Phoenix knocks on the workshop door, and after having waiting for what she feels is a suitable time, walks in. "Empress, I would ask your help."
Zahara sighs, and rubs her forehead, glad she's not a mortal, else she'd have wrinkles of worry. "Enter." she says coolly.
Phoenix "When I came into th-" Phoenix remembers herself, kicks off the floor, and continues, "Zee, my costume isn't finished yet. I was hoping you would have a chance to help me assemble a weapon."
Zahara looks up at "Phoenix," and then turns back to her work. "You ARE a weapon."
Phoenix "I suppose."
Phoenix "Still, one has to keep up appearances."
Zahara grunts and turns to face her again, sliding a piece of paper with a single character, under her other notes. "Which one is the costume?"
Phoenix turns around at that--she was about to start rummaging around in the supply cabinets. "That is not the first thing I thought you'd ask."
Phoenix "Um. How to say..."
Phoenix "I felt like continuing to be Birds-of-Trinity was interfering with being myself, somehow, do you know? Like she was myself but the legend ran away with itself and left the person behind, and the person had a lot of growing up to do."
Phoenix "I'm really sorry about all the ....awkwardness. I had to close the book on that story to move on."
Zahara "Maybe next time you decide to kill yourself, you could say goodbye first, and not leave the rest of us in the dark with only the ashes."
Phoenix "Fair enough."
Phoenix sort of ducks into the cabinet then. "It wasn't exactly fun."
Zahara "Good. Because it certainly hurt the rest of us. And I almost destroyed the alliance, because your "death" was the first thing I've truly felt."
Thirteen flings open the door, rubbing his eye, then sees Zahara and Phoenix and stops short.
Thirteen "Ah. Zahara. Phoenix."
Phoenix drops onto the ground. "I'm not sure to what extent I'm willing to answer to my predecessor's actions."
Phoenix Then she drifts up again. "How was that? I am truly sorry, Zee. I had no idea. Are you okay?"
Zahara shakes her head, "I'm fine. Aren't I always?" she asks wryly.
Thirteen "Are you always?"
Phoenix takes Thirteen's hand and pulls him toward Zahara. "You have eyes. Always? Who are you kidding?"
Zahara picks up the artifact she'd been working on, and begins refining it anew. "Yes, well. I would be perfectly fine if I would stop losing the people I care about most."
Phoenix "I'm sure we would all always be fine if various idiosyncratic and impossible conditions were to obtain, love."
Thirteen "I do have eyes, thanks to Zahara."
Thirteen "I apologize if this rapid and unexpected change causes you distress."
Phoenix "They are simply charming, Thirteen." Phoenix thinks for a second. "Do they come out? Can I -try them on-?!"
Thirteen "Yes, they do, and no, you cannot."
Thirteen "I find them more useful than I expected, and I do not wish to remove them."
Phoenix does a kind of shrug-nod thing and turns her attention back to Zahara. "What's that you're working on?"
Phoenix Then she realises that Thirteen doesn't know what body language means.
Phoenix "Excuse me. That gesture indicates bemused non-disagreement."
Zahara looks down at the tiara in her hands, "Oh, well since more and more people have started calling me Empress without smirking lately, I thought I'd make some regalia."
Phoenix nods admiringly. "Bonus."
Thirteen "A fitting plan."
Thirteen "So, Phoenix."
Thirteen "How has your rebirth changed you?"
Thirteen "If you expect to stay with us, you must be prepared to earn your keep."
Phoenix "I was just saying to Zahara - Birds-of-Trinity needed to grow up and she kept getting in my own way."
Phoenix "Um, pronouns. Bad. Anyway, so, the idea's that I get to be a person again."
Zahara "Was Birds of Trinity such a horrible thing to be?"
Phoenix "Not really. She-was-I-was beautiful and interesting and very happy to be among us."
Phoenix "I just couldn't figure out a less...violent...way to break out of some harmful behavior patterns I was engaging in."
Phoenix "Besides which, now I can make a new book."
Zahara "Why didn't you come to me?"
Phoenix "Harmful behavior patterns!"
Phoenix studies her feet. "Also, I didn't want you to stop me."
Thirteen "Please be more specific, that I may be aware of and account for your failings in my work."
Zahara opens her mouth, and closes it again for a minute, then speaks. "I like to think I would not have. Change happens, whether we wish it to or not. To be able to be the agent of your own change, that is powerful."
Phoenix "Thank you."
Phoenix "Thirteen, can this wait half a day or so? I'd like my ashes to be slightly cooled before I start throwing mud on them."
Phoenix "Do you keep any celestial bronze in this closet? I have this design..."
Thirteen "We have little time, Phoenix. I must plan to save the world, and there are so few that I can trust to do what is necessary, and consider the future, rather than their troubled hearts."
Thirteen "I thought there were more I could rely on."
Thirteen "But it is apparent that, whether Birds-of-Trinity or Phoenix of Ashes, any form of commitment or compulsion will merely lead to a glorious and transfiguring escape from such a promise, and so I will not press you."
Phoenix tries to stamp her foot and notices she is not touching the ground. Of course this annoys her further. "In short, Birds-of-Trinity had no attention span and an overdeveloped need to be unpredictable."
Phoenix "Is this sufficient for the current requirements of your projections?"
Thirteen "No. I knew that."
Thirteen "Take your time."
Zahara "Was it not your heart that led you to save the Bone Dagger Kings instead of destroying them?"
Thirteen "I admire you for being ready to find another way. I only wish that you did not treat us with the same distance and apprehension with which you view anything and everything else in Creation."
Thirteen nods his head slightly, and withdraws.
