Summary:Following up leads on the Broken Suns Rebellion, the Solars discover Remembrance's plot to enslave their Elementalist allies.

XP:C4, I4, L4, S4, V4, Z4


< A Sentiment to Drink To | Sol Invictus Logs | A Tear in the Fabric >

Spring slams the book down on the table before him with a clatter, then takes a bite of beef.

Spring "I am ashamed not to have seen it before," he says around his mouthful.

Lucent plays with marbles absent-mindedly between his fingers. Not hungry. "Seen what?"

Spring "The tactics used to plan the Broken Suns Rebellion are the same in seven crucial respects with those used for the Strangling Ivy Revolt."

Spring "They have the same source."

Spring carefully avoids looking at Imrama's place at the table. "The Fallen Sidereal, Remembrance of Seven Tears."

Cerin "This would fit with Ymir's early suspicions."

Spring "Indeed."

Spring "Given this, it is apparent that the overarching goal of the attack was to establish a gateway for Laerad, or his minions, to penetrate Meru."

Varanim "That fits with what the ghost I just pulled out of the flower said," Varanim says, coming in.

Spring "This is why they did not complete their assault. Either we balked them, and they chose to regroup...or they have already accomplished what they wished to."

Spring "Yes. I was just about to ask you what you had discovered."

Spring "Please, sit. Have something to eat."

Varanim "I figured out how to unbloom it," she smirks. "Next, I'm going to work on how to gray out rainbows."

Cerin "Or perhaps the attack on Solaria was the five second circle demons?"

Lucent "Wonderful."

Varanim slouches into a seat, taking a piece of fruit to toss in her hand without eating.

Zahara gingerly picks up the book and flips through it.

Spring "Circles within circles, Cerin? It is not impossible. I had assumed the assaults we split up to beat off played that role in the game of cat and mouse she played with us, but she may have refined her approach since that time."

Zahara "Laerad, hmm... isn't that the one whose minion we caught planting trees through hearts?"

Cerin "Yes. We also encountered his Cult around the Pole Of Wood."

Varanim "I was busy then, so I missed the frolic, but was any part of it specifically designed to take out you lot?"

Zahara "Hmmm was the purpose of the... contraption you disarmed, to open a gateway, Cerin? Or do we need to look further afield."

Lucent "They DID attempt to kill me personally. Well-armed for that, too. Came closer than I expected for Mortals, even though I was waiting for them."

Imrama stumbles into the room with a troubled look that suggests more than his usual frustration with the antagonistic intelligence of the manse. "...Hello."

Zahara looks up, "Imrama, good to... is something wrong?"

Spring ::Zahara, is Imrama still not attuned to the manse?::

Cerin "I don't think a portal was intended, no. Greetings, Imrama."

Zahara ::Oh come on, it's hilarious.::

Lucent ::You are a VERY bad woman.::

Imrama walks to his seat. "Please excuse me, I did not sleep at all well last night. Fitful and ominous dreams." Imrama nods to Cerin's greeting and sits down.

Spring "I have been assuming that the detonation in the Aurora District was the intended result of the Rebellion, and that the overall plan was essentially successful."

Lucent blinks. "Did you have any... visitors?"

Varanim "One out of five is still a weak stab at this group," she shrugs to Lucent. "Following the usual Exalt logic, who cares if a few thousand mortals died, so long as none of the big dogs were put down?"

Spring "However, they must have known that we would immediately locate and destroy the zombies and the device left there."

Varanim "You might want to try less smoking right before bed," she offers to Imrama, tossing him an orange.

Spring "Therefore there must be more to find."

Spring "It is possible that they did not expect us to locate the pit of bodies or the flower growing from it."

Lucent "So should we go through Solaria with a fine comb?"

Imrama raises his eyebrows at Lucent. "No, dear friend. But I did have a vision of those insidious, creeping vines that now seem to follow me about. It was not pleasant."

Zahara cracks her knuckles. "Wait, the vines... those were in the vision of you in the Auric Temple. Hmm."

Cerin "That is omnious indeed," Cerin remarks as he focuses on Imrama and his essence pattern.

