Summary:Spring and Imrama take an unusual approach to resolving the diplomatic impasse with Varang.

XP:I1, S1

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Spring_ In the calm of the Headmaster's office, Spring lifts an arcane rattle and solemnly shakes it three times.

`Imrama Standing off to the side, Imrama admires some of the framed finger-paintings on the wall.

Spring_ "They are very talented."

Spring omits to comment on the fact that the paintings depict such lovely topics as a blind white wurm rising up from a crack in the earth to devour all that lives, and continues gamely awaiting the results of his rattle.

`Imrama nods. For a moment his eyes alight on a scattered teal and yellow design, one which, through some arcane arrangement of creative linguistics contains the compressed details of wheat harvest futures in the lower North. "Whoa." He shakes his head and decides to stop inspecting the paintings.

A few moments later, a harried-looking figure wheels in a small push-device for containing human young, currently occupied by three youngins in particular: a mischievous-looking boy with shocking reddish-gold hair, a quiet and slight girl of dark complexion and faint, wispy silver hair, and a third child with a black-and-purple blankie placed over its head like a cloak, entirely concealing its features.

Spring_ ::They grow up so fast.::

Spring_ makes a few artful gestures in the sign language he has moved the toddlers onto now that their brains have developed. <<Hello, babies. Do you want to take a trip?>>

Spring_ pokes Imrama in the shoulder during this, giving him the ability to understand them, in case he has forgotten to do it previously.

<< Yes. It's boring here, >> thinks the silver-haired baby.

Spring_ "Well, then."

Spring_ "Berwyn, do you feel up to a trip to Varangia?" Spring addresses the caretaker.

Spring_ "Imrama has something he wishes to investigate."

The Sidereal sighs. "Yes, I think an outing would do me good."

Spring_ "Excellent."

Spring_ "You can just roll the babies out of the window."

`Imrama gestures with a broad smile towards the window, where a ramp of golden light rests on the sill, the other end connected to the deck of the Fable

Spring_ throws open the curtains and walks out himself.

Berwyn sighs again and rolls his starmetal pram out onto the boat.

Spring_ "How have the babies been doing, Berwyn? Divination proceeding apace?"

`Imrama Once his excessively cute passengers are aboard, Imrama command of his ship and sets out into a crack in one of the corners of reality, in order to enter the Seven Leagues of the Looking Glass.

Though the Solars have worked to repair the gate network and address the cross-dimensionl issues caused by the death of Nyx, even now the Leagues continue to roil with thunderclouds and dark winds.

Spring_ "Interesting."

Spring_ "Atomnos's assistance does not seem to have repaired the damage caused."

`Imrama "No." Imrama sighs. "There is much more still to be done." On the prow of the Fable plows, tilling the sea of thunderheads, towards the clockwork citadel.

With a rush, the Fable emerges from the Leagues, emerging with a flourish in the sky far above the city of Yane, the meticulously-planned astrological city that serves as the capital of Varang.

Spring_ glances down, observing the starry precision of the architectural layout.

`Imrama Following the sidereal contours of the streets below, Imrama wends his ship towards the largest and most imposing central structure.

At the very center of the city, the Courtyard of the Sun and Moon sits, its elaborate markings and slowly shifting astrological rings visible even from far above. On the outskirts of the Courtyard sits the Circumferential Ring, with the Tower of the Apex standing above the other innermost buildings in the direction that exactly matches the first light of the sun each morning.

The brilliant gold and silver designs and complex clockwork that cover the building make it obviously the most impressive and central building in the city.

Spring_ considers the mechanisms thoughtfully as they approach.

`Imrama brings the Fable to a halt along side the uppermost story of the Tower of the Apex and extends the gangway again.

The nearby window clicks into place (for its frame rotates at set increments of time) just before the plank drops, leaving the pathway clear for the Solars and their tiny companions to descend.

