Summary:Phoenix journeys to the Ikish peoples, and learns of a mysterious disappearance amongst them.



< A Star of Strangling Ivy | Sol Invictus Logs | A Pyramid of Gold >

Phoenix` , burdened with several bottles of Jian'xu's finest brews, sits cross-legged in the wasp-saddle, carefully attaching bundles of ibis down to the edges of her Semblance mask. "Do you think I should use ivory buttons, or shell?"

Phoenix` She spends much of the remainder of the flight constructing a disguise to appear as one of the humans native to this frost-blasted land.

Phoenix` is now known as Phoenix-of-Ice

Phoenix-of-Ice: "I think I see something down there. Shall we land and take a look around?"

Hu swoops down elegantly down over the thick, icy tundra, and moves with remarkable swiftness towards the point at which Phoenix has indicated.

From up here in the sky, Phoenix can see with remarkably clarity the breathtaking sight that has been lost to humanity since the days of the Solar empire, the mystery that lay just beyond the veil of the Wyld in all the years this land was settled under the Shogunate era:

This tiny knob of land sticks out from the icy lands behind it, an irregular peninsula of rime and permafrost; on one side of it, the frigid northern ocean, roiling and churning in waves of deepest blue; on the other, empty sky, the paler blue dropping down and rising up to infinity...

And at the middle, their meeting place: where an ocean of water strikes a turning point, and suddenly, roils over, waterfalls down into the eternal emptiness below, in a vast curtain that extends for hundreds of miles to the north, and whose bottom -- if it even exists -- is not visible from here...

On the ground below, groups of mobile pentagonal huts sit, ice-spiked into the ground below, while valuable cloths endowed by Elemental Fire form the roofs of the pack animal stands, filled with yeddim and bruqqs and kialik, and mazy paths of thick tundra shrubs wind between the huts, clearly grown into place by a sentient hand:

these are the northeasternmost settlements of the Ikish peoples.

Phoenix-of-Ice draws her dark hood close around her face and trudges toward the nearest cluster of huts, limping slightly on her right leg.

As she wanders over to one of the huts, a door opens, and a round-faced woman, her hair tied around back in the Ikish custom and her thick furred hood pulled up tight on her head, looks out briefly to see what's made the noise. On seeing Phoenix, she immediately gestures for her to enter, and clears the doorway to allow her to do so.

Phoenix-of-Ice nods her head gratefully, and once inside, says, "Thank you, mother. I have been lost on the ice for longer than I can remember."

The woman ushers Phoenix inside into the warmth. The inside of the hut is decorated with furs and dried plants, but the walls' angular shape, the Essence-driven heatstones and microgardens, and the odd jargon written in precise Realm letters at various strange openings and movable parts of the building give away their more advanced origins --

a perfect demonstration of the strange fusion of traditional icedweller and Shogunate cultures that is unique to the Ikish.

"You would have taken your death of the cold, had you stayed out a bit longer," the woman says, and leads Phoenix over to the pentagonal table, where a younger woman, a slightly older man, and a child of about seven are already sitting.

Phoenix-of-Ice takes a seat gratefully. "Luckily, I spotted some bruqq tracks fresh enough to follow."

The woman scoops out a rather large stoneware bowl full of piping hot soup from a tureen hanging over the Essence-modulated hotstone and places it in front of Phoenix with a large matching spoon. "Lucky indeed. What's your name, child, and how did you come to be so far from your nest?"

Phoenix-of-Ice gives her a haunted look while shoveling soup into her mouth, robotically. "It chased me out. It was watching me from the darkness, hounding my footsteps, whispering to me in my sleep. It drove me out and into the wild..."

The man at the table narrows his eyes. "What did?" he says, quietly.

Phoenix-of-Ice: "It looks like a snow-tiger, but its eyes are full of the night sky. It follows me even now."

The younger woman blinks and stands up. "Well, nothing's going to follow you into the settlement," she says, "and nothing's going to get in here anyway." -- she knocks on the wall with a metallic clang to punctuate her statement. "You'll be welcome here until you're well enough to depart safely," she adds, and looks at the man as if defying him to disagree.

