Imrama At noon, on a clear day, Imrama's voice rings out in his friend's minds. ::Cerin, Phoenix - may I ask you to join me in the field to the North of the manse? I am about to receive a delivery of great importance.::
Cerin ::Certainly Imrama, I shall join you presently.:: And with that he sets down his quill and leaves his study and shortly after is suddenly visibly present a short distance from Imrama. "Good Afternoon," he says with a greeting nod to Imrama. "Aside from your delivery, how does the day find you?"
Imrama Cerin finds Imrama seated on a scissors chair, staring at the first handwritten page of a small, neatly bound volume and poking the text somewhat impatiently with the end of a quill. He looks up to greet the sudden arrival of the arch-ninja. "Very well, Cerin. Nearly bursting with curiosity, but very well, none the less."
Cerin "So, what exactly is it that you are expecting?" he asks as he casually reads the book through the pages.
Phoenix rides up on a small yellow horse. "You called?"
Imrama The book is one of the special set prepared by Phoenix of Ashes, and contains Imrama's initial notes for a possible Deliberative Constitution. "I am expecting...a few precious answers to a few long-standing questions."
Imrama "Yes, Phoenix. Thank you for joining me."
Cerin "Good afternoon, Phoenix."
Imrama "Yes Thirteen, that is my hope. I'm glad you found us - I didn't realize you were at home."
Thirteen "Technically, I was in a field near home."
Imrama Flying out of the West, they come: four radiant, perfect ships of light. Each is identical and familiar - the Fable of the Reconstruction, unparalleled in all creation, now arrives four times over on the lawn of the Labyrinthine Cascade. The come to a stop in the air over the four solars, and their respective captains descend. Each is the same in name and form: Trierarch Imrama Stormfound.
Phoenix raises one eyebrow very high, and carefully tries to observe all four Imramas as she dismounts and waves at her horse dismissingly. Unfortunately it is not a wasp, so it doesn't get it, and starts nibbling the grass at her feet.
Cerin regards all five Imramas at once, nodding after a moment.
Imrama Each of the four newly arrived Captains is the same, and yet slightly different. The first smokes his pipe, while the other three do not. The second has his hair out of its familiar tie, draped down around his shoulders. The third does not wear his Wyld-formed glasses, allowing them to buzz as fluttering motes of light about his head. And the fourth has his coat unbuttoned to the waist,...
Imrama ...looking wearier than the rest.
Phoenix "That is an interesting...thing...you are doing there...Imrama, Imrama, etc."
Thirteen "What have the rest of you been up to?"
Imrama The smoking Imrama responds, while the rest file into the original Imrama, their forms disappearing into his. As they do so, he acquires their unique characteristics, his coat becoming unbottoned, his glasses wisping about, etc. "We have been putting in order the affairs of the Wester Circle, who have passed out of this world and into the mysteries of the Tenth Sea."
Phoenix stares at the be-piped Imrama as the silence lengthens, and then, "Maybe you should skip back to the BEGINNING of that story. You can start with, since when were there ten seas?"
Imrama The five Imrama's are now folded into one, who shakes out his pipe, replaces it inside his coat, and produces from the same a small silver box. "While we faced our own demons and cataclysms during Calibration, so too did our Western allies."
Cerin "Ah. I had wondered where the rest of you was." Cerin nods. "It is sad that they have passed on, I had wished to consult with them on certain matters."
Imrama "In the violence and mayhem, their beloved living ship was gravely struck, one of their number was killed, another mortally wounded. Heavy with the weight of the world, they chose to sail for hope and adventure in the spirit sea." Imrama turns to Phoenix specifically. "There are, traditionally, nine seas to the waters of Creation: the White Sea, the Inland Sea, the Sea of Knives, and so...
Imrama ...forth. The Ten Sea is a new and glorious mystery that our friends are even now unraveling."
Thirteen "We are not finished unraveling the old and glorious mysteries of the first Nine Seas, Imrama."
Phoenix switches eyebrows. "Oh. Do carry on then."
Imrama "Heartilly agreed, Thirteen. So it falls to us to unravel them now, without the aid of Saraj and his crew - their lot lies beyond the ban."
Cerin "'The ban'?"
Imrama "However. As he lay dieing, Saraj informed me that before her own demise, Saraya gave him this box, to give to me. There was a message he could not recall verbatim. She was sorry about something, something to do with an orrery."
Thirteen "Open it."
Cerin "The orrery." Cerin speaks in the manner of someone with long held suspicions being confirmed. "Yes, please open it."
Imrama turns to Cerin. "The Tenth Sea is some manner of new plane or space. The Western Circle found a means to reach it, and have chosen to sail their indefinitely. My hope is that it may supply some means of saving Saraj from the blight he took upon himself to save Creation. But in any case, I do not expect to see them again for some time."
Imrama "Happily." With only a slight flourish, Imrama opens the box.
Phoenix leans on Cerin and watches over his shoulder.
alsoquin Within the box are a strange, odd selection of objects: a small lapel pin, with a black flower upon it; (...)
alsoquin a golden hairpin; a set of three small glass marbles; a long list of what appear to be names or aliases, each with three items following them (an attitude and two elements of costume); (...)
alsoquin a piece of paper with nothing but the character "Te" in one corner, drawn in red; a starmetal bracelet; a sheaf of other papers, written in a coded hand; and a twig, black leaves still whole upon it, that Cerin recognizes.
Cerin "That was not something I expected to see."
Cerin "The twig is from a tree which grows only if it is planted within a human heart. It is associated with the worship of Laerad."
