Zahara sends a servant to fetch Ikara, pondering idly over their recent discussion with Belladonna. She reclines in her thronelike-chair in the War Room, and takes a bite of one of the leftover pastries. "It occurs to me that we still have questions to ask Ikara before we send her off to be our emissary."
Thirteen "Indeed. Perhaps it would be as well for Cerin to be present at any such discussion."
Zahara "Of course." ::Cerin, love, would you please join us in the War Room? We need your assistance in speaking with our friend Ikara.::
Cerin ::I shall be there momentarily.::
Zahara chews thoughtfully.
Cerin There is the sound of a footstep behind Zahara, and then Cerin is there, touching his hand to her shoulder.
Zahara smiles and covers his hand in hers, squeezing it slightly before turning her eyes to the door. "I do hope she hurries."
Thirteen "Which of these pastries have jelly in them?"
Thirteen idly fishes through the pastries, swallowing several, then spitting up the jellyless ones.
alsoquin One of the other doors opens, and Ikara, Destiny's Price hanging ready at her side, pushes through the door and sits down, wordlessly.
Zahara "The ones with the spirals."
Zahara "Ah, Ikara, it is good to see you. I hope you have been enjoying your stay with us."
Thirteen "Good day, Ikara. I am sure it will be a pleasure to speak with you again."
Ikara looks over the Solars without any appreciable emotion. "Is there a particular reason you have called me here?" Her purple-black robes flow gently in the breeze.
Zahara "Two reasons, in fact." she says cryptically.
Thirteen "We wish to discuss the borders of Creation."
Thirteen ::I assume you are listening closely, Cerin.::
Cerin ::You assume correctly::
Ikara "What about them?"
Thirteen "What do you know about them?"
Zahara lets Thirteen do the talking for now, simply watching, reading her emotional state.
Ikara "They were mystical barriers that stood at the edges of the realm of Meru. They prevented any sizeable forces of hostile beings from entering Creation directly, and my kind maintained them directly through ritual reinforcement. Now there are too few remaining to rebuild or maintain them and so they have collapsed."
Thirteen "What sort of hostile beings necessitated such defenses?"
Birds appears suddenly behind Zee.
Zahara endeavours to appear unruffled by Birds' new mode of arrival.
Ikara "Various primordial agents, raksha, and any unexpected threats that might appear unexpectedly."
Birds notices her friend tense and gives her a little hug before taking a few pastries and nodding hello to Ikara.
Zahara "And what would it take to re-establish them?"
Zahara shakes her head a little, and smiles fondly at Birds
Ikara "The cooperation of more of my compatriots than currently live."
Zahara "No others could substitute?"
Ikara "No." Ikara does not seem particularly bitter or resentful, merely matter-of-fact.
Zahara "Not even if one were to learn the charms used?"
Ikara "Certainly not unless there were fifty of you, at least."
Zahara frowns thoughtfully. "Perhaps I could learn the charms, and devise a spell to enhance the power of the few if we work in concert."
Ikara "No. Not every problem can be solved with brute force and tenacity, Zahara."
Zahara smiles slightly. "I disagree."
Ikara waves a hand. "As you wish."
Thirteen "What are the likely consequences of this dereliction of duty?"
Ikara "Once they have completely collapsed, the borders of Creation will be permeable to direct influence. Physical contact with the nearby and satellite realms, as well as akashic overlap with both spiritual realms, will become possible and the forces serving the Neverborn, the Yozi, or the Wyld will be able to attack Creation directly."
Birds "That does not sound so bad."
Zahara rubs her hand over her forehead, frowning a little. "Not so bad, yet, highly annoying." ::I wonder if restoring the Deliberative will assist in putting this right as well.:: "What held the Borders together before the Sidereals?"
Ikara "There were no borders. When all of the worlds belonged to the Primordials, they had no reason to keep themselves or their servants out."
Zahara "Are the Sidereals not being reborn properly?"
