alsoquin After briefly separating in order to pursue their own goals in the strange era that is the First Age, the once-and-hopefully-soon-again-Solars have reunited. Today, according to Zahara, is the day of Talmuda's murder.
alsoquin At the moment, the three have met up in one of the shoddier servant coffeehouses in the outskirts of Meru City to discuss their next movements.
zahara paces back and forth restlessly.
Imrama nurses a Stygmatized Crimson Oracle. "I understand that it is a nervous-making day for you, Zahara. But perhaps we should discuss our next move?"
zahara pauses to eye Imrama, "Do you have any suggestions?"
Thirteen "Surely debate is not necessary."
Thirteen "We must find out what happened to Talmuda."
Thirteen "What will happen."
Thirteen "What is going to happen."
Thirteen drinks his coffee.
Imrama "I agree entirely, but there is the matter of approach. Zahara, I know relatively little about how much you are aware of from your past life. Do you know, for instance, where the event in question occured?"
zahara shakes her head, "No. If I saw the room I would recognize it, but all I can tell you is that it was a bedroom. Whether mine, or hers, or the room of some other lover I'd been seeing on the side, I cannot tell you."
Thirteen "You are admirably realistic about the characteristics of your former self, I see."
zahara "Yes, well, I have no compulsion to think of myself as a paragon of virtue. That never ends well."
Thirteen "There is no need to overthink this."
Thirteen "If we do not know where Talmuda is, we must find out."
Thirteen "He will be present at the Deliberative, no doubt."
Thirteen "We will simply observe him there, and watch his movements."
zahara "That sounds like a reasonable plan."
Imrama "Then we rejoin the ranks of the Dirt-Eradicating Suplicants!"
zahara "When we get back I'm going to inspect all my servants."
zahara dons the useful jumpsuit!
Thirteen is already dressed inconspicuously, so to speak.
zahara heads on out
alsoquin Once again, the tiny servants' door to the grand palace of the Deliberative beckons mockingly to the Lords and Ladies of the Second Age.
zahara leads the way in, thinking of it as 'the useful spying door
Thirteen can't really get any more rage-filled.
alsoquin The narrow hallways wind through the palace, with the helpful illustrative maps appearing frequently enough to make navigation simple. A large set of rooms -- many already filled with real servitors -- wind to the sides of, above, and below the great Deliberative chamber,
alsoquin where the hundreds of Solar Exalts gather to discuss matters of great importance.
Imrama Pushing along his purified mop and sacramental bucket, Imrama strolls to one of the rooms above the Deliberative chamber, wearing an earnest look.
alsoquin The servant room up above is filled with a variety of cleaning tools and chairs that seat six, and on its floor great panels of one-way glass look down upon the entirety of the Deliberative chamber --
alsoquin a grand circular chamber, hundreds of golden thrones arranged in an elaborate sunburst mandala, and at the center, the grand orichalcum dais upon which are five unimaginably grand seats -- those held by the Perfect Circle. (...)
alsoquin The Deliberative session has yet to begin, but already quite a few of the Solars have arrived and seated themselves, or begun to bicker or politic amongst themselves.
zahara toys with the handle of her broom as she takes a seat. She looks down through the glass, searching for the Solars she knows on the floor below. "There were so many of us."
Imrama sweeps his mop across the glass floor, peering through it in the hopes of identifying any of the figures below.
Thirteen kneels on the floor, squinting through it.
alsoquin A few of those below seem to align with the appearances of those the Solars know of -- Alahwi sits uncomfortably in a chair within the Night section, while Talmuda sits near the front of the Eclipse... Meanwhile, four members of the Perfect Circle have begun to enter the chamber from the edges, and the room hushes -- but Ymir is nowhere to be seen.
alsoquin Two other servants -- an older, fatter man and a young woman -- enter the room, their apperance presaged by the man's loud laughter. "Hey!" He shouts, "are you here to check out the air recirculators?"
Thirteen points at Zahara. "She is."
alsoquin ** three members of the Perfect Circle -- minus Ymir and Askaru.
zahara shoots Thirteen a dirty look, "I am quite good at fixing things."
alsoquin "Well great! We thought you weren't going to make it, what with the city borders being closed off."
zahara "Well, aren't we all just lucky today?" She slides to her feet, tosses her broom at Thirteen, and looks at the servants. "So, where is it?"
