After the brief break, it is time: the servants prepare to bring in the last arrivals to the meeting.
zahara fingers her dragon ring as she contemplates the new information brought to light by Varanim, but other than that her poise is immaculate as she awaits the final arrivals.
Imrama reaches under the table in front of him and pulls out his soft, furry, and so far exceedingly quiet guest: Admiral Longwhiskers III. Petting and cuddling ensue.
Lucent is absent-mindedly looking at a book; It reads 'The Tale of Seven Veils'. He has a pen with him, marking this and that on the text, smiling and sighing between turning pages as he waits.
Cerin steps back into the room, padding near silently over to Zahara, kissing her cheek before seating himself and nodding to the other gathered solars
After just a moment, the servants walk out and lead in two individuals: a young man with many features of a hunting cat, and a young woman with the feathers and claws of a hawk; both wear identical green and black robes, and bear pins: a circle, divided into green and black halves by a wavy line, with a bright red A emblazoned upon it. (...)
Ejira, the woman, speaks first: "Gathered Solars, we come to you from the nation of Arcadia." Kelesh, the man, continues: "We come to announce our nation's humble desire to join the Deliberative, and to announce the arrival of our delegate to your august body." Both kneel down in supplication, simultaneously.
Cerin ::Why do I find myself unconvinced of their humbleness?::
zahara 's finger stills, and she casts a glance over to Imrama. Her eyes are cold, and she nods slightly to him.
Imrama bends down to replace the Admiral in her basket, and then returns a resolute, but sympathetic stare to Zahara.
zahara "Show him in."
Ejira raises one of her hands, and a tiny bug flies out of it -- then transforms, in a flash of silver light, to the ruler of Arcadia. (...)
Akuna is much as the Solars remember him: towering well over six feet tall, grey hair slicked partially back yet spiky, a greenish-gold glint to his predatory eyes, a tuft to his pointed ears, and a vicious canine in his brutal smile. (...)
Today, he comes dressed in finely tailored silver-white robes, the abstract patterns of Lunar tattoos cut across them in elaborate whorls and spirals of the same color, but reversed weave; his collection of silver rings remains unreduced, but the only other decoration he wears is a tiny piece of wrought silver that affixes to his brow, in representation of his newfound kinghood. (...)
AkunaRavdash "I bear the greetings of all Arcadia's people," he says, and bows, grinning.
zahara smiles in return, her face bearing no trace of her hatred, "Welcome, Akuna Ravdash of Arcadia." Her lips quirk into an amused expression, but she does not say what she is thinking.
Lucent sets down the book and glares at Akuna. Oh, he could hide his emotions very well. When he wanted to.
Cerin inclines his head to Akuna. "Welcome," he says, in a tone which doesn't quite manage to be welcoming.
AkunaRavdash "I thank you for that welcome," he says. "I come here today in awe of this great work that you have accomplished, to unite the warring factions of Creation so." He looks around and casts a charismatic look at all the delegates who remain in the hall. "My own nation, as you know, is young -- but holds great strength, should it be aroused." (...)
AkunaRavdash He bends down on one knee. "I wish to offer that strength to the Deliberative, of course."
zahara "Of course," she says smoothly. "I am certain that we will forget the past, and build a glorious future together."
AkunaRavdash inclines his head slightly. "But of course. That is the purpose of this endeavor, is it not? To cast off the shackles of history, of the acts all of us might hold in shame within our hearts, to set aside old grudges -- and to forge a new day, together, with the other nations of Creation."
zahara chuckles, "shame?"
AkunaRavdash 's eyes darken, and he says in a low voice: "Believe me, Zahara, there is much in my own past that I might wish I had never remembered." (...)
AkunaRavdash He brightens again slightly. "In the spirit of friendship, however, we have brought tokens of offering. Many gifts and able-bodied youths from our nation await outside, and in addition....." He trails off.
Cerin is radiating increasing anger into the private unity he shares with Zahara, although he is doing his best to keep such thoughts from his face.
zahara raises a brow as he trails off, sending waves of soothing, over tightly controlled anger.
