As if from the air itself, Varanim sees the creature she has summoned up come into being.
Two points of black light appear in the air, and begin to move with the swift, capable hand of a master calligrapher, drawing out intricate and carefully-placed lines...
Soon, the pattern of the lines emerge, the carefully-drawn borders of a human skeleton, taken in perfect, paper-thin cross section -- but far larger, towering far above even the Mask...
As the lines fill in with faintly sparkling fields of blackness, rocks begin to pop into manifestation around them, spinning in a rapid maelstrom of clockwise air for moments before slamming inward, building great sarcophagi first of pale grey, then dark grey, and then finally black stone in increasingly large forms around that skeleton...
There is a quick, momentary burst of negative light from somewhere within, and a pattern, like a sarcophagus drawing of a sad-eyed, bearded king, is scorched onto the outside surface of the creature in chalk-white lines, and then, finally, it settles to the earth with a loud CHUNK.
Varanim She doesn't stand, just rocks back to look up at the towering form with tilted head, blood and plasm pattering down from her hands. "Ah," she says quietly, voice strange behind the mask.
The Thrice-Entombed Self does not breathe, does not react, does not move in any way -- it merely stands there, monolithic and dead.
"....excellent," the Mask says, breathily.
Varanim "The third set of descriptors could have been more concise," she decides after a moment of reflection.
Varanim Then a bit of the detachment leaves her tone as she glances back at the Mask to inquire. "What's next in your script?"
Mask Of Winters?: "My script," he says, "has reached its climax, and now there is but denouement." He looks up at the impressive beast that Varanim has summoned. "Will you ask it that which it was brought here to tell you?"
Varanim She turns her face back to the great tripartite tomb, lacing her fingers together. "Tell me of the discord of the Solars," she says. "Be thorough; be correct."
The Thrice-Entombed Self turns to Varanim, standing far below, and his sarcophagi begin to shift, the stones from those within sliding into place to replace the outer ones, until the surface is a rapidly-shifting set of grey and black stones, each with the same pattern outlined upon them in the color of the next layer out...
From deep within the dead creature comes a noise like a grindstone, and though it does not shift in tone or volume in any way, nonetheless Varanim can somehow hear the words that are encompassed within it:
THE DISCORD IS NOT THE BURDEN ONLY OF THE SOLARS.
THE HOST OF THE EXALTS WERE MADE TO RULE OVER MERU IN THE STEAD OF THE VICTIMS OF THEIR PATRICIDE, TO BRING ABOUT THE PERFECT GOVERNMENT OF PERFECT WORLD.
BUT THIS... IS NOT A PERFECT WORLD.
FROM THE BEGINNING, THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE WORLD OF MEN WERE UNSOUND. WHERE THE CHILDREN OF THE INGRATEFUL GODS COULD HAVE RULED TOGETHER, ONE WAS SET ABOVE THE OTHERS.
WHERE THE WOUNDED COULD HAVE BEEN HEALED, THEY WERE SHOVED ASIDE TO DIE. WHERE THERE COULD HAVE BEEN TRUE PEACE, THERE WAS INSTEAD ONLY CONFLICT TURNED INWARDS.
BUT THOUGH THIS SOCIETY WAS FLAWED AND FALSE, IT COULD HAVE SUSTAINED, FOR THOSE WHO BUILT THE WORLD WERE IMPERFECT TOO, AND THE LAWS OF RIGHTFUL KINGSHIP THAT THEY HAD WROUGHT WOULD HAVE KEPT THEIR SUCCESSORS FROM ONE ANOTHER'S THROATS, AS ONCE THEY LET FIFTY INCOMPREHENSIBLE GOD-KINGS RULE TOGETHER ONE ISLAND IN THE TAPESTRY...
IT WAS THE COMING OF SOMETHING FROM BEYOND THAT CHANGED THAT... THE LEVER THAT, PLACED IN A TINY CRACK, CAN SHATTER A MOUNTAIN.
Varanim "Do go on," she says mildly. "You're getting to the interesting part." If she considers that Lucent will be insufferable at this confirmation--and then winces at thinking of him--it's hidden behind the mask.
THERE IS A FLAW IN THE WORLD. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN HERE.
WITH EACH SWORD DRIVEN INTO IT, THE CRACKS THAT EMANATE OUT INTO THE WORLD GROW DEEPER, THE FISSURES MORE VISIBLE, THE EFFECTS UPON THOSE WHO DWELL WITHIN GREATER, UNTIL FINALLY... IT WILL SNAP.
TODAY, TWO GREAT SWORDS HAVE PLUNGED INTO THIS WOUND FROM BEYOND THE WORLD, AND OTHERS HAVE CAST THEIR CHAINS AND STAVES WITHIN IN THE HOPES OF HASTENING THE PROCESS, OR SIMPLY CAUSING THOSE CRACKS THAT THEY WOULD MOST DESIRE.
BUT THE FIRST CRACKS WERE IN THE NATURES OF THOSE WHO WOULD RULE.
Varanim "It's got all the necessary bits: protagonists, antagonists, prostrate world in the balance. Whose hands are on the swords?"
THE ANSWER LIES BEYOND THIS WORLD, the steady grinding voice says. EVEN THOSE WHO SEE ALL THROUGH THE EYES OF THE DEAD CANNOT SAY.
And at that exact moment, from somewhere far in the distance, Varanim sees something: a vast pillar of green light, bright enough to see even from this distance -- and unmistakeably necrotic in nature -- rise up from a southeasterly direction whose possible candidate locations are not at all desirable.
&&& Make that *AS OF TODAY, TWO SWORDS above &&&
Varanim Her head turns sharply toward the light, then back toward the Thrice-Entombed Self. "We're going to Solaria now."
The Mask turns to look out at the same sight as Varanim, and though his featureless face and wrongly-jointed body remain difficult to read, he does not stand with the practiced smugness that she has seen so many times since arriving here.
The hekaton kneels down at Varanim's command, as if to express that it will indeed help to hasten her return.
Varanim "Not yours?" Varanim asks with mild curiosity, as she prepares to depart.
"Not mine," he says.
Varanim "Huh. Well, it's been interesting." Varanim slaps her hands lightly together to shake free the now-dried blood and plasm, and makes all speed to the Sunlands.