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Varanim Outside the room where Imrama is resting, there's a sort of metallic blatting sound. Then Varanim pokes her head in, lowering a trumpet and looking vaguely hopeful.

Imrama His head resting on a stack of pillows, Imrama smiles at his musical guest. "Varanim. Among the many things I missed during my recent convalescence was the opportunity to grow accustomed to your sense of humor."

Varanim "Well, someone had to try it." Varanim ambles in, sprawling into a chair and looking him over. "At the risk of sounding all touchy-feely, how are you doing?"

Imrama leans forward to sit up a bit in bed. "Better and better, bit by bit. Thank you for asking. What about you; how are you settling in to the Cascade and life among our compatriots?"

Varanim "About as well as a reasonably clever person might expect," she says to his second question, waving it aside and making a face. "What happened to you is much more interesting. Are your Essence whatsits still mending, or are you just enjoying lounging around?"

Imrama raises an eyebrow, and a playful look passes across his face. "Madam, you wound me! I am here on Doctor's orders."

Varanim "Oh, boo. If you're well enough to make bad jokes, you're well enough to entertain me with a bit of history. What's this business about a curse or a disease on the old Solars? It came up in Tara Zhan keep, but several hilarious things intervened before you could clarify."

Imrama "Ah, that. Not long after I first met your Lucent, we had a talk about the human condition. I advanced the opinion that the actions of Exalts, at least during the First Age, did not measure up to the moral percentages of mortal humans: that is, our kind seemed, on the whole, to be less kind, just and compassionate than the ranks from which we are exalted."

Imrama "It was just an observation, based on my study of the First Age, but when I voiced it, Glimpse of Night, the Neverborn that sees through Lucent's eyes lurched in its slumbering grave, apparently displeased that our Circle had stumbled onto a secret it wished to keep."

Varanim "Are you sure he wasn't just having an urpy in his eternal sleep? There's this old saw about absolute power and corruption that seems like it would nicely explain the virtue shortage." Then she gets kind of a funny look on her face. "The notion of Lucent being my anything is so ludicrous I can only assume it was some kind of Essence-recovery stutter on your part."

Imrama gives Varanim a knowing look. "Then assume so you may. The conclusion about Glimpse of Night was Lucent's and it was his to draw; so far as I know, I do not have a Malfean watching through my senses, so I cannot compare. But I standby my conclusion, regardless: simple corruption cannot account for the depths of moral failing in the First Age."

Varanim "Can you elaborate? You've never struck me as an idiot, but I prefer grand supernatural influences--I distinctly recall hearing capital letters at the time--as the last explanation, rather than the first, for human screw-ups."

Imrama chuckles a bit. "Varanim, you do not need to flatter me to get my opinion. It is not a mere matter of screw-ups, nor even of the outlandish horrors perpetrated by some of our past incarnations. It is that there came a time near the end of the age when they who remained gave up. Whether to madness or simple despair, they surrendered and sought no more to save heir world or even themselves."

Imrama "To me, that is evidence enough that some factor was at play, over, beneath, or beyond human nature."

Varanim spreads one hand in a shrug, twirling the horn in the other. "Ennui, despair, et cetera aren't exactly outside of human nature. From the way they feature in the various tedious novels of history, I doubt they were invented after the First Age. Was this group cry session somehow sudden, universal...?"

Imrama "I would call it both sudden and universal. We are speaking of those who fought the Primordial War. For hundreds of years, against all odds, in the face of constant and demoralizing opposition, they battled on without fail. And then, when the Solar Exaltations stopped, it is as though all hope went out of the world of the Chosen."

Varanim "Correlation isn't causation, but I'll grant it's interesting enough to be worth a look if you're into that sort of thing. But if you're in it for more than curiosity--if you think something is screwing with the shiny people's heads--what evidence is there to look for?"

Imrama "Hm. I think you may be reading too much into my argument. The idea that some all-pervading taint infects the souls of all Exalts is a conclusion that Lucent leaped to after our discussion - I consider it possible, but do not claim to have concrete evidence for it."

Varanim nods, looking satisfied. "Thanks for clearing that up. The many laughs of history are one of my hobbies, but following wild leaps of illogic is more conversationally exhausting than I'm up for, these days."

Imrama "I have been," Imrama stops to consider for a moment. "I have been thinking, however, of going to see someone who might know more. I hadn't thought to take up the matter with him, but now that we have some evidence that the Sun is not our enemy, it seems worth the risk."

Varanim Varanim, who was starting to straighten into an almost upright posture in preparation for leaving, pauses and raises her eyebrows. "You don't sound sure. Who's the lucky fellow?"

Imrama "His name is Lytek, the Daimyo of Exaltation. I've only met him once before, and it was many years ago, long before I was chosen. He and my father, my elder father, share a small degree of mutual understanding, as both lost face with the collapse of the First Age."

Varanim "That sounds like a nice 'happy not-dead-day Imrama' outing--I bet you could get at least half the others along for backup. Why so skittish?"

Imrama "Because I do not even know if he will agree to see me, and I know even less of what he will say if he does."

Varanim "Just think of it as a big adventure. That's how you people handle these things, right? Or take a deep breath, remind yourself that solved problems are boring, and pack your best clean underwear."

Imrama gives Varanim a slightly funny look. "Ah, I see." He laughs to himself. "Your ignorance of ship's customs not withstanding, I greatly appreciate the encouragement. I will take it to heart."

Varanim has a slightly funny look herself, as she realizes she actually was sort of encouraging, then shrugs it off as she stands. "Well, I don't want to strain your recovery, so I'll be going." She pauses a moment though, scowling, and finally adds, "You haven't been handing Lucent any garbage novels lately, have you?"

Imrama looks a little offended. "No. Nor any novels of the finest caliber either."

Varanim scowls a bit. "Well... good." She looks briefly at a loss for words, then dredges up some dusty remnant of manners as an appropriate conversation closer. "Nice talking to you. Good luck with the... returning to un-scrambledness."

Imrama smiles broadly at Varanim's effort. "Thank you very much."

Varanim looks vaguely relieved, then shuffles out in search of a drink. She leaves the trumpet.

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