Summary:The Solars retrieve Spring from his unusual decision, and decide to hire the Doctor to fix Zahara's curse.

XP:C4, I4, S4, V4, Z4

< A Dip in the Void | Sol Invictus Logs | That Fight Is Still In You >

`Imrama wrong did that something go?::

`Cerin ::Yes ... I ... too ... am ... curious ... about ... that:: Cerin says, obviously concentrating intently on a problem that is slightly more pressing for him. To wit, the dagger of glittering diamonds quite intent on excoriating him most finally.

Long moments pass, but there is no further response.

`zahara ::Spring?::

`Imrama runs at full speed out to the jagged whole in the wall that opens onto the shaft of the Void and peers down into the depths.

Far across from Imrama, the opposite wall of the Well of the Void sits, its gray rock unmarred entirely by the sort of explosive breaks the Solars have just now created... and below, it drops down for miles and miles on every side, widening ever so slightly until finally, hundreds of miles below, it expands outwards out of view, with only the utter black darkness of the Void below.

Far down near the bottom of the well flicker the purplish-black flames that mark the entrances to the tombs of the Neverborn -- the unseen and inaccessible places where the final remains of the dead Primordials lie, the last tiny vestiges of existence before the all-consuming emptiness of the devouring pit.

`zahara ::Do you see him Imrama?:: Zahara asks, still kneeling by her ancestor, to make sure the calm takes effect.

`Imrama ::Only...only the ghostlight of the Malfean Tombs.::

`Cerin ::He is always ... ... harping ... on that he is a Deathlord. Almost there. ... and ...:: Cerin appears next to Zahara, with a footstep. "That should confuse it for at least a while."

`zahara ::Can Deathlords jump into the Void and live? I mean... isn't that how to kill them?::

`zahara slips her hand into Cerin's

`Cerin squeezes. ::I don't know. It didn't seem to be needed for the Mask of Winters.::

`zahara ::Well... ONE of the ways.:: she amends.

The pale lights flicker far below, a wan and unpleasant reminder of the rot and ruin that lies at the very roots of the world.

`Imrama ::I'm going to go look for him.::

`Imrama jumps

`zahara ::IMRAMA DON'T!:

`zahara "Oh for the love of all that is holy and unholy! Why is everyone suicidal?"

Imrama begins to fall downwards into the pit -- a bit of an unusual experience for a man who can walk on the air, whose entire life has been lived above the ground.

`zahara stalks over towards the mouth of the void and glares at the falling Imrama "YOU COME BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!"

`Varanim "The nice thing about that is, it's basically a self-correcting problem," Varanim says as she comes out to consider the pit.

`zahara "My great great great et cetera aunt is going to be so pissed at you," she grumbles. "Or me."

`Varanim "A ghost who doesn't like me, I've never heard that one before."

`zahara "She's not a ghost yet, though."

`Varanim "Oh, wait, your aunt. I'd already forgotten her."

`Imrama ::Mostly you. She can't stay angry at her favorite Space Cowboy. Besides, I will be fine.::

The gray walls whiz by past him, the faint flickering lights far below growing closer and closer as he rushes downward at a terminal velocity, the rising fumes of Oblivion putting the stench of death and decay in his nostrils....

`zahara ::I'll be fine, says the man jumping into the void after the man who jumped into the void.:: she says sarcastically.

`Cerin peers over the edge, after him.

`Imrama ::Yes, Empress. But though Spring has many admirable qualities, weightlessness is not one of them.:: With a thought and a tap of his jade belt, Imrama begins the harden the air under his feet into a sloping ramp, slowing himself more and more as he imagines it curving underneath him until finally he is hanging still, with nothing but empty space between him

`Imrama and the utter mouth of the Void.

Imrama can feel the insatiable, devouring touch of the Void nipping at his heels, the intense and implacable desire to consume and destroy winding its tendrils up his legs and pulling him endlessly downwards -- but he stands, midair and unmoved.

He stops to look around for a moment, to take in his surroundings.

`zahara throws up her hands and sighs, then retreats back to Varanim and the crumpled form at her feet. She eyes the ghost. "How are you feeling, Brygette?"

