Mar. 7. Kaela consults Haji for advice, then has another dream, wherein she meets the other Princess Emerald-Eyes.
(Haji) (City of Hands) (Kaela) (Savan)

Nestled within a wide, winding canyon, the City of Hands Expedition Base Camp is set upon a large rocky shelf about midway down the canyon wall. Stone steps of questionable structure lead further down to the river, while rope bridges provide access to the ruins on the other side. There are several tents pitched here of greatly varying sizes, and now that night has fallen, campfires set the site aglow, in addition to the light provided by a number of lanterns suspended from poles here and there and especially along the perimeter.

Lightning crackles across the night sky on occasion, but silently. No stars are visible, attesting to the continually overcast state of the sky.

The work crews have returned. There's little to accomplish at night … especially with all the strange little things happening to make more and more converts to belief in ghosts and curses. The base camp is a welcome retreat from the Great Unknown out there.

Haji is sweeping dust and rocks out of tents with a broom, working carefully.

Kaela has been silently seated beside one of the campfires and staring into the flames, lost in thought. After some time, she finally glances away, and looks about the camp to locate Haji.

Kaela smiles faintly as she spots him near the tents. Pushing herself up from her seated position, the little cheetah pads over towards him, greeting him with a slight movement of her handpaws.

Haji smiles as Kaela walks near, and signs, "Kaela! I am just finishing." He returns to his sweeping, and finishes in just a few moments, setting the broom down. He pads over, giving her a hug. "How are you, it'un?"

Kaela smiles at him tentatively. She signs, "I had another dream," as though that answers his question.

Haji's eyebrow raises, as his hands sign smoothly, "Another… was this one a vision of the City as well?"

Kaela nods. She signs, "Two nights ago. They hid me deep under a monastery… people wanted to kill me, because I was the only one left of the royal family."

Haji gestures, "Tell me it all, it'un," and sets a paw on Kaela's shoulder.

Kaela pauses, glancing about. She signs, "Can we go into my tent? Safer."

Haji nods to Kaela, and stands up.

Kaela smiles at Haji quickly, then leads the way into her tent. She settles onto the little bedroll that she sleeps on and glances back to Haji.

Haji sits down across from Kaela, attentive, eyes watching Kaela's hands carefully…

Kaela carefully tells Haji the whole story. Being hidden in the statue in the dark… the fighting outside… her eventual escape, through the pitch black labyrinthine passages beneath the monastery… and about how she sought refuge in the surrounding jungle.

Haji nods, thinking upon the dream…

Haji signs, "Have you ever had these dreams of vision before this time? Or have ones in your family, that you know?"

Kaela shakes her head. "No… But there's more."

Haji's tail straightens a bit. "More?", he signs, with a hand-roll, pinky out.

Kaela nods. "Yesterday. When everyone was gone. I went to where I remembered the monastery being in my dream. You can't see it from here because it's hidden in forest… but it was there. And I even remembered the way through the passages from my dream. And in the statue was all the stuff I left behind in my dream. Even the clothes!"

Haji's jaw drops in astonishment.

Haji signs nervously. "You are sure of this, Kaela?"

Kaela swallows a little bit, nodding. "I left everything there… because I knew I couldn't keep it… but I did take this… " With one more glance about the tent, she reaches under the neck of her tunic and removes a small pendant on a fine chain, which is looped about her neck. The pendant is in the shape of a four-pointed star and an upturned crescent, contained within another four-pointed star.

Haji looks at the pendant… very carefully… .o( Star. Anchor. Star. ) He thinks back for a time… it seems familiar, but he cannot place the memory.

Haji signs, "This medallion's symbol… I have seen it before. I cannot place it, but… it is familiar. Your visions must be true ones."

Kaela watches Haji, carefully, then looks back down at the pendant. She signs, "What am I to do now?"

