Varanim "Still here," says Varanim, considering the tree in the middle of the reclaimed Shadowland. She sounds pleasantly surprised.
zahara "For now, at least," she agrees with a small smile. "I understand there are less makeshift ways of doing this," she gestures to encompass the land, "but I don't think any of them have trees."
Varanim "About that," Varanim tosses an orange at Zahara. "Given the largish number of dead enemies of the Sunlands, we need to deal with most of the local Shadowlands. I can do some of that work, now."
Varanim She sets a picnic basket down on the ground, and starts taking food out to make room for samples of the local plants.
zahara catches the orange and slices it open with her fingertip, discarding the peel and taking a section out, which she eats slowly. "This one of the new things you've learned from the Mask?"
Varanim "Yes, aren't sabbaticals great?" Varanim pockets a couple of mushrooms. "As far as I can compare structures, my fix for Shadowlands is more focused--it works faster, and possibly more effectively as far as the actual Shroud tearing is concerned, but it lacks the happy side effects on the living agriculture."
Varanim "Fewer happy bunnies," she adds helpfully.
zahara puts on her 'concerned face' "Poor bunnies"
zahara "I'd like to see the results of one of your fixes... have you tried it out anywhere yet?"
Varanim "Not yet." For a second, there's a grim weariness on Varanim's face, then she smirks. "Got one in mind?"
zahara tilts her head to one side, and finishes the orange slice. "Sure do. Picnic first or after?"
Varanim considers for a moment. "After. Then, we'll be able to plan for the rest of them."
zahara nods. "Then, follow me!" She heads off to the northwestish
Varanim does, whistling off-key and looking only a little skeptical.
zahara lands on the edge of the shadowland, where the healthy growth of plants begins to wilt and darken, and the rays of the sun don't quite reach the ground. Even the river that runs through seems sluggish and sickly.
Varanim "Step one is finding the center, if you'll forgive me sounding like a cut-rate enlightenment salesman for a minute." Varanim takes a minute to shift her vision, then sets off into the affected territory, picking up the thread of a half-overgrown road.
Varanim "The combined incidence of birth defects and miscarriages is actually over a hundred percent in some of these places," she adds conversationally as they go.
zahara "Hm, and yet people don't leave. Sometimes I wonder."
Varanim "People are idiots, if that clarifies." After a little while, the road dips into a valley and passes by the partly crumbled bulk of a building, some kind of inn from the broken sign in front. "Oh, hey, cannibal inkeepers. If I had a handful of silver for every time I've heard that one..." She takes a look at the sky to estimate the time, then shrugs and steps inside.
Varanim "Some ritual stuff to do now. If you could make sure no hungry ghosts show up and eat me, that would be pretty neat."
zahara "Not even one?"
Varanim "Well, there are some interesting Essence collisions if a spell is interrupted halfway... oh, nice try," she shakes her finger at Zahara. "Not even a nibble!"
zahara grins, and then paces out a circle around the inn, marking minor wards in the dirt. "These won't interfere will they?" she asks as an afterthought
Varanim picks her way through the broken furniture and mossy tendrils that clutter the building, reaching the kitchen and nodding with satisfaction at the enormous cooking pot crusted with dark growths. She sticks her head out the window long enough to see Zahara's work, then cheerfully calls, "Nope!" before vanishing back inside.
Varanim Shortly after, a low prayer-like murmuring begins to trickle out of the building.
zahara nods and proceeds to make them a bit more elaborate, tossing in some purified salt for the extra kick, then sticks her head in the window to watch Varanim's spellworking, trusting in the wards to notify her if she needs to pay attention
Varanim sits cross-legged on a mat she's rolled out by the dubiously-stained cauldron, her face covered by the flameburst of the Mask of Summers, voice a little strange as she chants. Scraps of her anima manifest as minutes pass, sticking to her words and forming gleaming threads on the air, highlighting the ragged edges of the previously invisible wound between the worlds.
Varanim After perhaps twenty minutes, a tangle of sunset Essence scraps litter the floor and air, and a thick scent of myrrh pervades the building. Her voice rises sharply and then cuts off--and with a wet tearing sound like a bandage coming off a wound, the world shudders and resettles. The local plants are still half-withered, but the sunlight slants more strongly through the spindly trees.
