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Cerinfernal walks with Markuran towards Sarifen's tower, carrying the air aspect over his shoulder.

Evil Marku When the two reach the base of the tower, the metallic insects part as if by instinct for them, and Cerin finds himself traversing as a guest the stairway that once he snuck through as an enemy. At the top of the stairs, a particularly large iron beetle marks the doorway to Sarifen's sitting chamber.

Cerinfernal "Such interesting decor." He remarks as he walks past it.

Evil Marku The creature raises its vast wings and allows the two entrance. Sarifen is seated, seemingly lost in thought. He looks up and nods as the Exalts enter. "Ah, you have arrived." His cruel, slitted mouth makes something resembling a grin. "It is more pleasant to meet you this time, Cerin."

Cerinfernal "I was not very talkative last time I was here, it is true. But then I think you might have evicted me at that time."

Belladonna Sarifen nods. "Please, sit. You can put the things you've gathered anywhere." Two black iron scorpions skitter up behind the Exalts and shift into the shape of chairs.

Cerinfernal carefully deposits air aspect in one pile and assorted solar heirlooms in the other, seating himself in the scorpion.

Belladonna "Were you able to acquire everything?" Sarifen is clearly interested in getting right down to business

Cerinfernal "One elder air aspect. check. Several assorted solar hierlooms. check."

Belladonna "Excellent." Sarifen looks over the Air Aspect in question and nods satisfiedly. "This will do suitably well, yes."

Cerinfernal "Suitably well for what? I am rather curious."

Belladonna Sarifen looks over the room. "We have need of champions." He pauses. "Could you provide me with the trappings you gathered, please?"

Cerinfernal pushes the daggers, collar and other bits foward with his foot "Markuran has the sphere."

Belladonna looks them over, eyeing them up in comparison to Arada's unconscious body. Finally satisfied, he reaches over to a chest -- another insect, which opens up its carapace for him. He pulls out what seems to be a simple outfit of black threads, and tosses it onto the Dragon-Blood.

Belladonna "Ah yes. Excellent." He pauses for a moment. "It seems I have another guest."

Cerinfernal "Oh?" He lets his senses range out through Sarifen's realm.

Belladonna Cerin sees him entering through the bottom of the tower: the crimson dragon Istenda-bar-Kasima. Unlike in the past, his chest is bared, revealing the twisted black ouroboros that is branded there; looking at it, Cerin knows deep within that it marks his service to the Ebon Dragon.

Cerinfernal shifts fractionally in his chair. While he was not afraid, he remembered the gracelessness very well. He was reasonably certain he might have noticed that symbol before however.

Belladonna Istenda jauntily jogs up the stairs and bursts into the chamber without knocking. He opens up a burlap sack he's carrying and tosses the contents onto Sarifen's desk -- two golden arm weapons that Cerin recognizes as having belonged to Ssithumi. "Filial Wisdom's bracers, as you requested."

Belladonna Sarifen looks at them with excitement. "Excellent."

Cerinfernal Somewhere within him, Cerin feels a brief pang of sympathy for Ssithumi. It isn't a very large however, and he studies the bracers with interest. As he does so, there is a brief war inside him. Part of him glad he had not had to kill her, another part regretting the fact he had not got to kill her.

Belladonna The bracers are clearly quite powerful artifacts, though he never saw Ssithumi use them to hurt a soul.

Belladonna "Well," Sarifen says, looking over what's been given to him. "I believe I am almost ready. Cerin, would you care to see what I have gathered these items for?"

Cerinfernal "I would be most interested to see, yes."

Belladonna Sarifen stands. "Please follow me, then. Siram, bring the prisoner." Marku grabs Arada and hefts him over his shoulder, while Istenda ducks forward and runs ahead of the group.

Cerinfernal walks with the third circle demon

Belladonna Sarifen takes Cerin down, down, deep below the base of the tower and into a passageway of purest, darkest night. As they walk through, Cerin can feel the thick layers of Primordial Essence that he passes through -- it seems that the Ebon Dragon himself has turned his attention to keep this place safe from scrying.

Belladonna Markuran whistles a folk tune about a well-endowed inn wench, shattering whatever gravity the situation might have had.

Cerinfernal They really did not change.

Cerinfernal ((** Things really ))

Belladonna Eventually, after many winding turns, they finally emerge, in a chamber that seems to be carved from the ground... only the ground is like the flesh of some vast creature, and pulses and breathes with each moment. In the room are, standing but unconscious -- almost in stasis -- three other Dragon-Bloods. Cerin recognizes Cathak Cainan from illustrations; the female Water aspect and the tattooed male Wood aspect were unknown to

Belladonna unknown to him (...)

Belladonna Each is clad in a simple black outfit, like the one Cerin saw earlier, but what truly is unusual about them is what he sees deep within their Essence patterns. Each has what seems like a brutal gouge in their Essence pattern, the method for making such Cerin could not guess... and shoved into it, the Essence Shard of a Solar Exalt, held fast in place and prevented from escape by black tendrils of Infernal Essence. (...)

Belladonna As the elemental Essence flows through each's veins, filtered and altered by the infernal solar shards, its motes seem to point outwards, like those -- exactly like those -- of a Malakim....

Belladonna It is at that moment that he realizes that there is one other... the one they are each tied to.

Cerinfernal "Ah. I see. This is an ambitious plan."

Belladonna Sarifen nods. "It is." He speaks up. "You should come out, Surkha." And from -- through -- one of the walls of the room steps a woman, more coldly beautiful than any Cerin has ever seen, her brilliant hair perfectly matching the red of her clothing. She holds a sword made of ice in one hand, and upon her breast the Eclipse seal that oh so recently belonged to Zahara.

Belladonna All of the Dragon-Bloods involved in this plan have Essence mastery that surpasses Cerin's own, but hers -- twisted as it is through some sort of amplifier within her clothing -- is greater than any being Cerin has ever seen -- than the Mask of Winters, than even the fetich of Autochthon.

Red Lily Messenger Istenda busies himself readying other aspects of the plan -- providing Filial Wisdom's bracers to Cainan, moving Arada's slumped body to a place where it can begin to be prepared, and so on.

Red Lily Messenger The stunning woman in red speaks up. "We are almost ready, Sarifen."

Cerinfernal ...Zahara is the thought that burns in the heart of his mind as he sees Surkha, watching her essence as it follows through her, trying to understand the complexities.

Red Lily Messenger Sarifen speaks. "Yes, Surkha. We are almost ready. And it will be glorious." She nods in response, as Sarifen turns back to Cerin.

Cerinfernal watches him with one part of him, as another drinks down all the details. Most of his mind, though, burns on a single name.

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