(He just sighs quietly and takes another drink of his large mug, instead.)

Phoenix-of-Ice: After some more soup-devouring, Phoenix sets the bowl down and wipes her mouth on her sleeve. "My compliments to the chef." She takes in the unspoken exchange between woman and man. "Oh, I'm sorry, my name. Savoury Maiden. Please don't be worried about the tiger business."

Phoenix-of-Ice: She sighs a long, weary, shuddering sigh. "It seems to only have eyes for me."

The younger woman takes her hand, smiling. "I'm Tia," she says. Then she goes around the circle from the matron down to the child: Glaring Hawk, Ekram, and Ivin.

Phoenix-of-Ice: "Honored to meet you all."

Tia nods. "I don't suppose you bring any news of what happens with our distant cousins?" she says. "It has been long since our last contact, and we had heard... disturbing things. Some said that there was a new sickness spreading, one with no cure."

Phoenix-of-Ice shakes her head. "I've been out of contact for several months. Until I did this to my leg, I was more or less on my own out there."

Tia "Ah," she says.

Phoenix-of-Ice takes another bite of soup. "Wait, wait. What else did you hear about this sickness?"

Tia blinks. "We heard of it on the hawkwind," she says. "Some of the Prefectural cities closed their borders, they said. Some of the less Northerly tribes disappeared from contact. One traveller spoke of the site of a village in which every person had perished, but... we haven't heard much more than that."

Phoenix-of-Ice: "Oh, THAT weird sickness. That's over now but a lot of people are dead."

Phoenix-of-Ice says this around a mouthful of some chewy meat like it's no big.

Tia "...what?" Ekram says. He looks carefully at Phoenix-of-Ice, from head to toe, and then he stands up, dragging Glaring Hawk into a corner of the hut for a whispered conversation.

Tia "Just ignore him," Tia says. "He's convinced that every strange thing is a sign of doom, ever since what happened to Omir."

Phoenix-of-Ice takes off her hood to shake out her long white hair. "What happened to Omir?" She digs a whalebone comb out of her jacket and begins the laborious process of combing out the tangles.

Tia "Giant thunderstorm," she says. "There was a huge storm -- so huge the sky was dark for almost three days. A pack of the animals broke loose, and Omir went out to try to corrall them back in." She pours herself her own bowl of soup.

Tia "He chased one of the bruqqs out to the Edge, even though we told him not to." She shakes her head.

Tia "None of us... saw it, directly," she says. "But there was a huge bolt of lightning -- lit up the whole plateau for a solid minute, at least. Left a scorched spot, and bleached the nearby rocks." She sighs. "Never saw Omir or the bruqq again, Dragons rest them beyond."

Tia "The..." She shakes her head. "The strange thing was that there was no more lightning after that, even though it took another day for the sky to clear up and the wind to die down. The older folks think it's some kind of bad omen." She leans in conspiratorially. "But old folks think everything is a bad omen."

Phoenix-of-Ice looks sidelong at Ekram and Glaring Hawk. She leans in conspiratorially. "Is the place nearby?"

Phoenix-of-Ice: "Can I -see- it?"

Tia "...yeah. Yeah." She nods. "I can take you. But." She stands up. "You should get some rest first," she says. "Stay off that ankle for the night."

Phoenix-of-Ice rolls her eyes. "If it'll keep Mother Hen out of our hair."

Tia ~~~~~~

Tia In the morning, the elder family members head bright and early, to perform their appointed tasks out on the tundra. Tia takes a moment to put Ivin to a useful household task, and then greets Phoenix with a travel-lunch sack and a grin. "We'd better be heading out," she says.

Phoenix-of-Ice finishes lacing up her boots. "Lead the way!"

< A Star of Strangling Ivy | Sol Invictus Logs | A Pyramid of Gold >

Page last modified on May 06, 2009, at 06:49 PM