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Zahara and Kai arrive in the city of Rathess as the sun is setting, casting brilliant rays of reddish light over the golden roofs and buildings of the ancient city. What they find there is a little astonishing, to Zahara at least -- some number of Dragon-Kings, dressed in clothing and walking upright, moving about the streets.

An area of several blocks seems to have been entirely cleared of rubble and plant growth, and significant restoration done to the damaged buildings nearby. All in all, Rathess finally seems to be returning to some measure of its lost glory, all thanks to the Solars' tireless assistance.

  • Cerin walks beside Zahara, looking about him, pleased at the progress the Dragon Kings have made "They seem to be doing well."
  • Zahara smiles "They certainly do. And I for one am glad to have such 'people' as allies." ::And in our debt.::

<charlequin?> As the Dragon-Kings notice the presence of the Solars, several of them gesture deferentially before continuing their work.

  • Zahara smiles and waves in an imperially friendly fashion.
  • Zahara heads for the library, sending word for Ssithumi to meet them there, if he is not otherwise engaged.
  • Kai follows quietly.

The great, ruined library stands, much as it did on previous visits to the city -- no restoration efforts have touched it yet. To Kai, however, the vast, elaborate building is a remarkable sight. A slender Dragon-King, clad in simple white robes and golden bracers and with a beautiful mane of red and gold feathers running down her back awaits the Solars' arrival.

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "Greetings, Solars. I have eagerly awaited your arrival."

<Cerin> "It is good to see you again Ssithumi, and with your people beginning to prosper once more."

  • Zahara smiles, and inclines her head respectfully. "A pleasure indeed, Ssithumi! I see you and your people have done well for yourselves. Is there anything you require of the Sunlands to assist in the recovery?"
  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep does what might be the lizard equivalent of beaming. "It is truly exciting. Never in the darkest days did I dream that I might help my city return to such prominence. This is truly a blessed time for the Dragon-Kings."
  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep nods to Zahara. "We have been well aided by your assistance in the awakening process, and the materials you have granted us for repairs. Staaklon and the others from Vesathar Valley have also aided us extensively, thanks to your introduction. Truly, I believe we need no other aid."

<Zahara> "Ahh excellent. We also have been well-aided by you, and I must request such assistance again. I am searching for information on Abbaron, Ularis, Netheos and the city Rintoko.

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> Looking at the group, Ssithumi realizes that there is one she does not know. She turns to Kai, at first with a welcoming eye and, then, momentarily, with surprise. "You are the one who was once Rosada."

  • Kai gives a half-smile. "Yes."

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "I am pleased to see that you have come to associate with such fine companions in this incarnation. Welcome to Rathess." She looks around. "Speaking of your companions, where are Birds and Markuran?"

<Cerin> "Birds is at the Labyrinth Cascade ... her new pet is being troublesome. Markuran ..." Cerin's face darkens. "The spirit that possesses Kiraith claimed him once more."

  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep looks crestfallen. "...oh. That is truly black news."

Zahara, impatient to begin her studies, slowly leads the group into the inside of the vast building, where she begins diving into the vast shelves of books, crystals, and yet more bizarre stores of information with great relish.

  • Cerin nods. "He tried to fight, but the spirit was too strong. We're not sure where he is now, even."

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "How terrible. Knowing that the evil of Kiriath was not his own doing, I had grown to like Markuran. This is truly a tragic fate to befall him."

As Ssithumi looks at Kai more closely, her eyes catch on the Daybreaker. Anyone watching closely can notice her gaze flick from that, to Cerin, to Zahara, back to Cerin, and back to the sword with a look of slight surprise.

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "I am quite surprised that you carry that blade, Kai Buckthorn. I believed it lost to history."

<Cerin> "What else do you know about it, please?"

<Kai> "I believe it's a large part of how I Exalted. Rosada's shard was in here, since Kiriath killed him with hiw own blade."

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> A single lizardy eyebrow goes up. "That is a fact I was unaware of."

<Kai> "It eluded my for a long time, too. I've recently been working some things out."

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "That blade was known to those who participated in the defense of the Realm against the newly arisen threat from the Underworld."

<Kai> "I bet. It killed both Talmuda and Rosada, and that was BEFORE he became the Forsaken Lion.

<Cerin> "So why was Talmuda's shard not trapped within?"

