Summary:At a coffeeshop meeting with the Mask of Winters, the Solars probe his actions for mistakes.

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


< Traces of Moonshine | Sol Invictus Logs | So Underhanded >

Imrama The city of Noble is the Blessed Isle port nearest to Thorns. Its flagstone streets date to the earliest days of the reign of the Scarlet Empress, and the archways of all official buildings were build with red stone in her honor. This far south, the coffee grown in Harborhead and the southern River Province sells far cheaper than tea, and so for more than four centuries the city of Noble has...

Imrama ...been renowned for its coffee houses. The most famous of these stand along the Way of the Roseate Iris, and the most exclusive of that auspicious pack is the Den of Bear Aroused Before Dawn. And so it is here that the Circle of the Sunlands and the Mask of Winters have come to conduct their summit, having paid the shop owner quite generously for the use of his premises for an entire day,...

Imrama the height of the season.

Spring ::Remember, act casual.::

stryckie ::Oh, yes. And order coffee.::

Zahara ::Oh, yes. And order coffee.::

MaskOfWinters A creaking from outside seems to signal that the Mask's arrival is imminent.

Varanim is slouched in an out-of-the-way chair with her hat pulled low over her eyes, apparently having anticipating Spring's advice by a good half hour.

Lucent ::I have dealt with him before. No need to worry. He likes lots of milk on his coffee.::

Phoenix` idly builds a little log cabin out of cigarette cookies.

MaskOfWinters The doors burst open dramatically, though beyond them all that can be seen is utter, pitch black.

Zahara takes a drag.

Spring eats Zahara's coaster.

Imrama sits pointedly with his back to the door, his feet up on the table, a cup in one hand and the saucer in the other.

Zahara eyes him, then taps out her ashes in his coffee

Lucent crosses his arms, glaring at the darkness. "Drop the theatrics."

Cerin takes a sip of his coffee.

Spring "When did you start smoking?"

Zahara "About the time Imrama joined us, off and on."

Spring "I never noticed." Spring drinks his coffee without appearing to notice anything.

MaskOfWinters strides forward out of the darkness, his unchanging icy grin cloaked in its long black hood, and the doors shut behind him.

Zahara "Morning, Quen."

Spring "Could we have some coffee over here, please?"

Lucent "Black."

Imrama does not turn to look at the Mask while addressing him. "Good morning, Tyrant of Thorns, Despot of Lookshy. If you would like a seat, there is a place prepared for you."

MaskOfWinters walks in and seats himself, casually, in the prepared spot, selecting a cup from the terrified waitress as he does. "Empress," he says, nodding in a (sarcastic? hard to tell) gesture to Zahara.

Spring "Do you have any pastries?"

Phoenix` , however, does. "I recommend the Celeren blend. It has very nice smoky undertones."

Zahara returns the gesture.

Phoenix` gestures at a waiter. "I'd like mine with a shot of whisky, please." She examines the dire expression of the Mask. "Make that two shots."

Lucent taps the table, impatient, while glaring at the Mask.

Imrama looks at the Mask for the first time, peering icily with his Adamant eyes over the invisible rims of his sunlight glasses. "We have asked you for this meeting to discuss the pact of non-aggression between yourself and the Sunlands."

MaskOfWinters The Mask nods. "Indeed. It is worthwhile to frequently revisit such arrangements." He pours a great deal of milk into his coffee from a tiny pitcher, then waves one hand to dismiss the waitress.

Spring looks irritated as the Mask disrupts his attempt to get pastries.

Imrama "Agreed." Imrama sips his coffee. His eyes do not move from the Mask. "It is the estimation of the Empress, her government, and her loyal compatriots, that you stand in flagrant violation of that pact, despite continued good-faith on her part. Would you care to comment on this?"

Spring smiles and waves slightly at "loyal compatriots."

MaskOfWinters sips his coffee for a long moment, savoring the bright onset and the subtle notes of vanilla and cardamom.

MaskOfWinters After a pause, he lowers the mug speaks. "I would not agree that you have presented an accurate description of the situation which obtains, no."

Lucent "Oh, and we found your old workshop. All meat hooks and giant eyes. Not very far from your undead torturers."

Phoenix` "Please share your own...description...of the situation, i you would."

Phoenix` '''if

MaskOfWinters nods. "I am uncertain which situation you refer to, precisely," he says, "but I have been fast and diligent in my preservation of the Sunlands' borders, and have thus far been quite satisfied at the sanctity held to my own borders in return." He gestures broadly before continuing.

MaskOfWinters Pointedly ignoring Lucent (a habit he developed thousands of years ago, and has lost no facility with in the interim), he addresses Phoenix's point further. "You know as well as I that we dwell in a violent, martial time, in which the use of force of arms is... tragically necessary, in many cases," he says, "but I have not raised any army against the Sunlands, or in any way violated your borders."

