Mar. 19. Kaela meets another sister, Zorah.
(Haji) (Kaela) (Rephidim)
---

At the Mikide townhouse, Titus has taken off with his guest, going about on errands or to see the sights or call upon friends or whatever else suits his fancy. With him gone, things are slightly more relaxed – or at least as relaxed as they ever get.

Kaela's chores have kept her busy all morning, so she hasn't even had a chance to pay another visit yet to see Abana. In fact, she hasn't run into Lianna, either. But now, her morning chores finished, she has about as much freedom as one of her station can get.

Kaela pauses for a little bit, surveying the freshly scrubbed floor, though her mind is far away, on other issues. After several moments she turns and wanders in the general direction of her mother's room.

As Kaela goes to the steps, a taller female cheetah is at the top, coming down. Since the stairs in this part of the house are fairly narrow (made for utility, not convenience), that pretty much means she will have to wait until the older cheetah passes.

Kaela glances up, waiting for the older cheetah to pass. She shuffles a footpaw listlessly.

The older cheetah is dressed in rather fine attire for a Savanite – and she's certainly no one Kaela recognizes. A collar around her neck bears the emblem of the Temple – an enameled wooden ring collar that is made in two pieces which can hinge open, and can be held shut with a pin that slides neatly into a joint in the back.

The tall cheetah pauses at the bottom of the steps, rather than moving on, fixing her liquid brown eyes on Kaela.

"She is sleeping now," the tall cheetah signs. "She is feeling a little better."

Kaela nods slightly, looking uncertain. She signs, "Who are you?"

The tall cheetah smiles faintly. "Zorah," she signs in the Phonetic variant. "Or, Long-Lope." She pauses, then adds, "But, really, I think I prefer 'Zorah'."

Kaela swallows hard. "You're," she signs, before running out of words. She just stands there and stares at the cheetah dumbly. Did someone arrange a family reunion and not inform her?

Zorah walks away from the stairs, glancing back up. She signs, "I heard about Mother. I had to come."

Haji enters from a washroom, smoothing back his headfur. He notices Kaela and the the Tall One. o O{ Now that is Savanite royalty if I ever saw it. }

Zorah crouches down to get to eye level with Kaela. "Please don't be angry with me for not seeing you sooner," she signs. "I … I was afraid." She glances away. "I would rather not explain."

"But that is the past," Zorah signs, smiling. "We are here now, yes?" She looks into Kaela's eyes as if searching for something.

Kaela nods uncertainly, biting on her lower lip. Her eyes are slightly puffy and reddened from lack of sleep, and have taken on a somewhat haunted look over the past day or two.

"A hug for your big sister, perhaps?" Zorah signs, smiling. "And Mother asked me to take you out for a bit. She is concerned for you."

Haji pads over to a nearby door, smelling the aromas from the kitchen while watching Kaela and the Tall One. o O { If she ordered me to jump into a volcano, I think I would. Wow. }

Kaela gives her a tentative hug, as though half expecting Zorah to either unexpectedly attack her or fall apart in her arms.

Zorah embraces Kaela in her arms, letting out a soft gasp, and then gently sways the kit back and forth a couple of times. She kisses Kaela on the forehead, and fusses with her headhair a bit, smiling with a faintly sad look to her eyes.

Haji watches the elder cheetah's attentions on Kaela and shivers. { That elder princess, and she is a princess, queen, or some such or I'll be dropped in a herd of Gooshurms, is behaving like little Kaela is her own daughter! Mayhap there's more to the little one than even I thought before. Much more. }

Kaela presses her forehead against Zorah's belly, sniffing softly and hugging her more tightly.

Zorah looks as if she's about to sign something to Kaela, but instead she just holds the kit a bit longer. Her gaze drifts across the room … and settles upon Haji.

Haji watches the Tall One's gaze fall on him like an avalanche. . . [GULP.]

Zorah looks back to Kaela and gently pushes her back just far enough so that she can sign, "Would you rather remain here, or shall we go out and see things? I am privileged. I can go almost anywhere I please," she smiles with a touch of pride.

