Varanim Late one afternoon, Varanim sticks her head into the room where Zahara is sitting, probably poring over strategy papers or something boring like that. "Come on, we'll be late."
Zahara sets down her boring papers, and looks up sharply. "Late to what?"
Varanim "We're going to miss our seats at the best place to eat in the market," Varanim says, as if it were obvious. It is just barely possible that she considers herself to be dressed up, since she's wearing one of her unstained coats and even has a shapeless wide-brimmed sort of hat on.
Zahara gestures to the (neatly stacked) papers, "I'm a little busy."
Varanim rolls her eyes. "Oh, this is great. You're going to lose the bet inside of five minutes, I can tell."
Zahara shifts sideways in her chair and raises a brow. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Varanim "I think you're so tied up in this empress business that you can't let go of it for a single hour. Which is why you and I are going to the market, except we'll be late if you keep asking questions."
Zahara wrinkles her nose. "Fine, an hour it is." She grabs the papers and steps out the door, corralls a servant an orders him to give them to Bertrand.
Varanim "Easy money," Varanim says contentedly, and sets off for the front door whistling a jaunty tune.
Zahara walks after her, considerably less jauntily. She shakes her head a little, and picks up her pace to catch up. "How MUCH easy money?"
Varanim "Ooh, hm, that's a good question. The thing is, you have enough money to fill swimming pools, whereas I mostly live like a bum with a library, so I'll just welch on any large debt." Then she looks thoughtful. "I probably shouldn't have said that until afterwards, huh."
Zahara laughs. "That does vaguely put a damper on the idea of a bet, yes. Hmm Just a moment, I'll be right back." She turns a corner that wasn't there and disappears into the maze
Varanim slouches against a wall and waits, low hat-brim over her eyes making her look more vaguely disreputable than usual.
RandomReveler comes down the hallway that Zee had disappeared into, her clothes a bit less disreputable than 'nim's, though she clearly made an effort to look, as she considers such, poor. Just a random woman with ice blue eyes and a familiar walk. "Okay. If I'm going to abandon being Empress for an hour I should dress the part, eh?"
Varanim looks her over in narrow-eyed appraisal, then nods. "You might make it past ten minutes, even," she says, and leads on. Heading out of the Cascade, the sun is hanging low in the sky by now, a huge reddish-gold ball casting long shadows. Varanim nods up at it. "What do you think of when you look at that?"
Varanim "Not a trick question," she adds to clarify after momentary reflection.
RandomReveler looks up, squinting a bit. "I try not to think about him. I've got too much else to worry about." a pause, then clarifies "None of which I am worrying about right now, of course."
Varanim "'Course not, otherwise you'd already have lost," Varanim smirks. Then she tilts her head as they keep walking. "So it's a 'him' first, not just a big ball of light in the sky?"
RandomReveler "Of course." She shrugs. "Though, before I had a grudge against Him, I probably thought more about the light than the spirit."
Varanim "Huh. The grudge sounds like a story, but I suspect you'd have to lose the bet to tell it." As they get into the city, Varanim alternately slouches and elbows her way through the close of day crowds. "Don't worry," she says to Zahara, "we'll be there in a minute."
RandomReveler snorts, "I have no idea what is LEFT to talk about."
RandomReveler wends her way through the vague path that Varanim leaves behind her
Varanim "That's why you won't last the hour. But if you can do it without losing, tell me why Lucent is so annoying," Varanim suggests helpfully as they make their way into the big market. She reaches a little stand selling meat kebobs and melon slices and secures the last free table by it, snapping her teeth at a young couple who almost beat her to it.
RandomReveler is startled as someone else elbows through the crowd, jabbing her in the side in her quest to cross the crowded square. She takes a long breath, unclenching her fingers from the space where hilt of the sword she didn't bring lies. "right." she mutters to herself, then slips forward the last few steps and runs her fingers briefly over the seat before she plops down. "Lucent? He's a Believer. with a capital B."
Varanim makes a face at Zahara's answer, then pauses. "Hold on, this is part of my rigorous research regimen." She leans backward to the vendor, rattles off an order, and leans back with a kebob in each fist. Truth be told, they are slightly on the greasy and overspiced side.
Varanim "Sho," she says through a mouthful, "is that really all thatsh wrong with him?"
Varanim "I mean," she adds after swallowing, "he smiles way too big, like this." In illustration she stretches her lips and widens her eyes.
RandomReveler takes the other kebab and grimaces at it. "Seriously, this is the BEST food here?" She flicks some grease off to the side, and tries a bite just as Varanim does her fantastic imitation. And chokes.
