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“Logically, the solution should be with the priests.” Clef sat back in his chair and rubbed one hand over his face. “If the people who love Cephiro are now creating Cephiro with their prayers, conscious or otherwise, and your people are directing that creation…”

“And yet, we cannot seem to affect this particular part of her.” Soru Zafira shook her head, frowning more than she had been when she arrived at Clef’s study, most of an hour ago. “If it does not rain soon, then we will lose the current taabo crop to this drought. The puragu harvest has already failed. My people have done all they can, Guru – I have done all I can think of, and still there is no change in the weather.”

Clef nodded, wincing. He hadn’t intended to put the new Soru on the defensive – taking on the role after Zagato’s corruption of the priesthood would not have been easy even without these challenges that no one had taken on before. Having to admit to her failure couldn’t come easily.

He already had the head of the clerks avoiding him as much as possible – Clef didn’t need any more of the Council deciding not to like him.

“I know- my apologies, Soru. I tend to think aloud; it was not a criticism of you or your priests.”

Zafira’s shoulders drooped a fraction, though Clef only noticed it through long familiarity with Lantis and his barely-there gestures. “Accepted. As you are now closest to the land herself, could it not be that you are the one able to alter this weather? Particularly given I believe your magic holds an affinity with storms…”

Shaking his head, Clef caught a glimpse of the world beyond the windows to his study. The day was, objectively, beautiful – the sky was a clear, bright blue, and there was a soft breeze rustling through the leaves of the orchard.

But nearly a third of those leaves had turned fawn, or brown, or even a crimson which looked like nothing so much as blood.

“I could make it rain, I think, once – or twice. Close by, and for a few hours. But I cannot change the weather patterns. If I were tied to water, perhaps, but lightning is- not a desirable outcome, with the land this dry. There has to be something we are missing. In all of these reports you have gathered, something-

The door burst open as he waved a hand at the papers spread across his desk, which they had been going over earlier; he nearly knocked them off the surface as he jumped.

“Clef! I told you last month, it needs to rain! Why haven’t you fixed it yet!

Umi wasn’t the only person who would charge into his room – but she was the only one who would do it in order to yell at him. Clef glared back at her.

“We are trying, Umi!”

“You aren’t trying hard eno- ah.” Umi jolted to a halt, half a pace from the desk – Clef rather thought she’d been about to try shaking a change in the weather out of him, though why she thought he had the answer to this was beyond him – only she’d finally noticed Zafira, and was staring wide-eyed at the priest. “Um. Hi?”

“Good day, lady knight.” Zafira said, with a formal bow of the head, and Clef couldn’t blame Umi for the staring. Zafira was… more than a little intimidating, even if she didn’t mean to be; not only was she close to Zagato’s height, but she was something of a traditionalist, and her clothing was more than a little reminiscent of his. The eternally stern expression, however, was a lot harder to read than even Zagato had been.

“I – sorry, I didn’t realise Clef had company, I should-“

Clef shook his head at Umi, sighing loud enough she would hear it. “As you have interrupted us discussing the same topic you burst in yelling about, you may as well stay.” He looked again at the priests’s observations from across Cephiro, which stubbornly refused to offer any key to their dilemma. “You may be able to spot something we have missed.”

“I don’t get why it’s happening.” Umi grumbled, but she took the last step across to the desk, looking at the reports – then pulling a face as she realised she couldn’t read a word of them. “Cephiro never had these problems before, did she?”

“When the Pillar ruled, there was a gentle rain overnight, if the land had need of it. We would wake up to a heavy dew on the grass, and the air fresher than before.” Clef felt a smile pulling at his face, and let it, looking away from both women. “…She never did like getting wet.” He added, softly. “Princess Emeraude always tried to arrange things to cause the least possible inconvenience to any. She only let it rain when it was needed.”

Umi patted him on the shoulder. Her tone, though, was still dry as the ground outside when she spoke. “Someone had best tell it that it’s allowed to rain for days, then, because Cephiro needs more than an overnight drizzle.”

Clef blinked, and his head shot up – he stared at Umi first, who just frowned at him in confusion, then at Zafira. She straightened, slowly, mouth falling open about a hushed ‘oh’.

“What?” Umi demanded, crossing her arms. “What did I say?”

Allow it-“ Clef shot to his feet, and grinned at Umi. “It’s not the priests, nor the mages – it’s the laws- the judges.

“Teru Atenza should be in her offices at this time of day.” Zafira was saying, gathering her papers up, as Umi stared.

“I don’t- Clef, what’s going on?”

Clef stepped forward and wrapped his arms about Umi, for a moment, a laugh bubbling up in his chest. “You wouldn’t have thought to remove the laws Emeraude placed on the weather. Why would you? It just happens, where you come from. If they survived the transition, then Atenza can change them, as Head Judge, and that may just solve our drought!”

He let go of her, and dashed out of the room, Zafira following at an only slightly more dignified pace, to set this right.


Standing out on the lawn, staring up at the sky, Clef felt himself start to relax. Something in his chest was settling, under the press of the rain; an imbalance being righted.

…If Umi had been feeling a fraction of the same uneasiness over the past few months, he owed her an apology for getting irritated with her. Hopefully, the shift in the weather would put her in a forgiving mood.

Tilting his head into the raindrops, he closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. It was certainly making him feel better. Not just because the drought was over, but because it was the first big problem they had faced – and they had solved it.

 This… really might work. The last few weeks had been enough to try his belief, but it, and Cephiro, had come through intact.

He drew in another breath, and smiled.