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Thirteen ::Dreambreaker?::

Zahara ::Thirteen?:: her mental voice is waspish, snappy. ::What do you want?::

Thirteen ::Merely to inquire. Has Lucent left the Cascade?::

Thirteen ::I did not realize he had not discussed his plans with you.::

Thirteen wanders idly under Ssithumi's balcony, picking up half-eaten lizard bodies and swallowing them thoughtfully.

Zahara ::Yes. Yes, he did. And he did not mention them before.:: she looks down at the piece of wood in her hands.

Thirteen ::Our discovery shook Lucent more than any of us. It is not surprising that he might react thus. I doubt it is an indicator of anything.::

Zahara runs her fingers over the smooth curve of the outside, and the jagged 'broken edge' she had so carefully carved. ::Isn't it? Don't you know, Thirteen, that I obviously do not 'keep watch over my compatriots' properly, as it was so succinctly put when we returned to the Cascade. The Circle is fragmenting now, more than ever. And this is Not The Time for any weakness.::

Thirteen "Hm."

Thirteen ::Zahara, I apologize for my criticism of you at that time -- it was uncalled for. We are at war. Every day we march to a new battle, one that we must win in order to survive. The losses we take are regrettable, but we do what we must.::

Thirteen ::You cannot feel yourself responsible for Kai and Lucent leaving us. They are as driven and purposeful as we are. They must seek their desires, even as we hunt the Seals, or the ingredients, or merely fight to survive.::

Thirteen ::If they were your soldiers, you might well be concerned, but they are not. They are your friends, and our siblings.::

Zahara ::It is my duty to lead us. To allow for the differences, the desires, the needs. We may be peers, but even so. How can they leave?:: unspoken, the word 'me' hangs at the end of the sentence.

Zahara ::This is supposed to be the time when we come together, unite to fight our enemies as one.::

pigeon ::Zahara. You are my sister, and I stand by you.::

Thirteen ::You say that now is the time for us to come together, and that you will guide us all and provide for all our desires.::

Thirteen ::When have you told them that?::

Thirteen [6:42pm] Thirteen: ::You rule the Sunlands, and do it fairly and well. But what have you done to lead it?::

Zahara looks down at the piece of the table in her hands, her reply long in coming. ::I am not one for giving grand speeches. That was Luc's job, and before him, Markuran. They were the ones I counted on to inspire. Now one has left of his own free will, and the other is lost.::

Thirteen ::I do not ask you to make speeches. I ask you to ask your subjects, and your friends, and find out what they need, that drives them to leave.::

Thirteen ::Rulership is servitude.::

Zahara ::I am not good at servitude.:: she says, smiling slightly. ::But I will try.::

Thirteen ::I have faith that you will excel at whatever you set your mind to, Zahara.::

Thirteen ::Hm.::

Thirteen ::Did Lucent tell you where his journey would take him?::

Zahara ::I so often do. I wonder... if there is something I could have said to Luc, to show him that he did not have to leave to find himself. He is so quiet, sometimes I wonder what he thinks about. Hmm he did not say where, specifically. Atop a remote mountain, no doubt.::

Thirteen ::I know very little of Lucent. He has always struck me as capable but essentially childish. I am pleased to see in this the first blossoming of adulthood.::

Thirteen ::Perhaps we should have spent more time looking to our own. Kai, as well, has motivations I struggle to discern.::

Thirteen ::Has anything ever struck you as...odd, about Lucent?::

Zahara ::Kai struggled, a child with power thrust upon her that she did not have time to grow into. Lucent... yes, he is still very young. But they say that you become an adult when you first realize that your parents are not Gods.:: a short laugh. ::Or that your Gods are not your parents.::

Thirteen ::Indeed. I wonder what she has decided to do, in order to feel herself worthy of that power, or to master it.::

Zahara ::I can only hope that she will return. Lucent has promised to. I only hope they will be in time.::

Zahara ::Lucent has to discover that he does not require the Sun's permission to be who he is.::

Zahara ::But sometimes, I wonder if he even knows who he is. I fear I do not. That is what I find odd about him.::

pigeon ::I have been reflecting.::

pigeon ::Do you recall Iallu's first meeting with Lucent? Her comment was that he looked familiar to her.::

pigeon ::Selonis, too, had a surprising reaction to him.::

pigeon ::I must assume that the Red Lily has tacticians of reasonable though not comparable caliber.::

Zahara places the piece in the chest at the end of her bed and walks over to the mirror, studying herself. ::Yes... everyone seems to know him somehow. It is quite strange.::

pigeon ::What was your first course of action with regards to Lai's army? You ensured that you had agents within his forces. In our case, we subverted those agents he had placed within our walls.::

pigeon ::But if he had not done so, we would have had to create agents of our own.::

pigeon ::For us to create Exalted of gods we are not on speaking terms with would be a significant feat.::

Zahara adjusts the tiara on her brow reflectively. ::Yes, and I believe we do have one or two over there as well.::

pigeon ::But for a god, already versed in the ways of Exaltation, to create an Exalt, with one of the Solar shards he no doubt used to create his own Exalts in the first place...I suspect it might be a much lesser challenge.::