Just below the level at which he stands, the distant walls stretch out into the infinite darkness in every direction, the walls of the rock being slowly eroded over the centuries by the Void itself. On the inner walls of the well, Imrama sees the pale fires of the torches at the entrances to the ancient tombs of the Neverborn.

Turning around to get a full view, Imrama sees twenty-one gates, their doors sealed shut and their entrances carved into elaborate and finely-worked shapes by nephwracks over thousands of years -- and then, above the highest of them, a single crude door with only a single splash of blackish ichor decorating it.

At first, Imrama can see no sign of his friend -- until finally, after several passes, he sees, barely noticed, crumpled between two jutting rocks, an immobile pile of person, covered haphazardly by a thick black cloak.

`Imrama strides over to look more closely, and calls out in Old Realm, "Hello?"

`Cerin "He's seen something," Cerin informs Zahara and Varanim. ::Imrama, what do you see down there?::

`Imrama ::Someone or something. There's a cloak over them. Just a moment.::

Spring_ groans under the cloak.

`Imrama leans down and pulls back the cloak.

Underneath the cloak Imrama finds Long-Awaited Spring -- of a sort.

The wiry figure underneath is pale, but where once he had the wan -- but human -- complexion of the albino Wasirrans, now his skin is a pure, unnaturally translucent marble-white... and his purplish eyes, which he blinks in confusion, have turned to deepest red.

Most of Spring's usual outfit appears to be torn and soaked in human blood, though there are no obvious wounds to suggest it is his own.

`Imrama "Spring. You look like Malfeas untethered." Imrama extends a hand.

Spring_ "Imrama?"

Spring_ takes it and rises, a little unsteadily.

Spring_ "Everything went...according to plan."

Spring_ "Brygeta?"

Far above, the ghost of Zahara's progenitor shivers quietly. With the Bonds soothing her pain and her mind, she seems more relaxed, less filled with anger or deep sadness -- but some fundamental human aspect still seems far away, and although she looks up and locks eyes with Zahara for a long moment after her question, she does not speak.

`Imrama ::Restrained, I believe. Or she was when I came down to find you. We should get back to the others; I don't particularly care to loiter in places as unsavory as this."

As if to punctuate Imrama's statement, a hot, deathly wind blows out from some unseen corner of the well, carrying on it the stench of decay.

`Imrama "See what I mean? Alright, we're going to have to get you back up the well. How do you feel about piggy-back rides?"

`zahara ::She's not responding.::

Spring_ looks around in bemusement. "Really? I like the atmosphere."

Spring_ climbs onto Imrama's back, with a clumsiness out of keeping with his usual trained motions.

`Imrama begins to climb up out of the well as though ascending an invisible spiral staircase.

The hot breath of the dead Primordials recedes behind them as Imrama carries his fallen friend on his back step by tiny step up again through the well, until finally he reaches the hole in the wall he had created for him just moments ago.

`Cerin studies the ...Long-Awaited... Spring as Imrama finishes his prodigious ascent.

`zahara pokes at Brygette, who still hasn't responded

Something small had changed in Spring already before, when he had first taken on the nominal mantle of "Deathlord," but now, Cerin sees, it is altogether moreso: an intricate negative-energy pattern woven through his skin into his very soul and back again, that seems to amplify the newfound Essence manipulations he had used previously to control the Lion's Abyssals.

`zahara does not actually poke at her, so much as pat her shoulder in a gentle fashion.

Spring_ "I trust everything proceeded acceptably."

Brigid looks over at the newly-arrived Spring and something in her demeanor shifts -- she shivers a bit, and her ghostly eyes grow wide.

`zahara steps in between the two, her own demeanor growing darker. "Spring. Or... do you have a new name now?"

Spring_ "Spring is fine."

Spring_ "Is something wrong?"

`zahara creates a mirror.

Spring_ glances at it, then adjusts a few strands of hair. He then looks satisfied and nods to Zahara.

`zahara "You're not suprised that you look undead?"

Spring_ glances at the mirror again.

