Summary:Cerin journeys into Varanim's subconscious, finding the source of her lost nightmares and what that loss was intended to disguise.

XP:C2, V2


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Varanim Cerin As Varanim prepares herself for sleeping, Cerin occupies himself by drawing an elaborate diagram on the floor of her room in chalk, a series of graceful curves depicting a flower with himself at the center. At various points around the curve, he deposits flowers. Chia flowers, from deserts of the south, almost petaless and renown for their connection to dreams. At opposing points...

Varanim ...around the circle, he deposits adder's tongue, to

Varanim Cerin connect to Varanim. Then, doing his best to tune out the snoring, he meditates ...

The moments pass, and Cerin enters an altered state of consciousness, the smell of the flowers filling his nostrils and expanding his perception out to an attenuated state.

After precisely forty-five minutes, he feels the shape of his perception begin to shift, slide, and move, refocusing, until finally he feels it recenter within his own frame again -- yet now, somehow lighter, looser, less real.

Cerin opens his eyes, and looks about.

He finds himself sitting in a perfectly cylindrical room, its walls painted grey and its top rising up so infinitely far that no ceiling can be perceived. In front of him there is a single door, painted red, with a gold triskelion door handle and the image of the Twilight symbol indented into its otherwise smooth surface.

Cerin examines the door carefully for a few moments, and then walks through it.

On the other side, Cerin finds himself standing in a much, much larger cylinder, on a curving metal platform that reaches about 1''3 of the way around the 500-foot circle. Below, hundreds of other such arcing walkways stretch between doors of blue and gold and green and purple and black at every level of elevation, stretching down thousands of feet below in a crazy-quilt of mazy door connections;

Abovehead, another thick grating blocks further passage up, and above it hangs a single, gigantic green eye, staring downwards into the shaft.

Cerin regards the eye with mild curiousity and suspicion for a few moments, and then starts to walk along the platform. As he walks, he's on the alert for signs of anything else 'alive' in here, or signs that something has gone through. As he walks, he heads for a black door ...

The doorhandle to this one is seven-pronged and made of wrought iron, and no symbol decorates it -- at least, on this side.

Cerin turns it, carefully.

Extremely cold air rushes out, as if escaping from a pressurized environment, from behind this door as it cracks open.

Cerin , almost reflexively, wraps himself in Essence to protect him from almost any conceivable environment.

Thus protected, Cerin steps through the door and finds himself on a vast, empty ice sheet, under heavy midday cloud cover, the singular black door sitting unaffixed to anything on the ice.

Stretching out all before him are hundreds of frozen icy forms -- humanoid shapes in various states of paused action, running, striking, cowering, kneeling... the ice is thick enough, and somehow fuzzy enough, that whether they are mere statues or actual frozen humans seems unclear.

A cold wind blows across the field, and far off in the distance Cerin sees two other figures -- not ice -- standing stock-still, though neither's features are clear from this distance.

Cerin stalks towards them, the black silk ribbons somehow conspiring to hide him even against the stark white background as he attempts to work out when and where he is.

As he draws nearer, Cerin begins to make out the figures. One of them is Varanim, but not a Varanim he recognizes: one younger, and with a more nervous posture, and two whole arms.

The other appears to be a localized collection of black stormclouds in the vague shape of a person.

Cerin A little early, Cerin concludes. He moves back towards the door, exiting the room, and closing it behind him.

The center chamber is warm and pleasant in comparison.

Cerin ponders and looks over the edge, trying to judge whether there is more above him or below.

The upwards path seems fairly limited, but the downwards slope of this silo seems to go on nearly forever.

Cerin looks for the lowermost black door he can see, and then heads for one several turns above it.

"The lowermost black door Cerin can see" is quite a bit down, given the scope of his vision, and he passes twenty-seven others in the process of reaching it. Doubling back, he stops in to black door twenty-five, this time producing the thick scent of musky incense as he enters.

The door opens into the innards of a small manse or temple, lit by five flickering torches. At the center, on a straw mat, he sees Varanim seated. Her robe is woven, he notices immediately, of a golden northern Sunlands weave, and she sits cross-legged and closed-eyed, in a state of meditation. Her arm is, this time, missing completely.

