimal drain to my pistol's power pack. Inside with you, and don't let me see you again!"
Mantle nods, and tugs the six-armed smith into the shop with him, as the Grey stomps off, his boots rattling the cobblestones with every step.
Imhoptah: "Conquered by Greys. That's new."
Mantle: "I've heard a couple rumors back home. But I've met a few Greys, and they were nothing like this one, and never talked about a Greyarchy."
Imhoptah: "That's because the Greyarchy is an empire of Greys from a timeline alternate to yours. Hmm, shop appears to be empty."
According to the threads.
Mantle: "You mentioned aether. What is aether?"
Imhoptah: "What? The finest schools of the Ivory Pride didn't teach you?"
Mantle: "Er, no, I'm from a skulk. That was my first time visiting a pride. Uncle Eq did his best to educate me, but..."
He raps on the shiny, apparently bronze, wall of the shop.
Imhoptah: "--is solid magic. Hmm, this place reminds me a bit of Atlantis, with all the orichalcum used in construction."
Mantle: "A magical people live here then?"
Imhoptah: "Yes, it's a colony of fayries."
The swaying of one of the impossible smith's knotted threads as he speaks clues Mantle in to the weird spelling.
Mantle: "What are those?"
Imhoptah: "Well, I'll show you, as soon as we can find one."
Mantle looks around at the threads, and follows them with his vision. When he wants, he can see threads on the other sides of solid objects, and so has no trouble seeing threads for several blocks around.
Mantle: "Looks like there's people a few buildings over. In a basement."
Imhoptah: "To the basement then!"
The six-armed smith goes behind the counter and tugs open a hatch leading to the shop's basement.
Mantle: "That's this shop's basement, not the basement we want-- Oh."
He stops as he remembers Imhoptah's impossible methods of transport. They descend, and soon find themselves in a cellar, with voices coming from the other side of a rack of wine barrels.
Female Voice: "What the-- I hear something! We have intruders!"
On the heels of that proclamation, a woman zips around the wine barrels to face them, hands planted on her hips as she glares at them. She is evidently human, though she's over six feet tall and rippling muscle. Her hair is bold red and cropped short.
A donkey-headed man comes around the barrels then, looking past her. There is a sword and a pistol on his hips, but he hasn't drawn them.
Asshead: "Not Greys, Mietta."
The muscular redhead nods but still regards the pair skeptically. More ass-headed men and women peer around the wine barrels.
Mietta: "They're no one from the colony. Could be spies."
Mantle: "Sorry, we're from offworld. We were accosted by Greys upon, um, landing, and managed to talk our way out. Hoping to find some friendly faces."
Mietta: "You talked your way out of trouble with those fanatics? Still, I hear truth in your words. I think they're okay, Nerifian, but I'll keep an eye on them."
The donkey-headed man nods and steps out from behind the redheaded woman. There is a lot of gray in his hair, but the majority of it is still dark.
Nerifian: "Welcome to Zeebat Eight. Sorry we're in such a troubled state."
Mantle: "Hardly your fault. Why were you invaded?"
The threads have indicated clearly to him that the Greys are not native, and are hostile, so it's obvious what happened.
Nerifian: "Why does any despot invade a place?"
Imhoptah: "They were attracted to the aether here. The Greyarchy is seeking an ultranexus."
Nerifian: "What, like the one on Earth in ancient times?"
Imhoptah: "Or the new one that is on Earth now."
Nerifian and the other donkey-headed people look surprised at this.
Mietta: "That would explain the strange new vigor you and the others started experiencing recently, your majesty. You were almost entirely gray before then."
Nerifian pats her shoulder affectionately.
Nerifian: "Indeed it would."
Asshead #2: "Hey, if we told the Greys about the new ultranexus on Earth, maybe they'll leave us alone!"
The suggestion is clearly not popular with any of the others, who frown at him.
Nerifian: "And give up the greatest font of magic in existence? Never."
Asshead #2: "Just a thought. Sorry."
Nerifian: "But where are my manners. I am Nerifian, elected king of the last fayries. This is Mietta, a Henry and friend to the fayries."
Mantle: "I'm called Mantle. This is my guide and friend, Imhoptah the impossible smith. I'm sorry, you said she's a Henry? What does that mean?"
Mantle: "You mean you're not human? But you look human."
Mietta: "Nah, humans look like Henries! We were the first sapient species in the multiverse, you know?"
This leaves Mantle to speculate a bit about himself. Could he be a Henry?
Mietta: "According to my people's legends, we used to have an ultranexus of our own, before a trickster goddess stole it away and left a pile of turnips in its place. Maybe that's just a myth explaining why we have such a booming turnip agriculture, but it still fascinated me enough that I wondered what it'd be like to live near a great nexus of magic. I found Zeebat Eight, and it buffed me up! I don't know how to use magic, so I just get some straight physical boons, but that's enough for me! And I stayed since I became good friends with the fayries."
Mantle: "That's pretty neat! Erm, did you say the last fayries? Seems pretty pessimistic."
He pauses to wonder if Uncle Eq is a fayrie. Something to ask Imhoptah later perhaps.
Nerifian: "It is fact. We are unable to reproduce any longer. We were part of the Imperium, who sent a supercomputer, Monde, to help us. Monde wound up governing every aspect of our lives, and we were happy and indolent... but we lost our vitality, our curiosity, everything that keeps a species from being stagnant. After our last king died of old age, I took some of my like-minded fellows and we founded a colony here, away from Monde, and we deliberately split from the Imperium so we would not be tempted back into indolence. Here we found our spark again, building and innovating. It is a challenging but fulfilling life, but we are unable to change our impotence. The fayries on Uranus and Neptune are all died out now, however, and others run the aether processors there."
Imhoptah: "Wait, you must still have a gate to Uranus, right? To keep pumping in the aether you need?"
Mietta: "Yes, but those Greys are apparently too smart to try and invade Imperium-controlled territory. Shame, would have loved to see their asses handed to them."
Mantle: "I might be able to solve your impotence problem."
He is studying the threads closely. The fayries look at him with skeptical interest.
Asshead #3: "Even Monde wasn't able to do that. How could you?"
Imhoptah: "He has a unique gift."
Mietta: "Something that an impossible smith deems unique? Okay, color me intrigued."
Nerifian: "I will be glad of any efforts you make on our behalf, young man, but first there is the matter of our occupation. We are a small resistance, unable to do much but make a bit of trouble for the Greyarchy and hope that eventually they decide we're more trouble than we're worth."
Asshead #4: "I still think Mietta should just go out and kick all their asses."
Mietta: "Ha! I appreciate your confidence, but I don't think I could take all of them. Even if I could, there are other ways to get to me. If they found you all, and held you hostage, I would essentially be helpless."
Mantle: "Maybe I can find a non-violent solution."
Nerifian: "Oh? I must warn you, these Greys seem to have a poor grasp of any language other than violence."
Mantle: "This will be a test for me. I... I've never liked hurting people, but sometimes I've had to, in order to defend myself or others. But now that I have, um, this unique gift, I really think I might be able to be the pacifist I've always wanted to be, while still being able to help and defend others."
Nerifian: "Hmm. Come on back here, to our makeshift war room. Sounds like we have some planning to do. And you can tell us what your unique gift might be able to do..."