Garden Chamber at Temple of Inala
The walls are open to the garden outside, though it happens to be winter in Babel, so this is not exactly the most desirable of places to be. Shutters provide some shielding from the winds whipping through, and blazing braziers drive away the cold and provide bright, flickering light, while the silhouettes of shaped bushes can be seen outside, limned in the Procession light. Cushions lie strewn about, and columns and statues in alcoves depict idealized Eeee in unlikely poses, carved from white, blue-veined marble.
Two days have passed since the visit of the Yodhsunala, whose name Envoy did not catch, and she feels control of her body slowly returning, as if whatever magical force was exerted by the sand painting on the floor was working down from her head. Presently, she feels well enough to move her arms and head, but flying feels far beyond her, as does walking. Kyrieta sits nearby, serving food to Envoy a subservient, quiet presence, her face hidden behind her mask. Wynona has been taken from the chamber temporarily for reasons unknown save to the smirking Yodhinala who removed her.
A chill wind leaks through the shutters, giving Envoy a reason to be thankful for the heat and light provided by the braziers against the night cold.
It is at this moment, while Kyrieta is clearing away the just-finished dinner, that a disturbance comes from the entrance to the chamber, loud words being exchanged in shrill Eeee. "Wait the Ghaz-Kutsuk isn't done serving our guest dinner! What are you doing " "I go where I wish, foolish Yodhinala. Do you dare bar my way?"
Hearing the commotion, Envoy looks towards the doorway, and comments to Kyrieta, "I think a Yodhblakat has arrived, as requested."
The servant, a brown-furred, black-haired bat, looks up nervously as she clears away the dishes. "Oh no, you shouldn't say things like that, mistress. Yodhblakat are very difficult " She winces as more words are exchanged, and then apparently, from the sound of chitin on the floor, someone has pushed a guard to the point of his falling. Swinging into view is a tall reddish-brown Eeee with braided red hair down to mid-back, muscled impressively so for that race. Her breastplate and wide-flared shoulder pads are of red chitin, and her robes are the color of dried blood. She carries a staff that looks heavy enough with its stones-crusted top to be an effective bludgeon, and her headdress of chitin and more semiprecious stones is crested with a symbol of Blakat.
"I am here," the priestess intones. Looking around scornfully at the luxurious chamber, she waves a hand dismissively. "What is there here worth my while to take for having come this way?"
Envoy looks around the chamber, and focuses on the figurines in the various alcoves. "Oh, please don't take the statuettes," Envoy pleads, "the High Priestess is ever so fond of them."
Nervous-looking guards filter in slowly to fill the entrance of the garden, along with an angry-looking acolyte, a pretty golden-furred Eeee woman who must be the Yodhinala who spoke up to the Yodhblakat. Her green eyes glitter as they catch the firelight.
The Yodhblakat smirks and glances over at the statuettes that adorn the chamber. "Worthless fripperies, only valuable to some hedonistic sybarite bootlicker of the Goddess of Frivolities," she says. "Still, if their loss would irritate them, perhaps I might."
Kyrieta moves back a bit, trying to take advantage of the shadows.
"May I ask what you think of this Temple, and its guardians?" Envoy asks the armored Eeee. "I am very interested in the warrior's perspective."
The warrior-priestess chuckles throatily and moves about the room like a hunting cat, as if considering which of the statuettes might make the most interesting prize. "They worship the Goddess of Pleasure, of course. The Fickle Goddess. The flower, that blooms in the spring and then… pfft, withers by fall." She shoots a look over to the Yodhinala as if daring her to make an incident, and then her gaze falls toward Kyrieta. "They're all insufferably vain, you know. Perhaps you would know best of all."
The priestess of Inala stiffens, her eyes promising revenge upon Envoy. Kyrieta, for her part, stays quiet since no question has actually been asked of her, only bows her masked face.
"I know about the insufferable part, yes," Envoy agrees, nodding. "Like a beast caught in a hunter's trap, I chewed off my own limb to escape, only to be captured again, as it were. Why does Blakat tolerate her Sisters and their weakling worshippers?"
"Why should we not? What is life without conflict, and what conflict would there be if there were naught but one Goddess?" the Yodhblakat retorts, smirking. She looks down at the sand painting and reaches out one foot deliberately, placing it just short of the edge.
Envoy twitches her cheek as the warrior comes close to the Yodhsunala's spell diagram. "Did you know that there is a chamber in Inala's Paradise devoted solely to the pleasure of combat?"
