LossOfInnocence The Abyssal watches Thirteen cough out the venom unamused. "Since when the Wassirunian can resist toxins? Why, why, WHY do we even BOTHER to threaten spies in the Sunlands if all we have is outdated information?" He sighs, picking one of the false Varanims up and throwing her accross the room in frustration.
Thirteen "This is a question I have long asked myself." Thirteen stands up, wiping his mouth.
Varanim sighs, eyes flat. "Idiot. You think we're locked in here with you, but actually you're locked in here with us."
Thirteen strikes the ground with the butt of his spear, and the various weapons that litter the room flip into the air. With a sweeping gesture, he sends them all at the erstwhile Abyssal, then continues the turn into a huge attack to Loss of Innocence's knee.
LossOfInnocence The spears fall... and he begins to break. Break through his skin, blood spilling, blood and something black... Centipedes! Worms! Rats! Screeches of Cockroaches and Bats, the head of a cloven Dog! He split apart gnawing and grashing, escaping the spears even as one cleaves his grinning rictus in half! "You wish to break what is already broken, Wassirrunian? BEHOLD."
LossOfInnocence The swords beak... and when his face appears again it has a small gash on its side, dripping down. "... I felt that, Wassirrunian. Out of dead Lunars and Sun-Blooded, you are the first who made me FEEL THAT." Scorpions begin to mount, spiders begin to crawl, everything on his way... and his hand appears, wreathed in white flame.
Thirteen "You seem to lack a clear understanding of what it means to be a Prince of the Earth. Perhaps I may help rectify you."
Varanim leans on her staff, watching glorious and horrific displays alike with only mild interest. She begins speaking, mouthing dead symbols with an odd resonance absent in her normal voice. The Twilight mark flares to life on her brow, and something writhes under the bandages of her arm.
Thirteen "Ah. Finally you show some life."
LossOfInnocence "Being a prince of the earth is power... but also tragedy."
LossOfInnocence "You have never known tragedy, Spearman. Not like my muse. Thus, you cannot win."
LossOfInnocence The flames burnt brighter on that disembodied hand, his head upside-down atop an scorpion as he grinned towards Varanim. "Maybe I will use my flames on her and chill her soul like Zhan. I wonder if she will become the best of both worlds. But you first. I want to SAVOR her!" It all fell upon Thirteen, more than he had to fend against when fighting an ARMY... "Maybe you win understand your Empress NOW!"
Thirteen falls back, rolling, flashing out of existence and back, sometimes wholly, sometimes vanishing a shoulder or hip to let the blow pass.
Thirteen ends near the fallen Sun-Blood, panting but unfazed.
LossOfInnocence All around Thirteen, the bugs scurry about, a vague outline of his body appearing in shadow.
LossOfInnocence "I see you are intent on lasting. Closing your eyes, let me freeze your care. Won't hurt."
Thirteen "Let me show you a trick."
Thirteen swings the butt of his spear viciously downwards towards one of the insects scurrying about him.
LossOfInnocence The insect scurries far away, a little screeching spider!
Thirteen plants his spear on the spider with immense force...and below the Abyssal, the ground suddenly explodes upwards with equal drama. He lifts the spear slightly, and the arachnid scuttles out from underneath, unhurt.
LossOfInnocence The ground explodes outward, killing the entire swarm! Bloodied, his armor pierced by the spear in seven different places Loss of Innocence flies away from the dead bugs, striking his throne, tumbling over the spare Lion. As he rises, bleeding, he is not grinning anymore. "That's IT! No more tricks. No more chilling compassion. I AM GOING TO VIVISSECT YOU HERE AND NOW!"
Varanim rolls her eyes and snaps the final word with an air of impatience, throwing out her left arm toward the Abyssal. Shreds of bandages explode outward as the soulsteel skin flays back in long razored strips, muscles slithering along the bone and propelling out a sharp, focused wave of necrotic Essence.
Varanim Loss of Innocence glimpses the void rising behind her, and then realizes it is only a breath behind him as well.
Varanim "You're still not interesting."
LossOfInnocence "... I knew I should have learned countermagic."
LossOfInnocence ... it is like a string inside him, pulling out, and pulling all of him with it. The Soulsteel armor spreads like a flower from the inside, as it did with his flesh, and his bones, and his very ESSENCE as it all spread in blood and gore, and his terrible screams filled the air. And he fell, then on his knees, then back, against the wall, watching them.
LossOfInnocence Pained breaths, all his power lost, all his incredible vitality turned against him. One who was a swarm, a swarm crushed, the loss of ten thousand innocent children whose fears formed every vermin on him crushed and laid to rest. And now, just him, alone, coughing at them. "... my... muse..."
Thirteen walks over and kicks him in the face, and he stops bleeding.
LossOfInnocence "... saving... me? You finally... understood... my art?"
Thirteen kneels down and begins the laborious process of stuffing the Abyssal's fingers down his throat.
Thirteen "Mmff mm mm mmm mm mm mfm."
LossOfInnocence looks at 13, surprised, for a moment.... then horrified! "... WHAT? STOP! STOP!"
Thirteen Once Loss's blood-spattered forefinger tickles the back of Thirteen's throat, the rest is as sudden as it is inevitable. In a matter of moments, the entire Abyssal, no matter how large, has vanished into Thirteen's stomach, which does not seem to notice.
