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Vermillion Gekko

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A Puzzle To Solve
01.08.10 Joint with Talencia & midnight_medea

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Taj smirked as he and Saljin walked in the doorway. Hesitating at the archway, Mystery glanced over towards the deer like creature grazing nearby. She skittishly raised her head at their appearance, but after a moment of staring at him, she nodded slightly and went back to feeding.

A frown flickered across his face. It had been hard on her and he nodded to Saljin who stood silently watching. She was welcome to remain. But that also meant there were others under his protection.

Tempest must have found someone. It was not a hard conclusion to come to since the man had gone out alone once more to look for his sister. Briefly he wondered if he had found her. Glancing at himself, Taj sighed. He desperately needed a bath after being at the forge all day. And his son needed some attention also.

"I'm going for a bath, Taj."
Saljin stated as he moved towards the hallway nearby. "I'm also going to go play with my daughter and see Felista awhile tonight. Let me know if you need anything." Then he moved down the hallway at a nod, soon disappearing into his room.

Moving towards the secret doorway that into the other hallway and upstairs, Taj was not at all surprised to see Tempest and another standing at his door. The man had his hand raised as if to knock. Folding his wings back, he waited.

Tempest turned around at the footsteps. "The forge again, Taj?" he asked, a faint smirk on his face at the filth on the god.

Mystery shrugged, but grinned widely. Then he turned to watch Elana a moment. She had it as rough as the creature had. He now understood where the animal had come from. There was a definite family resemblance and the ease that Tempest stood before him with told him much. The man was extremely relieved. This girl was definitely his sister.

Writing on his tablet, Taj said, < You are most welcome here, little sister. >

Tempest blinked and then laughed. He should have known Taj would understand. "This is Elana, my little sister as you said. Elana, this is Tajnevaki, God of Mystery."

She hefted the box of trinkets she had brought as her tribute to the lordly diety who sheltered them. Oh, she knew Tempest didn't see him that way, and certainly didn't portray him as being such, but Elana couldn't help herself. Any diety that would overtake another being, destroy them to remake themselves, she could only imagine them as being aloof and imperious. She gritted her teeth to brace herself as Tempest moved to knock on Taj's door.

She turned as Tempest did, seeing a grubby figure in old clothes. THe only truly remarkable thing she noticed right off was that he was winged, but these days such a detail was negligible as being unusual to her. A moment later her brother addressed him as Taj, and she sharpened her gaze. This? This was the godling with powers and what-not? She frowned at him, clearly unimpressed.

As he wrote, she looked him over more closely, noting he had a tail she'd missed earlier. His laughing eyes that met hers directly as he handed her his note were also slit like a cat's. Unusual, but nothing she imagined as being suitable to a god reborn. Dropping her eyes, she read his message. Little sister, was it? Uncomfortable and uncertain, she let haughtiness drop over her as a shield. Her head came up, chin extended, eyes challenging.

"Here. This is for you for as much payment as I can muster for room and board for myself and my friends," she said stiffly, extending the box she carried. It clanked and tinkled with the various stuffs inside. It wasn't the best offering, to be sure, but there were a few things in there of some decent value, and the rest could potentially be sold to the right people for a good profit. "I wouldn't wish to burden you with my crew," she added coldly, feeling her brother's disapproval beside her and boldly ignoring him. She had to settle this her own way.

What she wasn't even acknowledging to herself was that how he reacted to this was important to her. It would affect how she continued to treat him, her opinion of him, and her trust in him. She couldn't have told you how she wished him to react, nor what reaction would have garnered the best result. This was a moment in time for her, however. One that might dictate how the rest of her stay here would go.

User ImageTaj silently watched her a moment before turning to his pad again. < There is no price for the returned prodigal. All here are family and welcomed in their need and ours. > A sudden glint caught his eye and he blinked twice upon seeing the puzzle box nestled in. For a long moment he stared at it in confusion.

His eyes drawn to it, he reached out to take it in hand, but glanced to her for permission first. He knew this. A faint memory dropped down over him as he held it for a long moment. Another hand had held the box and he frowned as he turned it over and over in his. He did not know the symbols but there was something about this box. He needed to think. He had seen the markings before. Where? The thought of his library came to him. A book. For a moment he hesitated then turned. There was something he needed to do with this box. He could feel it within himself urgently.

"Is something wrong, Taj?"
Tempest finally asked knowing the god never acted like this. He had known Taj would not take payment for Elana, but he knew she would offer. The box was something else though and he glanced at his sister wondering where she had gotten it.

He glanced at both Elana and Tempest first shaking his head no, and then yes. Then he shrugged, motioning them to follow him. Stepping forwards, he moved through the wall, waiting halfway for them to come forwards. Then he was moving down the secret path to another doorway and into the hallway beyond. Again he waited until they were beside him before he moved towards the library.

His fingers touched lightly down the spines of the books there one after the other. Noone else was in the room as Taj pulled out a book, flipping it open. Shaking his head, he placed it back. Turning back to Tempest and Elana, he indicated the markings and a section of books in front of him. There was something here and he was sure he had seen the symbols in a book though he had no idea what they were. And he had seen someone holding this very cube. Who?

Her first reaction to Taj's response was a mixture of scorn and grudging appreciation. She still didn't like to feel beholden to him for something she couldn't pay for. She determined to find some way to make up for it, something she could do to lighten someone's work here perhaps.

Things turned strange then, though. Something interested him in the box after all. He lifted out the odd heavy metallic cube Veridan had brought her. She shrugged at him when he'd looked to her for permission. As far as she was concerned, it was his already anyway. Still, the way he peered at it wasn't like a miser with his treasure, but rather like a baffled man trying to remember something.

His confused answer to Tempest tended to confirm this assessment. When he gestured for them to follow him through a wall (through a wall?!), she was left with a problem. What to do with the box of random valuables? She glanced at the her brother, who was already moving to follow Taj. Noone else was around, so she shrugged and just set the box against the wall before darting after Tempest. He had said they were all family, after all, and families shouldn't steal from one another. If what he'd implied was true, the box would be safe enough there.

She followed the two through a tangled passageway and emerged into the library she had heard about. She gazed about her in astonishment. This was some library. The avid reader in her seethed with agerness to sit down with one of the tomes and peruse to her heart's content. Apparently they were here on a mission though. It wasn't hard to decipher the motions Taj made. He wanted to find those symbols, and thought they were in this section of books.

Unaware that she was finding herself treating the god as just another person, she dutifully pulled a book down and began to flip through the pages. Though she moved quickly, she was also notably careful with the fragile pages. Clearly some of these books were old, older than she could guess. It wouldn't do to damage one of them, no matter how important this might be. She shook her head as she replaced the book and chose another. This could be practically impossible, depending on how prevelant the symbols were in whatever book he sought. Without looking at every page, she wasn't entirely sure what her chances of stumbling upon what he was looking for were.

User ImageAs the three of them began going through books, Taj reached upwards taking down a grouping of three books. The first one when opened revealed little other than words. The second book he placed on the first when it did nothing to help solve the problem. But when he opened up the third book, Mystery hesitated, staring at the symbols on the page. One was similar to the cube. Holding it out, he turned it to study them both.

Tempest noting the hesitation moved towards Taj. It was a book of numbers written in hieroglyphics that were particular to some ancient race. "Numbers? Is that what the sumbols are, Taj?"

His eyes gleamed in excitement as he turned to watch Tempest. A quick nod and he shut the book. Now to solve the problem. Then he stopped again, his fingers hesitating just an inch before the cube.

The image of the cube in a hand came to him. He had seen it before but as he focused on the vision, memory, he looked up into the face of the one holding it. He could see the eyes very clearly and he suddenly grinned widely. He knew this person.

Arctang. The God of Numbers had held this very puzzle box. He had gone to get it when they had been faced with Samyaza. A sudden frown came to him. Arctang had not been seen since then either. Why?

Taking his tablet, he wrote, < Numbers once held this puzzle in his hand. It needs solution. Perhaps a clue to his disappearance.>

Mystery was uncertain why, but he needed to figure this out. His fingers moved quickly as he began moving the blocks. One shifted upwards as another shifted downwards. Taj had no idea what the true solution was, but it needed solving. This had something to do with Arctang and perhaps there was a clue inside to the god's whereabouts.

Tempest sighed. Taj would be at that for hours. And he'd not even gotten his bath yet. Glancing over at Elana, he said, "I'm going for a tea and something to eat. Find a book and pull up a seat. He will want us to wait until he has this solved since it was you that brought it here."

Elana did indeed curl up in a chair, but did not pick up one of the tantalizing books. Instead, she was focused on the stranger fiddling with the cube that apparently was a puzzle of some sort involving numbers. She nibbled her lip and considered this enigmatic character. He certainly was nothing like what she'd been expecting. He perched absently on furniture, his entire focus on the cube, apparently unaware of his filthy state or her presence.

Definitely nothing like her mental image of the reigning gods. She took the quiet moment of noone observing her to ponder her own stereotypes. This definitely wasn't what she had been expecting. Could the others be equally... human? That was the best she could define it. He was distinctly down to earth in a way she would never have believed. Tempest had certainly tried to tell her, but it was something she had had to observe and accept herself.

Setting aside these rather uncomfortable thoughts, she leaned forward to peer at the cube and what he was doing with it. After watching intently for several minutes, she spoke aloud, half forgetting he wouldn't respond the same way. "What is the objective of it? What are you trying to make it do?"

Cosine lookd up at the sound of voices. She had hidden herself away at the back of the library. A perch on a worn, leather seat where she worked on formulas for the computer system she had begun with Gianfar.

She liked the silence of the library. Ankou's rooms were not loud, though people came and went. Aoide, Echo's children. At times it could be hard to concentrate on complex matters. She was only a newborn goddess after all, number did not always come as easily as she would have liked.

Curious, she closed the notepad and slipped the pen through the spiral binding. Her slippered feet touched the floor and she stood before making her way to the end of the row. She did not recognise the voices, though ... there was something familiar. Something she could not put her finger on.

She stepped out and walked along the rows until she came upon them, Taj. That must have been the familiarity she sensed.
"Lord Mystery." She smiled, looking with interest at the cube that he appeared to be fiddling with.

User ImageTaj glanced over at Elana having taken his hands off the puzzle to write a reply to her. < The puzzle knows how it must end, but the path is my riddle. > He would have written more but heard the voice beside him.

Glancing over at Cosine, he suddenly grinned, a cheshire in his face as he promptly plopped the cube into her fingers. It was then he remembered he was filthy.

< Perhaps luck is on your shoulder to open this trinket. Twas Arctang's puzzle but a solution needs to present itself soon. > He was unsure why he felt that but he was quite certain that it was necessary.

Tempest returned to the library glancing around as he carried the tray of tea and sweet breads he had taken from the kitchen. He smiled upon seeing Cosine with them. " I brought some tea and rolls. I was going to ask you, Taj, why you did not give it to Lady Cosine. Lady, this is my sister Elana. Elana, this is Cosine, the goddess of Numbers."

<Tis her twin's puzzlement. > Taj replied in amusement as he poured a cup of tea for Elana and then Cosine before himself and Tempest. Something important was happening and though he desperately needed a bath, it would wait until he saw what the result was.

His answer, of course, did nothing to enlighten her. She also looked up at the voice, seeing another winged person, this one with neon colored wisps dripping from her feathers. Momentarily she wondered what was with people around here and wings, but the thought was brushed aside. Taj seemed quite delighted to see her, apparently as it had something to do with the cube she'd brought to him.

She sat back in her chair when Tempest entered, accepting a cup of tea from him. She was just lifting it to sip when she was introduced to Lady Cosine, but as she smiled and nodded her head in greeting, her brother dropped the bombshell. This was another diety. Startled, Elana nearly dropped her teacup and threw Tempest a look that inquired wildly if she was to rise and bow, prostrate herself, or what? Warily she looked back at Cosine, but saw no sense of superiority in her at all. Slightly unnerved by the thought of being in the presence of two gods, for she once more was reminded that Taj was far from being merely human, she set aside her teacup and stuffed her folded hands between her knees. This was entirely beyond her, and she concluded she'd best just keep silent and let those about her handle all this mysterious cube business.

Taj's information about a twin went right over her head, though she gave him a polite smile of thanks. Was life always like this in this mad place?

Cosine smiled back to the mute god and raised an eyebrow as the puzzle was placed in her hand. There was a strong sense about it. Arc's. She frowned a littke and held the puzzle up to the dim lights of the library. Her foolish brother had gotten himself trapped.
"What makes you think I can solve this." She said, turning her eyes to mystery then back to the cube. The numbers on the sides were ancient. She stared at them a moment, possible numeric patterns presenting themselves slowly. Yet she was reluctant to obey.
"My brother is within here?"

User ImageTempest stepped to the side to sit down with his sister. "Drink your tea, Elana. This should be interesting. And relax little sister. Noone's going to bite you." He smirked slightly as he turned to watch Taj and Cosine.

Taj grinned widely. < Even a god may find themselves trapped by folly. > he wrote and indicated she work on the puzzle. < Tis a solution I see but not one I know. Millennia may pass at Mystery's pace while Numbers continue to write themselves and the solutions they seek.>

He was extremely amused by Arc being in the cube. It would give him something to tease his friend about. Looking at Cosine, he waited expectantly for her to open the cube. He would keep turning it if she was not prepared to. But this still amused him.

She looked askance at her brother in clear skepticism. Noone was going to bite her, but she was in the presence of not one, but two dieties, with what she could only suppose was a third somehow contained inside the cube? She felt he could hardly guarentee she wouldn't become bitten in some fashion or another. Still, his amusement gave her a sense of normalcy on an emotional level. She gave him a tart look and primly lifted her cup again to sip.

The tea was unremarkable when she had the god, goddess, and cube puzzle to dwell on. She was rather confused on what exactly was inside, or how they knew it to be so. After all, here was a diety of Numbers, so why would old numbers on the outside of the cube reveal who was inside it? She shook her head in bafflement and sipped her tea. She had no appetite for the sweet bread, however. She was reluctant to admit it, but this was exciting, and it had her stomach in flutters. Scowling to cover her honest interest in it all, she folded her legs up underneath her and devoted herself to drinking her tea for a time, letting it settle warmly inside her. What matter were the affairs of the gods to her? Still, she stole peeks at the goddess' progress on the cube.

Cosine smirked a little, her hands trembling as a complex war waged within her. One she did not fully understand. The goddess she was, fighting with the goddess she was becoming.

On one hand she wanted her brother to return. She had not got the chance to know him before doom had descended and swallowed them both up. They were strangers really, strangers with a connection that needed to be understood.

The other hand, however, was not so enthused. Wasn't it fun being the only representation of Number. Why should she share? Why should she be pushed into his shadow once again when she was enjoying the light.

Her hands shook a little more as she ignored her darker thoughts and raised the cube again and started to work through the sequence, turning it this way, then that. Concentration furrowed her brow until she slid, what she hoped would be the last piece into position.

Each side read the numbers in sequence... 1-9 in six archaic or familiar lagnuages. The side that was uppermost erupted open, a column of light rising from it brilliantly. From it appeared a figure, hovering inexplicably above the cube. Cautiously the figure stepped from the light and nearly fell to the floor. Not at all the graceful emergence that Rajakhrev had managed. Sprawled on the floor, he took several deep, experimental breaths, just lying there. The cube closed back up and lay inane once more, though the numbers were no longer in proper sequence.

He looked no different than he had that fateful day. He had on dusty traveling clothes, and his hair was as mussed as was usual. He raised green eyes beneath locks of hair frosting to the same green. His gaze was unfocused at first, as he took in his location, his being, his reality. Yes, there was the cube, solidly in the hands of.. he raised his gaze further to her face. With a cry he lurched to his feet and wrapped his arms about his twin. Cosine. He was back. He was with her. Unabashedly he wept, holding her close in an intense embrace of affection. For her ears only, he murmured over and over, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He stood there, unwilling to let her go for several minutes, merely rocking her back and forth as he clung to her.

But some unnamable sense finally told him that they were not alone. Others were here. Turning, but keeping hold of his sister, he took in those others present. A young woman, a slightly older young man, and someone who appeared vaguely familiar. Clearly he was a diety such as himself, though, so Arctang bowed. "My thanks," he said clearly, half expecting his voice to rasp from disuse. Time did not pass within the cube, though, so it had been no time at all in truth since he'd last spoken. "My thanks for whatever hand any of you had in releasing me." Tears came again to his eyes, but these were the pleasant if achey sort. He would never forget these faces, those present when he had escaped his prison. "My deepest thanks, truly." His words caught as he tried to speak through a constricted throat.

