Colapso: It was nowhere near a direct path from the Elemental Pole of Fire. Lucent took the Orichalcum from the Sunlands to a Smith in the Iron Oasis, calling a favor from millennia ago, and handed it for the Spirit-Smith to work his magic, for his Armor to be made. 'An armor to protect the sun itself' he asked the Spirit of the Iron Oasis, handling a bounty in Orichalcum so rarely seen....

Colapso: ... Zahara would be so angry with him. He hoped, not too much.

Colapso: And then, Amika continued its path fowards. She knew where to go... and it wasn't hard to see. The giant rotting corpse. Amika stopped as soon as it came into sight, and Lucent dismounted, taking out his pristine, royal mantles and replacing it with gray rags. Hiding the Coronal and the Seal throughouly, and walking, all the way to Thorns, under the dimming sun, as just another man, just another merchant.

Tiny Tree?: The city of Thorns... it is a cruel sight, to be sure, for Lucent Copper Haze. Standing at the very edge of the Alabaster Cliffs, half a mile above the Inner Sea below, its glorious buildings of white and blue rising up at diagonals to one another to look out, towards the Blessed Isle... it had been beautiful once.

Tiny Tree?: But now, darkness hung about it, even in the brightest daylight... and the vast corpse of a world-slayer, dead thousands of years, slowly rots across the field where Luc once chased a beautiful Lunar maiden for seven days... atop its back, the Blight of Aeons, a vast city-palace cast entirely of delicately-patterned obsidian and glass, rises up, half as large as the entirety of Thorns.

Tiny Tree?: As Lucent walks towards the city's borders, seeing the grey miasma that fills its once-bright cobble streets, he begins to see the figures who walk amongst them... not people at all, but shades, the last gasps of the once-living... but even they seem terrified as they scurry quickly to come within doors. It is only rats that seem to be alive here.

Colapso sighed. So much beauty lost. It was like that everywhere... but here, even more revolting. At least, demons replaced it with its own wonder. Luc stared at Juggernaut for a long while... longer than he should. Just to appear as a mere living man... one who faded into an incoming caravan as if he was one of them.

Colapso is now known as Lucent

Lucent: Walking on the streets, Lucent kept an eye out for those who seemed to be part of the government... part of the order in this Necropolis.

Tiny Tree?: At first it is only the shades of the fallen who can be seen, but Luc presses on further into the city, heading towards what was once the disctrict of the local solar court. The presence of shade-soldiers, like spectral skeletons clad in translucent ghost-armor of steel long since sent to rust, beginning to patrol the streets tells him that he is heading in the right direction.

Lucent continues foward... hunching meekly from them as they pass by. He seems like only a human... a proud human, indeed, but not one who would not flinch before such a sight. He carries on... combat abominations are not what he needs. He needs to talk to bureaucrats... hopefully, a living one...

Tiny Tree?: It takes but a few more moments to reach the Palace of Horizons, its five elegant columns supporting the three uneven cubes that make it up. Where once the Palace spoke to the glory of the Sun, the Dragonlings chipped away all sign; and now the Mask has rolled out great banners of black and grey, speaking in the forbidden language of the deceased of the inevitability of death. The doors are propped open, as is traditional when business may be conducted.

Tiny Tree?: when business may be conducted.

Lucent strides into the palace, trying to get a feel for the organization around him... understand its workings, who to better talk to... and how. They were undead abominations, horrible creatures who disgusted Lucent on principle... but they were sentient beings. Once, he talked with the functionaries of Malfeas. Dead humans could not be any less alien.

Tiny Tree?: Within, the building is an odd contrast... golden decorations and brilliant lamps that somehow shine without brilliance, make visible without illuminating... guards like those he saw before are stationed everywhere, but a group of wan humans --

Tiny Tree?: living, breathing human beings -- sit at a desk where once a Dragonling official would have welcomed visitors to the palace.

Lucent sighs once again. The dragonlings had desecrated the palace of horizons... and now the dead took out its brilliance by existing. At least, there were some humans around... traitors, but living nonetheless. "Excuse me. My name is Amahl Farouk. I am an independent merchant from the South, and would like to open trade agreements with Thorns."

Tiny Tree?: The bureaucrats look him over, sort of... their eyes are dead inside, and their gaze seems almost not to focus, but they do look in his direction for a few moments. "Please proceed to the Nacre Antechamber." He indicates a direction. "Someone will be with you shortly."

