Summary:Varanim meets with Injara about the Deliberative, as well as other, more humorous matters.



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Varanim A few days before the Eleventh Deliberation, Varanim left a note at the standing stones outside Stygia: "Boring group of Exalts seeks blueberry-flavored rep for long meetings, childish screaming matches. Interested parties bring references and application fee (nonrefundable) to the best treehouse ever by 26 Descending Earth."

And some time later, as Varanim sits, absorbed in her own purposes, something unexpected settles down upon the table in front of her, just at the corner of her vision: a black, spectral dove, which preens for a moment before scratching absentmindedly at the table with its left foot.

Varanim "Hmm." Varanim stops scribbling snide comments in the margin of a library book. "Are you dinner, or does someone not like delivering their own cryptic messages?" she says to it in a baby-talk voice.

"Coo!" the dove coos, and somehow overlaid on the sound she hears a message: "My master wishes to speak to you."

Varanim "Has your master ever heard of tying a note to a rock and throwing it through a window? When I was a kid, that one worked great." But she stands with an elaborate sigh.

The dove coos again and hops up, flying over to perch on a precariously leaning stack of objects before waving its wings towards the front door.

Varanim corrects the angle to a slightly different but equally precarious one, then follows it out.

Waiting outside the door is a figure unfamiliar to Varanim: a tall, thin, achingly beautiful woman, her hair running far past her shoulders and seeming to move on a faint breeze that Varanim cannot feel, a golden crown set upon her brow and a long flowing robe covering her body. Her hands are folded politely as she waits for the house's owner to speak.

Varanim scratches her head and squints at the visitor for a minute, visibly trying to decide whether she's some sort of horrid spectral temptress or just lost. Then she brightens. "You're here about the application, whether you know it or not."

The figure nods, slightly. "I am Injara," she says. "I have come to speak with you."

Varanim "Pull up a chair," says Varanim, though there aren't any, and slouches down to sit on her own doorstep. "Make it exciting, I was in the middle of some really hot literary criticism."

Injara waves one hand and summons a spectral chair into being, and seats herself primly. "I understand that your new Deliberative is accepting representatives."

Varanim "My Deliberative?" She takes a moment to marvel at that idea, then looks at Injara with narrowed eyes. "Why you?"

Injara pauses a brief moment before answering. "I am, as best I am aware, the first amongst the newly returned Plutonian Exalts to offer any meaningful hand of outreached friendship to your budding endeavor," she says, pausing again before continuing.

"I am also almost certainly the only individual you will find who sat upon the previous Deliberative." Then, as if to sneak it in at the very end: "...I also have various, ah, relationships with the members of your Circle."

Varanim "That'll be funny, since most of the time it's not clear that they have relationships with each other."

Varanim waves her hand in a clear go on, entertain me.

"I was queen of what is now known as the Sunlands, once," she says, "and I dealt with your fellows in various capacities, before and after my demise."

Varanim "Oh good, Zee loves having other royalty around to be snooty with." She slouches back comfortably, switching topics again. "Was it your idea, or did someone send you?"

"I engaged in several... disagreements with members of my cohort on this matter," she says. "Perhaps I should say that I am here out of my own desire, and leave it at that."

Varanim "Oh no," she looks much more interested, "it's definitely an important interview question now. But if you'd like, you can start by listing your Solar exes. For the, uh, seating chart."

Injara narrows her eyes slightly. "There was a... time in which I engaged in certain unfelicitous behaviors with Lucent Copper Haze. A very, very long ago time."

Varanim sighs. "Come on, 'slept with Lucent' is like the free square in the center. No one else?" She brightens as another thought strikes her. "Kill anyone?"

Injara thinks for a moment. "I castrated someone to prove a point once." She ponders a bit longer. "But I am not sure it was anyone you know."

Varanim "If you're all out of gossip, we're back to those arguments you had with your dead friends. Do you have regular club meetings, or is it more of a snippy letter correspondence?"

