alsoquin Having narrowly escaped from the plane of Atomnos -- and the wrath of the Primordial at its heart -- the Solars, one Deliberative Seal richer, walk through the gateway that stands in the (now beginning to regrow nicely) forest outside their home.
Thirteen "I apologize for so rudely pre-empting your gate setting, Zahara. However, it is my suspicion that a meeting between Atomnos and Lai would prove surprising for neither." Thirteen frowns, pacing heavily with his arms behind his back.
Zahara "Well, it seems to have worked out, at least." she says drily.
Thirteen "For the moment."
alsoquin A cool wind blows through the forest as the Solars catch their breath.
Thirteen "I fear we have much to discuss."
Cerin "Indeed, though Atomnos was most informative in his rage. As was the reaction of your Seal, Thirteen."
Zahara "I suspect the War Room will witness our new arguments with fervor."
Thirteen "Oh? What have you gleaned from it, Cerin?"
Lucent "Yes. We have to do what we created to do." He nods, "We have to destroy him."
Thirteen coughs up a piece of string and begins threading the Seal onto it so he can wear it again.
Zahara "Not here, come. Let us go inside."
Cerin nods, and takes Zahara's hand, walking back towards the cascade
alsoquin The return is pleasant and straightforward, with no notable disasters awaiting them -- this time.
Thirteen "I shall come to the point."
alsoquin The war room, surprisingly, is not empty -- currently occupied by Serenal, elaborately dressed (as she has been since receiving them) in her red and gold Radiant Sabres uniform, and Relovia, dressed simply as always.
Thirteen "...As soon as it is safe to do so."
Zahara raises a brow at the people in her War Room, and nods to Thirteen. "Serenal." she says. "Relovia." a pause. "What is it that you need?"
alsoquin Serenal: "You do not seem to keep as close a watch on your compatriots as I expected, Zahara."
Zahara "As I am generally quite busy, I shall now designate you to the task. Congratulations on your promotion."
Thirteen "We afford them the attention they deserve."
alsoquin Serenal, with deep mock solemnity -- if she has learned anything from her time in the Sunlands, sarcasm would be high on the list -- makes a saluting gesture and reports "Queen Zahara, I regretfully inform you that Kai Buckthorn is no longer in residence within the Labyrinthine Cascade."
Zahara "Did she suddenly explode with power beyond mortal ken or some such?"
Thirteen "What, again?"
Lucent "You said she was somewhere *safe*!"
Thirteen "She was."
Zahara "She *was*"
Zahara "Somehow I expected she was smart enough not to run off and get into more trouble."
Lucent sighs, looking cross at Zahara and Thirteen "You know where she is, Serenal?"
alsoquin "She entertained a guest. When they were finished speaking, she informed me that she would be departing for urgent purposes immediately and that I was to continue the work of the Sabres in her absence."
alsoquin "She said she did not know when she would be back, precisely."
Cerin "Who was this guest?"
Zahara tries to contact Kai via ring. ::Kai? Where in the hells are you?::
alsoquin "He said his name was Ardea. I didn't press further and he had already departed when Kai announced her intentions. He was wearing one of your hideous local costumes."
Zahara "Hideous local costumes?" she eyes Serenal sternly.
alsoquin The ring receives no response.
Cerin considers the matter.
Zahara tests to see if she can still 'feel' Kai through it, or if she's not wearing it.
Lucent "Our fight broadens in scope, and we lose our Dawn. Wonderful..." He mutters, walking to the War Room's table and sitting down. "Kai is willful, right? So it is likely not something... controlling her? Forcing her to go?" He looks at Thirteen before he can says anything, "Those *do* happen even to Solars. The scrolls on my Manse had horrible tales of First Age Exalts whose mind had been taken..."
Thirteen "This is my concern as well."
alsoquin Zahara cannot specifically locate Kai through the ring network, though the stark absence that has been present in previous situations with the rings is not present either.
Zahara "She has shut herself off from us, as well. This is not like her... Did she take the sword? Her other belongings?"
alsoquin Relovia speaks up, irritatedly. "Yes, yes, she took her sword and a small pack of belongings."
Zahara flashes A Look at Relovia.
alsoquin Relovia glares back forcefully. "What do you expect, leaving her behind as you traipse across Creation?"
Thirteen "Firstly, we were not in Creation."
Lucent "I thought she had something important to do... thought it was her choice. We were worried.."
alsoquin Serenal interjects. "It does not matter. If you have need of me, I will be continuing her work with the Sabres. Come, Relovia." The two women arise, each gracing Zahara with her own exasperated look, and begin to walk out.
Thirteen "Secondly, I expected her to do her duty, or to tell us if she were for some reason unable."
alsoquin On her way out, Relovia responds: "A reasonable request. If we should meet her out in the courtyard, we will convey your disappointment most clearly."
alsoquin Then, the Solars are alone.
Lucent "When it rains, it pours..."
Cerin "Hrm. That is vexing."
Thirteen "As always, Zahara, the discipline and dedication of your troops is nothing short of impressive."
Thirteen "If she has chosen to go, then there is no point in pursuing her."
