Summary:Spring and Varanim take a trip to the Refuge and hassle the butler for clues.

XP:S1, V1


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Varanim left a scribbled note for Spring in the dojo about "belated basement cleaning" and a comment about seeing a new library that was obviously tacked-on at the last minute as some sort of crude manipulation to get him on board.

Varanim She showed up half an hour late smelling faintly of gin, called up the dhole express to transport them north, and finally led them out of the Shadowland overlooking the tower just barely in time to beat the dawn, promising that the view would be worth it.

Spring looks around with a slightly disappointed air.

And it's true. The mountains are split in half, and carefully camouflaged from the rest of the world stands the single elegant tower, beautiful in its sparseness, that Varanim found after her escape from the Lion.

Spring can smell the Essence coming off of it, even from here.

Spring "The smell is pretty impressive."

Varanim "Yes, the girl with the green lips sends me the nicest presents. This way to the door," she says, and descends without further ceremony.

Spring follows, sniffing idly.

Varanim leads Spring in through the white ivory doors to the grand entranceway, where the white marble floor sits beneath the imported oak walls, and blue jade torches line the three iron stairways that lead up to the tower's innumerable library chambers above. The two wooden double-doors on the ground floor are open, as befits a properly inviting home.

The entire place positively hums with Essence. Every surface is practically exuding Essence, to an almost ridiculous degree.

Spring "Does this place strike you as slightly overcompensatory to you?"

Varanim considers a moment, then she firmly shuts the doors, and smudges the marble floor with her boots to draw the butler out of hiding.

Varanim "Are you kidding? I thought I was conning my way in when I arrived. It'd be covered in a foot of dust if I was responsible for anything here."

After exactly 74 seconds (Varanim estimates that he must have been dusting some of the upper stacks) it rolls into the room -- the awkward pile of blue jade plates assembled into the shape of a portly, headless person known as Elish Eran.

He leans over with a tiny jade brush and sweeps up after Varanim's smudge before standing up (as "up" as he can, anyway) and then bowing afresh in greeting. "Oh, excuse me, madam, and madam's gentleman caller." He bows again, just to be certain.

Spring "What? No...I..."

Spring "Are you a pile of plates?"

"Yes sir," he says, "I am composed of a a variety of jade plates, arranged in an uneven stacked formation."

Varanim "Meet my landlord, Elish Eran. Hilariously, he thinks I own the place." To the latter, she helpfully says, "The gentleman caller is Spring. We're here to ask about the property transfer shenanigans around my arrival."

Spring "Indeed.

ElishEran makes a hand gesture that seems like it is probably intended to replace enthusiastic nodding, which is difficult when one lacks a head.

ElishEran "Of course, madam and sir," he says.

Varanim "Great. Why don't you pretend that you're talking to someone who has no idea what was going on then--that'd be Spring, naturally--and describe it simply."

Varanim "Also, where did you hide my comfortable chair?"

ElishEran "....oh, that chair." Elish shifts nervously from excessively wide plate-foot to plate-foot. "I believe that chair is in the sub-sub-sub-" -- he slows down as he realizes how bad this sounds -- "sub... sub... sub-basement." He pauses. "Because it was unpresentable." He pauses again. "Madam." He bows.

Varanim rolls her eyes. "Apparently the uncompensating parts are all downstairs. But if your freaky martial arts disciplines make you not care about comfy chairs, most of the books are upstairs. If you want the tour," she adds the last in the usual graceless way she has when trying to be polite to people.

ElishEran "As for you, Sir Spring," he begins. "It was clearly marked on the calendar that the new master would be arriving, so I made sure to carefully clean the entire building from top to bottom in preparation. Then I made sure to follow the notes that were given to me for purposes of arraying the relevant objects such that the new master could be presented with them at the appropriate time."

Spring "Upstairs will be fine."

Spring "Did I ever tell you about how I had to sleep on the couch in the War Room for three months?"

ElishEran "Then the new master arrived four days ahead of schedule! Luckily I had just cleaned the bottom seven floors and was able to complete my additional cleaning tasks while the new master was absorbed in the reading of the Book."

ElishEran "After four days with the Book Madam Varanim emerged to officially claim the title of new master, and at that point unexpected company arrived via the basement door."

ElishEran straightens up a little, as if pleased with his recounting of events.

Varanim "Why did you slee... never mind." She starts to lead the way up, talking back over her shoulder at Spring. "By 'unexpected company' he means 'ghost army,' but that's otherwise about right. Now, in your professional opinion, how hard is it to make a perfect plan for my arrival like that?"

Spring "Depends how far in advance."

Spring "Also, it was clearly not perfect, or it would have predicted the army."

Varanim "Who made the calendar, and when?" she asks Elish Eran, after thinking about that for a moment.

ElishEran "clears" his "throat." "Your -- ahem -- 'Secret Admirer', madam."

Spring "That is not a very helpful response."

Spring "Is it?"

Varanim "No. Lish, Resist the urge to be cute for a minute--trust me, I know it's hard--and see if you can't put a name on my secret crush."

ElishEran spins his plates for a moment. "I... well." He pauses. "I can't say that she gave me a name, madam. Just the Book, the Present, a mark on the calendar, and three notes." He pauses again. "She was wearing very distinctive makeup, however, madam."

Spring "Ah."

Spring "Yes."

Varanim About to press the point about timing, Varanim stops as a thought strikes her. "Have I seen the three notes?"

ElishEran "I believe I described their contents to you, madam," he says. "I did not show you the actual notes, which are filed away in the annual document archive at this point."