Lucent "Oh, yes, like those in the Auric Temple's Tesearah..." And his tomb, he does not need to say.

Spring "Hm."

Imrama "I assume that we are discussing the events of Descending Water 28th?"

Spring "What occurred in this vision?"

Zahara "Perhaps we should revisit that room to see if anything has changed."

Spring "Oh, that room. I would greatly like to see it, in fact."

Lucent "Oh yes. Most of us have never gone through it, have we?" He gazes into Varanim's direction.

Spring "Do you have any information on what the flower does, or was intended to do, Varanim?"

Imrama "I flew through a sky of storms, and was pulled to earth by those cursed vines. I abandoned ship and they chased me along the ground and seized me. One of them was attempting to burrow into my mouth when I awoke."

Imrama is so distracted that he does not catch the orange Varanim threw. It whizzes past his head and falls to the floor.

Zahara "That... does not sound promising." She begins to wonder... had his prior incarnation fallen to the Yozi as well as his lover?

Varanim raises her eyebrows a bit at that, then answers Spring, "Mostly unravel the shit out of souls, and dirty up the landscape. Not clear what it was originally for before the Labyrinth swallowed it up."

Lucent covers his mouth. "That... is horrible, Imrama." He lifts the orange to him. "We need to find out what that means before you need have any more... dreams... like those."

Imrama "I do not disagree." Imrama picks up a banana and begins eating it without gusto.

Varanim rolls her eyes a bit, as if to say oh yes, it's a big deal when Imrama has one bad dream.

Spring "Whatever she is attempting to accomplish, it is happening...right..." Spring drops his fork with a clatter.

Spring "Imrama."

Imrama looks at Spring with wide eyes and a banana in his mouth. "Wut?"

Spring glances at Cerin, then gets up and moves towards Imrama. "May I examine you, sir?"

Imrama 's eyes stay wide, as he chews his banana. "Yes."

Cerin ::I can see nothing specifically wrong with him, but something is not quite right.:: (to Spring)

Spring begins doing so, talking as he does. "Remembrance was trying to cause something. Something important to her, something related to us. Something related to Laerad...and something, we must assume, she is succeeding is causing."

Spring "The Strangling Ivy Revolt had a symbol that was more than it seemed -- three intertwined vines, to represent the three diverse groups brought together to accomplish it."

Spring "The Broken Suns are represented by a sun which has been broken in two..."

Cerin "Suns, like flowers, may represent a number of things however."

Lucent "Do you need some help, Spring?" Lucent looks over with his Kaleidoscopic eyes, noticing some... different takes in the action as he would take. "Flower imagery tends to used for the Exalted, does it not?"

Spring "I would be most obliged, Lucent." Spring clears away a few bowls and gestures for Imrama to lie on the table.

Imrama Finishing his banana, Imrama sighs in a weary sort of way and lies down as indicated.

Spring "Be that as it may, I think it clear that there is a connection between Remembrance's current actions and the dreams Imrama had."

Spring "That is why she is here."

Spring "For you."

Cerin "I am not sure that is the case. It is possible that his connection to her is letting him gain some warning."

Cerin "Where the roots of ivy once lay, a star shines down on barren land -- and new growth arises where once the earth was salted. Tendrils wind in through the windows, and its thorns drink deeply of blood in the night. When the moon is full, its three blossoms open: in the heart of a queen, in the mind of a general, in the soul of a monk."

Varanim moves her feet off the table to make room for Imrama, looking increasingly interested by the proceedings.

Imrama "I...had hoped that it was about more than me. There is no shortage of reasons for the villainous to hate and fear us. But I suppose you are right, Spring. Our history is too thick to see through."

Varanim Then she raises an eyebrow at Cerin. "Eh?"

Spring "He is quoting from the Orrery of Light."

Spring "In either case, Cerin, we may track her through him, if we find the manner in which they are connected."

Cerin inclines his head to Spring. "The reading seemed apt, considering the situation."

Lucent "Can I have a little help?" He smiles to his friends, and tapping Varanim the spectre of Varanim the Younger acting midwife walks out of her, one of Long-Awaited Spring whose face shifts into that of his doctors, each of their knowledge there... and a demon-eyed Zahara, the torturer who knows more of the human form than any other! And... Imrama is the only one to see EYES opening in Lucent's Armor.

