Summary:Varanim speaks with Vojec about the Sunset Order and his plans for the future.



< The Sunset Order | Sol Invictus Logs | Day Thirty-Seven >

Varanim After informing the good captain of the Fable that she would hitch her own ride home from the South, Varanim arranged to meet Vojec at a spot overlooking the Kita-O ruins, where she arrives five minutes late (just past sunset) with her usual breakfast of a cigar and a half-finished bottle of rum.

Vojec is seated on a rock, overlooking the ruins below, absentmindedly running a small, mundane knife through the sands to his right.

Varanim crouches down near the edge and stares out over the ruins, herself, for a minute before speaking. "I'd like to have a frank, useful talk with you about the Sunset Order, like we're both reasonable people interested in answering questions together. What are the odds of that?"

Vojec cuts off the bottom of his abstract sand diagram with a sharp flourish and looks at her with considered thought. "I don't know about you," he says after a moment, "but I have been chosen of the Sun for less than a year. I might still put coin down on it."

Varanim digs in her pocket for a moment, then flips him a coin that she swiped from a panhandler in Solaria. "I want to hear about your work. If it would help you to have some elaborate guarantee of my sincerity, I can probably come up with something, but in brief: I'm the only still-Solar who knows Void Circle necromancy, and I'm shorthanded."

Vojec catches it with a swift motion and sticks it, edge-up, into the sand on his other side. "Our work is difficult, messy, and unrewarding. I assume you would still like to know more."

Varanim "Years of evidence suggests I'm partial to that kind of work, yes."

Vojec "The Solar Deliberative era was not, as one might say, all fairyfloss and sunshine." He dusts his knife off gently with his right hand's fingers. "A perfect social order requires that all threats to that order not exist -- or be made not to exist."

Vojec He pauses, passing his knife over to his other hand thoughtfully. "Especially in the Underworld, there were often situations which the Solars themselves could not deal with -- out of prudence, or potential embarrassment, or even danger, but which nonetheless needed to be done."

Varanim "Such as? I find a little specificity can be really helpful in conversations like this."

Vojec knocks his head to one side, audibly cracking the bones in his neck in the manner that many find unpleasant. "One example: there was a Solar in the north, by the name of Ingar, who had -- illicitly -- bound all the dead from within a seven-mile radius to continued existence and servitude."

Vojec "The discontent resulting from it allowed a minor spectre cult to flourish, which Ingar ignored since it would have called attention to his own misbehavior." He shakes his head slightly. "Eventually, the minor spectre cult turned into a major spectre cult, which in turn became a major infestation of nephwracks -- the really bad kind, with the soulsteel armor and the spinechains and everything."

Varanim makes an "I hate those guys" face.

Vojec "We had to knock down the whole operation, and salt the earth so it couldn't start up again." He flips his knife between his fingers absentmindedly. "And get rid of the binding stone that held the ghosts in place in the process, either to solve the discontent that led to the situation, or" -- he makes a slight face himself -- "to protect the Solar from embarrassment."

Varanim "Try to imagine, for a minute, a strange alternate reality where the political dimension of your work didn't exist. Is such a thing possible, or was your job too tightly bound up in following orders?"

Varanim "Wait, there's a shorter way to say that. Why did you do it?"

Vojec He laughs. "That's such a strange question," he says, and looks out on the horizon for a moment before finally responding. "I did it because our society really was perfect."

Varanim "It's not so strange, if you consider that I've dedicated my life to the sort of bullshit cleanup work you describe, and that I fairly desperately need assistance, but that your perfect social order ended in a hecatomb whose remains fester to this day."

Vojec "Well," he says, "I was not around for that." It sounds a bit like a joke, but it's too tinged with sadness and regret to really come off as funny. "With what I have been able to learn since we reawakened in the now, hindsight speaks very poorly of the old order of things. But when we lived there, even the worst of the bullshit seemed worthwhile to ensure the continued existence of paradise." He shakes his head again.

Varanim "What do you want to do now?"

Vojec He considers for a moment. "What I am good at is fixing problems," he says. "I am not sure about wanting anything besides that."

Varanim nods in a fashion suggests that she finds that mindset completely sensible. "Last big question. Is there at least one really important, non-negotiable reason that keeps you on this side of the line, or is doing this work just your way of waiting for a better offer from some Deathlord?"

Vojec "It's never a good idea to work for someone whose agenda is irredeemably bound up in eventually making you redundant," he says. "If my job is to keep civilization running, that's going to rely on there being a civilization." He slips his knife back into his belt-buckle. "An empty wasteland that hungry ghosts howl across in pursuit of their next meal does not qualify."

Varanim "I think we could work together. Interested?"

Vojec grins very slightly. "It seems like it has some potential."

Varanim "Ah." She cracks her knuckles in echo of his earlier joint-popping. "Let's start with the basics, then. How many of your Sunset lot are still around, and are all of them reliable?"

Vojec His face grows a little darker. "Everyone you were able to rescue," he says. "I'm hopeful that the other cells are still intact. It could be as many as sixty to seventy-five in total." He looks very serious. "I am certain about anyone you found with me in Kita-O, at least."

Varanim "How do you think they would react to a few, uh, structural changes?"

Vojec raises an eyebrow.

Varanim "That thing where someone tells their crack squad of operatives to do something, and they're willing to do it without asking why, because the person who said it has a shinier forehead. That needs to not happen anymore, basically."

Vojec "That seems like it would raise a further problem."

Varanim waves her hand in a "go on" motion.

Vojec "What, exactly, do you expect to serve as the motive force for this group otherwise?"

