Lucent walks absent-mindedly around the Cascade, looking for one of them... wondering which he will meet first... might as well be Zahara, he thought, walking on the library and on her room...
Zahara is in her room, absently yelling "Come in." in response to the knock. She is working at the small (compared to the forge and workroom) area she has set aside for her personal projects, laying out simple bands of metal.
Lucent walks in, dressed in robes of white and red. "Hello, Zahara! Are you making the pendant?"
Zahara looks up, glancing in his direction. "More or less." she returns noncommittally. "How are you?"
Lucent "Nervous. Sometimes it feels like I placed myself in a desert of broken glass, barefoot. At least, we have been making some progress... but... it is good to be here again!" He nods. "And good to know at least we are on good terms again."
Zahara raises a brow, though he may or may not see it, as she is busy carving. "It's a long walk through the desert. Every time you take a step, you find yourself back where you started. Or further back."
Lucent "Is that what it is like for you? For me, I just keep cutting my feet. I keep going foward, and yet... it feels like I won't be able to walk any further. That I will fall. And when I fall, I will die."
Lucent sits down close to Zahara, holding his knee to his chest
Zahara "And if you fall and do not die?"
Lucent "It is a desert of broken glass, how can you fall and not die?"
Zahara laughs. "You'd be suprised how much glass you can live with embedded in your skin." she glances up at him again. "Some go on, some don't."
Lucent hangs his head. "You know all about it, right? I have... I have read the book."
Zahara "I do. And various other methods. I'm surprised you've been able to read it."
Zahara carves another essence channel into a silvered strip. The edge of her tool glints in the light.
Lucent "It was hard. Very hard." He sighs. "Even harder to see how you loved Cerin. How you trusted people. How you trust me... when nobody else does. I know Thirteen does not... Birds does not even aft.. they do not. It is hard to know what to think..."
Lucent chuckles sadly, "My world made sense until I met you all, damn you."
Zahara contemplates the completeness of the knowledge in this book of Birds' but makes no comment regarding its take on her life. "Would you go back to how it was?"
Lucent "No... I would never change the past. Not while I still hope for the future. I would never take steps back when I can take steps foward."
Zahara smooths the metal with her thumb, and picks up the next piece. "Hope, hmm. What do you think the future will bring?"
Lucent "Even if we went back... I would lose all I learned. We would lose Imrama. The new Thirteen. We would lose so much. No. It is better to just fix the future, any way we can." He stops to consider her question...
Lucent "... enlightement?"
Zahara "I thought that is what you went into the darkness to find."
Lucent "And I found some. But we need more. Every question we answer, two more appear." He looks at her... "Me and Imrama found out something very interesting, for example. He thought something had happenned, some shadowy tinkering, to make us fall. My Malfean proved him right. Now... we might go all together into the darkness to find that."
Zahara "What do you mean?"
Lucent "Something else aside from the seals tinkering. Something... say, what do you know about the Star-Chosen? About how their powers work?"
Zahara "They use the Orrey to read the patterns of the stars. They know things so intimately that everything it does is easier to deal with. They are manipulative in all they do."
Lucent "Yes. But the way their magic works. You do not see it. Relationships change. The Chosen of Venus CREATE relationships. They are tasked by her to create epic loves. Secrets make you turn left when you'd turn right to avoid a secret. That sort of thing."
Lucent "It is a subtle, invisible manipulation. We change, ever-so-subtly. Neither me nor Imrama could tell what it was that was bugging him. It just... the tales from the First Age. They just are not RIGHT, you see? Something is wrong, there. With the behavior. With the patterns."
Zahara looks at him consideringly as she twists the two pieces into an elaborate configuration that is not quite symmetrical. "Are you saying the Sidereals turned against us in the First Age?"
Lucent "No... well, not nessessarily. Moon-Chosen can also do something like this. I can, as well, an invisible hand making organizations faster, as I do in the Sunlands... but it was something like this. There was some sort of magic around us in the first age, nudging our behavior. And my Malfean knows about it."