Whispered almost to himself as he looked from one face to another, ending on Cosine, he spoke the only other thought on his mind. "I'm free!"

User ImageTaj suddenly grinned as he saw Arctang stepping forwards. He had been right. Arctang had been at the root of the puzzle cube though he had been unsure how.

He slipped his arms around Arctang after Cosine let go of him, then wrote < Friends were Mystery and Numbers long err this. There is always room with Tajnevaki's domain for rest and clarity. > It was a pure luck that they had gotten him back at all.

Turning he watched Elana a moment, then bowed to her gratefully. < My gratitude for such a welcome gift. > It was then his filthy hair dropped into his eyes and he sighed. He needed a bath still but Arctang needed more so he simply remained beside him. There was much that Numbers would need to hear yet and there were questions that needed answered. Even Elana did not know entirely what had happened, though he was certain that Tempest had explained some of the situation.

His eyes frowned slightly at the words 'I'm free!" in concern for Arctang. It would not have been easy trapped inside there with noone. He would have to remain close to his friend and help him no matter what it took. Perhaps it was Chance's effect more than luck. Chance that Elana had survived outside and away from everyone and chance that someone had the cube. He smiled slightly. There would be mysteries in this world still and no reason this could not be one of them.

Cosine watched in amazement as the figure hovered above the cube then stepped out to become a fully formed being. Cosine recognised it as her brother ... or the changed child that he had been bonded to. Her green eyes glanced down to the cube, closed and once again set to trap.

His cry made her jump and his tight embrace felt ... awkward. Cosine let him cry, her eyes focused on the wall behind him. If he had just waited, he might not have been in such a desperate situation. The lack of thought in his actions was very ... un Number like.
"It is good to see you back brother." She said softly, easing herself away and smiling a little. "And in good health. You must be tired after your ordeal."

Elana stared in shock. Somehow, she'd thought that the idea of a god being inside that little cube was just a figure of speech somehow. When it opened up and out stepped another of their kind, she very nearly dropped her teacup to shatter as it may. Her fingers reflexively tightened just before it slipped from her grip. The slop of liquid that escaped the cup went utterly unnoticed.

She was still staring when he turned to greet them all, to thank them. Still staring when the first of them, Taj, turned and wrote a note of thanks to her as well. She? She was to be thanked? She had brought him all this way in that little faceted box? The very idea was staggering that she would have a hand in such a thing. Carefully she put her teacup back down and pinned her folded hands between her knees. This was terribly unsettling to say the least, as if the last year hadn't been bad enough. All of a sudden she had an intense wish for Tor to be there to hide her face against.

Arctang resonated with joy, but the tenor of the moment was marred, only just slightly. It was like one instrument in an orchestra being mistuned, jarring in the background of harmonious loveliness. He paused, brows wrinkled as he strove to put his finger on it. As Cosine stepped away from him, murmuring platitudes that lacked the warmth he'd hoped for, the source became clear. He turned to her with an expression of dismay, hurt floating to the surface of his face for a fleeting moment.

His time in the cube was not misspent, however. Though he could not have told what caused her discomfort, the reason was not his to determine. She was uncomfortable and displeased somehow. He refused to allow his own situation to take away from how important she was to him. She must come first, he thought fiercely. Willingly he dropped her hand, released her. "I'm sorry, sister," he said softly back to her, trying to meet her eyes. "I've done aught to upset you?" No empty offering was this. But too also he saw reticence, a withdrawing of her from himself. Unconciously he ran his hand through his hair as he took a breath and blew it out gently. "I would make it right, whatever it is," he imparted, again seeking her eyes. It seemed as if he wanted to take her hand to convey his sincerity, but did not. He kept his hands to himself, respecting the distance she seemed to desire. "Please, when you can, tell me how to make it right with you."

She was not the only one. She could have been his world, if she had let him. But he knew there were others to look after and consider as well. He turned to Taj for a firm clasp of hands. "Thank you for your hospitality. I think I shall accept it." He glanced over his shoulder at his twin. "For now at least. Things are rather too chaotic to know where my place is just yet." Which reminded him. "I must see Destruction. Has he... has he survived?" Of course he must have, for the world to remain, but in what state?

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Noting Elana's discomfort, Taj glanced at Tempest who nodded. They had been around one another long enough that he knew what the god wanted him to do. Comfort his sister. Turning back to Arc, Mystery nodded, grinning widely. He was glad that his friend was accepting his hospitality. It would give him time as well as safety to learn the things that had gone on.

< A room is yours, my friend. Destruction is gone. Creation, Lord Harmodius, reigns in his stead and this world mends. The pieces of Aristogeiton were gained. None know where Samyaza resides or when she will return. Nor Gaia's arm. Forges have been made to arm the mortals that remain. The Pantheon is green, but not all. Universe perished and the sky needs made once more. For now all come here to live. Mortal halls and godly rooms line this place. We still rebuild and a myriad of tales other than these few. >

It was not much written but it contained alot. Specific details could be given to Arc when once more he was rested and comfortable. There would be time then to tell all that had happened while Arctang was trapped. Perhaps he would even have a tale or two to reveal. And he could give him the prized silks he had saved all this time.

"Nothing." She said, watching him as he begged for forgiveness. "You have done nothing Arctang." Aside for getting yourself trapped in a cube for months. "I just do not feel we have had the chance to become reaquainted after our rebirth, I remember nothing from the time before." A half smile crossed her lips. "We are like strangers though I am sure we can remedy this now you have returned." Her half smile formed itself into a full one. She glanced to Taj as he offered his rooms and nodded to herself.
"Forgive me brother, I could not offer you rooms. I live with the Spirit Guide, in his rooms and space is not something we have in abundance."

This was a lot to take in. What Cosine said seemed logical enough, but somehow he felt that the natural bond they should share as twins, regardless of memory loss, was starkly lacking. It baffled his tired mind, and he began to feel the strain of his time in the cube weighing on his physical body. Not to mention the implication that his sister was living with another god? Perhaps even... well, that was better left for a time when he could think more clearly. Right now, he was beginning to sag visibly. His body itself was no tireder than it had been the evening he was sucked in, but his mind and heart were positively wrung out.

It crossed his mind that he needed to find Raja and ask him about all this, about re-emerging and how to deal with it. Rajakhrev would know how he felt. How in the world had he survived in there for so long, he wondered of a sudden, thoughts whirling at the idea of spending hundreds of years trapped inside. Come to think of it, how long had he been inside it?

He turned to ask Taj, but staggered as he did so. Frowning, he righted himself but found he wasn't inclined to move much more than that. All four limbs felt terribly heavy. All he wanted to do was sit down, right then and there. So he did, folding his legs under him as he sank to the floor. His energy of excitement at being freed had run out of him like water, leaving him only with his mental and emotional exhaustion. "I think," he announced rather vaguely, "that it may be time to rest." Even sitting, he swayed a bit, resisting the urge to simply sprawl right there and close his eyes.

Tempest's arm about here helped some. She'd forgotten how good it felt to be sheltered. She'd been the one doing the sheltering for some time now, so this was a nice change. Not just that, though. She'd also forgotten how well he comforted her. Finding herself relaxing as the others talked, she leaned her head against his shoulder and let herself savor the chance to relinquish all the responsibilities to someone else. It was wonderful. Even as she sighed softly and accepted her brother's offered comfort, though, her eyes followed the goddess and her interactions with her own brother. She watched the subtle plays of emotion, or lack of it. Her heart told her she should sympathize with the brother, but in truth she could completely understand the sister's point of view. Had she not herself put distance between Tempest and her, to the point of actually running away? Yes, sometimes even the closest siblings needed space, room, a seperation from one another. Being clsoe didn't mean you had to be of the same mind.

She looked up at Tempest from her safe nestle beside him. Even now, she didn't think they wanted or needed the same things. She was learning though that this did not exclude being close anyway, didn't mean they couldn't provide for each other's needs. WIth another sigh, she snuggled a bit closer to him and once more savored the chance to simply be instead of act.

User ImageTaj moved towards his friend immediately. There was time for information beyond the basics later. Arctang obviously needed rest and he would get it. Sliding his arms around Arc's shoulders, he helped him back to his feet.

Glancing at Cosine, Tempest, and Elana, he indicated they follow back through the hidden path. The box of trinkets still waited on Elana and he was certain Tempest wanted to spend some time with his sister. Although it was important to go out looking for others, Taj would send Saljin and Puck out to look for the stragglers that slowly came in each day. In the morning things would look different for all.

Cosine could freely visit her brother as she knew she was welcome at any time and Taj liked the goddess of numbers. Maddie had taken a liking to her also and she felt as if a part of the family. They would all figure out what needed done later.

Tempest picked up Taj's tablet, glancing over at Cosine. The god would want it later. "Lady, it was pure luck that we even had the cube. My sister only arrived here today and it came with her. I wonder how he got trapped in it and how it found it's way back. We will see if we can find out such for you." Perhaps it was important to know and perhaps not. But the offer was made so that if it were important, it would be known to them.

Cosine moved forwards as her brother stumbled. Confused she might be but she was not entirely cold hearted. Taj reached him first and she straightened watching the small group of people. Her gaze followed Taj's indication and she smiled, of course he would have some hidden way to the library, she should have expected nothing less.

"Thank you." She replied to Tempest's words, bowing her head a little and looking to her brother with a smile. "I think you will find Mystery's rooms very comfortable brother. There are many friendly faces. Though I hope you will not be offended if I do not join you. You need to rest." She reached out a hand to place it gently on his arm. "Come and find me in the morning, I live behind the door that shows a field of forget-me-nots with a crow and a vulture bearing candles flying over."

No longer the proud godling he had started becoming after his void burn, born of anger and frustration and a desire to do something, Arc was more than willing to lean heavily upon his half-remembered friend. The world steadied some as he took some deep breaths and moved slowly. Best not to aggrivate his addled brain by moving swiftly.

The feeling of his sister's light hand on his arm made him turn towards her. He gave her a gentle, warm smile and gently slid his fingers under hers. "No apology needed, sister. I am merely grateful to be free, and to have gotten to see you once more. He raised her hand and lightly kissed the back of it before letting go. "I shall come looking for you then." The image amused his weary mind. A candled crow. His smile turned a bit silly, but he didn't speak his odd, drifting thoughts. "Farewell until then."

He turned back to Taj and gave him a smile also, still slightly goofy. "So Mr. Mystery, is there somewhere a Pie Bird can nest in amongst your domain? Lead on!" His expansive gesture as he descended further into silliness nearly knocked his wavery balance off again. An exhausted Numbers in a safe place equalled a rather large portion of amusement.

User ImageA wide grin slid across his face as he nodded to Arctang. There was definitely space for him to rest. Leading him through the hidden spaces and directly to the stairs leading upwards towards his own rooms, Taj turned to the left towards a space that had until now been left empty. He had been uncertain what it was for, but now he knew.

Sandwiched between the workshop and the room of oddities, was enough room for the God of Numbers to reside. Basic furniture shaped itself as Taj moved towards the door. The room itself was arc shaped- a fact not lost on him and which should at least amuse them both. The room was plain and simple but he knew that it would shape itself to Arc's designs once the god had rested and become more himself.

Helping Arc to the bed, he wrote before moving towards the door. < The room shapes itself to your demands. Explanations of silence and more can wait until rest has come and gone. My aoidei are at your command, my friend. The hidden stairs turn to my room at the top should you need me. Welcome home. > He knew Arc would understand what he had written. He would deliver the silk shirts he had gathered for him when it was time for the tales to be told. Arc had missed much but he had also been missed.

Now though it was time for a bath and moved towards the door where Tempest and Elana still waited. A quick glance at both revealed that they were waiting patiently. Something he appreciated from them. Her box of trinkets still waited in the hallway and he knew there was truly no way to thank her for the gift she had given. He hugged her gently before picking up the box and handing it to her. Then he was gone into his rooms leaving them standing.

"Let's go sit awhile, Elana. You did Taj more of a service than you know. To find a lost friend helps in these days when so much has been lost. No less than finding you, little sister. And I just want to enjoy that you are here."
Tempest stated with a smile.

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Bubble Bubble
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Bubble Bubble

Graey, Arabel, and Rem concoct various potions from their plants

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Shadows Amongst The Dark
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Shadows Amongst The Dark

Restaminthrybal, Taj's former labyrinth master shows up. At least part of her does.

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03.15.10 Joint with Talencia

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He awoke slowly. Soft silence met his ears as he rose into conciousness. It was such a subtle thing, that silence. It wasn't the empty, hollow silence of waiting. Nor was it the strained silence of fear. No, this was the quiet of comfort, contentment, of solace and companionship.

With a deep sigh, Arc opened his eyes. He stared up at a hanging canopy made of a rich, deep ruby red, patterned with a twisting pattern in gold thread. He blinked up at it in a bemused state. This was not what had been above the bed when he'd been brought here. A tingle of dismay swept down his spine. Was it real? Had he actually been released, or had the cube played a nasty trick?

He sat up abruptly with a loud rustle of sheets, gazing about himself intently. The room was handsome and to his taste. Heavy furniture in dark cherrywood or mahogany, fabrics in dark reds, blacks, and warm browns, with touches of golds and creams.Bookshelves lines one entire curving wall, interspersed with wide panels hung with heavily shaded brass lights. A sitting area with overstuffed chairs and a lounging couch was arranged before an unlit hearth formed of irregular slate slabs. Scattered about the room were tables of stone or wood, and thick rugs of exquisite weave were laid pleasingly across the dark, polished wood floor. At one end of the curving room was a glorious office area with shelving, a heavy desk, and wall space clearly meant for organization or display. It was all lit brightly from strategically positioned lighting that blended pleasantly with the rest of the room, casting brilliant light from above so as to cast no shadows. At the opposite end of the massive room was a doorway, cutting off the symmetry of the curving walls. He frowned briefly, but his brow smoothed as he concluded the lines continued into what was probably a private bathing chamber.

Finally, directly across from the sitting area was a thick, carved panel door. Oddly enough, it seemed as if it easily could have been a double door entry, but simply was not. Above it, inscribed into the wood, was a symbol. He stared thoughtfully at it for a time before realizing with a start that it was meant to indicate ownership. It represented him. He rubbed his eyes, clearly not entirely awake if he failed to realize the significance of a logo that included the mark of pi.

He gave another yawn and a stretch,then slithered out of the tall bed. It was high enough he nearly fell out, though not quite. Instead of the cold of the wood floor, warm softness met his feet. He smiled appreciatively as he wiggled his toes in the deep plush of one of the luxurious carpets. He could get used to this!

He moved towards the door presumably to the bath chamber when he stopped mid-stride. There was a draft. Where usually there shouldn't be. He looked down at himself to find himself dressed in a sort of sleeping shift, nearly more of a gown than anything else. He frowned at it, grasping the mid-thight seam. It certainly was made of the finest material he could think of, but... well, the draft was due to the fact that under it he had nothing at all on. He'd been too tired the night before to recall how he'd gotten in this thing, and he colored to think how exactly that had happened.

Had one of the servants... oh dear. And right on cue, there was a knock on the door before it began opening.

She had knocked softly. Earlier when she had peeked in, Arctang had still been sleeping soundly. Instead of waking him and trying to find out what he wanted to eat, Delphine had slipped back down to the kitchen and continued her baking for the morning. Triq was in the kitchen and baking cookies for Maddie's cookie jar.

"I was not sure you would be up yet, my Lord, but Lord Taj asked me to check on you. My name is Delphine."
she said softly, carrying the clothing that Taj had asked her to place for Arctang's convenience. "Lord Tajnevaki asked me to leave these here for you. This clothing is some that he bought specifically for you when he was off the planet."

Carrying the silks over to the nearby chair, she placed them there for his inspection. "What would you like to eat? Anything in particular? I can bring something back while you bathe and dress."

He stifled a yelp, spinning to face the door and jerking the hem of his shift down as far as it would go. Realizing how ridiculous this looked, with him curled forward and pulling the edge down like some teenage girl, he flushed and let it go, standing up straight carefully so as not to jerk the edge upwards again. He shifted uncomfortably as she moved to a chair and laid something cloth on it, talking all the while. He tried so hard not to blush when she turned to him. This was very ungodlike, to be so embarassed over his hidden nakedness. Fighting these feelings, he answered her as best he could. "Anything is fine. Whatever you already have made for others." He frowned a bit at himself. This also was very undeistic. What was wrong with him? With a groan he rubbed his face with both hands and then ran them through his hair.

