Summary:The Solars further investigate Brigid's connections to their current situations, and an obscure connection to the Mask of Winters emerges.

XP:S4, V4, Z4

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`Spring "I think, perhaps, it is time for us to discuss your curse with Brigid."

`zahara "An excellent plan," Zahara says somewhat less than enthusiastically.

`Spring leads the way to the small spare room that Brigid now haunts, devoid of furniture, but decorated, with Imrama and Lucent's help, with various leftover scraps of art and furniture left over from very early in the First Age, in a perhaps hopeless attempt to make Brigid feel more at home.

`Spring **devoid of a bed,

`Varanim follows, munching some sort of bun.

`Spring "Hello, Brigid."

`Brigid , bereft of a need to sleep but amidst a surfeit of empty, purposeless time, has seated herself in a particularly sparse (yet exceedingly valuable) chair scavenged from the ruins of a First Age research center, facing a wall on which is placed a (partially burned) painting of the Auburn Westerfields of Elaq.

`Brigid She nods slightly at the new arrivals.

`Spring brings with him a small book of poems and songs written in a secret language based on the author's memories of her parents, a typical example of the abstruse literary designs being attempted before the Usurpation. Unfortunately, deciphering the language reveals the writing to be trite and repetitive, so Spring places the book on the edge of a somewhat collapsed dresser as a present to...

`Spring ...Zahara's ancestor.

`zahara "Brigid, how do you fare? Better I hope?"

`Brigid nods. "I am... better. Somewhat." Brigid's form has lost its twisted, offputting quality and the unearthly shadow-creatures that dwelt within, though her ghostly form still holds a thin, stretched shape quite distinct from that of a normal, living human being.

`zahara "Are you still in pain?"

`Brigid "I am not certain if I am capable of feeling pain now," she says. "So... no, I am not."

`Varanim ::Is this some sort of new policy you're trying out, treating the family nice?::

`Spring "We would like to ask you a few questions about the time you spent in the Ossuary."

`Brigid nods again. "A reasonable desire." She rises -- at her full height, Brigid is over seven and a half feet tall and floats almost three inches above the floor -- turns her chair around in a single fluid motion, and reseats herself.

`Brigid Actually looking at her face, it's clear that there's something present that was not there when the group fought her under Stygia -- some spark of self-determination, perhaps, that had previously been ground out by the spectres' plots.

`Spring "Can you tell us how you came to be there?"

`zahara ::I have been nice to my family in general, mostly!::

`Brigid "I was captured by spectres," she says. "Seized and subjected to necromantic treatments and ectoplasmic moliation, in a place I could not identify from what little I saw of it. As I felt the connections to my descendants hammered into my form, I lost my grip on my own existence, until finally, when I was boxed away and transported to the Ossuary, I was no longer at all myself."

`Spring "I am sorry."

`zahara "Do you know for what purpose they were doing so?"

`zahara "Obviously, they would eventually kill all of us, but was that the ultimate purpose?"

`Brigid "Your deaths, I'm afraid, would have been nothing but a side effect." She looks around the room a bit -- her human actions still have an arch, forced edge to them, like she's trying to remember to perform them on a properly regular basis -- and her eyes fall on Spring's book, which she reaches one elongated arm over to pick up.

`Spring "I hope you enjoy it."

`Spring "What, then, was the goal?"

`Brigid "To complete what they failed to accomplish many years ago: to transform me into a Deathlord." She begins flipping through the book at a somewhat brisk pace.

`Spring "Hm."

`Spring "Does the process of becoming a Deathlord always involve such excoriation of the family?"

`Brigid "No," she says. "The forces of the Void have worked to... refine their technique over time." She makes it through to about one-third of the way through the book, makes a face, and puts the book back on the dresser.

`Varanim "Are you trying to figure out which part you did wrong?"

`Spring has the grace to look embarrassed, and coughs up another book. With reluctance, he offers it to Brigid. "You might enjoy this more. I...knew the author."

