Summary:Spring and Varanim journey within Spring's subconscious to converse with the remnants of Winter within.

XP:S1, V1

< Take Two and Call Me In The Morning | Sol Invictus Logs | A Ripe Hour for the Unexpected >

`Spring The miniature tavern explodes off the spout of Spring's kettle, indicating with a rattle of tiny planks that the tea is ready. Spring lifts it up and pours for Varanim first, then himself.

`Varanim "One of these days, we really should track down that cat."

`Spring "They are hard to swallow."

`Spring "Drink up. Hopefully, this will help relax us both, before I take us inside."

`Varanim Varanim, who had been staring a little blankly at her teacup as if trying to remember what people did with non-alcoholic beverages, takes a swallow like she knew that's what it was for all along.

`Varanim "How much influence do you think the Mask fragment will be able to assert on its surroundings, by which I mean, what are the odds that your head will kill us?"

`Spring "I expect to meet him in the same place I met him last. It was relatively safe."

`Varanim "Oh. I'm sure that'll work out fine, then."

`Spring quirks a grin, and gestures towards the pallet. "We probably ought to lie back."

`Varanim finishes her tea, leaves the cup off the saucer where it will leave a ring, and slouches over to lie down.

`Spring "Think of the last time somebody asked to you think of the last time some event took place."

`Spring In the extremely short period of time that Varanim is still considering this sentence, Spring puts them both to sleep.

`Winter Spring and Varanim suddenly find themselves seated in comfortable knotwood chairs, lovingly crafted by imaginary Wasirrans, in the cozy mental tree-house chamber that Spring had prepared long ago for meditative purposes.

`Winter In front of them, the table is laid out this time with three distinct meal portions, each spread across three plates of different sizes, and with each accompanied by a distinct wine-like fluid in a translucent goblet: one whitish-clear, one deep red, and one inky-black. Behind where Spring is sitting, the bed is mussed and rumpled, as if someone who is not neat has been sleeping in it.

`Spring glances at the food, and picks through it listlessly without eating.

`Varanim looks at him with some alarm.

`Varanim Then she looks around the room with somewhat more scrutiny, quickly gathering an impression of the sort of personality who would leave these things, in these places.

`Winter Varanim gets the picture of a precise, careful, amoral, and obsessed personality with a sick sense of humor.

`Spring glances around impatiently, then taps his fork against his goblet, creating a ringing noise.

`Varanim considers briefly over a truthful way to render this information that doesn't make it sound like it might be her room too, and settles for saying, "Probably him."

`Spring "This is where I met him last time. In my tree-house."

`Spring "Before you suggest making a sign that says NO DEATHLORDS ALLOWED, I note that I am not sure where he has gone now." `Winter There's a rustle of beads -- it's traditional for the passages between all rooms of a Wasirran household to be beaded, so family members in each room can easily hear when someone enters -- and then the figure is standing in the room. "I can't have gone far," he says. "I see you've joined me for another meal." He pulls out the remaining chair and sits.

`Winter Spring can't see him, of course, but the sight Varanim is greeted with is a bit disconcerting: a perfect duplicate of Spring's features, but with dully-glowing red eyes, cold bluish-white skin, his long hair darkened and pulled back behind his head, his outfit a set of loose robes held fast at the neck by a black metal device shaped like two tragicomic masks --

`Winter and emerging from his sleeves two hands, one fleshy and bluish-white, the other metallic and soulsteel-black.

`Spring "Hello, Winter. How have you been?"

`Winter "Oh, quite well," he says. "I've been staying in a lovely place. Plenty of time for contemplation. I've even managed to hone my cooking skills to a fine point, if I do say so myself." He gestures to the food, as if encouraging his visitors to eat.

`Varanim looks back and forth between the two of them with a faint, judicious frown.

`Varanim Finally she says, in a faintly aggrieved tone, "I'd have figured you for a compulsive bed-straightener."

`Winter "I am learning to relax," he says, and kicks back in his chair with his hands behind his head.

`Spring dips his fingers into the food, and tastes it.

`Spring "Needs salt."

`Spring "I wanted to speak with you again. You said some things...about the necessity of death."

`Winter "Ah," he says, wistfully, at Spring's culinary critique.

`Winter "I did."

`Varanim eats while they talk.

`Winter The food is quite subtly flavorful and elegantly prepared by any culinarian's standard, though there's a certain... soullessness to it.

`Spring "What makes you believe that Creation benefits from allowing things to die?"

`Winter "Are you enjoying your food?" he says, in a seeming non-sequitur that enough conversations with Varanim has taught Spring is almost certainly going somewhere.

`Spring "I always enjoy food."

`Winter "But I've only made enough for three," he says. "What if there were six more here, all desperate to sup with us?"

`Spring "Share and share alike?"

`Varanim "Congratulations. Now nine people have starved."

`Winter beams. "She sees where this is going, at least." He takes a sip of the white wine.

`Spring "You must need even more to eat than I do."

`Spring "All we need do is cook more. Or harvest more. Or plant more. Or simply produce more from the air."

`Varanim recalls belatedly that Spring didn't bring her along to agree with the Deathlord. Then she reflects that he should have known what he was getting into.

`Winter "But food is not infinitely abundant. And if not food, then Essence. And if not Essence, than shaped matter itself. Existence is finite. Reality is bounded by chaos, constantly pressing in, surging against its very borders in constant erosive waves." He puts down the white goblet, and begins swirling the red goblet instead.

`Winter "Where will all the souls who have ever lived make their homes? Where will they spend the sweat of their brow? Who will rule over them?"

`Spring "What evidence have you for the proposition that the universe is necessarily finite?"

`Spring "And if it is, what prevents us from changing that?"

`Spring turns the last spoonful on his plate over, revealing another spoonful.

