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Cerin An undisclosed location in Solaria, some time later.

Cerin After their conversation, with a momentary diversion to remove the various traps that Telani had set and to retrieve her notes, Cerin had lead Telani to the sleak form of the airship, hidden in the woods, and thence back to the captial. From there, they had travelled a short way to the building they found themselves in now. Cerin, with a small amount of ceremony, has poured tea for them both. "So, tell me what you think is going (...)

Cerin on, please."

Telani takes the tea, dips her pinky in quickly, and sniffs it quickly with an inquisitive face, before deciding that it's safe and taking a sip. "That's a very broad question. What's going on... where? Everywhere?"

Cerin "A location of your choice," he says, as he sips his tea

Telani "Well." She sips the tea more deeply and closes her eyes, enjoying the deep aroma and warmth across her palate. "Let's start at home, I suppose. You should know that all your collective absences have been the subject of quite a bit of talk." (...)

Telani She puts the cup down and continues. "The best theory I've been able to piece together looks something like this: everyone was pretty happy with their little three-person Solar team until you showed up and messed everything up. All of a sudden Markuran and Zahara were fighting all the time, so clearly there was something going on there that no one ever told /us/ about." (...)

Telani She watched Cerin's expressions as she goes on but does not wait for him to nod.

Cerin "Starting at home is always wise," he agrees, though offers no specific observations on what she has said yet.

Telani "Markuran changes his whole look, cuts down his little visits into the town festivals enough that I stop hearing the stories about them. Then Kai shows up, and even though she looks like she's only sixteen all of a sudden she's at all the official functions and living at the Manse." She brings two fingers together in the air.

Telani "And then Marku runs off. Typical." She rolls her eyes a little. "All of us who have lived here since the beginning know that Birds never seemed to be interested in the day-to-day running of the kingdom, so all of a sudden Zahara is open to do... whatever she wants. Everything starts to run more smoothly and... the surveillance and controls over the society ramp up. How am I doing so far?"

Cerin "You are not entirely incorrect."

Cerin He says, although there is no implied criticism in his tone.

Telani downs her tea and continues. "At this point we were starting to be under pressure from outside -- we'd all seen the Red Lily broadcast and many of us heard about the attempted invasion by the Realm." (...)

Telani "All of a sudden it seems like the rulers of the Sunlands are gone more than they're here. You journey off -- I'd guess either attacking the Sunlands' enemies directly or speaking with our neutral neighbors to try to form stronger bonds -- and you show up with two NEW Solars, who I have to assume you just found in a hole somewhere." (...)

Telani "Then the army is mobilized. At this point you are constantly gone, which I imagine was in pursuit of strategic objectives in the war -- but it's not like almost any of this was ever announced. I just kept track of when you were gone." (...)

Telani "Here's where everything starts to get confusing. Kai and Lucent both disappear at the same time, then you make one public appearance before the rest of you go off somewhere; once again you conspicuously don't say anything about it. At the time, I was fairly certain they had absconded with something important to take to the enemy." (...)

Telani "So then the earthquake and monsters hit Solaria, and I was more certain, and even more so when you didn't show up again and Zahara refused to show up in public: they'd gone rogue, you'd gone off to stop them, you'd died and Zahara had been injured, letting Thirteen Blooming Flowers and his crony Imrama seize the government. We were all worried."

Cerin "Your concern is touching, if it was slightly misplaced," he replies. "I also find it slightly gratifying that so little information made it out of the Cascade, however unfair that makes the question I asked. These deductions are interesting though, and continue to be not entirely incorrect."

Telani nods. "But then Lucent shows up again and everyone seemed to let him right back in -- and then you had a funeral for /Markuran/, who had been gone for months, but not for /you/. That threw all my previous theories in the junkheap." She grins. (...)

Telani "So I formed a new theory: all of this disappearing was the result of you each running off to perform various secret missions in pursuit of war aims; that Markuran had been under deep cover somewhere, and been killed by the enemy. Plus, Zahara seemed to be coming out forward more, if still a bit unstable." (...)

Telani "So I bet Eharem a decent sum of money that if the war was won, all of you would suddenly reappear as if nothing had ever happened, in the aftermath." She pauses. "This is after Thirteen started winning the war but before the sky went dark, the rivers ran with blood, all of that, of course." (...)

Telani grins. "So of course I won enough to treat myself on my trip to Solaria."

Cerin laughs in genuine amusement at that.

Telani "It's difficult, of course, to tell anything about what's going on, because you never seem to announce ANYTHING besides 'everyone join up in the army!' or 'the war is going well!' or 'melons are back in season!'" She suddenly frowns. (...)

Telani "I never did figure out what happened to Birds-of-Trinity, though. The Faith Ecliptic teaches us about how Solars are reborn after they die, but... you didn't have a funeral for her."

Cerin Cerin looks up as Aliza lazily swims through the air towards him, holding out a hand for her to land on. "She ... made other arrangements."

Telani nods quietly.

Cerin "How would it change your theories if I were to reveal that between the time of the earthquake and the start of calibration, I was not in fact working for the Sunlands at all, and were in fact working for one of their bitterest foes?"

Telani bites her lip. "That doesn't sound good." She thinks for a moment. "Did the rest of them show up and stage an intervention or something? Zahara pretty clearly wished you would come back." (...)

Telani She thinks a little more. "That would explain your disappearance, and how distant Zahara became." She looks at him with a new, possibly slightly more worried, look. "But... why?"

Cerin "An intervention? Something like that, yes," he says with a smile which curls his lips. "But as for the why ... for her."

Telani raises an eyebrow. "For your girlfriend, you turned against her country and everything she had worked to build over years of effort."

Cerin "It was that or kill her there and then."

Telani "You guys must have /some/ arguments."

Cerin "I would never harm a hair of her head in anger," he says, with a shake of his head.

Telani nods and pours herself another cup of tea. "It's pretty strange to be let into the inner sanctum like this." She thinks for a moment. "Well, the outer inner sanctum."

Cerin "Well, there are things that you need to know if you are to be in any way effective in what I wish you to do."

Telani nods again. "Yes." She looks around the room. "Is it time to tell me more about what that is?"

Cerin "I suppose it is, yes," he says, as he sets down the empty teacup and then leans in, significantly.

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