Injara grows slightly more quiet for a moment. "There are not many of us, yet," she says. "When we were Chosen, we... knew, there must be others. Without knowing why, we came together, found the place at which we all could meet." She thinks for a moment.

"I imagine the experience is familiar to you: suddenly being involved with people you've never met before? Engaging in sudden forceful argument with them? The strange feeling that somehow, no matter how irritating they might currently be, you're stuck with them forever?"

Varanim "It's vaguely familiar, although I don't really believe in forever. How many unfelicitous behaviors? Are we talking one-hand counting here, or dozens?"

"It was not a long period," she says. "Perhaps... three months? Interrupted by travel and a brief period of distorted reality as a result of a leftover curse from the War, if I recall."

Varanim makes a scrunchy if totally unnecessary 'counting in my head' face, then leers. "That's a lot of damaged furniture. Do you think the Deliberative will do anything useful, or just want to keep an eye on it?"

"Either is a sufficient reason to join," she says. "I can say confidently that nothing else in this Age will, in a broad sense, do anything useful, so your question truly becomes: is everything fucked?" She leans back a little, a bit of her formal Queenly shell peeled back for a moment. "I think you can imagine I would not bother to return thusly if I were certain it was."

Varanim "But you're already sure that only the collection of shiny people with big clubs can make a difference, which is a kind of starry-eyed optimism." She spreads her hands. "You might be coming back out of spite, that's a popular one for the dead these days. I'd look into it myself, only I don't expect there'll be enough left to make a grease spot when I go."

"There are great gangs of bullies, waiting at the edges of the schoolyard to kick us and steal our precious coins," she says. "I am not sure that it is optimistic to assume that a larger gang and more brutal kicks will be needed to drive them off." She laughs.

"I am sure there was a time that I was spiteful," she says, and seems just the tiniest bit... embarrassed? "But... not now."

Varanim "Oh, sure, but it just makes more bullies, which is kind of a boring and well-explored solution to the problem. Fortunately, this nation-running bullshit isn't my job." She props her feet up. "Why did you get over it?"

Injara seems almost embarrassed again. "...Rovash," she says.

Varanim "What do you think your job is, now that you're in your blue period?"

Injara sits back, rather properly. "Much as it was in my gold period, only metageographically shifted: to provide proper stewardship for a part of the world faced with great challenges." She straightens her robe slightly and continues.

Injara "Netheos is not well," she says. "A cancerous lesion eats away at it and the symptoms radiate out to every extremity. I cannot speak to all of my fellows," she says, "but I, at least, see reversing this trend as our most vital task."

Varanim "That's peachy, but where do you want to start? Shadowlands, Deathlords, necromancy, all of the above?" She reaches back inside without looking, pats around for a minute, and extracts a dusty bottle, which she offers first to Injara.

Injara waits only the polite length of time before reaching out to take the bottle, for the pouring of which she summons herself a small, diaphanous goblet. "Shadowlands are, at best, a surface symptom: boils and sores that speak to a deeper infection. Necromancy is a tool, as much the surgeon's scalpel as the murderer's machete." She takes a small sip. "No, all our troubles ultimately reduce to a single causal factor: the dead gods who slumber beneath Stygia."

Injara dead gods who slumber beneath Stygia."

Varanim doesn't smile, but in her eyes kindles the gleam of the unrecovered drunk jumping off the wagon again. "I'm hot for girls who skip to the interesting problems. Please don't tell me your plan is to take the bully theory larger, and try to kill them deader."

Injara shakes her head, rather forcefully. "Both inelegant and unlikely to succeed," she says. "Some other strategy is necessary, though that still leaves an approximately infinite scope of approaches which to investigate."

Varanim takes a long drink from the bottle, looks a little disappointed as it turns out to be a respectable old vintage, and leans back to contemplate the tree canopy. "Not so long ago, it came to my attention that there's been a big hole in the world causing problems for a while. How many different kinds of unquenchable emptiness would you expect in one universe?"

