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Summary: The Solars journey into Spring's mind to find more about the Sun's illness.

XP:L1, S1, V1, Z1

Spring ::Lucent, Varanim, Zahara, I would be grateful of your assistance in the infirmary.::

Varanim shows up with a promptness that is quite unnatural for her.

Lucent gets there guided by Varanim, blindfold over his eyes.

Spring "Greetings. Thank you for your quick response." Spring is sitting on the edge of one of the spare hospital beds, idly contemplating his glowing finger.

zahara "What is going on? Is someone hurt... or need to be?"

Varanim "You have more necrotic Essence in your little finger than I have in my entire body right now. Obviously, I want to see what freaky thing you're going to do with it."

Lucent "... what? Spring, are you hurt?" Lucent tries to reach him, making a flower jar crash to the ground

Spring "I am attempting to diagnose the illness that the Sun possesses, using only my little finger."

Spring "Your help would be most appreciated."

Spring catches the jar with a foot and lets it roll idly away. "I understand you are acquainted, as I am, with the techniques for investigating and curing Essence diseases."

Varanim "He's talking to you," Varanim adds helpfully to Lucent, poking his arm.]

Spring "Varanim, I have a suspicion that this disease is not wholly distinct from the Creeping Black Sun Sickness."

Spring "Perhaps you might have some thoughts on it."

Spring ::Zahara, I would be grateful if you ensured that Lucent and Varanim do not fall into argument and destroy my psyche.::

Lucent "Oh. A moment, then, if I am to diagnose this..."

Lucent begins to take the blindfold off... and from his eyes, the light of exaltation pours fourth! Perfect Topaz eyes, with every movement shining another light of heaven! "I can see like heaven! Lightsight!" He looks upon Spring's finger. "Hmmm. I think we would need to see more than your finger. This is... rooted deep."

zahara ::If that is at all possible, I shall accomplish it.::

Spring "I have sealed it off so that it cannot penetrate the remainder of my system. Unfortunately, that may make it difficult for you to reach."

Varanim "What the hell was wrong with your old eyes?" Varanim asks after a moment of blinking at Lucent.

zahara "Perhaps he wanted to get in on the body-part replacement trend," she says, gesturing to Varanim's arm and Spring's eyes

Lucent "Not good enough." He nods, touching Spring's finger. "I am not perfect at Necromantic Diseases per se, so I believe you have come to the same conclusion I have, Spring -- that I will need to get the doctors to look at this from the inside. Could you let it slide to the throne chakra? I think it flows naturally to that direction, and might make it easier."

Spring "I am not sure I can keep it under control if I release it now that it has time to incubate. I will try to realign my chakras to bring the entry point nearer your goal."

Spring "Shall we begin?"

Lucent "Right." Lucent takes hold of Spring's hand as if to dance, placing his other hand on Spring's forehead, over the Caste Mark. He closes his eyes for a moment, feeling Spring's Essence, mapping it with his new eyes. "Varanim, Zahara, I need each of you to touch to specific chakras, mine and Spring's. Right here..." He notes them. "That will allow the Essence to pass through you and guide you. It might hurt some."

Varanim nods, laying two fingers neatly on the indicated spot.

Spring closes his eyes and begins the delicate process of meditation.

Lucent begins to flare. "Spring, open your Essence to them. I will need your help here..." Sending others with one of them was only something discussed in theory, but if this could aid them in saving the Sun.. "Now!" Crystalline, Sunlight-warm Essence poured forth... drawing the gaze of their consciousness into Spring!

zahara touches the chakras lightly, watching the process with curiosity... and then her gaze shifts...

Spring *

Spring There isn't darkness. Darkness is the absence of light, but that implies the awareness of light - that light is a meaningful concept.

Spring There is no darkness...just nothing, for a moment or two, and then, suddenly, a bright purple light, that fades to normalcy, and the feeling of an arachnid skittering in the back of your eye socket.

Lucent "Ugh."

Spring There is a tree. Above them, below them, to every side of the Exalts, there are twisting, bending, growing branches. They stand at a junction, and countless branches snake forth in every direction, inscribed ever so intricately with words that are difficult to make out.