Thirteen belches lightly, and gets to his feet, sagging slightly.
Varanim Varanim, ragged streamers of ruddy gold and violet anima drifting around her shoulders, watches in silence until Thirteen is done. "And for your next trick?"
Thirteen "You could have mentioned you were a Solar."
LossOfInnocence "... MAKE HIM STOP!" He screams as the feet begin to disappear in thirteen's mouth. "MAKE HIM STOP!"
LossOfInnocence "... my muse, most perfectly broken, please! Please!"
Varanim shrugs. "You could have mentioned that you eat people, which is WAY more interesting."
Varanim Her flesh hand is shaking a bit, but she hides it by pulling out her bottle and drinking.
Thirteen "A bagatelle, compared to a birthright."
LossOfInnocence "I BEG YOU!"
Thirteen "Shh. It will all be better soon. From some perspectives."
Varanim waves off the minor issue of Exaltation. "Why are you eating him?"
Thirteen "He is a present for a friend of mine."
Thirteen "She will be overjoyed at this opportunity to learn more of the First and Forsaken Lion."
LossOfInnocence "Yes! YES! I CAN TELL YOU OF HIM! EVERYTHING! JUST STOP!"
Varanim "You probably need better friends."
Varanim turns away, looking over the room with her usual meticulous eye for detail.
LossOfInnocence Varanim looks around and sees the second Lapis Lazuli lion crushed under the throne; notices the girls are actually different from her... each different, just looking close ENOUGH, dressed and missing certain limbs or eyes.
LossOfInnocence The champions of Creation lured there for killing were starting to rot.
Thirteen frowns, and taps his chest with a fist. "Normally this does not happen. I suppose there is a first time for everything."
Thirteen "I could say the same of you, Twilight. What brings an Exalt like you to a run-down tavern in the Underworld?"
LossOfInnocence "I can give you riches! Teach you about the perfect breaking! STOP!"
Thirteen "The world is crumbling, and the Deliberative has need of your assistance."
Thirteen "If you do not quiet down I will be forced to digest you."
Varanim finishes her inspection of the room, lingering perhaps an extra second or two on the girls. Then she looks back at Thirteen. "The world is always crumbling, and I don't really work with people."
Thirteen "Now is the time to learn how."
Thirteen idly eats some of the gear the dead Exalts had on.
Varanim "I didn't say I didn't know HOW. Kiss ass, dress fancy, idolize your own myth, etc. That's a solved problem, boring."
LossOfInnocence goes silent inside Thirteen's stomach
Thirteen pats his belly approvingly.
LossOfInnocence Varanim sees the ghosts of three of the girls, two of her, one of the other, huddling on the edges of the room. The Essence-dampening field remains in place, still filling the Exalts with terrible sorrow.
Varanim "One second." Varanim pinches the bridge of her nose, holds out her hand, and a complicatedly horrible Essence pattern is visible on the air for a moment before her soulsteel fingers catch and unravel it.
Thirteen "Ah. You are a necromancer."
Thirteen "And a pitiably poor combatant."
Thirteen "How have you survived this long?"
Varanim "Heavy drinking and a winning smile."
Thirteen "I can only assume you are extraordinarily capable at one of those endeavours."
Varanim stretches her teeth in a mock-sunny smile at Thirteen before fixing her eyes on the ghost girls. She cups her hands together, parting them to reveal a clinging silvery glow, and then extends her hands to the girls in a silent offer.
LossOfInnocence The two of 'her' lift shaking hands to the silverly glow. The one of the 'other' has vacant, glassy eyes, staring into space, unable to connect with the world about her.
Thirteen "If you wish some reasonable protection, such that the next Abyssal to come along does not separate the remainder of your limbs from your body -- " he taps the soulsteel arm -- "you might wish to inquire at the Labyrinthine Cascade, in the east of Meru. I am generally free during the days when I am not saving the universe, though those periods have become less and less frequent of late."
Varanim There is something terrible and compassionate visible in Varanim's eyes for just a moment, before the glow of Lethe flows into the ghosts and carries them on.
Varanim Then she turns back to Thirteen with a lift of her eyebrows and a resumed normal expression. "Do they all eat people?"
LossOfInnocence As they fade, Varanim sees what they went through, limbs frozen, friends murdered. So similar.
Thirteen "No. They are generally more cruel."
Varanim "Ah. Do they dress better than he did"--with a nod to Thirteen's belly--"or is it really just impossible to see the difference?"
Thirteen "Since I only recently acquired eyes, the finer points of fashion are as yet unclear to me, but I continue to study, and may yet overcome. I am reliably informed that they are generally more pleasant than our erstwhile host."
Varanim "I don't think you're socially equipped to make that judgment. But I'll keep it in mind, if I run out of actually good ideas."
Thirteen shakes his head. "Perhaps you might at least make yourself useful by removing the Essence binding he laid upon us before I go."
Varanim "Oh, that? I took care of it two minutes ago."
Thirteen rolls his eyes. "I believe your statue is behind the throne. Were I more polite, I would no doubt say it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
Varanim "I won't bother if you won't."
Thirteen "That seems fair."
Thirteen turns around and walks out the hole in the wall.