alsoquin As the Solars had prepared to visit the plane of Xara, Zahara had been quite pushy -- Kai should stay behind, she said -- "for your own good!" (...)
alsoquin Everyone would just be gone for a day or so, ideally with the Eclipse Caste Seal in tow, and then they'd be ready to plan the assault that would destroy the Red Lily organization forever. (...)
alsoquin Of course, just at the moment, this has left Kai sitting alone in the Labyrinthine Cascade, with nothing whatsoever to do.
Kai wanders the halls idlly, taking advantage of the solitude to explore the odd twists nad turns of the manse without people looking over her shoulders.
alsoquin The hallways wind about as always, leading Kai past mobile gardens and long-unused storage rooms before eventually depositing her in the Hall of Sunlit Breakfast.
Kai prepares herself a sandwich of eggs (of some kind) and pleasant-smelling cheese.
alsoquin As the Dawn Caste prepares to dig into her carefully prepared meal, one of the servitors arrives and clears his throat somewhat quietly.
Kai , chewing, motions for him to speak, and offers him a hunk of cheese.
alsoquin The servant hesitates for a moment before taking the cheese, then devours it greedily before speaking up again. "Um, Madam Buckthorn, there's a... visitor here to see you?"
Kai "Really? Who?"
alsoquin "He says his name is... Ardea? He says you might not recognize the name but that you'd know who he is when you saw him."
Kai "Oh, THAT is reassuring. Let's go." She rests her free hand on her sword as they leave the Celestial Breakfast Nook.
alsoquin The servant leads Kai through the hallways, towards the front gate where her visitor awaits. Through one of the conveniently placed windows she passes on her way out, she spies the visitor who stands, alone, outside the manse -- thoroughly swaddled in a thick green cloak she is pretty sure she's seen before.
Kai finishes her sandwich. "I'm sorry, if I'd known you were coming, I would have prepared a bigger breakfast."
alsoquin "Ardea" nods. "Alas. Luckily, I have already eaten." He gestures expansively, as if to indicate his lack of concern. Even close up, his face is somehow entirely obscured by the folds of the cloak.
Kai sits a good distance away, not taking her eyes off the stranger. "So. Talk."
alsoquin The man nods. "When I gave you the blade that hangs now at your side" -- he gestures helpfully -- "I told you I would return at another time and ask for 'a favor that will align with your own goals.' I have returned now."
Kai listens quietly.
alsoquin "Something very bad is about to happen. There is going to be a solar eclipse when the year slides into Calibration, and there is a good chance that Creation will not emerge out on the other side. I need someone to help me make sure that this does not happen."
Kai "You're going to need to give me some details, then."
alsoquin He looks from side to side. "We're going to need to go somewhere that we can't be observed."
Kai "Fine," she says, rising and heading into the manse. "I hope you don't mind demons, beasts, or noxious displays of affluence."
alsoquin seems to hesitate for a moment, before acquiescing. "Fine. Take us somewhere without windows."
Kai wishes she had a map as she commits herself to the passages of the manse.
alsoquin Kai leads the man into a small windowless storage chamber and seals up the door again behind her. As she waits, the man pauses for a moment, then begins to speak.
alsoquin "The Empress, Zahara. She made a bargain, and learned the sorcery of the third Circle."
Kai "Oh hell, this is a Zahara problem?"
alsoquin "No. The problem is the cost that she is going to pay."
Kai ". . ."
alsoquin "As we speak, Cerin the Wolf carries with him a black ring, given to him by an Infernal Exalt... and under the destiny cast by Zahara's choice, no force in this world will prevent him from putting it on and passing into darkness."
Kai "Okay. And you want me to get it?"
alsoquin "No. I want you to get what is needed for after he has put it on."
Kai pauses for a moment to puzzle out the syntax of the statement. "O... Okay. What would that be?"
alsoquin "Have you heard of the Chime of Ages?"
Kai "I've heard it named."
alsoquin "It's a weapon -- the most powerful weapon ever created for use against the Primordials. And now, it is scattered, its fragments spread across Creation -- but even separated, they hold a great power."
Kai "Sooo... you want me to go fetch the pieces from literally all over Creation."
alsoquin The cloaked man shakes his head. "Just one."
Kai "Just one."
alsoquin Ardea nods. "Just one."
alsoquin "The remnants of a place that was once known as the Grey Tower. It lies far into the Wyld, today, but I can equip you with everything you need to journey there."
Kai narrows her eyes. "And just who are you, anyway?"
alsoquin The man pauses for a second, before reaching up and lifting the cloak away from his face... a face that is scarred, and haggard looking beyond any memory she has of it, but still utterly familiar: the face that belongs only to Seven Leaping Herons.
Kai "Oh. Oh, thank heaven's it's you. I was really afraid you've be someone who needed to be stabbed eventually."
alsoquin Herons bursts out laughing in response.
Kai "All right. So. Why exactly is this the result of Zahara's deal?"
alsoquin "When one gains initiation into a circle of sorcery, one must sacrifice something... something very important. From what we have been able to piece together, Zahara left her choice to Creation -- and Cerin is what Creation chose for her."
Kai nods. "And what will this piece of a chime do?"
alsoquin "If we're right? Free Cerin from his Yozi entanglement, when the time comes."
Kai "Hm. This is really the best plan I've heard in some time. Let's get to it, then, shall we?"
alsoquin Herons nods, and smiles.