Summary:The Solars journey to the Tabernacle where the Pallium of the Dark Star rests, and Varanim claims it for her own.

XP:I4, S4, V4, Z4

< A Ripe Hour for the Unexpected | Sol Invictus Logs | A Vision of Darkest Night >

`Imrama Far in the Underworld's South East, in the lower reaches of the Mountains of Madness, there stands a circle of dead volcanoes. These great tall spires cluster tightly - so much so that the light of the stars overhead never touches the floor of the pit-like valley bellow.

`Imrama Down deep in the crevasse, there sits a ramshackle pagoda, covered heavily in dust and ash from the overlooking crags. Here, a constant procession of ancient, blind ghosts weaves in and out of each of eleven doors, in a rhythm so old that even they cannot recount its origin or motive.

`Imrama But now, for the first time in centuries, the lightless depths are illuminated, almost as if the sun itself had fallen from the sky and come to rest over the roof of the Tabernacle of the Cimmerian Hollow. The Fable of the Reconstruction, and the Circle of the Sunlands, has arrived.

`Varanim Algorab, perched on the rail above where Varanim sits, caws once. She stirs, pushing back her hat so it no longer covers her eyes, and pats her pockets down to locate her flask just as a preparatory measure.

`Imrama steps down off the prow of his ship, walking on air. He approaches near to one of the processing lines of ghosts, glowing brightly. He waits there for a long moment until, unrecognized, he clears his throat.

`charlequin Several ghosts in the immediate environs turn their ethereal heads to glare mournfully at the newly-arrived Imrama.

`Lucent takes a sip of wine, looking out the windows, closing his book, Sol Invictus Book X. "It looks like almost like a dance."

`zahara "A bit of a romantic way to look at it."

`Imrama "Greetings, Cimmerian Wardens. I am come as the herald of one who has been foreseen: The greatest living authority on Necromancy since before the death of the Neverborn. The Maiden of the Doom Crow. The Mask of Summers. Varanim the Last. She has come for the Pallium."

`Lucent "The procession of the dead is always a bit of a romantic notion. An endless march to a foregone conclusion."

`Varanim mouths 'maiden?' to no one in particular as she creaks to her feet.

`Imrama ::You are currently unmarried, are you not?::

`Varanim ::We really have to talk about your abuse of poetic language sometime.::

`zahara "I always found it more ominous than romantic, but to each his own."

`Lucent "The important is what happens in the march."

`Lucent nods.

`charlequin The nearest ghost, a wizened walrus of a man with overly prominent mustache and ratty greyish robes that drag behind him, steps forward to where Imrama stands. "Many have come to claim the Pallium," he says, in a whispery and thin voice.

`Imrama "Many, yes. But never before Her."

`charlequin The ghost raises one eyebrow, which coincidentally also raises one-half of his mustache.

`Imrama ::For one who resides in a community of the blind, this one is oddly enamored of facial expression.::

`charlequin "Will you enter the Tabernacle?"

`Varanim ::Not that odd. You have no idea how many rude gestures I've made since I had my arm off.::

`Imrama "Indeed."

`Spring is wearing his tinkly necklace, and nods loudly to the ghost.

`Imrama ::We should proceed in. I remind the rest of you that, for the moment, we are Varanim's honor guard.::

`zahara ::Can I be your lady in waiting?::

`Varanim descends with efficiency but not grace, looking over the building with a professional eye as she approaches.

`Varanim ::You can go straight to hell, is what you can do.::

`zahara ::Well we are already in the Underworld, I'm pretty sure that counts.:: she says cheerfully as she follows after, with her most deferential possible manner.

`charlequin The ghost leads them towards the closest of the eleven doors, the ancient wood of the pagoda almost groaning from the weight of the structure above as they walk through.

`charlequin Inside is the broad, open structure of the star pavillions of the First Age -- an empty, cavernous hall with a central raised dais and an elaborate metallic altar. At the outskirts, numerous hallways weave through the outer regions of the building, between the side chambers and the eleven external doorways, while at the top, a hole in the roof opens up onto the sky above -- but nothing whatsoever can be seen through it.

`charlequin Unlike the First Age temples from which it draws its structure, though, there are no brilliant lights, no shining banners, no glorious glimmering statues in praise of the heavenly bodies -- only lumps of cold, black iron suspended on chains strung from one end of the building to another.