Lucent "Hmmmm?" Lucent asks, as if to say 'this better be good'
AkunaRavdash claps his hands, and his two cronies dash out of the room, only to return holding a cage of white jade -- and within it, the wilting, unhappy form of the god Unfolding Petal.
AkunaRavdash "I believe this belongs to you," Akuna says, mildly.
zahara signals for some servants to come take the cage. "How kind."
AkunaRavdash nods. "I thought that you might... appreciate it." He gestures to his servants, who fall into place behind him once again. "Shall we stand together, then, as we once stood apart? Will you have the might of Arcadia at your side?"
Lucent Well, it was. Lucent taps the table, but keeps quiet for now. That was for Cerin and Zahara to answer.
Imrama speaks up. "This body has recently admitted the Silver Pact into membership. I understand that your new nation is is the midst of border disputes with tribes under there protection, as well as with several of your other neighbors besides."
AkunaRavdash He nods. "I offer to make satisfactory resolution, as judged by these nations, of these conflicts through the auspices of this body a precondition of our membership."
zahara "And there is, of course, the oaths and such."
AkunaRavdash "Of course. This body must not fall prey to the treachery that beset its predecessor."
zahara nods. "Then, when you have completed the resolution of the disputes, we will review your case and welcome you formally."
zahara glances to her companions, "unless you have anything else, I suspect we have wasted enough time on this particular review, and should move on."
AkunaRavdash nods and grins once more -- and his teeth glint in the light from above. "I thank you once again," he says, and without any further delay he transforms into a small bird and flies away, his retainers following on foot.
Cerin exhales a little after he has left.
AkunaRavdash The servants, a little unnerved by that experience, seem a little even more confused as the next petitioner enters
AkunaRavdash Walking in from the door is... not quite a person.
AkunaRavdash The shape is quite like that of a human, of course, but her flesh is soft, and glows a pale, iridescent blue; long thin tassels fall from the back of her head until they nearly touch the ground, and a cloud of dark spores seems to hang behind her.
AkunaRavdash Despite her inhumanity, she is quite beautiful, in a reserved way. She wears an outfit of all black, including a translucent veil that covers half of her face, and which her spores appear to match; she leans on an intricately-carved wooden staff, blue crystals set on both ends, as if it is her only comfort in a weary existence.
AkunaRavdash She walks, with certainty but not joy, up to the front of the hall, and stands there, silent: Elari, of the city of Era'vina.
Elari "I am Elari, of the Okasha," she says. "I come from the edges of Creation to speak wih you today."
Cerin "Greetings, Elari," Cerin says softley. ::She is Lai Misuna's widow::
Elari She nods quietly.
Elari "I have come here to tell you something," she says.
zahara nods, sympathy showing on her face. "Please, then, speak."
Elari "You have crafted this Deliberative," she says, and the spores that float behind her head begin to shift through dark reds and yellows, "to unite the nations of Meru." She pauses for a long moment. "The human nations." (...)
Elari "A short time ago, perhaps you would have been right to think only of your kind -- for my city sat alone, far beyond the bounds of the world, isolated from all. But your kind does not hold Creation alone." (...)
Elari "Your Deliberative does not seat the Draconis who sit in your very backyard, or the Aalorai who have risen in the West; it does not seat the Marax-Do of the south, or the Fa'la'tarena of the north; (...)
Elari "The Okasha and Gha'bi and the other denizens of Era'vina are not seated here, nor will they be: for we are not of your kind." She pauses, and her spores shift to deep blue-purple. "And what call do you have to seat us? For we are not allies, and our kinds will not co-exist." (...)
Elari "So I come here to tell you, that we have reached out to our cousins who have reawakened to the world; we speak with the other children of the Ka, that we might form our own union."
zahara nods, "I believe this is the best course of action - for how could we as humans address the needs of the Hundredfold? However, I hope that our unions will form an alliance, that we may work together to better Creation as a whole."
