Cerin The particular combination of flags that had flown over the Labyrinth Cascade several days ago had meant several things, but to Telani, it was to notify her of a meeting. The location of which had been written on a note left in one of the many public parks. The note had been very simple, 'Ten Thunders Tearooms, after noon. The far table.' It was at this table that Cerin sat, observing the note as he did so. He, of course, wasn't (...)
Cerin recognisable as Cerin. Cerin the Wolf had, in fact, ceased to be and there was not one person within Solaria that he was aware of who could see through his magic to suggest otherwise. He sipped his tea.
Telani walks in, almost unrecognizable herself: her hair trimmed off, her outfit tattered and torn -- and the symbol of a broken sun tattooed around her eye. She walks without concern and seats herself on the opposite side of the table.
Cerin When he is quite sure no-one is watching, he takes the ring that was a gift from Zahara off, allowing it to be free from the effects of the charm long enough for Telani to recognise it, and then donning it again. "Greetings," he says with a polite nod.
Telani nods brusquely.
Cerin "Before we start, I would like to use a charm on you. It will mean you can hold no secrets from me on any subject, but I will restrict my questions to the events of recent weeks. I have to know, though. May I?"
Telani nods again. Her expression is colder and harsher than Cerin remembers, and it is clear that she has been toughened by this experience.
Cerin "Thank you," and then he wraps her mind in a fine mesh of essence, extending deep into her soul. "Please, tell me what you have seen these past few weeks."
Telani "I was inducted into a cell ten days after we spoke," she says, cutting to the chase. "We have met five times since, always augured by dreams, in out-of-the-way places. There are four others in the cell, whose names and descriptions I can provide." (...)
Telani "One, Lazaren Opal, is the leader; his tattoo is red and gold. He has told the cell that he receives his own dreams, guidance on where to strike and how to move." She picks up a cup and takes a gulp of water before continuing. "After feeling out the membership, he's decided to act against Solaria directly. He says the city is decadent and corrupt, and must be shaken."
Cerin "Do you know how long he has been in the cult?"
Telani "Longer than us. He was in another cell." She pauses for a moment. "His comrades did not survive."
Cerin nods. "What kind of action is he advocating?"
Telani "He has not yet laid out all the details of his thought, but it will involve the use of an Essence weapon on a district of the city. Another member, Kilpa, is procuring something and has not reported on it to the cell, though I believe he is trafficking in stolen Shogunate weaponry with the Mask of Winters' forces."
Cerin "I see."
Cerin "What of the other two members in the cell?"
Telani "One is monitoring the actions of the Solarian police, by virtue of being a moderately-ranking officer. The other is engaged in spreading the anti-Solar message discreetly, as well as providing material resources."
Cerin "What of yourself?"
Telani closes her eyes. "I have been in charge of dealing with... imminent threats."
Cerin "Are you aware of any other cells?"
Telani shakes her head. "We have no contact with them. But," she adds, "the way Lazaren speaks makes it sound as if we are not the only ones planning something for the same day."
Cerin "How often do you dream?"
Telani "Just once, the night before each meeting."
Cerin "Describe them, do they say anything beyond the meeting point?"
Telani "There is a vision. I see a location, and an unusual portent. In the most recent, we met in an abandoned, fire-damaged shack outside the city, when a cloud of exactly seven ravens flew first north, then south, past me."
Cerin "Do all members share the same portent?"
Telani "The others have been quite loathe to discuss the exact nature of their dreams, and I have not chosen to push the issue."
Cerin nods once again. "What have you learned of your cell mates, beyond their names and their roles for the cult?"
Telani drains her water and puts it back down on the table, perhaps a little more forcefully than necessary. "They all have reasons for disenchantment with the regime here." She pauses. "Some are more reasonable than others." (...)
Telani "None of them, as far as I can tell, have been involved in insurgent activity or received active military training in the past. All but one are natives of the countries that now comprise the Sunlands; the last is Haltan by birth, but has lived in Chaya for ten years."
Cerin "And yet they can organise such a trade with our neighbour ..." he wonders a little.
Telani "It is unusual."
Cerin "Have you noticed that you yourself have acquired skills?"
Telani thinks. "I would not have put it that way, perhaps, but I... have been confident and unconcerned in my actions in service of the cell. Things have gone easily for me."
Cerin nods. "Do you know on what timescale Lazaren plans to act?"
Telani "Within a month." She looks around briefly. "I will signal you as soon as a time is certain."
Cerin "Thank you. Do you want to remember this conversation?"
Telani "I think it's better if I don't," she says, and sighs a little.
Cerin nods. "You had a drink alone then," he says, sympathy in his voice. "Thank you once again, and goodbye for now." (...)
Cerin And then he fades from her vision and her memory at the same time as he does of everyone in the tearooms, and then he departs.