Varanim To Zahara's sight, a haze of necrotic Essence briefly blossoms above them, large enough to be visible for miles, as the ground expels something buried below in a forceful upward rain. It hisses and clings to the air for a moment, before dissipating in a blaze of twilight.
zahara sighs a bit, watching. "That was quite lovely
zahara "In a sort of icky way," she adds after some thought.
Varanim "Was it?" Her voice is distant, indifferent, then Varanim pulls the mask off her face and rubs tiredly at her eyes. "Good, it worked. Let's picnic."
Colapso There is the sound of steps coming, not stealthy at all as he walks through the shadowland grounds, then turns in as Zahara speaks, "It was lovely, though. The twilight colors."
Varanim "Hell," she says, almost inaudibly.
zahara raises a brow. "I hope we have enough food."
Varanim "Go ahead, I'll drink lunch today," Varanim invites as she exits the building and slouches down by the picnic basket outside.
Colapso "I can go without!"
zahara "Oh, all for me then." She leans her chin on the windowsill, over her folded arms
Varanim "What are you doing here, anyway?" she asks Lucent a little irritably.
Lucent "I was looking for you!"
Lucent blinks "I... did I come in a bad time?"
Varanim grimaces a bit at that, looking pointedly at Zahara. "I bet if you lend Verbles one of those wasps of yours, she can do a pretty good survey of the Sunlands. If she sorts out the Shadowlands, you can handle the ones with the worst agricultural blights, and I can take the necro-ickiest. Where the lists coincide will be extra fun, we might team up."
zahara "That sounds like an excellent plan," she says, smiling as if she does not notice the awkward tension.
Varanim She looks like she's biting into something sour and adds, "A priest might even be useful."
zahara "A priest of who?"
Varanim "What, you're going to make me say it? You can be so bitchy, sometimes. Him." She rolls her eyes at Lucent, or possibly the sun.
Lucent "Wait, I like the saying part." He puts a hand on her shoulder. "Come on, say it with my name now."
zahara "Oh, like Lucent then?"
zahara holds up her hands, "Oh don't be getting into the "say my name!" stuff in front of me."
Lucent grins. "For someone with a chastity belt, you have the dirtiest mind!"
Varanim lays a withering look on both of them, reaching into the picnic basket and tossing at sandwich at Lucent to occupy his hands. "The point is, we should be able to close most of them, so at least your country won't have so many leaks on the dead side."
zahara smirks, "Just because I choose who to use my dirty mind with..."
Lucent picks the sandwhich and winks to Zahara, "Point!" and bites! "Yum."
zahara "Right, leak-free country. We do need to leave one or two open for studying and such."
Varanim broods over an apple, tossing it up and catching it rather than eating. She nods at Zahara in agreement. "It won't fix the real problems, but it'll patch things until the whole Neverborn situation is sorted out."
zahara "I assume that we will need our good friend Pluto's help for that."
Lucent "No, Pluto is in Heaven. The Neverborn are left to their own devices. They are a group of Exalted, just like any other, now." He stops himself, "Just, much, much, MUCH more annoying than any other I have ever met so far."
Varanim "Hm." She scowls. "I have some questions for him on that front, at least. But has enlisting Incarna actually worked well for you people in the past?"
Lucent "Incarna do not socialize."
zahara "Even if we cannot enlist him ourselves, he should damn well take an interest in it."
Varanim "Wouldn't that require going... well, to heaven?"
zahara "The architecture there alone is worth the visit."
Lucent shrugs, "I have given up telling you that is a heresy."
Varanim looks ill at the thought.
zahara "Oh please, it's not heresy to say that a god should care about his corrupted domain."
Lucent "He did. He sent the Shadeborn. Who should, I note, start DOING something."
Lucent "And stop talking in fucking riddles like newborn Oracles."
zahara "What riddles?"
Varanim "...'a great white maw rising up from the depths of Netheos, and dead souls falling like rain from Creation above.' Riddles like that, I'd guess."
Lucent "The way they talked? Avoiding answering any questions? As if they had received some greater epiphany and are above us all? I can deal with the Incarna acting like that, but a bunch of newborn Exalted with Epiphany Syndrome is a little too much." He points, "And evasion is only somewhat cute coming from your girlfriend."
