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stryck eyes him with the air of one who knows what he will say, but is simply confirming her knowledge.

Lytek "The shattering," he says.

Zahara "I have always wanted to get a God's perspective on what happened then..."

Imrama "Please elaborate. The fate of all the worlds most likely depends on it."

Lytek shakes his head sadly. "I suppose mortals probably don't... think much of it at all, but it was a big deal here," he says.

Lytek "My portfolio had just gotten back to stability," he says, "and things had been running steadily up here in our new digs for... well, I suppose for a few thousand years," he says.

Lytek "But I could tell that something was wrong. With..." He gestures a little nervously towards the gathered Solars. "The shards. They weren't coming back," he says, "and I didn't know why. This is... before I realized about the... problem," he says, referring to the dysfunction that brought the Solars in here today in the first place.

Zahara "Of course," she says encouragingly

Lytek "I was working on it for some time, but the environment was difficult. Things were... tense, here in Heaven, as the Gods watched what was happening in the Deliberative with worry -- and with conflicting investments in the outcome."

Lytek "I figured it out, eventually, but before I could do anything about it... some kind of news came back to the Dome. Something big, something bad." He shudders.

Lytek "There was a week of complete silence out of the Dome," he says, "just after the War Between the Exalts ended... and then, the war between the Incarna began."

Zahara nods solemnly, hiding her shock at the revelation. "And then what happened?"

Colapso Unlike his companion, Lucent was not a subtle sort, but the sort you could spot from a mile away. In a flare of gold and crystal and brass he made that literal as the Primordial Armor appeared on him in Yu-Shan, the doors to the office slamming open while he was still away! "We have trouble!"

Varanim Varanim, who has been sitting very still, slants her eyes over to the door and raises her brows.

Lytek looks up and reflexively throws his hands back in alarm, extremely startled by the interruption.

Kraken There is a footstep and then there is a voice "And thus, the universe is in balance," Cerin remarks with a grin after appearing next to Zahara, kissing her cheek.

Zahara "Lucent! We were in the middle of a very informative discussion, please do not interrupt!" She smiles wryly at Cerin, taking his hand in hers.

Imrama throws back his coat, as if to ready his guns. "Precisely what sort of trouble?"

Lucent looks at Imrama... and his furious mien from a moment before subsides, and he looks away to Zahara... and then to Lytek, taking a grave bow, all stars in the night of his cape shining brighter "Lytek, God of Exaltation! It is a great honor to meet you at long last. Please continue!"

Imrama ::That was considerate of you, Lucent. But perhaps you would like to fill us in on what caused you to flip out to the degree that donning your Malfean armor in Yu-Shan struck you as a prudent move?::

Lytek "To clear the decks," he says, "to... 'keep things in their proper place'..." He gets an oddly pained look, as if remembering an unpleasant experience from the distant past that still irks more than it should, "...the very first thing that happened was that all of my charges were barred from Heaven."

Zahara ::A fantastic question, and I apologize for snapping at you. ::

Lucent widens his eyes as Imrama speaks, and nods. ::In a moment. When there are no distractions.::

Lucent "You mean when all Exalts were barred from Heaven?" He asks before his friends can enquire further

Lytek nods. "And as soon as they were gone... then the war began in earnest. Battles raged across heaven, day and night. No Carnival was held, as long as the war continued. Gods slew each other and came back the next day to slay or be slain again."

Lucent "... wait, what?"

Lytek "It was... bad." He shudders again.

Lucent "There was a war in heaven?"

Lucent has wider eyes now, if that was possible

Lytek "Yes. For the Gods did not take kindly to their champions turning on one another, and the realization of their own vulnerability -- how they, like our Creators before us, could be upstaged and cast down -- had settled in." He looks around. "We... don't usually like to tell people about it, really."

Varanim "Still waiting for the part where you never fixed the shards."

Imrama "I am disappointed, but sadly unsurprised. Tell me, Lytek: what were the factions in this conflict, and how did it end?"

Lytek "Oh," he says to Varanim's "question." "That part comes later." He looks over to Imrama. "I gather that it began with the Sun and Mars at each other's throats over the battle between their Chosen, but over its course the sides shifted many times, both amongst the Incarna and especially amongst those Celestial gods pledged to their service."

Spring "Why assume that it has ended?" Spring's voice comes from the door as he walks in, with an air of triumph but an exhausted slowness to his step. Those who look may notice that his left little finger is giving off a malignant black glow.

Lytek "At least once in the course of it, all seven of the living Incarna each stood on their own, with none willing to extend a hand of friendship to their fellow." He is growing increasingly nervous as he tells the story, and Spring's arrival makes him jump yet higher than Lucent's.