Lucent bows. "My thanks." and strides inside

Tiny Tree?: Lucent steps into the Nacre Antechamber, a great reception room outlined in mother-of-pearl and silver trim. A single chair sits at the far side, near elaborate mahogany tables that once might've borne fruit and wine; it seems clear that he is intended to sit.

Lucent sat down, missing his Collar of Dawn's Cleasing Light; He had to take it off to appear as a human, dirty creature, but it made him feel continually... touched by the darkness around him. And then... he waited.

Tiny Tree?: It is a surprisingly long time that Luc waits. He is starting to worry when the door across the room finally begins to creak open...

Tiny Tree?: Surprisingly enough, walking through the opening, dark robe flowing to the ground, crystalline mask of ice smiling genially to the world, is none other than the Mask himself, in the.... "flesh."

Lucent: Now, that is a surprise... he knew, from the things he did, how... that the Lion was Rosada. He had his confirmation upon arriving the Sunlands. But the Mask, he didn't... his whole plan hinged on finding that out by learning of his personality... but now... all he could do was to get up, bowing gravely... "It is an honor to meet you, Mask of Winters."

Lucent tries not to choke on the bile that raises on his throat as he says this

Tiny Tree?: The Mask's perfect smile does not shift at all as he looks over the individual sitting in his reception chamber. "Lucent Copper Haze?" the voice is quite inhuman, yet somehow also familiar. One gloved hand reaches up to pull back the hood while another gently lifts the icy mask from the air. Underneath, the spectral, ghostly face of a youth, tousle-haired and ambitious, with just a hint of cruelty, pokes out from the robe.

Tiny Tree?: "It has been an eternity since last I saw you."

Lucent smiles. "Larquen Quen. Oh yes, it has been quite an eternity. You seem to have fallen on tough times. I said that Necromancy thing would be the death of you."

Lucent looks around after he says that... "But you did quite well in death."

You are now known as Mask Of Winters?

Lucent: Whatever surprise Lucent felt upon seeing the Mask, his face barely registers. This is Larquen Quen, this is a Deathlord. To show surprise would show weakness. And that is the last thing Lucent intends to show now.

Mask Of Winters?: "I have indeed. I would not have chosen Thorns for my new home if I did not still carry some fondness for it, of course. It required my assistance to return to splendor." Grand speech from the diminuitive Twilight, just as it had always been....

Lucent: "Ah, memories... I remember chasing her on those fields. And the calibration afterwards, remember? Time of twilight..." He smiles. "It has... its own splender, of course. This is a new age, after all. Part of me still wishes to burn all this for the sun's glory... but I'm trying to get past that."

Mask Of Winters?: "That is good. Those of you who live are often useful when you do not allow petty concerns to overshadow reality." He gestures elaborately with one hand, as he is wont to do. "Please follow me, Lucent. It is good that you have come today." He replaces his mask and hood, and turns back to the door -- though of course his second, frowning face of ice then looks at Lucent....

Lucent walks after him, calmly... shedding the merchant's clothes. The Coronal appears, and so does the Ember King's Seal. He looks up at the Mask... "You got taller. You know, I liked it when you were one of the people I could look in the eye."

Mask Of Winters?: The Mask leads Luc out to the hallway, then almost immediately through a secret passageway in one hallway that leads into a downward-slanting stairway. Luc can almost feel the necrotic essence grow thicker as they descend. "It is important for people, both living and dead, to perceive their rulers in a certain way. This appearance has served my needs well."

Lucent: "Yes, it is. They must see power and grandeur. You could be taller, too. But I guess atop Juggernaut you do not need to be, hmmm? It must be a dead trait, though. The Kashaen, diminished as they are, accepted me just fine. They know a Ruler when they see one. I wonder about the living, though. You seem to be... at odds, with most of them."

Mask Of Winters?: The Mask leads on, down into the sewers of the city, which run now with water shaded red with blood. The Essence of death is thick enough that Lucent can feel it on his bare skin; the Mask walks along the walk on one side of the water, clearly with a destination in mind.

Mask Of Winters?: "It is true. Few are ready to accept the new order that I represent, yet. In our absence, many have clawed their way to the top of dung heaps that they will fight viciously to defend."

