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Lucent attempts to kick the door to Cerin's room off its hinges. Being he is not strong enough for that, the Coronal blows it up. He strides in intently, looking about anything that might be on the walls. "Where is it?" He casts his gaze about, "Where is that STUPID CHART?"

Cerin "Chart, Lucent Copper Haze?" Cerin asks, his voice very mild as he looks up from his desk.

Lucent walks up to someplace with documents and scatters them while trying to find it. For one who was taking pride in order with Varanim earlier, his presence resembled nothing less than a hurricane. "THAT BASTARD WEI DAN'S STUPID CHART!"

Cerin "Sit down, and please stop destroying my careful filing. If you were actually looking at the papers you were hurling about you would already have the chart in your hands." He picks it up from the floor to demonstrate.

Lucent looks down on it and turns around to shove it almost into Cerin's face! "We were STUPID!"

Cerin "Yes?" he raises a single eyebrow.

Lucent "Zinobia! SHE is the Green Lady! Connected to Larquen! We went into the FUCKING Chrysanthemum because I wanted to know what Larquen's Sidereal Girlfriend had on him, and there was a star connected to him here ALL ALONG! And to Qian Mian!"

Lucent "That makes her one of the FIVE WHO ARE FALLEN! Do you understand? WE WERE VERY, VERY STUPID!"

Cerin "Oh yes. That was so obvious from her name, which was all that was known of her until recently. When you added the further datum that she was once Quen's girlfriend. I was, of course, supposed to deduce she was one of the five who are fallen from these two facts and a pair of lines on Wei Dan's chart?"

Lucent "YES!" He throws slams it on the desk. "Cerin, do you SEE? That means she was evil all along! Pushing him to darkness all along! When I went with them, when we killed lords of the Underworld, tried to bring peace to Netheos... we were just ELIMINATING COMPETITION! THE BITCH HAS PLAYED US FOR CENTURIES!"

Cerin "Obviously," his voice is so mild. "Perhaps instead of shouting, you might like to relate to me the long conversation which has lead you to this deduction?"

Cerin "I assume you have conversed further with Fierce Red Star"

Lucent "Qian Mian, Endings, the Perfect Sphere, Nyx, Night Blossom?, Red Lily! Rememberance of Seven Tears, Journeys, Askaru's Wife, The First Fleet, The Perfect Circle! Maril, also known as V'neef, Scarlet Dynasty!" He does not quieten. "Zinobia, the Green Lady, Secrets, The First Necromancer, the DEATHLORDS."

Lucent "Rannath the Spear, also known as Fierce Red Star, the Sunlands."

Lucent "You SEE?"

Cerin "In general, speaking in full sentences helps, Lucent." he remarks, in passing. "But that is an adequet distribution of agents amongst the major powers of Creation, I suppose. Though it leaves open the questions of what Rememberence of Seven Tears is doing at present, and what Fierce Red Star was doing, say, twenty years ago."

Lucent "Every cell of power in Creation, and they are there. The major agents, the major players, manipulated by them!" He stomps the ground. "We are very damn lucky the Sunlands got the incompetent one. And that they NEVER act as a Sphere, do not even talk to each other, just act independently. If I could find that bitch RIGHT NOW..."

Cerin "Because the Sidereals seem to be so effective when they plan together, of course," he agrees. Well, almost. "I would also advise you to calm yourself. If you could find her right now, you would be dead by her hands. Assuming you could even perceive her, blinkered as you are by rage."

Lucent "Calm? We need to HUNT them down. To find out their little scheme and foil it. To beat them like redhead stepchildren and drag their shards kicking and screaming out of their pit and give Creation back Five Starchosen." He stepped down again... and finally seemed to be unwinding down. "And kill Quen."

Cerin "You are, I feel, making several perhaps greivous assumptions there," he continues mildy. "The most fundamental one of which is perhaps that they have 'a' scheme. You are speaking of five entities, of an Exaltation reknown for their scheming, each of whom is effectively many thousands of years old, most of which has been spent nestled close to heart of Creation's greatest powers and you expect them to have 'a' scheme?"

Lucent slumps down the floor. "And what do you think they have? If they never act as a Sphere, then something must be commanding them, to send them to each and every important power block of Creation."

Cerin "Do we even have evidence to suggest they are working towards a common goal?"

Lucent looks blank at Cerin's face, as if trying to find some evidence. He fails.

