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Zahara feels through the manse, seeking the pathways that will bring her to Imrama, along with the directional sense from the ring, and proceeds to the library. Since her meeting with Lai and Akuna, she has not removed the bandages, but no longer wears the cloak. It is no time to discover if there are spies in their midst by having their plans ruined. She pauses at the door of the library, then enters.

Imrama sits at one of the library's long tables, pouring over an ancient tome half-caked with dust. Hearing Zahara enter, he looks up, smiles, and motions for her to join him at the desk.

Zahara takes a seat, glancing at the book he's reading. She turns her amulet over and over in her hands, restlessly, still on its old chain. "I have come to apologize for not speaking with you before. My companions have made their apologies for the circumstances being too... distracting already. But you swore yourself to me and I have not even asked who you are."

Imrama "Thank you, Empress." Imrama bows his head. "I understand, of course, that this is a precarious hour for the Sunlands, and for our Circle. If you have the time, I am prepared to tell you exactly who I am. And I might ask the same of you, if you will honor the question."

Zahara nods, "I will tell you as much as I can."

Imrama "Very well. I am Imrama Stormfound, Trierarch of the Fable of the Reconstruction, adoptive son of Vanileth, Shogun of Artificial Flight. An age ago, I was Askaru, Admiral of the Transcendant Armada and Eclipse of the Perfect Circle.

Zahara "Why had we not heard about you before?"

Imrama "When I took the second breath, I did not know that I was not alone, that other Solars had returned to Creation. I was filled with half-formed visions of the First Age, calling me to seek out my history and my legacy. I spent years of questing in the Deep Wyld of the North in order to find Askaru's final resting place. When I returned to Creation, my father told me just a little of what had transpired in my absence."

Imrama "Having heard of you and of the Sunlands, I came at all possible speed."

Zahara "How long have you been Chosen then?

Imrama "Nearly six years."

Zahara nods thoughtfully. "Hm. I wonder how the shards have been growing in power so quickly. In the First Age, it was never so."

Imrama "There are many things abour our present condition which do not match the circumstances of the First Age. Many mysteries to solve and riddles to unravel."

Zahara looks down at her hands, "Yes." she says quietly. "We had begun to do this. Maybe some of..his notes..will help."

Imrama gives Zahara a soft, compassionate look. "We will cure him, Zahara. I may not have met Cerin yet in this life, but Askaru and Ymir were friends and compatriots. I will not see your love follow that course again."

Zahara "Perhaps our roles are to be reversed, in this Age."

Imrama 's face takes on a look of quiet confusion. "How do you mean?"

Zahara "Talmuda kills Ymir."

Imrama looks down at his book, and pushes it away. "You have a grim perspective, Empress. I hope that it supplies you with the armor you desire. As for myself, I will cling to hope. It is not so steely, but it does not chafe."

Zahara smiles slightly. "Then let us hope he will allow us to redeem him. After all, he had a choice. And some of us do not believe in destiny."

Imrama smiles at the thought of not believing in destiny. "One might as easily choose not be believe in air, and with the same results. Have I answered your question, Zahara?"

Zahara "What are your capabilities? I have seen you bring with you a ship of light. What else can you do?"

Imrama "My battle-talent is with firewands, prefereably the Plasma Tongue Repeater." Imrama unholsters Kilauea, the right-handed gun, and offers it to Zahara for examination. "I learned well in the Wyld how to protect myself against all manner of violence. I have also learned certain godly gifts from my father, mostly abilities he once used in the excecise of his office."

Zahara "Do you know how to manipulate the Wyld itself?"

Zahara takes the firewand, and examines it closely.

Imrama "Not as such. I sail it as the sea or the sky, I may harvest its bounty, but it is a passageway to me, not a forge."

Zahara aims the firewand experimentally, sighting along it at Imrama, then flips it over and hands it back to him. "A beautiful weapon. Who made them?" she nods to its companion as well.

Imrama A Twilight of the First Age named Zhou-ming Opus, the second incarnation of Resolute Furnace, who fought in the Primordial War.

Zahara "They don't steal souls or turn black during the full moon or anything like that, do they?" she asks wryly.

Imrama "No. They are noble weapons with a noble purpose, forged and re-forged in defense of Creation. If this is a concern for you, I am prepared to swear to it." Imrama holds out his hand somewhat challengingly.