Thirteen gets hit by a broom.
alsoquin "Oh, it's right over here," the man says, leading Zahara over to a rather unadorned box of blue jade. "So how did you manage to get into the city?" he says, as he starts to take out a set of unusual jade tools. "Snuck past the Yozi-worshippers marauding outside?"
zahara "We caught a ride with one of them." she points downwards. "I suppose even the lofty Solars want their air fresh."
alsoquin "Oh, yeah," he says, as he begins to pass unusual doodads out of his toolkit to Zahara. "There's quite a few of them -- big desert cult from the south, I guess. They haven't approached the city proper yet, I guess, but the Terrestrial guard ordered the borders closed until someone can track them down."
zahara is not particularly used to fixing things the old fashioned way, and inspects the tools with something approaching annoyance. These are not her tools, and she can't see the flows of essence through the box. She lays them out in front of the box, and studies it, trying to push away all her current troubles, and the persistent feeling that this is a lousy way to go about fixing anything.
Thirteen "Probably wise."
Thirteen squints down at the Solars, cursing the accident of fate that has left him without even the most rudimentary practice at reading lips.
alsoquin Zahara is pleased to discover that even without Essence sight, the tools' functions still come easily to mind with a little examination, and she can still remember enough to kick the air circulator into gear.
alsoquin "Oh, tryin' to figure out what they're on about today?" The large man goes over and pushes on a panel of glass on one side of the room, and the voices below are amplified into the chamber. It seems that the group has already brought the matter of the First and Forsaken Lion to the table, and strenuous debate is occurring.
Thirteen "Ah. Thank you very much."
zahara finishes fixing what ailed the artifact, and throws in an extra tweak or two to make it more efficient, pleased with herself. "That was actually sort of fun."
alsoquin The debate seems to be rather heated. A number of Solars -- Rosada foremost amongst them -- are arguing that more action needs to be taken, that yet more forces must be devoted to the fight -- while others are pushing to avoid leaving weaknesses in the Realm's defenses or arguing that the threat is overstated.
alsoquin After a bit of firm arguing, a rather loud voice suddenly speaks: "There's a solution to this, of course" -- and the room grows quiet as Talmuda stands to face the central dais.
alsoquin The grizzled, unhappy looking Dawn turns to face him and half-snarls out a response: "And what is THAT, exactly?"
alsoquin The semi-retired general speaks simply: "Unlock the Chime from within the Grey Tower. Use it against the Lion." A huge murmur rises up as the other Solars begin to talk amongst themselves and those with surprise-anticipation techniques take advantage of their opportunity to issue clever rejoinders the quickest.
alsoquin Kiriath stands up from his ostentatious throne and speaks. "Yes. We should consider this, with the sanctity of the Realm at stake." Rosada shoots him a vicious, daggered look.
zahara "I do not think Rosada and Kiriath are friends."
Imrama "Other than in the sense of bossom companionship that all Chosen of the Sun share, of course." Imrama hastily ammends to Zahara's words.
zahara "Of course."
alsoquin The debate in the chamber seems to grow louder and louder as Solars begin shouting over one another in their zeal to insert their own opinions into the debate. As it grows, the air circulator gives a great sigh that indicates it has reached full functionality again --
alsoquin and the woman, who has been quiet up until now, coughs once and says, "Excuse me," before walking out of the chamber.
Thirteen "Oh dear."
zahara "Ymir." she says quietly.
zahara "Obviously she appreciates my craftsmanship."
Thirteen "Not enough to stay for it."
zahara "I see no need to stay here either."
Thirteen "Good point."
alsoquin The large gentleman, clearly unaware of what is going on, taps the air circulator with pleasure. "Well, great. Thanks a ton. I'll put in a good word for you if the bosses ask about'cha, ok?"
alsoquin "Oh, her? Yala, she said her name was. She's been in and out of here all the time over the last few months." He stops to scratch his head. "Though it's not like she ever seems to actually fix anything."
Thirteen "It is difficult to get good help these days."
alsoquin "So true!" He says, and chuckles loudly again.
alsoquin "I'm Emel, by the way. Hope to see you 'round this way again some other time!"
zahara "Oh, I'm sure we'll be back here, in time."
zahara smiles and exits, looking for 'Yala'
Thirteen "I..." Thirteen clenches his teeth as Zahara steps on his line, and merely nods his way out the door.
alsoquin The Solars can track "Yala's" progress pretty easily, actually -- in her current "role" as a mortal servitor, she is not bothering to hide her sounds. She winds quite a ways through the palace, towards one of the upper levels, as the three follow her out of sight, and eventually stops near what the maps indicate is probably the Dawn Caste Office.
