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Zahara sits serenely in the War Room, awaiting the others. Only the thin line of her lips betrays any tension at all.

Kai enters, with Mishkin on her shoulder.

Kai "Oh, are we early?"

Zahara "Good afternoon, Kai. How is your sorcerous monkey today?"

Kai "Well, he's healing up pretty well... But I definitely need to clean up a bit of the north corridor, I'm afraid it's a little... Uhm, in need of cleaning now.

Zahara "...What did you do?" her voice holds mild disapproval.

Kai "Well, he seems to have gotten into an ink pot somewhere... There's rather a lot of paw prints, and what like a couple of rudimentary lewd drawings."

Zahara "Did you spank him?"

Kai pretends not to hear that. "acutally, I'm glad you're the first one here, I need to ask you something."

Zahara "About what?"

Kai "Well, I was hoping you could make something for me."

Zahara "Go on..."

Kai "It seems like this old breastplate," she indicates the battered armor she's been wearing since she arrived, "is a little worse for wear, and not exactly the most impressive of sights in the forst place..."

Zahara "Aha, of course. Would you like it to do anything interesting?"

Zahara "Actually, have you considered cloth of emotion? Love is strongest, but hatred and vengeance are nice as well."

Kai "Well, your imagination is better than mine... Mostly I should like to avoid being crushed, smashed, or skewered..."

Kai "A what?"

Zahara lifts her skirt to show a second one beneath. It shimmers and shifts, seeming to embody the concept of love itself. "Cerin and I wear Cloth of True Love. It's lovely in itself, but it is also light enough to disguise by wearing beneath your clothing. Stronger than that by at least thrice." She indicates the dinged up breastplate.

Kai smiles. "I was think something a little more... traditional." She produced a piece of paper with some rough sketches on it. Kai's drawings indicate a durable but fairly light suit of mail, with a breastplate. The back of the armor features a large Sunlands insignia. There is a lion motif found in several places--the shoulders, knees, gauntlets, notably. And there is a blank space in the center of the chest, where it looks like something is intended to be placed.

Cerin quietly opens the door to the War Room, walking over to Zahara and Kai "Good Afternoon."

Kai nods to Cerin as he enters.

Zahara looks up at Cerin, taking his hand and brushing her lips against it in greeting. "Hello, my Love." she flattens the piece of paper and tilts her head to one side. "What goes in the center?"

Kai smiles. "The Dawn Seal."

Zahara raises a brow, "I see. And you plan to get this seal how?"

Thirteen "On that subject," he says as he abruptly enters, glowing like a bornfire, "we should engage in discourse."

Kai "Well, I assume we'll get it eventually. You can make a slot for it using Cerin's."

Thirteen "I have been doing some planning, given the new information we have. Our primary focus is clear -- we must determine the locations of the four missing Seals, with especial attention to finding out how many the Lily possesses."

Zahara "Ahh. Flowers. Have a seat." She gestures to an unmarked chair.

Thirteen "Thank you, Zahara." He sits.

Zahara "An excellent plan. How do you hope to accomplish this?"

Thirteen "Careful investigation. Luckily, as it happens, we have a matchless investigator on our side." He places a hand briefly on Cerin's arm. "Cerin can easily determine where to begin looking."

Cerin raises a single eyebrow at this. Just how much did Thirteen know about them "Of course."

Zahara "I see. So your grand plan is to make Cerin find everything out?"

Kai "I like it. When does he start?"

Thirteen "Would you prefer I do all the work myself? It would be foolish to duplicate resources you already possess."

Zahara "No, I simply expected there to be more to this plan of yours."

Thirteen "There is."

Zahara "Then do go on." she smiles slightly.

Thirteen "This is the first step. Before we can properly prioritize our strike against the Lily, we must gather information. I believe I have noted that it is essential to a tactician's work."

Zahara "I merely ask for a preview of what comes next."

Thirteen "Research. We have access many intriguing wells of information that we have not plumbed. Some, even, belong to an organization known to be interested in the Seals. Perhaps we should have a talk with Seven Leaping Herons."

Thirteen "If you wish valiant action, I cannot yet oblige you. My battle plan necessitates the presence of Birds-of-Trinity."

Zahara "I see. I must admit I am surprised you know about Herons."

Thirteen "Cerin mentioned him to me, in passing."

