2021-05-22: The Library of Babel

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<Pose Tracker> Queen Zephyr has posed.

The call for the audience with Queen Zephyr of Shevat comes a couple days after the general arrival of various parties to the floating nation. There has been enough time for people to recover and regroup from the difficult climb that was Babel, as well as enough time to explore the country of Shevat and get to start to understand the people who live there.

Perhaps some of the tempo of the audience that is to come could have been gleaned from talking among the citizens of Shevat.

Shevat is a nation that still retains knowledge and power from the past.

Shevat is a nation that strives to work against Solaris, its ancient enemy.

Shevat is a nation that has lost much since the Day of Collapse.

Shevat is a nation that is barely holding on.

While their barrier still protects them, it has also served to isolate them from the world of the surface: it's a near-insurmountable wall for anyone to ascend in search of whatever aid Shevat can still offer. Those Shevat has helped it has only helped incidentally, as a result of its agents' actions on the surface.

Much like the rest of the floating nation, the audience chamber and throne room within the palace is old. Pale grey ornamented panels line the walls of the long curved chamber: below the floating path leading to the large platform before the throne are curved sections of clear glass separating this room from the sky below. Even the platform that holds the Queen's throne and nothing else hovers above the glass.

A shimmering veil-like screen parts as the throne is approached; glowing lines streak down it at irregular intervals. Behind it sits the Queen on her throne.

The Queen is young. She looks to be only barely an adult, perhaps not even that. Dressed in heavy robes with ornamented fringes, her auburn hair covered by a grey-brown veil, she wears no crown: the only ornamentation on her head is a single green stone affixed to her brow.

The Queen is young, but her eyes are old. Ancient, nearly.

"Welcome, all of you," she addresses everyone, barely stirring as she takes in those arrayed before her. "Thank you for traveling such a very long way. I am Zephyr, the Queen of Shevat. I trust that all you have had sufficient time to recover from your journey?"

She waits but for a moment before continuing.

"In truth... we should have reached out to all of you long before now. Our agents have been monitoring your actions in Filgaia." Zephyr pauses a moment. "And beyond."

She continues. "Perhaps you have seen it with your own eyes, now that you walk in our country. We seek to oppose Solaris now as we did five hundred years ago, but we lack the strength to stand against them. Our resources and our capacity to withstand them has dwindled, and it is certain that we will in time be overcome. ...Those of the lands below, this is what I would ask of you...

"Can you find it in your hearts to help us? We must together find the strength to resist and overcome Solaris."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre Lorentz is higher than he has ever been before.

Literally, for once, instead of figuratively!

He's not sure what he was expecting when he arrived in Shevat, but he certainly did not predict 'small, talkative stuffed toys' and 'an idyllic internal garden' and 'a people who have all but lost hope.' Though considering their competition, he's absolutely not surprised. He and his have only had to put up with Solaris' shenanigans for a few short years. How long have the people of Shevat endured the Solarians' continued depradations? Centuries? Longer?

They have called for help from the only people they could ask. And so...

"Heck yes we're going to help you take them down," Cyre answers with approximately as much decorum as one might expect from an awful surface barbarian with a bone to pick with certain even more barbaric sky people. He pauses, then clears his throat and inclines his head toward the ancient queen of Shevat. She might look young, but her expression and mannerisms suggest anything but. She might very well be older than Elder Halle! Cyre has enjoyed the company of an Elw long enough not to presume a face is as young as the soul it serves. "Cyre Lorentz, Shaman of Fengalon, at your service. Please, tell me exactly how it is you would like me to assist with the defeat of your ancient enemy. I have..."

His eyes tighten. "...Many of my own reasons to want to see them stricken from the sky."

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Despite accusations made to the contrary, Leon Albus is capable of behaving himself when the situation calls for it. (It helps if Riesenlied is around.)

He talked to people in Shevat -- looked at some of their machinery -- and decided that any nation that harbors a healthy distrust of and determination to destroy Solaris is all right inh is book. When the chance came to meet with the queen of this nation, he didn't hesitate to agree.

He stands there in the hall, wearing one of his better coats, a buttoned up vest, and a collared white shirt. He doesn't come armed into a throne room, for once. He tilts his head to the side as she speaks.

He bobs his head once.

"Thank you for meeting with us," he says. "I've recovered well. And... well. Suffice to say -- Solaris is our enemy, as well. I've seen what they did in Ignas. And there's the recent events with the Ethos, as well."

The Black Wolves' captain ducks his head down. "I would prefer to see them ended, thoroughly."

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied had a pretty miserable time getting up the Tower of Babel, having opted to stay back so that she didn't hinder the Black Wolves too much; in the end, it's thanks to the rest of the Outreach and Lily's help that she's able to be up here, with everyone else!

    She's spent a bit of time sightseeing and also admiring how... somewhat familiar Shevat feels -- something about it bears the ancientness of the Photosphere, perhaps. A relic of a different era, with people of a different custom. Much less oppressive in many ways, of course, but... the way it tenaciously holds on reminds her of the Tainted and the Gutter, in a way.

    She also has discovered that Shevat has ramps! And not only ramps, floating platforms too!

    So it is with her snazzy new wheelchair with an enormous CUCCO plate mounted on the front that she's here today. It looks a lot comfier than her old chair. And, of course, there's her friends to help her whenever that fails too!

    "Yes, everyone has been so hospitable...!" Riesenlied claps her hands together. "Oh-- I am being rude. I am Riesenlied, a Hyadean and representative of the Wayside Outreach. I would certainly be happy to assist, as we have been struggling with Solaris ourselves for a very long time..."

    She tilts her head. "... Solaris involved themselves with us, back in the Photosphere. I am but one of the unfortunate products of their meddling..." she murmurs, lowering her head. But perking up a little as she waves to Leon.

    "If I may ask... you mentioned being hesitant to contact us. Is there any particular reason why?"

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Nobody is older than Granny Halle, not even the people older than Granny Halle.

Fei Fong Wong has spent his time talking with the people of Lahan. It hasn't been easy, but they've all been strangely... forgiving. Did Shevat really somehow clear everything up with them? Does he OWE Shevat now? He'd owe them anyway just for looking after them, but he still feels guilty and being forgiven doesn't really draw away from the pain. And no matter how perfect things seem to be here, he can't quite shake this subtle feeling of anxiety. Like another shoe is going to drop. And the fact that the shoe IS NOT dropping is not making things any easier for Fei. He should try, though, because he loves Doc, he loves Yui, and Midori, and he even still cares for the people of Lahan. He can't just--give up on them because he feels...

...uneasy.

"How can we help...? When you are so much stronger than us already?" Fei asks. "...What sort of...What sort of world would you make if you didn't have to worry about your rivals anymore?"

Not that he's sure 'rival' is the correct term considering that Shevat has certainly lagged behind their opposing number.

"I mean... We came here--because we needed your help..! Even if we can beat them in a fistfight, that isn't going to stop them. They're stronger than what power can defeat on its own."

He looks to Riesenlied and hazards a guess, "I guess--they're hesitant to act overtly against them? Whereas we're...usually kinda underneath their notice."

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly van Houten has, gradually, gotten over the lingering anxiety she has felt coming up here.

Why? Some was carryover from what Maria revealed about the surprisingly parlous state of Shevat's defenses. Two or three more years, or one lucky hit, and it's quite likely there would not have been a Shevat to get to. They would have never known.

Some of it is -

- well -

Elly, honestly, can't really tell. Meeting, at long last, Dr. Uzuki's family helped, but has not really made it all go away. It is perhaps forty percent of what it was. And so, she stands a little backwards, next to Fei and perhaps a half step behind, hands folded behind her back. Her eyes are lowered, respectfully (or anxiously, though it helps that Riesenlied has a wonderful new travel chair to look at, rather than the good old Floor).

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    Magilou, who does not have a Gear to ascend to the heavens, is regardless somehow here. When pressed, she says something about a 'geoboard'. This may well be Magilou just making up words, because she hasn't shown anyone what that is.

    It's probably fine? It's probably fine.

    Anyway, now Magilou is in the sky, again. (Again? (Don't worry about it. (Maybe you should worry about it a little. (Hey, bet you can't jump from up here.)))) Bienfu has befriended his kinmen. Magilou ran some stand-up comedy for the sky people. It was great, you should have been there.

    AND NOW: She's here, in all her jester-suit glory, complete with skirt made entirely of books. (Bienfu is not here. Or is he?)

    Magilou leans against the doorframe, arms loosely folded. "Solaris, huh..." She muses, to herself, before her two-toned eyes lift to Zephyr. "Say they help you," interesting phrasing. "Then what?"

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika Zuse is here.

Eika has been quiet. Shevat isn't what she expected at all, but she wanted to see it and now she has. She came to fight Solaris, after they showed their hands with the Etones; she was perfectly willing to go to a strange place and make strange allies to do it, but she knows her forte is not with diplomacy and so she is listening, not speaking, to the Queen.

For now. As always, she's hot-headed - that could change in an instant. It almost does when she speaks of agents - but Eika holds her tongue on the matter. "Yes," she says, simply - she's here for that reason, after all. "What they did - I can't forgive them for that, even if the books say I'm supposed to."

There is also someone else here, who people may not expect to have come.

Mariel does not have a Gear. She had to tag along on Babel Tower rather than climb it herself - it was somewhere even she had no knowledge of, as it had predated her by millenia and she had never been inside, either.

And she doesn't have any direct knowledge of Shevat, either, but she wanted some. She wanted to see a place that had fallen, during - events, 500 years ago. To find out what they remembered. She intended to ask questions, to read their library, to find out if certain things were known and by who. Parts of Shevat seemed familiar in ways that the surface is, but she already feels homesick, like she does on Lunar. So high up...

Mariel has not introduced herself as an Elw, but she hasn't hidden it either. If they know, they know. Which may explain why she says: "I usually do not get involved with politics..." Mariel shuffles slightly, her ears flattening downward. "...but I am interested in Shevat. It's, ah..."

It's personal, if what she thinks is true, but that doesn't mean she'll fight. "...if nothing else I can help with medicine."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    After helping see the Caravan Kinship and related allies up Babel Tower via being able to relay important qualities about a foe he should not have known a thing about, it doesn't take long for Ethius to go back to seeming exactly as out of place as he ever does. That distant manner, that lack of cultural likeness in the way he carries himself to... pretty much anywhere, ever.

