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Birds is puttering around in the courtyard, pruning trees and weaving herself a crown of flowers.

Zahara feels for Birds as she did Lucent before remembering that the Unity is still in effect. More and more she is learning how to cope with the things she lost, but she still has to make an effort to remember. She pauses at the entrance to that particular courtyard and watches her for a moment.

Zahara breaks her silence as she enters the courtyard proper. "Birds-of-Trinity... do you have a moment to talk?"

Birds examines a rosebush covered in rich red buds. She takes a deep breath of one flower, and then turns away and selects a pair of yellow blooms from the bush next to it.

Birds "Zahara... by all means. Yes."

Zahara plucks a deep red bloom from a bush and the thorns graze her skin and break off harmlessly. "I have always wanted to know what your name means." She offers the rose to her.

Birds takes it, twists the three flowers into a bunch and slips them into her crown, so they sit just over her right ear. "It has been a long time since someone asked me that."

Zahara nods, and waits for her to continue.

Birds "Once when I was a courtesan, I was Núiyal Kól, the scream of the crane, and then things happened to me."

Birds "Well, no."

Birds "A thing happened to me, and I made a decision, and then I happened to someone else."

Zahara plucks a leaf, absently coating it with gold from out of nowhere. "Ah. You are a consummate storyteller."

Birds "I was a bird, and then a bird came to me and said, why do you live in a cage? And then at last the king's birds came to catch me and clip my wings."

Birds "Those are the trinity - the crane of suffering and the sun hawk and the peacock of imprisonment."

Zahara tries to figure out what in all the hells, Birds just said.

Zahara "I...feel enlightened."

Birds "What about you? What does your name mean?"

Zahara smiles wryly. She plucks a new bloom, and snaps it off at the base of the flower, again, preserving it forever in pure gold that accentuates every perfection and flaw. "It is the name I was born with. I carry it to remind me of who I used to be. It is often hard to remember life as a mortal, but I have been well-reminded recently."

Birds plucks a handful of flowers - some racemes of wisteria, a cluster of white chrysanthemums, and a number of lilies in several colours, and gives them to Zahara. "I see. That is...something. These are for the breakfast table, it's been too long since the flowers there were fresh."

Birds "I dread ever becoming again the person I was. I was tame."

Zahara thinks. "I don't think I was ever tame. Not even before it happened." she smiles slightly. "I always caused trouble."

Birds smiles. "That's what I love about you."

Zahara runs her thumb along the petal of a lily, "It all depends on perspective." she looks back, "Birds, you and I have been together longer than any else here. Do you still trust me? After...everything that has happened?"

Birds "Yes."

Zahara "Why?"

Birds "I still trust Cerin too, and the others. I am -afraid- of them, a little, and to be honest, I am afraid for you and what you may become, but I know what direction your heart leads."

Birds "That is enough."

Zahara "What direction is that? I am not sure I even know anymore."

Birds "Coming from the east, going to the west."

Zahara chuckles softly. "Following the path of the Sun?"

Birds "Not following, treading on your own."

Zahara "I have tread dark paths, Birds." she looks down at the flowers in her hands again. "But there is a light."

Birds "To belabor the metaphor...day follows night."

Zahara "It is always darkest before the Kai?"

Birds giggles. "Yeah."

Birds "It's a little unlike you to be...making jokes..., Zee. Are you all right?"

Zahara smiles sadly, "No. But I will be, I promise."

Birds "Good, that's what I told Lucent you'd be."

Birds "After all the unpleasantness, I mean."

Zahara "I'm sorry I brought you pain." She looks off into the distance, towards the East. "Will you do something for me?"

Birds "I think so. Ask it."

Zahara strings the leaf and the rose onto a simple golden chain, and presses it into Birds' hands. "Keep this safe for me, until I come back." she pauses, "And keep an eye on Lucent. He knows who I am, now. Who I was."

Birds doesn't comment about the pain, except by plucking several stars-of-Gethemane and white tulips. She takes the chain.

Birds "Wear these flowers for me."

Zahara accepts them, and weaves them together, placing them across her brow where her tiara used to be. "Thank you, Birds." she touches a white petal, and lets her hand fall. Her voice trembles slightly. "Thank you."

Birds doesn't say the thing that she wants to ask, but Zahara feels the pang of concern through the Unity. Where are you going?


Zahara "I am going to complete Thirteen's plan, in my own way."

Birds looks Zahara in the eyes and waits.

Zahara wavers for a second, then looks around, "We should talk somewhere more private."

Birds nods. "It has been a long time since we fenced. We could go to the dojo..."

Zahara smiles. "Yes, lets."

Zahara walks with Birds to the sparring room of the dojo, thinking back on past matches with her, with Markuran. "Live steel or wooden?"

