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Lucent had been pondering Varanim's dream for some time, rolling the imagery back and forth in his mind, trying to find some purpose and hook to it, ever since the Doctor's visit. (...)

But it was, fittingly enough, in sleep that the answer came to him: (...)

He remembered something... an image from the War, he thought -- the sight of a great beast, so large its head blotted out the sun, the grinning rictus mask with eyesockets dark as the Void itself, the vast cloak blowing backwards, the only motion in still, dead air... (...)

its steed -- or is it all but one creature -- breathes the breath that seems to slay the air itself, bucks impatiently at the ground with hooves that carve valleys, and then, in but an instant, it is charging, the very earth rushing into the air to form a dustcloud behind it, and all that lives seeking to flee its path in front. (...)

Though Lucent knows he has never seen this sight himself, in sleep he sees it come towards him with the unquestionable knowledge that it is a true memory he is seeing, and as that dark mask fills his vision and he can see naught but bone and darkness, a familar voice whispers in hoarse, low tones: "Abadis."

Lucent wakes up with a start, golden eyes wide, breathless and covered in sweat. "Abadis." He repeats as he hops out of bed, still in nightclothes as he strides out of his room and towards Varanim's, the image playing on his mind again and again... "Scattering the living. Slaying the air. Dark as the Void." He repeated...

Lucent ... as he got to Varanim's room, hitting the door. "Nim! You awake?"

Varanim opens the door from the other side just as Lucent is striking it, looking briefly chagrined to see him before her face goes smooth. She's dressed in spotless white, shirt and pants of her normal peasant cut but with a long vest over it all that glimmers faintly with white-on-white embroidery. Her hair is brushed back and neatly pinned, and she doesn't smell of alcohol in the slightest.

Varanim "Lucent."

Lucent is dressed only in loose white pants embroided with orichalcum. And jewels. The Kashaen never spared expenses with their king. He blinks for a moment, "... wait." He looks her up... and down... "... Varanim?"

Varanim "Was there something you needed, Lucent?"

Lucent shakes his head. Nevermind that! "ABADIS!" He shouts, walking into her quarters! "Abadis! That is the name of the thing you saw! It came to me in a dream! I kept that image on my mind, thrown around on my masks, until it hit something, Nim! Abadis! And it... it is death. It scatters the living, it laughs, it SLAYS THE AIR! You see?"

Varanim steps back out of Lucent's way and watches him, hands folded neatly behind her back. "You're raving," she says mildly.

Lucent "... oh, am I? Sorry." The golden eyes swirl, close, he takes a deep breath... "... say, do you sleep all tidy and untidy yourself to go out? Some weird underworld rite?"

Varanim "...No." Varanim lifts one hand to rub her temples lightly, shifting to keep her supply bag out of sight. Then she looks at Lucent calmly. "That thing you did, right before the doctor arrived--it's fairly important that you not do that again."

Lucent touches his forehead, as if trying to recall something... and then he does. "... oh, that. I was just a little stressed-out back then, I am sure you will agree it is not a big deal, as a fellow Solar. But do you not see? I learned with that, I think I know what that thing is!"

Varanim "Actually," she says, "I think if you listen to what I'm saying, you'll find a lamentable lack of agreement." She pauses, maybe counting in her head. "It's possible I'm being unclear. If that sort of thing continues, it will be necessary for me to leave, and this stage of my research would be awkward to conduct via mail."

Lucent "No, no, see. It slays the air! Nim, you cannot be angry at that! Come on, let us go to the library!"

Varanim tilts her head at Lucent, eyes slightly curious as she considers a mildly interesting new puzzle. "I can see that you're excited, and I apologize for keeping you, but I must insist. Please listen to me, Lucent."

Lucent blinks. "You are not going to just come to the library and immerse yourself on this, are you?"

Lucent As if to answer his own question Lucent makes a wide gesture, a resignated look on his face, for her to go on.

Varanim shakes her head. "I have a great deal of work to finish, which must not be done in anger." She considers for a moment, then adds, "I regret to admit that I was on my way to inspect your Monstrance while you slept, because I did not expect this conversation to end fruitfully." She seems to be choosing her words with great care.

Varanim shakes her head. "I have a great deal of work to finish, which must not be done in anger." She considers for a moment, then adds, "I regret to admit that I was on my way to inspect your Monstrance while you slept, because I did not expect this conversation to end fruitfully." She seems to be choosing her words with great care.

Lucent "... oh. You know..." He looks into her eyes with just as much care. "... that you are scary when you talk like that?"

Varanim "I haven't been this angry for years, Lucent. There are few things on this earth that I value as much as my privacy in certain matters." She stares over his left shoulder, not meeting his eyes. "All I need is your word not to do it again, and I would be delighted to insult you for hours in the library."

Lucent The eyes ripple as if touched by a rock, the ripples getting almost out of his eyes. "... it's them, right? The people who did that to you."

Varanim Varanim's eyes slide over to Lucent as he veers off the conversational path again. "What?"

Lucent takes one step towards her, "The people who did this to you. Who ripped your arm. Who took your Essence." Another step. "The people who violated your soul." And another. "Is that what He told you? That none could do that to you, ever again?" He stops, one step from her.

Varanim "Look, I know all you people here are crazy, and so maybe this won't penetrate the crazy paths to your brain, but you're not making any sense at all. A simple 'you're a mean lady, Varanim, and I won't won't touch your head place again', followed by a long sulk, is really the preferred response from you here." She seems to have slipped her manners.