Imrama Meanwhile, Imrama watches the goings on below in the Deliberative Chamber, trusting that, should the opportunity suddenly arise to return home, his companions will not abandon him.
alsoquin In the Deliberative chamber below, the debate seems to have cooled down a little. Rosada, after a moment, manages to speak over the loud chattering voices and say "That weapon? It might solve this problem, but at what cost?"
alsoquin Zahara and Thirteen, meanwhile, hear the sounds of one of the service doors creaking open and then, once again, slamming shut.
Thirteen "Now what? She will notice if we follow her into someone's room."
Thirteen "In fact, I expect that she has already noticed us."
zahara exchanges a look with Thirteen, and replies quietly "I'm not sure. I really want to know what she's doing in there though. And you are undoubtedly right. Are you prepared to explain our presence?"
Thirteen "I am always prepared to explain myself. I am not necessarily prepared to make that action productive."
Thirteen "If, in fact, she has already noticed us, we may as well enter."
Thirteen gestures with the hand that isn't holding the mop.
Thirteen "Ladies first, of course."
zahara shrugs. "Maybe she'll fall madly in love with me."
Thirteen "That is your solution for every paranoid Night assassin."
zahara "What can I say? It works well."
alsoquin Within the room -- the neatly appointed office of a career general, lined by maps and emblems of conflicts long since past -- "Yada" has walked over to a rather large black jade cabinet and begun what appears to be an extremely intricate process of picking the Essence lock that holds it closed.
Thirteen mops his way into the room, although the disconcerting dryness of his tool testifies to his unpreparedness for a janitorial position.
zahara leans against the doorway, fiddling with the jade tool she'd absconded with from t hat nice man's toolkit.
alsoquin "I think we can risk the cost," Talmuda says, plainly, to the Deliberative. "The safety of the Realm is paramount."
zahara "Are you using the fivefold symmetry, the auspicious flowers, or the more straightforward - i like to call it strongarm - method?"
Thirteen "I am using a mop, Zahara."
zahara "Well, obviously, but it works better if you dip it in the bucket first."
alsoquin Ymir completes her elaborate unlocking mechanism and the cabinet yawns open, revealing that it is empty inside except for one item: a great, jagged black sword. "So it's true," she says under her breath, and after staring at the sword for a moment, she grabs it firmly with one hand and then closes the cabinet again.
zahara "It's called Daybreaker. It's very sharp, for a mop."
Thirteen "What is true?"
alsoquin Ymir turns around, and very casually lays the blade at Zahara's throat.
zahara smiles up at Ymir. "You should be careful with that. I happen to know it's extremely sharp."
Thirteen "If she were careful with it, you would not know it."
Thirteen rolls his eyes for some reason.
zahara smirks at Thirteen, "Depends on your definition of care."
alsoquin In the Deliberative Chamber, the discussion continues for a moment, until Kiriath stands and speaks. "I must call for a recess. We must discuss this matter further before it can be decided."
zahara looks back at Ymir, either supremely confident or extremely suicidal... or possibly batshit insane in her disregard of the sword at her neck. "Do you know who I am?"
alsoquin A little more murmuring follows, and afterwards, the Deliberative begins to recess. Rosada and Kiriath share a quick, whispered conversation, and then Kiriath leaves the stage with Talmuda, towards one of the many exits.
alsoquin "You are mortal," she says, after a moment. She lowers the sword and waves one hand in the air, with the slightest twinkle of golden light, and Zahara and Thirteen both realize that they cannot conceivably tell anyone who is a citizen, or an enemy, of the True Realm about a single thing that has just happened.
Thirteen "In that event, perhaps you would be so good as to answer my question."
alsoquin Meanwhile, the Deliberative meeting has largely dispersed, and Talmuda and Kiriath have left together.
alsoquin Ymir looks over to Thirteen, blankly. "Yes?"
zahara "Unfortunately, yes." She touches her throat. "It's quite annoying."