Varanim narrows her eyes slightly at Lucent. ::Speaking of things that are only somewhat cute...:: she says warningly to him.
Varanim Aloud, she adds, "Piercing Ivory said the big blue guy hadn't given much guidance. There's a shock."
Lucent ::You prefer it if I say it is only cute when you are fucking the source of evasion, then?::
Lucent "Why would he give guidance?"
Varanim "Yes, there would be some danger of clarity if that happened. Can't replace the mystery of the divine with a hint of utility, that just wouldn't do."
zahara "oh THOSE riddles."
Varanim "My point," ::which if you'll note carefully, can be made without reference to sex::, "is that they mostly don't know what they're doing--no wonder they didn't explain themselves, they'd first need to find the explanation."
Lucent "That is one of two keys, yes. The other is that we are hardly left to our own devices if you give impressionable young Exalts orders. Point of fact, the planes are ours' to deal with."
Lucent ::I swear, this whole 'official relationship' thing is making you hate sex or something.::
Varanim lifts her head to look at Lucent incredulously, then shakes her head and takes a drink while she waits for Zahara's input.
zahara shrugs. "Fine then, we should enlist the shadeborn instead of Pluto himself, even though we're dealing at a planar level of ... broken-ness...
Varanim "All right," Varanim frowns up at the sky. "Shadowland cleaning can be started without them, but very soon one or more of us needs to talk to the Shadeborn, to find out if they're helping or not." She raises her eyebrows at Zahara. "Any other dead business to talk about today?"
zahara jerks her thumb over her shoulder, "Well, the hungry ghosts finally arrived, but other than that..."
Lucent "And I can help to cleanse them. I may not have Sorcery, but...
Lucent "I have faith."
Lucent looks out of the window. "Hmmm."
zahara "The wards should hold for a few more minutes..."
Varanim Varanim, who was starting to climb wearily to her feet, looks over at Lucent with a faintly startled expression. "That... would be helpful."
zahara "Just add Sunlight - instant priest"
Lucent makes a mockery of an exhasperated sigh, "And when she something killed, she looks at me. See? SEE?" He shakes his head, stepping away from the women and digging his fingers into the air, brass cracks appearing on it like pierced glass, "Just a moment..."
zahara quirks a brow. "Don't be annoying."
Lucent pulls on the broken veils, two immense pieces of brass breaking in from outside reality, slamming to either side of him as if they had fallen from a great distance! There is a sound that is almost a scream and he breaks away the plates of brass that crack and disappear, the armor slammed and forged into his body. "I was NOT."
zahara shakes her head. "You're being petulant."
zahara "You enjoy fighting, and you're good at it. Of course you're the one we look to." She emphasises the 'we' slightly.
Varanim opens her mouth, then closes it with a thoughtful look when Zahara beats her to the sniping.
zahara leans back and picks up an orange, peeling it and watching out the window.
Lucent sighs. "Right, right. Sorry." He hangs his head, then brightens up, with all the orbs springing to life from the small stones in his armor to the great orbs surrounding him! "Well, good things I have things to beat into oblivion!" And he walks out, all the caste marks of mars falling down the closest ghost!
Varanim rolls her eyes, but still shifts position so she can watch Lucent do his thing.
zahara makes room at the window
zahara offers Varanim half an orange
Lucent The Hungry Ghosts lunge at him and the orbs sink into his flesh, becoming hard as adamant. The sound of spectral claws on diamond is heard by the twilight and eclipse as he joins Saturn and Luna into chains of silver-and-violet links, sending them into six of their bodies, digging in... and pulling out their essence, breaking their souls!
Varanim takes the offered orange, then forgets to eat.
Varanim "Don't tell him I said this, but it's good to be back," she says grudgingly to Zahara.
zahara smiles, "I won't say a word." She peels off the tiny little juice capsules one by one and burrsts them against her tongue.
Lucent The Hungry Ghosts fall upon him, piling him into the ground... and the calendar wheel appears around a sun of adamant, spinning fast and throwing all of them away! Six versions of Lucent get up made of the brightest sunlight, each striking at one of the ghosts and burning its remains to nothingness! And a moment later they disappeared in heathaze, Lucent in the center!
Varanim "He is pretty, though," she adds even more reluctantly.
zahara "Can I tell him that part?"
