Varanim packs a lunch and leaves the Cascade, finding her work space this time in the blackened wake of a small forest fire. After some consideration--which involves the consumption of a swallow of sandwich and more than one swallow of wine--she consideres the diagram before her.
Varanim In one half is the Book, in the other half the Present. The markings around them suggest connection, but only in connotation rather than definite. She fills her mind with the outer forms of them, and then lets that awareness dissolve into the substance.
Varanim closes out all other sensory input and focuses down until all that she can see are the two objects left for her, so gratuitously capitalized: The Book. The Present. (...)
She looks at the very finest traceries of Essence, the most superficial markings: the tiny pieces of sympathetic attachment that both have picked up over centuries -- nay, millennia -- of existence, that, however faintly, tie them to their own histories. (...)
Varanim quickly ascertains that they have been "together" for some time: held by the same owner for many years, and a different owner before that. (...)
And yet, the two are not deeply connected, in purpose or use: despite that, they have rarely shared each other's most immediate proximity, and the most powerful impressions from each are separate and distinct, separated in time.
Varanim has questions about the book, but ultimately, is it really a mystery why it was left for her? Comments on fashion are a little more unusual. In the workspace in her mind, she outlines a nebulous form in motes of ruddy sunlight, lifting the scarf into the air and swirling it around the neck of... who?
Varanim She carves the character for "first" on the forehead of the indistinct character and waits for features to fill in and the important scenes to play.
A vague, indistinct figure becomes clearer, taking on the shape of a man, from a time long, long ago. (...)
Varanim's vision zooms in, until she can see the events: the figure standing at the edge of a great pit, watching as a burnt and wounded group of Exalts drag trophies up from a hard-fought battle -- they hold dark weapons, and strange and unknowable objects, but he has eyes only for the book.... (...)
She sees him, hunched over it as she once did, in a grand, golden library, studying intently every word, every page, not even noticing as plants wither, birds die, servitors suffer debilitating illness. (...)
She sees him duck out, under cover of night, into an uninhabited wilderness, to test -- at first, haltingly -- what he has learned: to raise up the dead bodies of caribou, long buried beneath the soil..... (...)
And she sees him with the scarf, as well: finding it, waiting for him, tied around a golden wand, set carefully upon a table... sniffing it, and smelling the intoxicating fragrance of jasmine and cloves -- a scent long since faded... tying two unyielding, soft, pale hands together with it, and smiling... (...)
...Wearing it, letting it billow in the wind, as he looks out from a balcony over a vast Shadowland, and turning with a smile to see something Varanim knows only too well: those shiny green lips...
Varanim "Dear diary, exciting new discovery today: previous owner was a bit of a dickweed." Varanim, in the research space in her head, considers the shifting view as it dissolves back into motes and grabs the scarf lightly out of the air before it falls. She runs it between her fingers for a moment, forming the next question.
Varanim It was given as a gift; freely, or with strings? Varanim reforms the vague mannequin of light, traces the word "why?" on its palm, and then folds the fingers gently closed around the fine black weave of the Present.
Varanim sees a grand party, untold celebrants and great debauchery on display at every side. The man stands before a table of sumptuous gifts, each more lavish than the last, but his attention is drawn to a simple green bag. (...)
He looks at the label in surprise -- her? Was she even here? Why would she... -- his thought trails off as he opens up the bag and sees the scarf within -- something catches his eye about it. (...)
This scarf is saying something, Varanim realizes -- it is saying, "YOU HAVE A GREAT DESTINY." (...)
Then he looks up, and he sees them again, those same lips, whispering those same words to him, from a thousand feet across the party: "you have a great destiny...."
Varanim "Wait, there are still people who FALL for that line?" The mental image of Varanim shakes her head, disgusted at the follies of youth, but she's stalling. (...)
Varanim The next question has been waiting for years, lit by lightning and open to the sky. She summons the manifold expressions of its diagram, hovering four-dimensional, to stand and answer.
Varanim There is a place in the book, not so much a specific page as a comprehension level, beyond which she cannot see. Beyond it lies the Void, and all work continuing that direction is an exercise in construction on the precipice. And so: how did the previous owner pass that threshhold?
Varanim sees visions once again: of the book's previous owner, passed out from overstudying, keeling over on the book -- one hand carelessly knocking over a candle, and the fire that burns until it catches his unconscious hand... (...)
of standing in Stygia, at the lip of the Well of Oblivion... of climbing down the stairwell until it leads down, down, to the tombs of the sleeping Malfeans... of reaching his bandaged hand into the well of a tomb, and the exquisite pain that followed... (...)
Of standing in a vast, dark room, a writhing, nude victim tied to a table with soulsteel chains, the brand of Dawn upon his forehead... and in her vision's blackened hand, a vicious black sacrificial dagger... (...)
And finally, of a moment, where he awakens, in an empty black cavern, the red light of Abaddon filtering in from the doorway, bones around his feet. He sees those viridian lips speaking to him, he reaches out one hand, and closes it into a fist -- and at that moment, the Extinguishment of Ten Thousand Lights was cast, and Onyx Circle Necromancy entered the world.
Varanim sweeps a sign of closing in the air with her hand, banishing the phantoms. The book and scarf drop back to their places, and when she opens her eyes she is again sitting on the burnt earth contemplating the diagram with its two legacies.
Varanim "Easy problems are boring," she informs them, and then reaches for the wine bottle she plans to empty.