"Hello Ambassador, welcome to the Arcanum."
"Thank you, Keeper Arion," the Ambassador replied, in a voice like plates of stone, shifting against each other, "It is an honour to be here."
"We are always happy to have visitors," the Keeper said, briefly growing an extra mouth, to offer the Ambassador a double smile.
The Ambassador nodded slightly, and then swivelled his massive head, in order to take in the view.
"Your first time here?" Keeper Arion asked politely.
"It is quite a place," the Ambassador nodded.
"This is nothing," the Keeper said, motioning towards the panoramic display of worlds, "The recordings are the real treasures here."
"And the Avatars?"
"Oh yes, the Avatars," the Keeper's eyestalks quivered with excitement, as he continued to beam his double smile.
"Is it true that you can talk to them?" the Ambassador asked, "Ask them questions?"
"Absolutely. I've had countless, endlessly fascinating discussions with hundreds of Avatars."
"I must admit, I envy you a bit," the Ambassador replied. His face was not built for smiling, but his voice mirrored the Keeper's warm expression.
"I'm sure we'll be able to arrange for you to have a chat or two, while you're here," Keeper Arion said, then mischievously added, "that is, if you'd like."
"Very much, yes!" the Ambassador exclaimed, shifting his weight towards his centre leg, as he shuffled excitedly. "You have Avatars here from every lost world?" he asked.
"Most of them," the Keeper answered sadly, his second mouth dissolving away as his smiles faded.
"Our greatest failure and deepest shame."
"Surely you don't blame yourselves."
"Not really, no," Keeper Arion replied, "There was too little warning, and it was too close. By the time we knew what had happened, it was too late to preserve anything."
"Too close?" the Ambassador asked, puzzled.
"The further away a planet is, the more time we have," the Keeper explained.
"I thought your recordings were made in real-time."
"Sort of, but not exactly. What we see is a running snapshot of a world as it was at the time," Keeper Arion frowned, trying to figure out the best way to explain, "It's constrained by the speed of light, so the further away it is, the more delayed the snapshot is."
"Surely you could use quantum communication to get around that."
"Oh no, we wouldn't want to do that. The time-lag is what makes what we do possible."
"I'm sorry," the Ambassador apologised, "I'm not following you."
"These worlds have already been destroyed, or died out. If we could look at them right now, there would be nothing to see -- nothing to record."
"Oh, right!" the Ambassador exclaimed, suddenly understanding.
"Even as it is, we only have a limited time to do our work. Once we learn the fate of a planet, we have until Last Light to record as much as possible."
"And Last Light is...?"
"The moment when we actually witness whatever destroyed or doomed them -- when the last light has made it from there to here."
"Fascinating," the Ambassador marvelled, "I had no idea."
Keeper Arion glanced up at the spinning timepiece that was suspended beneath the vaulted dome of the chamber. "We still have some time before the meeting," he said, "Would you like me to show you around a bit?"
"I'd like that very much, thank you!"