Summary:Zahara gathers her living relatives in order to divine the location of the voodoo doll.

XP:C4, I4, S4, V4, Z4

< They Believe They Are Immortal | Sol Invictus Logs | Plots that Span Centuries >

`zahara waits, in the bubble of calm in the Wyld that she has created, for her family. It is a bizarre idea to her, so foreign even after having heard that she has cousins still, that she is honestly not sure what to make of it.

`zahara She suspects there will either be immense awkwardness or forced cheer, as if a reunion is in the making. Still, the burning deep in her soul, might be cured by these people, and so she can endure pretending to feel a connection to strangers. And part of her wonders if she will feel one.

Riordan -- for all of Zahara's faerie contacts have of course been called in to aid in such an exercise -- stands next to the Empress and her companions -- and grins. "My fellows will be arriving with your guests shortly," he says. "I feel it on the wind."

`zahara "Wonderful." she says with a small smile.

"Isn't it just?" he says. "This is like a storybook -- a woman on the edge of death, healed by a great gathering of those tied to her by blood. It is... delicious," he says, soaking up the emotional vibes that surround them. He looks over at Imrama and Lucent. "I have rarely seen its equal."

`zahara "Oh yes, my whole life is picture perfect like that."

`Lucent "No, it is not. But it will be."

`Cerin gives Zahara a footstep, and then he slips arms around her. He's radiating faint satisfaction through their unity.

`Imrama "The plot is actually somewhat reminiscent of the salvation of the Lady Esquilax in the fourth volume of the Wreck of Phosphorous Terrapin."

Spring_ sits at one of the smaller tables, eating ice cream.

`Imrama "But obviously this time its way cooler than that."

Riordan laughs. "Of course," he says. "Truth, beyond providing significantly more sustenance than fiction, is also quite a bit more impressive." He looks out into the distance, where a vessel in the shape of a swirling wind filled with autumn leaves bears across the rainbow-hued chaos, growing nearer and nearer to the port of call built by Zahara here in the Wyld.

`zahara leans up against Cerin, turning her head to kiss him before replying. "Of course."

`Varanim leans over to take a slightly bloodshot look at Spring's dish, then leans back with a faintly horrified expression.

With a faint rustle, the leaf-ship docks at a carefully-constructed port, an enthusiastic Rovash standing at its prow, and a herd of humans standing huddled close together behind him. With a wave of twenty-seven thousand of his arms, he beckons them to depart, and after a short, wary delay, they begin to do so, even as other faerie ships draw nearer from other directions, bearing more relations.

`Cerin kisses her back, then looks out over the gathered relatives.

Spring_ glances at Varanim, then takes another bite.

`Imrama takes several hearty scoops from one of the tubs and proffers a bowl to Varanim. "Can I interest you in the kahlua and caramel mead ice cream, ma'am?"

Spring_ "I recommend the chicken and waffles sherbet."

Amongst the crowd that disembark Zahara sees all manner of figures. Gathered here are humans of every nationality, calling and age -- green-haired Haltan youths rubbing shoulders with silver-blue-skinned Azurian elders and pale-white Haslanti soldiers.

Imrama notices quickly that many of those gathered here do not even bear the name Zhan -- though the descent from a single leader, long ago, is enough to unite them here.

`zahara "These people all bear the same blood as I?" Zahara asks of no one in particular, dubiously

But what else joins them together here is visible only through the invisible wavelengths of purest Essence -- for though many have yet to experience it, to have it called out to the world beyond, Zahara can see that every single person gathered here, deep in their soul, has the same indelible brand: NE.

`Varanim "The less you like them, the better the odds," she says to Zahara, after waving away the offered dairy products with a nauseated face.

`Lucent "Your relatives got around."

`zahara "You'd think I was related you you"

`Varanim "Just let me know where I stand in succession to the throne, so I can be sick that day."

From near the back of Rovash's vessel, figures step off that, perhaps surprisingly, Zahara recognizes: Hika, Roaldo, and Bekket Su-En, from the village of Koarpec where she and Lucent had gone to investigate the curse.

Each of them now looks worse than when she last saw them -- their brands nearly black, their visage pale and sunken -- but nonetheless, they are here, and Hika in particular makes a visible effort to preserve her pride and disembark without any external assistance.