`Spring "I thought it might be useful in case you wanted a turn."

`zahara "So they are attempting to make a more powerful Deathlord? or a more controllable one?"

`Varanim wiggles her shoulder stump at Spring. "Oh, I see what you did there."

`Brigid flips through the second book at a bit slower pace. "Both," she says in response to Zahara. "A champion of the Neverborn that could draw on the powers of the Void, to cast the living world into Oblivion directly, under the direct control of those dedicated nephwracks whose very being is defined by their devotion to nonexistence."

`zahara "That sounds less than fun."

`Varanim With the benefit of recent experience, Varanim takes another look at Brigid's current Essence pattern, contrasting it with both her previous one and previously-seen samples of Deathlords.

`Brigid Brigid's Essence pattern now is quite a bit... smoother than it was when the Solars fought her: the knots of Essence corresponding to the descendant Zhans have all been smoothed out, her overall Essence patterns returned to those more closely matching an (extremely powerful) mortal ghost, and whatever tendrils of non-existence once wended their way through it now gone.

`Brigid Varanim's multi-directional comparison starts to drill down into what, specifically, was important in her previous shape and how it compares to other Deathlords. Many of the underlying structures are comparable to those found -- in more refined forms -- in the Lion and Mask of Winters' Essence patterns, or -- in more nascent shapes -- in "Winter's," though the central structure differs --

`Brigid In the others, some semblance of the Exaltation -- a Solar shard in Spring's case, a repurposed and tainted Shadeborn exaltation in the other two -- served as the anchor of the Essence patterns that enabled the deathly powers, while in Brigid's previous incarnation those patterns seemed to be fully distributed throughout the spiritual form, each piece anchored separately to the nexus of a different Zhan.

`Brigid If there were going to be some central takeaway from the comparative study, it would seem to be that the Exaltation-driven Deathlords would each have some centralized weakness in their Essence patterns, some fundamental counter-pattern that might be able to disrupt their existence -- whereas Brigid, had her transformation been successful, would have been able to reorganize and rebuild herself from any such assault.

`Varanim squints a little. "Huh. Well, if you ever thought your descendants were good for nothing but breeding, turns out that was pretty useful."

`zahara "What do you mean by that?"

`Varanim "Obviously, I'm hinting you should have babies."

`zahara "And I'm hinting that you can go die in a fire."

`Varanim takes her half-eaten bun and smashes it on the table, then starts splaying out bits of meat and fruit with her fingers. "Take away any one of these pieces, the whole thing is still tasty. The more of them, the better the overall flavor. On the other hand, whoever stole the peaches out of the peach turnovers last time, and I suspect Cerin, ruined the whole thing."

`Varanim "That last bit was relevant, by the way, not just griping. The older Deathlords are the peachy ones."

`Spring uses a small amount of Essence to decipher Varanim's analogy, then nods knowledgeably.

`Spring "We must only investigate what form of pastry they are."

`zahara "Brigid, were you the only one undergoing this treatment?"

`zahara picks up a piece of smashed bun and chews on it thoughtfully

`Brigid "I was certainly the first," she says. "There may be others, but if so... they would be far less developed, and... I do not know of any other ghost who would provide as ideal a vessel as I." She says it simply, without excess pride, as she continues to page slowly through Alahwi's book.

`Varanim "That may be a sign of limited imagination on your part. Any idea which of the nephwracks are getting shirty?"

`Brigid shakes her head. "Besides Sark, the priest? I am not sure."

`zahara "Did we kill him yet?"

`Varanim "Don't you have a chancellor or something to keep track of these things for you?"

`Spring "We do, but I stabbed him in the heart."

`Spring "Possibly a separate office specifically to keep track of who we have killed would be useful."

`zahara "Why did you stab him in the heart??"

`Spring "In order to prevent him from dying from his horrible disease. You were there."

`Spring "I suspect there was a better approach, but at the time I was evil."