Lucent looks down at the water with disgust, covering his nose. "You used to have better taste for meeting places. And... indeed. I have been through Nexus, in my way to the Sunlands. I wonder how they can call something so dirty 'existence'"

Mask Of Winters?: After a distance, the Mask unhooks a gate in one wall that appears to lead to a stairway running upwards again, and proceeds in. "The world has fallen far, Luc. When you were lost, we still bestrode Creation at its height. You did not live to see how the Deliberative fell from glory, cast down into dust." The stairwell winds upwards for what seems like a great distance.

Lucent: "That would have crushed my spirit, you know that. I wonder how you withstood it, Quen... when I heard of the Sun's betrayal, I was truly lost." He takes his first steps into the stairway, walking upwards with the Mask...

Mask Of Winters?: The Mask of Winters steps out into the plain that lies beyond Thorns... but it is not the one that Luc crossed so recently. In the place of grass is gray dust, that reflects the harsh red light from above. Over the cliffs lies not the beautiful Inner Sea, but dark, ink-black waters, uncannily still except where, from one corner of his eye, Luc sees pallid tentacles move quietly through the surface...

Mask Of Winters?: Out in the distance, the dead capital of Stygia rises up in its chalk-white and copper glory, across the black ocean.

Lucent: "... I still hate this place, Quen. I would not step here before, I would tell you not to before, and I hope you have a good reason to bring me here now." Lucent is visibly uncomfortable. Like everything he looks is a carcass covered by maggots.

Mask Of Winters?: "Come now. Even someone as stodgy as you must admit that it possesses its own quiet, still beauty." He gestures expansively over the entire realm.

Lucent: "I..." He looks at the Mask... then his face melts into one of acceptance, as he takes on the sight of Stygia's glory with admiration... "I must admit that city is beautiful. It reminds me of the old grandeur... and yet, even more ecletic, apparently. I miss cities like those... I miss true civilization."

Mask Of Winters?: "Indeed. Even I must admit that the pleasures of Netheos are lacking in comparison to what we once shared above. But I have no regrets for choosing the faint reflection of glory over embers of waste."

Mask Of Winters?: The Mask looks thoughtful for a moment, as much as is possible with an unmoving face of ice. "This is not what you came here to see, however. I know that something nags at you, for you to journey here in search of it."

Lucent: "Indeed... you held to some glory. Netheos did, apparently. And I... I came here to talk to you. Well, to the 'Mask of Winters'. And I trust you can, at least, hazard a guess why."

Lucent is now known as Colapso

Mask Of Winters?: "Certainly I can." He looks out over the black sea. "Though I do not believe Zahara Zahn will be as easily overturned as you would like."

Colapso smiles. "Unlike you, I walked with them, Quen. I talked with them. They are very... interesting, but mostly, just a shadow of their former selves. But who says I am here to overturn her? Oh no... I am here because I learned about the Lily's plans. Things are unfolding too fast, and I need things up my sleeve that not even that Circle knows about. I cannot trust them. They are... mad."

Colapso is now known as Lucent

Mask Of Winters? laughs deeply. "You are ever a cagey one."

Mask Of Winters? turns away from the bleak vista and puts his fingers to his icy mouth. He emits a loud whistle, and as if from out of nowhere a ghostly chariot, drawn by four chalk-white horses emitting greenish corpse-fire from their eyes, pulls up beside them. "Speak with me as we ride," he says, and opens the door.

Lucent walks in, silently... before sitting down. "You know I am not the type for betrayals. But they are... well, they are mad. And so, I came to you. You seem to have great resources... and you are not in league with the Lily. Makes wonder why. Their plan is so grand, so far-reaching... and it never occured them to ask did not ask for your cooperation?"

Mask Of Winters? laughs again, as the chariot speeds by at unnatural speed over the dusty plains of Netheos. "Did they not? How much do you truly know of what they are planning?"

Lucent: "Well, if they have... why have you decided not to join their grand plans? Their offer was not good enough? Did they insult you by offering too little?"

Mask Of Winters?: "Perhaps you are more perceptive than you let on." If his true face were showing, Lucent can imagine exactly the sort of sly grin that would be visible.

Mask Of Winters?: The scenery continues to blur by in a mixture of red, black, and grey outside the windows of the chariot.

Mask Of Winters?: "When we arrive at our destination, perhaps you will understand better."

