Varanim sent notes to meet her in one of the tea gardens, bright and early one morning a few days after her return.
zahara comes in, dispensing instructions to a trail of servants on various tasks that they had brought to her attention. When the last one leaves, after pouring her some tea, she slips into a chair and sips it tiredly. "Good morning."
Varanim "Yes, I'll see what I can do about that."
Cerin masks the sound of his approach along the gravel path by timing his footsteps to those of the servent, all except one, at least, leaning down to kiss Zahara's cheek. "Good morning, my love." Cerin, not needing to sleep, is of course, fully awake even at this unearthly hour.
Lucent could not possibly mask the sound of HIS approach, and thus he approaches, bright and cheerful in his crimson armor. "Good morning, everyone. I am sorry if I am late, I had to finish my morning prayers."
Varanim greets Lucent's entrance with only a tiny wince, then folds her hands together and looks at the lot of them. "Several interesting things happened to me in the last two weeks. Since I'm going to try to stick around, I decided to mention them."
zahara returns Cerin's kiss with a small smile and a soft touch to his shoulder. "Ah it is already improving." She turns back to Varanim, "An excellent choice."
Varanim She frowns briefly at Zahara, thinking. "Do you want the good, the bad, or the interesting first?"
zahara "Save the interesting for last, it'll be a good distraction from the bad."
Lucent "Start with the good, the bad tends to sidetrack us."
zahara gestures as if to say, 'see, problem solved'
Varanim "Given your recent zombie problems, the good news is that I can do way better necromancy tricks than before."
zahara thinks this over, and says with false cheer, "Oh, good. There can't be anything possibly wrong with that news!"
Lucent "You opened the Last Gate."
Varanim smirks. "Yes, I can barely count the possible hilarities, myself. As a necessary adjunct to the process, I told the Mask of Winters I would let him know when I've found something he's looking for."
Cerin "That sounds very ... vague."
zahara "What exactly is he looking for?"
Lucent draws his breath in a sharp intake. "The Mask of Winters."
Varanim "He said I'd know it when I saw it. Possibly it's his lost kitten Mr. Mittens, but it seemed worth mentioning just in case." She looks briefly at Lucent, then back to the others.
Varanim "He seemed to take it... fairly seriously."
zahara "Oh." She laces her fingers, and then looks from Varanim to Lucent, "You two really are a pair, with your making imprecise, open-ended deals with the Mask of Winters," she says acidly.
Cerin "Seriously how?"
Lucent "I made no promises, and, and I" He points out, "I can handle him. I know him."
zahara "Uh huh. You knew him an Age ago. She WAS him an Age ago."
Varanim "He stopped watering his flowers long enough to light a candle, which I suspect either means we're best friends now or he really wants me to hold up my end." She rolls her eyes at Lucent or Zahara, it's not clear which.
Lucent The sound of diamond-hard teeth rattling is loud enough for all of them to hear.
Varanim "Further queries on that subject, or shall I move on to the interesting bits?"
Cerin "How many candles were lit?"
Varanim "Three, now."
Lucent "Go. On." Lucent speaks with a 'we will talk LATER' tone.
zahara nods. "Yes, do go on."
Cerin "That is perhaps the only vaguely reassuring peice of information there," he says. "But please, go on."
zahara looks over at Cerin, raising a questioning brow.
Varanim "Hm." Varanim leans back to regard the sky for a moment, expression distantly thoughtful, then nods and looks down again. "Well, this next bit is fairly hilarious: there's a curse on the Solars. In words I never thought I'd use, Lucent was right."
Cerin (to zahara) ::The Diplomat's Bane. Now that all three candles are lit, the Mask Of Winters cannot use to hold more people to promises. That he has used it on this promise is disturbing, however.::
Lucent relaxes from his tooth-grinding so his lips culd curl into a smug smile
Lucent "So you know the nature of our curse, now?"
Varanim spreads her hands. "Please, you think anything in this business gives straight answers? But the Thrice-Entombed self blamed it on a flaw in the world, there from the beginning. Naturally, it's getting bigger, thanks to two--so far--hits from outside."
zahara "The Heralds."
Cerin "And the Lacuna."
zahara ::Oh, yes - an excellent point. ::
zahara "The Thrice-Entombed Self?"
Varanim "Mm. Tall fellow, made of rocks and the half-woken nightmares of the Neverborn, and like that."
Cerin "The being that you rode in on, so to speak?"
zahara tilts her head to one side, "One part, aside from the promises and the Lucent being right about us being cursed et-cetera, is sticking for me. How did you unlock the Third Circle without darkening your Shard?
Lucent "So, it was the first herald's handiwork. Bastard." Lucent's fist strikes the table. "But why would there be a flaw already in the world? I wonder..."
Cerin "The most obvious answer, and one perhaps supported by other conjecture we have on the matter, is that it followed them here from Osa."
Varanim nods at Cerin, then smirks at Zahara. "Cheating, of course. Using a focus to dodge the oblivion problem. It's pretty cute," she admits the last a little grudgingly.
zahara "Do tell"
Lucent gazes intently
Varanim shrugs. "I thought the curse thing was way more interesting, personally." But she reaches out and withdraws from the air the flickering crystalline shape of the Mask of Summers, spinning it between her hands for a moment with a thoughtful look.
Lucent glares at the fiery mask
zahara "Oh, it is quite interesting, but it is a problem, and this is a solution." She looks consideringly at the mask. "Ahh... I had a feeling that might come in handy some day. I did not expect it to be quite so useful though... So that is the focus that you fooled Oblivion with?" She sounds pleased with herself.
Varanim "Hm," Varanim answers noncommittally, then banishes the mask again, lacing her fingers together and looking up at the others again. "I think those are all the pertinent bits. There may be one more, but I'll need to visit my treehouse to check."
Lucent "Fooled it by making it think you were him? Acting like him? Being like him."
zahara "You mean, acting like your good friend Quen?"
Varanim "I'll pretend that was a non-rhetorical question and say that it's actually more like being like no one at all."
Lucent makes the Orb of Endings break from the armor, growing considerably into a sphere of essence hovering about his hand. "By being masked, you pretended not to have a name?"
Varanim spreads her hands. "And now, I'm all talked out of news--" she break off to eye the orb over Lucent's hand a little warily. "Something like that, yes."
Lucent "Now, how did you even come accross the Mask in the FIRST place?"
Varanim "In Lookshy, sort of where you might expect." She frowns a bit, looking over at Zahara and Cerin. "It's possible the useful part of this conversation is over."
Lucent "Well, I hope that th --" He stopped. He seemed to think of something... then remember something else... then another something altogether. And then he got up, smoothed his cape of night, and turned around. "... sorry. Thank you for telling us, Varanim."
zahara "A moment - back to the Curse - did he tell you anything useful about how to get rid of the thing?"
Varanim looks at Lucent blankly for a moment, then her eyes narrow a bit, before she breaks off the look to answer Zahara. "Do they ever?"