Zahara "Don't worry, I think we've run out of circlemates to barge in on the conversation."

Varanim raises an eyebrow at Spring's finger, giving him a clear we'll talk look, then returns her attention to Lytek.

Lucent ::And I thought this God the most august cornerstone of human freedom.::

Cerin studies the black motes carefully as he listens to what Lytek is saying.

Zahara suddenly wonders whether Phoenix or Markuran the Raven are going to show up.

Lytek "The fighting itself was finally ended after Jupiter spoke to Gaia and told her something that caused her to intervene, though the nature of the resolution is a mystery to everyone in Heaven... after she spoke, the Incarna stopped fighting entirely, and withdrew back within the Dome."

Spring ::I am not sure a god can be such. I believed that was our responsibility.::

Lucent ::And this is the God of Us Existing. Hence.::

Lytek "The... way the rest of us have to do business has been different since, though. The Incarna are... far less forthcoming. And for me... that is... particularly difficult. Especially since when I came to them about the trouble with the Solar shards, I was shut out, told not to bother them again -- and then watched like a hawk for centuries afterwards."

Lytek "So to answer your question and those implicitly surrounding it," he says to Varanim again, "I never resolved the Solar difficulty myself, even when I learned what caused it; I never spoke to anyone when I discovered the taint upon all the shards; and I still think it is important that we keep our voices down."

Varanim Varanim's eyes narrow. "Who was responsible for shutting you out?"

Imrama okay: http:/features.csmonitor.comwp-contentthemescsm/popup.php?headline=Obama%26%238217%3Bs+new+limo+-+ugly+but+it+can+fend+off+asteroids&subhead=&graphic=http%3A%2F%2Ffeatures.csmonitor.com%2Fpolitics%2Fwp-content%2Fassets%2F19%2F744%2Fgraphic0.jpg I want one

Lytek "The Incarna's messengers told me, and the Swords made sure it was enforced."

Varanim "Back to that in a second. What caused the shard problem?"

Spring ::Perhaps you could fill me in on the details, Varanim?::

Varanim ::He's known about the problem for ages, said he was stopped from fixing it by the god war. Minus excuses, those are the key bits.::

Zahara "At the end of the War, what were the standing factions?"

Lytek "The Solar shards were bound outside of my reach by the Deliberative seals," he says, "something rather quite a bit more powerful than I could do anything about. As for the end of the war..."

Lytek "I believe Luna had just betrayed the Sun to Saturn, with Mercury and Mars on the Sun's side and Venus on Saturn's, and Jupiter stood aside. I... I think."

Varanim "If you weren't worried about permission or forgiveness, where would you go next to fix the taint on the shards?"

Lucent sighs

Lytek throws up his hands in despair. "I have no idea!" he says. "I barely know more about it than I did when I discovered it. Whatever lies at the heart of the problem, you can't find it by looking at the shards."

Varanim "Yes, I heard you the first time you said that. And that's good enough for you?"

Imrama "You said that you'd figured out how to undo the binding of the Solar Shards, but were prevented from pursuing it. But then the shards were released - do you know anything about those circumstances?"

Lucent "So you can look." The stars shine on his cape.

Lytek "Of course not," he says, angrily to Varanim's question, "but there is only so much I've been able to accomplish while making sure you don't die and get reborn into a toad."

Lytek He turns to Imrama. "I know that they were released when the Zenith seal was brought to Netheos, and I know that it was brought there when the Malfeans and Yozis were ready to catch them." He screws up his face in pain, and looks almost as if he's about to cry.

Spring "Calm yourself."

Spring "We are here to help."

Zahara helpfully offers him some Sunlit Ale

Imrama places a steady, calming hand on Lytek's shoulder. "Thank you for sharing your ample knowledge with us, great Daimyo. As Wei Dan-twice removed has said, you do not need to worry. We are the ones you've been waiting for."

Lytek takes the beer and looks at it oddly for a moment.

Lucent "We are here to purge this curse from our souls, to reassemble the golden shards and to bring peace to Heaven." He steps foward, "But we cannot do that while we remain ignorant of the world around us and those who manipulate our feelings and bring suffering to our people! Lytek, God of Exaltation, I need your Eyes!"

Lytek "Ah. Hmmm. Hrrrrrrm." He hems and haws for a moment, makes a decision, drinks down Zahara's offered ale, and then hems and haws again.

Spring "We do not expect you to risk yourself. If there is danger to you, we will do what we can to protect you."

Varanim Starting to say something else, Varanim stops and blinks when Lucent asks for Lytek's eyes.