Varanim "Huh." Varanim rolls her eyes experimentally, then immediately kneels to get a closer look at the densely inscribed bark.

Lucent "I prefer insects to stay outside my skin."

Spring The bark appears to contain some sort of extremely detailed agenda or plan of action, with entries such as "eat breakfast", "locate useful documents using charms", and "disable Imrama using mortal assistance as fodder."

Varanim "Which way is upstream?" Varanim asks Lucent, running her fingers thoughtfully over the plan whorl at her feet.

Lucent points to a direction that feels right from his earlier diagram of Spring's Soul.

Lucent "That way!"

Spring *The particular branch Varanim is examining

zahara "They are not insects, they are hundredfold."

Lucent "So the Dragon Kings are neither dragons, nor reptiles?"

Varanim heads in the direction Lucent pointed, keeping a casual eye on the words at her feet.

Spring As soon as Varanim takes a step the branch breaks cleanly off, leaving her just a moment to scramble back to safety.

Lucent "Varanim!" He reaches out to her, cursing his armor does not work in a metaphorical state!

Spring A fluid drips from the cracked wood where the branch once was. After a moment, it is clear that it is blood. A drop or two falls from above them, and it can be seen that many, if not most of the branches, are leaking blood from their few cracks and joins.

Varanim jumps back, landing safely if not exactly gracefully.

Spring "It's kind of a dangerous situation, huh?"

Lucent "... who?"

Spring The three become aware of a lithe young man standing behind them, a lopsided grin on his eyeless face. His chest is bare, and on it can be seen, inscribed in uncomfortably real-looking flaming ink, the image of a golden spear.

zahara "So much of life is."

Thirteen "There's really only one safe way to go."

Thirteen "It looks like you have a lot of options, but in the end...there's really just one."

Lucent "Thirteen!" He points. "And... that would be?"

Varanim had bent to touch her fingers to the blood when the new arrival appeared. After turning to look at him for a moment, she absently licks her fingers while the others talk.

Thirteen "Oh, I'll show you. But, first...what are you doing here?"

Thirteen It tastes like human blood, assuming Varanim can identify human blood by taste.

Lucent "We are here to help a friend and save the sun."

Varanim "I doubt he needs my help, but it's an interesting problem," Varanim clarifies her own participation for the sake of accuracy.

Thirteen "Hmf. Any idea what, specifically, you're looking for?"

zahara "Indeed. We've come to investigate the blackish bits of your essence."

Lucent looks him up and down. Thirteen. "A shadow."

Thirteen "Oh. That." He wrinkles his nose.

Thirteen "You'll have to go through all the old sections for that."

Thirteen "You sure?"

Varanim "Pretty sure."

Lucent "Yes. He is my friend." Lucent steps in that direction. "Why is there blood in the tree?"

Thirteen "Where do YOU keep the blood you spill?"

Lucent "I do not KEEP it. It spills. It is for the ground to keep."

zahara "I'd tell you, but I'd have to kill you."

Thirteen "Well, when you spill blood on the ground, trees grow. That's one of the useful things about blood, you can grow things with it. Better things, I guess."

Varanim "And thence to the trees," she says to Lucent's response. "Nothing is wasted."

Thirteen "See, she's got it. Hang on to that one, kid."

Thirteen squats, and taps a branch. "Take this path, and then take the first right, and then head downwards. You'll get where you're going."

Varanim "Is the path going to fall off again?"

Thirteen "Not as long as you go the right way."

Lucent starts that path. "Why did that one break so easily?"

Thirteen "Because you were lucky."

Thirteen "Sometimes you don't find out you went the wrong way until it's too late to go back."

Lucent "..."

Lucent "... we would have taken you back, you know."

Thirteen "Then you're forgiving. The dead are not. Right, miss?"

zahara "The dead don't need to forgive. The living do."

Varanim "No better at it than the living, on average."

Varanim watches as they go, to see if they're climbing or descending.

Thirteen The branch the group treads upon is the thinnest branch of them all -- to either side, blackness gapes below them, and balancing on it is a challenge even for their erstwhile guide, who seems to have difficulty travelling it even though he has clearly done it many times before.

Thirteen "The living need to be forgiven more than they need to forgive sometimes."