Lucent I know what you are made of The designers of mankind whisper as Lucent's light spread diagrams of Imrama around the room to those who understand the greater intricacies of Essence...

Zahara idly considers whether or not spring qualifies as a monk, until Lucent pulls his little trick. "Hnnnh. What are you doing?"

Lucent "Calling out your images to help me focus. I hope you do not mind?"

Lucent carefully analyzes Imrama's structure from stem to stern, and the conclusions he draws from such an observation are not wildly positive. His friend the Eclipse does not appear to be afflicted with an Essence distortion or external disease of any kind;

Imrama "Thank you for your help, Lucent. Your armor continues to be scary."

Spring nods slightly to Imrama.

Zahara "It is somewhat disturbing, but I rather like the eyes."

instead, some aspect of Imrama's fundamental Essence pattern appears to be responding in some way to external stimuli -- but in a way that is "baked in," one might say: the response originates at the smallest level of the Solar's Essence pattern, in a way that is distributed out through every individual mote,

Varanim There's a brief tightness around Varanim's eyes when Lucent conjures the image of her younger self, then she looks through it without further recognition and watches the proceedings with mild interest, tossing another orange in her hand.

Lucent "It will come the day when it is not, I hope. Hmmmm..." Lucent looks... worried.

all the bridgings of the two souls, each tiny structure that gives rise to the person that Imrama is. What is going on here, to wit, is a fundamental product of who Imrama is, carefully tuned precisely to him and only him, and cueing on something that has been part of him his entire life.

Spring "Your conclusion, Doctor?"

Lucent "... that I need help. Here. You may rise, Imrama." The images appear over the table, perfect diagrams of Imrama like those Lucent had made of Varanim - bones, nerves, soul. "... tell me WHAT I am looking at, because this is just WEIRD. Someone wants... you, Imrama."

Cerin raises an eyebrow as he studies the diagrams. "Ah."

Imrama "For once in my life, I am not glad to be wanted." Imrama says, sitting up.

Zahara ::Cerin:: I am going to be extremely upset if Imrama turns out to be a Yozi worshipper after all the trouble we went through to get him to stay alive.::

Lucent "Calling something that has always been in you... I think. Cerin, Spring...?"

Spring examines them, carefully following Lucent's reasoning...then slowly nodding.

Spring "Well."

Spring "This explains much."

Lucent "Does it?"

Cerin ::Not quite so upset as he will be, my love::

Imrama wipes his brow with a handkerchief. "It does. I already knew that Remembrance had sought to 'breed' me. Now I know something about what for."

Cerin "... Oh, yes. That would make a certain amount of sense."

Zahara "Hnnh."

Spring "Perhaps you remember that Imrama was discovered as an infant by Vanileth, with no information as to where he or his power came from."

Lucent "Wait, you mean...?"

Lucent nods to that

Spring "He was planted. So to speak."

Zahara runs her fingers over the golden collar around her neck. "Insidious."

Spring "Varanim has been doing...research on the function behind Exalted shards."

Imrama shudders a bit. "I think that is just the word, Zahara."

Spring turns to her. "Would you say that it is possible to construct a mortal, such that a particular shard would seek them out at the appropriate time?"

Cerin "Evidently so. We have the proof before us."

Lucent looks at it with a blank stare. "... what?"

Zahara considers. "Not with 100% certainty, but I suspect you could construct them so as to be extremely likely. It may take a few tries, given circumstance, et cetera."

Imrama "You think that she made me as a trap for Askaru's shard. That would make sense - there wouldn't be much point in just making a mortal of such exacting specifications."

Cerin "But she lives forever, she can afford many tries."

Imrama "But it would suggest that Remembrance knew when to expect the release of the Solar shards."

Zahara "Perhaps, Imrama, you have several brothers who were not quite so...lucky... as yourself."

Imrama "The names in Remembrances book suggest that that is so - there are a number of dead-ends in the geneology. But not all of us could have been left on my father's...on Vanileth's doorstep. Making that move suggests that it was part of a timed schedule."

