Zahara "So." she says to Thirteen, "It is the Seventh Day."
Thirteen "Indeed." Thirteen's pen does not pause in its constant motion over the paper.
Zahara "As you have not yet betrayed us, and indeed Cerin tells me you do not intend to do so, I formally remove your requirement to wear the collar which you so despise."
Thirteen pauses now. "A noble gesture. I thank you."
Thirteen "Having engaged in further investigation, I have discovered that these collars may serve more than one purpose. It seems they can be used to transfer Essence between allies, that they may more effectively combat their foes."
Thirteen smiles crookedly as he says this.
Zahara raises a brow, "That is indeed their secondary purpose, and in times of peace, their primary. I am impressed that you discovered it, and deem it a worthwhile use."
Thirteen "I am not likely to disregard a tool so useful to our purposes. The manipulation and preservation of Essence is a paramount concern in any conflict between beings of our stature, as I am sure you realize."
Zahara "Of course. I can think of many situations in which such a transfer would be beneficial."
Thirteen "Two compatriots, with a powerful trust in each other, might greatly multiply their effectiveness in this manner."
Thirteen "I have considered much on this in the past few days."
Zahara smiles slightly
Thirteen "I have a proposal to offer you."
Zahara "Please, then, make your offer."
Birds tiptoes in behind Zahara, elaborately unnoticed.
Thirteen "Zahara Zhan, I wish to make an oath of brotherhood with you. Each of us masters capabilities the other lacks. Standing together, I assert that we are many times greater than apart."
Thirteen "Regardless of your acceptance of this offer, I am willing to retain my collar, or remove it, as you see fit."
Kai , walking past the door at that precise moment, comes to an abrupt halt and stares at the scene.
Lucent Copper "Did she brainwash thirteen already? Tell me you also got rid of his poor manners." Lucent says, walking in... and not at his most serious, this morning.
Thirteen "Comb your hair, Lucent. Your troops will not respect you if you do not properly care for your appearance."
Zahara contemplates this for several moments, turning it over in her mind. Then, gravely, she speaks. "I will take that oath, as you are correct; we will do much more good together, than apart. I would have you as a friend, then, and brother in arms. As for the collar, I will set it so that you may take it off at will. For now, perhaps, it is best to keep both yours and mine on."
Zahara glances over at Luc, "And, we'll work on the manners."
Cerin "Kai, you should not gawp." Cerin says quitely behind her.
Kai "And YOU should not sneak up on innocent girls." She says, stepping further into the room.
Kai "It's creepy."
Thirteen stands, carefully placing his pen on the table. He lightly takes Zahara's hand, saying "Please, accompany me briefly," and opens the door to the courtyard.
Birds "Yeah, really," says Birds from behind Zee.
Lucent Copper moves his eyes up... "I prefer them like that, Thirteen. And I spent a long time to get them like that, I will have you know! Think it is easy to care for yourself in the desert?"
Birds "Sneaking up on people is so -gauche-."
Thirteen digs a small hole with his foot, and kneels, removing a seed from a tiny pocket in his robes.
Cerin "My apologies, Kai." Cerin says easily, following Zahara and Thirteen outside
Thirteen puts his hand next to Zahara's, cupping them together over the hole. The seed rests in the palms of their hands.
Thirteen "I, Thirteen Blooming Flowers, swear eternal brotherhood to the inestimable Zahara Zhan, Dreambreaker and Empress of the Sunlands. Together we shall live, together we shall fight, and if necessary, together we shall die. To these truths I commend my arm and my heart."
Birds mutters something about needing to water the kitchen garden, and sends for an amphora of water.
Lucent Copper watches the ceremony... enjoying it. He loved a ceremonial treatment of life. He loved it when people took such vows, and upheld them on their virtue. He had more respect for them by the minute... and on moments like that, he truly felt he fit. And yet... some things had to be said. "Cerin, who is he and what did he do with Thirteen?"