Thirteen It seems, at the moment, that the group is travelling generally horizontally, but the branches they head towards seem to trend downwards.

Lucent "You did not kill that many, either. You stopped bloodshed on Wasirru." He almost falls, even nimble as he is, but ends up keeping his balance after only one broken branch. "We all have done horrible things. Except for Varanim."

Thirteen says nothing, but points down at the gap below them. On the one side of the branch, in carefully precise detail, the destruction of Gem can be seen, the buildings melting under the onslaught of the infernal Essence, glowing painfully red and crumbling, the people running out of them, screaming.

Thirteen On the other side of the branch, the Battle of the Summer Palace plays itself out, the mass of Chayan mortals hurling themselves, spellbound, headlong into the maw of destruction at the hands of Lai's demon troops.

Thirteen Then they change -- the fight against Shikaya on one side, the time Thirteen brutalized a pair of Atomnosian guards on the other. Another flicker, and they change again, this time depicting two Wassiru battles that the Solars are unfamiliar with, a younger Thirteen leading the charge. And they change again, and again...

Varanim "No exceptions needed," Varanim calmly corrects as she follows slowly after, eyes on the narrow branch.

Thirteen "Don't tell me I didn't kill many. I killed plenty. That was my job. That was what I did, and I did it damn well."

Thirteen "I don't tell you you don't brainwash people, do I?"

zahara "You did kill plenty, and damn well. I only wish I had your prowess in battle."

Lucent "Yes, you are Thirteen alright."

Thirteen "I'm never really sure what you're getting at sometimes, Zee, but yeah." He pats her on the shoulder. "Thanks. You could if you wanted."

Varanim Varanim, who has watched the battles flicker by with distant eyes, looks over at Thirteen. "Why are you still here?"

zahara shrugs a little. "Perhaps someday."

Thirteen "Who were you expecting?"

Varanim "Someone older and snider, I suppose."

Thirteen "Oh, daddy's around here somewhere, if you really wanted to talk to him. He never seems that popular with you guys, though. And this is easier in here."

Varanim "Mm." With that, Varanim returns her attention to balancing on the treacherous branch.

Lucent "Daddy is... the tree? Are we not already in it?"

Thirteen "No, no. Daddy is the guy who makes sure I say stuff like --" he straightens up and his voice becomes drier -- "I hope this clarifies some portions of our interaction, Lucent Copper Haze."

Lucent "Oh, I see. So you are the agression and guilt."

Thirteen snickers. "I'm the one who does the thinking. I come from the old section."

Thirteen The branch the Solars are on is now definitely sloping downwards, and a vague glimmering can be seen below them, growing steadily brighter.

Varanim laughs. "Daddy's not so bad."

Thirteen "Well, I'm glad you think so. He needs somebody to talk to."

Varanim leans over to look at the glimmer below, teetering a bit and wobbling her arms for balance.

zahara crouches down and tears a little piece of the branch off, flipping it between her fingers as she stares down at the glimmer. "We should keep going."

Thirteen The glimmer is a familiar golden light, that grows ever brighter as the branch descends.

Lucent balances himself as he proceeds. "You WOULD think so, Varanim."

Varanim "What's that supposed to... oh no, you're not getting me that easily."

Thirteen Unusual signs of damage begin to appear as the Solars get closer to the ever-brighter light -- broken branches hang in the foliage of other trees, trunks uprooted wholesale, trying feebly to find some purchase in the air their roots now hang in.

Varanim "It's normal to climb up to get to the sun."

Thirteen smiles, but a certain bitterness is evident. "Things aren't normal."

Lucent "What happenned here? It is all so... broken."

Thirteen doesn't bother answering that, but in a few moments, for those who can see through the dazzling light of the Sun, the answer is more or less clear. A jagged shard of sunlight, extending as far as the eye can see, has been forced violently into the center of the forest, wreaking devastation on the trees that used to grow.

Thirteen Some of the trees seem to have forced their way through the shard, while others have put down new roots in it and grow up above it. The branch the Solars stand on leads carefully down to the surface of the shard, and they are able to step down onto it.

Varanim "Huh." Varanim pauses to stare for a moment, then cracks her knuckles with a happy look. "Neat."

Lucent "What a way to view the most sublime of gifts."

