The Cascade was a welcoming sight after the horrifying events in the southeast. (...)
A helpful agata had brought Imrama to the infirmary to be situated, and Varanim had crawled off somewhere; even the servants all appear to have made themselves scarce at the moment, leaving the others alone in the cavernous entrance hall.
zahara paces back and forth wearily, her own wounds bound with cloth and largely forgotten.
zahara "This is unacceptable"
Lucent has his eyes closed, in Imrama's general direction, deep in prayer.
Lucent "I should be doing more, damn it." He whispers, as he finally finishes.
Cerin "And yet like many unacceptable things, it has happened my love," he says as he examines Imrama intensely, comparing every strand of essence to the patterns he is familar with.
zahara scowls, and runs her fingers along the curve of the horn of the now-expired Herald.
The horn is as utterly small and unlike the Herald's vast, incomprehensible bulk as it was when he held it, but now it seems even more mundane when Zahara holds it in her own hands.
zahara peers at it with her Essence sight, hoping to discern the connection between it and Imrama's current condition
Imrama's essence seems to be... strained, bent, and polluted.
The pathways are misaligned, much in the same way that those of the landscape shattered by the Herald's blow. In places where healthy Essence should flow smoothly up the chakra pathway and be evenly distributed throughout the body, instead there is internal Essence bleeding, pathways that loop back around in reverse, little knots. (...)
The pollution, which seems to derive from exposure to life-incompatible, material Essences thrown up into the air in the blast, worsens the problem by further misdirecting the Essence inside his body and slowing the flows down yet further. (...)
The end result is that his body is simply not receiving the amount of Essence it needs to operate; at best, it's able to maintain a thin catatonic state on the small amounts of Essence that make it to their destinations.
Cerin frowns softly
zahara "What is it?"
Varanim wanders in, circles under her eyes and smell of alcohol slightly more pronounced than usual. "What's with him?" she grumbles semi-rhetorically about Imrama, then her eyes go a little wandery as she checks his Essence. "Mm."
Cerin "He is alive. That is one of the few positive things about his current status."
Lucent "And what are the negatives?" Lucent asks, morose.
Varanim "His Essence lines look like someone stirred a fork around in a bowl of vomit spaghetti," Varanim says to Lucent.
Cerin nods. Not quite the simile he would have chosen, but it was accurate enough.
Lucent looks sick to his stomach, punching the nearby wall. It cannot break, but neither can he harm himself. "And that happenned on our watch. We failed him."
Varanim shrugs, apparently indifferent on that point. "So who else knows a doctor? I sort of know a guy who knows a guy, but he might not do house calls."
zahara glances at Varanim for a moment, then studies the horn intently.
Lucent kicks the closest kickable thing
The rather large jade surgery urn on the floor probably would have broken the foot of anyone else, but with Lucent doing the kicking it just falls over on its side and begins to slowly roll away.
Varanim After a longish minute of leaning over Imrama, inspecting his Essence with half-closed eyes or possibly just dozing on her feet, Varanim looks at Zahara. "Isn't that my souvenir?"
The urn is still remarkably... normal. It seems to be completely without Essence of its own and made without even Exalted methodologies of perfected working. It is, however, incredibly old, looking to Zahara's eyes like it probably predates the Usurpation.
zahara ignores Varanim's latest question much the way she ignored the last one. "Lucent, stop kicking that, it's an ancient relic. Or something."
Varanim "Right," Varanim says. "I'll go call the Doctor, then. You kids enjoy pretending that Imrama's already dead. Write him a nice ode or something." She shuffles for the door.
zahara "What doctor would that be?"
Varanim half-turns to bare her teeth in a grin. "The one who did my arm, of course. Great references, and he usually even remembers to bring a piece of candy or a spare kidney or something."
zahara blinks. "What is HE going to do, make Imrama brand new soulsteel channels?"
Varanim "If I knew what he was going to do," Varanim rolls her eyes, "I wouldn't have to ask him."
Cerin "Doctors are not something we have previously had much call for," Cerin remarks offhandedly, before raising an eyebrow. "One of the Abyssals?" He half-asks, half-states.
zahara trails her fingers along the golden inlays in her arm. "Mmmnnh. Not until relatively recently, no."
Lucent "Sorry." Lucent shrugs. "I just do not know what else to DO. Call the doctor, if you have to. ANYTHING is better than just... waiting."
Varanim nods to Cerin. "Any other obvious questions, or can I get to work?" she asks the room at large acidly, apparently in a cranky mood.
zahara leans down to aright the urn, taking a moment to peek inside
Lucent "What do you THINK?"
Varanim "I couldn't tell you that in ten years," Varanim snorts to Lucent, and heads out to go spend some Essence in questionable ways.
The inside of the urn has been washed relatively effectively; the blood stains from old viscera are barely visible.
zahara eyes Imrama's potential viscera speculatively.
