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Varanim had Cerin drop her off at the circle of stones, where she now reclines against one of the monoliths, whistling with a slightly off-kilter tunelessness almost guaranteed to wake the dead.

PiercingIvory Varanim whiles away some very long moments there, before finally a voice surprises her from behind. "Back already?"

Varanim jumps a bit, then turns. "Ugh, you people and your sense of drama. Yes, I've decided to try another vacation in Stygia, since my last went so well."

PiercingIvory steps out to stand in front of Varanim. As she gets a better look at him, she can see how he's changed: his stature a little taller, his face more firmly chiseled -- and worn, new spectral armor woven from the furs of ghost elk draped over his shoulders, and a glittering spear of soulsteel and white jade held in one hand.

PiercingIvory "You are like the story of the tribal elder who brings the tribe to the same poor hunting ground every three years, because once he met a pretty girl there," he says, and laughs -- but there's something weird about the laugh.

Varanim "And you're like the cousin who shows up all grown up from the war, fishing for compliments about his fancy new clothes. So tell me another story, Ivory. What happened after that hallway fell apart?"

PiercingIvory sits down. "Aaaah, yes."

Varanim folds her arms behind her head, leaning back with an expectant look.

PiercingIvory "You fell away before any of us could stop you," he says. "There was nothing we could do, so... we fled. We were able to escape the Labyrinth." He drives the butt of his spear into the ground, to punctuate his story. "We emerged in the East, far from the lands of the White Moon Elk."

Varanim "Hm, that's actually a pretty sensible response. Did you make it back home?"

PiercingIvory shakes his head. "The place where we emerged was treacherous in its own way, and the passage from there to the northern plains too risky. We ended up adapting, staking out a portion of the lonely pine forests for ourselves."

Varanim is silent for a little while, brooding up at the newly-retinted sky. Without looking over at him, she says, "If they want to leave, it could probably be arranged. No involvement of Solar nutjobs necessary."

PiercingIvory shakes his head. "Things are different now. When you leave the ancestral hunting grounds, there is no going back." He tightens his grip on his spear, and looks up to the dead sky for a moment nostalgically. "I am sure enough White Moon Elk hunters will die to replenish those of us who you rescued, in due time."

Varanim makes a little face at the word 'rescued,' then shrugs in agreement about the inevitability of death in the tribe. "Great, I hope the gloomy pine thing works out. Now, about your new threads..."

PiercingIvory stands again. "Friends is not precisely the word. But yes."

Varanim "So what's the deal with that? Do you actually have a clear mandate, or did you just... start feeling blue?"

PiercingIvory "I had... visions," he says. "Of what the purpose of these lands once was... of what it has become." He looks at the stones. "I followed them here."

Varanim "Oh, following visions is always a bad idea. Didn't your parents tell you to never volunteer?" She considers. "Were they abnormally clear visions, or is that pretty much a 'no' to the mandate thing?"

PiercingIvory smiles. "Why are you asking me this?"

Varanim "Gosh, I don't know. It's not like I've been sticking my nose into dead things for years, or anything." If Piercing Ivory is the perceptive sort, he may notice a certain evasion under the sarcasm.

PiercingIvory looks at her again. "No," he says. "Really."

Varanim looks irritable, then lifts her head to look at him directly. "Since traveling to Solaria, I've had twice my yearly dosage of offering explanations to be ignored."

PiercingIvory "I do care," he says. "I am not in the business of ignoring people."

Varanim shrugs disbelievingly, but answers. "Because if my readings weren't full of lies--which already puts me in a wildly optimistic mood for the day--the loveable blue lunk was in charge of making sure ghosts can all shut up and rest, and anyone who isn't an idiot should be in favor of that."

Varanim She's silent for a moment. "And because I've thought long and hard about the third circle of necromancy, and I don't care for the current hiring process. New doors interest me."

PiercingIvory smiles again. "I can't tell you anything particularly helpful right now," he says, "but I can ask around."

Varanim makes a skeptical grunt, nodding. "Anyway. It's good to see that you're not dead--oops, wait. Looking lively?" She tries that, then shrugs. "Something like that."

PiercingIvory nods. "It's an odd sensation to die and still be walking, and it's even odder to come back to being... not... quite alive."

Varanim "I would say you'll get used to it, but really I have no idea." Then she narrows her eyes a bit. "Based on our admittedly short acquaintance of before, I don't really believe you've gone without a bit of checking into your new purpose. Why are you being coy--is it my intimidatingly charming smile? I get that a lot."

PiercingIvory 's smile fades almost as quickly as it first appeared. "You're right. I have done some checking," he says.

Varanim "Yes, I'm usually right--a lot of time could be saved if more people remembered that. So?" She turns one hand palm-up. "If I was going to be manipulative, I'd remind you we've worked together in the past, but I really hate all that dancing."

PiercingIvory looks at Varanim, and he's deadly serious as he does. "Most of what we're doing is up to us to figure out on our own, but I know one thing for certain, from the visions that led me here." (...)

PiercingIvory "I saw a great white maw rising up from the depths of Netheos, and dead souls falling like rain from Creation above. I know that it's coming," he says, "and it's coming soon."

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