<Zahara> "Unless you have a way of lending me Essence, you stay there, in your circle." she points to an unelaborate circle near where he's currently standing. "Hopefully, that's all you have to do." she smiles a little and stretches her limbs, preparing herself mentally. She stands with Tantamount curled protectively around her feet, in the exact center of the circle.
<Zahara> "Four hours... I hope you don't get bored easily." She smiles, then starts to chant slowly, sprinkling fine powders that flare into nothing before they hit the ground, tracing fine lines with her Essence, the energy pouring out of her and forming itself slowly.
There is a faint rustle in the distance, and then a wind begins to blow within the room. As if from out of nowhere, the form of Lucien once again appears at Zahara's call.
Lucien swivels to face Zahara and affixes her with an evil eye. "YOU call upon me again?" He lets out an dry, rasping laugh.
<Lucien> "Did you wish that badly to taste of my blade again?"
<Cerin> "She will not taste your blade, Lucien, Guardian of Sleep, not while I watch over her"
Lucien seems taken aback; he expected easier prey from this naive child.
The demon struggles mightily against Zahara's will, but this time she is far better prepared -- Lucien eventually submits, humbling himself to the sorceress.
Lucien stares intently at Cerin for several moments. Then, he turns and disappears.
<Cerin> "He possessed immense power....as do you to bind him to your will"
<Zahara> "I think I need to rest now." she allows Cerin to escort her to her room.
Several weeks later...
Zahara and Cerin sit, waiting in the appointed chamber for Lucien to report.
After several moments, the rustling wind that signal's Lucien's approach stirs up in the corner of the room. Though the room has been recently cleaned, sand kicks up from the floor.
The gaunt form of Sleep's Guardian appears from the small tempest, holding in one withered claw a bloodied and terrified soldier.
Cerin's eyes behold the shifting Essence flows of the man held before him. He is an Exalt, though once again one the likes of which Cerin has never seen. He seems lacking in power -- not much better than a Dragon-Blood, and a fairly inexperienced one at that.
The demon creaks out his answer. "I found him in a brothel in Bright Waters." He throws the Exalt -- still heavily bleeding -- onto the ground, violently. His uniform clearly marks him as an infantryman in Rannath's legion.
<Zahara> "Soldier, what is your name and rank?" she asks, though she knows the rank already.
<Bertrand> "buh...buh...buh... Bertrand Tallani, fuh...fuh...First Infantryman."
<Zahara> "Bertrand Tallani, who do you serve?"
<Bertrand> "I... suh... suh.... I serve Rannath and the glorious rulers of the Sunlands."
Bertrand begins to shake visibly in Zahara's iron grip. "I se... se... I serve the... Order of the Red Lily!" he says, quickly, as if that will somehow lessen his suffering.
<Cerin> "That's better" cerin speaks very softly.
<Zahara> "Ahh, finally, you speak the truth. For that you shall be rewarded. See how I do not crush your throat?" she smiles magnamoniously. "Now, you will tell me what you do for the Order of the Red Lily."
Bertrand swallows hard, and tries to blink the still-flowing blood out of his eyes, with little success.
<Bertrand> "I was told to observe the actions of the Sunlands' army and report back on it. A... also to keep an eye on... him." He feebly gestures with his head towards Cerin.
<Zahara> "Indeed. Now detail every report you have sent, here, in writing. I want the reports on him separate from the general reports." She drops him into a chair near a table, with neatly stacked sheaves of paper on top, and a quill pen. "I was going to make you write it using your own blood, but that always flakes off the page. Try not to be too messy."
<Cerin> "How did you deliever your reports?"
Bertrand stares at Zahara for several minutes, as if hoping that somehow he could die just by thinking hard enough. Then, he turns to answer Cerin.
<Bertrand> "I... placed my reports in a drawer in my room, before I slept. They were gone in the morning, with only petals in their place."
He then turns to the table and begins shakily writing.
After quite some time, Bertrand completes his stack of reports. He has reported extensively on the structure and mobilization of the Legion, as well as on the apparent defenses of the Labyrinth, the times at which members of the circle have been absent, and the activities Cerin has performed within the manse.
There is no apparent indication of Cerin's "change of heart" in anything listed within the reports.