Elari "That seems unlikely," she says. "Those who have slept through two ages will not awaken to the reality of today, but the war of yesterday -- and your claim to the lands at the heart of the universe will only inflame their hatred." Her spores turn greenish-black. "Whatever my own wishes... I shall stand with my cousins."
zahara "Then let me leave the offer of alliance open to those who wish it. I had hoped to integrate our races eventually, but I understand that this would be difficult for many to consider."
Lucent "Regardless, we wish for peace. A Hundredfold alliance is for the best in this world, and we should wish, both humanity and hundredfold, to cleanse ourselves of our pasts and our sins. Creation is better when it is plural, Elari. We should all work to make they let go of their hatred. To make up for the inevitable result of the first war..."
zahara nods in agreement with Lucent
Elari She nods. "War has a costly toll on all of us."
Phoenix` "While you are here, will you perhaps help us answer some questions?"
Imrama "War between the races of Creation serves only the interests of our mutual enemies. We are prepared to enter into good-faith negotiations with you and your kin, as equals."
Phoenix` thinks better of this.
Phoenix` "Rather, are you representative of your people or your city? I know that, as Misuna's mate, you must enjoy an exalted status of one kind or another."
Phoenix` "If indeed you do, I would like this conversation between us to continue, because I have faith that, whatever your people do, YOU will act as befits your honor."
Elari She looks to Imrama. "What... enemies do we have in common?" She turns to Phoenix, wincing at her comment but answering nonetheless. "Era'vina was once a small city on the outskirts of the Okasha empire, but then the war came, and few survived. When the Wyld crashed down around Meru's borders, the one city was spared, an island amidst chaos." (...)
Phoenix` notices the wince. "Oh, pardon me, I didn't mean..."
Elari "The Okasha, and six of our bretheren races, were numbered amongst its inhabitants, and... we did what we needed, to survive." She looks down. "Many of our citizens died in the recent war, as well." She pauses and her spores turn reddish-green. "But to answer your question, I am now the leader of all the Okasha, and also the foremost of the Seven Luminaries of Era'vina."
Imrama "I can understand that your people's feelings towards the Yozis cannot be as uniformly negative as our mine, but whatever they may have done for you in the past, they exist today as beings bent on escaping their prison and taking revenge on Creation at any cost: side with them, and only hope to endure as their slaves."
Elari nods. "It is possible." She turns to Phoenix again. "And I will treat with you, as I may, but I can promise you nothing."
zahara "Then, for my part as Empress of the Sunlands, our empire will treat with you as we may, and we will defend ourselves if necessary, but we will not aggress without provocation."
Phoenix` "Wait, that may not necessarily be factual, pending a more strict definition of aggress."
Phoenix` leans forward and continues, "I suspect that some of the peoples of the world live in ways that humans find unnoticeable or imperceptible, and so it is possible that we may trespass accidentally. For that, I ask your forgiveness, on behalf of all humans."
Phoenix` "But I stand behind the Empress's assurance that we will not knowingly take offensive measures without due consideration."
zahara "Ah, indeed, thank you for pointing that out, Phoenix."
Elari nods. "I understand. And I will remember."
zahara ::Ah, and here I thought we might have a moment of peace.::
Phoenix` ::Oh, Zahara, always the optimist.::
Imrama ::Elari has been generous with us. She has given us clear warning to make as many in-roads with the Hundredfold of Meru as we can, before they unite into a single force behind a majority who wish to see us all dead or enslaved."
Lucent ::Hopefully, we can stop this from escalating into war... somehow.::
zahara ::I suppose I should work on Exalting humanity as well, hmm.::
Lucent ::They hate the Exalted. Hrms. Maybe we should make an edict that each member of the Deliberative should give the Hundredfold some manner of gift. To show our good will towards them. Maybe starting that with a festival.::
zahara looks over at Ssithumi, :: Would you like to speak about this development afterwards? ::
Elari Ssithumi nods slowly.
zahara nods in return, thoughtfully. "Thank you, Elari. And thank you for coming to this meeting to deliver the news personally."
Elari "You are welcome," she says, as her spores turn burgundy. And then she turns to depart.