< In Togetherness We Greet Ourselves | Sol Invictus Logs | The Cry of Ten Thousand >

Varanim came back to the Cascade in rumpled clothes, coat slung over her left arm to cover the shredded wrapping, looking haggard and smelling of cheap liquor. She wanders to the kitchen to steal some food, looks vaguely and not entirely happily surprised to find Lucent there, but grunts at him in bleary greeting.

Lucent paces about. Ember should be there already, as should Varanim... who was FINALLY there! "Varanim! THERE you are!" His face brightens on a smile. "What took you so long?!?"

Varanim winces slightly at his volume. "Good news, you might have an Essence wart," she says, glaring at him.

Varanim "Wait, why are you lying in wait for me?"

Lucent "The talk with Ember! Ember of Glory! The Midnight Caste Abyssal" He stops, those golden eyes, like pools of liquid metal, bubbling angrily. "... what, you just FORGOT? That is my life here! And the Sun's!"

Imrama walks casually out of the pantry, munching on a rice ball. "My dear Lucent, I beseech you to give Varanim the benefit of the doubt. It can take a while to adjust to the pace of our company."

Varanim pauses to fix Lucent with a bloodshot eye, chopping knife raised in one hand, some kind of melon in the other. "You think it's the Sun's life, because it flatters your vanity and anthropomorphic aesthetics. And if you were listening, I just said that it's not Creeping Black Sun Sickness. Well, not for you."

Varanim chopchopTINGchop Varanim always holds with her left hand, so she can be sloppy with the knife.

Lucent And then something said before seems to finally register for Lucent, bringing to his face quite an undescribable face. "... wait, Essence wart?"

Lucent looks flabbergasted for a moment, then ANOTHER thing registers. "... I'm NOT vain!"

Varanim slews her eyes to Imrama and shrugs elaborately, as if inviting him to consider the clearly hysterical Lucent she has to work with. Then she bites a melon slice.

Lucent "Well, I am not." He crosses his arms, regaining some composure. "So, what did you find out, Necromancer?"

Varanim "Ish nod the shpiritual disheashe," gulp, "so it's something else. What would YOU call a small disfiguring black spot?" She squints her eyes at Lucent, gathering some of her nearly-tuckered Essence to take a closer look at him.

Lucent "A Taint. I see the Second Age uses peasant words for everything." He leans against the wal, the gems on the Coronal shining a bit brighter. "How can it be cleaned? It might not be too hard... I did, after all, never sign a contract in blood over my soul with them. Not like I did with Yozi."

Varanim "Just how many people HAVE you slept with, spiritually speaking?"

Lucent counts on fingers. "Hmmmm." Lucent counts some more. "Component Souls count?"

Varanim nods wordlessly, eyebrows raised over the next mouthful of melon.

Lucent "Thirteen, then. None left a mark on it like the Yozi... but I got over that."

Varanim "Well, uh, it's POSSIBLE that your problem is you're a big ol' Essence slut. Don't mind me, though, I'm not a doctor anymore." She looks around irritably. "Where's that damn Abyssal, anyway? If he's a no-show, I have a library book to steal."

Lucent looks cross "... that from someone who hears voices and has an evil arm?"

As if on cue, Ember of Glory steps elegantly into the room and seats himself upright at one end of the table.

Varanim "One, they are my special friend voices, and two, it was a gift from a professional colleague," Varanim is saying snidely to Lucent as Ember comes in.

Varanim Then she turns her attention to the new arrival, raking him up and down with her bloodshot eyes as she munches. "Thish him?"

Lucent "And I happenned to be First of the Green Knights of Malfeas. If you have to know." He wags his finger towards her. "Important. Unique. I was about to open the door and make Ligier appear upon the world before they stopped me. That is not just another taint."

Varanim "Oh, sure, you were special, baby. And they all called you in the morning, right?"

Lucent shifts the finger to Ember. "Hello, Brother. I want my gold sliver back." He nods. "Yes, that is him."

Ember nods. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss...?" He nods with a thin smile to Varanim.

Varanim "Ooh, Miss. There's a fresh one," she grins. "I'm Varanim."