Thirteen "Since then I have had a chance to peruse Birds-of-Trinity's most interesting library."

Zahara "I assume you do not speak of The Recipe Vault."

Thirteen pauses. "I, too, assume this."

Cerin "..Excuse me." ::Please let me know what happens:: He starts to follow the intuition.

Zahara ::Of course. I'll keep the line open so you can listen.::

Thirteen "I speak of the books in her quarters. They detail her adventures, and the knowledge she has gleaned of the First Age and what happened there."

charlequin Cerin finds himself on the outskirts of the Cascade, his path leading almost directly southeast.

Cerin frowns into the distance, and then returns to the war room.

Thirteen "Ah, Cerin. What is your conclusion?"

Cerin "The southeast."

Thirteen stands. "Then shall we proceed?"

Zahara "How far?"

Cerin "I could not say. Nowhere I could see."

Zahara "Would you be able to tell as we drew closer?"

Cerin "Of course."

Zahara "Then we shall indeed proceed."

Zahara stands, and exits, stage left!

Thirteen follows her, impatient to be on the scent.

Cerin flows along beside her

Kai follows, grabbing up her design on the way out.

Zahara "Hmmm.." she muses. "Horses are out. The Wasps may tire if we go far."

Zahara "Meet me at the entrance to the Maze."

Thirteen raises an eyebrow. "What do you intend?"

Zahara "Alternate transportation."

Zahara disappears.

Cerin waits by the entrance

Thirteen also

Zahara ::Shortly after they gather at the entrance, a high-pitched whine is heard, which transforms into the sound of wind being split in half at high speeds. A wind nearly pushes the Exalts over as Zahara skims the Airship past them, circling around (Vertically) to land neatly in front of them.

Kai :: Showoff ::

Zahara ::Oh come on, like you wouldn't have. Besides, it's fun.::

Thirteen "Ah. I should have known." A smile crosses his face.

Zahara opens the hatch, "Well, what are you waiting for?"

Cerin joins Zahara in the cabin

Thirteen "A marvelous device, Zahara." He enters.

charlequin The glorious golden ship lifts off and the Solars begin to fly to the Southeast, passing over the abandoned Realm river base of Jades and continuing on into the jungle.

Zahara makes room for Cerin in the copilot seat. "Thank you!"

Zahara "I don't know why we don't use this more often." she comments as they skim the canopy

charlequin As time passes, the golden city of the Dragon-Kings eventually becomes visible, its majestic towers and vast pyramids poking up beyond the jungle trees.

Cerin "Bring us down over there, my love." Cerin says, pointing to a large square free of both vines and lizards.

Zahara "Hmmm Rathess... if it is here, I will be annoyed that we hadn't already found it." She complies, neatly setting the craft down on the square. Her flying has gotten markedly better since the first outing.

Kai "Maybe we should just move here..."

charlequin The largely empty streets of Rathess greet the Solars as they arrive. A few small lizards run back and forth.

Cerin climbs out of his seat, and goes to the door "Follow me..." he smiles mysteriously

charlequin The city's reconstruction goes well -- several buildings are noticeably improved from their last visit.

Zahara follows, admiring the effects of her assistance on the city.

Thirteen "What an interesting location." Thirteen runs his fingers along the buildings he passes.

Zahara "Rathess, I'm sure you've heard of it. It was largely destroyed when we first came here, and we have been assisting the Dragon Kings in its reconstruction."

charlequin Cerin leads the group through the winding streets of the First Age city, into a moderate-sized building that appears to have served as some sort of topiary in the past, then from there down a side corridor. In a small alcove off of one side there is a downward-plunging shaft, the rotted remains of a ladder hanging down over its side.

Cerin peers down into the darkness.

Thirteen "Ah, yes. Out of charity, and the hope that they will aid us in our war."

Zahara "Out of the desire to see it returned to its former glory."

Thirteen "The better for them to aid us."

Zahara "Such a cynic."

Zahara "Have you no desire to see the world as it once was?"

Zahara "Or.. rather... to know it is as glorious as it once was."

Thirteen licks his thumb after touching a crumbling monument. "A fallen city is no less glorious than a real one. More, perhaps, for the riches of a real city are there for anyone to claim."

Cerin jumps down the hole, bracing himself on the sides to control the rate of his descent as he falls.

Thirteen "One is scarcely motivated to poke around the hidden depths and secret temples of a civilization that has not collapsed, after all."