Zahara "Your malfaen."
Lucent looks a little... embarassed, his eyes avoiding Zahara's... "Well... yes. Glimpse of the Night. He is not as bad as it sounds. We cut a deal."
Zahara rolls her eyes. "Did this deal have TERMS?"
Lucent "... no. Odd. Those Underworld people never seem to deal in terms."
Lucent scratches his chin
Zahara "Neither do I, when I can help it. What does that say about the deal you made?"
Lucent "... do you want the answer I'd give before or after I read your book?"
Lucent "Well, both boil down to 'I'm screwed', just for different reasons, come to think of it."
Zahara laughs, but there is little humor in it.
Lucent "But really, it is not like that. There were no words, but... Glimpse just wants to die. To find a peaceful solution." He nods, trying to calm her... "I can still hear him, though. And... he can hear us. I... didn't want to say this before because you might get angry..."
Zahara grimaces, setting the metal bits down and taking his wrist in its stead, pulling him closer. "You were correct. How long has he been able to listen?"
Lucent "... since I came back from the Underworld. He is the shadow sliver in my Caste." He comes closer, still trying to avoid her eyes... before he remembers the garden, and meets hers' "He has been silent, though. And I can feel him. I know what he feels. That is why I knew when he drew a tight breath, when Imrama talked about his suspicious..."
Zahara "How has this fact escaped all your discussions of trust, Dear Lucent?"
Zahara makes a conscious effort not to grind the bones of his wrist together, although she is not entirely sure why she is refraining.
Lucent "... it did not come up. And it would be too much..."
Lucent takes a deep breath
Lucent "... and I trust Glimpse."
Zahara stares at him unblinkingly for a while. "You.. trust... Glimpse. Please tell me how this is so."
Lucent "I saw his death... I felt it as if I was him. He just wants to rest... but he trusted me. He trusted me to find a peaceful solution. It is... hard to put it in words, Zahara... all I saw when I was... him."
Zahara "I have seen many restless deaths, which did not, on the whole, inspire me to trust those that have passed."
Lucent "And after you, I guess I have much to live up before I can be considered a good judge of character, right?"
Zahara smirks. "Just so."
Zahara "I have half a mind to take you to the White Room until I can figure out what to do with you."
Lucent "Well, it is a good thing I am suggesting that us all go into the Underworld to interrogate him, is it not?" He smiles... as she says this. "... I wonder if I would mind so much. I want to see the White Room. I want to see Tevezt."
Lucent "Because I read your book. And I have something to tell him."
Zahara "I'm going to have to burn that book." she mutters and stands. "I am interested to see what you will have to say to him. I suppose I should give you the tour."
Lucent gets up. "Please, Empress. Lead the way."
Zahara more or less drags Luc down to the dungeons.
Zahara palms open the essence lock to the main room, with its banks of shelves filled with tools sharp and blunt, saw-edged and razor thin, and vials filled with things both recognizable and indescribable.
Zahara The centerpiece of the room is a stone table with embedded shackles, blood grooves, and another set of grooves thats purpose is not immediately apparent.
Lucent brings his hand to his mouth, trying not to think of what those are for... and not to hurl
Zahara finds the usual familiarity of the room somewhat tainted, and frowns slightly. Her grip on Lucent's arm tightens reflexively, and she adds her new reactions to the list of things she must get vengeance for.
Lucent tenses up, trying to get away from Zahara "Where is... where are they?"
Zahara "I spoke of bringing you here, when we did not know what became of you." She speaks softly. Her grip does not ease. "But we thought that Cerin's way would be easier on you. I did not... I do not wish to hurt you." She looks piercingly at him once more. "So if there is anything you have left out, please speak it now."
Lucent "Just what I could not tell you in the garden." He nods.
Zahara "Tell me exactly what you promised to your... friend, Glimpse."
Lucent "I did not promise anything. There were no words. I saw the world through his eyes... and part of me was in him. And part of him, in me. We can feel each other, now. And I just know his pain, and his desire to set things right."
