Imrama Turning to the rising sun, Imrama sails deep into the uttermost East. On and on streaks the Fable of the Reconstruction, past the point where the sky disappears and there are only trees in every direction.
Bertrand Trees of every imaginable sort reach up into the sky, though as he sails their reality gives way to a dream-like impermeability, until he finds himself sailing through the ghostly forms of wraith-trees in every color, and the essence of chaos roils about the ship.
Imrama gives the order to Mr. Iggles-lux, and the ship turns sharply, though in what direction no mortal eye could say. Plowing through the roiling chaos, he speeds on towards a distant plane.
Imrama The sea of change in which the Fable swims lashes its hull, and the winds of possibility toss Imrama's hair about. After a year the length of a breath, the infinite variation begins to take on a single pattern, forming into a blanket of gentle whiteness; sometimes flower petals, sometimes butterflies.
Imrama These are the 7 Leagues of the Looking Glass, and through them Imrama sets a course from one plane to the next.
Bertrand It is a simple trip today, smooth sailing... it seems but the blink of an eye before the ship re-emerges into a new, astonishing world.
Bertrand The first sight of Xara is an utterly astonishing one -- the vast, infinitely faceted white crystal of Xarada, about which orbit the infinitely fractal sets of moons -- geometric bodies of every perfected shape and color, curving through elaborate and perfectly synchronized orbits atop the grey sky. (...)
Bertrand The great satellites, cubes and pyramids and other, stranger shapes, spin dizzyingly past the Fable, cutting inches away from its hull, close enough that Imrama can see the intricate patterns carved into each, and the sub-satellites shrinking down towards insect size... each with their own glorious name... (...)
Bertrand Below, on Xarada, he can see Ten Refractions -- the capital city.
Imrama stears his ship in towards the palace at the heart of Xarada.
Bertrand The Fivescore Palace, its four great cylindrical halls surrounding the central octagonal plateau, glitters in its blue-gold splendor at the heart of the city. The city itself seems to have seen better days -- the rubble and disarray that comes from internecine conflict is still strewn about,
Bertrand and the elaborately intricate decorations that once spoke of the flawless system of the Fifth Lineage have been torn down or covered, while the utilitarian signs of an interim government are everywhere to be seen. A few guards -- humans, in this case -- stand ready at the doors of the palace.
Imrama The Fable of the Reconstruction comes to rest just outside the palace doors, hanging in the air above the street. Imrama steps off of the deck and walks down through the air as though descending an invisible staircase. Standing before the guards, he allows his caste mark to glow, and speaks. "I am Imrama Stromfound, of the Sunlands. I am here to request an audience with your Governor."
Bertrand The guards nod, and one of them enters the palace. A few moments pass before he re-emerges again, nodding for Imrama to enter.
Imrama does so.
Bertrand The guard leads Imrama through the halls of the palace, trying to hurry past places where those of several races scrub bloodstains from the floors or work to chip away at intricate carvings bespeaking the glory of the previous regime.
Bertrand Eventually he leads him to what was once an ampitheater, now repurposed as a reception hall. Surprisingly enough, it is not a human woman, but a bin-al-zen -- a great, blue, batlike creature -- that sits upon the chair in the room. The guard looks around quickly to see that all is well, then rapidly departs. (...)
Imrama allows a quizical expression to cross his face, and bows. "I am Imrama Stromfound, of the Sunlands. I have come seaking Ikara."
Bertrand The creature nods to him without speaking and after a moment, a woman clad in a purple uniform, red hair tied tightly across her back, and with a black jade and starmetal scimitar at her belt, steps out from a small chamber whose door Imrama notes is cleverly concealed from where he stands.
Ikara "Hello, Imrama." She nods politely.
Imrama bows deeply. "Hello, Governor Ikara. It is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for granting my an audience."
Ikara nods. "Why are you here?"
Imrama nods at the reasonable question. "I am here because I have only just recently sworn myself to the Sunlands. I am trying to learn as much as I can of its protectorates and allies, and to find what I may do to benefit the greater whole."
Ikara nods. "I can provide whatever information you require regarding the governorship of Xara."
Imrama "Thank you for the offer. I wish to be clear, however, Ikara. I am not here in any official capacity. I am here to find out how things are in Xara, to find out how you finding your role as its governor, because these matters concern me."