Lucent "... Fierce did not even know their Secrets."

Cerin "Or is their keeping tabs on each other merely an acknowledgement of the fact that they are likely to be some of the few constant entities in their respective areas of interest?"

Lucent "But if each and every one of them has their own agenda... what binds them? Merely the metaphysics of their existence? That..." He stops, and wonders. "There is something distinctly wrong about that. We were warned about them, right?"

Cerin "Well, we were informed of their existence and they do have a rather ominous title," he agrees. "And the blackend gem did sit at the top of Saturn's staff, so they have some significance. I am not sure that assuming they are working towards a common goal helps us though. All it does is introduce at least two unknowns. We instead need to concentrate on what we do know."

Lucent "Yes, and what we do know. Qian Mian is evil and must be stopped. Meril is posing as V'neef, currently the Realm Empress'... something. Aunt? Cousin." He waves it away. Dragonblooded Politics. "Zinobia is one of them, which means that even if she died, she will remain the SAME for Quen. And Imrama is due his own little grief when he realises his promised love is evil."

Varanim "I can't hear him shouting anymore," Varanim says to Zahara as they approach the room. "Do you think that means Cerin's killed him and vanished the body already? I think he does that by accident sometimes, just out of reflex."

Cerin "Not that much, then."

zahara chuckles, "I have never known Cerin to do anything by accident. Though he could well use that as an alibi."

Lucent "Well, I tell you what _I_ know! I know Zinobia played me for a fool for centuries! That the fucking Green Lady knew what she was doing when she corrupted Quen, when she asked for my help, and that the green-lipped bitch is out there, somewhere, and we need to get to her RIGHT NOW."

Varanim Varanim, just walking in, pauses. "Uh, this sounds like a bad time." She looks back at Zahara for support, expecting a quick retreat.

Cerin "I was referring to useful things to know, Lucent."

Lucent "Cerin, if you had any idea..." He sighs, then looks at the Night. "Out of everyone here, you are one of the few who seems to understand the ramifications of your Exaltation, right? You realise how long you are going to live, and how much things might change?"

zahara shakes her head, "Lucent got some interesting new news... Actually I did as well." She sighs, "We should go in."

Cerin "Yes. I fail to see how that is relevent to your points. You wish to hunt her down because she tricked you. Because someone who you considered lesser than you has played you for a fool. Does it not occur to you that that might be exactly what she wants?"

Lucent "Now, imagine that, millennia from now, you meet Zahara again. The analogy would fit better if you were on my place, but bear with me. And then you figure out that I nudged Zahara in the path of evil. Oh, not only that, but I was ALWAYS a dark type of Solar; that, then, everything is nothing less than a lie." He waves it away, "If you had seen that happen in front of you, would you not feel stupid?"

Lucent "Now, imagine that, millennia from now, you meet Zahara again. The analogy would fit better if you were on my place, but bear with me. And then you figure out that I nudged Zahara in the path of evil. Oh, not only that, but I was ALWAYS a dark type of Solar; that, then, everything is nothing less than a lie." He waves it away, "If you had seen that happen in front of you, would you not feel stupid?"

zahara opens the door on his statement, not really bothering to knock. "You're nudging me into evil now?"

zahara *

zahara steps through the shards of the door just as luc speaks. "You're nudging me into evil now?"

Lucent freezes. "N-no, I was just making an analogy!"

Cerin "Indeed. But I would do my best not to compound my stupidity by immediately trying to chase after you whilst still angry about it."

Cerin "Hello, my love," he smiles at her. "And greetings, Varanim."

Lucent "Well, you clearly have not experienced it, then." He crosses his arms, stubborn. "Varanim?" He looks in Zahara's direction trying to find her.

Varanim pokes her head warily around the door frame. "Is this still one of those yelling conversations? I can't stand it when people are cranky with each other."

Lucent stiffles a laugh. "Maybe."

zahara "Hello, my Love," she crosses the room to kiss him, and then looks over at Lucent. "You seem rather agitated. I appreciate the fact that you did not explode during the interrogation however."

Varanim "So, is there a cheat sheet people who aren't two thousand years old?"

Lucent sighs. "Was he any more cooperative after I left?"

Cerin stands to kiss Zahara properly, and then seats himself once more with Zahara sitting on his lap.

zahara smiles, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, a splash of blood barely noticeable against the dark blue color. "Oh, I think we had a breakthrough!" She arranges herself properly across Cerin's lap

Lucent looks at the couple, then at Varanim, then at the spot in Zahara's hair. "He IS still alive?"