<Zahara> "You have done well, Bertrand." she smiles, as the sesselje scuttles back into her own flesh. "I'm feeling generous. I'll leave your disposition up to Rannath, your leader. However," she places her hand on the papers that mention Cerin's involvement,
<Zahara> "If you even so much as HINT at mentioning Cerin's involvement, I will take you back, and I will rip your heart out and feed it to you every day for the rest of your life. And believe me, you will live a VERY long time."
<Bertrand> "I... I understand."
<Zahara> "Now, just to make sure you know I speak truly, I will show you." She picks the poor wreck up again, and guides him gently down the hallway to The Room, to show him what happens to the people she doesn't like. She opens one cell door, and the Abyssal hangs there, spread eagled, on the wall. He can see the rings through the man's limbs.
Bertrand takes one look and vomits, explosively, all over the floor, then drops to the ground.
<Zahara> "I'm glad we have an understanding." she says, and deposits him in a second room, one with empty rings in the walls, and leaves.
<Cerin> "I wonder what he is. Perhaps Rannath will let us find out"
<Zahara> Perhaps. This room should be sealed off from outside..or inside, for that matter.. expenditures of Essence. I learned THAT after the break-in.
<Zahara> "We may want to monitor him for a while, but I doubt he has any fight left in him. It's the Order we need to know about. We should search his room, find if there is some special ink or paper he used, or anything else that might give us a clue on how their magic works.
<Cerin> "As far as I know, it requires no special ink, the magic is a charm that Lai uses, but it would be wise to check none the less"
<Zahara> "Would Lai know who wrote the letter? Or could we place any note in that drawer and have it arrive there as if he wrote it?"
<Cerin> "I have no knowledge of the magics he has to detect such a forgery"
<Zahara> "Hmm then perhaps Rannath will agree to have Bertrand write missives for us."
<Cerin> "Hopefully, or else his unit may have to suffer an 'ambush' and in a month or two Lucien will have to search again"
<Zahara> "Ahh good plan."
<Zahara> "Do you want to ask now, or give him time to stew?"
<Zahara> "for that matter, you never told me how YOU joined either."
<Cerin> "Now might be best, since it will tell us to watch out for"
<Zahara> "Yes, and then you can tell me your story at leisure, over supper." She palms the door open, and it slides away like a whisper.
<Zahara> "Hello, Bertrand." she says, looking into the cell at the man.
Bertrand is lying on his side in a fetal position, clearly terrified after the treatment he has just received.
<Zahara> "We thought of one more question for you," she says pleasantly. "Tell us what brought you to join the Order of the Red Lily."
<Bertrand> "Uh... um... er..." Bertrand sits up, still looking terrified.
He takes it, and drinks it, probably too fast.
He begins to speak. "I lived in a small village, north of here. The mayor had made arrangements with the local spirits for various things... good crops, decent weather, that sort of thing."
<Bertrand> "One day, they came to the village and told the mayor that the village had been chosen -- that all of its youth would be granted special power and go off to wondrous adventures, after which they would return and raise strong children."
<Bertrand> "A spirit called Rovak the Hart-Runner took me to his sanctum, in a grove in the nearby forest."
<Bertrand> "He explained to me that I was going to become an Exalt -- a chosen champion."
<Bertrand> "He laid me down on this strange wooden table, and began to perform some elaborate magical ritual over me. I can't remember it very well, but he had all these strange magical objects...."
<Bertrand> "As I fell unconscious, I felt like something.... clicked inside me, like a door being unlocked. When I awoke, I was Exalted."
<Cerin> "And after that?"
<Bertrand> "Lai came and spoke to me the next day. He told me that the Order of the Red Lily were going to overthrow the corrupt governments and establish a new world order -- where people like us could run things, make them work better."
<Bertrand> "A week later, I was shuffled off to become part of the Legion. That was... a year ago?"
<Zahara> "You have seen our government at work, how smoothly everything runs, and how well our people are treated. Why would you want to destroy something that you could have been a part of instead?"
<Bertrand> "I... I... um." Bertrand seems lost. "I... it all made sense before..."
He looks down at the ground and mumbles to himself for a moment.
<Zahara> "Cerin, is there anything else you'd like to ask our new friend?"
<Zahara> "Then we shall see you on the morrow."
Tags: (:tags Lucien, God-Exalts, Bertrand, Ivory Orchid Ghost, Rovak Hart-Runner:)