`zahara "Oh, right. Well I have been understandably distracted lately."

`Spring "Tracking Sark may be productive, but in the end, he is not dangerous without his support structure."

`Spring "I suspect our essential goals vis-a-vis the underworld remain unchanged."

`Varanim "Nephwracks trying to grow up and become real boys is interesting, though. I'll have a listen around."

`Spring "An excellent idea."

`Spring "What would you like to do now, Brigid?"

`Brigid "Return to the Underworld, eventually, if it is not destroyed utterly in the coming days. Continue my existence, such as it is."

`Varanim raises her eyebrows, trying out the truth sense on that one.

`Brigid It's... true, at least on the most basic surface level, although even the most basic truth sense would indicate that there's got to be more to it than that.

`Spring "And what did you do, before you were kidnapped?"

`Varanim "Are you sure? Because I know Zahara loves visiting with her relations, I know she can make a place for you here."

`Brigid pauses on her current page and responds to Spring's query. "I... explored," she says. "I gathered knowledge. It is... what I am good at." She looks up at Varanim. "I... do not suspect I would enjoy an existence here, a caged bird in the living world."

`zahara "I would appreciate a chance to learn some of that knowledge from you before you depart."

`Varanim "No, I expect not either, goodness knows most of us don't. Don't worry, I was just suggesting it to annoy Zahara."

`Brigid For the first time since the Solars have met her ghost, Brigid laughs. "Fair," she says, still chuckling. "Yes, Zahara, I'd certainly be willing to stay and teach... if you'll continue to be a cooperative student." She shoots Zahara a bit of a stern look in warning.

`Varanim makes an interested sort of choking noise.

`zahara "And besides, if you did stay here it would be as an honored guest, and not a prisoner." She shoots Varanim the annoyed look she was hoping for. And then in yet another first for those gathered, Zahara replies to her ancestress in a tone devoid of her usual sarcastic edge and prideful arrogance. "Of course."

`Spring "Hm."

`Spring "We are glad to have you."

`Brigid grins in a self-satisfied fashion.

`Spring ::Can you keep an eye on her, Varanim?::

`Varanim ::I could, but is there a particular reason I should bother?::

`Spring ::Evasiveness generally indicates a topic about which one prefers to be evasive?::

`Varanim ::I'm glad you're sticking to the rhetorical basics until you get your feet back under you. I'll put her on my list, which currently runs to three volumes.::

`Spring ::Thank you.::

`Varanim "We've now gotten to the part where we're talking about you in our heads," Varanim explains helpfully for Brigid. "Any other pressing business?"

`zahara "Is there anything you would like to ask of ''us/?"

`Brigid "I..." she pauses and considers for a long moment. "What are you planning to do to Netheos... after Calibration?"

`zahara "I did not have any particular plans for Netheos, although Varanim may have. Have you spoken to the Shadeborn?"

`Brigid shakes her head. "I don't entirely trust them."

`zahara "Because of the Deathlords?"

`Brigid nods.

`zahara "I don't blame you. I feel somewhat the same, although I am told I am wrong."

`Spring "They are not exactly forthcoming."

`Varanim "I'm really entertained by the idea that I had time to draw up a comprehensive Netheos plan anytime recently. But your hypothetical pre-question is intriguingly ominous, so do go on."

`Brigid "It should be returned to its original purpose."

`Varanim "That's a really great idea. Enjoy."

`Spring frowns thoughtfully.

`Spring "Why did you never go to Lethe?"

`Brigid closes her eyes. "I'd... rather not talk about that now," she says, and her voice gets rather distant.

`Spring nods understandingly.

`Spring "Enjoy the book."

`Varanim scoops up her remaining bun fragments neatly and nods to Brigid on her way out.

`Spring takes the rejected book as he leaves and tosses it idly to a random servant as they walk away.

`zahara nods respectfully to Brigid as she leaves, thoughtful.