Thirteen "Can we be assured that this is the case?" Thirteen gestures towards Cerin.
alsoquin Cerin is busy noting that Serenal's and Relovia's hands seem to brush -- almost as if not by accident -- as they leave the room.
Thirteen "Yes, Cerin, they are entangled. Please focus."
Cerin gives Thirteen a Look. And then he continues. "They were not attempting to mislead us about Kai, so we must assume she left of her own free will. You will note that she chose to leave after the man had departed. While there are charms that work after such delays, they are much harder to employ. I would suggest visiting her room, but in a manse, no traces of magic would be left anyway."
Thirteen "Then we must trust in her capabilities, as we have heretofore done."
Cerin "Until we recieve further information, yes. Though I might ask amongst some of the closer peoples of this 'Ardei'."
Thirteen "I leave that to you, of course."
Thirteen "We must turn to other matters."
Zahara contemplates the table silently for a moment, reigning in her anger.
Cerin "The Seals though, as I previously deduced, are malakim of the second circle. The stress atomnos' bolt put yours under, however, allowed me to see much deeper," Cerin talks casually of studying the primordial essence bolt. "It is a component soul of one of, or THE dragon of Earth, who is one of Gaia's highest Malakim."
Thirteen "What does that signify, with regards to their power and purpose?"
Zahara then cleaves Kai's place at the table in two with nothing but her fist. "It is good that I have not placed complete trust in Serenal, Relovia nor Kai."
Zahara takes her seat then, calmly, at the head of the table and turns her attention to Cerin, listening to his theories.
Cerin "It provides an explanation as to why their bindings failed when they moved beyond Meru. Being of Earth, they are also concerned with Order and Stability. They are obviously capable of imposing such on Meru, and from their power beyond it's borders and Meru's central location, I believe they would extend influence to all twelve planes."
Lucent "Primordials can take over the Malakim for a time, right? Did Atomnos did it on the First Age? He said he had destroyed Chosen before... you figure the Usurpation, the atrocities leading up to it... maybe the Seals allow them some measure of control?"
Lucent * did atomnos DO
Cerin "I believe they could have some influence, though having only seen it in first circle demons, I could not say more for sure."
Thirteen "I suspect Atomnos took more direct action."
Thirteen "It is evident that he is allied with Lai's forces and has been throughout our conflict. He may, indeed, have directed them from the start."
Thirteen "It is a small stretch to imagine that he was involved in the Usurpation as well, since this is a similar plot, presumably for a similar purpose."
Zahara "I hope his plans crumble to dust without my seal." she says spitefully, fingering the small piece of metal for which so many resources and lives have been spent.
Cerin "The start involved an infernal, working for the Ebon Dragon. In this age, at least."
Cerin "Or a start. That is where Lai, and his two deceased compatriots recieved the information that sent them travelling the worlds, looking for components."
Zahara "I am, however, quite annoyed that my plan to actually trade with them has fallen through, more or less. I suppose we will have to make due with the spoils of war."
Lucent "The Lion, some things about the Lily... is this a different plan? It seems to follow the same path, sometimes... like we are just at the tail end of a long plan." He sighs, "They are all demons, Cerin. Atomnos is a 'Yozi', for all it matters now. He is 'enemy'."
Cerin "While it is possible, and indeed likely, he was in communication, such communication would be indirect. Unless their agreement is very close."
Thirteen "It is indeed fortunate that we possess a majority of the seals, Zahara. Should we be unable to seize the remaining two, we will still have a voting majority if the Deliberative should meet."
Thirteen "The Ebon Dragon is a Yozi, as is Cytherea, Cerin."
Cerin "Indeed, this fact had not escaped my attention."
Thirteen "While I hesitate to suggest a conspiracy spanning all the levels of our universe, from the Jade Pleasure Dome to the depths of Hell, some things seem to suggest themselves."
Birds tries to sneak into the war room unnoticed, adjusting her dishevelled hair.
Thirteen "Indeed, it is this that concerns me most directly."
Cerin "We could probably not go too wrong in overestimating the size of the conspiracy, no."
Thirteen "My thoughts are drawn to the Sun.'
Cerin "In what way?"
Thirteen "Two thousand years have passed since the First Age. In all this time, no Solars appeared...until we did."
Thirteen "Consider that the Sun appears to have less then the most paternal intentions towards us....and yet he failed to even attempt to destroy us at our weakest."
Zahara "Atomnos needs to be bound with the rest of the demons. And then I will summon him and destroy him, over and over, until he is purified."
Thirteen "Only now, that we are nearing the height of our power, does Lai show his face...and the Sun gives him no obvious support. He merely forbids the other gods to aid us."
Thirteen "He cannot have been ignorant of us."
Cerin kisses Zahara in an attempt to calm her somewhat.
Thirteen "The question is inevitable; if he allowed us to Exalt, why has he turned against us?"
Birds "Supposing he has not..."
Thirteen "And why did he wait until our strengths were so vast, and then send such an indirect force after us?"
Zahara only barely seems to notice, so annoyed is she.
Thirteen "Yes, Birds?"
Lucent crosses his arms and listens. Better to hear the whole point before saying Thirteen is a heretic that deserves cleansing.
Cerin "That is an interesting supposition, Birds."
