Fetiss Sky Island
This floating island, the newest on Sinai for all anyone knows, is surrounded by a wall of cloud, so that someone on its ground might POSSIBLY not realize the truth of this island's elevation. 10,000 feet above sea level, it has pressure and temperature that wouldn't hint at it. The central mountain contains a bowl-like valley that is lushly vegetated on the slopes, though the center is largely scorched and burned. Outside the mountain, what was once tundra has thawed out, leaving a fairly dull-looking land and a single, chilly lake.
It has been some time since the trouble with the forces of the Sabaoth. Bassai and his assistants now have an airship … but nobody knowledgeable (or willing) to pilot it. Furthermore, a meteor shower sent the Vykarins into a panicked frenzy, assigning all manners of ill omens to it especially when several of the meteors struck the earth, creating small craters and sending up sizable dirt clods in the "tundra" area.
At least the plant life has proven to be resilient. While the center of the bowl valley is still largely scorched, a number of new plants have begun sprouting up pod-like sprouts that at least the ones which weren't nibbled on by Fenter have been growing at a respectable rate.
Ibis and Tekki serve dinner for Bassai and Fenter. Several Vykarins watch, ostensibly guarding in case something bad happens somehow, but they seem to be most interested in watching Bassai do away with the critters they've caught for his meal.
Fenter adjusts his shell bowl helmet that the Vykarins gave him earlier and looks to see if he might possibly be eating something that's been cooked for once.
While Tekki's experience may be solely with Naga appetites, Ibis appears to have dealt with the concerns of non-Naga on plenty enough occasions, and has done his best, largely through trial and error, to come up with something palatable for the raccoon.
The raccoon wipes his chin and eagerly awaits his meal, he adjusts his hat and glances upwards. "Er… mister Bassai, rocks don't hit Sky Gods, do they?"
There are no more shooting stars tonight. Despite any fears the raccoon may have, no more have appeared since that meteor shower a while ago.
Bassai swallows his meal with great enthusiasm, properly prepared cuisine being much more appetizing than something recently caught by a Vykarin. Pretending that he is not the subject of intense canine gaze, he lets his meal slide down, then takes a few sips of tea. "I would say that it is very unlikely Fenter, but cannot rule out the possibility entirely."
Ibis brings out the next course for Fenter a well-cooked and spiced Snapsnap, complete with garnish.
All Vykarin eyes in the room focus on Bassai's throat.
Ibis, once everything is complete, takes a seat next to the table. Thus, both he and Tekki are watchful for any needs of their masters.
The Naga's throat constricts, slowly pushing a bulge down towards his gullet. Bassai attempts to ignore the Vykarin's curious gaze, while not exactly concealing anything from them. Instead, he turns to observe the two Savanites. "Are you healing adequately Tekki?"
Fenter's tongue almost tumbles out of his mouth as he inhales the aroma… who cares if it's one of those strange little pink things, it's something that isn't a yiffle and isn't Rhian food. He eagerly starts tearing off chunks and gobbling them down.
The Archeologist takes another sip of tea to wash his meal down. He straightens up so the Vykarins don't have to lean in too much to see that happening.
The Vykarins make "ooooo" sounds. They must certainly appreciate Bassai's consideration.
"So what do we do now, sir?" Fenter asks, tossing a bone over his shoulder. "Are we going to fly back to Rephidim eventually?"
Beyond the ring of Vykarins that surround the meal and the campfire, a few of the Vykarins beyond seem to be restless, howling and barking a lot. Something must have stirred them up again.
Fenter's ears perk at the noise, trying to see if he can pick out anything they might be saying.
"Our options are somewhat limited in that area Fenter, as we do not have a loyal crew." The Naga reconsiders, as he hears the noise start up outside "Or even one that was pretending to be loyal… what are the Vykarin's saying?"
Tekki belatedly signs back to Bassai, once he is sure the Naga is not distracted with his food, "I am doing fine, Master. The ministrations have been sufficient."
"Arooooooooooo!" Fenter howls loudly, slinging a bit of his dinner around in the process.
Bassai nods to the Savanite, flicking out his tongue. "That's good to hear." The snake pauses… "I think its time now Ibis, that we had a little talk. I wish to know what occurred after I left the Sifras site."