Cerin watches the ceremony with interest. If she dies, you had best die with her after swearing this oath, Thirteen. If you betray her, all of the world will not be enough to hide you from me. And then luc asks his question, and he grins softly "I'm not quite sure." he says quietly
Lucent Copper Even as he said so, however, his fingers made a symbol in the old realm, and a silent prayer. 'Oh Unconquered, made the seed grow. Oversee their oath, and give them strength, let them grow with it.' The gem in his wrist shone for a moment - not a promise for it to oversee, but the essence felt sensitive to them nonetheless.
Zahara "I, Zahara Zhan, Dreambreaker and Empress to the Sunlands do solemnly accept this oath, and swear in turn to you, Thirteen Blooming Flowers, once traveller from afar, now General of the Sunlands, that I will uphold this oath with all my being. Together we shall live, together we shall fight, and, if necessary, together, we shall die." She bows solemnly over their hands.
Thirteen and Zahara turn over their hands together, and the seed falls into the hole. They pat the ground smooth.
Thirteen "Now then."
Thirteen "I have much work to do if I am to ensure this plan succeeds. Do any of you require anything further of me?"
Zahara stands. "I require you to do your job as Commander." she says with a smile, "And continue on with your work."
Thirteen "Of course, Zahara."
charlequin One week later....
Zahara oversees the building of the Summer Palace, ensuring that 'the workers' do not deviate from their instructions, and doing the intricate carvings herself.
charlequin The demons summoned by Zahara gleefully weave their strange materials into elaborate spiralling shapes at her command, giggling in unsettling voices all the while.
Zahara makes it look quite similar to her favorite palace from Yu Shan, in fact.
Birds has set up an arrangement of lines from which many banners hang. Using spears with their tassels turned around as paintbrushes, she slings many-colored ink onto them to form illuminated poems celebrating the beauty of the flowers of the season.
Kai watches Birds work, strumming her mandolin and singing the poems as they come into being.
charlequin In the colder seasons, Chaya is a quiet, conservative place. Citizens move quickly from place to place in heavy clothes, rarely stopping to talk with one another. Few decorations are obviously visible besides those hung on the new palace.
Birds considers doing a bit of fresco work, then notes the unsettling puppeteers, who occasionally build a tower and immediately disassemble it, dissatisfied. No, not worth it.
Thirteen sits on a stone block, listening carefully to the muttered comments of the watching townspeople, scribbling minute adjustments to the order of events as he does so. For example, it will clearly be necessary to include lemonade on the free refreshment table.
Cerin is there too, though no one sees him, or the group of DB who work with him. The group works to remove from the crowd those agents that would seek to spoil the festivities, while leaving the nessesary agents in place to talk back to their respective leaders about what the Sunlands need them to know.
Lucent Copper prepares his people for war. And himself. They know what they will go to Chaya - they know many might die. And yet, they know they will be there to uphold the greatness of their Gods... as they arrive on Chaya, they are as their honor guard - their every movement showing pride and power of the Sun-Chosen. Amika is still not there with him - there is no need for that much.
Zahara circles the castle, midair, her skirts decorously placed to avoid giving those below more of a show than she wishes.
charlequin The preparations for the master plan seem to be going well. A long day's work on building the "vacation palace" proves quite successful. As Zahara has -- as always -- planned carefully ahead, a single wing of the palace is fully built by evening, providing the Solars a perfect and well-furnished place to spend the night.
charlequin In the one thus-far completed banquet hall, a set of golden waiter automata bring plates of food to the famished Solars.
Zahara "Ahh, I could eat a horse...but only if Birds prepared it."
Thirteen eats his first plate of food in thirty seconds, then settles down over a second one.
Birds gobbles tiger steaks while reading over her annotations for tomorrow's poetry, checking that the Old Realm commentary hidden in the illustrations isn't too obvious.