`charlequin "The Pallium does not await merely any hands that might wish to seize it," the thin, wispy voice says, and one hand reaches up to brush one of the nearby chains, causing the iron lumps to clack and clatter against one another in an unpleasant cacophony. Within moments, many of the milling ghosts have swarmed in through every entrance to stand, expectantly, in the central chamber.

`Spring noisily follows, keeping a space clear for Varanim.

`Lucent ::Does anything ever?::

`Varanim "Hand."

`Spring half-bows to the ghosts, allowing the cold winds flowing through the disconnected hallways to send the chimes on his necklace oscillating back and forth in a quietly spectral melody.

`Varanim "Is this one of those annoying obstacles where we have to find the thing to prove our worthiness, or do really awful things to a roomful of dedicated but mediocre guards to prove our worthiness?"

`Spring "I seem to recall a brain teaser involving measuring a chain using two chains of smaller but known lengths. This might come into play."

`charlequin The ghost raises its eyebrow again at Varanim's first statement, and then replies to her question. "No," he says, his ghostly mustache flopping about rather aggressively as he speaks . "Only answer questions."

`Spring ::Aha.::

`Spring ::Here is how the brain teaser usually goes...:: Spring quickly details it, just in case.

`zahara ::Good thing you're ridiculously smart.::

`charlequin The primary ghost seems to have his attention only on Varanim, but the others in the area seem to almost visibly grow more welcoming at the aurally-pleasing sound of Spring's necklace -- even here, about as far as conceivably possible from the inner tunnels of the Wasirranu, those without sight are drawn to its melodious tones.

`Lucent ::They might appeal to her principles. Perhaps only the pure of heart and willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good are worthy of the Palilium!::

`zahara tries not to choke

`Varanim "Fantastic. Let's hear the questions, then."

`charlequin One of the ghosts from the crowd steps forward -- a superficially younger-looking ghost, but still wizened and strangely shaped. "Where is the Dark Star?" it says, voice warbling and whooping in a disconcerting fashion.

`Varanim consults her inner astrologer--not in the metaphorical sense, but in the Kivet Loa sense.

`charlequin Kivet speaks up through the connection forged by her hearthstone: ::You rang?::

`Varanim ::If I were going to look for... no wait, if I wanted to localize something called the Dark Star, would you know where to point?::

`charlequin ::Hoo boy.:: Kivet sighs. ::Incarnate, Ataxi, or Third Echelon coordinates?::

`Varanim ::What does that even mean.::

`charlequin ::There are three different coordinate systems established for identifying the location of the Dark Star. They all actively disagree with one another and although each one has an elaborate justification built up by its devotees no one serious about the matter has any idea which is accurate or why.::

`Spring ::Is your research going well? My best current answer is "To get to the other side," but I am actively refining it.::

`Varanim ::Ah. Give me all three in short form and I'll see what I can do, then. Spring is getting antsy and that usually means he's about to eat something.::

`zahara looks around for something that could concievably be shining darkness and thus be pointed at

`charlequin Kivet Loa provides Varanim with a series of three coordinates.

`Varanim "One second." With no particular effort, Varanim holds the three coordinate sets in her mind; with considerably more effort, she maps them against an internal sky to see if they share any overlap--or a particularly illuminating triangulation of avoidance.

`charlequin The three current coordinates actually present a perfect equilateral triangle, each equidistant to both of the others. In the spot they currently occupy in the sky, absolutely no other stars fall within that defined triangular area -- it is entirely, completely dark.

`Varanim "I think a more interesting question is who thought it would be clever to convince three separate groups of academics to each hold down an endpoint of the triskelion map without knowing what they were doing."

`charlequin The ghost looks over Varanim, considers her response, and then nods quietly to himself, stepping back into the crowd. Another ghost, one whose human features are almost entirely undefined, now steps forward. "What is your destiny?" it warbles out, in almost indistinguishable syllables.

`Varanim ::Imrama, are you sure this is worth it?::

`Imrama ::Is access to one of the most famed and mysterious relics of the Underworld worth answering a handful of questions? I suppose only you can say for certain.::

`Varanim "I have it on bad but insistent authority that my destiny is 'great.' My cohort, who is generally better-intentioned but less reliably manipulative, claims that my destiny is to free the oppressed masses of the Underworld as the impossible heir of the Dual Monarchy. Personally, I expect my only destiny involves an unmarked grave and a liquor-pickled corpse that will last for generations."

