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zahara sits alone in the highest tower of the newly-completed manse, staring aimlessly out the north-facing window. The room is lit only with the glow of flowing essence, flickering in the orange-purple-golds of the sunset, mirroring the sun outside. Reaver occasionally scuttles back and forth across the room, but she doesn't seem to notice.

Spring A few soft footsteps sound from the doorway.

zahara looks up, half-turning towards the doorway. Her voice rings out tiredly, "Yes, what is it?"

Spring "Lucent told me you might still be here."

zahara "Ah... yes. And what is it you need? More supplies for the cathedral?" She returns her gaze to the window, not recognizing the face or voice.

Spring "I need to apologize."

zahara "For what? Have you broken something?" She finally turns to look at him fully, frowning.

Spring "If I have, I trust we may be able to repair it."

Spring "Hello, Zahara. My name is Long-Awaited Spring."

zahara rises to her feet and paces over to him like a caged tiger, studying him. "Hello, Long-Awaited Spring." Her eyes focus as she looks into his. "Where did you get those?"

Spring "You gave them to me, when I was Thirteen Blooming Flowers."

Spring looks politely ahead as she examines him.

zahara "I.. you.. what?" She sputters, and turns on her heel, crossing back away from him. "Why are you here? Don't you have your own plane to rule or something?"

Spring "I will not, if the Lacuna has its way. I left to learn what can be done to face it, and I have returned to do so."

Spring "That is why I must apologize."

zahara "I don't want an apology, Thirteen... Spring... whoever you are. I just want to be left alone." She rubs her forehead. "And why should I accept one when you are here only for your own purposes?"

Spring "I have misspoken. I did not mean to suggest that I was only here to protect my plane. We must all face this danger together, as we always must. It does not threaten one of us. It threatens all Creation."

Spring "But more than that..." he struggles for the right phrase, frowning.

Spring "I came because I owe you an apology. Whether or not you accept it is of course your prerogative."

zahara lets out a breath and her tense posture slackens, "So much has changed," she murmurs to herself, then sits down again, in her chair. She waves to another one across from her. "I accept," she says abruptly, as if trying to speak before she convinces herself otherwise.

Spring bows deeply. "Thank you." He pauses, and it lengthens, before he attempts to go on awkwardly. "It is...good to see you again."

zahara bows in return, though the effect is not quite as good as she is seated. She is silent for a long time, turning to refill a goblet from a half-empty bottle and take a drink. The ghost of a smile touches her lips as she looks at him again, though her eyes are wary and something lurks in their depths. "I am not sure I can say the same, since I do not know who you have become. I shall settle for, it is good to meet you."

zahara "So, what..." she says after a moment. "Did you travel the seven seas and trade in your spear to be reborn?"

Spring "In a sense, perhaps."

zahara "Well you have not lost your penchant for clarity of speech," she says sarcastically.

Spring "As part of recovering the Sidereal Brotherhood and locating the Orrery of Darkness, I happened to visit the Cathedral of Dead Stars. I am forbidden from mentioning it to anyone who has not died previously, as only those who have are capable of visiting it. Of course, you are not so forbidden."

Spring "While there, I asked the stars how I could...how we could work together, and be companions again. They told me to visit the Wasirru."

zahara laughs, despite herself at the reason he could tell her.

Spring "I did so, and underwent an ordeal, during which I apparently faced Erevel, lost my spear, developed a new martial art, and met a rather strange version of our circle. It was this reflection of you that cast the spell that changed me."

Spring tells this story with such unusual care that its every detail is immediately apparent in Zahara's mind.

zahara 's eyes unfocus and she blinks several times as she assimilates the new information. She seems somewhat at a loss as to what to say.

Spring waits politely. He glances once at the bottle, and his fingers twitch, but he restrains himself.

zahara "So." She shakes her head, trying to focus. "You... " She stops again. "Why was I the same?"

Spring "Actually, I am not sure of that either."

zahara takes another breath and says softly, "You know I wanted to destroy you."

Spring "I did not, but I suspected."

Spring "I am sorry for inspiring that in you. I would say that I never intended to cause you pain, but to my great sadness, it would not be true. In my arrogance, I convinced myself that what I wished, in anger, was what was best for us all."

Spring "I can only apologize, and change as best I can so that it will never occur again."

zahara "Gods, it's like everyone I ever hated is coming back to haunt me," she mutters to herself. "At least there's only one of him" She thinks about that for a second, then raises her voice. "There... IS only one of you right? There's not some other ghost of you wandering around, and this is just your shard in a new body?"

Spring "If there is, I assure you I will be just as horrified as you."

zahara "Ah... well, that's something." She half-smiles, and rises again to pace the room. After several circuits she finally says, "We were friends once. Before we hurt eachother."

Spring "Yes."

Spring "I must confess I preferred it."

zahara "Yes." She continues her restless pacing. "Trust is too easily broken, and I have no charms to repair it."

Spring "It is, indeed, a fragile commodity."

Spring "You seem different as well."

Spring "How have you been? What...has happened, in my absence?"

zahara flexes her fingers absently. "I'm fine," she says shortly, pausing at the window. "Some have joined the Sunlands, some left. There are some plots to kill us. The Hundredfold declared war on the Deliberative. We fought the Second Herald."

Spring "Ah."

Spring "I shall have to peruse Birds's...that is, Phoenix's books now that I have returned."

Spring "This reminds me."

zahara "I hate those things" she sighs.

Spring starts to reach down his throat, then stops and turns away before removing a small black journal from his innards.

Spring "Do you? I find them convenient. Hopefully this one will not inspire quite the same agitation in you." He holds out the book.

Spring "I have been doing some writing myself."

zahara "entirely too accurate, is the problem." She takes the book gingerly, and looks at it.

Spring In fine golden lettering, the cover reads: "The Current Plans, Ambitions, and Intentions of Long-Awaited Spring."

Spring "I thought this might...aid us in overcoming our difficulties in understanding one another." He shifts uncomfortably. "It was merely a thought."

Spring "A plan."

zahara raises a brow. "Is this..." She flips the book open and scans the last page. "You made a plan, to... be able to work with me... us... again?"

Spring "Yes. I...suppose I did not include that in the story."

Spring "That was my goal."

Spring Neat wording appears. "Meet Zahara again, apologize, take responsibility for conflict. Discuss God-Exalts; recovery of Solar shards thereof. Investigate Birds's books. Academy of Tactics and Defense. Initiate search for Kai. Arena for martial training, entertaining populace, propaganda purposes. Dinner." It goes on and on.

zahara "I thought... that you..." she trails off again, as she folds her arms across herself, "Why would you want to work with me again?" Her voice is tight. "I am not what you are looking for."

Spring "What do you mean?"

zahara shakes her head, her hair now long enough again to fall into her eyes, to hide the reflections of her nightmares mirrored in their depths. "Nothing. Things have changed."

Spring "I have found that change is not always a bad thing."

zahara "We'll see," she replies quietly.

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