Thirteen "In this time, properly is perhaps a difficult term to apply."
Thirteen "However, my thoughts run along much the same lines."
Ikara silently remembers just how little these Chosen know about the workings of the world... like children with firecrackers. She gathers herself up before continuing. "We are Chosen at birth. It will be some years before my fallen companions are once again ready to serve in the Knightdom."
Thirteen "What qualities do Sidereal shards seek out?"
Zahara shrugs. "Children can be taught. Why is this such a problem?"
alsoquin "They seek out those marked by destiny, those with a specific fate to fulfill. And they require years of training to be ready to maintain the barriers, even once their full abilities have manifested."
Ikara pauses for a moment before continuing. "I am certain that as a long term strategy, the Fivescore Fellowship can be reassembled, but as a tactical approach to the current situation it is impractical at best."
Thirteen "What do you recommend?"
Ikara "Utilizing the resources at your disposal to halt whatever attacks are planned."
Thirteen "Do you, perhaps, have any slightly more insightful suggestions?"
Ikara cocks her head. "Thus far, our most insightful strategy has been to have you accomplish our goals while believing you had come up with them yourselves. Thus far, it has been monumentally more successful than any other strategy we have attempted."
Thirteen "What goals were these, exactly?"
Ikara "Opposing the Red Lily, defeating the Shadowed Unlife Equation, providing a threat to keep the Realm under control..." Her eyes roll into her head, as if she is thinking. "Various smaller tasks of unimportance."
Zahara "Which smaller tasks?"
Thirteen "What drove you to pursue these goals?"
Ikara Me blinks. "Our interest in maintaining Creation against all external threats." She pauses. "Of course."
Thirteen "In what sense can the Realm be considered an external threat?"
Birds raps her knuckles on her chest. "It's like a sesselja."
Zahara looks up to see Birds enter, and nods to her, gesturing to the plate of pastries
Birds takes a tiger claw and a little pot of cream.
Ikara "The Realm is a buffer against outside forces, much as you are. Ideally the Realm would have remained standing and made a strong military campaign against the Red Lily forces."
Thirteen "What went wrong?"
Ikara runs her hand down the haft of her blade. "We are not the only people in the universe."
Zahara "Hm. Tell me, Ikara, what do you know of the other planes?"
Ikara "Enough to fill several books. I have frequently been assigned outside of Meru on business."
Zahara "Have you been to them all?"
Zahara "Which were your favorites?"
Ikara Ikara raises an eye increduously at the comment.
Zahara smiles slightly
Ikara "Why do you ask?"
Zahara "I am curious what things capture your interest. It occurs to me that I know little of you yet, although you have been our guest for a long time."
Ikara "You are not actually curious; you wish to use my interests as a leverage point in transitioning the conversation towards a favor you wish to ask of me." Ikara smiles ever so slightly. "I have been doing that since before you were born."
Zahara puts her hand to her heart with a mocking smile, "You wound me, Ikara. I thought we could be friends."
Thirteen "And when were you born, Ikara?"
Ikara "Friends are those who form a mutual bond of respect based on knowledge of the other's capabilities, Zahara. If you wish to be so, please do not speak faintly of mine."
Zahara "How can I not, if I do not know what they are?"
Ikara ::Eighty-seven,:: is the unspoken answer to Thirteen's question.
Ikara "They are sufficiently extensive. I assisted in the planning for our interface with your Circle."
Thirteen "And what did Herons tell you was the purpose for this interface?"
Thirteen "What are the goals of the Knights of the Chrysanthemum besides maintaining the borders of Creation?"
Ikara "First we observed you to ensure you would sufficiently meet our needs; then we provided you with the resources necessary to interface with threats suited to your capabilities. We ensured that you mistrusted us explicitly so that you would believe those things that went against our stated wishes were your own idea."
Ikara She turns to Thirteen. "To maintain a positive order in Creation."
