Summary:Cerin takes Varanim to Rathess on two distinct errands.

XP:C1, V1


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Cerin swung the small airship out in a wide arc over the city of Rathess, to allow Varanim to get a good look at the city and to see for himself what has changed, before he brings it down in one of the designated areas. "We can go and see Ssithumi first, before we go and visit the undercity."

Varanim grunts agreeably, looking over the view. "Ssithumi, is she one of those where I should say 'hi' and then shut up before I get us in trouble?"

Cerin "Not particularly," he says with a grin. "I will admit to a certain curiousity about what she will make of you, though."

Varanim "I'm sure she'll wonder how a band of ragged scamps like you managed to attract high-class talent like myself."

Cerin laughs. "I'm sure."

Rathess is looking like quite the elegant capital these days. The transformation in just two years has been astonishing, and though much reconstruction still remains to be done, Rathess is now unambiguously a living, bustling city, with members of all four castes of Draconis walking (or swimming) through the city's streets.

Ssithumi seems to have moved from her temporary office since the last time that one of the Solars came to see her, for brand-new signs indicating the way to the leadership domicile line the streets below.

Cerin walks with Varanim through the streets to Ssithumi's new office, giving her a brief precise about the city.

Varanim follows Cerin, peeking as usual across the Shroud to see if anyone has left good bits lying around rotting.

The Underworld side of Rathess is quite a sight. Given the deaths of the entire population, the destruction inflicted by the corrupted spirit Han-Tha, the years spent as a place of savagery and violence, the shadow Rathess is a patchwork of oddly half-destroyed buildings, strange reptilian plasmics, and unusual objects placed in seemingly random locations.

The actual path to their destination seems to lead along one of the eight massive spoke roads that divide the circular city, before bending at about the halfway mark onto a larger than normal hub road.

The building itself is a rather stunning work, a gold-trimmed pyramid with four huge abstract statues of jade at its corners, each representing one of the four border elements, and each surrounded with an honor guard of four Dragon-Kings of the associated caste. The grand door beckons invitingly.

Varanim "Neat," she says, blinking her eyes clear. "They have good clutter here."

Cerin "Good 'clutter'?"

Varanim "Oh, you know," she sketches a few vague squamous shapes with her hands, "leftovers." She wiggles her fingers threateningly. "Spoooky stuff."

Cerin doesn't seem particularly threatened by the concept of 'spooky stuff'. But he nods, understanding, and then turns his attention to the honor guard.

Cerin "Greetings, Dragon Kings. We are here to see Ssithumi-an-Tohatep," Cerin speaks first in a strange and warbling speech, and then translates for Varanim.

Two of the guards mobilize almost instantly to open the heavy stone doors for Cerin, bowing as they do so. The area revealed within is a small room, bedecked in jewels, with small stands holding perfectly-mirrored trays of water, and beyond that the doorway to the ruling chamber itself.

Cerin "Thank you," he says in the high holy speech, and then walks through the doors and the courtyard with Varanim, into the ruling chamber.

Varanim follows, looking a little dubious but interested.

The ruling chamber is quite opulently appointed, with black stone walls decked in golden tapestries and lit by massive brass lanterns purposely verdigrised in gently curved artisanal patterns.

On a yellow marble chair, specially built for the Raptok, sits Ssithumi-an-Tohatep, her traditional white robe now replaced with layers of black and green, trimmed with no fewer than five distinct colors, and her head now bearing a simple gold and black circlet.

But the battle bracers she took from Filial Wisdom still grace her scarred arms, and her eyes still leave trails in the air as her head moves -- the sign of her olchilike status.

Cerin "Greetings, Ssithumi-an-Tohatep. How does the day find you?" Cerin asks. "I was bringing our newest circle member, Varanim the Last, to visit the labs below your city but thought that I should introduce her to you, first."

Varanim "Hi," she says helpfully, with a little finger-wave.

Ssithumi does not stand, but she inclines her head in a favorable way at Cerin's arrival. "Cerin," she says. "I am glad to see you."

Cerin Cerin "Greetings, Ssithumi-an-Tohatep. How does the day find you?" Cerin asks. "I was bringing our newest circle member, Varanim the Last, to visit the labs below your city but thought that I should introduce her to you, first."

Cerin Varanim "Hi," she says helpfully, with a little finger-wave.

Cerin Ssithumi does not stand, but she inclines her head in a favorable way at Cerin's arrival. "Cerin," she says. "I am glad to see you."

Ssithumi looks over at Varanim with an odd look. "Hrmmm."

Varanim "Go on, spit it out."

Ssithumi "The history borne on your shoulders is... not a pleasant one," she says, after a moment's thought.

Varanim "No, and my shard's been around the block too."

Varanim "Anything particularly interesting?"

