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Lucent With a beat of Agate's wings, Lucent and Zahara were in their Chayan Summer Palace! Overlooking the fiery blossoms, forewarned servants placing tables for them on flourishing balconies! "So, I needed to tell you..."

zahara looks sideways at Luc, as much as possible given their conveyance, "...yes?"

Lucent "Well, about taking you to the Wyld..." He looks down, "Sorry."

zahara "Ah, well." she looks away again, "It's fine."

Lucent "I thought you needed the release." He waits until the servants are gone to say, "I did not mean to get you so close to... that. I will be more careful next time." He nods. He would make a promise, but he is currently set on... another.

zahara smiles slightly. "I did... I do need it. It was not your fault that I was more... well. You couldn't know. Nobody knows."

Lucent "I want to." He looks at her, forlorn. "I am your friend, Zahara. I want... I need to help."

zahara sits at a table, overlooking Chaya. After a time she says, quietly, "Believe me, Lucent, you do not want to."

Lucent pours them wine, offering her a cup, "I want to. But if you do not want to tell..."

zahara takes it from him, turning the cup around in her hands before taking a sip. She sighs and says slowly, "I do not show it, but I am angry at many things. It has been building up since I lost Tevezst as an... outlet for my anger. What I got instead was this thing you call compassion, that clouds my thinking, makes me inefficient." Another sip of wine. "Makes me hurt. And regret. And hate."

Lucent "And care. Care about all the people around you. You could be doing things to help, to feel better. Create endless supplies of food from the Wyld, build hospital-Manses, put that care to good use. The hate... it would probably have been there anyway."

zahara "Caring is never enough. You should know this, you constantly strive to help people, to protect them. How can you be happy if you have to look out for everyone else?"

Lucent "Because when they are happy, so am I. When I can see that they are happy, it makes me happy, and if I helped that come about I feel... validated? It feels like the reason I am here, the reason I exist."

zahara "I cannot live my life for everyone else. I have to make decisions - hard decisions that affect nations." A flash of grimness "More or less."

Lucent gets up, picking a marigold from the bouquet on the table and bringing it to his face to feel its scent. "You do. And when you do so while thinking of the people, caring for them... those decisions are better. Brighter." He smiles, "I will support your choice, either way... but a choice made with compassion is, more often than not, a choice made for good."

zahara stares off into the distance. "Who is to say what good is? The Dynasts thought they were doing Good when they hunted our kind."

Lucent "Good is... when more people live? When no one cries? When..." He stops, his voice breaking a bit. Every word bringing memories of death, of people crying... "When the Sun's will..." He sighed, letting the Marigold fall.

Lucent "I... guess you just have to FEEL it..."

zahara "Then who am I to play at doing Good, Lucent? Who am I?"

Lucent "Zahara Zhan. The Dreambreaker. The Dreamweaver. The Empress all Suns put their faith into."

Lucent turns around, smiling again, "If you cannot do that, who can?"

zahara 's eyes glimmer with something, and then she blinks, and her expression is calm again, though she continues staring away. Her voice is heavy as she asks quietly, "Who indeed? You're looking for hope in the wrong place, my heart holds nothing but destruction."

Lucent "Yet you have saved me. Yet you have saved Cerin. Yet you love the Wolf. Yet you have broken the Ebon Dragon and saved all Creation from suffering, you have nurtured and cared for the seed that would become the greatest single Circle of Solars to ever stride upon Creation." He finishes his glasses, placing it down, close to her, "If you are destruction, Zahara, then you are the most constructive of destructions."

zahara "I can't..." her voice cracks around the edges, "I wanted to build something great, a grand empire encompassing the world. I wanted people to respect me, to support me, to believe in me and my leadership... but no matter what I do it's not enough. It's never enough." A tear breaks free and slips down her cheek, and she does not notice. "So what is left, but to tear down what I have built?"

Lucent blinks. "But... do you not see, Empress?" He waves, and the Sunlands appear in a map, shining brighter than all countries around it. The members of the deliberative appearing before the Circle, all regarding Zahara first, Thirteen leaving over his problems with her, and... a young Varanim with a young Zahara, together. "You have already suceeded. All that... you have done it."

zahara "It's not enough" she says harshly, and stands suddenly, crossing the balcony to grip the rail so hard it deforms beneath her fingers. "I expected my enemies to try to thwart my ambitions, but not my friends. The Deliberative is not mine, and never was."

Lucent "Does it have to be yours', Zahara, when they are in such awe of you? When you preside upon it in all but name?" He watches her before the sunset, still standing near the table. "Is it really that important to make it a title to control them, when you already have their loyalty?"

zahara "Loyalty is a fickle thing. And I expect everyone to turn on me."

Lucent "And if they do, you have Cerin. And me. Zahara, you have won. The entire world stands at your feet." He steps closer to her, now, putting his hands on her shoulders. Being taller worked for some things. "It is alright. You can stop fighting now."

zahara "I can't," she says, brokenly, turning to face him and finally meeting his eyes. "I don't know how."

Lucent proceeds to hold her, not saying another word.

zahara resists for a moment longer, then leans into his embrace, resting her head on his shoulder as she had done in the Wyld, silent tears splashing treacherously down.

Lucent does not let go. As in the Wyld, he is a sheltering cliff, the pillar. "Thank you." He whispers, "For everything."

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