The Yodhblakat raises an eyebrow at the Yodhinala, who sees her chance and instead, murmurs sweetly, "And what will you do with the information given you by our dear guest?" This brings a scowl to the Yodhblakat's face as the armored bat looks toward Envoy again.
Kyrieta flinches, as if expecting the Yodhblakat's foot to come down into the middle of the sand painting that she and Wynona have spent much time carefully avoiding.
Envoy scowls to the Yodhinala, who has put her in the position of insulting the Yodhblakat. "I know many things about the realms of the Kindly Ones," she finally says. "I am not a warrior, however, and not much of a challenge in that regard. There is much I would like to know about Blakat, however."
The Yodhblakat smirks. "Do you think you can take that information from me?… " Her gaze sweeps the room and then settles upon the board games that Envoy had requested earlier. "Perhaps we should play a game. If I win, I do think that I shall jump all over this precious little painting of yours that your slave seems so anxious to protect. If you win… Well, then, you may ask me your questions."
"That … sounds acceptable," Envoy says. Looking to the Yodhinala, she comments, "If the spell is ruined, well I suppose the Yodhsunala would be willing to visit again, if the High Priestess grovels convincingly."
The green-eyed priestess retorts, "She may not feel inclined to do so again, for the sake of someone who has offended a Yodhblakat."
The Yodhblakat grins widely. "Groveling to a Yodhsunala? Oh, now there is a sight that I would have loved to see." She considers the games, then selects two pieces, a red lizard-shaped token and a smooth-edged black disc.
The priestess of Inala glares daggers at the Yodhblakat but says nothing more.
"The Yodhsunala were quite pleased with it the first time," Envoy says, looking to see if the red-armored priestess will choose one of the games, or come up with her own set of rules.
The Yodhblakat shows the pieces to Envoy. "This is red, this is black." She puts her hands behind her back and does something that seems to involve moving them about, and then brings her hands forward again, fists clenched around each of the pieces. "Which is the red one?"
Envoy blinks at the odd game. "The lizard is the red one, of course."
This brings mad laughter from the Yodhblakat.
The Yodhinala looks offended, however, "Such a simple guessing game! Why, any child could tell you," and by this she seems to mean Envoy, "that you are supposed to guess which hand holds the red piece!"
"That wasn't the question she asked though," Envoy points out. "She did not say to guess which hand held the red piece, she asked which one is the red piece."
The Yodhblakat smiles toothily. "Indeed I did, and if it is so easy, Servant of my Goddess's Sister… " She swings about to face the Yodhinala. "Which hand holds the red piece?"
"This is ridiculous," the golden-furred acolyte retorts, but shrinks back a bit behind the shield of her guards.
The Yodhblakat advances toward the Yodhinala, not even looking down but nevertheless moving such that her steps trace the edge of the painting. "Left or right? Think fast."
"A test of looking beyond the superficially obvious," Envoy comments. "Not the sort of thing a Yodhinala would be trained in." She closely watches the Yodhblakat's path, but doubts the warrioress is unaware of her actions. She seems the type to know where everything around her is located.
"Left! Left!" the Yodhinala says, panicked.
The Yodhblakat opens what would be her left hand, but was from the Yodhinala's perspective, the right. The piece inside is black. "Wrong," she murmurs in a sweet tone, and then collects both pieces in one hand and takes up her staff with the other, swinging it to destroy the statuette of an Eeee surrounded by flowers.
"Not your left," the Yodhinala screeches, apparently powerless to take revenge for this offense. "Mine!"
The Yodhblakat merely smirks in a superior fashion, and then the armored bat-woman returns across the room and holds the pieces out to Envoy. "Best two out of three," she suggests. "Your turn."
Envoy carefully takes the pieces in her hands, not wanting to let them shake or fumble, and tries to think of a proper test.
The guards confer among themselves in whispers, among which Envoy can make out the terms "fairly taken" and "not worth the trouble", irritating the Yodhinala to no end. They eventually come to the conclusion that there's nothing to be done about the matter at this time.
Not bothering to hide the pieces, Envoy asks, "Which one is better at basking in the sun?"
The Yodhblakat's eyebrows shoot up. "The lizard, of course."
Envoy smiles. "No, the disc. The lizard is red, and so reflects away the red part of the light, which incidentally carries more heat. The disc is black, and so absorbs most all of the light, therefore gathering more heat."
