charlequin Having arrived in the spectacularly unusual and intricate world of Xara, the Solars proceed towards the palace at whose heart /apparently/ lies the seal that they seek.
charlequin The inlaid trenches and patterns in the crystal beneath their feet grow larger and more intricate as they near the palace; in other directions, they veer off through the spherical world to connect to other settlements and places of interest, while towards the palace they fill with strange energy flows and oddly magical water.
Birds moves a bit higher off the ground and proceeds toward the palace, intending to be noticed and greeted before too long.
Cerin follows the trails with all his senses, as he walks beside Zahara, marvelling internally at the order of the place, the way the essence ... normally so wild ... moves in smooth, precise flows
brasslantern follows cautiously in the wake of the others, careful not to upset the delicate-looking environment.
Thirteen hangs back as they proceed, allowing the more diplomatic among the Circle to take the lead.
Lucent is like a child in a circus, watching everything with child-like awe as he tries to keep up with Zahara even as he stops by every other sight, the orbs hopefully keeping *some* regality about him while he behaves like a little kid...
charlequin It does not take a tremendous amount of time for the Solars to reach the borders of the city. The changeover is sharp -- from flat ground to a wall of triangular prisms rising up, with regular archways spaced around the border. (...)
charlequin Several creatures stand ready aside the gates -- similar to beetles or mantises, only larger than a human and made of intricately patterned translucent crystal that seems to slowly pulse in different colors. The great crystalline spears they carry branch out in secondary barbs with eightfold symmetry, looking almost like (...)
charlequin stalks of wheat or nettles. The blue robes, trimmed in black and white, hang elegantly over their strange insect bodies.
Zahara does not deign to show any of her amazement at this world, although it is quite beautiful. She is here for more than spectating, and although she takes in her surroundings keenly, she does not call for her bearers to change their pace to better allow for a good look.
Birds ::They don't look overly welcoming.::
Thirteen ::They are merely the Gatekeepers. They are not here to welcome us personally.::
Lucent ::They look so cool...::
Birds ::Then let us ignore them. It's unseemly to pay excessive notice to servants.::
Lucent ::Aw, but they look cool
Lucent ::Aw, but they look cool! Amika would like them... they seem to be insects too...::
Zahara looks to the creatures, "Please send word to the highest authority here that we, Solar Rulers of the Sunlands on Meru, are here as emissaries of peace."
charlequin Two of the insect creatures raise up their spears in crossed formation and their faces begin to pulsate in red and orange. One speaks in a rather odd dialect of Old Realm: "Whose presence arrives at the gates of Ten Refractions?" (...)
charlequin In response to Zahara's statement, the two beings briefly confer with one another; then one pulls a crystalline snowflake from within his robe, that unfolds into a tiny symmetrical insect and flies off into the interior of the city.
Cerin ::They are similar in nature to the winged things we saw on Elyssion. I wonder if we shall meet their progenitors.::
Zahara ::They are certainly interesting, and seem intelligent::
Birds and Mirror make inscrutable mystic gestures. Maybe Luc recognizes them as a childrens' hand game from the South...
Lucent ::Killing time, Birds? With all that wonder around you? It's all so /pretty/!::
Birds ::It is very pretty. Do you know the story of Saroc's monsters? He made a garden of creatures so beautiful that it would break a demon's heart, but so delicate that looking at them would injure them mortally. Saroc died a very sad, lonely death.::
Lucent ::No, I never did... and he did not look at them? Ever?:: He asks... and takes a moment to dawn on him... ::Wait, you think there's a problem with looking?::
Birds ::Maybe. I only came across the tale last week in my indexing, it's still fresh in my mind. I suspect that the truth is it was a flaw in his craft, and this world has no such danger.::
Zahara ::That would be an interesting defense for some of our more valuable areas::
Lucent ::Giving them the sorrow of killing something beautiful with their eyes? Empress, that's... mean.::
Cerin ::Rather impractical too, if they have to be remade with each intrusion.::
Zahara ::Indeed, but I do enjoy making beautiful things, and it would be a fine excuse to practice."
Birds makes a mental nod...sound...thing.