Varanim "What are you looking at ME for? I don't even know who the hell you're talking about."

zahara "Oh of course he is." She sounds mildly offended. "I couldn't let him escape to a new body could I?"

Lucent looks away from Varanim quite intently! "Nothing." His voice is low, almost a whisper. "No. He would just be reborn with the same memories. We need to... change him. He is a righteous bastard, but if he will retain the same memories, all we CAN do is redeem him."

Cerin "I find it interesting that you assume that the Fierce Red Star may be redeemed, but that Rememberance of Seven Tears is nessessarily still evil, and entirely unchanged by her time with Askaru."

Varanim To Zahara, she says, ::What ARE they going on about?::

Lucent "She must be as much of a manipulator as the green-lipped bitch." Lucent states. "The Perfect Circle clearly did not know about The Five. In fact, they seem to have missed quite a bit corrupting elements floating around them."

zahara ::Ah yes, you haven't met our latest White Room guest. Fierce Red Star, a Sidereal who once posed as a member of our Circle... we have discovered that he and four others, collectively termed the 'Five Who Are Fallen' have severed their connection to Fate and to their Goddesses, the Maidens - though they still retain their charms and longevity."

Varanim "This is one of those things I know I'm going to regret asking, but..." Varanim shrugs resignedly. "Who is the green-lipped bitch, and when exactly did she kick your puppy?"

Cerin "Her name is apparently Zinobia, and she has manipulated Lucent and the Mask Of Winters for hundreds of years, it transpires."

Varanim "Ooh, her. Involved with the first necromancer too, right? Or was green a very popular lipstick color back when?"

Lucent "Remember Larquen Quen, whom you keep accusing me of trying to recreate in you even though I keep trying the OPPOSITE? Turns out his girlfriend, a green-lipped Sidereal Bitch, who was always with him as he spiraled down, is part of a cabal of immortal Sidereals with quite sinister goals. Which means that all the time, back then, she was manipu...."

Lucent "... you know her?"

Varanim "Oh, there've been some hints in a book I read. The author was crazy, which tends to obscure things." Varanim waves her hand a little vaguely. "But it's one of my current history projects, so please, go on. There's a cabal?"

zahara gives Lucent a Look at his "opposite" comment.

Lucent glares at her. "Which. Hints."

Cerin "Of five, yes. One chosen of each Maiden. They appear each pick a 'great power' of Creation and manuvuer themselves close to the heart of it. They also retain their memories as they reincarnate, so they can plot over quite significant timescales."

zahara "Lucent. Calm."

Lucent "But if she KNOWS..."

There is a knock on the wall by the now no-longer-standing door.

Varanim "From looking into the Black Tome's history, I can tell that she was present when necromancy was... conceived, if you'll pardon the term." She closes her eyes briefly, recalling. "I also know that--" She breaks off, raising her eyebrows, at the knock.

zahara "Lucent," she punctuates her statement by flinging a long silken object at him, which twines around him of its own accord. "CALM."

Lucent 's eyes go blank. "... I ...am."

Cerin looks through the wall

zahara "Thank you." She smiles a little, then raises her voice, "Yes?"

Varanim blinks at the suddenly tied-up Lucent, then looks away to the door.

One of the Cascade's servants is standing behind the wall, holding what looks to be a small package -- about the size of two loaves of bread -- wrapped up in a bright viridian scarf. He steps over to the door as Zahara calls him in.

Lucent looks at everyone with an expression of intense serenity and inner peace

Lucent "Green. Maybe it is her. That would be elucidating."

Varanim "Ooh, someone's getting a present."

zahara "Is it addressed to anyone in specific?"

"Excuse me, but... this showed up on the doorstep, with a note that said 'for Varanim, with love.'"

Varanim "Gimme." Varanim holds her hands out.

zahara considers, and as soon as its intended recipient is revealed, the scarf that had only been wrapped loosely about his shoulders, slips down further, binding his arms against his sides

The servant hands it gingerly to Varanim, and winces in preparation for her opening it.

Varanim raises a distinctly skeptical eyebrow at the servant, then flips open the scarf covering.

Lucent leans in closer. "She is after you. Hmmm, that probably means you are Larquen Quen's reincarnation." He sits down, observing Varanim idly. "Most curious. I was right all along."