Varanim "Oh, let me clarify. I have a list of problems more excessive than Lucent and Imrama's wardrobes put together, and I'm happy to bark orders to all and sundry about which ones to fix first. But if a reasonably clever person like myself can't explain to another reasonably clever person why they should make a Maw of Nine Dark Truths, if asked, then maybe it's not really a good idea to do it."

Varanim "See what I mean?"

Vojec nods.

Varanim "I hope that's one of those 'that seems sensible and I agree' nods, and not one of the 'anything to make you finish talking, Varanim' ones. I've never been able to tell them apart." She leans back with a sigh, stretching creakily. "So let's start with your bunch from Kita-O, and I'll fill you in on the current Netheos shitstorms."

Varanim A thought strikes her. "Did you guys have a really great secret clubhouse?"

Vojec He smiles slightly. "There was the Dusk Redoubt," he says. "I have... not been back to see whether it's still there."

Varanim "My alternate plans for the night involve a lot of Lucent yelling at me, so why don't we go check that Redoubt thing now."

Vojec nods. "Let's do it," he says, and then pauses for a moment. "I... I'm missing my blade," he says, with a look of some consternation.

Varanim "Oh goody, one of those trips. Hold on." She looks at Vojec briefly but piercingly, then her eyes go unfocused. "Too light," she says after a moment, then, "too ill-omened." Finally she nods, gaze locking on him again, and points down at the ruination of the battlefield below, where the crow is lighting with mantled wings on a sword that precisely fits Vojec's hand.

Vojec grasps the sword that is brought to him with a careful, practiced hand. He gazes down at the blade with a glint in his eye.

Vojec "This... will do," he says.

Varanim "I thought it might." She climbs to her feet, leaning on her stick with perhaps more than the mandatory weary grumbling, then cocks an eyebrow at him. "Which way to this Redoubty business?"

Vojec directs Varanim across the plains.

Vojec Bertrand? November 29, 2009, at 01:20 AM

Vojec Some time later, Vojec leads Varanim up the side of a small mountain. "It's just over this ridge," he says. "Or... was, at least."

Varanim "Great, it's been hours since I smelled the sweet decay of First Age glory." She presses forward to investigate.

Vojec They crest over the ridge and look down into the valley on the other side. There, nestled in the intersection between three mountains, is a fortress: grey stones, fitted together into a broad triangular shape, one of its three rising towers crumbled to the ground, its portcullis torn out and left, bent and disfigured, on the ground before the front entrance.

Varanim gives it a professional once-over before approaching further, checking first if the disturbances are recent and second if the other side of the Shroud has any fishy business.

Vojec It appears to have been some time since it was last disturbed, and a view across to the other side suggests no horrific death-monsters awaiting the arrival of tasty snacks (or, indeed, any other miscellaneous dangers) await.

Varanim "Squeaky clean, compared to most places I've been this week. C'mon, show me the secret knock for the front door," she says, and begins the descent.

Vojec leads on down the hill, walking towards the removed gate, looking the place over as he does. "It was in better shape the last time I was here," he says, wistfully.

Vojec Inside the door, the damage done to a once-impressive edifice is much clearer: clawmarks in the walls, bloodstains on the floor, pieces of rubble spread over the floor. In between the damaged areas, however, tapestries of ancient battles and odd trophies of previous campaigns stand, seemingly untouched by time.

Varanim "If it's relevant who trashed the place, I can check. Otherwise, keep going," Varanim notes, looking around with a semiprofessional eye but not yet bending her Essence upon the question.

Vojec "Ancient history," he muses, running his fingers along the wall.

Varanim "If nostalgia is a problem you can hang around the others or their fruity reptile friends. They never get tired of going on about the old days."

Vojec He continues upward, finding an only partially rubble-clogged stairwell that leads upwards. "This used to be quite a busy place," he says, "but from what I hear, it is not the only such nexus of my time that has fallen low like this."

Vojec They emerge into a second story, where a long hallway has seen most of its decorations torn down and then consumed in what looks to have been a localized fire. "I planned many of our actions here, on this hallway."

Varanim starts to pay more attention to the patterns of destruction, congenitally unable to resist investigating old disaster. "The last time we went digging in one of these old places, there was a frozen horror in the basement, but it thawed fast after we disturbed things. How soon can this place be made defensible, if it's worth saving?"

Vojec "Fairly quickly, I think," he says. "The structural damage looks fairly minimal. I suspect many of the old wards could be reawakened with some gentle prodding." He opens a door, which falls off of its hinges and breaks into pieces, and looks inside: some kind of strange 32-sided red crystal, entangled by a nest of brilliant red vines, is sitting, completely undisturbed, on a table within.

Vojec "There must be a lot of... stuff left in here, too," he says, clearly uncertain what the crystal is and not necessarily excited to find out the hard way.

Varanim "Huh," she says after a moment of staring. "I don't suppose this was one of those tightly-run shops that kept a careful list of all the shiny bits and what to do with them?"

Vojec "Somewhere," he says, opening and closing several cabinets without any clear signs of "success." "Finding that list, of course, will be its own challenge."

Varanim "Less so if you're a lazy person who usually files things by losing them," Varanim says, and in that moment, if such an inventory is within the cabinets of room, she knows exactly where she would have shoved it in a careless moment.

Vojec After a moment's consideration, Varanim reaches into a secret compartment cabinet hidden inside another, larger cabinet and extracts a small black cube, exactly 1 inch in diameter.

Varanim "Whoever kept it has smaller handwriting than I do," she notes, fiddling with it to see if its operation is obvious.

Vojec There are no obvious mechanisms or controls on the outside of the sphere, and picking it up doesn't seem to do anything.

Varanim "Huh," she says, and settles down for some serious contemplation and avoiding of talks with Lucent.

< The Sunset Order | Sol Invictus Logs | Day Thirty-Seven >

Page last modified on November 29, 2009, at 02:20 AM