Haji thinks… then explains with slow, careful gestures. "Silence for now, still… I do not think this will be the last of these dreams, Kaela. You will find the reason in time, I am sure." He smiles. "I think it will be for a good reason, too… "

Kaela nods slowly and reaches for a hug.

Haji hugs the kit gently into his chestfur, and purrs from low in his chest at her, comfortingly.

Kaela leans the side of her head against Haji's chest, relaxing from the tensions of the past several days.

Haji smiles at Kaela, his outward calmness not disturbing the turmoil of his inner thoughts. .o( Our people, free… What would our masters do if they learned this? What could happen to us… and to you especially, young one? )

Kaela looks up at Haji, pulling away enough to sign, "Would you stay with me tonight?"

Haji signs, "You know the Masters would complain, Kaela… and they might suspect something. To keep these dreams secret between us… they should not even suspect."

Haji signs, "But here… "

Kaela looks up at Haji curiously, her head tilted to one side.

Haji bends down and nips at his finger, until a bit of blood leaks. He presses it against Kaela's palm, then signs, "Now I shall be with you in the night, even though I am away."

Kaela swallows, but nods a little bit. "Thank you," she signs, with her other hand.

Haji squeezes the kit's shoulder. "Sleep well, Kaela," he signs, before departing for his own tent for the night.

Kaela watches him go, and sits up for a while, staring down at the pendant for several minutes. Finally, she curls up on top of the bedroll and tries to get some sleep.

The sounds of the jungle fade away … then grow louder. Something flitters nearby overhead. The grass feels cold, wet with dew, underneath the sleeping kit.

Kaela shivers softly. She sits up and stretches, looking about her. Haji was right – another dream.

It's the jungle, at night. The stars are visible in the sky. No overhanging clouds, no silent lightning.

The kit is in a clearing. Through the trees … a light can be seen. A flame. A small one.

Kaela is dressed in … her familiar clothes that she wore to bed. She is not dressed in that silken gown. She is not dressed in the coarse clothes and cloak that were behind the statue. She is just … herself.

Kaela blinks slowly. She quickly pats down the clothes. What happened to the knife? Didn't she have a knife when she dreamt falling asleep in the jungle? One hand moves to check for the pendant.

There is no knife. The pendant, however, is in place about her neck, hidden under her clothes.

Kaela cautiously moves towards the flames. Is this a dream, or is it real? Why is she wearing what she was wearing in real life, instead of in the latest dream? Her movements are very slow and careful.

The flames are filtered through … a window. There's a well-crafted hut or cabin nestled into a nook at the base of a very large tree, at the edge of the clearing.

Kaela quietly creeps towards the hut. Sidling up to one of the walls, she carefully moves over towards the window and peers inside, trying to keep very little of her head visible through the window.

The light comes from a hearth set in a depression in the dirt floor in the middle of the hut. About the room can be seen feathers, beads, wooden masks, sacks of herbs, and strange trinkets. Seated near the center of the hut is a cheetah, sitting cross-legged, her back straight and regal. Her eyes are closed. It seems she is deep in concentration.

It is hard to determine her age. She is an adult, for certain. And something about her speaks of many years. Her hair is starry white, but her fur has not lost its sheen.

Kaela smiles softly, grateful to see another cheetah. Scampering around the hut, the little Savanite looks for the doorway into the hut.

The doorway is completely open, the "door" consisting of a flap that is rolled and secured to one side, just inside the threshold.

As the kit looks in, she notices several patterns made on the dirt around the female cheetah, of different colors of sand and powders. They form circles and geometric designs, runes and symbols.

Kaela carefully steps into the hut, but stays clear of the patterns of colored dust. She quietly knocks at one of the walls to attract the woman's attention.

The woman looks up, and focuses her emerald green eyes on Kaela. She smiles. "Do come in, daughter," she signs. She does not look like Kaela's mother … but there's something about the sculpt of her face that seems faintly similar.