Birds "Well, it is as you have said. There are at least twelve Solars present approximately in Creation at this time."
Birds "That is to say, us, the western circle, and some of our prodigal companions."
Lucent "An insignificant number compared to us in our prime. Where could the others be?"
Birds "The old man can't be unaware of this, and remember his glory and awesomeness in ancient times? I do not think it is aloofness or weakness that stays his hand."
Cerin slips an arm around Zahara. "That is a question I have considered several times, Lucent. There appears to be no evidence to suggest a reason, beyond immaculate references to us being so decadent even our own god turned on us."
Thirteen "What is it, then?"
Lucent "They couldn't all be like the Dark Chosen I fought with the Equation. If the Deathlords had this much power, all the rest of us, Creation would already be a great Shadowland."
Thirteen "Ah -- another point."
Thirteen "Why have the Abyssals not gathered more territory?"
Cerin "Of course, some of them are the abyssals, yes."
Thirteen "Examine their movements."
Thirteen quickly draws his hands across the big map, leaving patches of black behind that only slowly vanish.
Zahara soaks up the conversation around her while simultaneously completely paying no attention to it. Instead, she is sifting through potential leads in where she can learn the summoning spells of the 3rd circle, and beyond.
Thirteen "Abyssals are, if not as powerful as Solars, certainly more powerful than other Exalted. Meru does not possess the forces necessary to keep them at bay, saving only ourselves."
Thirteen "Yet they do not advance."
Thirteen "They keep to their Shadowlands, not attempting to expand them."
Cerin "They have been ... quiet. We know that the Mask attempted to attack lookshy, and we know that the Lion unleashed the Shadowed Unlife Equation upon the South."
Thirteen "Why would they remain so quiet? What possible motivation would they have for not seizing the moment, and much of Creation?"
Thirteen "With regards to other Exalts."
Birds tilts her head to one side.
Lucent "They are powerful, but I have no idea how powerful. The one I fought fell in hubris before the sun - he believed us sheep, and was unprepared for a lion amidst it. He did put a fight unprepared, in a situation where a Dragon and Starchosen miht simply die. But... if we must solve this puzzle, we have to know what the Deathlords have. How *many* Abyssals."
Thirteen "As you have seen, although Solars remain extremely rare, there is no shortage of Lunars. They appear to continue to Exalt just as normal."
Cerin "Something in the process, or how they behave seems to have stunted them. Both the Ebon blade, and a visiting abyssal to the cascade, were of markedly lower mastery of essence."
Birds "Maybe they are making advances in some other battleground."
Cerin "In creation, I believe one could be defeated by a mere scale of dragonblooded."
Thirteen "There is the exception that they appear to have forgotten their pasts before Exaltation. I wonder whether this has always been the case."
Cerin "The Dark Chosen you mentioned."
Thirteen "Nevertheless, the question remains. The Abyssals continue to appear. The Lunars continue to spawn. Even the Sidereals seem to be more or less proceeding as normal. Only the Solars have vanished, and now return in small numbers. Why?"
Cerin "We were stopped, by someone, or something. And then, that ban was lifted."
Cerin "Possibly by the same entity."
Thirteen "For a small dozen of us, perhaps."
Cerin "Well, yes."
Thirteen "Where are the remainder? Why are they held in abeyance?"
Thirteen "And who stopped them?"
Cerin "These are all questions I have considered, and have found no facts that concern them."
Thirteen "Perhaps it would be as well to seek out these facts."
Thirteen "Without a greater knowledge of our adversary, we cannot hope to prevail against him. Taking a pawn does not win a game if we lose sight of the king."
Cerin "Indeed. Though now I must briefly depart, for an idea has just occured to me." And then 13 is talking to thin air.
Lucent "Atomnos implied having part in our Creation. Maybe he, or one of his allies, with that knowledge? Then the question becomes who has allowed the ones you possess to get free."
Thirteen "If we truly contain shards of the Sun's glory, one might suspect he would need to be involved."
Thirteen "Which brings us back to the first point."
Thirteen "If he does not want us, then why are we here? If he does, then why so few?"
Thirteen "I suspect we must seek our answers among the Celestial Bureaucracy...but there are only two gods who seem willing thus far to aid us."
Zahara decides to test the theory, that if one is to summon every single lesser soul of a Demon, that one might also command the Primordial itself. To that end, the discussion on there being fewer batte...Solars than there should be becomes suddenly relevant.
Lucent "Maybe you are all he could break out of Atomnos' grasp - he could not act against Atomnos, none of the great elder gods could. Which means he likely did it through far weaker proxies... allowing only this couple dozen Exaltations to get free."
Lucent is surprised, however; That Thirteen would consider what he did all along, that the Sun was their benefactor!
Thirteen "But then why does he not aid us?"
Thirteen "Why, indeed, does he turn all the gods against us?"
Thirteen "I assure you that, if he truly retains his position at the head of the Bureaucracy, Lai would not be able to act against us without his at least tacit approval."
Zahara "With enough Soul Cages, and the final ingredients from the Checklist we could assist the return of the Solars, or at least strengthen our side. There must be a way to determine who the potential Solars are."