     Compared to the almost bloodthirsty religious fervor of Cyre and the cool, professional answer of Leon, and the graceful attitude of Riesenlied, Ethius stands near the back corner of the 'hall' of the audience chamber, arms behind his back like he were standing at attention but yet as though he were trying to be 'off frame' from most of the conversation.

     As far as he knows, his earliest memory was being chased down by Gebler and in retrospect feels that picture, that idea, is strange - not that he voices it aloud. Gebler's associates have tried to hunt him down specifically to admonish him for his behaviors and actions.

     He does not voice approval nor disapproval for the idea - he seems, for the moment, simply there. (Unless... he may have been one of Shevat's all along? He really doesn't look like he belongs here, though, nor does anyone among Shevat speak to him more than is necessary.)

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Shevat is beyond anything Jacqueline expected. It's a little overwhelming, honestly, in a lot of ways. It's... a little hard to believe. But, believe it she does, because for all these people's advanced society, so far beyond anything she's seen before, there's one thing she recognizes that she's all too familiar with -

The look of someone in desperate need of help.

So when the Queen puts out a request, Jacqueline is there. She takes a moment to look over the Queen Zephyr. She looks young, but her eyes... they're the eyes of one who has seen far too much.

"'Beyond'... so you're familiar with our exploits on the world above, Lunar. ...And Solaris's too, I imagine." She comments. She looks briefly toward Riesenlied, nodding as she asks her question.

"With all due respect, Your Highness... I was wondering the same thing. Why are you seeking us out now?" Jacqueline asks, then pauses.

"Ah... where are my manners. I'm Jacqueline Barber, leader of the Caravan Kinship." She says, offering a polite bow. "As you may know... I'm a capable merchant, if you'll permit me to say. If Shevat needs anything, I may be able to help."

She pauses, then, watching as Cyre and Leon respond. Jacqueline frowns, uncertainly. ...She doesn't really like the way either of them worded that, but she can understand why.

"I may have some... questions, about your plans, but they can wait until we hear further details." Jacqueline says.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    To many of its residents, Guild Galad is an island of technological progress in a world that fears the future. This, of course, is not true, but Ida internalized it growing up--and while she's been thoroughly disabused of the notion, Shevat makes her feel like a bumpkin in comparison. Everything is densely-packed, but there's also a light, ethereal airiness to it; plenty of plantlife, edible and otherwise, cisterns where rainwater is collected and purified. These things would be unheard-of in her home. She spent the first few days getting her bearings. She checked the Dust Dragoon into the Gear bay for repair and refueling, secured a place to sleep, and did her best to settle in.

    Now, Ida stands with her comrades before the Queen. She flanks Fei, dressed in the outfit she so often wore when she first set out--the blue jacket with the gold scarf, cream-colored shirt, and tan slacks. The heels of her brown leather boots click on the tile as she approaches the throne beside him.

    She is doing her very best not to look down. Ida is still getting used to being in a flying city after being born and raised with solid earth beneath her. She can only wonder how poor Venetia is doing.

    Ida bows, deeply and respectfully. Like Cyre, she's picked up on that sense of age in Zephyr's eyes. "Thank you for your hospitality, Your Highness," Ida says. For a few seconds, she is the very image of genteel gratitude.

    Then her smile fades, and her eyes harden. "Solaris' leadership has much to answer for," she says. "And while there are many among us who wish to take the fight to them, they hold advantages of technology, information, and stealth." She glances at Cyre, and then at Leon. "We know only the broadest strokes of their plan, yet even that..." She turns back to Zephyr, a grave look in her eyes. "We cannot allow it. We will not allow it."

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    "You do us an honor, your Majesty."

    So says Yui Uzuki, one of the blades of Shevat. Though, perhaps only those who are citizens of Shevat would know that fact.

    Two-thirds of the Uzuki family are present in the audience chamber, standing somewhat to the side of where Elly and Fei are. Only Midori is absent, left in the care of a friend of Yui's.

    "Although Shevat's power is considerable," Citan remarks to Fei, "it appears they are currently... unable to stand 'toe to toe' with Solaris, as it were." Shevat has some excellent warriors, ancient advanced technology, and some powerful Gears... but not enough of any of these things. The only thing they have that gives them an edge currently is the barrier.

<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Billy Lee Black is also present, having ascended the Tower of Babel in a RIVETING ADVENTURE that will be recounted in an UPCOMING ISSUE, TRUE BELIEVERS!

For the moment, he stands off to one side of the cluster, approximately near the Black Wolves, because that's presumably the orbit of roughly everybody he knows. Still...hearing Zephyr say she won't be able to give help so much as ask for it makes something burn in him, and his expression darkens. His eyes sweep to another person he's standing near:

Jessie Black grimaces, but manages to look less displeased than his recently-seriously-pulverized son. He, after all, has been in the trenches with Shevat's field forces for some time, and has a sense of their scale and capabilities. The darker-skinned father's eyes wander the room, and settle on Citan, and the woman standing next to him, with the face of a person who is slowly coming to a realization.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia wasn't sure what to expect from a royal audience in general, let alone one with the monarch of a country in the sky. She'd learned what to expect from the monarch herself at least, so that youthful appearance isn't so much of a surprise. She'd also learned of the situation that Shevat finds itself in from talking with some of the inhabitants, plus spent much of her time here in the library, so she's relatively informed in general... she just doesn't know how audiences work, at all.

Having been told to just be polite, act natural and not sweat the details too much has of course caused her to sweat the details a lot, and mostly hang back among the gathered group of Black Wolves, taking her time to see how some of the others act before she does. She can't help but stare a little, though. She certainly has some personal questions she would like to ask the Queen of Shevat about. It takes some willpower to not just blurt out her every thought, as she so commonly does.

At least this visit has been good for Fei so far, and she hasn't really seen anything that gave cause to fuel her initial doubts regarding Shevat, viewing the Other Sky People in a more positive light than when she first got here. As it is, it feels the most natural to speak up when Fei does, affirming her brother's words with a nod.

"Yeah, um... it's kind of weird to hear you ask our help, when we came here to ask you. What Solaris is doing... we can stop some of those things, but all that'll do is delay things, it won't stop their overall plans. That's what we need help with."

She frowns deeply and balling her fists as she averts her gaze for a moment. "...Believe me, I know how important it is to stop Solaris from interfering with Filgaia and its people any more than they already have." Relaxing again, she turns her head back to the Queen. "I just need to know what I can do. If it's to stop Solaris, I'll do whatever I can."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    --LAST TIME ON COURIER BALL Z--

    Gwen, Lan, and Ragnell had the equivalent of a road trip up the side of a building in a single Gear. Much talking was heard, and Gwen went through her supply of meal bars.

    --NOW--

    Gwen's joyous trek up here contrasts to the quiet way she regards people now, as the child(?) empress of Shevat makes her request. It's tempting to join in, especially as she remembers the carnage of what happened at the Etone's Headquarters, and the implications of all they've done up to then.

    It seems like the worst time to bring up the possibilities for opening a delivery route to here, besides.

    But she also remembers what Elly told her, that one time when Elly had the unenviable task of trying to teach her some method of ether control in hopes of it combating the Stranger's.... general deal (it ended with Gwen dining on Elly's cooking, so that's a plus???).

    It was also a chance for Gwen to learn something that has become very crucial in her understanding of what Solaris *is*.

    "I guess it's also the consideration that it's not just a military base with soldiers. There's people in Solaris, who probably don't even know what life is like outside of it, or that people would think Solaris is anything other than pretty amazing, y'know? Like, what that one book talked about with the people bein' in the cave n' no one believin' the guy who came in from outside the cave? Somethin' like that." She rubs the side of her head. "Even if we get to access it, it ain't like we'd just be able t'bumrush it." She considers, holding a hand to her chin. "Though this might also be its weakness. If we turn the tables on them, and infiltrate them like they did us...?"

    Her eyes slowly cross, as she tries to imagine trying to pass for someone native to Shevat.

    "Basically, just, there's people there. The kinda people we'd meet in any city, just mindin' their own business."

    She clears her throat. "... I guess I'm... not really contributin' anythin' useful here."

<Pose Tracker> Queen Zephyr has posed.

The sky below them continues to float gently by--or perhaps they are the ones floating. The glass(?) reflects the sound well; it is easy to hear everyone in here.

Exactly how? Cyre's passion is clear, but her answer remains calm. "We will have to take stock of our collected resources, ours and those of you who will help us. Even now we are attempting to decrypt the intelligence Jesiah Black and our agent on the surface have recovered. What we can learn, and what we can bring together--these will allow us to plan beyond hopeful ideals."

For hospitality? To Ida, and others who have mentioned it, "You are more than welcome. It is an honor to host so many brave individuals of the surface, who have labored so tirelessly for this world and another."

"Yes, you all have reasons to oppose Solaris." She acknowledges the many motivations simply, watching each individual who mentions them with her ancient eyes. "Their crimes are many." She has no particular comment on Leon's desire to eliminate Solaris beyond this; either she is polite, or she shares his perspective. Instead she says, "...But a man of Kislev would understand well Solaris's interference with the surface, I imagine."

"...There are reasons," Queen Zephyr says to Riesenlied, and she sighs, a noise too aged for her form. "...Partly, of course, it is simply difficult to communicate with the surface while maintaining our own safety from Solaris." But this clearly isn't all, as she continues after a brief pause, "...And partly it is because we have failed, thus far, to handle this on our own. It is we who failed in the past to bring down Solaris, one of the many things for which we must atone. But there is no denying now that we cannot do it alone."

"We have no illusions of sending great armies against Solaris. Details of strategy I cannot say before I know our mutual resources, but we do believe that together we can accomplish more than we could each alone. As for the world we would make..." Rivals. It is a way to put it. "What we wish is to liberate the land-dwellers. I speak no lies; if you do not believe me, then watch us. When we defeat Solaris, see us reach to the heavens with you."

"Elhaym of Solaris," Queen Zephyr says, looking to the woman hanging back. "I understand that this must all be very difficult for you. But you face a terrible choice ahead, and it is one you must make, one way or another."

"They?" Queen Zephyr wonders of Magilou. She looks at her seriously, as someone who is not at all deflected by the silly costume or the book skirt or the harsh words. She looks at Magilou in the same even way as everyone else. "...As I said; we seek to liberate the land-dwellers. In this, we will find our atonement. ...I will find my atonement."

To Eika she also gives a long look. "I cannot tell you whom you owe forgiveness. But if you would oppose Solaris, then we welcome working with you."