Kaela blinks slowly. She signs, "Do I know you?"

The whole scene flickers and dims for a brief instance, then comes back into focus. The woman nods. "You should know me better than any other, I warrant," she signs. "Please. Do come in and be seated. You likely have many questions – perhaps questions you do not even know to ask."

Kaela sits nearby, frowning a little bit. But after a few moment, she shrugs and asks the big question that's been on her mind for quite a while. " What's going on?"

The woman smiles and signs, "That is certainly the best question to ask. This may take some explaining." There is a pause. "You are dreaming, of course. And I am not really here. What you see before you now is but an echo of me – the one whose memories you have been sharing and reliving, filtered through your own heart and soul."

"I am long gone, to the Procession, by now," the woman signs. "What you see before you is no ghost. Not as you would understand them. I have learned the arts of magic, though I pale in comparison to my father and others before me."

Kaela nods slowly, eyes wide. And she asks the other big question. "But why?"

"I have worked a complex spell to pass along my knowledge and experience to one whose heart is after my own. It is a delicate, complicated art, and ultimately flawed. I apologize if you shall find me unresponsive to some of your questions or statements," the woman signs, frowning. "But allow me to introduce myself. I am Emerald-Eyes, daughter of the last Priest-King." It is a while before she responds to Kaela's question, nodding.

"You are my descendant. My heritage is yours. I cannot fulfil my destiny by myself. My destiny is now yours," the woman signs.

Kaela fidgets with her handpaws. "I don't understand… what is your destiny? What am I to do?"

The woman pauses again, then signs, "Prophesy is a delicate art, but it is not hard for me to foresee the fall of my people. I have already seen the downward spiral within my lifetime. At the time I weave this spell for you, I have not seen just how much further my people may fall before I leave this world."

"You have seen the cause," Emerald-Eyes the Elder signs. "You have witnessed the destruction of our way of life. Perhaps it shall never be restored – not as before… "

Kaela shakes her head softly, signing, "We're slaves to the others… "

There is another pause. "Such is a possibility I have foreseen," the Elder signs, "but I cannot see the future clearly – not the future which is your present. I can only speak from the past. But know this. You are no less a daughter of royal lineage than I."

Kaela nods slowly. "What of the Priest-King? In the temple… "

"Truthfully," the woman signs, "I do not know your destiny. I only see shadows of signs, and I fill them with my hope. My purpose is to prepare you, for I fear that the Priest-King may yet remain in your time. That you have come to this place says that it is likely so."

"I no longer call him Father," the woman signs.

Kaela nods. "He is still here. Within the warding hands. He killed two of us – maybe more."

Something about the woman's eyes hints that she only registers some of what Kaela signs. Her hands move slowly to respond. "He is here, and he has killed. He shall kill again. While the hands remain, he is bound and may move no further. But I fear he may find ways of escaping, by working upon the greedy hearts of weak-minded fools."

Kaela nods several times. "I've thought that too. But what can I do?"

The woman's hands sign again, "That I do not know. As much as I have pondered it, even while I leave this dream for you, I do not know. There may be nothing you can do now. But while this may be the last dream you have from me for a time, you shall have more, when the times are right – to teach you more, to prepare you for what lies ahead."

"But there is one matter at least. He cannot touch you," the woman signs, and she frowns. "A curse has been passed through our blood, but he failed to absorb me. There is a cost, and you still have much to fear, but at least you are safe from being taken into his madness."

Kaela nods a little bit. "Well… I'll do all I can… "

"I am sorry to have subjected you to so many nightmares," the woman signs. "But you must know the truth."

"You must never let anyone make you forget who you truly are," the princess adds.

Kaela nods several times. After a moment, she removes the pendant from beneath her clothes and signs, "Is there meaning to this? Haji said it reminded him of something… " Not that she'd know who Haji was, but…

"It is a sign of hope," the woman answers, "and of a future that may yet be. Keep it with you. It is yours, as is all that is mine to give, and which I hope you have found."