Varanim "Great. Either you can grab them for me, or I can go fetch them and fix your filing system while I'm there." To Spring, frowning now as she keeps thinking, she says, "What would you need to know to find out if there are any more surprises left here? I mean, where would ''you/ hide your next annoying stratagem?"

ElishEran shakes his fists in the "yes" motion again, and dashes off to retrieve the notes.

Spring "I would have something lying in wait for you to ask that specific question."

ElishEran rapidly returns, bearing three elegantly handwritten notes on equally elegant stationery.

Varanim Getting more into the tortured logic, Varanim asks, "Would that plan also be able to predict that I'd seek out the advice of an outside party as clever as yourself, given that when I arrived here I considered it an overly social month if I spoke to more than one person?"

Spring "If I were a Sidereal, I would probably assume that you would have to get someone's help to come anywhere close to solving my brilliant enigmas."

Varanim "Mm. What would you need to perfectly defend a tower, or a mind, against outside tampering?"

Varanim examines the three notes with an indifferent eye, taking a position of absolute neutrality and allowing any biases or motivations in their simple structure to float to the surface of her awareness.

Spring "Hm."

Spring "It should be possible with..." he rattles off a few sidequest ingredients.

Leviathan The notes radiate a smug assurance, a carefully laid plan (one out of many intricately-overlapping contingency plans) to mold Varanim towards a specific set of ends, a relatively high opinion (over 45%) that Varanim is indeed the most likely of the possibilities under consideration to match said ends, and a fastidious insistence on ensuring things are done correctly (thus the note about cleaning the house.)

Varanim "I'd pictured you doing it with a toothpick, and maybe a scrap of poetry."

Varanim Scowling in thought as she starts to fold one of the notes into an airplane, she fixes her eyes on Elish Eran again. "Has she been here much before? I'm looking for someone who might have been a past owner, kicking around the Hearthstone, hung up on this place and her."

Spring "You said perfectly. Not almost perfectly."

Leviathan "Not so often, recently, madam," he says. "Perhaps thirteen times in the last age, give or take."

Varanim Continuing her jumps between parallel trains of thought, she says to Spring, "Would it be worth the trouble, in your strategic opinion?"

Spring "No."

Spring "You are going on the defensive against an opponent who had thousands of years to plan for you doing exactly that."

Spring "She has had plenty of time to find holes in all your potential strategies for protection."

Spring "What she lacks is the moment-to-moment initiative to deal with an innovative attack."

Varanim "Go on."

Varanim As he answers, Varanim doodles words in a circle, in Old Realm: 'As a wolf amongst the sheep, here, that which goes amongst the living; as a rock plunged into the ocean, here, those who rest beyond even death.' When she's finished, she slides the paper over toward Elish Eram with raised eyebrows.

Spring "Mr. Eran. How intelligent are you?"

Leviathan "Ah, have you taken up abstract poetry, madam? Your work possesses an elegiac beauty and understated complexity."

Leviathan Elish turns to Spring with a slight amount of surprise evident in the sudden movement of his plates. "That's a very forward question, sir."

Varanim looks insulted at the idea. "It's from the catacombs in the Hearthstone--which, by the way, shouldn't really be there. How far back do you date?" Since Spring has already started with the personal questions, she sees no harm in asking the butler's age.

Spring "I am extremely rude."

Leviathan "I was built into the schematics, madam." And it does indeed seem hard to imagine this place ever not having an annoying plate butler.

Leviathan "And I am manufactured to the highest standards of automaton intelligence, sir," he says, with a bit of haughtiness in his voice.

Spring "I see."

Spring reaches out in one quick motion and grabs Varanim by the throat. He meets her eyes levelly.

Varanim chokes out the first ear-scraping words of a spell, caste mark blazing on her forehead though the range is already far too close.

Spring casually snaps his wrist, and lets her body drop to the ground.

Varanim There's a fairly straightforward modification of the Crystal Ghost Shard, innovative only in that no reasonable person would ''want/ to do it: instead of the usual coccoon of fantastically tough clouded glass, Varanim's body is surrounded by nothing but air as it thuds down without heartbeat or breath.

Spring "Thank you, Mr. Eran. Do you by chance have any tea?"

Leviathan Elish Eran stands stock-still in shock for a moment, presumably looking down at the body and then back up at Spring.

Leviathan After a moment the shock fades, and is replaced by the three mutually contradictory impulses to somehow stop or attack this deeply inappropriately behaving visitor, to respond courteously to the polite request for tea, and to clean up the body quickly before it begins to smell.

Spring "I fear your mistress has had an unpredictable and unfortunate accident, Mr. Eran," Spring says helpfully. "Perhaps someone ought to be informed."

Leviathan His freeze finally broken, Elish Eran raises his platey hands up to where his head should be if he had one and begins to spin around in a circle. "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear," he says, his plates jostling and shaking rapidly as he does.

Spring "Be careful, Mr. Eran. You will chip yourself."

Varanim On the far side of the Shroud, Varanim props her head up on one arm and watches the proceedings with some interest.

Leviathan Though his erratic behavior is deeply amusing, it does nonetheless appear that he has no intention of in any way informing anyone in any distant location of this event.

Spring "Hm."

Spring "Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Eran? I hate to see a fellow collection of plates in such distress."

Leviathan "Yo... yo..." He stops spinning in a circle for a minute. "Please leave the premises, sir, if you are going to insist upon inconsiderate conduct!"

Spring "Certainly."

Spring "Please have my tea sent on."

Spring picks up Varanim's body, half-opens his mouth, then closes it again and makes his way out of the manse.

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Page last modified on May 02, 2010, at 10:41 PM