Zahara ::Besides, they should feel sorrow for attempting to steal my things, don't you think?::
Lucent ::But we will have to avoid looking at them too! What if we do it by mistake...?::
charlequin After some time of the guards standing essentially immobile, a diplomatic party arrives from deep within the city's bowels. Five creatures -- three humans, in green and black uniforms, and two amorphous energy beings, arrive. The foremost human, with an increasingly elaborate gold trim on his outfit, addresses the group. "Whom do I have the pleasure of welcoming to Ten Refractions, the capital of the glorious realm of Xa
Birds ::Maybe Zee is going to make us special monster-gazing glasses.::
Zahara ::Then I suppose you will be sorry to have made a mistake, won't you?:: she says mildly teasingly
charlequin realm of Xara?"
Zahara "I am Zahara Zhan, Empress. With me, are Cerin the Wolf, Birds of Trinity, Kai Buckthorn, Thirteen Blooming Flowers, and Lucent Copper Haze. Together, we rule over the Sunlands of Meru."
Birds nods graciously.
charlequin The two rear-guard human diplomats nod in unison, in a reasonably polite fashion. The leftmost floating energy creature extends a little towards the group, as if looking them over; then a mellifluous voice echoes out, "As representatives of the Five Lineages of Regality, we welcome your personages to the seat of our power. (...)
charlequin While you are guided to your chambers within the palace, please inform ourselves of the purposes of your illustrious visit." The group turns as one and begins to lead the Solars through the city.
Thirteen ::Cerin, keep your eyes open for the Fifth Lineage.::
Zahara "We thank you for your gracious welcome." she replies, and signals her bearers to follow them. "May we have the pleasure of your names?"
Cerin ::I shall.::
charlequin Within the walls, everything is more active and busy, though the intense sense of order remains all-pervading. Joining the three races seen so far -- the insectoid Hrak and the energetic Scions of Light, plus the humans -- are the Bin-al-Zen, blue creatures with batlike features and an impressive wingspan. Their clothes seem to consistently describe a higher rank than the others, featuring more ornate decoration and stra
Cerin ** n and stra?
charlequin featuring more ornate decoration and strange designs.
Zahara nods to Luc, indicating that he should continue. ::Luc, do tell them about our trade and diplomacy mission::
Cerin studies the new hundredfold with internal curiousity, though no unsightly staring.
Lucent takes a step foward, nodding to the diplomatic envoys, his smile shining, reflected on each of the orbs. "It is a pleasure to meet you, eminent diplomats of Xara. We have come in hopes to stablish diplomatic relations between you and the Sunlands, and if possible, trade agreements. I am sure both of us would benefit greatly from that."
charlequin The second Scion pulsates a little, and responds. "That is most unusual! We have had no dealings with Meru in almost innumerable cycles. The Lineages will be curious what led you to reopen those channels."
Lucent "We have found out about you... Meru has fallen into an age of darkness, untouched by the light of the sun, long ago. They know not of any worlds besides their own... we did not, until a little while ago. We see only the Wyld outside of our world. We are fighting against those barbarians to bring order back to Meru... and stablishing relations with others such as you are part of our mission."
Lucent ::Good enough, Empress...?::
charlequin The group begins to draw near the palace. Four great cylindrical halls, each perhaps a quarter-mile in radius, rise up to geometrically perfect cupolas, in a square pattern; while an octagonal tower at the very center rises 1 1/2 times as high and ends in a perfect octagon plateua far above. Blue, purple, and gold patterns run in intricate, fractal designs all over the walls, and a large circular door opens up on the nea
Zahara ::Quite good, thank you Luc.:: her approval radiates through the link
charlequin The lead human answers again. "That is most interesting. It has been commonly held in Xara that Meru had fallen into a disreputable state of disrepair. It is our humbly offered belief that the Lineages will eagerly seek to reconstitute official ties."
charlequin With that, he leads the Solars into the tower. A vast arboretum chamber, where sharp-edged crystalline plants of every description grow, fills the bottom 40 feet of the tower, and spiralling staircases run up from the ground to multiple entryways set down out of the roof. The diplomats lead the Solars up one of these,(...)
charlequin into a series of winding passageways lit with free-floating blue-green flames. The eventual suite they are led to is ornate and clearly set for royal guests, but the harsh edges and perfect order are a little off-putting. A six-course meal awaits, already prepared, upon a banquet table at one side of the common room.