Inside the window is a long hallway, one much more conservative and unostentatious than the exteriors of Yane, lined as it is with dark wood paneling and a simple woven rug.

And almost immediately upon entrance, two figures on the other end of the hallway -- two thin, lithe soldiers with glittering black-and-gold snake marks on their temples -- raise spears and advance slowly but menacingly on the new arrivals.

Spring_ raises his hand and waves politely, then picks up one of the babies and shows it to the soldiers.

`Imrama adopts the manner of a charge d'affaires. "The Children of the Stars seek an audience with the Chosen Child."

There's a pause. The soldiers keep their spears high but only in a guarded, not aggressive, way. "No one receives an audience with the Chosen Child," the soldier on the left says.

Spring_ "Why not?"

"Audiences are not permitted," says the soldier on the right.

He looks nervous. Imrama is so friendly and trustworthy! But the Chosen Child is so unforgiving...

Spring_ "Why is that?"

Spring_ puts the toddler down and picks up another one carefully.

"The Chosen Child is the absolute authority

Spring_ "May we ask the Chosen Child why audiences are not permitted?"

Spring_ "Then we would no longer have to bother you."

amongst Varang," the soldier on the left says. "There is no rule but that which emanates from the Child."

The soldiers consider Spring's questions. "No," the left soldier says. "But... you may ask the sa-wazirat," he adds, and the right soldier makes a bit of a frown.

Spring_ "Who is that?"

`Imrama gestures and inclines his head in a conciliatory fashion. "I understand your dilemma, friends. But let me relieve you of its burden. The Children of the Stars have come to pay their respects to the Chosen Child, in a manner which only mighty and auspicious beings may appreciate."

`Imrama "Naturally, if the Chosen Child does not wish to entertain the presence of even these auspicious younglings, that may be understood. But as these three are among the most noble beings of the earth, they cannot be expected to take orders from servants - only the master's word will do."

`Imrama "So kindly present them to your lord, that they might be told properly to depart."

The soldiers look at each other in confusion once again. After a long moment of realizing that the things they are being asked to adjudicate are above their paygrade, they finally look back at the new arrivals. "We'll... lead you right over." And they lead the way, down to the bottom of the building.

`Spring ::Good work.::

`Imrama ::Happy to oblige, though I think you were well on your way to getting there yourself. Palace guards generally have a limited facility with nested questions.::

The guards lead the Solars down, all the way to the bottom of the building, and across the courtyard to the slightly shorter, and slightly less ostentatious, but no less elegant, Thrice-Foretold Eminence Palace across the way.

`Imrama ::Ah, the old "put the child-king in the second-most impressive building" trick.::

The soldiers lead them into the building, whose inside is quite the opposite of the other building -- ostentatious and filled with gold, jewels, fine silks, and other such contrivances.

A door, its ancient and worn gold-plated frame twenty feet across, sits at the back of the room -- but the door itself is brand-new, with the symbol of two snakes, gold and black, biting one another's tails, emblazoned across it.

`Spring ::Hm.::

`Spring ::Do you think we will be able to get lunch after this?::

The two soldiers flank the door. "You... may enter," the left one says, still nervous.

`Spring <<Any insights so far, Berwyn?>>

<< For a people organized around astrology, they seem more disorganized than I would have guessed. >>

The infants seem curious about the room. The hooded one reaches out and takes a rather large jewel from a pile on one side of the room and stuffs it inside the hood, while the silver-haired one simply looks out over the entire contents of the room, as if cataloging it.

`Spring <<Watch carefully. They say this is Fate.>>

`Imrama With an equal mix of ceremony and force, Imrama throws the door wide and announces. "May I present the of the magnificent Children of the Stars: Spitting Leaf, Ikeshdun, and One. Here to seek formal audience with the Chosen Child." Imrama motions for Berwyn to wheel them in, as he takes in the sight beyond the door.