Spring_ "Hm."

Spring_ "Do I look...different to you?"

`zahara "I think I've already said that."

`Spring "Mm."

`Spring "No doubt a cosmetic effect caused by proximity to the negative energy of the Void."

`Spring "It will presumably clear up."

`zahara "Nothing like that happened to Imrama," the Empress points out, quite reasonably.

`Spring "Are you sure?"

`Spring examines Imrama's Essence carefully.

`Cerin "I'm quite sure, yes," Cerin says. "You have changed"

`Spring does not respond to this, continuing to look at Imrama.

`Spring "I see some minor evidence of changes to Imrama's Essential structure as well. Perhaps it was merely because I for a longer period."

`zahara "Perhaps." She does not look entirely convinced. "Any conversations with Malfaens?"

`zahara "How do you feel about the fact that you just led quite a few people to something more permanent than death?"

`zahara "Which is, by the by, worse than what I usually do."

`Spring "I don't..." Spring stumbles, for a second.

`Spring "Everything went as We intended it to. I am sure the consequences, if there are any, will not be severe."

`zahara "We?"

`Spring "Yes. We. The Circle, whose interests I have served since the beginning. Who did you think I was referring to?"

`zahara "From your inflection it sounded like a different We."

`Varanim Varanim, who by now is squatting next to the variously-spelled Brigid and holding a bottle, takes a tired look at Spring with the eye of a professional death actuary.

`Spring "I must have misspoken. I am...I feel surprisingly tired.

`Spring "Shall we return to the Cascade?"

`zahara "I suppose we ought to, yes."

Something ain't right about that boy. Varanim's nuanced and skilled eye looks over Spring carefully and to her, what's happened here looks a lot less like accidental cross-contamination from getting too close to the Void and a lot more like some kind of new Essence pattern building off of the hooks already present from Spring's Abyssal-commanding efforts.

`zahara "If you wouldn't mind, please stay away from my relation."

`zahara gestures to the fearful ghost

Very much not reaching from the inside out, however, they seem to be coming from the outside in -- like Spring had opened up new pores in the process of gaining control of the Lion's garden, and going down into the Well had clogged them full of death-Essence.

`Spring "Certainly. Although I assume I will be present when we question her, as usual."

`Varanim "Spring, you really need to take a bath."

`Spring "Yes, I would appreciate one."

`Spring "Let us return to the Cascade at once."

`Varanim "No, I mean... yeah. Let's do that." She takes one last drink, grimacing a little more than usual.

`Spring ::Varanim, does Zahara's behavior strike you as unusual? I am concerned that the curse, combined with the presence of Brygeta, may be affecting her decisions.::

`Spring ::Perhaps we should discuss investigation and contingency plans.::

`Varanim ::I think we should.::


Not too long later, the Solars stand in the Victory Room of the Labyrinthine Cascade, a quiet Brygeta Zhan seated at their geographic center.

Every few minutes, she sneaks a glance at Zahara, then turns away again, moving instead to scratch and poke at herself, hide her head in her arms, or stare wordlessly at the ceiling.

`zahara sneaks glances back at Brigid, not entirely sure how to deal with this situation herself.

`Varanim "Well, I think there's an obvious question to be asked here."

Spring_ "Yes. Where are the pastries?"

`Varanim "Close, but no. The key question is, is Zahara's recent obsession with having family stay over some kind of nesting urge on her part? Because I can clear my room right out if there are going to be babies around here."

`zahara "I am NOT having babies."

`zahara says flatly.

Spring_ kneels, peering intently into Brygeta's eyes.

`Varanim brightens. "Let's get this smaller stuff sorted out, then. I still know a good necrosurgeon, but I don't know if he'd be interested."

A servitor, as if by magic, arrives with platters of pastries. Since Phoenix's most recent disappearance, all the Cascade pastries have been carried in by hand from a shop seven blocks into the city -- though they are not a perfect replacement, at least the workmanship from the baker abjectly terrified of disappointing Zahara has been consistently immaculate.