In front of her are two bowls: one filled with water, the other with wine (or possibly blood). On the left wall, he sees three hooks, two with masks (a simple black mask, and then an mask made of overlapping squares of black and white, its ragged edge accented by a line of gold filigree) and the third empty; on the right wall, a small table holds three urns, two broken into shards and the third still filled with a yeasty golden ale.

Varanim Eddies of incense snake in the movement of the door's opening, and Varanim lifts her head without opening her eyes. "Someone there?"

Cerin 's contemplation of what he sees is interupted by the question. "Yes," he says, quietly. "I find myself a traveller in a subconcious I do not fully understand."

Varanim "Hmm." She rises, stepping carefully around the bowls and to the table, feeling for the third urn in the fashion of someone who can't see. "People are mostly easy to understand--just look for the thing they can't have, and they're sure to be obsessed with it."

Varanim "Just passing through, or are you looking for something?"

Cerin "Someone who was just passing through."

Varanim "Hmm. Not many of those, this far in--mostly lifers in this neighborhood. Want a drink? I've been saving it."

Cerin "Lifers?" he asks with a raised eyebrow. "Saving it for what, though?"

Varanim "Oh, you know. Everything that comes here stays for good. Everything that leaves makes an indelible change by its passing." She's silent a moment, as if she'd ignored his second question, then laughs quietly. "Do you know, I can't remember? It's no good to me, though. I don't drink."

Cerin Varanim doesn't drink? Varanim! Ah, I think I know when this might be "I might be in the wrong place, then," he says. "I'll have a drink though. For the road."

Varanim "Help yourself, and good luck finding whoever it is. You seem like a nice boy." On that serenely sarcastic or deeply oblivious note, she pats the urn of beer with her one hand invitingly and then moves to thoughtfully trace the spot on the wall where the missing mask would hang.

Cerin studies the three urns as he wanders over there. The third mask? Three circles. The third mask is missing ...

The beer is quite high-quality and the aroma delicious. The urn itself seems remarkably fragile for such a thick, heavy earthenware pot, as if it could shatter at any second.

Cerin "Perhaps I'll pass on the booze. I'll see you later I'm sure," he says, and then he departs.

The hallway he steps back into stands quite similar to how it looked when he entered, but he realizes that he is far lower down than he was before -- for now the grating at the top is far out of even his extended view.

What he can see now, instead, perhaps twenty stories below, is what looks to be panels of mahogany, seven in all, which bend down on golden hinges from resting niches indented into the walls to form a complete horizontal covering of the cylindrical shaft, blocking all progress further down.

At the tip of each is a black metallic handle, and looped between all of them is a thin scarf with a satin sheen, black as night, with green tassels on one end and gold at the other; it is knotted elegantly so as to keep the mahogany doors shut, and some force batters irregularly at them from below, every once in a while opening up just enough of a crack that a tiny wisp of black smoke is able to rise out.

Cerin soon finds himself standing atop the doors, after leaping down the sides of the shaft. From balcony to balcony, ledges to ledges, occasionally just off what seems to be the air itself. He treads lightly though, the doors not even moving when he lands on them after falling three storeys. Well, I indentified the 'thief'

Cerin, of course, is utterly poised even as the doors buck angrily beneath him and the faint scent of ash and cinnamon escapes in tiny wisps from beneath.

Cerin Ash and cinnamon? What would varanim dream of ash and cinnamon?

Cerin Hmmm. I'm not looking for Varanim's dreams. I'm looking for her nightmares. What would give varanim nightmares of Ash and Cinnamon?

Cerin shakes his head, directing more attention to the knots holding the doors shut. He's looking for additional magics woven into the knot, such as might be used to inconvience someone untying them.

Oddly enough, they look pretty clear on that score. Cerin quickly draws an informed conclusion that while the specifics of these knots would ensure that Varanim would absolutely not untie them, they hold no such peril for a third party such as himself.

Cerin Of course, there would then just be the small matter of her nightmares for me to contend with ...