Lucent "... I wonder if I will die when I lay him to rest."
Zahara "What is 'right' to him?"
Lucent "A peaceful solution. He loves this world too much to see it destroyed just so he can rest."
Lucent steels his determination. His eyes shine. The reflex to get away is gone.
Zahara considers. "He does not want freedom, or revenge? Just to die and pass on peacefully?"
Zahara "Hm. Interesting."
Lucent "I was considering ways to block him, to keep him away... wondering how to wear 'masks' to conceal my thoughts... I was thinking that until I understood him. And then I saw no reason to. He is harmless."
Zahara "I don't know about harmless. But you could have chosen a worse special friend for your head."
Lucent "Sarifen was busy and Kiriath is not into boys... so, sorry?"
Zahara backhands Lucent hard across the face. "Don't you ever make light of what happened to Markuran. Don't you dare."
Lucent bites his lip, eyes downcast... "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have. I was not making light of what happenned to him. I never would. I never would make light of Kiriath. Just.. making a very poor joke."
Zahara "And Sarifen. Making a deal with him... when he stole Kai and the Daybreaker from us. Has been involved in Lai's schemes, and was deeply involved in the creation of the 'new exalts.' If you had..."
Lucent "Then I would kill myself. Did you forget how I felt when I heard of the shards being held? About them breaking up our kin? That was me, and if I ever meet Sarifen again, I will burn him with my sun."
Zahara flexes her fingers; she barely even felt the impact. "I have not forgotten." she glares at him and then deliberately loosens her grip and calms herself. "Tell me about your sun."
Lucent "Hesiesh made it blossom when we talked in the Elemental Pole of Fire. He was nice. He told me they will come to help us, the dragons. I am sure he was not lying."
Zahara "All of them will come?"
Lucent "They said they will help when the time comes. For me to look when the head of the dragon appears in the sky."
Zahara mutters "In your darkest hour..."
Lucent smiles up at Zahara's unforgiving eyes. "We are not alone."
Zahara nods slightly. "No. I hope it is enough."
Lucent looks up hopefully, "Why is this empty, though? I thought... your prisioners were here?"
Zahara "They're in the cells." she gestures to the parts of the walls not covered. She brings Luc to the nearest, and palms the door open. "Traitors and enemies, once." This is the room in which Ebon once hung, rotting, on the wall. The lingering scent is not helped by the Dynast huddled beneath the desk he is chained to.
Lucent "... and you will keep them here?"
Zahara "Except for those that join us truly."
Lucent "And still do to them what you used to?"
Zahara She leaves the light on when she exits the cell. "If I need to."
Lucent follows. "I thought Markuran converted them, without need for pain..."
Zahara laughs shortly. "Only those he deemed unworthy of pain."
Lucent "... oh. I should read his book sometime. I thought he was less... um."
Zahara "Most of the time, I was the one encouraging him to leave their limbs intact." She looks over at the table almost wistfully. "He was always a very..direct..man."
Lucent "... it seems like I will need to have a long talk with him after Kiriath is destroyed. Some just should not suffer so..." He shakes his head. "I really should read the other books."
Zahara "I'm not sure you have the moral ground to stand on right now."
Lucent "I never hurt anyone not tainted, Zahara..."
Zahara "Neither did Markuran, by his standards."
Zahara disguises a shudder by walking towards the White Room.
Lucent sighs.. "I thought you... we were like before."
Zahara "Things have changed. For all of us."
Zahara palms open the door to the White Room, and waits for Luc to enter.
Lucent "They did. But I did not sell my soul to evil. I made deals for us. To learn, to get things to help us, to help our kin. I would never hurt..." He swallows his words, looking into the room... "... alright. But I will bring this up later."
Lucent makes his golden eyes opaque and walks in
alsoquin Tevezst, looking much as he ever has, sits quietly in one corner of the room.
Zahara closes the door behind them. When it seals, the ambient essence of the room calcifies and ceases to flow, as does that which runs within Lucent.