Lucent: "Well, I can wait. And then, I wished to come to you... the Sunlanders, they are too proud. That is their weakness, see? They do not look into some things. They know too little of the Underworld. They have not looked into Netheos. And thus, I decided to turn it into my edge." He smiles conspiratorily to the Mask, "And I was rewarded for it."

Lucent: "They despise the underworld. They think no threat will come from here."

Mask Of Winters? nods. "It is no surprise. They have, as always, underestimated that which does not slap them directly across the face. I doubt they even remember their arrangement with me."

Lucent: "Ah, you have talked to them? Then clearly you must have seen their pride, their hubris. They barely even acknowledge Celestials, Quen. Not our old advisors, not our old consorts. They think they need none of those." He smiles a bit... "I wonder, did you save the soul of your viridian paramour together with yours'?"

Mask Of Winters?: He breathes out, a little bit more forcefully than perhaps was necessary. "She is no longer here." The Mask's usual way with flowery words seems a bit cut off at the moment.

Lucent wills Jupiter open on the coronal, and it floats close to the Mask of Winter's hands... becoming little flakes of green caste marks. They fall on his hands like tombstones. Lucent looks sad, and nothing more needs to be said.

Lucent: "I am afraid this is the first of many hurtful things I must ask or tell you, Quen..."

Mask Of Winters? waves a hand dismissively at Luc. "Ah, we have arrived." He flings open the door of the chariot.

Lucent reaches to the bag he brought with him. "And I will ask for your help. But as an equal. I will need to know much... but I am sure I know much you do not, and can enlighten you to many subjects. But here... a token of goodwill in our bargain. I brought this to work in your organization up to you... have it." He places the bag close to the Mask's feet. It has jewels of the south and, more importantly...

Lucent: ... the little that was left of the Sunlands' orichalcum.

Lucent gets up, then, walking out of the carriage to find...

Mask Of Winters?: The landscape has changed from where they last stood. Cool fires of reddish-orange burn upon the ground, and trees like black claws dot the landscape. In front of them stands a rather vast building: a circular shape, with five jagged black spines rising up from its roof into the dead sky. A doorway is shut by an elaborate iron latticework depicting a sun rising over an ocean, which bends open at a gesture.

Mask Of Winters?: "The House of the Midnight Sun. Welcome." He takes the sack proffered by Lucent with one hand while striding in, saying no more about it.

Lucent walks behind him, looking at the sun... wondering. But seeing the sun there... made him smile.

Mask Of Winters? leads Lucent into the building, where dark corridors lead off in each direction. He takes a right and leads Luc up a staircase to a central room, with windows -- all currently dark -- that look out into five other rooms, ordered in a ring around this one.

Mask Of Winters?: "Perhaps I had best begin at the beginning."

Lucent sits to the designated window. The one for a Zenith. "Please, Larquen. We have time."

Mask Of Winters? gestures rather elaborately. "You remember what it was once like. Our glorious society. The Perfect Circle at the head of the grand Deliberative." The lack of respect in his voice is intensely obvious.

Mask Of Winters?: "But you were not present when the Perfect Circle was broken, were you? Or when our numbers began to dwindle as we died and were not reborn."

Lucent: "I was not. I was... lost, long before that."

Lucent: "Wait. Our numbers begun to... dwindle?"

Lucent: "When I hear of this... Usurpation... it seems so... sudden."

Mask Of Winters?: "Do you believe that the pathetic whelps who crawl through the wreckage of the Blessed Isle could strike down two hundred score Solar God-Emperors at the prime of their power?" He clenches his fist tightly.

Lucent: "I do not believe they could even try, to begin with, Quen. The very idea is aberrant to me." He is disgusted. And he does not have to fake this. "So... how did the Circle break? How many of us were there, at the end?"

Mask Of Winters?: "Ymir and Kiriath and Rosada broke the circle, and it was never remade. From then on, when our kind were slain, no new Solar arose; no rebirth marked the return of our glorious souls."

Mask Of Winters? slowly unclenches his fist. "Eventually, there were but fifty of us."

Lucent looks... deeply sad, trying to imagine this... "On the Sunlands Circle, we know Ymir killed Talmuda with the Daybreaker. I wonder if this has to do with why it begun." He sighs. "Fifty... that is... too few. More Starchosen than Solars, even..."

