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Lucent Thirteen feel the maidens about him. The light of sun and moon in his face. Slowly, stardust on all five colors falls about his form... to soothe his awakening. To bring him through the road of sleep to the world of consciousness. To cloak the secrets of his dreams. To remind him life is a battle. And that sleep is at an end. "Good Morning, Thirteen."

Thirteen adjusts his hat and sits up, stretching. "Good morning, Lucent."

Lucent "I was wondering when you would come to me. But I got tired of waiting."

Thirteen "I needed to rest. I assumed that you would still be here in a day."

Thirteen "Surprisingly, in this instance I was correct."

Lucent "I thought the same when I went away. History of my life, if I turn my face away, the world will become ashes." He sighs. "But I guess you did. I had never seen you so weary."

Lucent "... I barely recognize you, to tell the truth."

Thirteen "I have not changed in any way that bears mentioning. If you see an eyeless man with an orichalcum spear doing the impossible to save the world, you may be reasonably assured that Thirteen Blooming Flowers stands before you."

Thirteen hefts the aforementioned spear, and gets to his feet, brushing himself off.

Lucent "You did. We all did."

Lucent smiles. "You just changed for the better."

Thirteen "Thank you, Lucent. I am pleased to have your approval."

Thirteen "Where have you been, and who are your corrupted friends?"

Lucent "The Pole of Fire. The Forge of Sakkara. Thorns. The Underworld."

Lucent "And those are Abyssal Exalted in service of the Mask of Winters. They are my chaperones."

Lucent begins to walk. A morning walk for Thirteen Blooming Flowers amongst the ruined gardens of the cascade

Thirteen "I have been to the Underworld. I did not like it much."

Lucent stiffles a giggle

Lucent "I liked you, though."

Lucent * it

Thirteen "Did it? That was not my impression."

Lucent "Yes, it did. The Deathlords believed there were no Solars left. Until you appeared. And they realised it was not the Sun, as the Sun would not let Shards stray. It was your walk through the Underworld that made them realise the Shards were still about."

Thirteen "Hm."

Lucent "It prompted the Mask of Winters to deal with Sarifen. It prompted Sarifen to steal the Empress while the Mask took the Zenith seal - still on his possession - from the Imperial Mountain. The Abyssals to exist and the Solars to return. Congratulations, Thirteen. It is all your fault."

Lucent grins

Thirteen says nothing for a while.

Thirteen "Well. This gives me a certain additional respect for Wei Dan's scheme."

Lucent walks around the Garden, Mercury laying stardust on their path for ease of their travel, the Sun orb laying out sunlight to the flowers they pass by. Luna soothing them. "He was a smart one. You must have learned much of his plans in Wasirru. Tell me about them?"

Lucent "... and... sorry for not being there, with you."

Lucent "For all that is worth... all your advices for me, all this time... they were right."

Thirteen bends a flower to his nose and sniffs. "I am glad you found them so."

Thirteen "We are entering into a difficult stage of the war, and will need all the strength we can muster."

Thirteen "Wei Dan knew that the Solar shards were being detained by some force, before they could reincarnate."

Thirteen "He sealed his shard away, within the Wasirranu, that he might evade this, and be reborn."

Lucent "We need to be together." He nods, listening... "And he knew it was not the sun? What trigger did he set, if any...?"

Thirteen "Excellence."

Thirteen "In doing so, he apparently enabled the freedom of all the Solars who currently bestride Creation. I cannot say that this was completely intentional on his part, but things have certainly turned out as best they could."

Lucent "Yes. Yes, they did. Oh. And nice hat."

Thirteen "Thank you."

Thirteen "How did you find this out, Lucent?"

Lucent "Wasirru did not go well for you, though. Birds and you... do not look well. What happenned there?"

Lucent "... oh, I talked with the Mask of Winters. I wore the face of a friend. One who wished to curtain the Sunlands, to destroy the Lily, and to keep the world safe." He brought his hand to his face... and a golden mask of himself came out, easily discarded. "He told me everything about himself, the Deathlords, and the returning Solars."

Thirteen "Any unwellness on my part is not due to Wasirru, but what happened afterwards."

Thirteen "Indeed, I could not have asked for better results from my trip. The Kings are dealt with, and I have met my father, and learned my ancestor's secrets."

Lucent "And what was that?"

Thirteen "The Cascade was assaulted unexpectedly, drawing me away from Cerin's side."

Thirteen "You can see the consequences that resulted from that."

Thirteen "What did he tell you about the returning Solars?"

Lucent "That he had over a hundred essences. And gave them away to the other Deathlords."

Lucent "Sarifen had the rest."

Lucent "Well, not gave. He bargained. He has the edge on all of them. I just do not know which edge."

Lucent "He made no mention of how the few Solar Shards escaped, however."

Thirteen "They did not escape."

Thirteen "They were released."

Lucent "Why would they release free Solar Shards if they could hold them as Abyssal servants?"

Thirteen "Alawhi. Kiriath. Ymir. Talmuda. Out of three hundred shards, how likely do you think it is that thirty chosen at random would include all of those party to the conspiracy of the First Age?"

Thirteen "This was intentional. But I do not know why, or how."

Lucent "... bastards. You are right."

Lucent "... then, this brings a question."

Lucent "Just WHO are the Western ones?"

Thirteen "That is not the question it brings to mind."

Thirteen pauses, and sits on a bench by a reflecting pool. Dipping his spear into it, he idly traces circles in the water, listening to the ripples bounce off the edge.

Lucent "And what is that, then?"

Lucent allows the sun to shine over it, the beams reflecting in the water...

Thirteen begins slowly. "In the past three days, we have undergone great calamity. We have lost a staunch ally, and many resources we thought to use to save the world, including two of the three seals we held."

