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Lucent arranged to meet with Zahara on the gardens, dressed in his greatest Solar fineries, armor of Orichalcum and multihued Coronal, Night Pendant proud over it all. He paced back and forth, deep in thought...

zahara appears from the direction of the manse, not particularly dressed up or down, but looking lovely nonetheless. "Good morning, Lucent."

Lucent bows. "Good Morning, Zahara! I trust you are doing well?"

zahara half-smiles, "Well enough, I suppose. You look rather fine today," she indicates his clothing, "Are you going to give a speech?"

Lucent grins. "I would hate to bore you. And the people of the Sunlands seem to be well enough without that lately." He shakes his head, "No, I want to take you somewhere, if you have the time! Well, and talk about a few things..."

zahara blinks, "Oh! Well, in that case, lead the way."

Lucent picks up a scarf and hands it to her, "Well, it needs to be a surprise, if you will agree to it."

zahara raises a brow, then nods a bit and ties the scarf around her eyes. "this had better be good."

Lucent "It will be." He takes her hand and guides her to the edge of the garden, where he had set with a Zephyr for a few celebrations to take them. A moment later they were... there. To Zahara it was just the cold wind and the fact they were going west! And then stepping down into stone-paved ground, the blindfold taken off her eyes to show...

Lucent "Behold!"

Lucent ... a cathedral to the sun. A beautiful espetacle, the emblem of the Sunlands as the greatest symbol atop of it and the crest on its beautiful oaken doors, glass murals showing the members of the Sunlands' Circle in all their glory, the image of the Sun holding his four treasures over the altar, a thousand candles burning. As he guides her inside the cathedral she saw the inlaids in gold beneath her feet, the image of the Sun as a path of enlightement linking his

Lucent "The Sunrise."

zahara blinks again as the darkness is lifted from her eyes, and the stunning sight of the cathedral replaces it. "...Lucent, this is beautiful."

Lucent As he guides her inside the cathedral she saw the inlaids in gold beneath her feet, the image of the Sun as a path of enlightement linking his icons, linking the sources of his power, the sources of his Essence. Passages of the Faith Ecliptic embossed in gold decorate choice parts of the walls.

zahara "You had this built? Or discovered a new appreciation for working with your hands?"

Lucent "I had them build it. You had built one already, as the saw sets, and I placed this one on the sunrise." He nods. "So the Sunlands if flanked by the sun... but no. I had the Kashaen build it... I lack your skill, you know. But I am trying to learn a new one, which is part of why I had it built." He crouches, touching the image of the sun, where all in the body fit together.

zahara looks down at Lucent, and the sun, "What will you learn?"

Lucent He touches the circles, the heart, the mind. "How to understand the perfect form. How to repair every bit of it. How to make all bodies so perfect, as what they should be." He looks up, smiling Lucent's Own Smile. "Medicine. To save Imrama." He nods. "Well, that is a new part, but it is one of the five things countained within the Sunrise." He nods, then looks up again, "What do you, feel, Zahara? Being here?"

zahara shifts slightly, looking away, up at the ceiling. "The architecture is beautiful. I admire the skill of your artisans."

Lucent "His power is in us all, you know." He rises, "To exalt his power is to Exalt ours'. All of us, together. To Exalt this power is to say that we are grand, and the world is grand, under us." He makes an expansive gesture, "Such a high ceiling. As if all Creation could fit in here, for them to feel how small they are... and how sheltered they are. And yet you feel nothing. Why, Zahara?"

zahara shakes her head. "Because, Lucent, He has abandoned us and He grows corrupt. Because he didn't... " She trails off. "I believe in Him, but I don't trust him."

Lucent "And yet, when I called upon Creation's powers, they answered. They answered and the False Dragons were cast down." He walks to her, pointing up to the face of the Sun, "The belief on him is not a belief on him, only; It is the belief our world makes sense. I told you this before. That there is an order greater than us... it gives you safety; it gives you direction. Heaven knows who you are. He knew Cerin."

zahara "Heaven ordered all the Celestial gods not to help us. Heaven banned us from Yu Shan except on Carnival days. Cerin had to sneak into Heaven. Heaven knows who we are, but Heaven doesn't care."

Lucent "The Dragons helped us! And the Sun told Cerin important things. Still..." He shakes his head, once again. "... you think you could finish this? With the might of your Exaltation, make this... perfect? Maybe, just maybe, if you work on this... you will understand."

zahara "They helped us when it suited their needs." she scowls down at the sun on the floor. "You should ask Verbena, manses and dragonlines and such are her area of expertise."

Lucent "I am asking YOU. As a friend." He gives her a smile that lits the room, eyes so expectant...

zahara rubs her forehead a little, coincidentally shielding herself from the shining smile. "Luc, I'll help you with the cathedral. I don't know what you expect to happen, though."

Lucent "I expect you to work some; It has been too long since someone has broken the cascade, after all." He grins at her, poking her forehead playfully. "Thank you."

zahara bats his finger away and smiles a little. "You're welcome."

Lucent "I am NOT going to steal your dreams, you know." He cranes his head, "Zahara..."

Lucent "... do you trust me?"

zahara "Wasn't following you into the past enough?"

Lucent "It was, back then." He nods. "Do you regret that?"

zahara "No." She smiles again, the wariness in her eyes fading. "I don't regret it. I couldn't have succeeded without you."

Lucent "They do, I am sure. Thirteen. Phoenix. I think that is... part of why they left." He looks away from her, to the glass designs of them, "It was supposed to save us all, not break us."

zahara narrows her eyes at the mention of Thirteen and Phoenix. "I'm sure they're happier wherever they disappeared to. Wassiru or whatever."

