< A Bold Plan | Sol Invictus Logs | Tulips Are For Forgiveness >

Zahara concentrates on the flows of the manse, rather than looking physically, feeling for that essential 'Lucent-ness' touching the essence flows. Satisfied, she walks straight to his location.

Lucent is found somewhere on the gardens around the cascade, flanked by one of his scorpion guard and two kashaen girls with sapphire pins on their hairs, all admiring him and holding the flowers he picks from the garden, arranging it on a bouquet

Zahara watches him for a moment before approaching. "May we speak in private?"

Lucent stops to look at Zee, smiling as his servants all bow gravely to the Golden Empress, and Luc quickly speaks in Firetongue for his aides to leave him. The girls give her one last look, and one last dreamy look to Lucent before disappearing. The soldier never looks back. "Of course, Zahara. Good to see you are doing better!"

Zahara glances at the bouquet curiously but lets it slide. If Lucent wishes to pick flowers with girls, she has no quarrel with that. It's sort of cute, anyway. She absently shifts the flows in the area to be louder, to cover their conversation. "Lucent," she says without preamble, "I am going to meet with Lai and Akuna."

Lucent watches Zahara as if she had just grown a third eye

Lucent "... you are doing what?"

Zahara "We have amended Thirteen's plan. I'm going to go there, alone. I will have stolen the Seal" she plucks it from the air, then returns it, "And trade it to Lai in return for Cerin and Markuran." she looks sideways at him. "Thirteen told me to trust you to help me keep my secrets."

Lucent watches Zahara for a long time of silence, the winds going through the trees and caressing them... for a moment, his hair covers his face. And when it is gone, a devilish smile lays there. "... that is a bold plan. I like it." He pronounces. "Now, I cannot make Masks for others, so we will have to use a bit of synergy here..."

Zahara "What do you mean by that?" she asks innocently.

Lucent "See, on the First Age, there were certain devices that allowed those like me to pass their masks around. A pendant in the shape of five prismatic masks, each expressing a different emotion. Calm, Wrath, Resolution, Love and Sorrow. It requires a bit of commitment on my part... but as long as you hold it and I keep that up... you will be as masked as I am."

Lucent "Of course..."

Lucent walks closer to Zahara, and grins with the corner of his mouth "It requires trust."

Zahara "Can you have it reflect more complex things? Hide betrayal and secrets?"

Lucent "Oh, see, this is not how it works."

Lucent "You hide everything, Zahara."

Lucent "And only show what you wish. In a new context."

Lucent "You write the story of Zahara Zahn, broken and filled with despair. Zahara Zahn, who would give up on us all for a fleeting glance of Cerin. Zahara Zahn, whose love for one man is enough to bring an Eclipse to all the Sunlands. And the Zahara Zahn we know, will be nowhere to be seen."

Zahara smiles wryly, "That story will not be hard to write."

Lucent "It never is for me, either. I am a horrible actor, to tell the truth."

Zahara "What have you written, then, Lucent? And what have you not?"

Lucent smiles like a little southern devil, the djinns of sand "Guess?"

Zahara "You have written Lucent Copper Haze, innocent boy-king, Lord of the Kashaen. You have written trust and glory, and a tragic past for us to rescue you from. As to what you have not written..." she bows slightly, "I do not think you wish me to guess."

Lucent "I guess not. I have written all that, yes. But all I wrote was a story. I never wrote my feelings. I broke in front of you as my world crumbled, and that was true. Your memory kept my soul burning bright in the underworld, and this is true. I have no masks now, and I could never hide them from you, now."

Lucent "You realise that, as soon as you make this device, you will know the exact essence signature of this Charm of mine?"

Zahara nods. "Does this bother you?"

Lucent "Not in the least. Just telling you. You will know exactly when I am wearing a mask, and when I am not."

Lucent "And that is what I want, now that you know the masks exist."

Lucent "Because I need your trust."

Zahara "Why did you wear them, when you came to us?"

Lucent "Because I had to make sure that you were you. And to make sure just who you were." He shrugs, and the lights on the coronal go out for a moment. "I was uncertain. I had no idea who to trust or how. Now I know. I trust you. Or I would not have said any of those things."

Zahara "We all wear masks, Lucent." she tilts her head to one side, studying him, "I wore one for you, as well."

Lucent blinks "You did?"

Zahara gauges his reaction. "One that has slowly become part of me."

Lucent "So you know why I make slight alterations. Because if I stray too far, I might forget myself. I might... I might..." He gulps, closing his eyes, shaking a bit... then shakes his head. "... who was the Zahara I had never known?"

Zahara "First tell me what you're afraid of."

Lucent "That she is a monster. The very thing I feared when I crafted my own Mask. Someone manipulative... who would dispense suffering to people as readily as she dispenses salvation."

Zahara "Is that who you are?"

Lucent "No. I am a dreamer who loves all life in Creation, but is too stubborn to know wether he will manage to save Creation as he was told... or if he will pave his own path to the void through good intentions."

Zahara "The paths to the void are many, and to salvation, few." she takes hold of his shoulders, forcing him to look at her eyes, an unmistakably cruel expression on her face. "Face your fears, Lucent. I am all that you hate and more."

Lucent takes a deep breath. "So that is what Kai meant..."

Lucent "'Care makes you weak'. You were regretting the Mask. The truth it brought you."

Zahara 's fingers tighten on his shoulders, and she stares into his eyes. "I have destroyed more lives on a whim than I can count, Lucent. I have stripped flesh from bone to see how long a man can live without it. Before the war, my dungeons were full of projects, not enemies. I could do this to you."

