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Varanim "Right," says Varanim grimly, rolling up her sleeve to expose the Hearthstone. "Third try, and don't mention this to Lucent or he'll get pestery about it."

Spring raises his eyebrows inquisitively and waits.

Varanim "You'll see," she sniffs, then closes her eyes and projects herself into the crystal.

Spring follows as best he can.

Inside, the plaza is just as monochrome -- and largely deserted -- as on her last visit.

Spring "Have you no doormen?"

Varanim "Oh goodness yes, I've been thinking the place needs a full fleet of servants, only it keeps slipping my mind." Varanim takes a quick, sharp look around, then leads the way toward the trapdoor she remembers.

Spring "Right. It momentarily slipped my mind that you do not believe in employment opportunities for peasants."

Spring "An excellent attitude for a Solar."

Varanim "If the Small Whirlwind can manage picking up her own socks, I would expect reasonable people over the age of eight to struggle through also. How you made it from that to 'fuck the poor' is a leap of logic you'll have to chart sometime."

Varanim "You know, later."

Spring grins. "I am of course at your convenience."

Varanim looks startled for a moment, then distinctly annoyed. "I can't believe I didn't notice you winding me up. Hanging around you people is rotting my brain." She leads them down a less-used looking section of the halls.

Spring "As a necromancer, surely that should be within your purview."

Varanim "Hm, 'wait until it dies, then hand it off to the necromancer' is a good way to cut down on your workload as a doctor, I guess." She looks over at him briefly. "How's that going, anyway?"

Spring "Being a doctor? Very well, thank you."

Varanim "So why did you do it?" Varanim pauses to frowns at an intersection, since the way through the stone is muddy even with a guide.

Spring "Do you mean why did I become a doctor instead of a general?"

Spring "Because the alternative was to die, and destroy the universe."

Spring "I have never claimed to be perfect, but I have some clearly denoted goals, and I do what I must do to reach them."

Spring "Why did you become a necromancer, instead of some other presumably accessible alternative?"

Varanim "It seemed like the thing to do at the time."

Varanim "I was... looking for a new direction in my life, and it seemed like a useful but mostly unaddressed set of problems."

The Solars arrive, eventually, at the grating that marks the entrance to the catacombs.

Varanim "Plus, hanging out in graveyards is great for not meeting people." Varanim squats by the grate, grips it firmly with her soulsteel hand, and tugs.

The eel-grey angular catacombs bend down beneath, eerily beckoning the Solars to journey inwards.

Varanim "I have basically no idea what's down here," she adds cheerfully, and leads the way further in.

Spring "I would not have it any other way."

Spring "Your reasons and mine coincide to a great degree."

Varanim "Hm," she considers with a frown. "I don't remember the destruction of the universe cropping up in mine, but maybe I just overlooked it."

Spring "People tend to."

Varanim walks in silence for a moment. "I did it because it seemed untenable to me that the world should continue on as it had done."

Spring pauses also. "Yes."

Spring "I think that we are using the word untenable in slightly different ways here, but at heart we do not disagree."

Varanim "Could be," Varanim agrees, obviously a little uncomfortable with the conversational branch although she started it. "Hear anything shouting about doom, yet?"

Spring cocks an ear.

There is some vague rumbling from off to the southeast.

Spring "Not exactly. Something appears to be going on to the southeast of us." Spring helpfully points.

Varanim "How do you decide that's southeast, anyway?" Varanim heads in the indicated direction.

Varanim "And why were you going to destroy the universe as a general?"

Spring "Destruction is the purview of generals."

Spring leads into a maze of twisty little passageways, all alike.

Spring "I guessed."

The rumbling seems to be getting a bit louder.

Spring glances around with a certain concern, then spits up a vase and puts it on the ground, so as to identify this point should they return to it.

The air starts to get cold -- though it's a relative kind of "cold," given the overall muting effect on all senses within the jewel.

Varanim "I got a partial look at its fetters the last time," Varanim says as she notices the chill. "Can you keep it from killing me until I see the rest?"

Spring "Yes."

Varanim "Good. I should also mention I don't actually know what to do about it, so I'll sort of be making things up as I go."

Spring "Thank you for the warning."

Suddenly, from out of one of the side corridors, the creature comes barrelling out, a whirling mass of black cloaks and dark energy, tall and moving rapidly, the voice inside this time speaking barely in single words: DOOM. DESTRUCTION. ENDINGS. DEATH. COLLAPSE. FAILURE.

Varanim continues toward the source of the cold, listening and extending her other senses ahead.

Spring "Relax."

Varanim holds her left hand palm-up before her face and blows a breath across it. The exhalation turns to frozen mist, which begins to writhe and shape into the forms of the creature's fetters and passions.

The two visions Varanim extracted before come back to her almost immediately -- the manse, and the woman with green lips.

The creature turns on Spring almost immediately, its cloaks spinning out and angrily directing their sharp edges at his every extremity.

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