Kaela nods quickly. She signs, "I did. But I left it in the hiding place – my masters would take it all from me if they saw it… "

The woman signs, "That is a question I cannot answer." Again, there's that odd look, as if she is not fully reading the signs made by Kaela's hands.

Kaela swallows. She signs, "Is there anything important that I must keep with me? Besides the pendant?"

The woman signs in response, "That is your choice."

"All of it is yours to keep or dispose of as you see fit," the woman signs. "Where I have gone, none of it is of any use to me any longer." She smiles.

Kaela nods softly, thinking quietly for several moments.

The older woman waits patiently, quietly. It almost seems as if the whole world pauses to wait for Kaela's next move.

Kaela pauses. "Is this all happening… because my name is Emerald-Eyes? The same as yours? Is that why it's me, I mean?"

The woman smiles again, and signs, "It is a matter of destiny. And it is hard to say what is the cause of the other. Were you named Emerald-Eyes on account of me … or is that my name on account of you? Truly, I do not know. And perhaps this is something that is not to be known this side of the Great Procession."

Kaela nods a little bit, not quite following that, but doing her best. She signs, "Will I learn magic? Like you?" Hey, a kit can dream, can't she? ;)

The woman smiles again. "In time, child." There is a pause, as if she is thinking … or as if she has simply frozen in place for a moment. "But these things take time. Even if you devote your time, heart and soul, it may take years before you can work your first cantrip."

"Our magic is a magic of dance and music," the woman signs. "But those who were once our subjects discovered another magic of this world. One that used that which we do not have – the voice. That which we scorned as being a tool of those with clumsy hands became a potent power, rivalling and surpassing our own in many respects."

"The Priest-King sought greater power and even immortality. He found that, after a fashion – but at a price that none should be willing to pay, and certainly not what he had envisioned," the woman signs with a frown.

Kaela nods slowly, biting her lower lip.

"His hunger for power became embodied in his curse. You witnessed his transformation. The Twelve – the most powerful mages in the empire, surpassed by only himself – were consumed by his ritual. Our family, as well, was destroyed. And the Twelve-times-Twelve, the next tier of power, sacrificed themselves in order to stop this evil from destroying us all," the woman adds.

"That left only the acolytes and the secluded monks to carry on our secrets. But the empire fell into chaos, as the military leaders struggled to claim succession to the throne, and people blamed magic for their ills, destroying the temples, abandoning our great City, and even slaying those who practiced the ancient arts," she continues.

Kaela nods slightly, frowning. "I wish I knew what I could do… "

"But in an empire where magic was so prevalent, even our subjects began to learn elements of the secret arts. And over the years, in hiding, they developed their own methods that were more attuned to this world. The divided empire was no match," the signs continue well before pausing to acknowledge Kaela's statement.

"And," the the woman adds, more slowly, "our empire did not span this whole world. While we were bold enough to lay claim to the whole sphere of the heavens, we were not alone."

"You will learn," the woman signs, "and when the time is right, you will act. But how you shall act, that is for your heart to decide. You must decide for yourself what your dreams are, what aspirations you have for yourself – for your family – for your people."

Kaela smiles a little bit. "Thank you," she signs. "I – I'll do my best… "

The woman smiles and signs, "I know I cannot answer the questions that trouble you the most. But have you any more? I am limited in what I can tell you, but there is no harm in asking."

Kaela thinks.

Kaela signs, carefully, "Why do only members of the royal family have green eyes?"

The princess smiles and nods. "Among our people, a special mark denotes a touch of power. It is only those who are marked who possess magic. And, often the mark can be quite grotesque. It has been within our line that the mark has appeared as green eyes. Why it appears in no other line, none can say, but it has become the mark of our lineage."

Kaela nods a little bit. "But my parents didn't have green eyes… "

"Not all within the royal line have green eyes," the princess answers. "Only those who are Marked."