Brigid's eyes are distant, hurt, empty... not particularly human any longer. Her face retains its sunken shape and it gives her eyes an even greater dose of pathos.

Zahara feels the sigil on her chest burn in pain -- retrieving Brigid has handed over to them the lock securing the Zhan family curse but not, unfortunately, yet provided the key.

`zahara hisses a little, bringing her hand to her chest with a scowl.

`Varanim "What do you think, Spring?" she asks mildly.

Spring_ "I am..." Spring frowns.

Spring_ "What do we intend to do?"

`zahara "Your hand doctor, Nim?"

`Varanim "Mm. He might be annoyed that half of his coworkers died under mysterious circumstances in that freak Lethe flood, though."

`zahara "Alternately he might be seeking new employment."

Spring_ "Ah. Yes, the Abyssal. We should certainly contact him."

`Varanim "Along with experimental freak necrosurgery, there are some unsavory options, like digging up one of her Fetters to maybe get her attention. But that's not a cure."

`zahara "Please investigate what the effects on, say, ME, would be before you do things like that."

`Varanim "Don't go squeamish on me now, Zahara."

`Varanim "Assuming the Doctor answers when I call, do we have a pitch more detailed than 'come fix Zahara's curse for no benefit to yourself,' or should I add something about cookies?"

Spring_ "Tell him we are very sorry that we blew up his overlord."

`Varanim "I don't know about him, but I wouldn't need special powers to spot the lie on that one."

`zahara "Well we could offer not to hunt him down and slaughter him like a dog."

Spring_ "I am sure We can find some way to persuade him."

`Varanim "Ah, I see you're all comfortable having me be the people person on this one. I'm sure that'll go nicely."

`zahara "Well, you two DO know each other best."

`Varanim "Yes, although to be honest he's less sexy when Lucent isn't around to hate it."

Brigid makes some sudden spasmodic motions, then curls up into a ball.

`Varanim ::Definitely something funny with his We,:: she adds to Zahara, in what would be a great sniggering pun if they were speaking English.

`zahara "What did you do to her?" Zahara asks, somewhat alarmed

`zahara ::The Doctor's?:: she replies, thinking the same thing. ::What do you mean by funny?::

`Varanim ::Hmm, it might be nothing, but he's got some stuff sticking to him from that dip in the Pit.::

Brigid uncurls herself, her long, mutant limbs stretching out in every direction, and she casts a suddenly fixed gaze at Varanim.

`Varanim Varanim, who didn't think she'd said anything ''particularly/ risible, stares back.

`zahara ::Oh THAT doctor... He seems... not quite right.::

`zahara "Brygetta Zhan?"

Brigid -- this time, for whatever reason -- seems to respond to the sound of her whole name. She breaks her stare with Varanim and flicks her eyes over to Zahara, at whom she nods shallowly.

As she turns, Varanim notices something about her particular spiritual anatomy -- although she's a mutated ghost who's at the center of a vast bidirectional cosmic voodoo doll rather than a living Solar who took as swim in the Void, there's an element of her newly-mutated Essence pattern that bears a certain resemblance to Spring's newfangled changes.

`zahara "Do you know me?"

Spring_ continues to watch Brygeta thoughtfully.

`Varanim "That's interesting. Spring, can you think of any reason your Essence and hers should be starting to look alike?"

Brygeta reaches out, tentatively, to touch the sigil on Zahara's chest in recognition.

`zahara "I am Zahara Zhan," she says as the ... fingers... touch her.

Spring_ "Alike?"

Spring_ "All Essential structures show a certain continuity, Varanim. It is a fundamental characteristic of the nature of motonics. Surely you have learned this before."

`zahara "You are in denial, Spring," Zahara says absently to him.

`Varanim rolls her eyes at Spring. "I appreciate the effort, but I'm regularly condescended to by professionals. It just isn't the same from you."

Brygeta continues to show more flickers of recognition as she pulls her hand away from Zahara again, but does not speak.

Spring_ "I..." Spring just shakes his head.


< A Dip in the Void | Sol Invictus Logs | That Fight Is Still In You >

Page last modified on October 29, 2010, at 01:28 PM