Spring places a small metal bowl and a pitcher of water on the table of the War Room. "Friends, perhaps now would be a good time for me to introduce you to some new acquaintances of mine."
Imrama scratches his head. Do we drink it?
Spring responds to Imrama's unspoken question with a brief smile. "The exact mechanics behind the Agate are not clear to me, but I know from experience that drinking from this bowl will shortly transport you to the current headquarters of the Knights of the Chrysanthemum."
Cerin "How curious. Where did you come to find it?"
Spring "It happened to be here, in the Cascade. I am...not sure exactly why. Perhaps we may find that out."
Lucent "They should change the name," Lucent interjects, "The Chrysanthemum is broken, after all."
Cerin "That is indeed odd."
Spring "Perhaps we may discuss the topic with them during our meeting."
Spring takes a long sip from the bowl, then hands it around the table.
zahara shrugs and takes a sip.
Cerin takes a sip after Zahara
Ligier Once the Solars have all drank from the bowl, they begin to slowly feel their senses float away, and consciousness elude them... and then there is a moment of blackness.
Ligier When they wake up, an entirely indeterminate amount of time later, it is on the floor of a chamber of rock, much like the bowl they just drank of, with gemstones glittering in the ceiling above, and the cold rock of the floor pressing against their backs.
Spring gets up and stretches, then glances around, looking for the escort he feels confident will be present.
Lucent "I know!" he points, "Knights of the Glittering Cave!"
zahara stares up at the gemstones contemplatively.
Ligier Berwyn -- a cocky looking young fellow, quite thin and with an aristocratic beard, dressed from head to toe in an elegant navy outfit, decorated with various silver bangles -- steps out from the doorway to this chamber and speaks. "Hello, Spring. I see you've brought friends with you." Spring can tell that despite his continued youthfulness, Berwyn's been putting on some grey around the temples.
Lucent gets up and bows. "I am Lucent Copper Haze. It is a pleasure to know one of the Knights of Nowhere Yet."
Spring "Indeed. Friends, this is Berwyn. Berwyn, allow me to present the foremost members of the Exalted Deliberative."
Ligier "Ah, yes. I know who all of you are, of course, but it is nice to meet you in person," he says, and begins bowing politely to the others in turn, beginning with Lucent.
Imrama bows. "Greetings to you, Berwyn."
Cerin "Greetings, Berwyn," Cerin inclines his head.
zahara pulls herself to her feet and bows slightly. "Greetings Berwyn"
Spring "Berwyn is, of course, the current leader of the Sidereal Exalted."
Ligier Berwyn makes what is clearly a thoroughly practiced "aw, shucks" gesture. "Well," he says. "I don't mean to keep you waiting in the entrance rock forever. You can come over here," he says.
Spring pleasantly accepts his hospitality.
Ligier Since the last time Spring has been here, they've clearly been working on the place a bit: where once there was only the single rock, now passageways have been extruded out to form a variety of side-chambers, one of which they appear to have materialized in.
Ligier What Berywn leads them up the rocky incline into is the central chamber, whose remodelling had just begun on Spring's last visit; once empty but for a few prophecy pools on the uneven ground, now the remaining Sidereals work at rocky tables and move great rocky sky-mobiles about with flicks of their hands;
zahara glances over the place, noting the work they're doing on the room
Ligier but the strangest part are the infants: for 13 babies, their foreheads ablaze with Sidereal caste marks, and their eyes flaring to match, each bound in simple gowns of their attendant color, sit in what could probably best be described as a "pile," upon an extruded rocky table, each moving its hands about to touch its companions.
Ligier A few other rooms extend off of the central chamber now in the same fashion, and it is towards one of these that Berwyn gestures. "There's food in there," he says. "Sometimes the transition can leave you a bit hungry." He gestures broadly to the room. "Otherwise... welcome to the Agate."
Spring walks over to the pile of babies and touches a few of them on the arm, then nods to himself.
zahara eyes the pile of babies mistrustfully, and heads for the food.
Lucent goes with Zahara. "Knights of the Agate? Hmmm, there is no ring to it."
Spring "Let me present the Sidereal Infantry."
Imrama looks around for the nearest available adult in yellow robes.
Spring "Berwyn," he continues in lower tones, "Cerin and I are having a difficulty involving unnatural dreams. Perhaps one of your friends might be able to help us?"
Cerin studies the Sidereal 'Infantry' with interest.