Thirteen "What is true, that surprises you enough to speak with yourself -- or to speak with two random mortals who are apparently following you."
Imrama leaves the chamber, hoping to navigate the building to causally cross paths with Talmuda and Kiriath.
alsoquin "As I have suspected, Rosada has secretly served the Neverborn all along." She looks back and forth to the two of them. "When it is revealed and his evil purged from the Deliberative, perhaps you may satisfy yourself with the pleasure of having been the first to know." With that, she walks over and pushes the servant door open once again.
zahara "And do you know who Kiriath serves?"
alsoquin Ymir blinks, and answers: "No. But I shall find out." Then she swiftly moves away once again.
zahara "Who needs Heavenly Guardian Defense, when you have the Just A Fucking Mortal defense?" she asks rhetorically once Ymir is out of immediate hearing range.
Thirteen "That gives me an idea for a Charm."
alsoquin Imrama manages to work out the two Solars' most likely path, and manages to locate a place to step out from the servant halls to follow them. "I think Rosada is going to make everything difficult like he ALWAYS does," Kiriath is saying, and Talmuda is nodding.
Thirteen "But first. We must hurry. Follow Ymir, or hunt down Imrama?"
alsoquin "It's fine," the Eclipse responds. "We have all the time in the world. Everything will be fine. Here, the room I'm staying in is this way."
zahara then ducks under Rosada's desk and inscribes her two diagrams, and uses her tool to inscribe "Zahara Was Here" on the wall.
zahara emerges, and exits the room, looking innocent.
Thirteen follows her, irritably.
zahara "Let's find Imrama. Now that she knows we're following her, she won't be so easy to track."
alsoquin The process is not tremendously difficult: Emel is happy to tell them which way their friend went, and a little clever guesswork and a lot of rather rapid running allows the two to catch up with Imrama, just as Kiriath and Talmuda are entering the lavish guest room prepared for the latter.
alsoquin As is true everywhere within the palace, elaborate servant doors beckon frequently along the hallway.
zahara takes one of the servant doors, guessing it will lead them to a place they can at least eavesdrop from.
alsoquin It does indeed: the sounds of a discussion waft in:
zahara makes herself reasonably comfortable
alsoquin Kiriath: "Well? Were you able to get it?" Talmuda: "Yes. I hope that we will be able to open negotiations with this gesture." Kiriath: "I'm sure we will. You know, you've done a tremendous thing today. You saved humanity once, and now you're going to save them again."
alsoquin Talmuda: "I truly hope so. This... emptiness. I can't fight that alone." There's a sound, like a shudder. "I would not work with those who once were my sworn enemies for less."
Thirteen "Notice how he uses the word 'them' in that closing sentence."
zahara "Emptiness... I wonder if it is without or within." she says quietly.
alsoquin There's another pause. Kiriath: "Yes. I know. Now, if you'll just hand it over. Once the meeting is over, I'll be sure it ge--" He is interrupted by a knocking at the door.
Thirteen "He is talking about the void spoken of on the Elemental Poles, no doubt."
Thirteen "They expect to use the Chime on it."
Thirteen "He is talking about the void, is he not?"
alsoquin Talmuda: "Come in!"
alsoquin There's another pause, and then vague snuggly sounds for a moment, and then Ymir's voice speaks up. "My love, I come bearing grave news."
alsoquin Talmuda: "What? What could possibly be the matter?" She sounds a little worried. Ymir: "I finally learned the truth. Rosada is the Lion. He has sought to misdirect us from the beginning, setting up an external threat to rally his power against."
Thirteen "Wait a moment."
Thirteen "Given that Ymir has discovered us spying on her once already, why have we decided to spy on her again within ten minutes?"
Thirteen "Something went wrong."
alsoquin A pause. Talmuda: "Oh." A sigh of relief. "That's not important. Rosada is no real threat to us." Ymir: (clearly as unsurprised as possible given the hideously incriminating statement preceding) "Love, he is attempting to tear down the Deliberative from within."
alsoquin Talmuda: "Ymir." Pause. "There's something much more important. Much more worrisome. I know we can deal with Rosada, but this..." Another pause. "I think I need to tell you about it."
alsoquin "There's something wrong with the world, Ymir. Something's rotten at the heart, and nobody knows what it is. Or where it is." Pause. Ymir: "....yes. I have... I have seen it."
