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Varanim In the center of Varanim's room are several empty bottles, an array of finger bones on a desk with a strong chemical smell, a forgotten scone, and the inner ring of a complex charcoal diagram that extends up the walls to the ceiling. (...)

Varanim And Varanim, her tuneless whistling carrying through the propped-open door down the hallway.

Lucent knocks on the open door. An exercise of futility, but still polite. "Hello?"

Varanim Varanim, who was leaning on her staff glaring at one wall, wheels around to glare at Lucent instead, but she looks too tired to pull it off more than half-heartedly. "What?"

Lucent "Wanting to talk." He nods, taking a step inside, looking about and doing his damned best to be gracious and not mind the necromantic materials. Which was pretty much enough to make it seem as if he was a Necromancer himself. "I hope you are not busy?"

Varanim looks briefly like she'll seize the chance to throw him out, then she shrugs with only middling poor grace and looks at him inquiringly. "Clear a chair, or we can take a walk if the dead bits are too distracting for you."

Lucent The Orb of Serenity moves out of the Coronal, becoming a twisted Azure Symbol as a chair to him, in which he sits down with a sigh. "No, no, I can handle them. I am here to talk about the dead, after all."

Varanim pushes a couple of scraps of paper off her own chair and sprawls into it, lacing her fingers behind her head and locking her eyes on Lucent. "In general, or someone specific?"

Lucent "You remember what Zahara told you about? My pendant?" He takes it out of the robes, shining with Essence of Night.

Varanim "Got a demon in it, or something?" She leans forward to inspect, starting to look interested in spite of herself.

Lucent "Yes. Alveua, Keeper of the Forge of the Night. On the second time the Yozis almost got a hold on my soul, I spent some time in Malfeas with her... and even afterwards, after I beat the Ebon Dragon on my own terms, I would return to see her. She crafted herself, her Essence, into this, before passing away. For me."

Varanim mouths 'second time,' but apparently decides to let all that pass without comment after a brief struggle. Instead she asks, "And you're looking for... what? To talk to her, or something else?"

Lucent "To understand." He brings the pendant level to his eyes. "How much of her is here? Is she conscious? Is it just her... feel? Her imprint, to make me feel close to her?" He muses, his tone more romantic and wistful than she ever heard before, "To remember how it was, walking on black beaches under the light of stars?"

Varanim looks away, drumming her fingers on her knee rapidly for a few seconds. Finally she says, "All that Yozi business is mostly out of my way. There... might be a couple of the faculty who can help. But I've never actually brought anyone into the hearthstone with me, so it might go weird. Your call."

Lucent "I would like to. You seem to be the only one who would be less... judgemental, about it."

Varanim "I expect probing that statement would only annoy me, so let's see if this works." Varanim lays her arm across the desk between them, inside of her forearm turned up, and pokes with her other hand to part the soulsteel tendons and expose the iridescent bubble nestled there. (...)

Varanim "All right, lay a hand on that and try to project yourself inward. I'll go ahead to show the way." Varanim gives him a last wary look and pushes herself into the hearthstone.

The familiar grey columns and sights of the patio emerge before Varanim's eyes, though everything seems a little... underused, these days, ever since everyone went into hiding.

Lucent touches it with the hand that holds the pendant, pendant, his flesh, and his anima all touching.

With some effort, Lucent pushes himself through. It is not an easy, or unpainful, process -- it feels much like shoving his soul through glass with naught but the push of his arms, and what arrives within the Hearthstone's confines is a wispy, flickering semblance of the Zenith at best -- but arrive he does.

Varanim Varanim, who had been grimly contemplating the slight decay of the half-world's integrity, looks over at Lucent with mild surprise and interest. "Huh, so it does work. You look rough."

Lucent staggers a little, panting... "You go through this... EVERY time?"

Varanim "It's easy, just like falling off a cliff," Varanim says helpfully. She casts her eyes around the patio of gray forms and elegant outlines, frowning a bit. "Come on, I think the faculty rooms are this way."

Lucent "I HAVE fallen off many cliffs, Varanim." He dutifully points out, stopping his panting and taking his hand off his knees. "And this is decidedly harder. This is the inside of your gem?" He tries to keep pace, "How does it work? Absorbing the souls of those dying close to it? Previous owners?"

Varanim "It doesn't bother ME," she says, her tone suggesting that perhaps her superior virtue insulates her. "Previous owners, those who haven't faded out over time. The one-and-a-half we're going to talk to is sort of old and weird, so try not to hump your Essence on them, okay?"

Varanim She leads a fairly easy pace through the half-real world of the stone, winding away from the patio in search of the less-distinct quarters.

Lucent blanches "... one-and-a-half?"

Varanim makes a wiggling motion with one hand. "I think the twins used to be two people, but it's getting hard to tell these days." As they walk, she listens for the problem in the basement, which she would prefer not to discuss with Lucent.

