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Pramana opens his arms in a broad gesture as he gazes at Imrama. The Imagining is our shared heritage. All who are part of us shall know of its workings.

Cerin Lai. I would have liked to have killed him. I wonder what he did as he was dying. I would have liked to know what drove him.

z Is Lai here, now? Did he live beyond his death in this way?

Pramana The murmurs in the back seem to be interested in the topic of Lai. The one called Lai came here and left. Those who continue to Imagine with us who came here with the one called Lai -- they are not here. Pramana's wisdom knows no bounds, as always.

Pramana Pramana turns to Zahara. The part of us called Lai is part of us within that which has passed; only a thread continues forward within us into that which is to come. He then turns to the crowd. We have satisfied ourselves that all is right with those of us who have joined us in ourselves. All may return to our other purposes. And the crowd begins to disperse, almost immediately.

Lucent blinks. What? Those people make no sense! This place makes NO sense!

z 's thoughts turn to the connections of minds, and in turn the connection of souls, and humanity, and the difficulties of exaltation, the concept of the wyld spark... The elevation of humankind.

Imrama .Not quite no sense, Lucent. Just a sort of sense that is wildly at variance with our own.

charlequin Pramana gestures towards a nearby hill, one with some sort of vaguely spherical building atop it. We shall ascend?

z distracted from her musings, she nods to Pramana. we shall.

Cerin Imrama is perceptive as usual, it is a most intriguing difference

Pramana No sooner does Zahara assent to the ascent than the Solars find themselves walking up the hill, almost as if no volition was required beyond the decision to do so. As they grow nearer, they see the designs placed upon the building: stars, in muted sepia tones, and planets, in pastels, tiled geometrically across the dome of rock.

z inspects the designs curiously

Pramana .The newest part of us Imagines within this building, the being thinks clearly. And the nexus of past-future through which we know ourselves spins at its heart.

Cerin also inspects them as he thinks Now, that movement is odd. Hmmm Cerin intends to kiss Zahara

Pramana reaches out with all eight hands held palms-together, then makes a gesture of opening which a door set into the building mirrors. The part of us which wishes to do so may enter the building, that we might understand ourselves ever better than before. He steps back once, and bows.

Imrama intends to bow deeply to Pramana, and afterwards, he intends to enter the building.

Pramana Once again, the very intent seems to carry the Solars forward into the building. It seems to be a single, large room: a dome, its ceiling mirroring the cosmic designs on the outside, a large ring platform surrounding a lower pit at the center. (...)

Pramana (Cerin's kiss does indeed succeed!) ^---- put this up there somewhere

z is startled as Cerin's lips suddenly touch hers, slightly unsettled at how she did not see him draw close. This soon passes, and she returns it with passion.

Pramana At the very center is an object that the Solars have sought knowledge of for some time. A pillar of softly-glowing pearl rises up nearly thirty feet from a broad, intricately carved base, and around a sphere of crystal at the top rotate tiny glowing lights, almost too many to count in their intricacy; (...)

Pramana Just looking at it is enough to bring memories of the sight to Cerin and Zahara's minds, though they remember it in a far different place. (...)

Pramana What is perhaps more unusual are those who surround the Orrery: seventeen humans, each seated in a meditative position around it; on each one's forehead, a different castemark burns with a pale and gentle light, and on each one's lapel, a pale red flower pin glitters in the light.

Lucent intends to look upon them, curious. Red Lilies?

Cerin The Orrery of Light. Long have I wished to see this. There are a great many things I would like to ask of it

Pramana The thoughts of those seated below seem to be united in meditation, at least for the moment: Find That Which is Missing. Preserve the Thread. Peer beyond the Threshold. Hold the Orrery in place. Bring about the New World. The thoughts repeat over and over, like a mantra.

Cerin What is missing?

Pramana Cerin's thoughts seem to interrupt the mantra; the God-Exalts shift in place, and one -- whom Imrama sees is known as "Jethras" -- stands up, while the others attempt to refocus themselves on their thought. Who is it?... Our hated enemies, the Sun-Touched!, he thinks.

