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Imrama There is a house in a well-appointed district of Stygia that was, until quite recently, owned by a the ghost of a minor princeling from the Southern threshold of Netheos. But he was always engaged with the monotonous affairs of his long-forgotten nation, and rarely visited his city home more than a few times in a century. So, when offered a tidy fortune in blood and plasmic coin, the ghostly...

Imrama ...royal happily sold his fashionably crumbling estate.

Imrama And now it is here, to the newly purchased Stygian embassy of the Exalted Deliberative, that Lucent and Imrama have invited a fallen ally. The two and the Shadeborn Saraya sit in an asymmetric arrangement around a small circular table with a fresh pot of bloody tea.

Lucent had, actually, just walked in, crimson-clad, somewhat silent. "Hello, Saraya."

Imrama pours tea for the guest. "I am glad for the chance to see you again. I did not think that such an opportunity would ever come."

Saraya looks strikingly different from her appearance in life: her tied-back hair now loosed, and tinged white, dangling wavily to the sides of her face; her chakrams gone, but the shape of them burned in ghostly white in the back of her hands; her itinerant's clothes traded for a loose-fitting set of pale blue and white robes...

Saraya She nods quietly to the two Solars' words.

Imrama "I hope that it is not a terrible transgression of Underworld etiquette, but I need to talk to you about something you divulged on your death bed." Imrama watches carefully for Saraya's reaction, hoping among many other things, to better understand the tact of the dead.

Lucent "Alright, stop that." Lucent said, hands falling on the table without a sound. "Yes, you have becomea Shadeborn. Yes, you are a spectre of death, chosen by Pluto, you are memory and ritual, you have seen him and been given a great task, achieved inner peace. We had that before, with each and every one of you. Cryptic and silent."

Lucent "We have been there. Trust me, I have been there more than once. But we are not here to talk cryptic prophecies with the Shadeborn, and there is no need for theatrics." He looks into her eyes... and then blossoms into a smile, sitting down, harmless, "We are here to talk to Saraya, a human, a woman, who made mistakes. And seemed to wish to atone for them. Is she home?"

Saraya grimaces. "No," she says. "There is no one human here." In responding to Imrama, she lets her face relax a little, but her voice retains much the same tone. "I am not surprised that you have come here to speak to me, certainly," she says.

Imrama smiles. "You are taking a sideways tack to this conversation, Saraya. Owing to your new state of existence, I will do my best to explore it with you." Imrama tilts his head sharply to the right. "I know from what you gave to Saraj before your death that you were involved in the theft of the Orrery of Lights. We have pieced together some of what happened, but I am here to ask you to tell me...

Imrama ...the story yourself, because there are still a great many questions surrounding it."

Lucent "Like the reason why a heroine would worship Laerad."

Lucent To the lack of humanity there... he just gave her a knowingly smile.

Imrama ::Yes, Lucent. I believe we have successfully established our respective roles as Serpent and Dove. Why don't we give it a little space to play out.::

Lucent ::Oh, I am. But what can I say, those kids annoy me.::

Saraya "It all started when we met your companions in Greyfish," she says.

Imrama ::I am with you in that, my friend. The next time that formless beings of ultimate power build a cosmos from formlessness and void, I hope that they will endow more of it with a capacity for giving straight answers.::

Imrama gives a start and raises an eyebrow, head still crooked. "That is...not when I would have expected it to start. Please go on."

Lucent ::They are just high on epiphanies. Well, the soul-switch does not help, but I am willing to wager it is mostly self-delusion. Makes things easier for many an Exalt... more so for those who are actually dead, I imagine.::

Saraya "I was more recent into my power than my circlemates," Saraya -- her other names now gone, known only in this form as "Saraya Nightriver" -- says, "and incurious; I did not know who I had been, in another life, or think it necessary to know."

Saraya "But when we met the Eastern Circle on that island... something within me stirred."

Saraya "I remembered something... terrible. Pain. Death. Blazing light."

Imrama nods in an affirming way. Just sideways. "Memories from an earlier trustee of your shard."

Saraya nods. "It all came rushing to me when I saw... him," she says, shaking her head slightly. "Cerin."

Imrama ::He has that effect on a lot of women, doesn't he?::

Saraya "At first, I wrote it off," she says, "but... in the days afterwards, my dreams were shaken. I could not sleep for being awoken by the visceral sensation of my own death, and the memory I had encountered that day told me nothing."

Saraya "I focused on it, drove myself to remember. But nothing else came back to me," she says. "Nothing except one thing: the memory of a clearing, in the forest, where strange trees grew..."

Lucent ::Indeed he does. They like the stoic, silent, deadly type, I guess.::

Imrama moves his head back into proper orientation, and his eyes widen. "Your predecessor was the Man in the Woods."

Saraya looks unblinkingly at Imrama. "Yes."

Lucent "Hmmmm."

Imrama sighs. "Well. That is...not the assumption I had been proceeding under. If there's anything more you can tell me about that man and what he did while he held the shard you used to hold, it would be appreciated. He was a significant part of a plot to destroy the world, and we haven't quite cleaned all of that up yet."

Saraya "Well," she says, lowering her head. "I eventually learned where that grove was. I journeyed there, to see what I could learn." She shakes her head. "I slept there, in that house, for three nights, and... memories... began to come to me. Some were his," she says, still looking down at the table, "and some... were mine."

Imrama is out of eyes to widen and eyebrows to raise.

Lucent 's eyes hold hers' as she casts them down. "Which were yours'?"

Saraya "...stealing things," she says. "At first, small ones, but... larger and larger, each time..." She shakes her head. "And... watering a tree."

Lucent "Was it you? Did he drive you to do that, even beyond death? Did he taint your shard?"

Saraya "I did not seek them out on my own," she says. "I did not know the Thousand-Faced Man, or plan to enter into his service."

Imrama "Do you know any of the specific objects stolen before or after the Orrery, or of the purposes associated with those thefts, or any other insight into the machinations of Qian Mian?"

Lucent ::... damn the rings. We need to tell Cerin to watch Falcon. Closely. As of yesterday.::

Saraya "There were seven things before the Orrery," she says, "and two afterwards." She shakes her head. "And I never knew anything of what the Thousand-Faced Man planed, or even remember hearing him speak," she says.

Lucent "Do you remember what were those things?"

Saraya "I can give you a list," she says, and sighs.

Lucent "Because saying it is, of course, not cryptic enough."

Lucent "No, no, strike that; if you write it up, there is less of a chance it will come in riddles."

Lucent grins as he says that, and Saraya would be hard-pressed not to chuckle; even with those words, he still FELT like an old friend. An annoyed old friend!

Imrama "Thank you for helping us to unravel a small piece of our ever-expanding mystery, Saraya Nightriver. Is there anything that we can do for you, as a sign of good faith and gratitude?"

Saraya lets the slightest hint of a smile play upon her face. "Just one thing," she says.

Lucent smles, "Yes?"

Saraya "Can you... fix a boat?"

Lucent looks at Imrama with a helpless shrug!

Imrama "It's...possible. We would most likely need to enlist the aid of Zahara. What sort of boat is it, and in what way does it need fixing?"

Saraya "It's a big boat," she says, "and it's dead."

Lucent snaps his fingers. "Varanim and Zahara." He grins. "You see, here the boys break, the girls fix. But do not tell them, they are stronger than us too."

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