Spring "Ah."

Spring "Yes, that explains the geneology nicely."

Spring '''genealogy

Zahara "Time does not necessarily flow at the same time in the Wyld, I note."

Zahara (time''speed)

Varanim smirks at Spring. "'Construct' is a great way to say it. They do make babies in Wasirru the same as here, right?"

Spring "More humming is involved."

Lucent "That... that is just..." He shakes his head. "She wants to control Askaru...?"

Spring "We can ask her."

Spring "Now that we are aware of the connection, we need only track it back to its other end."

Spring "The exact details of doing so, I leave to those more qualified than I on the subject. Fortunately, I am surrounded with them."

Imrama turns to Cerin. "Well hunter; can you track her?"

Cerin "Of course."


Not too long later, Cerin, having carefully examined Imrama's strange Essence pattern and watching the strange, attractive force that seems to tug on it, sets his sights out towards the origins of the signal.

The actual pull itself seems to derive, quite ambiguously, from the far southwest -- but there's a tiny hiccup, somewhere much closer-by, probably a location used by Remembrance while planning the assaults.

Following it leads to an out-of-the-way residential complex, mid-Solaria, where those of middling means dwell.

The particular building nearest-by seems like it's probably the one, with a particular concentration of energy on the 4th floor.

Cerin examines the room and building from without.

Zahara "This building, here?" She looks it up and down, and checks out the neighborhood somewhat as well.

The room appears to have been a fairly standard apartment, with a lived-in look, and a faint tracery of fading Sidereal Essence around its borders, as if some manner of protective shield hid it from scrying until quite recently.

Inside, Cerin sees the things left behind by the room's former "occupant" -- most of them a wide variety of papers: duplicated public works records, population density reports, elaborate lists of triple-obfuscated financial data, intricate charts that seem like they most likely track the progress of the numerous processes by which multiple Broken Suns agents brought materials to the same location over a long stretch of time,

and, finally, a set of maps.

One shows a small central-east portion of Creation, with three locations marked (Solaria, Lookshy, and the Imperial City); one shows the whole of Creation, with various shorthands notated in tiny handwriting in innumerable places (which Cerin notes fit the names of various breeding lines from the book Zahara fixed) --

and one shows Solaria, with the locations of the various attacks that occurred, plus a number that did not (presumably planned by cells that were captured before they could act), connected to form a vague and sketchy outline of a Broken Sun -- and with leyline routes connecting several of those sites, through the location of this apartment, and onwards to the Labyrinthine Cascade.

Spring "...damn."

Spring '''oh wait I can't see that yet

Zahara hasn't been to this neighborhood in a while. It's one of the older neighborhoods in Solaria, and its unique architecture (lots of blue-grey stone and 30 degree angles) is about the only thing that sets it apart -- otherwise, it seems to be continuing on in its daily business quite normally, and it clearly was not the victim of any of the Broken Suns' attacks.

Cerin "You were indeed correct, Spring. It appears that her schemes were deeper than we thought."

Spring "Oh?"

Cerin "We had best go upstairs," Cerin says, and leads the solars up.

Cerin "Relovia," he taps Solaria, "the Monk". "Linwei", he taps Lookshy, "the General". "Ejava," he taps the Imperial City, "the Queen."

The apartment is clean -- too clean. Someone's been here within the last two weeks, easily, though oddly none of the documents were taken, nor was the small potted ivy that is seated on the windowsill.

Zahara glances about the room, taking in what was left behind. "That bitch."

Spring "Damn."

Zahara "I'm getting exceedingly tired of Sidereals."

Varanim makes a similar observing sweep to Zahara, noting in one raking glance what was left, the corresponding implications about what was taken, and (continuing up the chain) what might be inferred about the person who did both.

Imrama "I was hoping the Queen would be Ekkarim, but again, I think the fact that I would prefer that makes it less likely."

Imrama "What a sad, spiteful creature that Harbinger has become."

Spring "Relovia? Do you think something has happened to her specifically?"

Zahara "Wait, what is she doing with the three Elementalists?"

Cerin "I am not entirely sure."