Inside the package are several items: three blood oranges, a tiny book made of a black metal that is almost certainly soulsteel, several shards of blue pottery, a large bone... and a small soulsteel cage, inside which is a female severed head.

Varanim "Huh."

zahara tilts her head to the side to see better. "Why... oranges?"

Lucent "Zahara, could I have the use of my arms again? I swear on my honor I will be calm."

Cerin "That is an interesting collection."

zahara "Of course, Luc." She gestures again and they loosen, allowing him to position them wherever he wishes.

Lucent lifts his arms from it, so the bind is around his waist instead, and walks to the collection, touching the blue pottery, wondering. "Hmmmm." He wonders, "Such strange gifts."

As Varanim looks closely at the face, she notices that there's something odd about its forehead -- faint marks vaguely in the shape of a Dawn (or Dusk?) caste mark. And then she realizes with a shock that she recognizes the woman -- she was one of Varanim's instructors in Sijan.

Lucent lets go of the pottery with the utmost calm, picking the chart again. "Hmmm, Qian Mian apparently answers to Zinobia. Interesting, considering he has always appeared to be the greater evil." The utterly calm Lucent nods, "You know who is this 'Azure Wind'?"

Spring walks in. "Did someone take one of my charts?"

Cerin "In the sense that I have seen, and therefore can perfectly reproduce, your charts, yes. I have taken one of your charts."

Lucent "Long-Awaited Spring." Lucent nods disapassionately. "Indeed, for I have discovered a centuries-old folly of mine, which was clear in this chart from the start if my eyes could have seen. I have been blind, Spring, and I hope Varanim will not pay the price."

Spring "Ah."

Spring "That sounds familiar."

Cerin "Azure Wind though, Lucent, was a Night Caste in the first age. It was his shard who made up the Night of the Nightbloom. I raided his tomb in the Western Ocean whilst I was Infernal."

Lucent "Was there anything of interest in this tomb?"

Cerin "His artifacts, which I stole, and a number of Hundredfold."

Spring glances at the Bonds around Lucent, then glances at Zahara, but says nothing.

Varanim Varanim's eyes glint, as if she's been insulted, or just challenged in an unexpectedly interesting way. "So it's going to be like that, is it?" Without rising from the chair she bows her head slightly, and the caste mark on her forehead flares with the painful ruddy brilliance of a dying sun.

Varanim For a moment, everyone in the room can see the structure of Varanim's will projected outward--shifting diagrams with paragraphs of theory condensed down to one symbol, parallel streams of thought considering from multiple perspectives at once, and the guiding hand that steers and directs her perceptions to rocket down the corridors of the past--all focused on the severed head that she...

Varanim ...cradles in her hands.

Lucent "Hmmm, I see. Nothing of the works of Necromancy or Infernalism furthered by Quen or Qian?"

Lucent watches the diagram with a smile. He whispers something so very low, then turns back at the chart.

The sight in Varanim's mind is cast back, back as she sees how the head came to be in her possession: as it was carried to this room by the fearful servant; as the package was carried by an eagle, to be dropped onto the doorstep; as the head was packed into the cage and bundled up by gentle, quick-moving hands... (...)

Cerin "Not mentioned on his numerous montages, that I saw."

Lucent "And the Green Lady is after Varanim. I wonder, now, if she moves with the Mask, or if she has discarded my friend to look for his substitute. When we last met and I spoke of her, it seemed like a painful subject for him."

Spring ::Varanim. Have you mentioned your dreams to Lucent as yet?::

She sees the blood squirt outwards as a single thin, sparkling blade severs the head, the black mark fading almost instantly from its forehead; she sees the head, body still attached, look down at a set of soulsteel throwing knives, balanced easily in her hand, and then look up from where she sits to see the Labyrinthine Cascade in the distance; (...)

she sees the head walking with its attached body, out from the city of Great Forks, across the thinly-settled living plains, straight into the Shadowland known only as Walker's Realm.

Varanim ::...no.::

Spring ::Ah.::

Spring ::Zahara?::

Spring ::Good work with the Bonds.::

Varanim "Hm. It appears that one of my professors at Sijan was an Abyssal. Are any of our favorite people from the neighborhood of the Walker's Realm?" She folds her hands in her lap, arranging them somehow around the pile of presents there.

zahara ::I am rather pleased with the results as well.::

Spring "It might be time for the Deliberative to begin diplomatic ententes with the Deathlords."

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