alsoquin With the seal recovered from Xara, the Circle is now in possession of two of the Seals of the Deliberative -- but that leaves three still unaccounted for.
alsoquin Meanwhile, it is just 33 days until the total Eclipse -- and it was under just such an Eclipse that the woman known as the Scarlet Empress entered the Imperial Manse for the first time.
alsoquin (Unfortunately, it was also under such an eclipse that Creation faced one of its greatest tests as the hordes of the fae overran its borders....)
alsoquin Furthermore, the war against the forces of the Red Lily has been difficult. The Solars have won key victories and slain Lai's two greatest generals, but in regions outside the Solars' influence the Lily forces have won victories of their own, and now the map of Creation is dotted with regions belonging to both.
alsoquin The Blessed Isle still has yet to fall, though it has erupted into outright civil war between the three Dynasty factions competing for the throne and the chances of putting up a unified resistance seem low at best.
alsoquin With time running low and several tasks in a state of partial completion, the Solars find themselves needing to decide the next spot to earn their focus.
alsoquin The weather is delightful and the servitors have prepared an astounding banquet for this particular meeting, where the Solars have gathered upon the sun-terrace
Zahara slowly swirls a drip of wine into the finger-bowl, musing at the patterns it makes. "So. We have two seals now, the Realm is on the verge of self-destruction, and we are nearing completion of the Exaltation Checklist. In addition, we must consider what the one that possessed Markuran is doing, and whether or not he has joined with any of our enemies."
Thirteen "Indeed, Zahara, it is Markuran the Bear that I propose to concern ourselves with today."
Cerin "Given that the attack that saw him possessed involved the Lily's Forces and hundredfold, I suspect he may well be."
Zahara "Personally I would prefer to complete the checklist, as it would assist us in achieving our other goals." She sits back, and runs her fingers through Tantamount's mane, while Reaver eats Birds' fork.
Thirteen "I fear that it must wait, Zahara. The destabilization of the Realm proceeds apace. In two fortnights, matters will be at their peak. The time will be ripe for us to seize the Imperial Manse and the seal that lies beneath the mountain."
Thirteen "This much has gone according to plan."
Zahara "How does that involve Markuran?"
Lucent "We need to rip the... whatever that thing is out of him. One of the greatest zeniths ever cannot keep being our enemy..." He sighs. "Well, with the Dragons at our side we will have an army to match. We just have to see about changing that... belief thing of them."
Thirteen "Unfortunately, for this to benefit us, we must lay our hands on the two remaining seals. One of these we will have to bargain with Lai for. The other was last seen in the possession of Kiriath the Destroyer."
Zahara "*Bargain* with Lai? What exactly do you think to trade to him?
Thirteen "Whatever is on hand," he offhandedly replies, eating a turkey. "Let us take each problem as it comes to us, Zahara."
Lucent "You would consort with our enemy? Tell me you are not seriously considering this, Zahara..."
Zahara "No, Thirteen, you can't go offering things to our enemy, without consulting the rest of us first, you know!"
Birds pours Luc more wine. "I presume that our comrade is not necessarily suggesting that we come to Lai with intentions to bring about a mutually beneficial bargain."
Birds "Trading with the enemy does not have to mean giving the enemy something he needs or wants."
Thirteen spits out a bone with a ruffled air. "I had thought us beyond such petty distrusts, Zahara. We must seize Lai's seal by whatever means necessary. Shall we balk at making sacrifices to reclaim our governance?"
Cerin watches Aliza circling around one of the elegantly fluted glasses in front of him. "I had assumed that, but Lai /needs/ the seals, if he is to have any hope of making good his promises to the gods. Therefore some forethough is perhaps indicated."
Zahara "That depends on the sacrifice," she replies coldly.
Thirteen "Rest assured I do not intend to negotiate with him without your assistance."
Zahara "I would prefer to take it from him through force or guile. Anything we give to him shall be used against us, and he will not relinquish the seal lightly."
Lucent gobles it down. They always gave him a headache. "Guile, then. That is easier. Force would probably have us forcing our hand before we have that Realm behind us."
Thirteen "Do you suspect that that which Lai is unwilling to trade he will be any more willing to leave undefended?"
Thirteen "Regardless, this is not our primary concern. We must find the last seal."
Zahara "No, but I suspect that the price will be too high the other way. Besides, Cerin can break into just about anywhere." She offers him a smile and a nod.
Thirteen "While I am willing to general us in a battle of wits or blades, I fear that for an exorcism we must turn to a priest. Lucent Copper Haze..."
Cerin "That does rely on me knowing where to look however...there are hundreds, if not thousands of places he could be hiding it."
