Summary:A return to Herons' isle provides answers -- but even more frustrations.

XP:C4, I4, L4, S4, V4, Z4


< A Parting Note, A Gifted Tree | Sol Invictus Logs | Plenty of Walls >

zahara "Halleluja!" Zahara shouts.

Imrama A knock comes on the door of Zahara and Cerin's cabin aboard the Fable of the Reconstruction. "Esteemed passengers," Mr. Iggles-Lux announces. "We have arrived at our destination."

zahara "Just a moment!"

zahara emerges from the cabin a few minutes later looking pleased. She wanders over to find the others, with a glance behind her to see if Cerin is following.

Spring is already walking down the gangplank and heading towards the small dwelling Imrama and Lucent have discovered.

The tiny island sits, still largely untouched from when the two Solars first discovered it. The tree with various clue offerings sits proudly to the side of the reading chair and the bookshelf.

Cerin rejoins Zahara's side after a few moments, kissing her cheek.

Varanim ambles down after Spring, whistling off-key.

Spring glances abstractedly at the bookshelf, reading the titles on the books.

Colapso waits for them, having cleared a wide path between the clearing and the beach with his orbs. He reads a book, a little jupiter looking smug on his shoulder, a little Venus sunbathing at his feet, and a little sun pursuing a crab. Two books are under his feet of the... many in the bookshelf. "Hi there! You were quick. I barely even begun here..."

The books represent a canon of classic novels cutting across a great deal of Creation's history, all in scrupulously-maintained first editions.

Spring imagines that a professor could easily teach a four-semester overview class based on the material within, although a comparison to the works of literature scholars in the Sunlands' library suggests that Herons tends to lean in favor of polished craft and prose style, and away from experimental structure or fashionable trends.

Spring "Pedestrian," Spring shrugs.

Lucent "Hope you brought your swimsuits." He leads them inward to the tree. "What, Spring?"

Spring "I doubt there is anything interesting in any of those books, Lucent, besides some understanding of Herons."

Varanim "So who's this Herons guy, and why is tossing his beach hideaway such a big deal?"

Lucent frowns. A few hours wasted. "He is the man you saw in your vision of Lucent's corpse, Varanim. He is the man who helped Surkha become the Scarlet Empress, and set up the Wyld Hunt that has plagued you all."

zahara "He's also at least pretended to be our friend a few times."

Spring "He is an unpleasant man, whom I have never had the chance to meet, probably to his good fortune."

Varanim "He has a nice beach," she points out to Spring.

Imrama "And yet, he has left us with an embarrassment of riches." Imrama gestures to the offering tree and its many curious items.

Lucent "I met him when I returned to this time, but when I was still pretending to be a little boy."

Lucent "He left us with clues on how to track his enemies." Lucent points out. "So we act as his shocktroopers. As his sword. He acted like nothing more and nothing less than a manipulative bastard, and although that is expected of a Sidereal Exalted, it is nothing he should be commended for."

Spring "We have a nice beach. He once had a nice beach."

zahara "I should see if I can wring some more charms out of him."

Varanim "Ah, so he thwarts you." Varanim nods and turns her attention to the tree.

zahara "Oh, I don't know about that. He's been helpful when our aims are the same."

Lucent "Not any longer, he will not. Zahara, do you possess the spell to find a person anywhere on existence if you have met them or possess an object of theirs'?" He produces Heron's note and hands it to Imrama. "Speaking of, I thought you might want this."

Spring "Perhaps you, Varanim, or Cerin might be capable of wringing some information out of this collection of items."

Lucent "That is precisely why I asked you all to come here. The pieces of paper need to be rebuilt by Zahara. The objects need to be read. And someone has to make sense of those business documents and maps."

Spring "All that is immediately apparent is that Herons wishes us to locate and deal with the Five Who Were Fallen, a project we have already undertaken."

Spring "We will have to take the objects on the red disc and discuss them with Fierce Red Star."

Spring glances idly at the notecard with the call number on it.

zahara "I do not, currently, though it is in the Catalogue in the Temple."