Kaela fidgets a bit. She signs, "Why did Father… I mean, the Priest-King… do what he did? I mean, try to become immortal and stuff?"

The elder princess signs back, "He sought immortality because be believed it was within his grasp. It is a dream of many. But how many are those who can hope to truly attain it? I do not believe he foresaw what form it would truly take."

Kaela nods slowly. "And the circle of warding hands contains him?"

The elder princess signs, "The circle of warding hands is what remains of the Twelve-Times-Twelve, those priests a step below the Twelve, but still of considerable power. It is their power, their sacrifice, which contains him."

Kaela nods slowly. "When some of the rubies were taken from the palace… the hands changed… "

The princess pauses a while, and then signs, "That is a question I cannot answer."

Kaela blinks slowly, then signs, "It wasn't a question… I was just hoping that you could tell me a little about why the hands changed signs… "

The princess pauses a while, and then signs, "That is a question I cannot answer." Kaela's vision flickers briefly, then returns.

Kaela shakes her head quickly, raising her hand as her vision flickers. " Don't go… "

The princess is still there, pausing silently.

Kaela signs, "I… " then pauses, thinking. Finally, she signs, "The Priest-King said that we had woken him… did… did someone put him to sleep before?"

Another noticeable pause follows, and then the princess signs, "It is the barrier of hands which restrains the Priest-King."

Kaela nods a little bit, and sits quietly for a time. Finally, with very slight motions of her hands she asks, "If… I need to talk to you again someday… can I call you somehow?"

The princess signs, "Within your dreams, you may try to find me. But it cannot be guaranteed that your summons will be answered. Rest assured, if all goes as intended, you should be hearing from me again." There is another pause, as the princess' eyes regard Kaela, and then she signs, "May it be that you will find more useful information in the future."

"But before you go," the princess signs, "I would hope to make amends for the nightmares I have troubled you with."

"If you should wish to see, there is more to my life. Many wonderful things happened during the time before the fall of our empire," the princess continues. "If you would care to, I would be happy to share them with you."

Kaela smiles tentatively and nods. She signs, "I… I would love to… "

"They are not entirely memories. They are dreams for you to enjoy and explore, though they are built upon my knowledge and recollection. Keep this in mind. My memory – as my magic – is capable of making mistakes," the elder princess adds.

Kaela nods slowly. Tentatively, she signs, "May I hug you?"

The princess' face breaks into a smile that seems far more lifelike than it has appeared during so many of her responses. "Come, child," she signs, and then holds out her arms.

The flame in the firepit dances and crackles, casting warm light upon the interior of the hut, upon the loom, upon wicker baskets and weavings.

Kaela stands and pads over to the princess, careful not to disturb the patterns of sand surrounding her.

As Kaela approaches, there's something she notices about the legs of the elder princess. The joints seem slightly swollen. A glance to the wall reveals a pair of home-made crutches leaning there.

Kaela gently wraps her arms around her distant ancestor, purring faintly.

A pair of arms hold Kaela closely, as the white-haired cheetah purrs as well, from deep within her chest, and brushes Kaela's brown tresses with one hand.

The light within the room slowly grows more and more dim, and the sound of the crackling of the firepit fades away.

Kaela gently rubs the side of her head against the princess.

The vision lingers for quite some time. But at last it slips away.

Sunlight shines against Kaela's closed eyelids. She can still feel a hand brushing against her hair, and she can still hear a soft purr.

Kaela stirs slightly, yawning. She slowly opens her eyes and blinks against the sunlight.

Emerald-Eyes' mother – that is, the Queen – smiles down upon her. She frees a hand and signs, slowly, "You should not tire yourself out so quickly on your birthday. The day is not yet over."

The two cheetahs are in a garden within sight of and behind the palace – the palace in its former grandeur – with the city visible beyond. It is a warm day, and servants wave large feathered fans to stir up breezes for the Queen and her youngest daughter.