Zahara "Hello, Tevezst. Meet Lucent Copper Haze."
Lucent coughs. "Incarnae..." He mutters, trying not to let his discomfort show. "Hello, Tevezt. I am Lucent Copper Haze. Maybe you have heard of me, maybe you have not... but it is a pleasure to meet you."
Tevezst "Hello, stranger." He coughs.
Tevezst "Zahara, it's been so long... cough You look... different."
Lucent looks the Fae up and down, pacing through the room... "I thought you were taller."
Zahara "He was, once."
Zahara guards her emotions as she approaches him, allowing only the anger to be released.
Tevezst looks up and licks his lips, savoring the taste of rage as one might a fine wine. "Ah yes, before the mighty, cruel empress had her way with me."
Zahara half-closes her eyes, feeling the tightness in her chest ease slowly as he takes the rage from her.
Lucent "You knew you would bring it upon yourself, of course. When you wove your part in her story."
Tevezst isn't paying attention to Luc at the moment.
Lucent holds Zahara's arm, pushing her to the side, hopefully out of her reverie. "Empress."
Zahara looks down sharply as Luc brings fresh anger to the fore. "Stop that."
Lucent eyes Teveszt with murder. If the Coronal were alive... but it is not, here. And when he looks up at Zahara, he's as disturbed as she had ever seen him "You are feeding him. You are giving him power!"
Tevezst licks his lips again.
Zahara "How else would he survive?" she smiles slightly.
Lucent grits his teeth. "..." ... but has no words.
Zahara "Besides, he is useful." she pushes Luc into the cushy chair that she tends to use on her visits, across from the steel one. "Now, give me a moment. I wasn't finished."
Lucent gets up from the chair, but does not go to her. He just watches.
Zahara moves towards Tevest again, feeding him her anger, feeling it slip away, until she is almost touching him. She releases his shackles from the wall and steps back.
Tevezst steps forward, gets closer to Zahara, but does not touch her.
Lucent shakes his head. "Why are you doing this?"
Zahara meets Tevezsts's gaze steadily, then turns her back on him and looks at Lucent. "Because he cannot die."
Lucent curls his fists, shaking. "Th... there is no reason for him not to. His story is done. His grand tale of failture."
Zahara "It's not over. I have plans for his story."
Lucent "And those are...?"
Zahara smiles slightly, looking significantly calmer and more collected than she had before. He probably recognizes this shift in emotions from many times in the past if he thinks back. "It's a secret."
Tevezst looks at Zahara witohut moving. "And I am certain it is a truly magnificent plan." He grins with malice.
Lucent "But he lost, Zahara..." He bites his lips, closing his eyes, trying to remember the words. Those he came here to say. "... his tale. He destroyed your compassion, your ability to love... and you care. You cared about me. You love more than the world, a love that will tear a soul from the grasp of Malfeas. He wanted you to be a monster. You are an empress. You are his ultimate failure." His eyes are not open. And they do not open. "End him."
Zahara "Oh, I will, Lucent. But it is not so easy as destroying this form."
Lucent "If you are keeping him alive, then you still delude yourself that he won."
Tevezst leans against the wall of the room.;
Zahara narrows her eyes, "The story is not yet over. When it is, you will know."
Lucent watches Zahara, meeting her gaze levelly, for the first time
Zahara meets his unflinchingly.
Lucent "I trust you, then." He smiles with his lips and his eyes, now shining bright gold.
Tevezst claps unenthusiastically for Lucent.
Tevezst "Bravo, young buck."
Zahara raises a brow. "Good. Then you will trust me enough not to speak of Tevezst."
Lucent "I will not. I trust you. I trust your judgement. And I do not worry about him." He nods, turning to the Fae "And you know why? Because your story is grand, Teveszt. Your place in her story is grand. Important. But that is failure. She beat you. She cares."
Lucent "You chilled her heart, and her love burnt it away. If you did it again, it would rise, warmer, stronger. She has beaten you. And she will do so every time. We have nothing to fear from you."