There are several barks from around the circle, and some of the Vykarins near the campfire are even giving up watching Bassai's dinner, and perk their ears up at the vociferous exchanges. Meanwhile, Ibis, unfazed by the jumpy Vykarins, signs, "We journeyed back to the outpost, and met up with the ship. The ship took off … and I was awakened from my sleep to be bound and anchored in one of the holds. It was later that I saw your rival, sir. I do not know exactly how she gained control of the ship."
"I suspect the Mind Mage masquerading as the Chef had a hand in that. You will also recall the warning I gave you at the beginning of this voyage. It would seem I was a little too trusting of my financiers." Bassai hisses, swirling his tea around in his cup, and watching the tea leaves tumble in the bottom. "In any event, I cannot see in hindsight see any other possible outcome, considering the circumstances."
Ibis says nothing in reply, but only nods, then bows his head.
Fenter blinks and stands up suddenly, looking back behind him.
A couple of the Vykarins hop up as well, looking in the same direction.
A faint light can be seen past the campfire in the direction that Fenter looks, bobbing along, like a will o' the wisp amongst the shadows of the valley.
Fenter perks his ears forward and squints his eyes, then quickly ducks around Bassai to hide from the approaching light.
"They're probably after me… all mad that I ate their cousins. Oh deardeardear." the raccoon frets.
"Upon considering all that happened Ibis, I do not regret leaving you in charge. It would seem you were the best, and only loyal choice." The Naga turns to observe the hiding Rath'ani, "What is going on Fenter? What has upset the Vykarins, another airship?"
The light continues to approach, at a fairly slow and shuffling pace accompanied by a rustling sound, like wind blowing through trees filled with dry autumn leaves. There is a shadow around the "will o' wisp", a shadow which is remotely humanoid … REMOTELY humanoid.
Fenter says, "Nosir… they say the plants are moving." He hunches down. "THEY'RE AFTER MEEEE!!!"
Ibis turns to look … and falls backward, off of his stool, landing on his tail! Tekki's ears flatten back!
The shadow and light continue approaching. In the flickering firelight, the "shadow" gives way to a solid figure, one that at first appears to be dressed in green robes, with gnarled hands with a skin like tree bark. But, as the figure approaches more … those hands look more than a little like tree limbs, and the robes look even more like leaves and other vegetation.
Bassai rises from the table, "The plants? That is rather extravagant revenge." The snake turns, facing the approaching forms.
Fenter peeks out from behind Bassai.
The "will o' wisp" is a faint glow from a glassy, almost liquid shape in the "chest" of the being. Instead of a face, there is what looks something like a great flower, in the center of which is another semi-translucent orb, though this one does not seem to glow of its own light, so much as to reflect and refract light from the fire and from the other orb. Behind the figure wave around numerous tentacles or vines … making patterns reminiscent of the "Eye of Kame Ikata" … or "Uncle Agnes".
The archeologist takes one last look at the leaves in his tea, then sets it down on the table. He tries to contain his surprise, and remains motionless, watching the unusual visitor.
The plant-being continues forward, then comes to a halt a stone's throw from the campfire. The tentacles continue writhing.
"This is… most unusual." Bassai hisses to no one in particular. His eyes roam over the individual, watching first the orb, then the waving tentacles. "Fenter… if you can make any sense of those gesticulations, I would like to be enlightened."
The raccoon responds to Bassai's request by waving his arms wildly, making Bassai appear to have grown a pair of new arms for a moment.
The vines writhe and wiggle back.
Fenter whispers. "He wanted to know if we were friends or not."
Nervously, Fenter steps out from behind Bassai. "Er… do you know anything about 'probes' sir? Isn't that when you poke someone?"
The archeologist hisses over his shoulder, "By all means, tell him we are friends. A probe… it is like a scout I believe, in what way is he asking about them?"
"He wants to know where they've gone to, and says he's here to retrieve something." Fenter replies, and then waves his arms around a bit more.
The plant-being pauses, then writhes in response.
Fenter shrinks down, adjusts his collar nervously, and does a very small little arm wave.
The plant-being pauses again, then writhes in the exact same pattern sequence again.
"What is it saying now, can he describe their scout?" The Naga hisses, feeling less than dignified with Fenter waving arms from behind him. "Would you like to stand in front, or is there some way I can participate in what you are doing?"
Fenter says, "Normally I would be happy to stand in front, M-m-m-mister Bassai. But my legs aren't working right now." He waves his arms around again and then whispers. "Er… if you ask someone to bring food, and they do… does that count as 'contacting' them?"