Berwyn "Hmmm," he says. "Perhaps Dabaizhe would be of assistance here."
zahara eyes Spring. "Infantry? Really?"
Lucent "I approve of your new, non-murderous sense of humor."
Spring "It was that or the Buds of the Chryanthemum. I feel I chose correctly."
Berwyn Cerin sees much what one might expect to see: small babies, full-sized Exalt shards.
Spring "Excellent. Could you introduce us to her?"
zahara shakes her head, but a smile haunts the edges of her lips
Berwyn "Yes, indeed," he says. Turning to the others, he says, "Excuse us, please. It's been a pleasure to meet you," and then whisks Spring and Cerin away.
Berwyn Meanwhile, by a great stroke of luck, the first yellow-robed adult that Imrama finds is none other than Repose Upon The Longest Journey, the Journeys from whom he had studied some years ago.
Lucent goes after Imrama. "What are you looking for? Her?" He asks with equal portions of understanding and worry.
Berwyn (Imrama spots her from well across the chamber.)
Imrama ::I am always looking for her, Lucent. In the space between stars. In the pause between breaths. Always.::
Imrama walks swiftly up to Repose, and bows in a manner appropriate to both a commanding officer, and a Sifu. "Fancy meeting you here."
Repose The Sidereal -- a rather rotund, exciteable-looking woman from the Halta region -- turns around with surprise. "...Imrama?" She laughs with surprise, and quickly makes an elaborate five-stage two-hand gesture, based on ancient methods of sail rigging, which she and the Eclipse had exchanged in the past.
Imrama returns the greeting, smiling."It is very good to see you. I am glad to know that whatever the restored Knights of the Chrysanthemum are doing, you are a part of it."
Repose nods. "Well," she says, "there aren't many of us left."
zahara idly tries some of the food.
Imrama "Sadly true." Imrama pauses. "So what sort of daring journey are you crafting today?"
Repose The food is pretty good for something that people living in an insular cave would be eating, though obviously it's no patch on the food at the Cascade.
Repose "I've mostly been making supply runs, at the moment," she says, "where 'supplies' are 'food' or 'priceless artifacts' or 'babies.'"
Imrama "I see." Imrama appears distracted, and uncharacteristically distant from the conversation. He switches subjects abruptly. "Can you tell me anything about the Five Who Have Fallen?"
Repose looks a little concerned, and aghast, on the subject. "We didn't even realize what had happened with them for so long," she says, and shakes her head. "Can you believe that?"
Imrama "It seems to me that all of the Incarna's chosen have been sorrowfully remiss in their attentions to each other. So, yes, I can believe it. But it happens that my previous shard-holder was married to one of the Five. So I have a certain in-born curiosity about the subject."
Repose looks at him with an odd look. "...really? I... didn't realize." She looks around. "We haven't been very successful at tracking their movements, either," she says quietly, since it doesn't seem like anyone is listening.
Imrama frowns. "I have heard rumors that Remembrance of Seven Tears was posing as a woman named Olyra in the Nameless Kingdom sometime ago."
Repose "We heard that too," she says, and sighs, "about ten years later."
Imrama "But nothing since?"
Repose "Whenever we got something, it was by inference, way down the line," she says. "The most recent we have is from seven years ago, when..." she gulps, looking embarrassed.
Imrama If Imrama were sitting, it would be on the edge of his seat.
Repose "She had disguised herself as a young Sidereal," she says, the embarrassment grown stronger. "For a whole year. Then set up camp under another name 'Heat-of-Magma' in a southern barbarian tribe. After that we lost her again."
Imrama "Three questions: What was her Sidereal alias? Which barbarian tribe? And how long ago?"
Repose "As a Sidereal she went by 'Hsien,' and she went off to a position amongst the Jackal Tribes," she says. "Around thirty years ago."
Imrama "Thank you, Repose Upon The Longest Journey. That is perhaps not as much as I had hoped to discover, but it is more than I knew this morning."
Repose "No problem," she says. "The Seven Leagues haven't been giving you too much trouble since Calibration, I hope."
Imrama "They have become more challenging to navigate, but they remain manageable. I would like to see them restored to former glory, though for the moment I have no idea how."
Repose "I've thought about it, and have no obvious solution to offer myself, but... gotta keep hoping."
Imrama smiles broadly, letting himself warm completely for the first time in the conversation. "Always."