Kaela smiles back up at her softly. She reaches up and gently rubs the sleep from her eyes. After a moment she signs, "You have more planned?"

The Queen wiggles her ears in laughter, as she smiles, then signs back, "No, it is not a matter of my plan. It is a matter of your father." She nods, her eyes twinkling. "Surely you do not think he has forgotten his daughter's birthday?"

A couple of rainbow-feathered Creens flutter by, and alight on a branch overhanging the two cheetahs. They chirr and chirrup happily, heads bobbing and waving. The Queen looks up. "Oh!" she signs to them, as if they could understand her. "You have returned! That must mean … "

Kaela glances up and smiles at the brightly plumed Creens.

The Queen's gaze turns past the Creens, and toward the jungle overlooking the canyon.

One of the Creens coos and sways its head down, nibbling on Kaela's head-hair momentarily.

Kaela's ears wiggle slightly at the antics of the Creens. She smiles and glances over towards the Queen.

Past the Queen, Kaela can see something moving over the treeline of the jungle. It looks like a head … of a positively enormous Creen, followed soon by a long, straight neck.

It sails into view, a vast construct that looks like a gigantic, beautiful Creen of rainbow colors, glittering in the sunlight.

As it drifts over the jungle treetops, it tips forward slightly, and then more, sailing downward toward the palace and descending slowly as it goes.

Kaela's eyes widen in wonder. One arm extends to point at it (as though the Queen wouldn't be able to spot it otherwise), and her other hand works in a vain attempt to find appropriate signs to make.

The Queen smiles all the more, her ears wiggling again in laughter, her body shaking slightly with it.

The exotic airship glides to a stop over the garden, now just over the trees. On the deck, formed on the back of the body and neck of the Creen, some cheetahs can be seen walking about, looking over the railing.

Kaela gives her mother a quick squeeze, but doesn't turn her gaze from the huge Creen. She faintly signs, "I never even dreamt of such a wonder… "

One particular cheetah does not lean over. He stands there, proud and tall, dressed in full regalia. He watches as a platform from the middle of the body slowly lowers down on silvery cables, toward the garden.

The platform touches down lightly on the tiled walkway, the cords swaying slowly this way and the other with the slight movement of the ship that rests in place.

The Queen pats Emerald-Eyes on the back and "signs" with her other hand by pointing to both of them and then toward the platform with a "Shall we?" expression on her face.

Kaela nods softly, accompanying her mother to the platform, her eyes a bright, glistening emerald shade.

Once the two royal passengers are on the platform, there's a slight bump, prompting the Queen to hold a little more tightly onto the handrails, and then the platform gently ascends upward, rising toward an opening the center of the "creen's" smooth belly. The platform continues, fitting smoothly into place, now bringing them up to the level of the deck, surrounded by the hand rails and an arrangement of pulleys and cables that brought them there.

The Priest-King stands proudly on the deck, and signs, "I regret that it has been two years longer than I had hoped, but here, for your birthday, you may fly like a Creen, as you said you wished."

Kaela bounds over to her father and throws her arms around him in a warm hug, purring deep in her throat.

The Queen smiles as she looks at her daughter, and then at her husband. At once, the Priest-King snaps his fingers, and the crew sets to work. Toward the back, some priests dance in their elaborate rituals with musical accompaniment by their assistants. A wind stirs and begins to lift the craft upward once more. For a moment, the Priest-King's stern visage breaks into a hint of a smile, as he brings an arm about to hold his beloved daughter. But he quickly looks about, resuming his solid, serious expression, lest any should see any sign of weakness in him.

The Priest-King holds onto one of the hand-rails, and bids the Queen and his daughter to do likewise, as the Creen-ship turns about, and tips upward to ascend to the top of the canyon wall once more. In but moments, it is out of the canyon and skimming just over the treetops of the jungle.

