Imrama has begun to develope a competitive attitude towards the endless shifting of the Cascade. He paces the halls as though stalking something, doubling back here and there in an attempt to catch the architecture off-guard. After a particularly lively game of chase and seek with the building, he finds his quarry of the moment: the door to what were once Birds-of-Trinity's quarters.
Imrama knocks once, twice, three times.
Phoenix does not answer. Not long after, she comes wandering down the hallway, with the listless air of someone walking just to avoid being in one place.
Phoenix "Imrama!" She smiles. "I wasn't expecting you."
Imrama "Nor were any of us expecting you, in the larger sense." Imrama smiles. "In a way, you have replaced me as the newest member of our Circle, Phoenix of Ashes. I have come to extend a proper welcome, and offer to help you acclamate yourself in any way I can."
Phoenix bows. "You are most gracious. Come inside? I have been experimenting with something."
Imrama returns the bow, and follows Phoenix.
Phoenix has been redecorating, it appears. The stark funeral white of Birds' most recent decor has been replaced with a lush architecture of woven reed mats and sculptured tile. In one corner is a small oven and a looming cabinet of herbs, filling the apartment with a dusty floral fragrance.
Phoenix "So, you were brought up by the...daimyo of Artificial flight?"
Imrama pays polite attention to the decor - the amount appropriate to express the sentiment "I respect and admire your living space."
Imrama "Shogun, actually, but yes."
Phoenix "Ah, pardon. What was it like?"
Phoenix moves toward the oven and stops. "Pardon again. I am being very forward."
Imrama "You are being direct about your curiosity, which does not bother me." (...)
Imrama "As for what my upbringing was like, it constituted my entire childhood and youth - I have very little direct experience to compare it to. I love my father as a child loves a parent. And I believe he cares for me. But at the same time, I know that his feelings are not comparable to human emotions. The gods think in a way that is alien to the mortal mind. I've had decades in which to learn that lesson."
Phoenix nods. "I'm gla that you have. Your insight will be invaluable once we get around to those projects of engineered worship that we've been putting off."
Imrama "Engineered worship?" Imrama raises an eyebrow.
Phoenix "The faith." She extracts a tray of...something red-golden, glossy, and fluffy from the oven. "I'm not sure I should offer these to you, because they are likely terrible. I've been raiding the recipe library. Do try them if you are curious or reckless."
Imrama "I am always the former, and frequently the later. Particularly of late." Imrama scarfs a hunk of the mystery confection.
Phoenix It is a bread flavored with plumeria, dried cherry, and pork blossom, which is to say that it is west of awful, but not very far west. The fluffy topping appears to be made of dehydrated meat fibres.
Imrama "Ah...meat." Imrama chews slowly through pursed lips, but does not otherwise grimace or complain.
Phoenix "I'm beginning to wonder if it wasn't cherry blossom and dried pork. I had to raid you-don't-know-how-many references to find one that explained "pork blossom"."
Imrama "I trust that experimentation will eventually produce the results you seek."
Imrama "Do you mind if I sit?" Imrama asks as he takes a seat on the air about a foot from the ground. "So, Phoenix of Ashes, how are you finding your new existence?"
Phoenix "Please make yourself comfortable!"
Phoenix "Existence, hm. It is...an odd combination of familiarity and intense surprise."
Phoenix "You see, I remember much of what Birds-of-Trinity had been, and I have read her book of beasts, which tells me much more, but it is as if a veil is pulled over that place, and I understand it as though from a great distance."
Imrama "I see. Much as when the Jade Princess of the Nine reforged herself as Sorrowful Boy in order to escape the oath of Maiden's Hunger."
Phoenix just sort of nods and chews a bun contemplatively. The reference flies right over her head.
Imrama "Did you; did Birds-of-Trinity make use of Transcendant Pyre Rebirth?"
Phoenix thinks, then consults a sheaf of notes made on delicate lavender paper stamped with a white hawk, Birds' old correspondence stationery. "Yes, that is what Bitter Elm used. She apparently said it was the first time it has been invoked in this age of the world."
Phoenix "What a thing to be asked to do."
Imrama "Ours is the hour of exceptions. I must say, when I read the story of Jade Princess, as a boy, I did not...did not imagine quite how difficult it would have been to be a member of her Circle. It is not easy to loose a friend, even a very new friend, and even in exchange for another."
