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Varanim As she prefers to do for magic that needs a clear head, Varanim walks away from the Cascade for an hour or two before settling down on a log. First she memorizes the lion emblem with her eyes. Then as the late sun slants through the trees and blinds her, she forgets what she saw and relearns its shape with her naked soulsteel fingers. When she's done that, she opens her eyes and reconciles the

Varanim two pictures, her Essence branching into the final dimension--the unseen roots of the past.

Varanim looks deeply into the history of the emblem under her fingers, and the history unfurls in reverse for her -- her finding of the emblem, and before that, its place on the ghostly spy's clothes... (...)

She sees, in the eye of history, the emblem crossing tens, maybe hundreds of times back and forth across the Shroud in the Sunlands -- and, before that, when it is handed out to the ghost, one of five hundred who stand, huddled close together in a rocky bowl, under the dark skies of Netheos, the Lion himself standing with two Abyssals and a litany of spectres to present them... (...)

Her vision lets off, painfully, with the forging of the emblem -- the harsh, blazing hot hammer that drives the soul of a young woman, dead to the plague, forcefully into the metal until it gleams in its chosen shape with the unique, pallid gleam that only soulsteel can hold.

Varanim Varanim grimaces at the ending and reaches for the bottle she brought for the inevitable headaches that result from these questings. "Once," she grumbles, "just once, it should be happy soulsteel."

Varanim Then a thought strikes her, and she grabs a stick and scratches out a summoning circle on the ground without bothering to rise. Filling the fresh gouges with wine and flavoring with a few drops of blood, she casts her will across the miles to Black Mastodon.

After a few long minutes, the familiar form of Black Mastodon -- his archaic clothes, full red beard, and branded forehead -- swirls into being in Varanim's circle, and nods.

Varanim Varanim says, wincing as if she has a fierce headache, "Normally I just tell people to do things, but in our case that would be creepy. So I have two things which would be sort of helpful, if you happen to have any annoying tenth generation descendants you want out of the way. In a strictly voluntary sense."

Varanim "First, I'm about to do something which might be a little stupid, so if I start acting evil or less sarcastic or something, I'd appreciate one of you stopping by the Cascade to tell anyone who's not Lucent that they shouldn't expect me for dinner."

Varanim "Second, assuming item the first goes okay, if you could shake loose a couple of travel-hungry ghostlings, the Sunlands is really lovely this time of year and they should visit."

alsoquin nods. "You may feel assured that should you ever prove to be less sarcastic for a moment, ma'am, I would report it to every person, living or dead, that I might believe to make good use of that information," he says, and smiles.

BlackMastodon He raises an eyebrow at the second point. "I'm certain there is... rather more to it than that," he says.

Varanim "Hm. You're okay, for a dead guy." Then Varanim stands, waving a hand at his second comment. "More on that in a minute, I hope." (...)

Varanim She takes a deep breath and claps her hands together, then lifts one foot as if to step into the air as she draws her palms apart again. A black mist clouds the air between her fingers and spreads quickly, the very air hardening around her in a smoky prison that swiftly encases her entire body.

Varanim With the faintest tearing sound, she steps away from the cocoon on the Netheos side of the Shroud. "Look, ma, I'm a ghost," she mutters.

BlackMastodon looks at Varanim's new, wispier form with a raised eyebrow.

Varanim "It's kind of like farting, only you push your soul out instead," she says airily to him, then turns to look at her body, caught in black crystal. "Huh. That's a little weird." Then she shakes herself and picks up the lion emblem again, because she needed to know if it would feel any different or have any stranger effects to Essence probing in a genuinely ghostly hand.

BlackMastodon Varanim almost instantaneously feels a strange compulsion pull at her from the palm of her ghostly hand, like cruel iron fingers exerting their will through the very touch of the soulsteel emblem. But with a great deal of effort, she forces it away.

Varanim Varanim stands still for several long moments, a strange expression rippling over her face as she fights the internal battle, then she grins savagely as the 'fingers' lose their grip. "Balls to you," she says to the lion emblem, before spitting on it and dropping it.

Varanim "Okay," she says to Black Mastodon, "part one of that second thing I was going to ask you? Don't touch any of those things."

BlackMastodon nods. "So I see," he says. "Is there more to it than exploring this vast, fine country while keeping a peeled eye constantly open for ominous lion heads?"

Varanim scowls in thought, pacing absently around her immobile body-cocoon. "It's mostly that I don't have time to keep an eye on Netheos here myself. Some of the empress' long-lost relatives were recently hit with a curse--something like yours, but not exactly--and we took that," nodding to the lion's head, "off a spy. I just don't have enough eyes, and I might need more specific favors on short...

Varanim ...notice."

Varanim "Plus, the Black Crags have lousy weather. So leaving sometimes is fun, right?"

BlackMastodon "All of the world of the dead has lousy weather, it is only a matter of which lousy weather you prefer," he says. "I'll put a selection of my more competent descendants upon it right away."

Varanim "Well, there's that," she admits about the weather. "I also need to hit the Labyrinth soon, but that's none of your problem unless you want it to be for some reason."

Varanim She pauses a moment and then nods indicate the brand on Black Mastodon's forehead. "I'm working on it," she adds in a different tone.

BlackMastodon nods in response.

Varanim "But, y'know, no promises." Varanim shrugs and reestablishes her normal trace of a smirk. "Anyway, unless there's news from home, I guess we both have things to do. And, uh, thanks." She visibly has little practice at saying that.

BlackMastodon bows deeply. "It is both duty and honor," he says, and grins, a little mischievously

Varanim is about to snap at him to stop that, is trapped by the realization it would mean giving him an order, and contents herself with a venomous glare.

BlackMastodon stands straight again, but his grin does not fade even as his body fades away once again.

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