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.
Envoy received word back from the Temple of Barada that, yes, they were quite interested in meeting with her. Toward that end, arrangements were made to allow a Yodhbarada by the name of Kessendara to pay her a visit and examine the scroll.
Judging by the knock on the door, that's probably her now.
After returning from her self-defense training with the Yodhblakat, cleaning off the blood and changing into her robes, Envoy is still a bit exhausted, but manages to smile and remain upright for her visitor. "I'm glad you could make it, Priestess Kessendara." She hands over the sealed scroll of parchment. "The Priest of Rinala sealed this with a curse. If need be, I can probably find the shrine again in the Undercity, but it may be burned out by now."
Kessendara's appearance is an exercise in contrasts of black and white not an uncommon style in Babel in that she wears dark-colored robes, and a cowl, gloves, scarf and other trappings that can easily be pulled about to conceal herself and to make her blend better into shadows, though her fur is ivory-white, contrasted again by shiny black hair that is combed in a fairly odd style that seems to practically bury her eyes (or at least shield them from casual scrunity) in her thick bangs. She nods, taking the scroll. "You are to be commended for bringing this to our attention." She runs her fingers across the seal, and examines it closely. "… and for keeping it a secret for Barada."
"Well, the Yodhbarada are the only Sisterhood I've found that I would consider… impartial," Envoy admits, and thinks longingly of laying down for a few hours. "The Priest wanted the Yodhbarada to receive it above all others."
Kessendara nods, and tucks the scroll into her robes. "Well then! On behalf of Barada, I thank you for presenting the scroll. May Barada bless you for your gift. If that is all, I shall be going now." And hardly have the words left her mouth, but she spins about on her heel and heads for the door.
Envoy clears her throat. "There is one thing," she mentions.
Kessendara, being an Eeee, couldn't convincingly pretend not to hear that. She stops, just short of the door, and half turns her head. "Mmm?"
"The Priest nearly killed me," Envoy says. "And it wasn't easy getting out of the Undercity. I'd like to know just what the message is, that he was afraid to bring it to you himself."
Kessendara frowns deeply. "You present a secret to Barada unspoiled, and then you wish to know what it is? You are a strange one, Mage Envoy of Lothrhyn. We do not even know what secret this contains yet, to know if it would be worth the trouble. I could not agree to such a thing, sight unseen."
"I understand," the Exile says. "But after you have seen it, you could decide its worth, couldn't you? If it isn't something you think should be shared, then I won't insist on knowing it. But some consideration would be welcome. I do have other information you might find useful, after all."
Kessendara smirks wistfully, and draws the scroll back out of her robes. "Perhaps. Let me take a look at this scroll, then. I shall see if I can evaluate its potential worth … and then we shall see what can be done."
Envoy bows to the Yodh. "I hope you find the information useful then, Priestess."
Kessendara touches her finger to her lips and whispers a prayer to Barada, kisses the seal, then removes it. She pauses, as if in contemplation, then laughs. "There was no curse upon this seal none with any potency, leastwise," she says, as she unrolls it and looks at the parchment.
"It's the thought that counts," Envoy says.
Kessendara just nods, and scans the scroll. At first, she seems nonchalant. It's hard to tell with the eyes. Then, her ears flick. "Hmm," she says. Then she says it again. A wicked smile curves on her mouth. Before long, she abruptly stops and rolls up the scroll, beaming openly. "Barada bless you, Mage Envoy of Lothrhyn," she says, grinning. "You have given Her a great gift. But it is only a gift so long as it remains a secret, so, alas, I cannot tell you what is on this scroll."
Envoy blinks. "Oh well. At least it wasn't left behind for the fire then," she says, sounding a little disappointed.
The Yodhbarada nods. "And for that you are to be commended. Do not be so sorry, good mage. Barada is not without gratitude. In fact, She is willing to grant you some other secret that may be of use to you, but which She is willing to part with."
"Of use to me?" Envoy asks, looking curious. "I can hardly turn that down, although I can't guess what it might be."