  • Ssithumi thinks the matter over. "This gives me cause to ponder. I had heard rumor that this blade was involved in the slaying of Talmuda, but it had seemed unlikely. The idea that Ymir was the Lion was unlikely. But you say that it was Rosada? That is a surprising turn of events, though it explains much."

<Cerin> "The blade slew Talmuda." Cerin says with sorrow in his voice.

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "May I examine the blade? I do not know of its workings."

<Kai> "Oh! Oh, I think I just understood something! Talmuda's soul goes into the sword, but not his shard for some reason. THEN Rosada's shard goes in, but not his soul, because Talmuda's is in it already. Then somehow Talmuda's soul exits, and Arexus's enters, but not his shard."

<Kai> "So, maybe there was a shard in it when Talmuda was killed."

  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep looks sadly at Cerin. "I am sorry that you must relive this tragedy."
  • Kai 's excitement melts as she looks at Cerin.
  • Cerin shakes his head "I want to understand what happened." So it doesn't happen again. He turns to Kai, the sorrow leaving his face and his voice one more "That is an interesting hypothesis Kai, I imagine a close study of the blade might be able to confirm it, or maybe Arexus will know."
  • Kai pulls the blade out. "He doesn't know too much about prior occupants. He was VERY surprised to learn it was used to kill Talmuda."
  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep ponders more and more. "Did he mention the history of the Lion?"

<Cerin> "I was surprised at that, Kai."

<Kai> "He did not."

<Kai> "I... I kind of think the Flowers kept the situation under wraps."

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "For much of the history of the Realm, they believed that the dead gods were truly dead, that they had passed beyond all ability to affect the world. It was the appearance of the First and Forsaken Lion that put the lie to that idea."

  • Cerin waits for Ssithumi-an-Tohatep to go on.

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "He was a powerful warrior, clad all in dark armor and bearing a black sword. He brought throngs of undead creatures into the world and set them against civilization. He never grew bold enough to strike in the heart of the Realm, and the Deliberative kept news of his actions quiet, but those of us who aided in the defense knew of him. They called him a Deathlord, for his connection to the Underworld."

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> but those of us who aided in the defense knew of him. They called him a Deathlord, for his connection to the Underworld."

<Cerin> "So the inscriptions on the Daybreaker were added later?"

<Kai> "But.... Rosada was the Lion. He was doing all this while on the Circle?"

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "Until you spoke to me today, I did not know that Rosada was the Lion. He had spearheaded the campaign *against* the Lion, insisting that we devote forces to counter his actions."

<Kai> "Then Kiriath slew him... And hid his seal, possibly knowing that he would return for it?"

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "The entire sequence of events makes more sense to me with this fact revealed. At the time, the Sidereals told us that Ymir had slain Talmuda with the blade, and that she had secretly been the Lion -- but that we should keep the matter quiet, to avoid outrage... but I had never believed that."

<Kai> "And they never said Kiriath was involved, or Rosada."

<Cerin> "Your faith in me is touching."

  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep makes a bittersweet smile.

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "No, not once. No such things were ever implied about Rosada. But seeing this before me, the true situation is clear to me. Rosada and Kiriath must have conspired to place blame upon Ymir; then, Kiriath betrayed Rosada."

<Cerin> "Except that Zahara remembers Ymir striking her down."

  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep is taken aback for a second. "...that is odd. Then how did Ymir come to hold the Lion's blade? And why did she kill her husband? If Rosada was secretly in the service of the Malfeans and Kiriath under possession by a foul spirit, their motives at least are clear."

<Cerin> "And I have memory of holding the blade."

<Cerin> "Though not in Talmuda's presence."

<Cerin> "Though I do not know what would make her slay Talmuda."

<Kai> "Did... Talmuda was a general. Would he have had a badge of office, like Ymir's?"

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "I do not know what would make anyone slay Talmuda."

<Cerin> "I am not aware of such, though I imagine he must have had some."

  • Cerin brightens alittle, then looks uncertain.

<Kai> "Well, clearly Ymir's were important enough for her to leave them aside for safe-keeping... And Arexus told me they had other uses, that they were the keys to the 'Tools of Governance'".

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "He wore a Deliberative pin and one from the Golden Swords....." Ssithumi thinks for a moment.

<Cerin> "I think I can explain her presence at Talmuda's death."

<Kai> "?"