Lucent Hungry Ghosts that all appear similar, the remains of a single family, apparently, begin to merge... becoming an immense monster only barely human, with claws long as arms that fall upon Lucent... and shatter in his skin. He is smiling as the five maidens go into the ground, rise as women in a pentagram around the monster to hold it with strings of fate...
Lucent ... and a single blast of Sun's orb breaks the monster, leaving a trail on the ground to a burning tree. Lucent was a shining sillhouette in front of the fire, now!
zahara "Ooh this is getting interesting."
Varanim "Hm." She frowns, still watching the show. "Maybe later."
zahara "You know, I think he's showing off for you. Check out how he's angling his profile to catch the glow of his anima."
Lucent As if in tune to Zahara's words he poses in front of the calendar wheel, crimson of his armor stark before the crystalline adamant of his light, forming the five caste marks of Solars from Sun's orb, together with the symbol of the Sunlands, and sending them to five ghosts... standing untouched amidst the burning!
zahara "See what I mean?" she points
Varanim "...I think you're right."
zahara chuckles, and then gets a mischevous grin on her face. She plucks a piece of paper from her pouch and scrawls a number on it, then holds it up out the window. "8.75"
Varanim "He's bad enough without encouragement."
Lucent smiles, clearly looking in their direction, and lets the ghosts come closer. Claws rake at his skin, breaking on it, and he begins to shine brighter... the five maidens burning out of the ground as stars, fires of all colors... and walls of sunlight and moonlight coming from his hands, wisping together, shattering all they touch! Subsuming all other colors until all is gold and silver.
Lucent And him in the middle.
Varanim "I mean, really." She sits back from the window, pinching the bridge of her nose.
zahara "Are you trying to tell me that you don't appreciate the view?"
Varanim "If he put half the energy into thinking that he puts into posing, he could change the world. All that wasted potential--I have to laugh, or I'd burst a blood vessel."
zahara "Oh, but he does both."
zahara "besides, you're the one people come to for the thinking part."
Lucent waits for the new rating to pop up, and as it does not, he merely takes the orb of endings and a storm of swords takes out the last six. In a moment there is nothing left but remaining lights, his pillar of light reaching the heavens and spectral remains upon scorched earth.
zahara notes his disappointment and helpfully puts up an "8.8"
Lucent pouts as he makes his way back to the former canniball-housing inn
Varanim shoots Zahara a pained look. "Now are we done?"
Lucent "That was at least nine. I take it you are biased because of Cerin."
zahara "Hey you gotta have something to work for"
Lucent "I will demand a rating when I am done killing Abadis, then!"
zahara chuckles, and then bows to him, "As you wish."
Lucent grins. "The Empress Servant!"
Lucent stops. "... hmmm. I have to suggest that to someone as a name for a romance."
zahara "don't go casting me as the servant in it"
Lucent "But the Empress has to be the Servant, if they are the same person."
Varanim "Pick another empress," Varanim suggests, as she packs up her supplies.
zahara "There you go."
zahara "She was even a servant of the Ebon Dragon, so that's perfect."
Lucent "That will be really popular in the Realm. Well, might, depends on wether or not shadow tentacles will be involved."
Varanim "Why don't you kids take the wasps home and plan your epic, I'll hang around for a bit to make sure the Essence plumbing is working like I expect."
Lucent tilts his head. "I can help you with plumbing."
Varanim looks at him for a moment, then nods. "Suit yourself."
Lucent gives Zahara a hug. "You can take the wasps, we will find our way back."
zahara hugs back, "Alright, I suppose you don't want to get any wasps in your plumbing or some such."
Varanim doesn't join in the hugging, but she smirks at Zahara. "Dinner tomorrow, best view in town?"
zahara "It's a date."
zahara heads off into the sunset!
Lucent watches her heading off through the scorched field "Our Empress."
Varanim seats herself on the steps, resting her chin on her hands and staring across the withered grasses. "She's not so bad," she admits on the subject of the Empress, then is quiet. After a moment she says, "Sit with me, Lucent. I just want to look at it." There is something like satisfaction in her eyes, though it's tinged with sadness.
Lucent sat down, looking at the view, at the cleansed shadowland. Whispering in her ear, so soft.
Lucent "I told you. You are a nurturer."