charlequin Birds is led by a guard into a small room, whose only furnishings are a simple desk and a chair. The Arbiter of Stones stands, back turned, facing the far wall. "Please sit," he says, as she enters.
Birds shrugs. "If you like." She sits on the table, her chin on her knee.
charlequin The stone-faced construct turns to Birds and looks her over from head to toe with an uninformative expression. "An... interesting choice." He pauses. "What did you see, in the dance hall?"
Birds puts on a far-off expression and stares fixedly at the wall just left of the Arbiter's head. "I was talking to some young human... don't recall his name, but he was wearing a fifth-rank courtier's hat and had an embarrassing pimple, I'm sure you can find out who he was (...)"
charlequin nods, clearly certain who she refers to.
Birds "When I heard a disturbance and turned to see Zahara rushing to the aid of one of the Bin-al-Zen victims, while the main body of the court looked on in stupefaction."
charlequin "So you did not see the event occur, only its aftermath."
charlequin "So tell me," he says, looking around the room casually. "What brings you to Xara?"
Birds "You recall my companions' statement that we are present to reopen relations with Meru that have fallen in disarray. This is not precisely true."
Birds waves a hand airily as she continues.
Birds "You see, I am not a diplomat. I am merely an artist."
charlequin 's face makes an expression that seems to vaguely hint at a raised eyebrow.
Birds "The truth is that, while that is Zahara and Lucent Copper Haze's main interest here, Cerin the Wolf is merely infatuated with Zahara's presence and cannot bear to be away from her."
charlequin nods further.
charlequin "And the others?"
Birds "Meanwhile, my great opus shall be the epic of the Second Deliberative, which even now Zahara and Kai are rebuilding from the ashes of the first, and I dare not leave them out of my sight."
Birds "Kai is here because relations with Xara will enrich the Deliberative, but not necessarily because of some specific interest in your world. Thirteen Blooming Flowers is a mystery, but I believe that he aligns himself with us for the good of his own world."
charlequin "His... own... world."
Birds "So when we say that 'we' are here as diplomats, it is untrue. Most of us are hangers-on."
Birds "You may have observed that the humans of Meru have eyes."
charlequin "It is true. What purpose does he serve for his own world here?"
Birds shrugs. "I suspect he is making a show of friendship. Now, do not misinterpret me -- I trust him implicitly. But it remains that he is no philanthropist; when he makes an arrangement of mutual benefit, it is often because he has his peoples' benefit in mind."
Birds "That is to say, he is here because we are here and he is one of us; no more than that."
charlequin considers this briefly. "So, tell me. What do you believe occurred? You must have some guess."
Birds looks mildly surprised at this. "What, you pretend I have some imagination? You do me honour."
charlequin is a little confused by that remark.
Birds "But I will tell you a story and we shall see what you think."
Birds "There is a man - or perhaps a bat or an insect or whatever passes for a courtier in this country - and he is a good man. He does what is required of him; his tasks all are finished at the appointed time, he keeps the spheres in their orbits."
Birds "But someone hurts him, perhaps accidentally or perhaps deliberately, and he cannot forgive. The injury festers and vengeance breeds in his mind. He hatches a plan."
Birds "But the plan is insufficient. It is not vengeance enough. So he looks and listens and finds other injured men, and together they hatch a great and terrible plan, one to shake the worlds."
Birds "It is unthinkable."
Birds "So they dare not say it, dare not think it. They know it only in whispered fragments and no man can assemble the whole."
Birds "But when it is set in motion, it is swift and terrible."
Birds "So was the way of Meru many years ago when the Dragonblooded turned against their betters."
Birds "Does it sound familiar?"
charlequin "It does. I have seen this story many times, in various guises."
Birds "To suggest it is happening under your own roof would be a grave insult."
Birds "But we are not in court, my good Arbiter. I have no need to guard my tongue."
Birds "Something is rotten in the world of Xara, I think."
charlequin "Were I a member of the four Lineages, you would likely never leave this room." The Arbiter's visage is cold and heavy.
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charlequin "Luckily for you, I have more autonomy, and more... reason."
charlequin "You think nothing of the unusual correspondence of your group's arrival and this assassination? We are, after all, in a realm where... correspondence is of great import."
Birds nods. "Oh, as to that."
Birds "Suppose that you were nursing hatred in your cold granite heart. Have you the patience to wait for a distraction?"
Birds "Or a scapegoat."
charlequin The eyebrow gesture repeats but to a far greater degree. "You dare to accuse me?" It is said in a cold but collected voice.
Birds "Nothing of the sort. I simply ask you to consider the position of the assassin."
charlequin "I see." Me seems to ruminate on what Birds has said for several moments. "I believe I have heard all that I need. You may return to the ballroom, Birds-of-Trinity."
Birds "Very well. Thank you for your gracious company."
Birds gives the Arbiter the deepest bow permitted to a servitor, and departs.
Tags: (:tags Arbiter of Stones, Xara, Five Lineages :)