Hall of Transgressions
A raised walkway runs around the perimeter of this audience hall, and on the walls are hung like tapestries long banners listing transgressions and transgressors, forming a "Most Wanted" of the Yodhrephath, suspended from larger-than-life statues of Eeee sentinels, their heads turned toward the fore of the hall, where stands an even larger statue of Rephath in full battle dress, lit from below by angrily burning braziers that flank a stained stone altar where many transgressors have met their end. In one hand of the statue is held the ceremonial dagger-balance, while the other holds a mighty double-bladed axe. The room is biased toward fliers, for the sunken floor has no steps or door leading out.
The delegation from the Mages' Guild Hall of Babel stands in the sunken arena before the judgement throne of the Yodhrephath, as if they were the accused and charges were being weighed against them. Upon the throne, up near the altar and braziers, the High Priestess Koldesh sits, poise straight and severe, in heavy robes that obscure her frame, and ceremonial pieces of armor that make her appear more imposing physically than any Eeee actually is. Her fur is a dulled gold, and her hair is gray with streaks of white, pulled tightly back into a braid that disappears behind her wings.
Beside the High Priestess stands a male warrior of wiry build, looking to be in the prime of adulthood physically, though his head-hair and fur sports premature streaks of gray. He wears light armor of leather and chitin, and an ornamental baldric that identifies him as the Captain of Rephath's Temple Guard.
Yodhrephath and guardians are lined on the walkway surrounding the chamber, and a very young Eeee acolyte no more than a child takes a step forward with great solemnity, unrolls a scroll, and reads aloud, "Here arrives the delegation from the Mages' Guild Hall of Babel, representatives of the College Esoterica of Caroban: Earth Magess Envoy of Lothrhyn, Water Magess Ryllyn Longvoyage of Rughar, Fire Magess Seraphae of Zahirinee, Air Mage Augustus Builder of Caroban."
Care was placed in the selection of the delegation, though the aides and guards are not so much as mentioned nor are they technically necessary, save that their omission would be taken as a show by the College that this was a meeting not taken seriously. If the College had its ruthers, all four of the mages present would be female While Babel is patriarchal in its culture, its most powerful religions have a distinctly matriarchal dominance in the priesthoods and of local species and nationality, but there are only so many competent mages to choose from. At the very least, all of them speak Babelite.
Ryllyn Longvoyage is a light-furred Fnerf who has dyed her fur in exotic patterns of turquoise, and wears chitin jewelry dominated by teardrops of Lapis lazuli She alone is the only member of the party who actually hails from a territory under the authority of the High Princess Saraizadze.
Seraphae likewise sports fur marked in arcane Babelite fashion, though her markings are far less ambitious her golden fur is accented by dyed wedges of scarlet here and there, giving a subtle suggestion of stylized flames, and the scheme of gold highlighted with red is reversed both in her primarily scarlet robes and her obviously dyed-red hair. While Zahirinee has withdrawn from the domain of the High Princess, its people are no less devotees of the Babelite pantheon than before, so her inclusion is not especially controversial.
Augustus whom Envoy knows better as "Gusty" echoes the tradition of dyed fur patterns only in his attire robes supplemented with thick white furs that sport writhing patterns of blue, suggesting ethereal, swirling clouds. As he is a male, a non-Eeee, and a non-Babelite, he is present more as an observer than as an intended participant.
"High Priestess Koldesh of Rephath receives you," the acolyte announces, and then bows her head, stepping backward into line.
As she does so, Koldesh holds out one hand, motioning toward a group of the Yodhrephath, without looking at them. From their number, a young woman steps forward. As she walks forward, out of the obscuring shadows, into the brighter light cast by the braziers, her features are more distinct. She wears robes of a conservative cut, similar to that of the Yodhrephath, and her hair is braided in like fashion, but she bears no signs of station. It is Wynona, looking quite somber. Her eyes flit over toward the captain of the guard, and then she bows to the High Priestess.
"Come, Wynona Windcaller," Koldesh bids, gesturing with her hand for the light-furred bat to approach the throne. "You have visitors."
Wynona timidly approaches the High Priestess, then bows toward the delegation, her solemn expression broken by a smile that she quickly represses with a faint blush of embarrassment when her eyes alight upon Envoy.
High Priestess Koldesh says, "Honored mages, speak to her as you will," but her eyes focus on Envoy alone.
Envoy also steps forward and bows to the High Priestess before speaking to Wynona, and is careful to keep her own tone and expression somber. "It's good to see you, Wynona. The Yodhrephath who recovered you from the chaos of the raid on Inala's Temple must truly be guided by Rephath herself. Are you in good health?"
Wynona politely inclines her head. "Yes, I have been treated well. In my darkest moment in the temple of Inala, I prayed to anyone who would listen. At last, I prayed to Rephath … and She delivered me." She smiles faintly.
Gusty, however, doesn't match Wynona's smile at least, not convincingly. He does his best to appear polite, however.