Cerin is VERY careful to ensure there is an audiable footstep before he appears once more, holding a box. "There are, however, two bureaucracies. One is against us, the other is forbidden from helping us. The firt, the terrestrial gods, may well be below his notice."
Lucent "Maybe he cannot. If anything, the sun has always believed in us. He embodies those virtues. He believed, pehaps, that Creation could exist without him... and maybe he promised to himself not to interfere. He would retain such oaths to the end, Thirteen. If anything would be our God's downfall, it is his virtue."
Thirteen "A thought I had not considered, Zahara. I had thought we had resolved to create Exalted of our own."
Lucent "Exactly. I posit he has severed himself from Terrestrial matters."
Cerin "I am also given to understand from my conversations with Selonis that the edicts predate the lily by no small number of years."
Zahara "The possibilities go beyond the initial concept, if one simply considers them."
Cerin sets the box down on the table.
Thirteen "What have you brought, Cerin?"
Cerin "This was the box which we retrieved from beyond the world. I think I can open it now."
Thirteen "It is possible, Lucent, but I wonder why so many have told us so often that we should be ashamed of our creator."
Thirteen "I wish to find out whether such emotion is justified."
Lucent "I would be with you in that - however, you should remember how many are working for the Primordials those days - all of them believe his great act of liberation to be a grievous treachery, remember."
Cerin taps 4 points seemingly at random on the surface of the box, before carefully twisting the essence to the correct Orientation and letting these altered motes flow through the body of the box, until it clicks open with a sound on himself and thirteen can here. He carefully opens it, and withdraws what he finds on top.
Cerin "I would remind you that one of his critics is his one of his own guards, Lucent"
Zahara seems to have pulled herself together by now, and laughs shortly. "History is written by the winners, but those who lose always remember."
Thirteen "indeed. Selonis is one of the two gods I propose to speak with at our earliest opportunityu."
Lucent "In fact, Atomnos, if anything, reaffirmed my faith. He treated humans as rats in a labyrinth. And that is a free, benevolent Primordial."
Zahara "I wonder if Markuran has contacted him since he...departed our company."
alsoquin Cerin draws out a small object -- a crude metal spearhead, still bearing a small part of the wooden shaft, and attached to it two large feathers -- once white, it would appear, but stained red by blood.
Zahara inspects the spearhead. "Fascinating."
Lucent "Cerin... it shows the Lily has come to his own Guards and corrupted them with their ideals, even if not swayed them completely.
alsoquin As he looks at it, a flash of memory flows back to him -- he watches as a tall, raven haired woman falls to the ground, and hears the unearthly scream as his own tiny, pale hand snatches the spear -- still whole -- from the village chieftan, and charges at the horrific beast....
Cerin "Lucent, he has carried me in his stomach to steal a Celest-..."
Thirteen "What is it, Cerin?"
Lucent blinks. "Steal?"
Birds sketches the character in the air.
Birds "There's an obscure alchemical process..."
Cerin "This is the spear that Ymir used to kill the behemoth of thirty eyes and eighty wings and one hundred legs, the day before she was due to be wed. That is when she exalted. It brings back ... memories."
Lucent "Ah, yes... that..."
Cerin "Yes, Lucent, to steal a Celestial Peach from the Sun's own gardens, to help us against the Lily."
Zahara "Did she still marry?"
Cerin "They were all dead."
Cerin "Including her wife to be."
Zahara smiles briefly at Cerin when he mentions the Peach.
Cerin "Well, I lie. I stole three."
Lucent watches Cerin blankly
Cerin puts the spear back in the box, to one side, and then reaches in once more.
Lucent "You did WHAT?!?"
Zahara "They were on the checklist, and have been put to good use aside from that." she notes.
Thirteen "How many do we still possess?"
Lucent gets up, "... we should give it back! They are sacred!"
Zahara "Lucent. Sit down."
Lucent "But... but... they are *sacred*!"
Zahara "And we are the CHILDREN of the Sun. What better hands to be in?"
alsoquin This time, Cerin draws out a small, earthen cup.
Zahara "Lai has at least one, too. If you wish to return one, take his."
Lucent sits down, sullenly, crossing his arms. "We aren ot done about this. And I *will*!"
Cerin studies the cup.
alsoquin Once again, the memories flow back to him: sitting, coated in blood, next to the General Talmuda, after rescuing him from captivity; bodies lying dead all around, but danger now passed. The general pulls the cup from his robes, fills it in a nearby stream, and, laughing, passes it to Ymir....
Zahara "Aren't we?" her voice is even, and cold.
Cerin appears to have paid no heed to Lucent and Zahara's exchange. He turns and smiles at Zahara, kissing her softly, but properly.
Zahara is quite distracted by this kiss, "What was that for?"
Cerin "Talmuda gave Ymir the cup, after she carved a bloody path to rescue him after he was kidnapped."
Thirteen "Hm. Keepsakes."
Cerin nods, and returns the cup, drawing out the next item.