Thirteen "Please define your terms more clearly."
Ikara "Humanity needs leadership and protection from above. We make use of those best suited to providing it."
Thirteen "How altruistic."
Zahara "What do you get out of protecting humanity?"
Ikara "What do you get out of ruling it?" She runs her fingers along Destiny's Price once more. "It is my destiny to do so."
Zahara "You are destined to rule from behind the scenes, then?"
Ikara "We have done it many times before."
Thirteen "Ah. Destiny."
Thirteen "What has granted you this destiny, and how have you come to realize it?"
Ikara "Fate? Saturn? It is not important in the face of actually realizing that destiny."
Zahara "Perhaps you are not the right person for what I was considering then."
Ikara nods. "Again, as you wish."
Ikara "The Maiden of Endings? She who chose me from amongst the identical throngs of humanity?"
Thirteen "How fortunate for you."
Thirteen "And yet your plans have misfired. Because of the other people in the universe."
Zahara "I see you are being coy. Shall I tell you, then, what this favor is we are considering asking you to do?"
Thirteen "What people do you speak of?"
Ikara "Certainly, Zahara. Please do so." She looks at Thirteen. "The same ones you oppose; the agents of Primordial will in Creation."
Zahara "To lead a government openly, Ikara. That is what we would ask."
Thirteen waits impatiently for the employment negotiations to begin.
Ikara "Which, and for what reason?"
Zahara sits forward in her chair, looking Ikara directly in the eyes. "The Government of Xara. And because you are the most qualified of those currently swearing to my banner, aside from myself." she sits back again and smiles. "And you seemed very very bored."
Ikara "That is an excellent reason. I suspect you are correct in both assessments." She thinks for a moment. "You have brought a Xaran native here recently. I will need to confer with her, as well as have access to all resources I deem necessary."
Thirteen "I doubt we can supply you all the resources you deem necessary. You may have to limit yourself to all the resources we can spare."
Zahara "I see you have accepted before I actually offered. The idea of doing so must excite you. But there is the issue of trust. You have kept much from us."
Ikara "Yes, and you have sought to do so from me as well. But all you need to know to trust me is that my motive aligns with yours."
Thirteen "What information do you wish that we have kept from you?"
Zahara "You speak the truth today. Xara will be a subject-state of the Sunlands, of course, and you will report directly to me. There will be no conspiracies that I do not know about regarding Xara. Your brethren's machinations on Creation will not affect us adversely."
Zahara ::Do you wish command over Xara as well? Bella is your friend.::
Ikara nods in agreement with Zahara. To Thirteen: "Nothing in specific. You have, until now, not included me in your planning."
Thirteen ::It might be as well.::
Ikara thinks for a moment more. "If you must, remember the resources that we have aided you with. How we led you to the gate network and allowed you to discover them for yourselves, ensuring that you could gaze beyond the Mask that hides them from the rest of Creation."
Thirteen "And we are, of course, assured that you gave us these gifts out of kindness and adoration, rather than to enveigle us into pursuing an agenda we thought you did not share."
Zahara thinks for a moment as well, then turns to Thirteen as if she had just thought of it. "I believe since Thirteen is the tactician, Xara should report to him as well, for all military matters."
Thirteen "And further, that this entire conversation, and your presence here today, and the vanishing of the Orrery of Lights and apparent slaughter of the Knights, is not merely more manipulation, intended to point our noses in still another direction."
Thirteen nods shortly.
Ikara "Of course you are assured of such."
Thirteen smiles crookedly.
Zahara "Then say it is the truth, just for my peace of mind."
Ikara "It is the truth."
Zahara "Thank you."
Zahara "In return for granting you this favor, I would ask for you to teach me some of your ways. Herons once taught me a charm, and since then I have been intrigued by the idea of learning more."
Thirteen "Do you have any suspicions, then, as to who seized the Orrery, and where Herons has gone?"