The Aeolun blinks several times at this, while studying Wynona's face. "I see. Are you ready to return with us to the Guild Hall, or are there things you still need to take care of here first?"
Wynona does not have a quick answer to this. "I … I'm not being held prisoner here, if that's what you're afraid of."
"Aside from my paranoia, I am more concerned about what you honestly wish to do now, Wynona," Envoy says calmly, while watching her friend's face for any hints of uncertainty.
"Well … I'm not certain what I wish to do right now," Wynona says. "I think maybe I need some time. I've been through a terrible ordeal. I've also come to learn a great deal more about my roots here. I don't know if it would be prudent for me to leave so soon."
"Are you thinking about joining this Temple then?" Envoy asks, beginning to sound a little worried.
Wynona blinks. "I haven't ruled that out."
Priestess Koldesh smiles approvingly but coldly at Wynona.
Envoy casts a significant glance at the altar, then asks, "Even though you would be involved in sacrificing those found to be … deserving of such a thing?"
Wynona blanches at this. "Well … I wouldn't know for certain what my role would be. I mean … as a mage, I might be called to serve in a combat capacity. I've had to fight with my magic before. It's really no different, if you think about it." She looks as if she's trying to convince herself, and would rather not think too deeply about this particular point.
"Kyrieta is dead," Envoy says, trying to get more of a reaction from the bat. "I used her as a shield when the guards came, and she was stabbed with a sword. I also killed Gariazadze before escaping. You are lucky that the Yodhrephath could get you out of that bloodbath. It will probably take weeks for the survivors to clean up all the mess."
The air mage swallows hard. "I … see," she says. There is a long pause, and then she says, "Envoy … I never knew you were quite so cruel." She immediately snaps her head toward the High Priestess, and her eyes are already welling with tears. "High Priestess, please excuse me … I … " Even as she blurts out her words, the priestess nods, and Wynona takes this opportunity, snapping out her wings and retreating toward one of the recessed shadows of the room where, presumably, there must be another exit to the chamber.
Gusty's mouth opens, and he reflexively steps forward, as if about to call out for Wynona to halt, but he says nothing, only holding a hand out impotently at Wynona's outburst.
Envoy lets out her breath in a sigh, and slouches a bit.
The High Priestess watches Wynona retreat, then turns to face the delegation. "Your fellow mage is free to stay under the hospitality of Rephath Herself, or to leave, if she so desires. Is there anything else you require?"
Magess Ryllyn glances askance to Envoy, a raised eyebrow serving as her way of asking Envoy, "Anything else … ?"
"Wynona is a gentle soul," Envoy says to the High Priestess. "I only ask that you not gloss over the realities of life as a Yodhrephath, should she express interest in joining your order."
"Far be it from me," the High Priestess says, a smirk playing upon her lips.
Magess Ryllyn bows her head, then says, "On behalf of the College Esoterica, we thank you for your intervention on behalf of our Alumnus. We hope that this incident, as sad as it has been, may open opportunities for better understanding between our respective organizations."
The Aeolun bows to the High Priestess as well, but wears a more somber face than when she arrived.
Mages' Guild Hall of Babel
A pale reflection of the splendor of the old Guild Hall or the relocated College on Caroban, this tower is nonetheless an ancient, weathered and well-kept monument to the long-lasting traditions of magic on Sinai. It is far from symmetrical, having countless smaller towers, balconies and bridges sprouting out here and there, but here and there, there are attempts at order, as things are often arranged in groups of four, with repeated motifs of the traditional four elements: fire, water, earth and sky. In an attempt at union of the four, the typical room has wide open windows, hanging burning braziers, burbling fountains, and intricate and time-worn stone-work, often depicting fanciful and actual creatures associated with each element, arranged in sets of four.
In a lounge room with frosted windows that look out upon the city of Babel, with various plush cushions and couches (fashioned for various species) to sit on or recline upon, Gusty sits down heavily, letting out a long breath. "Well," he says, "that could have gone worse."
Envoy sits on a cushion and chews on her lower lip. "I don't think Wynona is being unduly influenced at the moment. I don't know what state she was in when the Yodhrephath found her, but I doubt she will begin to worship Rephath in the end. I think I'd better send her a letter explaining what really happened though."
Gusty covers his face with a hand. "That'd be a grand idea," he huffs. "You … really made yourself sound bad."
"I was bad," Envoy says, wincing. "I haven't tried to deal with it yet, but I know I will have to before much longer. I wouldn't be surprised if the Yodhinala appealed to the Yodhrephath to have me hunted down. In the meantime though, I need to find out how badly damaged my mind is. I don't suppose Mage Cyprian of the Sphere of Mind is still around? I remember he was stationed here in Babel on New Year's Eve."