Imrama .Peace, friend Jethras. We have not come here to make war.

z looks down upon them We are not enemies at this moment. Many of your kind have joined our Deliberative.

Cerin You do not have to die here if you answer well

Jethras Thoughts race through Jethras' mind. Hateful lies! They intend to use their Solar magics on me and cause me to doubt my mission! There can be no such thing as the Deliberative or any peace between the noble Red Lily army and the hated Solars! I must... (...)

Jethras It is only at the end of this internal monologue that he seems to remember that it is in fact entirely public, and he pulls back from his aggressive, in-danger stance towards one of confusion and uncertainty. Shit.

z .Lai is dead. She calls to mind the moment of his death, focusing on the moment the weapon pierced him. your mission is no more.

Jethras The mental drone of the mantra chant continues on apace behind Jethras as he thinks. Not so! My mission lasts beyond all boundaries, until I myself shall perish! Wait... I don't want to perish! Stop! STOP THINKING. YOU ARE A SOLDIER OF THE RED LILY AND THERE IS NO ROOM FOR DOUBT but what if they are NO STOP IT ALREADY

Cerin He appears to be conflicted

z is clearly amused.

Lucent spreads his arms. Calm down. The war is over. Lai and all others are dead. In Lucent's mind, their deaths, Holbar's fall atop Ata'la, Kai's killing of the behemoth-clad woman, Lai's death... everything goes by his mind, his hatred of them, his newfound liking of them as parts of Solars, as Exalted of Creation, unity crowning his mind, of all caste marks and the ones still to be. You are soldiers of Creation. Lucent intends to communicate.

Jethras Jethras seems to realize the relative impossibility of fighting in a place where all action is consensual and all thought telegraphed, and becomes a little crestfallen. My mission shall be failed. This is terrible! Why did I ever leave the farm? They made this sound like such a good idea!

z . You can return to your farm, or you can take up a position in the new government if you qualify.

Lucent inquires. What IS your mission? Curiosity, question marks floating about Lucent. A little Maiden of Secrets scoops up and begins collecting them.

Varanim Varanim, whose thoughts have been strangely silent for some period, smirks. Plus, if you don't believe Lucent, you're quite correct that they will kill or enspell you.

Varanim Then her eyes narrow a bit as she projects her will at the jewel embedded in her arm.

Jethras is clearly not particularly well-trained in silencing the mind, so he answers the question whether he actually wished to or not. Lai's secret mission, chosen for us when we journeyed here to place the Orrery. (...)

Jethras When he first came here Lai realized that conscious thought had great power, and the Orrery connects it to both the past and the future. He set us here to concentrate on those things he knew would happen later, that our efforts might cause them to occur in the proper fashion.

Cerin He is a smart man. What were those events Jethras? And what is Varanim doing?

Jethras Varanim is a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of thought that greets her in the meeting place of the Faculty; sneering procedural matters from Jardis, lascivious thoughts from the Dry Land Crocodile, creepy back-and-forth guessing games from the twins, and a deep, slow voice she doesn't recognize, merely thinking over and over: DEATH, DESTRUCTION AND DEATH, ALL SHALL PERISH

Jethras All of that rolls off from around Varanim as if she'd flipped on a sound-crystal a little too loudly, for anyone else to hear.

Jethras Meanwhile, Jethras sighs, utterly defeated by his own motor brain, and simply explains coherently to Lucent rather than try to fight himself. /A few things. He wanted us to find some tiny spot that's gone missing somewhere -- no more details. There's a thread in the tapestry that he wanted us to visualize being held taught, even after it was severed. Those are the easy ones." (...)

z blinks at Varanim what the fuck is THAT all about?

Cerin That is a great deal of thoughts in that hearthstone, I wonder how it is that it works?

Lucent looks at that... and the Sun peers on his hair. That is... the faculty?