A bath however sounded absolutely heavenly. Though in the cube's alter-life, he'd bathed often, his body seemed to be the same as it was when he'd been pulled in. He was covered in road dust and his hair was snarled from the wind. He nodded a bit and glanced back over his shoulder. "Actually, if you could bring me something hot to eat, I'd be grateful," he amended his previous statement. Yes, that felt much more... proper? More like himself. He shuddered a moment in reaction. Things were definitely not the same at all. That led his mind towards all the questions he'd need to ask Taj, including ones about their Master. Resolutely he turned his mind from that, though, and gave the woman a smile. "Thank you. I think I'll just go soak for a bit."

With that, he turned and entered the bathing chamber, leaving her to let herself out of his room. The bathroom was sparse, but highly functional. It contained a combonation bath and shower, a single commode, and a large mirror over a wide counter that held a single sink. He stared at himself for a moment, taking in the features that were partly his, partly hers. His hair was mostly hers, though, probably nearly as tousled and knotted as it had been when she had been alive. He fingered the frosting of color that was his own. He sighed then and turned to fill the tub with water. When it was full, he sank gratefully in and remained there for some time, very carefully not thinking.

Delphine's lips twitched a bit in amusement, but at the same time she understood his predicament and turned to fuss with the blankets while making the bed. "Hot it is, my Lord. Take as long as you like and I will return with your food."

Giving the bed a final pat on the corner, she said, "There is more clothing available in other closets or the Lady Lisana has a seamstress from Baadris that is quite capable of altering or creating other clothing for you, my Lord." Without waiting for a reply, she turned towards the door. If he was going to soak a bit, then a little over an hour should just about do it. She had plenty of time to make him a hot meal and return with it. He would be dressed by then, she was sure.

In the kitchen, Delphine pulled out the various ingredients she needed. A good meal would certainly allow him to move forwards a bit. She did not know for certain what happened to him. But she had heard the rumors of being trapped within some sort of puzzle. It most certainly could not have been easy for him, so whatever they could do now could only help him get his feet beneath himself again.

Knocking on the door on her return, she said softly, "Lord Arctang, may I enter?" Delphine's expression flickered but then opened the door slightly to look inside. He was still in the bath or perhaps just getting out as he was nowhere in sight in the bedroom and the clothing still remained there. Placing the meal on the table quickly to save him further embarrassment, she left it covered so that the heat would remain. Setting the teapot to one side, the girl smiled, then stepped out of the room leaving the tray. When he was finished, she would return later to take the dishes.

There was a note in the pocket of the shirt though Delphine knew nothing of it. It only said that Mystery would find him when he woke.

The long soak did much to revive him. It was simply bliss, laying there in the steamy room, surrounded by liquid warmth. He very nearly fell asleep, actually, but was awakened by his stomach insisting that he feeeeeed iiiiiiit. Reluctantly Arc clambered out and wrapped himself in a thick towel before peeking out the door. Leave it to the woman to pop in at just the moment when he was most unclothed! The room was empty, however, and a rapturous aroma wafted to his nose, proving she'd come and gone already.

He took his time towelling off, glad for the crackling fire that warmed the room. He dressed carefully, finding under things in drawers, and pants in a closet. He slipped on the silk shirt, murmuring appreciatively at the slippery softness. It was a vibrant turqouise with a subtle patterning in a slightly darker turquoise, highlighted here and there with touches of lighter aqua. The curving, swirling pattern added to the natural shimmer of the fabric, delighting the eye. He left the top two buttons undone and tucked it into the waistband of his dark pants. They fit a little loose, but that was fixed with a thick leather belt. He pondered leaving his feet bare, but opted instead for his somewhat battered but still functional travel boots. Shoes weren't something easily replaced.

It was then that he finally turned his attention to the tray of food. It smelled heavenly, and tasted almost as good. Though tempted to wolf it all down, he made himself take his time and eat at a steady pace, though he cleaned every morsel from every dish or plate. Sated, he sat for a moment, staring into the fire, still trying not to think too much of what had been, or what was to come.

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Numbers Update
01.11.11 Joint with Talencia

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User ImageTaj had bathed and eaten after Elana slipped off with Tempest and Arctang got some needed rest. He wondered exactly what had happened to trap Arc there, but was more worried about his state now. As he had been alone all that time, Taj knew that people might overwhelm him if too many intruded on him before the god was ready. He would have to make sure his own servants did not do so.

The room hidden in the staircase suited just right for this situation. It had not been more than space before but upon entering, Taj had focused enough to give it the bare basics, placing a door where there had been none before. Thankfully it had worked and Arc would change it to suit himself. Taj was simply glad he was back.

He hesitated at the door, hand raised to knock and yet he did not move for a long moment. Glancing down at the tray of tea, he wondered if Arc would still be sleeping or not. Finally he tapped lightly. If the god did not hear him, then he would wait awhile longer.

Saljin walked into the stairway from below, glancing over at Taj. Raising an eyebrow, he asked, "That door was not there before, was it?"

Taj grinned shrugging as the shifter shook his head. For a moment they both stared at one another and then Saljin asked, "You wanted me here?"

Taking the tablet, Taj wrote < Explanations of Gehenna. >

"I see. I'll explain what you want, Taj. That is alot of ground to cover."

<Perhaps. Others must know. >

Arc was exploring his desk area when there came a knock to the side of it. He raised his brows, glancing over at the main door. Well, this was interesting! Curious, he moved to open it, savoring the rich grain of wood in the door as he reached to turn the knob. Somehow he wasn't surprised to find Taj on the other side of it. He greeted him with a genuine smile, stepping backwards with a flourish of an arm to welcome him and his companion in. "Ah, my Lord host, do come in! I must thank you for the beatuiful room. It suits me perfectly." He gave a bow from the waist and ushered them to the grouping of comfortable chairs before the fireplace.

He was grateful that Delphine had been so attentive, as he'd managed to get clean, dressed, and fed before they'd arrived. In fact, the woman had managed to clear out the tray of dishes only just minutes before. The timing was impeccable. "Please, sit." He smiled appreciatively at the tray of tea. Talking over a hot drink seemed much more genteel and relaxed. To be honest, he'd figured he'd have to approach Taj formally, and was relieved to see his host had come to him, and clearly not with the intention of painstakingly ordered and ceremonial situation.

Once seated, he finally turned his attention to the one who accompanied the god of Mystery, his gaze interested. Arc really was feeling quite refreshed, and his time in the cube seeming more like a distant nightmare rather than his entire life for who knew how long. In fact, that was partly what they were here to discuss, wasn't it? His gaze flickered between the two in mute anticipation.

Taj began to pour tea after grinning widely at Arctang. Nodding his approval as he glanced around the room, he indicated to Saljin to go ahead. With an amused gaze at the shifter, Mystery placed a cup in front of Arctang and then Saljin before himself. They all three knew each other after the grigori event. There had been little to do until the crevasse had repaired itself enough for them to move out to tasks undertaken.

"It's nice to see you again. It has been some time though. Taj thought it would be easier for me to help update you than for you to end up with an hour of riddles and no way to solve them."
Saljin replied slightly amused at the god. It was obvious that Saljin and Mystery were as good of friends as Jaster and Saljin had been. "Alot has happened since that day, so I think it will be easiest to start from there and explain what happened in order. Feel free to ask your questions as we go. It will make it easier for you."

He frowned slightly, taking a drink of the tea before beginning again. "As you know because of what happened that day, Gehenna was begun and all of us were looking for a way to prevent it and pull Creation back to us. When we left the Pantheon to go with Lady Fire, we found ourselves bartering with pirates in order to try to regain the pieces of Aristogeiton. His shattering was part of the plan of the grigori though it has taken this long to come to fruition. The pieces were hidden and Creation gave Medicine the opal necklace that had once been that of Aristogeiton. She disappeared but not before collecting one of the pieces, the bones of a dragon. A portion of his soul was within the bones somehow. She also left clues to the whereabouts of a second fragment. That of a man whom the necklace revealed contained a portion. We gathered him and returned here, while others went for the other pieces. Nergal and others managed to gather all the pieces. What has happened to them at this point, we do not know but they were left in Lord Underworld's care upon our return."

"That was but one piece of the puzzle of what was happening."
the shifter replied.

Arc frowned as he listened, regarding Saljin intently over his cup of tea. He breathed in the steam from the cup and sipped the contents, but mostly was unaware of the sensations they provoked. Instead, his mind swirled with the thought of a long-term plan of the Grigori to usurp their Lord. He wasn't sure what or who Aristogeiton was, but clearly it had been something that was needed to help Destruction. Which brought up what he felt was the most pressing question, aside from where Samyaza had gone.

"How did Destruction become Creation?" he asked simply, taking another sip of tea and crossing his ankles, turning his gaze to Taj as well as Saljin. This particular bit of information was rather vital. He felt a pressing, stirring need to know the state of his Master and what this meant for himself as well as the world.

"Aristogeiton is human, the lover of the Twin Crown." Saljin explained at the flicker of confusion at the name. "And from what I understand, they are the same only two aspects of the being who walked from the void. Creation and Destruction are one and always will be. Destruction appears whenever Creation is injured." He glanced to Taj then back and admitted. "I'm not entirely certain what happened, but there are rumors that those gods were punished for the injury, Universe one of them, and Destruction had taken the throne as a result. That day... Samyaza stole his name. His true name and that is what triggered Gehenna."

Writing on his tablet, Taj held it out. < He is Gehenna, but chose to become more. Creation and Destruction balance. Gehenna is nothingness. Void and the grigori desire. >

"We learned when we left that Aristogeiton was the only one who could soothe Destruction. None love as that soul does."
Saljin added. "But the grigori had broken him thinking none could return him. That is why he was important, but if he has been reshaped, I do not know. It was said that in the last battle against the grigori that Aristogeiton was fierce and paramount to their defeat. His sword has been lost and those we forge are not nearly enough."

"Upon our return, we found that others had gone looking for various things to help fight the grigori also. Lord Creation's glaive, the Jesses of Rebirth, and other things. Gehenna still grew and the days numbered down. Each time a window shattered, a new problem appeared. Envy. Lust. Greed. Decay. It all signaled yet more that was breaking down while we still looked for a solution. Gehenna was shackled with manacles to slow the process. Numbers, your own sister, Forest, Laughter, and Judgement went thru a door to Baadris, returning with rare red lotuses and people as the demon realm was shoved into our own plane of existance. So we fended the creatures off as best we could and then continued looking for ways to help. In the end, we all moved as one to give Creation all the belief and names we had. All that we could find to prevent their unraveling. In the end, during a ritual the elements and Rebirth, the little phoenix, tried to bring him back. Lord Byrne sacrificed himself for Lord Creation in the fire there. Gehenna was stopped by all that combined and brought back the phoenix soon afterwards. He is but an egg albeit with wings."

Saljin drew in a breath frowning as he tried to give Arctang time to wrap his mind around it all. "Lord Harmodius is returned. His power is not fully his, but it is returning as you can see by the green of the Pantheon. But much was lost. Universe is gone and they look for a way to fix the heavens while others prepare for the grigori. They have been silent since that day, but it is not doubted that they will return."

Well. That certainly was a lot of info to take in. It made sense about the balance, that one or the other had to be foremost for various reasons. It sounded like a lot of things had been tried or begun, with only some having been completed and had an affect to the restoration of their Lord Harmodius. Truthfully, any aspect of him was an unknown to the Pie Bird currently. He merely knew instinctively that this was the one he must serve. He'd just have to adjust his thinking from Destruction to Creation, even if it was more unknown to him than Destruction had been.

A side thought distracted him for a moment. In a way, he and his sister both emodied the possibilities of Destruction and Creation. Oh, not literally. But to add or to multiply, in its simplest form, was a type of creation. And to subtract or divide... well, that wasn't exactly destruction. Reduction or minimization, perhaps. It was an intriguing thought, but clearly not at all relevant to the current discussion.

He wanted to ask what Creation was like, but instead asked a more practical question. "What are the plans to return the heavens?" He did not ask what he might do to help against the grigori. He'd already made enough trouble for himself by stalking off against their leader on his own. Who knew, perhaps Creation would be angry with him for it, for robbing him of one more hand against the Nothingness. But he had to agree. There was no doubt that they would return. The one that had burned him would not give up so lightly. Without realizing it, Arctang touched the fading scar of void burn at his throat as he dwelt on Samyaza.

Taj shook his head indicating that he did not know the answer to that question. He refreshed their tea but then leaned back in his own chair. There were no doubts that the heavens would be fixed, but how, he had not a clue. It was a mystery even he could not see or touch.

Saljin frowned. "I do not know the answer to that question. We have been busy forging and reshaping glass and metal to give us a chance. Taj works in the forge several hours each day as do I and others. Some enchanters have been found to strengthen the glass for use. The people of Baadris are from a desert world where sand is plentiful and metal in short supply. It has give us other options to try."

Watching Arctang a long moment, Saljin said, "Perhaps your sister would know. Or another. They may know what is being done to return the sky. There is a board within the Pantheon that was once used to pass messages between us. Perhaps it is still in use. There may be information there. It was on the lower floor though Creation reshaped the entire Pantheon from what Destruction made of it. Gone are the lava pools and oppressive heat of before. And there are several teahouses nearby for use. But the area outside the Pantheon is ruin."

Mystery leaned forwards to write upon his tablet again, < Safety lies within these walls and to stray too far alone will allow the grigori advantage over Creation's protection. > Few of them went very far from the green of this area. It was an island of hope amidst so much decay, but who knew where the grigori were lurking.

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Stealthy Improvements Pt. 2
WIP Joint with Cinder

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He had thought about it all morning and knew he needed to figure out exactly how to use the shavings. Taj was so certain that they would work for obscurement. At least a chance for he was still not entirely clear on what would and would not work on the grigori. But in a pinch, a bit of shavings could obscure whatever he wanted to hide.

Now who to use as a test subject for it?

The first person that came to mind was Rhys as Taj stood in the workshop. He would have the analytical mind necessary to help him figure this out since Mycroft still seemed to be out of commission for the most part. Hopefully he would be back soon. Saljin still wanted more information on shapes if Mycroft still had the information on creatures from other planets.

The first thing was to find the boy, but he needed to explain what he was attempting to do. Carefully writing out the message, Taj kept as much as he could in plain words. No time to be truly cryptic though he had to fight doing so and as a result it took him twice as long to write the words.

In amusement, he reread what he had written.

<Trying to create a curtain of obscurement based on shavings with focus of my ability to use as an aid when necessary to hide actions or even what is there until the shavings are moved. >

He was sure Rhys would know the questions to ask and help him figure out if this worked or not. If it even obscured three out of five times, it was worth the risk to use. And the more he used it, the more proficient he would become at such. It seemed his forte anyhow.

Rhys sat at the door of his room, Clotho was suppose to be coming back soon she had an idea for using some of the glasswork to aid in getting Mycroft back up and running; of course it would all depend on how delicately it could be made. If they could get the correct shapes done in glass they could always have Phi change the glass to metal or whatever was needed. Phi sat within Rhys room writing on the floor with a bit of chalk, the alchemy designs glowed faintly the power growing as he continued his work - "you do realize that this much combustable liquid is going to be dangerous..." Phi looked up pushing back a bit of his lavender hair as he fixes his gaze on the other boy. The two were an interesting pair as the tattooing over their left eyes tended to catch the attention of others, Phi's tattoos however went all down his left side a variety of alchemy symbols and notations.

"Of course I do...but we'll need it for the weapons. I want to get a proper gun up and working at some point as well. The crossbows aren't bad and the exploding tips will make them better but they still aren't the quickest on draw." Rhys didn't even bother looking up from his current work on the pieces of Mycroft as he spoke.

"Right right..." blinking Phi gestured past Rhys outside the door spotting Mystery, "seems we have a bit of company, mate."

User ImageTaj smiled as he walked into the workshop itself, winking at both boys as he held out the tablet to Rhys. Then he simply waited on them both. A bit of amusement slipped through him as he understood he'd have two instead of one. Guinea pigs Jaster would have smirked, but test subjects just the same.