Zahara "Ahh, yes." she smiles. "One day I will return the favor, although I doubt you would get kidnapped in this life."
alsoquin Cerin looks -- a small pin of greenish-brown stone, with a heavily stylized design of seven interwoven tendrils surrounding a single drop of red blood.
alsoquin Instantly he sees himself pulling the pin off of a dead, discarded cultist as he advances towards the center of the cult's lair... towards the innumerable tendrils of Siram. A black "glow" fills the room, and a familiar, gravelly voice speaks out: "Ymir... I have expected your arrival...."
alsoquin Cerin remembers himself staring into those dark black eyes for a moment before charging -- a moment before they meet in combat he is returned to the present.
Cerin "Sirram." He states simply, and with considerable venom - of the sort normally reserved for a certain Mr. Misuna. "It is Sirram who possesses Marukan the Bear. Despite Ymir slaying it."
Thirteen "That pin is associated with Sirram?"
Cerin "That pin is the symbol of the cult he built below Rintoko in the first age. Ymir slew his agents and then did battle with him for 10 years before she returned to the deliberative."
Thirteen "And Sirram is Kiraith?"
Cerin "No, Sirram is the black spirit that possessed both of them, that Markuran foolishly released from his prison of soulsteel."
Zahara "How did you slay him the first time?"
Zahara "I don't think we have an extra 10 years right now." she frowns.
Thirteen "So, despite Ymir slaying it, it returned, to infest the Circle."
Cerin "I do not know."
Cerin "Or Ymir did not slay it, and the corpse she deposited in the centre of the deliberative was merely a ruse."
Cerin "Though when she fought it, it had physical form. Now, it does not."
Thirteen "Excuse me. It does. It is merely borrowed this time."
Zahara "Well to be fair, Markuran released it."
Cerin returns the pin to the box, and draws out the last item.
Thirteen "In any case, it has been defeated at least once, since it was imprisoned. It can be defeated again."
Zahara "I would prefer not to kill Markuran if it is not necess...what am I *saying?*"
Cerin shakes his head and then looks at his hand.
alsoquin A small crystalline object -- a piece of incredibly delicate hair jewelry, in the shape of a hawk, lies in his hand; the tiniest spattering of blood rests upon it.
alsoquin The vision that begins this time is of utmost clarity, and almost overwhelms Cerin as he is drawn into it.
alsoquin Cerin sits in front of a mirror. In it, the cold visage of Ymir sits; her clothes streaked with blood, her hand clutching the crystal hawk tightly. A large body lies dripping blood in the bed visible behind her, though Cerin cannot turn to look at it.
Thirteen "What is that, Cerin?"
alsoquin (more coming)
alsoquin Suddenly, he hears the voice, his and not his, speak up: "There is not much time. Already the flowers will be coming for me. I do not know when this memory is awakened, but I hope that the time is right. All the ranks of the Chosen have been compromised. From beyond death and exile, the three dragons plot together. (...)
alsoquin "More than anything else, it is vital: THE CHIME MUST BE PROTECTED. Look to the peak in your darkest hour." As she finishes speaking, a tear rolls down Ymir's face, and she angrily brushes it away, smearing blood across her cheek. "And remember your love for him." She turns away from the mirror just as Cerin fades back into the present once again.
Cerin "I did. Before I knew who he was." He says quietly, considering.
Zahara "Did what?"
Cerin puts the amulet back in the box, and seals it. "Love you."
Zahara "..oh." she smiles. "I love you too. But that was sort of abrupt...was it a memory?"
Cerin "Spoken to a mirror while Talmuda finished bleeding behind her, yes."
Zahara "Why am I always dying in your dreams?"
Thirteen "It would appear that prior trauma is the cause, Zahara."
Zahara rests her hand on Cerin's arm. "I seem to be quite good at it."
Cerin "She also mentioned the Chime. The Chime of Ages featured in the murals in your tomb."
Thirteen "Was there anything else?"
Zahara "The Chime?" she frowns.
Cerin "She spoke of compromise of the Exalted on all levels, of three dragons plotting, from beyond death and exile."
Thirteen "Three dragons..."
Cerin "I would venture one of them is the Ebon Dragon, though it also fits with a tale you related to Birds of Trinity."
Thirteen is silent for a moment. His fingers recall the touch of a weathered document, full of forgotten lore, while a remembered knell sounds in his ears...
Zahara thinks back to the mural, focusing on the depiction of the chime and sending her mind back into the realms of memory. Her mind drifts to the sound of the Bell, and how the tone is the same and yet different from that of the Chime.
Thirteen "...yes. I suspect the two are not unrelated, although I confess a certain surprise."
Birds "If the Ebon is one of three, who are the other two?"
Birds makes a face like she knew the answer to this once.
Thirteen ."The Chime of Ages has been hidden away since the war."
Thirteen "I remember its effectiveness, as a weapon of war, but I cannot recall where it has gone."
Thirteen "I wonder indeed."
Birds "Thirteen, tell us the attributes of the dragons again?"
Thirteen "Father Dragon created all the knowledge in the world, and the tongues and characters with which they may be communicated. He is the weakest, for in so doing, he has become mindless and speechless."
Zahara "Effective indeed... its power alone helped turn the tide of the war against the Primordials." she muses thoughtfully.
Thirteen "Mother Dragon created all the living things of the world, and nurtures them at every moment, that they may survive. She is stronger than Father Dragon, but in her task, she has become hateful and murderous."
Thirteen "Child Dragon does nothing, and so he is the strongest of the three."