Cerin ::Zahara, my love, do you recognise that island to the west?::

Varanim "Any priorities? This stuff takes time." Varanim ambles over to hunker down by the discs, beginning a more serious inspection.

zahara looks westward, staring at the island with a measured gaze. ::Is it the one we vacationed on?:: she hazards, ::Or the one with the Aalorai?::

Cerin ::Our vacation island::

Varanim "Ew, pixies," says Varanim with a slight grimace, then settles down for a more serious study.

Spring "...pixies?"

zahara :: you think he was spying on us?::

Varanim "Bought the stuff," she grunts in clarification, waving her hand to indicate, and then rolls up her sleeves.

Spring "Oh."

Cerin ::It's entirely possible, yes.:: His mental tone is not entirely happy.

Spring "Sidereals."

Imrama re-reads Seven-Leaping-Herons' letter. And then does so again. And then again. He reads it backwards twice more, and then copies it out in his own handwriting. He translates the text in to four other languages. He categorizes the words contained in it according to the parts of speech, noting which occur more than once. He experiments with recombining phrases to fit the meter of poetic styles...

Imrama ...that died 2000 years ago. And then he reads the letter again.

zahara snorts. ::I hope he enjoyed the show. :: Hers is not either.

Varanim scowls thoughtfully for a moment at the collection of items, her slouch deepening, then she straightens and her expression clears. Golden characters flare to life in a constellation around her, one signifier for each object, and each one having its own satellite cloud of descriptor symbols.

Varanim The entire assembly shifts and blurs in a series of rotations, descriptors combining along lines of essential similarity, until finally the whole system has been reduced to a series of color shadings, a spatial orientation, and a few elegantly simple characters. On this, Varanim focuses her will to see the ownership of each item.

Spring goes over the library call number in his mind, checking the filing numbers: History, First Age, Regional, SW Quadrant, Outer Ring. His libraries doesn't seem to have a copy of the book, although a little cross-referencing produces an excavated Realm Library manifest that lists the title as Vines of Strangling Ivy: The Crack in the Facade of Deliberative Security Policy.

Spring "Hm."

Spring "The book referenced by that catalog card appears to be a history of the Strangling Ivy Revolt, perhaps specifically with reference to the failing of the Deliberative to prevent or control it.

Spring "

Spring "We shall have to locate a copy."

Lucent "Hmmm. We should talk to Iallu, then. Or pehaps Mathesine."

Imrama begins to delve into the secretive depths of the man who wrote the note. The most visible motive is, perhaps surprisingly, what the note seems to spell out: a desire to assist those who find it in their task. Following up soon after that are desire to avoid getting too directly involved in the Circle's actions, and a typical Sideral arrogance: obviously I should leave this note because I am right.

The two dates issue seems to be driven by a legitimate belief of some kind -- the author, at least, was fairly certain that it would be found on one of those two dates, and that it would be largely useless if it were the latter. The concern over the negative events occurring between is also genuine, though the knowledge of what specific events are in question may be exaggerated slightly.

Meanwhile, Varanim stares at her objects intently as a vision plays out in her mind.

She sees the tree from above, the objects sitting below, and watches in reverse as the tiny web-footed, broad-built sprits of the earth waddle up in reverse, pick up the objects, and walk backwards away with them... and then further afield, out, out, into the world...

Watching as the objects fly out with incredible speed into the world, she sees them split into five colored beams, corresponding to the five Sidereals in question, and watches the time until each one blinks out.

Judging by Fierce Red Star's location firmly in the Cascade White Room, Rembembrance is about equally far from their current position in the mid-West, the Serenity about half as far away, Zinobia half again as far away, and Qian Mian too far away to possibly be inside Creation's borders.

Varanim "Huh."

Varanim relays that.

As Varanim watches these bolts fly off to their destinations, Imrama wrangles out yet more information from Herons' note. In the whorls and curves of his handwriting, Imrama has a tiny window into his soul, and he dives at it fiercely to extract as much information about the Sidereals' associations as possible.

In his mind, Imrama lists off the important relationships in Herons' world: Jupiter, patron, confider, and... "interest"; Qian Mian, enemy (formerly frienemy); Lilith, ex-business partner (NO romantic involvement); Berwyn, trusty gopher/acting surrogate; Ikara, trusted work partner (brief "thing," didn't work out, vaguely awkward since); Khalid, guy who's keeping him from dying (seems nice enough otherwise too);

and then five names -- Orabel, Livvi, Qas, Tuta, and Vinesh -- all listed as "family, dead."

