Imrama Sometime in the past day, one of Zahara's many subjects who staff the Cascade brings her the following message written out in graceful, flowing calligraphy: "Dear Empress ~ I apologize that I am not free to seek you out in person. Instead, I must ask that, when your schedule permits, you come by my rooms. I have something for you. ~ Imrama"
zahara is drying herself off from a shower following her recent interrogation when she receives the letter. She studies it for a moment, then ties her hair back into a somewhat short ponytail and proceeds to his chamber in a fresh outfit. She knocks politely.
Imrama "Enter, friend." Imrama calls out from inside.
zahara does so, glancing over the room before her eyes fall on him. "Hello, Imrama. Feeling better?"
Imrama is sitting up in bed with a tea tray of baked goods in his lap and a steaming kettle at his bedside. The air is full of the scent of rose hips and orange blossoms. There are a strange melange of books beside him on the bed which Zahara recognizes: they were all of them written by Birds. Imrama smiles warmly. "Good day, Empress. I am feeling better now than when I hovered perilously between...
Imrama ...life and death. And also better than I was a few minutes ago, now I have some tea!"
Imrama "Please, sit. Would you like a cup?"
zahara sits on the chair beside his bed, crossing one leg over the other. "I would love some, thank you... orange and rose hip?"
Imrama "Yes," Imrama responds while pouring Zahara a cup. "I've grown quite fond of this blend since coming to Solaria." He offers the tea cup to Zahara.
zahara takes the cup, lifting it to her lips to inhale the steam appreciatively. "Lovely." She smiles, and waits politely for him to pour his own.
Imrama does so and raises his cup. "To the Sunlands, to our Circle, to your health, Empress, and," he smiles at himself a bit, "to mine."
zahara echoes the toast, raising her cup and nodding her head slightly in his direction. She sips the tea and then sets it on the bedside table, freeing her hands to fidget restlessly with her rings.
Imrama sips his tea, sets it back down, and looks away from Zahara for a moment. "I have come back from the brink, Empress. Gifted with a new lease on life, I feel strongly compelled to correct my previous mistakes. Because I am an Eclipse, because I lived so long amongst the fae, and because of certain learned ideals I hold, I take my oaths very seriously. I have, for some time now, been struggling with
Imrama how to properly fulfill one such oath."
Imrama "I asked that you come see me in order to attempt to do that," Imrama produces a weighty object from his inside breast pocket, wrapped in a piece of golden silk, "by giving to you what is properly yours." He holds the bundle out to Zahara.
zahara watches him for a moment then lets her eyes drift towards the window. Then she looks down at the silken object, taking it from him, running her fingers across the fabric. "You do not have to give me anything, Imrama.
Imrama "It is true, I do not have to. But I ought to, and so I do." The weight and shape of the round object is familiar in Zahara's hand.
zahara tightens her fingers around the object, and looks away. The silk slips off of it, and it lies exposed in her hand.
Imrama Zahara holds in her hand the Eclipse Seal of the Deliberative. "Do you remember the oath that I swore when first we met, Empress?: 'You are the hope that this world, and many others besides, have left; I would be a part of that hope, to make it grander still.'" Imrama reaches out and touches Zahara's hand very, very gently. "You are still the hope of this world."
zahara "No," she says softly, her knuckles whitening around it. "I'm not, Imrama. I can't be the hope, the light. I can't." The careful composure she'd been holding breaks and she ducks her head to hide her face.
Imrama "I am not speaking of what I expect of you, or of what I want you to be - I am speaking of what you are. You are the elder Eclipse of our Circle, the hub of our great wheel, the founder of the mightiest nation in the world."
zahara shudders, feeling her guilt reach up from where she'd buried it, clawing at her throat with talons of fire. "I am no great leader, no true friend. You don't know where my thoughts have been, my dreams. They are all full of destruction, pain, anger. I am afraid to wake up in the morning for fear of what I might bring about each day."
Imrama gives Zahara a look of empathy. "What a struggle I see in you, dear Empress. You are right that I do not know your dreams. But they sound woefully hard to bear. You should not have to bear them alone. As Lucent has recently pointed out to me, I have not forged the friendships I hoped to when first I came to your nation. But I would like to recommit to that. I would gladly extend to you that...
Imrama ...opportunity, to begin again, if you might do the same for me."
zahara "How can you want my friendship when I..." She rises and paces the room again, her breath catching before she turns to look at him, letting him see the truth in her troubled eyes, "I wanted to leave you to die."
Imrama winces. "It hurts to hear that, Empress, but not so much as it would have with that lingering between us unsaid. I am sorry that I did not address this sooner, before matters had soured so. But I remain steadfast. I am your ally, I would be your friend."
zahara "I am so sorry." Her eyes drop to the seal in her hand, the solid gold circle heavier than it should be. "I would...like to start over. I am not who I was... but I am not who I will be yet either."
Imrama "None of us are. But I know and trust that we will arrive at that destination more safely if we travel together." Imrama smiles - not a light, easy smile, but a deep, truthful smile.
zahara "Thank you," she smiles in return, hesitantly. "For what it's worth, I am glad you are back with us."
Imrama "But not nearly so glad as I am!" Imrama laughs easily.