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`Zahara steps into the War Room, looks to see who is already there, and who has not yet arrived. She takes an apple from the fruit basket and toys with it as she waits for the other Solars.

`Codex cuts loose a thin slice of mango and flips it into his mouth. "Hello, Empress," he says with a grin.

Kraken is now known as Cerin

`Zahara inclines her head to Imrama and smiles. "Hello, Sky Captain."

Codex is now known as Imrama

Lucent "Hello, Imrama, Zahara. That was smooth, wasn't it?" Lucent watches the little Maiden of Journeys run from the Coronal and up and around the table in celebration. "We got the remains of Lookshy with us, and are about to put Quen in a Geographic Choke Hold. Fate smiles on us."

Zahara "It is a shame they had to be mostly destroyed and their riches fallen into the hands of Quen before they would ally with us."

`Cerin pushes the door in, frowning slightly in thought and walking over to Zahara's side, kissing her. "... It is also disturbing how many dragonbloods would side with him."

`Zahara returns the gesture, kissing Cerin, and then trailing her hand down his arm as he speaks. "True. Though given the choice between siding with him and death, I suppose I could see the reasoning."

Lucent "Them siding with him is part of why it fell, however. So they did betray Creation and all that is holy for the golden-tongued bastard. Not that I would expect any less, mind you." He waves. "Hello, Cerin. How did the investigation go?"

Imrama "The free people of Creation need an option for hope. Without that, they will continue to side with the forces of despair in droves."

Lucent "We need to work ourselves into more of a... symbol, than we have so far. Make ourselves into legend, and make all of Creation knows of it, not for domination or for power, but for its own sake."

Cerin "And yet, my love, so few of them sided with him out of fear or at least due to threats. That is one thing that has come out of my investigation. In addition, some of those I found who had been turned, were turned after Linwai started her retreat."

Zahara "Was not slaying the Ebon Dragon good enough to become a legend? Perhaps we should have let them suffer a bit first?"

Lucent "Zahara. How many people /were/ there? The Imperial City was overrun! There was our army, and yet its captains have their own interests! You are just waiting for people to spread the word, a word from people who were not even THERE to begin with."

Lucent "Truth distorts from second-hand, much less by third-hand and something odd they saw in the sky at the distance." He nods. "We need to have our own official version, to show ourselves as hope for them, and to make sure *everyone* listens to it."

Imrama "It is not enough to be legends - to live in the world as Chosen of the Sun assures that. We must seize the initiative. Across the breadth of the world, people have only a choice between the sword and the lash. We must present them with a third offer."

Zahara "Cerin, what made them turn after the retreat?"

Zahara "Ah, well perhaps that old idea of mine to put visions in the crystals of the dragon kings should finally be used."

Zahara "Though we could make an official announcement over the Grid, it would seem perhaps less tactful.

Lucent "True, Imrama. But we cannot be everywhere. And the exploits of lone heroes have always survived due to the happenstance of a skilled storyteller. You said we need to be hope. To be hope for Creation, you need to do more than save a few people at a time, or even it all but with few witnesses - you need your tale to be known, so it inspires others to the same heights."

Lucent "Hmmm, the announcement is a good idea, but it should come after our image is more... familiar to them."

Cerin "Promises," He says simply. "Of fulfilment of desire. Sometimes base, sometimes refined. Always ... just so."

Zahara "Ah, yes."

Lucent "Is Necrophilia that common a trait among them? Lookshy confuses me."

Imrama "My proposal is that we should first expand the alliance to include at least a few more major nations of the world, and then issue a general solicitation to every government not presently controlled by the enemies of Creation."

`Zahara cocks her head to one side at Lucent. "Not all desires are sexual, though I have not heard of a propensity for necrophilia among the Lookshians, no."

`Zahara turns back to Imrama, "Hmmm your plan has merit. Do you have any specific nations in mind for alliance?"

Imrama "To begin with, the three former anchors of the Red Lily. I have already made an offer to the Three of Great Forks, and begun matters in Harborhead. That leaves only the Haslanti."

Lucent "I did not say all where!" Venus' face appears on the sapphire jewel on the coronal and nods.

Imrama "Beyond them, there should be some geographic variety mixed in with the notoriety, and ideally already receptive to our cause. My candidates are Whitewall, Chiaroscuro, An-Teng and the Greyfish Archipelago."

Cerin "Perhaps we might also want to include some of the newly restored nations?"

Zahara "We do need to discover which of the newly restored nations are still peopled, and by what manner of beings."

Imrama "Very true. I wonder if the instruments of the Eclipse chamber can be put to such a use."

Lucent "I thought Wavecrest were a good choice for Western allies, actually..."