Kaela's gaze briefly flicks up towards the upper reaches of the stairs. She signs, "Will Mama be all right?"

Zorah nods. "Yes," she signs. "She is resting. She wishes for me to thank you for the Wonder Oil."

Haji casts his eyes in a general downward direction. o O { Whew. That was close. }

Kaela's face finally breaks into a soft smile. "It's helping?"

Zorah smiles. "Of course," she signs.

The male cheetah looks about to straighten odds and ends without being seen. o O { She's going to order me to do something nasty or dangerous, I know it. I can feel it. }

Zorah looks up, over to Haji. She claps her hands together for attention – just like the Priest did in Kaela's dream of her dance lesson.

Kaela looks up at Zorah, then follows her gaze, turning, to look towards Haji. Her smile widens a bit further.

Haji jumps as if hit by a lightening bolt and pads over to stand at attention before the Tall One. His tail quivers imperceptibly while he signs, "YES, you're beaut, -er, mistress, how may I be of service?"

"See here," Zorah signs, stifling a smirk at Haji's 'slip of the hand', "do you think I cannot tell when a workman is pretending to be more busy than he is? Don't just gawk there. Introduce yourself! What is your name?"

Kaela looks up at Zorah, signing, "He's Haji. He helped me on the trip to the City of Hands."

Zorah blinks. She signs, incredulously, "It is true? You went there?" She looks back to Haji for confirmation as well.

Haji signs, "Yes, she's made life interesting for one such as myself." He wiggles his ears in amusement.

Zorah smirks, then signs, "Well, maybe life can be a little more interesting today. I have it in mind to take Kaela out to see a few things and acquire a few things, and I could use some strong arms to carry them. You don't look busy at the moment."

Haji signs, "Y-yes mistress. Is there anything I should prepare?"

The tall cheetah looks Haji up and down appraisingly. "You can get cleaned up, for starters. You look as if you have brought in half the garden in with you, in your fur!"

Haji bows humbly, "And for provisions, my mistress?" . o O { Let me guess, she's the kind that won't be satisfied until I have scrubbed off my fur? }

Kaela's ears give a slight wiggle, and one hand moves to take Zorah's. With her other hand she signs, "Maybe I'll tell you about the trip, if you have time… " She smiles up at Zorah tentatively. She isn't sure that Zorah's really her sister, but somehow she feels like she can trust her. Certainly more than she can trust that Jezebel.

"We will need no provisions," Zorah declares. "We are but going on a short trip, not one of Lord Titus' expeditions."

Zorah looks down, smiling at Kaela, and takes the proffered hand. With the other, she formal-signs, "Let us wait in the garden, then, while our helper washes up."

Haji bows sweepingly and signs, "Yes m'lady, I will make haste."

Kaela nods a few times, smiling up at Zorah.

The male cheetah races into the washroom, booting other servants out of the way while quickly signing, "Move it, outta th' way, GIT, the Tall One needs me!"

Zorah leads the way out to the garden, for all the world looking like a lady who might own this estate, if not for the collar about her neck and the spotted golden fur.

Even in the city, with the other buildings visible from here, Titus' "Townhouse" has grounds sufficient to contain a sizeable garden that dearly wishes to become a jungle.

Here and there, stone monuments and idols from various places peek through vines and shrubbery that appear to have grown up around them … but just so happen to have grown in just that right and artistic way as to allow enough of the stonework to be seen to let the viewer appreciate the 'primitiveness' of it all.

Kaela follows Zorah into the garden and settles down in the shade of a large tree. After a few moments she glances to Zorah and signs, "Do you remember our sisters?"

Zorah picks a fruit from a low-hanging branch – something Kaela would never dream of doing. She starts to take a bite, but then pauses, deep in thought.

Kaela's eyes widen at Zorah's daring. She swallows nervously and quickly looks about the garden to be sure nobody saw.

"Yes," Zorah signs, "I remember something of them." She looks at Kaela, and smiles, offering the fruit.