"Not even a little guess?" the priestess teases, putting on an appearance of being disappointed.
Envoy opens her mouth, and then pauses. "Even my guesses would give away information about me that you might find useful. I'm not sure that would be prudent, given who you are," she says, and grins.
The priestess laughs loudly and openly. "No more offerings today for Barada, is that it? Well then, I suppose you shouldn't be surprised if I reveal that we happen to know of your little predicament that makes you a most curious member of the Mages' Guild right about now. And, Barada willing, there's a way you can fix that little predicament. In fact, dare I say it, four ways."
This makes Envoy forget all about her exhaustion. "Do tell?"
"Very well then," the priestess says, and strolls about the room, making herself quite at home as she finds herself a seat in the form of the bench sitting in front of Envoy's dresser. "There are, as I said, four methods, at the very least. The first is fairly easy, all things considered. I won't give my sources, but I am quite confident of them. Given time, you will recover your abilities. In fact, I dare say that, if you were to work on retraining yourself, you could regain your magical abilities approximately within a year."
"That is certainly good to know," Envoy admits.
"Second," the Yodhbarada continues, tucking the scroll safely away, "you might be able to quest for some potent elements which might be used by a skilled Mind Mage to restore your magical talents. I happen to know of an oracle who may be able to help you in that regard … but be wary. Oracles tend to speak in riddles." She winks.
"One of my mothers was an oracle," Envoy says, sitting on her bed. "I understand about cryptic revelations."
"Third," the Yodhbarada counts off, apparently unconcerned with Envoy's hint as to her strange heritage, "there are ways to regain one's powers by saturating oneself with potent magic."
"There is a legend," she says, "that before Zahirinee came to own his famous pool of scrying, that it was a magical place of great power, known to focus the gifts which magicians have long employed. It is said that once, a mage who had lost a challenge and his powers with it, went to that place. Through the use of rites which we do not know, he regained the use of his powers. From there, he rose again to smite his oppressors, and he took their lands and ruled them with a firm hand."
Envoy grins, and nods. She's always suspected her visit to Fortunatis did more than just wake up her talent. "Areas of high magic are often dangerous, though."
"Though you may not have any oppressors to smite," Kessendara suggests, "there might be a certain potency in bathing in the waters of Zahirinee's pool, accompanied with meditation. It would be up to you, however, to persuade Zahirinee to allow such a thing. Or perhaps another place would be more appropriate. And, yes, they are dangerous … but so are the Kindly Ones, and so are the Spheres of Magic, and so are the elements of the world about us."
"Fourth," Kessendara says, "you might seek out a dream mage, and consult Morpheus, the 'God of Dreams' so the dream mages call him. It is within his ability to enact some healing of the mind, it is said."
"I wonder where they got that idea?" Envoy comments with a grin.
Yodhbarada shrugs noncommittally. "So there you have it. Four ways. What more could you want? Well, perhaps directions to see that oracle, if you're at all interested… "
Envoy nods, "I would appreciate the directions, yes. I like to keep all of my options open."
Kessendara smiles brightly. "Well, then… "
Atop Mount Barada, there is more than just the temple to her name. Far more humble is a stone structure, partially collapsed, dating back to some older era, perhaps before Barada became a keeper of wealth as well as secrets. Moss crawls out of cracks in stone walls carved with images of bats engaged in various scandalous exploits, and candles are stationed about the room, hanging from the ceiling and on stands in very irregular fashion. The air is heavy with incense and the intruding scents of the wilderness just outside.
Cold rain comes down in sheets outside, and the shelter inside the ruined shrine, however spotty it may be, is quite welcome. Spring is in full bloom in Babel now, but the rain still tends to be fairly chilly up in the mountainous regions of Babel. Today is no exception.
Seated atop pillows and cloths upon a stone dais is a small Eeee figure, bundled up in swaths of heavy cloth with intricately woven patterns upon each strip, glittering with zolken threadwork. She sits in a lotus position, hands hidden in voluminous sleeves, and face shrouded in the deep shadows of a cowled hood, though there is a bit of tan fur faintly visible of her chin.