He was just so certain that Rhys would be able to help him with this. The boy was amazing in the things he created and there could be ideas that Taj could use in this situation. Hopefully he had been uncryptic enough that they would understand. His lips curved upwards in an even wider grin. Uncryptic probably was not a word, but it was what came to him in that moment. Perhaps he should start his own listing of words that would confuse and confound even the most versed scholar.

Afterall there were other ways to focus his power than hiding his own meanings and the path to something. Perhaps he should try hiding someone else's meaning. It was a thought for another day. For now he needed to physically hide something. It could be an advantage.

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Adding To The Sum
10.11.10 Joint with Talencia

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Amora was in her element. She strode along, chain in hand, chin raised and shoulders back. Or at least, she thought she was. Truth be told, she wasn't really sure what exactly her element should be. This was honestly something new to her, but she was determined not to let that show. The slack on the chain disappeared and tugged her in the opposite direction, and she gave it a jerk irritably, glancing back with a small scowl. These demons she's captured were not at all convenient. She was wondering if she should have troubled herself to claim them in the first place. She'd found them in a bad way, not long after the demon hordes had disappated. The male had been injured, and the female distraught, so they'd been an easy catch.

Oh, they'd tried to tell her they weren't demons at all, but what else could they be? Horns, tails, hooves. To AMora's mind, there was nothing else walking on two legs that could be so close to demons without being them. Still, doubts had niggled her. They certainly didn't act like the epitimy of evil, nor did vile things pour from their notably un-fanged mouths. But when assailed by such doubts, she resolutely set her jaw in characteristic stubbornness and hardened her heart. Demons they were, so in chains they stayed. It never quite occured to her that regardless of how unusually strong she might be, two chained demons would have given her infinitely more trouble than these two had.

The male still limped badly, so their pace here had been slow. The female tended to look as if she'd like to tear Amora's arms off, but never made such a move. Instead she tended the male tenderly and with much vehemant insistance that they slow down, or that they rest, or that she have something to wrap his mangled leg with. Amora had allowed some of this, but also tended to push them on faster than the female perferred. Well, now they were in the city, nearly to the slave portion of the market, and she'd be rid of them with a bit of gold jingling in her pocket.

Arc needed room to think about all Taj had told him. His rooms were not nearly enough room, so he had gone out into the private garden. Still too small, he'd tried the more open gardens in Taj's rooms. Those were better, but all manner of curious and mischievious folk poked their heads out to watch him pace, and he had the distinct feeling that if he hung around much longer, they might find something to make life interesting for him.

So it wasn't long before he was out inthe city, wandering where his feet willed him. For a good portion of the day he wandered thus, his mind whirling with thoughts on what he'd missed and what would come next. Imagine, no more Destruction! It was too strange to grasp. Still, he worried over their soverign, and determined that he must see him for himself. That decided, he came to himself with the sound of a crowd of people nearby. Curiousity took over, and he moved towards the sound.

It was a more stable section of the city that had been converted into one huge marketplace. The stalls bore no resemblance to the tidy shopfronts thatonce had provided the same items, but overall the area had been laid out fairly sensibly. He'd entered it amongst the weavers and clothiers. He wandered through with only mild interest. Taj had provided him with plenty enough to suit him, and he wasn't really the sort of desire more. To one side beyond this section he could see evidence of woodworkers, and to the other was the distinct scent of tanners. He moved deeper in, soon catching a whiff of something that smelled much better. It seemed the food vendors were ahead! He strolled through them, flexing his wings a bit and enjoying the feel of the free air against his feathers.

Despite the slight salivation the wonderfoul aromas instigated, he wanted to explore further before settling down to sample what was available. He fingered an inner pocket where he'd put a handful of coins he'd discovered in his rooms, presumably left for him to use as he willed. Taj seemed amused by such little nuances of hospitality. He hadn't spared thought for how or why it had been left for him. He'd merely thanked him and pocketed the bit of spending change. Now he was glad he'd picked it up before leaving.

He passed through several more sections of the bazaar before coming to a section that was set apart. It was just beyond those selling exotic animals, but before those selling large hooved stock. The sounds here were distinctly different, and faintly troubled the Pie Bird. This was the slave market.

Male slaves for menial labor were first. Musclebound and most looking rather bored, they held no interest for him. He spotted a ragged tent full of curvy female slaves, lounging about on cushions, but resisted the urge. Now was not the time to obtain a pleasure-slave, if he ever even actually did so. The rest were motley crews of slaves of all ages, sizes, and purposes. Some looked positively miserable, others pleased. Really, there was the entire gambit of emotions on the faces of these beings. Not all were humans, either.

How one voice, raised among so many others, happened to catch his attention, he'd never know. It was hidden behind a row of makeshift stalls, though, so he slipped between two and into a back area clearly not meant for customers to enter. It had sleeping pallets and bits of clothings scattered about, but the only current occupants of it were one pudgy man and a small boy. The contrast between the two was stark.

The master was pasty white, balding, and was quite red in the face as he physically shook the small frame of the child. He was overweight, and had an unhealthy look about him, as if he'd been fatter once, but was now slowly melting it away by necessity. His skin sagged in places, making him look older than he likely was. He hunched his shoulders and bent his spine as one used to giving deference to others, but a nasty look etched on his face from much bitterness and resentment. His hands were large and blocky, gripping the shild's arms roughly.

The child, on the other hand, was everything his master was not. His skin was dark bronze, as of a desert nomad. He had thick black hair that was knotted together in untidy braids, tangled together into one lumpy tail. His frame was thin and wiry, but not without muscle. Any unpampered slave child would have to be used to hard work, and it showed along his arms and legs, both of which were bared by the scrawny tunic of burlap he wore. He had on a heavy metal collar around his neck as well, which chafed at his collarbone, leaving angry red marks visible beneath it. But most remarkable of all was the boy's eyes. Despite the evident fury of his master, laughter danced there, gleaming up unrepentatnly at the portly man. They were dark green and full of mischief and good humor.

"You useless whelp!" the man was shouting. "You demon-spawn! You are determined to cost me my twelve silver I paid for you, aren't you?" His face was contorted into a snarl as he shook the cihld to emphasize his woords. "At this rate I won't be able to sell you but for a silver's profit, if I"m lucky! You drive them away with your murmurs of being possessed!"

Arc stifled his amusement. Clever boy to use such a ruse to put off any buyers he'd dislike. But this was not the full extent of the child's cleverness.

Teeth rattling together, he spoke up amidst a chortle, "But master, I cost you fourteen silver... one for each year! Even if you sold me for thirteen, you'd be out a whole silver still!" How his eyes crinkled in merriment! Arc couldn't know why this amused the child, but clearly he was not concerned for his own fate much.

With an inarticulate roar at this mocking insubordination, heaping coals upon his rage, the master snatched up the nearest thing at hand, which happened to be a long section of reed, and swung it for the boy's face. It was then that Arc stepped in, bearing the brunt of the swing in the palm of his hand. He grimaced at the sting, but held the reed fast, giving the rotund master a steady, unfathomable look.

"You wish to sell this boy?" he asked without preamble. The startled man merely nodded, still holding the end of the reed in one hand and the child by the shoulder with the other. After a few blinks he let go of the reed and drew the boy to him. The gesture was orchestrated to both keep his property close but also to make it appear that the child was dear to him. Arc stifled a frown.

"Why yes, yes I am, I'm afraid," the seller recovered enough of his wits to begin his wheedling. "I hate to part with him, dear boy that he is." He patted the boy's braids awkwardly, pretending to peer down at him benevolently. "He's my dead sister's child, one of the family you know, but in these hard times, there's naught else I can do." He spread one hand and shrugged his shoulders expansively while pasting on an expression of woe and helplessness. The other hand, however, was clamped painfully tight on the boy's shoulders, dirty fingernails sinking into what little flesh was there to give way.

Arc pulled out his pouch of coins, their number clinking mysteriously within. "What say you to fifteen silver for him," he brusquely offered, glancing away intentionally to show how bored he was already with the man's tale, but also to try to indicate how little he wanted the child. The dealer's eyes sharpened on the bag, and his lips curved greedily.

"Oh, what a generous offer from the gentleman," he smiled, "but I promised his mother I'd let him go to someone I knew had the means to care for him properly," he went on. "And of course the only way to do so is to ensure someone can afford what he must have." It was a weak piece of logic, but Arc cared not. His hand was in the pouch, fingering his coins thoughtfully. "I could accept no less than twnety."

The boy meanwhile was looking from one to the other of them, and Arc suspected he might soon begin his routine of pretending possession by some unclean spirit, and didn't wish to endure the further haggling caused by it. However, his pouch only contained at best sixteen silver. Plenty enough for eating and perhaps a little shopping, but not nearly enough for convincing this man to seel him the child. He bit hislip in resignation and wished mightilyhe'd otained more. In that moment, his pouch became noticably heavier. Instead of sixteen coins nestled in the leather pouch, he could now feel many more. It accompanied a surge that moved through him like a heatwave, leaving him sweating and weary. It was a strange sensation, but he did not pause to dwell on it. "Twenty it is," he announced, shocking both the slave dealer and the boy into giving him round-eyed looks. He fished out twenty silver pieces from his pouch, slapped them into the outstretched palm of the fat man, then siezed the other shoulder of the boy, pulling him from his master's grasp and turning to march him towards the spot he'd entered at. He moved swiftly so as not to give the man time to rethink his required price. Moments later, they were out in the busy aisle between tents and stalls, blending into the many others present.

Arc waited until they were well away from the alcove where he'd found them, melting into the crowd of slaves, masters, buyers and sellers. This rendered him unaware of the inarticulate roar of rage from the man he'd just bought the slave from, for the coins that had become doubles of themselves for the Pie Bird had now faded away, leaving the man with significantly less than the originally offered fifteen coins. Arc managed to find a food stall tucked away to cater to those passing who did not care to thread their way to where most of the food and drink was sold.

He settled himself and the boy, whom he still had by the shoulder, into a pair of seats towards the back of the seating area and finally took the time to look him over. Gold-flecked brown eyes regarded him warily, clearly trying to assess whether this was a trade up or down in his fates. Arc's next words decided that for him. "First, let's get this thing off you," Arc spoke firmly, reaching to remove the heavy metal collar. He scowled as he struggled with the lock, finally managing to rasp it free, unclasping it from around the boy's throat. "There," he murmured, dropping it to the floor like a diseased rag. The boy held his breath, eyes wide, and did not move a muscle. "Now," Arc continued, "what is your name, boy?"

The child's eyes dropped to the floor, and he scuffed one dirty foot along the floor. "Dun huv one, sor," the boy mumbled, seeming to speak thorugh a mouthful of rocks. Arc's eyes narrowed, certain that he'd heard the boy speak perfectly clearly earlier. Perhaps this was a tactic to be understimated, he surmised.

"If you do not tell me your name, I shall have to name you. Perhaps I shall pick something savory such as," he paused in mock thought, "Vomit. Or maybe Toenail." He couldn't help the grin that crept across his face then, as he added, "Or perhaps I shall call you Girl." The boy's head came up with a jerk, expression suitably horrified, and perhaps just a little too afraid. Arctang chuckled and shook his head. "Just tell me your name, boy. I'd never burden you with something like that."

The boy's face was a mask over his thoughts, leaving Arc wondering what he was thinking as he mulled over this. He met the boy's gaze steadily, waiting patiently for him to make up his mind. "Hatim," he finally said, without the slurring impediment to his voice. Arc nodded soberly.

"Well met, Hatim. I am Arctang, god of Numbers, called Pie Bird by He who rules us all." It was a rather formal introduction, but he felt the boy deserved it. "I need someone I can trust who will serve me." He paused, realizing that needed some explination. "By that I mean a willing servant who looks after me, sees to things I forget or don't have time for." There was an easing of tension in the boy's face, and Arc could hardly blame him. He was the right age to be of another sort of use to a particular kind of person. But not him, oh no. Arc was not that sort of man. "But I do not want a slave, mind you." He gave the collar on the floor a kick with a booted toe, knocking it against the canvas wall.

A server brought over two plates of food, which he paid for from the actual money left in his pouch, noting with curiousity that the doubles were gone. He turned back to the boy, who was staring at his plate in a terribly hungry and desperate manner. Arc doubted the boy was starved, but this obviously was not the sort of food he'd been given. It wasn't anything special, but it wasn't just bread and water either. He gestured to the boy with both hands, as if shooing him. "Go on, eat up. No sense in you perishing of hunger while we talk." Just to prove the point, he set to himself, and watched with amusement as the teen began wolfing down his own plate, making a mental note to get him a second plate when the first disappeared.

He'd just signaled the serving girl for a second plate for Hatim when he caught sight of something outside. He hissed a sharp breath inwards, surging to his feet and earning a wary stare from the boy. Holding a hand up to him, Arc said hurriedly, "Stay here. Don't move." He began to move forward, glanced back and added, "But keep eating!" Then he turned and was out of the tent as swiftly as he could.

Amora swaggered down the aisle, peering this way and that, looking for where to best situate herself to sell her 'demons'. Two things happened in one moment then. Firstly, she caught sight of the demon market. It was full of cages of screeching, clawing, snarling creatures, all very clearly not what she had chained and shackled behind her. She stopped and stared in dumb-founded amazement. What then did she have?

At the same moment, there was a shout from behind them. "Raja! Raja!!" The satyr turned awkwardly to look back and see, to his heartbreak, his master. With what might have been a choked sob or merely a grunt of effort, Raja pivoted completely around and lunged forward towards Arctang, jerking against the chain held in the woman's hand.

Amora turned as it was jerked nearly out of her fingers, just in time to catch sight of a man nearly flinging himself at the male 'demon', wrapping his arms about the large creature like a long lost brother. Rissa took the opportunity to jerk once more on the chain, this time hauling it out of the lanky woman's grip. Amora gave a shout of prostest and ran to sieze it once more, but came up short upon meeting two very angry glares and one pair of curious and quickly frowning eyes.

"What have you been doing with my most treasured servant?" Arc demanded, drawing himself up and letting the persona of godling to settle over him. His small wings flexed, dripping fragments of plasma in swirling fractal patterns. His pale green eyes gleamed, and though his small frame was unlikely to intimidate the tall woman, his demeanor of power just might have. He gestured to the chains about the legs of the two satyrs. "What do you mean by this?"

Not to be cowed by the diminutive man, no matter his power, Amora bared her teeth. "They are mine, I captured them." She did not, however, claim them demons any longer. To be within sight of the real thing made such a claim ridiculous. "You may buy them if you choose, but my price goes up now that you've manhandled them." She lifted her chin and looked down her nose at the bit of a man, hardly more than a boy.

Arc shortly found himself quite furious. "Not bloody likely," he said between gritted teeth, and bent to examine the shackles. "Key," he growled, standing back up and meeting her lofty gaze with his own cold one. "Give it to me." He was not surprised that she refused, but he very shortly had the length of chain she'd been leading them with. "Then so be it. Go play slave driver with someone else's servants. Leave mine alone."

Leaving her sputtering in rage, he spun on his heel and began to stalk away. He was brought up short, though, as the slack in the chain ran out almost immediately. Startled, he turned to see Raja leaning heavily on Rissa and hobbling slowly. He suppressed a groan of distress and went to help Rissa support his friend. Eventually they made it to the food tent, pursued the entire way by the vehemantly protesting Amora. Arc staunchly ignored her and led the two satyrs to the table he'd shared with the boy. Hatim watched with big eyes, but said nothing. Arc wedged in next to his newest servant and kept ignoring the ranting woman, who stood belligerantly over them. Something was going to have to be done about this, but at the moment, he couldn't think of what.

Saljin and Puck had slipped away from the Pantheon for the day. It was not so much that they needed anything as they needed space from the activities there. It had been some time since they had simply gone to spend the day together.

The shifter was annoyed at all that slavery and the condition of many. "Some things never change, Puck." he muttered, anger in each word that slipped free. "I don't understand how someone can do that to another being." Slavery was a problem for him. Not just because of Delphine but because of Zrath.

The fairy walked beside his friend, having chosen his larger form for the afternoon. With the return of some of the magic, Puck had been feeling more like his old self of late. His wings twitched slightly at the crush of people as they walked down the narrow spaces.

"I know, Saljin. I've never entirely understood mortals as old as I am. They can make such beautiful things and then turn and destroy them on a whim. Doesn't give me much faith in them sometimes."