Cerin smiles a small smile, though he lets Ssithumi speak uninterrupted

Ssithumi shakes her head. "I have caused enough trouble for your friends in the past. What you did in another incarnation is not who you may have become now."

Varanim beams, then shoots a suspicious look at Cerin. "Is the sensible minority opinion some kind of bonus prize for putting up with enough months of Lucent going on about Larquen Quen?"

Cerin looks ... mostly innocent. "Possibly," he eventually hazards. "I will confess to a certain curiousity about what would be said of you."

Varanim rolls her eyes at him, then shrugs at Ssithumi. "Satisfy his historical curiosity, or not, as you see fit. I don't worry much one way or the other about who this Crystalline Bequeathal"--her tone is distinctly mimicking someone's there--"used to belong to."

Ssithumi blinks. "That seems... unlike you."

Varanim smirks. "Only if you don't know me. Why on earth would I want to justify my life by digging up pasts that don't belong to me? I'm barely interested by the one I have."

Ssithumi "Interested in, or... willing to consider?" she says. "I am not sure they are the same thing. You are here, associating with familiar souls, delving into similar matters." She rubs her arm scars with one claw self-consciously. "But I suppose seeking, or not, is not what brought Cerin and Zahara to where they are now, so perhaps it does not truly matter."

Varanim "It's easy to explain why the same people come back together, if you remember how many of them are obsessed with recreating the past to wallow in or redeem it. Don't inject mystical predestination where human ego will do."

Varanim "Still and all," she adds with a half smile, "I don't usually get to tease Cerin like this. Points for that."

Cerin "But when I fell in love with Zahara, neither of us knew Ymir and Talmuda even existed," Cerin points out.

Ssithumi "You call back the dead from the realms beyond, but the weighty arc of history is something you dismiss outright?" she says, and shakes her head. "This, I suppose, is a more familiar habit."

Varanim looks at her strangely. "Of course I spend a lot of time thinking about history--I just don't forget that it's made up of people. Treating it as its own composite entity with voting rights tends to obscure relevant details."

Varanim Then she smirks at Cerin. "Right, the dashing spy falling into bed with the hot empress, there's a poser. You're right, it must be fate."

Ssithumi shakes her head. "Always," she says, under her breath.

Varanim "Don't worry, you held out a little longer than Lucent before just talking to the demon Varanim who exists in your head," she says to Ssithumi. "So, how about those labs?"

Cerin shakes his head slightly with a smile on his face. "How much restorative work have you done on the undercity?" he enquires of Ssithumi

Ssithumi "The labs are yours to examine, of course," she says. "All that is Rathess' is also Solaria's, as is right and proper. The pathways you must take should be cleared, and the lab you told me of sealed off -- but you will be allowed in."

Cerin "Thank you, Ssithumi," he nods gratefully.

Varanim "If the dead side of the city ever needs mucking out, write me," Varanim adds as a parting thought with some relish.

Ssithumi "I do not think you a monster," Ssithumi says, quietly, looking over at Varanim again, "or set to become one. But the force of destiny is as real as the walls of this room." She shakes her head one more time. "I hope the labs are informative to you, and thank you for stopping by."

Cerin "Good bye, Ssithumi," Cerin says, as he leads Varanim out.

Cerin Leaving the chambers of office, Cerin walks with Varanim through the city for a while, heading for almost the opposite side of it.

Varanim "She does know that thing with her eyes is creepy, right?" is Varanim's only comment on the meeting as they walk.

Cerin "I'm sure she is well aware, yes," Cerin replies.

Cerin Eventually they come to a low building with a door that Cerin opens with a touch to a plate by the door. The space within is lit with artificial light, to reveal a ramp which spirals downwards.

Varanim "Cerin," she breaks a long silence as they enter, "you're Lucent's friend, right?"

Cerin nods, "Yes."

Varanim "Good. If he wanted something he couldn't have, what are the odds of him doing the sensible thing?"

Cerin "Eventually, or the first time?"

Varanim considers that for a moment. "Hasn't he been around for long enough that everything should be in the 'eventually' category?"

Cerin merely regards Varanim in silence for a few moments.

Varanim sighs. "Yes, it was too much to hope for. But every once in a while I think fondly of being wrong about these things."

Cerin "There's a first time for everything?"

Varanim smirks. "Anyway, show me the pretties."

Cerin "Just along here," Cerin leads her back the way they had beed walking, but now underground. He nods to a raptok who is touching up a mural.

Varanim "I hope this is good, since I'm skipping a great argument with Jardis about how stupid his religion is."

Ssithumi Four Dragon-King guards wait at the door of the laboratory Cerin had visited once before, with the fierce certainty that those recently inducted into Rathess' policing forces all seemed to share.

Cerin "Greetings, Dragon-Kings," Cerin addresses them in the High Holy Speach. "I would like to show Varanim Eritus' laboratory."

