Geometric patterns of red and gold spell out the walls and recesses of a tall chamber that is bathed in sunlight focused through a lens in the ceiling, constructed such that so long as the sun remains over the mountains of Babel, light comes down directly from above, and when that is gone, bronze braziers sculpted to look as if held aloft by flights of tiny dragons hang from long chains from the four corners of the ceiling. Polygrams and circles are described in ornate mosaics in the tiled floor, radiating outward from a raised dais in the center of the chamber. The floor changes levels at several points, with many rises and recesses, and there are many nooks and recesses in the walls, and many perches that fliers could exploit. A pair of double doors of stained thistlebark are guarded by twisting bronze serpents represented in relief on their surfaces.
It is evening, and the day has gone past without any reply yet from the office of Mage Cyprian. At present, the impressively furnished chamber that served as her place of recuperation is now serving as her temporary residence at the Guild Hall even if the element of "Earth" would have been more appropriate than "Fire".
As Envoy is finished with her day, and soon to prepare for her fairly short sleep cycle, there is a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" Envoy calls, as she goes to open the door.
"Acolyte Tania," comes a young voice from the other side of the door, and when it is opened, Envoy can see that it's a young bat in her early teens, dressed in a hooded cloak and robes of a low-level Yodhbarada initiate. Her hands are hidden under the folds of her robes, but the folds are suchthat she is obviously clutching a scroll case underneath her cloak.
Envoy blinks in surprise, and stands aside so the girl can enter. "Would you believe I was expecting you to be a Yodhsunala? Please come in."
The Yodhbarada blinks in surprise. "Why, have you been saying bad things about them? If there's going to be one coming, perhaps I should leave. No sense in telling you things, if you're going to die anyway. This is a very nice place you have here. Do you live here? What sort of person are you? I see you have wings. Did something bad happen to them? Oooo! This is a really nice mirror! Do you think these robes make me look fat? Do you have anything to eat?" She peeks at anything and everything as she explores the room once let in.
"I doubt anything can make an Eeee look fat," Envoy says, grinning. Probe never seemed as cute as a curious young Eeee. "I think I have some fruit left over from dinner; you're more than welcome to it. And the Yodhsunala have been helping me lately. My wings received some injuries when I fled the Temple of Inala."
"Oh! What kind of fruit?" the bat asks, but hardly are the words out of her mouth, before several berries are stuffed into it. Several more questions are lost in muffled chomps, until she swallows, and wipes her mouth with a sleeve. "I came with some news from the Yodhbarada, you know. They did some checking around, and I guess they found out something important, because they sent me over with this scroll, and I'm supposed to explain some things and do you mind if I have some more fruit? Because I'm really famished, because it's really cold out there and in order to keep warm, I flew a few loop-the-loops, but that's really tiring, and so when I get tired, I get really famished, because it burns up a lot of energy you know, and I still have to fly back, but of course I'll tell you everything first, because if I didn't, that would be pretty silly and pointless of me, and I'd probably get a good caning on my posterior for it, and I really don't care for that… "
Envoy just nods, "Have all of it, I've already eaten. I've got some furs somewhere you can wear back, if you don't mind that they came off of a dead Yodhblakat."
"Ewwww!" says the bat. "A Yodhblakat? No telling where they came from, then! Do you know, the Yodhblakat went and trashed the Temple of Inala? Oh, wait! You already would know that. Well, silly me for saying that, you know, but it's hard to keep track of who knows what and all that, but I'll get a lot better at that when I get older. That's an important thing for a Yodhbarada to know, you know: not only what needs to be known, but who wants to know it, and who doesn't want it to be known, and who doesn't want it to be known that they don't want it to be known and so forth like that, because it can get really complicated sometimes, but I guess that's just politics. Mmm! This is pretty good!" She plots down on the bench, and pulls out thescroll case, drawing out a sheet of parchment while she munches, murphling something as she eats.
"I can see where that would be a difficult set of relations to master," Envoy says, sitting down next to her on the bench. "I never forget anything myself. You must do a lot of memory exercises."
"Oh, I have to do all sorts of exercises. One of them I'm still working at, though, is the exercise of being quiet when I'm supposed to. I mean, I have a really hard time not just saying something when it comes to my mind, because if I don't, and it's something really important, what if I forget it, and never say it at all? Then, I might waste a perfectly good thought just because I was being quiet at that moment! And that could be a real shame, because it could be something really crucial, only we'll never know, because nobody ever heard it. Speaking of, do you want to hear about what I have to tell you?" the bat squeaks.
Envoy nods, "I'm very curious as to what has been found out so far, yes."
"Welllll," the bat starts, then takes a deep breath. "First of all, you remember when there was all that weirdness on Guy Fox Day, you know, where you got turned into the Avatar of Inala and the path of Inala got completed? Of course you do! Well, a lot of other things happened on that day, too, like you'd expect when really magical things happen, like freak storms near the Forbidden Zones and all that sort of thing, and it turns out a lot of the Yodhsunala had some strange dreams that night, and there was an omen of the Sea of Souls drying up, just like something you said a while back, like it was some sort of prophesy, or else maybe it happened that night in the Dream Realm, but I don't really know that much about that sort of thing. Any road… "
Envoy just blinks at the information.