Lucent begins to chuckle... and almost to laugh. "Now you know how _I_ feel." He smiles... and then his hand is almost at her head, once again. Finger stopping an inch from her forehead, and stopping. "I promise, Varanim, that I am never going to touch your thoughts again..." It retreats, "... if you answer what I just asked."

Varanim Varanim's eyes narrow as she visibly calculates probabilities of getting him to go away in some other fashion. "I'll consider it," she says after a moment, "if you can rephrase it to make even a grain of sense. Who is this 'He' you think we're talking about?"

Lucent "The Sun. You ARE a Solar Exalted, last I looked. And I happenned to look at the throne of your Exaltation." He grins.

Varanim "Ah," says Varanim, finally fitting Lucent's words in with his previous pattern. "In fact, all the things about me that touch you in icky places happened after I picked up this particular tattoo," she says, tapping her caste mark with a glint. "So the answer would be no. That was simple enough."

Lucent "Oh." He breathes out, like dawn's winds. "Well, don't I feel silly now."

Varanim glares at him for a moment, then sighs. "Lucent, believe it or not, I don't mean what I'm about to say unkindly."

Lucent "And that is?"

Varanim "This old friend of yours. You need to go cry at his grave, write him some poetry, do one of the various grieving rituals people have for letting go--and move on. But do something, and stop trying to live out your redemption fantasies with me, or anyone else. It won't work, and it won't make you happy."

Lucent "Yes, I DO need to do something." He nods. "I need to kill him again."

Varanim "That's good, very concrete. Paint a picture about it or something." Varanim is eyeing Lucent warily, as if daring to speculate this might be the end of it.

Lucent "I do not want to kill you to. That simple."

Lucent "Lookshy would still be standing if I had killed him FIRST. Half of the Sunlands would still be alive if I killed him FIRST. That was not baggage, that was a LESSON, Varanim. But if I have to, the first time you begin to get too entranced with that, Sun help me, I will. I will kill Varanim before she becomes a Mask of Autumns."

Varanim Varanim's fingers twitch, maybe wishing for a bottle, then she uses that hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. "I really hate explaining myself, you know--or you would know, if you were a bright boy or even paying attention most of the time."

Lucent "That is precisely why I have been trying to guess. Trust me, we could avoid some problems if you would just explain why you insist on all that."

Varanim throws her hands up. "How many people have I killed since we've met, Lucent? How many souls have I etched into steel or rent to Oblivion or bound to eternal servitude? How many commands have I given the army of ghosts tied to my Essence, whose children and whose children's children I own down through every generation?" Her voice sharpens and rises. "What concrete things have I done to...

Varanim ...suggest to you that my hands are even as soaked in blood as yours, or Cerin's, or Zahara's?"

Lucent "None. None at all. And neither did he, when he was as young as you."

Varanim twists her lips in a smirk at Lucent. "Oh, you're good. You've had me trying to teach a pig to sing for a good fifteen minutes, now. C'mon, let's go poke the Monstrance." She turns, apparently considering the conversation over.

Lucent sighs, following. "It's as if you are TRYING to be just like him. Seeing any Viridian-clad people lately?"

Varanim Varanim's hand freezes for half a second, then continues on its way to pick up her bag of supplies. "You think it's ME trying to recreate him? Someday, you'll have to tell me where in your travels you had your sense of irony surgically removed."

Lucent "He is your teacher, your forefather, one of the creators of your art. Yes, I do think it is you." His hand lands on her shoulder. "Why, Varanim? Enough with the snark. You KNOW the ones who used it before are our enemies now. They have tried to kill us. They toppled Lookshy. And they started just like you. WHY do you do this?"

Varanim "Ah, so although I otherwise despise sentimentality and pointless nostalgia, I inexplicably and powerfully hold reverence for one of the 'creators of my art'. Goodness, yes, that makes tremendous sense." She shrugs away from his hand, turning with an annoyed expression.

Varanim "I don't care who our enemies are, or who's tried to kill me. I care about consequences."

Lucent "... Varanim, you deal with ghosts. You made your life's work to deal and talk with beings made only of passion and nostalgia, of a world made only of passion and nostalgia. There is nothing to Netheos, the Malfeas, or Ghosts, than that, it is their very core. I am just assuming this brattishness is an act, as it most often is, and that you aren't simply made out of paradox."

Lucent "But pehaps I have overestimated you."

Varanim Varanim's hands flex restlessly, but there aren't any bottles in reach. "The remainder of this conversation is tediously predictable. Were I stupid enough to attempt to explain myself to you--again--you would interpret everything I say to fit the script in your head of your dead friend--again. Then I would be annoyed, we would raise our voices some more, and in the end you still won't...

Varanim ...understand a damn thing. If you accept that summary as legitimate, we can move on to more interesting matters elsewhere."

Lucent "Thought so." Lucent makes a flourish... and then turns her around. "I have dealt with this facade before, Varanim. It ends with ice masks. It ends with first lions. It ends with the notes of a paranoid man beyond the world. It ends with betrayal and sorrow. Laugh. Think me overconfident and yourself grounded. But when the green one comes for you, when they offer you what you cannot tell me you want...."

Lucent "When they make you swear to them, or force you to."

Lucent "They WILL hear this."

Lucent So close, lips almost touching, he whispers into her. "I. Will. Take. You. Back. So I swear." The words go in. Scripting themselves in reality, everything shakes around them, his breath and words into her lips... and then he is accross the room, "... like I promise never to touch your thoughts ever again, without your full consent. Now. Shall we see about the Monstrance?"

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