Spring "Ah well. Shall we go?"

MaskOfWinters "Please," he says.

Spring looks hurt, and eats the Mask's mug.

Imrama "The chief complaint is not one of territory, but of personnel. Specifically, grievous bodily harm and severe emotional anguish done to one Lucent Copper Haze."

MaskOfWinters snaps his fingers to resummon the waitress and replaces his mug with a new, fresh one. "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah," he says, drawing out the word. "Lucent."

MaskOfWinters "I see you appear to have recovered him," he says.

Lucent "From your torture chambers. Yes. I must remember to thank you appropriately."

Phoenix` "He is only a clever simulacrum. The bonafide Lucent Copper Haze is housed in an undisclosed location."

Imrama "At some substantial cost, yes. However, we both know that incompetence in committing the crime is not a defense against the penalty."

Zahara takes another drag, just watching the drama unfold

Lucent sighs. "And the fires speaks nothing but the truth."

MaskOfWinters If the Mask of Winters could raise an eyebrow, he would have done so at Phoenix's comment. But only the sharpest of eyes would catch the hesitation involved before he responds to Imrama. "I am afraid you must be mistaken in your assessment. I had no role in Lucent's disappearance, and did not cause him to be captured and brutally and viciously tortured with implements of exquisite pain."

Lucent "No need to hide your enjoyment of it on my account, Larquen."

Zahara frowns at Phoenix

Imrama "We know that you to be the source of the Kshatryia's forces. We are, therefore, disinclined to take your word that you "had no role" in what happened to him."

Lucent "Members of that ill-conceived order of yours', no less."

Lucent 's voice sounds somewhat morose now

MaskOfWinters "It is true: I did lend forces to the Derelict Kshatriya, one of many military arrangements which I regularly make with compatriots across the vastness of the world -- and I did in fact ask that, should he contest with the Sunset Order, that he capture its members -- rightfully mine to command, under the old laws -- '''alive.*"

Phoenix` "Then the question is, is it appropriate to hold you culpable for the movements of forces that inescapably originate from you?"

Phoenix` makes a weighing motion with her hands.

Imrama "And the answer is 'yes'."

Imrama "Given the mounting evidence of considerable coordination between the forces of several counterfeit Plutonians, your own included, we see no reason to extend you the benefit of the doubt. This is a courtesy meeting to notify you that we consider the compact to have been abrogated."

Lucent Lucent's eyes are suddenly set afire, months of frustration coming to the fore. "You are wrong. By the old laws they belong to La-Ku-Teja, who happens to NOT be you, but this lady sat RIGHT HERE," he points to Varanim, "Who does not answer to you and will never answer to you, whose goals do not align with yours'. You are not La-Ku-Teja anymore, no matter how much you wish it to be so! You are a redundancy! A leftover!"

Lucent "Wake up and see you ARE. NOT. THAT. ANYMORE."

MaskOfWinters inclines his head, looking at Lucent during his outburst as one might look at a homeless man who was rapidly removing his clothing and hurling it at passerby. After a moment, he responds to Imrama, once again ignoring Lucent utterly.

Spring "I actually consider this a question of motonics more than anything else, and thus more interesting than we have allowed it to be thus far. I am reliably informed that you swore an oath of non-aggression."

Spring "Presumably the breaking of such oaths has consequences. I am interested to learn what, in the case of your oaths, those consequences are, Mr. Winters."

MaskOfWinters "I am saddened to learn that this meeting shall mark the end of the spirit of open and mutually beneficial cooperation between the seat of Thorns and the Sunlands," he says. "However...." he pauses for a long moment, there. "I believe our arrangement shall remain in force, however you may find its continuance." His mask continues to grin icily.

Varanim stirs slightly as if her nap has been interrupted, as her consciousness returns from elsewhere and she catches up on what she missed. Lifting her hat to peer suspiciously around, she says, "Wait, did I just sleep through Lucent's first admission that I might be the next Mask instead of the current one?"

Spring :: (to V) Why do you always pretend to sleep through the beginnings of meetings? The beginning is the best part.::

Lucent "Or something." Lucent speaks through gritted teeth, eyes burning into that grin. If looks could burn, the Mask would be in flames.

Lucent Fortunately for all diplomats present, Lucent is not Imrama.

