Varanim pounds on the door of Zahara's office an hour before sunset.
zahara looks up from her studies and makes a face "Who is it?"
Varanim sticks her head in. "C'mon," she says. "Market meat."
zahara looks over at Varanim, back to the map of Creation, and then leans back, stretching and cracking her neck. "I could use a break."
Varanim "I knew that. Go get your face on; I'll meet you out front."
zahara grumbles but there is no weight to it. She waves Varanim away, and goes to find her mask, shaking her head a little. Soon enough, she has joined Varanim out front - that is, assuming she made it
Varanim is pacing by the gate, flexing her wrapped arm with a grimace. She takes off towards the market as soon as Zahara arrives with an empty grumble of her own. "Does it ever bother you," she inquires after a moment, "that half of your friends are insane?"
zahara "It used to, but I find I can trust them more than sane people."
zahara "Well. Sometimes."
Varanim "Right, I forgot who I was asking for a minute there." As they reach the more crowded city streets, Varanim elbows through with slightly more than her usual enthusiasm. "I'll find some small talk in a minute," she says to Zahara. "Work's too big in my head."
zahara slides through the space Varanim clears, "Ahh. I would offer to talk about it, but I can also wait for small talk."
Varanim "Mm. It would interrupt my strict research regimen to talk shop on one of these trips," Varanim explains. After another moment she adds, "Out of curiosity, how often does Lucent threaten to kill people for their own good?"
zahara ponders. "Last time he said he'd let someone kill HIM for the good of Creation. does that count?"
Varanim "No way. Who cares if he kills himself?" Varanim slides into the table by the wall at the same market stall as last time, sticking out her tongue at a pair of young children she just beat to the spot.
zahara "not kill himself. Let Thirteen kill him."
Varanim "Whatever. Suicide by bosom friend," Varanim waves off the distinction. She teeters backwards on her chair legs to argue with the vendor for a minute, then leans back with a kebab in each fist, offering one to Zahara. "Ooh, special pepper sauce today. Don't ask what's special about it, though."
zahara joins her at the table, and shrugs. "Special. Heh..."
zahara "Are you mad at him for poking you in the brains?"
Varanim eats in silence for a minute, scowling, then looking a little surprised when Zahara asks about Lucent. "What? No, that's forgotten. I'm trying to construct a Baby's First Steps to Logic lesson for him, but I keep bumping into the insanity thing."
Varanim "Anyway. What's new in town, any cute boys been this way? Et cetera."
zahara shakes her head, "I'm not sure. I've been a little busy running the..business. Besides, Cee is cute enough that I don't particularly ogle anyone else."
Varanim "I'm not sure I believe you," Varanim says through a mouthful. "I'd think you'd spend half your time in the bedroom just trying to find him."
zahara snorts and tests the 'special' meat somewhat warily. "Oh believe me, I have no problems losing him in the bedroom."
Varanim fans her mouth enthusiastically, leaning back to have a brief but vicious argument with the vendor about wine prices before swinging back triumphantly with a bottle. Then she takes another out of her bag, this one fancy and much higher in quality, and plunks it down before Zahara. "If you want to do some important government reform, think about regulating prostitution in Solaria. The...
Varanim ...extortion rates around here are shaming the whole country."
zahara grimaces at the unusual amalgam of spices in the special sauce. She settles for breathing harder than usual rather than the obvious fanning. After a minute, she says "Hmm, how thoughtful of you to think of the populace." She accepts the fancy wine with a smile, pouring it into a fairly clean glass after a brief and unexciting battle with the cork.
Varanim "M'all heart," Varanim agrees, drowning her pepper-based sorrows with a slug of wine, then making a vile face. Around that time the monks file out for their bare-chested sunset kata practice, and Varanim settles back in her seat with a happy sigh.
Varanim "Oh, and more public beautification projects or whatever, like this one."
Varanim "Nice ass, but your horse stance sucks!" she calls helpfully to a nearby acolyte before braving another bite of kebab.
zahara chuckles. "Very helpful too." She slides her gaze over the acolytes contemplatively, "You're now in charge."