"Do not worry," Zorah signs, with her free hand. "I am not out of my mind."

Kaela cautiously takes the fruit, her gaze still darting around the garden. She quickly takes a bite of it before handing it back to Zorah.

Zorah grins, her ears wiggling. "I am the most trusted servant of the diMedici household. I attend the needs of Jene Rika diMedici, wife of Quartermaster Supreme Barcodamus diMedici."

The tall cheetah's smile dampens only a little, as she adds, "I can afford at times to pretend I am free."

Kaela nods slowly, concealing any hint of envy in her expression. She signs, "What do you remember? Of our sisters?" She seems a bit preoccupied with that topic.

Zorah sighs, signing, "Your sisters are all pretty – like Mother." She winks.

Kaela fidgets a little. She promised she'd keep it a secret, but she has to know… She signs, "Did any of them look… well… different?"

Zorah smiles, and brushes Kaela's hair again (even though it doesn't really need any fixing), before signing, "Every single one of them. And you are the precious jewel." She shifts her feet as she sits, revealing a pair of shoes that poke out from underneath the hem.

Kaela blinks a few times. Shoes? Kaela has never worn shoes in her life… She looks back up at Zorah with widened eyes. She presses slightly, "What about… the oldest one?"

Zorah's smile immediately turns into a frown. "Emerald-Eyes, you have so many questions," she signs. "I am sorry, sister, but the oldest one is long gone."

Kaela ducks her head slightly at the rebuke, but somehow looks as though a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders at the news… but saddened at the same time. She quietly signs one final question. "What was her name?"

Zorah signs, "Third-Sight. But you never knew her." It is a sign that could just as easily be translated as "Third Eye."

Haji enters with a formal purple and green uniform, complete with matching cap. His fur has been groomed by another servant, yet, somehow a small leaf has managed to attach itself to his tailtip. A small bag is clipped on the right side of his leather belt. As he pads up to the two cheetahs, he signs, "Is this suitable, mistress?"

Kaela's eyes widen, and she shudders a little bit. She carefully signs, "She had a… " but trails off as Haji returns.

Zorah stands up, tall and proud, and looks at Haji, scrutinizing him for a time, then signs, "That will suffice." A flicker of a smile only briefly plays upon the edge of her mouth as she signs this.

Haji looks at Kaela with a pleading look, as if to ask who is this cold, merciless, commanding, and beautiful princess?. o O { Wow. }

Zorah smiles openly as she looks to Kaela. "Perhaps we may speak of your other sisters later. But let us be off. The day should not be wasted."

Haji manages to rip his eyes from Zorah and over to Kaela. He notices her eyes. o O { Goodness, that isn't from work. I've never seen a kit so worn out with worry. }

Kaela nods softly, smiling up at Zorah.

Some time later, the three cheetahs are making their way through the city in the Scholars' Quarter. At times, Zorah's facade of being a princess who can do what she pleases must briefly give way when she encounters any nobility, but for the most part, the collar bearing the seal of the diMedici household is sufficient to allow her an air of regality.

Haji follows behind the Tall One, trying to keep himself from staring at the amazon of a cheetah in front of him. o O { How does Kaela know that one? What a female! }

Zorah walks right up to the entrance to a clothing store, racks of fine dresses visible through the cross-bullioned storefront window. A vixen with an overly swishy tail tends to another customer inside.

Standing in the front window are a number of mannequins … no! Wait! One of them just moved!

Haji wiggles his ears and signs to Kaela, "Just imagine if we had to do a job like that?"

A Khatta in an exotic-looking zolk dress stands in the window, shifting to a new, dramatic pose, and then freezing in place as if she were a doll that briefly came to life, and then turned back to porcelain again. A sign over the entrance reads, in a flourish, "Zeiman Market".

Kaela's ears wiggle amusement at that idea.

Stepping inside, Zorah looks about. There is more than clothing to be found here. There are displays of fine perfumes, then racks of aromatic spices … soaps, salves and lotions … jewelry … there are even some finely crafted musical instruments, and an array of costumes and masks.