Mask Of Winters?: "Perhaps. I do not concern myself with the reasons why." He waves a hand dismissively again. "It was then that they struck. Harried us, drove us off of the isle... slew us in our sleep, or stabbed in our backs."

Lucent: "And that is when you...?"

Mask Of Winters? laughs. "As my body lay cooling upon the flagstones of Meru, I found myself at a gathering. Myself, and sixteen others... we awoke, around the maw of Oblivion."

Lucent: "Rosada among them, of course." He nods. "He destroyed my old kingdom..."

Mask Of Winters?: "He is the one who brought us together." He taps the table gently with one hand, and adopts a wistful voice. "Do you know that they have forgotten the shadeborn in this age? The children of Pluto, unknown to even this age's greatest savants."

Lucent: "I... did not know, no. But it was hard to. The 'Immaculates' seem to call all of us 'Anathema', so I thought that maybe they lived on their heretic faith... and the Sunlanders are too deep in their hubris to ever talk of other types much. But it makes sense. They were just remembered vaguely in our time, Quen. More vividly for you, I believe... as a Twilight. I was never the scholar. But..."

Lucent: "... does that mean that you... Deathlords... possess some of their power?"

Mask Of Winters? raises one hand. "The Neverborn knew of them. Enough to replace the power that we held in life with a new power held in death. As we stood around the maw, what was once Rosada offered to raise us up again from our nadir. Twelve of us said yes."

Lucent: "With Rosada, that makes 13... heh. I wonder if Blooming Flowers knows." He amuses herself with this, before nodding again... "I wondered how you could hold such power, even without your Shard. Since we know that Kai is Rosada... so her shard is separate. Hmmm. Wait." He blinks, his eyes widen. "So Rosada... so all the Deathlords were in league with the Lily?"

Mask Of Winters? laughs. "You are, as always, so hasty." He waves a hand and one of the chambers below lights up.

Mask Of Winters?: The chamber has a variety of strange Essence-measuring mechanisms, along with a table with thick leather straps, to restrain whoever is placed upon it. "Though we each stood before the Neverborn to gain our new existences, we worked only for ourselves."

Lucent: "Any of them worked with Rosada, then?"

Mask Of Winters?: "He is... different from us." The Mask emphasises the word strongly.

Mask Of Winters?: He continues on. "We have developed many weapons to draw the living into our glorious realm, but always we sought for greater, to war with one another and cement our control in Netheos. So I was quite intrigued, ten years ago...." A small crystal sits on the ledge of the window; he reaches up and taps upon it, and a scene from a time ago appears within the lit chamber...

Lucent comes closer to the crystal, watching...

Mask Of Winters?: The blindfold, the spear... it is certain -- the man shown in the crystal is unambiguously Thirteen Blooming Flowers. He sits, glowing fiercely, in the center of the room, while several ghosts examine him from the edges.

Lucent: "That... that is Thirteen! You met him? When did you meet him?"

Mask Of Winters?: "What a surprise /that/ was!" The Mask raises a hand to his frigid mouth in an imitation of shock. "A Solar Exalt, walking alone through the underworld, seemingly unaware of the brilliant signal he had lit, letting all around him know exactly who and what he was -- and after I was so certain that none could return..."

Mask Of Winters?: After a moment, the Thirteen in the crystal seems to decide that he is done; he gets up and walks out, while some of the ghosts seem surprised but do not move to stop him.

Lucent: "... he was the first? I had no idea he had walked through the Underworld... I imagine that made you... curious, right?"

Mask Of Winters?: "Indeed it did. I began to wonder... if one still walked, might the others still exist, somewhere?" The Mask cracks the knuckles of both hands, producing a truly horrifying sound. "So I began to investigate."

Lucent: "... it took you that long to decide to investigate?" He looks a little beffudled... "You were a Twilight, a seeker of knowledge... but, sorry. I suppose I was not there when it happenned... you must have felt a pall of acceptance that I did not."

Mask Of Winters?: "There was nothing to learn from, at the time. And when we were all slain and none rose to replace us, I was certain that they had been swallowed by Oblivion." He gazes at the scene in the crystal. "But your friend changed that."

Lucent: "And then you looked into it... and what did you find? We... I... I thought it was the Lily, Quen. I thought the Lily had done it, that Rosada had... but... but none of you knew?" He is so uncertain... expectant...