Varanim "And the way he's so churchwifely, it makes me want to leave little pornographic doodles of corpses on his door," Varanim scowls into another bite. "And acshually," she says, "I didn't say it was the best food, just the best place to eat." She points a finger. (...)
Varanim On the other side of a low stone wall they're sitting near is a little park, where monks from a martial arts school are taking their places for evening kata practice. As the men among them strip to the waist for the exercise, a beatific smile crosses Varanim's face.
RandomReveler "Ahh, I suppose I cannot argue with the view." She leans back and watches them for a bit, gnawing occasionally on the meat, and contemplating what exactly died to make the food. "Mm so, yes, Lucent. He may be mmm overly enthusiastic about his beliefs, but..." but he believes in me. "before he joined us, the world seemed to be a darker place."
Varanim "Mm," Varanim grunts as she gnaws. She props her feet up on the wall, calling, "Ooh, nice form!" at a nearby student who does his best to ignore her. Addressing Zahara again, she says, "Well, I suppose if he's good for everyone's morale..." she sighs theatrically.
Varanim Wiping her hands on her pants, she leans over to the vendor again, and comes back with a fat pair of melon slices this time.
RandomReveler "Everyone but yours, it seems. Why does he bother you so much?"
Varanim "Never trust anyone who smiles that much. Also, I suspect him of stealing the last raspberry pastry two days ago." Varanim shoots a sharp appraising glance sideways at Zahara, wondering if she's asking out of idle curiosity or as the ever-watchful empress.
RandomReveler does not seem particularly watchful of her, as Varanim is not stripped to the waist and performing katas. She does, however, turn and catch her glance at the last second, hold it, and then return to admiring the view. "The pastries were disappointing anyway. Is that why you frown so much?"
Varanim sinks her teeth into the melon and contemplates the study of martial arts for a few seconds. "I don't frown THAT often," she says in blithe contradiction of fact. "Besides, substandard pastries are a terrible burden." Not that it stopped her from eating three.
RandomReveler chuckles, and warily tries the melon. "This is the longest I've ever seen you smile. You're getting less trustworthy by the second."
Varanim The melon is of appropriate ripeness, if only average quality. Varanim snorts as the monks pair off to do paired drills, calling "Put your BACK into it!" to a nearby duo. "I'm as trustworthy as I've ever been," she says matter-of-factly to Zahara, "which is considerably farther than I can throw any of you people."
RandomReveler licks a drip of melon off her fingers, and smiles. "Later, we should have a throwing contest." Another bite or two. "So you're trustworthy up to a point - as is everyone. There's always something that people will do anything for." There is no accusation in her words, just quiet surety and a hint of sadness.
Varanim For a moment behind Varanim, Zahara's charm-assisted eyes see a different world overlaid on the one she knows: Varanim's left sleeve hangs empty, the setting sun is a thing of purely natural splendor, and all through the market there is not a single hint of magic nor cry to a god. The edges of the vision are oddly skewed, as if it contains within it some subtle paradox. (...)
Varanim "That's not true, actually," says Varanim. "Although it's common enough to be boring. Ah," she sighs the last as the monks file in for their evening prayers, "another golden hour over."
RandomReveler "Mmm perhaps you're right. Maybe you do not have a breaking point? Maybe nobody does." She too watches the monks leave, and spins the rind on the table, then lets her hand drop. She twines her fingers through the scarf about her waist, and glances up at the sun once more. "Everything passes."
Varanim "You don't actually think I'm right, but you're humoring me. Don't bother," Varanim says, standing and stretching with a faint popping of joints. "But, hey, now you have lots of exciting papers to get back to. That's exciting."
RandomReveler sighs, and cradles her chin in one hand, leaning on her elbow. "Don't remind me." She does not seem particularly inclined to move.
Varanim "Hm." Varanim regards her for a moment. "If I thought you were ready for the intermediate course, I'd take you to the best music in town. But you're already slipping into talking about breaking points and everything ending, without any booze or anything in you, so maybe we'd better leave that for next week."
RandomReveler half smiles. "I suppose I shall have to wait then." She pushes herself up from the table, and looks back at the manse in the near distance. "You know, all this used to be more adventurous in the old days."
Varanim "Did it?" Varanim frowns a bit, as if searching her own memory for a correspondence, then shrugs. "Adventures are a sucker's game, anyway. Advertising for idiots." She sounds like her normal cranky self again.
Varanim "Next week, two hours--with an extension to hangover time, if you play your cards right. Be seeing you, Zahara."
RandomReveler "I can hardly wait."