Varanim "Huh?" says Varanim, after the requisite chaser drink.
zahara "I think you should find it in your heart to do it your own damn self." she grins
Varanim "Right," Varanim snorts. "My days as a respected community figure are over, thank you. Although--left foot, idiot!--I do have this gift with the public."
zahara "So you were one once?"
Varanim looks wary. "I didn't say that."
Varanim Her final skirmish with the food-cart vendor yields a couple of sweet and intensely sticky nut-buns.
zahara "You did, though."
Varanim "Did I?" She looks annoyed. "Well, it was boring. And I was only sort of respected, anyway." She tosses a sweet bun at Zahara to keep her occupied.
zahara catches the bun and flips it in her hand, not an easy feat with it being so sticky. "I take it you didn't leave of your own accord?"
Varanim "Are you implying I'd be thrown out of a town? That hurts, Zahara. That really hurts." Varanim sulks over her mouthful.
zahara "You can learn so much from pain." She takes a bite of the bun, getting her teeth rather stuck together, and grimacing.
Varanim "Right, like 'pain hurts.' Ooh, that's a deep truth." Varanim's voice is a little indistinct, but she seems to be more practiced at navigating this marketplace hazard, so she even keeps a hand free for her wine bottle.
zahara pries her teeth apart with an effort, and works her jaw a little, taking a swig of wine to wash it down. "That's one of my favorites. Why are you avoiding the subject?"
Varanim "You made it with all your teeth? I think that's worth a prize, but the prize is more food." Varanim props her feet up and rolls her eyes at Zahara. "Because stories from my village days are intensely boring. You aren't going all Lucent on me, are you?"
zahara "Pffft." she waves her hand, shiny with syrupy stuff at Varanim. "I haven't accused you of being evil yet."
Varanim turns her bun around to the uneaten side, where two large nut flakes look vaguely like golden eyes, and wiggles it as she speaks in a fake voice. "Hi, I'm the biggest Essence slut in Creation, and Varanim does research I can't even spell, but she doesn't have a cute puppy or a huge sword, so I'm totes for sure that she's eeeevil!"
Varanim Then she pops the bun in her mouth and chews, albeit with difficulty.
zahara rolls her eyes. "We've had a very recent lesson in the past catching up to us, and paragons of supposed virtue becoming eeeeeevil. I don't blame him for being wary. You deal in dark magics, it's not that far a leap."
Varanim rolls her eyes and says something completely indistinct, then swallows. "Yes, yes, I should stack bodies like cordwood for the glory of the Sun, that's completely different. Do you people even listen to yourselves?"
zahara "I didn't say I believe it. I said I understand him being wary." She sighs and refills her glass of wine, swirling it around. "I never said I was a paragon of virtue. I've never claimed it."
Varanim "I understand him being wary, too. It comes on account of him being insane, and a bit of an idiot besides." Varanim smirks, throwing a stray nut piece at Zahara's glass and missing. "And it's true, your lack of pretense on that front is one of your startlingly less annoying traits."
zahara "So. You don't want to 'stack bodies like cordwood.' But there is often little choice. We are at war." She reflects, flicking the nut back at her across the table. "Besides, some people just need killing."
Varanim "That's the majority opinion," Varanim agrees thoughtfully. "I'll try to remember to tie a bow around my arm or put happy sun faces in my diagrams, maybe." She folds her arms behind her head, apparently free of whatever cramps troubled her earlier.
zahara "I'm sure that'll alleviate any suspicions he might have," she says solemnly. She tips her head at the arm in question, "Feeling better?"
Varanim "Much," Varanim says, looking a little surprised at the admission. "Just a bit of phantom pain, har har." The monks start to file back inside for their evening prayers, and Varanim blows them a kiss with a sigh. "Look me up if you ever get tired of rice and sutras!" she calls.
zahara chuckles politely, and watches the monks leave, "I think that one on the left winked at you"
Varanim "I'll show him some chi focusing," Varanim leers, then climbs to her feet with something that almost sounded like a contented sigh. "I have some errands to run, but we need to talk more. Will you explode if I interrupt you sometime in the next few days?"
zahara "It's possible, you can never tell."
Varanim "Neat. I'll be sure not to wear my good clothes."