Lucent frowns at such a representation

zahara "It seems you would rather be mortal, ironic."

Thirteen "No. I'm glad to be Exalted."

Thirteen "That doesn't mean it was easy."

Varanim stoops to flatten her palms against the surface of the shard, quiet for a moment.

zahara "Exaltation is not supposed to be easy."

Thirteen Blurred images swim on the surface of the shard, tantalizingly familiar, impossible to make out. Faces of people -- someone Varanim knows? it looks like -- it is gone, replaced by -- it looks like -- and so it goes.

Lucent "... what was that?"

Thirteen shrugs. "I dunno. Past lives? Let me know if you figure it out."

Thirteen leads them along the shard, through a collection of small huts that seem to have been built from the fallen wood -- one seems to contain an enormous library, another a single lotus blossom, floating in space. Another is divided in two; on one side stands, motionless, the Scarlet Empress, and on the other, what appears to be a seductively dressed version of Zahara.

Lucent "Knowlege, Allegiance, and... Martial Prowess?"

Thirteen "What?"

Varanim "The lure of power," Varanim says, a little muffled as she peeks in at the library.

Lucent "I mean, the significance of the huts." He points, kaleidoscopic eyes peering curiously.

zahara tilts her head to one side

zahara "I never knew you cared"

Thirteen "This is just where I keep things." He grins suddenly, and gestures towards the hut containing the two empresses. "Here, go check that out. You'll like that."

Thirteen "Say hi to Red for me."

Lucent walks into the hut with the Scarlet Empress fist!

zahara laughs

zahara walks over to the hut

Thirteen As soon as Lucent enters, the Empress swivels on the spot, and turns towards him. "I remember you, Wei Dan," she says. "Today, your plans will come to ruin."

Thirteen She gestures with one finger, and Lucent feels, with relentless exactitude, the Wine-Dark Rose of Broken Hearts burst into being within his chest cavity and grow outwards, shattering his sternum on its quest for light.

Lucent "Aaah!" Lucent staggers back. "Zahara, do NOT come in!"

Thirteen "The Zee side's a little nicer."

Thirteen shrugs.

Lucent clutches his chest, feeling the pain... "Why do you remember THAT?"

zahara "Remember what?"

Thirteen "Did you think I would just forget it?" Thirteen asks a little incredulously.

Thirteen "I keep my deaths in there."

Thirteen (This is an aside, explaining to Zahara and Varanim what happened)

Thirteen Once the pain reaches a peak, it disappears in an instant, and the Empress is in her former frozen position.

zahara enters th zahara side

Varanim At Lucent's cry, Varanim looks around sharply from her contemplation of the canopy above. "One's usually enough," she says mildly to Thirteen, though her eyes glitter.

Thirteen "Enough for what?"

Lucent "Heaven." He walks out. "One should NOT remember what it feels like to die."

Varanim "Enough death. Who needs more?"

Thirteen The Zahara in the hut laughs as she enters, puts her finger in her wineglass, and dabs a spot of it on the real Zahara's forehead, then backs away and begins dramatically gesturing. "Say goodbye, sparky!" she crows.

Thirteen In moments, flames grow up from below Zahara's feet, but somehow the heat is cleansing, refreshing -- not at all like normal flame. They cover her, consuming her body utterly (but not really, of course), but it feels less like immolation, and more like drifting off, slowly, to a well-earned sleep.

Thirteen "I didn't need the FIRST death."

Thirteen "It's not like I planned for -- " he stops and looks thoughtful.

Thirteen "Well, that's not the point."

zahara hisses in pain, and clenches her hands into fists with a tight smile, only relaxing after it dissipates. "I've always wanted to know what this felt like."

Thirteen "It's just the kind of thing you ought to keep tabs on, that's all."

Thirteen "Glad I could help, Zee."

Lucent "Hmmmm."

Varanim pauses by the hut with the lotus blossom, frowning inside.

Thirteen It just looks like an ordinary glowing lotus blossom floating exactly in the center of a wooden hut built on the back of a metaphorical Solar shard inside someone's mind.

Varanim With an almost guilty look over her shoulder, while the others are over at the death-hut, she steps in to inhale deeply of the lotus before resuming her normal detached look.