Cerin Once it is apparent that Varanim has finished with it, Cerin picks up the scrap of paper which had adorned the purple tray. As he does so, he studies it with an unusual intensity, concentrating upon every sawtoothed edge, all the tiny clues as to just how the paper had been ripped, the tiny details that would lay those moments out for him in perfect clarity. Then he stepped into the trace of the Unknown Wisdom Epihany.

Spring glances at the altar, then at Lucent, quirking an eyebrow.

Lucent blinks. "Something on your mind, Long-Awaited Spring?"

Spring "I hear Zeniths have a particular capacity towards prayer."

Spring "This altar certainly seems well kept-up. Someone must have been using it frequently."

Imrama finishes his exhaustive investigation by digging as deeply as he can into Herons' darkest, deepest soul, looking for the secrets that define his every action.

Lucent "It is an altar to Jupiter, Goddess of Secrets, however. It is unlikely she will give us information, on one of her chosen, no less..." He gazes at it for a long moment, then starts towards it. "But what the hell, it is not like there is much else for me to do here."

Spring "If none of you have any objection, I will take the objects on the red plate and speak with Fierce Red Star about them. I suspect he may have some thoughts regarding them."

Varanim "You never know," she smirks at Lucent. "Give her your best winning smile."

The first thing Imrama learns is that in Herons' life, he's made three mistakes so big that any one of them could have destroyed the entire universe, one with Qian Mian, one with someone named Jegor, and one with Lai Misuna, but none of them keep him up at night -- only the mistake that killed his family does that.

And Imrama is all prepared to learn a second secret of Herons', when something rather startling happens -- across the entirety of his visual field, in thick green strokes, he suddenly sees splashed the words "REDACTED, by order of Jupiter, Maiden of Secrets."

Imrama After a moment of reflection, Imrama opens his eyes and rises back to his feet. "That was bracing," he says. "And infuriating. Lucent, you may be pleased to hear that I have returned to despising Seven-Leaping-Herons."

Cerin "Perhaps an explanation?"

Lucent is starting the preparations for his ceremony, but still aware enough to ask. "Why?"

Lucent "And, indeed, I am." He grins.

Imrama "From the shape of his handwriting, I can say for certain that his letter is sincere in its intentions; pompous, but sincere. He wishes for us to succeed, though he does not wish to be directly involved, and his fear of the future strife he hints at is real, if possibly exaggerated. From his sentence structure, I can tell you of his eleven most important relationships, most of which we were...

Imrama ...already aware of to a certain degree, though there are a few interesting points - his heart knows Lilith as a "former business partner," for instance. And by his word choice, I can tell you that two of his most grave mistakes involve Qian Mian and Lai Misuna, respectively. There is also a final secret contained therein, but it is hidden from me, 'REDACTED, by order of Jupiter.'"

zahara "Maidens. Hmmph."

Varanim "Won't stop him from praying," Varanim calls over her prediction, ambling through the trees and popping her joints disturbingly in preparation for the next sitting-down spell.

Imrama "I learned a few other things, that seem more tender and less relevant - he is haunted by the death of his family, and holds himself responsible for it."

Cerin "How many were his family?" Cerin asks.

Cerin "How many were his family?" Cerin asks. "Because I think that might explain what is below the sands over on the next island."

zahara "I wonder what he did to them..."

Imrama "I can see six names here: Orabel, Livvi, Qas, Tuta, and Vinesh. They are spelled out in the way his hand jerks just slightly when writing the radicals for Time, Sorrow, Red, Openess, Threat and Not Knowing."

Imrama *FIVE*

Cerin "Then it seems quite likely that they're burried below the sands over there, though the coffins are long since empty."

Lucent "You can see it from here?"

Cerin "It is only some four hundred yards away, Lucent."

Varanim looks over at Imrama from picking beach flowers, eyes narrowing a bit. "If I lent you a book with lots of icky pictures you shouldn't look at and a fair dose of straight-up crazy in the writing, could you repeat that trick?"

Imrama "Yes. Although it doesn't sound especially fun."

Varanim "Probably not, no." Her look of thoughtful interest doesn't diminish as she begins hunting for mangos.

zahara "What book is this?"

