Lucent strides in front, still has a few shades to go to get to 'decency', not a word about the oath sworn a few moments before. He gets to the vault holding the Monstrance, opening it for them to inspect the Sun-Breaking Artifact... "Here we are."
Varanim inspects the floorspace available in the room, nods. "Did you say this thing was constructed for you personally? You might actually be useful here." She looks frankly amazed at the prospect.
Lucent "I am sure it was not. It was already built when I snuck into Thorns, and Quen had no idea I was coming. Well, he might, he did have a fling with a Starchosen, after all. It did resonate with me, however... maybe it has a connection with the Zenith, or it was prepared to do so while I talked to him."
Varanim "Hm." She considers, then nods. "All right. Make yourself comfortable--or uncomfortable but quiet, I don't actually care--over there." She points to a spot off to the right of the Monstrance.
Lucent "Zeniths are supposed to lead, and yet Twilights are always bossy." He sighs, leaning against the wall, to the right of it.
Varanim kicks aside the carpet if there is one, takes a piece of chalk, and begins to trace the stylized outline of a tree on the floor. "That sounds like a Zenith problem," she says, not really paying attention.
Varanim Then she beckons him forward a bit, frowning, so she can include him in the outer sweep of the branches. She reaches into her bag for salt, drizzles a circle around him with practiced efficiency.
Lucent "Expecting ghosts to come out of the Monstrance?"
Varanim "It's not very likely, no." She looks thoughtfully uncertain as she keeps drawing. The Monstrance sits nestled in the other half of the branches when she's done, and there's a third space in the roots of the tree.
Varanim She drops her bag of supplies outside the pattern, retaining only a final handful of salt, and unrolls a mat to seat herself in the roots.
Lucent "Did not think Necromancy would use such a... living symbol."
Varanim "Eastern funerals. Aristo dead are buried by air, in the highest branches, and peasants sleep with the worms." Carefully, she makes a circle around herself with the salt. "Anything else you need to tell me about this thing, before we start?" She looks a little edgy at sharing work space with a breathing person.
Lucent "It swallowed my soul and allowed them to rip part of my Exaltation off. You might end up in direct contact with Glimpse of Night. It may cause insomnia, nightmares, and loss of apetite. Also, it is evil." He nods with a wisened contenance, walking towards her and side-stepping the 'tree'.
Varanim "Pretty much the usual suspects, then." Varanim nods briskly. "This'll probably take about an hour, maybe more or less depending on--" she breaks off, looking annoyed. "Never mind, I'll stick to small words. It's done when it's done, and when it's over, you can be a good lad and bring me the bottle in my bag."
Lucent crosses his arms, "What, you have no assistants for that?"
Varanim "I did, but none of them looked good oiled up in a loincloth, so I had to fire them." Then Varanim turns to face the Monstrance fully, her eyes going narrow and focused.
Lucent ... and then there is the bottle right in front of her eyes. "Let it not be said be said that I am not a gentleman. What do you have there, liquid souls?"
Varanim "Important supplies," she mutters, and then she doesn't speak again. She begins by recalling to her mind the inspection she made while drawing the tree, the outer details of measurement and form, and she considers them until they fade into the background.
Varanim Then she calls to mind the patterns of two charms, unfinished, slightly unraveled to fit together in a new way.
Varanim She slices her finger, but rather than dripping blood in one eye like usual, she instead smears a perfect circle around her caste mark.
Varanim Finally, six motes of Essence blossom in her hands, three in each. The ones in her right hand drip through her fingers like liquid sunlight, falling on the roots of the chalk tree and beginning a slow trace up its trunk to the tangle of branches around the Monstrance.
Varanim The ones in her left hand wither and die, to blossom again on the other side of the Shroud and echo the progress of the first three. She reaches out two soulsteel fingers to smudge the circle of salt, and closes her eyes with a sigh of breath.
Varanim In her mind, a perfect replica of herself rises, steps along the tracks of Essence, and into the Monstrance.
Varanim feels her soul replica step into the cage. For a moment, it is nothing but a simple metal jail. (...)
Then, just as she begins to think that perhaps nothing is going to happen, the cage's bars fill to bursting with crackling undeath Essence, accompanied by a low rumble that seems to reach through the cage and into the room itself. (...)
The tiny part of Varanim that sits within the cage feels herself thrown backwards forcefully, her perceptions casting back over the history of the Monstrance -- to its time sitting in the Cascade alone; its journey there on Lucent's back; Lucent's moment with Glimpse of Night; its time sitting unused in the Mask's outpost in the south;
and then, even further back than that: its loving assembly by five shadewrights, drawing soulsteel bars from a great pile and melding them together with ghostly magics; and before that, those bars' long journey from even further south, where the Lion's forces cast them from raw ores from the Labyrinth, and cooled them in the blood of young maidens and men, just shy of marriageable age;
and then yet even further back, to when millions of innocent ghosts were wrenched from being by the impact of Auna into Netheos, their ghostly existence driven by force into the very rock itself, forming those first deposits of naturally-occurring soulsteel, ever so long ago.
Lucent watches the energy reaching farther... and farther... and as it comes to Varanim his hand lands on her shoulder, urgent, to wake her from her trance and pull her away from it if need be! "Varanim!"