`Varanim "If you'd like, you can follow the standard practice of picking the answer that upsets you the most and grading me on the basis of that one."

`charlequin The ill-defined ghost slinks backwards with no obvious response to Varanim's comments this time, and now a third ghost steps forward: a small girl, of ultra-pale luminescent plasmic flesh, and two huge eyes that float, unfocused and misty, in her strangely elongated head.

`charlequin She steps towards Varanim and, her head lolling slightly to one side and pointed off slightly to one side, she asks in a tiny voice: "How will it all end?"

`Varanim looks at the little girl for a second with old, distant eyes, then bends down and whispers in her ear. In a language only she and the little girl can speak, whose vocabulary contains terribly dense and nuanced words for suffering, she explains in five sentences all that she can currently see of the coming apocalypse. Then she straightens and says aloud, "Not like that."

`charlequin The little girl brings her long, ghostly hands up in surprise over her tiny mouth, then turns tail and runs back amongst the crowd of ghosts.

`charlequin The ghost who first met them reaches for the nearest chain and jangles it again, this time producing an emptier, more booming sound. He places one hand on Varanim's -- still armed -- shoulder and then pulls it off in a sort of directional gesture, what would probably be the equivalent of pointing amongst these blind ghosts. "Approach the altar."

`Varanim ::I expect you lot of faithful honor guards to step right the hell in if the sacrificial knives come out behind my back.::

`Varanim approaches the altar.

`charlequin The ghost pulls on another nearby string of iron, and it causes a chain reaction: one after another reacting, until finally one near the top of the structure pulls loose and a truly massive iron lump is freed from the place at which it is hung in place, dropping down straight from the roof towards the altar at which Varanim is standing.

`zahara ::Duck:: she says helpfully

`Varanim With a look mild annoyance that is almost palpable enough for the blind, Varanim's multifacted shadow makes seven separate rude gestures, in the confusion of which she sidesteps the falling lump.

`charlequin The giant rock of iron smashes the flimsy altar into tiny flinders that spray out into the audience below before cracking in half with the force of its impact upon the surprisingly sturdy floor beneath. Slowly, the two halves of the iron sphere fall apart, revealing what appears to be an elegantly worked and polished soulsteel and orichalcum box that was hidden within.

`zahara applauds

`Varanim ::If my faithful handmaiden wouldn't mind? I will completely and totally run out of patience if this box needs more than one hand to open.::

`zahara approaches the shattered altar with a curtsey to Varanim the Last, and tucks away a few shards for later as she kneels to open the box. ::But of course, your future Majesty::

`charlequin The box's clasp clicks open easily with only a gentle touch.

`zahara ::Aww they thought of you. Only needed one finger.:: She holds up the open box without touching the Pallium, and presents it gravely to Varanim.

`Varanim ::It must be fate,:: Varanim says, testing the sarcasm-bearing abilities of the ring channel to their creaking limit. She looks the interior of the box over for unpleasant surprises, quickly but comprehensively, before taking the Pallium out.

`charlequin The box seems entirely untrapped and in all ways innocent and safe, and so Varanim reaches in pulls out the neatly-folded garment stored within, which falls out to stretch into its full shape from the point at the neck where she holds it.

`charlequin The first thing anyone might notice about it is that it is black: deep black, unimaginably black, so black as to make the soulsteel box and lumps of coal iron glow like stars in comparison, so dark as to almost swallow up the fingertips that hold it.

`charlequin The second, and perhaps more interesting, thing one might notice is its shape.

`charlequin A wide loop serves as the garment's neck, rising up in slight points at the front and back and swooping downwards similarly at the point of a single shoulder.

`charlequin Underneath, two long black strips hang down, one directly in front and the other directly behind, and joining them together, opposite the singular shoulder point, is a thin, taut web of black cloth, like one-half of a cloak or robe -- but fitted tighter than a straitjacket -- that would swoop all the way around one side of the wearer's trunk and envelop their shoulder entirely.

`charlequin A little careful examination would certainly make the specifics of the situation quite clear: this is a garment that can only conceivably be worn by a person who is missing an arm.

`Varanim "I see," says Varanim, in a tone that suggests that if the week gets any more hilarious from here, it will be rocky sailing indeed.

`zahara helpfully assists Varanim in dressing

`Varanim helpfully drops the pallium back in the box first, and snaps it closed one-handed with a glare.


< A Ripe Hour for the Unexpected | Sol Invictus Logs | A Vision of Darkest Night >

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