alsoquin Talmuda: "It's been here since the beginning. It was here before the war, even, and it's just been... just waiting! Getting stronger, and staying hidden, while we warred to no avail."
alsoquin He continues. "We've got to stop it. It's more important than everything else. That's why I had to go to get this... as an offering." Ymir: (sounding suspicious) "To who?"
alsoquin Talmuda: "To the creators. The Primordials. To show them that we can make peace. That we can work together with them, to stop it. That we can restart their experiment."
alsoquin There is a long pause.
alsoquin Ymir: "No."
zahara "Ah, see, I knew she had a good reason."
alsoquin Talmuda: "I thought you would want to solve this problem, Ymir." Ymir: "Not with their aid. They are monsters. Nothing can change that."
Thirteen "Hatred is not necessarily good."
alsoquin They talk for a little bit, both seeming to grow more emotional and upset
alsoquin Finally, Talmuda enters a state of bitter calm. "I didn't think it would come down to this," he says, flatly. "But I will sacrifice you to save the world. Please, let me let you live. Please."
alsoquin Another long pause.
zahara acquires a certain far-off look, and her fingers curl into fists, nails digging into her palms.
alsoquin Ymir: "I'm sorry." And then, there is a sound, a horribly wet and gruesome sound, and the conversation is over.
Thirteen "Ymir does not pay very close attention to mortals."
zahara raises one hand, and touches her chest, feeling shaky. She stands, and walks over to the door, leaning against it for a moment. "No. She doesn't."
alsoquin There's a bit of a pause again, and Ymir can be heard talking quietly -- Zahara realizes that she's probably even now speaking the message that Cerin remembered when he opened his box.
alsoquin Then, just after she finishes, there's a bit of a commotion, and the sound of the bedroom door being slammed open.
zahara "Does she even know Kiriath is there?"
Thirteen "She does now. He just left the room rather abruptly."
zahara opens the door, and peers out the corridor, stepping out.
alsoquin The door to the bedroom is wide open.
Thirteen elbows Zahara out of the way and enters the bedroom.
zahara starts to step through the door before she is rudely elbowed out of the way by Thirteen.
zahara "For fuck's sake, don't push me. I've just been murdered, jackass."
zahara stomps in after him
Imrama follows slowly. It is possible that, if they at any point get past their own bickering, Zahara and Thirteen might notice that he is crying.
Thirteen "You are not this body, Zahara."
zahara "No, but I remember it. I have relived it over and over."
alsoquin The room is just as Zahara remembers from her vision, and in one corner, the body of Talmuda lies bleeding and dead -- and gripped in one hand is a fragment of the Chime of Ages, just like the one Zahara has.
Thirteen "Consider this a chance to relive it again, with much advanced forensic opportunities."
Thirteen "For example."
Thirteen plucks the piece of the Chime from Talmuda's hand, and flips it to Zahara.
Thirteen "We should be going. We only have a few moments before we will be caught, preventing us from concealing this piece of the Chime somewhere easily accessible in the future."
Imrama "Also, preventing us from breathing ever again."
Imrama appears to have composed himself.
zahara catches it, and looks down at the fragment in her hand. Traceries of blood mar the shiny surface. "This is what we came for." She walks over to Talmuda's body and studies him. She touches his face, and the wound, and looks around at the room; so familiar.
zahara "At least I know why, now."
Thirteen "Does it make you feel better?"
alsoquin Thus forewarned, it's easy enough to take the passageways back out, avoiding any guards, and reach the servants' entrance. Once they step back out onto the streets of Meru, however, they are greeted by another surprise: people running about in seeming panic.
zahara "Ask me in 2,200 years."
Thirteen "I essentially am."
Thirteen collars a nearby passersby. "Hey! You there! Why are you running about in seeming panic?"
zahara "I am not sure that discovering that I was consorting with Primordials in the First Age will make me rest easier, considering. No."
alsoquin Passerby: "The Yozi-worshippers! They pushed past the border guard! There are Yozi-worshippers in the city!"
zahara "Are they sacrificing everyone or something?"
alsoquin "They're probably going to start!" he says, and then runs off in a random direction.
Thirteen "Where to? The Auric Temple?"
zahara "The Eclipse room."
zahara heads in that direction
alsoquin The crowds do not seem to be fleeing in any particularly rational way, so it's not too difficult for the group to begin fleeing towards the outside of the city.