Lucent "They knelt before me and armed to fight the armies of Creation. Alveua re-worked my Creation artifacts..." He touched his necklace, thinking of her, his voice softening as he mentions that name. "... anyways, not like you would understand that. The Dead are too self-important."

"Varanim. I am Ember of Glory, and I come here from the court of the Mask of Winters. You may," he says, "have heard of him."

Varanim squints carefully at Luc's essence next to the Abyssal's, and an interesting detail emerges: she can make out the faint traces of a tiny knot of necrotic Essence within Luc's pattern -- clearly the source of his death-touch -- and within Ember, a tiny area that is clean, where sunlight shines through without the taint of death.

Imrama sits down at the table to Ember's right. "Hello again, Ember of Glory. How does the day find you?"

Varanim "Mask of, Mask of..." Varanim makes an exaggeratedly puzzled face, which she then forgets to maintain as she scrutinizes the patterns around them both. "Huh, there's a bit of a swap, all right. So how'd he get a bit of the Sun in him?" She jerks her thumb at Ember, addressing the question to the room at large.

He looks over at Imrama. "I am well, Stormfound." He glances over at the food Varanim is eating with an odd expression.

Lucent "We were in the same room when it happened. I talked to Glimpse by myself, however."

Varanim "Could be you didn't get your spot--sorry, Taint--from Glimpse at all."

Lucent blinks. "But... but I was there. I looked into the monstrance, and... then... who did I get it from? And what was my talk with Glimpse?"

Varanim shrugs. "If I had all the answers, trust me, you'd know--I'd be WAY more smug right now. But there's a bit of your Essence"--she points--"that looks like it was swapped with his. So it's possible the meeting with Glimpse was coincidental, or at least just a catalyst." She looks more alert and interested, now.

Varanim "Whose Monstrance?"

Lucent "I... figure it was yours'?" He tilts his face towards Ember.

"There is that possibility," he says.

Lucent "What, the place your ESSENCE was in, and you cannot tell?"

Varanim Varanim, who has drifted closer to that end of the table, leans on one elbow and bends closer to say to Imrama, "Just to keep my details straight, you weren't involved in this little orgy, were you?"

Imrama "This all took place before I met Lucent, actually."

"Yes, Lucent," he says softly. "It was my Monstrance."

Lucent "I would prefer if you stopped using sexual words to describe sublime meetings with dead gods." He steps closer to Ember. "So, while I thought that I was bringing light to the depths of sun's shadows, it was just... a swap. And when were you going to tell me that?"

"Are they really so different?" he says. "I came to a greater understanding of your kind, and you of mine. Do you deny that this experience has aided you in the time since?"

Varanim was about to clarify some point, but she instead shuts up and waits to see how far the Lucent/Ember dialog will go.

Lucent "Yes, they are. For one thing, apparently my experience with Glimpse was nothing but stepping into your own Malfean connection." He looks into Ember's eyes. "I do not like to be deceived, Ember. Tell me. Did you see anything, when you received my Essence? What really happenned while my consciousness was into... wherever it was?"

Varanim wordlessly offers the final melon slice to Imrama.

Ember leans backwards slightly in his seat. "I... spoke to the Sun, actually."

Varanim Then her eyes roll heavenward with a tiny blissful smile, as she makes a minute point-marking motion with one finger.

Lucent "... oh." Lucent stops unsure of what to say next. "And... what did he say?"

Varanim Then suddenly Varanim straightens with a start. "Son of a BITCH," she says to the air.

Ember begins an answer, then cuts it off and looks slightly surprised at Varanim's sudden outburst of profanity.

Varanim "Oh! Carry on. This is very cathartic, I'm sure." Varanim waves him to keep going, looking thoughtful.

Lucent turns. "... what?"

Varanim "Um, nothing."

Lucent watches Varanim suspiciously

Ember's eyes both of them suspiciously.

Varanim sighs as they stop their argument. "Picture, if you will, a shiny spot on the Glimpse's primary manifestation something like the smudge on the sun. If you want extra giggles, picture all of us with evil beards or something, standing around discussing the doom of sunshine that must surely be nigh."