Lucent stares at her in disbelief. It is that hard to believe... to understand... then finally, he sighs, casting his eyes to the ground "You could. When I came here, I wore a Mask to appear harmless, trying to prevent that from happening. To seem like I could do nothing to prevent such, was not a threat, but one to be molded to your way, to nudge you subtly to mine."

Lucent closes his eyes, holding her hand

Lucent "Now, you see me as I am. And I still would do nothing to prevent that, if you tried."

Lucent shakes. His voice is nearly breaking. "You are all there is."

Zahara "Don't look away, Lucent."

Lucent raises his eyes slowly... "You are not that anymore. You cannot be that anymore."

Zahara "Oh, but I can. I choose not to. When you first joined us, I put on my mask as a lark, to see if I could truly, deeply convince someone that I was not the monster I knew myself to be. When you, the reason for my mask, left, I thought that I could not be that person anymore."

Zahara "But I found that I could. That I had a choice. I have always had a choice. One that I cannot properly feel, but I know that when I make it, those around me come together."

Zahara "So I ask you, Lucent Copper Haze. What are you afraid of, that you would hide from me?"

Lucent looks Zahara straight in the eyes, at long last. His golden pools peer in the depths of her eyes... "A monster... you..." He takes another, deeper breath. "You..."

Lucent "I..."

Lucent "It... it's... complicated."

Zahara "It always is. Life is complicated. Death is complicated. The past. Is complicated."

Lucent "The... cosmic games we are involved in are, as well..."

Lucent "I am trying to play this game. To get everyone there. And alive in the end."

Lucent "But I have to be careful..."

Zahara just stares into his eyes, his gaze captured as wholly as any prisoner.

Lucent tries to stare back at her... but soon finds himself trying to flee her gaze "And all this time I was afraid of Cerin..."

Zahara "This game of yours, who else is playing?"

Lucent "All of you."

Zahara "Who else?"

Lucent Lucent looks up.... and then at her. Oddly, he seems to look through her. There is a reflection of Zahara in his big golden eyes... and through it, a reflection of others... and his answer comes.

Lucent "Everyone." He says simply.

Zahara A flash of anger fills her eyes for a fraction of a second, and then she laughs. "But who controls the pieces?"

Lucent looks through his pockets for a moment... and picks a golden chain, lowering that in her hands... still held in her eyes, and searching something in them...

Zahara looks down at the chain

alsoquin As she does, a flash of memory flows over Zahara.

alsoquin A vast field, covered in grass, indigo and crimson in color, and a clay-colored sky; long, flying creatures, their geometry too perfect for human eyes to make out, swoop through the air as she looks up at them, mud and blood and sweat caked onto her face...

alsoquin She feels the weight around her neck, even as she swings her daiklave through the air; then the tiny locket, so familiar, breaks loose from the cord around her neck and falls into the mud....

alsoquin She dives forward, reaching with one hand, as one of the creatures dives towards her...

alsoquin Zahara returns to the present.

Zahara looks up at Lucent, then down at the locket once more. She searches for the catch to open it.

Lucent "It is yours' again. I was waiting for the right moment to give it back." He shrugs, "Not quite the moment I expected..."

Zahara "Each moment is what you make of it."

Zahara blinks and shakes her head a little, realizing the chain is only that. The locket...

Lucent "I lost too many of them to know."

Lucent "The moments I should have been with the Kashaen. That I should have been with you..."

Zahara "Where were you?"

Lucent "I am here, right? That is what matters. And I am not going away. I am not letting you be hurt again."

Zahara releases Lucent's shoulder, but returns her gaze to his, the chain woven through her fingers. "How is it that you always can see only light?"

Lucent "I have worn a mask of shadows once. I... let it become me."

Lucent "Love defied everything, and brought me back. Love can beat the Yozi. Trust can beat the yozi."

Lucent holds her hands, with the chain. "It can do anything."

Zahara "Who did you love?"

Lucent "A maiden of moonlight I chased for seven days and seven nights."

Lucent "I had our daughter's blood on her hand, and she still believed me."

Zahara "Her name."

Lucent "Nahira Seven-Wonders."

Zahara "And was she right to believe you?"

Lucent "Yes. I... saved them. I saved them all."

Lucent "I know I am many things today, Zahara... but I know I am not evil. I could not bear to be while I still remember her. And myself."

Zahara touches his chin with gentle fingers, lifting it a little. "Who were you when you were evil?"

Lucent looks up, into her eyes... and tears begin to form in his' "Lucent Copper Haze."

Lucent "The name still hurts me."

Lucent "But if it changes... I will forget."

Zahara nods slightly, sympathy in her own. "You should not forget. What other names have you held?"

Lucent shrugs "Sorry."

Lucent closes his eyes, tears streaming down his bronze face. "Sorry..."

Zahara "Sorry." she looks at him thoughtfully. "Aren't we all."

Lucent "Yes... we are broken things, shattered remains of what was."

Lucent holds Zahara, crying...

Zahara wraps her arms around him, gently running her fingers through his hair.

Lucent "I'm sorry..."

Zahara "I forgive you."

Lucent holds Zee tightly, his tears coming ubidden now, wetting her dress... "... thank you... I promise you. I am me. I am here to help you. I... I trust you... even if you are... whatever you end... whatever is.. under the mask."

Zahara sits amidst the achingly beautiful flowers in the garden and pulls him into her lap, cradling him and making soothing noises, until he stops crying.

Zahara dries the boy-king's eyes with her sleeve when he has cried himself out, leans in and whispers, "Even a monster can do the right thing."

< A Bold Plan | Sol Invictus Logs | Tulips Are For Forgiveness >