Bassai nods, "Yes Fenter, the exchange of food is likely one of the oldest rituals of civilization, a necessity in the more primitive ones, that becomes more fanciful displays in advanced cultures. I would say it is contact."
The plant-being then proceeds to make a long series of writhing motions, more complex than the exchange before.
"Tekki, Ibis, please try to get some of this down." The Naga hisses to the two Savanites opposite him on the table. "As best you can… I realize it is highly unusual."
A gurgling noise escapes Fenter's throat and the edge of his lip starts to twitch. He shakily waves his arms around again.
The plant-thing stops writhing, and begins to shuffle forward, making more of those rustling noises, heading directly for Fenter.
Fenter says, "Gkx!"
Tekki and Ibis spring into action, furiously taking notes as fast as they can manage, and some sketches, too.
"You may wish to add that the fire was not our doing." Bassai says, sensing some of Fenter's distress, and his own, as the creature approaches. "You did say we were friends, didn't you?"
The Naga stands his ground between the unusual creature, and Fenter.
"Yes! And I told him we taste terrible. You won't let him eat me, right sir?" Fenter asks, his legs twitch a little… but he seems to have forgotten how to walk.
The plant-being stops, a tentacle-length away from Bassai and Fenter. With a gnarled, bark-covered limb that is shaped to suggest a long-fingered hand with only a few oddly-placed digits, it reaches into the folds of the leafy "robe", and pulls out what looks like a large red berry. At first, it seems to glow, but it's only an effect of the flickering firelight, for the berry is semi-translucent.
The berry is about fist-sized. The tree-like limb holds this berry, and brings it forward, presenting it to Bassai and Fenter. The vines writhe.
"I feel we have lost enough members of our crew that the plants may have them in the usual manner." Bassai hisses, still facing the odd creature, observing the berry. "I… " The Naga trails off, and reaches out for the fruit.
Fenter's breath comes out in an explosive exhale. "I think he's giving it to us to eat."
"It would seem that more than just the Vykarin's are interested in my dining habits." The snake says, warily watching the tentacles on the creature, and it's present.
The plant-being withdraws its gnarled "hand" once the Naga takes the berry. Its vines writhe again.
"Am I supposed to share it, or swallow it all myself?" Bassai asks, watching the vines curl in the air.
"I'll eat it!" Fenter says happily.
The plant-being turns away, and shuffle-rustles away, keeping clear of the campfire.
The raccoon looks at the plant funny and shakes his head. "Plants can't fly… " he grumbles.
The plant-being appears to be headed toward the burnt areas toward where the clover patch used to be. As it does so, it slips away again into the shadows, as it moves beyond the effective range of the firelight.
"Perhaps we should eat this gift before it discovers the extent of Nena's damage." The archeologist sets the fruit down on the table, and takes a knife, placing it above the centre of the berry. "Did he say whether dividing it would reduce the effectiveness?"
Fenter shakes his head. "He just told us not to eat his pod."
The plant-being moves across the streams as if they were not there, and shuffles through the ashes. It shrinks down a bit, scraping and digging in the dirt with its gnarled "hands". Here and there, it must be finding something something small which it picks up, and then puts within its leafy folds. It straightens up again, and begins moving again … slowly returning.
The Rath'ani looks curiously at the plant-creature and waves his arms around a bit more when he thinks it might be close enough to see him.
Bassai glances at the two Savanites, "Are either of you interested?" He hesitates with the knife, touching it to the berry's surface.
Tekki looks a bit nervously at the berry, but Ibis stares at the berry and licks his lips contemplatively.
Fenter says, "Aww… he's leaving."
"I think it is best if I swallowed it whole myself… " The Naga pauses, "In case it induces a negative reaction, it would not be wise for us all to suffer."
"Awww! But I'm hungry! And besides, if you swallow it it'll take longer to get the seeds to plant more!" Fenter says.
The plant-being shuffles on past the campfire again, heading back the way it came. It pauses only long enough to writhe its vines a bit, then continues away.
Bassai slices down one side of the berry, "What did it just say?"
Fenter says, "He said, 'Fare well. I will not return here. The others show too much interest in your world'… I wonder if that means more people will bring some nibblies for us?"
There is a very fine spray of juice as the berry is sliced open. The interior is somewhat gel-like, retaining a great amount of juice in its soft cells. In the heart of the berry are several eight spherical seeds with black-brown hearts surrounded by a transparent, soft shell.