Mariel, "...I can imagine that you do not." Queen Zephyr does not call out any secrets about Mariel, but she does not look at her like some young girl. Perhaps that's just her; perhaps she does know. It becomes almost certain when she answers, "Your medical expertise would be very welcome, and could save many lives."

Queen Zephyr doesn't look at Ethius much. Her guards, however, are watching that man. They are sure watching him.

She turns to Jacqueline then. "Yes; one thing we do have is an intelligence network that keeps us informed as to many events. We are aware of your exploits on Lunar... and Solaris's incursions there, as well." She nods more deeply in response to the bow. She has already answered the matter of why 'now', to Riesenlied, but she continues, "A force can only march as well as it is supplied. We are aware that you have more than battle to offer us, and we appreciate this." She pauses. "...I cannot say much as to our specific plans yet, because your presence shapes our ability to plan at all."

"Dr. Uzuki is correct. On our own, we cannot hope to stop Solaris, or bring it to account for what it has done." She nods to Ida, as well. "Their advantages of technology, of sheer force--these remain. We lack much of what they have, not least their forces around the globe. ...We feel as you; we cannot allow their plans to come to fruition."

Gwen's final point though--Zephyr is stone-faced, as she says it. "It is true. Many of the people of Solaris are simply people. Infiltration may well be an important tactic..." She pauses. "But we cannot hesitate to strike against Solaris, even knowing this. All who would fight for Solaris must be our enemy, even if they only fight 'for their home'. Victory will require nothing less."

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied just gets happier when she sees more familiar faces, though it's tempered a little when she senses Fei's reticience. It's true... what does fighting Solaris entail? They imagined Shevat as being more powerful, but the reality is that Shevat is struggling too.

    Elly and Xantia being here also makes her happy -- though something also seems to be bothering her! She wonders just what happened in the Wolves' run, but somehow starts thinking of unagi kabayaki for a moment. She's also glad to see Billy and Jessie've made it too.

    But oh, who's that cute woman in the jester-suit and a book-skirt? How much INT does she get out of wearing that?! Riesenlied waves at Magilou, because she's friendly. She has a very salient question. If they help her... then what? "Hello, I do not believe we have met!"

    Eika and Mariel are present too, making her wonder -- was the latter around to see Shevat? She says she has an interest in it... "Mariel..." Riesenlied expresses, but she nods as the Queen addresses her too -- that they can offer more than battle. "Yes, please let us know. I too have healing capabilities... and the Outreach can arrange for other social and emotional needs."

    Cyre, Jacqueline and Ethius are also here... she didn't doubt the Carakin would be present too. Jay points out that they know a lot -- about Lunar... they've been observing for a long time.

    Citan arrives with a woman she doesn't recognise! Riesenlied has heard of his family, but doesn't quite put two and two together... "A lack of fighting capability..."

    The Queen speaks of how it's their sin that Solaris subsists -- a form of atonement. But...

    "Bearing the weight of atonement on your own... is not something I would wish of anyone. I know this, myself," Riesenlied expresses. "... ... seeing the people here... is what convinced me," Riesenlied continues, offering her view.

    "When you cannot see a people, when you only know them as a shadow, you imagine them as so much more powerful and immaculate, but... I can clearly see there are a lot of people in need of help here too. I am a child of the stars, but I view myself as a child of Filgaia. I do not think differently about the people of Shevat."

    She puts a hand to her cheek, at least offering a more practical point. "... even having the flying Shevat and its barrier on our side is a boon to what we can do. The one time we took the skies -- on the Fereshte -- Solaris immediately attempted to shoot us down. We can accomplish much more together..."

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    They, yes. Looking from the outside in, eternal observer; Magilou doesn't say anything, but the flat look she delivers to Queen Zephyr may well say it all. Zephyr looks at Magilou with gravitas despite her costume; Magilou doesn't look at all sceptical about her being the Queen at such a young age. In this, they are in accord.

    For a time she's silent, tapping her fingers against her arm. Finally: "... you're right! Killing everyone will totally scrub your soul clean. You know what they say: an eye for an eye leaves you with one more eye than you had when you started!" Magilou lifts a hand to display a V-sign, tone and face so much cheerful than they were a moment prior.

    "Perhaps the wise and wonderful sorceress, Magilou, will also help you!" Her grin is a knife, as she settles back against the doorframe. "Love a good revenge story."

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika seems a little shy of the glass part of the floor. She tries not to stand on it. It's way too much 'down' for her.

Eika makes a sound somewhere between 'huh' and a sigh. "Well, I didn't expect you to. But after what they did with the Etones..." Eika was there, after all. She was there when they brought down her old life around her, even though she'd already been banished because of Stone; she was there when they told her she'd been working with people who were false, even if the Church itself wasn't.

It's hard, and Eika is still bitter.

"But I don't know much about them. I don't know how to infiltrate - they speak a different language, don't they? I just - damn, I just want to stop them from doing what they've done *ever* again!" Eika clenches her fist, then - after a long moment - lets it go. "I know ruins and I know martial arts. I don't know spying or assassination or warfare. But that's what you're talking about, isn't it? The people are people, but the leaders need to be stopped."

Elly gets a rather sharp look when the Queen introduces her as 'Elhaym of Solaris'. Perhaps she didn't know. But nobody else is agitating to throw her off the island, so... She does look at Magilou somewhat incredulously, though. Her gaze shifts to Billy, of all people, with an expression like 'get a load of this crazy person'.

As for Mariel...

"I'm sorry, I should have introduced myself," Mariel says, apologetically. "My name is Mariel..." she trails off, looks at Queen Zephyr, and hesitates for a moment as if deciding whether to say something. She eventually leaves it at that, for the moment.

She returns the Queen's comment with a slow nod. "Of course I will help," she says. "It's the least I can do. I have brought some herbs and seeds, for Shevat - for the people here, if you would like to grow them."

The least she can do, because the conversation about atonement is sinking awfully close to home for her. She looks down, away from Riesenlied, as if embarrassed - or pained, maybe. If she's been here before, she's not saying so (though she's been so interested in the makeup of the city that it seems either she hasn't or they've done some major renovations).

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon was pleased to meet the Uzukis -- though that had to happen after his fellows did, and for less time -- and seems more or less at ease. He listens to the others. There is a glance from Citan to Fei, with a flicker of concern in his expression. Fei, as he often does, asks the question that Leon wondered but didn't voice aloud.

"I do," Leon confirms, with a nod of his head. He glances once at Elly -- a terrible choice, indeed. He frowns for a second, and then he nods. "You talk about atonement. What is that you intend to atone for? And... if I might ask, how do you intend to?"

He glances sideways at Riesenlied. And, briefly, at Magilou. He blinks once.

He looks back at Queen Zephyr, making an expression approximately like, 'I don't know what just happened.' Then, he shakes his head once. "We're happy to work with you. The Black Wolves are certainly planning to fight Solaris until this is done."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline looks toward Gwen as she speaks, looking pleased that someone brought up that particular issue before she could.

"Yes, those were the same concerns I had. I cannot and will not condone a plan that aims for Solaris's complete and total annihilation - whatever we do, we must do our best to avoid unnecessary harm being brought onto the civilians." Jacqueline agrees. "Solaris itself must be stopped, yes... but there are victims of its crimes within the city, as well - some who may not even realise it."

She briefly glances toward Magilou... and grimaces slightly, before looking back toward Queen Zephyr. She listens as the Queen continues, explaining their goals. Jacqueline frowns a little, going over the words in her head.

"May I ask for clarification on something? When you say you intend to 'liberate the land-dwellers', may I ask what your specific intentions are? Do you simply refer to the act of freeing the land from Solaris's grasp?" Jacqueline asks. "I apologize, but I'd like to ensure we're on the same page."

She nods, though, as Queen Zephyr acknowledges her offer. They can discuss more on that subject later, then - as she says, they'll need to determine exactly what the plans are yet.

She looks toward Mariel, then. ...It seems that Queen Zephyr might have an idea of who she is.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

'Elhaym of Solaris.'

Elly flinches.

It is not a huge power-shock or a dramatic reeling but Fei would know, and people looking right at her at the time would. Her face burns reddish and she straightens upwards, looking towards the youthful queen and steeling herself.

For a moment --

-- I could run away, Elly thinks. I don't have to be standing right here. I could run away to the surface again. Even if I didn't jump out, or anything, I could just... run. They're all kind, at least, so far, at least, to me; I'm sure they would let me go. I could just go fish off the side of the Thames.

Elly takes a deep breath and lets it, and the momentary dream, go away.

"Thank you, your highness. I understand what you mean. ... And, I hope... something can happen, and that the people within Solaris will plead for peace and change their ways. But..."

"That's just a hope, and I'd rather throw out a million hopes than see another person be..." Elly says, almost sighs. Who is she imagining, and what fate, to conclude that lingering sentence? There are certainly a lot of options.

"I know hardly anything about the real history of this world," Elly continues, unfolding her hands and clasping them in front of her instead. "And what I do know may be all lies. The only thing I can really offer is 'fresher intelligence', and o-- the Solarian language. I'll do my best. I don't know what there might be to 'atone' for, but," and here Elly looks down at her hands, "Umh, I - I mean, I think that the real 'atonement' is only to do what you can to help others."

Elly is silent long enough to suggest that she might be about to say more, but she concludes with "thank you," again and keeps staring at her hands.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong is quiet while Queen Zephyr speaks. "Your own safety..." He murmurs when Zephyr speaks of that. And further speaks of how they failed to handle Solaris on their own. Well, that's pretty obvious even before showing up. But it isn't great to hear how weak those they came seeking help from first off either. He exhales softly and then curls his fingers inward, pushing his fist down.

"You wish to liberate the land-dwellers." Fei says.

"...Atonement..." Fei blinks. And then a memory returns to him.

Memory of An Escape - Exploration - 4 - Agility - Vault

You find yourself on a battleship in the middle of a war.

The battle is going poorly to put it mildly. Your allies have turned against you, leaving you alone to battle against the enemy forces. It was a massacre. There is no hope for victory. The only question is how you will survive.

Your commander looks over to one of your fellow soldiers. It is far from the first time. The commander calls "Abandon ship." You know her plan - the ship's weapons are useless, but the engines are not. It will buy time. Your fellow, her lover, protests, insists there is another way, reaches for her. She commands him to live, and looks to you all. With expectation and with hope.

She wants you to drag this man to the escape pods.

You could do that.

Or you could abandon your comrades to die, all good men and women, to save one woman's life against her own will.

Either way you'll have to move quickly.

