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Imrama Once Zahara has returned from her outing, and has the time an inclination to follow up on such matters, she has a note from Imrama to consider. The neatly caligriphed missive reads simply: "Dearest Empress - At your pleasure, I would like to invite you to tea at the Den of Silent Thunders. Your Friend, Imrama"

zahara returns a note to Imrama with her agreement, as well as a date and time - the next day at 2pm. And so, she arrives at the appointed time and place a bit early, watching the people go by.

Imrama arrives just on time, and greets Zahara with a quiet bow. "It is good to see you, Empress. Shall we repair to the place of our reception?"

zahara bows in return, "It is good to see you as well," she says coolly. "An excellent idea." She gestures for him to lead the way, and comments, "I have not been here before, but it seems to be a well-run establishment."

Imrama "I hold the proprietor, Loyal Master Fu, in exceedingly high esteem." Imrama leads the way to the VIP lounge, the waitstaff clearing a path for the two solars and averting their eyes.

zahara nods, glancing around the lounge and then seating herself. "What variety of tea do you recommend?"

Imrama Once the two have found their way to the well-appointed room, and have poured their tea, Imrama begins, "I wish to brief you, Empress, on the results of the meeting I recently held at Cerin's request. I learned some interesting, if troubling, things from the Dragon King diplomatic party from Mount Eledath."

zahara "Ah, yes, they did not look particularly pleased when I saw them."

Imrama "Indeed, at know point during our discourse did I ever perceive them to be pleased about anything.The most immediate problem is this: your ancient predecessor as Solar ruler of this region, Injara, granted a large area that includes all of present-day Solaria to the Dragon Kings of Mount Eledath. Despite centuries, and plague and Wyld and countless other points of discontinuity, they still...

Imrama ...believe they are entitled to what was once promised them."

zahara frowns. "Well that is a thorny situation. I assume... you did not acquiesce."

Imrama "As Cerin asked me to do, I expressed to them the good faith and just dealings that are the hallmark of the Sunlands, but also made clear that the Empress would never turn over her capital and its citizens to alien rulers. I also attempted to demonstrate our good faith by alluding to our close allies in Rathess, mentioning Ssithumi by name. This was not well received."

zahara "Interesting. Have they had poor dealings with her, or was this something that happened in the last Age as well?"

Imrama "It seems that they have a severe theological dispute with Ssithumi - their emissary considers her a heretic. It made the rest of our discussion more...tense. But I convinced him to agree to a conference between our three parties - Eledath, Rathess and the Sunlands - in an attempt to resolve these ancient disagreements."

zahara "Hmm. Did he tell you what it was? We should contact Ssithumi, regardless. If they have a dispute I would not like her to be unprepared."

Imrama "He did not disclose details - he made reference to an entire religion about which I know nothing at all. But I quite agree: we ought to consult Ssithumi, and to research as much as possible the vagueries of Dragon King theology. And I think, we also need some further assets to bring into the conversation. Towards this end, I have been undertaking some research via the Defense Grid."

zahara raises a brow. "And has your research borne fruit?"

Imrama 's eyes twinkle as he smiles brightly, "Indeed, it has." Imrama stretches out a beautifully drawn map of Creation and its expanded borders. On it, several points are marked in red with Old Realm notation.

zahara inspects the map. "I see."

Imrama indicates one such point, "Here is Rathess." He indicates another, "And here is Vesathar Valley." And another, "Mount Eledath. But these," Imrama indicates the remaining points on the map. "These are all of the other Dragon King settlements remaining in Creation. As yet unknown to us and, I suspect, to those of Mount Eledath and Rathess as well."

zahara frowns thoughtfully. "We must approach them, and discover where they stand, and whether they may be allies or opponents of our cause. It will be interesting to find out if they share the religion of Ssithumi or our new 'friends.' "

Imrama "The introduction of additional factions to this dispute could be useful in any number of ways. I thought it best to inform you of the details of my conversation with Anjax of Eledath, and of my research, not only because you are the Empress of the Sunlands, but because we two are the only Eclipses of our circle, and for all I know, of Creation."

Imrama "There are none more suited to the work of building a vital and enduring alliance from a scattering of isolated Dragon King communities."

zahara "Perhaps," she says drily after a few thoughtful moments, "they would like to establish trade."

Imrama "Likely. At the very least, I feel confident that trade would prove in their best interests, though with such long-hidden communities, it is possible that some may not see the logic of this at first."

zahara smiles slightly. "Such is often the way of things."

Imrama "Too often. I believe that Cerin may have some information from Vesathar Valley that could be relevant to this theological dispute. But I believe our immediate next step will be to speak with Ssithumi. Do you agree?"

zahara "Indeed. I have been meaning to visit her."

Imrama "Excellent. We must make the trip soon then. I, too, have other questions and matters to raise with Ssithumi." Imrama raised his cup in acknowledgment of the Empress, and drinks deeply.

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