Varanim "Now, please. You were about to explain what the sun said to you...?"

Lucent "... you make no sense." Lucent points out. "Quen would LOVE you to death."

Ember grins his odd, half-smile once again. "He was standing on top of a mountain, and one of his hands was bandaged. 'I know who you are,' he said."

Varanim With great effort of will, and perhaps a bitten tongue, Varanim withholds reply to let them finish.

Lucent follows each word with building interest. "And then?"

"He pointed down over the world, and I saw them: points of golden light -- many here, in the city you call Solaria, and others in the Southwest, or the north... then it pulled back further, and I saw others -- hundreds of black spots, below the earth, and thousands of dots of dust across the universe, and a red and black flower of five dots hanging in the air..." (...)

"And he said, 'I am watching all of my children... even the wayward ones.'"

Lucent "... North?" He blinks, turning to Imrama. "We know anyone on the North?"

Imrama "Not off hand. I might have guessed at Haslanti or Whitewall, but if one of us was there I would expect that they'd have made themselves known by now."

Lucent "The flowers are the Lion's and the Ebon Dragon's Circles, I am sure..."

Varanim "Hm, so daddy still loves you," Varanim says, losing interest and contemplating instead ways to look up Glimpse's skirt.

Lucent "I never doubted that."

Imrama "Whereas I never expected that the Sun cared for us at all. To find that he is even interested is rather a welcome surprise."

Lucent "The Sun is our Father, our God. We are his Champions, his favored Children. Why would he not?"

"Perhaps because he has allowed the greater portion of his Exalts to be warped and changed into forms far different from those he first envisioned?"

Imrama "We were made to be so, but we are more. Entrusted with free will, we answer first to our own hearts - we can have no higher master." Imrama gives Ember a pointed look.

Lucent "The Mandate comes with that clause. Soreveignty comes with responsibility." He nods. "We must solve our own problems, and take responsibility for our own mistakes. Creation is OURS to steward. We are built by it, Ember. And you have seen that."

Ember looks a little uncomfortable, breaking his cool demeanor slightly, at Imrama's glare.

Varanim "That's right, you nasty necrotic person, you. WE are the wonderful shiny people."

Imrama "It would seem, Ember of Glory, that there an even greater number of competitors for your loyalty than I originally identified. I wonder which you will choose. Or if you will choose; it may be, after all, that you are content to remain a traitor to all three, and your own heart besides."

Varanim tilts her head sideways to contemplate Imrama, silently comparing recruiting techniques between flavors of Exalt and finding no substantial distinguishing traits.

Imrama "It would seem, Ember of Glory, that there an even greater number of competitors for your loyalty than I originally identified. I wonder which you will choose. Or if you will choose; it may be, after all, that you are content to remain a traitor to all three, and your own heart besides."

Varanim tilts her head sideways to contemplate Imrama, silently comparing recruiting techniques between flavors of Exalt and finding no substantial distinguishing traits.

Lucent "But in the end, the choice is obvious." Lucent looks at him... understanding, like they had so long before. His caste mark shone, showing its sliver of darkness. Thanking and forgiving him for it. "The choice that must be made, not because of coercion, not because of deities. But because of why we were created. Because we are HUMAN. We are its best, its brightest. Our call, is to uphold and care for humanity."

Lucent "You know that."

Lucent "You have seen it."

Lucent "We exist to protect, not to destroy."

Ember Of Glory tilts his head, and his hand shakes, just a little; his castemark seems to jitter for a moment, as the relative quantities of gold and black shift back and forth for a second before stabilizing.

After a long moment, he takes a deep breath and speaks: "It is my calling to serve the Malfeans," he says quietly and slowly. And though he does not acknowledge any debt to the Unconquered Sun, it is clear from his demeanor that in the end, when faced with the conflict between the Glimpse and the Mask, it is the dead god who holds his true loyalties, and not the dead Exalt.

Imrama gives Ember a soft smile, without pity, without scorn. "Then you have made your decision. I hope that it will serve you well." ::One step at a time,:: he thinks to Lucent.

< In Togetherness We Greet Ourselves | Sol Invictus Logs | The Cry of Ten Thousand >