Raftina gonna leave you

Gonna fill your heart with tears

It was recent, he thinks. When they rescued Lombardia. They can't keep going to people, trying to help them with their problems--being bit players in their stories and then abandoned to their fates the moment that their aid or existence becomes inconvenient.

"All who would fight for Solaris must be our enemy...Huh..." Fei murmurs.

Then he raises his head. "Maybe we don't have much choice in the matter. Maybe it's as simple as that, but--one thing that would help me a lot is feeling like I can trust you. It's hard for me...especially knowing..."

He looks towards Xantia for a moment before back to Zephyr.

"--That you had abandoned the fight before already--" Leaving those that believed in you to die "--The people who believed in you then, they suffered. If you abandon us--we'll die. The only protection we really have against Solaris right now is that those ruling it feel invincible. If that changes, we don't have the ability to stop them as it is now. We have nothing but some fancy weapons and our lives... the occassional rare skill."

"Even our dirt is losing value."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre has much grievance with the Solarians. Perhaps too much for a man's heart to not overflow with hatred. But that's what happens when those you love are the victims of atrocities that a sane human mind can barely even fathom. Cyre's expression is unchanged, even with the looks thrown his way.

There's a beat, though, as he notices a certain BOOK WITCH. "Oh," he says, thoughtfully. "...Don't I know you from... somewhere...?" Squint.

Squiiint.

(She wasn't actually all that present at the exorcism, and Cyre WAS sort of dancing like he wanted to win at life at the time.)

Well, whatever! There are many sensible questions being raised here. Cyre nods along with them. "I'm of the opinion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend," he says, thoughtfully. "But... I think we're going to have to consider how it was you lost ages ago and take it into account. We are all willing to bring Solaris to task, but repeating old mistakes will only get us all killed."

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

"Atonement..."

Mariel didn't mean to let that slip out. But it did, and though she goes slightly pink in the cheeks - this time she doesn't turn away from what she said. She doesn't pretend she hasn't said it, or let it die there.

"Atonement is fixing a mistake. Fixing what hurt people. Sometimes you can't," Mariel says, speaking quietly. "But you have to try. You can't stop. You can't just leave it. Because if you stop as soon as it gets hard, it doesn't mean anything..."

She gives a slight smile toward Elly. It looks slightly forced but it makes it out. "Even if you don't speak of what it was, much, it changes your whole life. So... I understand, I guess."

She isn't talking about just Elly, here. Or just the Queen, either.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    Ethius side-eyes once at one of the guards looking at him before returning to staring outward at the surrounding people working out their grievances with Solaris, the scope of what it means to fight them, who is at risk - whether the 'civilians' of Solaris can be saved, the vagueness in which 'liberating land-dwellers' is touched upon.

     Looking from the outside in, it is a curiosity, isn't it? That someone like Ethius would seem to draw more stink-eye and suspicion than the small handful of known (former) Solarian agents present within the seat of power of Shevat.

     "I would appreciate further clarification on the circumstances that brought us to this point," says Ethius, who has yet to introduce himself and is now interjecting so out of nowhere it's like he just walked into the room... a sentiment not unique, given what's in the fringes of Fei's voice that speaks of the depth of a man who has lived multiple lifetimes who has seen and suffered much. A hand goes to his forehead for a moment, eyes closing as if considering whether or not he should speak further.

     As if wondering, if not aloud, why he continues to be missing so much context he thinks he should have for being here. (Here versus... where else, exactly?)

<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Billy grunts quietly when Eika brings up the Etones and what was done to them. He is, perhaps inevitably, still chewing on that little chestnut, and his posture slouches inward in reply. He made it, yes, but some part of him is still down in that shoot out. Maybe it always will be.

Speaking up doesn't really occur to him, though at Magilou's rather spectacular outburst, he finds himself catching Eika's gaze and returns something similar, eyes rolling and posture closed.

Jessie is probably, statistically speaking, one of the best dads here, so even though he's currently preening about being specifically called out for helping bring his intel skyward, he still catches that his son is not in the best of spaces right now.

Unfortunately he only merits that title because the bar is 70 miles below the planet's surface, which they are several miles above, so he decides to figure out what to do about that later.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Gwen does have a good point... that just like Shevat, there must be a lot of people suffering within Solaris. She has already heard of it -- the way 'Third Class' citizens are treated... in many ways, it really was as if they were facing another Photosphere.

    Jay also has something Riesenlied was thinking about -- what does 'liberating the land-dwellers' mean... exactly? There's a quiet look of sympathy as she reaches over to give Elly an encouraging pat. "... it happened with the Hyadeans. I know it can happen again."

    But something Fei says makes her look quite surprised. Zephyr abandoned the fight before, already?

    A longer pause once more...

    "Was... father -- was Siegfried involved in that as well?" she finds herself having to wonder. About that age. About the age Siegfried chose to trust humans.... and found his trust betrayed.

    "... Mariel is right. If she really does feel that way, Fei... I cannot rightly reject that, not when you all offered me a hand when I did, myself."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida spares a glance Citan's way as the Queen discusses matters further. There's a woman with him, and she doesn't recognize her--but Fei mentioned he had a family, didn't he? It's heartening to see the two of them together.

    And then Magilou does her thing, and for a moment, the expression falls off Ida's face, leaving her glancing between the Queen and the woman in motley. She remembers Halim--Magilou, and Ruth, and how the both of them spoke to her own feelings "...Hah," she says, to no one in particular. When she looks back at Zephyr, it's as though a new understanding has come over her. "I can only imagine what it must feel like to be in your shoes, Your Highness," Ida says. Her tone is respectful, but not as formal. "But I know how it feels to want to atone. It's a fine line to walk--it's so easy for it to turn into a weight around your neck, isn't it--"

    Fei does not look well. He's not talking about pleasant things. Ida steps forward, puts a hand on his shoulder. "...Fei?" she whispers. "What's wrong?"

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    It's Yui who turns her head to look at Fei when he says that -- when he speaks of what will happen if Shevat withdraws a second time. "Fei," she starts to say, interrupted only when her husband gently puts a hand on her shoulder to forestall whatever it was she was about to say.

    "...I defer of course to her Majesty," Citan says, touching his fingers to the rim of his glasses. "However... I do not think that Shevat has that 'opportunity' any longer. ...Is that incorrect, your Majesty?"

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Magilou makes a wonderfully direct point. Gwen scratches her chin. "Atonement is well n' good, n' I'm just assumin' your atonement is losing against Solaris, or feeling responsible for your inaction somehow contributin' to

    "... What I'm sayin, your majesty, is if we employed that same logic to the Photosphere as we're doin' Solaris, there'd be a lot of allies not here right now. Of course..." She offers the child queen a sympathetic look, her smile and blue-grey eyes softening as she continues from her initial tone. "You're speakin' from the vantage point of someone who's got a city to defend. Us, we got a little more room to move around and judge what's the best tactics. We got numbers, n' I imagine we're not gonna handle this like we were all workin' under the same plan." She lightly taps her fist into her open palm. "The way I see it, we throw all that violence on the people responsible. Crabellen, uh... other commanders, people who are fully runnin' that place and manipulating things? Punchin' those people real good."

    But what of people, like Loren? People who follow those orders because it's a part of who they are, and because it's shaped the trauma that wounds them so.

    Her grasp loosens.

    There are likely many, many Lorens.

    Gwen eyes Ida, following the line of her hand towards its target, Fei.

    It's got to be hard for Fei and Elly, all things considered.

    ".... There's gonna be a lot of people who'll find their worlds ripped apart, if we succeed. Some of us'll have to find ways to show them the world's not terrible." There's people like Leon and Lily who will likely spearhead their way to gaining back what Solaris has taken.

    People like her can help by making sure these actions don't lead to more planted seeds of Solarises and tyrants to come.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

When Queen Zephyr speaks the name of another member of the Black Wolves, Xantia turns in Elly's direction. Somehow, she'd failed to consider this until now, but now that it's been pointed out, she instantly realizes it. Even if Elly has chosen to side with them, there may well be people she knows still in Solaris that she'd rather not come to harm. She can't imagine how that must feel. It's not something she feels able to say anything about, a sympathetic look is all she manages.

Fei likewise gets a look from her, as he sinks into what might be a moment of pensiveness, but she suspects could be something more. She's been around him long enough to pick up on these things. But that too is not something she's able to help with in any way. It's frustrating, not knowing how you can best support the people you care about.

What she does have confidence in is her ability to fight. So that's what she choose to focus on in her own response to the Queen, again choosing to speak directly after Fei does.

"I also had some trouble trusting you, but... it's more because I know you've been watching us. You have these Agents, who live on Filgaia and look just like everyone else. No way for us to know when you were watching, listening... what you needed to do that for, or how you had them act on that." She pauses, narrowing her eyes a little when she adds, "You have to admit... kind of sounds like the way Solaris does things, doesn't it?"

She lets that hang there for a moment, before letting out a breath, and shaking her head. "But... after seeing this place, its people, and how things are around here... I've decided to trust you. Not to go against what Fei said, but... I think we need each other to get anywhere, so even if it's a risk to trust each other, that's just the way things are."

She hesitates a moment. There's more she wants to say, of a more personal nature. Is this the right time to say it? How would she know? Best to just say what's on her mind when it's on her mind, she supposes... no reason to change how she's always done things now.

"...Queen Zephyr. Since you've been watching us, you probably know this already, but I've lost my memory. Please tell me... is there anything you or your Agents know about my past?"

<Pose Tracker> Queen Zephyr has posed.

"There are those of us in Shevat who must bear that weight," Zephyr says to Riesenlied, though not unkindly. "...But as you say, it is not all of our people; many come from the surface, more and more by the year. I appreciate that you would think of our people in this way, though we are safe for now." She considers, then. "Yes... Solaris jealously guards the skies. It is part of why a direct assault is impractical."

Magilou's grin is a knife--but it would seem that Zephyr has a taste for it, as she watches calmly the other woman in the face of her cheerful display. "Revenge..." She actually smiles faintly, distantly. "No. The one who should take revenge is gone."

"We have no desire to murder the innocent. Solaris holds many victims; their city holds in bondage many surfacers brought to work for them, there. What we wish is to build a future where people are free of Solaris's grasp. We wish to build a peaceful world, wherein we all may live." This is her initial response to Jay. "There is no apology required for wishing to understand. That we must be prepared to fight does not mean that we must crave bloodshed."