Birds "Thank you."
Zahara taps her fingers on the table, thinking "I need to find it."
alsoquin Cerin makes his leave to go off and consider what has happened -- alone.
Thirteen "I think...that Lucent would benefit from meeting Selonis himself."
Birds "You do, Zee."
Thirteen "And I hope that he might be able to answer some of my questions."
Thirteen "Shall we?"
Birds "Oh, let's do. Selonis is such excellent company!"
Zahara "I haven't seen him in a long time..." she looks at Cerin's departing behind. "And I think we can trust *Cerin* at least not to run off without leaving a note."
alsoquin A short time later, the Solars have arrived in the Isles of Glass, the tiny sub-realms of heaven where Marku and Selonis had their play-dates.
alsoquin Today, they walk into a realm of opalescent waves and crescents that ever-so-slowly splash and drift into one another -- though they are solid enough to walk upon.
alsoquin Much as she expected, Zahara spots Selonis, the grand Celestial Lion, lounging in the sun, some distance away.
Zahara inclines her head to the lion, "Selonis, it is good to see you. Do you have a few moments?"
Selonis The lion is startled and its head jerks upwards, shaking its vast golden mane in the sunlight -- quite a gorgeous display. "Z... Zahara Zhan? I did not expect to see you."
Zahara "I apologize for coming with no notice. Did you expect to see someone else?"
Thirteen taps the butt of his spear against the waves, splashing slightly. "Greetings, guardian. My name is Thirteen Blooming Flowers."
Selonis "I expected solitude. It is all I have had when I leave my duty, these past months."
Birds "That is unfortunate to hear."
Birds "You know you are always welcome in the Cascade."
Thirteen "Markuran the Bear has become...indisposed."
Birds giggles at Thirteen. "It's so funny when you use delicate language."
Lucent finally steps out of the back, "So, it is he who helped Cerin?"
Selonis looks over Zahara's companions. "It is... pleasant to meet you, Thirteen Blooming Flowers." He sighs at the mention of Markuran's name. "I have heard some whispers of what has become of him."
Zahara "We would have visited more, but we have been busy. Our circle...has changed a bit since we last met. Thirteen Blooming Flowers," she gestures to him, then Luc "and Lucent Copper Haze have joined us, and as noted, Markuran has..left us."
Selonis looks over Luc very, very carefully.
Lucent "Greetings." No 'pleasure to meet you', of course... if he helped *that*!
Selonis "Hello to you as well... Lucent Copper Haze."
Thirteen "Given the circumstances, it seemed likely that perhaps associating with us might be difficult for you. Thus we forbore."
Zahara "Another of our friends, Kai Buckthorn, has gone off on a mission of her own. When she returns, I will introduce you."
Thirteen "However, there are certain matters that might be worth discussing with you."
Birds hovers close enough to the interesting ground to pick up bits of it and play with it.
Lucent eyes Selonis very, very seriously. Golden pools of compassion harden.
Selonis The lion stares back at Lucent even more firmly for a few moments, then, suddenly, laughs.
Zahara notes their reaction to eachother
Thirteen "I wish to speak with you of the Unconquered Sun."
Selonis "I would suggest speaking to me of those matters now, Thirteen Blooming Flowers. I doubt I will be given leave to return here once news of this visit has travelled."
Lucent looks like a boy denied candy "That's not to be looked upon likely! You stole." He shrugs, again, as a boy who's realising the grown-ups just won't listen.
Zahara shakes her head, "Lucent, let it go."
Thirteen "Ah. I apologize for complicating your life unduly, then, and will come to the point."
Thirteen "Do you know, by chance, how many Solars there are in Creation today?"
Selonis "Please do." The lion nods his great head and then laughs at Lucent a second time.
Selonis "How many of your kind, walk the whole of Creation?"
Zahara "A shame. The irony is that we wish to save them, so to speak."
Thirteen "That is my question."
Lucent "Yes, exactly. We seem to have it in little more than a dozen."
Lucent "Which is... frighteningly little, even with the dark ones about."
Thirteen turns aside for a moment. "The real question, Lucent, is why the Peaches are held in abeyance. If we could have asked for them, as is our right, no larceny would have been necessary."
Selonis "You can surely see -- look at what even so few as yourselves have wrought -- that there are not many."
Selonis "Were I to reckon their number, I would count it as... no more than 30."
Thirteen nods as if this were the number he already had in mind.
Thirteen "And I am sure you know that there were many more during the First Age."
Lucent "There are too few, Thirteen. Otherwise, they would not be regulated."
Lucent "That is... a tenth of what it once was?"
Thirteen "My first question to you, Selonis, is, where have the others gone?"
Thirteen "Why does the Sun hold them away from the world?"
Selonis Selonis sighs very, very deeply, enough to generate a severe breeze in the nearby area
Selonis "Let me ask. Do you have any beliefs as to where they might be hidden?"
Birds "We have learned much about the exaltation, but not quite how to contain it. Not quite yet..."
Thirteen gives a half-smile.
Thirteen "Let us suppose for the moment that I do not."
Selonis Selonis smiles in a fashion that bares a few of his glorious golden canines. "The Sun holds no sway over the other Solars you seek."