`zahara gives them each a nod of greeting

Spring_ "I believe panic and anarchy is the Sunlands' official succession plan."

`Lucent "Now, now, I am strictly monogamous today, Empress." He leans in and confides one hand over his mouth, "She CAN curse me, you know."

`zahara "Quite. I was hoping for the destruction of the entirety of Creation, really." she notes to Spring.

`Lucent looks over them and frowns. ::We CAN help them, right?::

`zahara "Lucent, my dear, how is that monogamy working out for you?"

`Lucent "It gave me a Brightlord!"

`Lucent proclaims, proud

`zahara "Yeeeaaaah."

`Lucent "You need children. Could make them into a Shinma."

`zahara "Nooooo I don't."

From the other boats, more and more relatives pour out: penniless rogues and gold-bedecked merchants, sailors and farmers and blacksmiths in their tens and hundreds, all pouring out here for one purpose alone.

"Can you feel it, Zahara, the power present here?" Riordan asks. "What do you feel?"

`Cerin is looking at what he can see.

The Wyld is buzzing. With this many figures, intermingled and tied together by powerful underlying bonds, the unchecked possibility outside their tiny stable bubble is pulsing and roaring with potential; with his knowledge and training, Cerin can nearly see the implicit flows of sympathy that connect them, even as the motes themselves slip in and out of visibility beyond the realm of the senses.

`zahara "I feel... like i am part of a strange, intricate web that has been dripped with acid." She says. "I can feel their energy, and the purpose. And the corruption."

At the same time, as all these people gather, Cerin can see how the curse itself, the dark magic tied to their blood, has grown excited too -- and he can see the darkness, the death, that laces their family throbbing and oozing like a weeping sore upon the underlying Essence structure of this place.

`Varanim Varanim, who is even less interested than usual in how people feel, instead squints at the mass of people and Fae through her pale eye, curious about the uniformity of their likely deaths.

Rio selects someone from the crowd -- a man pushing past middle age and into the bottom rung of elderly, looking to all the world like a cobbler, probably from the Nexus region. "What does he mean to you, Zahara?"

`zahara "Nothing. None of them mean anything to me other than words and power." she says slowly.

`Imrama walks over to one of the boats and greets a young girl as she disembarks. Turning the full strength of his considerable charm to welcoming her and any other family members who may be with her, he leads the child over to the Empress and his other friends. "Zahara Zhan, the Dreambreaker, may I present...Zahara Zhan, the little girl."

Varanim gets perhaps the most consistent reading she has ever gotten in sussing out how someone is going to die: every single person she looks at is currently quite liable to keel over in agony and expire from a magical curse after coughing out their insides and bleeding all over the floor.

`Cerin ::Hmmmm.::

`zahara looks down at the child. "Uh. Hello there."

Zahara Moonflower Zhan is a small child: perhaps nine years old, long angel-blond hair flowing from her head down almost to her ankles (and braided in elaborate, loving patterns), her cloak cinched around her waist in a familiar fashion to any child of the northeast who once had to render their clothes more practical for exploring than their parents might have preferred.

`Varanim ::We've all asked you not to make ring-noises when you're looking through Zahara's skirts.::

She has a slightly sullen look on her face; clutched in one hand is the arm of a small, weather-beaten dolly, but tied on her waistband are tiny bags of herbs and mouse-bones, as one studying childhood charms might carry -- and burned into her soul, like all the others present here, is the symbol for NE.

She looks up at Zahara uncertainly. "You're Zahara?" she says.

`zahara "I am, yes. Did your parents name you after me in an attempt to get you to follow my path?"

`Cerin ::I'm only doing that metaphorically at present. This curse is ... complex.::

The little girl's eyes narrow, and she looks at Zahara (the elder) in a sinister fashion. "Yes, and that's why YOU SUCK!" she shouts, suddenly. She throws a small ball of dirty moss at Zahara with a surprisingly forceful effort for a nine-year-old.

`zahara "Yes, having children makes people insane." she flicks the moss aside before it can touch her dress.

Varanim, meanwhile, is lost in the sea of colors that accompany her efforts to take a death reading on the fae. The information that comes back to her is... abstract, unfixed, lacking in context. Her mind fills with "manners of death" like "splash of red," "grapes," "twas a wonderful craft''she was rigged fore-and-aft" and other phrases that are clearly not answers to the question.