But what does she want to atone for? How does she plan to do it? She looks to Leon, first, and does not answer him immediately. She seems to gather her thoughts. What she can say... what she must say. "...I will explain some of the history. As we speak."To Mariel--"We will gratefully accept these seeds and herbs. I am certain that they will be of help." But atonement--Mariel says the word, and Zephyr has no judgement in her gaze as she looks at her in turn; there is simply something of a kinship perhaps in that moment. "You understand," she says simply. Perhaps because of this, she is slightly gentler when she returns her gaze to Elly. "That is a wonderful hope," she answers. "...I do not blame you, for where you come from. I only caution you; kindness can be cruel in a situation like this. You must have a clear understanding... or else you may place those with whom you fight in a situation that may cost their lives."

Xantia... "You are right; simply to stop their actions will only stop their actions. We must stop the source." She's given Xantia a weird look--didn't answer her at first. As if there's something there. But she, too, doesn't just blurt it out. She bears Xantia's stares without much trouble. "We must help each other, if we are to succeed. And if we do... then I believe we can find a way."

She does not linger more on Xantia after that; whatever she saw, she has left it there for now. Except... that Xantia continues, there. What Solaris does.

"I understand your trepidation.. And appreciate your trust." But there--a personal question. This...

Queen Zephyr says, "...You very much resemble someone I knew. Whether you had anything to do with this individual beyond coincidence is something on which I can only speculate. Later, we can discuss this, but I fear I may not have much to offer you."

Zephyr watches Fei for a long time. "Yes, it does put you in a dangerous position. But we also expose ourselves to risk as well by moving. We will be reliant upon one another; we have our shielded city, but it is only a matter of time before our systems simply break down." She looks down, and inclines her head. "As you say, we once withdrew from the fight, and the surface suffered for it. I said that I would explain some of the history... And that is part of it. Five hundred years ago, we initiated a conflict to gain our independence from Solaris. I cannot offer you a magical word that will secure your trust. I can only say..."

"I will not allow the tragedies of five centuries ago to happen again."

"...But in any case," Zephyr admits to Citan's addition, "We do not have that option any longer. We are in this, whether we will it or no."

She looks to Eika, then. "What happened with the Ethos was a tragedy and an atrocity. I share your commitment to ensuring it never repeats. And indeed--it is those leaders who must ultimately be stopped above all else." She looks at Billy, too.

To Cyre, "Indeed--we will share our strategic knowledge as well. But I will ensure that Shevat does not repeat those mistakes."

"...I believe you do understand what it means," she says to Ida next, looking her in the eye. "Your empathy is appreciated. But you will understand then how important it is that I do so."

"Your father was Siegfried?" Zephyr inquires of Riesenlied. "...There were Hyadeans involved in what occured, back then. The Quarter Knights were responsible for many raids on settlements at that time."

"You are correct," Zephyr says to Gwen. "You are not an army, and I do not intend to treat you as such; you are neither regular forces nor under my command. You all have your own methods of doing things. ...And your own individual skills. And there may yet be others within Solaris who can be turned from their cause. We have seen this happen."

"...My concern must be the freedom of the world from Solaris, and the safety of my people. But there will need to be a 'next' step, for 'peace' to exist. Shevat has no desire to guide the world as a whole; that next step will be up to all of you as the people of Filgaia."

She looks again to Fei. "This is what I can offer; the truth, that we cannot run any more than you can now, and that we do not seek to control the world that will be made with freedom from Solaris."

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Five centuries ago... the Day of Collapse," Leon says. He nods his head, once, with understanding -- even if he knows little of what transpired at that time. He glances about the room; then, he looks back towards Zephyr.

"I've no love for Solaris or its armies. But its victims must be freed--here or on the surface," he concludes. He glances at Fei.

"What do you think, Fei?" he asks. "Do you think you can trust them? I know... there is a lot we don't know, yet."

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    "Shoulda, coulda, woulda," Magilou shrugs, broadly, and seems to let the topic drop. Why on earth would she push it to such extremes in the first place...?

    Well, the Queen is spending an awful lot of words on what she's not willing to do, now.

    "That's a lot of yesterdays," she comments, lightly, on five hundred years prior. She shakes her head, only for her bangs to flop obnoxiously in her face. Puff, she blows them away out of the corner of her mouth. Mean comment: successfully defused by hair malfunction.

    She streeeetches against the doorframe, arms reaching up over her head, in a big, loose yaaaawn. Her hand lifts, afterwards, a finger in the air.

    "So, which people of Filgaia are you talking about when you say 'all of you' will get to guide the planet, anyway?"

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

I will not allow the tragedies of five centuries ago to happen again.

Fei's hands slowly lose their tense as they flatten out. Zephyr doesn't seem to be lying. She's being reserved so it's hard to be certain, but if she's being sneaky she's certainly more subtle than the agents of Yevon who were never particularly subtle about their suspicion and distrust of those from outside worlds. Zephyr explains further the risk that she and her people will be taking. He sometimes wishes he was a better tactician so he could properly judge her words on that front and even glances to Leon for a moment but Leon is looking to him and asking him what he thinks. Maybe it's just to see what his own read is before making a decision but if he can't see an obvious tactical sneakery on Zephyr's part he doubts he ever would.

He has no reason to doubt the truth of it from what he's seen. They are on their last chance too. If there's a betrayal here, it may very well be the last one for a very long time. Maybe forever.

He looks to Xantia one more time. She has decided to trust. He looks to Gwen.. She seems to be trusting her too. Citan? Yui?

"I'm...I'm sorry Yui, I didn't. I know you but..."

He looks to Ida, who doesn't seem to know what's bothering him. "The mistakes from five hundred years ago. That's what destroyed Siegfried's hope, remember?"

And finally Riesenlied. For her, it is less a matter of belief--and more that she cannot reject the opportunity for forgiveness and atonement.

Fei laughs a little awkwardly at that. "You really are incredible, Riesenlied."

Do you trust her?

I believe her when she says that they're not in a position to betray us.

Fei decides to finally give his answer. "I think she's being honest. I know sometimes situations change and some promises you find yourselves unable to keep in the moment. but..."

He admits to Leon, "It's true. There's no choice but to trust each other. Because if we don't, it's over. And if we betray each other, then it's also over. It's the only path to victory. We can choose to live under Solaris's machinations forever or risk losing everything to stop them. And I don't think--living under their machinations is something they'll let me do. And besides..."

He looks back to Zephyr. "I do want the truth. Xantia too, if you know it. If you can give us the truth, then--then I'm good with it."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Once again, it looks like Jacqueline and Gwen are on the same wavelength. Jacqueline nods.

"I agree... that's something we'll have to consider, too." Jacqueline replies, before looking back toward Queen Zephyr. She listens to her, considers her words for a moment, and then nods, satisfied.

"...I'm relieved to hear you say that, honestly." Jacqueline replies, with a small smile. "If that's the way you feel, then I'm feeling better about this alliance of ours."

Though she does have a couple of things to consider, too - especially as she listens to Xantia ask her questions.

"It may be a bit early to ask, but... what will Shevat do after Solaris has been stopped?" She asks, looking back toward Queen Zephyr.

At then, then, she looks toward Ethius. Under any other circumstances she'd probably prefer to ask in a different environment, or allow him to ask the question himself, but... with how little he likes to talk about himself, she's not sure it'll ever come up. This might be their only chance to ask.

"And, well... I have something of a more personal question to ask, if that's alright - though it's not about me." She asks, gesturing toward Ethius. "My friend here has lost his memory, but remains deeply knowledgeable about many things the rest of us an only guess at... and in the past, Solaris has expressed an interest in his capture. Is there a possibility he has any connections to Shevat - as an agent or a citizen, perhaps?"

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    "... I understand. It is no different anywhere -- there were those among us that must answer to their crimes, and others... wh oare in need," Riesenlied whispers, a little more sedately.

    Riesenlied does look hopeful and happy when the Queen says Xantia reminds her of someone. "I hope something comes of this, Xantia...!"

    Leon asks if Fei is all right with this, now; there's a lot they don't know yet. A quiet pause, as she looks to Fei when he says she's incredible...

    ...

    She shakes her head quietly. "No... I merely..." A pause. "Five hundred years ago, people made mistakes. Perhaps honest ones, perhaps ones out of fear that they regret later... I do not know. I wish to know more. About that time... about the time my father had with Lacan."

    Riesenlied is quiet. "By the time I came into the world, by the time I met him... father was... I could see it in his eyes. He was shattered... he was betrayed." Like Fei said... destroyed his hope.

    "It is a bit selfish on my part. If there are people who regret that mistake from that time who wish to do better... who am I to reject that? I do not want the mistakes of the past to keep binding us, like it did father..."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    The strange man has been more or less (...more or even more) a passive presence who would be taking his place at that doorframe had Magilou not muscled her way in as the apex predator of being someone who just exists at the fringes, but alas, has been forced to stand here out in the open. His back is open to the air of the outer edges of the hallway, this raised platform-walkway all he has. (Along with a bunch of wary stares in his direction.)

     He has weighed in so very little among the impassioned speeches of those harmed, those hopeful, those willing like he might not even completely be a part of what's going on. Even then... Ethius' actions have been, virtually, a near-perfect match for Queen Zephyr's stated mission. The way he kept trying (and failing) to get people to stop meddling over-much in the lives of people of Lunar and later Spira.

     When Jay asks the question, the man visibly flinches and shoots a glare in Jay's direction.

     "Miss Jay--"

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    "Don't be embarrassed!" Magilou issues to Ethius, brightly, and with zero acknowledgement of her cruel monopolisation of the fringes. "What's the worst that could happen? You're really a super-powerful being who was compelled to do crimes for a deeply unpleasant organisation? Psssh," she waves a hand, "that's totally too old fashioned to happen these days."

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Some of the things discussed have crossed Xantia's mind many times before. She's particularly struggled with the shreds of memory that continue to whisper to her that Solarians are indoctrinated to all have the same beliefs and should therefore all be considered enemies, conflicting with the simple fact that many of them are civilians. That should be a difference that matters, even if it's starting to appear very likely that her past self didn't think it did.

Relatedly, her mind has been on opposing Solaris in particular ever since those particular memory fragments returned to her. For that to be the top priority just... seems to make the most sense right now. 'Filgaia will never be free so long as Solaris maintains a hold on it'. However she once came to believe that, it's easy to feel that this is the only correct course of action right now, to do anything that will help to that end.

Of course, in the end, what matters to her on a personal level, the questions she's had for as far back as her memories go... it's difficult not to focus on those most of all. All signs have pointed her to having some relation to Shevat, which would explain the belief she seemed to have once had... but not the worry that she may not have been on good terms with them. And so the question had to be asked... does this relation actually exist?