The Doctor seemed interested in the prospect of assisting with Imrama's condition, but somewhat understandably insisted on a neutral meeting place -- which is why the Solars have found themselves lugging Imrama's unconscious body down to the (now empty) hut that Zahara and Varanim recently discovered in the Sunlands' largest Shadowland.
Varanim mostly avoided the lugging part, claiming important magical meditations or something on the way.
Varanim's latest dream has continued to bother her in a way that most of the previous ones haven't, the imagery always flitting about the corners of her mind as she walks. It's definitely a bit disconcerting.
zahara has had Tanty do all relevant lugging, Imrama carefully lashed to his back.
The hut is just as empty as expected, and the Solars arrive first.
Varanim "Lucent," she eventually snaps. "That Herald from your time, did his list of absurd fripperies include a skull for a mask or a nice billowy cape of people skin?"
Lucent shrugs. "No, not that I can recall..."
Varanim "What's with you, anyway?" she adds peevishly to him. "You should be all shiny-eyed at the prospect of saving your noble and boon companion, or whatever."
zahara "Why do you ask about the skull and the people skin?"
Lucent "I hurt the Herald. I really hurt him. And now a friend is hurt and I can do nothing! What do you think is up with me? We are meant to protect, to rule, and I have become, what...? A weapon." He sighs. "... but I am being selfish. What image IS that?"
Varanim shakes her head at Lucent. "You're as much use as the average aristocrat, don't worry." She shrugs about the image, looking even more annoyed. "Nothing. Just a dream."
zahara "Of course you hurt the Herald, he was destroying Creation! Plus, he tried to kill us." She scowls again, and paces around the hut.
Lucent begins to snap back at that, but holds his tongue at the last moment, "What that has to do with Imrama, then?"
Varanim "Nothing, I expect. Just trying my hand at small talk." Varanim slouches against the wall, cracking her knuckles and brooding. "Forget it."
Lucent "See, Zahara, I am not saying I should be powerless; killing the Herald, Five Days Darkness, those Hekatonkires, it was good, but... with my charisma relegated to mere speeches, it feels as if hitting things is all I have been good for." He waves away, "I need to be mor... no, no, you are not letting it go like that, Varanim. What. Did. You. See?"
Varanim "The usual pretentious omen-drenched bullshit," Varanim snaps at Lucent. "Herald with a skull over his face, cloak of human skin flapping behind, riding at me on a pale horse. Then I woke up. Boring!"
Cerin, placed conveniently outside the hut, gives warning that the Doctor is indeed approaching the door.
zahara straightens herself out and goes for the 'mostly impassive but slightly caring' look.
Lucent seethes. "That is not boring! Not when one of them nearly... ah, damn it all to Malfeas." Lucent touches his left eye, his fingers going in the golden pools, blooming irises on their tips as he walks towards Varanim... "... we need to know. And that sounds familiar." ...and jams both fingers against her forehead, not the very least gentle, the iris spreading on her caste mark, to give him a vivid image. "Show me."
Varanim Varanim, who was putting on her professional work slouch with news of the Doctor's coming, doesn't realize Lucent's intent until too late. "Get away from me, you--"
Lucent sees the image, focusing on it, holding Varanim's arm to keep the image clear, "HOLD STILL, damn it!"
Lucent gazes upon Varanim's dream-image: the visage of the Herald, his skull-mask and skin-cloak giving him a horrific deathly aspect, his pale steed tearing the ground itself into black tatters as it rides slowly but inexorably towards the viewer. (...)
It is while Lucent is busy directing every bit of his attention to this image that the Doctor walks in through the front door of the hut. "....Am I interrupting?"
Varanim Varanim, suddenly as serene as a lake on a windless day, wiggles her soulsteel fingers in a wave at the Doctor. "Not at all, Lucent has these fits sometimes. Thank you for coming all this way." She nods politely.
zahara shifts her chilly stare from Lucent's 'fit' to the Doctor. "Welcome."
Lucent does not even see the doctor. The image of the pale rider rides from Varanim's forehead along his arm, into his own caste mark... and 'nim can see a maze old as the ages it rides within, all doors forcefully opened to search for ANYTHING at all like it...
Doctor As Lucent sits, pushing himself to find any connection at all to the imagery in the dream, the Doctor -- a broad-shouldered man with olive complexion, dressed in a neat black suit and bearing what looks like a rather neat soulsteel dagger/surgical tool at his side, walks over to the table. "Is this the patient?"
zahara "It is."
Varanim For a moment, Varanim's gaze upon Lucent is terrible, a window into something that shutters closed almost instantly. When she looks back to the doctor, her eyes are as mild as the rest of her expression. "Yes," she says, crossing to the table. "The obstructions or the knots are beyond my skill individually; separately, they're impossible."
Doctor The Doctor turns away quickly when Varanim looks over to him, trying to hide the loving look he's been giving to the arm that he installed. Looking at Imrama, he pulls an elaborate soulsteel device, fitted with what look like hundreds of different lenses, from a small satchel on his belt and holds it up to his face, where tiny spiderclaws extend and grip his bald head with vicelike intensity. (...)