Lucent "Ooohh..." He says, eyes wide... before he swallows his own wonder, ::Sorry, doesn't make for a very respectable authority, does it?:: "Xara is right, it did. But we are trying to repair its foundations, its people... and its reputation, as you can see. When was last time you dealt with Meru, if you don't mind me asking? It may be changed so much as to be another plane from what you knew."
charlequin The rear two humans do some quick math on their fingers and one estimates a figure of years that fairly clearly indicates the Solar Deliberative era.
Zahara ::Do please try to look like you know what you're doing:: she says ::Show appreciation, but do not forget that you are of the highest authority in our land, and must appear strong and noble.:: her words are kind, like those of a teacher to a favorite student.
Birds nods. "Meru has changed since then, perhaps."
charlequin The lead diplomat nods in return. "We shall now leave you. In eighteen decicycles you will be expected at the Promenade in the third tower of the palace. Please ensure that you are clad in proper diplomatic attire and are prepared for all of the common rituals of cultural exchange."
Lucent "It has. It has become a realm of chaos... however, it has pehaps received more diversity from what you remember, giving us even more to trade." He nods, "Your plane is a wonder, if you do not mind me saying. It is... breathtaking. It shows me beyond doubt we were right in coming here first. It is beautiful in ways we hope you will think Meru to be when your emissaries come."
charlequin The diplomats graciously accept Luc's kind words, then depart.
Lucent bows, "Thank you for your time. And we shall."
Birds consults the book on the topics of time units and proper diplomatic attire.
Zahara "Please do read it aloud when you find what you are looking for, Birds."
Cerin ::Pages 25 and 286, Birds::
Birds does so.
Thirteen "Our rooms will be in the human quarter, since we were greeted by a human leader. As I noted before, the entirety of the first floor except for that area designated for the Fifth Lineage is open to visitors."
Thirteen "If you will excuse me, I intend to visit an old friend. I will await you at the Promenade."
Zahara "Well, will you eat with us first?"
Thirteen "...if you desire it, Zahara."
Birds "It says here that appropriate attire can be found in the closets of guest quarters; naturally places such as this have rooms prepared for unexpected tenants of all ranks. There should also be a rack of badges and sashes, if necessary..."
Zahara "It is good to show solidarity." she explains mildly.
charlequin Some hours later, the Solars reconvene to attend the Promenade, each carefully arrayed in the very finest of diplomatic garb.
Birds is carefully expressionless, the only alternative to looking rather exposed in the revealing gown discovered in her room. Something inside its large skirt makes quiet musical chimes.
Zahara is similarly attired in a revealing gown of a sapphire hue that matches her eyes perfectly, however she is wearing a bit of jewelry that she had purchased in her spare time, to wit: a small solar system of precious gems now orbits her body hypnotically.
Lucent comes garbed in a great suit made of living amber crystal, that seems to breath in turn with him, and reflect all lights around. Growing from it are beautiful flowers in crystal forming into reality-defying shapes, that seem to turn any vibration in the air around him into a delicious, soothing music. The Coronal is set with him in the same way it is in his normal robes, and so are its Orbs...
Thirteen wears a simple flowing robe not dissimilar to the one he usually frequents, except that this one is a deep royal blue shot through with golden rays, which shift constantly as he moves. As he passes through shadows, it becomes apparent that the sunbeams give off a slight but noticeable light of their own.
Zahara has also applied the symbol of the Sunlands to her dress, upon her left breast. It rather covers better than the other side.
Cerin wears a suit in a sapphire that matches Zahara's, a small mask to conceal his face, long hair unbounded and shimmering slight in the light. Though he wears no jewellery, a subtle manipulation of essence sees him borrowing part of Zahara's constellation at times.
Kai is wearing a golden breastplate over high-quality-but-clearly-functional breeches and jerkin. Her lion amulet hangs around her neck, and she is trailed by a light cape, black with a golden lion, and a dawning sun in each of the lower corners.
Zahara finds herself mildly annoyed the first time Cerin steals her jewelry, but decides reluctantly that it's rather cute of him and thus allows it.
charlequin A Hrak porter waits outside the door to guide the Solars to the ballroom. "The Promenade of Eight Circles is held whenever six of the radiants align in the order known as Beasts Rampant. It is a time for exuberant celebration, as well as proper veneration for the Five Lineages."