Thirteen "What, then, allowed him to bring us into the world?"
Thirteen "Or, perhaps, is our arrival not in accord with his desires?"
Selonis nods slowly. "So that is how little you know of this," he says softly, to himself. "You were not chosen to return. When the gates barring you were removed, all who remained went back into the world."
Zahara contemplates Selonis' silken fur.
Thirteen "Let us pretend, for the moment, that I know nothing of what has happened regarding the Exalted shards of the Solars."
Lucent "... he did not want us here? We were closed behind a gate? Was it by him?!?"
Zahara "What do you mean, all who remained?"
Lucent did not care about the rest now, he had to know this
Thirteen "Perhaps it would be as well for you to relate the whole story in such mind."
Zahara "The Shards do not just cease to exist."
Selonis thinks for a moment.
Selonis "Let me tell you a story."
Selonis "Imagine a vast river, filled with fiery red salmon."
Selonis "Each swims down the river; then, when it is time to spawn, violently propels itself back upwards to the source of the river."
Selonis "Now, imagine that men have built a net, staked in five places, to hang across this river, as all the salmon are upstream. One by one, the salmon pass down the river, but instead of completing their journey, one by one, they fall -- straight into the net."
Selonis "As the net fills with fish, slowly the river itself empties, until finally no more are to be found, upstream or down."
Selonis "It is then that the man and his friends come, and take all they can hold -- a basket here, a great tub there -- until the net is nearly picked clean."
Selonis "Now, one by one, the stakes that hold the net in place... begin to buckle."
Selonis "What happens to the fish who remain in the net when the last stake is pulled out?"
Thirteen "They reach the source of the river...and find themselves alone."
Lucent "They find themselves free."
Selonis nods sagely.
Thirteen "What have we been caught and used for?"
Thirteen "And what opened the gates?"
Selonis "What have fish always been caught for? To breed, or to gaze at in a tank. Or to eat."
Lucent "None of those things can be done with Exaltations! They are perfect! Pure!"
Thirteen does not react, but the water around him stills to a dead calm.
Zahara blinks slowly
Zahara "By whom?"
Selonis "As for what opened them... I believe that I have already told you. The stakes were pulled out, and the net collapsed."
Thirteen "Yes, but who pulled the stakes, and why?"
Lucent "Who pulled them out? It couldn't have been the ones who wished the fish to be caught."
Zahara "What could possibly consume a Shard?"
Birds "I worry that the fishers did worse than consume."
Selonis "Who indeed. Who could have done such a thing?"
Zahara "I am inclined to blame Autochthon at the moment."
Lucent "There were many men, right? Some went to the Deathlords - like the Lion, who have tarnished them. But they cannot possibly have all..." He ponders... and then his face grows... darker. "Autochton's allies. If he is with the Lily... but they have none other, unless..."
Zahara "Are they breaking them up to use to Exalt the lesser gods?"
Thirteen "He has the ability, but I doubt he has the motivation."
Thirteen "Until fairly recently."
Lucent "That is what I thought. If... if he is *breaking* Solar Exaltations to produce those... things...."
Lucent The very thought makes Lucent sick. Clearly, little is more sacred for him.
Thirteen "In any case, a further query immediately presents himself: why has the Sun not interceded to protect them?"
Zahara "How can he just Stand By while this is happening?" she paces.
Selonis "The last salmon are lucky to have stayed in the net until someone happened to pull out the last stake..." It is clear at this point that Selonis has gotten slightly distracted by the thought of sweet, delicious salmon....
Selonis as he unconsciously makes fish-batting-around motions with one claw....
Selonis A second later he jolts back to attention. "The Sun has his own motives."
Thirteen "What are they?"
Thirteen "What has driven him to turn the Celestial Bureaucracy against us?"
Zahara 's eyes burn with anger. "He is barely fit to call himself the Sun anymore, and certainly not Unconquered."
Thirteen "Well. Not for much longer."
Lucent "ZAHARA! Is the horror of what they might be doing with our brothers not *enough* blasphemy for you?"
Selonis 's eyes darken a little as he looks downward. "You may wish to look to your own pasts for the answer to that. When the Chosen of the Sun left the face of Creation, there were many who saw it as right."
Zahara "He is allowing this, is that not blasphemy unto itself?"
Thirteen "Wake up, Lucent. Did you not hear Selonis? The Sun knows what is happening. He does nothing."
Birds stirs the rippling earth in complicated patterns.
Thirteen "In plain words, then."
Thirteen "He supported the Usurpation."
Thirteen "He believed that the murder, and the ultimate destruction, of the Children of the Sun was the best course of action."
Thirteen "No doubt he feared us, and hated us, and so he allowed us to be annihilated."
Thirteen "Have I spoken truth, Selonis?"
Lucent explodes in righteous indignation, his anima flaring "... he couldn't. PLAIN WORDS, Selonis. SAY HE COULDN'T."
Thirteen "You condemn him again."
Thirteen "Either he let us die willingly, or he was too afraid for his own neck to intervene."
Thirteen "In either case, what right has he to his glory?"
Thirteen "Which is it, then? Did he hate us, or was he too weak to stand against his adversaries and ours?"