Varanim ::(To S) I'd miss the WHOLE meeting if I didn't forget how much people like to talk. I always accidentally check in before it's over::

MaskOfWinters "I have indeed sworn a binding oath," he says to Spring, "as have you. But you have demonstrated no malicious intent on my part," he says, "only raised strong innuendos based on your belief that I -- I, who aided you in striking down the Shadowed Unlife Equation, who granted my... young protege here power unrivalled by any others who now live" -- he makes a hat-tip-like gesture to the roused Varanim --

Lucent "YOU, who has expressed your amusement at torture and your delight at killing, YOU an affront to everything we stand for --"

Varanim -- who is about to blow him a kiss, then thinks of Lucent and barely refrains --

MaskOfWinters "-- that I am the true monster here." He shakes his head sadly. "Without showing that I, indeed, in some petty pursuit of an ancient grudge, ordered your fiery, ahem, young Zenith here to be tortured," he spreads his hands congenially, even as his voice takes on an icy sharpness -- "I believe our oathbound pact will remain in place."

Spring "Ah."

Spring "We must present evidence, then? To whom, exactly?"

Lucent "You BUILT the Maw. Were the old laws of the Deliberative in place you would be guilty of the death of thirteen Chosen and four Celestial Gods!"

Lucent ::Wait. If he is shown to be guilty and prosecuted by a system of government we put in place, would that be a break of our oath?::

MaskOfWinters shrugs. "Give it to my guardsman before you lop off his head, if the need to lay siege to Thorns compels you so."

Spring "I have given up violence."

Lucent "Not to worry, I picked it up."

Zahara chuckles.

Spring "Which reminds me -- I appear to have eaten an Abyssal whom I am currently attempting to redeem. I find myself in need of some Abyssals on whom to experiment regarding the appropriate techniques. Could I borrow some of yours? As we are such dear friends."

Zahara "More than the two we have already?"

Spring "Lucent, can I experiment on your friend?"

Lucent "No, Larquen has already given up two of them to us, giving more would not hurt, would it, my dear old friend?"

Lucent "Oh, and Crow says hi. She is loving to be put to good use, for a change. Ember did not mention you much."

Spring ::I believe, Lucent, that we merely need to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Mask is responsible in order to force the sundering of his oath, with whatever consequences that entails for him.::

Zahara ::Varanim, you are good at proving uncomfortable truths. Would you mind?::

Zahara composes a tiny version of the Mask's mask out of cooling cigarette ash

Varanim With an irritable handwave to Zahara, she leans forward, chin propped on her soulsteel hand, and examines the Mask of Winters with dispassionate eyes that have sifted truth from fiction a dozen times already today. She does not see Lucent as he is now, but the beaten and wasted form they pulled from the tomb; she inquires of the evidence, both seen and unseen, what links these two.

MaskOfWinters As the Mask of Winters begins to speak eloquently on the matter of how Spring should not mistreat his noble servants, even in jest, Varanim delves deep into the world of ideas, searching for the connection between Lucent and his "friend" from long ago.

MaskOfWinters The information that floods into Varanim's perception is, at first, thick with irrelevant and almost salacious details: a night seated on a dock, a chest think with orichalcum seated between them and flagons of wine in their hands; a shouting argument in the halls of the Deliberative chamber over a trifling matter; a knowing glance as Lucent's eyes dart over to a fine young Lunar walking down the streets of Kel-Xis.

MaskOfWinters But as she narrows down her perception further and further, the distractions melt away, the connection comes into focus. At first, she sees only what the Mask has described: Lucent caught up in a net unconnected to him, a victim of circumstance, an unintended casualty of an entirely unrelated long-simmering grudge.

MaskOfWinters But then, finally, one moment presents itself: the Derelict Kshatriya, the Sunset Order broken and dragged in after his attack, reporting to the Mask those he has accounted for -- a brief twinkle of the eye and moment of consideration on the Mask's part -- and then: "Lucent? ...Good" as he gives an order that would now, in the present, prove his undoing.

Varanim Blinking her eyes clear of the past, Varanim interrupts the end of the Mask's circumlocution to say, "You shouldn't have done that."

MaskOfWinters pauses mid-sentence.

Zahara "Ahh, this is where it gets good." She spins the mask around on her fingertip

Spring "Am I to understand that you will not lend me any Abyssals?"

Varanim "Empress," she adds politely, in a rare use of titles, "Derelict Kshatriya brought a complete list of prisoners to the Mask of Winters, who specifically approved Lucent's presence in what followed. Given a bit of time and rather a lot of blood, I can produce the Derelict to verify if needed."

MaskOfWinters pauses. "No," he says, looking over at the faces of the Solars.

Lucent "Times like this?"

Lucent "Violence comes in handy."

Zahara "Ah, thank you for your investigation Varanim."

Varanim shrugs, already looking weary of the end of this.

Spring "No?"

< Traces of Moonshine | Sol Invictus Logs | So Underhanded >

Page last modified on November 29, 2009, at 10:05 AM