Lytek After a long thought, he seems to make another decision. "If it's going to solve this problem," he says, "then... I think I need to help you... to help myself." He pauses again, to make sure that what he just said makes sense, and then nods with finality. "Take this," he says to Lucent, understanding the nature of his request, and hands him a small, perfectly rounded topaz.

Zahara refills his glass

Lucent speaks a long-dead prayer to Lytek, the cabinet shining brighter under a layer of ambrosia, Ambrosia-shaped shards appearing all around him. And then Lucent whispers too low for others to hear, for Lytek's ears only. "Understand? She has hurt him and us. We must find her." He takes the Topaz.the Ambrosia-Shards falling on his hand right after.

Lytek pauses, then nods, looking slightly graver than before.

Cerin "Perhaps you would like to elucidate a little on the certainty of the gender you mentioned, Lucent."

Zahara blinks at Cerin, raising a brow questioningly

Cerin indicates that Lucent will be explaining.

Spring raises an eyebrow to show his doubt of that.

Lucent looks at them all. "We have all sworn revenge on Aurora District. You most of all, Celestial Admiral." Lucent turns to Imrama. "You could see all their names. You know the names of every single person the Sidereal has murdered on a plan we know could not even harm us. We swore to avenge them. We just needed a name."

Lucent walks up to Imrama, placing a hand on his shoulder sympathetically. "The name is Remembrance of Seven Tears."

Cerin "Ah," Cerin says, as he considers this peice of information.

Varanim "Who?"

Zahara "mmmm."

Spring "Hm."

Imrama closes his eyes and pitches forward a bit, resting some of his weight on Lucent. After a moment he raises his head up again and looks sadly at Varanim. "When my shard wore the name Askaru, we were married."

Lucent hardens his skin, making it turn to adamant. A diamond nail touches the middles of the topaz like a drill, breaking it into two jagged shards at the tips of Lucent's fingers. "Indeed. And we will find her. No Sidereal will escape from us." He dives those fingers - shard-first - into his eyes, heaving back, stiffling a scream. "Ever... again."

Zahara watches this process with interest and a little - well, shock isn't the right word for it, but generally she hasn't seen people put out their own eyes without some rather lengthy encouragement.

Spring has put out his own eyes a few times previously and watches mostly with professional interest.

Varanim looks evenly at Lucent and Imrama for a moment, then stands and walks over to lean against Lytek's chair. "There are at least two interesting questions here. The first--what's the next lead on fixing the shards--you've already punted. The second is, who are you afraid will hear you?"

Lytek gulps and swallows.

Imrama pushes himself back up to his full height, one hand extended against the shoulder of Lucent's unmovable form. He looks deeply into his friend's golden eyes, and thinks to him alone, ::I appreciate your spirit, Lucent, and I understand where it comes from. But this is about my ex-wife, not your ex-girlfriend.::

Lucent ::I know. But I am tired of seeing them preying on my Circle's feelings. All of them.::

Lucent ::We are not going to hurt her, if you do not want her hurt. But they are not going to run around sniping at us anymore.::

Imrama ::That is sweet of you to say. But I am neither so selfish, nor so foolish, dear Lucent, as to hope that she can escape now with any fate better than death.:: Imrama kisses Lucents forehead and turns back towards the rest of the group.

Lucent "Imrama..."

Varanim Varanim's eyes glitter. "Answer as quietly as you like," she says softly, as she leans companionably against Lytek's chair and watches the body language across the room. "But you will tell me." In that moment, with the full force of her will on him, it is an inevitable rule of the universe that he do so.

Lytek Lytek swallows again as the forces of ancient rules, long fallow and just recently restored, clamp down upon him like iron. "...the Sun," he says. "I don't want the Sun to know!" he says, and then, realizing how he's been forced to reveal it, he begins nervously weeping.

Imrama rests his left hand on his gunbelt, with a grim and steely look of resolve. "I propose that our next line of inquiry should be Tara Zhan. Your family's ancient history seems to be wrapped up in all this somehow, Zahara. I believe we should take our questions to your frozen ancestor."

Zahara nods slowly. "I suppose it is time for that."

Lucent nods a little after Zahara, feeling quite blind. There is weeping somewhere?

Varanim "Thanks," Varanim says to Lytek. "I'll be in touch." She pats him on the shoulder, and leaves something small and nut-shaped in a fold of his garment to be found later.

Varanim Then she rises, and crosses to the unseeing Lucent, touching his arm briefly with her left hand so he'll know she's there.

Lucent smiles. "Was there someone crying?"

Varanim shrugs. "Not for long, if he's got any sense."

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