Xantia has been able to get to so many places on two different worlds, and not a single soul showed any indication of having known her in the past. Even here, she hasn't gotten any indication that she might be familiar to someone. She was ready to get yet another negative response to go with all the others.

You very much resemble someone I knew.

Xantia remains completely still, mouth slightly agape. She... looks familiar? And, by the sounds of it, that was a while ago. She saw that look, she knows there's genuinely something there. Is this... actually a lead? Can she hope to actually get somewhere in her search as a result of this? That's not even question - of course she'll hope, she always does. Even when cautioned it may not be much, it feels like it's everything.

Xantia is literally floored, taking one step back and losing her footing, ending up forcefully taking a seat where she used to be standing.

"I... I'm sorry, I have to sit down for a moment..." She kind of already is, but that's beside the point.

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika gives a very slight nod. "If you were going to try to control everything," she says, "I would've taken my chances on my own." But Shevat - it's not that kind of place. They don't have the power. They might have had the power centuries ago - how would Eika know? - but they certainly don't now.

She rests her fist in her open palm, pushes; her knuckles crack, loud enough to be heard, and again as she switches hands. "I know I don't know you, but - I'm in. At least, I'm in enough to listen to a plan... and see if I can think of anything better." She's not willing to die for no purpose - she's gotten over that much, at least - but she will fight for one.

'Five hundred years ago, we initiated a conflict to gain our independence from Solaris... I will not allow the tragedies of five centuries ago to happen again.'

Mariel's hands had been resting on her satchel. Now she grips the edge, the overlapping cover where it buttons closed when it isn't too full to do so; right now it's not closed so she squeezes the lower hem, running her thumb over the embroidered flower on it. She's wearing her gloves, but it doesn't matter; she can feel it anyway, and what it represents. She avoids Queen Zephyr's gaze, and Riesenlied's, and Fei's (for different reasons). Every word Riesenlied says cuts, and she can't bring herself to say why. Her eyes water nonetheless.

She closes her eyes for a moment, breathes out, and reopens them. "Yes," she says, still quietly. "I understand. Maybe - we should speak later." That she's talking to a queen is less important to Mariel than everything else. For all her shyness, discomfort with talking to nobility has never been a problem.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    The pieces click together. Ida's eyes turn dark, and when she looks at Fei, he can see clear through to the sorrow in her soul. She squeezes his shoulder, softly. What can she say to that? Zephyr, Elly, Fei, and Siegfried were all threads in a skein tangled by betrayal. She wasn't there. Neither was Fafnir; he was long dead by then. She takes her lip between her teeth, and thinks about what she told Citan. If Fei and Elly are caught up in some greater fate, then perhaps she can alter its course, ever-so-slightly, for the better.

    "I didn't have all the details," Ida confesses. "Just that you and he were comrades, and he'd lost faith in humanity." She looks at Riesenlied, and that sorrow does not vanish.

    Ida takes a breath. She stays by Fei and Elly, as though her presence was an anchor. She can still see the vast sky through the windows before Zephyr's throne. "I think the same may be true for most of us," Ida says, when Fei speaks of Solaris not allowing him to live. The Watcher's words come back to her. "If not all." Ida looks up at the queen, and smiles, grimly. "All the more important that we decrypt that data, and find ways to break things Solaris needs." A pause. She looks Zephyr up and down.

    "Tell me, Your Majesty. How do you think of God?"

    Ida looks at Xantia, then, surprise in her eyes as the martial artist falls over in shock. She steps towards her, offers a hand. She's smiling, though.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Oh, speaking of which," Cyre interjects on the subject of mysterious people who may or may not have pasts losts forever to the flow of time. "...Does Shevat have the ability to undo the mental conditioning or electronic controls that Solaris uses to manipulate its more unwilling agents?"

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Kindness can be cruel in a situation like this, the Queen says to her.

Elly keeps looking at her hands. For a moment they seem to flicker for her. She can see it with her left pinky the way it used to be and a thin coating of something. A faint sense of something on the sleeves. Something else. She thinks she can smell smoke for a moment. It worries her; she remembers that horrid etheric over-exertion in desperation before their mad flight to Spira, and -

The sense is gone. If it was something internal, it must have resolved.

"... I won't put anyone else in a position like that, I promise you, your highness," Elly answers Zephyr, and that seems to be that. She straightens up, seeming relieved, looking towards the ceiling for a moment and then fishing a piece of fabric out of her dress's pocket to dab at her eyes. Her face is losing its redness.

They're really in that desperate a situation, Elly thinks. (Am I part of 'they', really? ... Does it matter? ... I suppose not.) Even the people on Lunar... at most, Elly thinks, they would have a respite of a few decades if Solaris were to prevail against everyone on Filgaia.

What the others are saying, too. Siegfried; the days of old. The days when...

If it comes to that, Elly thinks to herself, with the ease that tells her this must be wise: I'll take it onto myself. Nobody else.

After this resolution, however ambiguous, Elly feels twice eased; and then, not far from her, Xantia wobbles and plops down. "Ah!" she says, straightening up, and moving to crouch down next to her. "Xantia..." She settles onto her heels, then, staying crouched next to her companionably enough. She offers her a smile.

She can see Mariel's distress, too; the change of posture, having to put a little effort into staying upright rather than just standing there like a hatrack, is bringing the world into focus again. (... Was I spacing out that badly? Elly thinks. Maybe I *am* exhausted.)

She does smile at Ida, as she comes closer. "... I didn't know you were religious, Ida," Elly says quietly, but it sounds like light fondness rather than deep-seated surprise.

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    Magilou grins like a particularly hungry shark at Mariel, when she spies the grip the rabbit??? girl??? has on her satchel. Of all the evidently-elderly people in this room, that's apparently the most interesting take, to Magilou.

    She doesn't say anything about it, though, as she settles back against the doorframe. (Neither does she cheer on Xantia, for all her world-shaking possibilities, or interrupt the depths of Elhaym. Sometimes silence is its own punchline.)

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    Slowly, Yui shakes her head. She isn't smiling, precisely, as she gazes at Fei, but the reverse is also true: neither is she frowning when he says that to her. "...I know," she says, and slowly, Citan moves his hand from her shoulder.

    "There are no nations in this world's history," Citan says slowly, addressing no one and everyone in the same instant, "that have the blessing of 'clean hands'. ...Shevat has erred, Fei. But there are others who have erred far more."

    But it's then that Zephyr says something that completely unmoors Xantia, in a single word tilting her whole world on end. After recent events, perhaps, Citan has been keeping an eye on her as well. And so, when she takes a very weighty seat--

    "...Xantia?! Are you at all alright?" Fortunately, Elly is readily on hand to assist, but...

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen's actions may read like acceptance, but in the end, she merely goes along with the flow. Solaris needs to be stopped, one way or another.

    Then again, Zephyr is making a great first impression with the courier.

    The Day of Collapse. Gwen's attention snaps to Leon, then, slowly, she looks back towards Zephyr, squinting. Surely Zephyr's comments are not literal, unless Shevat people are a different species of long-lived humanoid types.

    It's a lot to take in, either way.

    Speaking of things to take in, Gwen gives Xantia a huge thumbs up, but her grin falters as Xantia collapses to a sit. She goes to move, but sees Elly already kneeling by Xantia. Gwen gives a sigh of slight relief. "Probably a lot to digest," she says, to Citan. "Xantia's been searchin' so hard..."

    Wait. Wait. Wait. That's Yui?!

    Gwen just stares, her eyes wide. Holy crap the ordinary country doctor's wife was not an ordinaru country doctor's wife! ..... well, she is his wife, but she's also-- damn it Gwen, focus!

    "Y-you served me tea when I was just beginning my route to Lahan," she instead stammers. "I'm sorry you had to see me look so unprofessional! I didn't know you were...."

    ..... Gwen, of course, somehow missed all the Lahan refugees here.

<Pose Tracker> Queen Zephyr has posed.

"Frankly, how the rest of the world governs is not up to us. Provided that no one seeks to replace Solaris in dominance of the planet, I have no desire to influence this one way or the other." She looks over Magilou. No punchline.

As Fei and Leon consider openly whether to trust her, Queen Zephyr shows no sign of impatience. It's a fair question to ask, after all. And for some reason, Zephyr is inclined to listen to the questions Fei in particular has to offer. He mentions a lack of choice....

"This is as we think," she agrees with him. "And that is something that we can do." She nods to Elly, then. That, it seems, is that.

"I'm glad that I can reassure you." This is Zephyr's initial response to Jay--but her questions are interesting ones. The first because of course it's relevant, and the second for... other reasons. Her attention goes between Jay and Ethius as a result, but she starts with the first. "If all goes to plan, we will continue to live as we do now. We will see how this affects our relationships with other nations."

But then she looks again to Ethius, as he starts to glare Jay's way--and shakes her head. "He is no agent of Shevat, and he does not match any missing persons of whom I am aware. Wherever he comes from, I do not believe it is here... though you are welcome, as the others are, particularly given Solaris's interest in you." Pause. Magilou's addition is considered. Zephyr does not reply to it.

Xantia's reaction is... significant. Zephyr looks to her as she falls back, and there is a touch of concern for a moment in her expression. Just a touch, though; she has more composure than to show too much. "By all means," she answers her. "Take your ease. We can talk later, when you've recovered and this business is concluded."

She regards Eika again, and nods. "If we sought to control the world, you would be right to mistrust us. ...As it stands, we welcome whatever insight you bring." She considers Mariel's... obvious discomfort, without commenting directly on it. Instead she listens to her quiet words and answers, "Perhaps we should."

Cyre: "We can try," she answers Cyre at his question of conditioning. "There are some forms of their conditioning and their control that we have had success in removing. But unfortunately there are some that are beyond us. Bringing your friend here to make the attempt would expose many of our people to great danger if she were activated while present... It is a difficult situation." Not, her tone suggests, a definite impossibility--but not an easy road.

"Indeed," Zephyr answers Citan's comment about nations and clean hands. But she doesn't linger there; instead she looks back to Riesenlied. "Yes," she answers her understanding simply. "There were many things back then..." She looks troubled, as if it is more than just history to her. "Perhaps we too should speak later. But I appreciate your... hope."

Ida brings a question. She speaks of things of the past, but she also has a question, and Zephyr watches her, showing some slight surprise at the question. "...Yes, we must decrypt the data," she agrees first, but...

How does she think of God?