From there, Varanim feels her consciousness shoot forward once again as everything plays out in forward motion, but this time it's almost as if she's a part of the broader picture -- she feels the hate that drives the Dragon of Bone and Salt as she writes in her undeath, sees the thousands of dead driven by the Lion's cruel hand into the mines that lie beneath the Black Lion Desert,
feels the secrets of Exaltation given by Atomnos twisted and turned to despicable ends within the intricate Essencework of the cages... sees through an icy mask as the first dying soul is cast into the crucible of a neighboring Monstrance and emerges The First and The Last, the eldest Deathknight...
She looks out through those same cold eyes -- or is it another pair, on the opposite side? -- as Lucent comes in to talk, feels the machinations behind those eyes -- the knowledge that any one of many possibilities from this turn of events all will serve his greater goals... (...)
And finally, just as Varanim is shaken back into the present, she sees the places along the outside border of the cage where, instead of flowing back into itself, the Essence of the Monstrance is directed back out, in a manner generally only seen in... the Essence flows of demons and malakim, that bond them eternally to their Primordial parents.
Varanim shudders, spine stiffening, muscles writhing like snakes under the skin of her soulsteel arm--then Lucent shakes her, and her eyes fly open, staring into some impossibly far distance for a moment as she chases the fleeing vision.
Varanim Then: "Dammit, I am working here! Do you even know what that MEANS?"
Lucent "Well, EXCUSE ME for trying to SAVE YOUR LIFE. There was necrotic essence going straight to you!"
Varanim Her hands fumble for the bottle, eyes still unfocused, and she pulls the cork out with her teeth to take a long drink. "Wow, necrotic Essence, I've never seen THAT one before. Next you'll tell me that cage is made of PEOPLE!"
Lucent "... it is?"
Varanim "Well, sort of obviously via the soulsteel construction. But there's also, uh." She stops for another drink.
Lucent "... oh, of course. Soulsteel. Damned thing." He sits down at her side. "The Shadeborn had a FAR better version, you know."
Varanim "I wonder," she says thoughtfully, setting down the bottle (which is full of liquid souls only if they smell exactly like cheap rum). "Neverborn but capable of birthing, at least so far as a womb to make the next generation. Does the urge to create go as far as the lip of the Void? How deliciously trite."
Lucent "Birthing, from those who wish everything to vanish? Now I know who schooled you in paradoxical thinking."
Varanim turns her eyes on Lucent with a sardonic lift of her eyebrows, as parts of her mind visibly straggle back home from wandering the corridors of history. "Oh, now? I thought you already knew everything about me."
Lucent "Yes, that is clearly why I keep ASKING. You always ask questions when you already know the answers?" He sighs, "I just know what I can see and where what I can see will lead you. But, what DID you find out?"
Varanim rolls her eyes but clearly considers this point beneath arguing, this time. "I saw it made," she says slowly, thoughtfully. "I saw the birth of soulsteel. I felt the answers to some of my questions about the Abyssal recipe. Also, that your visit was exactly what somebody wanted."
Varanim "And that, if not exactly alive, it's certainly not just an empty box abandoned by its parent."
Lucent "Alive..." Lucent gets up, walking up to the Monstrance and... touching it. " 'Somebody'... you mean, somebody besides The Mask?"
Varanim "Hm." Varanim frowns. "It... might have been someone who also saw our favorite pretentious lion get his job. But the viewpoint is muddy. Really sloppy construction, I'll have to improve that trick someday."
Lucent "He's the first, so it cannot be any of the other Deathlords, that's for sure. Hmmm. The Thousand-Faced Man, pehaps? He was part of the conspiracy, if I recall correctly..."
Varanim spreads her hands. "What I see is what you get. Well, except for the parts I decide not to tell you."
Lucent "You are going to tell me someday." He nods. "After I save you."
Varanim "Save me what--the last scone? That's sweet of you." Varanim creaks to her feet, tilts her head. "Hm. Actually, it might have been the Mask after all." She scuffs out the salt circle with her feet, also destroying the flowing knots of script on the tree diagram.
Varanim "Anyway, shoo. I have some entrails to read. I'll check Abadis in the library, while I'm at it."
Lucent "Can you write down what you have seen? The parts you decide to tell, at any rate."
Lucent "That will be better than me trying to squeeze every bit of information out of you."
Varanim is about to snap a refusal, then pulls up short at the prospect of not talking to Lucent any more on the subject. "...Well played. I'll see what I can do, although I left my fingerpaints and crayons at home."
Lucent "Just do like your role models and paint it on the walls in your own blood, then." He nods, "If it makes you feel better, I may bring some object of your infancy for you to remember everyone who has ever wronged you while you do it."
Varanim "But that's a silly way to use blood--oh, I see what you're doing there," Varanim winks elaborately and shakes her finger at Lucent. "Naughty ickle Solar, you're no good at spite! Leave it to the professionals."
Lucent "How would I know, I've never been spiteful." He shrugs, walking to the door, "Bring the transcript to my room, later. I'll probably be around, trying to learn a more proactive way to help with crisis than tearing people to shreds or making them swear undying loyalty to us. Keeping people alive, imagine you that! The HORROR!"
Varanim "You crazy kids and your inventions. Just keep it off my lawn!" Behind him, Varanim rolls her eyes at the Monstrance as if pleading for its sympathy in what she has to deal with, here. Then she retrieves her bottle and heads out, whistling.