Jethras .There's a problem we ran into when we got the Orrery, you see, where it just... won't look past a certain point. Like the whole of existence falls off a cliff. He wants us to see what's past it. And... if it really is what he thinks it is -- he swallows bodily, and the thought gulp appears over his head --

Jethras .he wants us to concentrate on a very specific design for a new world that would coalesce in place when the old one is gone.

Cerin Cerin intends to ask a very important question. When is that point?

z . The flaw... her thoughts are chaotic for a moment, curiosity, desire, obligation, a sense that she'd rather use the power than destroy it, but is overriding the impulse.

Varanim You there! Varanim barks mentally, either not noticing or not minding the mental racket for everyone else. What are you doing in my rock, droning the obvious? She focuses her mind on the unknown voice in the tumult.

Jethras Varanim hears the thought-voice echoing from all around her, from every side of the jewel, and as it grows stronger, the Faculty start to hear it and become worried. DOOM, ENDING, DARKNESS, EXTINGUISHMENT, PASSING BEYOND THE VEIL, THE END OF ALL THINGS

Jethras does the body-mind gulp two-step again, and tries to answer. Twenty years, he thinks. It's not like it can tell everything of the future anyway, but all answers cut off completely after that time. Ask about a baby conceived today, and you hear it will live to nineteen. Ask whether a nation will flourish, and its fate is cut off before the current king can even raise up an heir.

z looks at Varanim Why is there doom in her head? Is it the flawLacunavoid? Is she possessedMalfaen-tainted? why can't any of the people who join me be normal? /

Varanim splices together the two thought-streams--Jethras and the unknown voice--in a display of mental dexterity that might be lost on the other people who have to listen to it. Equivalent? she inquires of them both.

Imrama .If any of us were normal, Zahara, we would be of no use to the world.

Varanim A side-eddy of her stream of consciousness gurgles dismissively at Zahara. You people wouldn't know normal if it fell from the sky and watered your crops.

Jethras The voice of doom says YOU SHALL BE CONSUMED while Jethras, looking a bit pale even by the washed-out standards of Tesearah, thinks ...it kind of sounds that way.

z is quite irritated now.

Lucent grins. Normal people are never chosen for Exaltation, for obvious reasons! Lucent watches the choir of death and despair and doom, craning his head to the side. They KNEW about the threat of the Void already, the little he had glimpsed in his moment of epiphany appearing around him.

Varanim cuts off the projection into the Jewel with a roll of her eyes and a snap of Later.

Cerin That is ... vexing. I had plans which stretched longer than twenty years. Hmmm.

z .No plan is perfect.

Varanim I do hope someone has explored the simple explanation that the Orrery and not the entirety of existence is the thing with the named life span?

Cerin Several of those plans involved the Orrery

z .Of coursedamnit/

Imrama intends to clasp Jethras by the shoulder and give him a very friendly look of intimacy and confidence. What thread, exactly, have you been holding taught?

Varanim ...Aaaand here comes the kiss and the dance. I'm impressed--he lasted over five minutes.

Imrama .Jealous? If the lady wants a dance, all she has to do is ask.

Jethras allows the shoulder-pat and screws up his face in a look of concentration as he summons up a complicated mental image of the tapestry of fate and their actions therein: a brilliant red string at the heart of a constantly growing knot of thousands of other strings, cut sharply at the exact spot where a dark black shadow falls across the tapestry, but held tight such that it still progresses into the future.

Cerin Lai cerin intends to smile. He is not yet dead.

Lucent And all faces on the Coronal go livid. Just HOW did he cheat death? a) Did he cheat Fate, b) did he create a homunculus, c) is his soul within an object d) was that an illusion what exactly is that? Lucent intends to ask, and his question comes as if from a First Age Exalted test.

z reaches out to touch the thread

Jethras blanches. I don't know anything about metaphysics! His memory of studying the image he just showed off on a piece of parchment, trying over and over to commit it to memory flashes up.

Cerin e) None of the above

Varanim conveys to Imrama through a complicated cascade of images--her with fluttering eyelashes, swooning in the arms of ZaharaJardisthe Doctor--that she pines for his dance, but her heart must belong to another.