Cerin ((**of worldlets, not places))
Lucent "I will probably hate this. Yes?"
Birds prods a slice of pie. "I am not sure I like this pie. Supposing that we decide to steal it. How do we find it?"
Lucent drinks more wine. Might make the suggestion more amiable.
Birds "Maybe the seals are connected somehow, and we can follow them from seal to seal?"
Cerin "I haven't seen such a connection of essence at least, but then we have not had two close enough that they could be studied..."
Lucent "Oh, you mean, to purge the demon out? I can do that. We just need to find him. Does he still keeps the ring?"
Zahara "Probably, Luc, but we severed the original connection between them."
Birds "I was just thinking, if the Seals' departure from Creation made their laws collapse, then they must affect the Essence around them somehow..."
Thirteen unclasps the Seal from around his neck and, not without a certain grimness, passes it to Cerin.
Thirteen "Investigate, if you will."
Zahara eyes the seal jealously, although her expression remains perfectly calm.
Lucent "Cerin can do it, right?"
Zahara "Cerin is multi-talented."
Cerin "A very wise observation, birds." He sets the two seals atop two wineglasses, and proceeds to ignore everything else for a few minutes, simply studying the seals, occasionally moving one or the other and watching the essence twist and turn.
Zahara fingers her rings thoughtfully. "I wonder what would happen if we got a collar on him... that being that possessed him was much stronger than he, and not a Solar any longer. Though his coffin restrained it for aeons. Yes, I must make a new one from the items in that chest he keeps in his room."
alsoquin Cerin is initially mystified. As Birds points out, a connection must exist between the Seals somehow, since the magic of the Deliberative's laws is linked to their proximity to Creation. However, the telltale flows of Essence, pathways linked by tiny motes of air, are entirely absent. He screws his face up for further concentration. (...)
alsoquin A chance breeze brushes the delicate arrangement of desert flowers set upon a nearby table, however, and Cerin's mind is drawn to another mystery of Essence he pondered once before.
Birds watches Cerin curiously.
alsoquin That must be it, he realizes; the idea would perhaps be frightening to a lesser being.
Zahara watches Cerin fall into his trance
Cerin Cerin would most definately have had a surprised expression on his face, were he the type to be surprised. Instead, after a few moments of quiet contemplation, he returns the twilight seal to Thirteen. "The seals are not linked directly, though they share a common parent." Something in his tone suggesting the word was not chosen lightly. "I think it should be possible to divine a method of locating the others, given the one (...)
Cerin possessed. We would need similar souls though. Zahara, I think demons of the second circle that share a patron would be ideal, given the similarities."
Zahara "The Seals are possessed?"
Lucent "The seals have a parent? They are alive?"
alsoquin The Seals sit silently atop the wineglasses. Their gold shines quite attractively in the sunlight.
Zahara ::Reaver hops over and tries to eat one.::
Thirteen "I see."
alsoquin The tiny beast sinks its metallic beak into the Twilight seal, to no avail, though this does not seem to meaningfully dissuade him.
Cerin "No, not possesses, the- ... not exactly alive either. They are Malakim, some circle of primordial souls."
Thirteen absently bats Reaver away from him, sending him hurtling off the edge of the balcony.
Lucent "So, did they shape the souls into the seals? Like Soulsteel? Or did the Primordial change itself?"
Birds looks surprised in Cerin's stead.
Birds "So, er...can we communicate with them?"
Zahara frowns thoughtfully. "Well I can call Lucien back from his patrols, and see about summoning some of his brethren."
Cerin "I am not sure of what level, exactly, or how they are made. I would need to study further." He turns to the birds' surprised face "I am not sure Birds." he says, thoughtfully.
Zahara "That sounds like an interesting idea. Hmmm."
Cerin "Or if they would want too. They are evidently wrapped in powerful charms to disguise their nature, or it would have been laid bare when I first saw them."
Thirteen "How curious."
Zahara "Somehow it makes sense that Creation is able to be controlled by an enslaved set of the beings that created it in the first place."
Lucent "Or you were just not looking for it? It was hiding in plain sight, pehaps?"
Cerin "The Malakin did not make Creation to my understanding, there were what demons were, before the war."
Zahara "Hmm, still."
Birds "Can you tell whether they are demons or some other kind?"
Zahara "Well I suppose the question is still, what do we pursue next? We have this new potential for finding the Seal, but the other items remain problematic."
Cerin "Given time, and demonic essence to study more closely and compare with other primordial creations, perhaps."
Thirteen ""The Realm will keep for the nonce. I must again reiterate that if we do not seize the seals in time, the task of restoring the Deliberative will be made that much more difficult."