This brings more laughter from the Yodhblakat. "A point to you," she says as the Yodhinala stares furiously at the two of them. "You may take three answers from me, if I know them. What are your questions?"
Envoy lays down the pieces, and looks to the Yodhinala, asking her, "I don't suppose we could have some privacy for this?"
The Yodhinala sniffs. "As if we have any interest in hearing the prattle of two children." She leads her guards away since it doesn't look like Envoy is going to be massacred by the Yodhblakat at the moment, but it sounds as if they didn't go very far away.
"Now that they are gone," Envoy says, "for my first question I would ask you what Blakat envies most about her Sisters?"
The armored bat-warrior snickers and leans on a richly decorated column, her armor scraping the finish. "Who's the more childish, those who seek after pleasure endlessly or those who seek out and grow stronger from testing themselves in conflict?" She looks over toward Envoy. "Mm, interesting question. Let me think about that a bit."
"Though Blakat may not hold the greatest and largest temples, such as Inala's priestesses do," the woman says at length. "She is nevertheless acknowledged as the one who truly rules over our many little … family affairs, shall we say. Few would dare to go through an intrigue or begin a campaign without seeking the favor of Blakat. But who's the one with the gilded temples, who's the one with revelries and public feasts?" The Yodhblakat makes a face. "It's purely unjust that Inala can get so much with good times and wine for everyone, that's what it is."
The Yodhblakat continues, acquiring a thoughtful look. "Sunala, now Blakat begins to respect her. All real conflict ends in death you know, one or the other, and she's always the one who takes the lives of others. If anything, that's the one thing that might irk Blakat, that Sunala's never been known to lose her own life in any of the stories about our Seven Sisters. At least not the ones that they let out." She wiggles her hands in spooky movements. "A Yodhsunala might be sent to pay you a little visit if you were going to suggest so much as a hint that it might be otherwise, hmm?"
Envoy arches an eyeridge at that. "I will have to keep that in mind. Is there any way for a non-warrior like myself to serve one such as Blakat? I am not unfamiliar with conflict."
"You know, I should be charging you seven answers for this," the Yodhblakat says as she finds her throat beginning to go a little dry. She walks to the entrance of the Garden Chamber and bangs the head of her staff against the stone there, "Hey! Where's the wine?!" As a servant soon comes up bearing a jug and several glasses, the Yodhblakat does not even let her speak, but instead grabs the jug and pushes the servant away, returning to a standing position near Envoy.
"Perhaps we can arm-wrestle for the right to ask me questions afterwards?" Envoy suggests.
The Yodhblakat drains the jug, then sets it down where Envoy might be able to pick it up, but makes no move to offer any. She laughs. "I was going to say that there's little Blakat would want with someone who can't fight, but maybe you're strange enough that you'd interest her! She's called the Mad Goddess, because few can see the reasons behind endless conflict, but we who are taken into her service ask not why, only when, where, how, and what." The Eeee grins. "You ask questions faster than I can answer them, 'guest of Inala'."
Lingering nearby, Kyrieta says nothing, only watches the proceedings with the fascination one might have with a prowling, unleashed Grok sniffing after its prey.
Finally, Envoy asks, "What personal message would you have delivered to Blakat, given the opportunity?"
"A message? To Blakat?" The Yodhblakat peers in the Exile's eyes to be sure that she heard that right.
"Yes," Envoy says. "What would you personally say to your Goddess?"
The Yodhblakat pauses for thought, picking up the jug again and gulping more wine. "Mm-hmmm. Maybe you really are crazy, in which case, maybe you really can talk to Blakat, eh? Tell her… Tell her that Yodhblakat Sandhya would like to challenge her to a little one on one. Just for fun or maybe… for a boon of the Goddess." The warrioress stands, leaving the jug and taking her staff in her other hand.
Envoy grins and nods. "Your answers were most illuminating, Priestess."
A strange smile passes across the Yodhblakat's face as she looks down at Envoy. "It has been interesting, at that." She turns and heads toward the entrance…
… but not without first, as the guards slowly make their way back to the entrance and as the Yodhinala stares in disbelief, taking the time to select a particularly blatant statuette, one in which two female Eeee are embracing, and whack it solidly at the base to snap it off. With this under one hand, Priestess Sandhya saunters off merrily, the guards and Yodhinala looking on in outrage.
"Ah, the quality of the decor in here has gone up a notch," Envoy giggles. "Wouldn't you agree, Kyrieta?"