On the other side, in a wide chamber, with no windows to the outside and only a scant few torches to light it, stand no fewer than sixteen Varangians: twelve warriors, more fierce and powerfully armed than those soldiers who escorted them, and four servants, clad in domestic clothes, who hover around what appears to be a tiny bassinet, covered by black and gold cloth.

The walls of the room are bare except for the black-and-gold snake design that has been painted onto them, and there is aught else in this room except for a few small doors that lead into other sections of this inner chamber.

The warriors, like the others before them, leap to threatening attention.

`Imrama "And also, it bares mentioning, their honor guard, one Prince of the Stars and two Lords of the Sun."

Berwyn, his impish Sidereal spirit not yet entirely extinguished by the thankless task of child care, grins at the warriors and beckons with one hand for them to "bring it."

The warriors, however, do not seem to consider it brung.

They fall back, still on guard but clearly cowed. The servants position themselves in a tighter circle around the bassinet.

`Spring ::Ah. A play date.::

`Imrama "Let me assure all parties present that none of us have come to make use of force. We'd just like to give the kids a chance to get to know each other."

One of the servants, a suspicious-looking old woman -- like everyone here, bearing the mark of the two snakes on her brow -- looks suspiciously at Imrama. "Who invited you?"

`Spring "Our visit was foretold."

`Imrama ::Indeed. I predicted it myself, just this morning. And then later on the way here.::

`Imrama "My good woman, the Chosen need to invitation to commune amongst themselves. And let me assure you - if ever you should have the occasion to visit Harborhead, you may expect a far less chilly reception from her citizenry."

Even for a suspicious, unhappy, and altogether lousy old woman such as this, Imrama's statements are shockingly soothing. Though her face remains gripped in a suspicious look, she steps away from the bassinet and gestures the others to move as well. "Well... I suppose... a little visit couldn't hurt..."

`Spring "Early socialization is vital to proper development."

One of the other servants reaches over and carefully parts the gold and black curtains that cover the resting place of the Chosen Child. Inside, sitting, perfectly aware, bright eyed, and clear of thought, is an infant -- almost exactly the age of the Sidereal babies -- a golden-skinned girl, her skin shiny in the torchlight, and upon her sternum a sizeable mark of two serpents, just like that the Solars have seen everywhere in this town.

`Imrama ::Get a good eye-, ear-, nose- full. Whatever works for you. We've been wanting to know what this child is for a long time.::

Spitting Leaf looks over at the Chosen Child with interest. << She has lots of Fate >> he signs.

<< LOTS of it. >>

`Spring examines her Essence signature.

The Chosen Child is not an Exalt, but... something else.

At the center of her being sits what appears to be a knot of pure fate -- an astrological pattern so immense and powerful that it warps the very Essence of the air around it into a pattern of its choosing, and draws in all persons who so much as walk nearby into its order for reality.

Sitting somewhere within it is the slightest hint of spiritual Essence, the touch of a god -- but entangled with the fate as it is, there's no evidence for what god it might have been.

The Chosen Child looks up, serene and alert, at her visitors, and stares into the eyes of each of the three Sidereal children in turn.

<< What, are we too old? >> Berwyn asks One, rhetorically.

Ikeshdun leans forward in her seat, extending one finger out towards the Chosen Child, though currently the carriage is too far back for her to reach.

`Imrama signals Berwyn forward again.

`Spring ::The child is not Exalted. She is merely extremely fated. Extremely, extremely fated.::

Berwyn rolls his eyes and pushes the baby carriage forward. The Chosen Child considers things for a long moment, then, in a deliberate, almost sagelike fashion, leans forward herself and touches the tip of Ikeshdun's finger. There is a sudden golden spark of light, and then both babies lean back as if nothing has happened.

`Spring ::Now she is more fated.::

`Spring ::And Ikeshdun is...tied to her.::

`Spring ::Possibly that might not be a good idea.::

<< This will be good to follow, >> Ikeshdun signs.