"So you don't believe in me?"
Saljin growled stopping to stare at Puck. A sudden amusement slide down over him, driving away the anger of the moments before. Lips curved upwards into a faint smile that soon became a full smirk as he watched the expression change and then the eyes narrow.

"Don't be silly.. you aren't human.. you're... el... "
the prince replied.

Before Puck could fully answer, he heard a woman yelling and causing a fuss. Curious, they moved over to watch. He blinked in surprise when he saw Arctang sitting there, the two satyrs with him and the boy while this woman continued to rant and rave. He was quite certain that she was going to attack him soon. His gaze narrowed as he stared at the large male who obviously looked injured. There was something about him. Something in the back of his mind he knew.

"Is he from....? Do you think... he's from the Labyrinth, Puck?"
Saljin asked, staring at the satyr intensely. There was something about him. Something familiar was the only way he would have been able to describe it. "I think Arc's in trouble here... I need to help him."

The fairy prince turned to look in the direction that Saljin was pointing. His response was electric as he shoved people out of his way. His expression related that he had seen the manacles and the injuries and he was unhappy. "Lord Raj!" Puck called moving forwards and pushing the woman aside. His anger was seen on his face as he shoved a burst of magic into the air to move people away. It exploded outwards almost like a whirlwind pushing them away from him. "Get out of my way! What have you done to him? This is the Lord of Spring himself! You should be on your knees before him." Without thinking or even waiting for someone to ask, Puck moved to start casting healing magic on Raja.

Saljin blinked but followed on Puck's heels. He was definitely going to need help. If nothing else, helping the fairy keep his temper and not to harm anyone around them. "Arctang, are you alright?" he asked as he approached.

Arc looked up in surprise as a fairy came wading into the tent, shoving and blasting people aside in his fervor to reach... Raja's side? He blinked a bit in surprise. This was unexpected. Course, not much was expected at this point, he supposed. He watched in bemusement as the furious woman got thrown to the side like so much refuse. He would have been alarmed that the stranger immediatley began doing something to his friend if the fae did not have such a look of concerned rage on his face. No, there was no harm being done there. So he turned instead to look for the woman, and caught sight of Saljin coming in the fairy's wake. He had barely enough time to share a nod with the shapeshifter before the woman re-asserted herself. Rather dramatically, in fact.

A platter of mugs flew across the distance the fairy had created, careening over his head and rebounding off the top of their table. Poor Hatim, used to dodging blows, managed to duck fast enough not to be clobbered by the tumbling tray and its assortment of mugs and taknards, though they all were liberally splashed with alcohol. Rissa stood bolt upright and would have charged the woman, but was brought up short by the tangled chain at her feet. She feel flat on the other side of the bench she shared with Raja, landing her in a sprawl beside the fairy. Hatim stayed beneath the table, and Arc rose to his feet as well, though unencumbered by a chain. He balled his fists, feeling terribly incapable and helpless to stop the assult on those he cared about. Something had to change. He must learn better how to defend himself!

"Thief!" she shrieked after throwing the platter she'd snatched from the fearful serving wench. "You steal my goods and do not pay! They were mine by right! I caught them, they are mine to do with as I please!" She'd entirely lost control of herself, and turned to seize a staff from a startled patron. She spun back to them, lifting it, her eyes pinned on Arc, though the fairy was crouched between them, tending to Raja.

Arc gulped a breath and moved to either dive in front of the fairy or jerk him out of the way, for there was no doubt the woman was intent on bodily harm, one way or another.

Saljin reacted, his eyes almost glowing as he shifted shape. In a moment he towered over her, four arms reaching out to not only grasp the staff, wrestling it from her, but to completely encircle her and hold her still. There was no way she could get free of him.

"Be still!"
he growled as he held onto her tightly. "There are worse things I can turn into. As for property, that remains to be seen."

Puck focused on healing Raj but then tried to help Rissa to her feet. The manacles he noted between all the flying dishes. The boy he caught the barest glimpse of as he dove under the table itself. A snarl slipped free as he reached out, focusing his magic. The metal changed, opening from around them to drift into the air caught in an orb. His golden eyes were furious as he whirled on her. Not only had she interrupted the healing of someone injured but it was someone he knew and considered very highly of.

The orb danced closer and closer as Puck smiled darkly. Saljin blinked as he continued to hold the woman and try to salvage some of the situation. "Puck... " he warned but then winced knowing that the fairy would not listen. It was too late. More than one had caught very bad attitudes when someone a fairy cared about was hurt through thoughtlessness. Raj had and Puck would not hesitate.

"Chains given to wear, chains to be worn.."
his voice was very singsong but deadly serious. "Reshaped and true remorse your undoing, chains your lesson." Fairy magic slammed into the orb and manacles as Puck reached out to touch them and then placed one finger on her skin.

A long thin strand of chain, silvery white slid snakelike thru the air and wrapped entirely around her ankle, not opening or closing to be seen. Narrow graceful, a delicate delight of fairy crafting reached out as Puck took the other end in hand.

"I give you to him. Sing and serve well for the Lord of Spring, little bird, for it is the only way you will ever be free."
Puck stated placing the other end into Raj's hand. The instant he did, the woman changed magic sliding over her reshaping her as the manacles had been as the spell settled into place entirely. A bird's wings carried her over to land on the table, a chirp heard. Raj would know that the spell could not be broken unless she herself broke it. She had really ticked Puck off.

Saljin blinked in surprise as he stared, all four arms empty. Changing back to his normal self, he opened his mouth to say something but instead, shook his head. Only once had he ever seen Puck angry enough to act like that. Now twice. There was nothing to say except, "Arctang, Puck is the servant of Oberon the Fairy King. He is a fairy prince from the Labyrinth and a friend of mine. And obviously of his. I suspect your friend there came from the same place as we did."

Raja had been rather dully shocked by all the ruckus, but was even more shocked upon seeing Puck kneeling next to him, healing magic flowing into the satyr and easing his pains. How long he had hurt! It felt so good to have them ebbing away that he nearly closed his eyes and sagged with relief. When the healing stopped, and a huge clatter exploded off their table, he sat up again, looking about to see his previous 'mistress' with fury written on every feature. He did not flinch, but turned hopefully to his true master for rescue.

Lo and behold, though, his rescue came from another entirely. Puck rose from beside him in a righteous explosion of reprimand. Next thing he knew, a thin, almost thread-like chain was put into his hands by his old acquaintance. He stared at the fluttering, squawking mockingbird at the end of the chain. This... this didn't seem right! But he had heard Puck's words; the fairy had given her an out, should she mend her ways. He considered the options to her not being captured this way. She might go and enslave some other unfortunate soul, or do something equally distasteful. Resigned, he had to finally agree with the choice to bind her this way. He grasped the chain more firmly and scooped the bird into his other hand. "Come now, calm yourself. There is no undoing it, now that it is done." His words were stern but gentle to the frantic bird. He caught her wings, folded them to her trembling body, and tucked her into one palm before turning to the others.

"Very neatly done, friend," Arc praised admiringly. "That is a nifty bit of magic, to be sure!" He rose to shake the fairy's hand. "I am very glad to make your acquaintance, Puck of the Labyrinth. May I introduce myself and those with me." He gestured to Raja first. "I assume you have met Rajakhrev before. Perhaps he is from your world?" He glanced inquiringly at Raja, realizing with some shame that he'd never asked about the satyr's past. A nod confirmed this, so he moved on to Rissa, but Raja beat him to it.

"This is my mate, Rissa," Raja cut in, with a fond smile and an outreached hand to the female. She almost blushed, smiling back at him softly and taking his hand in hers tenderly. Arc raised his brows and gave a short bark of a laugh. How delightful!

"This is," he began, turning to where Hatim had been sitting, only to discover him not there. Uncertainly, afraid the boy had run from him after all, not trusting to the implied good intentions of Arctang. However, the boy's head popped up from beneath the table just then.

"Here I am, master!" The boy's good nature had returned with the situation back under control. His grin was bright against his bronze skin, though his braids had gotten a bit helterskelter.

"Ah, there you are. This is Hatim, the newest addition to our little family." He smiled at the boy, thinking how nice it was to have this group as his family. Family was those you cared most about, and they certainly were a good portion of those. "And as for me, I am Arctang the Pie Bird, diety of Numbers reborn." His manner was not commanding or lordly as he announced his identity, but merely matter of fact. It was who he was, not something to be forced on others.

"We are most grateful for your timely arrival," he continued, bowing to the both of them. "We are in your debt." The outcome was rather unexpected, but beneficial for all, when one looked at it practically.

Puck turned to Arctang after ensuring that both Raja and Rissa were healed entirely if they needed it. He smiled faintly trying to shove his anger away. It was not aimed at this god and the woman was taken care of now. She had a way out should she truly look for it.

"Fairy magic though I was without it for a bit. My pleasure, Arctang. And to the rest of you. Lady Rissa, you are most welcome. No debt is owed to me."
He waved a hand to such. "Just as if there are consequences later, I will shoulder them. I expect none." He smiled faintly at Rissa and Raja. It was about time. "Yes, he is from the Labyrinth and has the respect of all the fairies. He is our Lord of Spring and brings with his station the coming of the blossoms that we cherish so much. He has been missing for so long though we have searched for him. She got off easily that it was merely I and not Lord Oberon. It wouild have been far worse and perhaps with no way to learn her lesson."

He winked at Hatim when the boy popped up. The safest place had been below the table. Turning he glanced over at Saljin. The shifter looked a bit exasperated.

"I've only ever seen Puck that way once before, Arctang."
Saljin stated, then smirked with a long drawl. "Scaaaaarrrrry... Taj would have wanted us to help you out. Besides, slavery is NOT something I can tolerate unless it is deserved such as working off a debt."

Puck laughed and then added, "It's not something I do well. My temper gets pretty bad sometimes. Ask him some time where an earring that was a family heirloom went."

Saljin shrugged, then grinned widely. "Best thing I ever did. I have Delphine as a result. She was a prisoner of some pirates when we bartered for those pieces Taj and I mentioned earlier. I tossed it in to free her at the time. I still plan to go back out there and see if I can find it. Not sure it will be but I wanted her free more than I needed the earring." It was obvious the shifter's eyes softened at the thought of the girl.

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Eftemie's avatar

Vermillion Gekko

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Open RP
03.15.10 Joint in shop

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There had been the sound of trickling echoing through the alleys. She followed it though some display windows, past the security desks and turnstiles of the mall admittance, through the shopfronts into the back bowels and maze of plywood walls and cement floors that only employees once saw in their meanderings to take out trash of get a smokey treat. She thought it was a janitor's closet, red vinyl logo on the rust-bolted push-door, probably a leaky faucet to some sink that by some miracle was connected to the only line in the whole ******** city that still managed to have water running to it.

How had no one heard it? Camped it out and made it their niche and kingdom. At least with all the rotted clothes and displays and mannequins the place would have a creepy, if effective line of defense and assured warmth of bedding.

She walked into the dark room and instead walked onto grass?

Dim open nothing sky and the scent of fresh flowers. More sound of water.
Her stomach flipped like she'd dove from a cliff top and plunged into water, but she was just standing there. No, kneeling now and trying not to hurl bile and not much else on this ....grass. The door closed behind her with a faded metal clink. Through the screen of her bangs, there wasn't a door there at all anymore. Just open columns. White stone and marble in the dim. A fountain. No, more then one. Where was here?

((Hell, I'll bite? I assume the setting is the Pantheon? XD))

User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show.Phaedra had been lounging idly; the fountain's soft babble was more soothing to her ears than the endless silence of her own chambers, which of late had been reminding her only of her lack of a court. All vestige of the Throned Glory that her dear Emperor had exalted seemed gone now, smoothed out under pale marble and cool water.

Which were nice in their own way, but the way Creation did it just felt sterile.

Her ears perked as she heard sound, unexpected - footsteps suddenly sounding against marble. Suddenly, as if the one making the sounds had just appeared, not approached. That was interesting enough to draw the goddess to her feet, to come around a pillar and raise one eyebrow at the figure standing there.

"Hello?" she called out, affecting a calm and welcoming pose; the benevolent goddess at rest. "Who is there? Don't fear; I won't harm you."

( setting is indeed the pantheon )

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Hjava did not whirl on the voice. She did bring the back of her hand in front of her mouth as a precaution and looked around again. A black woman with BI-ZARRE eyes and ears. She had a tail mod. Really nice one. Either a pleasure model cy, synth, or maybe just some douche who'd had waaaaay too much money and freetime and a furry fetish.

Who the hell started off with a line like that anymore unless that was exactly what they were going to do in this day and age?

"Where is this?"

"Is this yours? There's water here. Plants. That's impossible."

User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show."It is indeed, in a sense." That was as far as she was willing to go; there was one authority even Phaedra wasn't entirely willing to usurp. "I am Phaedra. You came seeking water? Greenery? There is plenty here for all. Plenty of other things, too, should you desire them." She extended tendrils of power, wondering - what did this woman want? She looked exotic enough, tough enough, to have desires beyond the pithy horrors of shelter and a good life.

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Want was just as easily mixed with anger in her. She'd had what she'd wanted in life, had in it hand and it was stolen away. She'd had a job.

Pyrotechnics on the road, living prefect to prefect and concert to concert on tour with the band. She'd had love, five bandmates who got along and shared perks and friendship as well as beds. She'd had fame, any asking price she could think up and still deny all the rest to keep with her crew. Oh, she'd been loyal.

Then there weren't any concerts, no money, no music. No nothing except running from place to place looking for food and waiting for everyone to die off, psych out, starve or sweat to death in fever.

She wanted it back. She wanted friends, fame, fortune and glory. She wanted fans and a band, and to make s**t blow up for thousands. This cut-and-run survival crap was grating and dull. She'd cut, and do it damn fine. She'd find a city and people to wow with art again, and she'd find it standing.

"Greenery is a good start. Food. There's gotta be a lot of people here, right? There's no coven I've found of survivors that have found some stash that there wasn't a rat's nest of them. "

"What's the catch? There's always some initiation to get the goods. I'm not in the mood for staying if I've gotta hitch up to some cult; you don't look a whole lot like a scrapper. I don't have much to trade, but I can get s**t done. "

There didn't look like a bodyguard was about either. Not that this one looked like it was worth roughing up. She had nice curves; luxurious like leather interior and a cashmere throw in a car with its own pool.

User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show."Indeed, there are many people here." Phaedra smiled, her eyes half-lidded in delight. Yes, yes, this one would do nicely. "There are gods here, but no cults - I'm sure you won't believe me on that score, not yet. In time you will, perhaps. Or you won't. Either way, you can prove the truth of what I say easily enough. Just look around." She shrugged, then grinned again.

"As for me, I revel in Greed. In the hunger and adulation of the crowd, the glories and debaucheries of civilization. Something that's so lacking these days, wouldn't you agree? But here there is a seed of rebirth. A new beginning, something that could turn back into that wild and tumbled world we both loved. If only it didn't take so damnably long!"

((I'm sewing too, but I'll jump in for a bit. ))

User ImageTaj slipped down the stairs, Madrigal in his arms. It was time for an outing for the boy and he was planning to enjoy it. Lisana's critters were in the green nearby he planned to try to teach Maddie a few things about animals. Perhaps even play in the fountain a short while.

It was meant to be a quiet day for both of them. At the very least one away from the forge for Taj, the god was quite certain that it would be interrupted in some fashion. Something was always happening.

Maddie giggled clinging to his father's shirt tightly with one hand. Continually he tried crawling up over Mystery's shoulder to get to the wings and feathers, small fingers reaching. Taj would let him get so far before pulling him back with a smile. It was becoming a game.

As he rounded the pillar, Taj suddenly stopped at the sound of voices. Neither one he recognized but there were enough people here that he doubted he would know but a few of them. Still, he stopped just to the side, watching them as Madrigal tried once more to reach his wings.

Perhaps they'd not play in the fountain. He was suddenly quite certain neither would like being splashed with the water.

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Well, she certainly came off half-raving like a diva. She spoke of crowds, and civilizations. "You don't look like a who lotta rock, but I'm pickin' up some of what you're putting down."

"You know where there's a city near here then? Where one was? " Finding anything more then three-stories that was still standing anymore had to be the work of some primeval almighty anyway.

He wasn't best pleased with the new acquisition to their duo; it seemed like they'd gotten rid of one small, chittering creature only to pick up a larger, man-shaped one. Truth be told, he knew he was irritable and it would probably be better to not take it out on James. That was why he was silent, stonily so, and allowing Mang to do the talking for him. Everyone was happy, that way. All he had to do was move his feet, and let his eyes scan over the gardens for... well, God.