Mask Of Winters?: "We did not. None of us did... until I discovered it. Until I spoke with Sarifen."

Lucent: "Sarifen." He says darkly. "We should have killed him. He was the one responsible?"

Mask Of Winters?: "He is the one whom I spoke to regarding the Exaltation. He had sought for many years to replicate it, to be able to create servants as powerful as we once were, but to no avail. It was he who told me of the net which held the shards at bay."

Lucent: "We fought him not too long ago." Lucent says, trying to control his anger, the orb of Serenity coming to his hand and forming a chalice which he moved as if there was something within. "But you were capable of doing what he could not? Or pehaps... he could not do it out of whole cloth? And thus you raided the net?"

Lucent: "Your... Deathknights, do not seem created, however. They seem like us"

Mask Of Winters?: "Oh, yes. Until now, Sarifen's experiments had produced only failure, no matter how carefully he connected the souls of his subjects. He needed something else to truly perfect the process." He waves one thin hand through the air.

Mask Of Winters?: "Now that I was armed with the knowledge of the net, so full of... useful Solar shards... I knew what needed to be done. There were two things that stood in the way of the net being opened, and the shards plucked from within."

Mask Of Winters?: "As is only sporting in such a situation, each of us set out to remove one of the two barriers."

Lucent seats back, closing his hands in front of his face. "And what were those?"

Mask Of Winters?: "Let me show you my half of the bargain."

Mask Of Winters? waves his hand towards the window nearest Luc, and it lights up, revealing a well-decorated, comfortable-looking chamber within. A pleasantly furnished desk of mahogany sits within, covered in various books and papers... and at one side, a small prop holding up a golden disc, with a large, solid circle indented into its surface.

Lucent rushes to it... his hand stopping just shy... looking at it bewildered, his mouth open... "Is... is that... is that what I think it is?"

Mask Of Winters? nods, clearly quite proud of himself. "Two remained in Creation when we struck our bargain. It took little difficulty for me to sortie into the bowels of the great Mountain and claim this one for my own. Though I suspect tempting the Empress with the promise of dark powers was even easier for the demonic host."

Lucent: "The empress was one of those things? A mere Terrestrial, Quen?"

Lucent looks at the Mask in disbelief

Mask Of Winters?: "She was, originally. I do not know what they have done with her since." He shakes his head dismissively.

Mask Of Winters?: "It is no matter. Once it was done, we were prepared. What were once the devices that glorified the Solar Deliberative were now ours to do with as we chose."

Lucent: "The Sunlanders have taken many of them already, however. But for the... Seal of the Zenith." He nearly reaches for it, once again... "You know what they truly are? The Sunlanders have learned just recently."

Mask Of Winters?: "Powerful devices for the control of subjects?" He laughs, a little.

Lucent: "That is one way to look at it, yes." He smiles. "What happenned next?"

Mask Of Winters?: "We divided the shards amongst ourselves. I walked away with over one hundred, plus the knowledge Sarifen provided on how to best utilize them."

Lucent: "One... Hundred... that is... too many. You do not have One Hundred of us. You would have taken over the world already, not that little city in front of the Dragons. This makes no sense, Quen."

Mask Of Winters?: "Of course I do not. When have I truly been interested in ruling the world? Instead I have cemented my position. To each of my brethren I have made a unique bargain, sold some of the darkness-clad Solars I learned the making of." He almost beams at the trickery and cleverness of it all.

Mask Of Winters?: "Now I have a little bird in the court of every Deathlord, and an oath of support from them besides."

Lucent: "So it was you. Quen... I am impressed. And even the making of those darkness-clad Solars seems... impressive. It must have been a delight to negotiate with Rosada from a vantage position, that is for sure. But... what are those birds? Can you spy on them through the shards?"

Mask Of Winters?: "I must retain some secrets, of course."

Mask Of Winters?: His icy mask grins unchangingly, as always.

Lucent: "Of course. Sorry if I asked too much... but one cannot help his curiosity in face of such revelations, you must understand. I was never like you, to just go and figure it out." He shakes his head, "And on that... I imagine there is a reason you have told me so much? I am honored if it is only for old time's sake, but for some reason, I think it is more than that..."