Cerin Well, if she wants her nightmares back ... Cerin pulled the knot. Then he just stood there, on the silk itself, as it drifted on the tides of her newly release nightmares. Invisible and undetectable at the heart of the storm as he watched them stream past.

An invisible and still perfectly poised Cerin floats down gently, even as an immense uprush of black smoke, powerfully scented and surprisingly thick, shoots up the shaft towards the sky above, swirling and eddying all around him before finally the pressure begins to subside.

As the scarf gently glides down, Cerin sees that many of the doors below this point have been kicked open by the force of the explosion, and he catches glimpses of other scenes as he falls: an elderly Varanim, all four limbs replaced by soulsteel and bloody tears running down her cheeks, kneeling on frozen earth in front of a burning house from which high-pitched screams emenate;

Varanim in green robes, standing at the center of a library, directing an army of faceless pages as each carefully selects very specific books from the immense shelves and tosses them into a massive bonfire, where the books cry out and curse her in human languages as they burn;

a golden sun-masked figure in golden armor, an orichalcum staff laid across its lap in a bejewelled throne, seated atop a mountain as the dead claw their way free from shallow graves in the countryside below, each with a glowing sun symbol emblazoned on their head and a distant, dead look in their solid-golden eyes;

and two figures face-down in the center of a desert, two blades lying beside them in the rapidly pooling blood, a tiny escaping shock of green hair on the one the only identifying feature of either.

Eventually Cerin floats down past a place where parts of what once would've been a floor seem to have broken out, and down into what looks to be essentially a maintenance tunnel section, before he finally settles at the far bottom, atop a pile of rubble.

Down here, there remains a single, still unopened black door, and it seems to be here that the black smoke emerges from the edges of, in coughs and spurts.

Cerin listens at the door for a moment and then, holding his breath, he steps through the door without opening it.

The door is silent, and what stands on the other side remains so as Cerin steps through into this final chamber.

Through the smoke and the darkness, Cerin sees only a single spot of light, some distance away, in which stand two figures.

One of them is thin, wrapped in green, and there is little doubt who it is.

The other is short, swaddled in black, and has the figure of a male, though Cerin feels certain that somehow it is Varanim nonetheless.

Besides the two figures, there is only one other thing in the spot of light: a pillar upon which something sits which Cerin cannot possibly even begin to describe, and which seems almost as if it's not even there.

"Take it," he hears the green woman whisper. "It's your destiny."

Cerin He considers for a moment, then he turns and leaves the room by the same manner by which he entered. He grins and turns back to the door. A golden knife flashes, cutting one of the tassels from the scarf, tying that to keep the door shut. Then he unlocks the door. After that, he just walks off.

Varanim In the rubble outside is a mask, of familiar flame-tongued shape but the material inverse of the one Zahara made: mostly beaten orichalcum, with accents and edges in fire-capturing crystal. The inside face is smooth, black, and featureless, without so much as a crack to see or speak through.

Cerin picks the mask up from the rubble, wrapping it in the green silk. He ascends the shaft in much the same way that he had decended it, leaping and running and climbing ever upwards. Before he ducks back into a room he had just been within.

Cerin "Hello once more."

Varanim "Oh, changed your mind about that drink?"

Cerin "Thought I should return some lost property," he says, unfurling the mask from it's silken wrap.

Varanim turns, hood of the robe modestly shadowing her face, and reaches out to cradle the mask in her arm. "Ah," she says after a moment, with an air of long-postponed satisfaction. "So that's what it's going to look like."

Cerin "But now I have to be going again. I'll leave this with you too," he rests the sheet on the bench.

Cerin And then, he wakes up.

Varanim wakes with a violent start, patting around for a moment for a bottle before remembering where she is. Sitting up in her chair, she fixes Cerin with a speculative gaze. "Something's fixed."

Cerin "I set your nightmares free, yes. All but one."

Varanim raises her eyebrows and waves one hand in a ''get on with it/ fashion.

Cerin "It was the Green Lady, in the Subconcious, with the Silken Sheet."

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Page last modified on May 08, 2010, at 04:32 PM