Lucent Copper is now in an extravagant southern robe, made for a king indeed - light, fine cuts, and an ammount of gems that is almost a burden. He picks at the food lazily. "Nice work here, Zahara!"
Zahara eats at a more measured pace than the others, as always, completely decorous. She does not even talk with her mouth full, and waits until she finishes chewing and places her fork back on the table to say, "Thank you, Lucent. I heard you were well-recieved by the people of Chaya, today."
Cerin "Thirteen, I seem to remember you ingesting some diaries sometime ago that belonged to a star-chosen. Have you been able to discipher what they say yet?"
Thirteen "Oh yes."
Birds "Oh? Do tell."
Lucent Copper "The Kashaen put up a show. And, well... I can be majestic when I want to be!" He did so, when he came. Glorious. Shining. Showing them the enemy - a young and harmless boy, more beautiful than anything they had ever seen, glorious like the sun. "It was fun."
Lucent Copper ".. Sidereal diaries? Oh yes, do tell!"
Thirteen "Deciphering the text was not necessary -- I understood the language, of course. I merely have been engrossed with my plans, and judged them interesting but not immediately vital."
Birds listens intently to Thirteen, but watches Luc while doing so. He's very easy on the eyes, that one."
Thirteen "Here is my translation." He turns away from the table, retches, and hands a slim scroll to Birds-of-Trinity. "Perhaps you could provide the others who are interested with copies."
Birds takes the scroll and some of the special "no ink" paper that she has been developing. She stacks several sheets, and scrawls out a copy with a shard of tiger bone, her hand blurring with gold. "Done." She hands them out.
Cerin reads over the page with interest.
Zahara wipes her fingers and takes a copy, reading it over
Lucent Copper notices Birds' attention... and blushes. It was different than earlier. The Chayan girls would even faint, but he was used to that... he picks his copy, however, mumbling a question on why they had to act so segregated those days.
Thirteen "Obviously, our paramount concern is where the Sidereal went with the Twilight Seal."
Thirteen "The obvious suggestion is that he went to Wasirru. This is precisely why I distrust it." Birds "What do you mean by that?"
Thirteen "Sidereals are many things, but few are unsubtle. He was well aware that, after him, the eyes most likely to see his writing would belong to a Solar."
Cerin "Unless, of course, he wished to go for the double bluff. We cannot judge without knowing more of him."
Thirteen "This is certainly the case."
Thirteen "It would also certainly be helpful to discover whether that skeleton was the skeleton of the writer, and, whether or not it was, how the bearer of the diary came to be where we found him."
Thirteen "I am sure you are the best person to discover this, Cerin, although I wish to accompany you if you investigate these matters personally."
Zahara "We have other matters to attend to on Wassiranu, actually, so even if it comes to nothing, we can still make it a worthwhile trip.
Thirteen slows in his eating for a few moments.
Thirteen "Immediately following the assault on Gem, it will be advisable to spend a brief period taking no direct aggressive action. I had planned to use this period to pursue the Seals."
Thirteen "Perhaps this is one way we might do so."
Zahara "That should work well."
Cerin nods. "I will consider such things."
Thirteen "...Thank you."
Birds finishes reading the diary.
Birds "By 'no aggressive actions,' do you mean what I think you mean?"
Thirteen "That is difficult to say."
Birds "I had wanted to test out a new Charm on some necks, but it seems that you're suggesting we rein in the bloodlust."
Thirteen "Well. We will have plenty of opportunity for bloodshed during our attack on the blossoms, Haslanti, and Gem."
Birds "Oh, that's true."
Birds "I'm simply reluctant to experiment, you know, when there are -plans- on the line.'
Zahara "I'm sure there will be a few leftovers."
Thirteen "You are an artist, Birds-of-Trinity. I expect nothing less than spontaneity from you."
Tags: (:tags Chaya, Kashaen, Sidereals, Twilight Caste Seal, Wasirru, Summer Palace :)