`Brigid The door closes itself behind them.

`Varanim Having done her homework in the meantime, Varanim considers the several flavors of fruitcake known to champion the Obon Principle. On the other side she arranges the slightly moldy (but still basically sound) shaped gelatin that represents Brigid. Then she smooshes them together mentally, and sees which bits stick to each other.

`Brigid Varanim runs over the facts available to her: Brigid's fettered connection to the Principle, the time (post-Contagion) and nature (primarily in the work of fringe figures even in the already fringe field of necromantic study) of the Principle's emergence, and her (relatively extensive, if also slightly superficial) knowledge of work on the Principle to date, and from that she can draw only one, inescapable conclusion:

`Brigid The Obon Principle originates with Brigid, who must have initially discovered it or developed it for some as-yet unrevealed purpose, then provided (unsourced) fragments of it to individuals within the field of necromantic study so that they might piece it together and advocate or develop the study of the Principle further.

`Varanim ::Zahara, why would your ancestor be fixated on Netheos even before she died?::

`zahara ::I am not sure? I wasn't exactly alive then.::

`Varanim ::Consult your inner ambitious bitch and let me know if she comes up with anything. This might be important.::

`Spring ::Hm.::

`zahara ::Perhaps she wanted to rule it? She had gotten tired of ruling the living world? Perhaps someone she loved had died?::

`Varanim ::More specifically: Why might she create and circulate an abstruse Essence principle--and yes, I'm considering the competition there--about the nature of Netheos, and have plane-wide intentions about the purpose of that same plane, while not wanting to enlist the help of its arguably least malicious custodians?::

`Spring ::The Shadeborn's explicit purpose is -- or was -- to ensure that nothing changes in Netheos.::

`Spring ::Anything she wanted to do that would affect the status quo would meet opposition from them. As ghosts, they are harder to...manipulate emotionally.::

`Varanim ::Hmm. Not the dead loved one, or that was resolved, because it didn't show in her Fetters. Could be the rulership thing, although by that time the Deathlords were already doing that pretty successfully.::

`zahara ::Well perhaps she wanted to destroy the Deathlords?::

`Spring ::As a Fetter, it must be something she has a strong personal connection to. If it were merely a temporal concern, her dying would seem to resolve it rather effectively.::

`Varanim ::Whatever it is, she's gone right back to it, and doesn't want to tell us about it. Reading further into necro-academic slap-fights is pretty near the bottom of the list of things I'd like to do soon.::

`Spring ::Are they in libraries I have unfettered access to?::

`Varanim ::Probably a few, but not all.::

`Spring absently traces the Wasirranu character for "secondary research" on the wall with his finger.

`Brigid Spring is able to dig up some old enough resources to pinpoint the specific year (RY 47) and the names of several early researchers who seemingly are the first figures to directly write about the Principle, as well as to identify their most straightforward superficial connection: geographical locations within seventy-seven miles of what is now a Void Nexus in the midst of the Hinterland Corridor.

`Spring relays this information, sketchy as it is.

`Varanim ::Here's the thing. We have very limited time left to care before Calibration. Is this worth chasing before then to either of you?::

`zahara ::Not unless you think it would be particularly relevant to any of the Calibration-based problems we are facing::

`Spring ::How likely is it that the Mask of Winters's plan is related to the Obon Principle?::

`Varanim makes a slightly squinty face, as mentally she resummons the now slightly dented fruitcake from earlier. Then she considers a plate on which two x's and a downward-turned mouth have been painted in bad chocolate sauce, and pushes it slowly and deliberately into the cake. Finally, she peels the plate off to see if anything has stuck.

`Brigid Upon consideration, Varanim feels relatively certain that there is an extant but relatively minor connection between the Mask of Winters' plan and the Obon Principle.

`Varanim ::Related, but not very. Possibly that thing where you have to cite certain papers to look obscurely smart enough.::


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Page last modified on April 25, 2011, at 08:14 PM