Mask Of Winters?: "Of course there is." With a wave, the window bearing the Night Caste symbol lights up. Within, cages of dark iron, jagged and intricately wrought, hang from the ceiling at varying heights. "You do not expect I would allow you to leave freely after telling you all this?" He leans forward. "You know that even in life I always drove a hard bargain."

Lucent sighs. "I did not stand all those years sleeping, Quen. You see the same as the Sunlanders did, but there is more under the surface. But... do tell me your bargain. I do hope you will not try to take me to one of those... I thought you better than this."

Mask Of Winters?: "Oh, no, no. That would be so... inelegant."

Lucent sighs in relief. "Glad to see the times have not been so hard on you. State your price, then. We are not Quicksilver Falcons, neither of us... but let the bargaining commence."

Mask Of Winters? snaps his fingers and two Abyssals step into the room: a tall, ashen-skinned Midnight in a tightly-fitted formal suit of navy blue, and a Dusk, a raven-haired woman bearing a vicious soulsteel swallow and clad in black and red full-plate armor.

Mask Of Winters?: "You certainly should recognize that I do not seek to end all life in Meru and send the universe crashing down into Oblivion." He bobs his head a little. "For when have I ever sought to do only that which my creator bid me to do?"

Lucent: "Absolutely never, and I have never been happier for that. In fact, the very fact you are not with the Lily tells me that... what with their goal." He nods to tha newcomers, "Pleased to meet your acquaintance. I am Lucent Copper Haze."

Mask Of Winters?: "But I cannot have the Sunlands interfere with my goals. Your companions have been quite amenable to my purposes thus far." He clenches one hand tightly, and Luc can almost feel the air chill. "But this can NOT change."

Lucent: "So, do you wish me to bring those with me and bring down the Sunlands? Or to come with them as my court, so I will be able to take them down if they ever wish to stray from the path? Or... maybe I could talk some sense into them. I have thought of doing so before... but for Zahara Zahn and Cerin the Wolf. They seem too focused to be easily persuaded even for a Zenith's authority."

Mask Of Winters? gestures to the two warriors who have entered. "These are Ember of Glory and Crow-Devours-Flame. They will accompany you back to Creation, to take part in whatever defense you stage against the coming tide of destruction. That is the gesture I make to you. However," he says, and a glint of endless darkness appears in the eyes of his cold mask.

Lucent: "It is a pleasure to meet you, Sunchosen." He looks at them as if he could see the inside of their souls, and his voice makes sure the wording was very deliberate. "Yes, old friend?"

Mask Of Winters?: "You shall speak to the Glimpse of Night before you go." He pauses. "To ensure that my investment is... well-chosen." He rises and walks over to the doorway. "Ember, ensure that our guest visits the Monstrances on his way out." Turning back to Luc: "Did you have anything else to ask of me, before we part ways?" The cruelty of the unchanging mask is never more visible than at this moment.

Lucent: "I came to ask you for help in the face of the incoming threat of the Lily and the Sunlands, and I appear to have it. I came looking for answers, and I appear to have that as well. All that I can ask is to learn more about your organization so as to be able to enhance it in ways I am sure Oblivion cannot..."

Lucent looks at him narrow eyes and swords of hard orichalcum on his eyes. "... and to tell you that I came to you as an equal, Quen. I will not tolerate being double-crossed. Now, who is this Glimpse of Night?"

Mask Of Winters? chuckles. "Why... my liege, of course. I am already quite familiar with yours; I could not bear to let you leave without doing me the same courtesy." He inclines his head at an odd angle and brings up one hand in a strange, claw-like gesture. "It has been remarkably pleasant to speak to you today, Lucent. I hope that we may have many more such opportunities to speak as friends, not merely as allies." And with that, he turns to leave....

Mask Of Winters?: And with that, he turns to leave....

Lucent looks annoyed as he speaks of 'liege', obviously in mockery, then turns to Ember. "Well now... take me where you shall, Ember. Show me where this Glimpse of Night is. I have been face to face with Cerin the Wolf... I doubt he.. she.. or it... is scarier."

You are now known as Ember Of Glory?

Lucent: "Or should we go to the Monstrances first?" He asks with a smile.

Ember Of Glory?: The ashen man nods. "This way," he says, gesturing to a door leading down into the Night room.

You are now known as alsoquin

Lucent left the room (quit: Disintegrated: Myah! -=Sys Reset? 2.53=-).