Phoenix "It seems I have upset him."
Thirteen turns back slightly to Zahara. "Yes, but not that part which doubted, or which exalted its own pain above the pressing concerns of the day. Quite the opposite, in fact."
Thirteen "It was in rising above my pain that I knew what I had to do."
Thirteen is gone
Zahara "God he's such a jerk sometimes."
Lucent ... and at the exact same time, there is a knock on the door! "Empress?"
Phoenix "I guess."
Zahara "Do I have large blinking lights outside my door? Do I?" she sighs and raises her voice. "Lucent, come join us."
Phoenix "I think you do. But when have any of us observed the DO NOT DISTURB, DANGEROUS EXPERIMENTS IN PROGRESS signs?"
Lucent steps inside, "What do you mean, u...s..." He stops, and Venus does blink. "Hello, Phoenix."
Zahara sits back and watches.
Phoenix "Please let me head off the fight we might be about to have."
Phoenix "I don't hate you. This--" She lifts up a lock of hair, "--has nothing to do with Lucent."
Phoenix "I'm sorry for the unpleasantness and I hope it's over now."
Phoenix "Your turn."
Lucent "No, no, no need to." Mercury appears in front of Phoenix, a great four-foot caste mark. "It does not?"
Lucent "In a way. I am sorry for everything, Phoenix. I... was not being quite myself."
Lucent "I should never have said the things I did."
Phoenix makes a complicated expression.
Phoenix "I'll fill you in on the intricacies of my thought process presently. Only know that you needn't apologise or rescind your request if you don't wish it."
Lucent "I was... I, um." He looks a little embarassed, leaning against a wall. "I got too close. I got too... involved with all of it. I really... I really liked Birds, Phoenix. But I should have know it would all happen again. And I should never, ever, threaten you." He nods... and blinks. "But?"
Phoenix "But, we have some growing up to do, both you and I, before it comes to that."
Lucent nods. "We do. I... do not understand exactly what you will have to do. Me... I am a simple person. I have emotions to tame. I nearly... I nearly put it all at risk, all of our plans, because of them. You..." He shakes his head sadly, "I never really understood you. It is part of what attracted me, I think..."
Phoenix "Your Coronal, how well do you understand it?"
Phoenix "I need a certain Essence framework for Seven Hearts Cannot Be Separated."
Lucent "I understand it too well.... I could explain it to you. If you can keep a secret like Birds could."
Lucent "Speaking of..." He plucks the orb of the sun... that is opaque. Lacking its light. Torn. "It... I strained it too far in the funeral, Zahara. It broke apart. Could not... return to its shape very well. All of the caste marks of a caste, all Solars currently existing... but all the dead? All those before? It was too much... can you fix it?"
Phoenix "I can keep a secret, I suppose."
Zahara "That," she takes it from him, "Is a good question."
Zahara inspects the orb thoroughly, looking carefully at the slightly charred pathways through which the Essence should flow, noting the flaws. "We are all flawed," she thinks aloud, "More than we should be... I can fix this, given enough time. But what is in our souls that makes it so easy to turn us against eachother?"
Lucent "Then, Phoenix, I'll show you later. What are the Seven Hearts? Are you taking after me and Elm?"
Phoenix "Not...precisely. I am a warrior. I require a slightly more substantial implement of battle."
Zahara shakes her head, "The flaw goes deeper than mere humanity. You said you'd spoken with Imrama about it..."
alsoquin There is a hairline crack in the Sun orb that Lucent has given her to repair, through the thick layer of orichalcum that surrounds it.... but underneath, at the core of the sphere, is a center of black, twisted iron.
Lucent "Swords that are hearts, then?"
Phoenix sketches out her plan of seven faceted spheres on their shifting chain on a sheet of diagram paper. "What did Imrama say about this flaw? He often has very surprising insights."
Lucent "I did. We believe we are under some sort of... facilitator. A shadow. The neverborn know about it." He nods, "And... he did not say much, Phoenix. He just... he does not believe all of us act as we do, all our predecessors did, out of our free will. He believes something was rigging the stakes. And he was right."
Zahara "How do you know he was right?"
Lucent "My Malfean got aprehensive. He made it very clear Imrama was onto something.... something that did not make the Malfeans happy, at all." He sits down on a chair close to Zahara... "We talked about going there to know. What do you say, Phoenix? Birds would love the adventure of going and questioning dead gods... but what does Phoenix thinks?"
Phoenix draws a sudden revision, surmounting each sphere with a complex spiky finial.
alsoquin Zahara looks a little further as she talks -- it looks like the orb was once iron alone, with gold added atop it later.
Phoenix "I would love to make that journey." She laughs. "Let's add it to the list."
Lucent "And what do you think you'll do there? Fight with long-dead villains? Steal from once-gods?"
Zahara frowns slightly, slicing the gold casing neatly in half, in order to be able to reassemble it cleanly later.
Phoenix "We'll see. I'd like to, um, know about this thing they know."
Lucent "We all would. I think Thirteen... really, really would. Thirteen..."
Lucent "I... think I need to speak with him now. But..."
Zahara studies the twisted metal now revealed, using a lens to bring it into closer focus
Phoenix leans over to see what Zee is up to.
Lucent gets up! "Hmmm, I will go now! I... have things to do."
Lucent And with that, he walks out!
Phoenix taps her fingers on the table. "There goes one confusing young man."
Zahara smiles slightly, "He will grow up."
alsoquin But as Zahara stares down carefully at the iron at the heart of the coronal, she realizes something with a sinking feeling... the iron that sits at the core of the coronal is something she did not expect to see...
alsoquin Dark iron from the plane of Malfeas.