Spring As Varanim walks back out of the caves, she runs into Spring walking into them.
Varanim "Gah," Varanim says, stumbling back a bit, then rights herself. "Don't go in there unless your cavorting tolerance is very high."
Spring pauses. "It is not immediately clear to me how to interpret that."
Varanim "Unless you want to see the Empress skinny-dipping with Lucent--a sight I'm now cursed to bear to my grave--you might want to wait to... hm, why ARE you down here? A little strategic peeing in the pool when you think no one's looking?"
Spring pauses even more.
Spring "I left something here when I left, and I wished to recover it. On consideration, I might attempt it at another time."
Spring "What brings you here? Investigating the actions of your consort?"
Varanim Varanim, who on normal days does not lack basic walking skills, lurches to a stop as she starts to move past him. "The individual words make sense, but not the way you stuck them together."
Spring "Come now, Varanim the Last. I am not the most socially adept of Exalts, but the Essence-driven perceptions of the arachean eyes crafted for me by the Dreambreaker herself suggest that something might be taking place between the two of you."
Varanim looks at Spring for a moment, actually discarding her first response--a hot denial of her rumored passionate affair with the Empress--and tilting her head with a vexed expression. "Do they pick up multilayered annoyance and mutual dislike?"
Spring "I am not clear on why you consulted me on your construction project if you had such a low opinion of my intelligence."
Varanim pinches the bridge of her nose. "Look, I could list the dozen or so major things that are wrong with Lucent, but the short version is really that he's an idiot. I suspect if you review our previous talks, you'll believe I mean THAT sincerely."
Spring "The fact that you believe that only deepens my curiosity as to your entanglement."
Spring "Why are you so afraid of telling the truth?"
Varanim "Oh, I actually spend a lot of time telling the truth, only most people aren't listening closely." Varanim sighs. "I could probably dissect the paradox though, for laughs. Uh, do you laugh?"
Spring "It is not impossible that I might."
Varanim "He's a religious zealot, fixed in the idea of his own divinely aristocratic birthright. He places excessive importance on outer appearances. He's also narcissistically absorbed with the First Age and the concept of 'past lives', both traits I find sentimental at best and actively stupid at worst."
Varanim "He has, in the past, threatened to kill me for my own good, despite his complete ignorance about the particulars of my research, or the actual effects of what I do. He's self-righteous, self-absorbed, and he intrudes on my work with increasing frequency and an unflagging lack of understanding."
Varanim "He is also heartbreakingly perfect in form, untiring in spirit, and when he so much as raises his voice, half a kingdom drops to its knees. In summary, he is everything that is wrong with Solars."
Spring "I am aware of all of that, and it is equally true with regards to his interactions with me. Except, perhaps, the subject of past lives, which my current existence should at the very least suggest is reasonable to discuss."
Varanim waves a hand irritably at that. "I understand that shards are inherited, but past that I've seen only vanity in lieu of analysis. Do you have something unexpected to say on the subject?" Either intentionally or not, she follows the topic change.
Spring "What formal studies have you proposed to prove the existence of gravity?"
Varanim "None. Go on."
Spring "Why not? Surely such an important natural law deserves to be fully investigated and understood."
Varanim "Oh, sure. By people who care--which I've had no reason to."
Spring "And how have your dreams been lately/"
Varanim smirks. "I sleep like a baby."
Spring "Intermittently and with periodic screaming?"
Varanim "Hm, you DO have passably good ears." Varanim looks at him more directly. "I haven't slept an untroubled night for years. But I suspect you're after dreams of particular significance, so perhaps you should point the way--it's a pretty cluttered landscape in that direction."
Spring "I sometimes find it useful to tell similar truths." Spring smiles faintly. "Does the appearance of figures from your shard's previous incarnation give you no reason to be interested in the topic?"
Spring "Ymir left Cerin the tools he needed to save the world. Wei Dan left me his power. If we seem interested in our former selves, perhaps it is partially because they were interested in us."
Spring "And they have had quite a bit more time to prepare."
Varanim slouches against the nearest wall with a grimace. "On the list of things I'd like to devote time to caring about, it's somewhere below Lucent's opinion of my hairstyle. However, yes, it's becoming increasingly clear that my laudable indifference about the source of my shard is not mutual."
Varanim "So. What can you tell me about a woman with green lips?"