Lucent The Coronal opens around him, and a thousand faces of the sun burn their way towards Thirteen. "SHUT. UP."
Thirteen draws himself to his full height, unamused, and his caste mark suddenly blazes ever brighter. Each tiny sun, swirling towards him, scatters and eddies its way towards his forehead, strikes the mark and is swallowed up.
Thirteen "That is the last time you will strike at me for providing you with knowledge you refuse to accept, Lucent Copper Haze."
Selonis "STOP THIS AT ONCE!"
Thirteen "It is time for you to learn what it means to be your own man, rather than a puppet."
Selonis The lion's mane waves in the wind as his entire face begins to glow with a brilliant red fire. The sound of his voice sounds loud enough to topple a mountain, and it is difficult not to stare directly at him.
Lucent seems to only get angrier at that. Of course he could not stop Thirteen with a single strike... he may not even be able to do that after a long, hard fight... "You will bow before his glory, Thirteen." He says, pointing at him, "And stop this blasphe..."
Zahara looks at Selonis, "Speak plainly then."
Selonis "Sol Invictus created your kind to be champions, and the sickness at your hearts ate away at that until you were scourged from Creation! If you are cast away now, know how your previous selves made it be so."
Selonis seems to shrink a little.
Selonis "That is all that I can say."
Zahara "It is time for new tools."
Lucent "That is not what we asked. DID. HE. CONSENT?"
Thirteen "We have been cast away, Lucent."
Lucent "Selonis, I do not care what you want or not to say. You WILL say it."
Thirteen "That is as plain as I think it can be made."
Lucent "That is your own desires being projected in his words, Thirteen. I am not seeing it!"
Selonis Selonis stares Lucent in the eye. "The Sun turned away his face from your kind, and watched not what happened to your souls as they hung in limbo."
Lucent The seven lights of the incarna hang around Lucent...
Lucent ... and then they lose their light, seven orbs falling heavily on the floor.
Thirteen 's mouth tightens in a grim line.
Thirteen "He will know what has happened to them now."
Zahara "The Sun did nothing to save our kind, when he had the chance. He turned away long before we died."
Thirteen "I am sorry, Lucent."
Thirteen steps forward slowly, offering his hand to the boy.
Lucent is limp. Like the words had hollowed out his soul, standing there like a dream-eaten...
Selonis , looking somewhat forlorn himself, lays one massive paw gently upon Luc's shoulder.
Zahara looks away. "I had suspected. It is still... harsh to hear it confirmed."
Thirteen "We must depend on ourselves, Dreambreaker, as we have always done."
Thirteen "I, at least, will not abandon you. Any of you."
Thirteen "We need no others."
Selonis "Luc." He speaks plainly. "Whatever may cloud the heavens, the divine light that shines within you is uncorrupt. Believe this." The paw provides a warm, gentle feeling, despite its massive size.
Lucent sheds a tear at Selonis' words. And another. And then they come unimpeded...
Lucent And he never, ever, looked younger than now
Zahara "Those are words I never expected to hear from your mouth, Thirteen."
Thirteen "Have you forgotten our oath in the garden, Zahara?"
Thirteen "We are siblings. And we must stand together more than ever now."
Birds puts a hand on Luc's other shoulder. "We know it hurts. All of us have had to face that betrayal in our hearts. I still wake up some nights."
Birds "Thank you for being truthful, Selonis. You may be the last god in the world who is."
Birds salutes him.
Thirteen "I hope that you survive it."
Thirteen "I have but one further avenue of inquiry."
Zahara looks at him directly, "Thank you." Then turns to Selonis, "If you need safe harbor, we will shelter you. I know how...strange that sounds, but the offer stands."
Selonis "I apologize that speaking to me brought discord to you. I have greatly enjoyed my visits with you and your companions, and hope to speak with you again soon...." he shakes his head. "Yes, Thirteen Blooming Flowers?"
Thirteen "In your knowledge, is the Sun associated with Lai's campaign in any respect?"
Thirteen "I assure you that I would not have foregone this conversation for all the world."
Selonis "In my knowledge: no, he is not."
Zahara "Selonis, the blame in this does not lie with you."
Selonis nods once more.
Thirteen "Thank you." Thirteen drops to one knee, making ripples in the water, and inclines his head slightly. "You have helped us to a great degree, and I will not forget it."
Thirteen "Perhaps it is time to return to the Manse."
Selonis "You are welcome. I... hope that you may make good use of this information. I believe you had best be leaving now."
Selonis settles back into his previous basking spot.
Lucent turns around, walking limply, as the orbs on the floor coalesce into multihued essence and back on the coronal... he says not a word.
Zahara seems somewhere between angry and subdued as she leaves.
Birds secretly decides to keep Luc in her sight for a few days. Who knows what he might do.
Tags: (:tags Atomnos, Seals of the Deliberative, Serenal, Radiant Sabres, Relovia, Ardea, Primordials, Malakim, Ebon Dragon, Lai Misuna, Sol Invictus, Abyssals, Lunars, Sidereals, Gods, Selonis, Lockbox, First Age Flashbacks, Ymir, Peaches of Immortality, Talmuda, Siram, Rintoko, Three Dragons, Chime of Ages, Isles of Glass :)