Kai gazes down the hole. "Uhm..." She cautiously begins to climb down.

Zahara "I admit that looting has its own charms." she replies, "But still. Nothing like it has been seen this age. And now it is being restored by my hands." she pauses, "Admittedly, other hands as well, but with my guidance."

Thirteen "Truly, your talents as an artisan span many fields."

Zahara "I try," she says mildly, but her voice is tinged with pride.

Thirteen taps the ground near the hole with his spear. "Excuse me."

Thirteen hurls his spear into the air, performing a circular kata that leaves trails of light behind his fingers. As the spear falls into his hands, he completes the circle, which shines for a moment with a light that rivals the sun above him.

Zahara nods a bit, and proceeds down the hole, her own footing secure on the air.

Thirteen steps into the hole, bracing his spear against both sides of the shaft and sliding down, carefully matching his speed to Zahara's.

charlequin Cerin and Kai nimbly and ably descend the shaft, despite the lack of any sort of footholds further than perhaps 10 feet down and the increasing presence of slime and algae in its place. Zahara follows behind them, walking downwards upon the air itself, while Thirteen accompanies her at a similar speed.

charlequin Cerin, at the bottom, has the best concept of how long this shaft is -- to wit, long. It would appear to descend at least 1/2 a mile.

Cerin examines the room he finds himself in while he waits, the goggles of his Crimson Armour easily pentrating the dark.

Zahara emerges at the bottom eventually, brushing a minute speck of dust off her gown. "So."

Kai "Did you remember the picnic lunch, Cerin?" Kai says, reaching the bottom.

Cerin "Do I forget such things?" he gestures dismissively, wondering what he can see.

charlequin The Solars find themselves in a rather long corridor, perhaps twelve feet wide, with a channel of water running down the center. On one wall is an elaborate inlay of gold, a huge sunburst flanked by two rather handsome figures, each gesturing in an open fashion towards the sun.

Zahara inspects the mural to see if she can make out who it depicts

Cerin "It is quite far underground for worshipping the sun..."

Thirteen dips to run a finger through the water. "How fascinating."

charlequin The water is oddly warm.

Thirteen "Most likely this area is not for worshipping, but for business."

charlequin The mural doesn't appear to depict anyone in particular; the figures have few distinguishing features.

Zahara "Should the light of Sol Invictus not be brought to the darkest of places?"

Cerin "Just so." Cerin walks along the corridoor in the direction his mind suggests ... to left the, it seems

Zahara catches up to Cerin and brushes against him lightly, "I do enjoy exploring new places."

Thirteen "I would not know." Despite this, he continues glowing brightly.

Cerin takes her hand lightly "I know love."

charlequin Turning to the left, Cerin hikes down the corridor, the smooth flow of the water adding a pleasant backdrop to the exploration.The hallway eventually reaches a +-shaped intersection, where Cerin turns right; then others, Cerin winding his way through several different paths, the direction of their arrival becoming less and less obvious as time goes by.

Zahara marks the direction they came with with her daiklave, scoring it lightly into each corner.

Cerin "Don't do that." he says softly "It is possible someone will follow us. I will remember the way"

Zahara frowns, but complies. "You had better."

charlequin Eventually, he leads the Solars out into an actual room -- perhaps 60 feet to a side. There are more murals here, set into the walls of aquamarine rock, which can be seen more clearly here thanks to small, hovering globes of solar light that dot the walls. The floor extends in a small walkway about three feet in from each wall -- beyond that is a cubical pool of water, perhaps six feet deep, fed by the incoming streams.

charlequin Parts of the ceiling have collapsed in places, leaving a rather sizeable pile of aquamarine boulders filling perhaps half of the pool.

Zahara "This must have been lovely once."

charlequin Cerin's nagging directional sense kicks out. They would appear to have arrived.

Zahara clasps her hands behind her back, inspecting the murals.

Cerin nods sadly "It must." he steps out onto the walkway, looking down into the pool.

Thirteen dips the end of his spear into the pool and stirs it, listening as the ripples bounce against the rocks and the objects in the pool, attempting to discern if anything unusual lies within.

charlequin Those with senses attuned to the flows of Essence notice a reasonably light but definitely present Essence field in the pool, which seems to be collecting minute flows from the inlets and only slowly dispersing it.

charlequin The water in this room is even warmer than the rivulets that flow into it.

charlequin The portion of the pool that is visible, at least, appears to be generally empty.