The priest prayed he'd sense Him, or that if they stumbled upon Him by mere chance, He would be recognizable. He knew his luck wasn't that good though, but kept the grumbled comments to himself.

"I assure you, our Lord will be able to clear things up for you. There are many gods and goddesses still trapped within their gems, and they will need strength and faith from potential supporters, such as yourself." Shuo was quite taken with the energetic mortal.

Voices carried, soft, but definitely feminine, and the priest unconsciously veered around one of the many columns, drawn by the sound and the constant trickle of water.

Two women--one decidedly not human, while the other looked somewhat more normal. The dragon cut off in mid-sentence to pause, evaluating the situation for a moment. Another of my kin. You feel that sensation of want, in the air...?

The priest did, and he didn't like it. Dark eyes slid to James, as though seeing what he thought about the situation before he'd step forward. Maybe they knew where Harmodius was. If not, he knew Shuo would be pleased to introduce himself to another god or goddess...

He'd keep himself at a respectable distance, once he caught glimpse of yet another man--god, from the wings--and the child in his arms. So many gathered here. It made him feel like maybe they were close, at last. "They might know where Lord Harmodius is." He muttered for James' benefit, finally speaking to the man.

User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show."A city? Koiso, but that's a good way away. Achai is in ruins, last I heard. This area was hit badly when everything went wrong. There are only small groups left. They may be living in city ruins, but broken buildings don't make a city alone." Oh, this was fun; she was starting to adapt, to understand the delightfully odd way of speaking this woman had. Slang and patter were all part of blending, a skill she'd had all too little time to play with as of late.

"If I were you, I'd stay here for a while. It's safe, as long as you don't cross anything pissier than you are," she added, with a nod and a grin, acknowledging the woman's tough nature. "Avoid the doors upstairs unless you want to find out about divine power close and personal."

She heard others now, moving about, perhaps attracted by the sound; normally she'd welcome company, but she was having such fun alone... "What's your name, anyway? Told you mine. Fair's fair."

User ImageTaj's lips twitched upwards as he listened for a moment. Greed she had said. A goddess he had not met yet. One of many of those he had yet to meet.

His eyes caught sight of the others as they stopped nearby also. The voices had drawn them as they had him. It was obvious the woman had just arrived.

Avoid the doors upstairs.. snagged his attention. Shifting Madrigal, he pulled his tablet free to write on it. Did Greed not know of the mortal hallway upstairs for those in need?

< A plain door next to bubbles will shelter mortal needs. >

Moving forwards, he inclined his head to Greed before holding the tablet out to both. His lips twitched wondering how she would take the interference. She could continue to play afterwards with the girl if that was what she wished.

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More BI-zarre names. Nothing she remembered off the positioning systems of charts. Footsteps behind her too slow and obvious to be an ambush so she casually turned to the side so that neither of these were at her back and ready to donkey-punch her in the back of the skull.

"The planet ain't equitable, and I don't have my ex-position. World isn't fair, but if you want a name, I go by Hjava. Sur's are for pussies who need more then one. Glad you do the same. Faydra...It's got about five golden rings to it, maybe a ringtone even if communications get up and running. "

No cities. Well, that was a strike for this area. But people, shelter, info and food were a home run to at least take the advice and stay for more then the minute it took to refill canteens and walk to the border. She looked back, all while slipping a hand into her pocket to put on the tour rings of all her mates...impromptu brass knuckle stand-in, at the newcomer walking and standing there waiting in Captain Obvious vision.

Then there was some freak just prancing upto her like a pony with some pet on his arm, "Speak it up, if you're gonna live it up. I have no problems at all making your face greet the green Earth if you get outa line, so lets start it straight. You keep your kindly distance til I know you're not a inpatient on outpatient status."

She back-stepped at the approach and lifted the glinting fist in warning and pugilist preparation.

A Dragon King! When the little tidbit had been revealed to him, the researcher had been near ecstatic, unable to quite comprehend his luck. Well, truth be told, he didn't know quite how lucky he was, but apparently these Kings were a rarity among the gods, whose numbers seemed as numerous (by tale, not by his own observation) as stones along the riverbed. This was why it was important to question everyone when you had the opportunity in a more open society- you never knew just what sort of observation you could be missing if you stopped for a moment to consider caution! Not that he hadn't been cautious enough, mind you, but he did consider himself somewhat an expert on the human species and their Earthly abilities. Laurence, from the outside, had not seemed like a man who could brutalize him easily. If anything, he looked drastically underfed.

But the priest had shown he had a trick up his sleeve yet. Or, to be more correct, a godly presence. Another host. They had spent some time meandering through the garden, not simply content to wait for their Godot, and they had conversed on whatever the Esarian felt fit to bring up. Shuo was quite charming, something James was beginning to think was inherent of all gods. The subject had come up pertaining to hosts, and James had inquired innocently as to what Shuo thought really made a good host to a deity. He had gotten an answer before, but he it would be folly to hold one opinion over another in his line of work. Could anyone, a seemingly ordinary Joe-Schmoe like James, for example, be a host? And understandably, Shuo had taken it as an offer.

The resulting conversation was promising, however, and now James turned it over in his mind as he walked side by side with Dragon King and host. A follower? Well, perhaps. He was not opposed to servitude, so long as he was allowed some life of his own. Worship, though... Worship might take some getting used to!

Suddenly, the other paused in his phrase, and James dutifully looked over to him, then followed his eyes. Off in the distance, there were three. Two were strange, feline-featured humanoids and one was what looked like a human girl. Were these servants, the aoide? How naive he was at the time to suspect as much. As Laurence made the aside to him, James perked a little, giving a nod to indicate he thought it'd be a good idea.

"My lord," He said humbly enough with a hint of a wry smile. It was the first time James had granted anyone the honorable the whole duration of his stay. Shuo could lead the way. The group looked a little busy, besides, and James was shameless enough to let the god be his escort. His cover story, in a sense.

Enekpe's day so far had been uneventful, as most of her days were now - and which, in her opinion, was a very good thing! She much preferred lazing around or playing with Ari the floox to the way things had been before. Who wouldn't? Every now and then she might get a little bored, but that was easy enough to nap away, or else she could talk to k**e. Today, all she'd done so far was go for a swim.

As the still-soggy pooka set off in search of a snack to follow her bath, she caught wind of a vaguely familiar scent, and decided to follow it and save eating for later. She wasn't that hungry; food could wait when there were friends to see! Soon enough, she caught sight of the priest - and there was someone with him! And some other people nearby...?

After a quiet chuckle to herself, she made to creep up behind Laurence with a mischievous little "Boo!"

User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show."Hjava, is it?" Phaedra nodded, a smile on her face. "Noted. My door upstairs is marked with gold and jewels, with a brass knocker. Ostentatious, but who has use for even shiny rocks when you can't trade them for moldy crusts? It was a kindness. You will be welcome there, should you choose-"

She couldn't ignore this other god's intrusion any more. As she turned, she gave the offered tablet a cursory glance. "Don't worry, Hjava. None here will harm you, and if they try... I'm sure between the two of us we could drop them." She grinned ferally back at the woman before turning a scowl to Tajnevaki.

"Your knowledge is appreciated, but this is hardly the time," she hissed.

Hjava, she said, foreign and certainly nothing he'd heard of before, followed by what sounded like 'Faydra.' The goddess' name? Perhaps. He was content to watch for now, as when the man stepped forward as held something up to the pair... well, the following conversation seemed tense, at best. "Calm the ******** down." He snorted at the girl with her multicolored hair, not impressed and irritated by her, though he shouldn't have been. They'd all gone through trying times, undoubtedly, but he was not in the mood.

James' words made him snort again, not so much at the respect due, but by the way the dragon swelled with pleasure. "Perhaps it would be best, if we simply observed." Shuo spoke aloud for the mortal's benefit, though would extend his voice, notably deeper than Laurence's. "She is right; we mean you no harm, and apologize for the lack of introduction--" The dragon was cut abruptly off as the priest practically jumped out of his skin, whirling about for his assailant with narrowed eyes and curled lips before, realizing, his gleaming eyes dropped downward.

"Enekpe." He grunted, feeling pissed off and stupid, but also not about to take it out on the pooka. "Scared the hell outta me, don't do that." Turning his back on the three, he crouched to better look at the small creature, patting at her head for a moment. "You holdin' up all right?" A pause. "Enekpe, this is James. This is Enekpe. She's a host, too." He grunted at the other man, clearly going to at least introduce them.

((G'night Ivy. I hope you feel better. Sorry it took me so long. I keep getting dced. Going to have to call the cable office tomorrow I think.. -_- ))

User ImageMystery blinked in surprise. Her speech was so strange and she spoke of things he had not heard of. He did however recognize an inpatient on outpatient status.

She thought he was crazy? Or perhaps uncertain? Most likely the second option.

His lips twitched upwards into a cheshire grin. Shrugging he glanced over at Phaedra, amused by her words as much as the others. Writing again, he penned, < Dear Greed, continue your play. A fountain and mad raven await Mystery. >

The tablet was only held long enough for the goddess to see before he bowed, turning towards the fountain nearby. Madrigal tried to climb his shoulder again but then giggled as his father put him on the edge letting him kick his bare feet in the water.

User ImageArc was returning from his eventful stroll, but had sent Raja, Rissa, and Hatim on back to the rooms with Puck and Saljin. The latter two would be sure that the satyrs would get settled into a room, and had promised to see to dressing Hatim in something more than a burlap bag. Otherwise he might have kept the boy with him, but really, having a boy trailing him around, looking like the slave he'd once been seemed most unsavory. He was not a slaver, and refused to have any such under him. The boy needed clothes, and those two were perfectly suited to finding what he needed.

He himself wasn't quite ready to go back to his rooms, though. He paced across the grass heedlessly, frowning to himself over what had gone on earlier. Not only was there the disturbing discovery that his friend and his mate had been taken as slaves, but he'd also exerted what seemed to be some sort of power. Had it been? He fingered the now nearly flat money pouch. He'd made more coins when he'd needed them, but they had not lasted very long at all. He supposed that it had been dishonest of him to pay with them, but he'd genuinely had no idea they would fade away again. Not only that, but he felt no regret for what he'd done. Slavery was no way to make an honest living.

Voices ahead finally caught his attention, breaking into his train of thought. He looked up to see scattered conversations going on not far away. Taj was among them, but it appeared he'd met with a less than friendly reaction. Thrusting his musing aside, he picked up the pace to stride over to his friend's side. "What goes on?" he inquired mildly as he strode up, keeping his eyes on the two females, though his expression was noncommital.

User ImageGlancing up at the sound of Arctang's voice, he grinned widely happy to see the god. Shrugging in reply to his question, he turned to splash the baby a bit causing him to kick his feet all the more.

His eyes caught Arctang's face, lingering on his eyes and even posture a bit more than normal. There was a bit of tension within him. The tablet appeared once more in his hand and he wrote, < What troubles the pie bird? >

Maddie began to fuss as Taj picked him up. Indicating that they take a walk, he pulled a cookie from his shirt pocket and handed it to the boy. It would hold him for a bit and the child accepted it eagerly. His small fingers studied it before he put it to his mouth while leaning against Taj comfortably.

The alien disguised as a brunette man was simply content to observe as Shuo's host snapped at the pretentious female, only offering a blink in response to his tone. His eyes admittedly wandered as Mang himself perked up to speak, acknowledging the statement inwardly while he took a study of Taj and his brood. Only when he heard the 'boo!' start up from somewhere beside him did he whip around to see Laurence's body in possession of a new, fuzzy growth. What in the worlds...?

"A... A host?" James echoed, his brows hitching up in surprise as he considered the little animal. "You're sentient, then? How curious. Enekpe, indeed, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance! Do you have a moment? I didn't know non-humanoids could be hosts."

"Hehehehe," Enekpe giggled merrily. "Sorry! But it was fun." She hadn't had anyone to do that to in ages! She'd spent quite some time avoiding people entirely, given that she was small and potentially edible, but now she had friends she could play games with! Even if they weren't necessarily as amused as she was...

She wagged her tail happily at the head-pattings, answering with an "Mm-hm! How're you?" before peering up at the man she was introduced to. "Hello, James!"

Her look turned briefly puzzled, however, as she didn't have a clue what 'sentient' meant. "Sentient? Nah, I'm a pooka!"

User Image He paused a moment to scan the others nearby, but turned at the splashing water to smile down at the child. Somehow he just couldn't help having a soft place in his heart for little ones. Arc reached a hand to gently tousle the baby's hair before the child began to fuss, and he stepped back to let Taj handle. He noted the ease the god of Mystery had with the small one. Yet another layer to the mysteries that was Taj, it seemed.

He read the message and moved to walk with him, shoving both hands in his pockets and watching the ground in front of his feet. He didn't reply right away, walking and mulling. He knew Taj didn't mind his silence in the least. He of all folk understood the need for time and thought. He finally answered quietly, voice ptiched for Taj's ears only. "It just is a lot to adjust to. I"ve been able to find Rajakhrev, though. Or... rather, I rescued him." He flashed an odd glance at his friend, a mixture of amusement and slight disturbance. "That's a story unto itself, trust me. I haven't even gotten all of it, but it's ended with a woman being enchanted into a bird."

He brushed that aside, though. "But I seem to have hit upon a bit of my own magic. Or powers. Or whatever you call it." He pulled his last coin out of his pouch and held it in his palm, staring hard at it. He wanted to show his friend what had happened, so he could see firsthand. However, it couldn't be that simple, could it? The coin simply lay there, gleaming dully. After fruitless minutes spent staring pointedly at it, he gave a heavy sigh and gave up, tucking it away again. "I am not sure how I did it, really. There just suddenly was... more." He shrugged his minor frustration and ran a hand th rough his mussed locks before shoving it back in his pocket again.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." The priest grumbled, and while the female was temporarily distracted with James, he muttered a prayer for forgiveness under his breath. Too much swearing and bad temper, and though they'd been rightly used in the heat of the moment, he was still working on trying to curb those particular vices.

"I'm well. Shuo says hi." He relayed dutifully before snorting slightly at her denial that she wasn't sentient, but a pooka instead.

She was really rather endearing, despite himself.

"Went to Adi's place to drop off Floox, for a bit. Gonna recollect him one day." As in, whenever he felt like it and whenever he had a place to keep the little creature. Illisia's room was enormous, true, but he had a feeling the little creature would vanish into the wilderness in a heartbeat, if allowed. "Where's yours at?"

He would pause to watch Taj and the newcomer for a moment, his gaze pointedly unfriendly, and Shuo would rebuke him a little, but to no avail. Laurence just wasn't in a good mood right now.

If James spared the childlike newcomer a glance, it was brief, and he dutifully chuckled softly at the little animal's response. "Sentience is a state of mind, indicating a state of perception, generally of the self. Many animals act upon an instinctual basis, thinking of survival and procreation only. Sentient beings hold the culpability of reason, in the most base of my perception of it. That you speak with us and retain a recognition beyond safety and potential food source makes you sentient."

Laurence was speaking, and he paused to allow the man to relate to the creature while he pondered over her very existence. A pooka? That name meant something to him, in terms of mythology. Irish origin, dealing with fae creatures who took the form of a horse or mongrel, always shadowed. Somehow, he had always gotten the impression that they were much more... sinister. Despite the lore that said they were, ultimately, benevolent tricksters. In this manner, Enekpe fit the bill. But perhaps there was another creature, such as her, that called themselves the Pooka... It was not unlikely in the least.

"Adi?" His senses perked at the familiar name. He had met her, hadn't he? And her floox, Phlox. "Hmm." Was the additive, meant to suggest Laurence not mind his interjection for now.

User ImageTaj listened carefully to what Arctang said. A woman turned into a bird. Sounded like fairy magic to him. He winced. Puck had been involved. He was suddenly quite certain.

Indicating the bench nearby, he sat down after placing Maddie on the grass. It would be good for the baby to be down for awhile. But under his watchful eye. Taking his tablet in hand, he penned, < More than one has what is needed when it is necessary. >

It could be as simple as that. There was a need and it was within his power to act, so he did whether with conscious thought or not. Much the way he had hidden the cup the first time he had understood that some of his power had returned.