Zahara ::Relovia, are you busy?::

Imrama "We should contact them and warn them of our suspicions. I do not want any of our friends to be caught off guard if it can be avoided."

Cerin "Since she has left the map, I am not sure it is anything we can avert, Imrama."

Relovia After a moment: ::I am always busy, Zahara, but my dedication to the Sunlands must always come first. What is it?::

Imrama gives Cerin a pained look. "But we must still try."

Zahara ::Have you had any incidents occur involving the Broken Suns, or an Ivy iconography?::

Relovia ::What?:: The response comes, sharply, over the rings. ::No. What's going on here?::

Zahara ::There was an attack on Solaria approximately 2 months ago. New information has just come to light that you may also be targeted by them."

Relovia ::That seems unlikely,:: she says. ::But I will let you know if anything unusual appears.::

Zahara ::Thank you, Relovia. I am pleased to hear that - I was worried.::

Zahara "She's lying. We should find out exactly what about."

Imrama grits his teeth. "Where is she?"

Zahara points. "That way."

Relovia Bertrand? May 06, 2009, at 05:48 PM

Relovia A moment later, the Solars stand outside Third Ecliptic Temple of the August Heavenly Bodies, where Relovia is apparently down in the religious-text stacks.

Imrama ::Is she alone, Cerin?::

Relovia This is one of the smaller temples, though as with all the Ecliptic temples, its exterior is beauteous and inspiring to the common folk of Solaria.

Relovia On the walk over, Varanim's had a chance to ponder the bizarre decisions of the apartment's occupant -- someone she can clearly see was, in fact, Remembrance of Seven Tears: why let the obfuscating charms fall? Why leave such detailed and extensive records related to her plan? Why let the Solars discover so much about what purpose her assault had served?

Relovia Mulling it over, she can come to only one solid conclusion: the key elements of Remembrance's plan must already be in motion, and if she isn't specifically hoping for the Solars to find her -- she at least would not mind.

Relovia Meanwhile, Cerin peers into the Temple, where he sees Relovia, walking about the basement stacks, with no other people anywhere within the belowground parts of the structure.

Cerin "She is alone," he nods to Imrama.

Varanim "Kids," Varanim says thoughtfully as they arrive, "this Sidereal is being too sloppy--she wants to be found. Include that thought among the baying of the hunting hounds, please."

Cerin "I was operating under that assumption already, but it is nice to have it confirmed. For given values of nice, I suppose."

Imrama "I cannot simply gainsay Remembrance's every desire, Varanim. I do not have the option of not wanting to find her."

Cerin starts to examine Relovia's soul. "I would also like to point out that a library full of flammable books is about the most ideal place for her to fight with us, from her point of view"

Zahara "Let us invite her out for a celebratory tea then."

Cerin Relovia's soul is one he knows intimately, her Essence having been one of the earliest patterns he had studied, and it is this pattern that he holds in his mind as he maps out every line and channel and flow, accounting some to the Elementallist awakening, but the rest he follows in detail...

Lucent "So we are STILL playing her game..."

Relovia It's there, alright: some kind of Essence flower structure, opened up in the space carefully left by the borders of Relovia's upper soul, which is pretty clearly enacting direct influence on her behavior.

Zahara "Such is life - a series of games."

Zahara walks in.

Lucent "One must realise when he is walking into a fixed game, however. When the opponent holds all the cards."

Cerin "Ah, there it is," Cerin remarks.

Relovia The mortal attendants and priests in the entry hallway drop to a habitual -- though clearly quite heartfelt -- bow as they see Zahara enter. "Empress," one says, "you grace us today with your noble presence."

Cerin ::My love, perhaps if you can talk with her whilst I sneak up on her and subdue her?::

Cerin ::From up here, for preference. She may well attack you on sight.::

Zahara returns the gesture with acknowledgement. "It pleases me to see that things are going well here. I hope all your needs are met."

Cerin drops out of sight and walks past Zahara and down into the stacks.

Zahara "I wish to have a private meeting with Relovia to discuss the future. Would you please fetch her to one of the meditation cells?"

Relovia Cerin sneaks down to the stacks where Relovia stands -- and up close, it's a little more clear that something is wrong with her, given the odd shade her eyes have taken on and the strangely jerky nature of her motions...