<Cerin> "She was not there." Cerin says simply "To pull off the deception, to not be seen for what he was as soon as he flared ... sunlit flare, Rosada would have had to be skilled at the manipulation of his essence, enough to change his anima banner temporarily. It is a similar set of skills to the ones that would teach him how to disguise himself perfectly, so that noone could tell him from Ymir."

<Cerin> "Which is why Ymir was not wearing her badges of office when she killed him."

<Kai> "But... What about Ymir with the sword, covered in blood? And, how did her badges end up with the Sidereals?"

<Cerin> "That I am not sure about. I cannot think why she would take the Seal and not the pins anyway, unless it was to deny someone it's use. I don't know why she didn't take the sword with her to Bi'Allah either."

<Kai> "And it returned to either Kiriath or Rosada."

<Cerin> "I don't understand why she was hurt in the vision though. Zahara described no fight, merely a stabbing."

<Kai> "Well, there's still the other two solars to contend with."

<Cerin> "So I-..she stabbed her, then tried to run off with the sword?"

<Kai> "Perhaps you were being compelled somehow... You stabbed, uhm, him, came to your senses, then ran?"

<Cerin> "It is possible, I suppose. Kiraith was a powerful zenith with the aid of a Primordial God, Rosada a dawn with the help of the Malfeans."

<Cerin> "At about the time all this happened, was there any trouble with the Flowers? Reported or rumoured?"

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "None that I ever heard of. I suspected that perhaps they had been mistaken, because I could not believe that Ymir was the Lion... but I had never heard anyone impugn their integrity, nor seen any evidence of it."

  • Zee ventures back out of the stacks, slightly dusty and looking rather pleased with herself. "Who's stabbing who now?"

<Cerin> "Ah I was talking about a rather different kind of disturbance, one that resulted in Ymir covered in blood." He turns "Welcome back my love. We have been talking about Talmuda's murder."

<Cerin> "And murderer."

<Zahara> "Oh." she frowns a little. "That hurt. But not as much as the demon."

<Cerin> "I am not sure if it was Ymir who stabbed you."

  • Zee raises a brow. "Why do you say that? I remember Ymir's part in the incident quite clearly.

<Cerin> "Rosada was the first Deathlord even before he died, leading the dead against the living. To do this, and still be Rosada, still be in the First Circle, he would need to extremely skilled in disguise, both physical and metaphysical. The same skills that would let him disguise his anima would let him disguise his appearance."

  • Zee frowns, "But that doesn't explain what happened to Ymir...although I suppose neither does Talmuda's end."

<Cerin> "There is also the possibility she was compelled. Kiraith and Rosada were both powerful solars with powerful patrons." His voice drops. "Or of course, the possibility that she did of her own free will, for some reason I can't comprehend."

<Zahara> "I cannot either... I was an excellent general... and there was no sense of victory in Ymir's face."

  • Cerin falls silent for a moment, his thoughts turning over in his head.
  • Zee looks up at Cerin, concerned.

<Zahara> "what is it?" she asks quietly.

<Cerin> "If..." he starts ::If I ... Ymir wasn't me, obviously, but if it were me and you ... that's what I'd look like, if I had too ... ::

  • Zee just nods.

<Cerin> ::It couldn't be a trimuph, nothing that involved that could be.::

<Zahara> ::But perhaps Rosada knew that, and made sure not to show it.::

<Cerin> ::Perhaps. I don't know.:: he sighs softly ::I'm not sure I will until I remember the other end of the sword.::

<Zahara> ::Well you made up for it in this lifetime by giving my life back.:: she kisses his cheek.

  • Cerin 's mind uncoils somewhat at the thoughts and the kiss, relaxing next to her
  • Kai socks Cerin in the arm. "Stop being all dopey and telepathic, there's other people in the room, you know. Besides, past is past. We shouldn't dwell, but we NEED to understand."
  • Zee glares at Kai for interrupting her 'moment'

<Zee?> "I can deactivate that ring, you know."

<Kai> "I can still tell when you're doing it. You make a face."

<Cerin> "Those thoughts were not for you, Kai." Cerin says quietly, and without apology

<Zahara> "I think it's time to discuss my research." she says, abruptly changing the subject.

  • Ssithumi is happy to escape the awkwardness. "Yes, Zahara, what have you learned in our vast library? Was the information you sought here?"

<Zahara> "I believe so, but if you know more about any of it, feel free to share." She retreats a little ways into the stacks and returns with several books, and a crystal.