"My personal faith is shared with the Nisan sect," she answers simply. "I do not make a requirement of any particular religion among my people." Her eyes pass briefly to Elly as she replies to Ida, but only briefly, and with no special statement. She looks over the group as a whole.

Leon spoke of the Day of Collapse; he is not the only one to put those pieces together, it would seem. But Gwen realizes something else...

Zephyr will let Yui handle her personal business, naturally.

"Are there any other questions at this time? It would seem that you are generally willing to work with us... and we will work to offer you the support we are able in turn. In concrete terms, we will contact you once the data we've acquired is decrypted, that we might plan our next move together."

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Sometimes, you have to trust, because your back is to the wall. It's good enough for me. Trust is a start," Leon says, to Fei, with a shake of his head.

He looks about at other Drifters; he considers for a second, and he looks back at Queen Zephyr. Leon considers for a moment. Then, he shakes his head.

"No," he says, "not at this time. Thank you, your highness. We'll look forward to working with you."

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    Magilou examines her nails. They're perfect, obviously. "Sooo, one question. If you know about how to remove conditioning... that must mean you've got a large body of work on brainwashing, huh?" Those fingers tap to her chin, as she muses: "... it'd be awful convenient if you could get spies on the ground who didn't know they were spies, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Zephyr speaks of hope, and Rieseniled quietly nods...

    There is a pause as she looks to -- perhaps senses -- Mariel's discomfort, biting her lip as she glances aside. It is something that she needs to speak with Zephyr... but she can't help but feel like she was a little insensitive, perhaps!

    She is quiet for a moment, but when asked if they have other questions...

    "Um... I suppose the main thing I wish to raise is that we have spoken much of Solaris so far, but they are far from the only threats we have to face. There is Odessa, and the Althenan Guard, just to name a few. I understand you have had your hands full just facing Solaris, but it may be prudent to be aware of the other dangers that currently lurk as well..."

    A pause, then she tilts her head.

    "But-- that... is all. I must say, I look forward to..."

    Uh oh, she's getting that glint in her eyes, as she pumps her hands.

    "I look forward to working with the Guardian of Hope!! As-- as a Dragon to another, I hope to someday see your dragon form, Queen Zephyr!!"

    ......................

    has

    has she been working with this misassumption this long

    (yes)

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Yeah," Fei says ,smiling faintly. "...Honestly when you say it like that, it's kind of a relief that there isn't anybody who can throw the first stone." He didn't mean to suggest otherwise, but it is something he admittedly had set aside in the moment. He takes a moment to rest a hand on Xantia's arm. He assures her, "There'll be time. This time, it seems the truth isn't going anywhere." Even if it also sounds like it's not quite everything they wanted.

"I'd--also like to know about Lacan. Not...Not now but--like with Xantia. Later."

Will this choice pit him against Siegfried? He is still alive somehow. Sort of? Will Siegfried understand there was no option? WIll HE betray these people? Will he have a choice?

"Thanks for hearing me out, Leon." Fei says with a smile. "I know sometimes it can be a little--roundabout--"

he's about to say more when--

I hope to someday see your dragon form, Queen Zephyr!!

"...Wait, what?" Fei asks, his train of thought derailing and killing thousands of tiny mind people.

He stares at Riesenlied, unable to figure out how she came upon that line of reasoning. But to be fair, even if he did, it wouldn't bring back the mind people.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    The odd man in here starts looking a bit more stirred (not shaken... wait, is it the other way around?) when Magilou makes further japes and jokes at his expense, as though outcompeting him in his natural(?) habitat weren't enough. That a sudden spotlight would be put on him when there's so much else going on, involving a historical depth and development he seemed content enough to just sit there and watch.

     He's not an agent of Shevat, she says - and a part of him feels ever more exposed than his prolonged lingering around the Drifter community has up to this point, breaking eye contact entirely as the Queen nonetheless continues to offer her support given Solaris' interest in him.

     "Your... invitation," that word sounds painfully ad-libbed, rather than the practiced and barely emotive way he usually speaks, "is appreciated, Your Highness."

     His attempt to break gazes with everyone meets a snag because now he's looking in Magilou's direction and a part of him decides maybe it is best not to keep those eyes locked there for long, folding his arms behind his back and trying to regain composure that has eroded in a way not unlike Xantia has.

     "...I have... no further inquiries at this time."

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Trusting gets you hurt, Eika thinks. She didn't think this way, before, but these days she can't help herself; things get worse when she trusts. She's only recently opened up about her background at all. But this is business. She can work with business.

"All right," Eika agrees. "Let's do it."

Mariel is not good at hiding her discomfort but she's equally bad - worse, really - at expressing it in public. And this is public. She feels bad because she *knows* Riese can tell, and this time it's not even intentionally directed at her - not like when they first met, when she was afraid of her, as all Metal Demons. Hyadeans. She shoots Riese a look. It is difficult to read. Maybe she should speak to her too -

Mariel has her mental train of thought derailed, too. It takes her a moment to recover. "Riese," she says, before a long pause. "...no, I think you have - she doesn't feel like - "

Mariel gives up.

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    Magilou stares at Ethius, unblinking, until he breaks his gaze. She is still wearing that backpfeifengesicht grin. If Bienfu were here, he'd surely point out that she is a mean, bad-bad lady, but Bienfu is currently off becoming one of the chu-chus.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Ethius shoots her a glare and Jacqueline looks back. She's apologetic, but unfazed. ...Though she does send a quick glance Magilou's way, too, as she responds to his surprise.

"I'm sorry, Ethius, but I had to. We won't get a chance like this again to ask." Jacqueline replies. "This could be important."

She looks, briefly, toward Mariel. There's probably a lot that she and the Queen can sympathise on. She can't really imagine all of Mariel's struggles... but it would be nice if she'd found someone who can.

And Cyre asks a good, very important question as well. Jacqueline looks toward him, glad he'd brought it up. She hadn't forgotten that they'd been directed toward Shevat for help... but a lot of things were going on at once.

And then, Queen Zephyr responds. Jacqueline nods.

"Hm... I suppose that makes sense." She replies. And then, she answers her other question. There's pretty much no room for mistaking it - Ethius does not appear to have any prior connections to Shevat. "I see... well, it was a long shot, I suppose. Still, thank you for clearing that up - even an answer in the negative is important information. It looks like we'll have to keep looking."

She looks back toward Ethius, to see how he responds to this discovery. Again, she looks briefly apologetic.

Soon, Jacqueline frowns as Zephyr explains while it might be possible to do something... but it would be difficult.

"I see... that's unfortunate, but I supposed we should have expected as much." She says. Magilou's comment gets a contemplative frown, too - it's true, she hadn't considered that Shevat themselves might have the same capabilities... but at the moment, she'd like to trust them. She has to - they need an ally like Shevat against Solaris.

Zephyr asks if they have any other questions, then, and Jacqueline shakes her head.

"No, nothing at this time... however, if it is alright, I would like to sit down with your merchants and tradesmen sometime to make some business arrangements." She asks. "I believe there are ways we can mutually benefit-"

Jacqueline pauses as Riesenlied... seems to make the assumption that Queen Zephyr is, in fact, the Guardian of Hope.

"...One another..." Jacqueline finishes, trailing off as her train of thought is, similarly, derailed. She opens her mouth to say something... and then closes it, deciding against it once more.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

It's not a no, but it's certainly a hard yes. The shaman shakes his head slowly. There's no easy way to do this, is there? If he brings her here, then... It puts everyone in Shevat in danger if she's activated. And if she does, then there's little chance that she'd be making it out alive, either. "I see. Thank you, regardless. I might... be able to think of something. But we'll see, I gue--"

Cyre stops and stares at Riese.

"...R-riesenlied," he says, quietly, "I don't... I don't think she's that Zephyr...?"

"...I mean, is she?"

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia looks pretty sheepish with the attention she drew to herself in taking a tumble out of nowhere like that. Well, chances are many will be aware of what might be going through her head right now, given her long, long search for information like this ...she was ready to kill a man over a possible lead once, but let's not dwell on that.

She turns to Elly when she hears her name being spoken next to her, then to Fei, as she feels his hand on her arm. Then to the various others who speak her name, giving them all a bit of a deer in headlights look. It's taking her a moment to find the words to explain how she feels right now. Since Elly's face is closest to hers, that's who she looks at when she does find them.

"S-Sorry, I... I know there's more of that other stuff to talk about, and everything, and, and she even said it could not be much. But... there's something. Finally, something...!"

Ida comes over to give her a hand, which she takes without question, soon standing upright again. "...Thanks," she says, before clearing her throat, and smiling faintly. "It's, I'm fine. Gosh... I handle bad news better than this, you'd think I'd be more ready for good news."

Feeling like she has to somehow salvage this embarrassing moment, she pumps a fist into the air when it's asked whether there are further questions. "Well! I think we're all agreed on this for one reason or another, right? Sooo I don't have much else to say right now except... go team!"

Not exactly her best cheer ever, but she tried. ...Tried to cover up the fact that she'd rather break this up sooner rather than later, too. Somehow any questions regarding other topics seem far less important all of a sudden.

"...wait, the Guardian of Hope is here? Where?!"

Okay maybe not that topic, that one's pretty important.

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    It's here that Yui turns towards... Gwen. She blinks, as if surprised to see her here. "...Gwen? Is that you? Oh, it is! Has your courier work been treating you well, Gwen?"

    Gwen's response is to just about have a minor meltdown.

    Yui lifts a hand to her chin, perhaps somewhat bemused by all of this. "You didn't do anything wrong, Gwen. In fact, I don't even recall..." She trails off. Ah. Yes. Realization lights in her eyes and she... smiles, not unkindly. "Please don't worry about it," she settles for.
    Citan's own response is to look between Gwen and his wife, in this moment completely lost at sea. Has he... missed something here?
    (a young woman's embarrassment can be a thing of tragedy...)

    "It is alright. One cannot blame you for feeling overwhelmed, Xantia." Still, even he had not been entirely certain, but...

    "Indeed," Citan says to Fei. "This may also be true of us on an interpersonal level. None of us can claim to be the 'innocent ones'. Yet, there is still much that we might accomplish..."

    And while trailing off into silence is not precisely unusual for him, he might do so this time when Riesenlied asks Zephyr if she...

    He blinks. Then, "Riesenlied, that is... she is not the same as... I believe that Guardian is a 'namesake'..."

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly answers Magilou, perhaps a little suddenly.