Lucent "Oh, I see. Dying together, melding together..." He touches the Essence about him. He touches himself. Wisping, not his body, but a mere avatar of his Essence... "This is so strange."

The Solars come around one of the corners and into a room that vaguely resembles what one might picture as an office, if the vague purpose of one were described to you but you had never, in fact, seen one yourself. In the room, both sitting in chairs at one narrow end of an extremely long table, are the Twins. (...)

They look ever so similar: tall, reedily thin and with uncannily proper bearing, like they were held up by strings descending from the heavens. Him, in his tightly tailored black suit, overrun by wavy white lines, his head topped only by a thin wisp of hair; her, in a white dress outfit marked by black sigils, her hair pulled up tight under a round hat... (...)

Their faces are the the greatest casualty of time, both being more the suggestion of face-like space than a body part bearing any distinct markings of any kind, per se. They sit close enough that one can't tell if they're touching -- and certainly not if they're actually the same person. (...)

Both have their hands crossed upon the table silently as the two walk in, but it is the White Twin who cracks her knucles impertinently and says in her oddly muted monotone voice, "You have come here. Why?"

Varanim jerks a thumb sideways at Lucent in mute signal for him to explain. There isn't exactly a right way to talk to the twins, that she's found.

Lucent admires them, seeing only beauty, even in the vanished face. He has known stranger things. His' is but a smile to the twins as he walks closer, revealing the Essence of the pendant to them. "Greetings, august siblings. I am Lucent Copper Haze, and I am here to humbly request your expertise in matters demonic."

TheTwins "You are not humble," the Black Twin says with a similar, though much deeper, monotone voice. "But you do request," says the White Twin. "Give it to us," they add in unison.

Varanim leans against the end of the table to watch, smirking faintly and tapping on her Essence sight.

Lucent looks at Varanim long and hard before handling it to the twins with the utmost reverence. "That is the Essence of a Lover, of a loved one, of Alveua, keeper of the forge of the night. It exists here when all of the Ebon Dragon has passed from this world..."

TheTwins One hand from each twin reaches out to take the two ends of the necklace, and they hold it between them. "The necklace holds the Essence of a demon," says the one. "No, a demon has filled the Essence of the necklace," says the other. "What did you want to know?," they intone together.

Lucent "Is she... there? Is she conscious? Can this Essence remain in the world if out of that?"

TheTwins "What is consciousness, truly? Does a demon truly possess it?" "What is the world, really? Can a demon truly be in it?" They begin to spin the pendant in opposing directions, alternatingly, with their free hands -- but in a way that makes clear that their response is merely bated, not concluded.

Lucent "As far as piece of a person. And if Lucent Copper Haze can be loved in his lonesome, so can Alveua, without the Ebon Dragon, a wisp of desire, a flicker of a greater consciousness... now, for the world... I do not know."

TheTwins Both twins hold up single outstretched fingers, as if to shush Lucent, before returning to their silent contemplation.

Varanim Varanim, who has opinions on this subject as she does on most, works on biting a hole in her tongue.

Lucent gets closer to Varanim, whispering in her ear, "They normally take this long?"

Varanim makes a face at Lucent and says to the Twins, "If he was looking for navel-gazing sophistry, I'd have taken him to Jardis straight off. Trust me, you can't wind him up any tighter than he comes."

Lucent sighs. "Hey, now..."

TheTwins After a long moment, the twins pause the pendant with a single finger from each free hand, and return it to Lucent gently. "Conscious? Perhaps not," says the man. (...)

TheTwins "Alive? Perhaps so," says the woman.

TheTwins "What remains of the living Essence of the Yozi is within that pendant," they say in unison. "You might be able to converse with it." "To an extent," says the White Twin; "...but to what extent?" responds the Black Twin.

Lucent sighs... "And how do I do so?"

TheTwins "You might want to use your mouth," the one suggests. "Or hold it up to your forehead and think very hard," says the other. "But not too hard," says the first. "But also not too softly," says the other.

Varanim makes a small noise which might represent a strangled snicker, or perhaps biting her cheek.

Lucent "Simple as that? Hmmm." He nods. "Thank you. May I come back if I have further questions?"

TheTwins "You can come back," she says. "Or not come back," he adds. "We don't really care."

Lucent "... yes, they are like you alright, Nim."

Varanim Varanim, who had straightened and turned to go, looks back over her shoulder at the twins. "The six-faced one in the basement," she says, "how long has it been in here?"

Varanim "Are NOT," she sniffs sideways at Lucent. "I'm way more fun at parties."

Lucent "When I actually see you at a party I will tell you."

Lucent takes it back from the Twins, holding it in front of his face. "Hmmm..."

TheTwins "A long time," says the one. The other one starts to speak, pauses, looks at the first one with what would probably be a harsh look if he had a face, and finishes lamely, "A long time."

Lucent "Six-faced?"

Varanim "Uh-huh," says Varanim. To Lucent, she says, "It's sort of a rat problem. Don't worry about it." She gives a little finger-wave to the twins as she heads out.

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