Thirteen As Varanim steps into the hut, the lotus pulses, and she is assailed by a flood of what feel like mental recriminations -- but somebody else's mental recriminations. ::That step wasn't deep enough. You need to keep your Essence outwards. Your knee is in the wrong place. Don't turn your arm that way. Your knee is STILL in the wrong place. Are you aware of what's happening behind you?:: and so forth and so on, while she r

Thirteen Assuming she gets to the lotus, it smells pleasant.

Thirteen *while she remains in the hut.

Varanim "Nice flower," she says as she emerges after smelling, blinking a bit.

Thirteen "The lotus is just there to define space. It's kind of..." he pauses. "Ask me about it outside sometime."

Thirteen "Let me know when you guys are done being curious," he says with a bit of a smirk.

zahara cracks her knuckles, and eyes the library, heading over there

Varanim "I'm never done being curious, but let's get on with it."

Thirteen The library contains every book Spring has ever read, so it's quite large and comprehensive, especially considering it apparently fits in a small hut.

zahara flips through a couple of them

Thirteen "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Raising Badgers But Were Afraid to Ask"

zahara stifles a giggle

Thirteen "Nexus: A History"

Thirteen "The Joy of Cooking with Essence"

Thirteen "Are you looking for something specific, Zee?"

zahara "No, I'm just curious what you read."

Thirteen "Everything."

zahara "fair enough. If I had more time I think I'd read it all."

Thirteen "I'm sure we can work something out."

Varanim "Where next?"

Thirteen "This way."

zahara looks surprised, "Well, thank you." She follows where he leads thoughtfully

Lucent "What IS it with you and badgers, anyway?"

Thirteen The Solars walk along the shard for a while, before coming to an odd sight -- a branch, slightly in the distance, that is growing out of thin air. It appears to be covered with some sort of oily black substance that writhes almost as if it is alive. It reaches out tendrils towards the shard, but they fall short, and are absorbed back into its body.

Thirteen "Well, I've already got all these badgers. I don't want them to starve."

zahara "That doesn't look healthy."

Varanim "There you are," Varanim murmurs at the oily blackness, a gleam in her eye.

Thirteen "Dinner is served."

Varanim moves forward to examine the reaching tendrils more closely, rubbing her arm absently but looking quite pleased.

Varanim "If it were Creeping Black Sun Sickness--neat name, isn't it?--the wiggly bits show up at the mid stages, along with withering and doomy visual effects," she says conversationally over her shoulder.

Thirteen "Great. I'm really glad to hear that."

Lucent "But it is still the disease that infected the sun, right? What IS it, then?"

Varanim frowns, reaching up with her soulsteel hand to see if she's close enough to touch one of the black strands.

Thirteen "I don't know. Doctor it up, Luc."

Lucent touches it, careless still, even not being in his body. "Hmmm... this is WEIRD."

The black oily substance is rather odd in its constitution.

It clearly "exists" -- since it can be seen -- but it seems to have no substance, no presence. Rather than a pattern of Essence and matter, it seems to be a quality of the Essence itself, like aspecting gone horribly wrong.

It also bears a distinct resemblance to the Creeping Black Sun Sickness, though in its manifestation here it's difficult to be absolutely certain whether it's the same thing...

Lucent "I mean, it... it IS close to the Black Sun Sickness. It is... um. It is not a pattern of essence and matter, but... a quality of essence itself. It is the Essence of the Sun, our Essence... just gone wrong. Does that make sense to any of you?"

Thirteen "Yes, but I knew all of that already."

Varanim "Oh," says Varanim suddenly.

Thirteen "Sudden realization?"

zahara frowns thoughtfully, comparing the essence here to the essence of the abyssals she's known in the past

Varanim "It's been bothering me that the Creep takes a few days to kill a person, tops. I just realized that for the sun, progress could more sensibly be measured in years, not days."

Varanim "But even if that analogy holds, it's already too late to amputate."

Lucent "But it covered half of the sun in a few months."

Varanim "Sure. And if it's anything like mine," she says with a faintly proprietary air, "pretty soon there'd be famine and worldwide nightmare visions, but the really spectacular stuff would still be a couple of years off."