A cold and wet figure kneels before the dais, and pulls back the hood of its cloak. "Uh," Envoy says, wondering if the Eeee even notices her presence. "Kessendara sent me. She said you could help me find what I needed to treat my condition."
A faint and typically Yodhbarada-esque smile forms on the half-visible mouth of the oracle. Her voice is young, rather than marked with the age one would expect to be a prerequisite to wisdom. "Listen," she says, putting a finger to her lips, and shushing Envoy.
Obediently, Envoy listens to the sound of the rain falling with perked ears.
Is it the rain whispering, or the oracle before Envoy? That is for Envoy to decide… Listen, for I will make to you clearer,
To heal yourself, you need pieces from four mirrors.
Four aspects, four elements, four realms of your sphere.
Gather together, and bring them all here.
Thunder rumbles, and the rain comes down even more fiercely. A few droplets gather on the ceiling above Envoy's head, gathered from a badly placed crack, and a drop lands on Envoy's nose. Dragon to Child as Fire is to Water,
Air to Probe as Earth is to Father,
A thing in a place, a place for a thing,
Metal, plant and stone, and of dirt do I sing.
Another low murmuring of thunder, and then a hiss and crackle as lightning arcs across the sky, the flashes limning the faults in the old shrine's construction. In the hearts of four realms, far and away,
Live essences of each of the elements, I say.
A precious thing, potent to have and behold,
Find it there, bring it here, just as you're told.
The thunder murmurs, quieter this time.
The raining relents, and Envoy hears no more for now.
"Living essences of elements?" Envoy wonders quietly. "What realms would have those?" Where to find them? Where do they abide?
Is there an answer? Or is it for you to decide?
There is potency in the riddle, not so in the plain,
It is your own mind to heal, so easy answers are in vain.
The rain picks up slightly in intensity again, a cool spray brushing Envoy's cheek, an errant breeze tousling her mane.
Envoy blinks in surprise at the breeze. "A riddle with no answers, but what I choose?" Is it so strange to you, so alien a test?
The gods have an answer in mind, but is it the best?
A quest is not simple, too cheap if done in ease,
So find fitting answers, and the gods your cleverness please.
The rain drops for a time, so that all Envoy can hear for the moment is a chaotic patter of droplets falling from countless leaks in the stonework, contributing to the puddles dotting the floor.
Envoy thinks about this. The worlds of the Gateway are named after gods. Arcadia is certainly full of "living essences", but that would only be one realm, wouldn't it? Abbadon is fire and metal. "There are so many possibilities," she murmurs. "Realms of earth, air, fire and water?"
The patter of raindrops against glass picks up again, then continues, unabated.
Maybe Cyprian can help me decide. Or Zaharinee, Envoy thinks. "Thank you," she says to the Oracle. "Do I … owe you anything?"
Geometric patterns of red and gold spell out the walls and recesses of a tall chamber that is only occasionally lit by flashes of lightning filtered through a lens in the ceiling. This light is supplemented by low-burning bronze braziers sculpted to look as if held aloft by flights of tiny dragons that 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.
The rain pattering against the glassy ceiling of Envoy's guest room at the Mages' Guild doesn't answer her question.
It's dark in the room, incidentally, save for the occasional flash. Envoy is in bed. Her mind is a bit foggy about the details of the day. That Yodhbarada came by, right? The scroll isn't on the table any more, in any case. Envoy's body certainly still feels sore from the workout with the Yodhblakat.
Sitting up, Envoy looks around for soggy footprints or clothing.
The arrangement of the room seems in keeping with Envoy coming back from practice … and going straight to bed.
"If I left… someone must have seen me?" she whispers. Time has obviously passed, but she doesn't feel very rested. Getting up, she decides to make another appointment with Cyprian to discuss the riddle … and to find out if he has any idea of what she might be looking for.