Cerin "They already have been, although I am sure your understanding of such matters is greater than mine." He considers, "And at the time, I was in a bit of a hurry."

Imrama "I don't mean for this to be an exhaustive list, Lucent. Cherak, Grey Falls, The Lap - all of these seem like natural allies. I believe that it would be best, however, to establish beach-heads in each region before beginning a general push."

Lucent "I agree. But I imagine it will not be an unwanted factor in your plan if I train a group of performers to tell an approved version of our exploits?" He ponders. "Hmmm. I have to ask Phoenix to write a book."

Imrama "This brings up another idea we might want to discuss: putting forward a general solicitation to the Exalts of Creation for membership in the Deliberative."

Lucent ((* I HOPE, not I imagine >.>))

Zahara "Of course. So, the Haslanti League, then."

Zahara "We may perhaps wish to be more selective than simply including everyone with a Spark."

Imrama "Absolutely, Empress. Perhaps some sort of audition..."

Lucent "Yes. We should probably make sure that they are trustworthy. But between Cerin and you, it is not like you can ever be foo..." He pauses. "... I will make sure you know how to see through what I used."

`Zahara smirks slightly.

Zahara "Speaking of new allies, perhaps we should ask our newest to join us."

Lucent "I have no objections to that."

`Zahara signals a servant, who runs to find the Chumyo.

You are now known as Karal Linwei?

KaralLinwei enters, her flickering hair radiant and her overall presence much improved after a good cleaning and a decent night's sleep, but still clearly exhausted and somewhat embittered.

Lucent "Welcome to the seatof the deliberative, Linwei!"

KaralLinwei nods to Lucent, clearly not in a particularly enthused mood.

`Zahara looks her over critically, then smiles and gestures towards the food and then an empty chair. "Welcome. Please take a seat, and refreshments if you wish."

KaralLinwei seats herself and selects a large mug, which she fills with hot tea

Lucent "Would you like some embelishments on the tale of your heroic last stand?" He mentions as he takes notes of his own odd plan, and the others', before showing them to her. "Oh, and do you hate any of those nations we are going to seek an alliance with?"

`Imrama gestures absentmindedly to Lucent. "About the 'Seat of the Deliberative'. We may quickly outgrow this room, and there may come a time when the space needs of the Deliberative will begin to interfere with the first purpose of the Cascade: the governance of the Sunlands."

Imrama "Therefore, I propose that we establish a public seat in the former Imperial City. Or, rather, over it."

Lucent "Imrama. I propose we do it in Meru. If you wish the Deliberative to return... we need the center of Creation to return to its proper place."

Zahara "hnh."

Lucent "And for our resources, the Imperial City - and the Grid - are close enough."

Cerin "There is the small matter of the First and Forsaken Lion, Lucent, if we wish to build upon Meru."

Lucent "Cerin, we need to rebuild the glory of the past. Imrama wishes the deliberative there. We wish to bring light and HOPE. Which better way than to cleanse and brighten a forbidden city, broken and soiled for those hundred years? Or do you mean to say that is beyond us?" He waves to it. "That is our home. That is our holy land. That is the center of the world we were created to protect."

Imrama "I believe that reclaiming Meru, and resurrecting it to its former glory should be a goal, but it cannot be completed in the short term. My temporary suggestion is that we repurpose Air Fortress Atzeret. It is grand and infamous enough to serve as a thrown city, and it is mobile!"

Cerin "No, I merely wished to point out it was not so simple as sending a couple of demonic decorators over there."

Lucent "That is a good idea. It is QUITE a symbol, Imrama! That... and if we can bring it to the new Exalted and allies of the Deliberative, it makes for quite a show of our might and wonder."

KaralLinwei seems maybe just the tiniest bit put out that the /Solars/ have a flying air fortress, but says nothing.

Zahara "We must really get those portals working again."

Imrama "I have something to add on that note, as well, Zahara. At the request of Thirteen Blooming Flowers and Mnemon, I have begun the project of reconnecting the various planes to Meru. It makes sense to establish a single, central, defensible hub for this purpose, and the sky above the Auric Temple seemed the safest I could imagine."

Zahara "Ah... well then perhaps the project to rid Meru of the First and Forsaken Lion should move up the priority list, so as to ensure its continued safety."

Lucent "... no, we don't. Zahara, Creation is already like sleeping with a sheet too small for you and your mate. Do you really wish to risk the sixth-ninth threat to our well-being to come out of them? We have the Fable, that should do for now."

Imrama "I believe that the First and Forsaken Lion and the Mask of Winters are the two most immediate threats to our nascent Deliberative and to Creation. Empress, have you been able to make any progress in the field of Abyssic studies? Any hint of how to purify an Abyssal shard, or cleanse a Shadowland?"