Thirteen "The pool appears to be an Essence reservoir of some sort."

charlequin The murals don't appear to have a depictive quality here either -- they seem to be purely decorative.

Cerin nods "It does..."

Zahara "Hmm it's warm, but not as nice as the Soul Font." she notes regretfully.

Thirteen 's spear touches the bottom of the pool, and he nods. "Well."

Cerin looks around for signs that anyone else has been here recently

charlequin This room does not appear to have been disturbed by any save stalkers in quite some time.

Zahara strips and dives into the pool.

Kai "Well, I wasn't expecting to see THAT today..."

Zahara swims down to the rocks, and follows the line across the pool, seeking sign of anything beneath them, or any leverage that might be had

Thirteen smiles slightly to himself as he levers rocks out of the pool with his spear, placing them to one side.

Kai helps move stones.

Zahara deftly avoids being levered

charlequin The water that Zahara dives into has an astonishing feeling to it. Warm to the touch, it also seems cleansing and vitalizing just to feel. Zahara can feel her mind open, her limbs relax, and her Essence aflame.

Cerin moves stones too. And watches Zahara swim.

Zahara ::It feels amazing in here,:: she broadcasts to everyone but Flower man

charlequin Some of the rocks on the top are easily moved, though sans a Marku some of the huge boulders at the bottom -- many weighing as much as a ton -- are slightly more challenging to remove.

Zahara swims back slightly, then aims her palm at one of the larger stones, calling upon the essence within and surrounding her, -not to mention the curiosity of what will happen if she uses Charms within the pool- and a beam of solar energy lances out from her, striking the boulder in its center

charlequin Zahara feels a certain ease in launching the bolt, which flies from her hand with an unparalleled clarity to break in two one of the smaller boulders.

Zahara flings a few more, her laughter escaping in bubbles

Thirteen 's mouth tightens in thought. He too removes his robe and enters the pool.

Zahara checks Thirteen out as she launches herself to the surface with a thrust of her legs

Cerin strips himself, descending into the water to lift the last of the boulders.

Thirteen "How interesting. Did you note any Essence conservation when you produced that bolt?"

Zahara flips her hair back from her face, grins at Kai, "Well, come on in, it's more interesting than out there."

Thirteen continues levering boulders, breaking them with feather-light taps of his spear when they are too big to lift.

Cerin studies his own essence flows under the water for a few moments, before returning to lifting the bolders out.

Zahara "It was easier than it usually is, but it didn't seem to use less energy. Rather, it flowed more smoothly."

Kai "I suppose this was bound to happen eventually," Kai mutters, disrobing and diving into the water.

Zahara demonstrates by blowing up several more boulders with barely repressed glee

Cerin studies the now cleared base of the pool

charlequin As the boulders are lifted up, the contents of the pool's bottom become revealed -- a human skeleton, with what looks to be a rather aged and sizeable burlap sack next to it.

Thirteen "Hm."

Cerin picks the bag up, and exits the water

Zahara dives back under, grasping the skeleton and bag, assuming they do not react surprisingly, and hauling them back up to the top

Thirteen steps out of the pool, taking a handful of water and drinking it as he waits to learn what is in the bag.

Cerin opens the bag, and carefully extracts the contents

charlequin The water has a fine, but subtle taste -- like unusually fine fruits and honey.

Kai While the others examine the contents of the bag, Kai walks/swims the perimeter of the room, making sure there's nothing else odd along the walls.

Zahara deposits the skeleton on the flat surface near the pool, and pulls herself up onto the ledge. She inspects the bones to make sure they are Exalted in origin; similar to those she has seen in the past, and contemplates their various uses.

charlequin Cerin extracts the rather extensive contents of the bag, which appears to have luckily mostly wedged between two boulders when the ceiling caved in. Crystals, many in shards and unusable. Golden objects of many kinds, from small turreens to tiny miniaturized people and D Ks?. Unusual gloves of obsidian, a surprisingly unfaded bolt of red-and-gold cloth. (...)

charlequin Three glass spheres containing strange miniaturized plants within, and glass pieces that indicate there were once many more. And a small mahogany box, trimmed with what Cerin immediately recognizes as starmetal.

Cerin lifts the box aside, studying it for flows of essence or signs of a lock.

charlequin It does in fact appear to be held shut by an Essence locking mechanism.