Thirteen "This will not stop us."

Lucent "That is not a question, Thirteen."

Thirteen "But it directs us towards a rougher course, and we will need the utmost in trust and knowledge of our allies if we are to do what we must."

Thirteen "Who were you in the First Age, Lucent Copper Haze? What made you important enough that the demons, or the Deathlords, would pick you out?"

Lucent sighs

Lucent "I was wondering when it would come to this."

Thirteen "It has, indeed, been too long in coming."

Lucent touches the water, thinking. "What if I said I have no idea?"

Thirteen "You can do what you want to, Lucent. I am not telling you what we need in order to need you. I am merely telling you what we need in order to succeed."

Thirteen "Do you remember your dreams of the Eclipse?"

Lucent "Yes, I do."

Thirteen "You and I both know you carry secrets."

Thirteen "But only you know what they are."

Thirteen "Is that for the best?"

Lucent looks at the lake, touching his hand to it, making ripples of his own, deep in thought. "... have I told you how impressed I was with you when I got here? You saved the Kashaen, even though the easiest way was to simply destroy the beast. You trusted me." He takes a deep breath. "I think I respect you more than I ever did any other, Thirteen."

Lucent "And so, I want to offer you a deal."

Thirteen waits expectantly.

Lucent gets up, walking about... "When I got here, I was wearing a Mask. Young Lucent, seeking to feel safe." He picks the mask, smiling as he did, out of his face, discarding it in motes of sand and sunlight. "Lucent, oblivious to the world around him." He picks another Mask from his face. Layers upon layers... "I believed to be them. Cerin and Zahara could look at me all day, and they would see them."

Lucent "But I am before you now, without any masks."

Lucent ((* ONLY see them))

Lucent "They did not release me, Thirteen, because I was not part of their plan. But this is all I can say. I am not aligned with the Lily, or with the Deathlords. I have your best interests in my heart." He nods... "But I cannot tell which they are, yet. I simply cannot."

Lucent "And when you understand, you will tell me that."

Lucent "Thirteen. Strike me. Now."

Thirteen pauses...then he flicks his wrist, almost delicately, and the butt of his spear streaks out to take Lucent in the chest.

Lucent falls back, slamming into the fountain in the center of the pond. It cracks. Lucent's skin is untouched. "I have the sun in my heart. And I will protect me now. You..." He takes a deep breath. "Cannot hurt me. And by the time you are able to, I will be able to counter that as well. So here is the deal..."

Lucent "I ask you to trust me. I ask you to not look at further into my First Age self. To trust me to tell you all I can and no further. And if, when you find out, you think that will bring ruin to the Circle.." He pushes his hand on the tip of the spear. It sinks into his hand, drawing his blood, splattering it on his coat and the water. "... then, I will do nothing. I can oath this with Imrama if you wish."

Lucent "If you find this is bad for the Circle, I will gladly accept my execution."

Lucent "And hopefully, I will be reborn as someone who will do better."

Thirteen is still for a moment, then stands, taking the end of his sleeve in his hand. He takes Lucent's hand, wiping the blood away, and when he has done so, no wound remains.

Thirteen "You ask little, Lucent, since we have no choice but to trust you, and so I see no penalty in doing so."

Lucent looks at it with eyes that seem to ask... 'You? A HEALER?'

Thirteen "But I require more from you."

Lucent "And what is that?"

Thirteen "If we do not look into your past, when will we learn of it?"

Thirteen "Do you remember yourself, two months ago, eager and full of love for the Unconquered Sun?"

Thirteen "If you were responsible for our Circle, would you deliver it into his hands?"

Lucent "No, I would not. And you will learn of it soon. Thirteen." He nods.

Lucent "I... think it will be during the Eclipse. I think you will have it answered then. And anything it does not answer you... I will, when it is all said and done."

Thirteen "I will not lie to you, Lucent. My first inclination is to lock you away, since you have just admitted that you have intentions to diverge from our plans to accomplish your own aims during our most important battle."

Lucent "Oh no. I will go together with your plans."

Thirteen "That boy that you used to be would have insisted with just as much earnestness that his actions were for the good of the Circle, in the end."

Thirteen "Oh?"

Lucent "You will accomplish your own aims. With me. And that will bring the truth."

Lucent "That boy also understood that some things are written, Thirteen."

Thirteen "What is written?"

Thirteen reaches out idly to snatch the miniature sun as it bobs about Lucent's head.

Lucent "Sometimes, all you can do for a better world is change the details. Change what you can and hope it will all fit down the road. It is like... gardening."

Thirteen shakes his head. "There is always another way, Lucent."

Thirteen "But you may seek it in your own time."

Thirteen releases the sun, and gets up to walk towards the manse.

Lucent "Not always."

Thirteen "So I once thought."

Thirteen "I accept your terms, for the moment."

Thirteen "You must speak to Zahara."

Thirteen "She needs your help."

Lucent "I will. That... part of what I must ask."

Lucent "I want you to tell her to trust me. She is the center. If the center breaks... the Circle cannot hold, Thirteen." He holds Thirteen's arms... "The Masks were just lives. It is still me. I would never betray my friends."

Thirteen "You will have to convince her yourself. I cannot tell her to trust you. You have changed much, Lucent, but one thing remains the same. You still believe that there are things greater than yourself."

Thirteen "When you have done that, I will be able to trust you."

Thirteen "Until then, I will simply have to rely on you."

Lucent "Then, let us hope that will be soon."

Lucent nods. "So, I am still not quite adult yet?"

Thirteen "Who is?"

Thirteen "You are Lucent Copper Haze. I do not presume to judge."

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