Summary:Zahara finds herself adjudicating the territorial spat between Haslanti and Whitewall.



< Ekalavadranata! | Sol Invictus Logs | A Penetrating Insight >

zahara sorts efficiently through a neverending stack of paperwork, quill in one hand. She's created a new office, having grown tired of the old one and in semi-hopes that the paperwork might not find her as quickly. But alas, her bureaucracy is the most efficient known to man and so she leafs endlessly, pausing only to stare out the window towards the North.

A series of loud, somewhat demanding knocks sound on Zahara's door.

zahara leans back, tucking her quill behind her ear. "What is it?" she calls, in slight irritation and... slight relief.

The door opens, and Zahara sees two familiar individuals standing outside: the ludicrously pale and spindly Winter Leaf, dressed today in neat but formal blue and white robes, and the dark and severe Elana Jiye, today clad in a tight-fitting dark-grey-and-blue military uniform.

zahara rises to greet the two, with a short bow. "Good afternoon. What brings you to my office today?" She carefully does not greet one before the other.

There is a long pause where the two look at each other several times with a mixture of irritation and grudging, petulant acceptance, before finally Winter Leaf speaks. "We need you to resolve our problem," he says, intense bitterness in his voice.

zahara Thoughtfully, she nods. "I will, of course, do whatever I can to assist you. Please, sit." She gestures to a small series of chairs surrounding a tea table on the other side of the room and walks over there herself. "First we will break bread together, to share our good will, before delving into the details." She smiles politely and seems to exude a comforting warmth.

The two visitors look at one another in a brief, rare moment of shared concern at Zahara's complete lack of displeasure at their arrival, and together they sit to await the other shoe's drop. "Yes, we shall," Elana says. "Is a meal to be brought to us here?"

zahara enjoys their discomfort internally while showing it not at all. "Of course, I will have tea brought." She signals a convenient servant, who rushes off to do just that. She decides to attempt small talk. "How were your respective journeys here? They went smoothly, I hope."

"It went... fine," Elana says, and Winter Leaf nods similarly. "Yes. I had no difficulty journeying here to meet wtih you."

zahara "Most excellent." Another pleased smile, and she moves on to the topic of the weather and various harvests until the tea arrives, borne by a small trail of servants. They pour steaming water for the tea in delicate china cups so thin that the light can be seen through their simple white sides, the shadows of the water playing on the table.

Coming from the frigid lands that they do, neither Exalt waits for their tea to cool before taking it in hand and sipping it. Both make uncontrolled expressions of surprise -- Zahara's tea is quite a bit finer than either might have expected, and the subtle flavor overwhelms even the intense anxiety defenses both have erected for this meeting.

zahara sips at her tea, then sets the cup down on the saucer, and lifts the bread. "I hope you enjoy the tea. It is from my dwindling supply of a special blend created by Birds of Trinity. And now, if you would each tear a piece from this loaf to symbolize the unity and peace that we all, I am sure, seek with each other." She tears a piece off herself, and waits until the other two have done so.

Again sharing a nervous look, the two petitioners each tear off such a piece. "To... unity," Winter Leaf says, uncertainly.

zahara muses over how well this is working - they are already sharing, united by their mutual complete confusion over her actions. She allows this bond to grow stronger as she eats the bread with them, interlaced with sips of tea and continuing to make small talk.

The two Exalts complete their meal with a surprising amount of patience, though both are clearly ready to move on by the time the last of the food is consumed.

zahara finally sets down her tea, and places her hands in her lap, spinning her dragon ring back and forth around her finger beneath the table. "Now, it seems to be time we address the business that brought you here. "Winter Leaf, if you would go first - please restrain yourself to facts, setting aside feeling for now."

Winter Leaf draws up a huge breath, as if preparing himself for the task of outlining his difficulty here, and then begins -- but with greater understatement than Zahara might have previously expected.

"Whitewall is a city of peace," he says, "a respite for those of the North from the endless assaults of the fae, the dead, and the other, greater horrors buried deep within the ice."

"Though all great spirits of Creation were offered places in the Red Lily army, the Syndics of Whitewall chose to decline, that they might keep the trust of their citizens and maintain the ways of our city that have worked for so long -- but this placed us in conflict with Haslanti, our neighbors."

"We resisted as they fought to expand and conquer their neighbors, but eventually, we came into direct conflict -- but even then, our Syndics sought to stave off needless ruin."

"They treated with the Triad of Ice, Gods who had arisen in Haslanti after their ancient deities were beaten down by the fists of the Realm's monks, and those Gods knew deep in their hearts that the older ways were right for the beings of the Celestial Hierarchy."

He closes his eyes briefly. "They chose to leave Haslanti rather than further fulfill the ambitions of the mortals there, and Whitewall took them in." As he opens them again, a castemark flares ever so briefly on his forehead. "And I am amongst their champions, chosen from the people of Whitewall."

stryck nods slowly, having listened to every word and turning it over in her mind. "How was it that the Triad were able to Exalt you if they were not allied to the Lily? Was it that they learned the secret before Whitewall took them in?"

"Yes," says Elana, looking sidelong at Winter Leaf as she does so.

stryck "I see. Let us pause here to get Elana's part of the story up until where we have arrived in the narrative."

Elana nods. "It is true. We allied ourselves with the Red Lily, and make no true apology for it; we sought to do what our Gods urged us to do, for they have always had the greater good of our people at their minds, as we have had their proper veneration in ours."

"In fact, it was initially the urging of the Triad of Ice that led to our entry to the Order first, as they claimed it might greatly increase their power and influence, and thusly the prosperity of the Haslanti people."