"It turns out that, in addition to all this other strange stuff happening," the bat squeaks, "out in the outlying areas, along the Saskanar River, downstream of Wyrmwood, which is this dirty little village on the edge of Shabar, not far from Aelfhem, in fact, kind of on the end of it, really, where it meets the river (but I'm not that great at geography yet anyway), there was this shrine where they had a Srinala (you know what those are?) and something really strange happened that night, because the Srinala woke up, though I know that Srinala don't wake up, but that's what this guard said happened, though they figured he had done something awful and he was lying and all that, though they still let him live, except he was an outcast, but he got tracked down, so we know his story now and all that."
"The Yodhbarada discovered all of this in one day?" Envoy says, sounding incredulous. "They must have already had the information."
"Well, Barada knows lots of things, of course, but the Yodhbarada are really good at finding things out, and asking the right people about this sort of stuff. Any road, it turns out, if you believe this guy, that there was this Srinala who was kept in the shrine, and he was supposed to guard her. There was this freak storm that came up, and then some strangers came in on a boat, and they came into the cave where he was guarding, and he tried to attack them, but they were too powerful, and knocked him out, though they weren't all that bad about him and fed him some fish, though the villagers didn't like hearing that he actually accepted food from people who went and stole the Srinala, even though he insists she got up and was walking around and left on her own. He thought it was Sunala herself, you see, but that obviously wasn't the case, even though she looked a lot like Sunala, like any Srinala is bound to."
Envoy asks, "Did he describe the people she … left with?"
"Oh yes," Tania squeaks, "there was a big brown Vartan who was big enough to wrestle a horrib, and a couple of Savanites that were with him, one big and one small, plus one of those golden-furred Gigi surfer Khatta types who live down near the Gigi Coast You see, the Gigis come from there and he was their boat pilot or something like that, and he talked in the typical Gigi talk, but the Savanites didn't talk at all, because Savanites can't talk, you know, but then Srinala aren't supposed to talk, either, but apparently this one was walking and talking around, or at least trying to, since she was kind of weak, or something, and this Vartan was having to carry her around, and she was a bit upset about things, probably about having to wake up in this deep dark dank cave in the middle of a storm, especially with the weird noises, because he said that the sky laughed and there were plenty of other people who reported that, actually."
Envoy blinks again. "Did the guard say if the Vartan had an eyepatch by any chance?"
"How did you know that? Yes, yes, he did, though I don't know which eye, because he wasn't sure, either, because he had a lot of other things to worry about, such as Sunala Herself coming to visit him and not striking him dead," the Yodhbarada says, "or at the very least, a Srinala getting up and walking about. The Srinala just lie around and don't really do anything, except for on occasion when they speak for departed spirits, but that's only when there's a Yodhsunala around to act as a medium, sort of, though it's really the body that does the medium part, since it does the talking, but that's outside of my area of knowledge, and in fact, not even my goddess to worry about, so I can't tell you all that much about that, though I suppose when I get older, I'll have to learn about that, too, because I'm supposed to know about all sorts of things that anyone might care to know about, which, when you think about it, is a whole lot!"
"A whole lot indeed," Envoy says quietly, her mind racing. Elijah? she thinks. He said he was going to Gigi, and had a young Savanite and another companion with him. "Do the Yodhsunala also know about these incidents?"
"Oh, they probably know about them, altogether, you know, like they have all the pieces of the puzzle, but they may not know how to fit them all together, because there were all sorts of strange things happening on that day, though I don't really know exactly what sorts of strange things, and even how many of them were just more tales made up on account of that freak storm and stuff about those voices in the sky and all that, but yeah, I figure that someone with the Yodhsunala would know about a Srinala getting up and walking around, though it was a pretty far-flung village, I guess, and I don't really know how exactly we came across this information, so I can't tell you for certain, though I suppose if you really wanted to know, you could go to the Temple of Sunala and ask them about it, though I personally wouldn't recommend it, because you never know when you might offend them, and then *krrrrrrcht!*" She draws a line across her neck. "It could get real ugly."
Envoy blinks again. "Err, yes. Have there been any other sightings of the Srinala since then? What villages or towns are upstream from that spot?"
"Well," the Yodhbarada continues, "there is the town of Wyrmwood, which I told you all about, except that there was a battle there between a brown Vartan with an eyepatch over one eye and this big ugly airship made out of a dead fish, which exploded, making a really big mess, and so I guess it was going to attack the village or something like that, so he was sort of a hero to them, and it was said he had a couple of Savanites, a Gigi and a black Eeee with him, so odds are it was the same group, you know, because otherwise that'd be a terrible coincidence and all that, and, you know, they were saying that it was Amenlichtli who was involved with that, or Amena, which is what they call her down on the Gigi Coast, and Sunala is really really unhappy about Amenlichtli as, you know, Sunala really has a problem with undead things, and Amenlichtli is just so evil undead, you know."