`Winter "What prevents you from transforming a finite universe into an infinite one? That is indeed an interesting question." He swirls his wine further, and then drinks it down in a single gulp.

`Winter "It is in the nature of worlds. Beings greater than you or I have already crafted entire realms of existence, wrenched them from the unformed chaos, and even they encountered... limitations."

`Spring "Hm."

`Spring "The Lacuna."

`Varanim "Pretend that I missed the first part of this conversation. What did you say to upset Spring about the necessity of death?" she asks Winter.

`Winter "I asked him how he would get on without me," he says, and laughs, before gingerly sampling an element from the tiniest of this three plates and washing it down with a sip from the black goblet.

`Spring "The necessity of death requires the necessity of killing."

`Spring "I am trying to avoid this."

`Varanim "That's very aristocratic of you."

`Spring "I can tell from your tone that your use of that word is nontraditional, possibly because of your ironic distaste for the Exalted."

`Spring "I can hardly choose to expend all my resources attempting to eradicate death once and for all if it is a necessary evil."

`Varanim "Death is always linked to killing for you, which is the sort of thing that people who've spent most of their time killing think. For those of us born to less elevated lives, the necessity of death comes in many more flavors."

`Varanim "Which isn't to say that starvation, or flooding, or fever is an inherently nicer way to go. But please don't be drawn into false dichotomies just because you're talking to your evil twin."

`Varanim "No offense," she adds in her most sincere way to Winter.

`Spring "All death inevitably follows from a lack of action on the part of someone who could have prevented it."

`Winter "None taken," he says.

`Spring "People starve because food was not provided; they drown because nobody has held back the waters; they succumb to illness because of the lack of doctors."

`Spring "In some cases, perhaps, the only savior would need to be Exalted, but the savior nevertheless exists, and chooses not to act."

`Varanim leans back on two legs of her chair, folding her arm behind her head and staring at the ceiling as regular and evil remix Spring talk.

`Winter "Saviors also fail to act when a child stubs his toe or a man takes rash and impulsive actions that strain his relationship," he says. "Both cause more suffering than an honored elder dying in peace amongst their descendants. Do you propose to step in and right these wrongs?"

`Spring "Is that not my responsibility? To prevent suffering and ensure happiness, for all living creatures?"

`Winter "No," he says, and laughs.

`Spring "If not me, who?"

`Winter "No one," he says. "Don't you believe in freedom?" He brings the black goblet to his lips again. "Happiness in slavery is no happiness at all."

`Varanim frowns a little at the ceiling, but stays silent.

`Spring "In a world with radically differing power levels, someone must be responsible for those who cannot take care of themselves."

`Spring "Parents care for children. The healthy care for the sick. And the Exalted care for the mortals."

`Spring "In any case, your argument is disingenuous."

`Spring "You want to shepherd the mortals as much as I do, you merely want to give them the deaths you think are appropriate, rather than the lives I think are."

`Winter "But a parent who guides their child's life and controls their decisions is domineering, even if they thusly keep them from harm." He shakes his head.

`Winter "Perhaps I do," he says. "I care, perhaps, only to guarantee the freedoms of those I care for." He downs the remainder of his goblet and then tosses it to the floor, where it shatters. "And perhaps I do not care for the mortals that I grind under my thumb. But you do." He smiles devilishly. "Should you not treat those you care for more openly than your enemy?"

`Spring "You are not domineering to prevent a young child from touching a hot stove, merely wse."

`Winter "So shall mortals be young children forever, never able to run away from home with a questionable paramour or enter into a foolishly-chosen career?" He runs his finger through the blackish-red sauce from his middle course plate and licks it.

`Spring pushes his plate away. "When we give them all the power to be Exalted, then they will be grown, and responsible for themselves."

`Spring "Though we will still be there, when they need us."

`Winter "And who will stop them from dying then, if their path marches them headlong into death?" He stares at Spring with razor-sharp crimson eyes.

`Spring "I will ask them the same question I have asked you," Spring says, looking evenly back. "Why must they die?"

`Spring "Earlier. Were you suggesting that the Lacuna is responsible for the necessity of death? That it represents the limits of our ability to expand the universe?"

`Varanim "Spring, is your overarching concern to prevent death, or to ease suffering?"

`Spring pauses.

`Spring "I..."

`Varanim "I ask because there was a time in my life when the knowledge that I would someday die, and no force on earth could prevent it, was the greatest possible comfort to me."

`Spring "Why?"

`Varanim opens her mouth to answer, then pauses and raises her eyebrows at Winter as if asking whether he has any commentary first.

`Winter "That is one way to see it, yes," he says. "It is the flaw at the heart of the world, the tangle in the loom, the fly in the ointment. All things are bounded by it, all ambitions checked, and all purposes constrained." He nods ever so slightly to himself, as if reconfirming something in his very speech. "But please, continue your thought," he says, and gestures politely to Varanim.

`Varanim "The short answer," she says to Spring, "is that at the time I knew very little about what comes after death. The longer answer is that if you've never wanted to die, there are crucial areas missing from your conversational armory when talking to a Deathlord. You brought me along to tell you when you were on dangerous ground--you're there now."

`Spring "I still know very little about what comes after death."

`Varanim "It might be a little early to do away with it, then."

`Spring "Then how do we find out?"

`Varanim "Find out what? Where all the dead babies go if they can't die?"

`Spring "Where they go when they do die, and why, and whether it is necessary, as Winter says, or merely a necessary evil."

`Varanim grimaces. "I only play psychopomp for really good friends."

`Varanim "But please, don't neglect your head-guest on my account."

`Spring "You have been more helpful than he has, I think."

`Spring "As I said, you must take his provisions with a pinch of salt."


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Page last modified on April 25, 2011, at 08:15 PM