Varanim "One of my housewarming presents. I'm pretty sure the first necromancer wrote it, so I have some questions."

Lucent Lucent kneels at the altar, looking into the glyph of Jupiter... and he begins to sing. He sings a song that appears to make no sense, for it is, in itself, an enigma. The Adamant Sun's calendar wheel appears spinning behind him as he posits stranger riddles still, plucking a single date and obscuring it within his hands, the numbers from the date folding like a mandala.

Lucent No one knew where he had been that day, when he journeyed south to meet Hesiesh. No one would ever know of the things he did, away from all eyes. A single day for a God, offered in prayer and disappearing from his hand in a thousand enigmas and placed within her glyph as voices, coming from all over the clearing, asked unfathomable questions for each of the Solars and disappeared.

Lucent But there is one question he asks, one thing he prays for the Goddess of Secrets. Some clue as to the location of her favored son. For they must find Seven Leaping Herons, and he begs her, begs of her, that she aid them, for the secret he has given, for the ambrosia a nascent primordial offers at her feet, and for no other reason than that... it is the right thing to do. Because it is on her list. And because no others create or track Secrets in Creation

Lucent And because he has to know before he dies again. All that is in her song, as an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

Lucent ((* And because no others create or track Secrets in Creation as they do.))

Imrama indicates the book with torn pages. "Zahara, I believe you have some ability to reconstruct objects. I would sorely like to be able to read the contents of that volume in full, particularly as they appear to pertain to me."

Lucent finishes, trusting Heaven, as he always does

stryck looks up from watching Lucent pray. The music of his voice still ringing in her ears until she shakes herself. "Ah, yes I can do that."

zahara takes the book gingerly, flipping through it once before she begins. Her mind wanders as her fingers take over, teasing out the original shape of the book, then each page, which regrows feathery whorls of paper that settle into crisp edges with clear ink beneath her questing hands, as she contemplates a world without Incarnae.

Varanim watches Lucent for a moment, something dark and unreadable passing through her eyes, then she looks away and resumes poking with a stick for beach crabs.

Lucent walks over to Varanim as he finishes, seeing a little white-and-yellow crab running off his hole and picking it up, carrying it as it snaps on the air to 'nim. "Pretty, isn't it?" He says of the ocean waves striking the shore.

The book's pages coalesce back into place, popping and growing back into their stated positions with a wave of Zahara's hand. Soon the object is once again complete.

Varanim "Too bright," she says with an absentminded frown, then focuses on him a little more directly. "How's your god thing going?"

zahara rifles through the pages once more before she actually focuses again, on it, and begins to read

Lucent "I have made my prayer. Now, we wait... and believe. We have Faith." He pulls his cape, made of pure night, tight around her, where she feels not as if she was wearing a heavy cape under the sun, but as if she was under starlight on a cold night. "Better?"

On the pages before Imrama's name, the end results of the lineage that traces down to him can be seen -- two parents, Vigilant Ibis and Ksati Red-Iron, and other generations before besides.

Intermingled with the geneaology that traces directly to Imrama are quite a few others, some intertwining with his ancestry far down the years and others largely separate, but the aspect connecting all of them is that they each end with a single figure whose name is crossed off, and no one following them.

Varanim Before moving away from the tree of offerings, Varanim took the little pin from the green disc without comment, and has been turning it over slowly in her hand as she wandered through the trees and across the beach. As the minutes pass the contours of sea and sky grow hazy and indistinct in her eyes, overlain with the inner space where she goes to search the pasts of objects.

Varanim When Lucent swirls his cape around her shoulders, there is a momentary boundary of day and night. In that twilight she inhales, clenches her hand around the pin with a stab of pain, and throws her awareness into its history.

zahara frowns and passes the book over to Imrama.

The names of Imrama's parents are clearly Harborheadian in extraction, though many of the other lineages have naming patterns representing entirely other regions, and as one moves further back in the book the names in Imrama's lineage take on a much more pan-Southern cast.

Imrama reads the entire course of his ancestry, from beginning to end, and then clutches the book over his heart. "I have a lineage."

zahara "Check for curses," she mutters.

Varanim sees before her a tiny golden ingot that shines in the sun: the tiniest piece of orichalcum, already destined for greater things.