Spring "I can tell you immediately that no information about her is available in any source that would currently be accessible to me."
Spring "We will have to resort to less ordinary methods."
Spring "Have you met Iallu?"
Varanim winces briefly. "Yes. Could we postpone revisiting her until I've done something bracing, like finished my treehouse and nailed up the 'No Boys' sign by the rope ladder? I'm deathly afraid she may have a functioning sense of irony."
Spring "Certainly, if you see fit. I am hurt to be excluded from your manse, however. Have we no sense of fellowship?"
Varanim "Hm, I see that you're being a smartass there, but I'm too tired to properly curse your soul to the Void for it." Then a thought strikes her, and she winces again. "It would be much more convenient if you could ask around about Ms. Greenlips without specifically mentioning to Lucent why you're interested."
Spring "Are you keeping secrets from him? I doubt that will be effective for long."
Varanim "Oh, it's really pretty easy, what with me being much smarter than him and all."
Spring "I hope for your sake that that continues to be true."
Varanim rolls her eyes. "What, or he'll kill me? He's already ranted about that."
Spring "No, I agree that that seems unlikely. I find, however, that the peculiar nature of our social group tends to lead to revelation before long."
Varanim looks briefly vexed at that, then sort of tiredly resigned. "I'll think about it. Any other black clouds you want to hold over my sunny mood?"
Spring "Merely that you have not answered my original question. Where do your feelings for Lucent come from, given your avowed dislike for everything he stands for."
Varanim smirks. "Would you believe it was the really fantastic sex?"
Spring pauses. "Are you asking me to?"
Varanim "Actually, I'm trying to deflect you from the whole unfortunate conversational aside. Why are you resisting, anyway--is this some kind of 'be as annoying to Varanim as she is to other people' project?"
Spring "Are you really so unused to dealing with people who desire answers to the questions they ask?"
Varanim "Aren't you?" Varanim looks surprised. "I generally find that people mix up the order of operations, and only ask for the explanation once they've already decided on one."
Spring "I generally do not try people. I have very little to hide."
Varanim "It's sweet that you believe that, and maybe it's even true, but... look. There are plenty of reasons why I avoid entanglements--the simplest is that I'm easily bored, and most people are idiots. So if you're worried about some kind of long-term consequences of whatever your beady little eyes saw, don't be."
Spring "You must be joking."
Spring "You are far too intelligent to believe that there will not be long-term consequences, regardless of your intention."
Spring coughs up a book and hands it to Varanim. "Have you seen what Lucent is reading lately?"
Varanim "Mm, not really. It's a really key life skill to realize how little effect people have on each other... what the hell is this?"
Spring It's a trashy romance novel, well-worn. The title is "A Spell-Crossed Love." On the cover is a dashing princely figure in silvery armor and a grumpy-looking but still attractive woman in dark clothing and a glowing staff.
Spring "Examine it at your leisure."
Spring "While we are on the subject of books, however..." While Varanim is gazing at the book in horror, Spring is producing another.
Varanim "You must be joking." Varanim is, indeed, gazing in horror previously reserved only for the Black Tome.
Spring "I reserve my humor for viciously mocking my erstwhile opponents. I assure you this is genuine."
Varanim "Huh," Varanim says in a tone of profound disgust, but she tucks the book into her bag instead of handing it back.
Spring "Perhaps you have had the opportunity to glance at the books Birds-of-Trinity created about our Circle."
Varanim "Briefly. Something especially juicy I should look for?"
Spring "Not exactly."
Spring "You are familiar with the manner in which they update themselves to record the experiences of our fellowship as they occur? It is most convenient for assuring we may be aware of each other's movements and indeed achievements."
Spring "Birds deactivated Lucent's book following the Eclipse, but I have restored it to its function."
Varanim "I am now. That's... convenient, in kind of a creepy way." Then she raises her eyebrows at him. "You want me to read about him?"
Spring "No. I want you to read about yourself."
Spring hands her the book he has just removed, a squarish black volume redolent of a classroom. In large print across the front, it reads: "Varanim the Last: A Basic Text." There is also figure of her with various sarcastically helpful tips -- an arrow pointing to her little finger labeled "more brains in this than your whole body," etc.
Spring "It will not work without your agreement."
Varanim Varanim's face goes distant and shuttered, but she takes the book. "I'll think about it."
Spring "Please do. Let me know when you decide."