Thirteen doesn't flee! He strides. Or possibly storms.
alsoquin As they approach the base of the mountain, however, someone steps out from around the corner of a building....
Lucent ... Lucent Copper Haze, clad in a shining red carapace wrought of Copper and Iron, the symbol of Malfeas upon his breast in burning crystal like the Spheres of She Who Lives In Her Name, half-covered by a cape of starlit sky. An iron version of the Coronal spins about him with dusk versions of Creation's light. The scorpion that had once been so miniscule not long ago was now an immense juggernaut, Lucent standing proud atop of it.
Thirteen "Much becomes clear."
zahara "well, that explains why he didn't go to the meeting."
Thirteen "Hello, Lucent Copper Haze. Let us make a deal. If you assist us in reaching the Auric Temple, I will not turn you into the guards as a Yozi-worshipper."
zahara "Something tells me they would never have guessed without your help Thirteen."
Thirteen "Then we have made a difference by travelling into the past after all."
Lucent "The insane mortal. Fourteen, if I recall correctly. You are as foolish as the rest of them. Man." He smiles, the pools of Copper that are now his eyes dancing with amused waves. A Brass Orb lights into green fire and points towards Thirteen "You are not even amusing. Beneath my notice. Out of my way, or be chackled by the Orrery. Your free will is not even worth the effort to be cleansed."
Thirteen rolls his eyes. "Your turn, Zahara."
zahara "Lucent Copper Haze, keep your name, and remember what you did under it. Know that I forgive you. Remember what we told you on the way here. Remember the light inside yourself. And Amika," she smiles.
Thirteen "I should have made it Imrama's turn."
zahara "You should learn to forgive people, Thirteen, when they are redeemed."
Thirteen "I do forgive people, Zahara. When they are redeemed."
Lucent Copper Haze looks at Zahara, a little confused. Amika turns with a roar, an orb of crystal flames comes close enough to Zahara to singe her hair... and then retreats. "... who do you think you are, Mortal?"
zahara "I am Zahara Zhan, Dreambreaker, and Empress of the Sunlands - I'm sure you'll hear of them when you wake up. And you... Lucent. You are my friend." She opens her palm, revealing the dark shard of the Chime, and holds it up, rapping it sharply with the jade tool from the Palace.
alsoquin The Chime makes a glorious, pure chime sound that fills the air completely, and it washes over Lucent -- and as it does, the green fire... the dusky light... all of it, seems to tear away...
alsoquin One by one, the eight dull iron orbs fall from the sky and onto the ground...
alsoquin Lucent Copper Haze slumps off of his scorpion, and lands on the earth, propped up on his knees, his eyes watering and his body shaking. His eyes are no longer pools of copper, but purified into pools of the brightest gold.
Thirteen "Good work."
Thirteen "Get ready to do that again in about 2,200 years."
zahara steps forward and touches his shoulder.
zahara "I understand why you couldn't tell me." She looks back at Thirteen, "Well, you should work on your forgiveness then."
Thirteen "Exorcism and redemption are not the same thing, Dreambreaker."
Thirteen "May we proceed to the Auric Palace?"
zahara "He has time for that."
Thirteen "I would give you advice, Lucent, but I already know you would not follow it."
zahara "Everyone deserves a second chance."
Lucent is too shocked to answer any of it, eyes wide, looking at them... at the sun...
zahara "Lucent, we need to get to the Eclipse room. Come, help us."
zahara offers him her hand
Lucent takes her hand, getting up... touching the crimson armor and feeling... dirty. "Thank you." He tries not to think of what was done in the South, instead turning around and hurrying towards the Auric Temple! "Come on." Is all else he manages to speak.
Thirteen "He has had several."
zahara follows after him, closing her hand around the shard protectively. "And which one has he not taken?"
Thirteen "He has used them all up, and none remain."
Imrama "You are not the final arbitor of opportunities, Thirteen."
zahara "We'll talk about this when we get back. Come on."
Thirteen "If you wish to forgive him, Imrama, I urge you to do so, while I am at a safe distance."
Thirteen "Yes. Let us proceed."
alsoquin The trip is reasonably long, but uneventful. Without much difficulty, the group is able to reach the Auric Temple, and with Lucent's assistance, to secure the shard of the Chime of Ages within.
alsoquin As the sun sets over the roof of the Auric Temple at the end of the day, a familiar glow seems to suffuse the Eclipse chamber.