The Naga carefully divides the fruit in half, avoiding the spherical seeds. "I believe one each should do it, and some of the pulp to help wash it down." He takes the black-brown sphere and puts it between his lips, swallowing. A slice of the berry follows.
The seed has no discernible taste, other than that of a bit of the berry juice on its surface. The berry slice proves to have much more sweetness and tang to it … and enough body to it and texture to probably be pleasurable to the average Naga.
Fenter says, "My piece! Gimmiegimmiegimmie!"
"This is very enjoyable, more than I would expect for a plant. Wait, he is leaving?" Bassai slithers to the edge of the tent, trying to keep the unusual visitor in sight. "He hasn't answered my questions."
The plant-being continues shuffle-rustling away at its slow pace. The Vykarins keep well clear of it. In fact … it seems that a number of them have decided that now is a very good time to burrow into their holes and take "naps".
Fenter says, "Nope… he said he's going home, told us not to eat his pod."
"Just one seed Fenter, there is no guarantee it won't make you ill." The Naga cautions, slithering back to the fruit. "Where is his pod, and make sure you tell the Vykarins as well."
"He didn't say." Fenter says. "Maybe we should follow him and find out?"
"Have your seed and piece of fruit first. Tekki, Ibis, we might as well all share in this." The Naga divides up the smaller half, and shares it out, "Yes Fenter, that is a good idea. I wonder if there is any way to preserve the remaining seeds."
The plant-being, heedless to the conversation, continues along, as the ground before it begins to slope less gradually upward, along the curve of the valley "bowl".
Ibis curiously looks at the seed, then gulps it down and "washes" it down with a portion of the berry. Tekki, seeing that Ibis does not keel over after doing this, but rather has a fairly pleased expression on his face, does likewise.
"He said we could plant them. I'd rather do that and make more berries than eat the seeds." Fenter says, slowly shuffling off in the direction of the plant alien.
At Fenter's approach, the plant-being pauses where the valley reaches about a thirty-degree incline, and rotates around to face Fenter again. The vines writhe and wiggle again.
Fenter blinks and wiggles his arms back.
This prompts yet more wiggling and writhing from the plant-being.
"An even better suggestion. Tekki, take care of what remains of the Berry for the moment, we will plant it soon." The Naga slithers after Fenter, and watches the plant writhing.
Tekki swallows his mouthful, then nods at Bassai, and carefully guards the berry.
The raccoon tilts his head a little and flaps his arms again.
The plant only wiggles briefly in response.
"I am awaiting the translation Fenter." Bassai says, sliding up beside the Rath'ani. "It is amusing to watch, but not very informative."
Fenter nods his head and does the arm wiggling thing again. "He wantedto know if we required anything more from him, and I told him I just wanted to follow him… he said I couldn't because I don't have a core. Then I asked him if a core was like those probe thingies he mentioned and he said yes."
More writhing, more wiggling from the plant-being. It makes about as much sense to Bassai as before.
"A core? What did the probe look like, can we at least watch him leave?" The archeologist asks, watching the writhing tentacles with a strange fascination.
Fenter translates Bassai's questions to the plant and adds something more at the end.
Bassai flicks out his tongue, "Can he send a message for us, that would be of some use. Where is he from?"
There are, yet again, more writhings and wigglings and rustlings from the plant-being.
The plant-being brings out what looks like a walnut of some sort, showing it briefly to Fenter, then retracts it back into its leafy folds.
The archeologist takes the time to observe the being as best as possible, noting features to be written up after this encounter, and anything that might be of scholarly value.
"I guess that was a probe… " Fenter says, rubbing one eye. "He says that they grow a body for it but only need that little bit to… EEP!"
The raccoon begins waving his arms much more wildly than before.
This prompts, of course, more writhing from the plant-being.
"What?" Bassai observes both Fenter and the plant-being, his head nodding from one to the other.
Fenter says, "He says there's going to be earthquakes and volcano eruptions and such on the ground. Oh foo… he doesn't know how badly."
The raccoon flaps his arms around again.
"I see. Did he arrive somehow during the meteor shower, and how does he know these things?" The Naga asks with some curiosity.
"Slow down, Mister Bassai." Fenter says, rubbing one shoulder. "If I ask things any more quickly I'm going to take off like an Eee."
More writhing, but this time the plant-being reaches into its leafy folds and pulls out, in a bark-covered "hand", what looks like a couple of brussels sprouts. It sets them down on the ground, and, even as the two watch, pale roots extend from the bottoms of the "sprouts" and latch into the earth.