Imrama hangs back, brooding, while Cerin and Zahara work. Relovia is an old friend of theirs, after all. ::There are also Linwei and Ejava to consider.::

Relovia Cerin can sense the powerful magics already at play in her body, even as she quietly walks the stacks.

Relovia "I... I apologize, Empress," the lead priest says, "She asked not to be disturbed for any reason."

Cerin ::Indeed, Imrama. It is my hope that we can learn something from Relovia on how to deal with them. They both command armies.::

Lucent ::It will look bad for us if we capture the Realm's Queen.::

Zahara "Hmmm that is unfortunate."

Imrama ::Yes. But Linwei is a guest of the Empress. It is possible that she anticipates an attempt from us to capture her and has prepared for it, but it is also possible she has not, as Relovia clearly could have done more than she has.::

Zahara "However, it is a matter of some great importance. I will be sure to keep my visit as brief as possible." She smiles encouragingly, and then moves past them.

Zahara ::Please make sure not to kill her. I believe I can modify the collars to contain her until she is well again.::

Relovia The priests, of course, offer no resistance to Zahara.

Zahara pauses at the doorway to where her quarry lies. "Relovia?"

Relovia There's a pause, then, from below: "...Zahara?"

Zahara ::Please... do not let her redirect your attacks to me, Love::

Cerin ::Please do not come down then.::

Zahara "Hello, dear. I understand you do not wish to be bothered, but, I believe you will find this news to be of direct interest.

Cerin takes careful aim, and then unleashes his arrows in a scythe of sunlit motes from around six yards behind Relovia, each one of them seeking out her heart, seeking to pummell her into submission. Each one impossible to evade. Each one crafted of purest sunlight. Each one striking home.

Relovia "W--" Cerin's arrows strike true, and Relovia's form crumples like a rag.

Cerin approaches, cautiously, after a few seconds.

Relovia She does seem truly and thoroughly unconscious.

Cerin considers, and then scopes her up and cloaks himself once more, ascending the stairs. ::Relovia does not want to be disturbed, my love::

Cerin As he climbs, he studies the essence flower much more closely.

Zahara shrugs at the priests. "Hmm she must be in deep meditation. I shall return another time."

Cerin ::Perhaps we should return to the Cascade before we set out for Linwei or Ejava?::

Zahara ::An excellent idea.::

Zahara inclines her head, and regally sweeps back out.

Zahara ::To the manse!::

Relovia Bertrand? May 06, 2009, at 05:48 PM

Relovia With Relovia laid out (unconscious) on a slab, the Solars regather to plot their next move.

Imrama ::Cerin, Lucent, Spring - how much of her condition do you understand?::

Cerin ::She has a flower of essence, implanted in her soul.:: he taps the spot. ::In the space between her terrestrial and elementalist patterns. It is capable of exerting a not-inconsiderable amount of mental influence over her.::

Zahara "Hm. Linwei should probably be our next target. Any objections, or suggestions on how to approach her?"

Cerin "Linwei's flower has bloomed in her mind. I am unsure of what this means."

Zahara rubs her forehead. "I'm going to need a bigger White Room."

Lucent "Hmmmm..." Lucent touches her forehead, Mars becoming like a flaming scalpel of light as he touches her forehead with it... "Hmmm. A blossoming flower?" He opened his own kaleidoscopic eyes, thinking of her like a patient in front of him, someone suffering from subconscious fears, wondering what each unconscious movement and indiscernible shiver meant...

Imrama "It is possible that we could move against Linwei subtly, as you and Cerin did with Relovia. But she is a member of the Deliberative, and we will have to notify the other members immediately thereafter. Ejava is even more difficult; we may not be able to address the situation except openly."

Varanim Varanim, less interested in treating the illnesses of the living than in solving puzzles, retreats into her mental workspace and constructs a diagram of four names: Revlovia, Linwei, and Ejava, with Remembrance of Seven Tears at the center of them all. As an afterthought she adds Imrama's name in a position at the bottom, where unexpected things may catch and stick as they fall.