Doctor Flicking the wheels on the side of the device, he sets the device to buzzing and whirring until he finds a set of lenses that he's happy with, and begins looking Imrama over from head to toe rather carefully. "Oh, this won't do at all," he says, almost immediately.
Varanim folds her hands neatly in front of her, watching the Doctor examine with patience and only mild curiosity. "What's that?" she asks.
Lucent closes his eyes, the lights gone, thought proccesses working on their own so he can turn and look at Imrama again... letting to of Varanim and taking a step away from her. "Is he...?"
Doctor "The patient is suffering from both Severe Endomotonic Degeneracy Syndrome and malionic disruption," he says, "the latter in an advanced stage."
Lucent "Nim? What does that mean?"
zahara "Can you" she waves a hand around, "fix him?"
Varanim "That was the technical description of the problem," Varanim says quietly to Lucent after a momentary pause, then waits for the answer to Zahara's question.
Lucent "Ah." Lucent replies dryly. "But... can you do anything? To help?"
Doctor "It will not be easy," he says, switching his dials around again. "There is significant damage distributed throughout the patient's system, and his motonic immune system appears to have been dampened, reducing his system's ability to heal itself." He looks Imrama over one more time before continuing. (...)
Doctor "But as I see it, there are three possible options."
Lucent "Those being...?"
Varanim tilts her head. "Please consider your audience if any of the options involve invasive necrosurgery; I believe the Empress considers the patient a personal friend."
Doctor "Well, first, we could wait for your friend to expire and allow him to be remade as an Abyss--" he catches himself as Varanim speaks. "Oh. I suppose you won't be going for that option, then."
Lucent catches that he holds to the man's shoulder, fingers digging on the suit. "ABYSSAL?"
zahara "As noted, that is not an option. What are the other two?"
Lucent stops the pressure, turning to Varanim as if to ask 'what?'
Doctor "Second," he says, ignoring Lucent, "we could flush his system with necrocatharsis solutions and encourage regrowth of his basic pathways using spot treatments of sunlight and diffused orichalcum. This is relatively likely to work but will leave his Essence pathways permanently degraded and his physical form horribly scarred."
Varanim makes a tiny motion to Imrama with one hand, as if to remind Lucent why they're here. Then a tiny crease marks her brow as she considers the Doctor's second suggested treatment.
zahara contemplates this for a moment. "And third?"
Lucent blanches at the suggestion "That is..."
Doctor He looks over the patient once and shrugs his shoulders. "Temporarily peel back the occluding portions of his two souls using sufficiently advanced necromancy, then hypercharge his system with a direct, massive injection of sun-infused life Essence. (...)
Doctor "There's a significant chance that it won't work, but if it does, it should essentially force out the newly inserted Essence directly from the shard and through his Essence channels at high velocity, forcibly straightening and redefining those channels and driving the toxins out in the process."
zahara "Mmm. and what would be an appropriate source of said massive injection?"
Varanim looks mildly surprised, then thoughtful, listening to the conversation between Zahara and the Doctor with distant eyes.
Doctor "Ma'am, I'm a necrosurgeon," he says, removing his eye device and nodding conspiratorially to Zahara. "Sunshine and butterflies are not my area of specialty."
zahara smirks. "Nor mine, really. But I'll see what I can do."
Varanim "You've been quite helpful," Varanim says to the Doctor. "Thank you."
zahara "Indeed. Thank you for your assistance."
Lucent "Hope and light. We can do that. We can do that!" A huge weight lifted off his shoulders, he hugs the Doctor, for a moment, before composing himself. "We can save Imrama! I will go work on some way to channel light and hope. Some form of using raw sunlight for healing..."
Varanim Varanim's serenity cracks enough to let through a faint look of incredulity when Lucent hugs the Doctor, then she just shakes her head slightly and bows.
Doctor coughs politely. "There is still one matter to be attended to."
zahara "Payment, or something more esoteric?"
Doctor "Oh, just the former," he says, polishing his bizarre device on one corner of his suit jacket. "This is a fairly standard house call, after all."
zahara "Had you worked something out prior to the visit?" she eyes Varanim
Varanim shakes her head.
zahara "Ah." she says with mild disapproval. She turns to the Doctor again and says pleasantly, "And what is your standard payment for such a visit?"
Doctor "Well, without comprehensive coverage through an ongoing service contract with a duly appointed liege, I'm afraid it's rather expensive," he says. "You probably won't like most of the options."
Lucent "You have no need for material wealth, I take it. Knowledge, then?"
Lucent "We happen to be in good terms with a goddess of secrets."
Lucent cuts, before he can ask for innocent souls, tortured kittens or desecrated flowers
Doctor "I have a task I need performed, and an object I need retrieved. Neither should bother your outdated morals too greatly."
zahara "While you're at it, you may as well tell us what the options we won't like are, for the actual surgery."
Lucent "Morals are timeless."
Varanim closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose, as if warding off a looming headache.
Doctor "We'll say that both will suffice for full completion of the necessary surgery."