Lucent "We use the seals to get to Marku. We save him from his possession. We use the Realm against the Lily. We go to hell. And then... well, we need to find out who's their father, right? I can't be the only one who's curious."
Zahara "All three items feed off eachother."
Thirteen "Although you omitted reorganizing the Celestial Bureaucracy under rather more stringent lines, I feel that your plan is otherwise ideal, Lucent."
Zahara "You forgot about learning how to Exalt others, and ourselves further."
Lucent "Just organizing it. I know it's your part, but I thought I had to say something useful for a change. And both of us and Zahara can deal with the Bureaucracy while Cerin, Birds and Kai go shed light into those mysteries; They are hardly mutually exclusive."
Zahara "I would suggest splitting up, but I am not entirely sure it is wise.
Cerin "I feel we may have too."
Lucent "I think it is in groups of three. We can handle our own in a bureaucratic enviroment, and poor Kai might be left to collect dust on Heaven most of the time - or so I hope - so it is better to give her something to break."
Thirteen "While I am the last to disapprove of personal advancement, Zahara, I fear that saving Creation may take precedence at this juncture."
Lucent "And we have plenty. And especially, Cerin and Birds might need the muscle, on whatever is at the end of their quests."
Zahara "Yes, until we find out we are not strong enough to do so quickly, without."
Cerin "And yet, we have discussed this a hundred times, and we have still yet to agree which comes first."
Zahara "Then let us decide with the roll of a die, and see what fortune would have us do."
Thirteen "It is as well to know that you have as much faith in my strategic acumen as you do the flip of a coin."
Zahara "Just so, if you are willing to trade what we have to our greatest enemy."
Thirteen "I will say this once, Dreambreaker. We are the rulers of Creation. When we have reclaimed our throne, the petty toys we love so dearly now will be as little to us as these pepper rolls. I feel no fear in giving Lai anything I may easily reclaim when my royal foot is pressed against his throat. Why do you? Merely out of the fear that you might, for once, have to let go of something?"
Lucent "I believe it is the fear to give the enemy more than she knows. We just learned something great and terrible about items that were under our nose ever since I got here, Thirteen. Who knows if something 'harmless' we give Lai is really so harmless?"
Zahara "Everything we have, has been fought to secure our place here, and in the war. You perhaps do not SEE how important what we have is. Anything Lai would trade for the Seal would be a blow indeed to give up, after all we have given up to gain them!" she glances at Luc, "All the lives lost, the time wasted. You have been here only a short time with us, Thirteen Blooming Flowers, and all that I have is not yours to give."
Thirteen "I will do my best not to offer Lai anything that forms the underpinning of the world as we know it, Lucent. We did not know what the seals did. Did you really think they did nothing?"
Birds chews thoughtfully.
Thirteen "Our place?"
Cerin "And Lai knows what they do too, thirteen."
Cerin "Perhaps we might simply be better asking Lai where the seal is."
Birds ::Well, there they go again. I wonder what happened to that pie? Did someone sneak into the kitchen and sabotage it?::
Thirteen "Our place is under the Jade Pleasure Dome, Zahara. Do not mistake a waystation for our destination."
Lucent "Of course not. But we did not know what they *are* until now - who knows what we might have overlooked? If Lai knows one such thing, he will ask for it. I would be in favor of trade with a lesser foe... but no. Not someone who has cracked the secrets of Exaltation."
Thirteen "If you are not willing to risk, and perhaps lose, then I will not waste my time in devising strategies for a kingdom so obviously doomed by the timidity of its leader."
Cerin "He did not, Lucent, that was a gift to him. The demon prince we met on the Isles of Ash cracked that. I saw the labs below in the tower."
Zahara "Then go to the Jade Pleasure Dome, Thirteen. I still have a care for this world."
Cerin "Because there are still things we do not know."
Thirteen "Yes. I thought perhaps we wished to learn them."
Thirteen "When it is time for a baby to learn to walk, he must leave the cradle."
Lucent "Thirteen, that is our duty. That is our purpose. And suffering, outside, are those we should protect. The people from whom we came from. You overlook certain things... they are all fighting for this, Thirteen. All of them. Our enemies do not find it meaningless, and neither should we."
Zahara "Those in the Dome have turned their faces from the World."
Zahara "Reaver, stop trying to eat the pie tin!" she snaps.
Thirteen "Those people expect nothing of us but to do what we think best, Lucent. That is exactly what we shall do."
Thirteen "When we venture within, Zahara, we must resolve ourselves not to."
Lucent "By ignoring them? They suffer, Thirteen. And when one of us dies, another will come from them. Do you wish that one to see us as monsters? I will make them see us as Gods. If you wish to get lost in the Jade Pleasure Dome, go ahead, but this is where my concerns lay."