Kaela smiles up at him, pulling back slightly from the hug. "I love you, Father," she signs. "Thank you."

Kaela moves to the handrail and watches as the jungle skims by beneath. Her eyes are bright, and her tail swishes through the air, delightedly.

The craft skims along, rising and diving gently with each hill it passes over. At times it seems in danger of brushing against the foliage below – but it nonetheless stays clear.

A flock of Creens flies alongside the craft, making their calls, and then breaking formation and flying a spiral pattern around the craft, before zipping off again to disappear into the jungle canopy.

Kaela leans over the railing, peering down into the rapidly passing jungle, her ears wiggling in joyous laughter.

Emerald-Eyes' mother places a hand on her shoulder, signing with the other hand, "Now, not so far! You won't fly so well like a Creen if you go spilling off the edge." But she is smiling all the way she issues her motherly warning.

Kaela leans over and gently nuzzles her mother's side. She must be in a particularly good mood.

The Priest-King just stands silently for a long time while his daughter enjoys the ride and the view. He makes a point of directing the craft to leap across the canyon at a few points, with a spectacular view of the waterfalls that tumble down toward the river.

Kaela bounces softly each time the ship crosses the canyon, unable to contain her excitement over the sights…

At last, the Priest-King claps his hands together to summon attention.

Kaela looks over to her father, though she continues to briefly glance at the passing landscape.

The Priest-King holds his hand out to one side, not even turning to look toward the servant who comes with a small, enameled wooden box. The Priest-King then takes it into both hands, holding it in front of him, nodding toward Kaela.

Kaela looks up at her father, smiling at him. Moving to within reach of the box, she signs, "What is it?"

The Priest-King thrusts the box forward toward Kaela, still looking quite serious. A servant signs for him, "It is for you."

Kaela takes the box, smiling up at him. She slowly opens it and looks down at its contents. Her ears perk forward curiously.

Inside the box, neatly folded, is a shimmering, silky dress and emerald-green sash.

Kaela lifts the dress with one paw, smiling brightly. "It's lovely! Thank you, Father!"

Suddenly, with a lightning-fast movement, the Priest-King snatches the dress from Kaela's hand. With another movement, he draws his sword, and thrusts it at the dress!

Kaela's eyes widen in surprise and dismay, her hand moving to reach to reclaim the dress.

The dress is completely unscathed.

The Priest-King hands the dress back to his daughter, and replaces his sword.

The Queen stifles a frown at her husband for his melodramatics.

Kaela blinks, in utter shock. She merely signs, "… how?"

The Priest-King signs, "It is zolk." The sign is not one that would register to Emerald-Eyes. But it is a sign that Kaela has learned. " It is from the desert lands, and this is the finest variety."

"Never again will one of your dresses tear while you climb a tree," he proclaims, then adds, "That is not to encourage you to climb any more trees, as it is unbefitting of a princess."

With that, the Priest-King marches off toward the front of the vessel, to stand proudly at the prow and watch the lands of his empire zip by below. Somehow, it doesn't seem nearly so large or vast, being able to traverse it so quickly … but then, perhaps all the more, by being able to see how far it reaches, from up here.

Kaela's ears wriggle in laughter. He knows as well as she does that she's unlikely to stop climbing trees.

Kaela smiles up at her mother, then goes to pad after her father and stands near his left side, smiling happily.

No smile plays on the Priest-King's face, but as he places his hand on his daughter's shoulder and looks down at her, the proud and adoring look in his eyes is unmistakeable.

Kaela gently moves to lean against her father's side at the front of the airship. Her motions screened from the view of the others, she signs, "I love you, Father."

The Priest-King calmly checks to verify that, indeed, no one is looking, then signs, his hand close to his chest, "As do I you."

Kaela purrs softly, her cheek resting against her father's side and a joyous smile upon her lips.


GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 5 days before Ring Day, Year 28 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6127)