`Imrama bows very low to the august personage before him. "Greetings, young madam, on behalf of the Exalted Deliberative, the Circle of the Sunlands, the Confederacy of Horns and the nation of Harborhead."

`Spring <<Was that safe?>>

The Chosen Child looks up at Imrama, and after a moment, spreads both arms out wide -- seemingly returning his friendly gesture.

<< Nothing we do is safe. It was prudent. >>

`Spring ::The problem with babies is that they believe they are immortal.::

One adds, <<We are very interested in this one. We will wish to see her again. >>

`Spring <<I am sure you will.>>

`Spring glances thoughtfully at the Child, then coughs up an orange and offers it to her.

The Child looks expectantly at the orange, then at one of the servants, who rushes forward to take it and place it in a secure location. The Child nods in thanks.

"The Chosen Child accepts your gift and offering of friendship," adds one of the servants, somewhat redundantly.

`Spring smiles politely.

`Imrama "We appreciate the hospitality of the Chosen Child and her people, and wish to take this opportunity to invite her nation, once again, into the fold of the Exalted Deliberative."

`Imrama As he speaks carefully, Imrama surveys all. He watches for the tremble in the hands, the slightest hesitation on the face; any of the telltale signs that might describe in detail the relationships between this child and the circle around her. And at the same time, he scrutinizes the young girl, searching out her connections, apparent and hidden,"

`Imrama "and hoping to find some evidence of whence her power flows.

The Child gestures to the servant who just spoke, who, even as Imrama watches with a practiced and frightening eye, speaks. "We once sent an emissary to the Deliberative, but our representative was rejected."

The first thing Imrama learns -- verifies, really -- is that every part of this bizarre pantomime in which they are engaged is entirely real. The Chosen Child really is a (to the minds of the Varangians) foreordained arrival, and their society really has turned itself inside-out to accomodate her.

Every person here holds the child in absolute reverence and believes, without the slightst hint of doubt, that she represents the grand future of the Varang City-States.

`Spring "That was Cerin's fault."

Everyone in this room seems perfectly selected to serve the Chosen Child: citizens born under poor alignments, consigned their entire lives to unfortunate and unpleasant purposes, without family or friends -- but rescued by a quirk of astrology, a lucky break that aligned their charts with the Child's and marked them for this auspicious and highly valued service.

`Imrama "The problem was a technical one; I hope you can understand that no ill-will was involved. All human member nations need one of the Exalted to speak for them - in some cases this person is a leader in land they represent, but in others they are a lesser official, or simply a friend of the country."

`Imrama "To be admitted, you would only have to choose an Exalt to serve as your voice in the Assembly."

The Chosen Child herself seems to be at a great remove from all social purposes, an almost bodhisattvic personage embodied in a tiny child -- Imrama sees her dedication to slow and steady progress towards the realization of her purpose, to the state of Varangia, to the cause of Fate itself... and an odd lack of direct connections to individual persons.

Though these servants spend every day with the Child, though any of them would instantly give their life for hers, she seems to have little care for them -- to barely acknowledge their names, much less their individuality.

And somewhere, deep inside, the Child has a severe and strong connection, perfectly interwoven with her fate, to her Progenitor -- not, very clearly, her human parent, but almost certainly the god Spring saw a connection to -- though as best Imrama can tell, even she knows no more than that.

Seemingly unaware of Imrama's probing, the Child pauses, then gestures again -- she points at Ikeshdun.

There's a long, intense stare that passes between the two children, the type that seems to communicate on only the most subtle level as each carefully sizes up the other. Then, after a long moment, Ikeshdun nods to the Chosen Child, and looks up to Berwyn. << I accept, >> she signs. Berwyn cocks an eyebrow.

`Spring ::Hm.::

`Spring ::Did something go wrong?::

`Imrama ::I would say that something went...complicated.::

`Spring ::Well. That at least is familiar.::


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Page last modified on October 29, 2010, at 01:32 PM