But it's as she looks out further into the Wyld, stares at more of the innumerable and indistinguishable fae masses that have gathered nearby, that she notes that fully one-fifth of those faeries gathered here have as their manner of death only a slab of complete monotone, medium grey and the phrase "He is Coming."

`Varanim "Huh," she says, uncorking her breakfast.

`Cerin "'Huh'?"

"You're stupid!" Zahara Moonflower shouts, still clearly agitated. "What makes you so special? I bet you didn't have to take d...d...dimivation lessons with Sinister Eddie!"

`zahara "No, you're stupid!" she replies, for no good reason.

`Imrama "Now, now," Imrama breaks in, attempting to defuse the situation. "Its not nice to call our enth-cousins stupid."

`Varanim shrugs at Cerin. "About a twenty percent death rate on the Fae here from a big but uninspiringly colored 'He is Coming' deal."

Zahara Moonflower's eyes get super wide in surprise. "Nobody ever called me stupid before!" she says, sounding much less angry and much more very, very surprised.

`Lucent is having too much fun laughing at that. "See, Imrama, she is already good with children!"

`zahara "Many people have called me stupid in my life." She shrugs. "When I was your age, that is."

`zahara throws the moss at lucent

`Cerin "Ah. So they agree on that, too?"

`zahara "Perhaps that's what makes us different."

"Why'd they call you stupid?" she says dismissively, making a child's skeptical face and clearly willfully not acknowledging that she herself just called Zahara (the elder) stupid only moments ago.

`Varanim "It'd be impressive, normally. Right now it's running a pale second in consistency to explosive hemorrhaging, go figure."

`Lucent catches the moss, makes it float around him, ponders aiming it at someone else with the same awesome mossifying power

`Spring "Do you think they know, Varanim?"

`Varanim "To know that, I'd have to talk to them, which I've so far very nicely avoided."

`zahara "Because I overestimated my abilities before I honed them. And because the other people my age did not understand me. Nor did the adults for that matter." She looks out at the crowd. "None here probably would either."

"That's silly," she says. "What's so hard to understand?"

`Varanim "Mostly what makes her such a megabitch," Varanim finally contributes to the inter-Zhan conversation. "So, this curse thing?"

`zahara ::Thanks.::

`Imrama ::...:: ::...:: ::...I don't think that's very hard to understand.:: Imrama thinks to Varanim.

`Varanim ::Anytime.:: She possibly snickers then, but it was probably just a cough from her well-known whimsy allergy.

`zahara "Yes, the curse thing. That's the reason we're here."

`Cerin gets out a pad and pencil, and starts to sketch it.

Zahara Moonflower huffs a little and sets herself up, standing in a position close enough to overhear the rest of what the Solars talk about.

`Cerin soon has a workable approximation of the curse on the paper, very dense writing suggesting complex oscillation sequences and orientation shifts wihin the roiling blackness of the magic.

`Varanim "You want to find the trigger point, right?" she asks Zahara. "With enough family members gathered, you said you could find the poor screaming bastard at the center."

`zahara "That's the plan, yeah."

`zahara "Alright, this area is actually a geomantically precise focus, and I helpfully put bright lines on the ground where people should stand

`zahara "Someone make them stand there." She waves her hand imperiously."

`Imrama walks out into the crowd, shaking hands and kissing babies as he goes, until he is positioned near the rough center of the scrum. He steps up a few spans into the air and asks loudly but politely. "Could we have your attention please?"

The hundreds -- thousands? -- of Zhans and almost-Zhans gathered halt their conversations and turn to look at Imrama.

`Imrama "Members of the House of Zhan and associated families, thank you for attending this great assembly. It is a proud and happy time when so many from so far can be gathered together by the strands of familial loyalty. In just a moment there will be an address from the woman who brought you all here today, but first,"

`Imrama "Will you please take your places for the family portrait?"

`Varanim ::You know, I thought the Cascade walls needed a few more awkward hangings.::

The ground lights up, just as Zahara mentioned, with helpful guidelines for where everyone should stand. The crowd shuffles about, placing their feet on the glowing dots and aligning their eyes to stare off at Rovash, who's helpfully undocked his boat and sailed it out to serve as a singular focus for the gathered group.