Zahara does, however, make a note to...teach him about asking first, later. She smiles at the thought.
charlequin The porter gestures down the hall. "I shall show you the way to the event."
Zahara "Thank you kindly." she follows the man, leading the group.
Birds follows along. ::Sounds like a big party!::
charlequin Despite having six legs and a sizeable "trunk," the porter nagivates nimbly through the numerous narrow corridors that bend at 30 degree angles, and eventually leads the Solars down another staircase. Where the arboretum sat in the first tower, here is a grand dancehall. A massive crystalline chandelier hangs unsupported in the air, while multi-colored candles float amongst it (...)
charlequin Above the standard dancefloor (made of some sort of inlaid, translucent wood) hang many tiny dance platforms, linked by ethereal ramps of Essence, climbing up to five total levels. At one end, five golden boat-like objects float; four contain members of the four races, decorated in the greatest of fineries (...)
charlequin and the most elaborate of symbolic markers of office, while the fifth is conspicuously empty.
Zahara takes up a position where it seems most important, second only to the five glowing floaty boaties, and mingles flawlessly.
charlequin Many nobles of every concievable rank mingle and pass one another on the floor, awaiting the beginning of the dance proper.
charlequin After several minutes of empty chatter, the lights dim and the room grows more quiet. A tap echoes out from somewhere and at once, a series of musicians descend upon tiny platforms of Essence, and hang near the ceiling. They begin the song, an intricate and heavily complex piece that bobs and weaves into itself with an elaborate beauty. (...)
charlequin As if carefully planned the dancing begins -- all four races of citizens begin to spin and turn amongst one another, cutting elaborate figures and passing within inches of one another. The dance freely flows up the ramps onto every one of the hanging platforms, and even -- for the Bin-al-zen and Scions -- flows into the air itself.
Zahara tries out the steps, a bit removed from the others, and is pleased when Cerin joins her, guiding her steps somewhat. She revises her earlier plans for the night when they retire.
Cerin notices Zahara's first misstep even before she does, his hands on her hips and a subtle motion of the planets directing her on to the correct paths, smoothly flowing through the patterns of the dance.
charlequin The dance goes on for some time, the music constantly shifting and changing but always mantaining the same level of intricacy. The Lineages seem quite taken with the performance as a whole, though this is clearly also an opportunity for them to confer, and their vessels float between one another so that they may converse in secret.
charlequin Just as the music builds towards its seventh shift in tenor, Cerin's warning sense gives him an unmistakable prod that something attention-worthy will occur very shortly.
Thirteen smiles grimly as he leans on his spear, listening to every word spoken during the movements of the dance.
Cerin ::Something is about to happen.:: Cerin warns his dance partner.
Zahara nods minutely, and loosens her muscles, prepared for, she hopes, anything.
Birds makes light conversation with a non-dancing personage.
Zahara ::Ware, all. Surprise is upon us.::
Kai breaks off her attempts to sing along with the local music and takes a wary glance around.
Zahara glances up at the 5th boat
Thirteen idly flips his spear in his hand in time to the music, calmly winding threads of Essence around its shaft.
Birds notes this and divides her attention. Hopefully her new friend will not notice, as distracted as he is by her extreme beauty.
Lucent sings, apparently absent-minded and bewildered, but the orbs arrange themselves in a defensive configuration...
charlequin Just as the music swings into its eighth melody, three members of the Bin-al-zen Lineage violently and quite spectacularly projectile-vomit blood, before pitching forward out of their boat and crashing to the ground with a violent thud. There is about a five second pause before the room understands what has happened and the carefully crafted order is utterly shattered.
Zahara consults quickly with the sesseljae, as she moves quickly towards the fallen, to see if they can assist
Cerin flows along beside her, no weapons yet in evidence, studying the hundredfold, trying to discern something of the nature of the poison used, if it is magical or mortal ... or not poison at all.
Zahara "What has happened here?" she demands of an onlooker
charlequin Nobles are fleeing wildly, screaming and attempting to get as far as possible from the "crime scene." Hrak guards block the doors fairly effectively but that only contains the chaos within the dance hall. The other lineages, and the surviving bin-al-zen, seem entirely uncertain as to what has occurred, but remain reasonably calm given how chaotic the room as a whole has become. (...)