Varanim Then she cups in her hands all the bits of information they have so far acquired and shakes them out over the structure, illuminating the whole with the honey light of sunset. The relevant pieces of knowledge flicker and gleam like motes of dust, and in so doing show the threads linking the names.

Zahara clears off a tableful of torture implements to work on modifying the collars to contain the Elementalist essences.

Relovia Varanim looks out at the connections between her targets, and begins to piece together the specifics of their relationships. Almost immediately it's clear that there's something all four Exalts have in common: familial lineages manipulated by Remembrance.

Relovia A little further examination makes it clear that two distinct manipulations are engaged here: whatever went on with the three Dragon-Bloods has the cold, clinical detachment of business, but... Imrama's involvement is personal.

Varanim "Huh. She's diddled around with all four families, but only Imrama's for personal reasons."

Imrama smiles. "Well that is. No, that's not comforting at all."

Varanim shrugs. "I do thinking--you want comfort, talk to a priest." Privately she adds, ::Sorry. Maybe someday I'll have some good news for you.::

Zahara "Love is a powerful thing," she says around a tool clenched in her teeth.

Imrama ::Don't worry. Bearing bad tidings is part of your charm.:: Imrama's mental voice is warm and playful - more his usual self.

Zahara makes a final adjustment and rises, walking over to Relovia and slipping the collar around her neck. It closes with a small click. "Cerin, do you think this will do enough to contain both her normal Essence and this flower?"

Cerin studies the collar.

Relovia The collar does indeed seem to accomplish its intended goal.

Cerin nods, "It seems to do so."

Spring enters the room, tired, with a sheaf of papers in his hand.

Spring "We must summon the Deliberative." He offers the papers to Zahara.

Spring (They are obviously a pretext to have the Deliberative summoned, rather than any useful business in themselves.)

Zahara takes the papers and flips through them

Zahara "How do you intend to explain what we need to do to them?"

Spring "Postoperatively."

Zahara "Please explain further. On the surface it would seem that abducting two members during a meeting would be a bad idea."

Imrama "But we will have the benefit of having all of the Deliberative there; there will be an opportunity to explain our actions."

Spring "It would certainly be dangerous, although impressive, to attempt to handle them within the chamber itself."

Spring "I had in mind visiting them during the recess that would be necessary if the meeting were to run long."

Lucent "Have a party afterwards. Say they were drunk. Play strip-simulated-war or something." Lucent adds jokingly and half-heartedly as he continues his work on Relovia.

Spring "In such a recess, they would, no doubt, retire to their personal chambers, which we will have prepared for them just as we always do."

Spring "While I admit that I am not an expert at secrecy, this may be a situation in which few if any need to know what has taken place at all."

Relovia Luc looks into Relovia's soul. The flower structure is elaborate, complex, and firmly-rooted in her soul; indeed -- it seems to be growing out of the inner structures of her Essence structures, seemingly unrelated lines of Essence weaving together into the beautiful and complex structure...

Spring "Lucent, can you determine the origin of the flower?"

Spring "It would be most helpful to know its capacity for information transfer back to its controller before we begin implementing any cures."

Spring "If repairing Relovia will alert the power behind Ejava and Linwei, we ought to wait as long as possible before doing it."

Imrama "After the fact, I do not see how we can justify keeping the situation a secret. They are members of the Deliberative, and they have fallen prey to the influence of someone we believe to be an Enemy of Creation. Withholding that truth would endanger the entire alliance."

Spring "We all fall prey to enemies of Creation occasionally."

Lucent "I will look into it, Spring... just give me another moment..."

Spring "Once they have been repaired, I do not see why animus should attach."

Relovia The structure seems to be intricately tied into her soul, not as an external addition but as an intricately connected part.

Imrama "I quite agree. But unless we can subdue them and restore them in the space between Deliberations, we will have to come clean, and the rest of the chamber make their own judgments."

Spring "Oh, yes. If we fail to handle the situation in time, then we will resort to such measures as become necessary."

Spring "I hope, very much, that we will be able to handle it in time."

Lucent "Or we can just waive the stupid restriction in applying social force to it and MAKE it proceed smoothly."