Zahara stops, suddenly, her eyes becoming opaque. ::Are you suggesting what I think you are?::

Thirteen ::Naturally, this agent would be young and seemingly innocent, yet equal to us in power, so that we would accept him into our war councils out of need.::

Thirteen ::He would assuredly come from a far-away location, one we did not concentrate on, but one that the Red Lily had sizeable strongholds in, such as the far south.::

Thirteen ::An artful designer might train him to be charming and charismatic, the better to win us over...::

Zahara ::And at a time in which I would not investigate his soul too closely. It was convenient, wasn't it?::

Thirteen ::Your thoughts parallel my own.::

Thirteen raises his foot to take a step up the winding tower that Birds and Cerin are atop...and pauses for just one moment, before setting it down.

Thirteen ::I have remembered something.::

Zahara clenches her hands into fists, ::But if that is true, why would he leave now, before our final plans are in place.::

Thirteen ::He must know that we would not finalize our tactics until the last moment. He would not have time to prepare any careful treachery; he would have to coordinate with his true allies in advance, and act on his initiative.::

Thirteen ::Do you remember when Lucent told us of his dream, after we conversed with Atala?::

Zahara slowly reaches up and removes the tiara from her brow, twisting it between her fingers. ::Remind me.::

Thirteen ::He had a recurring dream, of Mount Meru...and a great manse, above a great city, with an eclipse overhead, surrounded by stars. He was there to meet with five figures, who were leaving the manse.::

Thirteen ::Does this suggest anything to you, Dreambreaker?::

Zahara ::History will repeat itself. Unless we take steps.::

Thirteen ::You are, as always, apt and to the point.::

Thirteen ::It is possible that Lucent himself is unaware of his betrayal. I am sure Lai's artistry is capable of that much.::

Thirteen ::Perhaps, even, he is innocent, and all this is merely a tangle of coincidences.::

Thirteen ::But we must be sure.::

Zahara ::I must hope that it is so. If Lai sent him here, unknowing, that would have been one of the smartest things he has done. No interrogation can draw forth what is not known. His innocence... in this time, it may be too much to ask.::

Thirteen ::Perhaps we should speak with Cerin on this matter. If there is any way for us to easily discover the truth, it is he.::

Zahara runs a brush through her hair methodically, the sheer normalcy of the act comforting. ::There are other ways, but if he is innocent, I would spare him those.::

Thirteen nears the top of the tower, and stops before reaching his friends, leaning against the wall.

Thirteen ::Indeed. Let us hope that such methods do not prove to be necessary.::

Thirteen ::There are few enough Solars without destroying those we have, even if they do prove to be tainted..::

Thirteen ::I suspect that we will leave for Wasirru before returning to the Cascade.::

Thirteen ::Perhaps in our absence you may come upon evidence for or against, or acquire a tool that will assist us in unravelling this dilemma.::

Zahara ::If he has come to us, knowing. If he has done that, spied on us and returned to collude with his masters. Destruction may be too good for him.:: The brush pauses for a second, then continues. Her thoughts turn to Cerin. ::I do not tolerate betrayal lightly. If he would confess of his own will, beg forgiveness. Promise himself to us truly...::

Thirteen ::Until I see the proof of betrayal before me, I cannot say what an appropriate punishment would be.::

Thirteen ::Perhaps we may master the art of Exaltation and make an ally out of him, if you catch my meaning.::

Thirteen ::But that will not happen before the eclipse.::

Zahara sets down the brush, studying her reflection. She tucks a single hair into place, then lifts the tiara to its rightful place. ::There is too much to do, before the eclipse. I do not think we will have time to complete the checklist, with all our efforts.::

Thirteen ::No. I doubt we will.::

Thirteen ::I will consider, during my journey, and discern how best to approach Lucent when he returns.::

Thirteen ::The actual conversation, as always, I will leave to you.::

Zahara ::Please do. And try to accomplish your tasks in Wassiru as quickly as possible.::

Thirteen ::I have already made my preparations. I do not anticipate us being detained very long.::

Zahara ::Hmmm, good. I have a lead on a powerful demon near Halta. I will be traveling there to see about learning how to summon one.::

Thirteen ::Be careful. Do not endanger yourself needlessly. We have need of you as much as any of us if not more.::

Zahara ::Trust me, I will be. I have no desire to die at the hands of a demon again.::

Zahara thinks about that for a second, then adds, ::Or worse. They do not often kill cleanly. ::

Thirteen ::I am sure no such fate will befall you.::

Thirteen ::Be well, Dreambreaker.::

Zahara smiles. ::Your confidence is appreciated, Thirteen Blooming Flowers. Watch over the others for me, in Wassiru. I will heed your advice and speak to them on our next meeting.::

Zahara sighs, wishing she had placed a collar around Luc's neck as she had with Thirteen and so many others. Misplaced trust, or oversight. Either way, it could be the undoing of all their plans.

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