Birds "I think I've had enough steel for a while, and I wanted to try a new weapon anyway." She takes a weighted rope from the rack.

Zahara turns away to hide the fact that the thought of the rope just made her skin crawl. "Ah. I think I will stick to a more traditional weapon." She takes a wooden staff and spins it experimentally.

Zahara "No charms?" she suggests drily.

Birds belatedly realises something, and quietly swaps the rope with a seven-sphere flail. "No charms."

Birds unclenches her essence again and sighs quietly at the soothing feel of tatami mats under her feet.

Zahara looks at the flail for a second, looks up at Birds, and nods. She steps onto the mat.

Birds experimentally spins the flail in her hand to make the chains wrap around her fist. She lunges at Zee! "So, what did you want to talk about?"

Zahara crouches on the balls of her feet, striking at the last moment to divert the flail from her body and letting it slide past her. "I'm going to go alone, to make the trade." she circles.

Birds nods and takes a few steps back to adjust her position.

Birds "I confess I'm not sure why that is a good idea."

Birds "Also, this feels very strange, like holding your breath."

Zahara spins the staff around her fingers and spins forward to strike at Birds' off-hand side. "A trade by the Sunlands is more suspicious than a trade by a broken woman who would give anything for the return of her true love."

Birds feels her Essence sliding her out of the way of the strike and chokes it back. She lets the flail uncoil, spinning around and deflecting the staff in its chains. It is not quite enough - Zahara is a significant opponent! - and Birds takes a glancing blow. "Well played."

Birds uses the motion to flick one of the sphere's at Zee's shoulder.

Zahara nods, stepping back and adjusting her position. "So I will steal the Seal, and take it to Lai, in secret. On my return, of course, I had been interrogated and bound by gaes not to join Lai and Akuna. But they - you - did not think of everything." she brings her weapon across in a long arc to protect herself.

Birds "This is a very strange weapon indeed." Birds clenches her teeth and snaps one ball-and-chain off the assembly and drops the rest.

Zahara "They are unweildy when not a part of you." she waits until Birds has firmed her grip, and then slices the staff forward in an arc, then shifting to a stabbing motion towards her middle.

Birds decides to take the blow in order to trade one back. "Very much so. What haven't they thought of?"

Zahara "That I would stay theoretically loyal to the Sunlands while -- Oof -- trading the one Seal we had left." The spikes of the flail slide harmlessly off her skin as she recovers from the overextended blow. She smiles. "I have always been good at finding loopholes."

Birds nods. "Then we are without the Seals. What do we do next?" She balances on one foot, preparing a counterattack against Zee's next move.

Zahara pauses circle thoughtfully, "When I return, the Sunlands will be thrown into turmoil. We will be too caught up in argument and dissent to focus on what to do next. Our plans will all," She aims a blow at Birds' ankle, "Be shattered. We must wear this mask."

Birds takes the blow with a leap and allows it to flip her over, using its motion to propel the flail-head in a spiral around Zee's arm. "That is...a thin mask, Zahara. I am glad that I trust you, or I would worry it's not a mask at all."

Zahara brings up the staff to deflect the blow, but instead is tangled, both hand and weapon. "Behind closed doors, we will instead be focused on the redemption of..." she pulls at her wrist, "of the fallen, and organizing a great strike against the Lily. This will occur on the day of the Eclipse."

Birds untangles the weapons with a twitch of her hand and steps off the mat. She bows formally. "Sounds like a plan."

Zahara rubs her wrist, and returns the formal bow, replacing the staff in its place. "The Lily will need to bring at least one Seal to the Eclipse. We will take it back then." she catches her breath, and lets the Essence run freely through herself again from where it had been caged.

Birds floats up from the floor, wrapped in lights and shadows. "That was invigorating."

Zahara smiles slightly. "I will have to learn to fly for myself."

Birds "You already know. All you need to do is forget the earth."

Zahara "You make it sound easy, but I had forgotten how to rely on only myself."

Birds lounges on the air, reaching for the flail. With a few firm twists of her hands, she repairs it. "I was about to say that Cerin sets a good example, but it is something everyone must learn for herself."

Zahara watches the flail, still rubbing her wrist. "I compromised his self-reliance. Or else he would not have given himself up."

Birds "Perhaps. But, perhaps, he has a plan too."

Birds "I would not give up my confidence in him yet. He has surprised us before."

Zahara "Perhaps... but he gave up his freedom, for me. You don't understand what that means..."

Zahara sighs, "I don't know. Maybe the deal he made is not the one I fear most."

Birds looks at the white marks on her hands. "No, perhaps not." She takes Zee's hand. "I think we should go to the workshop. I have some things I'd like to discuss with you there."

Zahara nods and walks with Birds.

< Even A Monster Can Do The Right Thing | Sol Invictus Logs | A Flaw in the Heart >