Lucent "Imrama, we turned to wage war on the Lily, and those two leapt out to take what they could. And I do hear reports of strange things here and there, after the Eclipse. I do have the distinct feel that as soon as we strike one of them, something else is going to strike where we are not."

Zahara "I have some avenues to pursue, but I am considering whether it might be most efficient to raise Pluto and acquire the use of his magics. I will be pursuing my own studies in the meantime, however, with Lucent's Monstrance, and the cooperation of his...friends."

Lucent "Which is, of course, not a reason to not do this, just a reason why we should try our hardest not to bring out any greater threats. Oh! Yes. And speaking of that. Do you want me to call my brother and Crow? I left them waiting outside..."

Imrama "Given our luck, and the way of the world, undoubtedly, Lucent. Nonetheless, they remain the greatest present threats. I do not advocate abandoning all other fronts, merely making these two a priority."

`Zahara takes a bite of her apple pensively.

Zahara "Karal, what do you know about shadowlands?"

KaralLinwei sips on her tea, kept piping hot by her own hands, pensively as she answers. "They are formed by death. They lead into the Underworld. Our efforts have oft been able to contain them but never to eliminate them, except by many generations of careful tending."

Karal Linwei? She snorts, and the fires of her eyebrows flare. "The Mask tore through our protections on the one that bordered us. Is there more that you seek to know?"

Zahara "And what rituals do you perform over these generations of tending?"

Karal Linwei? "Offerings and purifications. Careful delineation of the borders, and application of vibrant, living Essence to the places where they border the living lands. Symbolic containment gestures and runeworks."

`Zahara idly wonders what would happen if she would perform the Benediction of Archgenesis repeatedly over a Shadowland.

Zahara "Hmm.. I would like to try something... an experiment perhaps. If you and yours would perform the rituals around the borders, there is a spell I could cast over a Shadowland that may shift the balance. Of course, the denizens of the Shadowland will quite probably not appreciate this."

Lucent "We will have to convince them otherwise, of course."

Zahara "Anyone up for a little jaunt?"

Imrama "Always." Imrama finishes the last of his mango, with relish.

`Cerin nods

Lucent "Yes!" Mercury does a dance and jumps back into the Coronal, ready to go.

Karal Linwei? ---------

`Zahara surveys the border of the Shadowland before her, the section of the Bayou of Endless Regret that Imrama had suggested, as it crosses the border of the Sunlands. "I must walk the perimeter to define the limits of the Benediction as well. Karal, send your ritualists along - I assume you have everything you need? Everyone else, be on the lookout for hmmm disturbances... to the ritual."

`Cerin watches out for disturbances for 500 yards in every direction at once.

KaralLinwei dismisses several young herbalists and thaumaturgists -- one missing an arm -- off to begin their ministrations, while behind her, a group of Solarians bring to bear the cargo she requested -- five thousand potted plants of local extraction, ready to be embedded in the soil.

`Lucent is ignorant of possible ambushes, as usual.

Karal Linwei? Cerin sees nothing but a few oddly curious animals (dead and alive, on their respective sides of the line) who have either stopped to watch, or fled to a convenient hiding place.

`Imrama stands watch from atop the Fable's drive-ring, eyeing the frontier towards Thorns, while his luminary crew do monitor the other directions.

`Zahara dispatches guards to watch over the ritualists as well, for minor threats - though there seem to be none. She then begins her measured pace, delineating the area of the spell.

KaralLinwei watches with great interest.

Zahara As she walks, she begins to chant, beginning at the Easternmost point. Her anima languidly flickers to life; at first, glittering, then glowing slowly brighter. She calls upon the Element of Wood, and its growth and life, the Sun-gold glowing, feeding the plants, strengthening, growing. When the light is full of life, she proceeds towards the North.

Zahara (South!)

`Cerin watches the ritual, and the elementalists with care as he paces beside Zahara, watching the flows of essence blossoming ever outwards.

Karal Linwei? Cerin notes that in ten seconds his 500-yard view will become noticeably more interesting.

`Cerin pays no more attention that he was already. He is already paying a lot of attention.

Karal Linwei? One of the gently rolling (but decayed) dead-tree-covered hillocks some distance into the Shadowland begins to undulate slightly.

Zahara The life-light of Wood grows ever warmer and fierce as she approaches the Southern point, the verdant trail of early-season flowers that spring up in the footsteps behind her, shift to the hardy, heat-loving flowers of the desert. The Sun-gold glows, with warmth, with strength, and life. When the light is full of heat, she proceeds towards the West.

`Cerin continues to observe this, studying the essence flows.