Maddie finished off the cookie in his hands before he began to pluck a piece of grass free. Then he noted a rock nearby and began to crawl towards it as fast as he could. Tajnevaki watched in amusement as the child glanced back at him and then continued moving.

"Hi to you too, Shuo!" En chirped back at the dragon. "I dunno where she's at. She didn't come swimming with me."

...hmm. Enekpe listened to James' explanation with her head tilted, and a comical look of half-understanding concentration on her face. Sentient she might be, but her education, could it be called such, was very limited. What she gathered, more or less, was that being sentient meant she could talk. There were a couple of words in there she didn't know.

Since he was obviously willing to clarify such things, she asked, "What's procreation?"

User Image He read the message and nodded soberly. He supposed that was true. He didn't need it now, so perhaps it wasn't accessible. He couldn't remember much of his life before, so this was all new to him. It was both exciting and daunting to realize he was gaining powers he'd once wielded, though then it likely had been negligently and without an eye to the consequences, if his few memories were any indication. Things were different now. He'd not be taking those powers so lightly anymore.

The baby crawled off across the grass and Arc used the excuse to change the subject. "So who is the little tyke?" he asked with a smile. One never knew until one asked, so one should never assume anything. It could be his child, Arc thought, or someone of his household's. The way they all interacted like family, it would be no great surprise to find it was, say, Delphine's tot, and Taj merely was entertaining him for the time being as a kindness to the woman.

"Just as well." The man muttered to himself; he didn't need the floox giving him doe-eyes because Floox wasn't around.

My, you thought I could be confusing. Shuo chuckled at the man's description of sentience, and Laurence just rubbed at his brow for a moment. Then, of course, Enekpe had to focus on that "procreation" term, and the priest could already see the wheels turning in James' brain. Before the man could answer, Laurence would hastily interject, shooting the man a venomous stare that dared him to try and talk over what he was about to say.

"It basically means having kids." The dark-haired man said gruffly, shaking his head slightly. No need to get graphic with the pooka, thanks. He didn't even know if her species could procreate, though there was no reason he saw that said she couldn't.

User Image < Perhaps practice and focus could give the desired results. >

Taj followed Arc's indication and a wide smile crossed his face. < The mad raven is of my flesh but not of my doing. > His grin widened as he watched Arctang's reaction. < Jaster's fun, but no less now a delight to me. He is Madrigal Araven Renaude`, a mad raven resides within his eyes.>

The baby turned at the sound of his name, to stare at Taj a long moment before turning away and crawling even faster. A smirk on his face, Taj got to his feet, picking the child up and bringing him back closer to where they sat. Then he set him down on the grass again to let him begin all over again.

Indeed, he was about to dutifully inform her of the mechanics that determined procreation (after all, he was always eager to please when it was a subject he knew of) when he was suddenly affronted with a harsh look from his happenstance companion. His lips thinned, instinct telling him to sink into a defensive stance should the vicious thing strike for his throat. What he did do was clear his throat, reaching up to fiddle with his glasses as if they weren't straight enough on his nose as it was.

"Yes, essentially, Laurence is correct," James agreed passively. "Enekpe, if I may ask, who do you serve host to?"

"Oh." Well! For a mystery word like that, it wasn't terribly interesting. Not to her, anyway, since she'd certainly never be involved in any sort of...procreation. "Pooka don't have kids really."

En paused to shake some of the water from her shaggy coat and sat, making herself comfortable. There were other words she would have liked to ask him about, but he asked her a question first, and so she answered, "Kikechum! She's the goddess of animals."

User Image Ah, so this was a child of his host. And here he was, with a child for a host. It didn't sting him as much as it once had, but it still gave him a hollow twinge of guilt. That was old news though, but it did remind him of the child he'd taken on to look after. He really should be getting to see how Hatim was getting along.

He rose and gave his friend an afffectionate and playful bow. "I think I should go see about my little clan. They'll be settling in your rooms... if you do not mind?" He had been assured so by Saljin, but he still felt it polite to ask permission himself.

He paused after turning away, breath held in thought. He turned back again, head tipped to the side and eyes meeting Taj's intently. "Do you think... would you mind coming to share dinner with me later tonight?" The stirrings of thought about his host had brought up much more personal issues than those he'd discussed with him earlier. "I could use some...," he again paused, seeking what it was he desired from the other god. "Some advice," he finished finally, not bothering to look ashamed of this. If one could not call on one's friends for a bit of advice, what good was being friends? "It'll be just us," he added, then amended, "with Hatim, actually. But he needs to learn anyway." Wasn't that an understatement!

"They don't?" He asked before he could catch himself, blinking for a moment. "How did you start... well, existing, then?" Surely there was some method to it. Unless she told him she and her kind simply appeared in a puff of smoke--or better yet, she was the only one of her kind.

While Enekpe spoke to James, Shuo privately saw to addressing his host's irritation. We will find Him soon.

I know. The man replied, curt but not unkind. He'd wanted to get it over quickly, that was all. Now he was being forced to slow down--but he could and would deal with it.

Besides, seeing Enekpe again was nice, and certainly not something he regretted.

((I'm out, guys. almost falling asleep at the comp here... Thanks for the rp. ))

User ImageTaj watched Arctang closely, pulling his attention away from Madrigal. He nodded, frowning slightly. Arctang looked bothered by something.

When he said he needed advice, Taj had once more nodded his head in agreement. Silently he wondered what had occurred earlier that day that upset or at the very least had caused Numbers to need such. Obviously something had and he watched the god walk away with seemingly a burden on his shoulders.

They were indeed friends and Taj planned to maintain that. Moving towards Madrigal, he picked up the now fussing child. It was perhaps time for a nap.

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Vermillion Gekko

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Mysterious Numbers
01.11.11 Joint with Talencia

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It was nearly dinnertime, and Arc had not yet checked in on his new young charge. What a day it had been! He honestly felt like sagging, but things needed tending to. He slipped back into Taj's suite of rooms and made his way by the secret backstairs to his own room.

Stepping inside the semi-concealed door, he found the boy there. He was clothed decently in jeans, t-shirt, and slightly overlarge tennis shoes. He also looked distinctly uncomfortable in them. He was wandering the room, looking at the ornate details, peering at the lamps, studying the shelves of books. Arc watched him a moment, taking in the nuances of the boy's state of mind, shown while he was unwary. It wasn't long before the boy's roving eyes caught sight of him, though.

The boy stood bolt upright then, coming to attention as if for inspection. Arc smiled and approached the boy, settling one hand on his shoulder. "So Hatim, what do you think of your new home?" He watched with amusement as the boy's eyes ran over the room one more time without turning his head.

"Nice, master," he replied, looking rather at a loss of what to say. Arc had to admit, there really wasn't much the child could say to such a bald question. Ah well, he might as well get down to the nittygritty right away.

"Come sit, there are things I must discuss with you, and it must be now, for we have a guest coming for dinner." The boy's eyes were wide, faintly startled, and definitely wary. What reason had Arc given him to truly feel comfortable yet, after all? He steered the small teen to the chairs before the fire. There were four of them, grouped loosely with a large coffee table in front of them and occasionally a table between them. He motioned the boy to take a seat, but Hatim opted instead to perch on an overstuffed footstool near the armchair Arc chose.

"There are some things you need to understand," he began, interlacing his fingers and resting his elbows on his knees, leaning forward to peer earnestly into the boy's eyes. But to his surprise, those eyes crinkled up in a smile.

"Oh, I know all that already," he piped up, his posture relaxing. "You is a god, a dee-ah-tee." He pronounced the word with care, clearly unused to it. "You are Numbers, and this is your room. But your room is in the rooms of the Lord Taj, the dee-ah-tee of Miss-tah-ree." He finished his spiel and beamed up at at Arc with pride. Arc grinned in pride. This was going to be easier than he'd thought, if the boy was this quick. Question was, did he understand was a diety really signified?

Taj moved towards the hidden staircase a faint smile on his face. He had cleaned up and put on one of his best shirts, similar to the ones he had given to Arctang. The style suited them both though the colors were vastly different. Taj liked the darker colors with dark designs on them.

Moving slowly down the stairs, he checked on Rasmus and Mirshu for a few moments. The undead were doing as they normally did and he smiled faintly. They amused him.

He reached for the door handle but then hesitated, remembering what Saljin and Puck had explained. Raja and his mate had been settled into rooms. As had their new pet. Taj could see why Puck had been upset especially from what had been explained of Raja. He should be treated with respect. Obviously Puck was regaining his power or perhaps it was his anger that had fueled the event. Either way it was a good sign to see more magic returning. At least he thought so.

Knocking on the door, Taj waited. He was rather interested to see the boy Saljin had spoken of.

He had no time to assess the boy's understanding, as the next moment a knock announced Taj's arrival. He rose immediately and went to let his guest in... though he supposed he should say it the other way around. He let his host in? A wry smile twisted his lips as he opened the door and stepped back. "Welcome, Tajneveki," he gestured grandly into his tiny domain within Mystery's rooms. "I would say what is mine is yours, but it truly is yours." His smile warmed into real welcome then, offering a hand before gesturing for Taj to take a seat by the fire.

Hatim had also leapt to his feet when his master had. Now he stood awkwardly, looking all elbows and knees. The extra large shoes did not assist in this image either. He did not fidget, having been taught early to stand straight and be still, but his eyes were almost owlish in the muted lighting. He watched the newcomer intently, gaze taking in all the details that could be seen. Still, he did not move or speak of his own. It wasn't his place, after all!

"My lord of Mystery, may I introduce Hatim, a boy newcome to serving me." He joined them once more, having closed the door. He gave the gawky boy a stern look. "Though he is most definitely not my slave, right Hatim?" He waited for the boy to nod vigorously before he settled himself into his chair. "Hatim, this is Tajneveki, the god of Mystery. He is to be respected, but no more feared than you do me." His smile towards the half-grown boy was reassuring.

"Ah, something to drink, Taj?" he inquired then. He wasn't sure what he had to offer, but he was certain the room would come up with something for him. It was odd that way. In fact, he'd already spied a small sturdy cot of a bed tucked into a discreet spot, doubtless for Hatim. It made him smile. Apparently the room itself rather liked them being here.

Taj grinned, winking at Hatim, his wings and tail both twitching. Reaching over he ruffled the boy's hair gently. Penning on the tablet, he wrote, < Welcome, most esteemed Hatim. > Then he added, < 'Tis your domain even as I dwell within another's. > He meant Creation's.

Mystery nodded, approving of the furnishings in the room. Jaster would have been fascinated at the sudden appearances. Taj was as well and he glanced around the room studying the things there. Perhaps next time there would be something more.

Watching Hatim a moment, he held out his hand, palm upwards to show there was nothing there. Then he reached towards the boy's ear, the pretense of pulling a coin from it. Then he grinned widely, tail twitching from side to side as he handed it to the boy. It was real, but Taj had slipped it from his pocket as part of the trick.

Then he turned his attention back to Arctang as he sat down. < Everything is well now? Saljin and Puck explained. >

As Taj put the boy at ease, Arc cast about for what he figured must be there somewhere. Finally he noticed a hook moved to the side of the fire, tucked into shadows around the mouth of the fireplace. Upon the hook hung a small teakettle. With a sight of relief, he slipped to the bathroom to fill it with water. Placing it over the fire, he set about opening drawers in various places. Sure enough, one nearby held a small tea service for four. The cups were plain, save for a faint repetitive design along the rim. Absently he named the pattern for what it was. "Fractal," he murmured to himself as he set the cups, saucers, and tea itself on the coffee table. The irony of having tea on a coffee table however was lost on Numbers.

He settled into his seat to wait for the water to boil about the same time as Taj did the same. His eyes darkened a little at the message, but nodded slowly. "Yes, all is well, now." For the most part. If one discounted a charmed bird, injured servant and friend, and general disgruntlement over the whole situation. The very idea of Rissa and Raja being mistaken for demons!

He gave a snort of indignation. "The fool of a woman clearly was not entirely in her right mind," he declared heatedly. "But at least all is well.... now." He gave Taj an apologetic and grateful look, all in one. "I am thankful for the help of those who serve you, Lord Mystery," he intoned in formal appreciation. "Without them, I know not what the outcome would have been." His expression was vaguely bleak. To have come so far to nearly be undone by a mere human woman! What the use of being reborn if he was so fragile? He chafed, not even knowing exactly what he chafed against.

Hatim broke into his distressed reverie. "You could have taken her, Master," he boasted confidently. His eyes shone with hero-worship as he sat as primly as a fourteen year old could on his perch. He'd smiled warily at the stranger when he'd leaned close, but had laughed in a more genuine manner at the coin's production. He hadn't reached for the coin, but it had been given to him. His eyes had nearly bugged out at this most unheard of gift. His shock had only been broken by Arc's despondant tone. Now he sat unconciously clutching the coin tightly in a fist and gazing earnestly at his Master. "She didn't even have a weapon!"

Arc winced at this last detail. True, she hadn't come in armed, though she'd resolved that quickly enough. Still, it made his otherwise inevitable defeat by the woman even more humiliating. He gave a resigned sigh. "At least it is done, now. Raja and Rissa are safe, ensconced safely here." The last was said as a half question, slanting his gaze at Taj. He hadn't had time to check in on his friend since returning to the rooms. In fact, he himself was still somewhat dusty from the whole day. Not overly so, but somewhat less than at his best.

By now the kettle boiled, hissing animatedly over the fire. Snatching up the heavy cloth holder hanging furthest on the hood's arm from the fire, he swung it out and lifted the kettle to pour carefully into the three cups he'd set out. He caught Hatim's startled glance with a gentle smile. "Yes, you eat with me,, and are served by your master." He winked before turning to put the kettle back on the hook, nearly empty. "Get used to it, my boy. Life will be entirely different for you now."

On a random whim, he suddenly grinned and tipped his chin up loftily. "You walk amongst the gods now, after all!" It was said in jest and teasing, though entirely true. Hatim's fate had certainly changed entirely, and permenantly. By looking at him just now, however, one might wonder if he was comfortable with the change. Being served by his master to sup at the same time as he! It was... unheard of!

Taj frowned slightly, nodding as Arc still seemed rather vexed by the situation earlier that day. < We all come from different ways because of trouble. And we all learn more. Adamant was Puck she free herself of her cage. > he wrote holding the pad out to see. He had to focus a great deal more to keep his words a bit less cryptic. This was a friend and he preferred not to confuse him with hidden meanings.

A wide grin appeared as the boy encouraged Arctang. He certainly liked the god. He watched Hatim a moment with a genuine smile. The boy's presence would be good for Arctang. Perhaps open him up more. Being stuck in that cube could not have been.. fun.? Was that the proper word he was searching for? Maybe, but it did not entirely fit the meaning he had in mind. It was filled with loneliness, helplessness, and maybe even a bit of despair that he would not be released.

< And playmate of godly children shall he become. A mad raven awaits. >

He aimed the pad at Arctang each time but then wondered. < Has he been taught to read? My library is at your disposal for him. >

Arc looked from the pad to Taj with equal inquiry. "You know, I haven't thought of that." After all, he'd only bought the boy's freedom that very day. It hadn't occured to him that the boy might not be well taught enough to read. He knew how to add, at least, but the knowledge of letters wasn't something one could assess from what little time they'd spent together.

"Hatim," he turned to ask the boy, who was just tipping the cup towards his lips. Startled by the sudden attention of his master while trying to master the knack of handling such a delicate cup that clearly was worth more than anyone had ever paid for him, the boy jerked as if to attention. In doing so, the hot liquid slopped out of the cup and splashed all over the boy's ill-fitting clothes. Horrified, Hatim nearly dropped the cup too, only just in time clasping it close before it slipped from his numb fingers. He cast his eyes up in terror at Arc, hunching his shoulders against the clearly expected blow.

Arc was on his feet immediatly, but threw himself to his knees beside the footstool. "Hatim! Are you okay?" he asked in alarm. The water had been scaldingly hot when he'd poured it, and he was extremely alarmed that the boy had burned himself. The boy merely stared at him wordlessly, mouth dropped open. "Tell me boy, are you burned?" Arc asked urgently, almost impatiently. The boy closed his mouth and shook his head, still mute.

Relieved, Arc sat back on his heels and let out a rush of breath. "Good and well then," he managed, giving the teen a smile. "I think you need to change your clothes yet again. Did they leave you more than this set?" Still wordlessly, Hatim nodded. "Good then. Go and get yourself dried off and in another change of clothes."

