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zahara looks up at the Summer Palace, the sunrise turning the walls to red-gold. Around them, the trees of Chaya are beginning to be covered in the green haze that signals the oncoming warm season. "Well, shall we prepare for our visitor?"

Cerin "Yes, I suppose we should," he says, his voice formal.

zahara glances over at him. "It should be interesting, at least."

Cerin "Yes, I'm sure it will," he says as they walk out into the garden selected for the tea.

zahara reaches out for Cerin's hand and squeezes it. "He'll never know what hit him." She offers him a lopsided grin

Cerin squeezes her hand back. "I'm sure he will not," he says, managing to grin alittle himself.

zahara ::I suppose we should confine any non-suspicious talk to here, hmm?

Cerin ::non-suspicious?::

zahara paces the outside of the garden, murmuring arcane-sounding things under her breath, and tracing a trail of essence around the walls. "I made sure to get some Boreal wine and some unusual tea." :: Just in case he is listening in.::

Cerin "Unusual tea?" he asks, perhaps more formally than curiously.

zahara "I don't think you will have tasted its like before." She paces to the table and looks over the place settings, rearranging them just so. "Do you think he will show?"

Cerin "I am sure he must," he says, adjusting the decorations on the table for the most harmonious essence flow.

zahara ::I am nervous.::

Cerin ::As am I, my love::

zahara walks back to the flowerbed and plucks a teal one, tucking it behind her ear.

Cerin grins and kisses her. "I wonder when he will arrive"

zahara "Fashionably late, I assume. And dressed to kill."

AkunaRavdash A light, but clearly audible, knock on the archway of the garden gate announces the presence of the guest of honor. (...)

AkunaRavdash As if to befit the onset of warmer weather, Akuna is dressed in a somewhat lighter outfit today: thin black slacks, a short-sleeved shirt of silver thread (woven into thin alternating-grain stripes) under a black vest, and a thin silver wolf's head fastener held at his throat.

AkunaRavdash His hair is more slicked-back than usual, and his hands bear only two thin silver bands for decoration, but his eyes and teeth are as vicious as ever. (...)

Cerin "As you predicted, my love. Our guest has arrived."

zahara steps forward to bow politely to Akuna on his entrance. She looks little like she had when she had enjoyed his hospitality. Her long, midnight-blue hair is pulled from her forehead into two braids that meet in the back and cascade down with the loose locks. "Welcome, General Ravdash, to my home." (...)

zahara A shining gold tiara rests on her forehead, its sunlit-lines harmonizing with the hypnotic swirl of the Orichalcum tattoos that highlight the shape of her features, and disappear into the plunging neckline of her rich black dress, which shows a midnight sheen as she moves. She wears little jewelry aside from her two rings and the excruciatingly familiar thick golden ring that circles her neck.

Cerin ::You are beautiful, my love:: "Greetings," he inclines his head. He is dressed in constrast to Zahara, in the cloth of brilliant starlight he had been wearing for the Deliberative meetings, white to the black of Zahara's dress. "Please, have a seat."

AkunaRavdash moves with unsurpassed grace to the profferred chair, and seats himself elegantly. "Thank you."

zahara "I trust you had a pleasant journey here?" She seats herself him, so that he is on her Left, and Cerin's seat to her right. ::Thank you, my love.::

Cerin seats himself to the right of Zahara, his every movement grace.

AkunaRavdash "I flew on the air, looking down upon all the world," he says. "It was indeed... pleasant."

Cerin "Good," Cerin says with a nod. "Would you like tea?"

AkunaRavdash "I would," he says. "Thank you again."

Cerin picks up the teapot and pours, first for Akuna, then for Zahara and finally for himself.

zahara Twining vines of gold leaf circle the center of the white porcelain teapot, with the handle and spout elaborately long silver thorns. Her and Cerin's delicate cups are of the gold pattern, while Akuna's is silver.

zahara nods her thanks to Cerin and cups her hands around hers for a second, feeling its warmth. "The tea is Southern, from the Bordermarches. I thought you would appreciate its unusual character."

AkunaRavdash raises his eyebrow at the cup as he looks at it. He carefully examines it for several long moments, then takes a small taste. "It is quite a blend," he says, and takes a second, slightly longer sip.

zahara sips hers a moment after Akuna's second sip, watching him closely as if to see perhaps if he is affected strangely by it. "The leaves, I am told, attempted to burrow through the fingers of the girl who picked it. In the South, blood is water, life. The ways that even plants adapt is rather fascinating." The tea has a spicy, earthy taste with just a hint of copper aftertaste. Cerin too takes a sip, after watching Akuna. "A very interesting flavour, yes."

AkunaRavdash considers the tea very closely with each sip, clearly savoring the taste, until he has finished it. "This tea teaches a lesson that I think each of us has already learned, then:" he says, placing his cup down on the saucer. "The living will do anything to survive."

Cerin "Just so," he nods

zahara glances sharply past Akuna for a second, then returns her gaze to his eyes, smiling. "Indeed they will." She sips the last of her tea lingeringly, then sets it down gently, running her thumb absently over the golden design. "And some do more than simply survive."

AkunaRavdash "Do they truly?" he says, leaning back slightly in his chair. "This is a dangerous world we live in."

zahara "Perhaps," she admits, "Some only fancy that they do."

AkunaRavdash nods and leans back slightly more, lost in thought for a moment.

zahara drops her hands to her lap beneath the table, where she fidgets with her rings. She lets the silence hang in the air.

Cerin is silent too, contemplating the essence around Akuna.

zahara Eventually, a small train of servants respectfully arrive bearing platters of honey cakes, fruits, and other light fare.

AkunaRavdash leans forward and selects a particularly delicate pastry, one decorated with sumptuous berries and drizzled lightly in honey; he sniffs it appreciatively before closing his eyes and gently placing it into his mouth. (...)

AkunaRavdash As he swallows, he opens them again, and says, "But then, its pleasures are what give meaning to that danger."

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