Zahara Moonflower steadfastly refuses to move away from the position she's taken up, quite close to the Solars' central location.

`zahara steadfastly ignores her

`Cerin Cerin takes him his pencil once again, kissing Zahara and moving away from her side. With all eyes on Imrama, he's free to slip through the crowd of gathered Zhan's, leaving a small bloom here or there. To someone less knowledgable about the flows of essence and the magic in flowers they might have seemed random. But, a small cluster of blooms here and there, Hawkweed for vision, Angelia for inspiration; some magically charged,

`Cerin others left neutral. Between them, and the curse, and the natural family connections, they set up a complex reasonance of essence; both on the mote and orientation levels. Before all the Zhan's are in place, the flowers are. Then it's just a case of returning back to the where the portrait will be painted. And examining the array of Zhans. The painting Cerin paints is probably not suitable for the Cascade walls, but might be

`Cerin fascinating to any student of curses. Or geneology.

The image takes form rapidly on Cerin's canvas -- the perfect mixture of mundane reality and effervescent Essence flows, the faces of the apprehensive Zhans and the iron-grip of the curse on their hearts realized with equal precision, and the impossible flow of chaos crystallized in a single moment serving as their backdrop....

Altogether, it is a work that almost any patron of the arts (or of advanced motonics) could study for years and still find new, subtle details that had previously escaped their notice, and it's finished before Zahara's relatives even have a chance to get too antsy.

`Imrama Though he doesn't have very much time to fill, still, Imrama does his utmost to fill it, asking from his perch high above the carefully organized crowd, "Did you ever here the one about the three-masted junk and the effervescent orangutan?"

`Varanim watches Cerin's paint, and combines it in her mind with her knowledge of the end state of each face--contorted in pain, coughing blood, and finally dropping in a domino-fall of little surges of death energy. From each severed lifeline she sketches an arrow, individually useless but together building on Cerin's network, inevitably pointing the way to one common origin for Zahara to follow.

A dream she once had, about pyramids of bodies encircled by a white serpent over which poured endless rivers of acidic gore, jumps briefly into Varanim's mind unbidden, and then is gone again.

`zahara inspects the diagram closely, tracing the intricate paths so well-laid out both before-hand and during the rite... She gives a long and esoteric speech in Old Realm, threading various words of power throughout it, and then claps her hands once, and the bright lines on the floor disappear. All, that is, except for one, which slides up to coil around the voodoo doll's forehead like

`zahara a halo.

`zahara **an image of the..

Zahara watches in sudden, ominous silence as the singular line of light searches about the tiny island of stability, touching on each Zhan in turn before suddenly turning and shooting off into the distance, a brilliant arc of golden sunlight cutting through the chaos of the Wyld and blazing forward inexorably towards its target...

In the air in front of her face, Zahara watches its progress as the location of the light's farmost position is projected from a small crystal set into the ground in front of her, and she watches it race through the bordermarches, plunge through the Sunlands, race across the Inland Sea, dart past the still-devastated fields of the Blessed Isle, until finally it reaches a skull, sitting peacefully beside a vast mountain, and plunges into its mouth...

plunges into its mouth...

When it emerges again, the light is wan and pale, distorted -- for it has emerged, weakened but still alive, in the Underworld... and it races on once more, across the districts and streets of Stygia, through the bone-rattled streets and the unholy processions of the ancient dead, until finally it reaches the doorstep of an ancient cathedral -- the Eternal Ossuary.

The light pauses there, for a long moment, and when it starts to move again, just as it passes the threshold -- Zahara's crystalline view slips away, and there is only darkness.

`zahara ::The Eternal Ossuary, in Stygia.:: she says to her companions. "Please enjoy the refreshments we have provided." she adds.

`Varanim ::Dead priests. My favorite.::

The Zhans are beginning to mingle and enjoy the refreshments when a cry comes out from the distant side of the island: one more Zhan -- Harolis Kipepa Zhan, aged 57, of the Greyfish Archipelago -- has keeled over dead from the curse.

`zahara ::I thought you liked doctors::


< They Believe They Are Immortal | Sol Invictus Logs | Plots that Span Centuries >

Page last modified on October 29, 2010, at 01:27 PM