Zahara smirks over at Tevezst, then smiles at Lucent slightly. "For better or worse."
Tevezst stares into Lucent's eyes. "Is that is what you believe? I am certain that is why she keeps me hidden down here." He laughs. "Why Cerin does not know of our little trysts."
Zahara bites back the pain his words bring, quite literally by biting down on her tongue to transform it into physical pain. "He knows you're here."
Lucent forces out a laugh. "You want to convince me she would hide something from Cerin?"
Zahara Tevezst stares into Lucent's eyes. "Is that is what you believe? I am certain that is why she keeps me hidden down here." He laughs. "Why Cerin does not know of our little trysts."
Zahara Zahara bites back the pain his words bring, quite literally by biting down on her tongue to transform it into physical pain. "He knows you're here."
Zahara Lucent forces out a laugh. "You want to convince me she would hide something from Cerin?"
Tevezst does not waste a moment. "Ask her."
Zahara glares, "I told you, he knows you're down here."
Lucent "I do not need to ask her, Tevezst. I know!" ::Right? RIGHT?::
Tevezst "And he knows that you choose to feed me?"
Zahara "Yes." she says shortly, fingering a small, cold iron blade.
Lucent ::Zahara, I asked you a question.:: "Will you kill him now, at long last?"
Tevezst The grim, emaciated faerie just glares, smiling grimly, at Zahara.
Zahara "No, I will not. Killing him will only free him, and I am not finished with him yet." ::And I answered it verbally already. Twice.::
Lucent ::... good. Does... anyone else?::
Zahara ::You. ::
Zahara ::It is not necessary information for the others to have. :: there is force behind her words.
Lucent ::... I guess. As long as you have him locked here... it is your story, after all.::
Zahara :: Remember, I trusted you with this information. ::
Lucent walks towards Tevezst, looking the Faerie in the eye. "I wonder if we have to thank you."
Lucent ::I will not make light on your trust, Empress. I never have. I never will.::
Tevezst looks up at Lucent as if waiting for the conclusion of his statement.
Lucent "Maybe, if she had not to learn how to care again, she would not be so caring. She will brave the world, heaven and hell for her love. If you had not failed so utterly in creating a monster, maybe we would never have this hero."
Tevezst glares at Lucent, and tiny shards of fire dance in his eyes... but he has nothing to say.
Lucent "And nothing will stop her." He nods, stepping back. "Can we talk outside, Empress?"
Zahara paces slowly around the fae. "Yes, we should thank him for the ability to truly appreciate my tender, caring heart." she looks from him Lucent, her eyes hard.
Lucent just smiles. A little nervous being there still. "Empress...? Zahara...?"
Zahara "I believe that would be a good idea, yes." she says mildly. She pushes Tevezst back up to the wall, and seals the shackles back in place, trailing the cold iron blade along his arm, lightly, and measuring her reaction to the act.
Tevezst maintains his thunderous silence, but hangs his head a little.
Zahara "Ah, see, I felt a little bit bad about doing that." she informs him after a moment, then pats him on the shoulder. "Come, Luc." she drops the blade at Tevezst's feet and palms the door of the room open.
Lucent walks out, shivering still from the... sights, within the White Room
Zahara closes the door behind them and sits daintily on the ...table... in the middle of the room, still in the dungeon. "What is it you wished to say?"
Lucent "... I had thought Tevezst was many things. I never thought it was... that..."
Lucent rubs his arm. "That is weird, Zahara..."
Zahara smirks. "Who are you to judge 'weirdness'?"
Lucent "... nobody, I guess. This whole world seems weird, sometimes."
Lucent shakes his head. "So, what is your plan?"
Zahara "He performs a useful fuction, until I have time to complete his complete destruction."
Zahara "In fact, you, and the others, have directly benefited from him being here."
Lucent "... how? What is he, some sort of exotic drug to you?"
Zahara "When I am angry enough to consider harming others, whether they are you, the Circle, or random servants, I instead divest myself of the anger, here. Since you came, I have visited him more often, as I did not wish to take out my anger on 'innocent passersby'."