Injara grins a little. "An excellent question," she says. "I would certainly expect only one." She thinks about it as she sips elegantly from her phantom glass. "Tell me what you have learned of."

Varanim "Well, two, if you count Lucent's need for attention. But sticking to the one that might be curable, I'm told that it's always been here, and it's being widened from outside. Why is it that only the worst people have these answers, by the way?"

Injara "The better ones are dead," she says, curtly. "It certainly seems that there should be a connection, yes? Between a yawning crack in the world, and the steadily growing threat of Oblivion that threatens the land of the dead?"

Varanim "It would be convenient." She shrugs. "If something can't be observed directly, you study its emenations. Oh, there's a thought." She brightens. "I'm going to check on something. If I'm not back to myself in a minute or two, pour the bottle down my throat or something, 'kay?" And she closes her eyes.

Varanim She reaches out to the air and scribbles two names--"Lacuna" and "Thrice-Entombed Self"--and tucks one by each ear. Then in her mind she sits before the gate that is normally kept closed, and hears with perfect clarity the ringing that would sound if she struck it with her soulsteel hand. When it swings open, the wind howling forth tells her of the connection between the names.

Injara The sound that screams out from behind the door is all-encompassing and hideously loud; cacophonous, and harsh. There's something off about it: unusually destructive, undirected, broken, and she feels that through every inch of her body as the wind washes over her.

Injara The force of it takes Varanim by surprise, and she reels for a moment. But buried somewhere in that powerful noise is the answer she requested, the confirmation she seeks: the knowledge that, without a chain of events originating with the Lacuna, the Thrice-Entombed Self would not exist.

Varanim coughs, gags, leans over to spit, then leans back to drink. With that scholarly ritual complete she blinks watering eyes at Injara and says, "Huh, they are connected, that's good. A passable place to start on the Lacuna might be to catalog hekatonkhires--there are a manageable number, and their roots go back that far. If you can't find the tiger, know him by the print of his paw, etc."

Varanim She frowns. "Something's funny about it, though."

Injara raises an eyebrow. "What is that?"

Varanim Her thinking face deepens and she cracks her knuckles to still her shaking hands. "The connection was definitely there, but it felt wonky. Like the original purpose has been lost or screwed up, maybe. Vastly powerful beings not functioning as intended, there's a shock."

Injara nods. "There are very few things in our world that function correctly," she says, and then, in a lower voice: "even our patrons." She swirls the bottom end of her drink around in her cup thoughtfully.

Varanim "Of course," she says, looking a little surprised that it needed mention. "Anyway, see if you can get your secret club to give that a try, and I'll take a look at my collection of naughty books. Anything else?"

Injara looks at Varanim interestingly. "When you travel in Netheos," she says, " you have a guide?"

Varanim "You... aren't talking about the kind that comes in a bottle, are you."

Injara "No," she says, matter-of-factly.

Varanim "Only when I can't avoid it, then. Dead people are creepy."

Injara "I was thinking less of... people," she says, after a moment.

Varanim "Are you trying to tell me I need a kitten?"

Injara "Something like that," she says, and laughs again. "I think I will speak to you again of this," she says, and then rises, as if to leave. "Thank you for taking the time to speak with me here," she says. "I hope my participation in this... new Deliberative will prove fruitful."

Varanim "Oh, that," she shrugs indifferently. She scoops up the bottle and vanishes inside for a moment before sticking her head out again.

Varanim "Was Lucent happy, then?"

Injara stops in her tracks, lost in thought for a long, long moment.

Injara Finally, after a lot of consideration, she answers. "I'm... I'm not sure he can be happy. You know?"

Varanim "Hmm," she frowns, and goes back to work.

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Page last modified on November 29, 2009, at 12:39 AM