Imrama .Who asked for your heart? What do you think I am, a whistful cabin boy?

z flickers with irritation if i owned your heart...

Jethras is getting lost here and blinks a few times. So what are you going to do with us?

Varanim A half-formed rejoinder--Varanim with hand thrown to forehead, eyes wide with shattered innocence--dissolves as she sees Zahara reaching for the thread. Hmm.

z clears her mind before finishing her thought, and concentrates on touching the thread from the vision, through the Orrey

Cerin Cerin intends to do as Zahara has done, carefully blanking his thoughts to the interplay as he concentrates on the thread

Jethras The thread seems to vibrate and shake a little as Zahara taps it. Where before the black shadow it is surrounded by thousands of others, now it weaves off into one corner of the tapestry in obscurity, alone; the solidness of the tapestry begins to fade out as she looks further forward, as the uncertainty of the future overcomes the fate written into the tapestry.

z watches it with malicious satisfaction.

Jethras looks back and forth. I hope everything doesn't end in twenty years. Dammit, why aren't they answering me? This is terrible. I should have stayed with the pigs.... DAMMIT BE QUIET SELF

z turns hre attention back to Jethras, You shall continue your watch over the Orrey, and warn us of anything interesting that comes up. If you do not... brutal images form, and her eyes glitter chillingly through them.

Cerin cerin intends to radiate a certain amount of satisfaction

Jethras thinks, quite simultaneously, Yes I will! and Oh shit that crazy bitch is going to fucking KILL ME

Cerin It is highly unlikely you will die before the end of the twenty years Cerin thinks at him reassuringly

z works very hard to keep her thoughts in line, and not simply laugh at him

Varanim slouches against a wall and contemplates the lights while the others speculate. Her mental muttering is a flickering parade of images: freeze-frame of the picture of Jethras' mission, then isolated patches swooping into and out of focus as she classifies the topology of the thousand knots.

Cerin Cerin intends to pry more secrets from the Orrery, and so he manipulates it according to Ymir's notes and does so.

Jethras The lights atop the Orrery begin to spin at a rapid clip, and a five-pitched harmonic hum joins the mind-sound of the Mantra still in progress below as Cerin communes with the Orrery -- a process that seems like it might take some time.

Jethras warily seats himself back at the outskirts of the Orrery. It's not so bad living here, even with the crazy people showing up, he thinks to himself, before slipping back into the mind-chanting.

Varanim Noting that Cerin is likely to be at this for a while, Varanim's mental gallery dissolves. What does death entail here? she directs at Pramana, twirling the end of her lucky scarf with one finger.

Pramana Meanwhile, at the door, Pramana walks up, his eight hands folded into an elaborate knotwork pattern of respect and deference.

Lucent looks around. You are an... interesting Eclipse, Zahara. He remembers how he thought the same as Jethras once. Very much effective, however.

z smiles at Lucent, so different from Imrama's methods

Imrama .Each of us has a part to play.

Pramana unfolds his many hands and gestures as if asking for permission to enter into the Solars' presence.

z indicates that Pramana should come closer

Pramana sashays up and bows. We are glad that what we have learned about ourselves is satisfying and of a unique quality. We have been invigorated by our newfound presence in this moment.

z ,We are pleased that you are invigorated. Do you wish to help us stop the darkness that comes?

Varanim That's a rhetorical question, in case we don't have those here.

Pramana .We have been faced with our destruction and felt the shadow upon us, but we are hopeful. We gazed into the nexus of time and space, and we saw that the part of us that has come here now would protect us. The will of Tesearah's ten thousand citizens is united to that purpose.

z .Ten thousand. Yes. We will do our best to protect you, and our people.

Pramana nods, and he hands a tiny white flower to Zahara. We are blessed that you are part of us.

Varanim Throwaway image of Varanim, in shiny armor and holding an exaggeratedly large sword, posing heroically while multitudes of tiny people shelter at her feet.

z intends to bow in thanks, her surprise and pleasure at the gift apparent. I... we are pleased to be here.

< We Exist to Protect | Sol Invictus Logs | A Problem With Tenure >