"It was well into the war, but before any bolt had been fired or any sword swung at the people of Whitewall, that our lands were raided; our temples burned; our gods carried away, the exact circumstances unclear but the originators all too obvious: the Whitewall forces, who retreated to their city with our gods in chains, that they might be enslaved for their own purposes."

z "So the contention is whether the gods chose to ally themselves with Whitewall or whether they were forced to?"

"Yes," they both say in unison, which causes both of their eyebrows to rise up a little in irritation at one another. "We hold that the gods are rightfully ours by means of tradition and proven allegiance," Elana says, and Winter Leaf follows up with "And we hold that they are ours by dint of their choice to ally with us."

z "And, what do the gods in question think?"

The two quarrelling Exalts look at each other for a moment in slight surprise and confusion, and then both revert briefly to their -- up until now very admirably contained -- habit of shouting over each other, the gist being, essentially, "why would we have asked them anything like that?"

z raises her hands for silence and waits without speaking a word until they have shouted themselves out.

Both of them stop, looking a bit embarrassed.

z "Are you both amenable to a trip to visit the gods in question?"

They pause to think for a moment, and then both nod their assent.

z rises, and leads the way to the airship

It is not that much later that the three Exalts emerge in an icefield, not far to the north of Whitewall, where three jagged crystalline towers of ice mark the (newly relocated) Sanctum of the Triad of Ice.

"Well, we're here," says Winter Leaf.

z "Thank you," she says with some amusement. She proceeds to the Sanctum itself and waits to be acknowledged

After a long moment, a voice calls down from somewhere high above, in a somewhat excessive bass tone: "Who comes to petition the Trio of Ice?"

z "Zahara Zhan, the Dreambreaker."

After a moment, someone emerges from the shortest of the three towers: an androgynous youth, numerous thick fur coats open and gloves hung at his sides. "Hi there," he says sassily.

z looks him - or her - up and down, raising a brow. "Well hello there."

"Hi," again. "Autumn Frost. A pleasure to meet you," the youth says, and bows rather exaggeratedly.

z returns the bow, though precisely as deep as is warranted. "And a pleasure to meet you as well. I was wondering if I could trouble you with a few questions regarding your alliances."

The god looks uneasily back and forth between the two specific guests Zahara has brought with her, but warily says "...yes, that... should be fine."

z "Fantastic," she says and smiles back at the two women who she had arrived with. "Remember the bread." Then she approaches the god more closely. "Do you speak for the Triad, or do you need to call your fellows out?"

"I, uh, I can speak for us," the god says shiftily.

z "Then the responsibility for your brethren lies on your shoulders." She nods, "Although I do not wish to be rude, I suspect this conversation would be better had in private."

"Ah, yes, yes. Step inside, if you would?" He beckons, and a door opens within the ice.

z "Please make yourselves comfortable on the ship, I will make this as brief as possible." she says to the two, then follows Autumn inside

The inside is quite well-appointed, if monochrome for being rendered entirely out of ice. The god shows Zahara smoothly to a seat and then stands over by a counter, leaning jauntily on it. "So what's this about?"

z "Frankly, they've been arguing about who your allegiance is actually to, without asking you directly." She takes a seat after running her gaze admiringly over the architecture and decor. "Now, I know that you sided with the Red Lily initially - I can understand how tempting their offer would be to you and I do not hold it against you. But I would hear your version of the events that brought the Triad to Whitewall."

Autumn Frost swallows nervously.

"Well, it's like this, you see," the god says, twirling a small stick nervously between his hands.

"We've got a pretty valuable portfolio on our hands up here, y'know? Community? Unexpected luck? You need that to survive up here in the cold."

"The Haslanti appreciated us and everything, but we were really just filling in for a bunch of other gods that got kicked out by the Immaculates, you know? It made it hard to get the really great kind of prayers out of people."

"So, we, uh..." He peers at the door briefly, as if to ensure that no one is listening in from outside. "We figured it couldn't hurt to try to figure out who, uh, who really appreciated us."

z raises a brow. "So you encouraged them to fight over you? Were you the ones that spread the story about being taken to Whitewall against your will, then?"

alsoquin gets a guilty look. "We, uh, also told the people in Whitewall that the Haslanti had attacked to try to recapture us."

z folds her hands behind her back, "An elaborate plan. I would commend you on its deviousness if it were not for the inconvenience your enthusiastic greed has caused. And now, what shall we do with you?"

"Well, they both seem pretty enthusiastic," he says. "Maybe we could... expand our portfolio slightly and provide our services to the whole north-central region...?" he says, squinting, as if trying desperately to get away with something.

z "And how would that pay for the lives disrupted and lost over this sham?"

Autumn Frost sighs; guess there was no getting away with anything today. "I guess we could draw on our heavenly resources to provide recompense to both sides," the god says. "Which, uh, we could describe as peace offerings out of our desire to see neither of our homes suffer too greatly," the youth says, getting that hopeful look again.

z "Hmmm, as a favor to the Triad, that... may be acceptable. You must, however, also proactively work to keep the peace between the two nations from here on out. And no more lies."

"No more lies," Autumn Frost says. "Gotcha." And s/he winks at Zahara.

z shakes her head and smiles. "I'll be keeping an eye on you." Then she gestures to the door. "I think you have an announcement to make to my companions."

Autumn Frost contritely -- ish, at least -- steps out of the tower and announces the deal that the Triad of Ice have made -- "in the name of the greater peace," of course.

The initial reaction from both Exalts is surprise. "Huh," they both say, at the same time, and then look over at each other in greater surprise.

z "Is this solution acceptable to both your nations?"

There is a long pause as the two emissaries consider the matter, and then, after another long pause, they both speak again. "Yes." But this time, instead of turning on each other suspiciously again, they each smile, just a tiny bit.

< Ekalavadranata! | Sol Invictus Logs | A Penetrating Insight >

Page last modified on February 14, 2009, at 07:17 PM