Kaela follows Zorah, looking around with wide eyes. She's never been inside such a fine store… and looks just a little bit awkward. As though fearful she'll accidentally knock something over…

An exotic songbird in a wicker cage chirrups and twitters merrily, while a male Savanite plays the harpsicord, next to a section of exotic plants in pots and vases that look just as exotic.

Haji scrunches his nose as a wave of perfumes assaults his senses. o O { Egad, we shouldn't be here. We don't have this kind of money, *gulp* at least I think we don't. }

Zorah signs to Kaela, "Jene Rika diMedici would like to extend her thanks to Lord Titus haut Mikide for the lovely time she and her husband had when Titus visited their estate. On a whim, she decided that it would be nice if some of his servants were as finely attired as theirs." She winks. "He surely won't mind that you should serve as an example."

Kaela blinks quickly, her eyes widening. "Me?" she signs.

Zorah shakes her head, "I'm certainly not going to drag you along just so that I can get myself a new bottle of perfume… " She looks toward a vixen, and waves to her.

The tall cheetah signs to the vixen (who apparently actually understands her hand movements), "This is Kaela, a favored servant of Lord Titus haut Mikide. Make her look like a princess."

Kaela flushes deeply and stays near to Zorah's side.

The vixen giggles and smiles, waving a her fingers at Kaela. "Hello there," she says out loud. "Well, let's see what we can do!"

Haji swishes his tail in a silent laugh and scritches Kaela's ears. This will certainly boost the little one's spirits.

Kaela casts a tentative smile at the vixen as she doesn't seem to take offense at the direction by Zorah.

The vixen weaves her way along the racks, her tail swishing exaggeratedly behind her, then turns to motion for Kaela to come along.

Kaela pauses only a moment to glance back at Haji and Zorah, then turns and hurries after the vixen.

Zorah smiles at the departing Kaela, then turns toward Haji. She signs, "We may be waiting for a little while. So, let us sit here for a while … and you can tell me all about my youngest sister."

The tall cheetah gestures toward a bench that sits amongst a grouping of large potted plants-going-on-trees.

Haji gulps and obediantly pads over to the bench. He signs, "Well I know this will boost her spirits tremendously. It'll help what with her mother. Is she bad?"

Zorah frowns. "Yes, it is bad," she signs, "but it is no surprise. Some day, it will likely happen to me as well. Kaela is fortunate that she has a tolerant master. Her mother would only be seen as a burden in most households."

"But Kaela's mother has been a faithful servant. It surely pleases Titus to treat her well, as an example to the others," Zorah signs. "Just as I am allowed such freedoms as I have."

Haji bows his head slightly, averting his eyes and signs, "Yes. I have had masters who wouldn't have let her mother live long enough to become ill. But that is another matter… "

Some time later, the vixen leads Kaela back out, for Zorah to see. "Voila!" she beams, presenting the Savanite kit with her new dress and accessories … and it looks like her hair has been touched a bit, too.

Haji blinks. o O { She looks something out of a bard's tale! }

Kaela smiles slightly, turning about once to let Haji and Zorah view the new dress, the soft, silken folds of white cloth billowing slightly with the motion. The green sash which complements the outfit brings out the color of her eyes, which sparkle as she smiles back at her friend and sister.

Zorah's eyes sparkle as she looks at Kaela, and she claps her hands lightly in approval.

"Yes," Zorah signs, "you do look like a little princess."

Haji signs to Kaela, "You do indeed look like the heiress to the throne, m'lady!"

Zorah walks up to the vixen, then turns to Kaela, and signs, "I will be right back." With that, the two walk over to handle those trivial details such as cost and credit…

Kaela moves back over to Haji's side and smiles up at him tentatively.

That done, the tall cheetah comes back. "Now then," she signs, handing a few things to Haji to carry. "Let us go for some cream of ice. There is a shop not far from here… "

Kaela smiles up at Zorah widely and reaches to take her hand. This is truly a day of rare treats.

---

GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 6 days before Midsummer's Day, Year 28 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6127)