  • Ssithumi is increasingly curious about all this, after learning these new details today.
  • Zee opens first an old, leather-bound tome to a page she has bookmarked with a silk ribbon. On the left is an engraving of a strong, heroic looking man in an epic battle with what looks like a small army, surrounded by a glow of light. Beneath it is captioned, "Ularis, hero of the Dawn Caste fights in the War"
  • Cerin listens, curious
  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep is intrigued.

<Zahara> "This is Ularis. I believed he served under me in the War. The text sings his praise very highly. It speaks of the many raids he carried out against the hundredfold cities, and the many risks he took in search of adventure and, presumably, fame.

  • Zee flips a page, to where Ularis is pictured with a beautiful girl on his arm, dancing. "He was also, it appears, famed for his dancing skill. Flexibility and strength have their advantages."
  • Zee flips a few more pages of paeans to the wonderfulness of Ularis before tapping on the last paragraph of the entry. "But someone must have disliked him, for he was slain under mysterious circumstances sometime after the war - likely Rosada's work, from what we've discovered. The mystery was never solved."

<Cerin> "That is what the side of the Daybreaker says 'Forged from Abarrons' bones'"

<Zahara> "Exactly. One wonders if it is his spirit as well."

<Zahara> "Hmmm yes, that brings us to Abarron. A Primordial" *she switches books smoothly, running her fingers down the edges of the pages til she picks out the one that speaks of him. "Of terrible deeds."

<Zahara> "Particularly fond of creating hmmm 'fierce Behemoths and horrific creatures' and setting them upon the unwashed masses of humanity. Didn't care for people at all. He was dedicated to wildness and rage."

  • Ssithumi-an-Tohatep looks at the page Zahara indicates. "He was slain in the war. He has become a Malfean."
  • Zee flips to an illustrated
  • Zee flips to an illustrated page, in bright golds and blacks. "Yes, by a circle of Solars, who were also slain in the attempt."

<Zahara> "So. A good candidate for string-pulling."

  • Cerin nods

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> "Most interesting. What of the other matters you mentioned, the Evening's Vengeful Blade and Rintoko?"

<{{the Evening's Vengeful Blade and Rintoko?}}> "As far as Evening's Vengeful Blade..." *she switches books again, this time laying out several* "The clues here, and here pointed to this one, and here, you can see how it ties to this... when you take it all together with this," she taps a small symbol - that of the Shadows Resplendant, a Night Caste symbol with a dagger through it - "you can see that it was actually a very rare sobriquet for the head of the Shadows Resplendant." she looks particularly pleased with herself at that.

<Ssithumi-an-Tohatep?> The symbol indicated precisely matches the missing pin from Ymir's lapel.

<Cerin> "Ah." He smiles a little to himself. "Thank you, love."

<Zahara> "You're quite welcome, dearheart." she smiles, then brings out the crystal.

<Zahara> "This, is Rintoko." She activates it and steps back a bit, as the bright glow springs up from the crystalline artifact and resolves into a perfect, 3-D map of Rintoko, which rotates gently as they examine it. Rintoko itself is a city of spun glass hidden away in an enormous cavern. It seems to hang suspended, but when one looks closely one can see the threads of glass bridges that connect it to the earth.

<Cerin> "Impressive."

  • Zee touches the crystal, twisting it slightly, and then a soothing voice fills the room. "Welcome to beautiful Rintoko, The Hidden City of Glass. Built approximately 700 years into the Great Solar Deliberative, it was the city built the furthest underground into Creation's depths, in the famous Underways." the voice continues on a bit in a light tour of the city's basic history.
  • Cerin smiles at Zahara, delighted.
  • Zee grins

<Zahara> "There's a bit more, in a text.. there were rumors of something strange living beneath the city, monsters showing up occasionally, and numerous earthquakes, but that was generally attributed to people being un-used to living so deeply underground. For some reason," she ads wryly, "That didn't make it into the official tour."

<Cerin> "Curious, that."

Tags: (:tags Rathess, Dragon-Kings, Ssithumi, Staaklon, Vesathar Valley, Kiriath, Daybreaker, First and Forsaken Lion, Talmuda, Rosada, Sidereals, Deathlords, Dawn Caste Seal, Badges of Office, Bi'allah, Ularis, Primordials, Abbaron, Evening's Vengeful Blade, Shadows Resplendent, Rintoko, Underways :)

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