Phoenix nods. "I am grateful for it, obviously, but I'm not sure I condone her decision. I's certainly not made my life any easier, nor any of yours."
Imrama "There are no easy lives left in Creation. If, indeed, there ever were."
Phoenix "Sure. If I may change the subject, how do you feel about Saraj and the western circle?"
Imrama "I think that I greatly enjoy their company, and would like to share more of it. I hope that they can be our allies and compatriots, and I would like to get to know them and their goals better, so we I can be sure."
Phoenix "Then we agree." Phoenix rises up from her place at the table and begins pacing around the apartment rearranging things, flickering hands of Essence appearing occasionally to assist or perform some second task. Apparently all the flower arrangements and interesting knicknacks were in the wrong places.
Imrama "If I may ask a similar question, how do you feel about Zahara and the rest of my Circle?"
Phoenix "Complexly." She pauses, and settles similarly on the air, feet swinging, toying with a strand of hair beads.
Phoenix "I can still feel the intense love and devotion Birds held for you all, of course, but my first impressions are ones of confusion and anger."
Phoenix "I keep talking like Birds is not myself, too, which is not entirely the case."
Phoenix "I feel as though, maybe, it is as though I-we-she have moved to another human heart, but without the blur and loss of true death in between. Her life is still a raw scar in my mind."
Imrama gives a look of concern. "That sounds like a hard burden to carry. To be among friends, and yet a stranger."
Imrama "I would not wish that for you, for anyone. That is why I came to see you."
Phoenix "Thank you."
Imrama stands up without sinking his feet to the floor, and reaches down with an outstretched hand to Phoenix. "Phoenix of Ashes, inheritor of Alahwi, I welcome you as comrade and friend, into the cause I have chosen for my own." He holds position, waiting for a response.
Phoenix rises and takes his hand. "Imrama Stormfound, I thank you for your welcome. I'll take your cause as my own, as is the custom of friends and comrades."
Imrama smiles broadly and clasps his second hand to where his first meets Phoenix's. "It is good to know you, Phoenix of Ashes. However the sorrows that have brought us to here, I am glad for the company."
Phoenix "Me too." Phoenix makes a funny face. "Would you care for some fresh fruit? I can't get that taste out of my mind."
Imrama 's face looks greatly relieved. "Yes, I would very much like some fruit, thank you."
Phoenix reaches out the window and cuts a bunch of grapes.
Phoenix "This place drives me a little crazy, Imrama."
Phoenix "The gardens are so small. I have (without Zahara's knowledge may the Maidens protect me) arranged for one of the larger chambers to be filled with soil and planted, but I am not fully satisfied."
Phoenix "I think that I may go to live outside the Manse soon."
Imrama mutters, apparently ignoring everything Phoenix said past her initial statment. "I harbor much the same sentiment. Do the walls and corridors get to you as they do to me, then? Does every passageway and intersection seem to be mocking and deriding you? Laughing, always laughing, just beyond the reach of ears?"
Imrama Composing himself. "It's what I do."
Phoenix chuckles. "Oh my, the walls. I am -this close- to just giving up and flying in and out the windows like a little busy bee."
Phoenix "But I think that maybe the manse is a little big for its bricks."
Imrama chuckles at Phoenix's wordplay.
Phoenix "Maybe we can set a little puzzle for it. A geomantic trap? It opens the wrong door or rotates the wrong hall, and a buck of water falls on its head..."
Phoenix "Possibly something less...familiar."
Imrama "Well, it is a classic for a reason."
Phoenix "But what to dump water on? Buildings don't have head. Maybe it dumps water on ZAHARA'S head."
Phoenix "She breaks things when she gets grumpy, apparently."
Imrama laughs and laughs. "No, I don't think that's a good idea. An amusing idea, just not a good one."
Phoenix giggles. "Right."
Imrama "Well, Phoenix of Ashes. I was going to track down the kitchens once again and attempt to make some stew. Would you be interested in contributing any esoteric wisdom to that project?"
Phoenix laughs. "Not this time, I think, but I'd love to join you. I'll chop things. I'm good at that."
Imrama "Excelsior. Back into the wiles of the manse we go." Imrama claps Phoenix of Ashes on the shoulder in a sign of comradery, and departs the room.
Phoenix fastens her knife-bracer around her arm and follows him.