Lucent closes his eyes, his expression more somber.. pained... "I am sorry..."
Zahara smiles slightly, "Just think of all the lives he has saved."
Lucent "You would not kill so many without him. If he was not there... you would find another way."
Lucent shivers under her smile. "Do you get so angry... often?"
Zahara "Would I? Or would I just have a different secret."
Zahara "Not often," she replies noncommittally
Lucent "... maybe so. I guess not even things you thought you knew are for sure..." He looks down, avoiding her gaze. "What gives you those urges?"
Zahara picks up a blunt, hook-shaped tool, and rolls it between her fingers, "Defiance. Challenging my authority, my abilities."
Lucent "... so, every time you meet Thirteen?"
Zahara smiles thinly, "Not every time."
Lucent "Did you do it much, after I arrived? The people, that is. Not Teveszt."
Lucent keeps his eyes on the hook as he asks this. It is clear it is making his stomach turn.
Zahara frowns thoughtfully, "Mostly, I had other places to channel my anger, for instance, on the other planes when we fought the enemies of the people there, in order to attain their good will."
Lucent "That is something we will have no shortage of, at the very least."
Zahara notes Luc's attention, and tosses the implement to him. "Yes, we are fortunate, are we not?"
Lucent picks it... and looks at it. A little sad. A little terrified. His eyes shake... and then, he throws it away. It hits one side of the room, then another, and another, ricocheting until it is behind Zahara, going to her front, close to her head, as he picks it again. "... they suck for throwing."
Zahara doesn't flinch, although it is not clear why she does not avoid the projectile. "I know."
Lucent "This is so... so..."
Lucent tries to find words
Lucent "Tevezst, the collars, the White Room, they are... Exalted. But this..."
Zahara "Monstrous?" she suggests.
Lucent "Real. Mortal. Crude." He finds some adjectives, but then gives up. "Yes, monstrous."
Zahara "Life is only beautiful on the surface."
Lucent "Is that what you think of me?"
Zahara "You have spent your whole life hiding secrets, it seems. The fact you cannot reveal them leads me to believe they are bloody and tangled inside."
Lucent "Not all. Some are wonderful. Some are... light. Pure light. Is it really hard to believe... that sometimes, you have to hide something for the greater good? And is that silly to believe... that there are some things you just cannot fake?"
Lucent puts the tool down on the table
Zahara "Like the chain you suddenly had, for my amulet?"
Lucent "Like the fact the cold, uncaring, torturer queen of the sunlands cried when I left."
Zahara picks up the tool, and runs her fingers along the edge, leaving behind a sharp, hooked blade. "Things change. Not always for the better."
Lucent "Why do you keep fighting it?"
Zahara runs her thumb along the edge, frowning, "Because. I don't like it. It makes me weak. It is not proper for the empress to cry no matter who leaves."
Lucent touches the edge of the blade, closing his eyes. "It is always proper to cry for a friend. And... if you stop fighting, Zahara, it ceases to be your weakness. It becomes your armor..."
Zahara "I doubt I am capable of that." she twists the blade so that his fingers slide along it to the point. "I thought faith was your armor."
Lucent "And what is faith in the sun, if not knowing it shines on all? That it accepts all? It burns what does not work to protect what does." He walks up to her, holding her hand. "You saved me before. I know you will do it again. With care. As you will do for Cerin."
Zahara looks down at Lucent's hand in hers, "Perhaps," she says quietly, closing her fingers around his. "If I can discover how. But it will be easier when I have him back here, to study."
Lucent "We have a plan. It is one of Thirteen's plans, and they never fail. He will be back here, Zahara. I am sure of it. It is how it has to happen... I am pretty sure it is how it has to happen. You will know how to save him." He nods. "And then... maybe there will be no need for Tevezst."
Zahara "Let me tell you what will happen to Tevezst when I am finished with him," she says, and begins to sketch out the broad outlines of her plans for Luc.