Phoenix 's eyes widen. "That MUST go in the gardens. But where are we going to find a...vessel?"
Thirteen grabs the list and the coded papers from the box and begins leafing through them.
Thirteen swallows them.
Thirteen adopts an attitude of thought.
Cerin reads the list while Thirteen does, a process which isn't really complicated by his consumption of them.
Cerin "A very curious collection all in all though, Imrama."
alsoquin The list contains an astonishing number of names, but one in particular catches Cerin and Thirteen's attention: Rannath.
alsoquin After his name is written "Brutal, uniform, meaningless demands."
Cerin "So, he was not what he seemed."
Thirteen "Cerin. Do you surmise what I surmise?"
Cerin "I believe so, yes."
Phoenix looks up at Cerin. "?"
Imrama "What is it that you both surmise?"
Cerin "Rannath was not what he seemed. He was not a Solar, and was instead a facade created by one of the flowers."
Thirteen "This neatly explains both his abrupt disappearance and why it went so completely unremarked upon."
Cerin "Just so. Perhaps more worryingly, it suggests that merely Rannath departed, and not the person wearing the facade."
Imrama "That was an odd lacuna in the catalog of facts and understandings that you shared with me, Thirteen. I had assumed that it was just some sort of glitch in that process, though."
Thirteen "I suspect that it would have difficult for any of us to notice until it had been brought to our attention."
Cerin "This would perhaps provide an explanation for the sabotage of certain nodes associated with the intelligence gathering capacities of the Grid in this region."
Thirteen "Our first course of action is clear. We must lock down the Cascade."
Thirteen "No. He has already demonstrated his capacity to negotiate our security structures."
Thirteen "Now that we know he is present, we must track him directly and with speed."
Cerin "A hunt." Cerin smiles. "It has been a while."
Thirteen "Please do not kill him in a way that will impede our ability to gather information, Cerin."
Cerin "I had not intended to kill him when we found him. I thought first I would ask him certain questions."
Thirteen "I am just making sure."
Phoenix taps her foot irritatedly. "Are you sure?"
Phoenix "The tyrannous part of my self suggests that we make an example of him."
Cerin picks up one of the marbles.
Cerin "That is more or less independent of asking him questions, Phoenix."
Thirteen "Examples are meant to edify, Phoenix."
Phoenix "You realise that when I say 'example' what I mean is 'use his bones and flesh to build a tiny monument to his folly', right? But, yes, questions. I encourage you to ask questions, and indeed I will even ask one now! What are these other items in this box, and what relationship do they have to the Orrery? You perceive that we have only discussed the Rannath connection."
Cerin "That is what I am attempting to discern." He concentrates on the marble in his hand.
alsoquin Casting his senses into the marble, Cerin comes away with an unmistakeable impression -- it is indeed connected in some way to the Orrery of Light, which just as unmistakably is not within the plane of Meru.
Cerin nods, and picks up another of the marbles.
Cerin "Well, it appears these marbles concern themselves with the Orrery. Which is, alas, not within the bounds of Meru."
alsoquin A quick glance tells him that this marble would serve to help locate the Orrery, were it nearby; being outside of Meru, however, it seems to indicate only the proximity of the first marble.
Cerin "Still, once we get to Tesarach, this will guide us to it." He indicates the second marble he picked up.
Imrama picks up the black flower pin. "The 'Emblem of the Nightshade'."
Cerin "I have seen pins like that before Imrama, though they were in gold and not in black."
Cerin "Well, I have seen one in black. That belonged to the Man with A Thousand Faces and None."
Imrama "Hmmm. Another Sidereal link besides the Orrery of Light."
Cerin "It appears she was interested in them. It is probably how she knew to attack the Crysanthemum and steal the Orrery in the first place."
Imrama "Could she have done all that on her own, though? We are a mighty lot, true, but I had assumed that the assault on the Crysanthemum was a larger undertaking."
Cerin "Well, it was an assault, yes. It was not a subtle theft."
Cerin "I assume her Circle helped, and in addition they had hundredfold allies."
Cerin "There were traces of solar magic left at the scene, however."
Imrama "I do not believe that any of her Circlemates were involved. This seems to have been a side of Saraya that they were not aware of before her death."
Phoenix "How, traces?"
Cerin "Hmmm. Very well." He shrugs. "Still, she had hundredfold help. And I would guess it is not inconcievable that she had help from other flowers."
Cerin "Fragments of charms and echoes of solar magic."
Phoenix "Whose might they be?'
Cerin "Hers, I would assume."
Cerin "It was certainly closely linked to the theft."
Imrama indicates the twig. "I cannot recall: Cerin, have we established a prior relationship between Qian Mian the corrupted and Laerad? This item seems a bit out of place."
Cerin "Both are associated with Infernalism. That is the most direct connection there is." He considers. "It is possible, given the nature of this box and its owner, that the Circle was ignorant of this branch, too."
Cerin "There are ... implications about the worship of Laerad, and the planting of trees such as these."
Imrama There is a long pause while Imrama waits with forced patience, until eventually: "Implications?"
Cerin recites a long passage to Imrama, one that ends with "Plant the seed upon their beating heart, Water it with the blood of heresy, Feed it with the flesh of enlightenment, Let it grow, as is my way and you shall find the curse lifted from upon you."
Imrama "Saraya took a great many dark secrets to her grave, it seems. Perhaps her next incarnation will be able to offer up some further insight."
Cerin "Yes. I will definitly have some questions for him or her."