Relovia It seems clear to Lucent that soul-surgery could be used to remove the flower, but it would be a difficult and elaborate procedure.

Spring turns with asperity. "And then, perhaps, we can eradicate dissent by employing demons to slaughter those who...ahem."

Spring looks away.

Spring "In this instance I feel that caution is called for."

Cerin "We are assuming that they will answer."

Cerin "And that some 'unavoidable' but internal strife means that unfortunately they cannot make this meeting."

Lucent "Spring. I just mean calming their mood. Sending letters that will explain it all to everyone. Get everyone on our side and make it so no violence happens. Explain it all with the aid of supernatural teaching techniques."

Spring "I presume that the enemy who attempted to usurp control over them did so at least partly for their political influence. They will not abandon it so readily, and missing an urgent Deliberative meeting will lead to serious loss of face."

Spring "That noted, if they do so, we will of course proceed to other avenues."

Zahara "Well, if they do miss it, they will be isolated anyway."

Spring "For now, I intend to keep giving them the impression that we are unaware of their condition."

Zahara "Hm. Perhaps we should have someone pose as Relovia for the time being."

Lucent gets up from Relovia. "The thing has grown FROM her. Someone planted a seed, and the flower is... part of her. The surgery would just be like... trying to rip part of your soul. Any part. Any NATURAL part. Doable, but... it will take time."

Lucent gestures, a perfect model of her soul and the flower attached to it appearing before them

Lucent "As for what is its originations and it is tied to the others... you tell me."

Spring "Hm."

Spring "There does not...seem to be any information transfer."

Spring "The flowers are essentially autonomous entities."

Zahara "I'm going to guess it originated from a certain Sidereal."

Spring "Of course, this flower is planted in the soul. The other two flowers will be in different locations. Potentially they will be doing different things, in fact."

Spring "Oh, yes."

Varanim drifts closer to the model of the soul and flower, hunkering down to stare at them intently and setting one mental foot in the gray world of consciousness occupied by the Faculty. ''Why was this garden planted?/ she asks, aiming her thought at the demon-shaped Twins.

Spring "I can handle one of the surgeries quite rapidly, I believe."

Spring "Relovia will keep."

Spring "That leaves either Ejava, or Linwei, to be dealt with more...strenuously."

Spring "That, I am still considering."

Relovia After a moment, Varanim's body briefly seizes, and words rush out, the Exalt's mouth somehow mumbling out the dual answers of the... people? within her gemstone: "To join with that which is far away," says the first voice, and "To be joined with him who is locked away," says the second, and in unison: "But this is something the gardener has taken on of her own accord."

Lucent blinks at Varanim. "Oh, can you? That would be good... just be careful. She IS our ally."

Lucent looks at Varanim with a blank expression. "... what...?"

Spring "Do not fear."

Spring "Hm."

Spring "Laerad."

Zahara "Are YOU possessed now?"

Lucent "It... it is the THINGS."

Spring seems unsurprised for some reason! "A clever maneuver, Varanim."

Spring "Remembrance is not possessed."

Lucent "You mean, she is not being COERCED." He is still looking, spooked, at Varanim.

Spring "It is unfortunate that our sources of information are always so...cryptic."

Varanim blinks and coughs, then adds in her normal voice, "When a spectre is severed from the Labyrinth, the Malfeans know. So even if Remembrance can't tell when the flowers have been cut, it may echo elsewhere."

Spring "Hm. It admits of multiple interpretations, Lucent."

Spring "Then we will have to handle them all together."

Spring looks sadly at Relovia, and touches her briefly to ensure she is not suffering.

Varanim "Office hours," she adds by way of explanation to Zahara and Lucent, tapping her soulsteel arm where the Jewel of the Immortal Mind rests.

Relovia Relovia is out cold; the flower itself is so "natural" that it causes no pain, and she certainly isn't feeling anything else at the moment.

Zahara shakes her head and grimly returns to making more collars.

Lucent winces at Varanim, then looks out. "Well, then. Let us call the Deliberative together."

Lucent "And begin to play OUR game."

Spring ::Zahara...::

Spring ::You were right. It is fortunate you have not yet attuned Imrama to the manse.::

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