Thirteen accompanies them at a distance, carefully scrutinizing every muttered or screamed exclamation for one too brief or too knowing, or simply not present.
charlequin From a fairly uncertain location, someone steps out to walk towards the bodies. A close look reveals it's not a person at all, but a dark metallic construct, with the shape of an unhandsome but somehow ruggedly elegant human clad in black and scarlet robes and bearing a quite large straight sword.
Kai resists the urge to draw weapons and moves as quickly as possible to join the others..
charlequin Zahara's sesseljae do not wait but rather go to work as quickly as possible. Two of the victims are quite dead before they can even reach the scene, but the third clings slightly to life and the demons go to work at reviving him.
charlequin Her shouted demands are ignored by the random onlookers, however; she may have to address someone more calm to get a real answer.
Zahara "Kin of this one, tell me what could cause such a thing as this?" she looks at one of the remaining bin-al-zen
Birds moves close to Zee, then drifts aloft to one of the Lineage platforms, careful to keep her head below those riding it, and says something loudly about her confusion regarding this event. Perhaps there is a custom she has overlooked? She does not directly address the Lineage.
charlequin The bin-al-zen look by far the most shocked of the lineages, but one manages to stutter out "...poison? Sickness? I have not seen it happen before...."
Zahara "Nor have we... This is most distressing."
charlequin The red-robed figure leans over and begins examining the dead bodies, gruffly prodding and turning them without particular care for appearances or decorum.
Thirteen kneels and taps his forehead to the floor. "Greetings, Arbiter."
Zahara ::This is certainly an inauspicious event to happen at our first encounter with these people::
Thirteen ::Be aware. This is the Arbiter of Stones. He is the master of the Fifth Lineage, and controller of the law.::
Thirteen **pretend that instead of saying master I said "foremost servant"
Zahara ::I understand, thank you Thirteen.::
Cerin ::My thanks.::
Birds sinks close to the earth and bows to the Arbiter, as that seems to be the accepted practice.
charlequin After some further prodding, the Arbiter arises and addresses the room in a deep, booming voice that easily echoes to be heard by all. "There is currently no further danger to any present here. However! These three did not die naturally, but were slain! The realm of Xara must be revenged upon the murderers and justice served."
Thirteen "Arbiter. I offer my services again, as I did once before, to seek this murderer and bring him to you for your appropriate punishment."
Zahara "We will assist you however we may."
Zahara ::I wonder if Lai is involved in this.::
Birds mentally considers titles for the epic to be written of this. Perhaps /The Decline and Fall of Xara's Fifth Radiant/...
charlequin The Arbiter of Stones gazes emotionlessly -- with his unshifting metal face -- over the party of Solars for a moment before answering. "The first aid you shall provide me is to join me for questioning."
Cerin ::As tempting as it is to lay all our troubles at his feet, it is best to consider other possibilities as well.::
Zahara "We will, of course, cooperate without hesitation, as we have nothing to hide." she says courteously, as the sesseljae return to her body
Lucent ::Trying to frame us, pehaps? And stop us from getting good relations with them? Pehaps...:: "We will be happy to, Arbiter. We are sorry for the lives lost."
Birds "Our joy in assisting is overshadowed only by our grief at your loss. Where shall the questioning proceed?"
Zahara ::That was my thought, yes. And possibly as a distraction so they might have the Seal.::
Birds ::It seems like a poor way to treat guests. I had hoped to get to dinner at least, before disaster struck.::
Birds makes a note to outlaw disasters before dinner.
Lucent ::Cerin and Birds need to be ready to pursue them if they do take the seal, then? And it is not their fault, Birds!::
charlequin The Arbiter turns to address the entire room. "I shall have questions for many of you. None shall leave this chamber without my leave. The palace guards will escort you at my request to the Chambers of Extraction in the fifth tower when it is your turn to depose."
Kai :: "Chambers of Extraction" is not a term I like. ::
charlequin With that, he -- and a detachment of guards who form up to follow him -- depart through a side entrance, leaving everyone else to stew in the ballroom.
Zahara ::I can only hope we will not be forced to resort to violence. Please divulge as little as possible about our mission, and if you MUST do so, then remember we wish to attain our goals through peace, trade and diplomacy.::
Tags: (:tags Xara, Hrak, Scions, Five Lineages, Bin-al-Zen, Hundredfold, Arbiter of Stones :)