Lucent smiles. "One you can recite to the dawn of current civilization, by the length of that book. Congratulations, Imrama!"

She watches it as it goes into the hands of a master Solar craftsman, his great yellowish-brown hands slowly working the stone directly until it flows out like liquid between them into the tray below, lined with tiny black jade diamonds that it melds its way onto as it fills the tiny castemark moulds -- Varanim can see a Zenith mould already completed, and a Night still waiting to be done...

She sees the pins broken out, placed in a box; watches as her pin's brothers are drawn out, one by one, by hierophants and leaders, to be pinned on the lapels of new Deliberative pledges; watches those pins sadly returned to the box when their wearers die...

At one point the box is 2/3 empty, but after a turning point, she sees pins start to come back in... and no new ones coming out.

She sees the box sit idle, then, all its contents returned, no friendly hand come by to reach within it and proclaim the joy of a new child to the world -- until she sees Zinobia, she of the green lips, step out from a shadow and, ignoring the other boxes entirely, seize the Twilight box...

She sees Zinobia in an abandoned house, cold rain spattering against its cracked exterior, with a grand map of Creation spread out in front of her... She takes a handful of the pins from the box and chucks them out at the map, watching with interest where they scatter...

She marks the locations carefully, swipes the map and rolls it up with great efficiency... and she leaves the pins on the table, where they sit until a curious earth spirit happens to pick one up....

Varanim "Looking for Twilights," she murmurs as she returns to herself, tossing the pin for a moment in her hand as if she were thinking of skipping it across the waves, then wiping the smudge of blood from it instead.

Varanim "Did you doubt you had parents?" she asks Imrama with mild curiosity.

Imrama "Perhaps a little, once or twice. A great many things are possible in Creation. But I never before knew their names. For the Haslanti, there is no social space left to one who cannot even claim their parentage. I have been without this for a very long time; I'm not sure that I thought I would ever come to have it."

Varanim blinks. "But you have your own social space now."

Imrama gives a half-smile, slightly perplexed. "Varanim; is there nothing you have experienced in your childhood or adolescence that shapes who you are today, what you value or hope for, fear or regret? I do not care one wit what the Haslanti think of me now, but when I lived among them briefly, the low status afforded me as a foundling was a constant reminder of the absence in my life, the lacuna...

Imrama the door of my being. Today, I have gotten back a tiny piece of what has been missing all these years."

Varanim looks thoughtful for a moment, then shrugs. "I think I'll take your word for it. Congratulations, then."

Imrama Having expanded on his first reaction to the book, Imrama proceeds to his second. "And now I also have vague but disturbing evidence of some sort of plot involving or concerned with my ancestral origins going back many, many centuries. Today is proving to be something of a mixed bag."

zahara smiles a little, and looks over the rest. The torn paper catches her eye, and she repeats the process, finding the original shape of it, and bringing it back from obscurity

Varanim "If there's any of those names you want to talk to personally, I could ask around."

Imrama "...Maybe."

Zahara finds herself with a single page from what appears to be an entry-level text about reptiles.

Varanim "Any time." She stretches, finally notices that she's wearing the night-cape from Lucent's armor, and looks over at him with some surprise. "Hey, thanks."

zahara reads it aloud to herself

Zahara is now greatly more informed about the hibernation patterns of lizards.

zahara "What the hell."

Lucent "... huh. That is... unhelpful." Lucent blinks, eyes wide. Just... eerie.

Lucent "I guess most of what is left now is for Varanim to look into the object's stories? That will take a while..." Lucent moves the wood he had broken off from the clearing, moving it to the beach in a neat stack, together with any fruits he had gathered... and the bottle of wine. "I guess we will have some time to kill. Empress, would you be so kind so as to make some refreshments?"

Lucent vanishes all the armor but the bracers, lighting the fire and sitting by it, slicing a pineapple

zahara moves over to the newly made fire and shapes herself a comfortable chair out of sand, then sets about creating ale and fresh water, and other minor tricks for the party.

Varanim settles herself down by the tree, preparing for the next color.

< A Parting Note, A Gifted Tree | Sol Invictus Logs | Plenty of Walls >

Page last modified on February 14, 2009, at 07:17 PM