Cerin tests his knife on the material of the box.

Zahara begins to disassemble the skeleton into more manageable parts, assuming that Cerin is taking care of whatever is in the bag.

Thirteen inspects the cloth and gloves, assuming Cerin is occupied with the box.

charlequin The wood appears to be magically reinforced; it can't so simply be cut open.

Cerin is unsurprised.

Kai returns to the group, shaking water out of her hair as she approaches.

Kai "Anything good?"

charlequin The cloth appears to have orichalcum fibers weaved into it; the gloves some sort of magical qualities worked directly into the crystalline structure of the obsidian.

Cerin calls the sphere of orichalcum and jade that is his cache egg, and pulls out his occult tools setting them out around the box as he starts to work on the lock, using them to manipulate the essence of the room and the water into whatever shape or pattern it needs to open the lock.

Zahara finishes with the skeleton and picks up the little figurines from the pile. She turns them over and over, inspecting them with both sight and Sight. Then she sets up a little mural-like scene next to the pile of bones.

Thirteen wrings out the cloth, then shakes it and cautiously ties it on underneath his blindfold.

Kai watches quietly and doesn't touch anything.

charlequin Cerin screws up his face a little in concentration as he carefully massages the Essence flows of the box, but with some effort he is finally able to open it with a satisfying "click."

Cerin smiles to himself, and then lifts the lid.

Zahara proceeds on to the crystals, and attempts to activate them one by one, as she did those in the library of Rathess.

Thirteen slowly pulls on a glove as well, glowing ever brighter as he considers things.

charlequin Within the box, there's two small holding niches, about the right size to hold small pins; and a sheaf of papers. Written in silver ink and a fine hand, the pages appear to be written in some strange and bizarre language.

Cerin "Thirteen Blooming Flowers, I believe you may wish to read these."

Thirteen reaches out and takes the letters, running his fingers rapidly across the writing.

Kai Once reasonable dry, Kai begins to dress.

Cerin closes the box with a click, storing it in the cache egg along with the tools and the flower globes.

Thirteen "Hm."

Kai "Hm?"

Thirteen "Somebody's journal from the First Age. A Sidereal."

Thirteen tucks the papers into his robes as he pulls them on.

Thirteen "Let us return to the manse, where I can peruse these papers in more detail."

Cerin kisses Zahara, then pulls away to dress

Zahara collects her gold toys and bones, and her clothes, and contemplates another swim.

Zahara "We should return here."

Cerin "Later, my love."

Thirteen "I agree. It would be most interesting to find out what the purpose of this pool actually is."

Zahara "Indeed. But I suppose it will have to wait until we win the war."

Cerin whispers something in Zahara's ear, then helps her dress

Kai "So, you DO remember the way back, right?"

Cerin nods "Follow me, all."

charlequin Following Cerin back the way they came, the Solars easily retrace their path and emerge back into the sunlit streets of Rathess.

Zahara smiles and follows Cerin

charlequin A party is waiting for them when they emerge -- Ssithumi, flanked by two Dragon-Kings in red-gold finery much like the cloth found by the Solars, and holding large golden staff-spear weapons.

Cerin "Greetings Ssithumi."

Zahara "Ssithumi, I had wondered where you were earlier."

charlequin "Welcome, Solars. I was unavoidably detained earlier, but it was not difficult to locate you." She smiles a toothy reptilian grin. "It was easy to see where you had parked."

Zahara grins "I do so enjoy making an entrance. I admit I was a little disappointed you didn't see my aerobatics."

Zahara wrings out her hair a bit. "This is Flowers." she gestures to Thirteen. "He has joined us recently."

Thirteen taps the spear butt against the ground. "I welcome our meeting."

charlequin Ssithumi looks over the new gentleman, looks with recognition at his spear, and nods. "I am Ssihumi-an-Tohatep. Welcome to Rathess."

charlequin Looking over the other Solars, Ssithumi stands up and begins to move. "Follow me, if you would. The timing of your arrival is quite auspicious."

charlequin Turning fully around and beginning to walk, her honor guard falling into step, the Dragon-King says wryly, "There is someone I would like you to meet."

Tags: (:tags Seals of the Deliberative, Dawn Caste Seal, Herons, Airship, Rathess, Sidereals, Ssithumi, Radiant Sabres :)

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