Envoy's mouth drops open. "The brown Vartan fought … ," she starts to say, then closes her mouth abruptly. "Any news of them after that?"
"Well, they were seen with some priestesses of Kasaris, who is this Olympian deity of Shadows, and it was really strange that they were in the area, but then, it was also strange that there were a bunch of Yodhinala in the area, too, in fact, they had this big fancy barge they were riding in, down the stream, and it was said that the Kasaris priestesses wanted to go further upstream, but the storm had caused some blockage, you know, with trees falling over and blocking it, and it would take a while to clear it away. So, this Vartan and his people go with these priestesses and they take this wagon overland right into Shabar, which I figure is a really weird place to go to for a detour around going upstream, but that's where they went, sure enough, and they must have come back, because the priestesses' barge went away, but nobody really knows too much about what happened after that, though it just so happens that there were a bunch of others heading into Shabar about then."
Wrinkling her brow, Envoy recalls what she knows about Shabar, aside from it having lots of pointy bits and flying wyrms. "Why would anyone want to go into Shabar?"
"Well, for instance," the Yodhbarada says, "there's this place in the middle of Shabar called the Sanctuary of Amber, and it used to be property of the Temple, but they broke off some time back, when there was the fake Captain-Astromancer, or so they say, doing strange things, and they didn't want to follow him, so they split off, and it was quite a scandal, because Knights Templar aren't supposed to do that, and I guess the shame was so great because they never rejoined the order after that, but apparently it still makes a good meeting place, because there were all sorts of Knights Templar from all over Sinai going there, and we didn't actually have anyone there, but we figure there was some sort of big meeting, because there were a few people from other places, even some Abaddonians there, too, and it must have been a lot of trouble getting all those airships in, because it's a Forbidden Zone, so they had to fly really low and pretty much get guided by rakhtors I figure."
She continues, squeaking, "Though, you know, the Lancers that guard that place actually fly wyrms, because they're so good they can actually train them, though I personally think wyrms are icky, so I think it's kind of pointless wasting time training them, as I'd far rather have something pretty like a giant chibix or a rakhtor, or maybe a giant Creen, though they'd probably get cold too quickly, or maybe a ptera, though I guess since I can fly on my own, that's really just silly and pointless anyway."
Envoy closes her eyes and puts her fingers against her forehead. "The Knights Templar. Hmmm. Dragons are better to fly. Any sightings after this conclave of Knights?"
"Well, no, no sightings of him," the Yodhbarada says, "but the Kasaris priestesses went back eastward or something like that, but I really don't know much beyond that, because, well, that doesn't really have anything to do with Srinalas, now does it? Except that they were traveling with a bat who looked an awful lot like Sunala, but it's not clear just where they went, but odds are if that was the Srinala that came awake, she'd probably be with them somewhere, which is kind of creepy, because why would some Olympians want a Srinala anyway? But I wouldn't know about that. I do know, however, that there have been some Gallees not very good at keeping secrets, and one of them is that they're disbanding the Knights Templar and replacing it with a bunch of new Orders, such as the Order of the Silver Star and Anchor, the Order of the Pink Ribbon, and some other order, but I forget the name of it right now, and it's going to be based in Golgotha."
"Oh well," Envoy says, forcing a smile. "I'm impressed at the amount of information your order was able to put together so quickly! Too bad the trail gets cold at the Sanctuary of Amber though."
The bat smiles. "Well, give us a few days more, and we might find out lots more! But this is all I was able to give you right now, and I hope it's somewhat useful to you somehow, because that would make me feel a lot better about flying all this way in the cold, though I have to say, the fruit was really nice, so even if it's not useful, at least I got some fruit out of it, but still, I figure my superiors would feel a lot better if they'd impressed you, and so I'd feel a lot better about that, too. Is there something really important about all of this, anyway? Because I'd like to know, because it might make me a better Yodhbarada, because it's good to know not just what there is to know, but what there is to know that's important."
Envoy waves a hand. "Oh, the fate of the world, future of Babel, gods walking among mortals and tripping over things, mages selling their souls for power, yada yada yada. And me being made a fool of, of course, although that's probably just a minor element."
The bat blinks a few time at this, at a loss for words, then breaks into a fit of giggles so fierce that she falls off of the bench with a flutter of wings. "Ow!" she says, then giggles again.
The Aeolun smirks. "It was very useful information. Thank you for coming, Tania."
Tania gets back up, smoothing her robes and pulling down her cowl to try to smooth her hair, but when she puts her cowl back up, it just pushes the hair back out of place anyway. "Well, that's about it, then! Maybe I'll have more for you later! Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bogey-beasts bite! Bye!" She half flaps, half skips to the door.
"Fly well, Tania," Envoy bids the acolyte, and closes the door behind her.
The room is a lot more quiet now that Envoy is alone.
While she goes back to preparing for sleep, Envoy thinks, He'll probably have sent her to Rephidim with 'Watches-Quietly', especially if there's some conflict developing between the Knights and the Temple. I wonder if the mail can even get to Rephidim from here now.