Ssithumi The guards bow stiffly, formally. With a practiced step, they open the door, backing away as they do so the Solars might step inside.

Cerin "Thank you," he gestures for Varanim to preceed him.

Varanim enters, looking around curiously.

Ssithumi The lab is in the shape of an octagon, about 50 feet to a side. The spheres on the wall light it with an odd orange-reddish glow. The tables inside are covered with all manner of strange apparata and unusual tools, while on the outer walls, various hatches and drawers, mostly shut, predominate.

Ssithumi As on Cerin's previous visit, there are three other things here: a large crystalline device with two prongs pointing upwards, a pot in which a strange, black-plated plant (which glows with an eerie blue light) sits... and the vast clay vessel, ancient runes carved on its surface, in which Cerin previously found Bahira.

Varanim cycles through her other visions, checking the opposite side of the Shroud and the Essence flows in the room before poking anything.

Ssithumi The room has quite a bit of Essence residue everywhere: every tool in the room is sodden with leftover motes and tiny traceries that speak to the centuries of experiments that had been conducted here... and the plant is practically bursting with it, filled to the brim with stored Essence.

Ssithumi What doesn't seem to have any is the cylinder -- which seems to be utterly impermeable to Essence of any kind, even the ambient motes running off of its surface like water from a duck's back.

Varanim "Huh," says Varanim, drifting closer to the cylinder with a gleam in her eye.

Cerin "You want to be very careful when you open that," Cerin says. "It is imperative that which is inside does not get out."

Varanim "Uh... huh," she says, in a tone that might mean she's taking him very seriously or that she's not listening at all, as she looks for the opening mechanism.

Cerin "I would also advise that you shield your eyes, or at least your essence sight," he continues, as he moves up the cylinder himself, taping the switch which will open it.

Varanim blinks obligingly back to normal vision.

Ssithumi At Cerin's touch, seams appear instantly on the clay vessel's surface, and three great blades open up, unfolding outwards, revealing what lies within...

Ssithumi A creature, far smaller than the cylinder in which it lies... half-visible sheets of light like opalized glass joining together to form the vague shape of a bird; long, elegant limbs stretching out, and wings like sunlight through spring rain; and a small, diminutive face, closed in what seems like perfect slumber.

Cerin "Bahira," Cerin says very softly. "One of the experiments of Eritus and a completely synthetic lifeform."

Varanim "Pretty," she says so quietly it might have been unintentional, then her eyes sharpen thoughtfully. "Part of your interest in creating life?"

Cerin "One of the most destructive potentials I have ever seen," he says, tapping the switch to start the cylinder closing again, lest it awake.

Ssithumi The cylinder closes without incident this time; having done this before, Cerin knows well enough to time things such that the creature doesn't have the chance to begin awakening.

Cerin "I was considering such things before I found this. Indeed, it was following that line of thought which lead me here."

Varanim "Sleeping until the world ends, not bad work if you can get it." She looks back up at him, a thoughtful glint in her eyes. "So what did you learn from the visit?"

Cerin "Experimental techniques, mostly," he says. "Eritus kept good notes, and his lab was mostly untouched. If purposefully abandoned."

Cerin "Also, perhaps some things I would not do," he nods to the cylinder.

Varanim "Like make something that can't actually live?"

Cerin "Oh, Bahira can live. That cylinder is for our protection more than its."

Cerin "And I do not believe its soul is engineered such that it must explode with cataclysmic force at every opertunity."

Varanim "Sure, but if it spends the span of the universe in that cylinder, there's not much difference." She considers what he says next. "So it wants to?"

Cerin "That was its first reaction on seeing me at least," he nods.

Varanim "Maybe you're just a specially likable person. But what did you decide not to do?"

Cerin "Maybe I am," he shrugs. "It seemed unfair to make Rathess pay the price for that though. But anyway, to make a being like that. One which ultimately has one purpose."

Varanim "Historically, making people for one purpose is a poor bet," she agrees. "Still, it's a neat proof of concept."

Cerin "Definitely. Especially when combined with the work of the Lohen Laboratory."

Varanim "Hmm?"

Cerin "They developed a technique, one of Celestial and Infernal Essence which finds perfect harmony in opposition. Once Bahira has exploded with all the force of rapidly accelerated essence, slowly and surely it will regroup and rejoin itself until it is whole once more."

Varanim "Tension in opposites, very cute. But is yours going to be as pretty?"

Cerin "I would not bring ugliness into the world with things that I make."

Varanim "Everyone says that at first, but just wait, babies are ugly." She grins. "Thanks for this, Cerin. It's a good puzzle."

Cerin "I am a patient man," he remarks. "I am glad that it interested you though."

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Page last modified on March 16, 2009, at 06:52 PM