"Aw, come on," Gusty says. "If you had told her that you have been under the influence of Blakat, she should've understood … or at least paused a bit for you to explain. I mean, hey, she was with you with that whole 'avatar of Inala' thing, right? She has to know what that was like, then, eh?" He pauses, then addresses her question. "Actually, yes, he's stationed here. Really, the mission we were on today would have been just his sort of thing, since he's Caroban's 'Babel Liaison', but he must have been otherwise occupied. I can't venture much about him personally, though I've never gotten to really know the fellow. Er … Mind mages make me nervous, tell ya the truth." He rubs an ear nervously.
"I think that's just a sign of your own intelligence," Envoy jokes. "Is there some way to look up which room he is in here? He may seem spooky, but he's the only mind mage I can trust."
"Certainly," Gusty says. "Just you might have to make an appointment. Being 'Liaison' seems to translate into him being a pretty busy fellow. Especially what with all the more recent trouble between Caroban and Babel after your abduction, that, er, Dream Realm stuff, and all that. The extent of my knowledge of the Dream Realm, 'sides from what you've told me and snippets I've picked up, is that it's a source of a major fuss between the High Princess and Caroban. Caroban seems to think she's up to some nastiness. And given what you've told me, I'd figure you for agreeing with them."
Envoy nods. "After feeling Blakat's power, I can easily imagine the High Princess wanting to command that. She could make her soldiers unstoppable."
Gusty frowns. "Yeah, but would they be controllable?" He shrugs. "From what I've heard of the Yodhblakat, they're a rowdy, unpredictable lot. They don't pound on each other much but that's little comfort, eh?"
"Who knows?" Envoy shrugs. "I got pushed around by some Yodhblakat in the Temple of Inala, but that might not mean anything. Anyway, I should go make that appointment to see Cyprian, and write my letter. Should I just go to the Guild secretary here?"
"That'd be the most officious way to do it," Gusty says. "You could try your luck at bumping into him in the hallways, but I'd try the secretary, I s'pose."
Envoy nods, then asks, "Just where is the secretary's office? I still don't know my way around this place."
"Uhm … well, down that hallway, hang a right at the staircase, keep going until the end of the hall, and you should be in the reception area," Gusty says. "It's all brightly lit, lots of windows, and a flier's landing. Can't miss it."
Nodding her thanks, the Aeolun makes her way down the hallway, following the directions given.
Sure enough, Envoy finds her way into a brightly lit reception area, with a closed doorway leading out to a fliers' landing, presently not in use. Beyond it is a view of the city, and its many towers most of them significantly shorter in the near vicinity than this one.
Behind a desk sits a white-furred, brown-haired Eeee, painting her nails.
Envoy approaches the desk, and has a sudden flash of deja-vu, but this Eeee is not garishly thin or otherwise showing gothic tendencies so far. "Excuse me?" she says once she reaches the desk. "Are you the person I need to see about scheduling an appointment with Mage Cyprian?"
"That would be me," the bat says, reluctantly looking up, and, after finishing her current nail, setting her brush aside. She blows on the enamel, then shakes her hand to dry it. "Oh!" she squeaks, with a look of recognition. "Mage Envoy, the ex-Avatar of Inala, right?"
Envoy smiles and nods. "Yes, that's me. I would like to schedule a consultation with Mage Cyprian if possible, or else find out how to contact him if his schedule is full."
"Certainly," the secretary says, and pulls out a chart.
"Mmmm," the secretary says through a mouth clenching a stylus. She removes it, then says, "It looks like he's all full up for the next couple of days. I think I'll have to get back to you once an opening is available."
Envoy nods, and asks, "Can you leave a message for him to let him know I'm here then?"
"Of course," the secretary says, scribing down a note. "You're staying here at the Guild Hall, correct?"
The Earth Mage nods. "In the guest section, currently."
The secretary scribes this down as well. "Well then! With any luck, I'll be getting you a note back within the next couple of days."
Envoy smiles. "Thank you! Oh, there is one more thing: where would I drop off outgoing mail?"
The secretary giggles. "I can take care of that for you, too."
"Wonderful!" Envoy says. "It's nice to be able to get so much done in one place. I don't suppose you'd also have a list of mind mages here at the Guild now, would you?"
"I sure do!" the secretary says, and writes down "Cyprian" on a piece of paper. "Here it is!" She giggles, handing over the piece of paper.
Envoy blinks. "He's the only one? I know Babel focuses on Elemental magic, but I'd expect at least a few Mind practitioners."
"Well, the only one stationed here," the secretary says. "We don't really have all that many mages staying here at the Guild Hall, after all. This isn't Caroban, you know."
"True, but Babel must have a pretty high demand for magical services," Envoy says. "Doesn't it?"
"Certainly," the secretary says, looking more than a little flustered. "In any case, that's all I know. I'm sure it's not some sort of conspiracy."
Envoy hmms, and then nods. "I suppose not. Thank you for your assistance! I'll be back later with a letter for delivery to Mount Rephath."
The secretary smiles and nods.
Thinking about the letter she has to write, Envoy makes her way back to her room. I'll have to mention how eager the apprentices are to see Wynona as well, she thinks.