"They said things like that in films and stories," she says to Magilou. "That the enemy would do such things. That you couldn't trust anyone except good, wholesome people from the home country, ultimately. That you always had to be careful and controlled if you had to interact with surface-dwellers at all."

"... So, my assumption would be... it was a lie. Though..."

It makes Elly wonder, now, about the practice with the third-class citizens. A hundred years... a human who lived that long would be on death's door, Elly thinks. And other than Dominia, did she ever see an elf of any sort?

Elly looks briefly glassy-eyed, though she doesn't articulate why, instead smiling at Xantia as she rises upwards. Her attention turns back to Fei, as he says he would like to learn more. It is a truth he deserves, Elly knows, whatever it might be. Maybe I -

She is saved from this train of thought by Riesenlied's warm and enthusiastic statement.

Elly's mouth opens.

She looks at Riesenlied.

Elly's mouth closes.

Elly looks back to Queen Zephyr. Her eyes widen slightly.

'Is she?' says Cyre. Elly's eyes widen even further.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei, who was too stupid to make the connectio nto the Guardian, suddenly gets his OWN wide eyes w hen Xantia mentions it.

Can it be true?!

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied has that moment where her eyes go tiny as an entire room flabbergastedly looks at her and she realises she just performed a Suplex on the train that is the conversation on the room.

    "I-- is she not... I thought... with the Guardian Lords disappearing... that Zephyr might just live high, high in the sky--"

    fret, fret, horns wiggling

    "I--I mean, we have a habit of finding Queens that are Dragons...!!" she whines, but knows she's grasping vainly.

    She instead elects to hide in the best possible way she knows how:

    Popping the Cucco Plate off her wheelchair and holding it in front of her face.

    buk buk buk she's a cucco now

    (ignore the horns poking out of the top)

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    "When you're used to bad news," says Ida, "good news can seem unreal at first." She helps Xantia to her feet, and then steps back to give her space. She turns to Elly. "I was raised in the Church of Granas." Ida meets Elly's smile with one of her own. Hers is a bit more subdued, a bit more wry. "But my thoughts began to change after I left home. How does one reconcile a just and loving God with such a cruel and callous world? How does one learn to see in shades of grey after being taught the world was black and white?"

    The others bring up Lydia, Ethius, other things that need attention. Ida waits for Zephyr to answer her, and nods. "...Nisan, hm?" If she didn't convert afterwards, then maybe it is as old as it claims to be. But that's not what Ida was asking. "I'd be interested to talk more, but that's beside the point." She steps forward, to the very edge of the walkway. Clouds swirl through the sky beneath her feet.

    "Perhaps I'm assuming too much from one encounter," Ida says, "but those who steer Solaris seem to think of God very differently. I suppose it's to be expected; God is a means of keeping people in line, but..." She looks up at Zephyr, holds her head at a tilt. "Their God is an abomination. A justification of their cruelty. A--"

    oh my god, Ida thinks, as Riesenlied deflates the gravitas of the moment and is absolutely adorable in doing so. Ida's casual-dropping-of-bombs face vanishes, utterly, and she clasps her hands to her mouth.

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    "The horrors of the Enemy!" Magilou declares, to Elly, a hand to her forehead. "Why, in that situation..."

    Magilou trails off because Magilou has just seen a girl hiding behind a cucco plate.

    Magilou pushes herself off from her valuable doorframe, and saunters up to Cucco Riese. Saunter, saunter. She leans down, and whispers:

    "Coo like a dove. That'll REALLY throw them off."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Oh no. Riesenlied. Oh no, Riesenlied!!

The cucco plate. THE CUCCO PLATE.

Cyre's heart aches, he feels the crushing self-consciousness radiating from the poor becucco'd Hyadean. The power of sympathy... has crippled him...!

He is driven to deflect the attention from this poor creature. He must. He has to! And so he asks: "So what's the deal with those weird stuffed-toy looking things?"

CHU-CHU, SAVE THEIR SOULS!!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    Ethius' eyes dart with the availability of an opening to be taken, one he does with all the severity previously displayed with far more dire and grave matters as Riesenlied humorously makes an innocent assumption about the likenesses of the Queen's name to that of the Guardian of Hope. Magilou has vacated the doorframe, and Ethius guns for it.

     He just wants to have his back up to something.

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika's lips curl into a scowl at Ida's words. "Granas withdrew after the battle with Valmar," Eika says, "and he was God's greatest servant on Filgaia. It's no wonder that these days are worse. That's why we have to be mindful. To try to make the world better. And, in my case, and maybe yours, to keep people safe from danger they can't understand or can't stop themselves."

"But you're not interested in hearing from me about religion, I'm sure. Not after seeing the Etones." Eika's voice is bitter, and she slouches afterwards. "Just because Solaris treats God as a means to an end, an excuse to take power, doesn't mean that's what God is. Don't let them and theirs blind you to a good God."

Now Mariel feels bad.

"Riese, no, it's - all right, it's just - " She is flustered now instead of sad, which may be a plus. (She is still sad but she will save it for later.)

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    If Gwen wasn't so distracted, she would have her own thoughts on the subject of gods. Strange thoughts, borne from a life spent at opposite ends of the religious spectrum.

    However, there is a more pressing matter.

    Years ago, Yui saw Gwen..... _in an undershirt_. This is most unprofessional, indeed. Gwen looks to Yui, relieved, when Yui looks kindly on her embarrassment.

    Leave it to Gwen to take that galaxy brain moment of Riese's, and then run with it with complete trust. If Zephyr's a dragon....

    "...... ooooohhhhhh, so that's why she looks like--"

    .....

    "..... You mean she's not a dragon...?"

<Pose Tracker> Queen Zephyr has posed.

Magilou's perfect nails and... extant question do get another look from the Queen. "That would be very useful, and completely unethical." And that is all she's going to say about it. There's just a hint that Magilou might be making her testy though. Just a smidge. She appreciates Elly a little more in the moment.

The other threats! "As you say, our primary focus is Solaris, because we have the best chance, with all of you, of stopping them. But rest assured that we are watching these other threats as well."

Fei asks about Lacan and, to her credit, Queen Zephyr doesn't openly suck in air through her teeth or something, or wince, or any of that; she regards him calmly, quietly, and inclines her head. "Then we will also speak later."

Ethius replies, in his way, with some difficulty. She nods at him, and chooses not to keep a lot of focus on a guy clearly uncomfortable with that, leaving the matter at his words for the moment. If he wants to talk later, there are people to talk to. She focuses on Jay, who seems to take if not responsibility than care for the odd man. "Yes," she says, "I will make the arrangements." To meet with merchants and the like.

"...It's a subject that I find more personal than I would like to discuss," Zephyr admits to Ida on the matter of God. She could say more, but Riesenlied saves(?) the day... after some serious words from Eika, which prompt a look that's hard to define.

"..." Zephyr watches Riesenlied. She watches the group in their various... reactions. She pauses.

"..."

She actually smiles slightly. "I'm afraid not," she answers the question of whether she actually is, "But what a warm sentiment. I was I believe named for the Guardian..."

Chu-Chu are an entirely different conversation.

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    Magilou claps her hands together, all razor-grinned again. "Aww, not even a little perversion of will? The other guy's doing it, it's fiiine."

    She allows for a beat of silence.

    A second beat of silence.

    Magilou straightens up, shaking out her mane of hair behind her. "All right, then," she says, finally, and without the humour of her previous jokes. "I'll help you."

    There may be the sensation that Magilou evaluated SOMETHING in that moment, but as for what it is, she's not telling.

<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Billy has not tuned out so much as not contributed much of anything for a while, eyes tipped down and chin cupped in thought. So much to consider, but...

Jessie, for his part, as things wind down to a close, has slipped off from his son's side to sidle up toward the Uzukis, slowly.....slowly....

And then throws his arm around Citan with the viper-like speed of a man who is accustomed to capturing runners. "Hyuga! Buddy!" Jessie says, with a wide, dangerous grin, leaning forward to look him in the eye.

"You know, you're gonna hurt an old man's feelings, leaving out his wedding invitations."

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    The response Riesenlied has to this is to hide her face. "Ah, er," Doctor Uzuki begins to hazard, "Riesenlied, I did not mean--"

    And it's then that he has an arm slung right across his shoulders, the precise tension and strength in Jessie's grip affording him no easy escape. Gazing over at his senior, Citan manages an uneasy smile. "Well, Jesiah...! I did not mean, er, it was a while after you... that is to say..."

    It's Yui's turn to look on a touch bemusedly. "Dear? Is this another of your old friends?"

    ...Does this sort of thing happen a lot?

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"...Doc..." Fei says softly.

"You didn't involve Jessie to your wedding?"

Looks like Zephyr is out of the hot seat and Citan is in it!

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly answers Eika, with a quiet sort of sadness, "Is that so? I suppose that means, it really is up to all of us."

"It's a little funny," Elly says, folding her arms loosely. "The way that the emperor was... shared? with us, in Solaris... as an idea, I mean. It's almost a similar thought. But it was more... you should be good, so he doesn't have to worry about you..."

She breathes out. "I won't," she tells Eika with tones of a promise.

And then she can see Jesiah Black just sort of pick up Dr. Citan Uzuki and plop him in the frying pan (metaphorically speaking). Elly holds her peace, possibly because... ...well; that does sound like a party foul even if there might have been reasons.

<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Jessie chuckles, because part of keeping a man like Citan in line is making him fear you. "Didn't even mention me! Tsk. You're gonna break your old commander's heart."

He straightens up, posture smoothing out. "Ol' Hyuga and I go way back," he explains. "Name's Jesiah Black, ma'am. Been workin' with the Shevat surface rebellions for a few years now. Hopefully I kept a few good folks alive down there."

The playful smile fades from his face, and with a seriousness more befitting of a man he used to be, he adds, "Seems I owe you some thanks, for keeping my overly nosey friend in line."

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    Even Fei gets in on it...!

    "It is a long... story," Citan manages, grimacing faintly as his 'old commander' puts the metaphorical heel in further. "Jesiah, please..." Though in what sense he's asking Jessie to ease up is anyone's guess, given that the other man is a few degrees short of having him in a headlock.

    "So it was you, then?" remarks Yui, regarding Jessie now (she glances once at her beleagered husband). "I had heard stories about an unexpected ally. Then I will thank you, for their sakes. If only we had been able to make contact with you sooner..."

    And she laughs, lightly. "Perhaps so. He is a handful, isn't he?"

    As for Citan, well, not everyone's so lucky as to have a cucco plate to hide behind.