Thirteen "Now what?"
zahara "Don't move."
alsoquin The glow grows and strengthens until once again, nothing can be seen but white light... and then, the Lucent Copper Haze of long ago finds himself alone in the Auric Temple.
alsoquin Much, much later.
alsoquin From an inky blackness, light and shapes once again begin to emerge, and Thirteen finds himself blinking his -- thoroughly artificial -- eyes as he stares at the hawk design upon the ceiling.
Thirteen is on his feet in one motion, looking around him, especially for his spear.
alsoquin Zahara, Phoenix, and Imrama are also there, each awakening from their OWN time-induced slumber, but, also....
Kai As the solars phase into the room, it is immediately appearent that they are not alone. Standing around them is a small cadre of uniformed warriors, all quite familiar. Kai Buckthorn, wearing resplendant golden armor, is examining the pillar of the seal, but turns as they arrive.
Kai "About time you got here. I imagine we have a lot to get done."
Thirteen "Where is Lai? And Cerin?"
Kai "Not a clue."
Zahara "What time is it?"
Kai "Also, who the hell are thses other people?"
Phoenix "The famous Kai!"
Kai "It's late."
Imrama "I am Imrama Stormfound, I have joined the Circle in your absence. This is Phoenix of Ashes, formerly Birds-of-Trinity. Lets not get distracted."
Zahara "Well, where the hell have you been?"
Phoenix has a bizarre look on her face, where implacable rage and astonished joy are doing battle.
Zahara moves swiftly across the room to where the Chime is hidden.
Kai leans in and peers quizically at Phoenix. "?"
Phoenix "Long story. Not now."
Phoenix "Where is the fight?"
Thirteen looks at her, but says nothing for a moment.
Thirteen "Much has happened in your absence, Kai."
Kai "MY absence?"
Zahara "Unless you haven't actually been gone, in which case, you should explain that too."
Kai "You're the ones appearing out of nowhere."
Phoenix "Maybe she had to take an unusually meticulous dump."
Kai "You have changed..."
Thirteen "You need not try so hard to differentiate yourself from your past self, Phoenix."
alsoquin Zahara slides aside a wall panel and draws out the piece of the Chime, hidden there for all that time.
Thirteen "The truth will out."
Kai "How many pieces of the chime do you have?"
Thirteen quickly searches the room for traces of the Seals, or for traces of Lai Misuna.
Zahara takes out the shard from where it was secreted in the place of the third star, the other two positions taken by two faded diagrams.
Phoenix shrugs at Thirteen.
Phoenix "Oh, speaking of differentiating..." Phoenix takes off a particular ring and drops it in dust.
Kai "Three." she says, producing a shard of metal from the folds of her cloak.
Thirteen "Ah. Good work, Kai."
Zahara takes it from her, holding it up to the light, "Where did you find it?"
Kai "In a tower."
Zahara sighs. "Was it Grey?"
Kai "That's the one."
Zahara "How did you know where to look?"
Kai "Herons gave me directions."
Zahara "He's still alive?"
Phoenix visibly decides to push the rage off her face. With some struggle, she beams with delight. "Herons too!"
Phoenix "It's so exciting getting to meet all these famous people."
alsoquin Thirteen sees no traces of Seals (beyond those swallowed up by the guts of the Auric Temple) here, but plenty of signs of individuals -- it doesn't seem that Cerin has been back, but Lai clearly left the room towards the West, and some others came through a little while after that.
Kai "Seems alive. I didn't check for a pulse..."
Zahara "Alright, two more pieces...then we need to find Cerin."
Thirteen rises. "Imrama. Kai. Do you wish to save the world?"
Kai "That IS the plan, no?"
Thirteen "Then come with me." Thirteen sweeps off to the west.
Zahara rolls her eyes and follows Thirteen.
Imrama follows suit. "I have very much been looking forward to meeting you, Kai Buckthorn."
Phoenix ponders for a second. Well, nothing left to do here. Off we go.
Kai To Imrama: "A pleasure."
Kai To Zahara: "Thirteen gets to walk in front now, huh?"
Zahara "I like to let him go first so that he runs into the traps."
Kai "Probably doesn't work so well now that he has eyes, huh?"
Phoenix "You would be surprised."