Fenter says, "He's answering your message question now… ohh… more food?"
One of the "brussels sprouts" pops open … revealing a vine that uncurls itself, with a greenish-blue pod on the end. Several flower petals unfold from the pod, looking faintly iridescent, a golden-red hue. The remaining pod in the center … cracks open, revealing what looks like a toothy mouth. Is it … grinning?
Fenter says, "He says he can convey any message we wish, and he's from a place that's called… er… " he pauses and examines the plant-being's wiggling a bit more. "… the greenhouse. He's leaving two things called 'lesser probes' for us."
"That is an astounding growth rate." Bassai observes, watching the sprouts. "What was the ans… " He stops speaking as he sees the grinning plant
More writhing comes from the tentacles. As per usual.
"While I'm wishing for things, can he grow us an airship crew?" The snake hisses, only semi-seriously. "Lesser probes, I see." He doesn't.
The other sprout pops open, revealing another vine, this one much more slender. The flower has petals that are of colors actually somewhat reminiscent of the Naga's scale coloring, but otherwise it looks the same as the first … except that the first's petals have changed hue again, and appear to be cycling through the colors of the rainbow … in sync with Fenter's eyes.
Nodding to the plant-creature, Fenter says, "He says we have to take care of them like we would a flower, and be careful. If we sleep with them close by they might learn from us and be able to communicate."
The raccoon waves his arms about a bit more. "I've never been good with plants." he mutters to himself
Both of the "sprouts" shift a bit, the toothy pods retracting … and they both look for all the world like ordinary flowers … at least, as ordinary as much of the plant life on Sinai ever gets. (And those petals are STILL changing colors.)
"Horticulture is not one of my strong areas, but I will endeavor to do my best. It is rather flattering, that one has patterns that almost resemble mine." The Naga flicks out his tongue happily.
Fenter looks disappointed. "He did come in the meteor shower… and he can't grow us an airship crew."
"From the Procession? How did he know to find us, Is he… " Bassai stares, "… a Sifras?"
The raccoon lets out a bored sounding sigh and flaps his arms aroundagain.
There is more writhing and wiggling.
Fenter rubs his shoulder again. "He says he's never heard of a Sifras, so doesn't think he's one of them."
Bassai nods at Fenter's words, "I see, still this is most fantastic. I wish him a safe journey. I'm sure a hundred questions will occur to me later, but I honestly can't think of anymore now." The snake falls silent, and just watches the creature depart.
The raccoon waves his arms around a bit more.
The plant-being writhes some more, then shuffles away, climbing up the slope, as it gets progressively steeper.
"Bye bye mister plant critter!" Fenter waves.
It seems to make pretty good time up the slope, not taking any of the winding paths, but taking a more direct route instead. Toward the rim, it moves toward one of the craters created during the meteor storm, and seems to sit down within the crater … then shrink and swell and reshape itself.
Within a matter of moments, the "plant-being" is replaced by what looks like a gigantic artichoke. A faint glow emits from the heart of this plant, and there is a stirring in the air, but no sound emits from the form.
The Naga's tongue flicks out in surprise, and he stays focused on the plant.
Without warning, in a blinking of the eye, the spheroid contorts, shifting downward, then thrusting upward and expelling a small, glowing orb that shoots upward and into the sky … and then several more that spit out in rapid succession, with only a quiet puff as a witness by sound.
Once this finishes, the glow fades as the spots of light can be seen rising and diminishing somewhere up in the sky. The spherical pod begins to collapse upon itself and shrivel, quickly blackening and falling apart.
"Ohhhh… I wonder if we're going to get a fireworks show!" Fenter says, following the expelled orb with his eyes.
The points of light rise and fade. No explosions. No spectacular light displays. It's all fairly anticlimactic, really.
"I am astounded, I am speechless, I am so fortunate to be glimpsing this." Bassai hisses, the implications impressing him more than the actual event does.
Fenter pulls the bowl from his head and HOOWWWWWLS something loudly.
The Archeologist stares after the vanishing lights, till he is positive he can't see them anymore. He slithers forward, approaching the 'lesser probe' that resembles his scales. "Hello plant. I suppose I should talk to you so you can learn, even though it feels incredibly foolish. I guess I'll have to re-pot you somehow." He looks up, "Ibis, get me a bowl… and I'm afraid you'll have to stay up tonight watching what this does while I sleep. Hmm… " The possibilities are endless.