Cerin "Perhaps we should bring the discussion back to more /immediate/ concerns."
Zahara whittles a centerpiece quickly into a six-sided object of perfect weight and balance. 1) research seal sacred geometry/biology; 2) track down Marku; 3) flip over the Realm; 4) go pick up another ingredient; 5) visit the depths of the imperial mountain; 6)Move into the Jade Pleasure Dome.
Zahara tosses the die.
Zahara #roll 1d6
Zahara "The Realm it is."
Thirteen catches it before it hits the table, and calmly eats it.
Zahara stands slowly, glaring at Thirteen. "Leave now."
Thirteen calmly reclines in his chair, not moving. "You have been alive two hundred and sixteen years, Zahara Zhan. It is time for you to grow up."
Zahara "You ATE my DIE. You somehow feel that was not CHILDISH?"
Birds nearly chokes on a roll.
Birds *hack cough* "What was that you were saying, Cerin?"
Thirteen "Perhaps so."
Cerin He turns a black and white ring with a single ruby over in his pocket. "We should also consider the motives of Lai's infernal patron."
Zahara catches the tail end of Birds' attempt to hide her merriment, and suddenly realizes what a patently absurd situation they are in... and starts to laugh. "You ate my *DIE*"
Thirteen "You were trying to replace me with it!"
Zahara "What? No I wasn't."
Thirteen cracks a grin, uncontrollably.
Thirteen "Zahara, I have been giving you the best advice I can as to the optimal strategy to accomplish our goals throughout this meal."
Thirteen "You responded by resorting to chance."
Zahara "I responded by resorting to fate."
Cerin drops the ring in his pocket once more, and shakes his head. He laughs softly.
Thirteen "My being here is fate, Zahara."
Zahara "So why, if it brought you here, do you mistrust it?"
Thirteen "I am a tactician. I must assume that fate is always against me."
Zahara "Does that mean you're not supposed to be here?"
Thirteen "That is fate we have made for ourselves."
Thirteen "This is not the point."
Zahara "Then take what fate gives us, and use your skill to turn it to our favor."
Lucent shakes his head, and drinks more wine. What was there for eating again?
Thirteen "My advice to you, in my glory as Tactician-General of the Armies of the Sunlands, is that we must seek the fourth seal with all dispatch. Any resources we can spare from this effort we may, if you see fit, set to pursuing the remaining ingredients for Exaltation."
Thirteen "The Realm, and Yu-Shan, will keep until we are ready for them. But every moment the seals are away from us is another moment they may become impossible to recover."
Zahara "What good is four without five?"
Thirteen "As I have already said, we shall take Lai's seal when we can and how we must."
Zahara "Fine, then we should seek the Eclipse seal."
Thirteen "...Yes. All right."
Zahara "Good then."
Thirteen "What do you need for this research?"
Zahara "Please excuse me while I go summon some demons." she whirls flouncily, and exits, stage left."
Cerin "As many 2nd or third circle demons of the same patron as Zahara and those we command can summon."
Thirteen is still for a moment, then eats a goblet.
Birds pokes Reaver. "Go keep an eye on mummy dearest, would you?"
Thirteen "How long have you two known Zahara?"
Cerin "Also, ideally you could find me one of the four missing primordials, so we could have a talk. Or failing that, a second elemental dragon. Though those would be luxuries for the investigation."
Lucent "I will prepare myself for the exorcism, then. And maybe something else, if the research takes too long."
Birds "Oh, some time. One loses track."
Cerin "Approaching two years, Thirteen, why?"
Thirteen "If I encounter one, I will attempt to hogtie it as best I can, Cerin."
Thirteen "I just wondered."
Thirteen "What did she do before she took over the Sunlands?"
Cerin "Thank you, Thirteen."
Thirteen "Ah. Wise of her."
Birds "I seem to recall some familial strife as well."
Birds "But mostly, prepared."
Thirteen "Familial strife?"
Cerin "The fae she has chained up downstairs ate them."
Birds "I understand she was less than enthusiastic about this."
Thirteen "Understandably so."
Thirteen "I think...."
Thirteen "...that I have eaten as much as I care to."
Cerin "That is most unusual Thirteen. Was the pie not to your liking?"
Birds looks mildly surprised. "Yes, me too." The servants begin to clear the plates.
Tags: (:tags Seals of the Delibberative, Eclipse, Empress, Imperial Manse, Red Lily, Lai Misuna, Exaltation Checklist, Realm, Markuran, Isles of Ash, Exaltation, Infernal Ring, Thousand-Faced Man, Primordials, Tevezst :)