Ikara nods. "Let me ask you first. How do you think things are here?" She gestures with one hand to indicate "around here."
Imrama "I think the state is in the midst of rebuilding itself from tremendous upheaval. I would guess that resources are thin, and stretched well beyond their limits."
Imrama "I would further venture that civil order is tenuous at best, and that beyond the centers of authority, it may be absent all together."
Ikara "Then you understand the situation well."
Imrama "I might understand the condition of Xara, and that is important, if I am to report it to my compatriots." Imrama's features soften, and he gives Ikara a look of genuine concern. "But that tells me little about its Governor, how she is faring and what she requires of the Sunlands."
Ikara "Mmmm." Me nods in thought for a moment.
Ikara "This is not my ideal purpose, at the moment, but it is my duty as a Chrysanthemum Knight to see that community be protected from external threats. As such, I endeavor to serve Xara as well as possible, that it might regrow into something grand once again." (...)
Ikara "At the moment, I have all that I require for that purpose. But in the future, I know already what need I will have."
Imrama "You do? May I ask what that will be?"
Ikara "Already, I have absconded from the role of governor, and given it to one from here." She gestures to the bin-al-zen, who somehow seems to be utterly unaware of their conversation.
Ikara "In the future, this plane will require more than that. Five species live here, and even without the influence of the Fifth Lineage their ways are strange and unusual to those from chaotic Meru. They will not long be satisfied with abitrary rulership from beyond."
Imrama "You are saying that the people of Xara will not accept membership within the Sunlands indefinitely." Imrama's words fall somewhere between a question and a statement.
Ikara nods. "I am."
Imrama scans the room, taking in the marvel of the architecture and the injuries it has sustained. "Can you tell me how long you expect we have before this issue comes to a head?"
Ikara follows Imrama's gaze. "Some time. Today, the internal struggles are what occupy the citizens. The Hrak, still angry after years of placement at the bottom of the social hierarchy, striking out at bin-al-zen. Or the Bone Dagger Kings, who kept together and claimed land of their choice when they arrived, and fought violently to repel others, causing turf wars and street fighting. Or the splinter groups of humans who have for
Ikara Or the Bone Dagger Kings, who kept together and claimed land of their choice when they arrived, and fought violently to repel others, causing turf wars and street fighting. Or the splinter groups of humans who have formed in opposition to the new government."
Ikara "I think you have many months, perhaps even a year, before the integration of neo-Xaran society is complete enough that its citizens will look beyond its borders."
Imrama "I can see that your role is not an easy one, Ikara."
Ikara "Me? My role is very easy. I simply slip outside of the world... and let the governor hear my words in his own thoughts." She look again at the bin-al-zen, sitting quietly in silence. "It is those who have never known any role but the complicated and empty dance who bear a burden."
Imrama looks at his conversation partner directly "We all have our burdens to bear, Ikara." And then looks away again. "I have come with one another question, one not particularly related to the restoration of Xara."
Ikara nods again. "Go on."
Imrama "Your fellow, Tranquil Stream, could not help me, but perhaps you may - you are of the right caste. I am looking for the history of a star chosen from long ago, by the name of Remembrance of Seven Tears."
Ikara gasps a little at the mention of the name.
Imrama turns to her and holds her with his gaze. "Then you know of whom I speak." He says, flatly.
Ikara nods. "What leads you to ask about that name?"
Ikara She sounds a little... more curt even than usual.
Imrama "The history of my exaltation, Ikara. What leads you to gasp at it?" Here, Imrama's voice begins to tremble, and his left eye tears.
Ikara is clearly describing something that has not oft left the halls in which the Fate-weavers speak of such things. "That shard is among the Five Who Are Fallen."
Imrama now does cry. "You speak with a shuddering tone of something ominous and dire about something once dear to my own shard. What are the Five Who Are Fallen?" Imrama's tone is almost pleading.
Ikara pauses and tries to pick words carefully. "In the time when your kind were thinning and the First Age was coming to an end... there were those amongst the Fivescore Fellowship who... did not reappear. We applied every method of dowsing and divination at our disposal, but to no end."
Ikara "Those five -- one Chosen of each Maiden -- have never been seen by us again, and we have been poorer their number since."
Imrama forces a sad smile. "Then I have even more of a search before me than I anticipated."