Zahara looks at his hand, then up at his face, "Noble purpose is merely thinking that you are fighting the right fight." She takes his hand in hers. "But how can you be sure you are?"

Imrama "Because I serve an agenda based neither on power, nor on greed, nor on the narcicism of my self. I look out upon the world and see its pain and brokeness - moved by that I work to see it changed, not for gods and masters, but for the million millions who are at their mercy."

Zahara "Then you have not done your research before coming here."

Zahara "If you find that your noble goals do not align with ours in the future, what then will you do?"

Imrama gives Zahara a stern look; his nostrils flare slightly, and he purses his lips. "I accept that you, and many others will consider me naive for my hopes, and my dreams. I believe that we can work together, despite this. I am aware that the Sunlands are not the enlightened abode of peace and freedom that humanity deserves. I believe that we can work together, despite this, also."

Imrama "I came here to join with your company - I am committed to that bond. Within that committment, there are not 'your goals' and 'my goals', there are, instead, 'our goals'. I believe that this Circle has the strength of arms and the strength of character to be the change that I dream to see in the world. I am with you - you can trust in that."

Zahara nods and smiles again. There is still wariness, but some of the tension is gone. "Then you need not swear." she releases his hand. "For what it's worth."

Imrama smiles and laughs softly, all tension drained from his face. "It means quite a lot, to me. And now, Zahara Zahn: what can you tell me of who you are?"

Zahara sits back, and considers, "I can tell you who I was. Not who I am."

Zahara "You will have to make your own judgment on that subject."

Zahara "I was born in Halta." she gestures eastward. "I do not have fond memories of it. Then, or now. "

Zahara ** "I was born in a small northern village, and eventually moved to Halta to practice my skills in craft and architecture." she gestures eastward. "I do not have fond memories of it. Then, or now."

Imrama attempts to pick up the strand from Zahara's pause. "And at some point you were Chosen, and founded the Sunlands. I am sorry that you have so little from your life before to speak well of."

Zahara "When I Exalted, I sought the Wyld, as you did, but to control and defy it. To learn how to destroy the Raksha." she pauses, "I met Markuran, and Birds of Trinity, and we worked together to build the Empire. Others have joined, and left. Some have joined, and stayed."

Zahara "It was grand, for a while. Things worked as they should. Our problems were easily dealt with. We looked to others, to seek allies and rebuild the world into a new Age. We helped to rebuild Rathess, and gave its queen her people back."

Zahara idly carves an abstract pattern into the wood of the table with the tip of her finger.

Imrama does not watch what Zahara is carving - he watches Zahara instead. "It is still grand, only, it is no longer easy."

Zahara "I do not claim to be a good, or kind person. But it was my intent to make the world into a better place. One which I could be proud to rule over. Now, much of what I have done has been undone. The Red Lily has been... one might say a worthy opponent."

Imrama "You prove my belief with your own words, Zahara. The world can yet be a better place; this Circle can make it so. We will see the Lily fall - I look forward to it."

Zahara "The gods have been treated poorly by the Dragonlings. Were I in their place, I would feel the need to rise up as well. We must make it so that they do not need to, to be treated well."

Imrama "I could not agree more. I believe that many if not most of the gods allied with the Lily can be stripped away from their banner if presented with a credible, favorable alternative."

Zahara "We need to begin to spread the Faith Ecliptic, and give its benefit even to those who are not with us. And reward those who do join us. Perhaps it is time for the carrot, as the stick has grown tiresome."

Imrama "I think you are right. It is precisely this course which has caused me to take a renewed interest in theology." Imrama gestures toward the book he was reading when Zahara entered the library.

Zahara nods. "And what do you think of it so far?"

Imrama "That it is a promising beginning."

Zahara "Where would you have it end?"

Imrama laughs jovialy. "I was raised by a god, but I am not a priest. I expect that the doctrine and tenets will change and grow with time, as all things do. Particularly as the Empire acquires more godly allies."

Zahara "I suspect so."

Zahara touches the pages of the book, "I should speak more about this with Birds."

Imrama squints a little bit. "I look forward to the creativity of her pen, though I confess I cannot always follow it."

Zahara "Some things are not meant to be followed." she smiles.

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