The thin boy gulped and carefully set down the cup, rising to do as bidden. Arc regained his seat, watching him as he moved. "Oh, and Hatim?" The boy paused, halfway across the room already, though he made more noise doing so than was warranted, his shooes flopping against the wood. "You can leave off the shoes if you prefer." Arc smiled more at the grateful look cast at him before the boy disappeared into the bathroom.

Bemused, Arc turned back to Taj. "It seems we must wait a bit longer before we know that detail about him," he commented with amusement. "He is a good child, and quick to please. I'll be glad of having him around." He recaptured his own cup and sipped, letting the flavor slip across his tongue. "Will you tell me more of you?" he asked then. "I am a guest of yours, but hardly feel I know much about you personally." This did seem the right time to learn more about each other, the atmosphere being so relaxed and reclusvie from the world and its troubles.

Taj had reacted as Arc had at the hot tea spilling on the boy, but sat down when it seemed the child was unharmed. He would have reacted the same way with Madrigal. At Arc's question, Mystery settled back into his chair a faint smile on his lips.

< Jaster left with Cinder and I returned with Karaskis. What progeny would Mystery and Fire create? > His lips twitched upwards as he added to the tablet, < My Lady doth live here and hers blend well within my rooms. Rhys, her son, has a room near my workshop as does his guardian and my own mad raven. He is a very intelligent boy- creative. >

He had not really had a true chance to tell Arctang about his relationship with Karaskis. Now seemed a good moment to alert him to such things. With her servants, Rhys, and Clotho scattered amongst his own, Arc might have thought they were all aligned with Taj.

< Oni hide with a corner of my gardens, safe from larger demons they dwell with me and mine. > He had not thought to tell him about the oni. Once introduced, they would understand and accept curiosity by Hatim or Arc. Or anyone else. Although they might accept Raja and Rissa immediately.

At the mention of progeny, Arc's brows rose and he sat up a bit straighter. So his friend had a lady! Goddess of Fire, it seemed. He mulled that for a moment. It wasn't a match one would guess at before it happened. Fire and Mystery? Though he supposed it wasn't all that far-fetched. Was it not around fires that tales of magic, horror, and mystery were told by the tribal peoples, with such traditions still carried on today? But the wording made him lean forward. "Is your lady Karaskis with child, then?" His face was filled with delight at the thought. What an idea, to have little godlings running about again! There was a great difference between the mortal child of one's host and the children of gods, mainly in the fact that one were precious, but the other were not only precious, but the key to the survival of the gods.

Odd as it was, Arctang had no trouble conversing with Taj this way. It seemed natural to simply read his written words rather than listen to them spoken. It did not occur to him to even inquire as to why he did not speak. In fact, the Pie Bird tended to simply assume that was how he was naturally. After all, what did it matter? Voice or no voice, he still could express himself just fine. Numbers themselves were quite silent, having no voice and needing no verbal expression in order to function.

But what exactly were oni? He gave Taj a quizzical look over his teacup before taking a sip. A soft rap on the door announced that once again, the tenders of the rooms had accurately anticipated the needs of the occupants. Before he could rise, though, Hatim darted barefoot from the bathroom to open the door. He was wearing loose linen trousers now, with another slightly large t-shirt over it. The trousers looked much more comfortable, and it made Arc smile.

Taj grinned widely shaking his head. Writing he shoved the pad at Arc, < Everything has a time and place to it, even offspring. Do not count them before they have even begun. > He and Karaskis were some time from that, but both were enjoying Rhys and Madrigal immensely.

Then he added with a flourish < Children of our hosts suffice for now. > He and Karaskis had never spoken of children, but he was certain at some point they would want them. Perhaps when things were safer and more settled in this world and others there would be options for such things.

At the quizzical expression about the oni, Taj continued to pen an explanation. < Oni are rather oriental looking small demons, mischievous but not truly malicious. Only a few exist still from the break in the planes when the greater demons surged forth. Some sought refuge with me and some are with others. They recreate as small dolls and the few Hagenti and Anji have found they guard zealously in the cavern I have given them. It would be worth your while to meet them and learn what they can offer. Perhaps there is one who would delight in numbers as you do. >

Taj turned at the sound of the door, smiling widely at Hatim. He liked the boy and was thinking perhaps Hatim should meet both Madrigal and Rhys. Rhys was close enough in age that the two might have much more in common than thought. Both were intelligent and quick on their feet. < Perhaps Hatim could do with some companionship his own age. Rhys is perhaps close. >

On the tray were several covered dishes. Triq and Delphine had prepared a plate of sliced cheese with rolls freshly baked that day with butter on the side. Another contained various sliced and diced fruits mixed with nuts and tossed into a sort of sweet sauce. A third contained a plate of steamed noodles with vegetables and spices, the steam rising of the cheezy sauce that was poured over the top and seasoned. The final dish was a plate of cookies and small iced cakes. The second tray carried a large pot of tea with several cups, as well as a pitcher of ice cold water.

The tantalizing scents surrounded both women as they walked through the secret doorway and to Numbers' room. They talked quietly of other things until they came to stop and knock gently while supporting the dishes they had prepared.

Excentrique held the laden tray, shifting its weight while Delphine stood at her side as the door opened. The aoide glanced at the boy with a quick smile. "Well, well, a new face." she giggled as she winked at Delphine. "A handsome one too. Much better than old Pretzel."

Delphine sighed, then laughed. "Behave yourself, Triq. Or you will be bathing the critters again for Lady Lisana. Ignore her, but we have your food, sir. Where would you like it?"

It didn't take them long to fall to. Hatim fisrt was hesitant to take much food, until Arc began piling it on his plate for him. Shortly the boy was wolfing down food like a starved animal. Despite his voracious appetite, though, the boy ate neatly, and had the notable preference for consuming much of the savory foods before touching the sweet ones. Arc smiled to himself and ate more slowly, savoring the delicious flavors. Taj had excellent cooks. As a passing comment, he addressed his host. "I may have to steal your chefs, my friend, when I have rooms of my own!" He took a deep drink of the chilled water. "I compliment their talent!"


It was some time later, though, after Hatim had stopped filling his third leg and had settled sleepily to one side of the fire, that Arc's mind turned to more sobering matters. He had avoided asking about it, avoided even thinking about it, until now. The dishes had been cleared away, and they sat facing the fire, sipping on their cups of tea.

He couldn't think how to broach the subject without revealing how he felt, nor how strongly. So he merely said what was on his mind, trusting to Mystery to understand. "What have you done with it?" he murmured, eyes focused deep in the fire, his tone mild and distant, untouched by the emotions that wanted to rage. For Arc, this was a delicate matter, and one he wasn't sure how to manage from here on out.

After they settled back into the chairs before the fire, Taj simply watched Hatim. He was definitely happy to be here with Arctang. Taj was glad that the god had been found and now had a chance to be around more often. It would help everyone. Not just he or Arc though he planned to include the god in whatever he was doing to try to help free him of the things bothering him. Whether he said anything or not, Arc was troubled by things he had missed.

He turned fully to watch Arc a moment. Penning, he wrote, <Secret and safe, tucked amongst other mysteries, err its numbers needed again.>

After Arc had been settled in, Taj had taken the cube to his secret room. He had carefully placed it on a shelf at the back where nothing else was around it. The shelves had been empty waiting for their full measure of oddities. Scattering a few bits of sawdust, Taj had obscured it several times to ensure that it was not seen unless he wanted it to be seen. Arc was the only one he would reveal it to. It was his after all to dispose of as he saw fit.

<Have you need of it? It is close enough.>

His eyes slid from the pad back to the fire, his jaw muscles tight. He lifted his cup of tea and sipped to force himself to relax them, gently working his jaw and taking a deep breath. "I don't know," he answered finally, in all honesty. "It can't be left just lying about, even here." He cast his host an apologetic look., meaning no insult. "Bad enough it has caused as much mischief as it has already." He sank deepeer into the comfortable chair, his mind tumbling over the possibilities and their consequences.

His musing was interrupted by a soft snore just then. Hatim, slumped against the wall, had clearly completely run out of energy. Arc rose, snagging an unused pillow from his own chair as he went. He eased the boy onto the pillow, then opened a chest and pulled out an appropriately sized blanket from it. Amazing how this room managed to provide what he needed, as he could have sworn that chest wasn't there before. He draped the soft material over the boy before returning to his chair.

"That is not the only thing that needs deciding either," he said quietly as he settled back down. "What am I to do with myself?" He folded his hands together, resting his elbows on his knees, and stared at his knotted fingers as if they held the answer somehow. He knew there was no answer from Taj to this question, not really. It was something only he was going to be able to unravel. Still, it was nice to have someone listen that he trusted not to make light of his inner turmoil.

Taj watched Arctang for a moment. The god was disturbed by his incarceration just as he had suspected he might be. But now he needed something to help him move past all that.

Writing he said, < Arrows, swords, and armour. The numbers of which must be counted. A tally taken of people residing beneath Creation's canopy. These are your domain. >

He let Arctang digest what he had said for a few moments before continuing. < The forge could be aided in this way whilst others hammer and sharpen the things that will be protecting us when the need arises. Mayhap a plan resides within you that others cannot see. >

If nothing else, it would get Arctang moving and Taj was quite certain that he would have some fun once there. Joe, and the others were an amiable group and he was sure that Numbers would like them.

< As for the box, it is hidden in plain sight with nothing near it. Few will ever see where the mystery lies. > Hopefully that would allay Arc's fears of the thing. None would find it where it was as none but he knew of the secret room.

He pivoted his head to the side to read what Taj had to say, and nodded slowly, his unruly hair falling across to almost hide one eye. The look was rogusih and boyish, giving him a rather vulnerable air. "That's an idea. Inventory stacks up if its' being produced swiftly, and the amounts can get muddled in the rush to make them." He ran a hand through his hair, sweeping it from his forehead. "For now, it's something to do," he agreed, giving a more relaxed sigh and sitting up again to stretch. "I could perhaps... hmm, yes. There could be a valid use for me there," he mulled aloud.

"Perhaps tomorrow or the day after you could show me where the forge's cache is?" he asked, stifling a yawn. What a day. Had it really all been just today? It seemed like days ago he'd found Hatim, much less freed Raja and his lady, though some of the rest seemed closer and more recent. He rubbed his eyes. "I might take some time to get to know the area, though," he amended. "Best not to get lost when I'm expected somewhere later."

Taj nodded, writing again. < Would not do to get lost. Tis not far. Saljin and I go each day to hammer and create. Tempest enchants as does Hashim's father. >

He glanced over at Hatim a moment smiling. Rhys was probably getting ready to settle into his room for the night and Maddie was probably fussing for Siddhi about now.

< The sun rises early, and after breakfast I will call for you. A mad raven needs Mystery's attention err he sleeps. Your Hatim is a likeable child though his eyes say he is older. Fun should come his way for a time to define the sparkle in his eyes more. >

Taj wondered just how much fun the boy had actually been allowed to have. Did he play as Maddie played? Somehow he doubted Hatim had in a very long time. Perhaps Arc would find a way to see that the boy did so while learning lessons.

Arc stood as his friend began making inroads towards leaving. He nodded and offered him a smile. "Worry not, brother," he said quietly. "He shall learn what it is to be free, to be himself." He chuckled a little then, running one hand across his forehead. "For that matter, perhaps he and I will discover about ourselves together. It probably would do us both good."

He walked with Taj to the door of his room, leaving the last tray of tea things where it was. "Thank you for dinner, and for your welcome, and all the more you know I cannot manage to express, my friend," he said hearfeltly, reaching to grip Taj's hand in his own, then pulling him to a hug, manly though it was. "I hope I can repay your kindness." With an almost comical bow, he opened the door like a butler for the god of Mystery. "May the master of the house rest well. I shall see you in the morning!"

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Bitter Options
01.13.11 Solo

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"Taj, I want to talk to you," she said, her voice adamant.

The god nearly sighed at the sound before turning around to face her. His walk in the garden was going to have to wait. And he would really need it more than ever afterwards. The instant the sound touched his ears he knew. Bettina. What had Jaster ever seen in that girl?

His gaze crossed her face and he inclinded his head. Talking to her was the last thing he wanted to do. But she was Maddie's mother.

"I want Maddie to live with me, Taj," she began. "There has been nothing going on. The world is turning green again. He will be safe with me now. I want my son back."

Taj folded his arms, his wings flexing out and then back again. He stared at her a moment before shaking his head negatively. It had not only been for the boy's safety from the outside world. It had also been from a neglectful, scheming mother. She was still that.

"But... he is my son. And I want him with me," she protested, staring back at the god.

Again he shook his head, turning away. There was something about the girl he just did not trust. Walking away, he listened to her yelling at him. Nothing new there. She had not changed at all.

"You will regret this," she muttered under her breath as he disappeared down the staircase.

Several servants and even her sister stared at her. Felista shook her head, turning with her daughter to finish her conversation with a friend.

"What are you staring at?" Bettina snapped when she caught them watching her. Turning away with a flounce, she moved angrily towards the hallway where her own rooms were.

Rasim watched her interaction closely with the god. Perhaps there was some way to use that to his advantage. Could the shifter be caught unguarded is such was used?


When the world had seemed to come crushing down around everyone, the labryinth below had been affected too. Much was lost as the magic drained slowly away. The goblins, elves, and others survived though left desperate and weakened. It was hard times even for Zrath and his followers.

A few portals to the upper world remained. Some had been restored as Zrath's sorcerors found a way out. Rasim had found a small group and he professe his need of protection to them. They trusted him. Starving and exhausted, they helped him find the Pantheon of the gods.

It was glorious, the first sight he had of the place. And his second thought was how to obtain it for Zrath, his master. But the title this place was given was for a reason. Real living gods resided here. It was they who had saved enough that what still existed had a chance. They were reborn and reshaping the worlds and universe anew.

Frustration had slid though him, but then Rasim saw something he could gather for his master. Saljin. The shifter had not only survived, he had the ear of a god. After a few questions in the right places, the sorceror knew that the boy who had been with him that day they had escaped was now Mystery. The resemblance was still there, but disappearing as the god was coming into his own. Mystery as a deity would be harder to fight than now. But still he had to bide his time and find a way to limit what could be done.

It was this advantage he saw in Bettina. She would do the work for him and then believe whatever he said if he had his way. She was elven, so perhaps she had magic and just did not know it. The man smirked to himself. He would find a way to get to her.

His hair had gotten long and hid his tattoo. When he returned to Zrath, he would shave his head again and display the marking with pride. But the less anyone knew of him here, the better.

He would return to Zrath, but it would be with several prizes in his hands. The woman and her child. Perhaps the daughter also. The shifter would walk in willingly for her and his nephew.

It was a plan.

Walking over to Bettina, he said softly, "Lady, can I help you?"

She stared at him a long moment, though at first she had intended to make some comment. His eyes stopped her. "No. I'll figure something out later."

He bowed his head to her. "Perhaps talking about it to someone removed from the situation will help. My name is Rasim. Should you need me, I will be further into the hall. I live there."

This was the first time they had met, but it would not be the last.

Over the next several weeks, it happened quite often that Bettina would be walking somewhere or returning from seeing Madrigal that Rasim would happen to bump into her. At first she did not trust him. But as time passed and her own loneliness increased, Bettina warmed up to the man. One evening she revealed the entire story of Jaster and herself. Then she explained that he was now Tajnevaki and that he had taken their son to live with him while she was relegated to visiting. It was not fair and she was angry about it.

Rasim stared as if shocked, hugging her to comfort her. But his lips turned upwards into a smirk behind her back. She would do nicely as an accomplice and it would be too late by the time she understood what was happening.

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Revealing Secrets
07.12.11 Solo
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Revealing Secrets

Bettina learns of the secret pathways in Taj's rooms.
She begins searching for them.

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Play Date
07.12.11 Joint with Talencia
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Play Date

Taj and Saljin plan a play date with Madrigal and Kayan.
Arc and Rajah interrupt and the children are dumped on Elana.

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Innumerable Gratitude
07.11.11 Joint with Talencia
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Innumerable Gratitude

Taj is thanked by Arc for letting him stay there and for the cub suggestion,
but wanted to tell him that he has his own rooms now.

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The Forge
07.12.11 Joint with Talencia
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The Forge

Taj takes Arc to the forge and gets him to help count things.

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Vermillion Gekko

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Witch Rises
07.14.11 Solo
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Witch Rises

Bettina and Rasim plot and plan

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