Varanim is sprawled on a ledge in a corner of the tea garden in the wee hours of the morning, contemplating the pattern of stars through the leaves above her head and the sensory battle of cigar smoke with night-blooming flowers (current advantage to smoke).
Cerin Varanim becomes aware of someone seating themselves on the ledge on the opposite wall although no-one approached the ledge, and the sound of a large object being quitely set down on yet another one. "Good evening, Varanim." says Cerin.
Varanim "Not really," Varanim says with absentminded grouchiness, then glances over in that general direction. "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to fray the nerves of a drunk?"
Cerin "Not to my immediate recollection, no," he says easily, a grin on his face.
Varanim "Well, you should... wait." Varanim lifts her head to look for the source of the second sound. "Did you bring me a present?"
Cerin "I assume it was you who put the note on my door asking for a copy of 'The Pathology of Spiritual Ailments' and not someone else creating an ela-... well, a forgery at least."
Cerin (( scrub that ))
Cerin "I paid a visit to the library at Juche, yes."
Varanim "Ooh, gimme." Varanim scrambles up to look at the book, then throws a suspicious look Cerin's way. "Is this one of those things were I owe you a favor now?"
Cerin The book is large, and jade-bound, and has been carefully cleaned of the last traces of the death curse that had been anchored around it. "That would depend on the strength of your sense of obligation. I can think of certain projects I have that your help would be useful on."
Varanim "My what? Oh, I don't have one of those," Varanim says distractedly, laying hands on the book with obvious glee. "If you're doing things that aren't boring, though, I might shake loose some time."
Varanim (The first is mostly a lie, the second is certainly true.)
Cerin "I try to avoid that," he says with a smile. "The book itself is fascinating reading."
Varanim "You peeked?" She looks sulky for a moment, then briefly looks like she's going to ask him about it, then swallows that urge. "Good," she says finally. "You people are so lousy with ghost problems around here, I'm beginning to forget what it feels like to make progress on my own work."
Varanim (Translation: She would really sort of like to know how she came to be patient 18 of one of the illnesses in the book.)
Cerin "It was a long flight home," he says in explanation. "As to the ghost problem, that is going to be ... reduced, soon."
Varanim "I'd really prefer not to care what you mean by that, but I need to know if you're going to be shitting where I eat. So when you say 'reduced'..." Varanim trails off, looking expectant.
Varanim (She's fairly concerned, from her experience with Zahara, that he plans to simply obliterate the problem ghosts.)
Cerin "These would be the ghosts working for the Lion, rather than the ones bearing the sigil you mentioned or indeed any other," he assures her. "But of those, some will be captured, some eliminated and most of the cells disrupted."
Varanim nods, grumpily. "I can't promise that taking away the lion symbols will help, but try it first. And..." she hesitates, a fairly rare thing, then finishes, "unless you have secret ninja club reasons saying otherwise, you should let me handle the 'elimination' part. Most of you people can barely be trusted to tie your shoes straight."
Varanim (She can increase their odds of passing to Lethe instead of Oblivion, though she's not actually sure if the magic is strong enough to work against the Lion's spell.)
Cerin "I would certainly be willing to experiment with the former option, yes. I do not have as much experience with ghosts as with the Essential beings of Meru and other planes," he agrees. "Does this mean you think they are working purely due to complusion and not of their own volition?"
Varanim "Hard to say about all of them. Compulsion spells like that are cheaper and faster than inspiring actual loyalty--at least if you're a tacky dresser who doesn't know how to talk to girls like the Lion--but there are probably some in there who like the job, anyway."
Varanim "I mean, I know this is crazy talk, but I hear tell that the Sunlands has a few enemies, and that some of them have even been killed." Varanim looks scandalized at the thought.
Cerin "Killed you say? Whoever might have suggested such a thing?" he replies, deadpan. "But I had assumed a mostly natural recruitment, yes. Such mass compulsions are beyond the capabilities of many of Meru's sorcerors to employ on living mortals, although they have been used on an individual basis before."
Varanim leans back, lacing her fingers behind her head. "Well, I couldn't do it, but--don't tell anyone, mind you--there are people out there who are drastically better at this than I am, and many of them wear funny hats and give themselves the most atrociously pretentious names. So don't rule it out."
Varanim "Anything else, or should I scamper off to drool over symptoms?"
Cerin "I shall endeavor not to," he says with a nod. "Thank you," he says and then considers. "I shall also consider the request about elimination. If it can be accomplished without the undue risk of life, I shall do as such. If what you suggest about the complusion is true it will be considerably easier."
Cerin He tilts his head. "At some point I would like to talk to you about a comparative study I am working on, but that can wait."
Varanim shrugs. "Safe money is never on these things working out for the best, but I appreciate you humoring me." Then her brows raise. "Comparative what?"
Cerin "The death of two primordials and their Essence decomposition."
Varanim Varanim, who had half-turned away with the book, stops as if jerked by an invisible thread and peers over her shoulder at Cerin. "Lucent has a Monstrance in the basement. You have dead primordials to compare. Is there anything else you people would care to share? Complete map of the Labyrinth tucked away with the cookbooks, maybe? Pluto's complete set of instructions for how to put...
Varanim ...Netheos back together in the event of his hilarious demise?"
Cerin considers this question seriously. "That would have been particularly random filing, even for Birds Of Trinity."
Varanim "Good," she says, a little mollified, "because I'd hate to be scooped."
Cerin "Although, since you mentioned Pluto, I do have some notes on his Essence structures viewed from both inside and out, as well as preliminary thoughts on how he might be resurrected."
Varanim Varanim's fingers twitch slightly. "Huh," she says after a moment. "Yes, I expect I'll want to see those."
Varanim (Unsaid: frank incredulity that Cerin knows what he's talking about, and the beginnings of a blistering storm of speculation.)
Cerin "I suspected you might," he agrees with a nod.