Lucent "I am sorry, Zahara." He looks down, "I am sorry that I made you choose."

zahara watches him thoughtfully for a second, "I found out who my true friends are, and that is worth something."

Lucent And that... makes him smile, stepping towards her and giving her a hug.

zahara returns the gesture after an akward moment, patting him on the back.

Lucent hugs tighter... and then lets go. "You know... I am worried. It is all breaking down, Zahara. We used to be so many... and now it is just us. Four of us... five if we can save Imrama. But Varanim..." He sighs, exhasperated. "I am worried."

zahara steps away a few seconds after she is released, pacing around the chamber. "What about her?"

Lucent "You need to ask?"

zahara "I like to think that she is stronger than that."

Lucent "And she likes to think, too. That is the problem."

Lucent "Cerin. Ymir. Rosada. Larquen. Markuran. Do you see a pattern?"

zahara "You."

Lucent "Well... yes, me, as well."

zahara "And don't forget me."

zahara "Ymir slew Talmuda for a reason."

Lucent looks a bit contrite, looking away, "I never said I was ever particularly humble. Helios certainly wasn't."

zahara "None of us are pure, Lucent. Not in the last age, and not in this one."

Lucent "But none of us is walking so close in the steps of a fallen one as Varanim. She ACTS like Larquen, Zahara. She sounds like him. You met the Mask, you talked to him! That smug self-satisfaction! Those informal manners! That 'down-to-earth', 'no-ceremonies', 'let us just talk', 'this is no big deal' tones! Do they seem familiar to you?"

zahara "Coincidence. I am nothing like Talmuda."

Lucent "Yes, but she is following the same steps, Zahara. She will be tempted, like him."

Lucent "Hell, I am surprised neither of us walked in on her with the Green Lady."

zahara "There is nothing we can, or should do. I tried to stop Markuran, that did nothing. She will make her own mistakes or she won't."

zahara "If you continue to badger her about it, the other side will start looking better and better."

Lucent "True. Warning her does nothing, does it?" He grins mischievously. "But what if we warn others?"

Lucent "I am NOT badgering her. No more than she badgers ME, at any rate."

zahara "uh huh"

Lucent "What?" He looks at her curiously, "Did she say anything?"

zahara shrugs noncommittally. "You make her uncomfortable. I can see that."

Lucent "Oh..."

Lucent looks... very disappointed

zahara "Your faith, your belief, you make people question their beliefs. Cynicism is generally hard-won."

Lucent "And in her case, it is a facade, and you know that as well as I do. She claims to live in the present, tries so hard to, and yet she deals with nostalgia personified as her sole life passion. Something broke her, Zahara, and we need to find that out before THEY do."

zahara "and then what?"

Lucent "And then, we save her, of course! What else?"

zahara "Oh, yes of course. Before she needs saving."

Lucent "She already does."

zahara "Her expertise in necromancy and the afterlife are currently very useful. Please do not drive her away."

zahara "She does not need saving."

Lucent sighs and sits down. "I am not going to. We talked that problem with the forehead over, you know. I promised to never do something like that to her again. In fact, I do not even intend to press that point with her anymore... which is why I am talking to you."

zahara sighs too. "I am incredibly aware of the possibility of the people I call friends and compatriots, betraying me."

Lucent "It is not just that. She is in over her head. She does not understand those forces like I do."

Lucent "Zahara..."

Lucent "When I first met you, I knew Cerin would fall. And I was ready to set things so he could be saved."

Lucent "Do you hate me, for doing things the way I did?"

zahara considers. "It was only logical."

Lucent "And what if I told you I intend to do something like that towards Varanim?"

Lucent "Or, at least, have vague plans to."

zahara "Do you know her future too?"

Lucent "I have a pretty good guess. Especially considering we are at war with both Quen and Rosada."

zahara "Contingency plans, fine. But don't get ahead of yourself, or you'll make it a self fulfilling prophecy."

Lucent "In some ways, that is what I am going to do. I am just going to make the prophecy happen at the wrong time.

Lucent "In some ways, that is what I am going to do. I am just going to make the prophecy happen at the wrong time." He nods, "Zahara, do you remember how you were... before Tevezt?"

zahara "Very little."

Lucent "You think that, if they asked you to hurt another, to really hurt them, at that time... you think you would have?"

zahara "Depends on the stakes."

Lucent "What if I told you I was going to ask Quen to NEVER touch Varanim... knowing full well that would make him to so? Faster than he otherwise would, of course; I have no doubt they are circling us like vultures as we speak."

zahara "I would tell you that we have enough trouble without inviting more into our homes"

Lucent "The thing is, I believe that... if she was PUSHED for it instead of ending there naturally... she might have more of a chance to resist it. Or, at least, it would be done with our knowledge, rather than behind our backs."

zahara "I cannot help you with this, Lucent. I try not to scheme against my allies."

Lucent "We will be scheming FOR her!"

zahara "Too much margin for error."

Lucent "Zahara, all men's corruption is a downward spiral. To have your land destroyed, your compassion devoured, the power to overcome that and lash out, was yours'. If we manage to change the factors, to make her see what could be without being prepared for it..."

zahara "Lucent, stop." She takes his shoulder and pulls him towards her, so they are face to face. "Think about what your path is."

Lucent "To expose a friend to danger. I know. But we can handle that, if we know. If we prepare for it. If they tip their hand too early, SHE can deal with that. As Quen will if I dare him. I know he will." He looks at Zahara... "... you are not going to tell, at least?"

zahara "If you do this, I won't be able to trust you anymore."

Lucent takes that as a punch to the gut. "Zahara..."

zahara fixes him in her gaze, and says nothing.

Lucent The golden, liquid pools of his eyes waver. "I will... think about it."

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