Varanim "There would also be a cruxsigil locus somewhere that might be interesting to look at it."

zahara "cruxsigil locus?

Lucent "... what?"

Thirteen "Good luck getting a look at the Sun."

Varanim "If it were Creeping Black Sun Sickness, which would be exciting but hasn't been established, it would begin as a black seven-pointed sun mark somewhere, say on the hand." She holds up her soulsteel arm and wiggles the fingers. "That locus expands, and the rest of the symptoms follow its progress."

Lucent "Hmmm. Did Spring see that when he got contaminated?" Lucent wonders. "Thirteen, where is Daddy?"

zahara "Hmmm fascinating."

Thirteen "He's around. No, I didn't see that. I didn't see anything, the Sun had me blindfolded."

Thirteen shrugs.

zahara "Did you hear anything, then?"

Lucent "Yes, but he is the intelligent one, so I will take a second opinion on that fact."

Lucent considers

Lucent "... or is he just the one that talks in a pompous manner?"

Thirteen "He's the one that's learned to put up with you. I'm not here to fetch and carry for you."

Thirteen "I couldn't hear anything either. Believe it or not, the Sun has some very impressive sensory deprivation stuff."

Lucent "You know, if I remember correctly, the opposite of that was our exact problem with you."

Lucent "Well, Zahara's. Mine had to do with bloodshed. And personality. An..." He stops himself. "Strange, that. I would place sensory deprivation on the realm of Jupiter or Saturn. The sun allows man to see, he does not take it away."

Varanim While Lucent and Thirteen go back and forth, Varanim frowns up at the black growth, then seats herself cross-legged as if meditating. After a moment of consideration she slashes her right palm, holding it over the other to make a shallow pool of blood in her cupped soulsteel hand. A haze of motes appears around her shoulders, and she blows upon them sharply so they whirl and dance up...

Varanim ...through the black oily branches. Then, she sits.

Varanim One by one, motes settle back down like sunstruck flecks of dust, landing in the small pool of blood that she moves gently to gather them. When the last pieces of the answer have returned, Varanim lifts her hand and drinks in the truth.

Lucent "... beautiful."

Thirteen "Fancy."

zahara "Fascinating."

On the motes that float back, Varanim begins to get a picture of who, or what, ever took the actions that led to this disease. "It has to be done," she hears in a neutral voice, somewhere deep within her head, "and damn the consequences."

She gets the sense of the mindset: determined, absolutely certain, resigned to what would happen afterwards.... with just a touch of sadness.

Varanim "Ech."

Varanim "Huh."

Lucent touches her shoulders, as if to catch her, should she fall "What did you see?"

Varanim "Giving the sun something that might be a horrible world-shattering disease was... a side effect of some other plan, not the whole goal? Someone--with no particular animosity or maniacal laughter--thought it was necessary."

Varanim "So, who's in a position to feel slightly bad about doing that to the sun, and why would they do it anyway?"

stryck "Sounds like something a Sidereal would do."

Thirteen "The answer that leaps to MY mind is the Sun."

Thirteen "Also, I'm not going to remember any of this, so remind me when you get out."

Varanim "Hm."

Varanim "Also, since Lucent said the disease is a change in fundamental Essence structure, should we be expecting this to cause problems in our Essence soon?"

Varanim "Never mind, better to ask your older half when we're out."

Lucent "So the sun did this to himself... but what possible cause would he have to blight his own being?"

Lucent "No, it HAS to be a Sidereal. I am with Zahara."

Varanim "Anything else, or shall we argue conspiracy theories outside?"

stryck "Do you think you can cure it?"

Varanim "Oh, that part. I was just about to say that, really." She looks expectantly at Lucent.

Lucent "Well..." He touches both of them on their hearts, eyes intent on Thirteen. "I suppose."

Lucent "You should forgive yourself, you know."

Thirteen "Why?"

Lucent "Because we are still going to make many, many mistakes. And a branch that has too much of a burden will break, without fail. Spring will pass, but it has to remain in your heart if you wish to bloom again, not just pass to Autumn and Winter. Trust me. There WILL be more." His eyes close, and the Essence circuit between all of them fades.


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Page last modified on February 08, 2009, at 02:16 AM