`Lucent looks at the pretty lights. Jupiter's face ooohs

Karal Linwei? Long-dormant essence patterns seem to be reacting to the injection of disgusting /life,/ dredging the unspeakably ancient bones of a creature from beyond the origins of humanity up to oppose it.

Cerin ::It appears the very land opposes this transformation. A behemoth awakens.::

Karal Linwei? The creature, its shape difficult to peg to simplistic human concepts like "head" and "limb," rises up, a hundred feet tall, the rotten earth itself hanging like tatters of flesh upon bones long since turned to stone, and lets out an incomprehensible roar.

Zahara The heat-light of Fire begins to steam and cool as she approaches the Western point, the hardy desert-flowers giving way to those that thrive in the wet. The Sun-gold glows, with rain, with warmth, with life. When the light is full of liquid, she proceeds towards the North.

`Zahara sends a feeling of acknowledgement to Cerin, and trust. She does not break her stride, nor pause in the ritual.

`Imrama advances the Fable to take up position between Zahara's march and the newly-awakened death-beast.

`Cerin draws forth his golden bow, and strings a mote of light.

Lucent "... big..." The coronal spreads around Lucent with his barest thought, preparing itself for war, forming a circle of lights about him. His eyes close, he whispers a prayer, and the next moment the ground breaks beneath him, Amika rising from the ground with a terrible roar!

KaralLinwei draws out two matched swords of pure vermillion flame from the air itself, and marches steadily forward to meet the creature itself.

Lucent Lucent bellows, sending the Scorpion foward to halt the behemoth! Its legs shaking the earth beneath it, Amika jumps on the enemy behemoth, holding it even as its bones attempting to cut what cannot be harmed... And Lucent allows the orbs to sink upon his flesh, becoming the Adamant Sun. That touches Amika, covering her, and both shine with all colors...

Lucent ... as the Scorpion strikes its tail on the behemoth, all colors flash through it, striking the behemoth like poison and going *through* it... coming out as faerie-maidens and sun, flashing with stolen essence from the behemoth and diving into the light of Cerin's bow! "Your light is our light. Rest in peace."

`Imrama sizes up the enemy. He orders his crew to target the undead thing, and then pauses for a long moment to carefully light his pipe and take a few quiet puffs of purple smoke. Finally, he gives the order. "You may fire when ready, Mr. Iggles-Lux."

Adrienne [[email protected]Magic Star?-EEE 9 A 0 DB?.cruzio.com] entered the room.

Imrama And in an instant, the poor, terrible thing that was never meant to crawl beneath heaven is doused in the light of the Fable's cannons, mixing with Lucent's and Cerin's attacks, sending the grey beast home.

Zahara The liquid-light of Water begins to chill and frost over as she approaches the Northern point, the water-loving flowers giving way to the low-clinging flowers that brave the cold. As the lights of her companions flares in the center, the Sun-gold glows, with water that frosts, and dormant life. When the light is full of chill, she proceeds towards the East.

Karal Linwei? The creature's old, dead bones shatter and crack with a volume enough to shatter buildings; the nearby trees, living and dead, buckle and crack from the force, and the mortals present mostly find themselves blown over embarassingly onto their behinds.

Karal Linwei? The earth below where the creature's body falls begins to churn and roil in dark, necrotic blackness, but with the dead body gone it seems to have spent its capability to meaningfully resist.

Cerin is now known as Sleepy Kraken?

Zahara As she completes the circle, her last step falling into the first, she walks towards the center, and raises her arms. Essence pours into her anima, which leaps above her, the flaming feathers of the swan scattering around, taking on the colors of the elements, even as she calls upon the strength of the Earth. The brilliance of the Sunlight is blinding for a moment, before it turns into a gentle golden rain of Essence, suffusing the

Zahara suffusing the Earth with vitality and life, diluting the necrotic energy with each drop.

Karal Linwei? The land shudders and shakes. The mortals try to get back onto their feet and make as much distance from the borders of the Shadowland as possible. A stiff, cold breeze blows through the world....

Karal Linwei? There is a single moment of almost unbearable tension that grips everyone present, and then... an easing, like slipping into a comfortable bath... and one by one, tiny little flowers begin to blossom in the dead ground.

`Imrama gives a cheer from the bow of the Fable, and the glowing figures of his crew each sprout little hats on their heads which they then throw into the air in celebration.

`Zahara smiles, then, as the flowers begin to take hold, stealing back the land from the darkness it had succumbed to. The feeling of connection with the healing land lingers as the spell shifts, no longer needing her to hold it, the golden essence becoming simple rain, and she lowers her arms, turning her face upwards.

Karal Linwei? The sun, brilliant and golden, shines through the rain, warming the land and those who stand upon it. A brilliant rainbow erupts over the healed land.

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